The suburb of Cramond on the north west edge of Edinburgh is an area rich in history. I wrote recently about the Roman settlement at Cramond, and here's another story with some royal connections.
James V of Scotland, father of Mary, Queen of Scots, had his palace at Linlithgow and would travel through the Cramond area regularly to get from Linlithgow into Edinburgh. Crossing the River Almond at Cramond is the old Cramond Brig, a bridge that provided access for traffic across the steep valley, and in 1532 James V was travelling through the area without his entourage when he was attacked by five robbers as he crossed the bridge.
A local man named Jock Howieson saw the fight and ran to help the stranger who was outnumbered by his assailants. Having successfully seen off the robbers, Jock Howieson escorted the man - who he didn't know to be the king - back to his home, where he provided a basin of water and a towel for him to clean his face and recover himself.
The king introduced himself to Howieson as a courtier in the palace at Holyrood, serving James V of Scotland. He told Howieson that he'd like to reward him for his help and kindness, and invited him to visit Holyrood where he would show him around the palace.
Howieson was pleased to accept the man's invitation, and was told that he should make his way to Holyrood the following weekend, and at the palace gates to ask for him by name, the Goodman of Ballengeich.
The following week Jock Howieson travelled to Edinburgh, and presented himself at the palace gates, asking to be met by the Goodman of Ballengeich. Presently the man emerged from the palace and greeted Howieson warmly. They began to tour the palace, and Howieson was asked if he would like to meet the king himself. He accepted the invitation warmly, and at the doorway into the grand gallery where the king was assembled with his court Howieson was told, "You'll know the king immediately you enter the room, as he will be the only person wearing a hat".
As they entered the room, filled with people, Howieson looked around in vain for the king, but all he saw were courtiers without their hats - turning to his guide he saw that the Goodman was still wearing his cap. Howieson reflected, "You said the king would be the only man wearing his hat, and as you and I are the only two people wearing caps - and as I know that I am not the king - then you must be him".
Howieson removed his cap and knelt at King James's feet. The king asked Jock if there was anything he wanted, in recognition and thanks for saving his life at Cramond Brig, and Howieson replied that all he desired was to own the farm on which he worked as a labourer.
The king duly rewarded Howieson with a gift of the lands and occupation of Braehead Farm, on condition that Howieson and his family always be ready with a basin of water and a cloth for the king to refresh himself anytime he passed through Cramond.
Braehead remains in the ownership of the Howieson family, and in 1822, when George IV visited Scotland on his royal tour, descendants of the Howieson family attended the king with a basin of water, as James V had requested three hundred years previously.
It's a pleasing story - and the bridge at Cramond is still worth visiting if you are walking through the area - but alas the details seem to have no historical basis and are probably simply a creation of Walter Scott, who wrote a version of the tale in his book, Tales of a Grandfather. My thanks to Millar Haxton Laing who first told me the story.
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