The city of Edinburgh
The geology of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the castle and the people came to live either on, or around it, for refuge and safety. The castle is built on top of what is known as a "Crag And Tail." Millions of years ago there was a volcano which erupted and left a plug of hard igneous rock. When the ice ages came and went glaziers eroded away the softer rock around this plug to leave a tail which slopes down to the east of the castle which we now know as the Royal Mile. Then humans arrived about 8,000 years ago and about 6,000 years later written history arrived in the form of the Romans. You remember them? Julius Caesar, Nero, Caligula, Russel Crowe. The Romans called the people they encountered in Scotland "Caledons." Which means "wee smelly hairy people with tattoos running about the heather looking for a fight with anyone." But in the last 2,000 years they evolved into different shapes, sizes and colours. From "Caledons" came the name "Caledonia."
Edinburgh used to be called Dùn Èideann. The local language used to be Gaelic and the Gaelic word for hill is dun. There are lots of places in Scotland beginning with dun such as Dundee, Dunfermline, Dunblane, Dunbar. The word Èdeann means fort. So Dun Èdeann means "hill fort." When the people started to speak English, with the invasion of the Angles in 638 AD, Dun Èideann became Edinburgh.
Why did the Romans not come up and conquer Scotland like the rest of Britain? Well we Scots love to believe that the local tribes were just too fierce and independent to be conquered, and we love to believe that we are descendants of them. There is even evidence of a legion of Roman soldiers who ventured up into the hills and were never seen or heard of again. The truth may have been different. The Romans were in Scotland for about 70 years and there was a battle in Scotland (Mons Grapius) at which the Roman general Agricola defeated the local tribes, but the reason the emperor Hadrian built a wall may have been because Scotland wasn't worth it. There is no gold or silver in the hills like there was in Wales, and they didn't use the land to grow and export grain like they did in southern Britain. The lost legion of Roman soldiers may have been a clerical error. Hadrian's wall was built right through tribal lands. The questions remain: Was Hadrian's wall built to keep the tribes out or in? Or was it better used as a road for communications? These days it is roughly the border between Scotland and England.
Dark Ages & the Saltire
The period after the Romans left Britain in the 4th. century AD was known as the dark ages. Not because the sun was stuck behind the clouds for long periods of times, but because the history books are a bit vague for those times. Christianity was beginning to advance across Europe and it came to Scotland with St Columba in the 7th Century. The year 832 was significant in Scottish History because that was the year of the Saltire and the legend of Angus MacFergus. The Story is of the Battle of Athelstaneford. And remember, he who wins the Battle writes the history.
King Angus MacFergus was the leader of a combined force of Picts and Scots who were confronted by a much larger force of Angles and Saxons from the south. He had gone on a raid into Northumberland and was being pursued by some angry warriors. On the evening before the battle King Angus prayed for a victory and promised to make St Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. He said, "I promise not to make malicious comments about my mother-in-law again. I’ll pay back the money I owe the bishop. I'll brush my teeth everyday. And I'll never leave the toilet seat up again when the wife has visitors over for her Tupperware party." St Andrew was crucified on a diagonal cross and the legend says that his bones were brought over to the town that is now known as St Andrews in Fife. The next day the clouds appeared in the shape of a diagonal cross. The blue azure represents the sky. The soldiers following King Angus were heartened and went on to win The Battle of Athelstaneford in the belief that god was on their side. From then on the Saltire became the national flag of Scotland. It is the oldest national flag still in use in the world.
At the highest point in Edinburgh Castle is St Margaret's Chapel. It is one of the oldest buildings in Scotland and is still used for weddings and services. During Scotland's Wars of Independence (1296 - 1328) King Robert the Bruce and his followers were gradually regaining the castles previously occupied by the English. In order so that the English would not be able to come back and occupy the land so easily they knocked down each castle. When the Scots recaptured Edinburgh Castle most of the main buildings in it were demolished except for St. Margaret's Chapel. That is one reason why it has stood for nearly 1000 years.
Queen Margaret lived during the time of William the Conqueror and the defeat of King Harold at The Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the subsequent Norman invasion of England. According to the Beaux Tapestry, King Harold died at The Battle of Hastings with an arrow through his eye. The Witan, a council of nobles, clergymen and high ranking members of the public from Anglo-Saxon England, named his successor as Edgar Aetheling. Edgar's sister was Margaret. Edgar looked to Scotland for help in regaining the English throne from William I, and the King of Scots at that time was Malcolm (Canmore) III. King Malcolm wanted in on the action and married Margaret. Along with this marriage came many dispossessed Saxon nobles into the Scottish Court. King William sent three failed expeditions to Scotland before eventually coming himself to make terms with King Malcolm at The Treaty of Abernethy. William had the larger Army and Malcolm agreed that William would be his Overlord as well as giving up his eldest son Duncan by his first wife Ingibiorg. Malcolm did this to avoid losing his kingdom altogether, and many subsequent English monarchs, at various times, have claimed to be Overlord of Scotland - A bone of contention ever since. Almost as soon as William turned his back south Malcolm began raiding and harassing the north of England by burning towns and taking bondsmen and bondswomen (slaves). It was an uneasy time between the two kingdoms. Malcolm was killed in a raid into Northumberland at Alnwick Castle along with his heir, Edward. It is said that when Margaret heard the news she died of sorrow a few days later on 16th November 1093.
The town of Queensferry to the west of Edinburgh is named after Queen Margaret. The capital of Scotland in her time time was Dunfermline and it is said that she helped the poor and needy when they were crossing the Firth of Forth. She became a saint in 1251 by pope Innocent IV. Her canonisation also ensured regular visits from pilgrims to Dunfermline Abbey and extra income.
Firth of Forth & Inchcolm Abbey
The Forth River originates at Loch Ard and meanders eastward through Stirling, past the oil refinery at Grangemouth. (The Gaelic name is Abhainn Dhubh which means black river). It widens out after the Forth road and rail bridges to become the Firth Of Forth. To the north is Fife. To the south is Edinburgh. There are many small islands in the Firth of Forth. Four of them are called Inchgarvie, Inchkeith, Inchmickery and Inchcolm (The Gaelic word for Island is Inch).
On Inchcolm Islandhcolm Abbey. In the year 1123, Alexander I was stranded on this island due to a fierce storm and was given shelter by a hermit for three days. Alexander was known for his piety and support of the church and pledged to found a monastery. He died the following year in 1124 but David I started the ball rolling and there has been a place of worship there ever since
Mercat Cross & Lion Rampant
The Mercat Cross was mainly a place for public meetings, royal announcements and the occasional hanging. In the days when kings and knights wore armour you couldn't see their faces because of the visor so they painted symbols on their shields and chests. The red lion was chosen by William the first of Scotland (He himself was supposed to have a been a fiery red headed man) and the outside is the fleur de lis - which comes from France and symbolises the alliance of Scotland and France. The lion rampant is the symbol of the monarchy in Scotland. Whenever the queen is in residence at Holyrood House this flag is flying. In Edinburgh castle and Stirling Castle there are places known as The Lions Den. It is fair to say that all the kings of Scotland kept Lions. At the top of the Mercat Cross is the unicorn protecting the monarchy. The Unicorn symbolises honesty and bravery.
Robert The Bruce & William Wallace
It is a great story. At the main entrance to Edinburgh Castle there are statues on either side of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace (other wise known as Connery and Gibson) These statues are from 1929, but Bruce and Wallace actually lived 700 years ago. Scotland did not have a king to unite the country after Alexander the III fell of his horse and died at the cliffs in Kinghorn in Fife, and there were many who came forward to claim the crown. At the same time Scotland's nearest neighbour England was being led by a very forceful, powerful and dynamic King - Edward I who had many more resources and was able to call upon the biggest army in Europe. This was an unfortunate time for Scotland. Robert the Bruce and William Wallace are two of the most famous figures in Scottish history. They both fought for the same cause of Scottish Independence in the latter part of the 13th and early 14th centuries, but it is unlikely that they were ever friends. Robert the Bruce eventually won what was known as Scotland's wars of independence though not without using his own fare share of treachery. After Edward I died Bruce made his bid for the crown by killing off one of his rivals John Comyn. He did this by stabbing him to death at the alter in Blackfriars church in Dumfries. Then he managed to get Wallace out of the picture with the help of his friend and ally John Menteith. Bruce's Defining moment was The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
There is also a theory that The Knights Templar were involved at Bannockburn. In the historical fiction, The Davinci Code, by Dan Brown, it states the keepers of the Holy Grail where The Knights Templar and they kept it at Roslyn Chapel, about ten miles south of Edinburgh. They were driven out of France in 1314, excommunicated by Rome and came to Scotland. Robert the Bruce was also excommunicated because of his murder of John Comyn at in the Church and so gave them refuge. The Battle of Bannockburn lasted two days. On the second day, at the cusp of the battle, the official record is that the camp followers (those who followed the Scottish army and helped out with the cooking and cleaning) came over the hill in a charge. The English believed them to be re-enforcements and fled in terror which led to a rout. The other theory is that it was actually the most feared warriors in all of Christendom hired by King Robert, The Knights Templar, who came over the hill.
Flodden & The Flodden Wall
James the IV was Scotland's first Renaissance king and he died at The Battle of Flodden on 9th. September 1513. Scotland had an alliance with France - The Auld Alliance - and in the summer of that year Henry VIII of England invaded France to try and gain the French crown. The French sent money and some soldiers to advise the Scots and encouraged them to fight and King James IV seemed all too willing. It was a disaster for the Scots. They had massive guns that were used to smash the walls of Norham Castle as their army marched into the north of England, but these guns were not suited to the battle and badly positioned on the top of a hill. This meant that the cannon balls landed into the ground causing little damage and they took a longer time to reload than the smaller English guns that reloaded every two or three minutes and shot straight into the ranks of the Scots.
Both armies were evenly matched (about 22,000 to 25,000 each) but the infantry had different weapons. The Scots had long pikes and had been advised by the French to fight in the same style as the Swiss, which was disciplined and very effective in other wars in Europe at that time. The English had smaller weapons. The Scots had won the initial part of the battle and had routed the flank of the English before being driven back by the English Cavalry, but the main part of their army had to advance because of the artillery fire - straight into a small stream in front of the English ranks - which made them stumble and become disorganised. The English hacked into them and managed to get around the side causing much carnage.
It was the Scottish custom of the day that the king and noble lords would lead their men into battle to give them encouragement. That is why so many high ranking Scottish noblemen died at Flodden. Scarcely any noble family in Scotland did not have at least one member of their household perish at Flodden. It is this authors belief that Flodden is not highly mentioned in Scottish or English history. In the case of the Scots because we would like to highlight the battles we won and The English because Henry VIII wasn’t there, it was the Earl of Surrey, and his achievements were arguably greater than his king's. Henry VIII was in France spending a million pounds of his treasury on a largely fruitless campaign which gained two French towns and fought the battle of Spurs, where incidentally, he wasn’t at either. The English did not follow up their victory at Flodden with a full scale invasion of Scotland because they were skint. Henry VIII seemed to have been reluctant to bestow honours on his lords who fought at Flodden because it may have outshone his own rather pathetic achievements in France. English history emphasises his six wives (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr) and his switch to the protestant faith.
Flodden was significant to Edinburgh because after the battle they built a wall around the town known as Flodden Wall. Some parts of it still exist today. The wall meant that the buildings of Edinburgh did not expand outwards as the population grew, but upwards. This led to the world’s first skyscrapers as described by Robert Louise Stevenson in his novel Kidnapped: "The huge height of the buildings, running up to ten and fifteen storeys, the narrow arched entries that continually vomited passengers ..."
That was the end of the reign of James IV by most accounts he was a well respected confident monarch. Many could not believe it when he died and stories circulated as to where he was; like he had gone off to the holly land to fight in the crusades. (Authors note: I felt the same way when Scotland got beat 3- 1 by Peru in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. The hype leading up to the game was immense, and the next day I kept reading the Sunday Post over and over again to see if it really was true.) It took a long time for Scotland to gain back its confidence with many subjects reluctant to take up arms again. However, 500 years later the Tartan Army exacted revenge for the defeat at Flodden when they took the train down to Wembley and stole the English goal posts on 4th June 1977.
Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots was the beheaded on the orders of her cousin Queen Elizabeth 1st. of England. Mary's life was one of unfortunate decisions and bad luck. It seems she was ill suited to be a monarch. Many people tried to influence her; some towards England and some towards France, and she lived in the time of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland (1560). Being a catholic she tried to placate the Protestants who were led by John Knox, but it didn't always work out. Knox was a very determined man with solid unwavering belief in his cause.
She was born at Linlithgow Palace in 1542. When she was but six days old her father James IV died without leaving a male heir to the throne of Scotland. Mary’s French mother, Mary of Guise became Regent and sent young Mary to France at the age of 5 in 1548. In 1558 she married Dauphin Francis. The next year her husband became King of France (King Francis II) after his father died. However, his reign lasted only a year and in December 1560 he died after only 17 months on the French throne. Young Mary was 18 years old and returned to Scotland rather than live under the domination of her Mother-in-law Catherine De Medicis. Upon her return to Scotland the men of influence tried to figuratively get their hands on her and persuade her. She may have been naive or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. She held on to her Catholicism under pressure from The Protestant Church and John Knox and she was matched with Lord Darnley in 1565, a young hopeless alcoholic, also her cousin. This marriage didn't go well. Mary wouldn't allow Darnley to succeed her if she died and she turned her attentions to her close Italian friend David Rizzo. Some of the Protestant nobles were suspicious of Rizzo and he was assassinated at Holyrood Palace. Mary witnessed the murder. She was six months pregnant at the time. On the 19th. June 1566, at Edinburgh Castle, she gave birth to James who went on to be James I. of Great Britain and Ireland. This impending birth would also rob Darnley of the chance to become King.
There are yet more twists and turns to the story of Mary Queen of Scots which continue to fascinate historians to this very day: In 1830 there was a bad fire in the Royal Apartments of Edinburgh Castle where King James was born. A small coffin was discovered inside the wall. The bones were not specifically identified. Some say that King James was always unsure of legitimacy as he looked nothing like any of previous Stuart Kings of Scotland. Who knows?
Mary befriended the Earl of Bothwell, an enemy of Darnley and his pals. Then Darnley was taken out the picture. He was killed by an explosion at Kirk o' Fields in 1567. Bothwell was implicated but his trial came to nought. He obtained a divorce from his wife and whisked Mary away to marry her, obviously intent on becoming king himself. It seems like the nobles of Scotland were behaving shamefully by grabbing and throwing Mary Queen of Scots around like a monarchical football. But in Football the objective is to keep the ball and score a goal. Mary soon became a hot potato when Bothwell was defeated at Carberry Hill in June 1567, by the Protestant lords who opposed the marriage. Mary abdicated and was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle. She escaped there and, with the help of some friends, managed to raise an army, but was defeated again at Langside in May 1568. She fled to England were she spent the next 19 years in captivity. There were disagreements with the Protestants and Catholics at this time with suspicion and paranoia running wild alongside stories of assassination plots on Queen Elizabeth I (a protestant) which Mary was implicated in. Eventually, Mary was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire on the 8th February 1587. She dressed in the catholic martyrs colours of red. The executioner took three blows to chop her head off. Maybe he was just trying to do it gently. When Elizabeth died in 1603 James VI of Scotland became James VI and James I of Scotland and England in the United Kingdom. He called the new kingdom Great Britain.
St Giles Cathedral & civil wars
St Giles is the patron saint of Edinburgh and the Cathedral is the main church of Edinburgh. It is located on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood house. Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle -The Chivalric company of Knights with the Queen as it’s head. There have been many historical films that have fed from the wealth of Scottish history: The historically inaccurate Braveheart with Mel Gibson. The romantically inclined Rob Roy with Liam Neeson and the much lampooned Bonnie Prince Charlie with David Niven, but if there was ever a story burning to be put on the silver screen it must be of the bitter rivalry between James Graham, The Marquis of Montrose and Archibald Campbell, The Earl of Argyle. A true story with no need for embellishments.
On 23rd July 1637 Jenny Geddes stood up in a rage and threw a stool at the Dean of St Giles as he commenced his service. This was in protest at The book of Common Prayer written by Archbishop Laud. The book was an attempt by Charles I to impose a particular form of worship known as episcopacy on the people. It sparked a riot in the church that led to hundreds of similar events and riots in churches all over Scotland. Resentment had been simmering against the imposition of Episcopacy on the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and on 28th February 1638 The Covenant of Scotland was signed in Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh. The nobles of Scotland signed it, the ministers and representatives of the burghs the next day and within a few weeks it had been signed by representatives of all the counties and all but three of the towns, then most of the population. In England the Parliament was also having major disagreements with Charles I and by 1642 the English Civil War broke out with Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads, and the Royalists and Charles I. In 1643 the Scottish and English parliaments got together and formed The Solemn League and Covenant. There were many sub-plots to this war and in stepped James Graham, The Marquis of Montrose. Although initially being against Charles I and the royalists, Montrose fought many successful battles for his king with limited resources and mercenaries from the Highlands and Ireland. His great rival was Archibald Campbell The Marquis of Argyle. Both men signed the National Covenant whilst also professing loyalty to King Charles, but they seemed to have fallen out, and in a civil war one had to take sides.
It is important to mention that the highlands and lowlands of Scotland were almost different countries at that time, because of the geography and the language. The common Highlander spoke gaelic and the Lowlanders spoke English with a Scottish dialect.
The two great rival clans of the day were the Campbells and the MacDonalds and you had no choice but to side with one or the other. The war may have started for religious reasons, but it is difficult to say if religious beliefs were the reason behind the hatred these two men had for each other. Montrose seems to fancy himself a bit with his long hair and proud stance. He also considered himself a bit of a poet. Argyle's actions were a bit shifty and calculated to suit his own ends. Opinions vary.
Montrose got the better of Argyle and his supporters and defeated Lord Elcho at Tippermuir in September 1644. Then he captured and sacked Aberdeen. He had a price on his head, but not matter, he continued to fight the fight for his King by entering Campbell territory and inflicted a grievous defeat on the clan and it’s leader Archibald Campbell, at the battle of Inverlochy in February 1645. In April that same year he plundered Dundee and was chased back into the highlands by General Baillie. More regiments who were helping Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians were sent from England to try and deal with Montrose but he constantly outwitted the Covenanters. He defeated Colonel Hurry at Auldearn in May 1645 and Baillie at Alford in June. In August he achieved his greatest victory of the war by defeating The Covenanter Committee of War with, Baillie and Argyle at the head, at Kilsyth. He was then master of Scotland - for a short time.
The King was trying to join forces and Montrose moved into the Lowlands of Scotland. His mercenaries and highlanders were more apt to head home and bring in the harvest and many deserted. Montrose was defeated by General David Leslie at Philliphaugh ending a remarkable campaign. He fled to Europe to try and raise troops to come back and avenge the beheading of King Charles I by Cromwell in 1649. Charles II negotiated with the Covenanters and ordered Montrose to disarm, but the orders were never received. Montrose landed in Orkney with a small force but was defeated at Carbisdale by Colonel Strachan in April 1650 and then fled to the hills where he was eventually given up to the Covenanters by Neil MacLeod, laird of Assynt
Montrose was executed at The Mercat Cross, in Edinburgh on 21st May 1650. His head was stuck on a spike outside The Tollbooth Gaol and his arms and legs were put on display in the towns of Aberdeen, Stirling, Perth and Glasgow. It was the custom that a condemned man or woman would be led through the crowd in a cage and the people would bombard that person with and assortment of missiles (stones or rotting vegetables). When Montrose was being led to his death it is recorded that no one threw anything or said a word. They stood in silent respect.
Montrose - On Himself, upon hearing what was his sentence ...
Let them bestow on ev'ry airth a limb; Open all my veins, that I may swim To Thee, my Saviour, in that crimson lake; Then place my parboil'd head upon a stake, Scatter my ashes, throw them in the air: Lord (since Thou know'st where all these atoms are) I'm hopeful once Thou'lt recollect my dust, And confident thou'lt raise me with the just.
The eldest son of Charles I Henrietta Maria (the sister of King Louis XIII of France) Charles II, was crowned at Scone, in Scotland, on 1st January 1651, and tried to regain the throne in England but was defeated at the battle of Worcester 3rd September 1651. Exile to Europe ensued, and when Oliver Cromwell died in 1660 there was the restoration of the monarchy in Great Britain and Ireland.
Montrose may have had the last laugh from the afterlife when Archibald Campbell was himself executed. Those who had supported the regicide (The killing of a king) of Charles I were singled out. The power had shifted and Argyle found himself on the wrong side and traveled down to London in an attempt at reconciliation, but was arrested on the kings orders and thrown into the Tower of London and taken back to Edinburgh. He was executed for treason on 27th May 1661 and his head was placed on the same spike as that of Montrose eleven years earlier.
The year of 1688 was the year of the Glorious Revolution. A new king came over the water from The Netherlands known as King William of Orange. The Old King was King James and the people with power wanted him out ostensibly for religious reasons. Those who supported King William were known as Williamites and those who supported King James were known as Jacobites; The Hebrew word for James is Jacob and so we have the word "Jacobite."
On the Castle Esplanade there was a regiment formed to the beat of a drum who became known as the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. They were Williamites. Here in Scotland opinion was divided as to whom they should support so in Edinburgh the people with power and influence held a convention. Most were in favour of King William but one man remained loyal to King James. He we was John Graham Claverhouse of Dundee: Otherwise known as Bonnie Dundee. Fearing for his life, because of his loyalty to King James, Bonnie Dundee travelled north where he knew he would find an army. As Bonnie Dundee came back south he met another army of Williamites going north which included the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. They were led by General Hugh Mackay. Both armies met at the Pass of Killiecrankie. On this occasion the Jacobites won but Bonnie Dundee was killed by a stray bullet.
Tollbooth & Porteous Riots
If you are standing on the Royal Mile near the road to the west of St. Giles Catherdral you will be able to see copper sets in the ground which outline a gaol which stood for 400 years. It was demolished in 1817 to widen the road. Originally it was the site of the council chambers and the Scottish parliament and the court. This was also the site of public executions.
Once upon a time there was man called Captain Porteous. He was the Captain of the city guard (The local police) in the year of 1736 and one day there was an execution of a local smuggler called Andrew Wilson. Now many people in Edinburgh didn’t like Captain Porteous very much because they said he was a hard man who treated the people badly. Andrew Wilson was a criminal, but well liked by the citizens of Edinburgh because he had helped another man escape from the tolbooth. Andrew Wilson was caught himself and sentenced to hang. On the day of the execution there was much agitation and a riot broke out. Captain Porteous and his guards were keeping order and the people got so exited he ordered his men to fire their guns at the people.
Captain Porteous was put into the gaol himself and sentenced to hang for murder, but at the last minute he was given a pardon. When the people of Edinburgh heard of this they got very angry and before Captain Porteous was released an angry mob stormed the tolbooth, grabbed Captain Potreous and hanged him themselves down in The Grassmarket. They must not have like him very much.
This is the story of Deacon Brodie. William Brodie was a man who lived two lives. By day he was a well respected married man about town. By night he was a thief and a scoundrel with two mistresses and five illegitimate children.
It was Deacon Brodie's father who built up the family business as a cabinet maker and lock smith. William Brodie Junior followed in his father’s footsteps to become an upstanding pillar of the community. Or so it seemed. To help pay of his gambling debts and the costs of his mistresses William Brodie formed a small gang of a three criminals. He would fix the doors of clients and make wax copies of the keys only to return later and rob them.
The end to this campaign of crime came with a bungled attempt to rob the tax office. One of his gang was apprehended and spilled the beans, and Brodie fled to Amsterdam where he was eventually brought back to Edinburgh face trial. In October 1788 he was sentence to death by hanging, but there are still many different beliefs as to what eventually became of Deacon Brodie.
There are some who say he bribed the hangman and was allowed to wear a steel collar around his neck and a lead pipe in his throat. After he was hanged his body was quickly taken away by his friends to who tried to revive him and he was buried in an unmarked grave. Some believe he was seen walking the streets of Paris, and some believe he did eventually make it to America to live out the rest of his double life.
Robert Burns & Makars Court
Makars Court is near the top of The Royal Mile to the south the Lawnmarket, Makar is an old Scottish word for Poet. There is a plaque which says "Robert Burns stayed here on his first visit to Edinburgh in 1786." In Makars court there is The Writers Museum (Free entry - There are about five free museums in the centre of Edinburgh) and in the court yard there are flag stomes with inscriptions and quotations by well known Scottish writers, and undoubtedly the most famous Scottish poet of them all is Robert Burns. I would say he has a very lucky birthday which has added to his popularity; The 25th January is a very good excuse to have a cosy midwinter celebration. All over the world this happens. Only Christopher Columbus has been sculpted more frequently. Only Happy birthday is sang more often than Auld land Syne. His work is respected and well loved not only in Scotland, but world wide.
David Hume & Enlightenment
Scotland and Edinburgh in the early to mid 18th Century was not a very happening place. It was a remote country in the far north west of Europe - isolated and making little impact on the world. There is a story of one particular post collection to London which contained only one letter. The Lowlands of Scotland were in the grip of a Calvinistic way of life. The Sabbath was strictly obeyed and there were rules set out to prevent the general populace from working in a Sunday such as "No plucking of a chicken." Alcohol was also forbidden on the Sabbath. Attendance at church was compulsory with people known as searchers who went out into the community to find anyone who was not at church and bring them in. In the Fife town of Culross there was a man who was taken to court and fined for the bizarre crime of "Sitting on his own the whole time." One can only image what these searchers saw when they popped their heads through the window and caught this man: "There he is. Get him," and what the judge may have actually said to him in court: “Sir You have been observed on the Sabbath day sitting on your own, twiddling your thumbs. Or at least that's what it looked like to these witnesses at the time. How do you plead?" With this very strict Presbyterian doctrine came a well educated people. John Knox, the leader of the Church of Scotland at the time of The Reformation in 1560 made sure that every parish should have a school. Scotland had one of the highest literacy rates in Europe, estimated at 75% Then something known as The Enlightenment started with the outpouring of new ideas and one of the main men of this era was David Hume (1711 - 1776). Many of these new ideas were in direct conflict with the church and Hume himself was accused of heresy (In 1697 Thomas Aikenhead, as student in Edinburgh, became the last person in Britain to be hanged for blasphemy). As well as being a philosopher Hume wrote A History of Great Britain, a body of work of six volumes and over a million words. It took him fifteen years. He must have been dedicated.
On the Royal Mile there is a stature to Hume by Sandy Stoddart erected in 1997. In a nutshell Stoddart's reasoning for depicting Hume in such a way, because Hume probably never dressed Greco-Roman, is this: He is making him out to be The Moses of The enlightenment so to speak. On The Royal Mile there John Knox's house with depictions of Moses and The Ten Commandments - restricting, commanding, fatalistic and leading away from free thought. Unlike the tablets of Moses the tablet on the statue is blank which leads this author to interpret that the future is what you make it.
It is fare to say that The Edinburgh Enlightenment coincided with the construction of The New Town. In 1766 the young architect, James Craig, won a competition to design the New Town. This was a solution for the upper classes to escape the over-crowding and discomfort of Edinburgh's Old Town. To the north of the castle a burn feeding the Nor Loch was redirected and the loch drained, transforming it into Princes Street Gardens. Grand, Georgian style, buildings and streets ensued which were given names associated with the Hanoverian Royalty; Princes Street, named after the heir to the throne of Great Britain, Prince Regent; George Street, named after King George III; Queen Street and Charlotte Square, named after Queen Charlotte. There are statues to William Pitt, King George and The Duke of Wellington which salute the prominent men of the time. The idea of "Britannia" was embraced by the political and intellectual movers and shakers in Edinburgh, indeed many of these men insisted on calling themselves "North British." The Encyclopaedia Britannica was founded in Edinburgh by Colin MacFarquhar and Andrew Bell in 1768 and further emphasizes the spirit of learning and education.
Over looking Edinburgh there is an extinct volcano called Arthur's Seat. On Salisbury Crags there is a plaque to James Hutton (1726-1797). It is a little known marker but very significant to the way in which we see the world today. Archbishop James Ussher had established that the earth had begun on 23rd October 4004 BC. This view was regarded as an undisputed fact since the early 1600s. James Hutton is known as The founder of modern geology. He proved with scientific observation that the earth was much older than had previously been believed by the bible bashers. It was widely held that the earth was six thousand years old. Hutton studied the rocks on Arthur’s Seat and concluded that "this world has neither a beginning nor an end."
Other notable individuals of The Scottish and Edinburgh Enlightenment included: John Playfair (1748 - 1819) Mathematician. Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University. Author of The Illustrations of Huttonian Theory of The Earth. Henry Lord Kames, (1696-1782) Historian, Judge, Philosopher. Robert Adam (1728 - 1792) Architect Joseph Black (1728- 1799) Discovered Carbon Dioxide. James Boswell (1740 - 1795) Lawyer and author of Life of Johnson (Samuel Johnson, the author of the dictionary). James Anderson (1739-1808) agronomist, lawyer and scientist. Hugh Blair (1718- 1800) minister and author. Thomas Brown (1778-1820) moral philosopher Lord Monboddo otherwise known as James Burnet (1714-1799) philosopher, judge, founder of modern comparative historical linguistics. Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) founder of the Restoration Movement. Robert Burns (1759-1796) prolific poet, farmer, philanderer extraordinaire. George Campbell (1719-1796) philosopher of language, and theology. Sir John Clerk of Eldin (1728-1812) artist, author of great-uncle of James Clerk Maxwell. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) lawyer, novelist, poet. Adam Smith (1723-1790) wrote The Wealth of Nations was the first modern treatise on economics. He was also a native of Kirkcaldy in Fife as is the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and twice world champion darts player Jocky Wilson (But that's an aside) William Smellie (1740-1795) editor of the first edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. William Cullen (1710-1790) physician, chemist and medical researcher. Adam Ferguson(1723-1816) considered the founder of sociology. Andrew Fletcher (1653-1716) a forerunner of the Scottish Enlightenment, writer, commissioner of Parliament of Scotland. James Hall (1761-1832) geologist, geophysicist. Francis Hutcheson(1694-1746) philosopher of metaphysics, ethics and logics. Sir John Leslie(1766-1832) mathematician, physicist, investigator of heat (otherwise known as thermodynamics. George Turnbull (1698-1748), theologian, philosopher and writer on education. John Millar (1735-1801) philosopher, historian, historiographer. Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) Established the world’s first lending library. Allan Ramsay junior portrait painter (1713-1784) James Mill (1773-1836) late in the period - Father of John Stuart Mill - Philosopher, political economist, member of parliament and member of parliament. Henry Raeburn (1726-1823) portrait painter. Thomas Reid (1710-1796) philosopher, founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense. (William Robertson1721-1793) A of the founder of modern historical research. John Sinclair(1754 - 1835) politician, writer, the first person to use the word statistics in the English language Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) moral philosopher. John Walker (1730-1803) naturalist and professor of natural history. James Watt (1736-1819) student of Joseph Black - engineer and inventor of the Watt Steam Engine. Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) physician, botanist and philospher - grandfather of Charles Darwin.
Other notable mentions influenced by the Edinburgh and Scottish Enlightenment were Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. He visited David Hume and they corresponded regularly, and it is said that Hume predicted the American Revolution. Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species, attended Edinburgh University. Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) inventor of the telephone, was born and educated in Edinburgh.
In the early days of science, teachers needed dead bodies to illustrate to their pupils how the anatomy worked. How does this heart work? How does this tummy work? How does this bum work? What's inside this skull? "Ah yes wee hairy men. Just like I thought." In 1505 the law in Scotland permitted the use of "One condemned man after he be dead." In 1694 the law was changed to anyone who "died in the correction house, foundlings, suicides or those put to death by order of the magistrate." Bringing in dead bodies to the surgeons was at the university was a good way of making extra cash for those willing to take the risks or use creative means. In 1742 there is an account of a two sedan chairmen found to have a passenger whose spirit had previously departed this earth. They were taking the body up to surgeons hall. The chairmen were banished from the city. There was a great demand for bodies and sometimes, after a burial, when night fell, some grave robbers would come along and dig up the newly buried body and pass it on for some drinking money. Grave robbers were given the slightly more wholly name of resurrectionists. Dead people used to be good business. And this brings us to the most famous dead body money makers of Edinburgh, William Burke and William Hare.
Burke & Hare
Burke and Hare’s names are misunderstood because they were never grave robbers or resurrectionists at all but quite simply cold blooded murderers. The way it all got started for them was that William Hare lived in a lodging house with a woman called Margaret Laird. It was her lodging house and they lived together as if they were married. One day there was a man called Donald who died in the Lodging house owing William Hare £4. So on the day of the funeral, with the help of William Burke, the two men removed the body of Donald form the coffin and put it in a barrel. And they filled the coffin up with tree bark. They sealed up the coffin and sent it to the funeral. Then they took the body of Donald in a barrel up to Doctor Knox at Edinburgh University.
The University, at the time, was one of the most respected places in the world for training doctors, and by all accounts Doctor Knox was a very ambitious man always looking for new bodies for dissection to impress his pupils and peers. The deal they reached with Doctor Knox was £10. From then on their activities seemed to escalate. They got carried away. Mostly they would pick on the most vulnerable people. People with no close family. Those who came to Edinburgh for looking for work and friendship. They would be weak physically and emotionally. Burke and Hare would befriend them, "Come on have a wee drink with us now, We're all pals here in Edinburgh." Burke and Hare would get them drunk, take them home, and smother them.
The process of smothering was effective because the body would be undamaged, therefore it would fetch a better price. This practice later became known by the students as "Burking."
In total Burke and Hare were responsible for thirteen deaths, but there have been estimates of as many as thirty people who met their fate at the hands of these murderers. How do we know what happened? Well all the evidence came out at the trial of William Burke. Only William Burke was found guilty of these murders, because the bungling authorities had to get Hare to "turn kings evidence." That means Hare snitched on Burke in order to be released free of charge. William Burke was hanged on the 28th January 1829 on George IV Bridge. Burke and Hare's killing spree lasted about a year. Hare escaped almost certain death at the hands of the Edinburgh mob and Doctor Knox also escaped. The final ironic twist to the tale is that William Burke was sent up to be dissected. His skeleton is still on display at Edinburgh University.
Sport in Edinburgh
There are two main football teams in Edinburgh, Hibernian (Hibs) and Heart of Mid Lothian (Hearts). Hibs have some notable fans: Andy Murray and his brother Jamie Murray. Dougray Scott, the Hollywood actor. Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting. Bernard Gallagher, golfer and one-time Ryder Cup Captain. A Notable fan of Hearts is seven times World Champion snooker player, Stephen Hendry. Scottish Rugby is on show at Murrayfield Stadium. Every year Scotland plays in the Six Nations Rugby Championship which includes France, Wales, England Italy and Ireland. They also play Autumn Internationals against The New Zealand All Blacks, The South African Springbok, and The Australian Wallabies. Murrayfield Stadium has a capacity of over 67,000 for rugby games and also hosts many live concerts such as REM, U2, Oasis, and The Eagles