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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


336 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Nicolson Stret. brated chemist, Dr. Joseph Black, who, as we have elsewhere stated, was found dead in his chair in November, 1799, and whose high reputation contributed so largely in his time to the growing fame of our University. The institution was first suggested by the celebrated Dr. Thomas Blacklock, who lost his sight before he was six months old, and by Mr. David Miller, also a sufferer from blindness ; but it was chiefly through the exertions of Dr. David Johnsales of the above kinds of work have in some years amounted to ;C;IO,OOO, and in 1880 to &18,724 8s., notwithstanding the general depression of trade ; but this was owing to the Government contract for brushes.' Hence the directors have been enabled to make extensive alterations and improvements to a large amount. The asylum has received a new and elegant fapde, surmounted by stone-faced dormer windows, a handsome cornice, and balustrade, with a large THE MAHOGANY LAND, POTTERROW, 1821. (Ajtecr a Paintinc ay W. McEwan, in the #osscsaim of Dr. ].A. Sidey.) stone, the philanthropic minister of North Leith, aided by a subscription of only A20 from the great Wilberforce, that the asylum was founded in 1793, ip one of the dingy old houses of Shakespeare Square, into which nine blind persons were received; but the public patronage having greatly increased, in 1806 the present building, No. 58, was purchased, acd in 1822 another house, No. 38, was bought for the use of the female blind. The latter are employed in sewing the covers for mattresses and feather beds, knitting stockings, Src. The males are employed in making mattresses, mats, ,brushes, baskets of every kind, in weaving sacking, matting, and " rag-carpets.'' No less than eighteen looms are employed in this work. The central doorway, in a niche above which is a bust of Dr. David Johnstone, the founder, from the studio of the late Handyside Ritchie. The inmates seem to spend a very merry life, for though the use of their eyes has been denied them, they have no restriction placed upon their tongues ; thus, whenever two or three of them are together, they are constantly talking, or singing their national songs. A chapel is attached to the works, and therein, besides regular morning worship, the blind hold large meetings in connection with the various benefit societies they have established among themselves. The younger lads who come from the Blind School at Craigmillar, and are employed here,
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NioiLson Street.] JOHN MACLAREN. 337 spend a portion of each day in education, often passing an hour or more daily in learning to read by means of raised letters, under the direction of the chaplain. One of the most remarkable inmates here was John Maclaren, who deserves to be recorded for his wonderful memory. He was a native of Edinburgh, and lost his sight by small-pox in infancy. He was admitted into the first asylum ir. Shakespeare Square in 1793, and was the last survivor In West Richmond Street, which opens off the east side of Nicolson Street, is the McCrie Free Church, so named from being long the scene of the labours of Dr. Thomas McCric, the zealous biographer of Knox and Melville. Near it, a large archway leads into a small and dingy-looking court, named Simon Square, crowded by a humble, but dense population ; yet it has associations intimately connected with literature and the fine arts, for there a poor young student from Rnnandale, named SURGEONS? HALL. of the original members. With little exception, he had committed the whole of the Scriptures to memory, and was most earnest in his pious efforts to instruct the blind boys of the institution in portions of the sacred volume. He could repeat an entire passage of the Bible, naming chapter and verse, wherever it might be opened for him. As age came upon him the later events of his life eluded his memory, while all that it had secured of the earlier remained distinct to the last. Throughout his long career he was distinguished by his zeal in promoting the spiritual welfare and temporal comfort of the little community of which he was a member, and also for 3 life of increasing industry, which closed on the 14th of November, 1840. 91 Thomas Carlyle, lodged when he first came to Edinburgh, and in a narrow alley called Paul Street David Wilkie took up his abode on his arrival in Edinburgh in 1799. He was then in his fourteenth year; and so little was thought of his turn for art, that it required all the powerful influence of the kind old Earl of Leven to obtain him admission as a student at the Academy of the Board of Trustees. The room he occupied in Paul Street was a little back one, about ten feet square, at the top of a common stair on the south side of the alley, and near the Pleasance. From this he removed to a better lodging in East Richmond Street, and from thence to an attic in Palmer?s Lane, West Nicolson Street, where hq
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