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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Volume 6 Page 261
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262 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Leith. .%dim, or ?? Miscellaneous Papers relating tc Scottish Affairs ?? (1535-1781)~ we find some entries that prove the game was still a fashionable one :- 1672. 15 S. a. Jan. 13. Lost at golf with Pitaro and ,, Lost at golf with Lyon and Comissar Munro ............ o 13 o .................. Harry Hay 1 4 0 Feb. 14. Spent at Leithe at golf ........ 2 o o ,, 26. Spent at Leithe at golf ......... I g o March3. For three golf balls ............... o 15 o In the year I 724 the Hon. Alexander Elphinstone (of whom more anon), elder brother of the unfortunate Lord Balmerino, engaged on Leith Links in what the prints of that time term ?a solemn match at golf? with another personage, who is better known in history-the famous Captain John Porteous of the City Guard-for a twenty guineas? stake. On this occasion the reputation of the players (or skill excited great interest, and the match was attended by James, Duke of Hamilton, George Earl of Morton, and a vast crowd of spectators. Elphinstone proved the winner. President Forbes was so enthusiastic a golfer that he frequently played on the Links of Leith when they were .covered with snow, Thus Thomas Mathieson, minister of Brechin, in his quaint poem, ?The Goff,? first published in 1743, says :- ? - great Fork, patron of the just, The dread of villains, and the good man?s trust, When spent in toils in saving human kind, His body recreates and unbends his mind.? Elsewhere he refers thus to these Links :- ? North from Edina eight furlongs or more, Lies the famed field on Fortha?s sounding shore. Here Caledonian chiefs for health resort- Confirm their sinews in the manly sport.? When the silver club was given by the magistrates and Town Council of Edinburgh, in 1744, to be played for annually on the Links of Leith, in the April of the following year, just before the rising in the Highlands, the Lord President Forbes was one of the competitors, together with Hew Dalrymple, Lord Hailes, and other men then eminent in the city. Smollett, in his ?? Humphrey Clinker,? after detailing the mode in which the game is played, says :--?Of this diversion the Scots are so fond that, when the weather will permit, you may see a multitude of all ranks, from the senator of justice to the lowest tradesmen, mingled together in their shirts, and following the balls with the utmost eagerness. Among others, I was shown one particular set of golfers, the youngest of whom was turned of four-score. They were all gentlemen of independent fortunes, who had amused themselves with this pastime for the best part of a century without ever having felt the least alarm from sickness or disgust, and they never went to bed without having each the best part of a gallon of claret in his belly ! Such uninterrupted exercise, co-operating with the keen air f?om the sea, must, without doubt, keep the appetite always on edge, and steel the constitution against all the common attacks of distemper.? The Golf House was built towards the close of the last century, near the foot of the Easter Road, and prior to its erection the golfers frequented a tavern on the west side of the Kirkgate, near the foot of Leith Walk, where, says the Rev. Parker Lawson, they usually closed the day with copious libations of claret, in silver or pewter tankards. The Links of Leith were often the scene of meetings of a very different nature than the merry pursuit of golf-duels and executions, etc. On the 25th of July, 1559, when the Queen Regent took possession of Edinburgh, on being assured of the friendship of Lord Erskine, then governor of the castle, the Lords of the Congregation and their adherents drew up their terms of accommodation at their muster-place on the Links, where the mounds of the breaching batteries were thrown up in the following year; and during the Cromwellian usurpation, the people of Leith, excluded from their churches, had to meet there in the open air for Divine worship. Among the muItitude of unminded petitions sent to the representative of the Republiqn Govemment in Leith, was one in 1655, craving that the port, or gate, nearest the Links (supposed to have been somewhere near the present Links Lane) might be left open ? on Sabbath from seven o?clock in the morning till two o?clock in the afternoon, for outgoing of the people to sermon.? The first years of the next century saw less reputable assemblages on the same ground. The spirit of cock-fighting had been recently introduced into Scotland from the sister kingdom, and the year 1702 saw a cock-pit in full operation on Leith Links, when the charges of admission were Iod. for the front row, 7d. for the second, and 4d. for the third (Amot) ; and the passion for cockfighting became so general among all ranks of the people, and was carried to such a cruel extent, that the magistrates of Edinburgh forbade its practice on the streets, in consequence of the tumults it excited. This was on the 16th February, 1704, according to the Csuncil Register. Yet in the following year Mr. William Machrie,
Volume 6 Page 262
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