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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


280 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. . [High Street. ?capital already created under the last charter is L;~OO,OOO stock, making the existing capital I,OOO,OOO, and there still remains unexhausted the privilege to create L500,ooo more stock .whenever it shall appear to be expedient to coinplete the capital to the full amount conceded in the charter-a success that the early projectors of the first scheme, developed in Tweeddale?s Close, could little have anticipated. The British Linen Company for a long series of years has enjoyed the full corporate and other privileges of the old chartered banks of Scotland ; and in this capacity, along with the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland, alone is specially exempted in the Bank Regulation Act for Scotland, from making returns of ?the proprietors? names to the Stamp Office. In the sixth year of the 19th century Tweeddale House became the scene of a dark event ? which ranks among the gossips of the Scottish capital with the Icon Basilike, or the Man with the Iron Mask.? About five in the evening of the 13th of November, I 806, or an hour after sunset, a little girl whose family lived in the close, was .sent by her mother with a kettle to get water for tea from the Fountain Well, and stumbling in the dark archway over something, found it to be, to her dismay, the body of a man just expiring. On an alarm being raised, the victim proved to be William Begbie, the messenger of the British Linen Company Bank, a residenter in the town of Leith, where that bank was the first to establish a branch, in a house close to the cpper drawbridge. On lights being brought, a knife was found in his heart, thrust up to the haft, so he bled to death without the power of uttering a word of explanation. Though a sentinel of the Guard was always on duty close by, yet he saw nothing of the event. It was found that he had been robbed of a package of notes, amounting in value to more than four thousand pounds, which he had been conveying from the Leith branch to the head office. The murder had been- accomplished with the utmost deliberation, and the arrangements connected with it displayed care and calculation. The weapon used had a broad thin blade, carefully pointed, with soft paper wrapped round the hand in such a manner as to prevent any blood from reaching the person of the assassin, and thus leading to his detection. For his discovery five hundred guineas were offered in vain ; in vain, too, was the city searched, while the roads were patrolled; and all the evidence attainable amounted to this :-? That Begbie, in proceeding up Leith Walk, had been accompanied by a ?man,? and that about the supposed time of the murder ?a man? had been seen by some chi\- dren to run out of the close into the street, and down Leith Wynd. . . . . There was also reason to believe that the knife had been bought in a shop about two o?clock on the day of the murder, and that it had been afterwards ground upon a grinding-stone and smoothed upon a hone.? Many persons were arrested on suspicion, and one, a desperate character, was long detained in custody, but months passed on, and the assassination was ceasing to occupy public -attention, when three men, in passing through the grounds of Eellevue (where now Drummond Place stands) in August, 1807, found in the cavity of an old wall, a roll of bank notes that seemed to have borne exposure to the weather. The roll was conveyed to Sheriff Clerk Rattray?s office, and found to ?contain L3,ooo in large notes of the money taken from Begbie. The three men received Lzoo from the British Linen Company as the reward of their honesty, but no further light was thrown upon the murder, the actual perpetrator of which has never, to this hour, been discovered, though strong suspicions fell on a prisoner named Mackoull in 1822, after he was beyond the reach of the law. This man was tried and sentenced to death by the High Court of Justiciary in June, 1820, for robbery at the Paisley Union Bank, Glasgow, and was placed in the Calton gaol, where he was respited in August, and again in September, ?during his majesty?s pleasure ? (according to the Edinburgh Week(yjournal), and where he died about the end of the year. In a work published under the title of ?The Life and Death of James Mackoull,? there was included a document by Mr. Denovan, the Bow Street Runner, whose object was to prove that Mackoull aZiis Moffat, was the assassin of Begbie, and his statements, which are curious, have thus been condensed by a local writer in 1865 :- ? Still, in the absence of legal proof, there is a mystery about this daring crime which lends a sort of romance to its daring perpetrator, Mr. Denovan discovered a man in Leith acting as a teacher, who in 1806 was a sailor-boy belonging to a ship then in the harbour. On the afternoon of the murder he was carrying up some smuggled article to a friend in Edinburgh, when he noticed ? a tall man carrying a yellow coloured parcel under his arm, and a genteel man, dressed in a black coat, dogging him.? He at once concluded that the man with the parcel was a smuggler, and the other a custom-house oficer. Fearful of detection himself, he watched their manmavres with considerable interest. He lost
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High Street.] PHILIP STANFIELD. 281 (presumed) Custom House of ice^ running out of it, with something under his coat. There can be no doubt that this was the murderer, and the description given coincided exactly with the appearance of Mackoull, Although the boy heard of the murder before he lkft Leith, he never thought of communicating what he had seen to the authorities ; he was shortly after captured and carried to a French prison, where he remained for many years. Mackoull resided in Edinburgh from September, 1805, till the end of 1806, lodging very near the scene of the murder, and was a frequent visitor at the coffee- It was raised from the grave, after it had lain there two days, and the surgeons having made an incision near the neck, became convinced that death had been caused by strangulation, so all supposition of suicide was abandoned. This examination took place in a church. After the cut had been sewn up, the body was washed, wrapped in fresh linen, and James Row, merchant in Edini burgh, and Philip Stanfield, the disinherited son, lifted it for deposition in the coffin, when 10 ! on the side sustained by Philip an effusion of blood took place, and so ample as to defile both his hands. printers and publishers. The World?s End Close was the curious and appropriate name bestowed upon the last gloomy, and mysterious-looking alley on the south side of the High Street, adjacent to the Netherbow Port, when it lost its oXer name of Sir John Stanfield?s Close. At the foot of it an ancient tenement, has a shield of arms on its lintel, .with the common Edinburgh legend-?Praisze. the. Lord. for.all.His.giftis,M.S. ;I? but save this, and a rich Gothic niche, built into a modern ?land ? of uninteresting aspect, nothing remains of Stanfield?s Close save the memory of the dark tragedy connected with the name of the knight. Sir Jaines Stanfield was one of those English manufacturers who, by permission of the Scottish Government, had settled at Newmills, in East Lothian. He was a respectable man, but the profligacy of Philip, his eldest son, so greatly afflicted him that he became melancholy, and he disinherited his heir by a will. On a day in the November of 1687 he was found drowned, it wafi alleged, in a pool of water near his country house at Newmills. Doubts were started as to whether he had committed suicide, in consequence of domestic troubles, or had been murdered. The circumstances of his being hastily interred, and that Lady Stanfield had a suit of graveclothes all ready for him before his death, ?seemed to point to the latter; and two surgeons ? Tiditions and Antiquities of Leith.? 36 November, 1806, Mackoull was seized with convulsions, and threw himself back on his bed and began to rave. Tweeddale House, after being quitted by the British Linen Company for their new office in St. after handled by the murtherar, it will ;ushe out of blood, as if the blood were crying to heaven for revenge of the murtherar.? Accordingly, on the 7th of February, 1688, Philip was brought to trial at Edinburgh, and after the household servants had been put to torture without eliciting anything on the strength of the mysterious bleeding, according to Fountainhall, save that he was known to have cursed his father, drunk to the king?s confusion, and linked the royal name with those of the Pope, the devil, and Lord Chancellor, he was sentenced to death. He protested his innocence to the last, and urged in vain that his father was a melancholy man, subject to fits; that once he set out for England, but because his horse stopped at a certain place, he thought he saw the finger of God, and returned home ; and that he once tried to throw himself over a window at the Nether Bow, probably at his house in the World?s End Close. Philip Stanfield was hanged at the Market Cross on the 24th of February. In consequence of a slip of the rope, he came down on his knees, and it was necessary to use more horrible means of strangulation His tongue was cut out for cursing his father ; his right hand was struck off for parricide ; his head was spiked on the East Port of.Haddington, and his mutilated body was hung in chains between L.eith and the city. After a few days the body was stolen fiom the gibbet, and found lying in a ditch among water. It was chained up again, time groaning in great anguish, and refusing to touch the corpse again, while all looked on with dismay. The incident was at once accepted by the then Scottish mind in the light of a revelation of Philip?s guilt as his father?s murderer. ?In a Andrew Square, became, and is still, the establish- 3 I ment of Messrs. Oliver and Boyd, t!ie well-known secret niurther,? says King James in his ? Damonology?-? if the dead carkasse be at any time there
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