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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


34 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. and agreeable manners, Mr. Butter was greatly esteemed by his workmen, among whom, in his father’s time, was the well-known “ Tam Neil ” (formerly noticed) ; and in company, although occasionally inclined to the marvellous, his conversation was lively and amusing. He was chosen Deacon of the Wrights in 1767; and, whilst a member of the Council, uniformly voted in all the city contests with the friends of Sir Lawrence Dundas. Towards the close of last century, when the houses of the Old Town began to give precedence to those of the New, and the higher order of inhabitants were flying from their ancient domiciles, as if from a city infected with the plague, it occurred to Mr. Butter that he had been long enough in Carrubber’s Close. With the view of enjoying the quietness of a secluded villa, he removed to Kirkbrne House, nearly opposite the front of the West Church, at the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road.’ This house, built by his father many years previous, stood entirely apart from any other building; but, so rapid has been the extension of Edinburgh during the last thirty years, that the villa of Mr. Butter is now surrounded on all sides by extensive and elegant buildings. For some years previous to his death he was almost closely confined from indisposition. Among the last times be mixed in public Mr. Butter died in 1817. 1 This road, which leaves the western termination of Princes Street at a right angle, and stretches away to the south, had been long projected ; but, owing to the objections‘ niade (as is usual in such cases) by the proprietors of certain inestimable barns, aheds, and cow-houses, which required to be removed, a long time elapsed before the plan could be brought to maturity. After several years of speculation, and when the project was nearly conceded to by all the parties, the road was, to the surprise of the public, and the mortification of many, completely formed, without leave being asked, all in one day ! It so happened that a gentleman, who had recently succeeded to his estate, laid a bet with a friend, to the effect that he would, between sunrise and sunset, execute the line of road, extending nearly a mile in length, and about twenty paces in breadth. This scheme he concerted with address, and executed with promptitude. It was winter, when many labouring men are often out of employ ; so that he found no difficulty in collecting several hundreds at the spot upon the appointed morning before sunrise ; and he took care to provide them with a plentiful supply of porter, usquebaugh, bread and cheese, and other inspiriting matters. No sooner had the sun peeped over the hills, than this immense posse fell to work with might and main. Some to tear down enclosures, others to unroof and demolish cottages, and a considerable proportion to bring earth, wherewith to fill up the natural hollow to the required height. The inhabitants, dismayed at so vast a force, and so summary a mode of procedure, made no resistance; and so active were the workmen, that, before sunset, the road was suficiently formed to allow the bettor to drive his carriage triumphantly over it, which he did amidstthe acclamations of a great multitude of persons, who flocked from the town to witness the issue of this extraordinary undertaking. Among the instances of temporary distress known to have been occasioned to the inhabitants, the most laughable was that of a poor simple woman, who had a cottage and a small cow-feeding establishment upon the spot. It appears that this good creature had risen very early, as usual, milked her cows-smoked her pipe-taken her ordinary matinal meal of tea-and, lastly, recollecting that she had sonie friends invited to dine with her upon sheephead hail about noon, placed the pot upon the fire, in order that it might simmer peaceably till ahe should return from the town where bhe had to supply a numerous set of customen with the produce of her dairy. Our readers may imagine the consternation of this poor woman, when, upon her return from the duties of the morning, she found neither house, nor byre, nor cows, nor fire, nor pipe, nor pot, nor anything that was hers, upon the spot where she had left them a few hours before-all had vanished, like the palace of Aladdin, leaving “no wreck behind.” [The gentleman, we believe, who performed this undertaking was Sir John Clerk, Bart. of Penicuik. He succeeded hia father in 1784, and was then an officer in the navy. He died in 1798.1
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 35 was at the dinner given by Mr. John Paton, in 1805, on being chosen one of the Deacons of Mary’s Chapel-an affair of much importance in former days. Mr. Butter had participated in the jollity of many a “deacons choosing;” and on the occasion alluded to, in spite of his years and debility, entered into the spirit of the festive board with all the energy of his younger years. He was married, and had four daughters ; the eldest of whom, Helen, was married to the late George Andrew, Esq., writer ; the second, Anne, continued unmarried, and resided in Perth ; the third, Janet, became the wife of Captain John Campbell of Glenfalloch ; and the fourth, Jane, was married to Archibald Campbell, Esq., for many years Lieut.-Colonel of the Royal Edinburgh Highland Volunteers. MR., or rather SIR, JOHN MORRISON, of whom the Print affords a striking likeness, was for many years a Clerk in the Excise Office.’ In early life he had been valet de chambre to Lord Charles Douglas, and was with that nobleman in Lisbon, whither he had gone for his health, when the great earthquake occurred there on the 1st November 1755.’ After the death of Lord Charles, which occurred in England the year following, Mr. Morrison obtained a situation in the Excise Office through the influence of the Queensberry family; and, by the same interest, he was placed on the roll of the Poor Knights of Windsor, from which circumstance he was generally known by the title of SIRJ OHMNO RRISON. Sir John lived in a very quiet manner, first at the Calton Hill, and latterly in one of Mr. Butter’s houses in Shakspeare Square, His salary as a clerk was only fifty pounds a year, and the gratuity from his Majesty was supposed to amount to as much more. By the good management of Mrs. Morrison, who took in boarders, the gross amount of his yearly income was fully adequate to his expenditure. They had no young family to educate and bring up, “ Miss Nancy,” as she was called, the only daughter, having passed her teens, and being capable of aiding in the management of the house. While living at the Calton . The first shock was felt a little before ten o’clock A.M. The greater portion of the city, as well 89 the shipping, was destroyed; and, according to some accounts, upwards of one hundred thousand of the inhabitants were buried in the ruins. In a letter written by one of the domestics of Lord Charles Douglas, dated Lwbon, November 8, the writer says-“ We made our escape over many dead bodies, that lay under the ruins, and some calliig for mercy and help ; but none dared stay to help them for fear of their own lives, the earth being still in motion. His lordship and all of us were saved by staying a minute under an archway. Nobody could be more careful of his lordship than good Nr. I). ; and, had it pleased God we should die, we had all gone together. His lordship had surprising strength. When the shocks were a little abated, we set out for the country, to the British Envoy’s, whose house did not fall, but was much cracked. We lay two nights in a field near the house : none of us have been in bed these five nights. We are now safe on board the Ezpedition packet.’’ In another letter, from Abrahalu Castres, Esq., his Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary to the King of Portugal, when speaking of the dilapidated state of his own house, and the great number of countrymen who h d taken refuge with him, he says-“ I have accommodated them as well as I could under tents in my large garden, nobody but Lord Charles Douglas, who is actually on board the packet, besides our chaplain and myself, having dared hitherto to sleep in my howe since the day of our disaster.”
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