The History of Leith

December 20, 2011

Mr. William Spence

Mr. William Spence was put to the torture by the Privy Council concerning his master’s affairs, and the contents of several letters in cipher. After that he was put in the hands of Sir Thomas Dalyell, Colonel of the Scots Greys, a grim old veteran, whose snow-white vow-beard had never been cut since the death of Charles I., and by whom, says Fountainhall, ” with a hair-shirt and
pricking (as the witches are used), he was kept five nights from sleep, till he was half distracted.” After being thumb-screwed till his hands were hopelessly crushed, he was again flung into the
Castle, where perhaps the most pleasant sounds he heard were the minute guns, about Michaelmas, saluting the corpse of his ” persecutor ” (Dalyell, who died suddenly) as it was passing through the
West Port, with six field-pieces, the whole of the Scottish forces in Edinburgh, with his horse, baton, and armour, to the family vault near Abercorn.
Spence ultimately read the ciphers, which led to the capture, captivity in the Castle, and torture no less than twenty times, of the famous William Carstairs, of that ilk, afterwards Principal of the University of Edinburgh, and Moderator of the General Assembly; but such barbarities soon brought their own punishment; the Revolution came, and with it the last actual siege of the Castle of Edinburgh.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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