30th September 1944 - Edinburgh
Lovely day, sunny, with a pleasant cool wind. Felt well and free, but on walking down to Prince’s Street suddenly began to feel very faint. Went into the Gardens and sat down, but dreadful sensation of weakness increased, and sight faded for 2 or 3 minutes, while sounds remained perceptible. Sat still for nearly an hour, then felt a little better and went to see the city. Delightful to be here again. Great crowds walking about, all nationalities – Norwegian and Canadian navy men from Leith, Americans, French, a few Dutch, American and Canadian nurses, Scottish girls, strikingly tall, with lovely hair and complexions, some wearing kilts or tartan skirts.
A good number of horses about, pulling flat trolleys, some in open bridles and the fantastic high-peaked Scottish collars and curiously shaped saddles. Even saw an old landau going towards Waverley Station, just as in the photos which Father bought here 50 years ago. Plenty of ponies in little two-wheel carts, some on pneumatics, a few in trolleys, but nothing so smart as the
hackneys. The St Cuthbert’s Co-op have a
lot of horses, mostly good type vanners, some used in very modern ill-designed
vehicles, built like motor van bodies by the Glasgow Co-operative Society
This afternoon went up Calton Hill. Tremendous view from the top of the Hill – on one side looking across to Arthur’s Seat, the usual mist lying over Hollyrood House, of which only the tops of the turrets were visible. The sound of distant pipes floated up from somewhere in the
On the other side was the Firth, with all
Leith stretching out to the pale blue
water, and the misty mountains, bathed in gentle sunlight far beyond. Below Calton Hill, the smoke of ten thousand
chimneys softened the hard edges of the buildings, spreading an enchantment
over the most hideous modern cinemas or garages. One cannot fail to realise the aptness of the
classic descriptions of this place, however hackneyed they may be – “The Athens
of the North”, “City of mist and rain and blown, grey spaces”, etc.
Looked then towards the south, towards England, over the spires and towers, chimneys, each with its steaming plume of blue smoke, to the vast black bulk of the Castle Rock, balanced by the mass of Arthur’s Seat. Just below Calton Hill stands the High School, with its grand classical lines, and a new office building, a poor thing, on the opposite side of the road. Nearby is the lovely Burns’ monument, like a little round temple, and the beautiful lines of Regent and Calton Terraces.
Walked round that architectural curiosity, the “National Monument”. Two very noisy Americans were photographing two girls on the plinth, much screaming and shouting. These great unfinished columns form a magnificent crown to the hill. The
disappointing, but the observatory is fine.
There were two pretty English girls on the terrace behind it, holding
their hats against the violent wind sweeping round the corner of the buildings. Nelson
Went down past the High School, past the
, to the New Burial Ground, and
saw tombs of doctors, merchants, advocates and writers, mostly designed in the
old style of stone walled enclosures, with the family name over the entrance
archway. Burns Monument
Then through some streets and under the railway bridge to
Holyrood Palace, very grey and
austere. Was surprised to see that the
main façade is of late 17th century date, the clock of the entrance
inscribed “C.R.” and “1680”. I believe
Dorothy Wordsworth was disappointed at the sash-windows when she came
here. Big crowds going in and out of the
cloisters, including some very rude English soldiers, swaggering, shouting and
smoking, a group of West Indian R.A.F. men of varying shades of black.
Saw the Chapel Royal, a most impressive ruin. In the S.E. corner is a curious chamber rather like a boiler-house, built by Queen
to contain the remains of several
Scottish Kings, which had been scattered from their original tombs. Victoria
Then went into the famous State Apartments – the Picture Gallery, (where is the curious series of Royal Portraits), the Queen’s Room, the Supping Room, the Privy Stair, etc. Saw the spot where poor Rizzio died. In Lord Darnley’s Room were two American WAAFs, reading the label over the door, and I heard one of them say to the other: “Who was this Lord Darnley?” The other replied in a deep Southern accent: “Ah dunno Ah’m sure, some one to do with Mary Queen O’Scots, Ah guess,” which seemed to me to be a masterpiece of under-statement.
I think that nobody, however dull to the wonders of history, can fail to feel the incredible drama of this place. Here are the very windows through which the Queen looked out onto the Park, the very doorways through which she passed, the privy stair, up which the murderers crept so quietly. And here is the spot where Rizzio bled to death. One feels that at night the Queen’s screams must still echo round these rooms.
Leaving the Palace, walked out through the great gates into Abbey Strand, past the Horse Wynd, a man came hurrying up behind me from the Palace Yard, stopping me and asking me in tones of greatest affability how I had enjoyed my visit? He was about 50, ruddy faced, wearing a soft hat and a dirty mackintosh, and spoke with a curious accent which seemed neither English or Scots. I was rather astonished, but replied politely that I enjoyed it very much. Then he said: “You’re English, aren’t you? What part of
do you come from?” and
leered in a most unpleasant way. I
disliked his manner intensely, so replied, vaguely: “ England Essex”. Whereupon he grinned said: “Really?” and
suddenly turned away to hurry back into the Palace, leaving me to wonder
exactly who he was.
Walked up Canongate, saw Queensbury House, now a “house of Refuge”, with a great wall and high gates like a gaol. Nearby is an old elementary school, called “Public School” in the American fashion. Saw the Canongate Tolbooth, Acheston House, Huntly House, the latter a municipal museum, but unfortunately closed. Both Acheson and Huntly Houses have been extensively restored, but many other fine buildings in this part of the city are rapidly falling into ruin. What can be done with them?
Everywhere great crowds of very poor people, old, ugly women in tartan shawls and clogs, tall, big boned girls in filthy rags, dirty men of every age and complexion, all talking and shouting at one another in a completely incomprehensible dialect. Nearly every other shop seemed to be an old clothes emporium or a second-hand furniture shop, with here and there bars and “Public Wash Houses.” (Generally pubs in
Scotland to not carry
fanciful names as in ,
but are labelled simply “MacDonald’s Bar; Good Spirits”, or something like
that). Many Jewish names all along
Canongate, and I am gold that Jews own most of the tenement property here. The sordid squalor is far worse than anything
I have ever seen in England
or the midlands. London
Noticed a plaque on one house recording that it was built by a man names
out of money which he won through
playing golf with James VI. Paterson
The site of the
is marked by small copper slabs let into the surface of the street, and that of
the Talbooth in the High Street in the same way. Should like to see this done in various
places in Netherbow Port Colchester. (It was through the Netherbow that the
Highlanders gained access to the city in ’45).
Saw John Knox’s ancient hosue, jutting out over the footpath.
All the way up Canongate and High Street there were men, women, and girls, quite a hundred of them, standing at intervals of about 10 yards offering pamphlets for sale. They held in their hands cards inscribed “New World Fighters” and “The Truth Shall Make You Free, - Price 3d,”, and carried cloth satchels very similar to those used by “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in
St Giles’ a little red-haired Scot was arguing vehemently with one of the
sellers. Should be interested to know
who these people really are.
Took tram back to Glengyle Terrace, had a delicious tea, and then took both Miss Biggams to the cinema, to see “Murder in
Thornton Square”. Very well done, but rather inferior to the
original play “Gaslight”, from which it is derived.
Have not said anything to these dear women about how long I hope to stay here, nor have I yet made any effort to see a doctor. Have not written to Captain Folkard either, but feel at the moment quite incapable of thinking about anything.
Glorious moon tonight, and low white mist over the Links, the high buildings on the far side standing out black, looking like some strange erections in fairyland.
The papers here are full of the extraordinary case at
where a city councillor called Dewar, who is manager of the crematorium there
has been making a packet of money by removing lids from the coffins sent to him
and selling them back to the undertakers.
All sorts of gruesome details have been brought to light, and he is now
charged with stealing more than 1,000 lids, several whole coffins, and some
shrouds. The case reads like something
of the time of Burke and Hare. Aberdeen
Thinking tonight of where I was only a week ago – on the Post, watching the divers coming in. And now I hope never to see them again. What am I going to do? If I leave here by the night train tomorrow, I shall be in
Colchester on Monday in time for
the meeting. Or shall I go to Inverness? Or ? I have no idea, and no feelings or care or