The History of Leith

November 29, 2011

The Prisoners of the Edinburgh Tolbooth.

On the charge of being a ” Papist,” among many other prisoners in the Tolbooth in 1628, was the Countess of Abercorn, where her health became broken by confinement, and the misery of a prison which, if it was loathsome in the reign of George III., must have been something terrible in the days of Charles I. In 1621 she obtained a licence to go to the baths of Bristol, but failing
to leave the city, was lodged for six months in the Canongate gaol. After she had been under restraint in various places for three years, she was permitted to remain in the earl’s house at Paisley, in March 1631, on condition that she “reset no Jesuits,” and to return if required under a penalty of 5,000 merks.
Taken seriatim, the records of the Tolbooth contain volumes of entries made in the following
brief fashion :—
” 1662, June 10.—John Kincaid put in ward
by warrant of the Lords of the Privy Council, for
‘ pricking of persons suspected of witchcraft unwarrantably.’
Liberated on finding caution not to
do so again.
“—June 10.-—Robert Binning for falsehood;
hanged with the false papers about his neck.
” — Aug. 13.—Robert Reid for murder. His
head struck from his body at the mercat cross.
” — Dec. 4.—James Ridpath, tinker; to be qhupitt
from Castle-hill to Netherbow, burned on the
cheek with the Toun’s common mark, and banished
the kingdom, for the crime of double adultery.
” 1663, March 13.—Alexander Kennedy; hanged
for raising false bonds and writts.
” — March 21.—Audit Qwakers; liberated, certifying
if again troubling the place, the next prison
shall be the Correction House.
“— July 8.—Katharine Reid; hanged for
” — July 8.—Sir Archibald Johnston of Warriston;
treason. Hanged, his head cut off and placed
on the Netherbow.
” — July 18.—Bessie Brebner; hanged for
” — Aug. 25.—The Provost of Kirkcudbright;
banished for keeping his house during a tumult.
” — Oct. 5.—William Dodds; beheaded for
And so on in grim monotony, till we come to the last five entries in the old record, which is
quite incomplete.
“1728, Oct. 25.—John Gibson; forging a
declaration, iSth January, 1727. His lug nailed
to the Tron, and dismissed.
” 1751, March 18.—Helen Torrance and Jean
Waldie were executed this day, for stealing a child,
eight or nine years of age; and selling its body to
the surgeons for dissection. Alive on Tuesday when
carried off, and dead on Friday, with an incision in
the belly, but sewn up again.
“1756, May 4.—Sir William Dalrymple of Cousland;
for shooting^at Capt. Hen. Dalrymple of
Fordell, with a pistol at the Cross of Edinburgh.
Liberated on i4th May, on bail for 6,000 merks,
to answer any complaint.
” 1752, Jan. 10.—Norman Ross; hanged and
hung in chains between Leith and Edinburgh, for
assassinating Lady Bailie, sister to Home of
“1757, Feb. 4,—James Rose, Excise Officer at
| Muthill; banished to America for forging receipts
for arrears.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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