The History of Leith

February 16, 2012

FAR AND SURE

Nearly opposite Queensberry House, and on the north side of the street, a narrow, old-fashioned edifice is known as John Paterson’s House, or ” The Golfers’ Land,” concerning which there is
recorded a romantic episode connected with James VII., when, as Duke of Albany, he held his court at Holyrood. Conspicuously placed high upon the wall is a coat-armorial, and a slab above the
entrance door contains the two following inscriptions
:—”CUM VICTOR LITDO, SCOTIS QUI PROPRIUS, ESSET,
TER TRES VICTORES POST RENtEDITOS AVOS,
PATERSONTJS, HUMO TUNC EDUCEBAT IN ALTOM
HANC, QILE VICTORES TOT TULET UNA, DOMUM.”
” I HATE NO PERSON.”

The latter is an anagram on the name of ” John Paterson,” while the quatrain was the production of Dr. Pitcairn, and is referred to in the first volume of Gilbert Stuart’s Edinburgh Magazine
and Review for 1774, and may be rendered thus:—”In the year when Paterson won the prize in golfing, a game peculiar to the Scots (in which his ancestors had nine times won the same honour), he then raised this mansion, a victory more honourable than all the rest.”
According to tradition, two English nobles at Holyrood had a discussion with the royal duke as to the native country of golf, which he was frequently in the habit of playing on the Links of
Leith with the Duke of Lauderdale and others, and which the two strangers insisted to be an English game as well. No evidence of this being forthcoming, while many Scottish Parliamentary
edicts, some as old as the days of James II., in 1457, could be quoted concerning the said game, the Englishmen, who both vaunted their expertness, offered to test the legitimacy of their pretensions on the result of a match to be played by them against His Royal Highness and any other Scotsman he chose to select. After careful inquiry he chose a man named John Paterson, a poor shoemaker in the Canongate, but the worthy descendant of a long line of illustrious golfers, and the association will by no means surprise, even in the present age, those who practise the game in the true old Scottish spirit. The strangers were ignominiously beaten, and the heir to the throne had the best of this practical argument, while Paterson’s merits were rewarded by the stake played for, and he built the house now standing in the Canongate. On its summit he placed the Paterson arms—three pelicans vulned; on a chief three mullets; crest, a dexter-hand grasping a golf club, with the well known motto—FAR AND SURE. Concerning this old and well-known tradition, Chambers says, “it must be admitted there is some uncertainty. The house, the arms, and the inscriptions only indicate that Paterson built the house after being victor at golf, and that Pitcairn had a hand in decorating it.” In this doubt Wilson goes further, and believes that the Golfers’ Land was lost, not won, by the gambling propensities of its owner. It was acquired by Nicol Paterson in 1609, a maltman in Leith, and from him it passed, in 1632, to his son John
(and Agnes Lyel, his spouse), who died 23rd April, 1663, as appears by the epitaph upon his tomb in the churchyard of Holyrood, which was extant inMaitland’s time, and the strange epitaph on which
is given at length by Monteith. He would appear to have been many times Bailie of the Canongate.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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