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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


LEITH, AND THE NEW TOWN. 365 ing of them in tyme cuming as ze wilI anser to us thairapon.” This royal mandate, which was subscribed at Holyrood Palace on the 1st of March 1563, appears to have had the desired effect, as an ornamental tablet in the upper part of the building had the Scottish Arms, boldly sculptured, with two unicorns for supporters, and the inscription and date in large Roman characters-IN DEFENCE, M. R, 1565. Soon after the demolition of the Heart of Midlothian, the’doom of the ancient Tolbooth of Leith was pronounced, and plans procured for a new court-house and prison. Great exertions were then used by several zealous antiquaries, and particularly by Sir Walter Scott and Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq., to induce the Magistrates of Edinburgh, under whose authority the work proceeded, to preserve the picturesque and venerable fagade, while the remainder of the building could be demolished and rebuilt according to the proposed plan. The proposition was treated with the usual good taste of our civic reformers. A deputation who waited on my Lord Provost to urge their petition, were cavalierly dismissed with the unanswerable argument, that the expense of new designs had already been incurred ; and so the singular old house of justice of Queen Mary was replaced by the commonplace erection that now occupies its site. Near the top of the Tolbooth Wynd, an ancient signal-tower stood, which i8 represented in the accompanying engraving. It waa furnished with little portholes at the top, resembling those designed for musketry in our old Border peel towers aud fortalices, but which were constructed here, we presume, for the more peaceful object of watching the owners’ merchant vessels as they entered the Firth. An unusually striking piece of sculpture, in very bold relief, occupied a large panel over the archway leading into the courtyard behind. It bore the date 1678, and, amongst sundry other antique objects, the representation of a singularly rude specimen of mechanical ingenuity. This consisted of a crane, the whole machinery of which was comprised in one large drum or broad wheel, made to revolve like the wire cylinder of a squirrel’s cage, by a poor labourer who occupied the quadruped’s place and clambered up, Sisyphus-like, in his endless treadmill. The perspective, with the grouping and proportions of the whole composition, formed altogether an amusizlg and curious sample of both the mechanical and the fine arts of the seventeenth century, At the foot of the Tolbooth Wynd, the good Abbot Ballantyne, who presided over the Monastery of Holyrood during the closing years of the fifteenth century, caused a handsome stone bridge of three arches to be erected Over the Water of Leith, and Boon after its completion, he built and endowed a chapel at the north end of the bridge, and dedicated it to the honour of God, the Virgin Mary, and St Ninian. The Abbot appears to have had considerable possessions in Leith. He appointed two chaplains to officiate, who were yearly to receive all the profits arising out of a house erected by the founder at the southern end of the Bridge of Leith, with four pounds yearly out of his lands or tenements in South Leith. In addition to the offerings made in the chapel, the tolls or duties accruing from the new bridge were to be employed in repairing the chapel, bridge, and tenement, and the surplus given to the poor. This charter of foundation was confirmed by James IV. on the 1st of January 1493.’ St Ninian’s Chapel was built with the consent of the Chapter of Holyrood Abbey, and the approbation of William, Archbishop of St Maitland, p. 25. a Ibid, p. 497.
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366 MEMORIALS OF EDfN3URGH. Andrew’s ; and the ground on which it and the neighbouring tenements were erected is styled in a charter of Queen Mary, dated 1569, ‘‘ The liberty of the north side of the Water of Leith, commonly called Rudeside : ” an epithet evidently resulting from its dependency on the Abbey of the Holyrood. St Ninian’s Chapel still occupies its ancient site on the banks of the Water of Leith, but very little of the original structure of the good Abbot remains ; probably no more than a small portion of the basement wall on the north side, where a small doorway appears with an elliptical arch, now built up, and partly sunk in the ground. The remaihder of the structure cannot be earlier than the close of the sixteenth century, and the. date on the steeple, which closely resembles that of the old Tron Church destroyed in the Great Fire of 1824, is 1675. A large sculptured lintel, belonging to the latter edifice, has been rebuilt into a more modern addition, erected apparentIy in the reign of Queen Anne. It bears on it the following inscription in large Roman characters : -BLESSED. AR . THEY. PAT. EEIR . YE. VORD . OF. QOD . AND. KEEP. IT. LVK . XI. 1600. By the charter of Queen Mary, which confirmed the rights that had been purchased by the inhabitants from Lord Holyroodhause, the Chapel of St Ninian was erected into a church for the district of Rorth Leith, and endowed with sundry annual rents, and other ecclesiastical property, including the neighbouring Chapel and Hospital of St Nicolas, and their endowments. An Act of Parliament was obtained in 1606, oreating North Leith a separate and independent parish, and appointing the chapel to he called in all time coming the “parish Kirk of Leith benorth the brig.’’ The celebrated George Wishart-welLknown as the author of the elegant Latin memoirs of Montrose, which were suspended to the neck of the illustrious cavalier when he was executed-was minister of this parish in the year 1638, wheu the signing of the Covenant became the established test of faith and allegiance in Scotland. He was soon afterwards deposed for refusing to suhscribe, and was thrown into one of the dungeons of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, in consequence of the disoovery of his correspondence with the Royalists. Wishart survived the stormy revolution that followed, and shared in the sunshine of the Restoration. He was preferred to the See of Edinburgh on the re-establishment of Episcopacy in Scotland, and died there in 1671, in his seventy-first year. He was buried in the Abbey Church of Holyrood, where a long and flattering Latin inscription recorded the whole biography of that oele6ris dooctar SopAocardius, as he is styled, according to the scholastic punning of that age. The last minister who officiated in the ancient Chapel of St Ninian was the benevolent and venerable Dr Johnston, the founder of the Edinburgh Blind Asylum, who held the incumbency for upwards of half a century. The foundation of the pew parish church of North Leith had been laid so early as 1814, and at length in 1826 its venerable predecessor was finally abandoned as a place of worship, and soon after converted into a granary. “Thus,” says the historian of Leith, with indignant pathos, “that edifice which had for npwards of 330 years been devoted to the sacred purposes of religion, is now the unhallowed repository of pease and barley I ” The Hospital and Chapel of St Nicolas, with the neighbouring cemetery, were most probably founded at a later date than Abbot Ballantyne’s Chapel, as the reasons assigned by the founder for the building of the latter seem to imply that the inhabitants were without any accessible place of worship. Nothing, however, is now known of their origin, and
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