[Old & New Edinburgh Contents]
The First Magistrate of Edinburgh – Some noted Provosts – William de Dederyk, Alderman – John Wigmer and the Ransom of David II. – John of Quhitness, First Provost – William Bertraham – The Golden Charter – City Pipers – Archibald Bell-the-cat – Lord Home – Arran and Kilspindie – Lord Maxwell – “Greysteel’s” Penance – James VI. and the Council – Lord Fyvie – Provost Tod and Gordon’s Map – The First Lord Provost – George Drummond – Freedom of the City given to Benjamin Franklin – Sir Lawrence Dundas and the Parliamentary Contest – Sir James Hunter Blair Riots of 1792 – Provost Coulter’s Funeral – Lord Lynedoch – Recent Provosts – The First Englishman who was Lord Provost of Edinburgh.
THE titles by which the chief magistrate is known are “The Right Honourable the Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, Her Majesty’s Lieutenant and High Sheriff within the same and Liberties thereof, Justice of the Peace for the County of Midlothian, and Admiral of the Firth of Forth,” &c. A sword and mace are always borne before him.
It has been suggested that at some early period the chief magistrate had an official residence, and Lawson, in his Gazetteer, gives us a tradition that it was in the well-known alley from the High Street to the Public Markets, “now called the Flesh-market Close, but formerly the Provost’s Close.”
Few Highland names appear among those of the chief magistrates before the fifteenth century, while in the earlier ages many Norman and Saxon are to be found, as these elements existed largely in the Lowlands. We have the son of Malcolm III. addressing his subjects thus:- “Eadgarus Rex Scotorum, omnibus per regnum suum Scotis et Anglis, salutem” with reference no doubt to the English Border counties, then a portion of the realm.
Although seven aldermen and three provosts appear among the first men in authority over Edinburgh, it is probable that the office of bailie, bailiff, or rent-gatherer, is more ancient than either, as such an officer was originally appointed by the king to collect revenues and administer justice within the burghs.
In 1296 the first magistrate, whose name can be traced to Edinburgh, was William de Dederyk, alderman; he appears as such in “Prynne’s Records of the Tower, and the Ragman Rolls.” In the preceding year John Baliol held a Parliament at Edinburgh, and a convention of the burgesses of the city, Berwick, Roxburgh, and Stirling, met in Holyrood Abbey.
After a gap of forty-eight years we find John Wigmer alderman in 1344. Thirteen years subsequently certain burgesses of Edinburgh and other burghs are found negotiating for the ransom of King David II., taken in battle by the English.
In 1362 William Guppeld was alderman, 9th April, and till 1369, in which year a council sat at Edinburgh, when the king granted a charter to the abbey of Melrose.
In 1373 the alderman was Sir Adam Forrester, said to be of Whitburn and Corstorphine, a man possessed of immense estates, for which he obtained no less than six charters under the great seal of Robert II., and was several times employed in treaties and negotiations with the English, between 1394 and 1404.
In 1377 John of Quhitness first appears as Provost, or Prepositus, on the 18th of May, and in the following year Adam Forrester was again in office. In 1381 John de Camera was provost, and in 1387 Andrew Yutson (or Yichtson), between whom, with “Adam Forster, Lord of Nether Libberton,” the Burgh of Edinburgh, and John of Stone, and John Skayer, masons, an indenture was made, 29th November, for the erection of five new chapels in St. Giles’s, with pillars and vaulted roofs, covered with stone, and lighted with windows. These additions were made subsequent to the burning of the city by the invaders under Richard of England two years before.
In 1392 John of Dalrymple was provost, and the names of several bailies alone appear in the Burgh Records (Appendix) till the time of Provost Alexander Napier, 3rd October, 1403, whom Douglas calls first Laird of Merchiston. Under him Symon de Schele was Dean of Guild and Keeper of the Kirk Work, when the first head guild was held after the feast of St. Michael in the Tolbooth.
Alan of Fairnielee was provost 1410-1, and again in 1419, though George of Lauder was provost in 1413.
So lately as 1423 John of Levyntoun was styled alderman, with Richard Lamb and Robert of Bonkyl bailies, when the lease of the Canonmills was granted by Dean John of Leith, sometime Abbot of Holyrood, to “the aldermen, baylyes, and dene of the gild,” 12th September, 1423. His successor was Thomas of Cranstoun, Prepositus, when the city granted an obligation to Henry VI. of England, for 50,000 merks English money, on account of the expenses of James I., while detained in England by the treasonable intrigues of his uncle. William of Liberton, George of Lauder, and John of Levyntoun, appear as provosts successively in 1425, 1427, and 1428.
In 1434 Sir Henry Preston of Craigmillar was appointed provost; but no such name occurs in the Douglas peerage under that date. After John of Levyntoun, Sir Alexander Napier appears as provost after 1437, and the names of Adam Cant and Robert Niddry are among those of the magistrates and council. Then Thomas of Cranstoun was provost from 1438 till 1445, when Stephen Hunter succeeded him.
With the interval of one year, during which Thomas Oliphant was provost, the office was held from 1454 to 1462 by Sir Alexander Napier of Merchiston, a man of considerable learning, whom James II. made Comptroller of Scotland. In 1451 he had a safe-conduct from the King of England to visit Canterbury as a pilgrim, and by James III. he was constituted Vice-Admiral. He was also ambassador to England in 1461 and 1462.
In succession to Robert Mure of Polkellie, he was provost again in 1470, and until the election of James Creichton of Rothven, or Rowen, in 1477, when the important edict of James III. concerning the market-places and the time of holding markets was issued.
In 1481 the provost was William Bertraham, who, in the following year, with “the whole fellowship of merchants, burgesses, and community” of Edinburgh, bound themselves to repay to the King of England the dowry of his daughter, the Lady Cecil, in acknowledgment for which loyalty and generosity, James III. granted the city its Golden Charter, with the banner of the Holy Ghost, locally known still as the Blue Blanket. In 1481 the provost was for the first time allowed an annual fee of £20 out of the common purse; but some such fee would seem to have been intended three years before.
His successor was Sir John Murray of Touchadam, in 1482; and in the same year we find Patrick Baron of Spittlefield, under whose regime the Hammermen were incorporated, and in 1484 John Napier of Merchiston, eldest son of Provost Alexander Napier. He was John Napier of Rusky, and third of Merchiston, whom James III., in a letter dated 1474, designates as our louite familiar sqwiar, and he was one of the lords auditors in the Parliament of 1483. Two of his lineal heirs fell successively in battle at Flodden and Pinkie.
The fourth provost in succession after him was Patrick Hepburn, Lord Hailes, 8th August. He was the first designated “My Lord Provost,” probably because he was a peer of the realm. He had “James of Creichtoun of Felde,” as a deputy provost under him; and the first entry in the Records under that date is a statute that “the commoun pyperis of the towne ” shall be properly feed, for the honour thereof, and that they get their food, day about, from all honest persons of substance, under a penalty of 9d. per day, “that is to ilk pyper iijd [3p] at least.”
The fifth provost after this was Sir Thomas Tod, 22nd August, 1491, and again in 1498, with Richard Lawson of the Highriggs, and Sir John Murray in the interval during 1492.
From this date to 1513, with a little interval, Richard Lawson was again provost; the office was held by Sir Alexander Lauder of Blythe, who in the last named year was also Justice Depute.
He fell in the battle on the fatal 9th of September, 1513, and the affairs of the city, amid the consternation and grief that ensued, were managed by George of Tours, who with Robert Bruce, William Lockhart, William Adamson, and William Clerk, all bailies, had been, on the 19th of August, chosen by the provost and community to rule the city after his departure with the army for England.
The aged Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus (better known as Archibald Bell-the-cat) – whose two sons, George Master of Angus, and Sir William Douglas of Glenbervie, with more then (sic) 200 knights and gentlemen of his surname, found their tomb on Flodden Hill – was elected provost on the 30th of September, twenty-one days after the battle; and at the same time his son, Gawain the Poet, provost of St. Giles’s, was “made burgess, gratis, for the common benefit of the town.” It was he of whom Scott makes the grim old Earl say, with reference to the English knight’s act of forgery,
“Thanks to St. Bothan, son of mine,
Save Gawain, ne’er could pen a line.”
He was succeeded on the 24th July, 1514, by Alexander Lord Home, Great Chamberlain of Scotland in 1507, and baron of Dunglas and Greenlaw, under whom preparations for the defence of the city, in expectation of a counter-invasion, went on. An Act was passed for the furnishing “of artailyerie for the resisting of our auld innemies of Ingland;” a tax was laid upon all – even the widows of the fallen, so far as their substance permitted them to pay – and all persons having heid-yaird dykes, “were to build them up within fifteen days, under pain of six pounds to the Kirk-werk.”
In August of the same year David Melville was provost, and the pestilence caused the division of the city into four quarters, each under a bailie and quarter-master to attend to the health of the people. Except the interval, during which Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavil and Archibald Douglas were Provosts, Melville was in office till 1517, when James Earl of Arran, Regent of Scotland, took it upon him, and was designated Lord Provost. In consequence of the influence it conferred, the office was at this time an object of ambition among the nobility. His enemies, the Douglases, taking advantage of his temporary absence from the city, procured the election of Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie, the uncle of the Earl of Angus, in his place; and when Arran returned from the castle of Dalkeith, where the court was then held, he found the gates of Edinburgh shut against him. His followers attempted to force an entrance sword in hand, but were repulsed, and a number were killed and wounded on both sides. Similar scenes of violence and blood-shed were of almost daily occurrence, and between the rival factions of Hamilton and Douglas the Lowlands were in a complete state of demoralisation; and on the 21st of February, 1519, in consequence of the bitter feud and bloody broils between the houses of Douglas and Hamilton, he was ordered by the Regent, then absent, to vacate his office, as it was ordained that no person of either of those names was eligible as provost, till the “Lord Governor’s home coming, and for a year.”
Thus, in 1520, Robert Logan of Coitfield was provost, and in October he was granted by the Council 100 merks of the common good, beside his ordinary fee, for the sustentation of four armed men, to carry halberds before him, “because the warld is brukle and troublous.”
The fourth provost after this was Robert Lord Maxwell, 18th August, 1524, who was made so by the Queen-mother, when she “tuik the haill government of the realm and ruele of the king (James V.) upoun her.” This was evidently an invasion of the rights of the citizens; yet on the same day the Lord Justice Clerk appeared before the Council, and declared “that it was the mind and will” of the king, then in his minority, that Mr. Francis Bothwell, provost, “cedit and left his office of provostier in the town’s hand,” and the said provost protested that the leaving of his office thus should not be derogatory to the city, nor injurious to its privileges. Lord Maxwell was afterwards Governor of Lochmaben, Captain of the Royal Guard, Warden of the West Marches, and Ambassador to France to negotiate the king’s marriage with Mary of Lorraine; but long ere all that he had been succeeded as provost by Allan Stuart.
In 1526 Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie, Lord High Treasurer, was provost again. In this year it was ordained that through the resort to Edinburgh of great numbers of His Majesty’s subjects and strangers, there should be three weekly market days for the sale of bread, when it should be lawful for dealers, both buyers and landward, to dispose of bread for ready money; three market days for the sale of meat under the same circumstances, were also established – Sunday, Monday, and Thursday.
In 1528 the Lord Maxwell became again provost of Edinburgh, and when, some years after, his exiled predecessor, Douglas of Kilspindie, became weary of wandering in a foreign land he sought in vain the clemency of James V., who, in memory of all he had undergone at the hands of the Douglases, had registered a vow never to forgive them. The aged warrior – who had at one time won the affection of the king, who, in admiration of his stature, strength, and renown in arms, had named him “Greysteel,” after a champion in the romance of “Sir Edgar and Sir Guion” – threw himself in James’s way near the gates of Stirling Castle, to seek pardon, and ran afoot by the side of his horse, encumbered as he was by heavy armour, worn under his clothes for fear of assassination. But James rode in, and the old knight, sinking by the gate in exhaustion, begged a cup of water. Even this was refused by the attendants, whom the king rebuked for their discourtesy; but old Kilspindie turned sadly away, and died in France of a broken heart.
In the year 1532 the provost and Council furnished James V. with a guard of 300 men, armed on all “pointts for wayr,” to serve against his “enimies of Ingland,” in all time coming.
In 1565, when Mary was in the midst of her most bitter troubles, Sir Simon Preston of Craigmillar and that ilk was provost, and it was in his house, the Black Turnpike, she was placed a prisoner, after the violated treaty of Carberry Hill; and four years after he was succeeded in office by the celebrated Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange.
In 1573 Lord Lindsay was provost, the same terrible and relentless noble who plotted against Rizzio, led the confederate lords, conducted Mary to Lochleven, who crushed her tender arm with his steel glove, and compelled her under terror of death to sign her abdication, and who lived to share in the first Gowrie conspiracy.
In 1578 the provost was George Douglas of Parkhead, who was also Governor of the Castle; a riot having taken place in the latter, and a number of citizens being slain by the soldiers, the Lords of the Secret Council desired the magistrates to remove him from office and select another. They craved delay, on which the Council deposed Douglas, and sent a precept commanding the city to choose a new provost within three hours, under pain, of treason. In obedience to this threat Archibald Stewart was made interim provost till the usual time of election, Michaelmas; previous to which, the young king, James VI., wrote to the magistrates desiring them to make choice of certain persons whom he named to hold their offices for the ensuing year. On receiving this peremptory command the Council called a public meeting of the citizens, at which it was resolved to allow no interference with their civic privileges. A deputation consisting of a bailie, the treasurer, a councillor, and two deacons, waited on His Majesty at Stirling and laid the resolutions before him, but received no answer. Upon the day of election another letter was read from James, commanding the Council to elect as magistrates the persons therein named for the ensuing year; but notwithstanding this arbitrary command, the Council, to their honour, boldly upheld their privileges, and made their own choice of magistrates.
Alexander Home, of North Berwick, was provost from 1593 to 1596. He was a younger son of Patrick Home of Polwarth, and his younger sister was prioress of the famous convent at North Berwick, where strange to say she retained her station and the conventual lands till the day of her death.
In 1598 a Lord President of the College of Justice was provost, Alexander Lord Fyvie, afterwards Lord Chancellor, and Earl of Dunfermline in 1606. Though the time was drawing near for a connection with England, a contemporary writer in 1598 tells us that “in general, the Scots would not be attired after the English fashion in any sort; but the men, especially at court, followed the French fashion.”
Sir William Nisbet, of Dean, was provost twice in 1616 and 1622, the head of a proud old race, whose baronial dwelling was long a feature on the wooded ridge above Deanhaugh. His coat of arms, beautifully carved, was above one of the doors of the latter, his helmet surmounted by the crest of the city, and encircled by the motto,
“HIC MIHI PARTIVS HONOS.”
It was in the dark and troublesome time of 1646-7, when Sir Archibald Tod was provost, that James Gordon, the minister of Rothiemay, made his celebrated bird’s-eye view of Edinburgh – to which reference has been made so frequently in these pages, and of which we have engraved the greater part.
James Gordon, one of the eleven sons of the Laird of Straloch, was born in 1615. He was M.A. of Aberdeen, and in April, 1647, he submitted his view of the city – a work wonderful for its minuteness and fidelity – to provost Tod and the Council, who made him a free burgess, and paid him £333 6s. 8d. Scots, or £27 16s. 8d. sterling for the drawing, which was engraved in Holland by De Witt, and dedicated to the provost and magistrates, who appear by the city accounts to have had a collation on the occasion.
The provost who was present at and presided over the barbarous execution of Montrose, in 1650, was Sir James Stewart of Coltness, who suffered there for a long imprisonment after the Restoration, and was only rescued from something worse by the intercession of a Cavalier gentleman, whose son’s life he had saved by his humane intercession some years before.
Sir Andrew Ramsay, of Abbots Hall, was then provost, and it was during his second term of office in 1667, that Charles II. wrote him a letter stating that the chief magistrate of Edinburgh should have the same freedom in Scotland as the mayor of London had in England, and should have the permanent title of “Lord Provost.” In 1672, when last in office, a salary was settled upon him of £200 sterling annually – the first that seems ever to have been regularly paid to a magistrate of the city. He had been ten years altogether provost, his re-elections having been secured by the influence of the Duke of Lauderdale, in return for his having obtained for his Grace £6,000 as the price of the citadel of Leith. Sir Andrew while in the civic chair conducted himself so tyrannically, by applying the common good of the city for the use of himself and his friends, and by inventing new employments and concessory offices within it, to provide for his dependents, that the citizens, weary of his yoke, resolved to turn him out at the next election; but he having had a majority the burgesses were forced to “intent a reduction of the election.”
This case being submitted to the Chancellor and President, they ordered an Act to be passed in the Common Council of the city, declaring that none should hereafter continue in office as provost for more than two years. But this regulation has not been strictly observed, and the Lord Provosts of the city are now elected for three years.
In 1683 Sir George Drummond was Lord Provost; but in August, 1685, he became a bankrupt, and took refuge in the Sanctuary at Holyrood, the first, says Fountainhall, “that during his office has broke in Edinburgh.” A week or two afterwards, a riot having taken place at the Town Guard-house the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Perth, who was bound to do what he could to protect the provost, got a protection to enable him to appear in this matter. “Thus he was brought to the street again.”
His predecessor in 1676 was a Sir William Binny, who, in 1686 had a curious case before the Court of Session, against Hope of Carse, on the testament of Colonel Gordon, who with Leslie and Walter Butler of the Irish Musketeers, slew the great Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland.
Sir Hugh Cunningham was provost when Anne was proclaimed by the heralds at the Cross, on the 8th of March, 1702, Queen of Scotland; and she in her first letter to Parliament pressed them to consider the advantages which might accrue to both countries by a union; and Sir Samuel MacLellan was provost in the year of stormy dissension in which it was ultimately achieved.
We have elsewhere (Vol. I, p. 318) referred to the unfortunate Archibald Stewart, who was Lord Provost in the next memorable epoch of Scottish history, the insurrection of 1745.
William Alexander was Lord Provost when the first great breach was made in the ancient city, and the first appearance of some vitality began to brighten it in 1753, when the New Exchange was founded on the north side of the Luckenbooths; but one of the most distinguished chief magistrates of the seventeenth century was George Drummond, who was elected no less than six times Lord Provost of the city. A cadet of the noble house of Perth, he was born in 1687, and when only eighteen years of age was employed by the Committee of the Scottish Parliament to give his assistance in the arrangement of the national accounts prior to the Union; and in 1707, on the establishment of the Excise, he was rewarded with the office of Accountant-General, and in 1717 he was a Commissioner of the Board of Customs. In 1725 he was elected Lord Provost for the first time, and two years after was named one of the commissioners and trustees for improving the fisheries and manufactures of Scotland. He was the principal agent in the erection of the Royal Infirmary; and in 1745 he served as a volunteer with Cope’s army at the Battle of Prestonpans. As grand-master of the freemasons he laid the foundation-stone of the Royal Exchange, and in 1755 was appointed to that lucrative – if dubious – office, a trustee on the forfeited estates of the Jacobite lords and landholders. We have related (in its place) how he laid the foundation-stone of the North Bridge. He died in 1766 in the eightieth year of his age, and was honoured, deservedly, with a public funeral in the Canongate. To Provost Drummond Dr. Robertson the historian owed his appointment as Principal of the University, which was also indebted to him for the institution of five new professorships. A few years after his death a bust of him by Nollekens was erected in their public hall by the managers of the Royal Infirmary.
In 1754 the Lord Provost, dean of guild, bailies, and city treasurer, appeared in November, for the first time, with gold chains and medals, in lieu of the black velvet coats, which were laid aside by all save the provost, and which had been first ordered to be worn by an Act of the Council in 1718.
In 1753, on the 17th February, died Patrick Lindsay, Esq., late Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and Governor of the Isle of Man.
In 1768 the Lord Provost was James Stuart. In the following year, during spring, the great Benjamin Franklin and his son spent six weeks in Scotland, and the University of St. Andrews conferred upon him the honorary title of Doctor, by which he has since been generally known. On his coming to Edinburgh, Provost Stuart and the Corporation bestowed upon him the freedom of the city, when every house was thrown open to him, and the most distinguished men of letters crowded round him. Hume, Robertson, and Lord Kames, became his intimate friends; but Franklin was not unduly elated. “On the whole,” he wrote, “I must say the time I spent there (in Scotland) was six weeks of the dearest happiness I have met with in any part of my life.”
Stuart’s successor in office was John Dalrymple, whose eldest son succeeded to the baronetcy of Hailes (which is now extinct) on the death of Lord Hailes, the distinguished judge and writer.
In the year 1774 there was considerable political strife in the city, originating in the general parliamentary election, when exertions were made to wrest the representation from Sir Lawrence Dundas, who unexpectedly found as opponents Loch of Carnbie, and Captain James Francis Erskine of Forrest. A charge of bribery being preferred against Sir Lawrence, some delay occurred in the election, and the then Lord Provost Stoddart came forward as a candidate. The votes of the Council were – for Sir Lawrence, twenty-three; for Provost Stoddart, six; and for Captain Erskine, three. One of the Council, Gilbert Laurie (who had been provost in 1766) was absent. Messrs. Stoddart and Loch protested that the election had been brought about by undue influence.
The opposition to Sir Lawrence became still greater, and a keen trial of strength took place when the election of deacons and councillors came in 1776, and many bitter letters appeared in the public prints; but the friends of the Dundas family proved again triumphant, and united in the choice of Alexander Kincaid, as Lord Provost, His Majesty’s Printer for Scotland. He died in office in 1777, in a house situated in the Cowgate, in a small court westward of the Horse Wynd, and known as Kincaid’s Land, and was succeeded by Provost Dalrymple.
Two years afterwards the city was assessed in the sum of £1,500 to repay damage done by a mob to the Roman Catholic place of worship, for the destruction of furniture, ornaments, books, and altar vessels. In this year, 1779, there were 188 hackney sedan chairs in the city, but very few hackney coaches; and the umbrella first appeared in the streets. By 1783 there were 1,268 four-wheeled carriages entered to pay duty, and 338 two-wheeled.
At Michaelmas, 1784, Sir James Hunter Blair, Bart., was elected Lord Provost, in succession to David Stuart, who resided in Queen Street, and who was a younger son of Stuart of Dalguise. The second son of Mr. John Hunter of Ayr, Sir James, commenced life as an apprentice with Coutts and Co., the Edinburgh bankers, in 1756, when Sir William Forbes was then a clerk, and both became ultimately the principal partners. He married the eldest daughter of Blair of Dunskey, who left no less than six sons at the time of this event, all of whom died, and on her succession to the estates. Sir James assumed the name and arms of Blair. As Lord Provost he was indefatigable in the activity of his public spirit, and set afoot the great operations for the improvement of Edinburgh, and one object he had specially in view when founding the South Bridge was the rebuilding of the University.
Sir James lived only to see the commencement of the great works he had projected in Edinburgh, as he died of fever at Harrogate in July, 1787, and was honoured with a public funeral in the Greyfriars’ churchyard. In private life he was affable and cheerful, attached to his friends and anxious for their success. In business and in his public exertions he was upright, liberal, and, as a Scotsman, patriotic; he possessed in no small degree those talents which are requisite for rendering benevolence effectual, uniting great knowledge of the world with sagacity and sound understanding.
Sir James Stirling, Bart., elected Lord Provost, after Elder of Fortieth, had a stormy time when in office. He was the son of a fishmonger at the head of Marlins Wynd, where his sign was a wooden Black Bull, now in the Antiquarian Museum. Stirling, after being secretary to Sir Charles Dalling, Governor of Jamaica, became a partner in the bank of Mansfield, Ramsay, and Co. in Cantore’s Close, Luckenbooths, and married the daughter of the head of the firm. When he took office politics ran high. The much-needed reform of the royal burghs had been keenly agitated for some time previous, and a motion on the subject, negatived in the House of Commons by a majority of 26, incensed the Scottish public to a great degree, while Lord Melville, Secretary of State, by his opposition to the question, rendered himself so obnoxious, that in many parts of Scotland he was burned in effigy. In this state of excitement Provost Stirling and others in authority at Edinburgh looked forward to the King’s birthday – the 4th of June, 1792 – with considerable uneasiness, and provoked mischief by inaugurating the festival by sending strong patrols of cavalry through the streets at a quick pace with swords drawn. Instead of having the desired effect, the people became furious at this display, and hissed and hooted the cavalry with mocking cries of “Johnnie Cope.” In the afternoon, when the provost and magistrates were assembled in the Parliament House to drink the usual loyal toasts, a mob mustered in the square, and amused themselves after a custom long peculiar to Edinburgh on this day, of throwing dead cats at each other, and at the City Guard who were under arms to fire volleys after every toast.
Some cavalry officers incautiously appeared at this time, and, on being insulted, brought up their men to clear the streets, and, after considerable stone-throwing, the mob dispersed. Next evening it re-assembled before the house of Mr. Dundas in George Square, with a figure of straw hung from a pole. When about to burn the effigy they were attacked by some of Mr. Dundas’s friends – among others, it is said, by his neighbours, the naval hero of Camperdown, and Sir Patrick Murray of Ochtertyre. These gentlemen retired to Dundas’s house, the windows of which were smashed by the mob, which next attacked the residence of the Lord Advocate, Dundas of Arniston. On this it became necessary to bring down the 53rd Regiment from the Castle; the Riot Act was read, the people were fired on, and many fell wounded, some mortally, who were found dead next day in the Meadows and elsewhere. This put an end to the disturbances for that night; but on Wednesday evening the mob assembled in the New Town with the intention of destroying the house of Provost Stirling at the south-east corner of St. Andrew Square, where they broke the City Guards’ sentry boxes to pieces. But, as an appointed signal, the ancient beacon-fire, was set aflame in the Castle, the Hind frigate sent ashore her marines at Leith, and the cavalry came galloping in from the eastward, on which the mob separated finally.
By this time Provost Stirling had sought shelter in the Castle from the mob, who were on the point of throwing Dr. Alexander Wood (known as Lang Sandy) over the North Bridge in mistake for him. For his zeal, however, he was made a baronet of Great Britain. The year 1795 was one of great distress in the city; Lord Cockburn tells us that 16,000 persons (about an eighth of the population) were fed by charity, and the exact quantity of food each family should consume was specified by public proclamation. In 1793 a penny post was established in Edinburgh, extending to Leith, Musselburgh, Dalkeith, and Prestonpans. Sir James Stirling latterly resided at the west end of Queen Street, and died in February, 1805.
Sir William Fettes, Lord Provost in 1800 and 1804, we have elsewhere referred to; but William Coulter, a wealthy hosier in the High Street, who succeeded to the civic chair in 1808, was chiefly remarkable for dying in office, like Alexander Kincaid thirty years before, and for the magnificence with which his funeral obsequies were celebrated. He died at Morningside Lodge, and the cortege was preceded by the First R. E. Volunteers, and the officers of the three Regiments of Edinburgh local militia, and the body was in a canopied hearse, drawn by six horses, each led by a groom in deep mourning. On it lay the chain of office, and his sword and sash as colonel of the volunteers. A man of great stature, in a peculiar costume, bore the banner of the City. When the body was lowered into the grave, the senior herald broke and threw therein the rod of office, while the volunteers, drawn up in a line near the Greyfriars’ Church, fired three funeral volleys.
Sir John Marjoribanks, Bart., Lord Provost in 1813, was the son of Marjoribanks of Lees, an eminent wine merchant in Bordeaux, and his mother was the daughter of Archibald Stewart, Lord Provost of the city in the memorable ‘45. Sir John was a partner in the banking-house of Mansfield, Ramsay, and Co., and while in the civic chair was the chief promoter of the Regent Bridge and Calton Gaol, though the former had been projected by Sir James Hunter Blair in 1784. When the freedom of the city was given to Lord Lynedoch, “the gallant Graham,” Sir John gave him a magnificent dinner, on the 12th of August, 1815 – two months after Waterloo. There were present the Earl of Morton, Lord Audley, Sir David Dundas, the Lord Chief Baron, the Lord Chief Commissioner, Sir James Douglas, Sir Howard Elphinstone, and about a hundred of the most notable men in Edinburgh, the freedom of which was presented to Lord Lynedoch in a box of gold; and at the conclusion of the banquet he gave as a toast, “May the Ministry not lose by their pens what the army has won by their swords!”
Sir John was succeeded as Lord Provost by William Arbuthnot, who twice held the chair in 1815, and again in 1821. He was created a baronet by the King in person on the 24th of August, 1822, at the banquet given to his Majesty by the City in the Parliament House; but the patent bore date, 3rd April, 1823. He was a son of Arbuthnot of Haddo, who, like himself, had been an official in the Trustees office. In the interim Kincaid Mackenzie and John Manderston had been Lords Provost – the former in 1817. He was a wine merchant in the Lawnmarket, and while in office had the honour of entertaining at his house in Gayfield Square, first, the Russian Grand Duke Michael, and subsequently Prince Leopold, the future King of the Belgians.
Among the most eminent Lords Provost of later years we may refer to Sir James Forrest, Bart., of Comiston, who received his title in 1838. During his reign Queen Victoria paid her first visit to her Scottish metropolis in 1842. He was worthily succeeded in 1843 by the late Adam Black, M.P., the distinguished publisher.
In 1848 the Lord Provost was the eminent engraver William Johnstone, who was knighted in 1851, when he was succeeded by Duncan McLaren, a wealthy draper in the High Street, afterwards M.P. for the city, and well known as a steady upholder of Scottish interests in the House.
On the 7th August, 1860, during the provostry of Francis Brown Douglas, Advocate, there took place the great review before the Queen and Royal Family in Holyrood Park of 22,000 Scottish Volunteers, one of the grandest and most successful public spectacles ever witnessed by Old or New Edinburgh. In 1862 the Lord Provost was Charles Lawson of Borthwick Hall, one of the most extensive seed merchants perhaps in Scotland, and who had the honour to entertain at his house, 35, George Square, the Prince and Princess of Wales. It was during Mr. Lawson’s reign that, on the 10th of March, 1863, the Prince’s marriage took place, an occasion that gave rise to the great and magnificent illumination of the city – a spectacle the like of which has never been seen, before or since, in this country. His successor, in 1865, was William Chambers, LL.D., the well-known Scottish writer, and member of the eminent publishing firm of W. and R. Chambers, High Street, during whose double tenure of office the work of demolition in connection with the city improvements commenced in the block of buildings between St. Mary’s Wynd and Gullan’s Close, Cannongate, on the 15th June, 1868. A grand review and sham-fight of volunteers and regulars, to the number of 10,000 men, took place in the royal park on the 4th July; and subsequently the freedom of the City was bestowed upon Lord Napier of Magdala, and upon that far-famed orator, John Bright, M.P. In 1874 James Falshaw was elected to the chair, the first Englishman who ever held such an office in Edinburgh. He was created a baronet of the United Kingdom in 1876 on the occasion of the unveiling by the Queen of the Scottish National Memorial of the late Prince Consort in Charlotte Square. He was preceded in the chair by William Law, and succeeded in 1877 by Sir Thomas Jamieson Boyd, the well-known publisher, who was knighted in 1881 on the occasion of the Volunteer Review.