The Canongate: Literary Walk 7th October 2013

Forthcoming event:

You may be interested in the Greyfriar’s Kirk Annual Lecture which is taking place this coming Wednesday, 9th October. Every year the Gaelic congregation of Greyfriar’s Tolbooth and Highland Kirk hosts a lecture which addresses an aspect of Gaelic Culture. This year’s lecture is entitled “Gaelic Education in Edinburgh”and will be jointly delivered
by Anne Macphail (Head Teacher of the new Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pairce),and Donald Macdonald (Head Teacher of James Gillespie’s High SchoImageol).

Third Walk:

Our third literary walk, and our third in the Old Town, took us from Carruber’s Close to the Canongate. We considered the emergence of theatre in 18th Century Edinburgh and encountered Robert Fergusson (1750-1774), a young Edinburgh poet, much admired by two other Roberts: Burns and Stevenson.

The Scottish Book Trust:

The charity, based in Trunks Close, just behind the Scottish Story Telling Centre, was established to promote literature, reading and writing throughout Scotland. More details about the work of the Scottish Book Trust can be found at

Norman Maccaig’s Edinburgh Courtyard in July, makes us think of the intensity of summer light “smeared as thick as paint on these ramshackle tenements”


  • Fergusson, Robert; Auld Reikie
  • Garioch, Robert. At Robert Fergusson’s Grave October 1962
  • Stevenson, RL, Picturesque Notes, Chapter 7, RLS dwells on the irony of Fergusson being overshadowed by Burns, his devoted follower.

On theatrical and general 18th century cultural background (eg the Edinburgh Burns saw), I recommend EF Catford:  Edinburgh, The Story of a City, London 1975, in particular, Chapters 11 and 13 (the book is out of print but should be available at public libraries).  Catford has an admirable topographical sense, and is a good companion.  The two anthologies which I mentioned last week, edited by  David Daiches and Ralph Lownie, contain vivid descriptions of the High Street and the Canongate  There are also some excellent photographs of the historic Canongate available on Capital Collections, the City’s online photographic collection:


Scottish Poetry Library:

Quite apart from its sizeable collection of poetry, the Scottish Poetry Library hosts a number of events and workshops.   The SPL contains reference works but is also a lending library.  Signing up is straightforward and free.  You can find full information on the Library’s website:

The Library is  open five days a week:

  • Tue: 10:00 – 17:00
  • Wed:  10:00 -17.00
  • Thu: 10:00 – 19:00Image
  • Fri10:00 – 17:00
  • Sat: 10:00 – 16:00.

NB It is not open to the public on Mondays.

St John’s Street and St Mary’s Street:

Smollet, Tobias:  Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771, many editions and Kindle download: an entertaining fictitious account of a visit to Edinburgh in the 1770s.

Johnson, Samuel:  Journal to the Western Isles – Dr J, whilst staying at Boyd’s Inn, was not at all happy, when a waiter “with greasy fingers” put a lump of sugar in his lemonade.  We are told that “the Doctor with indignation through it out the window”



One thought on “The Canongate: Literary Walk 7th October 2013

  1. Georgi Gill

    It was lovely to meet your walking group yesterday, Alistair. Hope to see you all again at the Scottish Poetry Library. Happy walking and talking for future trips!


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