Saturday, October 18, 2008

Edinburgh: Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Toward the end of our first day trekking the Royal Mile, we came across the Canongate Kirk (church) and cemetery with a stunning view, old headstones, and this door on the church's east side. Of course, I had to take a picture of the red door. Check this site for a picture of the front of the wee kirk and the beautiful interior which, unfortunately, we didn't get to see.

If cemeteries could talk, this one would have a lot to say. When I came home, I checked out who is buried there. A cemetery around since 1688 has plenty time to collect some notable bodies. The list reads like a Who's Who of Edinburgh - painters, musicians, writers, scholars, mayors, and lords. Naturally some spicy scandals accompany the notables. Here are just a few of the interred...

George Drummond
, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, laid the foundation of the North Bridge, fought at the battle of Prestonpans. The guy was born in 1687 and would have been 58 at the time of this battle. He was on the side of Johnny Cope, fighting those pesky Highlanders. :)

Adam Smith, that famous economist and free market Reaganite who wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Was he perhaps a plagiarist? His statue was unveiled in front of St. Giles Kirk just days before we came to Edinburgh.

George Chalmers, originally a plumber, founded Chalmers Hospital. Maybe there's hope for our Joe the Plumber.

John Frederick Lampe, one of my favorite guys here, was Handel's bassoon player in opera houses in the early 1700's.

Young Robert Fergusson, poet. Often sickly, he died at the age of 24 years in a public insane asylum. Likely he had manic depressive disorder complicated by spending too much time in those Scottish pubs. He fell down stairs in a drunken state and died a few weeks later. Robert Burns visited his grave site a year later and on reaching the grave uncovered his head, knelt down and embraced the earth. He put up a monument to the young Fergusson, inscribed as follows:

"No sculptur'd Marble here, nor pompous lay,
No storied Urn nor animated Bust;
This simple stone directs pale Scotia's way
To pour her sorrows o'er the Poet's dust."

Joan caught a picture of the poet's statue outside the kirk, a wee short lad he must have been.

David Rizzo, Mary, Queen of Scots' personal secretary. He was murdered by Mary's husband, Lord Darnley, and a bunch of noble thugs in front of pregnant Mary, stabbed 56 times. (We saw the spot in Holyrood where this happened.) Within a few hours he was buried in the back yard of the Holyrood Palace just down the street from the kirk. His body was moved at least a couple times before finally ending up in the Canongate Kirk.

And, lastly (for this story, that is), dear Clarinda, sweetheart of Robert Burns is buried here. But hers is a story for another day...

Wouldn't you like to be here in the Canongate cemetery on All Hallow's Eve? Maybe chat a bit, swap some stories?


Pat said...

Ooh, now that would be a Halloween to remember!

Pat said...

Hey, did you realize that George Drummond was instrumental in establishing the royal infirmary for the poor?