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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Abbeyhill.] BARON NORTON. I27 CHAPTER XIII. THE DISTRICT OF RESTALRIG. Abhey Hill-Baron Norton-Alex. Campbell and ? Albyn?s Anthology ?--Comely Gardens-Easter Road-St. Margaret?s Well-Church and Legend of St. Triduana-Made Collegiate by James 111.-The Mausoleum-Old Bardns of Restalrig-pe Logans, &c.-Conflict of Black Saturday-Residents of Note-First Balloon in Britain-Rector Adams-The Nisbets of Craigantinnie and Dean-The Millers- The Craieantinnie Tomb and Marbles-The Marionville Traeedv-The Hamlet of Jock?o Lodge-Mail-bag Robberies in seventeenth and - _ eighteenth centuries-Piershill House and Barracks. AT the Abbey Hill, an old house-in that antiquated but once fashionable suburb, which grew up in the vicinity of the palace of Holyrood-with groups of venerable trees around it, which are now, like itself, all swept away to make room for the present Abbeyhill station and railway to Leith, there lived long the Hon. Fletcher Norton, appointed one of the Barons of the Scottish Exchequer in 1776, with a salary of &2,865 per annum, deemed a handsome income in those days. He was the second son of Fletcher Norton of Grantley in Yorkshire, who was Attorney-General of England in 1762, and was elevated to the British peerage in 1782, as Lord Grantley. He came to Scotland at a time when prejudices then against England and Englishmen were strong and deep, for the rancour excited by the affair of 1745, about thirty years before, was revived by the periodical publication of the Nhth Briton, but Baron Norton soon won the regard of all who knew him. His conduct as a judge increased the respect which his behaviour in private life obtained, His perspicacity easily discovered the true merits of any cause before him, while his dignified and conciliatory manner, joined to the universal confidence which prevailed in his rigid impartiality, reconciled to him even those who suffered by such verdicts as were given against them in consequence of his charges to the juries. He married in 1793 a Scottish lady, a Miss Balmain, and in the Edinburgh society of his time stood high in the estimation of all, ?as a husband, father, friend, and master,? according to a print of 1820. ? His fund of information-of anecdotes admirably told-his social disposition, and the gentlemanly pleasantness of his manner, made his society to be universally coveted. Resentment had no place in his bosom. He seemed almost insensible to injury so immediately did he pardon it. Amongst his various pensioners were several who had shown marked ingratitude ; but distress, with him, covered every offence against himself.? He was a warm patron of the amiable and enthusiastic, but somewhat luckless Alexander Campbell, author of ? The Grampians Desolate,? which ?fell dead ? from the press, and editor of ? Albyn?s Anthology,? who writes thus in the preface to the first volume of that book in 1816, and which, we may mention, was a ? collection of melodies and local poetry peculiar to Scotland and the isles ? :- ? So far back as the year 1780, while as yet the editor of ?Albyn?s Anthology? was an organist to one of the Episcopal chapels in Edinburgh, he projected the present work. Finding but small encouragement at that period, and his attention being directed to pursuits of quite a different nature, the plan was dropped, till by an accidental turn of conversation at a gentleman?s table, the Hon. Fletcher Norton gave a spur to the speculation now in its career. He with that warmth of benevolence peculiarly his own, offered his influence with the Royal Highland Society of Scotland, of which he is a member of long standing, and in conformity with the zeal he has uniformly manifested for everything connected with the distinction and prosperity of our ancient realm, on the editor giving him a rough outline of the present undertaking, the Hon. Baron put it into the hands of Henry Mackenzie, Esq., of the Exchequer, and Lord Bannatyne, whose influence in the society is deservedly great. And immediately on Mr. Mackenzie laying it before a select committee for music, John H. Forbes, Esq. (afterwards Lord Medwyn), as convener of the committee, convened it, and the result was a recommendation to the society at large, who embraced the project cordially, voted a sum to enable the editor to pursue his plan ; and forthwith he set out on a tour through the Highlands and western islands. Having performed a journey (in pursuit of materials for the present work) of between eleven and twelve hundred miles, in which he collected 191 specimens of melodies and Gaelic vocal poetry, he returned to Edinburgh, and laid the fruits of his gleanings before the society, who were pleased to honour with their approbation his success in attempting to collect and preserve the perishing remains of what is so closely interwoven with the history and literature of Scot!and.? From thenceforth the ?? Anthology? was a success, and a second volume appeared in 1818. Under the influence of Baron Norton, Campbell got many able contributors, among whom appear the names of Scott, Hogg, Mrs. Grant of Laggan, RIaturin, and Jamieson.
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128 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Restalrig, Baron Norton was remarkable for his constant attention to all religious duties. Throughout his long life not a Sunday passed in which he was prevented from attending the service of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and so inviolable was his regard to truth, that no argument could ever prevail upon him to deviate from the performance of a promise, though obtained contrary to his interest and by artful representations imperfectly founded. He died at Abbeyhill in 1820, after officiating as a Baron of Exchequer for forty-four years. His remains were taken to England and deposited in the family vault at Wonersh, near Guildford, in Surrey. On the death of his elder brother William, without heirs in 1822, his son Fletcher Norton succeeded as third Lord Grantley. It is from him that the three adjacent streets at the delta of the Regent and London Roads take their names. In this quarter lie Comely Green and Comely Gardens. During the middle of the last century, the latter would seem to have been a species of lively Tivoli Gardens for the lower classes in Edinburgh, though Andrew Gibb, the proprietor thereof, addresses his advertisement to ? gentlemen and ladies,? in the Chrant of September 1761. Therein he announces that he intends U to give up Comely Gardens in a few weeks, and hopes they will favour his undertaking and encourage him to the last. As the ball nights happened to be rainy these three weeks past he is to keep the gardens open every day for this season, that gentlemen and ladies may have the benefit of a walk there upon paying zd to the doorkeeper for keeping the walk in order, and may have tea, coffee, or fruit any night of the ball nights ; and hereby takes this opportunity of returning his hearty thanks to the noblemen, gentlemen, and ladies, who have done him the honour to favour him with their company, and begs the continuance of their favour, as the undertaking has been accompanied with great expense. Saturday night is intended to be the last public one of this season.? A subsequent advertisement announces for sale, ?the enclosed grounds of Comely Gardens, together with the large house then commonly called the Green House, and tlie office, houses, &c., on the east side of the road leading to Jock?s Lodge.? Adjoining the new abbey church, at the end of a newly-built cuZ-de-sac, is one of those great schools built by the Edinburgh School Board, near Norton Place. In architectural design it corresponds with the numerous Board Schools erected elsewhere in the city. Including For the site Az,ooo was paid. fittings, the edifice cost ,&7,700, Extending across the width of the building, on both flats, are two great halls, with four class-rooms attached. The infants are accommodated down-stairs, the juveniles above. On the ground flat is a large sewing-room All the class-rooms are lofty and well ventilated. At the back are playgrounds, partly covered, for the use of the pupils, whose average number is 540. The long thoroughfare which runs northward from this quarter, named the Easter Road, was long the chief access to the city from Leith j the only other, until the formation of the Walk, being the Western or Bonnington Road. On the east side of it are the vast premises built in 1878 by the Messrs. W. and A. K. Johnston for business purposes, as engravers, printers, and pub lishers, and a little to the north of these are the recently-built barracks for the permanent use of the City Militia, or ?Duke of Edinburgh?s Own Edinburgh Artillery,? consisting of six batteries, having twenty officers, including the Prince. Passing an old mansion, named the Drum, in the grounds of which were dug up two very fine claymores, now possessed by the proprietor, Mr. Smith- Sligo of Inzievar, we find a place on the west side of the way that is mentioned more than once in Scottish history, the Quarry Holes. In 1605, Sir Janies Elphinstone, first Lord Balmerino, became proprietor of the lands of Quarry Holes after the ruin of Logan of Restalng. The Upper Quarry Holes were situated on the declivity of the Calton Hill, at the head of the Easter Road, and allusion is made to them in some trials for witchcraft in the reign of James VI. At the foot of this road a new Free Church for South Leith was erected in 1881, and during the excavations four humad skeletons were discoveredthose of the victims of war or a plague. Eashvard of this, cut off on the south by the line of the North British Railway, and partially by the water of Lochend on the west, lies the still secluded village of Restalrig, which, though in the immediate vicinity of the city, seems, somehow, to have fallen so completely out of sight, that a vast portion of the inhabitants appear scarcely to be aware of its existence ; yet it teems with antiquarian and historical memories, and possesses an example of ecclesiastical architecture the complete restoration of which has been the desire of many generations of men of taste, and in favour of which the late David Laing wrote strongly-the ancient church of St. Triduana. But long before the latter was erected Restalrig was chiefly known from its famous old well.
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