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Life Jottings of an Old Edinburgh Citizen
Chapter One


" I remember, I remember,
The house where I was born.

1836 - 40

DECEMBER 27,1836, was the day on which the light was first seen by yours faithfully. Edinburgh was the City, and Great King Street the place. Looking back on these seventy-seven years, recollection goes to something like seventy-four of them, or a little less. It is remarkable how sharply and how far memory prevails to hold a picture of the remote past, when an unusual and striking incident has occurred, even at a very early age of the observer. The first event in my life in Edinburgh which made an indelible impression was the marriage of a half-sister, when I was less than four years old. It was a drawing-room marriage, as was usual in Scotland n those days, and remembrance of it is clear. I can see the great square footstool on which I sat, and from which my gaze was concentrated on the bridecake in the corner at one moment, and at another on the clergyman in his white neckcloth, uttering words that conveyed nothing to me. I also remember the shower of silver which was thrown to the crowd as the bride and bridegroom drove away, a custom no longer in use. The cry of "Pooer oot" is no more heard in the land. A. "pooer oot" of rice or pasteboard confetti does not draw as did the shower of coins. All these incidents are quite vivid and real to me, so true it is that

"Small things long past will be remembered clear,
When things more weighty and more near
Are waxen dim to us."

This is mentioned, because it is the very first incident that memory appears to hold, so that it can be reproduced with certainty. Doubtless, numbers of others are stored up in that mysterious way, in which room is found on what may be called the shelves of the brain, for a record of many an event which no personal effort will revivfy and represent to the; conscious mind, but which some exciting cause may throw, as by a sudden flash, upon the screen of memory. hat such a phenomenon does sometimes take place will be exemplified by an incident which occurred at a later period of life, to be noticed in its proper place.

The event which of all others stamped itself deep on the tablets of my infant mind was the first visit of Queen Victoria to Scotland in 1842. How well I remember my father taking my sister and me to a Grand stand erected in what was then a grazing field between Pitt Street and Brandon Street, and I can recall the exact location of it by having seen through the space between the floor boards, the filthy sewage-laden mill stream taken from the Water of Leith, and carried along the back of Moray Place on to Canonmills, after serving the mills at Stockbridge. Modern sanitary zeal would have forbidden the placing of a crowd immediately above such a foul stream, on a stand in which it was to sit for many hours. Opposite the end of the stand there were erected a barricade of considerable height, and ponderous gates to represent the City port of old. These were to be closed until the ceremony had been gone through of presenting Her Majesty with the silver keys of her ancient loyal town of Edinburgh. There we sat for several weary hours, until the news arrived that the entry would not be made till the following morning, and all had to go home disappointed. Next day early we were once more in the grandstand, and full of anticipation. Every body expected that there would be sufficient warning of the approaching procession by the sight of the Lord Provost and Council in their robes assembling, and the gates being closed. Suddenly, we saw excitement in Brandon Street—hats waved, and ladies' handkerchiefs in lively motion, and sounds of loud cheering reached us. A number of unfortunate people, who had been walking leisurely down between the crowded lines to reach their stands, were seen running back at full speed, making first to one side and then to the other, in terror of the cavalry escort that came on at a full trot, filling the whole space between the barriers, and before there was time to realise what was happening the royal carriage swept through the open gateway—no Provost, no keys, no mace, no sword being there. Quickly as they went by, I .saw the Queen and Prince distinctly; she in one of the wide spread bonnets of the day, and he with a very tall hat held in his hand, both bowing first to one side and then to the other. But it was a twenty seconds' view only; most disappointing to those who had waited in vain the day before and lost the chance of seeing her well,—the carriage not be <ng stopped at the gates, and the ceremony of the keys performed.

History tells us that there had been a failure of understanding between Sir Robert Peel, the minister in attendance, and the municipality, the latter not having been informed that Her Majesty would come up from Granton so early, the hour being about that of ordinary breakfast time. The contretemps had its amusing side, and two young ladies drew up, on the same day, a clever skit, winch was sung in many a street in the evening, and sold in thousands, in which the Lord Provost, Sir James Forrest, and his bailies were humorously chaffed. The few stanzas following are a specimen of the song, which is a parody on the old ditty, "Hey, Johnny Cope." The opening lines were:

"Hey, Jamie Forrest, are ye waukin yet?
Or are yer bailies snorin' yet?"

There were many verses, but two may suffice as specimens:

"The frigate guns they loud did roar,
But louder did the bailies snore;
They thocht it was an unco bore
To rise up early in the morning.

Hey, Jamie Forrest, &c.

The Queen she came to Brandon Street
The Provost and the keys to meet,
But div ye think that she's to wait
Yer waukin up in the morning.

Hey, Jamie Forrest,

The secret of the authorship was well kept, and it was not revealed till a few years ago, when it was learned from Mr. David Scott-Moncrieff that the song was written in collaboration by his two sisters, who must have been but young girls at the time. Their witty lines entitle them to be remembered.

All in the grand stand were struck dumb with disappointment, and once more returned home aggrieved. Meantime the civic dignitaries, who were leisurely getting into their carriages to come down in state, hearing with consternation that the Queen had reached the City, started off at a gallop to try to intercept the procession on its way to Dalkeith, and pay their respects on the road, They were not successful, as the cavalcade went at a smart trot, and so they too came back with woebegone demeanour.

The Queen, on learning what had happened, good-naturedly altered her itinerary, and devoted a day to an official entry into Edinburgh. The lofty barricade was removed from Canonmills Burn to the High Street, and erected across it at the west end of the City Chambers, The royal carriage I see still, surrounded by the Royal Archers, the Queen's Bodyguard, who had no chance of doing their duty when the cavalcade came up from Granton at a trot. The red of the velvet cushion on which the City keys lay is still with me, seen as I looked down from the roof of St. Giles', and also the rapid waving of the ladies handkerchiefs from the top of the long arched gateway in front of the municipal buildings.

All, however, was not happiness that day. I learned thus early in my life how the joy and the distressful go together. We were taken after the ceremony to Bank Street, to a private house, and there from the window saw a sad sight— a dead body and several stretchers with injured people being taken by the police to the Infirmary. A grand-stand had been stormed by the crowd, who climbed on to to it in such numbers that it gave way, and many were precipitated onto the street. These stretchers I can still see quite vividly before me, and I remember how the crowd was stilled at the sight.

Of course there was an illumination at night. Besides the great gas devices at banks and clubs and colleges, every citizen was expected to fix candles in the frames of his window-panes, so that each street was one blaze of light. I am ashamed to confess to-day, for the first time, that we small people, sister and self, displayed a mean conceit, despising neighbours over the way, some of whom had a smaller number of candles to the window than we had—an indication that our vices are not acquired, but are born with us, and have to be overcome. It may be that the little folks across the street envied us, while we scorned them. The poet with insight makes envy and contempt relatives when he speaks of—

"Envy's abhorred child, Detraction."

They are both propensities to which childhood is prone. Happy are they whose parents do not foster them by example, and gently weed them out before the roots go deep.

This domestic illumination had its charm, every street being lighted up. It would hardly be suitable in these days, when there is but one candle to each house, fixed in a very dirty candlestick, and used only for night visits to the coal-cellar. The illuminations of to-day may be more gorgeous, more magnificent, but those who remember the "every house" lighting of 1842 will have a memory of something delightful in its simplisity, and having the charm of the family expression of loyalty— each house in every street beaming forth its individual expression of welcome The words "every 9 house" are true as a general expression, but there was, as in all human affairs, the exception, which proves the rule. Unlit houses, or houses where there was death or serious sickness, were not lighted up. In such cases, two men with flambeaux were stationed on the doorstep. His was a wise, indeed a necessary precaution. The youthful glazier was out that night with his wallet of stones, and woe to the windows of the houses that showed no light. As we little people were being led up towards Princes Street, we laughed with the malicious glee of childhood when now and again was heard the crash, that told of window panes broken by the dozen, and perhaps with even greater glee in one instance, when the windows of a house received their volley, just as the men with the flam beaux were coming down the street; too late in taking up their stand to save their employer's glass. Of course we were naughty, and I doubt not we were told so, although I cannot recall it; for a child's memory for rebuke is perhaps the least easy to bring up, unless there is the symbol of a cuff or a slap, or worse, to stimulate recollection. But that we did enjoy the crashes is some thing indelible on memory's tablet.

Of the greater illumination devices, some are still remembered, particularly those of the banks and clubs come up before me. We walked far and we gazed long, without any appreciation of how time was passing, so delightful was it. to a child to see so much brilliancy. But it was neither the splendour of the devices, nor the bright shining of the candle-lighted streets, that excited my infant surprise to its highest degree that night. When we reached home, the governess held out her watch to me—I had begun to learn clock-reading —and my eyes opened wide, and a cry of "Oh!" escaped my lips. It was ten minutes past ten, and to me the idea of being out of bed till such an hour seemed overwhelming as an event—something that to my small mind was inconceivable. And so ended the first great public clay of my life. If my recollections, though vivid, err in any substantial particular, It is a melancholy comfort to know that there must be few left who could correct me, and if they d'^d attempt to do so, I might well meet them by saying that their memory was at fault and not mine. At least we would agree that, apart from details, it was a great and a glorious day at the opening of a great and glorious reign.

When Her Majesty visited Holyrood, she and the Prince inspected the historical rooms without any ceremony, dispensing with the attendance of their suite. They were duly shown the supposed stains of Rizzio's blood at the top of the staircase, down which his body was thrown. When the bed of Queen Mary was pointed out by the old woman who attended to visitors, the Queen put out her hand to examine the silk hangings, and was immediately rebuked by a voice saying," Yere noll to titch." "But," said the Queen, "you took it in your own hand just now." The sharp reply was, "Aam allooed to touch it, but naebuddy else is allooed to tiich it," so the Queen, smiling to the Prince, kept back her hand. I heard this detailed shortly after it occurred, with my "little pitchers ears, so can repeat it with a good conscience as a permissible bit of hearsay. One may wonder if the sour caretaker ever learned who it was that she had snubbed, and if so, how she felt.

It s amusing to notice that in the detailed narrative oft! is visit of the Queen to Scotland,was thought worth while to announce as an amazing circumstance, that the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway had conveyed 1175 visitors from Glasgow and the West on the occasion. Such a figure is now of everyday occurrence. How little was the revolution that was to take place in public transit by the introduction of the iron road foreseen then! The possibilities and probabilities did not enter the public mind. Lord Cockburn, one of the most intelligent and far-seeing citizens of his time, thought he was giving the free rein to prophecy when he said in his journal under year

"In twenty years London will probably be within fifteen hours by land of Edinburgh, and every other place will be shaking hands, without making a long arm, with its neighbour of only a county or two off."

It was about the same time, or not much before it, that a Quarterly Review, sneering at railroads, declared to readiness to back another Thames against the Greenwich Railway for speed travelling!

About the time of my birth, or shortly after, a special Parliamentary Committee sat to consider some railway questions. One of these was : "What is the route to be taken by the single line to be made into Scotland?" And there was no one sitting on the committee, no engineer or promoter-witness, into whose head it entered as a thought conceivable that there could ever be more than one railway line, and that a single one, into Scotland. I his I heard stated by Mr. Gladstone <n the House of Commons in 1887, in a debate on the proposed Channel tunnel in which he made one of the most interesting speeches I have ever listened to. At the time when he made this speech, instead of one single line there were three double lines into Scotland, on which twenty-four fast express trains ran daily between London and Edinburgh, and many others from the large towns of England.

1 he above facts are recorded, as relating to my childhood's time, to indicate how little the possibilities of a new invention are appreciated. The Edinburgh citizen will realise this by a concrete example. When the Caledonian line was being surveyed, the proper direction for it was, beyond all doubt, by Penicuik and Riggar valley. But one who had been employed as a young engineer in the laying of it out, assured me that it was not then conceived to be possible to ascend Liberton hill without the aid of a fixed engine and a rope, and that this led among other causes, to preference being given to the route which went through the Carnwath Bog—of all places in the world—m which an engine was swallowed up shortly after the line was opened, only the end of the funnel remaining visible.

Another curious fact illustrating the fear of gradients, is that the East Coast line from Edinburgh to London was so laid off along the line of the old post road, that the traveller who supposes he is going southwards to London is, when he has travelled 28 miles, and reaches Dunbar, 2 miles north of Edinburgh from whence he started.

Although it takes me out of Edinburgh, it may interest the reader to get an idea of travelling n the early Forties, if I say a few words about my first railway journey, when I was five years old. My father had to go to Madeira with a delicate half-sister of mine, and he took my own sister and me to London, to live with my uncle, the Adjutant-General, during his absence, Well do I remember the excitement as we watched for the railway omnibus that was to take us to Hay market terminus. The building of the station above ground was then exactly as it is now. Luggage was passed down to the level of the platform by a steep shoot of wood, which shone with the polish of many a portmanteau. With what eager glee I watched a great lady's trunk chasing her own bandbox down the shoot, and how chagrined I was when the bandbox seemed to me to take fright and slid over the side of the shoot on to the floor, lust as it was on the point of being crushed flat against the last heavy package that had gone down. Railway travelling was then very different from what it s now. Ours was the important train of the morning, but more than two hours passed before we descended the tunnel to Queen Street, and completed the distance of 47˝ miles over one of the most level times in the country, except at the Glasgow end. It w ill hardly be believed, but—as l saw when I was older —there was a blackboard at every station, on the Edinburgh and Glasgow line, on which this rather Irish nocice appeared in bold white letters: "Passengers are advised to be at the station in good time, as the Company cannot guarantee that the train will not start before the hour stated in the Company's Time Tables! The failure to guarantee would rather be the other way in the twentieth century.

Travelling by steamer to Liverpool, we were taken on from there by train to Birmingham, which were a shedule in the middle of the night, being turned out on to the line outside of the city, the passengers' luggage, which was put un to an open truck, being pushed along the cinder track in front of us, we following on foot through the tunnel into the station, where I remember being taken into the great dining-room, and gazing in wonder at the long line of dishes with all sorts of cold meats. I hey looked to me like a hundred, having never been in a public dining-room before. We were, after waiting some time, put into another tram and carried on to London, arriving early in the morning, after forty-six hours travelling, little better in time than could be done by a fast mail-coach. What a contrast to the present day, when the traveller can leave Edinburgh at 7.45 in the mornmg, be in London from 4.10 to 11.35, and be back m Edinburgh at 7.10 next morning. Contrast this with the positive utterance of Sir Henry Herbert in the House of Commons in 1671: "If a man were to propose to convey us regularly to Edinburgh in coaches in seven days, and bring us back <n seven more, should we not vote him to Bedlam?"

When railways were established, and iŤ daily use, there were thousands who vowed that they would never put a foot in a railway carriage, and there were a few of those thousands who never did so.


ORIGINAL RAILWAY CARRIAGE

What many people thought about railways in those early days is illustrated by a scene witnessed when my father, being in bad health, travelled to Malvern, and my stepmother, for his sake only, took her place in the train. I see her still, sitting in the carriage, as we children were taking leave of her. She had her handkerchief tightly pressed to her eyes, so that she might see nothing, and begged us not to make her uncover them. Amore abject picture of terror and dejection I never saw. Four years after this I went a journey with her and all the fear was gone, and she could chat and laugh like others. I remember her amusement, and that of other ladies in the compartment, when I showed her with schoolboy pride my skill in throwing sweetmeats into the air and catching them in my mouth. All feeling of looking for catastrophe was gone.

In my childhood days I remember well hearing the denunciations of railroads—their dangers, their tendencies to injure health, their ruinous effect on trade, their causing all cows within reach of the railway line to refuse to be milked, their ruin of the horse-breeding trade, and many other imaginary calamities which were certain to follow their introduction. It is amusing to find in one's reading of an earlier period, how the introduction of coaches was denounced. Dickens gives a fanciful expression of the kind of things said, making one of his characters in Little Domt say:

Yes—along of them mails, "hey ought to be prosecuted and fined, them mails. The only wonder is that people aren't oftener killed by them. They're a public nuisance, them mails. Why, a native Englishman is put to it every night of his life, to save his life from them mails.

I came across the other day a solemn warning sent to a bishop who was about to travel by coach from London to Edinburgh, begging him to break his journey at York, as numerous cases had occurred of people who were travelling the whole way, dying of apoplexy from "the dangerous speed at which these coaches were driven. Just in the same way were all sorts of evils prophesied as consequences of railway travelling, and again of motor travelling on roads.

It appears to men to-day a thing almost incredible that when the transition from coaches running singly to trains of coaches hauled together, there should have been an absolute want of imagination and inventive thought, to adapt the style and construction of the vehicles to the new conditions. Instead of the question being put to the designer by himself: "How best shall a vehicle be constructed for the new service?" the thought seems to have been, "How shall mail-coaches as we have them be dragged along by our engines?" What had already been done in rail haulage was confined to colliery lines for conveying coals, therefore it seems to have been assumed that the problem was how to take a train of trucks and put carnage bodies on them. Accordingly the. first passenger trains consisted of mail-coaches without wheels set on trucks, the majority of the passengers being perched on the top as of old, to face the weather at thirty instead of ten miles an hour, ''here are engravings extant of such trains —some dozen trucks with mail-coach bodies mounted on the top of them. So unimaginative were those who regulated the details of railway travelling, that the passengers were booked by way-bill, a copy of which was handed to the guard, just as was done in booking for a mail-coach. Even when it was seen to be more sensible to make carriages for the railroad longer and closed in, the mail-coach idea did not altogether lose its hold on the designer. I he three compartments of a carriage had their sides made to bulge out in curves similar to the lines of the old mail-coach. Such carriages were still running a few years ago on the South Eastern Railway.* The guard was, as he had been in the mail-coach, perched upon the top. And as the luggage had been piled on the roof of the mail-coach, so the luggage was put on the top of the railway carriages. His practice had not finally been abandoned by the year 1870 on fast express trains. A burning up of luggage so stowed was not a very uncommon event.

It may surprise the traveller of to-day, whose train glides smoothly along at speeds of fifty and sixty miles an hour, to be told that the first lines laid down had square blocks of stone to support the rails. The first Scottish railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow was so constructed. The passenger of to-day on that route can see the stone fences on each side made of these blocks, in which the mark? of the chairs are still visible. As illustrating the terrible roughness of such a time, it is told of Mr. Baird, the great ironmaster—Sandy Baird, as he was commonly called—and whose tongue was not of the most melliifluous, that on returning from the opening of the Slamannan railway, he replied to a friend who inquired whether he had enjoyed his trip: f Injyed it, hut, tut; they puttit me into a first-cless cayridge, and kickit me hard a' the way doon."

I was not too young when the railway boom and subsequent slump took place, to be unable to gather up much from the conversation of my elders. I heard all about Hudson, "the railway king," and recall a caricature of him seated on a throne, with a poker for his sceptre, and a circle of eager candidates for shares holding out their bags of savings, and kneeling in entreaty for allotments. I also remember seeing a poet :al effusion which opened thus:

"Railway shares, railway shares,
Hunted by stags and bulls and bears."

My child s curiosity was aroused to wonder how these animals could be hunters of shares—what ever shares might be—and had just to take ;t as I got it, in the same way that the cow jumping over the moon, and a hunt of a spoon by a dish, were ideas accepted by my childish fancy, hen the idea came home to me when I was older, and heard of the disaster, when King Hudson lost his crown, and his worshippers lost their money. People today have no idea of the state of things that existed then. I remember hearing my father asking that labels be put upon our luggage, and his being told that passengers must address their own luggage, as the Company— -which shall be nameless—could not afford to provide labels! A little later in the Forties I saw every carriage, every seat, every bell, every luggage truck of the Caledonian Railway, labelled—"Grabbit and Severn" (the actual names I forget)"Solicitors for the Creditors of the Caledonian Railway Company." '1 he building of the station in Edinburgh was stopped when the walls were a few feet high, and rough wooden ticket offices fitted inside the incomplete edifice, I heard my elders say that many shareholders, to escape frum further risks, would gladly give their shares to anyone that would take them off their hands without any price, and many changed hands for a trifle. The flood of disaster on that line was stayed by the same "Sandy Baird," walking into the office one morning, and saying: "I want a wheen shares,'" to the great surprise of those on the other side of the counter, who asked: "How many shares would you like to buy, Mr. Baird. "Oh,' said he, "That a haunder thoosand poonds worth." The labels were washed off the carriages, the seats, the bells, and all the rest, very soon after that. This "Sandy Baird" was a great character. It is told of him that when he buiIt a house for himself, he went to a bookseller in Glasgow to get books to fill the library shelves, and said, when asked what books he would have : "There Watty Scott, gie me twa dizen o' him, and I'll tak1 a dizzen o' Willy Shakspere,and a dizzen o' Rabbie Burns," &c., &c.. "And what about the binding," said the bookseller; "will you have them done in russia or morocco?" to which Sandy replied: "What fur wud I go to Russiae or Moroccy; whut fur can I no git them bound in Glesca?


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