Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from Edinburgh’s archives.

Dec 13, 2012

The records of the Burgh of Edinburgh reveal that four hundred years ago money was raised by the town council from those who wished to reserve lairs in the town burial yard. These funds were often used to support citizens in financial distress.

On 2 December 1612, the council gave the Queen’s surgeon license to build a tomb:

“Grantis . . . license to Jhonn Nasmyth, chirugeane to the Quenis Majestie, to big and haif for himself ane tomb in their burial yard to his bureing. To be set up quhen he sall think expedient and ordains the deyne of gild to designe him the place thairof according to the touns acts”

On 9 December 1612, support was granted to the distressed widow of a merchant who perished with all his goods, when his ship sank on a journey from the Baltic.

“In consideration of the present necessitie of Margaret Sommervell, the relict of Jhonn Henrysoun, merchant, quah laitlie perischet with his haill guids in ane schip cummand frae Danskyne run doun be ane other, grantis and gevis unto hir the sowme of two hunder pund”

These two council decisions were linked on 25 December 1612 when the council records show that the 100 merks, paid by Nasmyth for permission to build the tomb, were given to Margaret for her financial support.

This practice was still being applied a century later when Greyfriars Kirk was now well established on the site.

Council records of 31 December 1712 indicate that John Cunningham of Ballandalloch was to be granted a lair for a family burial plot upon: “paying £100 Scots to the kirk treasurer for use of the poor”

Left: The tomb of John Cunninghame in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Thomas Keith 1856, www.capitalcollections.org.uk

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