The History of Leith

January 18, 2012

The Cape Club,

In the tenements occupied of old by Andro Hart is a house, once a famous tavern, which formed the meeting-place of the Cape Club, one of the most noted of those wherein the leading men of ” Auld Reekie ” were wont to seek relaxation—one celebrated in Fergusson’s poem on the city, and where a system of ” high jinks ” was kept up with an ardour that never abated. In this tavern, then, the Isle of Man Arms, kept by James Mann, in Craig’s Close, the ” Cape Club” was nightly inaugurated, each member receiving on his election some grotesque name and character, which he was expected to retain and maintain for the future. From its minutes, which are preserved in the Antiquarian Museum, the club appears to have been formally constituted in 1764, though it had existed long before. Its insignia were a cape, or crown, worn by the Sovereign of the Cape on State occasions, when certain other members wore badges, or jewels of office, and two maces in the form of huge steel pokers, engraven with mottoes, and still preserved in Edinburgh, formed the sword and sceptre of the King in Cape Hall, when the jovial fraternity met for high jinks, and Tom Lancashire the comedian, Robert Fergusson the poet, David Herd, Alexander Runciman, Jacob More, Walter Ross the antiquary, Gavin Wilson the poetical shoemaker, the Laird of Cardrona a ban vivant of the last century, SirHenry Raeburn, and, strange to say, the notorious Deacon Brodie, met round the “flowing bowl.

Source-Old and New Edinburgh

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