The History of Leith

January 30, 2012

The Parliament House

No building in Edinburgh possesses perhaps more interest historically than the Parliament House, and yet its antiquity is not great, as it was finished only in 1639 for the meetings of the Estates, and was used for that purpose exclusively till the Union in 1707. Previous to its erection in St. Giles’s churchyard, the national Parliaments, the Courts of Justice, and the Town Council of Edinburgh, held their meetings in the old Tolbooth, and the circumstance of such assemblies taking place constantly in its vicinity must have led to the gradual abandonment of the old churchyard of St. Giles’s as a place of sepulture, for when the readiest access to the Tolbooth was up the steep slope from the chapel of the holy rood in the Covvgate, among the grassy tumuli and old tombstones, and the burial-place became the lounge of lackeys, grooms, and armed servitors, waiting for their masters during the sittings of the House, all the sacred and. secluded character of the place must have been destroyed. ” Queen Mary granted the gardens of the Greyfriars’ monastery to the citizens in the year 1566, to be used as a cemetery, and from that period the old burial-place seems to have been gradually forsaken, until the neglected sepulchres of the dead were at length paved over, and the citizens forgot that their Exchange was built over their fathers’ graves.” Yet within six years after Queen Mary’s grant, Knox was interred in the old burial-ground. “Before the generation had passed away that witnessed and joined in his funeral service,” says the author of ” Memorials of Edinburgh,” “the churchyard in which they laid him had been converted into a public thoroughfare ! We fear this want of veneration must be regarded as a national characteristic which Knox assisted to call into existence, and to which we owe much of the reckless demolition of those time-honoured monuments of the past which it is now thought a weakness to deplore.”
As a churchyard in name it last figures in 1596 as the scene of a tumult in which John Earl of Mar, John Bothwell, Lord Holyroodhouse, the Lord Lindsay, and others, met in their armour, and occasioned some trouble ere they could be pacified. It was the scene of all manner of rows, when club-law prevailed; where exasperated liftgants, sick of ” the law’s delays,” ended the matter
by appeal to sword and dagger; and craftsmen and apprentices quarrelled with the bailies and deacons. It has been traditionally^ said that many of the tombstones were removed to the Greyfriars’ churchyard; if such was the case no inscriptions remain to prove this.

Source-Old and New Edinburgh

Some Text