History of Leith, Edinburgh

May 14, 2004

Blood and Golf

On the 23rd of December 1729 The Hon. Alexander Elphinstone who was leading a life of idleness and pleasure in Leith while his brother was in exile met a lieutenant Swift of Lord Cadogan’s regiment (which later became the Kings own) at the house of a Mr Watson in Leith.

An argument started between the two men and Elphinstone angrily stood up and as he did so the tip of his sword touched Swifts shoulder and he demanded satisfaction the following morning on the Links of Leith. Accordingly the two men met at 11.00am in this public place and fought a duel with their swords and Swift received a mortal wound and died.

For this Alexander Elphinstone was indicted for murder but the case never came to court and was quietly hushed up. He died at his father’s house in Cotefield lane three years later.

Referring to the Links of Leith and to the peaceful game of golf and the game Elphinstone played with Captain Porteous the author of the “Domestic Annals” says “that no one could have imagined as that cheerful game was going on that both of the players were not many years after to have blood upon their hands one of them to take on the murderer’s mark upon this very field.

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