To the south stands
the stately, modern residence of Dreghorn Castle. The names of some of
the residences such as Dreghorn, Woodhall and Redhall are very old. Amongst
the missing crown charters of Robert 11, was one confirming a lease of
the barony of Redhall in the shire of Edinburgh, " except Dreghorn and
Woodhall " by Alexander Meyaners of Woodhall, to the Earl of Fife and Monteith.
Dreghorn was built 'by Sir W. Murray, master of works to King Charles
II. In the early part of the eighteenth century it was the property of a
family called Pitcairn. In the churchyard here a tomb belonging to the Dreghorn
estate bore the following inscription, it is now quite illegible. " Here
lyes Mr. David Pitcairn of Dreghorn, who departed this life 27th January 1709
and of his age the 60th year, leaving behind him Mary Anderson, his wife,
with five sons and seven daughters by her!' Mr. Pitcairn) who was a Writer
to the Signet in Edinburgh must have resided much on the property and to
have taken a deep interest in all parochial matters connected with the parish,
and enjoying to a large degree the respect and confidence of the parishioners,
being the ruling elder in. the Parish Church for many years.
" Perhaps no private
gentleman was ever the progenitor of so many persons remarkable in themselves,
or who, by inter-marriage, formed such high connections as to rank, intellectual
abilities and acknowledged public service," as Mr. Pitcairn. One of
his grand-daughters became the wife of Patrick Brydone of that ilk.
He was succeeded to
the estate by his eldest son Patrick, who followed the same profession
as his father, and who sold the estate to a gentleman named Hume in 1715.
David Malloch or Mallet,
a poet and miscellaneous writer, was tutor for many years to the children
of Mr. Hume of Dreghorn. Of his career from youth to manhood, nothing
certain is known, as in after life, either through pride or prejudice,
he studiously endeavoured to conceal his true name and origin. In 1723
Malloch's pleasing ballad of " William and Margaret," written at Dreghorn,
appeared. The beauty of the production was so highly praised, that it
inspired him with courage to apply himself closely to his poetical studies.
In 1728 he produced a poem under the title of " The Excursion." It is a
collection of poetical landscape sketches, with some skill and elegance,
in imitation of Thomson's " Seasons," but much inferior.
About this time Mallet,
through the recommendation of his friends, had the good fortune to be
appointed under-secretary to His Royal Highness, Frederick, Prince of
In 1742 Mallet made
a considerable addition to his fortune by marriage. He had already buried
one wife, by whom he had several children, but of her there is no account.
His second choice was Miss Lucy Estol, with whom he received a fortune,
and hence becoming either indifferent or lazy, he allowed seven years
to pass without favouring the public with anything from his pen. When at
length his " Hermit " 1749 appeared, on the merits of which critics were
much divided. Then "A Plain Man " 1756, " Elvira," 1757. Mallet had the
happiness of a wife who had much " faith." She believed " that her husband
was the greatest poet and wit of the age. Sometimes she would seize his-hand
and kiss it with rapture, and if the looks of a friend expressed any surprise,
would apologize that it was the dear hand that. wrote those divine poems.
She was lamenting to a lady how much the reputation of her husband suffered
by his name being so frequently confounded with that of Dr. Smollett. The
lady answered " Madam, there is a short remedy, let your husband keep his
own name." Proof of the silly vanity and weakness of this well-matched pair
will be found in " Johnston's Lives of the Poets." In a declining state
of health Mallet went, accompanied by his wife, to the south of France, but
finding no improvement he returned to England and died in 1765.
The estate of Dreghorn
has changed hands so often that it is difficult to give a record. After
Mr. Hume, came one Dalrymple, then Dr. St. Clair, professor of medicine
in the Edinburgh University and one of the pioneers of medical science;
then John Maclaurin, son of the eminent mathematician, who was called to
the bench as Lord Dreghorn; then Mr. Alexander Trotter, paymaster of the
navy, whose grandson Mr. Coutts Trotter, a man of literary distinction and
patriotic ardour, disposed of it to Mr. R. A. Maefie, for some years M.P.
for Leith Burghs, under whose hands it has undergone considerable improvements.
Among the many hobbies
of Mr. Macfie, was the one of erecting monuments of various kinds upon
his estate. At the main entrance to the estate at Redford he erected a
substantial monument in memory of the Covenanters and others. The monument
stands about thirty feet high, round the top are the words " Romans." "
Cromwell 1650," " Covenanters, 1666," " Charles 1745," with a tablet fixed
upon the base of the pillars, bearing the inscription beginning " Those
teeming plain were trod by Roman feet," and much too lengthy to afford of
their admission here. The pillars of the above monument formed the colonnade
in front of the old Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.
Close at hand is the
quaint old house of Redford, with its garden embosomed among fine trees
in a pretty dell. There are many allusions in the letters of Cromwell.
in 1650 to places in its immediate vicinity, It is particularly interesting
as being the birthplace of " that devourer of books " John Allen, political
and historical writer.
Still further east and
at the eastern extremity of the Parish, on what was at one time the " Templelands
of Swanston, was fought a great battle, it is said, between the ancient Picts
and Scots. Two large cairns were erected there, these, however, were foolishly
broken up by some sacriligious hand and used for road metal. Tradition records
that upon lifting them a large quantity of human bones were found in and
under them. On the other side of the turnpike-road stands a very old monolith,
the largest in the vicinity of Edinburgh-this is a large, rough unhewn pillar
of whinstone standing fully ten feet high. Unfortunately there is neither
mark or inscription to give any information as to its origin. It is known
as the Caiy Stone, Comus Stone, Ket Stone, or Battle Stone. Adjacent to it
is a square of trees marking an extensive camp of prehistoric times reminding
Where Rome, the
Empress of the world,
Of yore her eagle
The Roman road from
York to Carriden passed through the lands of Comiston here.
The rocky declivity
of the Pentlands which overlooks this, is called Cairketton, 1,580 feet
above sea level. The name was derived probably from the camp above referred
to. The rocks are chiefly composed of clayey felspar or petunse pentlandica
strongly impregnated with black oxide of iron and would be very useful
but for that impregnation.
A little to the north
stands the mansion-house of Comiston most probably deriving its name
from the " Comistone " above referred to. It was built by Sir James Forrest
in 1815. The Forrests of Comiston, however, date further back than this,
mention being made of a Captain Forrest in the Kirk Session Records in
1719. Sir James Forrest was Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1840.
Before the establishment
of the Edinburgh an District Water Trust, and the introduction of the
artificial supply of water from Glencorse and other reservoirs, the
people of Edinburgh chiefly procured that necessity of life from the
springs around this district which are copious and excellent.
Proceeding further north
and still on the eastern boundary of the parish stands the old fortalice
of Craiglockhart. Strange to say there is not a single vestige of its
precints left. It was built after the fashion of the old Scottish castle
or border keep, nothing now remaining except the narrow square tower.
As early as Alexander 111., 1249, the estate of Craiglockhart was purchased
by Sir Simon Lockhart, from whom probably the district has derived its
name. The character of the building-the arched roof, etc., all point to
it having been built about that date; and if a little care was taken to
preserve these venerable piles they might stand for centuries to come.
Two of the largest and
most prominent buildings in the parish are in this vicinity, viz., the Edinburgh
Hydropathic Establishment and the Edinburgh City Poorhouse. The country residences
of the rich and poor respectively.