The History of Leith

June 19, 2012

Meeting-house Green

Near Cable’s Wynd, which adjoins this alley, and
between it and King Street, at a spot called
Meeting-house Green, are the relics of a building
formerly used as a place of worship, and although
it does not date farther back than the Revolution
of 1688, it is oddly enough called “John Knox’s
The records of South Leith parish bear that in
1692, ” the magistrates of Edinburgh, and members
of the Presbytery there, with a confused company
of the people, entered the church by breaking open
the locks of the doors and putting on new ones,
and so caused guard the church doors with halberts,
rang the bells, and possessed Mr. Wishart of
the church, against which all irregular proceedings
public protests were taken.”
Previous to this he would seem to have officiated
in a kind of chapel-of-ease established near Cable’s
Wynd, by permission of James VII. in 1687.
Soon after the forcible induction recorded, he
came to the church with a guard of halberdiers,
accompanied by the magistrates of Leith, and took
possession of the Session House, compelling the
” prelatick Session ” to hold their meeting in the
adjacent Kantore. More unseemly matters followed,
for in December of the year 1692, when a
meeting was held in South Leith Church to hear
any objections that might be made against the legal
induction of the Rev. Mr. Wishart, an adherent of
Mr. Kay, “one of the prelatick incumbents,” protested
loudly against the whole proceedings.
Upon this, ” Mr. Livingstone, a brewer at the
Craigend (or Calton), rose up, and, in ‘presence of
the Presbytery, did most violently fall upon the
commissioner, and buffeted him and nipped his
cheeks, and had many base expressions to him.”
Others now fell on the luckless commissioner,
who was ultimately thrust into the Tolbooth of
Leith by a magistrate, for daring to do that which
the Presbytery had suggested. Mr. Ka^y’s session
were next driven out of the Kantore, on the door
of which another lock was placed.
It has been supposed that the ousted episcopal
incumbent formgd his adherents into a small congregation,
as he remained long in Leith, and died
at his house in the Yardheads there so lately as
November, 1719, in the seventieth year of his age.
His successor, the Rev. Robert Forbes, was minister
of an episcopal chapel in Leith, according to an
anonymous writer, ” very shortly after Mr. Kay’s
death, and records a baptism as having been performed
‘ in my room in ye Yardheads.’ ”
The history of the Meeting-house near Cable’s
Wynd is rather obscure, but it seems to have been
generally used as a place of worship. The last
occasion was during a visit of John Wesley, the
great founder of Methodism. He was announced
to preach in it; but so great a concourse of people
assembled, that the “edifice was incapable of accommodating
them, so’ he addressed the multitude
on the Meeting-house Green. A house near it,
says The Scotsman in 1879, is pointed out as “the

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