The History of Leith

November 23, 2008

Ramsay Garden


(c) John Arthur

The name is almost certainly derived from Ramsay Garden, lying to the west of the lane, and acquired bit by bit by Allan Ramsay, who began as a wigmaker, developed into a bookseller with a circulating library, and ended as a poet, his best-known piece being ‘The Gentle Shepherd’. His first shop was a little above ‘John Knox House’. He left it in 1722 for a larger one at the east end of the Luckenbooths, afterwards occupied by Provost Wm. Creech, Burns’s Edinburgh publisher. About 1740 he built Ramsay Lodge, which, from its shape, was known among the wags of the town as the ‘Guse Pie’. On his complaining to Lord Elibank of this levity, he received but little comfort from the reply, ‘Indeed, Allan, when I see you in it, I think the wags are not far wrong!’ He died in 1758, and was buried in Greyfriars; his monument stands in the west Princes Street Gardens, in sight of his old dwelling. His son and namesake (1713-84), a well-known artist, settled in London, and became portrait-painter to George III and Queen Charlotte. He acquired the estate of Kinkell, by which he is generally known, to distinguish him from his father. By some, however, the name is derived from Ramsay’s land, the town house of the Ramsays of Cockpen, one of whom, Sir Andrew, forcibly held the Provost’s Chair for some fifteen years in the days of Charles II. This house stood at the east side of the top of the lane, where Dr. Guthrie’s Ragged School flourished later, Wilson, i.187. Marked ‘Cockpen’ by Kerr. (This Ramsay Lodge must not be confused with another built by James Ramsay, accomptant of Excise, which stood on the site occupied later by the old Cattle Market, Lauriston, Ainslie 1804, and now by the College of Art. David Laing, LL.D., librarian of the Signet Library, succeeded his father as resident here D. 1832 till he removed to Portobello.) Kerr.

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