Edinburgh World Heritage - Find out how this former soldier’s attempts to help the minister resulted in a local scandal


Find out how this former soldier’s attempts to help the minister resulted in a local scandal

Alexander Adie Liston was born in 1780 in Liberton, to the south of Edinburgh.  His father was a farm labourer.  Alexander joined the Army when he was 15 or 16 years old and by 1799, when he was 19, he was in India.   That year he took part in the siege of Seringapatam.  Alexander’s Regiment fought in India until 1808.  Then it returned to Scotland.  In 1810 it sailed to Portugal and fought in the Peninsular War until 1814.  It then moved to Ireland and was disbanded in 1818.

In June of that year, aged 43, he married Isabella Lawrie (aged 24) in Canongate.  They went on to have a large family and several of their children are commemorated on this memorial. Alexander lived to the ripe old age of 91.  When he was 81 he featured in a newspaper article which showed that he had become a pillar of local society.  It also showed that during his foreign travels he had acquired some exotic tastes which may, inadvertently, have caused problems for a Kirk minister!

The newspaper article dealt with the inquiry into a complaint that a Minister of the Canongate Kirk was unfit to serve.  One of the accusations against him was that he was too fond of alcohol. Among those giving evidence in support of the Minister was Alexander Liston.  He was described as an Elder of the Kirk living in Grange Road – then newly built and a very upmarket address.   Alexander said that he had never seen the Minister the worse for drink.  But he explained why people might have smelt alcohol on the Minister.  The Minister had a sore leg and he, Alexander, had given him absinthe to rub on it.  Alexander explained carefully that absinthe is not like whisky but ‘is a powerful spirit and very strong.  It has a strong smell and disturbs my family when I take out the cork’.

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