St. Giles’s Churchyard – The Maison Dieu – The Clam-shell Turnpike – The Grave of Knox – The City Cross – The Summons of Pluto – Executions: Kirkaldy, Gilderoy, and others – The Caddies – The Dyvours Stane – The Luckenbooths – The Auld Kirkaldy Style – Byre’s Lodging – Lord Coalstoun’s Wig – Allan Ramsay’s Library and “Creech’s Land” – The Edinburgh Halfpenny.
DOWN the southern slope of the hill on which St. Giles’s church stands, its burying-ground – covered with trees, perchance anterior to the little parish edifice we have described as existing in the time of David I. – sloped to the line of the Cowgate, where it was terminated by a wall and chapel dedicated to the holy rood, built, says Arnot, “in memory of Christ crucified, and not demolished till the end of the sixteenth century.” In July, 1800, a relic of this chapel was found near the head of Forrester’s Wynd, in former days the western boundary of the churchyard. This relic – a curiously sculptured group – like a design from Holbein’s “Dance of Death,” was defaced and broken by the workmen. Amid the musicians, who brought up the rear, was an angel, playing on the national bagpipe – a conceit which appears among the sculpture at Roslin chapel. So late as 1620 “James Lennox is elected chaplain of the chapelry of the holy rood, in the burgh kirk-yard of St. Giles.” Hence it is supposed that the nether kirk-yard remained in use long after the upper had been abandoned as a place of sepulture.
All this was holy ground in those days, for in “Keith’s Catalogue” we are told that near the head of Bell’s Wynd (on the eastern side) there were a hospital and chapel known by the name of the “Maison Dieu.” “We know not,” says Arnot, “at what time or by whom it was founded; but at the Reformation it shared the common fate of Popish establishments in this country. It was converted into private property. This building is still (1779) entire, and goes by the name of the Clam-shell Turnpike, from the figure of an escalop shell cut in stone above the door.”
Fire and modern reform have effected dire changes here since Arnot wrote. Newer buildings occupy the site; but still, immediately above the entrance that led of old to Bell’s Wynd, a modern stone lintel bears an escalop shell in memory of the elder edifice, which, in the earliest titles of it that are extant, was written of as the “old land,” formerly belonging to George Crichton, Bishop of Dunkeld, who held that see between the years 1527 and 1543, and was Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal under King James V.
Overlooked, then, by the great cruciform church of St. Giles, and these minor ecclesiastical edifices, the first burying-ground of Edinburgh lay on the steep slope with its face to the sun. The last home of generations of citizens, under what is now the pavement of a noisy street, “there sleep the great, the good, the peaceful and the turbulent, the faithful and the false, all blent together in their quaint old coffins and flannel shrouds, with money in their dead hands, and crosses or chalices on their breasts; old citizens who remembered the long-haired King David passing forth with barking hound and twanging horn on that Rood-day in harvest which so nearly cost him his life; and how the fair Queen Margaret daily fed the poor at the castle gate ‘with tenderness of a mother;’ those who had seen Randolph’s patriots scale ‘the steep, the iron-belted rock,’ Count Guy of Namur’s Flemish lances routed on the Burghmuir, and William Wallace mustering his bearded warriors by the Figgate-burn ere he marched to storm Dunbar.”
There lie citizens who have fought for their country at Flodden, Pinkie, and a hundred other fields; and there lies one whose name is still mighty in the land, and “who never feared the face of man” – John Knox. He expired at his old manse, near the Nether Bow, on the 24th of November, 1572, in his sixty-seventh year, and his body was attended to the grave by a great multitude of people, including the chief of the nobles and the Regent Morton, whose simple éloge over his grave is so well known. It cannot but excite surprise that no effort was made by the Scottish people to preserve distinctly the remains of the great Reformer from desecration, but some of that spirit of irreverence for the past which he inculcated thus recoiled upon himself, and posterity knows not his exact resting-place. If the tradition mentioned by Chambers, says Wilson, be correct, that “his burial-place was a few feet from the front of the old pedestal of King Charles’s statue, the recent change in the position of the latter must have placed it directly over his grave – perhaps as strange a monument to the great apostle of Presbyterianism as fancy could devise!” Be all this as it may, there is close by the statue a small stone let into the pavement inscribed simply
“I. K., 1572.”
An ancient oak pulpit, octagonal and panelled, brought from St. Giles’s church, and said to have been the same in which he was wont to preach, is still preserved in the Royal Institution on the Earthen Mound.
Close by St. Giles’s church, where radii in the causeway mark its site, stood the ancient cross of the city, so barbarously swept away by the ignorant and tasteless magistracy of 1756. Scott, and other men of taste, never ceased to deplore its destruction, and many attempts have been vainly made to collect the fragments and reconstruct it. In “Marmion,” as the poet has it:-
“Dunedin’s cross, a pillared stone,
Rose on a turret octagon;
But now is razed that monument,
Whence royal edicts rang,
And the voice of Scotland’s law went forth,
In glorious trumpet clang.
Oh, be his tomb as lead to lead
Upon its dull destroyer’s head! –
A minstrel’s malison is said.”
A battlemented octagon tower, furnished with four angular turrets, it was sixteen feet in diameter, and fifteen feet high. From this rose the centre pillar, also octagon, twenty feet in height, surmounted by a beautiful Gothic capital, terminated by a crowned unicorn. Calderwood tells us that prior to King James’s visit to Scotland the old cross was taken down from the place where it had stood within the memory of man, and the shaft transported to the new one, by the aid of certain mariners from Leith. Rebuilt thus in 1617, nearly on the site of an older cross, it was of a mixed style of architecture, and in its reconstruction, with a better taste than later years have shown, the chief ornaments of the ancient edifice had been preserved; the heads in basso-relievo, which surmounted seven of the arches, have been referred by our most eminent antiquaries to the remote period of the Lower Empire. Four of those heads, which were long preserved by Mr. Ross at Deanhaugh, were procured by Sir Walter Scott, and are still preserved at Abbotsford, together with the great stone font or basin which flowed with wine on holidays. The central pillar, long preserved at Lord Somerville’s house, Drum, near Edinburgh, now stands near the Napier tomb, within a railing, on the north side of the choir of St. Giles’s, where it was placed in 1866. A crowned unicorn surmounts it, bearing a pennon blazoned with a silver St. Andrew’s cross on one side, and on the other the city crest – an anchor.
From the side of that venerable shaft royal proclamations, solemn denunciations of excommunication and outlawry, involving ruin and death, went forth for ages, and strange and terrible have been the scenes, the cruelties, the executions, and absurdities, it has witnessed. From its battlements, by tradition, mimic heralds of the unseen world cited the gallant James and all our Scottish chivalry to appear in the domains of Pluto immediately before the march of the army to Flodden, as recorded at great length in the “Chronicles of Pitscottie,” and rendered more pleasantly, yet literally, into verse by Scott –
“Then on its battlements, they saw
A vision passing Nature’s law,
Strange, wild, and dimly seen;
‘Figures that seemed to rise and die,
Gibber and sign, advance and fly,
While nought confirmed could ear or eye
Dream of sound or mien.
Yet darkly did it seem as there,
Heralds and pursuivants prepare,
With trumpet sound and blazon fair,
A summons to proclaim;
But indistinct the pageant proud,
As fancy forms of midnight cloud,
When flings the moon upon her shroud
A wavering tinge of flame;
It flits, expands, and shifts, till loud
From midmost of the spectre crowd,
The awful summons came!“
Then, according to Pitscottie, followed the ghastly roll of all who were doomed to fall at Flodden, including the name of Mr. Richard Lawson, who heard it.
“I appeal from that summons and sentence,” he exclaimed, courageously, “and take me to the mercy of God and Christ Jesus His Son.”
“Verily,” adds Pitscottie, “the author of this, that caused write the manner of this summons, was a landed gentleman, who was at that time twenty years of age, and was in the town at the time of the said summons, and thereafter when the field was stricken, he swore to me there was no man escaped that was called in this summons, but that man alone who made his protestation and appealed from the said summons, but all the lave perished in the field with the king.”
Under the shadow of that cross have been transacted many deeds of real horror, more than we can enumerate here – but a few may suffice. There, in 1563, Sir James Tarbat, a Roman Catholic priest, was pilloried in his vestments, with a chalice bound to his hands, and, as Knox has it, was served by the mob with “his Easter eggs,” till he was pelted to death. There died Sir William Kirkaldy, hanged “with his face to the sun” (as Knox curiously predicted before his own death), for the execution took place at four in the afternoon, when the sun was in the west (Calderwood); and there, in time to come, died his enemy Morton. There died Montrose and many of his cavalier comrades, amid every ignominy that could be inflicted upon them; and the two Argyles, father and son. An incredible number of real and imaginary criminals have rendered up their lives on that fatal spot, and among the not least interesting of the former we may mention Gilderoy, or “the red-haired lad,” whose real name was Patrick Macgregor, and who, with ten other caterans, accused of cattle-lifting and many wild pranks on the shores of Loch Lomond, when brought to Edinburgh, were drawn backwards on a hurdle to the cross, on the 27th of July, 1636, and there hanged – Gilderoy and John Forbes suffering on a higher gallows than the rest, and, further, having their heads and hands struck off, to be affixed to the city gates. Gilderoy, we need scarcely add, has obtained a high ballad fame. There is a broadside of the time, containing a lament to him written by his mistress, in rude verses, not altogether without some pathos; one verse runs thus:-
“My love he was as brave a man
As ever Scotland bred,
Descended from a highland clan,
A catheran to his trade.
No woman then or woman-kind
Had ever greater joy,
Than we two when we lived alone,
I and my Gilderoy!”
Here culprits underwent scourging, branding, ear-nailing, and nose-pinching, with tongue-boring and other punishments deemed minor. As a specimen of these exhibitions we shall take the following from the diary of Nicoll verbatim:-
“Last September, 1652. Twa Englisches, for drinking the King’s health, were takin and bund at Edinburgh croce, quhair either of thame resavit thretty-nine quhipes on thair naiked bakes and shoulderis; thairafter their lugs were naillit to the gallows. The ane had his lug cuttit from the ruitt with a razor, the uther being also naillit to the gibbet had his mouth skobit, and his tong being drawn out the full length, was bound together betwixt twa sticks, hard togedder, with an skainzie-thrid, for the space of half one hour thereby.” Punishments of this cruel kind were characteristic of the times, and were not peculiar to the Scottish capital alone.
In later and more peaceful times the city cross was the ‘Change, the great resort of the citizens for a double purpose. They met there to discuss the topics of the day and see their acquaintances, without the labour of forenoon calls down steep closes and up steeper turnpike stairs; and these gatherings usually took place between the hours of one and two. And during the reigns of the two first Georges it was customary at this place, as the very centre and cynosure of the city, for the magistrates to drink the king’s health on a stage, “loyalty being a virtue which always becomes peculiarly ostentatious when it is under any suspicion of weakness.”
The cross, the font or basin of which ran with wine on festive occasions, was the peculiar rallying point of those now extinct lazzaroni – the street messengers or caddies. “A ragged, half-blackguard looking set they were, but allowed to be amazingly acute, intelligent, and also faithful to any duty entrusted to them. A stranger coming temporarily to reside in Edinburgh got a caddie attached to his service, to conduct him from one part of the town to another, and to run errands for him; in short, to be wholly at his bidding. A caddie did literally know everything of Edinburgh, even to that kind of knowledge which we now expect only in a street directory; and it was equally true that he could hardly be asked to go anywhere, or upon any mission, that he would not go. On the other hand, the stranger would probably be astonished to find that, in a few hours, his caddie was acquainted with every particular concerning himself, where he was from, what was his purpose in Edinburgh, his family connections, tastes, and dispositions. Of course for every particle of scandal floating about Edinburgh the caddie was a ready book of reference. We sometimes wonder how our ancestors did without newspapers. We do not reflect on the living vehicle of news which then existed; the privileged beggar for country people; for towns-folk the caddies.”
But now, the latter, like the City Guard, the Tronmen, Bedesmen, town-piper and drummer, are all numbered with the things that were.
It is difficult now to understand the gross perversion of taste and the barbarous absence of all veneration that prevailed in the Scotland of the eighteenth century, and how such a memorial as the inoffensive cross of Edinburgh was doomed to destruction; but doomed it was, and on the night before its demolition began there came a bacchanalian company, probably Jacobites, and with a crown bowl of punch upon its battlements, solemnly drank “the dredgie of the auld mercat cross.”
On one side of the cross there stood, of old, the Dyvours stane, whereon might be seen seated a row of those unfortunates, who, for misfortune or roguery, were, by act of the Council, compelled to appear each market day at noon in the bankrupt’s garb – in a yellow bonnet and coat, one half yellow and the other brown, under pain of three months’ imprisonment. The origin of this singular mode of protecting public credit was an Act of Sederunt of the Court of Session in 1604, wherein the seat is described as “ane pillery of hewn stone, near to the mercat croce,” and rom 10 A.M. till one hour after dinner, was the time for the Dyvours sitting thereon.
The Luckenbooths, an extinct range of picturesque and heavily-eaved buildings, stood in the thoroughfare of the High Street, parallel to St. Giles’s church, from which they were separated by a close and gloomy lane for foot passengers alone, and the appellation was shared by the opposite portion of the main street itself. This singular obstruction, for such it was, existed from the reign of James III. till 1817, and the name is supposed to have been conferred on the shops in that situation as being close booths, to distinguish them from the open ones, which then lined the great street on both sides, lucken signifying close, thus implying a certain superiority to the ancient traders in these booths; and it was considered remarkable that amid all the changes of the old town there is still in this locality an unusual proportion of mercers, clothiers, and drapers, of very old standing, among whom we may well include the well-known firm of Messrs. McLaren and Sons.
It was pierced in the middle by a passage called the Auld Kirk Style, which led to the old north door of St. Giles’s, and there it was that in 1526 the Lairds of Lochinvar and Drumlanrig slew Sir Thomas MacLellan of Bombie (ancestor of the Lords Kirkcudbright), with whom they were at feud – and act for which neither of them was ever questioned or punished.
Prior to the year 1811 there remained unchanged in the Luckenbooths two lofty houses of great strength and antiquity, one of which contained the town residence of Sir John Byres, Bart., of Coates, and estate now covered by the west end of new Edinburgh. He was a gentleman who made a great figure in the city during the reign of James VI., but no memories of him now remain, save the alley called Byres’ Close, and his tomb in the west wall of the Greyfriars’ churchyard, the inscription on which, though nearly obliterated, tells us that he was treasurer, bailie, and dean of guild of Edinburgh, and died in 1629, in his sixtieth year.
The fourth floor of the tall Byres’ Lodging was occupied in succession by the Lords Coupar and Lindores, by Sir James Johnston of Westerhall, and finally by Lord Coalstoun, father of Christian Brown, Countess of the Earl of Dalhousie, a general who distinguished himself at Waterloo and elsewhere. Before removing to a more spacious mansion on the Castle Hill, Lord Coalstoun lived here in 1757, and during that time an amusing accident occurred to him, which has been the origin of more than one excellent caricature.
“It was at that time the custom,” says the gossipy author of “Traditions of Edinburgh,” “for advocates, and no less than judges, to dress themselves in gown, wig, and cravat, at their own houses, and to walk in a sort of state, with their cocked hats in their hands, to the Parliament House. They usually breakfasted early, and when dressed would occasionally lean over their parlour windows for a few minutes, before St. Giles’s bell sounded a quarter to nine, enjoying the morning air, and perhaps discussing the news of the day, or the convivialities of the preceding evening, with a neighbouring advocate on the opposite side of the alley. It so happened that one morning, while Lord Coalstoun was preparing to enjoy his matutinal treat, two girls who lived on the second floor above were amusing themselves with a kitten, which they had swung over the window by a cord tied round its middle, and hoisted for some time up and down, till the creature was getting desperate with its exertions. In this crisis his lordship popped his head out of the window, directly below that from which the kitten swung, little suspecting, good easy man, what danger impended, when down came the exasperated animal in full career upon his senatorial wig. No sooner did the girls perceive what sort of landing-place their kitten had found, than in their terror and surprise, they began to draw it up; but this measure was now too late, for along with the animal up also came the judge’s wig, fixed full in its determined claws! His lordship’s surprise on finding his wig lifted off his head was much increased when, on looking up, he perceived it dangling its way upwards, without any means visible to him, by which its motions might be accounted for. The astonishment, the dread, the awe of the senator below – the half mirth, half terror of the girls above, together with the fierce relentless energy on the part of puss between, formed altogether a scene to which language could not easily do justice. It was a joke soon explained and pardoned, but the perpetrators did afterwards get many injunctions from their parents, never again to fish over the window, with such a bait, for honest men’s wigs.”
At the east end of the Luckenbooths, and facing the line of the High Street, commanding not only a view of that stately and stirring thoroughfare, but also the picturesque vista of the Canongate and far beyond it, Aberlady Bay, Gosford House, and the hills of East Lothian, towered “Creech’s Land” – as the tenement was named, according to the old Scottish custom – long the peculiar haunt of the literati during the last century. In the first flat had been the shop of Allan Ramsay, where in 1725 he established the first circulating library ever known in Scotland; and for the Mercury’s Head, which had been the sign of his first shop opposite Niddry’s Wynd, he now substituted the heads of Drummond of Hawthornden and Ben Jonson. Of this establishment Wodrow writes:- “Profaneness is come to a great height! all the villainous, profane, and obscene books of plays printed at London by Curle and others, are got down from London by Allan Ramsay, and let out for an easy price to young boys, servant women of the better sort, and gentlemen, and vice and obscenity dreadfully propagated.”
It was the library thus stigmatised by sour old Wodrow, that, according to his own statement, Sir Walter Scott read with such avidity in his younger years. The collection latterly contained upwards of 30,000 volumes, as is stated by a note in “Kay’s Portraits.”
In 1748, says Kincaid, a very remarkable and lawless attempt was made by the united London booksellers and stationers to curb the increase of literature in Edinburgh! They had conceived an idea, which they wished passed into law: “That authors or their assignees had a perpetual exclusive right to their works; and if these could not be known, the right was in the person who first published the book, whatever manner of way they became possessed of it.”
The first step was taken in 1748 – twenty-three years after Ramsay started his library – when an action appeared before the Court of Session against certain booksellers in Edinburgh and Glasgow, which was decreed against plaintiffs.1 Ten years after, a second plan was concerted in England, by a cozenage trial, which might be adduced as a precedent. The court thought proper to take the opinion of the twelve judges in England, who permitted the matter to drop without giving any; but a third attempt was made to restrain a certain Scotsman from trading as a bookseller in London. For twelve years this man was harassed by successive injunctions in Chancery, for printing books which were not protected by the 8th of Queen Anne, cap. 19, and the Court of Queen’s Bench decided against the Scotsman (Miller v. Taylor), and then the London trade applied once more to the Court of Session to have it made law in Scotland. This prosecution was brought by Hinton, a bookseller, against the well-known Alexander Donaldson, then in London, to restrain him from publishing “Stackhouse’s History of the Bible.” He was subjected to great annoyance, yet he supported himself against nearly the entire trade in London, and obtained a decree which was of the greatest importance to the booksellers in Scotland.
Ramsay’s shop became the rendezvous of all the wits of the day. Gay, the poet, who was quite installed in the household of the Duchess of Queensberry – the witty daughter of the Earl of Clarendon and Rochester – accompanied his fair patroness to Edinburgh, and resided for some time in Queensberry House in the Canongate. He was a frequent lounger at the shop of Ramsay, and is said to have derived great amusement from the anecdotes the latter gave of the leading citizens, as they assembled at the cross, where from his windows they could be seen daily with powdered wigs, ruffles, and rapiers. The late William Tytler, of Woodhouselee, who had frequently seen Gay there, described him as “a pleasant little man in a tye-wig;” and, according to the Scots’ Magazine for 1802, he recollected overhearing him request Ramsay to explain many Scottish words and national customs, that he might relate them to Pope, who was already a great admirer of “The Gentle Shepherd.”
How picturesque is the grouping in the following paragraph, by one who has passed away, of the crowd then visible from the shop of Allan Ramsay:- “Gentlemen and ladies paraded along in the stately attire of the period; tradesmen chatted in groups, often bareheaded, at their shop doors; caddies whisked about bearing messages or attending to the affairs of strangers; children filled the kennel with their noisy sports. Add to this the corduroyed men from Gilmerton bawling coals or yellow sand, and spending as much breath in a minute as would have served poor asthmatic Hugo Arnot for a month; fishwomen crying their caller haddies from Newhaven; whimsicals and idiots, each with his or her crowd of tormentors; sootymen with their bags; Town Guardsmen with their antique Lochaber axes; barbers with their hairdressing materials, and so forth.” Added to these might be the blue-bonneted shepherd in his grey plaid; the wandering piper; the kilted drover, armed to the teeth, as was then the fashion; and the passing sedan, with liveried bearers.
Johnson, in his “Lives,” makes no reference to the Scottish visit of Gay, who died in 1732, but merely says that for his monetary hardships he received recompense “in the affectionate attention of the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, into whose house he was taken, and with whom he passed the remaining part of his life.”
Ramsay gave up his shop and library in 1752, transferring then to his successor, who opened an establishment below with an entrance direct from the street. This was Mr. James MacEwan, from whom the business passed into the hands of Mr. Alexander Kincaid, an eminent publisher in his time, who took a great lead in civic affairs, and died in office as Lord Provost of Edinburgh on the 21st of January, 1777. Escorted by the trained bands, and every community in the city, and preceded by “the City Guard in funeral order, the officers’ scarfs covered with crape, the drums with black cloth, beating a dead march,” his funeral, as it issued into the High Street, was one of the finest pageants witnessed in Edinburgh since the Union. During his time the old bookseller’s shop acquired an additional interest from being the daily lounge of Smollett, who was residing with his sister in the Canongate in 1776. Thus it is that he tells us, in “Humphry Clinker,” that “all the people of business in Edinburgh, and even the genteel company, may be seen standing in crowds every day, from one to two in the afternoon, in the open street, at a place where formerly stood a market cross, a curious piece of Gothic architecture, still to be seen in Lord Somerville’s garden in this neighbourhood.”
The attractions of the old shop increased when it passed with the business into the hands of the celebrated William Creech, son of the minister of Newbattle. Educated at the grammar school of Dalkeith and the University of Edinburgh, he had many mental endowments, an inexhaustible fund of amusing anecdote, and great conversational powers, which through life caused him to be courted by the most eminent men of the time; and his smiling face, his well-powdered head, accurate black suit, with satin breeches, were long remembered after he had passed away; but he had acquired penurious habits, with a miserly avidity for money, which not only precluded all benevolence to the deserving, but actually marred even the honest discharge of business transactions. In 1771 he entered into partnership with Mr. Kincaid, who left the business two years after, and the whole devolving upon Mr. Creech, he conducted it for thirty-four years with singular enterprise and success. For all that time his quaint shop at the east-end of the Luckenbooths was the resort of the clergy, the professors, and also all public and eminent men in the Scottish metropolis; and his breakfast-room was a permanent literary lounge, which was known by the name of “Creech’s Levee.”
During the whole off the period mentioned nearly all the really valuable literature of the time came from his establishment. He published the works of Cullen, Gregory, Adam Smith, Burns, Dugald Stewart, Henry Mackenzie, Blair, Beattie, Campbell (the opponent of Hume), Lords Woodhouselee and Kames, and by the last-named he was particularly regarded with esteem and friendship; and it was on the occasion of his having gone to London for some time in 1787 that Burns wrote his well-known poem of “Willie’s Awa:” –
“Oh, Willie was a witty wight,
And had o’ things an’ unco slight,
Auld Reekie aye he keepit tight,
And trig and braw;
But now they’ll busk her like a fright –
We have already referred to the club in which originated the Mirror and Lounger. These periodicals were issued by Creech; and the first number of the former, when it appeared on Saturday, 3rd of January, 1779, created quite a sensation among the “blue-stocking” coteries of the city.
In “peter’s Letters to his Kinsfolk,” “Mr. Creech, then prince of the Edinburgh trade,” is rather dubiously written of. “This bibliopole was a very indifferent master of his trade, and wanted entirely the wit to take due advantage of the goods the gods provided. He was himself a great literary character, and he was always a great man in the magistracy of the city; and perhaps he would have thought it beneath him to be a mere ordinary money-making bookseller. Not that he had any aversion to money-making; on the contrary, he was prodigiously fond of money, and carried his love of it in many things to a ridiculous extent. But he had been trained in all the timid prejudices of the old Edinburgh school of booksellers; and not daring to make any money in a bold and magnificent way, neither did he dare to run the risk of losing any part of what he had made. Had he possessed either the shrewdness or the spirit of some of his successors, there is no question he might have set on foot a fine race of rivalry among the literary men about him – a race of which the ultimate gains would undoubtedly have been greatest to himself… He never had the sense to perceive that his true game lay in making high sweepstakes, and the consequence was that nobody would take the trouble either of training or running for his courses.”
The successors referred to are evidently Constable and the Blackwoods, as the writer continues thus:-
“What a singular contrast does the present state of Edinburgh in regard to these matters afford when compared to what I have been endeavouring to describe as existing in the days of the Creeches! Instead of Scottish authors sending their works to be published by London booksellers, there is nothing more common now-a-days than to hear of English authors sending down their books to Edinburgh to be published in a city than which Memphis or Palmyra would scarcely have appeared a more absurd place of publication to any English author thirty years ago.”
Creech died unmarried on the 14th of January, 1815, in his seventieth year, only two years before the interesting old Land which bore his name for nearly half a century was demolished; but a view of it is attached to his “Fugitive Pieces,” which he published in 1791. These were essays and sketches of character and manners in Edinburgh, which he had occasionally contributed to the newspapers.
“The laigh-shop of Creech’s Land was last occupied by the Messrs. Hutchison, extensive traders, who, in the bad state of the copper coinage, when the halfpennies of George III. would not pass current in Scotland, produced a coinage of Edinburgh halfpennies in 1791 that were long universally received. On one side were the city arms and crest, boldly struck, surrounded by thistles, with the legend, Edinburgh Halfpenny; on the other, St. Andrew with his cross, and the national motto, Nemo me impune lacessit, which is freely and spiritedly rendered, “Ye daurna meddle wi’ me.” Since then they have gradually disappeared, and now are only to be found in numismatic collections.”