The History of Leith

October 9, 2012

The Lawsons of the Highriggs

In the West Port, and at the northern corner
of the street, stood for ages the then mansion house
of the Lawsons of the Highriggs, which was demolished
in 1877, and was undoubtedly one of the
oldest, if not the very oldest, houses in the city.
When built in the fifteenth century it must have
been quite isolated. It had crowstepped gables,
dormers on the roofs, and remarkably small
windows.
It was the residence of an old baronial family,
long and intimately connected with the city.
” Mr. Richard Lawson,” says Scott of Scotstarvet,
” Justice Clerk, conquest a good estate about Edinburgh,
near the Burrow Loch, and the barony of
Boighall, which his grandson, Sir William Lawson
of Boighall, dilapidated, and went to Holland to
the wars.” He was Justice,.Clerk in the time oi
James IV., from 1491 to 1505.
In 1482 his name first appears in the burgh
records as common clerk or recorder, when Sir
John Murray of Tulchad was Provost, a post which
the foYmer obtained on the 2nd May, 1492. He
was a bailie of the city in the year 1501, and Provost
again in 1504. Whether he was the Richard
Lawson who, according to Pitscottie, heard the
infernal summons of Pluto at the Market Cross
before the army marched to Flodden we know not,
but among those who perished on that fatal field
with King James was Richard Lawson of the
Highriggs; and it was his daughter whose beauty
led to the rivalry and fierce combat in Leith Loan
between Squire Meldrum of the Binns and Sir
Lewis Stirling, in 1516.
In 1555 we find John Lawson of the Highriggs
complaining to the magistrates that the water of
the burgh loch had overflowed and ” drownit ane
greit pairt of his land,” and that he could get no
remedy therefor.
Lady Lawson’s Wynd, now almost entirely
demolished, takes its name from this family. The
City Improvement Trustees determined to form it
into a wide thoroughfare, running into Spittal Street.
In one of the last remaining houses there died, in
his 95th year, in June, 1879, a naval veteran named
M ‘Hardy, supposed to be the last survivor of the
actual crew of the Victory at Trafalgar. He was
on the main-deck when Nelson received his fatal
wound.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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