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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


344 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. over its entrance the common inscription, BLISSET . BE . GOD . FOR . AL. HIS , GIFTIS with the initials, I. L., G. K. ; and the windows above retain the old oaken mullions and transoms richly carved in a variety of patterns. Another antique tenement to the east of this is finished with a bartizan and ornamental parapet, on the centre of which the badge of its ancient subjection to the Templar Knights appears like a dagger struck into the roof, and left to serve as a memento of strife in more peaceful times. The assignment of this locality as the appointed place for a weekly market, dates from the year 1477, when James 111. appointed “ all ald graith and ger to be usit and sald in the Friday Market before the Gray-Frers ; alsa all qwyck bestis, ky, oxon, not to be brought in the town, bot under the wall fer west at oure stable.” ’ The town wall extended on the west from the Castle across the area of the market on the site uow occupied by the Corn Exchange ; and here stood the ancient gate of the city from whence the neighbouring suburb derived its name of the West Port. Like the other gates of the city, it was usually garnished with a few heads and dismembered limbs of malefactors and political offenders ; and so essential were these appendages considered that Fountainhall, after recording the execution of three Covenanters in the Grassmarket in the year 1681, adds :-‘‘ About eight dayes before this they had stollen away two of the heads which stood on the West Port of Edinburgh ; the criminal lords,. to supply that want, ordained two of thir criminall’s heads to be struck off, and to be sexed in ther place.”3 Here also was the scene of some of those quaint ceremonials wherewith our ancestors were wont to testify their loyal gratulations at the Sovereign’s approach. James VI. was appropriately received at the gate by Kiug Solomon on his first entry to the capital in 1579; and here, in 1590, his Queen, Anne of Denmark, was welcomed in a Latin oration, and received the silver keys of the city in the accustomed manner, from the hands of an angel who descended in a globe from the battlements of the Port.* King Jamea was again welcomed in still more costly fashion at the same spot on his return to his native city in 1617; and the Nymph Edina waited there for his son, Charles I., in 1633, attended by beautiful damsels, and, with a brief congratulatory oration, presented the keys, leaving, however, the burden of the welcome to the Lady Caledonia, who lay in wait for him at the corner of the Bow, and in ‘( a copious speech,” prepared by Drummond of Hamthornden in his most bombastic vein, congratulated his Majesty on his safe arrival. The most interesting features of the burgh of Western Portsburgh have already been described in a previous chapter.6 Many of the old buildings of its main street have been replaced of late years by the plain unpretending erections of modern times. It still, however, has at least one venerable edifice of a picturesque character, erected in the reign of Queen Mary by John Lowrie,‘ a substantial burgher, and, as it would seem, a zealous adherent of the ancient faith in those ticklish times. So, at least, we infer from the sculptured lintel of its ancient doorway, which bears, in large characters, this abbreviation of the common motto,-SOLI DE0 * H - G * with the date 1565; and in the centre, between - 1 The mme inscription occura with the date 1637, over a neighbouring tenement at the foot of the Castle Wynd. ’ Charter of James 111. ; Maitland, pp. 8, 9. ‘ AFonuten,t apipn.h a8l5l-’a8 7H. istorical Observes, p. 30. Ante, pp. 135-137. 6 Traditions, vol. i. p. 304.
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