Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.] THE TOLBOOTH WYND. 1 0 marrow alley adjoining the latter, a house bearing the date 1688 has the two legends, ?Feir the Lord,? and ?The feir of the Lord is the beginning of a1 wisdome.? This part of the town-about the foot of St. Andrew?s Street-is said to have borne anciently the name of St. Leonard?s. There the Street diverges into two alleys : one narrow and gloomy, which bears the imposing title of Parliament Court ; and the other called Sheephead Wynd, in which there remains a very ancient edifice, the ground floor of which is formed of arches constructed like those of the old house described in the Kirkgate, and bearing the date 1579, with the initials D. W., M. W. Though small and greatly dilapidated, it is ornamented with string-courses and mouldings ; and it was not without some traces of old importance and grandeur amid its decay and degradation, until it was entirely altered in 1859. This house is said to have received the local name of the Gun Stone, from the circumstance of a stone cannon ball of considerable size having been fired into it during some invasion by an English ship of war. Local tradition avers that for many years this bullet formed an ornament on the summit of the square projecting staircase of the house. Near Cable?s Wynd, which adjoins this alley, and between it and King Street, at a spot called Meeting-house Green, are the relics of a building formerly used as a place of worship, and although it does not date farther back than the Revolution .of 1688, it is oddly enough called ?John Knox?s Church.? The records of South Leith parish bear that in 1692, ?? the magistrates of Edinburgh, and members of the Presbytery there, with a confused company of the people, entered the church by breaking open the locks of the doors and putting on new ones, and so caused guard the church doors with halberts, rang the bells, and possessed Mr. Wishart of the church, against which all irregular proceedings public protests were taken.? Previous to this he would seem to have officiated in a kind of chapel-of-ease established near Cable?s Wynd, by permission of James VII. in 1687. Soon after the forcible induction recorded, he came to the church with a guard of halberdiers, accompanied by the magistrates of Leith, and took possession of the Session House, compelling the ? prelatick Session ? to hold their meeting in the adjacent Kantore. More unseemly matters followed, for in December of the year 1692, when a meeting was held in South Leith Church to hear any objections that might be niade against the legal induction of the Rev. Mr. Wishart, an adherent of Mr. Kay, ?? one of the prelatick incumbents,? protested loudly against the whole proceedings. Upon this, ?Mr. Livingstone, a brewer at the Craigend (or Calton), rose up, and, in presence of the Presbytery, did most violently fall upon the commissioner, and buffeted him and nipped his cheeks, and had many base expressions to him.? Others now fell on the luckless commissioner, who was ultimately thrust into the Tolbooth of Leith by a magistrate, for daring to do that which the Presbytery had suggested. Mr. Kay?s session were next driven out of the Kantore, on the door of which another lock was placed. It has been supposed that the ousted episcopal incumbent formed his adherents into a small congregation, as he remained long iu Leith, and died at his house in the Yardheads there so lately as November, 1719, in the seventieth year of his age. His successor, tile Rev. Robert Forbes, was minister of an episcopal chapel in Leith, according to an anonymous writer, ?? very shortly after Mr: Kay?s death, and records a baptism as having been performed ? in my room in ye Yardheads.? ? The history of the Meeting-house near Cable?s Wynd is rather obscure, but it seems to have been generally used as a place of worship. The last occasion was during a visit of John Wesley, the great founder of Methodism. He was announced to preach in it; but so grcat a concourse of people assembled, that the edifice was incapable of accommodating them, so he addressed the multitude on the Meeting-house Green. LI house near it, says The Srofsinan in 1879, is pointed out as ?the Manse.? The Tolbooth TVynd is about five hundred an& fifty feet in length, from where the old signal-tower stood, at the foot of the Kirkgate, to the site of a now removed building called Old Babylon, which stood upon the Shore. The second old thoroughfare of Leith was undoubtedly the picturesque Tolbooth Wynd, as the principal approach to the harbour, after it superseded the more ancient Burgess Close. It was down this street that, in the age when Leith was noted for its dark superstitions and eccentric inhabitants, the denizens therein, regularly on stormy nights or those preceding a storm, heard with horror, at midnight, the thundering noise of ?the twelve o?clock coach,? a great oatafalque- looking vehicle, driven by a tall, gaunt figure without a head, drawn by black horses, also headless, and supposed to be occupied by a mysterious female. Near the eastern end of the wynd there stood ,
Volume 6 Page 227
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print