The History of Leith

October 25, 2012

The Kirk-Yard of St Giles

Overlooked, then, by the great cruciform church
of St. Giles, and these minor ecclesiastical edifices,
the first burying-ground of Edinburgh lay on the
steep slope with its face to the sun. The last
home of generations of citizens, under what is now
the pavement of a noisy street, ” there sleep the
great, the good, the peaceful and the turbulent,
the faithful and the false, all blent together in their
quaint old coffins and flannel shrouds, with money
in their dead hands, and crosses or chalices on
their breasts; old citizens who remembered the
long-haired King David passing forth with barking
hound and twanging horn on that Rood-day in
harvest which so nearly cost him his life; and how
the fair Queen Margaret daily fed the poor at the
castle gate ‘ with the tenderness of a mother;’
those who had seen Randolph’s patriots scale ‘ the
steep, the iron-belted rock,’ Count Guy of Namur’s
Flemish lances routed on the Burghmuir, and
William Wallace mustering his bearded warriors
by the Figgate-burn ere he marched to storm
There lie citizens who have fought for their
country at Flodden, Pinkie, and a hundred other
fields; and there lies one whose name is still
mighty in the land, and ” who never feared the
face of man”—John Knox. He expired at his old
manse, near the Nether Bow, on the 24th of November,
1572, in his sixty-seventh year, and his
body was attended to the grave by a great multitude
of people, including the chief of the nobles
and the Regent Morton, whose simple eloge over
his grave is so well known. It cannot but excite
surprise that no effort was made by the Scottish
people to preserve distinctly the remains of the
great Reformer from desecration, but some of that
spirit of irreverence for the past which he incul
-cated thus recoiled upon himself, and posterity
knows not his exact resting-place. If the tradition
mentioned by Chambers, says Wilson, be correct, that
” his burial-place was a few feet from the front of the
old pedestal of King Charles’s statue, the recent
change in the position of the latter must have
placed it directly over his grave — perhaps as strange
a monument to the great apostle of Presbyterianism
as fancy could devise ! ” Be all this as it may,
there is close by the statue a small stone let into
the pavement inscribed simply


source-Old and New Edinburgh

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