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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


I34 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [West Church. When peace came, Messrs. McVicar and Pitcairn, his coadjutor, continued faithfully and successfully to discharge the duties of the ministry. In 1247 Mr. McVicar, when about to deliver one of the old Thursday sermons, suddenly dropped down dead ; and amid a vast concourse of sorrowing parishioners was deposited in his tomb, which has a plain marble monument. A well-painted portrait of him hangs in the vestry of the present church. His colleague, the Rev. Thomas Pitcairn, followed him on the 13th of June, 1751, and a pyramidal stone, erected to his memory by his youngest daughter, stands in the ancient burying-ground. So early as 1738 attempts were made to violate graves, for surgical purposes, in the churchyard, which, of course, was then a lonely and sequestered place, and though the boundary walls were raised eight feet high, they failed to be a protection, as watchers who were appointed connived at, rather than prevented, a practice which filled the parishioners with rage and horror. Hence, notwithstanding all the efforts of the Session to prevent such violation of tombs, several bodies were abstracted in 1742. George Haldane, one of the beadles, was suspected of assisting in this repulsive practice; and on the 9th of May his house at Maryfield was surrounded by an infuriated mob, and burned to the ground. The old church, which stood for ages,and had been in succession a Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and finally a Presbyterian place of worship again, and which had been gutted and pillaged by Reformers and Cromwellians, and cannon-shotted in civil wars, was found to be dangerous, and condemned to be taken down. Although the edifice was insufficient, and in some parts dangerous, there was no immediate cause for the growing terror that pervaded the congregation, and culminated in a general alarm on Sunday, the 27th September, 1772. Part of a seat in one of the galleries gave way with a crash, on which the entire assembled mass rushed to the doors, and in an instant the church was empty. A jury of tradesmen met to inspect the church, which they were of opinion should be taken down without delay; but this verdict had hardly been drawn up and read, than a fear seized them that the old church would fall and bury them in its ruins, on which they fled to the adjacent charity work house. The work of demolition was begun forthwith, and when removing this venerable fane, the interior of which now, ? formed after no plan, presented a multitude of petty galleries stuck fip one above another to the very rafters, like so many pigeons?-nests,? a curious example of what is namqd heart-burial came to light. The workmen, says the .!!ots Migazine for September, 1773, discovered ? a leaden coffin, which contained some bones and a leaden urn. Before opening the urn, a most fragrant smell issued out ; on inspecting the cause of it, they found a human heart finely embalmed and in the highest state of preservation. No inscription was upon the coffin by which the date could be traced, but it must have been there for centuries. It is conjectured that the heart belonged to some person who, in the time of the Crusades, had gone to the Holy Land, and been there killed, and the heart, as was customary in those times, embalmed and sent home to be buried with some of the family.? Prior to the erection of the new church, the congregation assembled in a Methodist Chapel in the Low Calton. In 1775 it was completed in the hideous taste and nameless style peculiar to Scottish ecclesiastical irchitecture during the times of the first three Georges. It cost A4,231, irrespective of its equally hideous steeple, and is seated for about 3,000 persons, and is now the mother church, associated with ten others, for a parish which includes a great part of the parliamentary burgh of the capital, and has a population of more than 140,000. The church, says a writer, ? apart from its supplemental steeple, looks so like a huge stone box, that some wags have described it as resembling a packing-case, out of which the neighbouring beautiful toy-like fabric of St. John?s Church has been lifted? At the base of the spire is a fine piece of monumental sculpture, from the chisel of the late Handyside Ritchie, in memory of Dr. David Dickson, a worthy and zealous pastor, who was minister of the parish for forty years. Some accounts state that Napier of Merchiston, the inventor of logarithms, was interred in the cemetery; but from an essay on the subject read before the Antiquarian Society by Professor William Wallace in 1832, there is conclusive evidence given, from a work he quoted, ? that Napier was buried without the West Port of Edinburgh, in the church of St. Cuthbert,? and in a vault, in the month of April, 1617. The baronial family of Dean had also a vault in the old church, which still remains under the new, entering from the north. Above it is a monumentaI stone from the old church, fo the memory of Henry Nisbet of that ilk, by whom we thus learn the vault was built. The arms of the Dean family are still above this black
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West Churqh. SIR HENRY WELLWOOD MONCRIEFF. I35 and gloomy vault ; ?a memorial alike of the demolished fane and the extinct race,? says Wilson in 1847. ?When we last saw it the old oak door was broken in, and the stair that led down . to the chamber of fhe dead was choked up with rank nettles and hemlock-the fittest monument that could be devised for the old barons of Dean, the last of them now gathered to his fathers.? One of the most interesting tombs here is that of Thomas de Quincey, the eccentric ?English opium-eater,? who was the friend of Prqfessor Wilson, and died at Edinburgh on the 8th of December, 1859. It is reached by taking the first pathway upward to the right at the Lothian Road entrance. On one of the south walls here, where for more than fifty years it hung unnoticed and forgotten, is a piece of monumental sculpture, by Flaxman, of very rare beauty-a square architectural mural monument, of a mixed Roman and Grecian style, of white and black marble, which was erected to commemorate the death of three infant children. Two families-the Watsons of Muirhouse, and the Rocheids of Inverleith-retained the right of burial within the new church, under the steeple, which is 170 feet in height. Its bell, which is inscribed ?George Watt fecit, St. Ninian?s Row, Edin : 1791,? was hung in that year. In the west lobby of the church a handsome tablet bears the following inscription, removed, probably, from the older edifice :-? Here lyes the corpse of the Honble. Sir James Rocheid of Inverkith, who died the 1st day of May, 1737, in the 7 1st year of his age.? The last incumbent of the ancient church, Mr. Stewart, having died in April, 1775, was succeeded by the famous Sir Henry Wellwood Moncrieff, D.D., who for more than half a century was one of the greatest ornaments of the Scottish Church. At St. Cuthbert?s he soon became distinguished for his devoted zeal and fidelity in the discharge of his ministerial duties, for the mildness and benevolence of his disposition, for his genius, eloquence, and great personal worth. He soon became the leader of the Evangelical section of the church, and in 1785 was unanimously chosen Moderator of the General Assembly. He was appointed collector of the fund for the widows and children of the clergy, and filled that important situation till his death, and received annually the thanks of the Assembly for forty-three years. He was author of several sermons, and the funeral oration preached at his death by Dr. Andrew Thomson, 01 St. George?s, was long remembered for its power pathos, and tenderness. He died in 1827 of a lingering illness, in the 78th year of his age and 57th of his ministry. In its greatest length, quoad civiZia, in 1835, the parish measured upwards of five miles, and in its yeatest breadth three and a half. But in 1834 territories were detached from it and formed into ihe quoad sacra parishes of Buccleuch, St. Bemard?s, Newington, and Roxburgh. It was partly landward and partly town ; but, as regards population, is chiefly the latter now. Each of its two ministers has a manse. Before quitting the church of St. Cuthbert a reference must be made to its old poor-house, a plain but lofty edifice, with two projecting wings :standing on the south side of what was latterly :alled Riding School Lane), and now removed. At an early period a tax of LIOO sterling hac been laid on the parish to preclude begging, ? and maintain those who had been ?accustomed to live 3n the charity of others.? In 1739, at a meeting 3f heritow and the Session, the former protested against the levy of this old impost, on the plea ?that the poor?s funds were sufficient to maintain the poor in the landward part of the parish, with whom only the heritors were concerned ; while the poor living in Pleasance, Potter Row, Bristo, West Port, &c., fell to be maintained by the town in whose suburbs they were.? The assessment was thus abandoned, and an ancient practice was resorted to : the mendicant poor were furnished with metal badges, entitling them to solicit alms within the parish. The number furnished with this unenviable distinction amounted to fifty-eight in 1744, and the number of enroIled poor to 220, for whose support A200 sterling were expended. In 1754 the Kirk Session presented a nikmorial to the magistrates, craving a moiety of the duty levied on ale for the support of their poor, whereupon a wing was added to the city workhouse for the reception of St. Cuthbert?s mendicants. In June 1759 a subscription was opened for building a workhouse in the West Kirk. parish j the money obtained amounted to A553 sterling for the house, and A196 8s. of annual subscrip tions for the support of its inmates-a small proof that the incubus or inertia which had so long affected Edinburgh was now passing away ; and the building was commenced on the south side of a tortuous lane, St. Cuthbert?s, that then ran between hedgerows from opposite the churchyard gate towards the place named the Grove. It was completed by the year 1761, at a cost of about L1,565 sterling. The expenses of the house were defrayed partlv hv collections at the church doors
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