Chapter 32 – The Cowgate (concluded)., pp.250-267.

[Old & New Edinburgh Contents]

The South Side of the Street – The High School Wynd – “Claudero” – Robertson’s Close – House of the Bishops of Dunkeld – Tomb of Gavin Douglas – Kirk-of-Field and College Wynd – House of the Earls of Queensberry – Robert Monteith – Oliver Goldsmith – Dr. Joseph Black – House in which Sir Walter Scott was born – St. Peter’s Pend – House of Andro Symson, the Printer, 1697 – The Horse Wynd – Galloway House – Guthrie Street – Tailors’ Hall – French Ambassador’s Chapel and John Dickison’s House – Tarn o’ the Cowgate and James VI. – The Hammermen’s Land and Hall – Magdalene Chapel – John Craig – A Glance at the Ancient Corporations – The Hammermen – Their Charter – Seal and Progress – The Cordiners – First Strike in the Trade – Skinners and Furriers – Websters – Hat and Bonnet-makers – Fleshers – Coopers – Tailors – Candle-makers – Baxters – Barbers – Chirurgeons. 

   PROCEEDING westward from the point we have left, the mutilated range of buildings on the south side, between George Heriot’s School (the site of the old Cowgate Port) and the foot of what was the High School Wynd, show fragments of what were, in their day, exceedingly picturesque old timber-fronted tenements, of a very early date, but which were far inferior in magnificence to the Mint which stood opposite to them. This Wynd was originally a narrow and rather lonely road or path, that led towards the Dominican monastery, and westward to the house of the Kirk-of-Field. A finely-carved lintel, which surmounted the doorway of an antique range of tenements, is described by Wilson, as having been replaced over the entrance of a modern building erected on the same site in 1801. The inscription, he shows, cut in very unusual character, having in the centre a shield charged with a barrel, the device of its more recent occupant, a brewer, substituted for the armorial bearings of his predecessors:- 

AL . MY . TRIST . I — S . IN . YE . LORD. 

   “We have found,” he adds, “on examining ancient charters and title-deeds referring to property in the Cowgate, much greater difficulty in assigning the exact tenements referred to, from the absence of such marked and easily recognisable features as serve for a guide in the High Street and Canongate. All such evidence, however, tends to prove that the chief occupants of this ancient thoroughfare were eminent for rank and station, and their dwellings appear to have been chiefly in the front street, showing that, with patrician exclusiveness, traders were forbid to open their booths within its dignified precincts.” 

   Latterly the High School Wynd was chiefly remarkable for the residence, in an old tenement at its foot, of an obscure local poet, whose real name was James Wilson, but whose nom de plume was “Claudero,” and who by his poetic effusions upon local subjects continued to eke out a precarious subsistence, frequently by furnishing sharp lampoons on his less gifted fellow-citizens. He latterly added to his income by keeping a little school, and by performing “half-merk marriages, an occupation which, no doubt, afforded him additional satisfaction, as he was thereby taking their legitimate duties out of the hands of his old enemies the clergy,” for Claudero, who was a cripple, is said to have been rendered so, in youth, by a merciless beating he received from “the pastoral staff” of the minister of his native parish, Cumbernauld, in Dumbartonshire. A satirist by profession, Claudero made himself a source of terror by his pungent wit, for in the Edinburgh of the eighteenth century there lived a number of wealthy old men who had realised large fortunes in questionable manners abroad, and whose characters, as they laboured under strange suspicions of the slave trade – even buccaneering perhaps – “were wonderfully susceptible of Claudero’s satire; and these, the wag,” we are told, “used to bleed profusely and frequently, by working upon their fears of public notice.” 

   In 1766 appeared his “Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, by Claudero, son of Nimrod the mighty Hunter,” dedicated to the renowned Peter Williamson, “from the other world.” In this volume are “The Echo of the Royal Porch of Holyrood,” demolished in 1753; “The last Speech and Dying; Words of the Cross,” executed, &c., “for the horrid crime of being an encumbrance to the street;” “Scotland’s Tears over the Horrid Treatment of her Kings’ Sepulchres;” “A Sermon on the Condemnation of the Netherbow;” and other kindred subjects. With all his eccentricity, Claudero seems to have felt genuine disgust at the wanton destruction of many beautiful and historical edifices and monuments in Edinburgh, under the reckless fiat of a magistracy of the most tasteless age in British history – the epoch of George III. In the year 1755 he was wandering about London, but returned to Edinburgh, where he lived for thirty years consecutively, and died in 1789. 

   The wynd led straight up the slope to the old High School, which with its tower and spire stood on the east side of it. Robertson’s Close adjoined it on the west – in 1647, a long and straight street, with lofty houses on both sides, and spacious gardens lying westward, behind the line of the Cowgate, close up to the College Wynd. Latterly it was occupied on one side by Dick’s extensive brewery, and it leads to the modern Infirmary Street. 

   The house of the Bishops of Dunkeld stood a little westward of this, on the south side of the Cowgate, near the bottom of where South Niddry Street ascends the slope. So early as 1449, Thomas Lauder, Canon of Aberdeen, granted an endowment of forty shillings annually, to a chaplain in St. Giles’s Church, “out of his own house lying in the Cowgaite, betwixt the land of the Abbot of Melrose on the east, and of George Cochrane on the west.” 

   This divine was the same Thomas Lauder who was preceptor to James II., and was Bishop of Dunkeld between 1452 and 1476; and it is recorded (in Mylne’s lives of the bishops of that see) that besides many other acts of munificence, he purchased a house in Edinburgh for himself and his successors in the diocese – evidently the mansion in question. “That its situation is the same as that above described,” says Chambers, “appears from a charter of Thomas Cameron, in 1498, referring to a house on the south side of the Cowgate ‘betwixt the Bishop of Dunkeld’s land on the east, the common street on the north, and the gait that leads to the Kirk-of-Field on the south.’ ” Cameron bequeathed the tenement referred to the chaplain of St. Catharine’s altar in St. Giles’s, and Robertson’s Close now marks the boundary of the bishop’s garden, which must have extended up the slope – the line of the present Infirmary Street. 

   Here then was the abode of Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, in 1515, one of the most distinguished Scottish poets, the third son of Archibald fifth Earl of the warlike and glorious house of Angus. Of the part he bore in the memorable skirmish known as “Cleanse the Causeway” we have recorded in our account of the archiepiscopal palace, which stood (nearly opposite his own) till 1878. 

   Before 1501 he had completed a translation of Ovid, and at the request of Henry first Lord Sinclair, he rendered the Æneid into the Scots vernacular. He wrote his “Palace of Honor” in the days of his exile – an apologue in which, under the similitude of a vision, he depicts the vanity and inconstancy of all worldly glory. 

   The Regent Albany, in 1515, prevented him from taking possession of his see, and made him a prisoner in the Castle of Edinburgh, under a charge of procuring bulls from Rome, thereby contravening the laws of the realm. In 1521 he was compelled, by the disputes between the Earls of Arran and Angus, to seek shelter in England, where he formed the acquaintance of Polydor Virgil, and received a pension from Henry VIII. He died of the plague in London, in 1522, in his forty-eighth year, and was buried in the old Savoy chapel, near the Strand, where in October, 1878, a long missing brass was found by the chaplain, the Rev. Henry White, with the following inscription:- “Hic jacet Gavan Dolkglas, natione Scotus, Dunkellensis Præsul patriâ suâ exul. Anno Christi, 1522.” 

   His lodging in the Cowgate has long since disappeared, and its once pleasant garden is now covered by humble plebeian edifices. 

   By the City Improvement Trust of 1866 nearly the whole tenements and closes on the south side of the street, between the South Bridge and Minto House, were doomed to be swept away, with a very few and nameless exceptions. 

   We now come to the birthplace of Sir Walter Scott, in the alley named of old, in hundreds of charters and records, “The Wynd of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Field” – the College Wynd of later times. Here, until several years after the Improvement Act, remained unchanged, or nearly so, the straight and steep alley which ascended to the southern side of the town, the avenue to the church of St. Mary – an avenue full of wonderful associations since the days when Dominicans and Grey Friars, with the prebends and choristers of St. Mary, clomb the ascent together, and since the great, the grave, and the learned professors went by the same path to the ancient and to the new colleges. 

   Some of the buildings here were of great antiquity; and among the charters of property acquired by the city for the establishment of the college is one connected with “Shaws tenement in the Wynd of the Blessed Mary-in-the-Field, now the College Wynd. Item, an instrument of sasine, dated 30th June, 1525, of a land built and waste, lying in the Wynd of the Blessed Virgin Mary-in-the-Field, on the west side thereof, &c., in favour of Alex. Schaw, son of Wm. Schaw, of Polkemet.” 

   Wilson gives us the best description of some of the features of this old street of so many memories as it existed shortly before its destruction, and where every feature was as Scott had seen it in infancy, boyhood, and old age. “About the middle of the wynd, on the east side, a curious and antique edifice retained many of its original features, notwithstanding its transmutation from a Collegium Sacerdotum, or prebendal building of the neighbouring collegiate church, to a brewer’s granary and spirit vault! The ground floor had been entirely re-paved with hewn stone; but over a large window on the first floor there was a sculptured lintel, which is mentioned by Arnot as having surmounted the gateway into the inner court. It bore the following inscription, cut in beautiful and very early characters:- 

   A most beautiful Gothic niche was in the front of this building. “It is said to have stood originally over the main gateway,” he continues, “above the carved lintel we have described, and without a doubt it contained a statue of the Virgin, to whom the wayfarer’s supplications were invited. These interesting remains, so characteristic of the obsolete faith and habits of a former age, afforded undoubted evidence of the importance of this building in early times, when it formed a part of the extensive collegiate establishment of St. Mary-in-the-Fields founded and endowed apparently by the piety of the wealthy citizens of the capital. To complete the ecclesiastical feature of this ancient edifice, a boldly-cut shield on the lower crowstep bore the usual monogram of our Saviour, I.H.S., and the window presented the common feature of broken millions and transoms with which they had been originally divided.” 

   Internally it would seem that this edifice presented features of a more recent date, indicating that its occupants were worthy neighbours of the aristocratic tenants of the Cowgate. The stucco ornaments were all of the era of Charles I., and most prominent among them was the crowned heart of the house of Douglas. 

   From this it has been supposed to have been the town residence of one of the first Earls of Queensberry – probably William, whose title was created by Charles I. on his visit to Scotland in 1633. “The projecting staircase of the adjoining tenement to the south had a curious ogee-arched window, evidently of early character, and fitted with the antique oaken transom and folding shutters below. A defaced inscription and date were decipherable over the lintel of the outer doorway, and one of the doors of the stair possessed the old-fashioned appendage of a tirling-pin. Many of the buildings which remained till the total demolition of the wynd bore the initials of their builders on an ornamental shield, sculptured on the lowest crowstep, with the date – 1736.” 

   When Scott was a little boy some of the houses opposite his father’s windows would be barely forty years old. 

   It is not improbable that the land or tenement referred to so elaborately by Wilson was connected in some way with that referred to in the Burgh Records, under date August 30th, 1549, when the Town Council consented to the feuing of a land (in the wynd) pertaining to the chaplaincy of the high altar in the Kirk-of-Field, of which they were patrons, and concerning which Master Archibald Barrie, the chaplain thereof, “declairit thair wes ane land called Cliddisdail andis lyand in the Kirk-of-Field Wynd, on the eist side of the trans thereof, quhilk gaif yeirlie to him the sowm of ten merks of meal allanarlie,” &c., but which was then ruinous and about to fall; so the site was given in feu to Marion Craig, widow of “vmquhille Jhon Foularton.” 

   In 1712, when Mr. Robert Monteith, M.A., was preparing the second edition of his curious “Theater of Mortality” (the first appeared in 1704) – a grim collection of Scottish sepulchral inscriptions which had already cost him “eight years sore travel and at vast charges and expenses” – he was resident in the College Wynd, whither he, by advertisement in the Courant, requested the copies to be sent to him, in the hope that “all generous persons will cheerfully submit his proposals in a matter so pious, pleasant, profitable, and national.” (“Dom. Ann.,” III.) 

   The middle of the same century saw a more eminent littérateur resident in the College Wynd, when Oliver Goldsmith, an unknown and unheeded young Irish student, took up his abode in some airy tenement thereof in 1752, while attending the medical classes prior to the completion of his education at Leyden, whither he went in 1754. The Duke of Hamilton – Duke James, who married the beautiful Miss Gunning – had engaged the services of the young Irishman apparently as a tutor, and with an eye, it is supposed, to his reputed scholarship as an alumnus of Trinity College, Dublin; and it has been supposed that a curious tailor’s bill which came recently to light in Edinburgh, had some reference to his expected visits to the Duke’s apartments in Holyrood, of which the Hamilton family are hereditary keepers. 

   An old ledger was being torn up for waste paper (says Wilson in his “Reminiscences”), when happily one of its leaves attracted the quick eye of the late David Laing, and there he found preserved an account, for the year 1753, between “Mr. Oliver Goldsmith” and Mr. Filby, a tailor of Edinburgh; it indicates the passion which poor Oliver had for fine clothes, and which – according to Dr. Strain – caused him to miss ordination by appearing before the Bishop of Elphin (in Roscommon) in scarlet breeches. “The fragment of the Edinburgh tailor’s ledger thus snatched from oblivion illustrates the marvellous change since that olden time, when a medical student’s wardrobe shone resplendent in ‘sky-blue satin, rich black Genoa velvet fine sky-blue shalloon, and the best superfine high claret-coloured cloth,’ to which has to be added ‘a superfine small hatt,’ laced with ‘8s. worth of silver hatt-lace,’ duly charged by its weight of the precious metal in ounces and drachms. The first bill was paid ‘by cash in full,’ before the end of the year; the second is carried over ‘to folio 424,’ which, unfortunately, has vanished with the superfine high claret-coloured suit, which stands charged against Oliver for £3 6s. 6d., like later unsettled accounts of the poet’s wardrobe.” 

   And doubtless many a time and oft must young Oliver have made his way, attired in Mr. Filby’s finery, with a small sword by his side, down the College Wynd to the Old Assembly Close, and to those assemblies over which the Hon. Miss Nicky Murray presided as Lady Directress. 

   In a house close to the old College gate, on the east side of the wynd, lived for years the illustrious Joseph Black, M.D., the founder of pneumatic chemistry, who was completing his medical studies in the Edinburgh University in 1751, collaterally with Goldsmith; and Forster tells us in his life of the latter, that “he was fond of chemistry, and was remembered favourably by the celebrated Black.” The doctor graduated here as M.D. in 1754, his inaugural thesis containing an outline of his celebrated discovery of fixed air, or carbonic gas, which with his discovery of latent heat laid the foundation of modern pneumatic chemistry, and has opened to the investigation of the philosopher a fourth kingdom of nature, viz., the gaseous kingdom. Other brilliant achievements in science followed fast before and after Dr. Black’s appointment to a chair in Glasgow in 1756. Ten years after he became Professor of Chemistry in Edinburgh, and was so for twenty-nine years. He died in 1799, while sitting at table, with his usual fare, a few prunes, some bread, and a little milk diluted with water. Having the cup in his hand, and feeling the approach of death, he set it carefully down on his knees, which were joined together, and kept it steadily in his hand, in the manner of a person perfectly at ease, and in this attitude, without spilling a drop, and without a writhe on his countenance, Joseph Black, styled by Lavoisier “the illustrious Nestor of the chemical revolution,” expired placidly, as if an experiment had been wanted to show his friends the ease with which he could die. 

   In another house at the wynd head, but exactly opposite, Sir Walter Scott was born on the 15th of August, 1771. It belonged to his father Walter Scott, W.S., and was pulled down to make room for the northern front of the New College. According to the simple fashion of the Scottish gentry of that day, on another floor of the same building – the first flat – dwelt Mr. Keith, W.S., father of the late Sir Alexander Keith, of Ravelston, Bart.; and there, too, did the late Lord Keith reside in his student days. 

   Scott’s father, deeming his house in the College Wynd unfavourable to the health of his family – for therein died several brothers and sisters of Sir Walter, born before him – removed to an airier mansion, No. 25, George Square; but the old wynd he never forgot. “In the course of a walk through this part of the town in 1825,” says genial Robert Chambers, “Sir Walter did me the honour to point out the site of the house in which he had been born. On his mentioning that his father had got a good price for his share of it, I took the liberty of jocularly expressing my belief that more money might have been made of it, and the public certainly much more gratified, if it had remained to be shown as the birthplace of the man who had written so many popular books. ‘Ay, ay,’ said Sir Walter, ‘that is very well; but I am afraid I should have required to be dead first, and that would not have been so comfortable, you know.’ ” 

   The house of Mr. Scott, W.S., on the flat of the old tenement, was approached by a turnpike stair, within a little court off the wynd head; in another corner of it resided Mr. Alexander Murray, the future solicitor-general, who afterwards sat on the Bench as Lord Henderland, and died in 1795. 

   It was up this narrow way, on Sunday the 15th of August, 1773 – when Scott was exactly a baby of two years old – that Boswell and Principal Robertson conducted Dr. Johnson to show him the College. 

   Within the narrow compass of this ancient wynd – so memorable as the birthplace of Scott – were representatives of nearly every order of Scottish society, sufficient for a whole series of his Waverley novels. No wonder is it then, beyond the experience of “Auld Reekie,” that we should find one of Kay’s quaintest characters, “Daft Bailie Duff,” a widow’s idiot boy, long regarded as the indispensable appendage of an Edinburgh funeral, dwelling in a little den at the foot of the alley, where he died in 1788. 

   Most picturesque were the venerable edifices that stood between the foot of the College and the Horse Wynds, though between them lay St. Peter’s Close, which, in its latter days, led only to a byre, and a low, dark, filthy, and horrible place, “full of holes and water.” 

   On the east side of St. Peter’s Pend was a very ancient house, the abode of noble proprietors in early times, but which had been remodelled and enlarged in the days of James VI. Three large and beautiful dormer windows rose above its roof, the centre one surmounted by an escallop shell, while a smaller tier of windows peeped out above them from the “sclaited roof,” and the lintel of its projecting turnpike stair, bore all that remained of its proprietors, these initials, V. P. and A. V. 

   On the other side of the Pend, and immediately abutting on the Horse Wynd, was that singularly picturesque timber-fronted stone tenement, of which drawings and a description are given in the “Edinburgh Papers,” on the ancient architecture of the city published in 1859, and referred to as “another of the pristine mansions of the Cowgate – the houses where William Dunbar and Gavin Douglas may have paid visits, and probably sent forth mailed warriors to Flodden… Here, besides the ground accommodation and gallery floor, with an outside stair, there is a contracted second floor, having also a gallery in front with a range of small windows. On the gallery floor at the head of the outside stair, is a finely-moulded door, at the base of an inner winding or turnpike stair leading up to the second floor. Such is the style or door to be seen in all these early wooden houses – a style which must unhesitatingly be pronounced to be superior in elegance to almost any other doors given to modern houses either in Edinburgh or in London. On a frieze between the mouldings is a legend in a style of lettering and orthography which speaks of the close of the fifteenth century:- 



In modern English, ‘If we died as we should, we might have as we would.’ There is unfortunately no trace of the man who built the house and put upon it this characteristic apophthegm; but it is known that the upper floors were occupied about (before?) 1700 by the worthy Andro Symson, who having been ousted from his charge as an episcopal minister at the Revolution, continued to make a living here by writing and printing books.” 

   Symson had been curate of Kirkinner, in Galloway, a presentation to him by the earl of that title, and was the author of an elaborate work, and mysterious poem of great length, issued from his printing house at the foot of the Horse Wynd, entitled, “Tripatriarchicon; or the lives of the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, extracted forth of the sacred story, and digested into English verse.” Before, this, however, he had acted as amanuensis to the famous Lord Advocate, Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, and of “bluidie memorie;” and in 1699 he edited and published a new folio edition of Sir George’s work on “The Laws and Customs of Scotland,” which bears on its title-page that it is “Printed by the heirs and successors of Mr. Andrew Anderson, printer to the King’s most Excellent Majesty, for Mr. Andrew Symson, and are to be sold by him in the Cowgate, near the foot of the Horse Wynd, Anno Dom. 1699.” 

   The Horse Wynd which once connected the Cowgate with the open fields on the south of the city, and was broad enough for carriages in days before such vehicles were known, is supposed to have derived its name from an inn which occupied the exact site of the Gaelic church which was erected there in 1815, after the building in the Castle Wynd was abandoned, and which ranked as a quoad sacra parish church after 1834, though it was not annexed to any separate territory. It was seated for 1,166, and cost £3,000, but was swept away as being in the line of the present Chambers Street. 

   Although the name of this wynd is as old as the middle of the seventeeth century, none of the buildings in it latterly were older than the middle of the eighteenth. They had all been removed by those who were anxious for the benefit of such fine air as its surroundings afforded, for in the map of 1647 the Vicus Equorum is shown as having to the westward gardens in plenitude, divided by four long hedgerows, and closed on the south by the crenelated wall of the city, and it terminated by a bend eastward at the Potterrow Port. 

   Respectable members of the bar were always glad to have a flat in some of the tall edifices on the east side of the wynd. About the middle of it, on the west side, was a distinct mansion called Galloway House, having a large pediment, and ornamented on the top by stone vases. This residence was built by Alexander, sixth Earl of Galloway, one of the Lords of Police, who died in 1773. His countess Catharine, daughter of John Earl of Dundonald, colonel of the Scottish Horse Guards, was mother of Captain George Stewart, who fell at Ticonderoga. She had been a beauty in her youth, and formed the subject of one of Hamilton of Bangour’s poetical tributes, and in her old age became remarkable for piety, mingled with great stateliness and pride ; and she is thus referred to in the Ridotto of Holyrood, partly written by her sister-in-law, Lady Bruce of Kinloss:- 

“And there was Bob Murray, though married, alas! 

Yet still rivalling Johnstone in beauty and grace. 

And there was my lady, well known by her airs, 

Who ne’er goes to revel but after her prayers.” 

   The Bob herein referred to was Sir Robert Murray of Clermont. Among all the precise grand-dames of her time in Edinburgh, Lady Galloway was noted for her pre-eminent pomp and formality, and would order out her coach with six horses, if but to pay a visit to a friend at the corner of the wynd, or to Lord Minto, whose house was a few yards westward of it. “It was alleged that when the countess made calls, the leaders were sometimes at the door she was going to when she was stepping into the carriage at her own door. This may be called a tour de force illustration of the nearness of friends to each other in Old Edinburgh.” 

   New College Wynd, which strikes from the eastern part of Chambers Street, runs first no feet northward, then 180 feet westward, and then northward again in the line of the lower part of the Horse Wynd, and, in honour of the Rev. Dr. Guthrie, is named Guthrie Street. 

   “Nearly opposite the site of the Old Parliament Stairs,” says Wilson, 1847, “a uniform and lofty range of handsome tenements forms the front of an enclosed quadrangle, which includes within its precincts the Tailors’ Hall, by far the most stately of all the corporation halls, if we except St. Magdalene’s Chapel, and one interestingly associated with important national and civic events. A handsome broad archway considerably ornamented forms the entrance through the front tenement to the inner quadrangle. The gateway is surmounted by an ornamental tablet, decorated with a huge pair of shears, the insignia of the craft, and bearing the date 1644, with the following elegant distich:- 





   The corporation, however, had a hall on the same site at an earlier period. An assembly of about three hundred clergymen, together with the Earls of Rothes, Lindsay, and Loudon, met in it on the 27th of February, 1638, to consider the terms of the National Covenant, which was to be presented to the public next day in the Greyfriars’ churchyard. The Earl of Rothes records that some there were who objected to certain points in the document, but they were taken aside into the garden attached to the hall, and there addressed specially on the necessity of mutual concession for the general good of the national cause, and they soon gave their entire consent. Until a recent period, comparatively, the garden in which these dissentients met retained its early character, but now it is merely a yard for brewers’ barrels. 

   The Tailors’ Hall occupies the south and east sides of the court, off the deep browed arch from the Cowgate, and ere it received an additional storey to adapt it for its modern use as a brewer’s granary, it exhibited an ornamental pediment, with the shears of the corporation, and the date 1621, with the inscription – God . give . the . blising . to . the . Tailzer . craft . in . the . Good . Tovn . of . Edinburgh; and, little foreseeing that in the eighteenth century this hall would be devoted to the profane use of a theatre, the pious tailors placed over the main entrance the following lines:- 





   This hall was used in 1656 as the court-house of the Scottish Commissioners appointed by Cromwell for the administration of the forfeited estates of the Royalists, and from a period subsequent to 1727, till after the year 1753, it was used as a theatre by itinerating companies, who met with some success, notwithstanding the bitter and incessant denunciations of the clergy. It was a house which, in a theatrical sense, held from £40 to £45, and it was a split in the company here which led to the erection of the rival theatre in 1746-7 in the Canongate. 

   It is supposed that the last regular representation which took place in the Tailors’ Hall is one referred to in “Minor Antiquities,” as advertised for the 20th March, 1747. 

   To the westward of it is a house of the time of Charles I., with a moulded doorway, bearing this inscription in Roman letters:- 




But no record of the building remains save the piety that inspired the legend for the exclusion of evil and sorcery. This door is only 3 feet 3 inches wide. 

   Above this very narrow door there is sculptured the device of two men bearing a barrel between them, slung from a pole resting on their shoulders. 

   On the same side of the street, where now George IV. Bridge passes, there was a house possessing strange features, and a traditionary history. Over the ground, floor was one of good elevation, having several elegant windows, including two square and heavily moulded, which were said to have lighted the private chapel of the French ambassador during the reign of Mary. On the uppermost floor, above these, was a large double dormer window, the sill of which was on a line with the eaves, on the acute angles of which were the heads of the Twelve Apostles, and on its apex a set of limbs said to represent those of our Saviour, set astride the summit. A square projecting tower with three square windows, containing a common stair, was entered by a handsomely-moulded door, surmounted by a shield, the chief figure in which was that creature of mediæval superstition a wehr-wolf – a wolf with a man’s face, from a once prevalent belief that men, under a peculiar affection, were transformed into wolves, by animosity, known as lycanthropy, in which character they howled, and devoured their fellow creatures. There were also three stars in chief, and beneath the motto – “Speravi et Inveni.” 

   This was the house of Dickison, of Winkston, in Peebles-shire, whose armorial bearings then were derived from Dickson by the stars, according to Nisbet in his “Heraldry.” A John Dickison of Winkston, who was provost of Peebles, was assassinated in the High Street of that town, on the 1st of July, 1572, and James Tweedie, burgess of Peebles, and four other persons, were tried for the crime and acquitted. This is supposed to be the John Dickison who built the house, and had placed upon it these remarkable devices as a bold proof of his adherence to the ancient faith. “The handsome antique form of this house, the strange armorial device of the original proprietor, the tradition of the Catholic chapel, the singular figures over the double dormer window, and Dickison’s own tragic fate, in the midst of a frightful civil war when neither party gave quarter to the other, all combine to throw a wild and extraordinary interest over it, and make us greatly regret its removal.” (“Ancient Arch, of Edin.”) 

   The peculiar pediment, as well as the sculptured lintel of the front door, were removed to Coates’ House, and are now built into different parts of the northern wing of that quaint and venerable chateau in the New Town. 

   In the middle of the last century, and prior to 1829, a court of old buildings existed in the Cowgate, on the ground now occupied by the southern piers of George IV. Bridge, which were used as the Excise Office, but, even in this form, were somewhat degraded from their original character, for there resided Thomas Hamilton of Priestfield, Earl of Melrose in 1619, and first Earl of Haddington in 1627, Secretary of State in 1612, King’s Advocate, and Lord President of the Court of Session in 1592. 

   He rented the house in question from Macgill of Rankeillor, and from the popularity of his character and the circumstance of his residence, he was endowed by his royal master, King James, whose chief favourite he was, with the sobriquet of Tam o’ the Cowgate, under which title he is better remembered than by his talents as a statesman or his Earldom of Haddington. 

   He was famous for his penetration as a judge, his industry as a collector of decisions – drawing up a set of these from 1592 to 1624 – and his talent for creating a vast fortune. It is related of him, in one of many anecdotes concerning him, communicated by Sir Walter Scott to the industrious author of the “Traditions of Edinburgh,” that, after a long day’s hard labour in the public service, he was one evening seated with a friend over a bottle of wine near a window of his house in the Cowgate, for his ease attired in a robe de chambre and slippers, when a sudden disturbance was heard in the street. This turned out to be a bicker, one of those street disturbances peculiar to the boys of Edinburgh, till the formation of the present police, and referred to in the Burgh Records so far back as 1529, anent “gret bikkyrringis betvvix bairns;” and again in 1535, when they were to be repressed, under pain of scourging and banishment. 

   On this occasion the strife with sticks and stones was between the youths of the High School and those of the College, who, notwithstanding a bitter resistance, were driving their antagonists before them. 

   The old Earl, who in his youth had been a High School boy, and from his after education in Paris, had no sympathy for the young collegians, rushed into the street, rallied the fugitives, and took such an active share in the combat that, finally, the High School boys – gaining fresh courage upon discovering that their leader was Tam o’ the Cowgate, the great judge and statesman – turned the scale of victory upon the enemy, despite superior age and strength. The Earl, still clad in his robe and slippers, assumed the command, exciting the lads to the charge by word and action. Nor did the hubbub cease till the students, unable by a flank movement to escape up the Candlemaker Row, were driven headlong through the Grassmarket, and out at the West Port, the gate of which he locked, compelling the vanquished to spend the night in the fields beyond the walls. He then returned to finish his flask of wine. And a rare jest the whole episode must have been for King James, when he heard of it at St. James’s or Windsor. 

   When, in 1617, the latter revisited Scotland, he found his old friend very rich, and was informed that it was a current belief that he had discovered the Philosopher’s Stone. James was amused with the idea of so valuable a talisman having fallen into the hands of a Judge of the Court of Session, and was not long in letting the latter know of the story. The Earl immediately invited the king, and all who were present, to dine with him, adding that he would reveal to them the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone. 

   The next day saw his mansion in the Cowgate thronged by the king and his Scottish and English courtiers. After dinner, James reminded him of the Philosopher’s Stone, and then the wily Earl addressed all present in a short speech, concluding with the information that his whole secret of success and wealth, lay in two simple and familiar maxims:- “Never put off till to-morrow what can be done to-day; nor ever trust to the hand of another that which your own can execute.” 

   Full of years and honours, Tam o’ the Cowgate died in 1637. At Tynninghame, his family seat, there are two portraits of him preserved, and also his state dress, in the crimson velvet breeches of which there are no less than nine pockets. Among many of his papers, which remain at Tynninghame House, one contains a memorandum which throws a curious light upon the way in which political matters were then managed in Scotland. This paper details the heads of a petition in his own hand-writing to the Privy Council with a prayer to “gar the Chancellor” do something else in his behalf. 

   The Excise Office was removed about 1730 from the Parliament Square to the house so long occupied by the Earl of Haddington, which afforded excellent accommodation for so important a public institution. The principal room on the second floor, the windows of which opened to the Cowgate, was one of great magnificence, having a stucco ceiling divided into square compartments, each of which contained an elegant device, and there was also much fine paneling. At the back of the house, extending to where the back of Brown Square was built, and entered by a gate from the Candlemaker Row, it measured nearly 200 feet each way, and had a border of trees upon its east and south sides. Latterly it bore the name of Thomson’s Green, from the person to whom it was leased by the Commissioners of Excise. 

   The Hammerman’s Close, Land, and Hall, adjoined the site of this edifice on the westward. 

   The Land was in 1711 the abode of a man named Anthony Parsons, among the last of those who followed the ancient practice of vending quack medicines on a public stage in the streets. In the October of that year he advertised in the Scots Postman – “It being reported that Anthony Parsons is gone from Edinburgh to mount public stages in the country, this is to give notice that he hath left off keeping stages, and still lives in the Hammerman’s Land, near the head of the Cowgate, where may be had the Orvicton, a famous antidote against infectious distempers, and helps barrenness,” &c. Four years subsequently Parsons – an Englishman, of course – announced his design of bidding adieu to Edinburgh, and in that prospect offered his quack medicines at reduced rates, and likewise, by auction, “a fine cabinet organ.” 

   The last of these English quacks was Dr. Green, gauger, of Doncaster, who made his appearance in 1725, accompanied by a servant, “or tumbler,” who robbed him, and against whom he warned the people of certain country towns in the Courant of December, 1725. 

   Arnot records that in early times there existed in the Cowgate an ancient Maison Dieu which had fallen into decay; but it was re-founded in the reign of James IV., chiefly by the pious contributions of Michael Macqueen (or Macquhen), a wealthy citizen, and afterwards by his widow, Janet Rhynd. 

   The hospital – designed to accommodate a chaplain and seven poor men – and the chapel, the little square spire of which (with its gargoyles formed like cannon, each with a ball stuck in its mouth) is nearly lost amid the towering modern edifices which surround it – were dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, and by the will of the founders were left in trust to the Corporation of Hammermen, by whom the latter was used as a hall for their meetings. The foundation was augmented in 1541 by two donations from Hugh Lord Somerville, who was taken prisoner by the English in the following year, and had to ransom himself for 1,000 merks. 

   If the edifice suffered in the general sack of the city during the invasion of 1544 it must have been quickly repaired, as the windows are still adorned with ancient painted glass – the only fragments in all Scotland which have survived the Reformation, and contain the royal arms of Scotland, encircled by a wreath of thistles, and those of the Queen Regent Mary of Guise, within a wreath of laurel, with the shields of the founder and foundress within ornamental borders. These probably date from 1556, in which year we find that “The baillies and counsale ordainis the thesaurer to mak ane powpet to Maister Alexander Sym to reid in the Magdalene Chapel, and quhat expensis he makis thaeron sal be allowit to him in his accomptis.” 

   In one window, a Saint Bartholomew has strangely escaped the destructive mobs of 1559 and 1688; but its tints are far inferior to the deep crimson and gold of the royal arms. It is remarkable that one other feature has also escaped destruction, the tomb of Janet Rhynd, with the following inscription in ancient Gothic characters:- 

Impaled in one shield, the arms of the husband and wife are in the centre of the sculptured stone, which is now level with a platform at the east end of the chapel for the accommodation of the officials of the Corporation. 

   The hospital was founded in 1504 – nine years before Flodden; but the charter by which its permanent establishment is secured by Janet Rhynd, who gave personally £2,000 Scots, is supposed to have been dated about 1545 in the reign of Mary, and as one of the last deeds executed for a pious purpose, is now remarkable in its tenor. 

   The chapel is decorated at its east end with the royal arms, those of the city, and of the twenty-two corporations forming the ancient and honourable Incorporation of Hammermen, “the guardians of the sacred banner, the Blue Blanket, on the unfurling of which every liege burgher of the kingdom is bound to answer the summons.” 

   On the walls are numerous tablets recording the names and gifts of benefactors. The oldest of these is supposed to be a daughter of the founders, “Isabel Macquhane, spouse to Gilbert Lauder, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, who bigged ye cross-house, and mortified £50 out of the Caussland, anno 1555.” “John Spens, burgess of Edinburgh,” tells another tablet, “bestowed 100 lods of Wesland lime for building the stipel of this chapell, anno 1621.” 

   Eleven years after the quaint steeple was built a bell was hung in it, which bears round it, in large Roman characters, – 


ANNO 1632. 

And underneath, in letters about half the size, is the legend, 

God blis the Hammermen of Magdalen Chapel

   The bell is still rung, though not for the objects detailed in the will of Janet Rhynd, and in 1641 it was used to summon the congregation of the Greyfriars, who paid for its use £40 Scots yearly. 

   When the distinguished Reformer John Craig returned to Scotland at the Reformation – escaping from Rome on the very day before he was to perish in a great auto-da-fe – after an absence of twenty-four years, he preached for some time in this chapel in the Latin language, to a select congregation of the learned, being unable from long disuse to hold forth in the Scottish tongue. He was subsequently appointed colleague to John Knox, and is distinguished in history for having defied even Bothwell, by refusing to publish the banns of his marriage with Mary, and also for having written the National Covenant of 1589. 

   The General Assembly of 1578 met in the Magdalene Chapel, and on the 30th of June, 1685, the headless body of the Earl of Argyle – whose skull was placed on the north gable of the Tolbooth – was deposited here, prior to its conveyance to Kilmun – the tomb of the Campbells – in Argyleshire. 

   Among the sculpture above the door of the chapel there remains an excellent figure of an Edinburgh hammerman of 1555 in the costume of the period, in doublet and trunk-breeches, with peaked beard and moustache, with a hammer in his right hand. The arms of the corporation are azure, a hammer proper, ensigned with the imperial crown. 

   St. Eligius, Bishop and Confessor, was the patron of the Edinburgh hammermen; but, as the Scots always followed the French mode and terms, he has always been known as St. Eloi, whose altar in St. Giles’s Church was the property of the corporation. It was the most eastern of the chapels in that ancient fane. The keystone of this chapel alone is preserved. It is a richly-sculptured boss formed of four dragons with distended wings, each different in design. The centre is formed by a large flower, in which is inserted the iron hook, whereat hung the votive lamp over the altar of St. Eloi, who is referred to in all the historical documents of the corporation.1 According to the Bollandists, he had been a goldsmith early in life, and became master of the Mint to Clotaire II., on some of whose gold coins his name appears. He died Bishop of Noyon about 659, and Kincaid in his history (1794) says that in the Hammermen’s Hall a relic of him is shown, “called St. Eloi’s gown.” This was probably some garment which had clothed a statue. 

   The chapel proper has latterly become the property of the Protestant Institute of Scotland, whose chambers are close by at 17, George IV. Bridge. 

   It is impossible to quit this locality without some reference to those trades which form the United Incorporation of Hammermen, and to the old city companies and trades in general. 

   “The Hammerer’s Seill of Cause,” was issued on the 2nd May, 1483, by Sir Patrick Baron of Spittalfield, Knight, Provost of the City, Patrick Balbirnie of that ilk, David Crawford of St. Giles’s Grange, and Archibald Todrig, being bailies; and under the general name are included at that time, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, lorimers, saddlers, cutlers, buckler-makers, armourers, “and all others within the said burgh of Edinburgh.” Pewterers were afterwards included, and a heckle-maker so lately as 1609. By the rule of the corporation it was statute and ordained, that “na hammerman, maister, feitman, servand, nor utheris, tak vpon hand fra this tyme furth, to exercise or use ony mair craftis but alanerly ane, and to live thairupon, sua that his brether craftismen be not hurt throu his large exercitation and exceeding of boundis,” &c. And all the privileges of the hammermen were ratified by Act of Parliament so recently as September, 1681, when shearsmiths appear as members of the corporation. In those days all the operations of industry were treated as secrets. Each trade was a craft, and those who followed it were called craftsmen; and skilled artisans were “cunning men.” (Smiles.) 

   The Hammermen’s seal bears the effigy of St. Eloi, in apostolical vestments, in a church porch surmounted by five pinnacles, holding in one hand a hammer, and in the other a key, with the legend, “Sigillum commune artis tudiatorum.” 

   By the end of the 16th century the manufacture of offensive weapons predominated over all other trades in the city. The essay-piece of a cutler, prior to his admission to the corporation, was a well- finished “quhinzier,” or sword; and there were gaird-makers, whose business consisted in fashioning the hilts; dalmascars, who gilded weapons and armour. In 1582 sword blades were damascened at Edinburgh; but “Hew Vans, dalmascar, was ordained not to buy blades to sell again,” his business being confined to gilding steel. There were also the belt-makers, who wrought military girdles; dag-makers, who made hackbutts (short guns), and dags, or pistols; but all these various trades became associated in the general one of armourers or gunsmiths, as the wearing of weapons began to fall into desuetude, and other arts connected with civilisation and luxury began to take their places. 

   In 1586 a locksmith is first found in Edinburgh, where he was the only one, and could only make a “kist-lock.” Tirling-pins, wooden latches, and transom bars, were the appurtenances of doors before his time generally. But by 1609, “as the security of property increased,” says Chambers, “the essay was a kist-lock and a hing and bois lock with ane double plate lock;” and, in 1644, “a key and sprent band were added to the essay.” In 1682 “a cruik and cruik band” were further added; and in 1728, for the safety of the lieges, the locksmiths’ essay was appointed to be “a cruik and cruik-band, a pass-lock with a round filled bridge, not cut or broke in the backside, with nobs and jamb bound.” The trade of a shearsmith appears first in 1595 in Edinburgh, and in 1613 Thomas Duncan, the first tinkler in the city was admitted a hammerman. The trade of a pewterer is found as far back as 1588; the first knockmaker (or clockmaker) appears in 1647, but his business was so limited that he added thereto the making of locks. (“Traditions of Edin.”) In 1664 the first white iron smith was admitted a hammerman, and the first harness-maker, though lorimers – manufacturers of the iron-work used in saddlery – were members since 1483. The first maker of surgical instruments in Edinburgh was Paul Martin, a French Protestant refugee, in 1691. In 1720 the first pin-maker appears; and in 1764 the first edge-tool maker, and the first manufacturer of fish-hooks. 

   By the first charter of the hammermen all applicants for admission were examined by the deacons and masters of their respective arts, as to their qualifications; and any member found guilty of a breach of any one of the articles contained in their charter, was fined eight shillings Scots towards the support of the corporation’s altar of St. Eloi in St. Giles’s Church and the chaplain thereof. The goldsmiths were separated from the hammermen in 1581; but since then many other crafts have joined them, including gunsmiths, watchmakers, founders, braziers, and coppersmiths. 

   The cordiners, or shoemakers, were first created into a society by the magistrates on the 28th of July, 1449 (according to Maitland), in terms of which each master of the trade who kept a booth within the town, paid one penny Scots, and their servants one halfpenny, towards the support of their altar of St. Crispin, in St. Giles’s Church. A new seal of cause was granted to them in 1509, and another in 1586, which enacted that their shops were not to be open on Sundays after 9 A.M., and that no work was to be done on that day under pain of twenty shillings fine. It also regulated the days of the week on which leather boots and shoes could be sold by strangers in booths. This charter was confirmed on 6th March, 1598, by James VI., in consideration of “the goodwill and thankful service done to us by our servitor, Alexander Crawford, present deacon of the said cordiners and his brethren.” We first hear of a kind of “strike,” in the trade in 1768, when the cordiners entered into a combination not to work without an increase of wages, and reduction of hours. The masters prosecuted their men, many of whom were fined and imprisoned, for “entering into an unlawful combination,” as the sheriff termed their trade union. 

   The skinners would seem to have been created into a corporation in 1474, but references to the trade occur in the Burgh Records at an earlier date. Thus, in 1450, there is recorded an obligation by the skinners, undertaken by William Skynner, in the name of the whole, to support the altar of St. Crispin in St. Giles’s Church, “in the fourth year of the pontificate of Nicholas the Fifth;” and a seal of cause was issued to the skinners and furriers conjointly in 1533, wherein they were bound to uphold the shrine of St. Christopher in St. Giles’s, and several Acts of Parliament were passed for their protection. One, in 1592, prohibits “all transporting and carrying forth the realm, of calves-skinnes, huddrones, and kid-skins, packing and peilling thereof, in time coming, under the paine of confiscation of the same for His Majesty’s use.” Edinburgh has always been the chief seat of the leather trade in Scotland, and the troops raised after the American War were entirely supplied with shoes from there. 

   In 1475 the wrights and masons were granted the aisle and chapel of St. John in the same church, when their seal of cause was issued. Their charter was confirmed in 1517 by the Archbishop of St. Andrews, in 1527 by James V., and in 1635 by Charles I. In 1703, by decree of the Court of Session, the bow-makers, plumbers, and glaziers, were added to the masons; and to the wrights were added the painters, slaters, sieve-wrights, and coopers. These incorporated trades held their meetings in St. Mary’s Chapel, Niddry’s Wynd, and were known as “The United Incorporation of St. Mary’s Chapel.” 

   In 1476 the websters were incorporated, and bound to uphold the altar of St. Simon in St. Giles’s, and it was specially stipulated that “the priest shall get his meat.” Cloth was made in those days by the weavers much in the same fashion that is followed in the remote Highland districts, where the wool is carded and spun by the females of the household; but Edinburgh was one of the first places where woollen goods were made, and had, at one time, the most important wool market in Britain. 

   The hatmakers were formed into a corporation in 1473, when ten masters of the craft presented a petition to that effect; but the bonnet-makers did not receive their seal of cause till 1530, prior to which they had been united with the walkers and shearers, with whom they were bound to uphold the altar of St. Mark in St. Giles’s Church. In 1685 an Act of Parliament confirmed all their privileges, together with those of the litsters, or dyers. About the middle of the seventeenth century, owing to the spread of the use of hats, instead of the national bonnet, among the upper classes, this society was reduced to so low a condition that its members could neither support their families or the expense of a society. 

   The fleshers were a very old corporation, but the precise date of their charter is not very clear. In 1483 regulations concerning the fleshers dealing in fish in Lent, &c., were issued by the magistrates, whom they petitioned in 1488 for a seal of cause, which petition was taken into consideration by the Council, who ratified and confirmed the whole of the articles and conditions it contained; but it is said that a seal was issued. In 1508, Thomas Greg, “Kirk-master of the flescheour craft,” on behalf of the same, brought before the Council a complaint, that certain persons, not freemen of the craft or the burgh, interfered with their privileges, and had them forbidden to sell meat, except on Sunday and Monday, the free market days, “quhill thai obtene thair fredome.” 

   The coopers were incorporated in 1489, binding themselves to uphold the altar of St. John in St. Giles’s Church. 

   The walkers obtained their seal of cause in August, 1500. They had an altar in the same church dedicated to SS. Mark, Philip, and Jacob, to which the following among other fees were paid:- 

   Each master, on taking an apprentice paid ten shillings Scots; and on any master taking into his service, either the apprentice or journeyman of any other master, he paid twenty shillings Scots; if any craftsman was found working with cards in the country, he was to forfeit the sum of fifteen shillings Scots, to be equally divided between the work of St. Giles’s, their altar, and the informer. It is also provided by the said charter, that each person commencing business for himself shall be worth three pairs of shears, and of ability to pay for one stock of white cloth, whereby he may be in a condition to make good any damages to those who employ him. 

   In the same year (1500) the tailors were incorporated on the 26th August, prior to which, as a society, they possessed the altar of St. Anne in St. Giles’s, and they only had their old rules and regulations embodied in their charter from the Council. Another seal of cause was issued to them thirty years afterwards, in the reign of James V. 

   The Corporation of Candlemakers first appears in 1517. They had no altar of their own in St. Giles’s, but certain fines provided by their charter were to be paid towards the sustenance of any “misterfull alter within the College Kirk of Sanct Geils.” The craftsmen were forbidden to send boys or servants to sell candles in the streets, under pain of forfeit, and paying “ane pund of walx to Our Lady altar, after the first fault;” two pounds of wax for the second, and such punishment as the magistrates may award for the third. No member was to take an apprentice for less than four years, and all women were to be “expellit the said craft, bot freemennis wyffes of the craft allanerlie.” 

   The above charter was confirmed by James VI. in 1597, though the corporation lost the privilege in 1582 of sending a member to the Common Council, by failing to produce their charter, and signing the reference made in that year to the arbiters appointed by James, at the time the late constitution of the burgh was established, and remained unchanged till the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832. 

   We may here mention that a manufactory for soap is first mentioned, 23rd November, 1554, when the magistrates granted a “license to Johnne Gaittis, Inglisman, to brew saip within the fredome of this burgh for the space of ane yeir nixt heirafter;” and to sell the same in lasts, half-lasts, barrels, half-barrels, and firkins. But after this, till about 1621, it was chiefly imported from Flanders. 

   The Baxters (or bakers) obtained their charter on the 20th of March, 1522, but the trade must have possessed one before, as it sets forth that in times of trouble the original document had been lost. By this seal of cause it appears that they had in St. Giles’s an altar dedicated to “Sanct Cubart.” But the chaplain thereof, instead of being supported by fines, as the priests of the other corporations were, obtained his food by going from house to house among the members of the guild in rotation. 

   The sole privilege of baking bread within the city was vested in its members, but bread baked without the walls might be sold, the corporation having, however, control over it, or the power of examining the weight and quality of “the flour baiks and fadges that cumes fra landwart into this toune to sell.” 

   The city records contain many references to the Baxters before the date above given. Thus in 1443, the time when they might bake and sell “mayne breid,” was only at “Whitsunday, St. Giles’s Mass, Yule and Pasche.” In 1482, in buying flour from beyond the sea they were to pay multure, as if from the common mills. In 1503 Baxters convicted of baking cakes that were under weight were threatened with penalties. In 1510 there was an agreement between the farmers of the city mills and the Baxters as to grinding at the mills, with reference to the quantities to be ground when water was scarce. In 1523 the Baxters were ordained to “baik thair breid sufficientlie and weill dryit;” the twopenny loaf to weigh ten ounces from thenceforward, “under pain of tynsale of their fredome,” and escheat of the bread, which is to be marked with their irons as heretofore. In April, 1548, the city Baxters were ordered to furnish bread for the army in the field at a given rate, and the corporation promised to do so, in the presence of the Lords Dunkeld, Rothes, Galloway, Dunfermline, and Seaton; but in July the troops would seem to have declined to receive the bread which the trade had on hand; thus “outland Baxters were charged not to bring any bread to market for three days.” 

   We have elsewhere (Vol. I., 382-3) had occasion to refer to the Corporation of Barber-surgeons, whose charter, dated 1st July, 1505, binds them to “uphold ane altar in the College Kirk of Sanct Geill, in honour of God and Sanct Mongow.” They were bound to know something of anatomy, the “nature and complexioun of every member of humanis (sic) body,” and all the veins of the same, and “in quhilk member the signe has domination for the time,” &c. 

   In 1542 we read of four surgeons sent from the city to the borders, for the care of those wounded by the English. (“Pitcairn’s Trials,” I.) And in 1558 the corporation sent twenty-five of their number, including apprentices, to join the force raised for the defence of Edinburgh against “our auld inemyes of Ingland.” (“List of Fellows, R.C.S. Edin.”) By Queen Mary they were exempted from serving on assizes. 

   The arms of this corporation were azure, on a fesse argent, a naked man fesse-ways, between a dexter hand palmed, and in its palm an eye. In the dexter canton, a saltire argent, under the imperial crown, surmounted by a thistle; and in base a castle argent, masoned sable, within a border, charged with instruments used by the society. To the surgeons were added the apothecaries. 

   James IV., one of the greatest patrons of art and science in his time, dabbled a little in surgery and chemistry, and had an assistant, John the Leeche, whom he brought from the Continent. Pitscottie tells us that James was “ane singular guid chirurgione,” and in his daily expense book, singular entries occur in 1491, of payments made to people to let him bleed them and pull their teeth:- 

   “Item, to ane fallow, because the King pullit furtht his twtht, xviii shillings. 

   “Item, to Kynnard, ye barbour, for tua teith drawin furtht of his hed be the King, xviii sh.” 

   The barbers were frequently refractory, and brought the surgeons into the Court of Session to adjust rights, real or imagined. But after the union of the latter with the apothecaries, they gave up the barber craft, and were formed into one corporation by an Act of Council, on the 25th February, 1657, as already mentioned in the account of the old Royal College of Surgeons. 

   The first admitted after the change, was Christopher Irving, recorded as “ane free chirurgone,” without the usual words “and barber,” after his name. He was physician to James VII., and from him the Irvings of Castle Irving, in Ireland, are descended. 

1  An engraving of this keystone will be found on p. 147, Vol. I. [Described as “Carved Centre Groin Stone or Boss. (From Chapel of St Eloi, St. Giles’s.)”]

One thought on “Chapter 32 – The Cowgate (concluded)., pp.250-267.

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