The History of Leith

January 24, 2012

The entire edifice suddenly parted in two

ONE of the chief ” lions ” of the High Street, if not perhaps the oldest stone building is the ancient manse of John Knox, which terminates it on the east, however it was inhabited long before his time by George Durie, Abbot of Dunfermline who was also arch-dean of St. Andrews. He was promoted to the abbacy by James V. in 1539, and was canonised two years afterwards at Rome, according to Wilson; but no such name appears in Butler’s ” Lives of the Fathers.” Until within the last few years the whole of this portion of the High Street was remarkable for its ancient houses, all bearing unchanged the stamp of Mary’s time—about 1562; some that had open booths below had been converted into closed shops, but the fore-stairs, from which the people had reviled her as she came in from Carberry, and from whence their descendants witnessed Montrose dragged to his doom, remained unaltered.
Adjoining the house of Knox once stood a timber fronted fabric, having a corbelled oriel, and flats projecting over each other in succession, and a roof furnished with picturesque dormer windows. Its lintel bore the date 1601, and it was said to have been the mansion of the early Lords Balmerino. On a Sunday morning in 1840 this entire edifice suddenly parted in two— the front half was precipitated into the street with a terrible crash, while the back part remained in its original position, thus giving a perfect longitudinal section through the edifice to the people without, presenting suddenly a scene as singular as some of those displayed by the diable boiteux to the gaze of the student Don Cleofas, when all the roofs of Madrid disappeared before him. Some of the inmates were seen in bed, others were partaking of their humble morning meal, and high up in the airy attic storey was seen an old crone on the creepie stool, smoking at her ingleside. The whole inhabitants of the place were filled with consternation, but all escaped without injury. The ruins were removed, and on their site was built, in 1850, a very handsome Gothic church in connection with the Free Church body, and named after the Reformer.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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