Copyright
Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

. (page 18 of 66)
Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 18 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The unique chapel was the great object of interest. The guide informed
us that it was founded in 1446 by William St. Clair, who also built the
castle, in which he resided in princely splendour. He must have been a
person of very great importance, for he had titles enough even to weary
a Spaniard, being Prince of Orkney, Duke of Oldenburg, Earl of Caithness
and Stratherne, Lord St. Clair, Lord Liddlesdale, Lord Admiral of the
Scottish Seas, Lord Chief Justice of Scotland, Lord Warden of the three
Marches, Baron of Roslin, Knight of the Cockle, and High Chancellor,
Chamberlain, and Lieutenant of Scotland!

The lords of Rosslyn were buried in their complete armour beneath the
chapel floor up to the year 1650, but afterwards in coffins. Sir Walter
Scott refers to them in his "Lay of the Last Minstrel" thus: -

There are twenty of Rosslyn's Barons bold
Lie buried within that proud Chapelle.

[Illustration: ROSSLYN CHAPEL - THE "MASTER AND 'PRENTICE PILLARS"]

[Illustration: THE "'PRENTICE PILLAR."]

There were more carvings in Rosslyn Chapel than in any place of equal
size that we saw in all our wanderings, finely executed, and with every
small detail beautifully finished and exquisitely carved. Foliage,
flowers, and ferns abounded, and religious allegories, such as the Seven
Acts of Mercy, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Dance of Death, and many
scenes from the Scriptures; it was thought that the original idea had
been to represent a Bible in stone. The great object of interest was the
magnificently carved pillar known as the "'Prentice Pillar," and in the
chapel were two carved heads, each of them showing a deep scar on the
right temple. To these, as well as the pillar, a melancholy memory was
attached, from which it appeared that the master mason received orders
that this pillar should be of exquisite workmanship and design. Fearing
his inability to carry out his instructions, he went abroad to Rome to
see what designs he could find for its execution. While he was away his
apprentice had a dream in which he saw a most beautiful column, and,
setting to work at once to carry out the design of his dream, finished
the pillar, a perfect marvel of workmanship. When his master returned
and found the pillar completed, he was so envious and enraged at the
success of his apprentice that he struck him on the head with his mallet
with such force that he killed him on the spot, a crime for which he was
afterwards executed.

We passed on to the castle across a very narrow bridge over a ravine,
but we did not find much there except a modern-looking house built with
some of the old stones, under which were four dungeons. Rosslyn was
associated with scenes rendered famous by Bruce and Wallace, Queen Mary
and Rizzio, Robert III and Queen Annabella Drummond, by Comyn and
Fraser, and by the St. Clairs, as well as by legendary stories of the
Laird of Gilmorton Grange, who set fire to the house in which were his
beautiful daughter and her lover, the guilty abbot, so that both of them
were burnt to death, and of the Lady of Woodhouselee, a white-robed,
restless spectre, who appeared with her infant in her arms. Then there
was the triple battle between the Scots and the English, in which the
Scots were victorious:

Three triumphs in a day!
Three hosts subdued by one!
Three armies scattered like the spray,
Beneath one vernal sun.

[Illustration: ROSSLYN CASTLE.]

Here, too, was the inn, now the caretaker's house, visited by Dr.
Johnson and Boswell in 1773, the poet Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy
in 1803, while some of the many other celebrities who called from time
to time had left their signatures on the window-panes. Burns and his
friend Nasmyth the artist breakfasted there on one occasion, and Burns
was so pleased with the catering that he rewarded the landlady by
scratching on a pewter plate the two following verses:

My blessings on you, sonsie wife,
I ne'er was here before;
You've gien us walth for horn and knife -
Nae heart could wish for more.

Heaven keep you free from care and strife.
Till far ayont four score;
And while I toddle on through life,
I'll ne'er gang bye your door.

Rosslyn at one time was a quiet place and only thought of in Edinburgh
when an explosion was heard at the Rosslyn gunpowder works. But many
more visitors appeared after Sir Walter Scott raised it to eminence by
his famous "Lay" and his ballad of "Rosabelle":

Seem'd all on fire that chapel proud.
Where Rosslyn's chiefs uncoffin'd lie.

Hawthornden was quite near where stood Ben Jonson's sycamore, and
Drummond's Halls, and Cyprus Grove, but we had no time to see the caves
where Sir Alexander Ramsay had such hairbreadth escapes. About the end
of the year 1618 Ben Jonson, then Poet Laureate of England, walked from
London to Edinburgh to visit his friend Taylor, the Thames waterman,
commonly known as the Water Poet, who at that time was at Leith. In the
January following he called to see the poet Drummond of Hawthornden, who
was more frequently called by the name of the place where he lived than
by his own. He found him sitting in front of his house, and as he
approached Drummond welcomed him with the poetical salutation:

"Welcome! welcome! Royal Ben,"

to which Jonson responded,

"Thank ye, thank ye, Hawthornden."

[Illustration: HAWTHORNDEN.]

The poet Drummond was born in 1585, and died in 1649, his end being
hastened by grief at the execution of Charles I. A relative erected a
monument to his memory in 1784, to which the poet Young added the
following lines:

O sacred solitude, divine retreat,
Choice of the prudent, envy of the great!
By the pure stream, or in the waving shade
I court fair Wisdom, that celestial maid;
Here from the ways of men, laid safe ashore,
I smile to hear the distant tempest roar;
Here, blest with health, with business unperplex'd,
This life I relish, and secure the next.

Rosslyn Glen was a lovely place, almost like a fairy scene, and we
wondered if Burns had it in his mind when he wrote:

Their groves of sweet myrtle let foreign lands reckon,
Where bright-beaming summers exalt the perfume;
Far dearer to me yon lone glen of green bracken,
Wi' the burn stealing under the long yellow broom.

[Illustration: PENNICUICK HOUSE COURT]

We walked very quietly and quickly past the gunpowder works, lest
conversation might cause an explosion that would put an end to our
walking expedition and ourselves at the same time, and regained the
highway at a point about seven miles from Edinburgh. Presently we came
to the Glencorse Barracks, some portions of which adjoined our road,
and, judging from the dress and speech of the solitary sentinel who was
pacing to and fro in front of the entrance, we concluded that a regiment
of Highlanders must be stationed there. He informed us that in the time
of the French Wars some of the prisoners were employed in making Scotch
banknotes at a mill close by, and that portions of the barracks were
still used for prisoners, deserters, and the like. Passing on to
Pennicuick, we crossed a stream that flowed from the direction of the
Pentland Hills, and were informed that no less than seven paper mills
were worked by that stream within a distance of five miles. Here we saw
a monument which commemorated the interment of 309 French prisoners who
died during the years 1811 to 1814, a list of their names being still in
existence. This apparently large death-rate could not have been due to
the unhealthiness of the Glencorse Barracks, where they were confined,
for it was by repute one of the healthiest in the kingdom, the road
being 600 feet or more above sea-level, and the district generally,
including Pennicuick, considered a desirable health-resort for persons
suffering from pulmonary complaints. We stayed a short time here for
refreshments, and outside the town we came in contact with two young men
who were travelling a mile or two on our way, with whom we joined
company. We were giving them an outline of our journey and they were
relating to us their version of the massacre of Glencoe, when suddenly a
pretty little squirrel crossed our path and ran into a wood opposite.
This caused the massacre story to be ended abruptly and roused the
bloodthirsty instinct of the two Scots, who at once began to throw
stones at it with murderous intent. We watched the battle as the
squirrel jumped from branch to branch and passed from one tree to
another until it reached one of rather large dimensions. At this stage
our friends' ammunition, which they had gathered hastily from the road,
became exhausted, and we saw the squirrel looking at them from behind
the trunk of the tree as they went to gather another supply. Before they
were again ready for action the squirrel disappeared. We were pleased
that it escaped, for our companions were good shots. They explained to
us that squirrels were difficult animals to kill with a stone, unless
they were hit under the throat. Stone-throwing was quite a common
practice for country boys in Scotland, and many of them became so expert
that they could hit small objects at a considerable distance. We were
fairly good hands at it ourselves. It was rather a cruel sport, but
loose stones were always plentiful on the roads - for the surfaces were
not rolled, as in later years - and small animals, such as dogs and cats
and all kinds of birds, were tempting targets. Dogs were the greatest
sufferers, as they were more aggressive on the roads, and as my brother
had once been bitten by one it was woe to the dog that came within his
reach. Such was the accuracy acquired in the art of stone-throwing at
these animals, that even stooping down in the road and pretending to
lift a stone often caused the most savage dog to retreat quickly. We
parted from the two Scots without asking them to finish their story of
Glencoe, as the details were already fixed in our memories. They told us
our road skirted a moor which extended for forty-seven miles or nearly
as far as Glasgow, but we did not see much of the moor as we travelled
in a different direction.

[Illustration: "JOUGS" AT A CHURCH, PEEBLESSHIRE.]

We passed through Edleston, where the church was dedicated to St. Mungo,
reminding us of Mungo Park, the famous African traveller, and, strangely
enough, it appeared we were not far away from where he was born. In the
churchyard here was a tombstone to the memory of four ministers named
Robertson, who followed each other in a direct line extending to 160
years. There was also to be seen the ancient "Jougs," or iron rings in
which the necks of criminals were enclosed and fastened to a wall or
post or tree. About three miles before reaching Peebles we came to the
Mansion of Cringletie, the residence of the Wolfe-Murray family. The
name of Wolfe had been adopted because one of the Murrays greatly
distinguished himself at the Battle of Quebec, and on the lawn in front
of the house was a cannon on which the following words had been
engraved:

_His Majesty's Ship Royal George of 108 guns, sunk at Spithead 29th
August 1782. This gun, a 32 pounder, part of the armament of the
Royal George, was fished up from the wreck of that ship by Mr. Deans,
the zealous and enterprising Diver, on the 15th November 1836, and
was presented by the Master-General and Board of Ordnance to General
Durham of Largo, the elder Brother of Sir Philip Charles Henderson
Durham, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of
the Bath, Knight Commander of the Most Ancient Military Order of
Merit of France, Admiral of the White Squadron of Her Majesty's
Fleet, and Commander-in-Chief of the Port of Portsmouth, 1836._

Sir Philip was serving as a lieutenant in the _Royal George_, and was
actually on duty as officer of the watch upon deck when the awful
catastrophe took place. He was providentially and miraculously saved,
but nearly 900 persons perished, amongst them the brave Admiral
Kempenfelt, whose flag went down with the ship.

The wreck of the _Royal George_ was the most awful disaster that had
hitherto happened to the Royal Navy. William Cowper the poet, as soon as
the sad news was brought to him, wrote a solemn poem entitled "The Loss
of the _Royal George_," from which it seems that Admiral Kempenfelt was
in his cabin when the great ship suddenly foundered.

His sword was in its sheath,
His fingers held the pen,
When Kempenfelt went down
With twice four hundred men.

* * * * *

Toll for the brave!
Brave Kempenfelt is gone:
His last sea-fight is fought,
His work of glory done.

* * * * *

Toll for the brave!
The brave that are no more.
All sunk beneath the wave.
Fast by their native shore!

It was nearly dark when we entered the town of Peebles, where we called
at the post office for letters, and experienced some difficulty at first
in obtaining lodgings, seeing that it was the night before the Hiring
Fair. We went first to the Temperance Hotel, but all the beds had been
taken down to make room for the great company they expected on the
morrow; eventually we found good accommodation at the "Cross Keys Inn,"
formerly the residence of a country laird.

We had seen notices posted about the town informing the public that, by
order of the Magistrates, who saw the evil of intoxicating drinks,
refreshments were to be provided the following day at the Town Hall. The
Good Templars had also issued a notice that they were having a
tea-party, for which of course we could not stay.

We found Peebles a most interesting place, and the neighbourhood
immediately surrounding it was full of history. The site on which our
hotel had been built was that of the hostelage belonging to the Abbey of
Arbroath in 1317, the monks granting the hostelage to William Maceon, a
burgess of Peebles, on condition that he would give to them, and their
attorneys, honest lodging whenever business brought them to that town.
He was to let them have the use of the hall, with tables and trestles,
also the use of the spence (pantry) and buttery, sleeping chambers, a
decent kitchen, and stables, and to provide them with the best candles
of Paris, with rushes for the floor and salt for the table. In later
times it was the town house of Williamson of Cardrona, and in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries became one of the principal inns,
especially for those who, like ourselves, were travelling from the
north, and was conducted by a family named Ritchie. Sir Walter Scott,
who at that time resided quite near, frequented the house, which in his
day was called the "Yett," and we were shown the room he sat in. Miss
Ritchie, the landlady in Scott's day, who died in 1841, was the
prototype of "Meg Dobs," the inn being the "Cleikum Inn" of his novel
_St. Ronan's Well_.

[Illustration: THE CHURCH AND MONASTERY OF THE HOLY CROSS, PEEBLES, AD
1261.]

There was a St. Mungo's Well in Peebles, and Mungo Park was intimately
associated with the town. He was born at Foulshiels, Yarrow, in the same
year as Sir Walter Scott, 1771, just one hundred years before our visit,
and, after studying for the Church, adopted medicine as his profession.
He served a short time with a doctor at Selkirk, before completing his
course at the University of Edinburgh, and sailed in 1792 for the East
Indies in the service of the East India Company. Later he joined an
association for the promotion of discovery in Africa, and in 1795 he
explored the basin of the Niger. In 1798 he was in London, and in 1801
began practice as a doctor in Peebles. He told Sir Walter Scott, after
passing through one of the severe winters in Peebleshire, that he would
rather return to the wilds of Africa than pass another winter there. He
returned to London in December 1803 to sail with another expedition, but
its departure was delayed for a short time, so he again visited Peebles,
and astonished the people there by bringing with him a black man named
"Sidi Omback Boubi," who was to be his tutor in Arabic. Meantime, in
1779, he had published a book entitled _Travels in the Interior of
Africa_, which caused a profound sensation at the time on account of the
wonderful stories it contained of adventures in what was then an unknown
part of the world. This book of "Adventures of Mungo Park" was highly
popular and extensively read throughout the country, by ourselves
amongst the rest.

[Illustration: THE BLACK DWARF.]

It was not until January 29th, 1805, that the expedition left Spithead,
and before Mungo Park left Peebles he rode over to Clovenfords, where
Sir Walter Scott was then residing, to stay a night with him at
Ashestiel. On the following morning Sir Walter accompanied him a short
distance on the return journey, and when they were parting where a small
ditch divided the moor from the road Park's horse stumbled a little. Sir
Walter said, "I am afraid, Mungo, that is a bad omen," to which Park
replied, smiling, "Friets (omens) follow those that look for them," and
so they parted for ever. In company with his friends Anderson and Scott
he explored the rivers Gambia and Niger, but his friends died, and Dr.
Park himself was murdered by hostile natives who attacked his canoe in
the River Niger.

Quite near our lodgings was the house where this famous African
traveller lived and practised blood-letting as a surgeon, and where
dreams of the tent in which he was once a prisoner and of dark faces
came to him at night, while the door at which his horse was tethered as
he went to see Sir Walter Scott, and the window out of which he put his
head when knocked up in the night, were all shown as objects of interest
to visitors. Mungo had at least one strange patient, and that was the
Black Dwarf, David Ritchie, who lies buried close to the gate in the old
churchyard. This was a horrid-looking creature, who paraded the country
as a privileged beggar. He affected to be a judge of female beauty, and
there was a hole in the wall of his cottage through which the fair
maidens had to look, a rose being passed through if his fantastic
fancies were pleased; but if not, the tiny window was closed in their
faces. He was known to Sir Walter Scott, who adopted his name in one of
his novels, _The Bowed Davie of the Windus_. His cottage, which was
practically in the same state as at the period of David Ritchie's death,
bore a tablet showing that it had been restored by the great Edinburgh
publishers W. and R. Chambers, who were natives of Peebles, and worded:
"In memory D.R., died 1811. W. and R. Chambers, 1845."

Dr. Pennicuick, who flourished A.D. 1652-1722, had written:

Peebles, the Metropolis of the shire,
Six times three praises doth from me require;
Three streets, three ports, three bridges, it adorn,
And three old steeples by three churches borne,
Three mills to serve the town in time of need.
On Peebles water, and on River Tweed,
Their arms are _proper_, and point forth their meaning,
Three salmon fishes nimbly counter swimming;

but there were other "Threes" connected with Peebles both before and
after the doctor's time: "The Three Tales of the Three Priests of
Peebles," supposed to have been told about the year 1460 before a
blazing fire at the "Virgin Inn."

There were also the Three Hopes buried in the churchyard, whose
tombstone records:

Here lie three Hopes enclosed within,
Death's prisoners by Adam's sin;
Yet rest in hope that they shall be
Set by the Second Adam free.

And there were probably other triplets, but when my brother suggested
there were also three letter e's in the name of Peebles, I reminded him
that it was closing-time, and also bed-time, so we rested that night in
an old inn such as Charles Dickens would have been delighted to
patronise.

(_Distance walked twenty-five miles_.)


_Tuesday, October 10th._

This was the day of the Great Peebles Fair, and everybody was awake
early, including ourselves. We left the "Cross Keys" hotel at six
o'clock in the morning, and a very cold one it was, for there had been a
sharp frost during the night. The famous old Cross formerly stood near
our inn, and the Cross Church close at hand, or rather all that remained
of them after the wars. In spite of the somewhat modern appearance of
the town, which was probably the result of the business element
introduced by the establishment of the woollen factories, Peebles was in
reality one of the ancient royal burghs, and formerly an ecclesiastical
centre of considerable importance, for in the reign of Alexander III
several very old relics were said to have been found, including what was
supposed to be a fragment of the true Cross, and with it the calcined
bones of St. Nicholas, who suffered in the Roman persecution, A.D. 294.
On the strength of these discoveries the king ordered a magnificent
church to be erected, which caused Peebles to be a Mecca for pilgrims,
who came there from all parts to venerate the relics. The building was
known as the Cross Church, where a monastery was founded at the desire
of James III in 1473 and attached to the church, in truly Christian
spirit, one-third of its revenues being devoted to the redemption of
Christian captives who remained in the hands of the Turks after the
Crusades.

[Illustration: ST. ANDREWS CHURCH, PEEBLES, A.D. 1195.]

If we had visited the town in past ages, there would not have been any
fair on October 10th, since the Great Fair, called the Beltane Festival,
was then held on May Day; but after the finding of the relics it was
made the occasion on which to celebrate the "Finding of the Cross,"
pilgrims and merchants coming from all parts to join the festivities and
attend the special celebrations at the Cross Church. On the occasion of
a Beltane Fair it was the custom to light a fire on the hill, round
which the young people danced and feasted on cakes made of milk and
eggs. We thought Beltane was the name of a Sun-god, but it appeared that
it was a Gaelic word meaning Bel, or Beal's-fire, and probably
originated from the Baal mentioned in Holy Writ.

As our next great object of interest was Abbotsford, the last house
inhabited by Sir Walter Scott, our course lay alongside the River Tweed.
We were fortunate in seeing the stream at Peebles, which stood at the
entrance to one of the most beautiful stretches in the whole of its
length of 103 miles, 41 of which lay in Peeblesshire. The twenty miles
along which we walked was magnificent river scenery.

[Illustration: THE SEAL OF THE CROSS CHURCH.]

We passed many castles and towers and other ancient fortifications along
its banks, the first being at Horsburgh, where the castle looked down
upon a grass field called the Chapelyards, on which formerly stood the
chapel and hospice of the two saints, Leonard and Lawrence. At this
hospice pilgrims from England were lodged when on their way to Peebles
to attend the feasts of the "Finding of the Cross" and the "Exaltation
of the Cross," which were celebrated at Beltane and Roodmass
respectively, in the ancient church and monastery of the Holy Cross. It
was said that King James I of England on his visits to Peebles was also
lodged here, and it is almost certain the Beltane Sports suggested to
him his famous poem, "Peebles to the Play," one of its lines being:

Hope Kailzie, and Cardrona, gathered out thickfold,
Singing "Hey ho, rumbelow, the young folks were full bold."


both of which places could be seen from Horsburgh Castle looking across
the river.

We saw the Tower of Cardrona, just before entering the considerable
village, or town, of Innerleithen at six miles from Peebles, and
although the time was so early, we met many people on their way to the
fair. Just before reaching Innerleithen we came to a sharp deep bend in
the river, which we were informed was known as the "Dirt Pot" owing to
its black appearance. At the bottom of this dark depth the silver bells
of Peebles were supposed to be lying. We also saw Glennormiston House,
the residence of William Chambers, who, with his brother, Robert,
founded _Chambers's Journal_ of wide-world fame, and authors, singly and
conjointly, of many other volumes. The two brothers were both
benefactors to their native town of Peebles, and William became Lord
Provost of Edinburgh, and the restorer of its ancient Cathedral of St.
Giles's. His brother Robert died earlier in that very year in which we
were walking. We reached Innerleithen just as the factory operatives
were returning from breakfast to their work at the woollen factories,



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 18 of 66)