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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


3 54 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. (‘ And ds it is our will yat ye cordinaris dwelland within our regalite, . . . besyde our chapel1 of Sanct Niniane, outwith Sanct Androws Port besyde Edinburcht, be in bretherheid and fallowschipe with ye said dekin and masteris of ye said Cordinar crauft.” The main street of the Barony of Calton, derived from this ancient chapel the name of St Ninian’s Row, and although this had been superseded by common consent of late years, there still remains carved on the west side of the large old well the name and date, ST NINIAN’S Row, 1752 ; while on the lintel of the east doorway is cut (‘ CRAIG END,” the term by which the High Calton Was known of old. Here also is the boundary of South Leith Parish, in proof of which there might recently be seen carved and gilded in raised letters on a beam under the north-west gallery of St Mary’s Church, Leith, ‘( FOR THE C w a END, 1652.” The engraving of St Ninian’s Row will serve to convey some idea of the picturesque range of edifices dedicated of old to the Confessor, and swept away by the recent operations of the North British Railway. They were altogether of a humble character, and appear to have very early received a more appropriate dedication as “The Beggar Row.’’ One stone tenement, which seemed to lay claim to somewhat higher pretensions than its frail lath and plaster neighbours, owed its origin to the temporary prosperity of the vassals of St Crispin in this little barony. An ornamental panel graced the front of its projecting staircase, decorated with the Shoemakers’ arms, surrounded with a richly sculptured border, and bearing the pious motto :-GOD BLISS THEY CORDINERS OF EDINBURGH, WHA BUILT THIS HOUSE. It was sacrificed, we presume, in the general ruin of the Cordiners of Canongate and its dependencies. In Sempill of Beltrees’ curious poem, (‘ The Banishment of Poverty,” already referred to, the author and his travelling companion, the Genius of Poverty, make for this locality as the best suited for such wayfarers :- We held the Long-gate to Leith Wpe, Where poorest purses used to be ; And in the Caltown lodged syne, Fit quarters for such companie. Such was its state in 1680, when it formed one of the chief thoroughfares to the city, and the road which led by the ancient Burgh of Broughton to the neighbouring seaport. The principal approach to Leith, however, continued for nearly a century after this to be by the Eastern Road, through the Water Gate; and the present broad and handsome thoroughfare, which still retains the name of Leith WaA, was then simply an elevated gravel path. The origin of this valuable modern improvement is strangely traceable to one of the most disastrous campaigns of the seventeenth century. During the manceuaings of the Scottish army under their Covenanting leader, General Leslie, in 1650, previous to the battle of Dunbar, the whole forces were drawn up for a time in the open plain between Edinburgh and Leith, and a line of defence constructed by means of a redoubt on the Calton Hill, and another at Leith, with a trench and parapet extending between them. The position was admirably adapted both for the defence of the towns and the security of the army, so long ae the latter remained on the defensive; but the superior tactics of Liber Cartarurn, App. p 291. This, it will be observed, ia an earlier notice of the Cordinera of Canongate than that referred to on p. 291. The Hall of the Cordinera of Calton was only demolished in 1845, for the site of the North British Raiiway Station.
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THE WEST BOW AND SUBURBS. 35 5 Cromwell soon drew General Leslie’s forces out of their secure position, and tempted them to follow to their own destruction. The mound thus thrown up between the two towns was gradually improved into a pleasant footpath. Defoe remarks in 1748-Leith Wynd “leads north into a suburb called the Calton; from whence there is a very handsome gravel-walk twenty feet broad, continued to the town of Leith, which is kept in good repair a t the public charge, and no horses sutfered to come upon it.” Thus it continued till the opening of the North Bridge in 1772, when it seems to have been adopted as a carriage-road, with very little provision for ifs security or maintenance. It has since been converted, at great expense, into one of the broadest and most substantial roadways in the kingdom, along which handsome streets and squares are now laid out, destined, when completed, to unite the capital and its seaport into one great city ; but it still retains, in its name of Leith Walk, a memento of the period when it was carefully guarded for the exclusive use of pedestrian travellers. About half-way between Edinburgh and Leith, on the west side of the Walk, is the site of the Gallow-Lee, once a rising ground, whose summit was decorated with the hideous apparatus‘of public execution, permanently erected there for the exposure of the mangled limbs of notorious culprits or political offenders. This accursed Golgotha, however, has been literally carted away, to convert the fine sand, of which it chiefly consisted, into mortar for the builders of the New Town ; and the forfiaken sand-pit now blooms with the rarest exotics and the fresh tints of nursling trees, the whole ground being laid out as a nursery. The rising ground called Heriot’s Hill, which lies immediately to the north of the nursery, serves to show the former height of the. Gallow-Lee. When the surrounding ground was unoccupied, and the whole area of the New Town lying in open fields, the.lonely gibbet with its loathsome burden-must have formed a prominent object from a considerable distance on every side-a moral lesson, as our forefathers conceived, of p e a t value in the suburban landscape 1 Defoe’e Tour, vol. iv. p. 86.
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