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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Portobello.] THE FIGGATE MUIR ?43 to the line of the turnpike road. The whole surface of the district round them is studded with buildings, and has only so far subsided from the urban character as to acquire for these, whether villa or cottage, the graceful accompaninients of garden or hedge-row. ?A stroll from the beautified city to Piershill,? says a writer, ?when the musical bands of the barracks are striving to drown the soft and carolling melodies of the little songsters on the hedges and trees at the subsession ot Arthur?s Seat, and when? the blue Firth, with its many-tinted canopy of clouds, and its picturesque display of islets and steamers, and little smiling boats on its waters, vies with the luxuriant lands upon its shore to win the award due to beauty, is indescribably delightful.? C H A P T E R X I V . PORTOBELLO. Portolxll~The Site before the Houses-The Figgate Muir-Stone Coffins-A Meeting with Cromwell-A Curious Raae--Portobello Hut- Robbqrs-Willkq Jamieson?s Feuing-Sir W. Scott and ?The Lay ?-Portobello Tower-Review of Yeomanry and H i g h d e w Hugh Miller-David Laing-Joppa-Magdalene Bridge-Brunstane House. PORTOBELLO, now a Parliamentary burgh, and favourite bathing quarter of the citizens, occupies a locality known for ages as the Figgate Muir, a once desolate expanse of muir-land, which perhaps was a portion of the forest of Drumsheugh, but which latterly was covered With whins and furze, bordered by a broad sandy beach, and extending from Magdalene Bridge on the south perhaps to where Seafield now lies, on the north-west. Through this waste flowed the Figgate Bum out of Duddingston Loch, a continuation of the Braid. Figgate is said to be a corruption of the Saxon word for a cow?s-ditch, and here ?the monks of Holyrood were wont to pasture their cattle. Traces of early inhabitants were found here in 1821, when three stone cofiins?were discovered under a tumulus of sand, midway between Portobello and Craigantinnie. These were rudely put together, and each contained a human skeleton. ?? The bones were quite entire,?? says the Week& JournnZ for that year, ?and from their position it would appear that the bodies had been buried with their legs across. At the head of each was deposited a number of flints, from which it is conjectured the inhumation had taken place before the use of metal in this country; and, what is very remarkable, the roots of some shrubs had penetrated the coffins and skulls of the skeletons, about which and the ribs they had curiously twisted themselves. The cavities of the skeletons indeed were quite filled with vegetable matter.? It was on the Figgate Muir that, during the War of Independence, Sir William Wallace in 1296 mustered his zoo patriots to join Robert Lauder and Crystal Seton at Musselblirgh for the pursuit of the traitor Earl of Dunbar, whom they fought at Inverwick, afterwards taking his castle at Dunbar. In the Register of the Privy Council, January, 1584, in a bond of caution for David Preston of Craigmillar, Robert Pacok in Brigend, Thomas Pacok in Cameron, and others, are named as sureties that John Hutchison, mirchant and burgess of Edinburgh, shall be left peaceably in possession of the lands ?? callit Kingis medow, besyde the said burgh, and of that pairt thairof nixt adjacent to the bume callit the Figott Burne, on the north side of the same, being a proper pairt and pertinent of the saidis landis of Kingis Medow.? Among the witnesses is George Ramsay, Dean of Restalrig. We next hear of this locality in 1650, when it was supposed to be the scene of a secret meeting, ?? half way between Leith and Musselburgh Rocks, at low water,? between Oliver Cromwell and the Scottish leaders, each attended by a hundred horse, when any question the latter proposed to ask he agreed to answer, but declined to admit alike of animadversion or reply. A part of this alleged conference is said to have been- ? Why did you put the king to death ? ?? Because he was a tyrant, and deserved death.? ? Why did you dissolve the Parliament ? I? ?? Because they .were greater tyrants than the king, and required dissolution.? The Mercurius CaZtdoonius of 1661 records a very different scene here, under the name of the Thicket Burn, when a foot-race was run from thence to the summit of Arthur?s Seat by twelve browster-wives, ?all of them in a condition which makes violent exertion unsuitable to the female form.? The prizes on this occasiofi were, for the first, a hundredweight of cheese and ?a budge11 of Dunkeld aquavite, andarumpkin of Brunswick rum for the second, set down by the Dutch midwife. The next day six
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144 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [portobella monly let to one of the Duddingston tenants for zoo merks Scots, or LII 2s. z&d. sterling. Portobello Hut, built in 1742, by an old Scottish seaman who had served under Admiral Vernon, in 1739, was so named by him in honour of our triumph at that West Indian seaport, and hence the cognomen of this watering-place ; but houses must have sprung up around it by the year 1753, as in the Cowanf of that year, ?( George Hamilton in Portobello ? offers a reward of three pounds for the name of a libeller who represented him as harbouring in his house robbers, by whom, and by some smugglers, the locality was then infested. In the January of the following year the S o f s Magazine records that Alexander Henderson, ~~ teen fishwives (are) to trot from Musselburgh to the Canon(gate) Cross, for twelve pairs of lambs? hanigals.? The Figgate Bum was the boundary in this quarter of a custom-house at Prestonpans j the Tyne was the boundary in the other direction. The Figgate lands, on which Portobello and Brickfield are built, says the old statistical account, consist together of about seventy acres, and continued down to 1762 a mere waste, and were com- Lord Milton, the proprietor, to Baron Muir, of the Exchequer, for A1,500, and feuing then began at t f 3 per acre; but the once solitary abode of the old tar was long an object of interest, and stood intact till 1851, at the south-west side of the High Street, nearly opposite to Regent Street, and was long used as a hostelry for humble foot-travellers, on a road that led from the old Roman way, or Fishwives? Causeway, across the Whins towards Musselburgh. Parker Lawson, in his cc Gazetteer,? says it was long known as the Shtpheyds? Ha?. In 1765, Mr. William Jamieson, the feuar under Baron Muir, discovered near the Figgate Bum a valuable bed of clay, and on the banks of the stream he erected first a brick and tile works, a d master of a fishing-boat, on his way from Musselburgh to Leith, was attacked by footpads at the Figgate Whins, who robbed him of ten guineas that were sewn in the waistband of his breeches, 12s. 6d. that he had in his pocket, cut him over the head with a broadsword, stabbed him in the breast, and left him for dead. His groans were heard by two persons coming that way, who carried him to Leith.? About 1763 the Figgate Wins was sold by THE eRAIGANTINNIE MARBLES.
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