[Old & New Edinburgh Contents]
The Sanctuary – Geology of the Hill – Origin of its Name, and that of the Craigs – The Park Walls, 1554 – A Banquet al fresco – The Pestilence – A Duel – “The Guttit Haddie” – Mutiny of the Old 78th Regiment – Proposed House on the Summit – Muschat and his Cairn – Radical Road Formed – May Day – Skeletons found at the Wells o’ Wearie – Park Improvements – The Hunter’s Bog – Legend of the Hangman’s Craig – Duddingston – The Church – Rev. J. Thomson – Robert Monteith – The Loch – Its Swans – Skaters – The Duddingston Thorn – The Argyle and Abercorn Families – The Earl of Moira – Lady Flora Hastings – Cauvin’s Hospital – Parson’s Green – St. Anthony’s Chapel and Well – The Volunteer Review before the Queen.
TAKING up the history of the districts of the city in groups as we have done, we now come to Arthur’s Seat, which is already well-nigh surrounded, especially on the west and north, by streets and mansions.
Towering to the height of 822 feet above the Forth, this hill, with the Craigs of Salisbury, occupies the greater portion of the ancient Sanctuary of Holyrood, which included the royal park (first enclosed and improved from a condition of natural forest by James V. and Queen Mary), St. Anne’s Yard and the Duke’s Walk (both now obliterated), the Hermitage of St. Anthony, the Hunter’s Bog, and the southern parks as far as Duddingston, a tract of five miles in circumference, in which persons were safe from their creditors for twenty-four hours, after which they must take out a Protection, as it was called, issued by the bailie of the abbey; the debtors were then at liberty to go where they pleased on Sundays, without molestation; but later legal alterations have rendered retirement to the Sanctuary to a certain extent unnecessary.
The recent formation of the Queen’s Drive round the hill, and the introduction of the rifle ranges in the valley to the north of it, have destroyed the wonderful solitude which for ages reigned there, even in the vicinity of a busy and stormy capital. Prior to these changes, and in some parts even yet, the district bore the character which Arnot gave it when he wrote:- “Seldom are human beings to be met in this lonely vale, or any creature to be seen, but the sheep feeding on the mountains, or the hawks and ravens winging their flight among the rocks.” The aspect of the lion-shaped mountain and the outline of the craigs are known to every one. There is something certainly grand and awful in the front of mighty slope and broken rock and precipice, which the latter present to the city. Greenstone, which has been upheaved through strata surfaced with sandstone and clay, forms the body of this mighty mass; and in places where the sandstone has been quarried (as the craigs were for years to pave the streets of London), beautiful specimens have been obtained of radiated hæmatites, intermixed with steatites, green fibrous iron ore, and calcareous spar, a most uncommon mixture.
In many parts of the craigs have been found veins of calcareous spar, talc, zoolite, and amethystine quartzose crystals; and strange to say several large blocks of the same greenstone of which they are composed are to be found on Arthur’s Seat, at elevations of from eighty to 200 feet above the craigs.
In ascending the steep path which leads from Holyrood to the top of the latter, we pass over layers of sandstone which show ripple marks – the work of the ice – of unknown ages, grinding and depositing pebbles, coarse sand, and sedimentary rock. The bluffs above the path must have had many a hard struggle, when glaciers crashed against them tearing the rock away in masses. Marks of the glacier are to be found all over these craigs and Arthur’s Seat, and on various parts are found rounded boulders, some of which have been worked backwards and forwards till left at last, stranded by the farewell ebb of an ancient sea.
The rocky cone of Arthur’s Seat is strongly magnetic. Mr. William Galbraith first called the attention of men of science to this circumstance in 1831, when he stated that at some points he found the needle completely reversed. (Edin. Phil. Journal, No. XXII.)
Concerning the origin of the name of this remarkable mountain, and that of the adjacent craigs, there have been many theories. Arthur is a name of frequent occurrence in Scottish, as well as Welsh and English topography, and is generally traced by tradition to the famous Arthur of romance, and who figures so much in half-fabulous history. From this prince, who is said to have reigned over Strathclyde from 508 to 542, when he was slain at the battle of Camelon, unsupported tradition has always alleged that Arthur’s Seat obtained its name; while with equal veracity the craigs are said to have been so entitled from the Earl of Salisbury, who accompanied Edward III. in one of his invasions of Scotland, an idle story told by Arnot, and often repeated since.
Maitland, a much more acute writer, says, “that the idea of the mountain being named from Arthur, a British or Cimrian king, I cannot give into,” and adds that he considers “the appellation of Arthur’s Seat to be a corruption of the Gaelic Ard-na-Said, which implies the ‘Height of Arrows;’ than which nothing can be more probable; for no spot of ground is fitter for the exercise of archery, either at butts or rovers, than this; wherefore Ard-na-Said, by an easy transition, might well be changed to Arthur’s Seat.”
Many have asserted the latter to be a name of yesterday, but it certainly bore it at the date of Walter Kennedy’s poem, his “flyting,” with Dunbar, which was published in 1508:-
“Do thou not thus, brigane, thou sail be brynt,
With pik, tar, fire, gunpoldre, and lynt
On Arthuris-Sete, or on a hyar hyll.”
And this is seventy-seven years before the publication of Camden’s “Britannia,” in which it is so named. But this is not the only Arthur’s Seat in Scotland, as there is one near the top of Loch Long, and a third near Dunnichen in Forfarshire.
Concerning the adjacent craigs, Lord Hailes in a note to the first volume of his Annals, says of “the precipice now called Salisbury Craigs; some of my readers may wish to be informed of the origin of a word so familiar to them. In the Anglo-Saxon language, saer, sere, means dry, withered, waste. The Anglo-Saxon termination of Burgh, Burh, Barrow, Bury, Biry, implies a castle, town, or habitation; but in a secondary sense only, for it is admitted that the common original is Beorg a rock… Hence we may conclude, Saerisbury, Serisbury, Salisbury, is the waste or dry habitation. An apt description, when it is remembered that the hills which now pass under the general but corrupted name of Arthur’s Seat were anciently covered with wood. The other eminences in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh had similar appellations. Calton, or Caldoun, is admitted to be the hill covered with trees.” But there is another hill named thus – Choilledun, near the Loch of Monteith.
The rough wild path round the base of the Salisbury Craigs, long before the present road was formed, was much frequented for purpose of reverie by David Hume and Sir Walter Scott. Thither Scott represents Reuben Butler as resorting on the morning after the Porteous mob:- “If I were to choose a spot from which the rising or setting sun could be seen to the greatest possible advantage, it would be that wild path winding round the foot of the high belt of semicircular rocks, called Salisbury Craigs, and marking the verge of the steep descent which slopes down into the glen on the south-eastern side of the city of Edinburgh. The prospect in its general outline commands a close-built high-piled city, stretching itself out beneath in a form, which to a romantic imagination may be supposed to represent that of a dragon; now a noble arm of the sea, with its rocks, isles, distant shores, and boundary of mountains; and now a fine and fertile champaign country varied with hill and dale… This path used to be my favourite evening and morning resort, when engaged with a favourite author or a new subject of study.”
The highest portion of these rocks near the Catnick, is 500 feet above the level of the Forth; and here is found a vein of rock different in texture from the rest. “This vein,” says a writer, “has been found to pierce the sandstone below the footpath, and no doubt fills the vent of an outflow of volcanic matter from beneath. A vein of the same nature has probably fed the stream of lava, which forced its way between the strata of sandstone, and formed the Craigs.”
A picturesque incident, which associates the unfortunate Mary with her turbulent subjects, occurred at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, in 1564. In the romantic valley between it and Salisbury Craigs there is still traceable a dam, by which the natural drainage had been confined to form an artificial lake; at the end of which, in that year, ere her wedded sorrows began, the beautiful young queen, in the sweet season, when the soft breeze came laden with the perfume of the golden whin flowers from the adjacent Whinny Hill, had an open-air banquet set forth in honour of the nuptials of John, fifth Lord Fleming, Lord High Chamberlain, and Elizabeth the only daughter and heiress of Robert Master of Ross.
In 1645, when the dreaded pestilence reached Edinburgh, we find that in the month of April the Town Council agreed with Dr. Joannes Paulitius that for a salary of £80 Scots per month he should visit the infected, a vast number of whom had been borne forth from the city and hutted in the King’s Park, at the foot of Arthur’s Seat; and on the 27th of June the Kirk Session of Holyrood ordered, that to avoid further infection, all who died in the Park should be buried there, and not within any churchyard, “except they mortified (being able to do so) somewhat, ad pios usus, for the relief of other poor, being in extreme indigence.” (“Dom. Ann.,” Vol. II.)
In November, 1667, we find Robert Whitehead, laird of Park, pursuing at law John Straiton, tacksman of the Royal Park, for the value of a horse, which had been placed there to graze at 4d. per night, but which had disappeared – no uncommon event in those days; but it was urged by Straiton that he had a placard on the gate intimating that he would not be answerable either for horses that were stolen, or that might break their necks by falling over the rocks. Four years after- wards we read of a curious duel taking place in the Park, when the Duke’s Walk, so called from its being the favourite promenade of James Duke of Albany, was the common scene of combats with sword and pistol in those days, and for long after. In the case referred to the duellists were men in humble life.
On the 17th June, 1670, William Mackay, a tailor, being in the Castle of Edinburgh, had a quarrel with a soldier with whom he was drinking, and blows were exchanged. Mackay told the soldier that he dared not use him so if they were without the gates of the fortress, on which they deliberately passed out together, procured a couple of sharp swords in the city, and proceeded to a part of the King’s Park, when after a fair combat, the soldier was run through the body, and slain. Mackay was brought to trial; he denied having given the challenge, and accused the soldier of being the aggressor; but the public prosecutor proved the reverse, so the luckless tailor – not being a gentleman – was convicted, and condemned to die.
A beacon would seem to have been erected on the cone of Arthur’s Seat in 16S8 to communicate with Fifeshire and the north (in succession from Garleton Hill, North Berwick, and St. Abb’s Head) on the expected landing of the Prince of Orange. On one occasion the appearance of a large fleet of Dutch fishing vessels off the mouth of the Firth excited the greatest alarm, being taken for a hostile armament.
The Edinburgh Evening Courant of the 29th of October, 1728, contains the following reference to the Craigs, or the chasm, there named the Catnick:- “A person who frequents the (King’s) Park, having noticed a man come from a cleft towards the north-west of Salisbury Rocks, had the curiosity to climb the precipice, if possibly he might discover something that could invite him there. He found a shallow pit, which delivered him into a little snug room or vault hung with dressed leather, lighted from the roof, the window-covered with a bladder. It is thought to have been the cave of a hermit of ancient times, though now the hiding-place of a gang of thieves.”
The long, deep, and tremendous rift in the western slope of Arthur’s Seat (locally known as the Guttit Haddie) was caused by a mighty waterspout, on the 13th of September, 1744. “Dividing its force” – says the “Old Statistical Account” – “it discharged one part upon the western side, and tore up a channel or chasm, which still remains a monument of its violence; the other division took its direction towards the village of Duddingston, carried away the gable of the most westerly cottage, and flooded the loch over the adjacent meadows.”
On the steep sloping shoulder of Arthur’s Seat, south-westward, under the Rock of Dunsappie, the Highland army encamped in September before the battle of Prestonpans, and from thence it was – after the Prince had held a council of his chiefs and nobles – the march began at daybreak on the morning of the 20th through the old hedgerows and woods of Duddingston, with pipes playing and colours flying, after Charles, in front of the line, had significantly drawn his claymore and flung away the scabbard.
From a letter which appears in the Advertiser for the 15th of January, 1765, the entrance to the Park from St. Anne’s Yard to the Duke’s Walk having become impassable, was privately repaired at the expense of a couple of classical wits, whose names were unknown, but who placed upon the entrance the following inscription:-
Ite nunc faciles per gaudia vestra,
B Cque pecun sua reficiendum cur.
Cal. Jan. MD. C. CLXV.
Dii faciant ut haec saepius fiant.
Mungo Campbell (formerly officer of Excise at Saltcoats), who shot Archibald, tenth Earl of Eglinton, committed suicide in the Tolbooth in 1770, on the day after he had been sentenced to death, when the judge also directed that his body should be given to the professor of anatomy. His counsel having interposed on the plea that dissection was not a legal penalty for self-murder, it was privately interred at the foot of Salisbury Craigs. But the Edinburgh mob, who were exasperated by the manner in which he had shot the earl in a poaching affray, took the body out of the grave, tossed it about till they were tired, and eventually flung it over the cliffs. After this, to prevent further indecency and outrage, Campbell’s friends caused the body to be conveyed in a boat from Leith and sank it in the Firth of Forth. (Caldwell Papers; Scots Mag., Vol. XXXII.)
Southward of the cone of Arthur’s Seat are the Raven’s Craig and the Nether Hill, or Lion’s Haunch; between the latter and the cone can still be traced the trench and breastwork formed by the Seaforth Highlanders when they revolted in 1778 – an event which created a profound sensation in Scotland.
In the July of that year they had marched into the Castle, replacing the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers, or 80th Regiment of the Line, a corps which was raised by General Sir William Erskine in 1777, and was disbanded in 1783-5.
Kenneth Mackenzie, Earl of Seaforth, had recently raised his noble regiment, which was then numbered as the 78th (but is now known as the Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders), among his clansmen in the district of Kintail and Applecross, Kilcoy, and Redcastle; of these 500 were from his own estate; the rest were all from the others named, and the corps mustered 1,130 bayonets at its first parade in Elgin in the May of 1778; but from a great number of another sept who were in its ranks, the subsequent mutiny was known at first as the affair of the Wild Macraas.
The latter was an ancient but subordinate tribe of the west, who had followed the “Caber Feigh,” or banner of Seaforth, since the days when Black Murdoch of Kintail carried it in the wars of Robert I., and now many of its best men were enrolled in Earl Kenneth’s new Fencible regiment, perfect subordination in the ranks of which was maintained in the Castle until the 5th of August, when an order was issued for marching at an hour’s notice. A landing of a French force being expected near Greenock, 200 of them, with seven 9-pounders, marched there with the greatest enthusiasm to meet the foe, who never appeared; but by the time these two companies returned, transports to convey the whole for foreign service had come to anchor in Leith Roads.
Where the scene of that service lay the men knew not. It was kept a mystery from them and their officers. The former would not believe a rumour spread that it was to be the Isle of Guernsey, and a deep excitement prevailed, when it was whispered – none knew how – that they were under secret orders for the distant East Indies – in other words, that they had been sold to the East India Company by the Government, and that, worse than all, they had been sold by their officers and by the chief, whom they had looked upon as a father and leader.
All their native jealousy and distrust of the Saxon was now kindled and strengthened by their love of home. General David Stewart, in his “Sketches of the Highlanders,” boldly asserts that the regiment was secretly under orders for India, the authorities basely having an idea that the poor clansmen of Kintail “were ignorant, unable to comprehend the nature of their stipulations, and incapable of demanding redress for any breach of trust.”
But the Seaforth men were neither so ignorant nor so confiding as the Government supposed, and they were determined at all hazards not to submit to the least infraction of the terms on which they were enlisted as Fencible Infantry – limited service and within the British Isles; and when the day for embarkation came, the 22nd September, their long-smothered wrath could no longer be hidden.
“The regiment paraded on the Castle hill, and all remained quiet until the order was given to march, when, to the astonishment of the Earl and his officers the greatest confusion ensued. A shout burst from the ranks; several hundred men loaded their muskets with ball; the whole fixed their bayonets; a scuffle ensued; some of the officers were wounded, and one was repeatedly fired on. The latter displayed the colours with their Gaelic mottoes, and by their efforts so far soothed the less refractory, that five hundred of them under Lord Seaforth marched for Leith; while four hundred (chiefly Macraas), deaf alike to threats and remonstrances, displayed two tartan plaids on pikes for standards, and with the pipers playing before them, marched down the Canongate, where they assailed the guard-house, and liberated some of their comrades who were confined there. (“Memorials of Edin. Castle.”)
Kay relates the latter episode differently, stating that a party came from Arthur’s Seat to demand their release, when Captain Mackenzie of Redcastle, commanding the Tolbooth guard there, on finding his life threatened, bared his breast, and told the mutineers to strike if they dared, but he would not release a man – on which the men recovered arms, and retired to the encampment.
Ere Lord Seaforth’s portion had passed the Tron Church, it was assailed by the Macraas, who, with bayonet and claymore, wounded several officers and men; after which they made a rapid circuit through the Abbey Hill, down the Easter Road, and then advancing in line westward across Leith Links sought again to oppose his march to the harbour. Several shots were fired, and two hundred more joined the Macraas, who, with this accession of force, now marched direct to the summit of Arthur’s Seat, accompanied by a vast concourse of sympathisers, from whom they received every encouragement, much applause, and what proved of more value – fuel, provisions, and ammunition.
They selected a strong position at the point mentioned, threw up a redoubt, and judiciously set watchers at all the approaches for the autumn night, amid a mountain solitude then as wild and silent as their native homes in Kintail. That night a sentinel fell over the Craigs, and was killed.
The revolt caused the greatest excitement in the city, where all were favourable to the Highlanders, many regiments of whom had been previously deluded by the Government. Sir Adolphus Oughton, Commander-in-chief in Scotland, and Major-General Robert Skene, the Adjutant-General there, summoned all the troops they could collect to attack “the wild Macraas,” and next day the 11th Dragoons, under Colonel Ralph Dundas, 200 of the Fencible Regiment of Henry Duke of Buccleuch, and 400 of the Royal Glasgow Regiment of Volunteers, or old 83rd Foot, commanded by Colonel Alexander Fotheringham Ogilvie, all marched into Edinburgh, and were deemed sufficient to storm Arthur’s Seat.
On that day the Earl of Dunmore, Duncan Lord Macdonald and General Oughton, visited the revolters, who received them with military honours, while they ceased not to inveigh against their officers, whom they accused of peculation, and of having basely sold them to the India Company.
In their ranks at this time there was an unfortunate fellow named Charles Salmon, who had been born in Edinburgh about 1745, and had filled a subordinate position in the Canongate theatre, after being in the service of Ruddiman the printer. He was a companion of the poet Fergusson, and became a local poet of some note himself. He was laureate of the Jacobite Club, and author of many Jacobite songs; but his irregular habits led to his enlistment in the Seaforth Highland Regiment.
His superior education and address now pointed him out as a fit person to manage for his comrades the negotiations which ultimately led to a peaceful sequel to the dispute; but after the corps went to India poor Stewart Salmon, as he called himself, was heard of no more. On the 29th of September this revolt, which promised to have so tragic an end, was satisfactorily adjusted by the temperate prudence of the Duke of Buccleuch and others.
The Earl of Dunmore again visited the revolters, presented them with a bond containing a pardon, and promise of all arrears of pay. They then formed in column by sections of threes, and with the Earl and the pipers at their head, they descended by the Hunter’s Bog to the Palace Yard, where they gave Sir Adolphus Oughton three cheers, and threw all their bonnets in the air. He then formed them in hollow square, and addressed them briefly, but earnestly exhorting them to behave well and obediently. On that night they all sailed from Leith to Guernsey, from whence they were soon after despatched to lndia – a fatal voyage to the poor 78th, for Lord Seaforth died ere St. Helena was in sight; then a great grief, with the mal du pays, fell upon his clansmen, and of 1,100 who sailed from Portsmouth, 230 perished at sea, and only 390 were able to carry arms, when, in April 1782, they began the march for Chingleput.
In 1783 an eccentric named Dr. James Graham, then lecturing in Edinburgh, in Carrubber’s Close chiefly, the projector of a Temple of Health, and a man who made some noise in his time as a species of talented quack, who asserted that our diseases were chiefly caused by too much heat, and who wore no woollen clothes, and slept on a bare mattress with all his windows open, was actually in terms with the tacksman of the King’s Park for liberty to build a huge house on the summit of Arthur’s Seat, in order to try how far the utmost degree of cold in the locality of Edinburgh could be borne; but, fortunately, he was not permitted to test his cool regimen to such an extent.
Two localities near Arthur’s Seat, invariably pointed out to tourists, are Muschat’s Cairn, and the supposed site of Davie Deans’ cottage, where an old one answering the description of Scott still overlooks the deep grassy and long sequestered dell, where gallants of past times were wont to discuss points of honour with the sword, and where Butler, on his way to visit Jeanie, encounters Effie’s lover, and receives the message to convey to the former to meet him at Muschat’s Cairn “when the moon rises.”
Muschat’s Cairn, a pile of stones adjacent to the Duke’s Walk, long marked the spot where Nicol Muschat of Boghall, a surgeon, a debauched and profligate wretch, murdered his wife in 1720. On arraignment he pled guilty, and his declaration is one of the most horrible tissues of crime imaginable. He married his wife, whose name was Hall, after an acquaintance of three weeks, and, soon tiring of her, he with three other miscreants, his aiders and abettors in schemes which we cannot record, resolved to get rid of her. At one time it was proposed to murder the hapless young woman as she was going down Dickson’s Close, for which the perpetrators were to have twenty guineas.
Through Campbell of Burnbank, then storekeeper in Edinburgh Castle, one of his profligate friends, Muschat hoped to free himself of his wife by a divorce, and an obligation was passed between them in November, 1719, whereby a claim of Burnbank, for an old debt of 900 merks, was to be paid by Muschat, as soon as the former should be able to furnish evidence to criminate the wife. This scheme failing, Burnbank then suggested poison, which James Muschat and his wife, a couple in poor circumstances undertook to administer, and several doses were given, but in vain. The project for criminating the victim was revived again, but also without effect.
Then it was that James undertook to kill her in Dickson’s Close, but this plan too failed. These terrible schemes occupied Nichol Muschat, his brother, and his sister-in-law, together with Burnbank, “in the Christian city of Edinburgh, during a course of many months, without any one, to appearance, ever feeling the slightest compunction towards the poor woman, though it is admitted she loved her husband, and no real fault on her side has ever been insinuated.”
At length it would seem that Nicol, infatuated and lured by evil fate, at the suggestion of “the devil, that cunning adversary” – as his confession has it – borrowed a knife, scarcely knowing for what purpose, and, inviting his unsuspecting wife to walk with him as far as Duddingston one night, cut her throat near the line of trees that marked the Duke’s Walk. He then rushed in a demented state to tell his brother what he had done, and thereafter sank into a mood of mind that made all seem blank to him. Next morning the unfortunate victim was found “with her throat cut to the bone,” and many other wounds received in her dying struggle.
In the favourite old Edinburgh religious tract, which narrates the murderous story, in telling where he went before doing the deed, he says that he passed “through the Tirlies,” at the end of a lane which was near the Meadows. The entrance to the Park, near the Gibbet Fall, was long known as “the Tirlies,” implying a sort of stile.
Nicol Muschat was tried, and confessed all. He was hanged, on the 6th of the ensuing January in the Grassmarket, while his associate Burnbank was declared infamous, and banished; and the people, to mark their horror of the event, in the old Scottish fashion raised a cairn on the spot where the murder was perpetrated, and it has ever since been a well-remembered locality.
The first cairn was removed during the formation of a new footpath through the park, suggested by Lord Adam Gordon, who was resident at Holyrood House in 1789, when Commander of the Forces in Scotland; but from a passage in the Weekly Journal we find that it was restored in 1823 by a cairn near the east gate and close to the north wall. “The original cairn is said to have been several paces farther west than the present one, the stones of which were taken out of the old wall when it was pulled down to give place to the new gate that was constructed previous to the late royal visit” – that of George IV.
In 1820 the pathway round Salisbury Craigs was formed, and named the “Radical Road” from the circumstance of the destitute and discontented west-country weavers being employed on its construction under a committee of gentlemen. At that time it was proposed to “sow the rocks with wall-flowers and other odoriferous and flowering plants.” It was also suggested “to plant the cliffs above the walk with the rarest heaths from the Cape of Good Hope and other foreign parts.” (Weekly Journal, XXIV.)
The papers of this time teem with bitter complaints against the Earl of Haddington, who, as a keeper of the Royal Park, by an abuse of his prerogative, was quarrying away the craigs, and selling the stone to pave the streets of London; and the immense gaps in their south-western face still remain as proofs of his selfish and unpatriotic rapacity.
As a last remnant of the worship of Baal, or Fire, we may mention the yearly custom that still exists of a May-day observance, in the young of the female sex particularly, ascending Arthur’s Seat on Beltane morning at sunrise. “On a fine May morning,” says the “Book of Days,” “the appearance of so many gay groups perambulating the hill sides and the intermediate valleys, searching for dew, and rousing the echoes with their harmless mirth, has an indescribably cheerful effect.” Many old citizens adhered to this custom with wonderful tenacity, and among the last octogenarians who did so we may mention Dr. Andrew Duncan of Adam Square, the founder of the Morningside Asylum, who paid his last annual visit to the hill top on May-day, 1826, in his eighty-second year, two years before his death; and James Burnet, the last captain of the old Town Guard, a man who weighed nineteen stone, ascended to the cone from the base by the way of St. Anthony’s Well, for a wager, in fifteen minutes, on a hot summer’s day – a feat in which he was timed by the eminent naturalist William Smellie.
In 1828 the operations connected with the railway tunnel, under the brow of the columnar mass of basalt known as Samson’s Ribs, commenced, and near to the springs so well known in tradition as the Wells of Wearie. Close by these wells, and near a field named Murder Acre, in May the workmen came upon three human skeletons, only three and a half feet below the surface of the smooth green turf. As a very large dirk was found near one of them, they were conjectured to be the remains of some of Prince Charles’s soldiers, who had died in the camp on the hill. The “Wells,” are the theme of more than one Scottish song, and a very sweet one runs thus:-
“And ye maun gang wi’ me, my winsom Mary Grieve;
There is nought in the world to fear ye;
For I have asked your minnie, and she has gi’en ye leave,
To gang to the Wells o’ Wearie.
“Oh, the sun winna blink in your bonnie blue een,
Nor tinge your white brow, my dearie;
For I will shade a bower wi’ rashes lang and green,
By the lanesome Wells o’ Wearie.”
In 1843 the sum of £40,000 was paid to Thomas Earl of Haddington, for the surrender of his office of Hereditary Keeper of the Royal Park, and thereafter extensive improvements were carried out under the supervision of the Commissioners for Woods and Forests. Among these not the least was the Queen’s Drive, which winds round the park, passes over a great diversity of ground from high to low, slope to precipice, terrace to plateau, and commands a panorama second to none in Europe. All the old walls which had intersected the park in various places, in lots as the Hamilton family had rented it off for their own behoof, were swept away at this time, together with the old powder magazine in the Hause, a curious little edifice having a square tower like a village church; and during these operations there was found at the base of the craigs one of the most gigantic boulders ever seen in Scotland. It was blown up by gunpowder, and, by geologists, was alleged to have been torn out of the Corstorphine range during the glacial period.
Among the improvements at this time may be included the removal, in 1862, and re-erection (in the northern slope of the craigs) of St. Margaret’s Well from Restalrig, where it had been all but buried under the workshops of the North British Railway; but now a limpid perennial rill from the Craigs flows into its ancient basin, the Gothic archway to which is closed by an open iron gate.
The old solitude and amenity of the Hunter’s Bog, after 1858, were destroyed by the necessary erection of four rifle ranges, two of 300 yards, and two of 600 yards, for the use of the garrison and volunteers, and the construction of two unornamental powder magazines. The danger signal is always hoisted in the gorge known as the Hause; the rocky ridge named the Dasses overlooks these ranges on the east.
Leaving the Echoing Rock, an isolated eminence, and following the old road round the hill, under Samson’s Ribs, a superb range of pentagonal greenstone columns sixty feet long by five in diameter, the Fox’s Holes, and the rugged stony slope named the Sclyvers, we come to a lofty knoll named the Girnel Craig, and another named the Hangman’s Craig or Knowe, from the following circumstance. About the reign of Charles II., the office of public executioner was taken by a reduced gentleman, the last member of an old family that had long possessed an estate near Melrose. His earlier years had been passed in profligacy; his patrimony was gone, and at length, for the sake of food, he was compelled to accept this degrading office, “which, in those days,” says Chambers, “must have been unusually obnoxious to popular odium, on account of the frequent executions of innocent and religious men. Notwithstanding his extreme degradation, this unhappy reprobate could not altogether forget his former tastes and habits. He would occasionally resume the garb of a gentleman, and mingle in the parties of citizens who played at golf in the evenings on Bruntsfield Links. Being at length recognised, he was chased from the ground with shouts of execration and loathing, which affected him so much that he retired to the solitude of the King’s Park, and was next day found dead at the bottom of a precipice, over which he is supposed to have thrown himself in despair. The rock was afterwards called the Hangman’s Craig.”
The deep gorge between it and the Sclyvers is named the Windy Goule, and through it winds the ancient path that leads direct to the hamlet of Duddingston, which, with the loch of that name, lies directly at the south-eastern base of Arthur’s Seat, and has long been one of the daily postal districts of the city.
Overhung by the green slopes and grey rocks of Arthur’s Seat, and shut out by its mountainous mass from every view of the crowded city at its further base in Duddingston, says a statist, writing in 1851, a spectator feels himself sequestered from the busy scenes which he knows to be in his immediate vicinity, as he hears their distant hum upon the passing breezes by the Willow Brae on the east, or the gorge of the Windy Goule on the south; and he looks southward and west over a glorious panorama of beautiful villas, towering castles, rich coppice, hill and valley, magnificent in semi-tint, in light and shadow, till the Pentlands, or the lonely Lammermuir ranges, close the distance.
The name of this hamlet and parish has been a vexed subject amongst antiquaries, but as a surname it is not unknown in Scotland: thus, among the missing charters of Robert Bruce, there is one to John Dudingstoun of the lands of Pitcorthie, in Fife; and among the gentlemen slain at Flodden in 1513 there was Stephen Duddingston of Kildinington, also in Fife. Besides, there is another place of the same name in Linlithgowshire, the patrimony of the Dundases.
The ancient church, with a square tower at its western end, occupies a green and rocky peninsula that juts into the clear and calm blue loch. It is an edifice of great antiquity, and belonged of old to the Tyronensian Monks of Kelso, who possessed it, together with the lands of Eastern and Western Duddingston; the chartulary of that abbey does not say from whom they acquired these possessions, but most probably it was from David I.
Herbert, first abbot of Kelso, a man of great learning and talent, chamberlain of the kingdom under Alexander I. and David I., in 1128, granted the lands of Eastern and Western Duddingston to Reginald de Bosco for an annual rent of ten marks, to be paid by him and his heirs for ever.
From the style of the church and the structure of its arches, it is supposed to date from the epoch of the introduction of Saxon architecture. A semi-circular arch of great beauty divides the choir from the chancel, and a Saxon doorway, with fantastic heads and zig-zag mouldings, still remains in the southern face of the tower. The entrance-gate to its deep, grassy, and sequestered little burying-ground, is still furnished with the antique chain and collar of durance, the terror of evil-doers, named the jougs, and a time-worn louping-on-stone, for the use of old or obese horsemen.
Some interesting tombs are to be found in the burying-ground; among these are the marble obelisk erected to the memory of Patrick Haldane of Gleneagles by his unfortunate grandson, whose fate is also recorded thereon; and that of James Browne, LL.D., Advocate, the historian of the Highlands and Highland clans, in the tower of the church.
In the register of assignations for the minister’s stipends in the year 1574, presented in MS. by Bishop Keith to the Advocates’ Library, Duddingston is said to have been a joint dependence with the Castle of Edinburgh upon the Abbey of Holyrood. The old records of the Kirk Session are only of the year 1631, and in the preceding year the lands of Prestonfield were disjoined from the kirk and parish of St. Cuthbert, and annexed to those of Duddingston.
On the 18th of May, 1631, an aisle was added to the church for the use of the Laird of Prestonfield, his tenants and servants.
David Malcolme, minister here before 1741, was an eminent linguist in his time, whose writings were commended by Pinkerton, and quoted with respect by Gebelin in his Monde Primitif, and Bullet in his Mémoires Celtiques; but the church is chiefly famous for the incumbency of the Rev. John Thomson, a highly distinguished landscape painter, who from his early boyhood exhibited a strong predilection for art, and after being a pupil of Alexander Nasmyth, became an honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy. He became incumbent of Duddingston in 1805. His favourite subjects were to be found in the grand and sublime of Nature, and his style is marked chiefly by vigour, power, and breadth of effect – strong light and deep shadow. As a man and a Christian minister, his life was simple, pure, and irreproachable, his disposition kind, affable, and benevolent. He died of apoplexy in 1840, in his sixty-second year.
The city must have had some interest in the loch, as in the Burgh accounts for 1554 we read:- “Item: twa masons twa weeks to big the Park Dyke at the loch side of Duddingston, and foreanent it again on Priestfield syde, ilk man in the week xvs. summa iijll.
“Item: for ane lang tree to put in the wall that lyes far in the loch for outganging of wyld beistis vjs.” (“Burgh Records.”)
The town or lands of Duddingston are included in an act of ratification to James, Lord Lindsay of the Byers, in 1592.
In the Acts of Sederunt for February, 1650, we find Alexander Craig, in-dweller in the hamlet, pilloried at the Tron of Edinburgh, and placarded as being a “lying witness” in an action-at-law concerning the pedigree of John Rob in Duddingston; but among the few reminiscences of this place may be mentioned the curious hoax which the episcopal incumbent thereof at the Restoration played upon Cardinal de Retz.
This gentleman, whose name was Robert Monteith, had unfortunately become involved in an amour with a lady in the vicinity, the wife of Sir James Hamilton of Prestonfield, and was compelled to fly from the scene of his disgrace. He was the son of a humble man employed in the salmon-fishing above Alloa; but on repairing to Paris, and after attaching himself to M. de la Porte, Grand Prior of France, and soliciting employment from Cardinal de Retz, he stated he was “one of the Monteith family in Scotland.” The cardinal replied that he knew the family well, but asked to which branch he belonged. “To the Monteiths of Salmon-net,” replied the unabashed adventurer.
The cardinal replied that this was a branch he had never heard of, but added that he believed it was, no doubt, a very ancient and illustrious family. Monteith was patronised by the cardinal, who bestowed on him a canonry in Notre Dame, and made him his secretary, in which capacity he distinguished himself by his elegance and purity, in the French language. This strange man is author of a well-known work, published in folio entitled, “Histoire des Troubles de Grand Bretagne, depuis l’an 1633 jusqu’à l’an 1649, par Robert Mentet de Salmonet. Paris, 1661.”
It was dedicated to the Coadjutor Archbishop of Paris, with a portrait of the author; and a translation of it, by Captain James Ogilvie, was published in 1735 by G. Strachan, at the “Golden Ball,” in Cornhill.
In the year of the Revolution we find the beautiful loch of Duddingston, as an adjunct to the Royal Park, mentioned in a case before the Privy Council on the 6th March.
The late Duke of Lauderdale having placed some swans thereon, his clever duchess, who was carrying on a legal contest with his heirs, deemed herself entitled to take away some of those birds when she chose; but Sir James Dick, now proprietor of the loch, broke a lock-fast place in which she had put them, and set them once more upon the water. The irate dowager raised an action against him, which was decided in her favour, but in defiance of this, the baronet turned all the swans off the loch; on which the Duke of Hamilton, as Heritable Keeper of the palace, came to the rescue, as Fountainhall records, alleging that the loch bounded the King’s Park, and that all the wild animals belonged to him: they were, therefore, restored to their former haunts.
Of the loch and the lands of Priestfield (or Prestonfield), Cockburn says, in his “Memorials”:- “I know the place thoroughly. The reeds were then regularly cut over by means of short scythes with very long handles, close to the ground, and this (system) made Duddingston nearly twice its present size.” Otters are found in its waters, and a solitary badger has at times provoked a stubborn chase. The loch is in summer covered by flocks of dusky coots, where they remain till the closing of the ice excludes them from the water, when they emigrate to the coast, and return with the first thaw. Wild duck, teal, and water-hens, also frequent it, and swans breed there prolifically, and form one of its most picturesque ornaments. The pike, the perch, and a profusion of eels, which are killed by the barbed sexdent, also abound there.
In winter here it is that skating is practised as an art by the Edinburgh Club. “The writer recalls with pleasure,” says the author of the “Book of Days,” “skating exhibitions which he saw there early in the present century, when Henry Cockburn, and the philanthropist James Simpson, were conspicuous amongst the most accomplished of the club for their handsome figures and great skill in the art. The scene of that loch ‘in full bearing’ on a clear winter day, with its busy and stirring multitude of sliders, skaters, and curlers, the snowy hills around glistening in the sun, the ring of the ice, the shouts of the careering youth, the rattle of the curling-stones, and the shouts of the players, once heard and seen, would never be forgotten.”
It was to Duddingston, in 1736, that the fugitive, “Geordie Robertson,” the stabler at Bristo Port, after effecting that escape from St. Giles’s Church by the generous courage of Wilson, which led to the catastrophe of the Porteous mob, and after passing through the East Cross Causeway, took his breathless flight. When reaching the village, he fainted from exhaustion, but after receiving some refreshment – the first he had obtained for three days – he procured a horse, rode away, and was never heard of again.
Western Duddingston, at the north end of the loch, was once a populous village, wherein some forty looms were at work in the Loan, making a coarse linen stuff, then known as Duddingston hardings. It is surrounded by gardens and plantations, and in it is still shown the house in which Prince Charles slept, with his staff, on the night before he marched to Prestonpans. It was then thatched, but has now a tiled roof, and consists of two storeys.
Not far from it, and nearly opposite the gate of the Manor House, stood for ages a memorable thorn, known as Queen Mary’s Tree. It was one of the oldest in Scotland, and of great proportions, being over nine feet in circumference. It formerly stood within the park, but on widening the carriage-way, it remained outside, and many fissures being found in its root, they were filled up with lime and stone by order of the road trustees; but too late: a storm in 1840 tore it up by the roots. A well-known and justly-reputed statist, who resided in the neighbourhood, ascertained that the Duddingston Thorn existed so far back as the reign of Alexander I. (1107), when it was one of the landmarks of the property on which it grew. It is mentioned in the title-deeds of the Abercorn estate, and hence the desire of the family to preserve a precise knowledge of the spot where it stood.
The barony of Duddingston, which comprehends the greatest part of the whole parish, was long in possession of a family named Thomson, created baronets of Nova Scotia, 1636, in the person of Sir Thomas Thomson of Duddingston, by Charles I. Sir William Thomson – his son, probably – was a Commissioner for the Plantation of Kirks and Valuation of Benefices in 1672; but the title is now extinct, and in 1674 the barony had become the property of the atrocious Duke of Lauderdale, from whom it passed with a daughter of his first duchess, as pin money, to her husband, Archibald, tenth earl, and first Duke of Argyle.
This lady was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Lionel Talmash of Helingham, and her mother was the daughter and heiress of William Murray, Earl of Dysart. The celebrated John and Archibald, successively Dukes of Argyle, passed much of their time here, and it is said received most of their education from their mother, who resided constantly in this, then, secluded village prior to 1734.
In 1745 Duddingston was sold by Archibald, Duke of Argyle, to James, Earl of Abercorn, whose ducal descendants still hold it; but it was not until 1751 that this beautiful and valuable estate was sub-divided, enclosed, and improved by James, the eighth earl, who built commodious farm-houses, planted hedgerows and coppice in places where the land, prior to 1746, rented at only ten shillings per acre!
In 1763, after the estate had been thoroughly enclosed, the earl began to build the present mansion house upon it. It was completed in 1768, from designs furnished by the architect of Somerset House, in the Strand, Sir William Chambers, the son of Scottish parents, but born in Stockholm in 1726. It cost £30,000, and is an elegant edifice of a somewhat Grecian style, surrounded by plantations, canals, and gardens, but in a situation too low for any extensive view.
Duddingston House was for years the favourite residence of Francis, Earl of Moira. a veteran of the American War, who, in 1803, was appointed Commander-in-chief in Scotland, where he was long deservedly popular with the people, and where he married, in 1804, Flora Mina Campbell (in her own right), Countess of Loudon, who was the first, north of the Tweed, to introduce those laconic invitation cards now so common, and the concise style of which – “The Countess of Loudon and Moira at Home” – so puzzled the Edinburgh folk to whom they were issued.
On the 14th of June, 1805, one of these “At Homes” is thus noticed in a print of the day:-
“On Friday evening the Countess of Loudon and Moira gave a grand fête at Duddingston House, to receive three hundred of the nobility and gentry in and about the city – among whom were the Duke of Buccleuch, the Earl of Errol, the Earl of Dalhousie, the Earl of Roden, Lord Elcho, Count Piper, Sir John Stuart, Sir William Forbes, Admiral Purves, Sir James Hall, the Countesses of Errol and Dalhousie, Lady Charlotte Campbell (the famous beauty), Lady Elizabeth Rawdon, Lady Helen Hall, Lady Stuart, Lady Fettes, Admiral Vashon (who conquered the Jygate pirates), and a great number of naval and military gentlemen, most of the judges, &c. The saloon was brilliantly fitted up with festoons of flowers, and embellished with a naval pillar, on which were the names of Howe, Duncan, St. Vincent, and Nelson. The dancing commenced at ten o’clock, and was continued till two in the morning.”
In this year the earl also had a residence in Queen Street (where Lady Charlotte Campbell also resided in Argyle House), but whether it was there or at Duddingston that his daughter, the celebrated Lady Flora Hastings, was born, there are now no means of ascertaining, as no other record of her birth seems to remain but its simple announcement in the Scots Magazine: “At Edinburgh, 11th March, 1806, the Countess of Loudon and Moira of a daughter.” The story of this amiable and unfortunate lady, her poetical talent, and the inhumanity with which she was treated at Court, are too well known to need more than mention here. On his appointment as Governor-General of India, in 1813, the earl, to the regret of all Scotland, bade farewell to it, and, as the song has it, to “Loudon’s bonnie woods and braes,” whither he did not return till the summer of 1823; he was then seventy-one years of age, but still erect and soldierly inform. “The marchioness is forty-six,” says the editor of the Free Press on this occasion, “and seems to have suffered little from the scorching climate. She has all the lady in her appearance – modest, dignified, kind, and affectionate. Lady Flora is a young lady of most amiable disposition, mild and attractive manners.” The earl died and was buried at Malta; but Lady Flora lies beside her mother in the family vault at Loudon, where she was laid in 1839, in her thirty-third year. An edition of her poems, seventy in number, many of them full of touching pathos and sweetness, was published in 1842 by her sister, who says in her preface that the profits of the volume would be dedicated “to the service of God in the parish where her mother’s family have so long resided… to aid in the erection of a school in the parish of Loudon, as an evidence of her gratitude to Almighty God and her good will to her fellow creatures.”
Prior to the purchase of Sandringham, the estate of Duddingston, it is said, would have been purchased by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, but for some legal difficulties that were in the way.
At the south-east end of Duddingston Loan, where the road turns off towards the Willow Brae and Parson’s Green, stands, at the point of the eastern slope of Arthur’s Seat, Cauvin’s Hospital, the founder of which, Louis Cauvin (Chauvin or Calvin), was a teacher of French in Edinburgh, whose parents were Louis Cauvin and Margaret Edgar. “It is not correctly ascertained,” says Kay’s editor, “on what account the father was induced to leave his native country and settle in the metropolis of Scotland. According to some accounts, he was forced to expatriate himself, in consequence of the fatal issue of a duel in which he had been implicated. According to others, he was brought over to Edinburgh as a witness in the ‘Douglas Cause,’ having served in the capacity of a footman in the family of Lady Jane Douglas for a considerable time during her residence in Paris. A portrait of him in his youth, in military garb, is still preserved.”
After teaching for a time, he became tenant of a small farm near the hamlet of Jock’s Lodge, where he died in 1778, and was buried in Restalrig.
His son Louis, after being educated at the High School and the Universities of Edinburgh and of Paris, became a teacher of French in the former city, where he retired from work in 1818 with a handsome fortune, realised by his own exertions. Imitating his father, for twenty years before relinquishing his scholastic labours he rented a large farm in Duddingston, now named the Woodlands, and during his occupation of it he built, on the opposite side of the Loan, then, as now, wooded and bordered by hedges, the house of Louisfield, which forms the central portion of his hospital. He died in 1824, and was laid beside his father in Restalrig.
By a codicil to his will, dated Duddingston Farm, 28th April, 1823, he thus arranges for his sepulture:- “My corpse is to be deposited in Restalrig churchyard, and watched for a proper time. The door of the tomb must be taken off, and the space built up strongly with ashlar stones. The tomb must be shut forever, and never to be opened. There is a piece of marble on the tomb door, which I put up in memory of my father; all I wish is that there may be put below it an inscription mentioning the time of my death. I beg and expect that my trustees will order all that is written above to be put in execution.”
The hospital he founded resembles a large and elegant villa, and was opened in 1833, for the maintenance of twenty boys, sons of teachers and farmers, who are maintained in it for six years; “whom failing, the sons of respectable master printers or booksellers, and the sons of respectable servants in the agricultural line,” and who, when admitted, must be of the age of six, and not more than eight, years. They are taught the ordinary branches of education, and Latin, Greek, French, German, and mathematics.
The management of this institution is in the survivor of certain individuals nominated by the founder, and in certain ex-officio trustees, viz., the Lord Provost, the Principal of the University, the Rector of the High School, the Ministers of Duddingston, Liberton, Newton, the Laird of Niddrie, and the factor of the Duke of Abercorn.
On the north-east side of Arthur’s Seat, overlooked by those portions of it known as the Whinny Hill and Sampson’s Grave, is the Mansion House of Parson’s Green, which was terribly shaken by three distinct shocks of an earthquake on the 30th September, 1789, that caused a dinner party there to fly from the table, while the servants also fled from the kitchen.
Here the hand of change has been at work, and though the mansion house and much of its surrounding timber have been retained, streets have been run along the slope and close to Piershill Toll-bar, and westward of these was the great dairy, long known as the Cow palace, and the temporary railway station for the use of the royal family.
Above the curious little knoll, named the Fairies’ or Haggis Knowe, on a plateau of rock over-looking St. Margaret’s artificial loch, on the northern slope of Arthur’s Seat, we find the ruined chapel and hermitage of St. Anthony – a familiar feature in the landscape.
The former, which terminated in a square tower, with two gables at its summit – as shown in the view of the city in 1544 – is 36 feet long by 12 inside the walls, and was roofed by three sets of groined arches that sprang from corbels. It had two entrance doors, one on the south and one on the north, where the hole yet remains for the bar that secured it. Near it was the elegantly-sculptured font. A press, grooved for shelves, yet remains in the north-east corner; and a stair ascended to the tower, which rose on groins about forty feet high.
Nine yards south-east is the ruin of the hermitage, partly formed of the rock, irregular in shape, but about 17 feet by 12 in measurement. The hermit who abode here must, in the days when it was built, have led a lonely life indeed, though beneath him lay a wealthy abbey and a royal palace, from whence a busy city, girt by embattled walls, covered all the slope to the castled rock. More distant, he could see on one side the cheerful fields and woods that spread away towards the Firth of Forth, but elsewhere only the black basaltic rocks; and, as a writer has excellently expressed it, he had but to step a few paces from the brow of the rock on which his cell and chapel stood to immure himself in such a grim mountain solitude as Salvator Rosa might have thought an appropriate scene for the temptations of that saint of the desert to whom the chapel was dedicated. Kincaid says that a handsome stone seat projected from the outside of the wall at the east end, and the whole appeared to have been enclosed by a stone wall.
So simple is the architecture of the edifice that it is difficult to assign any precise date for it. There remains not a single vestige of record to say when, or by whom, it was erected or endowed, though it stands in the centre of a tract that for ages has been a royal park. No reference to it occurs in the muniments of the Abbey of Holyrood, nor is there any evidence – though it has often been asserted – that it was a chaplaincy or pendicle of the Knights Hospitallers of St. Anthony in Leith. Yet it is extremely probable that it was in some way connected with them.
Tradition says it was merely founded for the guardianship of the holy well in its vicinity, and that it was a spot for watching vessels, the impost on which formed part of the revenues of the adjacent abbey, and also that a light was hung in the tower to guide mariners in the Firth at night, that, as Grose says in his “Antiquities,” they might be induced to make vows to its titular saint.
At the foot of the rock there still bubbles up the little spring named St. Anthony’s Well, which flows pleasantly down through the rich grass of the valley. Originally the spring flowed from under the little stone arch, but about the year 1674 it dried up, and after a time broke out lower down, where we now find it. The well is referred to in the old song which begins “O waly, waly!” the Scottish exclamation for “Alas!” In Robert Chambers’s “Scottish Songs” there is a note upon it, from which we may give the following passage:- “This beautiful old song has hitherto been supposed to refer to some circumstance in the life of Queen Mary, or at least to some unfortunate love affair which happened at her Court. It is now discovered, from a copy which has been found as forming part of a ballad in the Pepysian Library at Cambridge (published in Motherwell’s ‘Minstrelsy,’ 1827, under the title of ‘Lord Jamie Douglas’), to have been occasioned by the affecting tale of Lady Barbara Erskine, daughter of John (sixteenth Lord Erskine), ninth Earl of Mar, and wife of James II., Marquis of Douglas. This lady, who was married in 1670, was divorced, or at least expelled from the society of her husband, in consequence of some malignant scandals which a former and disappointed lover, Lowrie of Blackwood, was so base as to insinuate into the ear of the marquis.”
Her father took her home, and she never again saw her husband, who married Mary, daughter of the Marquis of Lothian, and died in 1700. Lady Barbara’s only son, James, Earl of Angus, fell bravely at Steinkirk, in his twenty-first year, at the head of the 26th, or Cameronian Regiment. Two verses of the song run thus:-
“Oh, waly! waly! gin love be bonnie
A little time while it is new;
But when it’s auld it waxeth cauld,
And fades away like morning dew.
Oh, wherefore should I busk my heid?
Or wherefore should I kame my hair?
For my true love has me forsook,
And says he’ll never love me mair.
“Now Arthur’s Seat shall be my bed,
The sheets shall ne’er be pressed by me;
St. Anton’s Well shall be my drink,
Since my true love’s forsaken me!
Martinmas wind, when wilt thou blaw,
An’ shake the green leaves aff the tree?
O gentle death, when wilt thou come?
For o’ my life I am wearie.”
A public event of great importance in this locality was the Royal Scottish Volunteer Review before the Queen on the 7th of August, 1860, when Edinburgh, usually so empty and dull in the dog days, presented a strange and wonderful scene. For a few days before this event regiments from all parts of Scotland came pouring into the city, and were cantoned in school-houses, hospitals, granaries, and wherever accommodation could be procured for them. The Breadalbane Highlanders, led by the white-bearded old marquis, attracted especial attention, and, on the whole, the populace seemed most in favour of kilted corps, all such being greeted with especial approbation.
Along the north wall of the park there was erected a grand stand capable of containing 3,000 persons. The royal standard of Scotland – a splendid banner, twenty-five yards square – floated from the summit of Arthur’s Seat, while a multitude of other standards and snow-white bell-tents covered all the inner slopes of the Craigs. By one o’clock all the regiments were in Edinburgh, and defiled into the park by four separate entrances at once, and were massed in contiguous close columns, formed into divisions and brigades of artillery, engineers, and infantry, the whole under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir G. A. Wetherall, K.C.B.
The scene which burst upon the view of these volunteers as they entered the park, and the vast slopes of Arthur’s Seat came in sight, will never be forgotten by those who were there, and made many a strong man’s heart beat high and his eyes glisten. The vast hilly amphitheatre was crowded by more than 100,000 spectators, who made the welkin ring with their reiterated cheers, as the deep and solid columns, with all their arms glittering in the sun, were steadily forming on the grassy plain below. Every foot of ground upon the northern slopes not too steep for standing on was occupied, even to the summit, where the mighty yellow standard with the red lion floated out over all.
When the Queen, accompanied by the Prince Consort, the aged Duchess of Kent, and the royal children, came in front of the grand stand, the sight was magnificent, when more than two-and-twenty thousand rifles and many hundred sword-blades flashed out the royal salute, and then the arms were shouldered as she drove slowly along the line of massed columns. The ground was kept by the 13th Hussars, the 29th Regiment, 78th Highlanders (the recent heroes of Lucknow), and the West York Rifle Militia. The Queen seemed in the highest spirits, wore a tartan dress, and bowed and smiled as the Volunteers passed the saluting point in quick time, to the number of 250 regiments, the Highland corps being played past by the pipers of the Ross-shire Buffs.
“So admirable was the arrangement,” wrote one at the time, ” by which the respective corps were brought back to their original ground, that not ten minutes had elapsed after the marching-past of the last company before all was ready for the advance in line, the officers having taken post in review order, and the men standing with shouldered arms. On the signal being given, the whole line (of columns) advanced, the review bands playing. The effect of this was, in one word, indescribable, and when the whole was simultaneously halted, and the royal salute given, the silent grandeur of the scene, broken only by the National Anthem, sent a thrill of heart-stirring awe through the assembled multitude. But on a sudden the death-like silence is broken, and the pent-up enthusiasm of the Volunteers breaks forth like the bursting of some vast reservoir. A cheer, such as only Britons have in them to give, goes forth with the full power of 22,000 loyal throats – a cheer such as old Holyrood never heard before, caught up by the crowds on the hill, and rolled back to the plain, again and again to burst forth with redoubled energy, until it merges into one prolonged, heart-stirring, joyous roar – shakoes, caps, and busbies, being held high on swords, rifles, and carbines; and then it was that the Queen spoke long to Sir George Wetherall, expressing her delight.”
By six p.m. all was over, and by the four exits the whole 22,000 men had left the park in about half an hour, and the columns moved like long glittering snakes through the streets of the city, on their journey home by road or rail; and so admirable were the municipal arrangements, that not the slightest accident occurred, and the slopes of the great hills were bared of their multitudes as if by magic. The great review was over, and in due time came the following order from the Adjutant-General Sir J. Yorke Scarlett:-
“Horse Guards, August 10th, 1860.
“The Adjutant-General has received the Queen’s commands to convey her thanks to the several corps of Artillery and Rifle Volunteers assembled at Edinburgh on the 7th instant, and to assure them of the satisfaction and gratification with which Her Majesty beheld the magnificent spectacle presented to her.
“Her Majesty could not see without admiration the soldier-like bearing of the different corps as they passed before her; and she finds in the high state of efficiency to which they have attained in an incredibly short space of time another proof that she may at all times surely rely on the loyalty and patriotism of her people for the defence, in the hour of need, of the freedom and integrity of the empire.”
On the same ground, in August 1881, and before a vast multitude, Her Majesty reviewed a force of 40,000 Scottish Volunteers. So many men under arms had not been massed together in Scotland since James IV. marched to Flodden. “Although unhappily marred by continuous rain,” says the Duke of Cambridge’s order, dated Edinburgh Castle, August 26th, “the spectacle yesterday presented to her Majesty was an admirable sequel to the great review held recently at Windsor, and the Queen has observed with much gratification, the same soldierlike bearing, progress in discipline, and uniform good conduct, which distinguished the Volunteers there assembled, were conspicuous in a like degree on the present occasion… The Field Marshal Commanding in Chief has been commanded by the Queen to express to the Volunteers of all ranks her entire satisfaction with the appearance of the troops assembled.”
The whole force was commanded by Major General Alastair Macdonald; and perhaps none were more applauded in the march past than the London Scottish, led by Lord Elcho. The bands of the Black Watch and 5th Fusileers were placed beside the saluting post, whereon was hoisted the royal standard, as borne in Scotland, the lion rampant being first and fourth in the quarterings.
Undeterred by the incessant deluge of rain, the Queen remained till the last, and so did the rest of the royal party; but even ere the second division had defiled before her the vast slopes of Arthur’s Seat had been greatly denuded of spectators, “and the great mass of umbrellas slipped down and gathered about the Holyrood gates, egress through which was still denied,” owing to certain instructions adapted evidently to a fair-weather gathering.
It was greatly to the credit of these Scottish troops, and a proof of their excellent discipline, that to the very close of that trying and harassing day, their behaviour was quiet, orderly, and admirable to the last, and not a single accident occurred.
* Dr. J. A. Sidey writes: “The Holyrood Dairy, which stood at the entrance to St. Anne’s Yard, had no reference to the Palace (from which it was 150 feet distant) except in regard to name. It was taken down about 1858, and was kept by Robert McBean, whose son was afterwards one of the ‘Keepers’ of the Palace (as Mr. Andrew Kerr tells me) and had the old sign in his possession. Mr. Kerr says the dairy belonged to the Corporation of Perth, and was held for charitable purposes, and sold for the sum of money that would yield the same amount as the rental of the dairy.”
** This eighteenth-century building (which was in the shape of the letter L, with the door in the corner), has already been alluded to, see ante, p. 41.
5 thoughts on “Chapter 37 – Arthur’s Seat and its Vicinity., pp.303-322.”
Thanks for sharing this. As a former native of Edinburgh who once ran around and about the park virtually every day this is most enlightening. And would be great Material for a tour guide.
On Tue, 29 Jun 2021, 06:37 Random Scottish History, wrote:
> FlikeNoir posted: ” [Old & New Edinburgh Contents] The Sanctuary – Geology > of the Hill – Origin of its Name, and that of the Craigs – The Park Walls, > 1554 – A Banquet al fresco – The Pestilence – A Duel – “The Guttit Haddie” > – Mutiny of the Old 78th Regiment – Propos” >
You’re very welcome, love. I’m a big fan of James Grant’s work for Old and New edinburgh. He really covers his bases and is super informative.