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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


230 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Grassmarket: houses which were inhabited by this gang were well chosen for the purpose to which they were put. Burke?s dwelling, in which he has only resided since June last, is at the end of a long passage, and separated from every other house except one. After going through the close from the street there is a descent by a stair to the passage, at the end of which is to be found this habitation of wickedness. I t consists of one apartment, an oblong square, at the end of which is a miserable bed, under which may still be seen some straw in which his murdered victims were concealed. The house of Hare is in a more retired situation. The passage to it is by a dark and dirty close, in which there? are no inhabitants, except in the tlat above. Both houses are on the ground floor.? Tanner?s Clme still exists, but the abodes of those two wretches-the most cold-blooded criminals in history-are now numbered, as we have stated, among the things that were. At the head of Liberton?s Wynd three reversed stones indicate where, on this? and on other occasions, the last sentence of the law was carried out. CHAPTER XXX. THE GRASSMARKET. The Grassmarket-The Mart of 1477-Margaret Tudor-Noted Executions-?Half Hangit Maggie Dickson?4talian hlountebanks-Grey Friary Founded by Jam- I.-Henry VI. of England a Fugitive-The Grev Friars Port-New Corn Exchanee-The White Hone Inn -Camels-The Castle Wvnd-First Gaelic ChatKl therdurrie Close-The Cockpit-Story of Watt and Downie, ?The Friends of the People ?-Their Trial aniSentencc-Executbn bf Watt. THE Grassmarket occupies that part of the southern valley which lies between the eastern portion of the Highnggs and the ridge of the Castle Hill and Street. It is a spacious and stately rectangle, 230 yards in length, communicating at its south-east corner with the ancient Candlemaker Row and southern portion of the old town, and at its north-east angle with the acclivitous, winding, narrow, and more ancient alley, the West Bow, or that fragment of it which now NOS into Victoria Street, and the steps near the (now demolished) Land of Weir the wizard. The Grassmarket is darkly overhung on the north by the precipitous side of the Castle Esplanade, the new west approach, and the towering masses of Johnstone Terrace and the General Assembly Hall, but on the south is the gentler slope, crowned by the turrets of Heriot?s Hospital and the heavy mass of the Greyfriars churches. The western end of this rectangle was long closed up and encroached upon by the Corn Market, an unsightly arcaded edifice, 80 feet long by 45 broad, with a central belfry and clock, now swept away, and its eastern end, where the old Corn Market is shown in Edgar?s map, is deeply associated with much that is sad, terrible, and deplorable in Scottish history, as the scene of the fervid testimony and dying supplications of many a martyr to U the broken covenant,? in defence of that Church, every stone of which may be said to have been cemented by the blood of the people. Now the Grassmarket is the chief rendezvous of carriers and farmers, and persons of various classes connected with the county horse and cattle markets, and presents a remarkably airy, busy, and imposing appearance, with its infinite variety of architecture, crow-stepped gables, great chimneys, turnpike stairs, old signboards, and projections of many kinds. The assignment of this locality as the site ot a weekly market dates from the year 1477, when King James 111. by his charter for the holding of markets, ordained- that wood and timber be sold ?fra Dalrimpill yarde to the Grey Friars and westerwart; alswa all old graith and geir to be vsit and soldin the Friday market before the Greyfriars lyke as is usit in uthir cuntries.? In 1503, on the mamage of Margaret of England to James IV., the royal party were met at the western entrance to the city by the whole of the Greyfriars-whose monastery was on the south side of the Grassmarket-bearing in procession their most valued relics, which were presented to the royal pair to kiss ; and thereafter they were stayed at an embattled barrier, erected for the occasion, at the windows of which appeared angels singing songs of welcome to the English bride, while one presented her with the keys of Edinburgh. In 1543 we first hear of this part of the city having been causewayed, or paved, when the Provost and Bailies employed Moreis Crawfurd to mend ?the calsay,? at 26s. 8d. per rood from the Upper Bow to the West Port In 1560 the magistrates removed the Corn
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Grassmarket.] EXECUTIONS IN THE GUSSMARKET. 231 Market, from the corner of Marlin?s Wynd (where Blair Street is now) to the east end of the Grassmarket, where it continued to be held until within the last few years. It was not until about a century later that this great market place began to acquire an interest of a gloomy and peculiar character, as the scene of the public execution of many victims of religious intolerance, who died heroically here, and also as the spot where niany criminals met their doom. Prior to the adoption of this place for public executions, the Castle Hill and Market Cross had been the spots chosen j and a sword, as in France and elsewhere on the Continent, was used, before the introduction of the Maiden, for beheading. , Thus we find that in 1564, the magistrates, because the old beheading sword had become worn out, reteived from William Macartnay ? his tua-handit sword, to be usit for ane heidmg sword,? and gave him the sum of five pounds therefor. Among some of the most noted eFecutions in the Grassmarket were those of the fanatic Mitchel in 1676, for attempting to shoot Archbishop Sharp in 1668; of Sergeant John Nisbett, of Hardhill, in 1685, who had received seventeen wounds at the battle of Pentland, and fought at Drumclog, according to the Wodrow Biographies ; of Isabel Alison and Marion Harvey-the latter only twenty years of age-two young women, for merely having heard Donald Cargill preach. The human shambles in this place of wailing witnessed executions of this kind almost daily till the 17th of February, 1688, when James Renwick, the celebrated field preacher, and the last martyr of the Covenant, was found guilty, on his own confession, of disowning an uncovenanted king, and executed in the twenty-sixth yearof his age. Most of the hundred and odd pious persons who suffered for the same cause in Edinburgh breathed their last prayers on this spot. Hence arose the Duke of Rothes? remark, when a covenanting prisoner proved obdurate, ? Then let him glorify God in the Grassmarket?-the death of that class of victinis always being accompanied by much psalm-singing on the scaffold. In the time of Charles II., Alexander Cockburn, the city hangman, having murdered a King?s Bluegown, died here the death he had so often meted out to others. In 1724 the same place was the scene of the partial execution of a woman, long remembered in Edinburgh, as ?? Half-hangit Maggie Dickson.? She was a native of Inveresk, and was tried under the Act of 1690 for concealment of pregnancy, in the case of a dead child ; and the defence that she was a married woman, though living apart from her husband, who was working in the keels at New- ? castle, proved of no avail, and a broadside of the day details her execution with homble minuteness ; how the hangman did his usual office of dragging down her legs, and how the ?body, after hanging the allotted time, was put into a coffin, thecooms of which were nailed firmly to the gibbet-foot. After a scuffle with some surgeon-apprentices who wished to possess themselves of the body, her friends conveyed it away by the Society Port, but the jolting of the cart in which the coffin lay had stirred vitality and set the blood in motion. Thus she was found to be alive when passing Peffermiln, and was completely restored at Musselburgh, where flocks of people came daily to see her. She had several children after this event, and lived long as the keeper of an ale-house and as a crier of salt in the streets of Edinburgh. (? Dom Ann.? III., StaL Acct., Vol XVI). In the account of the Porteous Mob eo1 I., pp. I 28-13 I), we have referred to the executions of Wilson and of Porteous, in 1736, in this placethe street ?crowded with rioters, crimson with torchlight, spectators filling every window of the tall houses-the Castle standing high above the tumult amidst the blue midnight and the stars.? It Continued to be the scene of such events till 1784; and in a central situation at the east end of the market there remained until 1823 a qoassive block of sandstone, having in its c h t r ~ a quadrangular hole, which served as the socket of the gallows-tree ; but instead of the stone there is now only a St. Andrew?s Cross in the causeway to indicate the exact spot. The last person who suffered in the Grassmarket was James Andrews, hanged there on the 4th of February, 1784, for a robbery committed in Hope Park ; and the first person executed at the west end of the old city gaol, was Alexander Stewart, a youth pf only fifteen, who had committed many depredations, and at last had been convicted of breaking into the house of Captain Hugh Dalrymple, of Fordell in the Potterrow, and NeidpathCastle, the seat of the Duke of Queensberry, from which he carried off many articles of value. It was expressly mentioned by the judge in his sentence, that he was to be hanged in the Grassmarket, ?or any other place the magistrates might appoint,? thus indicating that a change was in contemplation ; and accordingly, the west end of the old Tolbooth was fitted up for his execution, which took place on the 20th of April, 1785. In 1733 the Grassmarket was the scene of some remarkable feats, performed by a couple of Italian mountebanks, a father and his son, A rope being fixed between the half-moon battery of the Castle,
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