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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


238 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Grassmarket. Watt and Downie, they were brought to trial respectively in August and September, and the facts were fully proved against them. A letter from Downie, treasurer of the Committee of Ways and Means, to Walter Millar, Perth, acknowledging the receipt of LIS, on which he gave a coloured account of the recent riots in the theatre on the performance of ?? Charles I.? was produced and identified; and Robert Orrock stated that Downie accompanied Watt to his place at the Water of Leith, where the order was given for the pikes. William Brown said that he had made fifteen of these weapons, by order of Watt, to whom he delivered them, receiving 22s. 6d. for the fifteen. Other evidence at great length was led, a verdict of guilty was returned, and sentence of death was passed upon the prisoners-to have their bowels torn out, and to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The punishment of Downie was commuted to transportation ; and on the royal clemency being announced to him he burst into tears, and kneeling on the floor of the vault above the portcullis he exclaimed, in ecstasy, ?Oh, glory be to God, and thanks to the king! Thanks to him for his goodness ! I will pray for him as long as I live ! He had a wife and children,. and for years had enjoyed the reputation of being a sober and respectable mechanic. Previous to his execution Watt made a full confession of the aims and objects contemplated by the committees and their ramifications throughout Britain. He was in his thirty-sixth year, and was the natural son of a gentleman of fortune in Angus. He was executed on the 15th October, 1794 The magistrates, Principal Baird, the. city guard,. and town officers, with their halberds, conducted him from the Castle to the place of death at the end of the Tolbooth about two o?clock, The sheriff and his substitute were there, in black, with white gloves and rods. The hurdle was painted black, but drawn by a snow-white horse. It was surrounded by constables and zoo of the Argyle Fencible Highlanders, stepping to the ?? Dead March.? Watt was a picture of the most abject dejection. He was wrapped up in an old greatcoat, and wore a red night-cap, which, on the platform, he exchanged for a white one and a round hat ; but his whole appearance was wretched and pitiful in the extreme, and all unlike that of a man willing to die for conscience, or for country?s sake. After his body had hung for thirty minutes, it was cut down lifeless and placed on a table ; the executioner then Came forward with a large axe, and with two strokes severed from the body the head, which fell into a basket, and was then held up by the hair, in the ancient form, by the executioner, who exclaimed, ?? This is the head of a traitor ! The crowd on this occasion was slow in collecting, but became numerous at last, and showed little agitation when the drop fell; ?but the appearance of the axe,? says the Annual Regzkter, ?a sight for which they were totally unprepared, produced a shock instantaneous as electricity; and when it was uplifted such a general shriek or shout of horror burst forth as made the executioner delay his blow, while numbers .rushed off in all directions to avoid the sight.? The remains were next put into a coffin and conveyed away. The handcuffs used to secure Watt while a prisoner in the Castle were, in 1841, presented by Miss Walker of Drumsheugh to the Antiquarian Museum, where they are still preserved. C H A P T E R XXXI. THE COWGATE. ?The Cuwgate-Origin and Gend History of the Thoroughfare-First Houses built the-TheVernour?s Tenement-Alexander Ale-Division of the City in ~gx-?Dichting the Calsayy in qrS-The Cowgate Port-Beggars in 1616Gilbert B1akha.I-Names ofthe most Ancient Closes-The North Side of the Street-MacLcllan?s Land-Mrs Syme-John Nimmo-Dr. Qraham-The How of Si Thomas Hope and Lady Mar-The Old Back Stairs-Tragic Story of Captain Caylq-Old Meal Market-Riots in 1763-The Episcopal Chapel, now St. Pauick?s Roman Catholic Church-Trial of the Rev. Mr. Fitzsimmons THE Cowgate is, and has always been, one of the most remarkable streets in the ancient city. A continuation of the south back of the Canongate it runs along the deepest part of a very deep gorge, into which Blair, Niddry, and St. Mary?s Streets, with many other alleys, descend rapidly from the north and others from the south, and though high in its lines of antique houses, it passes underneath the overspanning central arch of the South Bridge and the more spacious one of George IV. Bridge, and, though very narrow, is not quite straight. For generations it has been the most densely peopled and poorest district in the metropolis, the most picturesque and squalid, and, when viewed
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Coweate.1 VERNOUR?S from the two bridges named, it seems to cower in its gorge, a narrow and dusky river of quaint and black architecture, yet teeming with life, bustle, and animation. Its length from where the Cowgate Port stood to the foot of the Candlemaker Row is about 800 yards. . I t is difficult to imagine the time when it was probably a narrow country way, bordered by hedgerows, skirting the base of the slope whereon lay the churchyard of St. Giles?s, ere houses began to appear upon its lie, ,and it acquired its name, which is now proved to have been originally the Sou?gate, or South Street. One of the earliest buildings immediately adjacent to the Cowgate must have been the ancient chapel of the Holyrood, which stood in the nether kirkyard of St. Giles?s till the Reformation, when the materials of it were used in the construction of the New Tolbooth. Building here must have begun early in the 15th century. In 1428 John Vernour gave a land (i.e., a tenement) near the town of Edinburgh, on the south side thereof, in the street called Cowgate, to Richard Lundy, a monk of Melrose,? for twenty shillings yearly. He or his heirs were to have the refusal of it if it were sold. (?Monastic Ann,? Tevio tdale.) In 1440 William Vernour, according to the same authority, granted this tenement to Richard Lundy, then Abbot of Melrose, without reserve, for thirteen shillings and fourpence yearly; and in 1493, Patrick, Abbot of Holyrood, confirmed the monks of Melrose in possession of their land called the Holy Rood Acre between the common Vennel, and another acre which they had beside the highway near the Canongate, for six shillings and eightpence yearly. On the 31st May, 1498, James IV. granted to Sir. John Ramsay of Balmain (previously Lord Bothwell under James 111.) a tenement and orchard in the Cowgate. This property is referred to in a charter under the Great Seal, dated 19th October, 1488, to Robert Colville, director of the chancery, of lands in the Cowgate of Edinburgh, once the property of Sir James Liddell, knight, ?et postea johannis Ramsay, oZim nunntpafi Domini BoifhveZe,? now in the king?s hands by the forfeiture first of Sir James Liddell, and of tenements of John Ramsay. Many quaint timber-fronted houses existed in the Cowgate, as elsewhere in the city. Such mansions were in favour throughout Europe generally in the 15th century, and Edinburgh was only influenced by the then prevailing taste of which so many fine examples still remain in Nuremberg . TENEMENT. 239 and Chester ; and in Edinburgh open piazzas and galleries projecting from the actual ashlar or original front of the house were long the fashion-the former for the display of goods for sale, and the latter for lounging or promenading in; and here and there are still lingering in the Cowgate mansions, past which James 111. and IV. may have ridden, and whose occupants buckled on their mail to fight on Flodden Hill and in Pinkey Cleugh. Men of a rank superior to any of which modem Edinburgh can boast had their dwellings in the Cowgate, which rapidly became a fashionable and aristocratic quarter, being deemed open and airy. An old author who wrote in 1530, Alexander Alesse, and who was born in the city in 1500, tells us that ?the nobility and chief senators of the city dwell in the Cowgate-via vaccarum in qud hrabifanf pdfriXi et senafores urbis,? and that U the palaces of the chief men of the nation are also there ; that none of the houses are mean or vulgar, but, on the contrary, all are magnificent-ubi nihJ Aunt& aui rusticum, sed omnia magzzjfca P Much of the street must have sprung into existence before the wall of James 11. was demolished, in which the High Street alone stood; and it was chiefly for the protection of this highly-esteemed suburb that the greater wall was erected after the battle of Flodden. A notarial instrument in 1509 cpncerning a tenement belonging to Christina Lamb on the south side near the Vennel (or wynd) from the Kirk of Field, describes it as partly enclosed with pales of wood fixed in the earth and having waste land adjoining it. In the division of the city into three quarters in I 5 I 2, the 6rst from the east side of Forester?s Wynd, on both sides of the High Street, and under the wall to the Castle Hill, was to be held by Thomas Wardlaw. The second quarter, from the Tolbooth Stair, ?? quhak Walter Young dwellis in the north part of the gaitt to the Lopley Stane,? to beunder the said Walter; and the third quarter from the latter stone to Forester?s Wynd ?in the sowth pairt of the gaitt, with part of the Cowgate, to be under George Dickson.? In 1518, concerning the ?Dichting of the Calsay,? it was ordained by the magistrates, that all the inhabitants should clean the portion thereof before their own houses and booths ?als weill in the Kowgaitt venellis as on the Hie Gaitt,? and that all tar barrels and wooden pipes be removed from the streets under pain of escheat. In 1547 and 1548 strict orders were issued with reference to the gwds at the city gates, and no man who was skilled in any kind of gunnery was to quit the tom
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