The History of Leith

January 11, 2012

Lady Stair’s Close

PRIOR to the opening of Bank Street, Lady Stair’s Close, the first below Gladstone’s Land, was the chief thoroughfare for foot passengers, taking advantage of the half-formed Earthen Mound to reach
the New Town. It takes its name from Elizabeth Countess Dowager of Stair, who was long looked up to as a leader of fashion in Edinburgh, admission to her select circle being one of the highest
objects of ambition among the lesser gentry of her day, when the distinctions of rank and family were guarded with an angry jealousy of which we have But little conception now. Lady Stair’s Close is narrow and dark, for the houses are of great height; the house she occupied still remains on the west side thereof, and was the scene of some romantic events and traditions, of which Scott made able use in his “Aunt Margaret’s Mirror,” ere it became the abode of the widow of the Marshal Earl of Stair, who, when a little boy, had the misfortune to kill his elder brother, the Master, by the accidental discharge of a pistol; after which, it is said, that his mother could never abide him, and sent him in his extreme youth to serve in Flanders as a volunteer in the Cameronian Regiment, under the Earl of Angus. The house occupied by Lady Stair has over its door the pious legend—
” Feare the Lord and depart from mill”
with the date 1622, and the initials of its founder and of his wife—Sir William Gray of Pittendrum. and Egidia Smith, daughter of Sir John Smith, of Groat Hall, near Craigleith, Provost of Edinburgh in 1643. Sir William was a man of great influence in the time of Charles I.; and though the ancient title of Lord Gray reverted to his family, he devoted himself to commerce, and became one of the wealthiest Scottish merchants of that age. But troubles came upon him; he was fined 100,000 merks for corresponding with Montrose, and was imprisoned, first in the Castle and then in the
Tolbooth till the mitigated penalty of 35,000 merks was paid. Other exorbitant exactions followed, and these hastened his death, which took place in 1648.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

Some Text