The History of Leith

July 24, 2012

St. Roque

After passing the old mansion named East
Morningside House, the White House Loan joins
at right angles the ancient thoroughfare named the
Grange Loan, which led of old from the Linton
Road to St. Giles’s Grange, and latterly the Causewayside.
On the south side of it a modern villa takes its
name of St. Roque from an ancient chapel which
stood there, and the ruins of which were extant
within the memory of many of the last generation.
The chapels of St. Roque and St. John, on the
” The chapel of St. Roque,” says Wilson, ” has
not escaped the notice of the Lord Lyon King’s
eulogist, among the-.varied features of the landscape
that fill up the magnificent picture as Marmion
rides under the escort of Sir David Lindesay
to the top of Blackford Hill, in his approach to
the Scottish camp, and looks down on the martial
array of the kingdom, covering the wooded Links
of the Burghmuir. James IV. is there represented
as occasionally wending his way to attend mass at
the neighbouring chapels of St. Katharine or St.
Roque ; nor is it unlikely that the latter may have
been the scene of the monarch’s latest acts of devotion,
ere he led forth that gallant array to perish
around him on the field of Flodden.”
In the “Burgh Records,” 151!! December, 1530,
we find that James Barbour, master and governor
of “the foul folk on the mure” (i.e., the peststricken),
had made away with the goods and
clothes of many that were lying in the chapel of
St. Roque ; and that all who had any claims to
make should bring them forward on a given day:
but if the clothes proved of small value, they were
to be burned or given to the poor.
In 1532 the provost and bailies, “moved by
devotion, have, for the honour of God and his
Blissit Mother, Virgen Marie, and the holy confessour
Sanct Rok,” for prayers to be said for the
souls of those that lie in the said kirk and kirkyard,
granted to Sir John Young, the chaplain
thereof, three acres of the Burghmuir, with another
acre to build houses upon ; for which he and
his successors were bound to keep the chapel
in repair, and its slates and ” glaswyndois ” watertight.
Burghmuir, were both dependencies of St. Cuthberfs
Church. The historian of the latter absurdly
conceives it top’have been named from a French
ambassador, Lecroc, who was in Scotland in 1567.
The date of its foundation is involved in obscurity;
but entries occur in the Treasurer’s Accounts for
1507, when on St. Roque’s Day (i 5th August) James
IV. made an offering of thirteen shillings. “That
this refers to the chapel on the Burghmuir is
proved,” says Wilson, ” by the evidence of two
charters signed by the king at Edinburgh on the
same day.”
Arnot gives a view of the chapel from the northeast,
showing the remains of a large pointed window,
that had once been filled in with Gothic tracery;
and states that it is owing “to the superstitious
awe of the people that one stone of this chapel has
been left upon another—a superstition which, had
it been more constant in its operations, might have
checked the tearing zeal of reformation. About
thirty years ago the proprietor of the ground
employed masons to pull down the walls of the
chapel; the scaffolding gave way ; the tradesmen
were killed. The accident was looked upon as a
judgment against those who were demolishing the
house of God. No entreaties nor bribes by the
proprietor could prevail upon tradesmen to accomplish
its demolition.”
It was a belief of old that St. Roque’s intercession
could protect all from pestilence, as he was
distinguished for his piety and labours during a
plague in Italy in 1348. Thus Sir David Lindesay
says of—
” Superstitious pilgramages
To monie divers imagis;
Sum to Sanct Roche with diligence,
To saif them from the pestilence.”
Thus it is, in accordance with the attributes ascribed
in Church legends to St. Roque, that we find
his chapel constantly resorted to by the victims of
the plague encamped on the Burghmuir, during the
prevalence of that scourge in the sixteenth century.

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