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Life Jottings of an Old Edinburgh Citizen
Chapter Twenty


"Dunediris honoured roll of sons."
Anon.

1850 - 70

AT the commencement of the second half of the last century there were in Edinburgh men of the highest distinction n medical science. Such names as Simpson and Christison, Syme and Goodsir, stand high in the history of the profession, and that great man, whose memory will always be revered, Lister, was also for a time associated with Edinburgh, and allied not only by professional ties to Professor Syme, but also by the closer tie of marriage, His wife being the Professor's daughter. And there were many shining, if at that time lesser, lights who afterwards attained high rank in the profession—the two Begbies, Annandale, and Watson; my old schoolfellow, Joseph Bell, the model on which Conan Doyle formed his Sherlock Holmes; John Duncan; and, still later, John Chiene, all friends of my own. I purposely postponed to the last two other friends, who besides attaining position in their profession, added to our pleasure by their productions in verse—Mac-lagan in charming lyrics and amusing songs, and Gillespie in comic :ditties in Highland style. Alas, all these are now gone; but there is one still with us who was Goodsir's assistant when I first saw him, now Principal Turner. I first met him in a third-class carriage of the night train to Liverpool, when he, with a number of students, was making an excursion to Wales. We were a lively party, and there was more fun than sleep that night; Turner, with the parental air that even then marked him, watching our lively cantrips with an indulgent eye. Many years later I sat on the Edinburgh University Court, and the capacity and zeal he showed there marked him out as the future Principal. No one served the University better, or showed himself more fit to preside over its affairs. His particular care was what he always spoke of as "the University chest." Other professors, though not of the medical school, call for remembrance, notably the never-to-be-forgotten Professor Blackie, the eccentric, cheerful, ram-stam scholar, who shot his critical arrows in all directions, but never gave a wound that pained. His personality, with his plaid over his shoulder, his weighty stick, his soft hat, and his long grey locks, was one of the sights of Edinburgh—always vigorous, always outspoken, and always worth listening to, even when it was not possible to agree with him. Two anecdotes illustrate his character well. In his salad days at the Bar, he at a Circuit Court, when defending a prisoner, took an objection to the relevancy of the indictment. On his stating it, the judges having looked at one another and shaken their heads, the senior said: "Oh, Mr. Blackie, there is nothing whatever in the objection." Biackie replied, "So I thought myself, my lord; but I did not know what your lordships might think." The other story is that by his direction a notice was put at his class-room door one day stating, "Professor Blackie will not be able to meet his classes tomorrow." Some wag, on his way into the class-room, rubbed out the "c" in "classes." The Professor, seeing this as he ascended the stair, promptly removed the "l," and passed on to his lecture-room.

One of the professors whose lectures I attended will always be remembered with respect and regard, Professor Campbell Fraser, who lectured for so many years on Logic and Metaphysics. His life and health have been prolonged far beyond the ordinary span, and the words of the poet may be well applied to him:

"The general favourite and the genera! friend,
Such age there is, and who shall wish its end,"

Another very interesting personality at that time was Professor Andrew Wilson, for whom was instituted a new Chair in the University, a Chair which, when he was called away from this life soon after and somewhat prematurely, ceased to exist, there being no one who could till It as he did. It was called the Char of Technology; his intention being to convey technical information in more direct association with practical matters than could be done from the Chairs of Abstract Science. he idea was to have a stimulating course towards the practical application of scientific knowledge. I attended his opening lecture, and recall its charm. He informed us that as a symbol of his subject he proposed a repiesentation of an eye in the centre of a hand, indicating that discernment and technical work should be wedded, what science could give being directly associated with practical working out of good from scientific knowledge. He was a man whom to lose was a loss indeed, gentle and persuasive, and discerning n an extraordinary degree, whom no one could know without being the better for it, not only in information, but in character. Had he lived, he would have been a great help to those who in h:s generation were striving for practical applications of knowledge, and who so often were crushed in their aspirations by the man of science, who was too apt to declare that there was nothing in what others saw, because he had not seen ^t himself, and even in many cases failed to look forward to possible practical applications of what he did see. Of this I have given some illustrations. If the man could be found who was fitted to fill Wilson's place, the setting up once more of a Chair of ethnology would be valuable to practical scientific progress.

I well remember a series of evening lectures for ladies and gentlemen, promoted by a lady-known for practical good work and philanthropy, Miss Sinclair of Ulbster; and how delightful and instructive were Professor Wilson's contributions, full of simple striking experimental illustrations over a wide range, most stimulating to the inquiring mind, and free from the jargon that too often tends to obscurity, leaving the listener bewildered.

Professor Piazz Smythe was also an interesting figure in the scientific world. He taught astronomy, I fear to a very small class. The work he did was stupendous. Pie was good enough to present to me a great volume entitled Stat dialogue, which conveyed nothing to me except the knowledge that when I ejaculated "My stars! I did not know what I was talking about, but I could form an i lea of the indefatigable labour that must have been necessary to compile it. A less technical work, but one also giving evidence of laborious research, was his book on the Great Pyramid, n which he sought to show that the structure had a scientific purpose, and was not a mere ostentatious tomb. I am aware, that his views were pooh-poohed and sneered at; but I will confess that they made more impression upon me than could be squeezed out of me by the pressure of the critics. This much he is entitled to be remembered for, that his life-work was un-weariedly carried out, and that most certainly he smoothed the way for those who were to follow him in a branch of study of the deepest interest. Although a dabbler, I will confess that I have shunned astronomy, having the strong feeling that once it were mounted as a hobby, it might become winged like Pegasus and carry me away from all other leisure interests into the skies among the stars, where I would lose my time, and so lose myself. But I can honour one who devoted his life to the study of the heavens.

William Edmonstone Aytoun, the Professor of Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres, also deserves to be remembered. He held a distinguished place in literature. His Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers and his Bothwell entitle him to high rank, and in a lighter vein, the Bon Gaultier Ballads, in which he and Sir Theodore Martin collaborated, are a standing testimony to lr 5 powers in humorous versification.

A man who did great work as a preacher and as a practical philanthropist was Dr. Guthrie, who was described in Cockburn's Journal as—"preeminently the orator of the poor.'' He will always be remembered with regard. His city work, and especially his organisation of the "Ragged Schools" entitle him to the gratitude of all good citizens, and his eloquence as a preacher—not the eloquence of mere freedom and elegance of speech, but the eloquence of the eager, loving heart—cannot be forgotten by those who heard him speak.

A word about a man who, if he were famous for nothing else, would deserve to be remembered for a story which many thousands have read, and which few can have read without feeling its touching simplicity and pathos. It is with that little book that the name of Dr. John Brown will always be associated. I cannot resist the temptation to tell an anecdote regarding "Rab,' which is known to no one but myself. An English lady, on  a visit to Edinburgh, required medical attendance, and called in Dr. John Brown. A friend, learning the fact that he was attending, said, "I didn't know you knew Dr. Brown." he reply was in quiet, soft English-lady tones: "Well, I did not know him, but I sent for him for the sake of Rab and his Dogs, you know.

Another citizen whose characteristics give him a claim to remembrance is Sir Daniel Macnee, who migrated to Edinburgh from Glasgow when his position as a portrait-painter was ensured, and who afterwards became President of the Royal Scottish Academy. He is remembered as a teller of stories, with extraordinarily graphic and humorous power. but he himself put them together is certain; however it may be as to the suggestion he received from actual occurrences. With a face which if not classical in featurewas full of vivvacity, and capable of assuming expressions which gave point to his words, his presence at a dinner-table made ft certain that host and guests would enjoy a How of humour that even a "John Shand" could not have resisted, I well remember an occasion when I sat next him at dinner, and came nearer the sensation of being choked with laughter than I ever was in all my life. For Sir Daniel apostrophised me as if I was the person that was being addressed by the character he was assuming for the moment, and the face and the tone gave such intensely comic flavour to the words that I became almost unable to breathe from pressure of laughter. His powers might well be called inimitable, but feeling, as I did, that when he was gone it would be regrettable f his stories should all fall out of knowledge, I tried to keep some of them alive. Having a retentive memory, I have at times—confessing that I was trying to give a reproduction—endeavoured to convey to a new generation some idea of his extraordinarily racy humour, and while no one could hope to reproduce exactly, I have always found that his stories are very acceptable, and give amusement to audiences of very varied types.

Speaking of Sir Daniel Macnee, leads to a word on the Royal Scottish Academy. There can be no doubt that from the time of Wilkie and Raeburn onwards, there was a development of pictorial art in Scotland which gave the Scottish painters a position of mark of no mean degree. It would be incidious to name a few, and it is not possible co name the many. Let it suffice to call attention to the fact that so many Scottish artists have attained the highest honours in London, a thing to be proud of, although in one view to be regretted. Just as the commanding position of Edinburgh in literature has been weakened by so much of Scottish literary power migrating to the great metropolis, so in the case of art London carries away many of our best men, after they have made their reputation in the Scottish School. I take this opportunity to mention a circumstance connected with our Edinburgh Raeburn, which is, I think, interesting. When Rochefort, the French anarchist, was an exile in this country, he wrote for the. Pans Figaro critiques on art, in which he was skilled. I saw in that paper an article of his, in which he said that he had gone to visit a collection of pictures by a Scotsman called Raeburn, and he ventured to predict that in another quarter of a century he would be looked on as the most distinguished portrait-painter of his time. How true was this prediction. Pictures which he painted for 100 or 200 are now selling at sums going in some cases above ,20,000.

Another citizen who calls for notice was the lovable Dean Ramsay of whom I knew well, and who enriched our Scottish literature with a collection of humorous anecdotes which have been a delight to countless readers. In his sacred office he served long and well, and the esteem in which he was held was by no means limited to those with whom he was directly associated in his ministry.

There was also coming into notice at this time one who became a marked character in Edinburgh life for many years—the Reverend Dr. Macgregor. Never in the history of the world was there a greater triumph of mind over matter.

All who remember his diminutive body supported on feeble limbs, and the great massive head above, will admit the truth of the intellectual triumph. With a powerful stentorian voice, and a mind supplying a torrent of well-chosen and apposite words, the listener lost all sense of the smallness of the man in the greatness of his powers as a preacher, he was sometimes so carried away, when he left his MS. and spoke at large, that things came pouring from his lips, of which :it might be said that they were such as "one would rather they had been differently expressed." One of his hearers assured me that upon an occasion he burst forth thus—I wish it were possible to give the almost raucous utterance, and the accompanying action: "And in that great and dreadful day, when you all stand before the great white throne, this question will be asked: 'Did not Dr. Macgregor tell you over and over again that unless you repented and turned from your evil ways, you would have to answer for it!" It says much for the consciousness of all present that the words came from the depth of affectionate earnestness, that their almost grotesque application of the sheep and goat parable could be accepted for its good intention, When this was told to me, my informant saw some incredulity in my face, but he solemnly assured me that what he said was true. Against such an extravagance as this, let all the earnest work he did during his long life, and particularly in St. Cuthbert's, stand to his honour. He was a man who left hosts of friends and not an enemy, and was an uncompromising servant of his Master.

In view of the extraordinary development which has taken place since the opening o the twentieth century, it may be worthy of notice that during the Sixties of last century Mr. Thomson, the engineer, who had been associated with my friend Colonel Crompton—now the consulting engineer of H.M. Road Board—in using steam-power for transit on roads in India, and who was admittedly the first inventor of the pneumatic tire, came to settle in Edinburgh on retiring from professional work. Of a highly ingenious and inventive mind, he pursued his efforts on mechanical road locomotion, and I have seen his steam tractor, with solid rubber tires several inches thick, on the street in Edinburgh. He also built a steam omnibus, which plied for a short time between Edinburgh and Leitb, but being contrary to law at that time, his promising venture was crushed by the police. I saw that omnibus some years later in a coach-house in Leith Walk, and have inquired what became of it, but could not learn anything about it. It must have been broken up long ago. It is to be regretted that it could not find a place in a museum, as it was the first public: vehicle that was run on rubber tires, by mechanical power, anywhere.

There was a gentleman, well known in Edinburgh for many years, to whom the expression ''a character" was freely applied—Mr. John Hope, W.S. He was one of those men, rarely met with, who by dogged passivity, which no pressure of authority could move, and no opposition could overcome, succeeded in getting his own way in almost everything he desired. Correspondence carried to the most extreme limit would wear down the other side, as constant dropping of water wears the hardest rock. He was unmoved by all appeals to sentiment. "Show me that it's not my right," he said to a friend of mine who remonstrated with him on a point of sharp practice, "you need not talk to me about honour and that kind of thing; convince me that it is not my right, and I will give it up at once." That was the epitome of the man— loopholes for himself, none for the opposite party, was the essence of Ids business policy. To keep himself abstractly in the right was sufficient for him, and unless his opponent could show him that he was technically not entitled to maintain his view, he was adamant to all appeals to considerate feeling it; told of him that when anyone came to his office on business, a secret record was taken of what passed. If the visitor made a statement as to what had been said at a previous meeting, John Hope, if he thought it inaccurate, would say, "Ah, but that is not consistent with what you said then," and going across the room spoke to his shorthand clerk, who was behind a screen, saying, "Bring the notes of my conversation with Mr. - on 11th of last April," and when they were brought, directed him to read them to the astonished visitor, who little knew that when he called on business there was "a pen scratching behind the arras," recording his every word. It was characteristic of Mr. Hope, that he was quite open about this reporting behind a screen, evidently seeing nothing in it that anyone could object to.

His vis inertia was sublime. No one but he could have received toleration, when he formed a corps of Volunteers, in which every man on joining had to sign an undertaking of abstinence from alcohol and tobacco. Yet he was allowed to carry on an organisation of 500 men for many years on that footing, and dismissed men whose only offence was their being seen with a pipe. No one else would have been suffered to break the regulation that Volunteers were not to wear gold lace or gilt buttons, but again, for more than a quartet of a century, John Hope's men paraded with gold ornaments. No one but he would have been successful in resisting discipline for a long period, arid holding on to his battalion command for many years contrary to the Queen's Regulations regarding retirement at a certain age. Correspondence in heavy sheaves bore down and smothered official authority. Dr. Cifford's passive resistance was nothing to his.

Two anecdotes will illustrate his claim to be classed as a "character." In the Queen's Brigade, when under my command, the company of John Hope was most carefully inspected by him, he paying little regard to rifles or accoutrements, but slowly moving along and sniffing, that any trace of scent of spirits or tobacco might be detected. On one occasion, on a Sunday afternoon, he met a man who had recently enlisted, and stopped to speak to him, standing up pretty close. Suddenly he looked the man hard in the face, and the following conversation took place:

"John, you've been drinking

"No. Master Hope, upon ma wuurd, I havenut tastit a drop since I jined the caump'y."

The man spoke so earnestly that Hope was inclined to believe him,( but he took another snuffle, and holding up his finger said slowly:

"But you've been smoking, John!'

"Dod, Maijter Hope, yee'd make an uncommon fine pinterbitch," was the reply, being a compliment to the dehcacy of the feminine olfactory nerves.

I was a party to the other story myself. Hope had succeeded, as no one else could have done, in obtaining authority to erect a stone building at the entrance to the Hunter's Bog in Queen's Park, as a storehouse for ammunition, offensively affecting the almost unique solitary character of the view, in a situation close to—practically in—the city. It was a most objectionable obtrusion, erected before the public knew of the proposal. The artistic soul of the President of the Royal Scottish Academy, Sir George Harvey, was roused by this vandalism, the more so as it faced him when he looked out at the lovely view from Regent Terrace. He immediately took steps to go with a deputation to Mr. Layard, who then was at the head of the Woods and Forests Department, to endeavour to obtain redress. I met him shortly after, on the steps of the Post Office, and said:

"Well, Sir George, I see you've been in London about 'Hope's Hut"' (as we had dubbed it); "how did you get on?"

"Oh," he replied, beaming all over, "we had a most satisfactory meeting with Mr. Layard, and the building is to be taken down."

I said, "Sir George, don't be too sure—remember who you have to deal with; it will not be taken down."

"Oh, but indeed, I assure you; the Commissioner was most kinnd, and the fiat has gone forth. It is to be removed at once."

I replied, "I hope you will forgive me for being obstinate, Sir George, but I know John Hope a great deal better than you do, and the 'Hut' will never be taken down as long as John Hope is alive.' We parted, each of us equally confident—he delightedly and I morosely.

Hope set to work with his usual pertinacity. He succeeded—in many cases by the water-dropping process of wearing down—in getting all the members of the Town Council to sign a Petition in favour of allowing the "Hut' to remain on the express stipulations that it should be lowered by one-half, and that it should be overgrown with ivy.

Prophets do not generally mourn when their predictions are fulfilled, but I lament my success in the role. The Hut was never reduced in height; no ivy was ever planted round it, and it stands to this day, another Edinburgh blot on natural beauty, like a square of diachylon plaster on a lovely woman's face. John Hope's triumphs were many, and all to official or public chagrin. The next time I met Harvey, I said: "Well, what about Hopes Hut?" "Ah," was the reply, "you were right— alas, Mr. Hope was too many for us. What can't be cured must be endured."

Another "character" is brought to memory by this reference to "Hope's Hut." Many can recall the bluff exterior of one who was always spoken of as Sam Bough, and whose work as an artist was and is well known. He was of the rough diamond order, and coming from the Midlands of England, he still retained his characteristic style of speech, although settled for many years in Edinburgh. He did not get on well with his chief in the Scottish Academy, Sir George Harvey, and lost no opportunity to have a "dig'' at him. I have heard him speak of Harvey's pictures as specimens of the "Soolpher and Traycle ' school. It so happened that he got to know the fact that Sir Georgewas making efforts to have "Hope's Hut" removed, and he took an opportunity in a company to perpetrate a sarcastic allusion to this effort


SARAH SIBBALD, "APPLE GLORY"

of Harvey's. Said he: "I've eerd a good deal letly about 'Ope's 'Ut in the 'Unter's Bog, and 'Arvay doosn't lyke it; now if' Arvay was a lanscep penter, he would know that it's a gret himprovement to the scene." It s said—I know not with what amount of verity—that on one occasion when Harvey sent in for exhibition a Highland glen with deer m the foreground, Sam sent in a practically empty canvas, and on varnishing day, with amazing speed rushed a similar scene on to it, and the story goes—although again I do not vouch for it —that having put down a itmilar price of this hasty performance in the catalogue as 200, the red star for "sold" was affixed to it on the first day of the exhibition, while Harvey's was not starred. But having known Sam, I can vouch for it, that inspite of these cantrips, he was a kind-hearted man at bottom. When M'Culloch died, leaving unfinished pictures in his study, Sam Bough went to the house, and spent much labour in making good what was unfinished, for the sake of the family, and this although he and the deceased Academician had not been on speaking terms for some time before the death. I have known of other kind and generous things done by him in a most unostentatious way. I have always felt that in these "digs," as I have called them, and from which Harvey was not the only sufferer, there was more of the rough joker than of the vindictive satirist.

Two artists of the period call for notice—Sir Noel Paton and Sir George Reid, representing the imaginative and the portrait branches of art, the latter President of the R.S.A. Many others might be mentioned. As already stated, most of them migrated to London, an action to be regretted, perhaps not for their own sakes, but for ours.

Those I have enumerated are of the interesting men of Edinburgh during my earlier years of manhood. There were others—many; but it is not possible to refer to all, and I therefore confine myself to those with whom I came into contact personally, or in connection with public business.

One other "character" calls for a word—and it is one of the fair sex. Sarah Sibbald, the lady who had a fruit-barrow at the corner of the old Theatre Royal, was known to all Edinburgh. Stout—very stout—and with a face as rubicund as the finest of her apples—she sat and sold in a gruff order, "Move on there", making her afraid. Her character was as good as her fruit. So esteemed was she that when the sheds were put up for the erection of the new Post Office, the Board of Works installed her on a raised dais in the corner, where, sheltered from the weather, she carried on her business in great style. I remember my friend, Charles Doyle (Sir Conan's father), who was an official in the Works Office, seizing my arm, and pointing to Sarah on her throne, saying, "Isn't that grand?" It was. The only extant portrait of her does not, except as regards breadth, do her justice. Hers was a bright kindly face, with cheeks as rosy as her best apples.


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