Notice of George Heriot – Dies Childless – His Will – The Hospital founded – Its Progress – The Master Masons – Opened – Number of Scholars – Dr. Balcanquall – Alterations – The Edifice – The Architecture of it – Heriot’s Day and Infant Schools in the City – Lunardi’s Balloon Ascent – Royal Edinburgh Volunteers – The Heriot Brewery – Old Greyfriars Church – The Covenant – The Cromwellians – The Covenanting Prisoners – The Martyrs’ Tomb – New Greyfriars – Dr. Wallace – Dr. Robertson – Dr. Erskine – Old Tombs in the Church – Grant by Queen Mary – Morton Interred – State of the Ground in 1779 – The Graves of Buchanan and others – Bones from St. Giles’s Church.
AMONG the many noble charitable institutions of which Edinburgh may justly feel proud one of the most conspicuous is Heriot’s Hospital, on the north side of Lauriston – an institution which, in object and munificence, is not unlike the famous Christ’s Hospital in the English metropolis.
Of the early history of George Heriot, who, as a jeweller and goldsmith was the favourite and humble friend of James VI. and who was immortalised in one way by Scott in the “Fortunes of Nigel,” but scanty records remain.
He is said to have been a branch of the Heriots of Trabroun, in East Lothian, and was born at Edinburgh in June, 1563, during the reign of Mary, and in due time he was brought up to the profession of a goldsmith by his father, one of the craft, and a man of some consideration in the city, for which he sat as Commissioner more than once in Parliament. A jeweller named George Heriot, who was frequently employed by James V., as the Treasury accounts show, was most likely the elder Heriot, to whose business he added that of a banker. On the 28th of May, 1588, he was admitted a member of the corporation of Goldsmiths.
The first material notice of George Heriot is connected with his marriage, when his father furnished him with the means of starting in business, by “ye setting up of ane buith to him.” In all he received from his father, and the relations of his wife – Christian, daughter of Simon Marjoribanks, burgess of Edinburgh – a sum of about £214 11s. 8d. sterling, and the buith we have noticed already as being in the vicinity of St. Giles’s church. There he acquired an extensive connection as a goldsmith and money-lender, and soon recommended himself to the notice of his sovereign, by whom he was constituted, as Birrel records, on the 17th of July, goldsmith to his consort the gay Queen Anne, which “was intimat at the crosse, be opin proclamatione and sound of trumpet; and ane Clic, the Frenchman, dischargit, quha was the Queen’s Goldsmythe befor.”
Anne was extravagant, fond of jewellery and splendour, thus never had tradesman a better customer. She loved ornaments for the decoration of her own person, and as presents to others, and when desirous of procuring money, it was no uncommon thing for her to pledge the most precious of her jewels with Heriot, and James was often at his wits’ end to redeem the impledged articles, to enable the queen to appear in public.
On the 4th of April, 1601, Heriot was appointed jeweller to the king, and it has been computed, says Dr. Steven, that during the ten years which immediately preceded the accession of James to the Crown of Great Britain, Heriot’s bills for Queen Anne’s jewels alone did not amount to less than £50,000 sterling – an enormous sum for those days.
Imitating the extravagance of the Court, the nobles vied with each other in their adornment with precious jewels, many of which found their way back again to “Jingling Geordie;” and Anne’s want of discretion and foresight is shown in one of her letters found by Dr. Steven, when she lacked money, on the occasion of having to pay a hurried visit to her son the Duke of Rothesay and Crown Prince of Scotland, at Stirling:-
“GEORDG HERIOTT, I ernestlie dissyr youe present to send me twa hundrethe pundis vithe all expidition becaus I man hest me away presentlie.”
When James became king of England, Heriot followed him to London, and transferred his double business from his krame by St. Giles’s, to somewhere in Cornhill, opposite the Exchange, where his business became so great that on one occasion, by royal proclamation, all the mayors of England, and justices of the peace, were required to assist him in procuring workmen at the current rate of wages. Here, amid his prosperity, his wife died, without children.
Five years afterwards he married Alison, one of the nineteen children of James Primrose, who for forty years was clerk to the Privy Council, and ancestor of the Earls of Rosebery; but Alison, who brought him a dowry of £333, died soon after in the flower of her days, leaving Heriot once more a childless widower. He felt her death keenly, and a scrap of paper has been preserved, on which he traced, two months after, the brief, but significant sentence, never meant for the public – “She cannot be too mutch lamented, who culd not be too mutch loved.” Her death occurred on the 16th April, 1612.
He now devoted himself entirely to the prosecution of his greatly extended business, and in devising plans for the investment of his property at his decease; and having no relations for whom he felt any regard, save two natural daughters, and friends to whom he left legacies, his mind became filled with the idea of founding an institution in his native city, somewhat like Christ’s Hospital, and in the arrangements for this he was assisted by his cousin Adam Lautie, a notary in Edinburgh. Having thus set his house in order, he died peacefully in London on the 12th of February, 1624, a year before his royal master James VI., and was buried at St. Martins-in-the-Fields.
The whole of his large property, the legacies excepted, was by him bequeathed to the civic authorities and clergy of Edinburgh, for the erection and maintenance of a hospital “for the education, nursing, and upbringing of youth, being puir orphans and fatherless children of decayet burgesses and freemen of the said burgh, destitute, and left without means.”
Of what wealth Heriot died possessed is uncertain, says Arnot; but probably it was not under £50,000. The town council and clergy employed Sir John Hay of Barns, afterwards Lord Clerk Register, to settle accounts with Heriot’s English debtors. Among these we find the famous Robin Carr, Earl of Somerset, the dispute being about a jewelled sword, valued at between £400 and £500 by the Earl, but at £890 by the executors.
Heriot had furnished jewels to Charles I. when the latter went to Spain in 1623, and when he ascended the throne, his debt for these, due to Heriot, was paid to the trustees in part of the purchase-money of the Barony of Broughton, the crown lands in the vicinity of the city.
The account settled between Sir John Hay and the Governors of the Hospital, 12th of May, 1647, and afterwards approved by a decree of the Court of Session, after deducting legacies, bad debts, and compositions for debts resting by the Crown, amounted to £23,625 10s. 3½d. sterling (Arnot), and on the 1st July, 1628, the governors began to rear the magnificent hospital on the then open ridge of the High Riggs; but the progress of the work was interrupted by the troubles of subsequent years.
Who designed Heriot’s Hospital has been more than once a vexed question, and though the edifice is of a date so recent, this is one of the many architectural mysteries of Europe. Among other fallacies, a popular one is that the architect was Inigo Jones, but for this assertion there is not the faintest shadow of proof, as his name does not appear in any single document or record connected with Heriot’s Hospital, though the names of several “Master Masons,” are commemorated in connection with the progress of the work, and the house contains a portrait of William Aytoun, master mason, engraved in Constable’s memoir of Heriot, published in 1822, a cadet of the house of Inchdairnie in Fifeshire.
When the edifice was first founded the master of works was William Wallace, who had under him an overseer or foreman named Andrew Donaldson, who, says Billings, seems to have been in reality the master mason, while William Wallace was the architect.
On his death the Governors recorded their high sense of “his extraordinay panes and grait cair he had in that wark baith by his advyce, and in the building of the same.” The contract made in the year 1632, with William Aytoun, his successor, has been preserved; and it appears to be just the sort of agreement that would be made with an architect in the present day, whose duty it was to follow up, wholly or in part, the plans of his predecessor. Thus, Aytoun became bound “to devyse, plott, and sett down what he sall think meittest for the decorment of the said wark and pattern thereof alreddie begun, when any defect is found; and to make with his awin handis the haill mowlds, alsweil of tymber, as of stane, belanging generally to the said wark, and generally the said William Aytoun binds and obliges him to do all and quhatsumevir umquihle William Wallace, last Maister Maissone at the said wark, aither did or intended to be done at the same.”
The arrangements for the erection of the building were originally conducted by a Dr. Balcanquall, a native of the city, one of the executors under Heriot’s last will, and who drew up the statutes. He had been a chaplain to James VI., and Master of the Savoy in the Strand. The edifice progressed till 1639, when there was a stoppage from want of funds; the tenants of the lands in which the property of the institution was vested being unable to pay their rents amid the tumult of the civil war. In the records, however, of the payments made about this period, we find the following extraordinary items:-
|31st March. –||To ye 6 wemen yt drew ye cairt||xxviijs.|
|For 6 shakellis to ye wemeinis hands, wit ye chainyeis to zame||vii lib. ijs.|
|Mair for 14 lokis for yair waists ond yair handis||iiij lib. iiijs.|
|For ane qwhip for ye gentlvvemen in ye cairt||xijs.|
What species of “gentlwemen” they were who were thus shackled, chained, whipped, and harnessed to a cart, it is difficult to conceive.
In 1642 the work was recommenced in March, and there is an instruction that the two front towers be plat-formed, “with ane bartisane about ilk ane of them.” And in July, 1649, “George Wauchop Thesauer,” is ordained “to take down the stonewark of the south-west tower, and to make (it) the same as the north-west and north-east towers ar, and this to be done with all diligence.”
In Rothiemay’s view of the Hospital, published in 1647, he shows it enclosed by the crenelated ramparts of the city from the present tower in the Vennel, and including the other three on the west and south.
A high wall, with a handsome gateway, bounds it above the Grassmarket, and on the west a long wall separates it from the Greyfriars churchyard, and the entire side of the present Forrest Road. ‘Gordon’s view is still more remarkable for showing a lofty spire above the doorway, and the two southern towers surmounted by cupolas, which they certainly had till about 1692.
A somewhat similar view (which has been reproduced here,1 on p. 368) will be found in Slezer’s “Theatrum Scotise,” under the title of Boghengieght [Bog o’ Gight]. How this name (which is the name of one of the Duke of Gordon’s seats) came to be applied by the engraver to Heriot’s Hospital is not known.
The hospital was filled with the wounded of the English army, brought thither from the battle-field of Dunbar by Cromwell. And it was used for sick and wounded soldiers by General Monk, till about 1658, when the governors prevailed upon him to remove them, accommodation being provided for them elsewhere.
During this period the governors granted an annual pension of £55 to a near relation of Heriot, but not until they had received two urgent notes from Cromwell. This pension was afterwards resigned. Many improvements and additions were made, and the total expenses amounted then to upwards of £30,000, when in 1659 it was opened for the reception of boys on the 11th April, when 30 were admitted. In August they numbered forty.
In 1660 the number was 52; in 1693 it was 130; and in 1793 140.
Fifteen years before the opening of the hospital, the life of Dr. Walter Balcanquall, the trustee whom Maitland curiously calls its architect, had come to a grievous end. The son of the Rev. Walter Balcanquall, a minister of Edinburgh for forty-three years, he had graduated at Oxford as Bachelor of Divinity, and was admitted a Fellow on the 8th September, 1611; in 1618 he represented – while royal chaplain – the Scottish Church at the Synod of Dort, and his letters concerning that convocation, addressed to Sir Dudley Carleton, are preserved in Hale’s “Golden Remains.” It was after he had been successively Dean of Rochester and of Durham that he was one of Heriot’s three trustees. In 1638 he accompanied the Marquis of Hamilton, Royal Commissioner, as chaplain; and some doubts of his dealings on this and subsequent occasions rendered him obnoxious to the Presbyterians of Scotland and the Puritans of England; and in July, 1641, he and five others having been denounced as incendiaries by the Scottish Parliament, after being persecuted, pillaged, and sequestrated by the Puritans, he shared the falling fortunes of Charles I. He was thrown into Chirk Castle, Denbighshire, where he died on Christmas Day, 1645, just after the battle of Naseby, and a splendid monument to his memory was subsequently erected in the parish church of Chirk, by Sir Thomas Myddleton.
In the hospital records for 1675 is the following, under date May 3rd:- “There is a necessity that the steeple of the hospital be finished, and a top put thereon. Ro. Miln, Master Mason, to think on a drawing thereof against the next council meeting.” But nothing appears to have been done by the king’s master mason, for on the 10th July, Deacon Sandilands was ordered to put a roof and top on the said steeple in accordance with a design furnished by Sir William Bruce, the architect of Holyrood Palace.
In 1680, about the time that the obnoxious test was made the subject of so much mockery, Fountainhall mentions that “the children of Heriot’s Hospitall, finding that the dog which keiped the yards of that hospitall had a public charge and office, ordained him to take the test, and offered him the paper; but he, loving a bone rather than it, absolutely refused it. Then they rubbed it over with butter (which they called an Explication of the Test in imitation of Argile), and he licked off the butter and did spit out the paper, for which they held a jurie on him, and in derision of the sentence against Argile, they found the dog guilty of treason, and actually hanged him.”
In 1692 the Council Records refer to the abolition of the cupolas, the appearance of which in old views of the hospital have caused some discussion among antiquaries.
“The council having visited the fabric of the hospital, and found that the south-east quarter thereof is not yet finished and completed, and that the south-west quarter is finished and completed by a pavilion turret of lead, and that the north-east and north-west corners of the said fabric are covered with a pavilion roof of lead; therefore, and for making the whole fabric of the said hospital regular and uniform, and for the more easy finishing and completing thereof, they give warrant and order, to the present treasurer, to finish and complete the south-west quarter of the said hospital with a platform roof, in the same way and manner as the north-east and north-west quarters thereof are covered; and with all conveniency to take down the pavilion turret in the north-west quarter, and to rebuild and cover the same with a platform roof, regularly with the other three quarters of the fabric.”
Prolix as this quotation may be, it seems, with the other references to Wallace, Aytoun, Donaldson, and Brown, as master masons and architects, that any uniform design could never have been furnished by Inigo Jones; and yet, as a whole, the building is remarkable for its bold beauty and symmetry.
The windows are two hundred in number, and richly ornamented with curious devices; and notwithstanding that there are so many, no two are to be found precisely similar.
The hospital is quadrangular, and measurer; externally 162 feet each way, and 94 each way in the court, which is paved; it has on the north and east sides a piazza six feet and a half broad. Over the gateway, which is on the north side, facing the Grassmarket, is a tower projecting from the main line, surmounted by a small dome and lantern, provided with a clock. The corners of the four blocks at each angle of the quadrangle are furnished with corbelled turrets, having cupola roofs and vanes. Each of these is four, storeys in height; the other parts are three.
On the south, opposite the entrance, and facing Lauriston, is the chapel, 61 feet by 22, neatly fitted up, and occasioning a projection, surmounted by a small spire, which balances the tower on the north. For a long period it remained in a comparatively unfinished state, when it was fitted up in what Dr. Steven calls a “flimsy species of Italian architecture,” excepting the pulpit and end galleries, which were a kind of Early English, but meagre in their details. But forty years ago or so, Mr. Gillespie Graham, the architect, suggested that the chapel should be entirely renovated in a style worthy of the building, and he offered to prepare the designs gratuitously. This generous offer was accepted, and it was fitted up in its present elegant style. It has a handsome pulpit, a richly adorned ceiling, and many beautiful carvings of oak.
In an architectural point of view this famous hospital is full of contradictions, but when viewed from distant points, its turrets, chimneys, and pinnacles stand up against the sky in luxuriant confusion, yet with singular symmetry, though no two portions are quite alike. A professional writer says, “we know of no other instance in the works of a man of acknowledged talent, where the operation of changing styles is so evident. In the chapel windows, though the outlines are fine Gothic, the mouldings are Roman. In the entrance archways, although the principal members are Roman, the pinnacles, trusses, and minute sculptures partake of the Gothic.”
This building has another marked peculiarity, in the segment of an octagonal tower in front – that of the chapel – lighted through its whole extremity by a succession of Gothic windows divided by mullions alone, which produce a singularly rich and pleasing effect.
The hospital is surrounded by a stately and magnificent balustraded terrace, from which noble flights of at least twelve steps descend to the ground.
In the wall over the gateway is a statue of George Heriot, the founder, in the costume of the time of James VI. This, the boys on “Heriot’s Day,” the first Monday of June, decorate with flowers, in honour of their benefactor, of whom several relics are preserved in the hospital, particularly his bellows and cup. There is also a portrait of him, said to be only the copy of an original. It represents him in the prime of life, with a calm, thoughtful, and penetrating countenance, and about the mouth an expression of latent humour.
Heriot’s foundation has continued to flourish and enjoy a well-deserved fame. “With an annual revenue,” says a writer in 1845, “of nearly £15,000, it affords maintenance, clothing, and education for, also pecuniary presents to, one hundred and eighty boys, such being all that the house large as it is, is able conveniently to accommodate. Instead of increasing the establishment in correspondence with the extent of the funds, it was suggested a few years ago, by Mr. Duncan MacLaren, one of the governors, to devote an annual overplus of about £3,000 to the erection and maintenance of free schools throughout the city, for the education of poor children, those of poor burgesses being preferred, and this judicious proposal being forthwith adopted and sanctioned by an Act of Parliament (6 and 7 William IV.), there have since been erected, and are now (1845) in operation, five juvenile and two infant schools, giving an elementary education to 2,131 children.” This number has greatly increased since then.
The management of the hospital is vested in the Lord Provost, Bailies, and Council of the city, and the clergy of the Established Church, making in all fifty-four governors, with a House Governor, Treasurer, Clerk, Superintendent of Property, Physician, Surgeon, Apothecary, Dentist, Accountant, a matron, and a staff of masters.
In 1880 the revenue of the hospital amounted to £24,000. In it are maintained 180 boys, of whom 60 are non-resident. The age of admission is between 7 and 10 years, though in exceptional cases, non-residents may be taken at 12. All leave at 14, unless they pass as “hopeful scholars.” They are taught English, French, Latin, Greek, and all the usual branches of a liberal education, with music and drawing.
Those who manifest a desire to pursue the learned professions are sent to the adjacent University, with an allowance for four sessions of £30 per annum; and apprentices may also receive bursary allowances to forward them in their trades; while ten out-door bursaries, of £20 each yearly, are likewise bestowed on deserving students at college.
On leaving the hospital the “poore fatherless boyes, freemen’s sonnes,” as Heriot calls them in his will, are provided with clothes and suitable books; and such of them as become apprentices for five years or upwards, receive £50 divided into equal annual payments during their term of service, besides a gratuity of £5 at its end. Those who are apprenticed for a shorter term than five years receive a correspondingly less allowance.
One master is resident, as is the house governor, but all the rest are non-resident.
By the Act of Parliament referred to, the governors were empowered to erect from this surplus revenue their elementary schools within the city, for educating, free of all expense: 1st, the children of all burgesses and freemen in poor circumstances; 2nd, the children of burgesses and freemen who were unable to provide for their support; 3rd, the children of poor citizens of Edinburgh, resident within its boundaries. They were also empowered by the same Act, “to allow to any boys, in the course of their education at such schools, being sons of burgesses and freemen, such uniform fixed sum of money, in lieu and place of maintenance, and such uniform fixed sum for fee as apprentices after their education at the said schools is completed, as shall be determined.”
There are now sixteen of these free Heriot schools, in different quarters of Edinburgh, all more or less elegant and ornate in the details of their architecture copied from the parent hospital. These schools are attended by upwards of 4,400 boys and girls.
There are also nine schools in various parts of the city, open for free instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, French, German, and drawing, attended by about 1,400 young men and women.
There are five infant schools maintained from the surplus funds of the same noble and generous institution. “On the report of the Bursary Committee being given in,” at the meeting of governors in November 1879, “Bailie Tawse stated that they had at present eighteen of their young men at college. For the month ending 20th October last, there were 4,907 pupils on the roll in George Heriot’s schools, and 1,075 in connection with the Hospital evening classes.”
In the old volunteering times, about the last years of the eighteenth century and the first years of the present, the green before the hospital was the favourite place for the musters, parades, and other displays of the civic forces. Here their colours were presented, from here they were trooped home to the Colonel’s house, when Edinburgh possessed, per cent, of the population, a much greater number of enrolled volunteers than she has now.
But other exhibitions took place in Heriot’s Bowling Green, such as when the famous aeronaut, Vincent Lunardi, made his ascent therefrom, on the 5th of October, 1785. On that occasion, we are told, above 80,000 spectators assembled, and all business in the city was suspended for the greatest portion of the day. At noon a flag was hoisted on the castle, and a cannon, brought from Leith Fort, was discharged in Heriot’s Green, to announce that the process of filling the balloon had begun, and by half-past two it was fully inflated.
Lunardi – attired, strange to say, in a scarlet uniform faced with blue, sword, epaulettes, powdered wig, and three-cocked hat – entered the cage, with a Union Jack in his hand, and amid a roar of acclamation from the startled people, who were but little used to strange sights in that dull time, he ascended at ten minutes to three p.m.
He passed over the lofty ridge of the old town, at a vast height, waving his flag as the balloon soared skyward. It took a north-easterly direction near Inch Keith, and came down almost into the Forth; but as he threw out the ballast, it rose higher than ever. The wind bore him over North Berwick, and from there to Leven and Largo, after which a SSW. breeze brought him to where he descended, a mile east from Ceres in Fifeshire. Where the balloon was at its greatest altitude – three miles – the barometer stood at eighteen inches five tenths, yet Lunardi experienced no difficulty in respiration. He passed through several clouds of snow, which hid from him alike the sea and land.
Some reapers in a field near Ceres, when they heard the sound of Lunardi’s trumpet, and saw his balloon, the nature of which was utterly beyond their comprehension, were filled with dreadful alarm, believing that the end of all things was at hand; and the Rev. Mr. Arnot, the minister of Ceres, who had been previously aware of Lunardi’s ascent, required some persuasion to convince them that what they beheld was not supernatural.
A number of gentlemen who collected at Ceres, set the church bell ringing, and conveyed the bold aeronaut with all honour to the manse, where a crowd awaited him. His next ascent was from Kelso.
On the 26th of September, 1794, there mustered on Heriot’s Green, to receive their colours, the Royal Regiment of Edinburgh Volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel Elder (the old provost) and Colonel William Maxwell, afterwards a general. The corps consisted of eight companies with thirty-two officers, fifteen of whom had belonged to the regular army; but all ranks were clothed alike, the sergeants being indicated by their pikes and the officers by their swords. The corps numbered about 785, all told.
Their uniform was a blue coat, lapelled with black velvet, cut away from below the breast, with broad heavy square skirts, a row of buttons round the cuff, gold epaulettes for all ranks, white cassimere vest and breeches, with white cotton stockings, a round hat, with a cockade and black feather on the left side, buttons having on them the arms of the city and inscribed, Edinburgh Volunteers (Scots Mag., 1794, &c.), their oval belt plates also bearing the city arms. Two of the companies were grenadiers, and all men of unusual stature. They wore bearskin caps, with the grenade thereon, and on their skirts.
The belts, black at first, were afterwards painted white; but, as the paint scaled off, plain buff was substituted, and the first showy uniform underwent changes.
The colours presented to them were very handsome; the King’s bore a crown and the letters G.R.; the regimental bore the arms of Edinburgh. The magistrates, the senators, Academicians and the whole Town Council, were on the ground in their robes of office. From the green the battalion marched by the bridges to Princes Street, where the colours were presented to them by Mrs. Elder, after which they went to the house of the Lord Provost, Sir James Stirling, Bart., in Queen’s Street.
The latter, in virtue of his office, was honorary colonel of the regiment; but all the other commissions were conferred by the king, on the recommendation of the volunteers themselves.
A second regiment of Edinburgh volunteers was formed in the same manner in 1797, when a landing of the French was expected in Ireland, and the first battalion volunteered to garrison the Castle, to permit the withdrawal of the regular troops. This offer was renewed in 1801, when the Lieutenant-Colonel, the Right Hon. Charles Hope, afterwards Lord President, wrote thus to General Vyse, commanding the forces:-
“In the event of an enemy appearing on our coast, we trust that you will be able to provide for the temporary safety of Edinburgh Castle by means of its own invalids, and the recruits and convalescents of the numerous corps and detachments in and about Edinburgh; and that, as we have more to lose than the brave fellows of the other volunteer regiments who have extended their services, you will allow us to be the first to share the danger, as well as the glory, which we are confident his Majesty’s troops will acquire under your command, if opposed to an invading army.”
But in the following year Heriot’s Green saw the last of these two regiments.
After eight years of military parade, and many a sham fight on Leith Links and at Musselburgh camp, the peace of 1802 came, and they closed their career of service on the 6th of May. Early on the forenoon of that day they mustered reluctantly on Heriot’s Green, where they were formed in hollow square, and the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding read Lord Hobart’s circular letter conveying the thanks of the Crown and also of both Houses. He also read the resolution of the Town Council, conveying in the strongest terms the thanks of the community to all the volunteers of the city, and a very complimentary letter from Lieutenant-General Vyse.
Column was then formed, and the volunteers marched from the Green to the Parliament Square, where the colours were formally delivered over to the magistrates, who placed them in the Council Chamber, and the corps was dissolved.
When the alarm of invasion was again sounded, in 1803, in few places did the old Scottish spirit blaze up more fiercely than in Edinburgh. A very short time saw Heriot’s Green again bristling with arms, and upwards of 4,000 volunteers were enrolled. On the 30th of September in that year the old colours were again unfurled by the Royal Regiment of Edinburgh Volunteers, mustering 1,000 rank and file, clad in scarlet faced with blue; and in 1804, prior to the terrible alarm known as “the Lighting of the Beacons,” there were in Edinburgh, and, forming a part of her volunteer forces, six battalions of infantry, two of artillery, and a corps of cavalry.
On the night of the False Alarm, on the evening of the 31st January, 1804, Scotland was studded with beacons – something on the system ordered by the twelfth Parliament of James II. By mistake, that on Hume Castle was lighted; other beacons blazed up in all directions; the cry was everywhere that the French had landed! All Scotland rushed to arms, and before dawn the volunteers were all on the march, pouring forward to their several rendezvous; in some instances the Scottish Border men rode fifty miles to be there, without drawing bridle, says Scott; and those of Liddesdale, fearing to be late at their post, seized every horse they could find, for a forced march, and then turned them loose to make their way home.
When, in 1806, new regulations were issued, limiting the allowance to volunteers, the First Edinburgh Regiment remained unaffected by them. “I wish to remind you,” said the spirited Lieutenant-Colonel Hope, one day while on parade, “that we did not take up arms to please any minister, or set of ministers, but to defend our native land from foreign and domestic enemies.”
In 1820, when disturbances occurred in the West Country, the volunteers garrisoned the Castle, and offered, if necessary, to co-operate with the forces in the field, and for that purpose remained a whole night under arms. Soon after the corps was disbanded, without thanks or ceremony.
Northward of the hospital, but entering from the Grassmarket, we find the Heriot brewery, which we must mention before quitting this quarter, as being one of those establishments which have long been famous in Edinburgh, and have made the ancient trade of a “brewster” one of the most important branches of its local manufacturing industry.
The old Heriot brewery has been in operation for considerably over one hundred years, and for upwards of forty has been worked by one firm, the Messrs. J. Jeffrey and Co., whose establishment gives the visitor an adequate idea of the mode in which a great business of that kind is conducted, though it is not laid out according to the more recent idea of brewing, the buildings and works having been added to and increased from time to time, like all institutions that have old and small beginnings; but notwithstanding all the numerous mechanical appliances which exist in the different departments of the Heriot brewery, the manual Services of more than 250 men are required there daily.
In Gordon’s map of 1647, the old, or last, Greyfriars Church is shown with great distinctness, the body of the edifice not as we see it now on the south side, but with a square tower of four storeys at its western end. The burying ground is of its present form and extent, surrounded by pleasant rows of trees; and north-westward of the church is a species of large circular and ornamental garden seat.
Three gates are shown – one to the Candlemaker Row, where it still is; another on the south to the large open field in the south-east angle of the city wall; and a third – that at the foot of the Row, lofty, arched, and ornate, with a flight of steps ascending to it, precisely where, by the vast accumulation of human clay, a flight of steps goes downward now.
Over one of these two last entrances, but which he does not tell us, Monteith, writing in the year 1704, says there used to be the following inscription:-
“Remember, man, as thou goes by:
As thou art now, so once was I.
As I am now, so shalt thou be;
Remember, man, that thou must die (dee).”
The trees referred to were very probably relics of the days when the burial-place had been the gardens of the Greyfriary in the Grassmarket, at the foot of the slope, especially as two double rows of them would seem distinctly to indicate that they had shaded walks which ran south and north.
Writing of the Greyfriary, Wilson says, we think correctly:- “That a church would form a prominent feature of this royal foundation can hardly be doubted, and we are inclined to infer that the existence both of it, and of a churchyard attached to it, long before Queen Mary’s grant of the gardens of the monastery for the latter purpose, is implied in such allusions as the following, in the ‘Diurnal of Occurrents,’ July 7th, 1571. ‘The haill merchandis, craftismen, and personis renowned within Edinburgh, made thair moustaris in the Grey Frear Kirk Yaird;’ and again, when Birrel, in his diary, April 26th, 1598, refers to the ‘work at the Greyfriar Kirke,’ although the date of the erection of the more modern church is only 1613.”
In further proof of this idea Scottish history tells that when, in 1474, the prince royal of Scotland, (afterwards James IV.) was betrothed, in the second year of his age, to Cecilia of England, and when on this basis a treaty of peace between the nations was concluded, the ratification thereof, and the betrothal, took place in the church of the Greyfriars, at Edinburgh, when the Earl of Lindesay and Lord Scrope represented their respective monarchs.
The number of the inhabitants having greatly increased, and the churches of the city being insufficient for their accommodation, the magistrates, in 1612, says Arnot, ordered a new one to be built on the ground formerly belonging to the Greyfriars, and bestowed on them by Queen Mary for a public cemetery; but he makes no mention of any preceding church, on which the present edifice might have been engrafted.
The eastern entrance from the Candlemaker Row was formed at some time subsequent to the erection or opening of this church.
On the 28th of February 1638, the National Covenant was first subscribed at the Greyfriars Church, when the aggressive measures of Charles I. roused in arms the whole of Scotland, which then, happily for herself, was not, by the desertion of her nobles and the abolition of her officers of state, unable to resist lawless encroachment; and her sons seemed to come forth as one man in defence of the Church, which had then no more vigorous upholder than the future Marquis of Montrose. “In the old church of the Greyfriars,” to quote his memoirs (London, 1858), “which stands upon an eminence south of the ancient capital, and within the wall of 1513, amid quaint and smoke-encrusted tombs, and many headstones sunk deep in the long, rank grass – where now the furious Covenanter, Henderson, and Rosehaugh, ‘that persecutor of the saints of God,’ as the Whigs named him, are lying side by side in peace among the dead of ages, the Covenant, written on a sheet of parchment one ell square, and so named because it resembled those which God is said to have made with the children of Israel, was laid before the representatives of the nation, and there it was signed by a mighty concourse, who, with uplifted hands, with weeping eyes, and drawn swords, animated by the same glorious enthusiasm which fired the crusaders at the voice of Peter the Hermit, vowed, with the assistance of the supreme God, to dedicate life and fortune to the cause of Scotland’s Church and the maintenance of their solemn engagement, which professed the reformed faith and bitterly abjured the doctrines and dogmas of the Church of Rome – for with such they classed the canons and the liturgy of Laud.”
It was first subscribed by the congregation of the Greyfriars; but the first name really appended to it was that of the venerable and irreproachable Earl of Sutherland. Montrose and other peers followed his example, and it afterwards was sent round the churches of the city; thus it speedily became so crowded with names on both sides, says Maitland, that not the smallest space was left for more.
It appears that when there was so little room left to sign on, the subscriptions were shortened by inserting only the initials of the Covenanters’ names, of which the margins and other parts were so full that it was a difficult task to number them. By a cursory view Maitland estimated them at about 5,000. By order of the General Committee every fourth man in Scotland was numbered as a soldier.
In 1650 the church was desecrated, and all its wood-work wasted and destroyed by the soldiers of Cromwell. Nine years afterwards, when Monk was in Edinburgh with his own regiment (now the Coldstream Guards) and Colonel Morgan’s, on the 19th of October, he mustered them in the High Street, in all the bravery of their steeple-crowned hats, falling bands, calfskin boots, with matchlocks and bandoleers, some time prior to his march southward to achieve the Restoration. From that street he marched them (doubtless by the West Bow) to the Greyfriars Church, where he told his officers that he “was resolved to make the military power subordinate to the civil, and that since they had protection and entertainment from the Parliament, it was their duty to serve it and obey it against all opposition.” The officers and soldiers unanimously declared that they would live and die with him.
In the year 1679 the Greyfriars Church and its burying-ground witnessed a pitiful sight, when that city of the dead was crowded, almost to excess, by those unhappy Covenanters whom the prisons could not contain, after the rising at Bothwell had been quenched in blood. These unhappy people had been collected, principally in the vicinity of Bathgate, by the cavalry, then employed in “dragooning,” or riding down the country, and after being driven like herds of cattle, to the number of 1,200, tied two and two, to the capital, they were penned up in the Greyfriars Churchyard, among the graves and gloomy old tombs of all kinds, and there they were watched and guarded day and night, openly in sight of the citizens.
Since Heselrig destroyed the Scottish prisoners after Dunbar (for which he was arraigned by the House of Commons) no such piteous sight had been witnessed on British ground. They were of both sexes and of all ages, and there they lay five long months, 1,200 souls, exposed to the sun by day and the dew by night – the rain, the wind, and the storm – with no other roof than the changing sky, and no other bed than the rank grass that grew in its hideous luxuriance from the graves beneath them. All were brutally treated by their guards, and a few, driven almost mad, achieved their escape, but many died. All this, at the hands of their own countrymen, these poor people had to endure – the stubborn Scottish peasant, with his pride and rectitude of heart, his tender, it might be weak and ailing wife, with his infants and his aged parents.
Some who signed a bond never to take up arms against the Government were released; others found rest amid the graves on which they lay; the remainder, to the number of two hundred and fifty-seven, were sent to be sold as slaves in Barbadoes, Jamaica, and New Jersey, but many were drowned at sea.
“From the gloom of this sad story there is shed one ray of romance,” says Chambers, in his “Traditions.” Among the sympathising people who dared to administer to the wants of the prisoners there was one lady who was wont to come attended by a young daughter possessed of considerable personal attractions. Periodically they came to the iron gate with food and raiment, collected among the charitable, and between the young lady and one of the younger captives an attachment sprang up. Doubtless she loved him for the dangers he had dared, and he loved her because she pitied them. In happier days, long after, when their constancy had been well tried by an exile which he suffered in the plantations, this pair were married and settled in Edinburgh, where they had sons and daughters. A respectable elderly citizen,” adds Chambers, “tells me he is descended from them.”
After the Duke of Albany and York came, as King’s Commissioner, the severity of these vile persecutions was greatly lessened; but in the north-east corner of the burying-ground, the portion of it long accorded as the place for the interment of criminals, stands that grim memorial of suffering, tears, and blood, known as the Martyrs’ Monument – a tall, pillared tablet, rising on a pedestal surmounted by an entablature and pediment, and bearing the following inscription:-
“Halt, passenger! take heed what you do see –
This tomb doth show for what some men did die;
Here lies interred the dust of those who stood
‘Gainst perjury, resisting unto blood;
Adhering to the covenants and laws,
Establishing the same; which was the cause
Their lives were sacrificed unto the lust
Of prelatists abjured; though here their dust
Lies mix’t with murderers, and other crew.
Whom justice justly did to death pursue.
But, as for them no cause was to be found
Worthy of death; but only they were found
Constant and stedfast, zealous, witnessing
For the prerogatives of Christ, their King;
Which truths were sealed by famous Guthrie’s head,
And all along to Mr. Renwick’s blood.
They did endure the wrath of enemies:
Reproaches, torments, death, and injuries.
But yet they’re those who from such troubles came,
And now triumph in glory with the Lamb!”
“From May 27, 1661, that the most noble Marquis of Argyle was beheaded, to the 17th February, 1688, that Mr. James Renwick suffered, were one way or other murdered and destroyed for the same cause about eighteen thousand, of whom were executed at Edinburgh about a hundred of noblemen and gentlemen, ministers, and others – noble martyrs for Jesus Christ. The most of them lie here.”
According to the Edinburgh Courant of 1728 this tomb was repaired in that year, and there was added to it “a compartment, on which is cut a head and a hand on pikes, as emblems of their (the martyrs) sufferings, betwixt which is to be engraved a motto alluding to both.”
The old church had been without a bell till 1681, when the Town Council ordered one which had been formerly used in the Tron church to be hung in its steeple, or tower, at the west end. The latter was blown up on the 17th May, 1718, by a quantity of gunpowder belonging to the city, which was deposited there and exploded by accident.
As the expense of its repair was estimated at £600 sterling, the Town Council resolved to add instead, a new church at the west end of the old, and in the same plain, ungainly, and heavy style of architecture, with an octagonal porch projecting under the great window, all of which was accordingly done, and the edifice, since denominated the New Greyfriars, was finished in 1721, at the expense of £3,045 sterling.
In this process the older church was shortened by a partition wall being erected at the second pillar from the west, that both buildings should be of equal length. Many men of eminence have been incumbents here; among them, Robert Rollock, the first Principal of the University of Edinburgh, and Principal Carstares, the friend of William of Orange.
In 1733, Robert Wallace, D.D., author of “A Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind,” and many other works, and one of the first projectors of the Scottish Ministers’ Widows’ Fund, was appointed one of the ministers of the Greyfriars, in consequence of a sermon which he preached before the Synod of Moffat, the tenor of which so pleased Queen Caroline, when she read it, that she recommended him to the patronage of the Earl of Islay, then chief manager of Scottish affairs.
In 1736, however, he forfeited the favour of Government by being one of the many clergymen who refused to read from the pulpit the act relative to the Porteous mob; but on the overthrow of Walpole’s ministry, in 1742, he was entrusted with the conduct of ecclesiastical affairs, so far as related to crown presentations in Scotland – a delicate duty, in which he continued to give satisfaction to all. In 1744 Dr. Wallace was commissioned as one of the royal chaplains in Scotland, and in 1753 he published his “Dissertation” – a work that is remarkable for the curious mass of statistical information it contains, and for its many ingenious speculations on the subject of population, to one of which the peculiar theories of the Rev. Mr. Malthus owed their origin.
Among many other philosophical publications, he brought forth “Various Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Providence,” in 1761, and died the year after, on the 10th of July, leaving a son, who is not unknown in Scottish literature.
But the most distinguished of the incumbents was William Robertson, D.D., the eminent historian, who was appointed to the Greyfriars in 1761, the same year in which, on the death of Principal Goldie, he was elected Principal of the University of Edinburgh, and whose father, the Rev. William Robertson (a cadet of the Struan family) was minister of the Old Greyfriars in 1733.
Principal Robertson is so well known by the published memoirs of him, and by his many brilliant literary works, that he requires little more than mention here. “Scott, who from youth to manhood was a sitter in the Old Greyfriars, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Scott,” says an old tutor of Sir Walter, writing to Lockhart, “every Sabbath, when well and at home, attended with their fine young family of children and their domestic servants – a sight so amicable and exemplary as often to excite in my breast a glow of heart-felt satisfaction.”
In “Guy Mannering,” Scott introduces this old church – now, with St. Giles’s, the most interesting place of worship in the city – and its two most distinguished incumbents. When Colonel Mannering came to Edinburgh (where, as we have already said, Romance and History march curiously side by side) to consult Counsellor Pleydell, on the Sunday morning after his arrival at the George Inn, Bristo Port, the latter conducts him “to the Greyfriars, to hear our historian of Scotland, of the Continent, and of America, preach.”
Scott next with an able hand sketches one of the most distinguished clergymen of the time, Dr. John Erskine (son of Erskine of Carnock, Professor of Law in the University of Edinburgh), who in July 1767 became the colleague of Principal Robertson in the Old Greyfriars. “His external appearance was not prepossessing. A remarkably fair complexion, strangely contrasted with a black wig, without a grain of powder; a narrow chest and stooping posture; hands which, placed like props on each side of the pulpit, seemed necessary rather to support the person than to assist the gesticulation of the preacher; a gown (not even that of Geneva), a tumbled band, and a gesture which seemed scarcely voluntary, were the first circumstances which struck a stranger.”
Dr. Erskine, previously minister of the New Greyfriars, was the author of voluminous theological works, which are known, perhaps, in Scotland only. After ministering at the Greyfriars for forty-five years, he died in January, 1803, and was buried in the churchyard.
Principal Robertson pre-deceased him. He died in June, 1793, in the seventy-first year of his age, and was interred in the same burying-ground.
The Old Greyfriars was suddenly destroyed on the morning of Sunday, 19th January, 1845, by a fire, and presented to the startled people, assembling from all quarters for the first service, a mass of blackened ruins. It has since been repaired at considerable expense, adorned with several beautiful memorial windows, the triplet one in the south aisle being to the Scottish historian, George Buchanan.
Among the ancient tombs within the church were those of Sir William Oliphant, King’s Advocate, who died in 1628; and of Sir David Falconer, of Newton, Lord President of the Court of Session, who spent the last day of his life seated on the bench in court.
The antiquity of our Scottish churchyards, and the care taken of them, greatly impressed Dr. Southey as being so singularly at variance with the absence of ceremony in the funeral rites of the people. “In Scotland,” he ignorantly observes, “where the common rites of sepulture are performed with less decency than in any other Christian country, the care with which family burying-grounds in the remoter parts of the country are preserved may be referred as much to national feeling as to hereditary pride.”
In solemn, grand, and melancholy interest no other burial-ground, from its associations, can equal that of the Greyfriars Churchyard; for crowded within its narrow limits lie the mingling ashes of so many of Scotland’s greatest, grandest, and most renowned, who have lived during a period of three hundred years.
In the year 1562 the Town Council made an application to Queen Mary to grant them the site and yards of the Greyfriars Monastery, to form a a new burial-place, as “being somewhat distant from the town.” Mary, in reply, granted their request at once, and appointed the Greyfriars yard, or garden, to be devoted in future to the use specified, and as St. Giles’s Churchyard soon after began to be abandoned, no doubt interments here would proceed rapidly; all the more so that the other burial-places of the city had become desecrated. “Before the Reformation,” says Wilson, “there were the Blackfriars Kirkyard, where the Surgical Hospital or old High School now stands; the Kirk-of-Field – now occupied by the college, Trinity College, Holyrood Abbey, St. Roque’s and St. Leonard’s Kirkyards. In all these places human bones are still found on digging to any depth.”
During the great plague of 1568 a huge pit, wherein to bury the victims, was ordered to be dug in the “Greyfriars Kirkyaird,” as Maitland records, thus again indicating the existence of a church here long anterior to the erection of the present one.
Here, about eight in the evening of the 2nd June, 1581, was brought from the scaffold, whereon it had lain for four hours, covered by an old cloak, the headless body of James Douglas, Earl of Morton, who had been Regent of Scotland, and was executed for the murder of King Henry. It was borne by common porters, and interred in the place there set apart for criminals, most probably where now the Martyrs’ Monument stands. None of his friends dared follow it to the grave, or show their affection or respect to the deceased Earl by any sign of outward grief.
In 1587 the king having ordered a general weapon-shawing, the Council, on the 15th July, ordained by proclamation a muster of the citizens in the Greyfriars Kirkyard, “boddin in feir of weir, and arrayet in their best armour, to witt, either pike or speer, and the armour effeirand thairto, or with hakbuts and the armour effeirand thairto, and nocht with halbarts or Jedburgh staffes.”
In this city of the dead have been interred so vast a number of men of eminence that the mere enumeration of their names would make a volume, and we can but select a few. Here lie thirty-seven chief magistrates of the city; twenty-three principals and professors of the university, many of them of more than European celebrity; thirty-three of the most distinguished lawyers of their day – one a Vice Chancellor of England and Master of the Rolls, and another who was Accountant-General of the Court of Chancery; six Lords President of the Supreme Court of Scotland; twenty-two senators of the College of Justice, and a host of men distinguished for the splendour of their genius, piety, and worth.
Here too lie, in unrecorded thousands, citizens of more humble position, dust piled over dust, till the soil of the burial-place is now high above the level of the adjacent Candlemaker Row – the dust of those who lived and breathed, and walked our streets in days gone by, when as yet Edinburgh was confined in the narrower limits of the Old Town.
“The graves are so crowded on each other,” says Amot, writing in 1779, “that the sextons frequently cannot avoid in opening a ripe grave encroaching on one not fit to be touched! The whole presents a scene equally nauseous and unwholesome. How soon this spot will be so surcharged with animal juices and oils, that, becoming one mass of corruption, its noxious steams will burst forth with the prey of a pestilence, we shall not pretend to determine; but we will venture to say, the effects of this burying-ground would ere now have been severely felt, were it not that, besides the coldness of the climate, they have been checked by the acidity of the coal smoke and the height of the winds, which in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh blow with extraordinary violence.”
Arnot wrote fully a hundred years ago, but since his time the interments in the Greyfriars went on till within a recent period.
George Buchanan was buried here in 1582, under a through-stone, which gradually sank into the earth and disappeared. The site, distinctly-known in 1701, is now barely remembered by tradition as being on the north slope of the churchyard; but a monument in the ground, to the great Latin scholar and Scottish historian, was erected by the late great bibliopole, David Laing, so many years Librarian of the Signet Library, at his own expense. An essential feature in the memorial is a head of Buchanan in bronze, from the best likeness of him extant. The design was furnished by D. W. Stevenson, A.R.S.A.
Taking some of the interments at random, here is the grave of George Heriot (father of the founder of the adjacent hospital), who died in 1610; of George Jameson, the Scottish Vandyke, who died in 1644; and of Alexander Henderson, 1646, the great covenanting divine, and leading delegate from Scotland to the Westminster Assembly, and the principal author of the Assembly’s Catechism. His ashes lie under a square pedestal tomb, erected by his nephew, and surmounted by a carved urn. There are long inscriptions on the four sides.
John Milne’s tomb, 1667, Royal Master Mason (by sixth descent), erected by his nephew, Robert Milne, also Royal Master Mason, and builder of the modem portions of Holyrood House, records in rhyme how –
“John Milne, who maketh the fourth John,
And, by descent from father unto son,
Sixth Master Mason to a royal race
Of seven successive kings, sleeps in this place.”
It is a handsome tomb, with columns and a pediment, and immediately adjoins the eastern or Candlemaker Row entrance, in the formation of which some old mural tombs were removed; among them that of Alexander Millar, Master Tailor to James VI., dated 1616 – obiit Principis et Civium luctu decoratus, as it bore.
A flat stone which, by 1816, was much sunk in the earth, dated 1613, covered the grave of Dr. John Nasmyth, of the family of Posso, surgeon of the king of France’s troop of Scottish Guards, who died in London, but whose remains had been sent to the Greyfriars by order of James VI.
The tomb of Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh – the celebrated lawyer, and founder of the Advocates’ Library, and who, as a persecutor, was so abhorred by the people that his spirit was supposed to haunt the place where he lies – is a handsome and ornate octagon temple, with eight pillars, a cornice, and a dome, on the southern side of the ground, and its traditional terrors we have already referred to. But other interments than his have taken place here. One notably in 1814, when the widow of Lieutenant Roderick Mackenzie of Linessie was, at her own desire, laid there, “in the tomb of the celebrated Sir George Mackenzie, who was at the head of the Lochslin family, and to whom, by the mother’s side, she was nearly related.” (Gentleman’s Mag., 1814.)
Near it is the somewhat remarkable tomb of William Little, whilom Provost of Edinburgh in 1591. He was Laird of Over Liberton, and the tomb was erected by his great-grandchild in 1683. His kinsman, Clement Little, Advocate and Commissary of Edinburgh, whose meagre library formed the nucleus of that of the university, is also buried here. It is a mausoleum, composed of a recumbent female figure, with a pillar-supported canopy above her, on which stand four female figures at the several corners. The popular story is that the lady was poisoned by her four daughters, whose statues were placed over her in eternal remembrance of their wickedness; but the effigies are in reality those of Justice, Charity, Faith, &c, favourite emblematical characters in that age when the monument was erected; and the object in placing them there was merely ornamental.
Here are interred Archibald Pitcairn, the poet, 1713, under a rectangular slab on four pillars, with an inscription by his friend Ruddiman, near the north entry of the ground; Colin MacLaurin, the mathematician, 1746; and William Ged, the inventor of stereotype printing.
Here was worthy and gentle Allan Ramsay committed to the grave in 1758, and the just and upright Lord President Duncan Forbes of Culloden, eleven years before that time. Another famous Lord President, Robert Blair of Avontoun, was laid here in 1811.
Here, too, lie the two famous Monros, father and son, buried respectively 1767 and 1817, Alexander Monro primus, the great anatomist, and Alexander Monro secundus, who in 1756 was admitted joint Professor of Anatomy and Surgery with his distinguished father.
In the same ground, in 1799, were laid Professor Joseph Black, the great chemist; Dr. Hugh Blair, in 1800; Henry Mackenzie, “the Man of Feeling,” in 1831; Alexander Tytler, another distinguished litterateur; John Kay, the caricaturist, in 1826; and Dr. McCrie, the well-known biographer of John Knox.
The monument to Dr. Hugh Blair was erected in 1817, and is placed on the south side of the church, in the same compartment with that of Professor MacLaurin. Thus, one of the most eminent philosophers and one of the most distinguished preachers that Scotland has produced are commemorated side by side.
On the eastern gable of the Old Greyfriars Church, a grim, repellent, and remarkable monument catches the eye. In the centre is sculptured a skeleton, festooned around with surgical implements, but the inscription is nearly obliterated by time and the fire of the church, yet it is always an object of much curiosity.
It marks the grave of James Borthwick, whose portrait is the oldest now hanging in the Hall of the Royal College of Surgeons, the incorporation of which he entered in 1645; he was a cadet of the House of Crookston, and nearly related to Lord Borthwick, who defended his castle of that name against Oliver Cromwell after the battle of Dunbar. He acquired the estate of Stow, in which he was succeeded by his son James, who erected this hideously grotesque memorial to his memory.
Another monument of a different kind, in the form of a brass plate inserted into a stone, on the western wall of the church, bore some fine elegiac verses to the memory of Francisca, daughter of “Alexander Swinton, advocate; who died… aged 7 years.”
But these verses were quite obliterated by 1816. They ran thus:-
“The sweetest children, like these transient flowers,
Which please the fancy for a few short hours, –
Lovely at morning, see them burst in birth,
At evening withered – scattered on the earth,
Their stay, their place, shall never more be known,
Save traits engraven on those hearts alone
That fostered these frail buds while here beneath;
Yes, these shall triumph o’er the powers of death,
Shall spring eternal in the parent’s mind
Till hence transplanted to a realm refined.”
Northward of the two churches stands the tomb and grave of Duncan Ban Maclntyre, commonly known in the Highlands as Donnachan ban nan Oran, who died in the year 1812, and who, though he fought at Falkirk, outlived all the bards and nearly all the warriors associated in the Highland heart with the last chivalrous struggle for the House of Stuart.
A handsome monument marks the place where his ashes lie. Though little known in the Lowlands, Duncan is deemed one of the sweetest of the Gaelic poets, and was so humble in his wants that he had no higher ambition than to become a soldier in the old City Guard.
The burial-place of Sir Walter Scott’s family lies on the west side of the ground. “Our family,” he wrote, “heretofore (Dec, 1819) buried close by the entrance to Heriot’s Hospital, on the southern or left-hand side as you pass from the churchyard.” Here the father, Walter Scott, W.S., and several of his children who died in the old house in the College Wynd, are interred. Mrs. Scott, her sisters, and her brother, Dr. Rutherford, are interred in the burial-ground attached to St. John’s Church, at the west end of Princes Street. Sir Walter purchased a piece of ground there, “moved by its extreme seclusion, privacy, and security; for,” as he wrote to brother Thomas, who was paymaster of the 70th Foot, conveying an account of their mother’s death, “when poor Jack (their brother) was buried in the Greyfriars Churchyard, where my father and Anne (their sister) lie, I thought their graves more encroached upon than I liked to witness.”
The Greyfriars Churchyard is, curiously enough, noted as being the scene of Scott’s first love affair with a handsome young woman. Lockhart tells us that their acquaintance began in that place of dreary associations, “when the rain was beginning to fall one Sunday, as the congregation were dispersing. Scott happened to offer his umbrella, and the tender being accepted, so escorted her to her residence, which proved to be at no great distance from his own. I have neither the power nor the wish,” adds his biographer, “to give in detail the sequel to this story. It is sufficient to say that after he had through several long years nourished the dream of an ultimate union with this lady – Margaret, daughter of Sir John and Lady Jane Stewart Belshes of Invermay – his hopes terminated in her being married to the late Sir William Forbes, Bart, of Pitsligo.”
In December, 1879, there were interred in the Greyfriars Churchyard, under the direction of the city authorities, the great quantity of human bones which had been gathered from under the floor of St. Giles’s Church. The whole were contained in twenty large boxes, and amounted to several tons in weight. Dr. William Chambers having been exceedingly anxious to discover, if possible, the mutilated remains of the Marquis of Montrose, which had been interred in St. Giles’s in 1661, caused the whole of these bones to be examined for this purpose prior to their removal to the Greyfriars. This examination was most carefully carried out under the direction of Professors Maclagan and Turner, of the Edinburgh University, but no trace of those lost and interesting remains could be discovered.
1 The Editor is indebted to Mr. D. F. Lowe, M.A., House-Governor of Heriot’s Hospital, for assistance very kindly rendered in the matter of illustrations.