THE HIGH STREET. 243 bouring buildings with a majestic and imposing effect, of which the north front of James’a Court-the only private building that resembles it-conveys only a very partial idea. Within the Fishmarket Close was the mansion of George Heriot, the royal goldsmith of James VI. ; where more recently resided the elder Lord President Dundas, father of Lord Melville, a thorough &on wivant of the old claret-drinking school of lawyers.’ There also, for successive generations, dwelt another dignitary of the College of Justice, the grim executioner of the law’s last sentence-happily a less indispensable legal functionary than in former days. The last occupant of the hangman’s house annually drew “ the dempster’s fee” at the Royal Bank, and eked out his slender professional income by cobbling such shoes as his least superstitious neighbours cared to trust in his hands, doubtless, with many a sorrowful reflection on the wisdom of our forefathers, and ‘‘ the good old times ” that are gone The house has been recently rebuilt, but, as might be expected, it is still haunted by numerous restless ghosts, and will run considerable risk of remaining tenantless should its official occupant, in these hard times, find his occupation gone.4 Borthwick’s Close, which stands to the east, is expressly mentioned in Nisbet’s Heraldry as having belonged to the Lords Borthwick, and in the boundaries of a house in the adjoining close, the property about the middle of the east side is described as the Lord Napier’s ; but the whole alley is now entirely modernised, and destitute of attractions either for the artist or antiquary. On the ground, however, that intervenes between this and the Assembly Close, one of the new Heriot schools has been built, and occupies a site of peculiar interest. There stood, until its demolition by the Great Fire of 1824, the old Assembly Rooms of Edinburgh, whither the directors of fashion removed their ‘‘ General Assembly,” about the year 1720,” from the scene of its earlier revels in the West Bow. There it was that Goldsmith witnessed for the first time the formalities of an old Scottish ball, during his residence in Edinburgh in 17’53. The light-hearted young Irishman has left an amusing account of the astonishment with which, ‘‘ on entering the dancing-hall, he sees one end of the room taken up with the ladies, who sit dismally in a group by themselves ; on the other end stand their pensive partners that are to be, but no more intercourse between the sexes than between two countries at war. The ladies, indeed, may ogle, and the gentlemen sigh, but an embargo is laid upon any closer commerce I ” Only three years after the scene witnessed by the poet, these grave and decorous revels were removed to more commodious rooms in Bell’s Wynd, where they continued to be held till the erection of the new hall in George Street. Much older associations, however, pertain to this interesting locality, for, on the site occupied by the d d Assembly Rooms, there formerly stood the town mansion of Lord Durie, President of the Court of Session in 1642, and the hero of the merry ballad of “ Christie’s Will.” The Earl of Traquair, it appears, had a lawsuit pending in the Court of Session, to which the President’s opposition was 1 Dr Steven’s Memoirs of Gorge Heriot, p. 6. ’ T& ‘‘ Convivial habits of the Scottish Bar.”-Note to “Guy Mannering.? ’ Pidc Chambers’s Traditions, vol. ii. p, 184, for aome curioua notices of the Edinburgh hangmen. ’ The office of this functionary ia now abolished, and the house ia occupied by privata families, 5 Nbbet’s Heraldry, vol. ii Appendix, p. 106. a In a mine dated 1723, it is atyled-“That big hall, or great room, now known by the name of the h m b l y House, being part of that new great atone tenemeut of land lately built,” &c.--BurgA Chu&r h.
244 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. dreaded. In this dilemma he had recourse to Will Armstrong, a worthy descendant of the famous mosstrooper executed by Jamev V.,-who owed to the Earl’s good fiervices his emape from a halter. Will promptly volunteered to kidnap the President on learning that he stood in his patron’s way, and watching his opportunity when Lord Durie was riding out, he entered into conversation with him, and so decoyed him to an unfrequented spot called the Figgate Whins, near Portobello, when he suddenly pulled him from his horse, muffled him in his trooper’s cloak, and rode off with the luckless judge trussed up behind him. Lord Durie was secured in the dungeon of an old castle in Annandale called the Tower of Graeme, and his horse being found on the beach, it was concluded he had thrown his rider into the sea. His friends went into mourning, his successor was appointed, the Earl won his plea, and Will was directed to set his captive at liberty. The old judge waa accordingly seized in his dark dungeon, mufHed once more in the cloak, and conveyed with such dexterity to the scene of his capture that he long entertained the belief he had’ been spirited away by witches. The joy of his friends was probably surpassed by the blank amazement of his successor, when he appeared to reclaim his old office and honours. Accident long after led to a discovery of the whole story; but in those disorderly times it was only laughed at as a fair ruse de gumre.‘ In the ballad the bold moss-trooper alights at Lord Durie’s door, and beguiles him with a message from “the fairest lady in Teviotdale.” Sir Walter, however, confesses to such ekeing and patching of the traditionary fragments of the old ballad, that we must content ourselves with the fact of the stolen President’s dwelling having stood on the site of the Heriot’s school in the Assembly Close. Of this there can be no doubt, as it ia referred to in the boundaries of various early deeds, in most of which the alley is styled Durie’s Close. The Covenant Close has already been referred to: with its interesting old land, surmounted with three crow-stepped gables, forming the most prominent feature in the range of the High Street as seeu from the south. The front lands immediately below this and the adjoining close again direct us to associations with the olden time, though only as occupying the site of what once was interesting, for fire and modern reform together have effected an entire revolution in this part of the town. Over the doorway immediately above Bell’s Wynd an escallop shell? cut upon the modern stone lintel, marks the site of the ‘‘ Clam Shell Turnpike,” an edifice associated with eminent characters, and some of the most interesting eras in Scottish history. Maitland only remarks of it, in this close there ‘( is an ancient chapel, which is still plainly to be seen by the manner of its construction, though now converted into a dwelling- 1 Chrktie’s Will, Border Minstrelsy. There is little doubt of the general truth of thia tradition. Ante, p. 93. The leading facts, though without the names, are related in Forbes’s Journal, and Scott tells UE that some old stnnzas of the ballad were current on the Border in hia youth. VIGNETTE-CIBIII Shell Turnpike, from Skena Taken down lT91.