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Edinburgh, pp.207-210.

[Scottish National Memorials Contents]

Plate XXVII. – The Old Parliament Close, Edinburgh, at the End of the Eighteenth Century (after the Engraving by J. Leconte).

   OIL PAINTING, on panel (36 inches by 26 inches), of Old Parliament Close, Edinburgh, including Portraits of many prominent citizens and ‘town characters’ of the close of last century. This interesting picture, which embodies architectural features long since removed, is a composite work, the names of several well-known Scottish artists, who had settled in London in the first quarter of the present century, being associated with it. The architectural portion, representing St. Giles’ Church with numerous booths clustered around it, the Goldsmiths’ Hall, and the entrance to the Parliament House, was executed by Peter Gibson and John Wilson; the statue of Charles II. in the centre of the picture was painted by Abraham Cooper, R.A.; while the figures of old Edinburgh men were introduced by Alexander Fraser, R.S.A., from Kay’s Portraits and Caricatures. The sky and background were touched up by David Roberts, R.A., about 1827 and it is believed the painting now exists as it left his easel. The picture is engraved by Mr. Le Comte. (See Plate XXVII.) 


   INLAID EBONY BOX, made for holding a letter of King James VII. to the Town Council of Edinburgh. On the cover the monogram of James VII. surmounted by a crown, with thistle, rose, fleur-de-lis, and harp disposed around, is represented in coloured woods, while the inscription, ‘HIS MAJESTY’S LETTER TO THE TOUN COUNCIL OF EDINBURGH, 1685’ is inlaid in lead on the border. Around the low vertical sides of the oblong box runs the following inscription, also in lead:- ‘SIR GEORGE DRUMMOND OF MILLNABE, PRESENT PROUST.’ On the bottom there is a floriated design in marquetry. The box was made by Deacon Thomson in May 1685, and albeit the inlay is crude, the box possesses considerable interest as an example of Edinburgh work of late seventeenth century. Length 7 ¼ inches, width 5 inches. 


   VERTICAL CLOCK, made by Humphrey Mills at Edinburgh, 1606. It has engraved on the face, Humphrey Mills, Edenborough fecit MDCVI. The spelling would lead to the suspicion that the dial-plate at least was not engraved in Edinburgh. One of the most valuable bits about this clock is the original escapement. Very many clocks of this type have been altered at different periods, and thus lose much of their value. In Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, there is a similar clock by Mills, also in its original condition. It has a richly engraved dial-plate on which is inscribed, Humphrey Mills, at Edinburgh, Fecit. (See Fig. 150.) 

(1257) Lent by JAMES AITCHISON. 

   SNUFF-BOX, of the Ancient Burgh of Canongate. Silver, scrolI-shaped, with mouldings on sides. The lid is chased with bold foliated ornament, and a medallion containing a white hart with a cross between the horns, the monastery of Holyrood in the background, the motto, ‘SIC ITUR AD ASTRA,’ and the date 1128. This design, which occurs on the Common Seal of the burgh of Canongate, is emblematical of the miraculous legend to which the monastery of Holyrood owes its foundation, and the burgh of Canongate its origin and name. On the bottom is engraved an adaptation of the seal of the monastery of Holyrood – a fine Gothic design of three compartments, representing the Saviour on the Cross and two saints; beneath the latter are a crozier and a stag’s head carrying a cross between the antlers, and around is inscribed in Gothic letters, ‘S. CŌE MONASTERI. SCE. CRUCIS DE EDINBURG.’ The box is of modern workmanship, the Hall-marks testifying that it was made in 1811 by P. Cunningham and Son, goldsmiths, Edinburgh, and in 1856, when the burgh of Canongate was merged in the municipality of Edinburgh, it passed into the possession officially of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh. L. 3 ½ in., W. 2 ½ in. 


   SNUFF-BOX, of the Society of Captains of the Trained Bands of Edinburgh. It consists of a cow’s horn mounted on a tripod of silver, and a sub-conical ebony stand, with silver mounts. The mull is encircled by narrow silver bands from which hang five rows of small silver medals completely concealing the horn; the stand is similarly adorned with the remaining medals. The medals have been added from time to time by the successive captains (or commandants) of the Trained Bands, and each one bears the name of its donor and the time of his command, the whole group covering a period of 155 years, from 1733 to 1888. The first of these dates doubtless approximates to the time of the manufacture of the snuff-box or mull; the ebony stand accompanying it is of much later workmanship, having been added in 1874. The box and stand measure twelve inches in height. The Trained Bands were a force of militia first drawn from the citizens of Edinburgh about 1580, and disbanded towards the close of the eighteenth century. In 1848 the Town Council revived the honorary office of Captain of Orange Colours and Commandant of the Trained Bands of the City of Edinburgh – an office at present (1889) filled by Councillor W. J. Kinloch Anderson – who is the holder of the snuff-box for the time being. 


   THE ORIGINAL MINUTE-BOOK of the London Directors of the Bank of Scotland. 


   In 1694 the Bank of England was founded by a Scotchman, Mr. William Paterson, and in 1695 the Bank of Scotland was established by an Englishman, Mr. John Holland. The Scottish Bank was incorporated under the title of the Governor and Company of the Bank of Scotland by an Act of the Scottish Parliament, the provisions of which were in accordance with a scheme drawn up by Mr. Holland. The Act secured to the Institution the monopoly of banking in Scotland for a period of twenty-one years. The original capital was £1,200,000 Scots (£100,000 sterling), and two-thirds of that sum was to be subscribed by persons residing in Scotland, and the remainder by dwellers in England. As an encouragement to English subscribers, it was provided by the Act that any foreigner subscribing for the stock should ipso facto become a naturalised Scotchman, and this peculiar privilege actually continued in force till 1822. Of the twenty-four directors who with the governor and deputy-governor ruled the Bank, twelve were English, ‘they being thought better acquainted with the nature and management of a Bank, and thus it was that in its early days, the business of the Bank was partly controlled from London. The Bank began business in 1696 in a flat in the Parliament Close, Edinburgh, with a paid-up capital of £10,000; and Mr. Holland came to Edinburgh to organise its early proceedings. The directors associated with Mr. Holland in the London management were principally Scottish merchants in that city, one being Mr. Thomas Coutts. The London Directorate did not continue for long, and with consent of the English proprietors the whole management devolved on a board in Edinburgh. 

   TWO FRAMES OF EARLY NOTES of the Bank of Scotland, ranging from 1728 to 1774. 


   From the time of its institution the Bank issued five, ten, twenty, fifty, and a hundred pound notes; it was not till 1704 that one-pound notes were put in circulation. 

   THE TREASURE CHEST of the African Company (Darien Scheme), a strong-box of riveted sheets of iron, now preserved in the Bank of Scotland. 


   The Darien Scheme was one of the products of the fertile brain of William Paterson, the founder of the Bank of England. Paterson, who had spent some part of his early life in the Bahamas, after founding the Bank of England, came to Scotland, where his countrymen eagerly took up the great trading scheme which he had long cherished, and which he had vainly pressed on the Government of England and on various continental commercial communities. His central idea was to establish a trading colony on the isthmus of Darien, which he believed could be made the ‘key of the commerce of the world.’ According to Paterson’s scheme, an Act of the Scottish Parliament was passed in 1695 for incorporating a Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies, with power to plant colonies, and build cities and forts in any countries in Asia, Africa, or America, not possessed by any European sovereign. The jealousy and opposition of the English Parliament debarred the Company from receiving any external support, but the stock was eagerly subscribed through Scotland by peers, landowners, royal burghs, public bodies, and merchants. The whole subscription amounted to more than £336,000 sterling. After two years of preparation, the first expedition of the Company, comprising 1200 selected men, set sail from Leith on 26th July 1698. The expedition was despatched the utmost popular excitement, and its members were filled with boundless enthusiasm and extravagant expectations. William Paterson, along with his wife, accompanied the expedition as a private individual. The vessels reached Darien on the 4th of November, and at first all appeared to go well. But soon sickness manifested itself with intensity, provisions became exhausted, the spirit of the colonists gave way, and discontent and disorder prevailed. Paterson lost his wife; he himself was seized with a dangerous sickness which was aggravated by seeing his golden dream dissolve; yet, protesting to the last against the abandonment of the settlement, he was in 1699 carried on board the vessel, and, with the miserable remnant of the expedition, set sail for his native land. A supplementary expedition was meanwhile being organised by the Company at home, and in May 1699 two vessels were despatched, followed by four others in August. The fate of these adventurers was even more sudden and disastrous than that which overtook their predecessors. Sick and disheartened, they arrived to find the colony only marked by the graves of their fellow-countrymen; mutiny broke out among them; they were attacked by the Spaniards, and after a gleam of success in arms, they were forced to capitulate and abandon their position. The sacrifice of human life, the loss of capital, and the utter failure of schemes from which so much was expected, were blows from which Scotland did not recover for many years. The holograph list of subscribers at Glasgow to the Darien Scheme, now preserved in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, was shown in the Glasgow Section in this Collection. (See Glasgow, No. 802, p. 226.) 

   PORTION of one of the boards of the Translated Bible which was chained to St. Giles’s Cathedral, Edinburgh. 

(1256) Lent by MR. AND MRS. DODDS. 

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