Edinburgh reeks of stories, histories, myths and legends, all told over and over again.
New Myths and Legends of Edinburgh is a collection of tales never before revealed: from the Mysterious Lollipop Man enticing innocent cyclists to their peril, to the enigmatic Victorian academic Professor MacIntyre.
There is the Man Who Waited, and the true story of the peculiar rock in Craiglockhart Dell.
It’s the Edinburgh you didn’t know existed, but you always suspected it did…
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Introduction from the book
“The Old Town shuffle and the New Town stride.”
– Rod Paterson
There are many tales told of Edinburgh. William Burke and William Hare; Greyfriar‚Äôs Bobby; and Major Weir: these are just some names from the catalogue of legend and myth from Edinburgh’s past. The stories are famous the world over, and are the inspiration for many books and films. Think of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Jeckyll and Hyde, inspired by the double life of Deacon Brodie.
I’ve lived in Edinburgh for over 25 years, and these stories fascinate me. Imagine my pleasure as, over the years, I have unearthed new tales of Edinburgh, hidden from common sight, but worthy of dusting off and presenting to the world. How have I found these stories? Conversations enjoyed and overheard in the pubs and bars of Edinburgh are one such source; a special mention must go to Cloisters, where I have enjoyed a pint or two over the years. And there is the annual book fair for Christian Aid, held in the fine setting of St Andrew’s and St George’s Church in George Street. A rummage amongst the books at this fine feast has proved particularly fruitful. Wandering around the streets of the Old Town, the New Town also provides clues: look up, above the line that marks the boundary between ground floor and first floor: that is the key.
And, looking through my notes gathered over the years, one name keeps re-occurring: Professor MacInytre. He lived in Edinburgh sometime in the 19th Century, and seemed to be associated with the University in some way that I am yet to discover. Was he a philosopher, a scientist? It is not clear. What is clear, is that he had a nose, an intuition for seeking out the unusual in Edinburgh. It was often hidden in plain view‚ – or, as my Dad used to say: “can’t see for looking.”
It was with a stroke of luck that I came across his notes. I bought a little book at the Christian Aid Book sale. It was called The Edinburgh Source Book. I took it home and settled down to read. When I flicked through to look at the drawings a slip of paper fell out. It was yellowing and delicately crisp, folded into four. I opened it very carefully. There was a small sketch, and a date: 21st September. The sketch was a simple line drawing of the sun on the horizon, shining over a meadow. It was the distinctive shape of Arthur’s Seat, and the shadow struck… I will say no more, for I think it would be wrong of me to give too much detail here.
I waited all that summer, and on the morning of the 21st September I made my way to the very spot in the sketch. I’d borrowed a metal detector, and sure enough, at the point marked by the shadow, the detector screamed shrilly in the headphones. I dug, and there, just a couple of feet under the grass, I discovered a small iron box, rusting, but still sound.
In the box, I found later when I opened it carefully at home, was a neatly gathered collection of papers, tied in a fading red ribbon. There were also two small notebooks, bound in leather. There was one other item in that box, but of that I will say nothing – for the moment.
Inscribed on the inside of the lid of the box, just about legible, were the words:
Professor MacIntyre, Edinburgh Society of the Door.
As well as the sources mentioned already, some of the tales in this collection are based on the notes found in that box. But the box proved invaluable to me, for in that box Professor MacIntyre describes novel and intricate methods which have helped me gather tales that would otherwise remain hidden.
I’m still finding out more about Edinburgh, and the tales here are not the only ones I have discovered, but I thought it was high time for me to release the first pages of my findings, some I’ve kept on my shelves for far too long.
So, I present to you, Volume 1 of New Myths and Legends of Edinburgh.
Noel Chidwick, January 2011
Revenge of the Lollipop Man
The Union Canal Bore
The Man Who Waited
The Diary of Michael Garrett
Sam Brown’s Secret
“When I’m Cleaning Winders”
“Professor MacIntyre is Missing!”
The Session in the Wall
The Devil’s Testicle