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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 265 - In addition to this account by the “Author of Waverley,” it may be added that the King’s Bedesmen, as they are called, derived their name from the nature of the devotions they were enjoined to perform, having annually to “tell their beuds” as they walked in procession from Holyrood to St. Giles’s. It is not precisely known, though it is probable the Bedesmen had their origin in the reign of the first James, whose attempts at national reform, and his endeavours to suppress the hordes of wandering vagrants who prowled upon the county, might naturally suggest the granting of such privileges as were conferred on the Bedesmen.’ The paupers thus distinguished were such only as, by their military services, had a claim on the royal bounty. In the household accounts of succeeding reigns, the “ Blew Gownis” are frequently mentioned. Two extracts from these, furnished by Mr. Macdonald of the Register House, are given in the “Notes to the Waverley Novels ;” the one of date 1590, the other 1617, in which the cloth for “blew gownis,” and various other items for the Bedesmen are minutely set down. During the civil commotions of the seventeenth century, and under the Cromwellian sway, no notice of the Bedesmen occurs, their order having doubtless shared in the common wreck of royalty. On the Restoration, however, the Blue Gowns were not overlooked; and in the royal birthday pageants, dictated by the intense loyalty of the times, they formed an interesting group. The following is an account of one of the annual rejoicings-the fifth after the Restoration :- “Edinburgh, May 29, 1665, being his Majesty’s birth and restauration - day, waa most solemnly kept by people of all ranks in this city. My Lord Commissioner, in his state, accompanied with $is life guards on horseback, and Sir Andrew Ramsay, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Bailies and Council, in their robes, accompanied with all the trained bands in arms, went to church, and heard the Bishop of Edinburgh upon a text as fit as well applied to the work of the day. Thereafter, thirty-$ve aged men, in blue gowns, each having got thirty-jve shillings in a p r s e , cam up from the Abbey to the great Church, praying all along for his Majdy. Sermon being ended, his Grace entertained all the nobles and gentlemen with a magnificent feast, and open table. After dinner, the Lord Provost and Council went to the Cross of Edinburgh, where wm planted a green arbour, loadened with oranges and lemons, wine liberally running for divers hours at eight several conduits, to the great solace of the indigent commons there. Having drank all the royal healths, which were seconded by the great guns of the Castle, sound of trumpets and drums, vollies from the trained bands, and joyful acclamations from the people, they plentifully entertained the multitude. After which, my Lord Commissioner, Provost, and Bailies, went up to the Castle, where they were entertained with all sorts of wine and sweetmeaty and returning, the Lord Provost countenancing all the neighbours of the city that had put up bonfires, by appearing at their fires, being in great numbers ; which jovialness continued with ringing of bells and shooting of great guns till twelve o’clock at night.” 1 “With respect to licensed beggars, we may remark that Dr. Jamieson, neither in his Dictionary, nor in his Supplement, offers any conjecture respecting the origin or cause of the Bed-, who are privileged to beg, receiving a blue gown, whence they take the name commonly given to them. P l i y informs us, that blue was the colour in which the Gauls clothed their slaves ; and blue coats, for many ages, were r;he liveries of servants, apprentices, and even of younger brothers, as it is now of the Blue Coat Boys, and of other Blue Schools in the country. Hence the proverb in Ray, ‘ He is in his better blue clothes,’ applied to a person in low degree, when dressed very fine.”-Edin. Rm’ew. Almhowe, according to Dr. Jamieaou, is frequently styled a bdehme; and a bedemn he defines 89 one who resides in an almshouse. The origin of the term, however, is evidently referable to the devotional services enjoined on those who were, in former times, the objects of any special charity. VOL. II. 2N
Volume 9 Page 353
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