An A - Z of Edinburgh: A to C
This is the first of my new blog series, exploring Edinburgh from A to Z!
A - C, D - F, G - I, J - L, M - O, P - R, S - U, V - Z
THE LETTER A
A is for Adam Smith, one of the city's greatest Scottish Enlightenment figures, known as 'the father of modern economics' after his ground-breaking text, The Wealth of Nations. Actually, Smith was born in Kirkcaldy in Fife to the north of Edinburgh, but lived for much of his life in the Old Town, where his former home Panmure House still stands today. It was in Panmure House that Smith wrote his famous textbook outlining the basic principles and treaties of international trade agreements between countries, which was to transform the world's approach to finance.
Smith was a major player in the so-called Scottish Enlightenment, when Edinburgh was at the heart of a century-long movement of innovation, and he was one of the men who helped establish the city's reputation as a home to great thinkers, philosophers, scientists and medics.
When Smith died he was buried in the Canongate Kirkyard, where his grave today is often to be seen covered in small coins from around the world, thrown onto the grave by travellers. It seems a fitting tribute to a man who helped to shape the global economy!
THE LETTER B
B is for Braidwood - James Braidwood helped to establish Edinburgh's first formal fire service, and was instrumental in developing the early training methods and principles for fighting fire.
Edinburgh had been a city much vulnerable to fire, without a natural water supply, and in 1824 the Great Fire of Edinburgh destroyed a significant portion of the Old Town.
Braidwood would later die fighting fire in London, where he had gone to set up the London fire service following his success in Edinburgh. A statue to Braidwood can be found on Parliament Square, near St Giles' Cathedral.
THE LETTER C
The obvious choice to represent the letter 'C' would be Edinburgh Castle, but instead I'm choosing Cowgate, a road running parallel to the Royal Mile which traditionally provided access into the city for farmers bringing their cattle from the fields and pastures to the south. The road along which they drove their cattle to market became known as 'Cowgait', the passage/walk (or 'gait') of the cows.
Despite this fairly noisy and smelly purpose, the Cowgate was also, for a long time, the richest part of the city, where lords, successful businessmen, knights and even a Catholic cardinal had their homes - these would be grander and more spacious properties than the homes of poorer families, crammed into the dark and dirty lanes leading to the Royal Mile. In the eighteenth century, when the New Town provided an even grander setting for these wealthy occupants, the Cowgate got taken over by slum landlords and became the city's most run-down district.
The writer Robert Louis Stevenson described standing on the new, upper-class South Bridge, and being able to look down to the Cowgate running below it, and said it was possible to look from one level of society to the next 'in the twinkling of an eye'...
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