Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Edinburgh and The Lothians
Chapter XII - Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill


Park by Holyrood is about five miles round, and in Arthurís Seat rises as high as 822 feet. James V. and Queen Mary enclosed and improved it, and how grateful you are to them! Most places in Edinburgh get worse and lose some interest with the advancing years; not so this favoured spot. Perhaps you regret its old-time trees, but they are so long gone that their very memory is forgotten. Then of old certain noble keepers had assumed rights and certainly abused them. One rudely groped in the very bowels of the mountain for stones wherewith to repair the London streets, others enclosed and marked portions off for their own profit, but they were all bought out, and a very well-executed road, called the Queenís Drive, was run right round it, and two little lochsóSt Margaretís, near Holyrood, and Dunsappie, right up on the shoulder of the hillówere made and you would never guess of yourself that they were anything but natural. People may say what they like about the charming solitude before the Drive, but even as it is, on the very Drive itself, just about Dunsappie Loch, watch when there is no one else in sight and you would think yourself in some remote Highland glen. A little bit away from St Margaretís Loch, and just opposite the Palace, is St Margaretís Well. In 1862 this was removed from Restalrig, and an ugly engine-house or something of the sort now holds its field. The old spring that had supplied it for centuries dried up, but it is now fed appropriately enough by the waters of St Davidís or the Rood Well. Another well stood on the south side of Arthurís Seat, just under the remarkable rocks known as Samsonís Ribs; this was the Wells oí Wearie. The very name had a fatal attraction for the minor Scots poet. His artless and plaintive numbers flowed copiously but dully. I spare the reader. And then in 1820 they drove a railway tunnel right by the place, and the poetaster fled in horror, and perhaps the muse was consoled rather than vexed. The hill, however, like Prosperoís Island, is full of noises. Look over a chart, see how crowded the place is with names that echo in your mind. There is Whinny Hill, on the slope of which, in the summer of 1564, Mary gave a magnificent banquet in the open air on the marriage of one of her courtiers, who were always her dear friends and faithful servants. Probably the extreme Puritans thought eating in the open air a brazen, graceless and godless proceeding, but there is something pathetic about it to us who know what succeeded all Maryís rejoicings. It was three years after her home-coming from France, and even yet she had not quite grasped the Scots climate. The city of the rain-cloud and the east wind is no place for al fresco entertainment, but there are some fine Edinburgh days, and these the very perfection of weather. Near the exit from the park at this corner is Muschatís Cairn, raised to the memory of a lady murdered hereabouts by her spouse in 1720. The peccant Muschat was caught and hanged with all possible celerity. You remember in the Heart of Midlothian how Jeanie Deans meets the escaped smuggler at this spot, and how Madge Wildfire is made to give warning of the approach of the officers by strange scraps of songs. Fine scraps indeed, yet the hill has one of its own, one of the very best things the Scots muse ever did.

"Now Arthurís Seat shall be my bed,
The sheets shall neíer be pressed by me;
St Antonís Well shall be my drink,
Since my true love has forsaken me.
Martinmas wind, when wilt thou blaw,
And shake the green leaves aff the tree?
O gentle death, when wilt thou come?
For of my life I am wearie."

A love-story of Queen Maryís Court is the facile tradition, and the learned again will have none of it. A certain Barbara Erskine, daughter of the Earl of Mar, married to the Earl of Douglas, was badly treated, and this is her song, or was suggested by her story. Well, the noble hill has its noble poem at any rate, and others besides the lady, or even beside the old-time hermit, have sought Arthurís Seat to fight all sorts of mental battles with themselves. Reuben Butler went to the road round the base by the Salisbury Crags the morning after the Porteous Mob, and Scott himself, and Hume, and all the great, and indeed all the little men of Edinburgh have walked there in more or less anxious thought. Young Weir of Hermiston goes to another part of the hill, to wit, the Hunterís Bog, after the dispute with his father caused by the condemnation and hanging of Duncan Jopp. Thus too has been found in the Park a place where a half-believing Christian has oft faced a too-sceptical Apollyon, where, in fact, the student has had it out with himself in every species of difficulty and worry. But to-day he needs must choose his ground delicately. The horn of the hunter does not sound in the Hunterís Bog, but the "petulant pop" of many bullets on many targets is a pest and a worry, not merely there but over much of the hill. It is a nuisance one could well wish abated, but unless the marksmen should wing a Royal Prince, or perhaps a covey of tourists, I fear, I fear! You can walk safely and commodiously by Salisbury Crags, since a road called Radical Road was carded round them in 1820. Scott instigated the scheme, to give work to a populace starving and discontented - hence the name. A line of trees between Muschatís Cairn and Holyrood formerly marked the Dukeís Walk, so called because James VII. and II., when holding that title he administered Scotland, loved to pace this ground.

Beneath the deep gorge called Windy Goule are Duddingston Loch and Church and Village. The whole three are yet wonderfully unspoiled. It is one of the useful functions of crowned heads and landed gentry to keep such things unspoiled. Duddingston was a great resort of old-time Edinburgh citizens; it boasts one ancient tavern, "The Sheepís Head," to wit, renowned for its preparation of that peculiarly Scots dish, and the citizen took a daunder on the hill in summer, or threw the curling stones on the loch in winter, and here he could refresh himself after his playful toil. The Queen Mary legend is conspicuous by its absence from "The Sheepís Head," but tradition reports that her son, King James VI. "of happy memory," as the Bill of Rights says, was wont to play skittles here. Rather a humble sort of royal game! The Fortunes of Nigel were written in vain or you believe him addicted to cock-a-leekie, and from that to sheepís head is no great step. King James, we know, loved to crack a bottle of wine with Jingliní Geordie in his booth, hard by St Gilesí Kirk, and like enough, when wearied with those often troublesome Edinburgh folk, he was glad of a country excursion to Duddingston. In front of the village kirk there is a loupiní-stane, to assist the obese and aged to mount their more or less mettlesome steeds. Of old time, if you did not walk to the kirk you must ride, for the old Scots roads scarcely admitted of vehicles, except for show, and hard by, fixed in the walls, there still remains the jougsóthat archaic punishment for the scold and the slanderer. The Rev. John Thomson, the Scots landscape painter, was minister here from 1805 to his death in 1840. He is always known as Thomson of Duddingston. Now the manse garden runs down to the loch, and at the end of it he built himself a bower, or rather a studio, which he pleasantly named Edinburgh. As fame increased, so did his visitors, and he found them a nuisance. Interruption in the composition of a sermon might pass, but in the composition of a picture! How then to maintain privacy, avoid offence, and spare the conscience of his servants? These were instructed to give the invariable answer that he had gone to "Edinburgh," and in truth he was at "Edinburgh"! Such at least is to-day the tradition. Duddingston contains one of those hospitals which are not rare in and about Edinburgh. It is a plain but pleasant enough building at the corner of the road to Portobello and Jockís Lodge. Louis Cauvin, its founder, made a considerable fortune as a French teacher in Edinburgh. You suspect some judicious speculation in land. There must have been scope for that in the early years of last century in this neighbourhood. He left curious directions as to the walling up of the door of the vault; perhaps he had the fear of the resurrectionist in his mind, perhaps it was only his version of Shakespeareís curse. The hospital was opened in 1833 for the education of a limited number of children, chiefly the sons of teachers. The educational authorities have already considerably diverted it from its original purpose, perhaps wisely, yet scarcely in accord with the wishes of the founder, scarcely in encouragement of others like minded.

Your modern well-to-do Edinburgh citizen despises Duddingston and its humble pleasures. But in hard winters, when the loch is frozen, there is a skating carnival all day, and almost all night, on the ice. In a letter of 23rd December 1874 R. L. S. touches off the scene: "Duddingston, our big loch, is bearing, and I wish you could have seen it this afternoon covered with people, in the driving snow flurries; the big hill grim and white and Alpine overhead in the thick air, and the road up the gorge, as it were up into the heart of it, dotted black with traffic." This is on Monday, and on Tuesday he goes again: "If you had seen the moon rising, a perfect sphere of smoky gold in the dark air above the trees, and the white loch thick with skaters, and the great hill snow sprinkled overhead! It was a sight for a King?í Here is an evening piece from the next day: "The little booths that hucksters set up round the edge were marked each one by its little lamp. There were some fires too, and the light and the shadows of the people who stood round them to warm themselves made a strange pattern all round on the snow-covered ice. A few people with torches began to tread up and down the ice, a lit circle travelling along with them over the snow. A gigantic moon arose meanwhile over the Kirk on the promontory, among perturbed and vacillating clouds. The walk home was very solemn and strange. Once through a broken gorge we had a glimpse of a little space of mackerel sky, moon-litten on the other side of the hill, the broken ridges standing grey and spectral between, and the hill-top over all snow white and strangely magnified in size." Stevenson was twenty-four when he drew these wonderful pictures. Did not he lose in ease and force whatever he gained in precision?

Arthurís Seat is the image of a lion lying at full length; the likeness is startling from places like Portobello and its vicinity. You learn with surprise that the idea is quite recent. Have our eyes changed, it has been asked, or has the landscape? "It is like a camel," says Maitland in 1750. Why he did not see the lion you donít know; possibly the way the ground was divided by hereditary keepers may have obscured this. The antiquary has some diverting speculations as to the name, about which popular tradition makes no bones at all. Arthurís Seat is from Arthur the British prince; maybe he sleeps under that mighty crest, with his sword, Excalibur, by his side, until in the fulness of time he come again. And the rocky cliff to the west, known as Salisbury Crags, is named after Earl Salisbury, who accompanied Edward III. in his Scots invasion. I have spoken of the Englishlike names of "Edinburgh" and "Arthur," and here is "Salisbury?í Your antiquary despises such rule-of-thumb solutions. My Lord Hailes and his fellows are all for a Celtic, or even dark Pictish, word. Their method is this : ó They get a Gaelic synonym for the Hill of Arrows, or something like, and they give it a good twist one way, and Gaelic spelling is by no means a fixed quantity; then they give the word Arthur, or Salisbury, or what not, a good twist the other, and presently you discover a remarkable resemblance between them. There are no buildings on Arthurís Seat, and fortunately there cannot now be. In 1783 a certain Dr James Graham had all but got leave to plant a house right on the top; perhaps more money, or more power, or more trying and he had carried his point. In those days Edinburgh was so rich in situations that it could afford to throw away even the finest. At any rate it did not much care, but we cannot spare a prospect like this, and all the power of Royalty guards the hill for us. Except towards Duddingston and Portobello the place is already thick beset; a few more years and the solid phalanx of houses will ring it round on every side. Yes, but they cannot touch it!

Of old time the hill had a dweller, and you still see his dwelling. Right above St Margaretís Loch is the ruined Chapel of St Anthony, and Hermitages of St Anthony, and Well of St Anthony. The chapel is a mere shell; neglect, and the weather, and perhaps a succession of petty buffets from Presbyterian iconoclasts, or mere mischief-makers, have ground it down stone by stone, and even the antiquary knows nothing of its history, though he guesses it had to do with the foundation of St Anthony of Leith, and perhaps held a light to guide the mariner on the Firth. The situation was ideal. You had the key of both worlds. At your feet was the Palace and the busy capital, and beyond was the Fifth, where the keel was frequent even in early days, but you had only to turn your back and go a few steps and you were lost in the silence of the hills. You might go a long way and meet no one save a wandering shepherd, except it were Beltane Day, that ancient heathen festival, whereon the young folk of Edinburgh were wont, as they still are, to climb in the early morning to the summit of the hill to wash their faces in the May Day dew.

The Calton Hill is 355 feet high. Its south-west side is abrupt and rocky; in other directions you can descend it. Calton is plainly a non-Saxon word; it is said to mean the hill covered with bushes, and of old was called Dow Craig, or the Black Rock. To-day it is gained with no let or hindrance from Princes Street, but less than 100 years ago, that is, before the Regent Bridge spanned the deep valley or gorge of Low Calton, you had to wind, and descend, and climb again ere you could reach it therefrom. To the stranger it must share with the Castle the place of pride as landmark. As you pace eastward along Princes Street it is right in your view, nay, you pass through its very bowels by a railway tunnel to reach Auld Reekie. It is now quite a creation of the New Town. The odd jumble of monuments strikes the stranger: the strict classic, and mixed classic, and wildly Gothic; the old and new, though not the newest observatory; the Dugald Stuart Monument, the Burns Monument, must not be detailed, though the little Temple that forms the last is "no that bad," as they say in Auld Reekie. You must go to the Canon-gate churchyard to see the High School at its best. From there, with a sunset effect, it is most beautiful. The dream of stone on the Thames is a Parliament House; the magic Egyptian Temple at Brussels is a Palais de Justice; this is only a school, and only a new school, as far as the building goes, and these things donít fire the imagination. No, I think the High School has never had sufficient justice done to it. Thus seen it is the supreme architectural effect and glory of modern Edinburgh. There are two pretentious and costly structures on the Calton about which it is hard, honestly, to make up oneís mind or purge the soul from prejudice. The first is the National Monument. When, after Waterloo, the minds of men were uplifted, it was determined to commemorate the victory by a great monumentónothing less than to reproduce the Parthenon. The pillars cost £1000 each, but only twelve were completed. Funds failed and the thing stuck. It has ever since been a laughing - stock. "Scotlandís pride and poverty" it was called, but it was not a mere question of money. The great war was too much connected in peopleís minds with a system of government and dissolute and selfish rulers to excite real national enthusiasm. It were easy today for many a wealthy Scotsman to complete it; perhaps it will be, and re-dedicated to something else; but then is it not better as it is? Is not the look of ruin a distinct advantage? Ah, but the sham of it all! and that is what imagination boggles at. And what to say of those feudal towers and stern walls and frowning ramparts that wind round so much of the Calton Hill and make up the Calton Jail? The unsophisticated stranger, it is believed, invariably takes it for the Castle; it looks incredibly ancient, and how to tell its grime is only railway smoke? It was built between 1791 and 1796, and Robert Adam was the architect He was a famous man in his time, and to him we owe the Register House, and the University, and the Adelphi in London, in which latter city he did well, and finally achieved a Westminster Abbey funeral. The times of its building were the dark days of our struggle with France, darkened because all the sympathy was not on one side, and the Edinburgh mob thought a second Bastile was rising to cow them. But how to think nobly of a jail, and how to be just when you once took it for a castle? Had it been some great historic monument restored, perhaps we would all have thought it very fine indeed. A modern gaol may be tragically horrible, but it is also dismally comic, and under no possible aspect romantic. And it was successor to the Heart of Midlothian. The place was not ill-chosen; quite close to it, between there and the Canongate, stood in pre-railway days the House of Correction at Paulís Work, and you can derive it from this, and not from the more memorable building in the High Street, if you please. But enough of the Calton of to-day.

The history of the Calton and its Burgh of Barony, which clustered at the foot, is long. Of old witches danced nightly on its bare top, and a fairy boy from Leith acted as their drummer. West of the hill stood the Carmelite Monastery of Greenside. It was afterwards used as a house for lepers. A gallows reared its gaunt form at the very gate, and thereon was strung up any inmate who showed his nose out of doors. And on one part people were burnt for heresy, and on another Sir David Lyndsayís pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis was acted; and again there were tournaments and joustings and all manner of knightly sports, and down that steep hillside, on some far-off bright morning, Bothwell dashed his horse and jumped madly into the lists, to the great admiration of Mary, who loved bravery above all things. Here, in other years, to wit in 1798, Rowland Hill preached to 10,000 people and here must end those desultory memorials. You get tired of hearing places in Edinburgh vaunted for their view, still, that from the Calton ranks very high indeed. You see everything from it, except the hill upon which you stand. No doubt, as R. L. S. observed, that is a considerable loss. It is most striking at night from the different elevation of the lights, the dim contours of the town, more than all the great masses of hills that loom in the darkness. I doubt if Sartor Resartus is much read at present, but it has some brilliant passages. One of the very best is the description of the sleeping town in the third chapter of the first book. I think it is Edinburgh taken from this spot. The Rue Saint Thomas de IíEnfer (in the seventh chapter of the second book) is Leith Walk. Carlyle had the same experience there as his hero had in the street with the evil name, and Leith Walk is close at hand, and Carlyle was here many a time and oft, and the place fits the picture, and that after all is the only thing material.


Return to Edinburgh and The Lothians index page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast