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Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


66 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. their forces with the English, for the purpose of expelling the French garrison.from Leith. The Council of Edinburgh manifested their sympathy by contributing the sum of sixteen hundred pounds Scots to maintain four hundred men engaged in their service for one month, for the reduction of that town.’ The English force landed, and took up their station around Restalrig Church, casting up trenches and securing themselves from the danger of surprise.’ The forces of the Congregation had now acquired both experience and discipline, and with the aid of such auxiliaries, the tables were speedily turned. The French troops began the attack by a sudden sally on the camp at Restalrig, by which the English auxiliaries were taken at a disadvantage ; but they speedily rallied, and chased them to the walls of Leith, killing above three hundred, though with a still greFter loss to themselves. In order more closely to press the siege, they removed their camp, a few days after, to Pilrig, a rising ground still known by that name, lying directly between Edinburgh and Leith.3 Early in May, a general assault was made, but the scaling ladders were discovered to be too short when applied to the walls, and the besiegers were driven back with great slaughter. The ordnance of the French garrison were mounted along the walls, and on every available point within the town of Leith. A battery that was erected on the tower of the preceptory of St Anthony proved particularly annoying and destructive to the besiegers ; and as they were unable, from their distance, to produce any effect on it, they advanced their cannon to the Links of Leith, where they threw up mounds of earth, and erected a battery of eight guns. With these they kept up 80 constant and destnctive a firing, that, in a few days, they not only dismounted the ordnance placed by the French in t$e steeple, but greatly injured it and the adjoining buildings.‘ On the 14th of April, being Easter Sunday, a constant firing was kept up by the assailants, particularly at St Mary’s Church, where the people were assembled for divine service, so that a bullet was shot through the great east window, passing right over the altar, during the celebration of high mass, and just before the elevation of the host. Two of the mounds thrown up by the besiegers on this occasion still remain on Leith Links, and almost directly opposite the east end of the church. One of them is on the extreme east side of the Links ; the other, which lies considerably nearer the High School, is locally designated the Giant’s Bra. As there existed, till very recently, no houses between the church and these open downs on which the batteries were erected, it must have lain completely exposed to the fire of the besiegers. Some obscurity exists in the narratives of the different historians of this period, as to which church is spoken of. Bishop Leslie mentions their having “shot many great schottis of cannonis and gret ordinances at the parrishe kirk of Leyth and Sanct Anthoneis steple.” St Mary’s Church was not converted into the parish church, until the destruction, at a later period, of that of Restalrig, to which Leith was parochially joined ; yet its position, agreeing so well with the accounts of the siege, leaves no doubt that it is intended by this designation. As all the historians, however, uuite in speaking of St Anthony’s steeple as that whereon the French garrison had erected their ordnance, there seems no reason to question that it was The united forces continued to press the siege at Leith. Maitland, p. 19. Diurnal of Oocurrenta, p. 57. a Ibid, p. 58. ‘ Bishop Lealie, p. 285.
Volume 10 Page 72
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