L UCKENBOOTHS AND PARLIAMENT CLOSE. 201 and humour that led Burns to style him ‘‘ a birkie wee1 worth gowd,” and made him a favourite among the large circle of eminent men who adorned the Scottish capital in the eighteenth century. ITe died in 1815, only two years before the interesting old land, which bore his name for nearly half a century, was levelled with the ground. A carefully engraved view of Creech’s Land is attached to the edition of his “ Fugitive Pieces,” published by his successor soon after his death, An outside stair at the north corner, which formerly gave access, according to the usual style of the older houses, to Allan Ramsay’s library, on the first floor, had been removed about €en years before, but the top of the doorway appears in the view as a small window. The laigh shop, which occupied the subterranean portion of this curious building, is worthy of mention here. Although such a dungeon ae would barely sufEce for the cellarage of a modern tradesman, it was for many years the button warehouse of Messrs T. & A. Hubheson, extensive and wealthy traders, who, in the bad state of the copper coinage,-when even George 111. hdfpennies would not pass current in Scotland,-produced a coinage of Edinburgh halfpennies that were universally received. They were of excellent workmanship ; bearing on one side the city arms, boldly struck, and on the other the figure of St Andrew. They continued in common use until the Close of the last century, when a new copper coinage was introduced from the Mint. Since then they have graddally disappeared, and are now rarely to be met with except in the cabinets of the curious. At the entrance to the narrow passage on the south side of this old land,-called the Krames, from the range of little booths stuck against the walls and buttresses of St Giles’s Church,-there formerly existed a flight of steps known by the name of “ Our Lady Steps; from a statue of the Virgin that had once occupied a plain Gothic niche in the north-east angle of the church. An old gentlewoman is mentioned in the ‘‘ Traditions of Edinburgh,” who died about 1802, at the age of ninety, and who remembered having seen both the statue and steps in her early days. The existence of the statue at so recent a period, we suspect, must be regarded as an error of memory. It is scarcely conceivable that an image of the Virgin, occupying so prominent a position, could escape the fury of the Reforming mobs of 1559.l The niche, however, remained, an interesting memorial of other times, till it fell a sacrifice to the tasteless uniformity of modern Jeaut8m-s in 1829. The New Tolbooth, or Council House, has already been frequently alluded to, and its site described in the course of the work.’ It was attached to the west wall of St Giles’s Church, and at some early period there had existed a means of communication with it from the upper floors, as appeared by an arch that remained built up in the party wall.s A covered passage led through it into the Parliament Close, forming the only Bccess to the latter from the west. From the period of the erection of this building in the reign of Queen . , “The poore made havocke of all goods moveable in the Blacke and Gray friera, and left nothing but bare walls; yea, not so muche as doore or window, so that the Lords had the lease to doe when they came. After their coming, all monuments of idolatrie within the toun, and in places adjacent, were suppressed and removad.”-29th June 1559. Calderwood‘ s Hist. v01. i p. 475. 1 Ante, p. 72. The previous statement is scarcely correct; however, the old Council House stood immediately to the north of the lobby of the Signet Library, but without occupying any part of its site ; the old building continued standing until the other was built to some height. * Thk also appears from the notice of the meeting of Parliament, 17th January 1572, ante, p. 84. 2 c
202 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. Nary, the Scottish Parliaments and the College of Justice assembled there, until their sitting were transferred to the fine hallwhich still remains in Parliament Square, though so strangely disguised externally by its modern facing. On the desertion of the New Tolbooth by the Scottish Estates and Courts of Law, it was exclusivly devoted to the deliberations of the civic counsellors, until the erection of the Royal Exchange provided enlarged accommodation for the Council. The Laigh Hall, where Assemblies both of the Kirk and Estates had often been held, was a large and handsome room. Its ceiling was beautifullywrought in various panels, with rich pendants from their centres, and finished with emblazonry and gilding. On its demolition some interesting and valuable relics of early decorations were brought to light. The walls had been originally panelled with oak, and when at a later period this came to be regarded as old-fashioned and inelegant, the antique panelling was concealed, without removal, behind a modern coating of lath and plaster. There is reason to believe that the compartments of the walls when first completed had been filled with a series of portraits, but unfortunately, little attention was paid to the old building at the period of its destruction, and we are only aware of one of the paintings that has been preserved. There is much probability in favour of this being an original portrait of the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise. It is well painted on an oak panel, and in fine condition, and was at -first believed to represent Queen Anne, the consort of James VI., having been almost completely obscured by smoke and dirt at the time of its discovery. It was then thought that it must have been accompanied by a portrait of .James ; and it is e xceedingly probable that others of equal value to the one thus accidentally preserved may have been thrown aside and destroyed with the discarded panelling. This curious portrait is now in the possession of Alexander Mackay, Esq. of Blackcastle. It represents the Queen in a high-bordered lace cap and ruff, such as both she and her daughter are usually painted with. The details of the lacework are elaborately rendered, and the expression of countenance is dignified and very pleasing. On the painting being cleaned, an ingenious monogram was brought to light, burned into the back of the panel, composing the word MARIA, and leaving, we think, little doubt of the genuineness of the portrait, which was thus found by accident, and has passed through no picture-dealer’s hands. To this ancient building belong many of the later historical associations that have been referred by some of our local historians to its predecessor. It was from one of its windows that the affrighted monarch James VI. attempted in vain to appease the enraged citizens in 1596, when, “had they not been restrained by that worthy citizen, John Watt, the deacon-convener,-who at this dangerous juncture assembled the crafts,-they would undoubtedly have forced the door, and probably have destroyed the King and all that were with him.” The whole tumult appears to have resulted in mutual distrust, which was taken advantage of by some designing meddlers to set the Court and citizens at variance. The Kirk and King were at the time nearly at open strife, and Mr Robert Bruce was preaching to a select audience in St Giles’s Church, preparatory to framing “ certain articles for redresse of the wrongs done to the Kirk,” while the King was Bitting in the neighbouring Tolbooth, “ in the seate of Justice, among the Lords of the Sessioun,” seemingly thinking of nothing less than the granting of any such requests. While the Commissioners went to the Tolbooth to make their wishes known to the King, “Mr Maitland, p. 48.