The History of Leith

May 10, 2012

The Figgate Muir

PORTOBELLO,(Now part of Edinburgh), and
favourite bathing quarter of the citizens, occupies a
locality known for ages as the Figgate Muir, a once
desolate expanse of muir-land, which perhaps was
a portion of the forest of Drumsheugh, but which
latterly was covered with whins and furze, bordered
by a broad sandy beach, and extending from Magdalene
Bridge on the south perhaps to where Seafield
now lies, on the north-west.
Through this waste flowed the Figgate Burn out
of Duddingston Loch, a continuation of the Braid.
Figgate is said to be a corruption of the Saxon
word for a cow’s-ditch, and here the monks of
Holyrood were wont to pasture their cattle.
Traces of early inhabitants were found here
in 1821, when three stone coffins were discovered
under a tumulus of sand, midway between Portobello
and Craigantinnie. These were rudely put
together, and each contained a human skeleton.
” The bones were quite entire,” says the Weekly
Journal for that year, ” and from their position it
would appear that the bodies had been buried with
their legs across. At the head of each was deposited
a number of flints, from which it is conjectured
the inhumation had taken place before the
use of metal in this country ; and, what is very
remarkable, the roots of some shrubs had penetrated
the coffins and skulls of the skeletons, about which
and the ribs they had curiously twisted themselves.
The cavities of the skeletons indeed were quite
filled with vegetable matter.”
It was on the Figgate Muir that, during the
War of Independence, Sir William Wallace in 1296
mustered his 200 patriots to join Robert Lauder
and Crystal Seton at Musselbnrgh for the pursuit
of the traitor Earl of Dunbar, whom they fought at
Inverwick, afterwards taking his castle at Dunbar.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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