The History of Leith

September 11, 2012

Lords Sempie of Castlesemple

in Semple’s Close, a fine example of its time, the old family
mansion of the Lords Sempie of Castlesemple.
Large and substantially built, it is furnished with, a
projecting octagonal turnpike stair, over the door
to which is the boldly-cut legend—
ANNO DOM. 1638.
Over a second doorway is the inscription—Sedes,
Manet optima Ctxlo, with the above date repeated,
and the coat of arms of some family now unknown.
Hugh eleventh Lord Sempie, in 1743 purchased
the house from two merchant burgesses of Edinburgh,
who severally possessed it, and he converted
it into one large mansion. He had seen much
military service in Queen Anne’s wars, both in
Spain and Flanders. In 1718 he was major of the
Cameronians; and in 1743 he commanded the
Black Watch, and held the town of Aeth when it
was besieged by the French. In 1745 he was
colonel of the 25th or Edinburgh Regiment, and
commanded the left wing of the Hanoverian army
at the battle of Culloden.
Few families have been more associated with
Scottish song than the Semples. Prior to the
acquisition of this mansion their family residence
appears to have been in Leith, and it is referred to
in a poem by Francis Sempie, of Belltrees, written
about 1680. The Lady Sempie of that day, a
daughter of Sir Archibald Primrose of Dalmeny
(ancestor of the Earls of Rosebery), is traditionally
said to have been a Roman Catholic. Thus,
her house was a favourite resort of the priesthood
then visiting Scotland in disguise, and she had a
secret passage by which they could escape to the
fields in time of peril.
Anne, fourth daughter of Hugh Lord Sempie,
was married in September, 1754, to Dr. Austin,
of Edinburgh, author of the well-known song,
“For lack of gold,” in allusion to Jean Drum-
mond, of Megginch, who jilted him for the Duke
of Athol.
” For lack of gold she left me, O!
And of all that’s dear bereft me, O!
For Athol’s Duke
She me forsook,
And to endless care has left me, O ! ”
The Doctor died in 1774, in his house at the northwest
corner of Brown Square; but his widow
survived him nearly twenty years. Her brother
John, twelfth Lord Semple, in 1755 sold the
family mansion to Sir James Clerk of Penicuik,
well-known in his time as a man of taste, and the
patron of Runciman the artist.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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