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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


LEITH, AND THE NEW TOWN. 357 hold still frowns above the crag that rises from the eastern bank of Lochend; and after the royal grant of the Harbour to the Town of Edinburgh by Robert I., Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig, Knight, the baronial lord of Leith, appears as a successful competitor with the magistrates of Edinburgh for the right of road-way and other privileges claimed by virtue of the royal grant. The estate of Restalrig extended from the outskirts of the Canongate to the Water of Leith, including the Calton, or Wester Restalrig, as it was styled ; but Logan was easily induced to sell the rights of his unfortunate vassals to their jealous rivals. The Logans, however, continued long afterwards to possess nearly the whole surrounding property, and thereby to maintain their influence and superiority in the burgh) where they appear to have always had their town mansion. The following allusion to it, in the reign of Queen Mary, by a contemporary, shows its dignity and importance, at a period when a greater number of the nobility and higher clergy were residing in Leith than had ever been at any earlier date. ‘ I Vpoun the xviij of May 1572, thair come to Leith ane ambassatour fra the King of France, nameit Monsieur Lacrok, a man of good knawlege, to intreat for peace betuix the pairties; at the quhilk tyme of his entrie, the hail1 inhabitaris and remanaris within the burgh of Edinbnrgh wer in thair armour wpone the fieldis in sicht of thair aduersaris, quha dischargit fyve peices of artailzerie at thame, and did na skaith. Vpoun the xxj day, the foirnameit ambassatour come to Edinburgh Castell, met be George Lord Seytoun, at quhais entrie certane mvnitoun wes dischargit; quha past the same nycht to Leith agane, and lugeit in Mr Johne Loganes lugeing thair.”’ The whole possessions of this ancient family were at length forfeited in the reign of James VI. by the turbulent baron, Robert Logan of Restalrig, being involved in the Gowrie conspiracy; though his share in that mysterious plot was not discovered till he was in his grave. The forfeited estates were transferred to the Elphinstons of Balmerinoch, new favourites who were rising to wealth and power on the spoils of the church and the ruin of its adherents. One of the descendants of the barons of Restalrig appears to have retrieved in some degree the failing fortunes of the family by a gallant coup-&-main, achieved against a host of opponents,. A gentleman in Leith has now in his possession the marriage-contract between Logan and Isaballa Fowler, an heiress whom tradition &rms to have been the celebrated Tibbie Fowler 0’ the glen, renowned in Scottish song, whose penny siller proved so tempting a bait that the lady’s choice involved the defeat of forty disappointed wooers1 With Tibbie’s siller he appears to have built himself a handsome mansion at the head of the Sheri€F Brae, which was demolished some years since to make way for the Church and.Alms Houses erected by Sir John Gladstone of Fasque, Eart. It was decorated with a series of sculptured dormer windows, one of which bore the initials I. L., with the date 1636.’ Among the antiquities of Leith, as might be anticipated, there are none of so early a character as those we have described in the ancient capital. Its ecclesiastical establishments apparently claim no existence prior to the fifteenth century ; while the oldest date we have found on any private building is 1573. It is nevertheless a quaint, old-fashioned Diurnal of Occurrenta, p. 263. ’ Campbell’s Hiat. of Leith, p. 315, Gemye, grandson of Robert Logan, who waa forfeited, married Isabel Fowler, daughter to Ludovick Fowler of Burncastla-Nkbet’s Heraldry, VOL i. p. 202.
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358 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. looking burgh, full of crooked alleys, and rambling narrow wynds, scattered about in the most irregular and lawless fashion, and happily innocent as yet of the refinements of an Improvements’ Commission ; though the more gradual operations of time and changing tastes have swept away many curious features of the olden time. There is indeed an air of substantial business-like bustle and activity about its narrow unpretending thoroughfares, and dingy-looking counting-houses, that strangely contrasts with the gaudy finery of New Town trading. The London fopperies of huge plate-glass windows, and sculptured and decorated shop fronts, so much in vogue there, are nearly unknown among the burghers of Leith, The dealers are too busy about more important matters to trouble themselves with these new-fangled extravagancies, while their customers are much too knowing to be attracted by any such showy baits. The contrast indeed between the Scottish Capital and its Port is even more marked than that which distinguishes the courtly west end of London from its plebeian Wapping or White Chapel, and is probably, in all the most substantial sources of digereme, in favour of the busy little burgh : whose merchants conduct a large and important share of the trade of the North of Europe in their unpretending little boothies, while the shopkeeper of the neighbouring city magnifies the petty details transacted over his well-polished mahogany counter, and writes himself down mercdant accordingly.’ The principal street of Leith is the Kirkgate, a broad and somewhat stately thoroughfare, according to the prevalent proportions among the lanes and alleys of this close-packed little burgh. Time and modern taste have slowly, but very effectually, modified its antique features. No timber-fronted gable now thrusts its picturesque fapade with careless grace beyond the line of more staid and formal-looking ashlar fronts. Even the crow-stepped gables of the Rixteenth and fieventeenth centuries are becoming the exception ; and it is only by the irregularity which still pertains to it, aided by the few really antique tenements that remain unaltered, that it now attracts the notice of the curious visitor asthe genuine remains of the ancient High Street of the burgh. Some of these relics of former.times are well worthy the notice of the antiquary, while memorials of still earlier fabrics here and there meet the eye, and carry back the imagination to those stirring scenes in the history of this locality: when the Queen Regent and her courtiers and allies made it their stronghold and chosen place of abode ; or when, amid a more peaceful array, the fair Scottish Queen Mary, or the sumptuous Anne of Denmark, rode gaily through the street on their way to Holyrood. At the south-east angle of the old churchyard, one of these memorials meets the eye in the shape of an elegant Gothic pediment surmounting the boundary wall, and adorned with the Scottish Regalia, sculptured in high relief, with the initials J. R. 6 ; while a large panel below bears the Royal Arms and initials of Charles II., very boldly executed. These insignia of royalty are intended to mark the spot on which King James’s Hospital stood-a benevolent foundation which owed no more to the royal patron whose name it bore, than the confirmation by his charter in 1641 of a portion of those revenues that had been long before bestowed by the piety of private donors on the hospital of St Anthony, and the imposition of a duty on all wine brought into the port for the augmentation of its reduced funds. Here certain poor women were maintained, being presented The description given above, to a 5eat extent, no longer applies, aa the town haa 80 rapidly extended as to be now part of the City, and ia also not behind its great neighbour in the wealth of imposing shop fronts.
Volume 10 Page 393
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