Doctor John Fian, alias John Cunningham, is "worriett" [strangled and then burned] on the Castlehill for witchcraft. He was alleged to have been the leader of a coven of witches based in North Berwick who had conspired to take the life of King James VI and his new bride, Princess Anne of Denmark by raising terrible storms in the North Sea during the royal newlyweds' return voyage.
From the Burgh Records of January 1587, we learn that Edinburgh Town Council starts the new year pragmatically (as do we all) with a bit of a tidy-up, and so:
"Ordanis James Ros, thesaurer, to caus red the rowme of the awld gallows; baynes, deid corssis and all."
["Orders James Ross, treasurer, to have cleared the space around the old gallows; bones, dead corpses and all."]
On this date in 1681 Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, made an implausibly brazen escape from Edinburgh Castle, where he was being held awaiting death for treason against King Charles II.
At this time of year, as we all start to bemoan the crowds out Christmas shopping (easily avoided by shopping online, by the way), we should perhaps reflect on how much better we have it than our ancestors did. Back on this day in 1595, Scotland was in the grip of severe famine, and starving people were flocking to the cities for shelter. Ever the man of action, King James VI wrote to his Parliament, commanding them to enact and enforce new laws in order to feed the people:
In the early hours of this morning in 1861, an entire tenement block on the Royal Mile collapsed, killing almost half of its residents. This event is recalled today as the Heave Awa' Disaster, after the words of one of the few survivors, twelve-year-old Joseph McIvor.
Over the course of this evening in 1824, Edinburgh’s most destructive accidental fire reached its climax. It had broken out at around 10pm the previous evening in the workshop of engraver James Kirkwood at the top of Assembly Close, where a pot of linseed oil had been overheated, spilled and set fire to a stack of paper. By morning, the fire had spread most of the way along the close it began in, and by its peak it had spread as far down the Royal Mile as Tron Square, reached uphill to Parliament Square, and extended down Fishmarket Close as far as the Cowgate.
On the evening of the 5th of November 1828, a woman by the name of Janet Brown read in the Edinburgh Courant of the arrest of William Burke and William Hare on suspicion of murder. She was shocked, both men being known to her, and with growing dread recalled that it was in their company that she had last seen her friend, Mary Paterson, six months previously.
Hallowe'en is here again!
As darkness falls across Edinburgh's Old Town, my macabre minions and I are preparing to scare the wits out of more willing victims than any other night of the year. As is usually the case, there will be many extra ghosts lurking up closes and down gloomy stairs to help us along; and of course, we also have the benefit of thousands of unpaid extras haunting the streets as well!
In the first of an occasional series, we look back at events in Edinburgh's history that happened on this day.
On this day in 1687, the first sedan chairs became available for public hire in Edinburgh.
Although some the wealthier residents of the city had owned their own private sedan chairs for many decades, this was the first opportunity that the lower orders had to experience such luxury. The bearers of these "hackney chairs" were typically Highlanders who had migrated south in search of employment: men used to heavy labour and being outdoors in all seasons.
Every few years (seven, in this case) we feel like a bit of a spring-clean. That extends even to our online realm, so we decided to give this very website a bit of serious TLC (timid light caressing? --Ed).