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The Story of Leith
XXIII. Queen's Men versus King's Men


THE Treaty of Edinburgh had no sooner been concluded than the Privy Council charged the provost, bailies, and council of the city to demolish the fortifications which the French with so much labour and skill had erected round Leith. In a short time the whole line of the defensive works facing Edinburgh was levelled with the ground. The walls on the, east and west sides of the town remained, though in a ruinous state, for many years, and, as the "Ladies’ Walk," the last portion continued to form a well-known landmark until about 1789.

Landing of Mary, Queen of Scots

On Tuesday morning, the 19th of August, a gloomy misty day that seemed to be grieving in sympathy with her on her separation from her beloved France, Queen Mary arrived in Leith Roads. She had not been expected till the last days of the month, when the nobles and gentry had been summoned "with their honourable companies to welcome her Majesty." No. preparation had therefore been made to receive her, but the cannon of her two galleys soon brought out the people in crowds to greet her. She was accompanied by her three uncles of the House of Guise, by her four Maries, who, like herself, owing to their long residence in France, always spoke Scots with a French accent, and others of lower order. On landing in the forenoon beside the King’s Wark, a part of the Shore that has seen so much of the pageantry of Scottish history, she was received by the Earl of Moray and a great crowd of all ranks.

As no preparation bad yet been made for her at Holyrood she "dynit in Andro Lambis house," in Leith, where, according to John Knox, she remained till towards evening, when she proceeded to the Palace. Queen Mary had not far to travel after landing to reach Andrew Lamb’s house, for it stood, as parts of it may still, at the head of the close which has been named from himself as its chief resident—Andrew Lamb’s Close— and is so familiar to-day to lovers of old-time Leith by the name of an eighteenth century inhabitant, Willie Waters, of whom no tradition or history has been preserved.

Andrew Lamb's House, Water CloseAt the head of Water’s Close, on the line of Water Street, stands a fine specimen of the picturesque street architecture of days long gone by, which shows us that, if the streets of the Leith of other and older days were narrow and gloomy, the eye of the wayfarer was ever being arrested by the quaint and pleasing variety presented by the outline of turret, roof, and gable against the background of the sky. This Water’s Close mansion, the finest specimen of old Scottish architecture in Leith, was the house of the Lambs and theft descendants down to a century ago; but how much of the old house as it stands to-day dates from Queen Mary’s time it is hard to say. The dining-room of the Lambs, with its early seventeenth-century alcoved sideboard, now forms a house by itself of three apartments, and the other rooms have been similarly transformed. A great courtyard, which was once the garden of the mansion and in which Queen Mary may have strolled on that gloomy far-off August day, is now a tradesman’s yard, and may be entered from a pend in Water Street.

Later in the day the youthful queen continued her journey to Holyrood. Though she captivated all by her beauty and stately carriage, her cavalcade did not form the brilliant pageant associated with the arrival of former princesses at the Shore, for the two Dutch ships carrying her horses and baggage had been captured by English war vessels and detained at Newcastle. In Mary’s eye the ill-favoured little Scottish hackneys, so meanly caparisoned, on which she and her escort rode from the Shore to Holyrood, looked wretched indeed compared, with the superb palfreys and their gay trappings to which she had been accustomed in France.

Story, but not history, associates two other Leith mansions with the ill-fated Queen Mary. The one is Hillhousefield House, now renamed Tay House since engineering works have invaded its once pleasant lawns and gardens that used to stretch down to the river’s edge; and the other is the stately old mansion of Trinity Grove, which did not come into existence till long after Queen Mary’s time. According to story, the weeping thorn that once adorned the old garden of Hillhousefield was planted by the hapless queen’s own fair hand.

But like many another fondly believed Queen Mary tree, it was not in reality planted by the queen, but grown from a slip taken from a tree the queen was believed to have planted. The name naturally continued to attach itself to the tree, but in the lapse of years the reason for the name passed from memory. The story of the ancient gardener of Trinity Grove, on his way to Holyrood with his basket of nettle tops over his arm for "sallets" to the queen, of which her French upbringing had made her extremely fond, is a pretty but wholly fanciful tale.

If the sorry steeds which conveyed Queen Mary and her retinue to Holyrood gave her an unfavoarable impression of her native land, that feeling would in no way be relieved by the appearance of Leith at this time. The burnings of Hertford, and the destructive fire of the English guns during the siege of the year before, had left much of the town in ruins, of which the greater part still awaited rebuilding; for during this troubled and unsettled period the country was far from prosperous, and little building seems to have taken place. These two events—the burning of the town by Hertford, and its siege in 1559—60 by the Lords of the Congregation aided by the English—mark an important era in the history of Leith. Its oldest buildings, of which so very few survive, belong in all likelihood to a period subsequent to these disastrous events.

That the period following the siege of Leith and the troubled reign of Queen Mary was a great building era in Leith was very noticeable before the institution of the Improvement Scheme of 1881. This scheme brought about the formation of Henderson Street, when so many of Leith’s ancient houses were swept into the builder’s rubbish heap. The dated and inscribed lintels of such of those houses as possessed them all bore that they had been erected during the period covered by the dates 1570—1630. A few of these lintels have been rebuilt into the walls of the modern buildings erected on the sites of the old, and several are illustrated in this book.

The custom of engraving texts of Scripture or other pious legends on the lintels of their doorways seems to have been as common among the inhabitants of old-time Leith as among those of Edinburgh. These inscriptions speak to us not only of the piety but also of the superstition of our ancestors. They were not only meant to invoke God’s blessing on the house and its occupants, but at the same time to act as a charm against the entrance of evil, whether from fairy or witch or even from Satan himself. In pre-Reformation days Leith girls and boys wore texts of Scripture suspended round their necks to protect them against harm from similar sources. A survival of this superstition is the gifting of cake and cheese to the first person met on the street when a baby is carried to its christening. In the old superstitious days this gift was meant to propitiate any person met with whose appearance and look might betoken some evil wish or other malignant intention towards the child.

The recovery of the town from the effects of such destructive invasions as those of Hertford would have been much longer delayed but for the Reformation in 1560 and the peaceful reign of James VI. A period of comparative prosperity then set in, to which the many buildings erected in Leith at this tulle bear ample witness. The nobles and gentry, among whom the Church lands and other property had been so largely divided after the Reformation, found themselves suddenly richer than before, and spent freely in the erection of town houses, like Balmerino House in the Kirkgate and the large mansion dated 1615 in Queen Street, the only old one now remaining there. One which, till sixty years ago, stood opposite this house was once thought to have been the residence of Mary of Guise, and to that mistake the street owes its present name. An illustration of the tirling pin or ancient door-knocker of this house is shown in Chapter XXII.

Balmerino House and the old mansion still surviving in Queen Street are entirely different in their style of architecture from the earlier mansion of the Lambs in Water’s close, with its pointed gables so well adapted to a snowy climate like ours, and with their straight eaves, their string courses or decorative mouldings, and their dormer windows surmounted by thistle and rose finials show the Renaissance or new style that now came into fashion, largely from Italy. For the reformation in religion was only one result of a great change that took place in men’s thoughts at this period, the middle of the sixteenth century.

Old Mansion, Queen Street, once an Episcopalian Meeting-HouseThe invention of printing helped to bring about this change. The first printing press was brought into Leith from Flanders for Walter Chepman in 1507. In his booth, first in the Cowgate and then in the High Street of Edinburgh, books were first printed in Scotland. With the introduction of the printing press mediaeval times may be said to have ended in Leith and modern times begun. The wealth the spoliation of the Church brought to the nobles and gentry enabled them to spend more freely and to live more luxuriously. This brought greater wealth to the Leith and Edinburgh merchants and craftsmen. Their standard of living also rose, and showed itself in their more commodious houses and larger business premises, some of which remain with us in Leith to this day. Others, with quaintly decorated and inscribed doorways, may be found in the numerous closes off the High Street and Canongate of Edinburgh.

A very fine specimen of one of these Renaissance mansions, in which, however, later alterations had displaced the gable finials of the thistle and the rose for two chimneys, stood in the Coalhill until 1887, when it was taken down. It was a building of much historical interest, for it was closely associated with the leaders of the king’s men in the cruel civil strife that set in between them and the queen’s men after the unhappy Queen Mary had fled to her English prison. The gallant and chivalrous Kirkcaldy of Grange, with Maitland of Lethington, the Lairds of Restalrig and Drylaw, and other supporters of the hapless queen, unfurled her banner over the towers of Edinburgh Castle and determined to hold it in defence of her cause. Had the good Regent Moray not been cut off by assassination at Linlithgow all this trouble might not have arisen. His body had been brought by water to the Shore of Leith, where it was reverently received by the Guild of Hammermen, while the sorrowing townsfolk, fearful of what the future might bring them, did honour to the dead regent by lining the streets as his body was taken to its burial in St. Giles’.

The Council Chamber of the King's Men, CoalhillKirkcaldy made a raid on Leith. Gathering all the victuals he could seize from the merchants and their ships, he now stood prepared for a long siege. With the guns of the Castle pointed downward on the houses, he was easily master of the whole city, from which he drove the new Regent Lennox, the Earls of Morton, Mar, and Argyll, and some two hundred of the leading burgesses on the king’s side. Among these were Edward Hope and Adam Fullarton, two strenuous supporters of Knox and the Reformation, and for that reason strongly opposed to the cause of Queen Mary. The king’s men took up their quarters in Leith. It is at this time that the old Renaissance building facing the Coalhill comes into history as their council chambers, where they discussed their plans for carrying on the war. For this reason the old alley leading to it from behind became known as Parliament Square, which has now given place to Parliament Street. During the two years the king’s men were in Leith there could be no regular government of Edinburgh by the provost and magistrates, and so we have a gap in the council records, which do not again begin until some months after their return to the city.

The Leithers again suffered something of the horrors of war, for skirmishes took place daily between the king’s men in Leith and the queen’s men from the city and the Castle. But they suffered still more from the harsh treatment and high-handed dealings of the king’s men from Edinburgh, who had forcibly taken up their quarters in their midst. These did not forget that the Leithers had been specially favoured by the dethroned queen, for she had endeavoured to make their town a free burgh to the detriment of the city which now ruled them. Their sympathies were thus strongly on the side of the ill-fated queen and the youthful yet unruly Laird of Restalrig, who was fighting under the banner of the gallant Kirkcaldy in Edinburgh Castle.

For these causes little consideration was shown to the Leithers. The Edinburgh burgesses who had fled from Kirkcaldy’s guns began to erect houses and booths on their lands without ever saying by your leave, and when Helen Moubray, a great-granddaughter of Sir Robert Barton, complained to the regent, no satisfaction was given. The rude soldiery of Morton who bore the brunt in the fighting had to be lodged and victualled by the oppressed inhabitants, who in many cases were forbidden the use of their own houses, which had been taken possession of by the rough soldiers of the harsh and cruel Morton.

After the death of Lennox and Mar, James, Earl of Morton, became regent in name as he had all along been in fact. Morton was a man of cruel and callous nature, and continued the fight against Kirkcaldy and the queen’s men with the utmost bitterness and cruelty. "No quarter," was the cry of the king’s men now that Morton was in command. All prisoners who chanced to fall into his hands were hanged in full view of the Castle garrison at the Gallow Lee, where Leith Walk Station and the tramway depot are now. The queen’s men of course retaliated in like manner, for no war stirs up so much hate among a people as civil strife, and Kirkcaldy would string up an equal number of prisoners on the Castle Hill or Moutree’s Hill, now covered by the Register House. And so the cruel strife went on.

Slaughter and outrage were everyday events. Trade was brought to a standstill and hard times were everywhere, for the fields between the two towns being a daily battle-ground were left untilled. The farmer’s horse was commandeered for Morton’s troopers or yoked to his lumbering artillery. Kirkcaldy defended the Castle with the utmost courage and skill, and was so confident in his ability to hold out for any length of time against Morton alone that he indulged in a "rowstie ryme "—that is, a rude ballad—in which he mocked the attempts of his enemies to drive him from his stronghold—

"When they have lost as mony teeth
As they did at the siege of Leith,
They will be fain to leave it."

But Kirkcaldy in his plans of defence had taken no account of the fact that, just as at the siege of Leith in 1560, Morton might be aided by a force from England; and this was what happened, for Queen Elizabeth, anxious for the success of the Protestant cause, sent a siege train to Leith by sea and an army under Sir William Drury from Berwick. They encamped by the Links in the neighbourhood of Bernard Street, perhaps at a spot which appears in local records six months later as Little London, seemingly for no other reason than this association with Drury’s men. What Morton failed to do, treachery within the Castle and the English guns without accomplished in May 1573, when Kirkcaldy and Lethington surrendered to Sir William Drury on condition that their lives would be spared. They were afterwards brought to the English camp at Leith. Lethington died in the Leith tolbooth, but whether from disease or by his own hand or those of his enemies has never been quite determined. Kirkcaldy, by Elizabeth’s orders, and to the shame and grief of Drury who afterwards resigned his command, was surrendered to the tender mercies of the ruthless Morton and the burgesses of Edinburgh who had suffered so much at his hands. He was condemned to the ignominious death of hanging.

Little London in 1800

In his day of trouble Kirkcaldy’s thoughts turned to his old friend David Lindsay, the much-esteemed minister of South Leith. When Knox was dying he had sent David Lindsay to warn Kirkcaldy, for the love he bore him, that he was fighting, not only in a losing cause, but in one that would bring shame and disaster to himself. That prophecy was now about to be fulfilled, for Kirkcaldy was hanged at the Cross two months after his surrender of the Castle, the faithful David Lindsay standing by him to the end. By such shameful death died the gallant Kirkcaldy of Grange, the greatest Scots soldier of his day, and the last hope in Scotland of the cause of Queen Mary, who wept bitterly in her English prison when the Earl of Shrewsbury, with unkindly intent, told her the ill news of his death. The Laird of Restalrig, though condemned to die also, was afterwards set free, but on the same scaffold with Kirkcaldy was hanged another of the Castilians, as they were called, James Mossman, Queen Mary’s goldsmith, whose initials and coat-of-arms, with other interesting carved stonework, still adorn his ancient booth in the High Street—now John Knox’s House. Mossman’s descendants of the same name are still goldsmiths in Edinburgh, as one may see from the name over the doorway of the jeweller’s shop at 134 Princes Street.

The regent Morton and the king’s men, driven to Leith by the Castle guns, now returned to their ruined houses in the city. These they repaired or rebuilt, and in Fountain Close, immediately opposite John Knox’s House, are to be seen the two carved lintels with the inscription VINCIT VERITAS—that is, The truth conquers—and other pious legends which Adam Fullarton placed over his doorways in 1573 in celebration of his party’s triumph. And now Leith was to be free from the cruel experience of war in her midst for the next seventy years, but companies of armed men embarking at the Shore of Leith for service abroad was to be a familiar sight for many years to come.

The ordinary rank and file of the Castilians were set free, says a contemporary chronicler, on condition that they enlisted for service in the Netherlands, where the Duke of Alva and the other merciless lieutenants of the bigoted Philip II. of Spain were oppressing Catholics and Protestants alike, but especially the latter. The fall of Edinburgh Castle and the end of the Civil War had deprived many soldiers, both king’s men and queen’s men, of employment. Owing to the dearth of food the Government ordered that all idle men and soldiers were to quit the city and might pass to the wars in Flanders, where they were soon to be found fighting side by side with the Netherlanders against their Spanish oppressors. Few ever saw their native land again, for the ferocious Spaniards gave no quarter to those who fell into their hands, but their memory can never die so long as Scots maidens sing the fine old ballad with its beautifully pathetic refrain, "The Lowlands of Holland hae twined my love and me."

There is one other incident associating the name of the much-hated regent Morton with Leith. His policy as regent was much opposed by many of the leading nobles, but in 1578 a reconciliation was effected, when Morton and his chief opponents, including the Earls of Argyll, Montrose, Arran, and Boyd, celebrated the event by dining jovially at a hostelry in Leith kept by one William Cant. There had been Cants in Leith, mostly sailormen, for many generations. Cant’s Ordinary or Hostelry is supposed to have been the quaint old building raised on pillared arches which for centuries stood in the Kirkgate at the head, of Combe’s Close. The site of this ancient place of entertainment is now fittingly occupied by Kinnaird’s Restaurant. The ceiling of Mr. Kinnaird’s shop is a facsimile of the decorated plaster ceiling of the so-called Queen Mary room of its ancient predecessor, whose outline in carved stonework may be seen on an ornamental panel in front of the new building.

The Kirkgate

The house with its gable to the street immediately to the left of the supposed Cant’s Ordinary, and demolished at the same time as that ancient hostelry, was for centuries the property of a family named Kay. Here, or in its predecessor on the same site, in the reign of James VI., dwelt William Kay, mariner.

A noted interest attaches to this old Leith sailorman, for his descendants are actively engaged in the commercial life of the Port to-day. In every generation of this family, from William Kay’s time until now, one or more members always seem to have followed a sea-faring life. Robert Kay was a shipmaster in 1739. William Kay was chief mate of the sloop Culloden in 1787, when he was exempted from capture by the Press Gang, which, during the American and Napoleonic wars, periodically raided the Port from the warships in the Roads. It was from Leith aboard one of the warships in the Forth, although he was not a Leith man, that "Admiral" Parker, the leader of the mutiny at the Nore in 1797, enlisted in the navy. Another member of the Kay family was captain of the Happy Janet which brought Mons Meg from the Tower of London to Leith in 1829, when the whole town poured out to welcome the great "bombard" just as it had done some four hundred years before when she was unshipped on the Shore from Flanders. A great-grandson of the commander of the Happy Janet is an officer aboard a Leith steamer to-day.

When the fleet of James 1V. sailed to France in 1513 one of the ‘ blue jackets" aboard the Great Michael was a shipwright named John Kay. If this sailorman was of the same stock as William Kay, near neighbour to the host of Cant’s Ordinary in 160], then we have in Leith to-day members of a family that has the proud, and surely unique, distinction of having been associated with the shipping of the Port from the heroic age of the Bartons and Sir Andrew Wood to our own day, a period of more than four hundred years.

The execution of Queen Mary in 1587 caused much indignation in Scotland, especially among a section of the nobles. When the Court went into mourning the young Earl of Bothwell appeared in a coat of mail, which he declared was the best "dule weed" for the dead queen. There were other causes of hostility at this time which mischief-makers made the most of to stir up strife between the two peoples. The English ambassador, when he once more dared show himself in Edinburgh after Queen Mary’s execution, reported to Queen Elizabeth that the acts of piracy on the part of English seamen against Scottish ships were more numerous than in time of open war, and were so much resented that they were made use of to inflame the minds of the people against England. An English pirate cruised off the May Island and despoiled many ships entering the Firth. She was reported to belong to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, but that could not possibly have been true, for the gallant Elizabethan sailor had set out on what was to prove his last voyage just a month before, taking with him all the ships he could muster. Behind the May had always been a favourite lurking-place for English pirates.

In 1587 Edinburgh commissioned and equipped one of Leith’s largest ships to "pass upon the Inglis pyrats" haunting this quarter, but with what success does not appear. "But it so happened in God’s pleasure," so we are told after the pious manner of the time, that the English pirates did not always have it their own way, for George Pantoun, a local skipper, and his good ship making their way homeward from Danzig to Leith brought a whole ship’s crew of these rievers with him, most of whom were hanged on the Sands, which had for long been the customary place of execution for those who chose to sail under the "Jolly Roger." Many a bold pirate closed his lawless career on the gibbet on Leith Sands, where his body continued to hang in chains as a warning, but seldom, it would seem, as a deterrent, to others. The first notice we have of the bodies of criminals being suspended in chains in Scotland is in 1551, when John Davidson was first hanged and then hung in chains on the Sands of Leith "for the violent piracy of a French ship of Bordeaux."

But now the Scots and English were to lay aside their mutual hostility for a time in face of a common danger. This was the invasion of the Spanish Armada, perhaps the best-known fact in British history. Even the pirates were received into favour when they came to guard against the approach of the Spanish galleons; for had England gone down before the might of Spain, the subjugation of Scotland must have followed immediately thereafter. The merchants of Edinburgh and the sailormen of Leith had much cause to fear and hate the Spaniard. Their chief trade was with the Netherlands, and it had suffered greatly through the confused and unsettled state of those provinces, owing to the cruel oppression of their Spanish rulers.

Some of the more lawless Scots nobles like the Earl of Huntly, the slayer of the "Bonnie Earl of Moray," and perhaps the plotting Logan of Restalrig, were quite ready to join Philip in an invasion of England, or even to turn against their own country to avenge Queen Mary’s death. Spies in the interests of Spain frequently came and went through the Port of Leith between Philip and these Scots sympathizers. One of these spies, Colonel William Semple, a member of an old Scots family who had fought on the side of Spain against Holland, took up his lodging in Leith in the summer of 1588, nominally as an envoy from the Prince of Parma to King James, but really to negotiate with Huntly in the interests of Spain.

On August 8th, the very day on which the Great Armada was being driven in disastrous rout before the English "sea-dogs," a Spanish warship with some two hundred men aboard anchored off the Port and sent a boat ashore with sixteen men, bearing dispatches from Parma to Colonel Semple. But Sir John Carmichael, the Captain of the King’s Guard, was too clever for them. He not only arrested the crew of the Spanish boat, but at the same time captured Semple and all Parma’s dispatches. King James, with beating of drums and the ringing of the alarm bell in the Tolbooth, commanded the men of Leith to hold themselves in readiness to oppose any further attempts of the Spaniards to send men ashore.

Huntly advised Parma to invade England through Leith, which he could then hold as a postern giving easy entrance into England; but the ships of the "Beggars of the Sea" kept Parma shut up in the Netherlands. The danger to Scotland from Spain was therefore very real and very great. The result was a treaty for mutual defence between King James and Queen Elizabeth, and Scotland’s fighting men were ordered to hold themselves in readiness to muster on Leith Links to repel the invader should he succeed in landing. Watchers were posted round the coast, and the balefires were to be lit on the first alarm.

Terrible was the consternation and fear in Leith and Edinburgh when it was known that "that monstrous navie was about our costes." As in the Great War, lying rumour brought in many false alarms. Now the Spaniards, like the Germans, had landed at Dunbar, now at St. Andrews, and now somewhere in the north. It was not until a month after the Armada had left Spain that it was known to be in full flight round our shores, little better than so many storm-shattered hulks, four of which came to grief on the coast of Mull. The shipwrecked crews of these vessels, some seven hundred all told, "for the maist pairt young berdless men, trauchled and hungered," and utterly wretched, were all that the people of Leith saw of the Spanish Armada, for from the Shore, after being kindly treated, they were shipped over to the Duke of Parma in Flanders.

The fear and alarm with which the Leithers awaited the approach of the Armada were now changed to thankful prayers and joyful songs. In common with the people throughout England and the greater part of Scotland, the Leithers gathered in their two parish churches and poured forth their gratitude to God for His goodness and mercy. This was done in both countries in the words of the 76th Psalm, which celebrates Israel’s miraculous deliverance from King Sennacherib and his Assyrian host.

A Scottish poet, calling upon his countrymen to celebrate with rejoicing so signal a deliverance, said,—

"Expose your gold and shyning silver bright
On covered cupboards set in open sight."

Sideboard Cupboard, Andrew Lamb's HouseSuch a cupboard or open sideboard with stuccoed decoration still survives in what was once the dining-room of Andrew Lamb’s house in Water’s Close, where Mary spent the first day on her unexpected arrival from France.

Of all the carved stones of Leith, that which above all others engages our interest and excites our curiosity is the upper of the two panels built into the wall of the house immediately opposite the head of St. Andrew’s Square in the Main Street of Newhaven. The sculptures on the lower panel are similar to those on the south wing of the Trinity House in the Kirk-gate. They are the heraldic arms of the Mariners’ Incorporation of the Trinity House, and at one time must have adorned some of their property in the neighbourhood of Newhaven. How old this stone may be there is no date to show, but that the arms themselves must have been adopted over two hundred and fifty years ago the carvings on the stones themselves indicate, for, instead of the sextant, the shield bears its predecessor, the cross-staff, which has been obsolete since the time of William of Orange.

It is the upper and more ancient of the two panels, however, which specially arrests our attention, for it bears, carved in curious fashion, the ever-memorable date 1588, the year of the destruction of the Great Armada.

Beneath this date is sculptured a sixteenth-century ship with the flag of St. Andrew. Scotland’s naval ensign before the Union of 1707, flying from each masthead. Beneath all, in capital letters, is the legend, "In the Neam of God." The ship sculptured here much resembles the model now in the Royal Scottish Museum of the Yellow Carve!, that gallant old ship of Sir Andrew Wood.

Is it only a remarkable coincidence that this stone should bear so significant a date, or is there some connection between it and the rout and ruin of the vaunted Invincible Armada? Does it not seem as if the people of Newhaven wished to have some permanent memorial to remind them and those who came after them of God’s signal mercy and goodness in so great a time of peril? If any of their number had been refugees from the hated tyranny and cruel persecution of the Spaniards, we can well understand the gratitude that led them to erect this memorial for their second escape from the terrors of the Spanish Fury and the cruelty of the pitiless Spanish oppressor.

The year following the destruction of the Spanish Armada saw another royal princess set sail from her native land to become a Scottish queen. This was Anne of Denmark, who was married to James VI. in 1589. On setting forth on her voyage her ship was so tempest-tossed and driven out of her course that she had to seek shelter in Christiania Harbour, where she remained all through the winter. James, becoming impatient at her non-arrival, sailed to Norway to bring her home, and the royal pair were married at Christiania by David Lindsay of South Leith, who had accompanied King James overseas, because he was "the minister whom the Court liked best." They set sail from Norway in the ship of Captain John Dick, whose only son, Sir William Dick of Braid, afterwards became a wealthy Edinburgh merchant prince and Covenanter, and Provost of the city.

On their arrival in Leith in May of the following year the whole town gathered on the Shore and Long Sands to welcome them, just as they did eleven years later when James crossed the Forth to Edinburgh after his escape from Gowrie House. A thanksgiving service for their safe arrival was held in St. Mary’s Kirk. As Holyrood was not yet ready for their reception, they stayed for six days at the King’s Wark with the father of Bernard Lindsay, and then they passed on to Holyrood, the queen and her ladies riding in a coach drawn by eight great horses of her own, all richly caparisoned. The members of the trade incorporations, all armed as if for war, lined both sides of the way to the bounds of the town, when the duty was taken up by the men of Edinburgh and the Canongate.

James and his loving subjects had good reason, so he and they at least believed, to be thankful for his safe arrival from overseas, for it was discovered from a maid suspected of witchcraft that the storms which had so beset his homeward voyage had been the malignant work of witches, who wished to drown both him and his young queen. These witches had met at the Fairy Holes, near Newhaven, and then, sailing out to Leith Roads in riddles, had raised the storms by means of a christened cat which was given them by Satan himself. All these absurdities were most solemnly believed by both king and people, and a number of so-called witches were first strangled and then their bodies were burnt to ashes for their supposed share in so wicked a plot.

Such absurd beliefs show us how superstitious the people of Edinburgh and Leith were in those days; and, indeed, right down almost to the close of the eighteenth century many firmly believed in witchcraft. The place of execution for witches in Leith was the Gallow Lee, once a small hill at Leith Walk Station, of which a part still survives under the name of Shrub Hill. Here in 1664 nine witches, who were first mercifully strangled, had their bodies burnt to ashes; and in 1678 five more met a similar fate. The witch burning in Leith after James’s voyage from Norway has been made the subject of a long ballad by Robert Buchanan, entitled The Lights o’ Leith, of which two verses are quoted below—

"‘The lights o’ Leith ! the lights o’ Leith !’
The skipper cried aloud—
While the wintry gale with snow and hail
Blew snell thro’ sail and shroud.

"High up on the quay blaze the balefires, and see!
Three stakes are deep set in the ground,
To each stake smear’d with pitch clings the corpse of a witch,
With the fire flaming redly around !"

Leith Walk Station and Shrubhill


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