Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


290 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. me Old High Schaol? display the dresses so used should be given to the poor.? For many years the history of the school is little more than a biographical list of the various masters and teachers. A fifth class was established in I 614 for the rudiments of Greek during the rectorship of John Ray (the friend of Zachary Boyd), who after being Professor of Humanity in the university for eight years, regarded it promotion to leave it to take full charge of the High School ; and when he died, in February, 1630, his office was again conferred upon a Professor of Humanity, Thomas Crawford, who figured prominently amid the pageants with which Charles I. was welcomed to the city in 1633, and with Hawthornden and others composed and delivered some of the bombastic speeches on that occasion. In his time the number of pupils fluctuated greatly ; he complained to the Council that though they had led him to expect ? 400 bairns at the least,? he had only 180 when he began office. But there is no authentic record of attendance at that early period ; and it is curious that the abstract of the annual enrolment of scholars goes no farther back than the Session of 1738-9, while a general matriculation register was not commenced till 1827. In December, 1640, Crawford returned to the university, and was succeeded by William Spence, schoolmaster of Prestonpans ; but to give all the successive masters of the institution would far exceed our space. The masters and scholars had very indifferent accommodation during the invasion of Cromwell after Dunbar. His troops made a barrack of the school-house, and while there broke and burned all the woodwork, leaving it in such a state of ruin that the pupils had to meet in Lady Yester?s Church till it was repaired by funds drawn from the masters of the Trinity Hospital at the foot of Leith Wynd. A library for the benefit of the institution was added to it in 1658, and it now consists of many thousand volumes. Among the first donors of books were John Muir the rector, all the masters, Patrick Scott of Thirlstane, and John Lord Swinton of that ilk. At present it is sup ported by the appropriation of one half of the n?iatriculation fund to its use, and every way it is a valuable classical, historical, geographical, and antiquarian collection. The rector and masters, with the assistance of the janitor, discharge in rotation the duties of librarian. Ap old periodical source of income deserves to be noticed. In 1660, on the 20th January, the Town Council ordered ? the casualty called the b(rir-iZve? to be withheld until the 1st of March. This was a gratuity presented to the masters by their pupils at Candlemas, and he who gave the most was named the King. ? Bleis? being the Scottish word for blaze, the origin of the gratuity must have been a Candlemas offering for the lights and candles anciently in use ; moreover, the day was a holiday, when the boys appeared in their best apparel accompanied by their parents. The roll was then called over, and each boy presented his offering. When the latter was less than the quarterly fee no notice was taken of it, but if it amounted to that sum the rector exclaimed with a loud voice, Vivat; to twice the ordinary fee, FZoreai bis; for a higher sum, Fioreaf ter; for a guinea and upwards, Gloriat! The highest donor was named the fictor, or King. The Council repeatedly issued injunctions against the levy of any ?&is-syZver, or BentsyZver,? but apparently in vain. The latter referred to the money for collecting bent, or rushes, to lay down on the clay floor to keep the feet warm and dry; and so latelyas the commencement of the seventeenth century, during the summer season, the pupils had leave to go forth with hooks to cut bent by the margins of Duddingston and the Burgh lochs, or elsewhere. ?Happily,? says Steven, of a later date, ? all exactions are now unknown ; and at four regular periods in the course of each session, the teachers receive from their pupils a fixed fee, which is regarded as a fair remuneration for their professional labour.? In those days the pupils attended divine service, accompanied by their masters, and were frequently catechised before the congregation. A part of Lady Yester?s Church, was set apart for their use, and afterwards the eastern gallery of the Trinity College church. In 1680, the Privy Council issued a proclamation prohibiting all private Latin schools to be opened within the city or suburbs, and thus the High School enjoyed an almost undisturbed monopoly ; and sixteen years after, in the proceedings of the Town Council, we find the following enactment :- ?Edinbuqh, [email protected] 11, 1696.-The Council considering that the High School of this city being situate in a corner at some distance, many of the inhabitants, whose children are tender, being unwilling to expose them to. the cold winter mornings, and send them to the said school before the hour of seven, as use is ; therefore, the Council ordain the masters of the said school in all time coming, to meet and convene at nine of the clock in the morning during the winter season, viz., from the 1st of November to the 1st March yearly, and to teach the scholars till twelve, that which they were
Volume 4 Page 290
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print