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Musselburgh

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Musselburgh, a post-town and parliamentary burgh in Inveresk parish, Edinburghshire, is situated near the mouth of the Esk, 2½ miles ESE of Portobello, 3½ W of Tranent, 3½ N by E of Dalkeith, and 5½ by road (6 by rail) E by S of Edinburgh. Its station is the terminus of a branch line of the North British railway, opened in 1847. The parliamentary boundaries much exceed the limits of the town of Musselburgh proper. This latter lies all on the right bank of the Esk, and excludes the beautiful rising-grounds and picturesque village of Inveresk on the S; while it occupies as its site a flat expanse a few feet above sea-level, divided on the N from the Firth of Forth by the grassy downs known as Musselburgh Links. The more extended boundaries of the burgh are N, the beach; E, Ravenshaugh Burn; S, Inveresk lands; and W, the burn at Magdalen Bridge. These limits comprise a length of 2½ miles from E to W, an extreme breadth of ¾ mile N and S along the Esk, and about 400 yards of mean breadth over about ½ mile at each end. They include the large suburb of Fisherrow, lying face to face with Musselburgh proper, along the left bank of the Esk; the considerable suburb of Newbigging, stretching in one main street for ¼ mile S from Musselburgh proper; the small villages of Westpans and Levenhall, near the mouth of the Ravenshaugh Burn; the hamlet at Magdalen Bridge on the W, besides considerable areas not yet in any way built upon. The environs are picturesque, and are studded with many villas and mansions; those parts of the public roads especially which fall within the legal limits of the burgh, but are just beyond the present town proper, being flanked with neat and pleasant-looking villas, many of them surrounded with gardens. The Musselburgh Heritages Company has also built of late years a number of villas at Linkfield, near the links. (See Esk, Inveresk, Newhailes, Pinkie, etc.) A certain extent of the land within the burgh, especially to the S, is occupied by fertile and prosperous market gardens. The links of Musselburgh, on the NE of the town, are also embraced within the burgh limits. They have long been noted as a golfing ground, and are crowded in the season with players from Edinburgh and the vicinity. The course consists of 9 holes; and forty strokes to the round is considered good play. The chief hazard, a deep and wide sand 'bunker,' is locally known as 'Pandy' or 'Pandemonium.' In 1816 the links became the chief scene of horse-racing in the Lothians. An irregularly oval race-course, about 2400 yards in circumference, stretches eastward along the links from a point 100 yards E of the Esk, and, for a considerable part of it, lies close to the beach. At the end next the town there has been erected a stand. On this course races have annually taken place every autumn since 1817, which are known indifferently as the Edinburgh or the Musselburgh Race Meeting. Still more ancient is the practice of archery on the links. Every year the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen's Bodyguard in Scotland, compete there for a silver arrow, which was originally presented by the burgh. The winner each year receives a 'riddle of claret' from the town; and is bound to append a gold or silver medal to the arrow before the next year's competition. The custom was instituted before the close of the 16th century; and the arrow, which is carefully preserved and is still annually shot for, has a series of medals, in almost unbroken succession from 1603 to the present time, attached to it.

Musselburgh proper consists mainly of the High Street, running with varying breadth along the line of the Edinburgh and Berwick road for a distance of almost 650 yards. The houses on either side present a fairly well-built and comfortable appearance, without much pretension to handsomeness. The street in its central-parts expands to a considerable breadth, giving a pleasant and spacious air to the town, which in its principal parts is kept tolerably clean. The High Street had formerly gates at its E and W ends. Two large pillars still mark where the former was placed; they bear the burgh arms and the date 1770. The W gate was at the old bridge, noticed below. A second street, known as Mill Hill, runs for about 450 yards NE from the end of the iron foot-bridge to the links, and derives its name from an old mill belonging to the town. Various lanes, alleys, and less important streets run parallel and at angles with these two main thoroughfares. Newbigging suburb stretches S at right angles to the High Street, from a point opposite the Cross. The suburb of Fisherrow, which lies between the E side of the Esk and the sea, consists of several parallel streets, and for all purposes it is regarded as part of Musselburgh, from which it is only separated by the river. It contains no buildings of any importance; and is, on the whole, inferior in appearance to Musselburgh proper. Mall Park, the suburb beside the station, which is at the SW extremity of the town, was about 1878 laid out for feuing, and several new tenements and works have been erected there. The Mall, from which the suburb derives its name, is a short but beautiful avenue, leading from the W end of the High Street to the station, and overarched on both sides with fine trees. These trees were preserved to the town in 1846-47 by the energy of the Rev. Mr J. G. Beveridge, parish minister, who got up a petition successfully praying the directors of the railway, then building, so to modify the original plans as to leave uninjured these great ornaments to the town. The town-hall, on the N side of the wide central expansion in the High Street of Musselburgh, is a comparatively modern edifice, bearing the date 1762. It was altered in 1875-76 at a cost of £1000, and contains a public hall 48 feet long by 37 broad and 30 high, to hold 600; and includes apartments for the council and police business of the burgh. Adjacent to it is the tolbooth, built in 1590 of materials taken from the ancient Loretto chapel, noticed below. This is said to be one of the earliest instances in Scotland of the use of ecclesiastical materials in the construction of a secular building; and the action drew upon the burgesses of Musselburgh, for about two centuries, an annual sentence of excommunication at Rome. The tolbooth never had any pretensions to architectural beauty, and it suffered much from the weather; but about 1840 it underwent renovation and a certain amount of ornamentation. It is surmounted by a small and curious steeple (more ancient than the main body of the tolbooth itself), with a clock. The original clock is said to have been presented to Musselburgh by the Dutch States, in order to encourage commercial relations between the townspeople and the Dutch. The present clock was presented to the burgh by Mr Ritchie in 1883; and on its face it bears this latter date along with that of 1496. In 1746 a number of rebels were confined in the tolbooth; and even yet it is used for the detention of prisoners for periods of not more than 30 days. In front of the tolbooth stands the old cross, consisting of a heavy square pedestal, surmounted by a pillar, on the top of which is a unicorn supporting a shield with the arms of the burgh. The cross indicates the old position of the midraw, a row of houses standing in the middle of part of the High Street, and long interfering with its width and beauty. At the W end of the High Street is a monument erected in 1853 to the memory of David Moir, M.D., long prominent in the town as a public man and a physician, and well known to wider circles as the 'Delta' of Blackwood's Magazine. The monument consists of a statue 8½ feet hi h, by Handyside Ritchie, on a pedestal 20 feet high, the base of which bears a suitable inscription. There are several buildings of antiquarian and historic interest within the limits of the burgh. On the margin of the links, immediately beyond the ancient eastern gate of the town, stood a celebrated chapel and hermitage, dedicated to Our Lady of Loretto. The chapel, founded most likely in1533 by Thomas Douchtie, a hermit, enjoyed a reputation for sanctity and miraculous powers akin to those ascribed to the famous Church of Loretto in Italy. Keith says the Musselburgh chapel was connected with the nunnery of Sciennes in Edinburgh; possibly it only placed itself under its protection. The hermitage attached to the chapel, inhabited by a solitary ascetic, added to the sanctity of the place, to which large numbers of pilgrims resorted annually. James V. himself performed a pilgrimage on foot to the chapel from Stirling in August 1536, before departing to France to woo a wife. The evils which too often sprang up with the assembling of heterogeneous crowds at shrines and pilgrim resorts, were not absent from Loretto; and Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount directed one of his biting satires against the Loretto pilgrimages. The chapel is sometimes called St Allareit or Lariet, by old writers, e.g. by the Earl of Glencairn in a satirical letter against Romish friars, purporting to come from 'the halie Hermeit of Alareit, and preserved by Knox in his History of the Reformation. In 1544 the chapel, along with much of the town, was destroyed by an English army, under the Earl of Hertford. Though repaired after this event, it was finally destroyed at the Reformation, its materials being used, as we have seen, to build the tolbooth of Musselburgh; and it is now only represented by a mound-covered cell, measuring 12 feet by 10. The present schoolhouse of Loretto, erected in last century, stands near the site of the ancient chapel. There were two other chapels in the town of Musselburgh, similar in character to that of Loretto, but of much less note; both have disappeared. The house in which occurred, on 20 July 1332, the death of the great Randolph, Earl of Moray, the friend and ally of Robert the Bruce, stood till 1809 at the E end of the S side of the High Street. The inhabitants are said to have formed a guard round the house during the earl's illness, and to have received for their devotion some reward, in the form of town privileges, from the Earl of Mar, the succeeding regent. It is also said that the motto of the burgh, 'Honesty,' was derived from Mar's openly expressed opinion that the burghers were 'honest fellows' in acting as they did on this occasion. At the W end of the High Street stands the house in which Dr Smollett was received by Commissioner Cardonell. In the Dam Brae, a back street, there are still extant portions of the Musselburgh Kilwinning -Masonic Lodge built in 1612. In the villa of Eskside, near the Fisherrow end of the iron bridge, dwelt for some time Professor Stuart; and within its garden is the study of his son Gilbert, a detached, two-storied, circular building, in which several of the works of the latter were written. Pinkie House, in the SE outskirts of the town, is separately noticed. The manse of Inveresk, standing near the parochial church, which has been already noted in the article Inveresk, was built in 1806, and is supposed to occupy the site of the pre-Reformation parsonage. The former manse, built in 1681, had many literary associations. Within its walls were composed Williamson's sermons, and great part of Home's tragedy of -Douglas. - During the incumbency of Dr Carlyle, the manse was a favourite resort of Robertson, Hume, Campbell, Logan, Mackenzie, Smollett, Home, Beattie, etc.; and when Dr Carlyle died, among his papers was found a complete copy of Collins's long-lost Ode on the Superstitions of the Highlands. The river Esk flows through the town from SW to NE in a broad shallow stream, separating Musselburgh proper from Fisherrow. For the most part, its bed -is disfigured with banks of gravel; and its waters are dirty; but in times of flood it sometimes attains great depth. Along the banks on either side run public walks, planted with trees. It is spanned by four bridges in and near the town. The chief communication between Musselburgh and Fisherrow is an elegant stone bridge of 5 elliptic arches, erected in 1806.7 from a design by Sir John Rennie. Across this passes the road between Edinburgh and Berwick. Some way higher up, the Esk is crossed by a new railway viaduct, which, erected in l877-78 at a cost of between £2000 and £3000, consists of two spans of malleable iron, 97 and 75 feet long, resting on substantial piers of masonry. Near the station, between these two, and about 220 yards above the former, stands another stone bridge, believed to be originally of Roman workmanship, though many times repaired. It is narrow in the roadway and high in the centre; and it was formerly defended in the middle by a gate, some traces of which exist in the side wall. It has 3 arches, each 50 feet wide, with a spring of only 10 feet; and the segment of the circle is so much depressed in several parts towards a straight line, as to suggest that the frame or cover must have sunk during the erection of the bridge. The bridge is used only by foot passengers, for access is attained to it by steps at each end; but it is interesting as having been for ages the grand thoroughfare between the SE of Scotland and the Metropolis. While the Scottish army was passing along this bridge after the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, Lord Graham, eldest son of the Earl of Montrose, and several others were killed upon it by a shot from the English vessels lying off the mouth of the Esk. A mound was thrown up at Inveresk churchyard by Protector Somerset of England to defend the bridge as a pass, and was afterwards used for the same purpose by Cromwell. The Chevalier's highland army traversed the bridge in 1745, on their way to the field of Prestonpans. About 250 yards below the stone bridge of 1807 stands an iron foot-bridge upon iron pillars, replacing an earlier wooden bridge on the same site.

Churches.-The parochial church, as well as the interesting mansions, etc., of the vicinity are noticed in Inveresk and other articles. Northesk quoad sacra church stands on the N side of Bridge Street, in Fisherrow, not far from the principal bridge. It is a neat modern edifice, erected in 1838 at a cost of £2500 from designs by William Burn, and containing 800 sittings. The church at New Craighall is within this q. s. parish, which includes all the civil parish W of the river. The Episcopal church, St Peter's, on the S side of the E part of the High Street, was built in 1866. It is in the pointed style, and has a tower and spire, several fine stained-glass windows, and 220 sittings. There is also an Episcopal chapel in connection with Loretto school, with a new organ of 1880; and in 1880 Lady Mary Oswald's mission chapel (1843; 300 sittings) in Newbigging was converted into the Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of Loretto. Other places of worship are a Free church (1000 sittings), Bridge Street U.P. church (1820; 600 sittings), Mill Hill U.P. church (800 sittings), and a Congregational chapel (1800; 320 sittings). Schools.-Musselburgh grammar-school dates from the latter part of the 16th century, though the present building was erected in 1835. It has 3 class-rooms and accommodation for 377 scholars. Before the Education Act it was under the town council, and endowed by them with £20 annually; it is now under the burgh school board, which consists of a chairman and 7 members. In 1883 the following were the schools under the board, with accommodation, average attendance, and government grant:-Grammar (377, 166, £147, 11s.), Fisherrow (528, 372, £278, 10s.), Musselburgh (451, 265, £216, 3s.), and St Peter's Episcopal (l16, 117, £93, 19s. 8d.). Of the private schools in Musselburgh, the chief is Loretto boarding school for boys, conducted after the method of English public schools. Musselburgh has a head post office, with money order, Savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, branches of the Commercial, National, and Royal Banks, and offices or agencies of 18 insurance companies. The chief hotels are the Musselburgh Arms and the Royal Hotel; and there is also a temperance hotel, besides several lodging houses. The healthiness of Musselburgh, together with its comparative retirement yet easy accessibility to Edinburgh, renders it suitable for the situation of private lunatic asylums, of which there are 2 in Fisherrow, 1 at Newbigging, and 1 near Inveresk. The proximity of the links has largely encouraged the game of golf, and several clubs have club houses at or near the links. Among these are the Bruntsfield Links Golf Club (1761), whose club house includes a former Episcopal chapel; the Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Society (1735), the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (prior to 1744), and the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club (1774). These clubs are in the habit of holding competitions for medals and prizes over Musselburgh Links, once or oftener during the year. The gas company, whose works are on the links, was established in 1831. Among the charitable institutions, the Boy's Industrial School, at the Redhouse in Mill Hill, deserves special notice. Two funds, known respectively as Bruce's and Hastie's, are also in operation, under trusteeship of the minister, provost, etc. The former is for the relief of the poor; and the latter is to provide loans to decent tradesmen, and young men starting in business within certain local limits. It may be interesting to note, that perhaps the first evening school for poor lads in Scotland was started in Musselburgh about 1834 by the Rev. Mr Beveridge, the minister of the parish.

Industries.-Musselburgh is very favourably situated for the purposes of manufacture; but its industrial history has been fluctuating and curious. A broadcloth manufactory, begun in the end of the 17th century, was long carried on, though to no great extent. A kind of checks, known as 'Musselburgh stuffs,' was made in the early part of the 18th century from coarse wool, at the price of from 2½d. to 5d. a yard, and was exported for cheaper wear in America, until cotton fabrics drove it from the market. The manufacture of both coarse and fine woollen cloth lingered in Musselburgh till nearly the end of last century. About 1750 a cotton factory was begun, and employed in the town and environs about 200 looms; but the competition of other parts of the country compelled it to close-a fate which likewise befell a manufactory of thicksets, waistcoats, handkerchiefs, etc., which was started on a small scale near the end of the century. A china manufactory at West Pans was compelled to abandon the finer manufactures and devote itself to the productions of coarser earthenware, from a similar cause. There are now two potteries in the burgh, besides brick and tile works. A starch work at Monkton, S of Musselburgh, paid in 1792 upwards of £4000 of excise duty, but was given up in the following year. A salt work, very long in operation at Pinkie Pans, still exists; but the adjacent chemical work is not now in operation. There was also a chemical manufactory near the links. Brewing was once extensively carried on in Musselburgh; but since the end of last century it has undergone a great decrease, and is now carried on by only two firms. Dyeing long formed a prominent feature in the trade of the town, but is now almost extinct. The tanning and currying of leather is carried on in three establishments, and employs about 80 workmen; and the manufacture of sheepskin mats engages two firms. The manufacture of sail-cloth was commenced on a small scale in 1811, and rose in a few years to a flourishing condition, occupying large premises, and employing a steam engine of 55 horse-power. The weaving of hair-cloth, principally for chair and sofa covers, was commenced in 1820, and in 1838 employed nearly 200 persons, but has now died out. The making of nets and twine is an important industry, dating from 1820. It was carried on in a factory built in 1 854 near the station, which was doubled in size in 1867, and superseded a smaller factory of 15 years' standing. The present establishment is probably the largest net-factory in the country, and produces a very large quantity of goods. It includes a weaving shed with 300 looms; hemp repairing and hemp spinning departments, with 3500 spindles; and a fine cotton mill with 2000 spindles, and machinery driven by 2 engines of 100 horse-power each. There are 450 net machines; and in addition to 1200 bales of cotton annually prepared in the mill within the factory, about 5 tons of cotton per week, brought from Manchester, etc., are used in the manufacture. About 700 hands, many of them women, are employed in this industry. Beside the net-factory stands a paper-mill, which has two large machines; employs 300 hands; and turns out about 50 tons of paper per week. There are also an extensive wire-mill and tinning and galvanizing work, and an iron and brass foundry. Seed-crushing, oil-refining, glue-making, and salt-extraction also employ a number of hands in Musselburgh. There are 3 corn-mills in the burgh. The employment of a large number of boys and youths as 'golf-caddies,' and the manufacture of golf clubs and balls deserve also to be included among the industrial resources of the inhabitants.

Fishing and Harbour.-The fishing industry of the burgh has its seat entirely in Fisherrow, on the W side of the Esk. White fishing has been from a very early date a staple source of income; but the Fisherrow boats are also in the habit of actively carrying on the herring fishery, both in the Forth and on the E coast of England, and even on the Irish coast. The fisher population of Fisherrow share in great part the exclusiveness and other peculiarities of the Newhaven fisher folk; and the women of the two places are dressed in similar costume. There are about 40 first-class and 11 second-class boats, with 250 resident fisher men and boys. Seven men were lost in the great gale of 14 Oct. 1881. The harbour of the burgh is usually spoken of as Fisherrow harbour; and is situated more than half a mile W of the mouth of the Esk. An attempt was made in the beginning of the 18th century to change its position to the mouth of the river, but the basin was quickly filled up by the deposits of the stream; and before the middle of the century a return had to be made to the former and present site, which is believed to have been used as a port, even in Roman times. In the Middle Ages some commerce seems to have been carried on between Holland and Musselburgh; and before Leith attained its present predominance, Fisherrow was probably of some little importance. It is believed that the sea has even in modern times receded at this point of the coast, from the fact that English vessels could command the bridge in 1547 with their guns; while there is ample geological evidence to prove that at one time the inland hill on which Inveresk church now stands was the sea-cliff. The present harbour is a small tidal basin, enclosed by two substantial stone piers. Standing on the inner edge of a broad expanse of sand, it is shallow at the best of times; and when the tide is out is quite inaccessible to boats. The average depth at high water is 7 feet in neap tides and 10 in spring tides. The burgh is proprietor of the harbour, but for many years nothing has been done to it, except in the way of necessary repairs. About forty years ago the present W pier was built, and the expense left a debt of £6000 on the harbour, while the annual income, barely and irregularly £100, has been quite insufficient to pay the interest on this capital sum, and the debt of unpaid interest has been steadily growing. The fishing boats belonging to this harbour vary from the smallest size up to 46 tons. Between 200 and 300 fishermen (besides women and children) make their living by these; and the wealth brought into the town by them in the shape of fish perdues leviable by the town, which are believed to be increasable only by Act of Parliament, are 2s. 6d., 5s., and 7s. 6d., according to the size of boat. The harbour still carries on a little coasting-trade, importing -rocksalt from Carrickfergus, and salt, pipeclay, linseed, and a little tanner's bark from England. There are no exports, though rails were laid on the unfortunate W pier in the expectation that the shipping of coal and minerals would develop. Even the existing trade, small though it is, appears to be on the wane. The custom house is in New Street; and the port ranks as a creek under Leith. Municipal History.-Musselburgh, before being constituted a parliamentary burgh, was a burgh of regality. David I. granted the manor of Great Inveresk or Musselburghshire, including Musselburgh, Fisherrow, Inveresk Church, with their pertinents, to the monks of Dunfermline; and this was confirmed by Gregory IX. in 1236; while subsequent grants by certain of David's successors increased the original baronial jurisdiction to one of regality. Alexander II. added the right of free forestry, and Robert III. gave the monks all the new customs leviable within the burgh. The church of Inveresk was administered by ' vicars of Muscilburg,' whose names occasionally appear among those of distinguished and influential men as witnesses to charters. After the Reformation the regality and the appertaining property passed to John Maitland, Lord Thirlestane, with whose descendants (the Earls and the Duke of Lauderdale) it remained till 1709, when it was finally purchased by the Duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch. In 1747, when hereditary jurisdictions were abolished, the Duke of Buccleuch claimed £3000 for the regality of Musselburgh; but for that and certain other- rights he only received £3400. The Duke of Buccleuch remained, however, the superior of the burgh. Th-e burgh holds a charter from John, Earl of Lauderdale, confirming various grants and charters of the monks of Dunfermline; and especially, of a charter by Robert, commendator of Dunfermline, dated 1502. This last charter secured various rights and privileges to the bailies, councillors, and community of the burgh; and permitted the magistrates to hold courts for the punishment of offenders, and to levy small dues and customs. This charter of Lord Lauderdale was confirmed by Charles II. on 21 July 1671; and under this last confirmation the property of the burgh is now held. In 1632 a charter under the great seal erected Musselburgh into a royal burgh; but in the same year the magistrates of Edinburgh prevailed upon those of Musselburgh to consent to renounce that privilege. Practically, however, it continued to enjoy most of the rights of the royal burgh except that of parliamentary representation, which, however, was at last secured for it by the Reform Bill of 1833. In connection with the above-noted action of the Edinburgh magistrates, it is interesting to recall the old rhyme:

'Musselburgh was a burgh
When Edinburgh was nane,
And Musselburgh i'll be a burgh
When Edinburgh is gane.' *

Present Municipal Government.-Musselburgh is governed by a provost, 3 bailies, a treasurer, and 7 councillors, whose jurisdiction extends equally over Fisherrow and other parts of the burgh, but does not include the village of Inveresk. The council are also commissioners of police, the harbour, and the water trust. The magistrates hold small debt courts for sums not exceeding £5, and for minor criminal offences. The police force is amalgamated with the county constabulary. In 1881 an arrangement was put in force, according to which the Edinburgh Water Trust supplies the burgh with water, superseding an older system of waterworks. The gasworks on the links, erected in 1832, supply both Musselburgh and part of Portobello. Extensive property at one time belonged to the burgh consisting largely of feus, but it has been much alienated. About 1845 it was found that the finances of Musselburgh had been so clumsily managed, that it was forced to become bankrupt, with a debt of about £19,000. Since that time the revenues have been in the hands of trustees; and the town council controls only some £150 annually; though several of its membersare, exofficio, members also of the board of trustees. The harbour, as already explained, is a serious burden on the finances. The debt now amounts to £9300. Musselburgh unites with Leith, Portobello, and Newhaven in returning a member to parliament. The corporation revenue in 1882-83 was £2293; whilst the municipal and the parliamentary constituency numbered 1286 and 1044 in 1884, when the annual value of real property was £26, 633 (£18, 296 in 1867). Pop. of parliamentary burgh (1841) 6366, (1851) 7092, (1861) 7423, (1871) 7513, (1881) 7866, of whom 4073 were women, whilst 4370 were in Fisherrow, 3266 in Musselburgh, and 244 in West Pans. Houses (1881), inhabited 1621, vacant 122, building 2.

History.-Musselburgh is believed to derive its name from a mussel-bank near the mouth of the Esk; its earliest name appears to have been Eskemuthe or Eskmouth; and its next, including the manor over which it presided, was Musselburghshire. It is mentioned as Eskemuthe by Simeon of Durham as early as the 7th century; and the probability is that even in the earliest times it was the centre of a well-peopled district; and considerable Roman remains have been discovered in its immediate neighbourhood. When the Lothians were formally ceded to the Scottish king in 1020, the Ecclesia de Mususkilburgh, dedicated to St Michael, passed under the jurisdiction of St Andrews. In 1201 the barons of Scotland assembled at Muschelburg to swear fealty to the infant son of William the Lyon, afterwards Alexander II. In 1544 part of the town, including the chapel of Loretto, the council-house, and the tolbooth, were burned by an English army under Somerset. Three years later, the fatal battle of Pinkie was fought; and in 1548 Lord Grey, who commanded the English horse at Pinkie, razed the towns of Dalkeith and Musselburgh; and Tytler says that on this occasion the archives and charters of the latter burgh were destroyed. In 1638 the Marquis of Hamilton, bearing a commission from Charles I. to destroy the power of the Covenanters, was met by thousands of these people on the links of Musselburgh, prepared to defend their religion. In 1650 the chief part of Cromwell's infantry encamped on the links, while his cavalry was quartered in the town, and they remained there during nearly two months. The site of Cromwell's own tent used to be pointed out opposite Linkfield House. During the rising of 1715 the town of Musselburgh was put to some expense in providing men and money, both for its own defence and to share in the defence of Edinburgh. In the '45, as has already been noted, Prince Charles the Pretender marched through part of the town on his way to the battle of Prestonpans; and the burgh was required to pay a sum for the uses of that leader. Again, on his way to England, Charles led his army through Musselburgh. The remaining history of the burgh, to be gleaned from the council-books, which are tolerably perfect from about 1679, is uneventful. From 1792 till near the end of the continental war, Musselburgh was the site of military wooden barracks so extensive as to accommodate more than 2000 men of the militia and volunteer cavalry. In 1797 and subsequent dates, Sir Walter Scott, as in Musselburgh; and about the same time the very different novelist 'Monk Lewis' was a resident in Fisherrow. The presence of so large a body of troops added greatly to the business of the burgh, and when the last regiment finally marched away, a wag gave expression to the general despondency of the burghers by writing on the walls 'A town to let.' Musselburgh has suffered very severely from cholera, no less than four visitations of that disease having taken place since 1831-32. The first was, however, the worst, no fewer than 500 deaths being caused by it.

Reference has already been made to the famous literary men connected with Musselburgh and Inveresk. The parish was the birthplace of David Macbeth Moir (17981851); of William Walker (1791-1867), an eminent portrait engraver in London; of John Burnet (17851868), an engraver, and his brother James (1788-1816), a landscape painter; of Alexander Handyside Ritchie (1804-70), sculptor, a favourite pupil of Thorwaldsen; and of Gilbert Stuart (1742-86), historical writer. Lord Clive and Sir Ralph Abercromby were, at different times, inhabitants of the villa of Loretto. Logan, the poet and divine; Lieutenant Drummond, inventor of the 'Drummond lights;' and Mary Somerville, were educated in the parish. The parish is the death-place of the Earl of Randolph, previously noted; and of Major-General Stirling, captor of the standard of the Invincibles in Egypt. See James Paterson's History of the Regality of Musselburgh (Muss. 1857).—Ord. Sur., sh. 32, 1857.

* It may be interesting to note that this rhyme has been explained as a pun, as brogh or brugh signifles a 'mussel-bed;' but the honest men of Musselburgh reject this interpretation as unsatisfactory.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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