Sunday, November 9, 2014

Day 3 - A Tour of Edinburgh

Day 3 was a walk to Edinburgh Castle, stopping along the way at notable landmarks.

We found quite by accident, the monument to Greyfriars Bobby.

Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for supposedly spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known in Edinburgh, through several books and films, and a prominent commemorative statue and nearby graves act as a tourist attraction.

Continuing on to Edinburgh Castle we come onto the Royal Mile. This picture is looking from the Castle.

The Royal Mile (Scots: Ryal Mile) is the name given to a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. The name was first used in W M Gilbert's Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century (1901), and was further popularised as the title of a guidebook, published in 1920. The thoroughfare, as the name suggests, is approximately one Scots mile long and runs downhill between two significant locations in the history of Scotland, namely Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The Royal Mile is the busiest tourist street in the Old Town, rivaled only by Princes Street in the New Town.

On the Royal Mile we first come across a sign depicting Deacon Brodie.

William Brodie (1741 – 1788), more commonly known by his prestigious title of Deacon Brodie, was a Scottish cabinet-maker, deacon of a trades guild and Edinburgh city councillor, who maintained a secret life as a burglar, partly for the thrill, and partly to fund his gambling.

By day, Brodie was a respectable tradesman and Deacon (president) of the Incorporation of Wrights, the head of the Craft of Cabinetmaking, which made him a member of the Town Council. Part of his job in building cabinets was to install and repair their locks and other security mechanisms and repair door locks. He socialised with the gentry of Edinburgh, and met the poet Robert Burns and the painter Sir Henry Raeburn. He was also a member of The Edinburgh Cape Club, and known as Sir Llyud.

At night, however, Brodie became a burglar and thief. He used his daytime job as a way to gain knowledge about the security mechanisms of his clients and to copy their keys using wax impressions. As the foremost wright of the city, Brodie was asked to work in the homes of many of the richest members of Edinburgh society. He used the illicit money to maintain his second life, which included a gambling habit and five children to two mistresses (who did not know of each other, and were unknown in the city). He reputedly began his criminal career around 1768 when he copied keys to a bank door and stole £800. In 1786 he recruited a gang of three thieves, John Brown (a thief escaping a seven-year sentence of transportation), George Smith (a locksmith, who ran a grocer's shop in the Cowgate) and Andrew Ainslie (a shoemaker).

The case that led to Brodie's downfall began later in 1788 when he organised an armed raid on an Excise office in Chessel's Court on The Canongate. Brodie's plan failed. On the same night, Brown approached the authorities to claim a King's Pardon, which had been offered after a previous robbery, and gave up the names of Smith and Ainslie (initially saying nothing of Brodie's involvement). Smith and Ainslie were arrested and the next day Brodie attempted to visit them in prison but was refused. Realising that he had to leave Edinburgh, Brodie escaped to London and then to the Netherlands intending to flee to the United States but was arrested in Amsterdam and shipped back to Edinburgh for trial.

The trial of Brodie and Smith started on 27 August 1788. At first there was no hard evidence against Brodie, although the tools of his criminal trade (copied keys, a disguise and pistols) were found in his house and workshops. But with Brown's evidence and Ainslie being persuaded to turn King's Evidence, added to the self-incriminating lines in the letters he had written while on the run, the jury found Brodie and Smith guilty.

Brodie and Smith were hanged at the Tolbooth Prison in the High Street on 1 October 1788, before a crowd of 40,000. According to one tale, Brodie wore a steel collar and silver tube to prevent the hanging from being fatal. It was said that he had bribed the hangman to ignore it and arranged for his body to be removed quickly in the hope that he could later be revived. If so, the plan failed. Brodie was buried in an unmarked grave at the Buccleuch Church in Chapel Street. The ground is now covered by a car park behind university lecture-halls. However, rumours of his being seen in Paris circulated later and gave the story of his scheme to evade death further publicity.

Leaving Deacon Brodiw we head up the Royal Mile towards Edinburgh Castle, coming on to the Esplanade we find the the Witch's Well. A well hidden monument to the misery suffered by mostly women, deemed to be witches and murdered in most horrific fashion.

As visitors flock past the small fountain on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, many admire the beautiful flowers that are blooming in the well. But those who examine the site more carefully will see there is nothing beautiful or fragrant about the act the cast iron wall fountain commemorates. It marks the place where more than 300 people were burned at the stake after being accused of being witches. Many more were drowned by being “douked” nearby in the Nor’ Loch, where Princes Street Gardens now lie.

Despite its small population, Scotland holds the reputation of having been Europe’s biggest persecutor of witches.

Across the 17th and 18th centuries, it is known more than 3800 suspected witches were strangled, hanged, drowned or burned at the stake. The first major Scottish witch trials took place in 1590, presided over by King James VI. The last Scottish woman to face trial for witchcraft was jailed for her crime as recently as 1944. Researchers at Edinburgh University have used historical records to put together The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft and witch hunting in Scotland. The survey reveals the names of almost all the 3837 people they know were killed after being accused of being a witch between 1563 and 1736.

Across the Esplanade, we see the entrance to Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its position on the Castle Rock. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age (2nd century AD), although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603.

From the 15th century the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century it was principally used as military barracks with a large garrison. Its importance as a part of Scotland's national heritage was recognised increasingly from the early 19th century onwards, and various restoration programmes have been carried out over the past century and a half. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. It has been besieged, both successfully and unsuccessfully, on several occasions.

Few of the present buildings pre-date the Lang Siege of the 16th century, when the medieval defences were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment. The most notable exceptions are St Margaret's Chapel from the early 12th century, which is regarded as the oldest building in Edinburgh,  the Royal Palace and the early 16th century Great Hall, although the interiors have been much altered from the mid-Victorian period onwards. The castle also houses the Scottish regalia, known as the Honours of Scotland and is the site of the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland. The British Army is still responsible for some parts of the castle, although its presence is now largely ceremonial and administrative. Some of the castle buildings house regimental museums which contribute to its presentation as a tourist attraction.

The castle is in the care of Historic Scotland and is Scotland's most-visited paid tourist attraction, with over 1.2 million visitors in 2011.  As the backdrop to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the annual Edinburgh International Festival the castle has become a recognisable symbol of Edinburgh and of Scotland.

To the right of the entrance is a plaque commemorating the beginnings of Nova Scotia.

William Alexander was the son of Alexander of Menstrie and Marion, daughter of an Allan Couttie. As a young man William became tutor to the Earl of Argyll and accompanied him abroad. At a later date he received the place of Gentleman Usher to Prince Charles, son of James VI of Scotland, and continued in favour at court after Prince Charles became Charles I of England in 1625. He built a reputation as a poet and writer of rhymed tragedies, and assisted King James I and VI in preparing the metrical version known as "The Psalms of King David, translated by King James" and published by authority of Charles I. James knighted him in 1609 and appointed him the Master of Requests for Scotland in 1614, effectively his private secretary. In 1615 he was made a member of the Scottish Privy Council.

In 1621, King James I granted William a royal charter appointing him mayor of a vast territory which was enlarged into a lordship and barony of Nova Scotia (New Scotland); the area now known as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and part of the northern United States. The creation of Baronets of Nova Scotia was used to settle the plantation of the new province. He was appointed Secretary for Scotland in 1626 and held that office for the rest of his life.

Lord Stirling’s efforts at colonisation were less successful, at least in monetary terms. He briefly established a Scottish settlement at Port Royal, Nova Scotia, led by his son William Alexander (the younger). However the effort cost him most of his fortune, and when the region—now Canada's three Maritime Provinces and the state of Maine—was returned to France in 1632, it was lost. He spent his later years with limited means, and died in London on 12 September 1640. However Alexander's settlement provided the basis for British claims to Nova Scotia and his baronets provided the Coat of arms of Nova Scotia and Flag of Nova Scotia which are still in use today.

WHEW! We head back to grab a wee dram at a pub on the way home and a chance to relax.

We find the fabulous Theatre Royal Bar. Set in the Edinburgh's theatrical heartland, they've been serving food and drinks for decades. Situated on Greenside place, next door to the famous Playhouse theatre, they're at the heart of the action for pre- and post-theatre drinks, cuisine and socialising.

Finally home.

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