Gilmerton, pp.615-616.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   GILMERTON, a village partly in the parish of Fowlis-Wester, and partly in that of Monzie, in Perthshire. It stands on the mail-road between Glasgow and Perth, amidst a beautiful landscape, and is neat, well-built, and of modern erection. Extending from the village on the east, is a congeries or ridge of gravelly mounds, some of them covered with thriving plantation, and almost all so curiously formed and grotesquely grouped as to form an interesting and remarkable variety of natural scenery. There is a private school in the village. Population 240.


   GILMERTON, a quoad sacra parish in Edinburghshire, recently detached from the parish of Libberton, and bounded by Libberton, Newton, Dalkeith, and Lasswade. Its population is about 1,100. The parish-church, situated in the village of Gilmerton, was built in 1837, and has about 300 sittings: See LIBBERTON. – The village of Gilmerton stands on the brow of a rising ground, 4 miles south of Edinburgh, on the post-road to Roxburghshire and the west of England. Its main body is a rectangle, resting the back of one of its shorter sides on the west margin of the public road, and running westward up the gentle slope of the rising ground. A subordinate part of it is a straggling street or line of houses southward from the main body along the public road; but this has recently been abandoned, and presents to the eye of the passing traveller the unsightly and doleful appearance of unroofed and mouldering cottages, – not unlike what may be supposed to have been the appearance of a similar array of humble dwellings devastated during the freebooting or warlike incursions of a former age. Gilmerton was long characterized as simply a village of colliers, and as a place whence Edinburgh was largely supplied with fuel. Its coal – which is of prime quality – was vigorously worked in 1627, and possibly was known and carried to market a century earlier. Persons employed about its coal-pits, and carters who conveyed the produce to Edinburgh, were long the only inhabitants, and latterly amounted to 800 in number. But, owing partly to the successful competition of the sources of supply along the Dalkeith railway, the mines – though not exhausted, and though likely to come again into requisition – have been abandoned. A lime-work of vast extent in the vicinity, and presenting appearances highly interesting to the curious and the lovers of remarkable scenery, was probably the oldest in Scotland, at all events was worked from time immemorial. At first, it was worked from the surface, and afterwards it was mined; and the produce was brought up respectively, in successive epochs, by women, by asses, and by a steam-engine. Even the aid of machinery not preventing it from being unremunerating, it was abandoned, again worked during the years 1825, 1826, and 1827, and again abandoned. The mine or quarry is nearly a mile in length, and everywhere open to the light of day. The stratum of limestone dips at an angle of about 45°. On descending, a spectator finds himself on a shelving declivity, and, walking along, is encaverned beneath a roof of solid rocks, which is supported by a vast series of rocky pillars, chiselled out and left as props in the process of mining. As the enormous piazza or open-sided temple is very spacious, the roof being high, and the opening along the extended entrance large, the light is, for a considerable way, abundant; but, as the spectator explores onward, and descends the declivity toward a stripe or elongated pool of water at the extremity, it gradually so far fails him as to let a sepulchral obscurity hang its veil of mystery over the objects of his vision. The vast colonnaded cavern, instead of proceeding far inwards, where the rapid dip of the stratum carried the miner at every yard increasingly downward from the surface, advances obliquely up the side of a long ridge or hill; and affords the curious visitant an opportunity of making a lengthened excursion under ground, without losing the light of day. – At Gilmerton is a remarkable cave, cut, at the expense of five years’ labour, out of the solid rock, by a blacksmith of the name of George Paterson, and finished in 1724. Several apartments, several beds, a large table bearing aloft a punch-bowl, are all nicely chiselled from the rock, and render the cave at once dwelling-house and furniture. Several apertures on the roof were designed as windows to let in the light from above. The constructor of this extraordinary subterranean abode had it fitted up with a well, a washing-house, and a forge, and lived in it with his family, prosecuting his avocation, till his death about the year 1735. His cave was, for many years, esteemed an object of great curiosity, and even yet is the resort of not a few inquisitive visiters. Pennecuick, in his works, has left the following inscription for the cave: 

“Upon the earth thrives villany and woe; 

But happiness and I do dwell below. 

My hand hewed out this rock into a cell, 

Wherein from din of life I safely dwell. 

On Jacob’s pillow nightly lies my head; 

My house when living, and my grave when dead. 

Inscribe upon it when I’m dead and gone, 

‘I lived and died within my mother’s womb.’ ” 

Gilmerton, though bereft of its resources in other mines, may probably recover its importance in connexion with the recent discovery of excellent black-band ironstone, 14 inches thick. – Its inhabitants have long had an unenviable celebrity for rudeness and almost brutality of character. They are, in general, exceedingly ignorant, averse to instruction, improvident, and reckless; but, in fact, they have, till very lately, been little, and at times scarcely at all, plied with those humanizing and enlightening and Christian methods of operating on character which their circumstances demanded as essential to their well-being. Having – no matter with what degree of justice – acquired the name of being savages in part, they were, in a great measure, quietly let alone to become, if they thought proper, savages in whole. During many years the terror of their name made timid persons shrink from travelling after dusk on any road in their vicinity. But the execution, in 1831, of two of their number for a murder, and the delightfully contrasted event of a successful commencement of systematic efforts to bring them under the restraining influences of evangelical truth, as well as the establishment among them of libraries, and the various appliances of secular instruction, have already begun to soften the harsh moral features of their village. 

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