EDINBURGH EXPERT WALKING TOURS - BLOG
The Scots are anecdotally a very thirsty nation, with a reputation for drinking (to excess, on occasion) - and one of the greatest cultural exports from Scotland is, of course, Scotch whisky, although Scottish gins have come very much to the fore in recent years, too.
One of the greatest honours that can be bestowed in Scotland is having a pub named after you, and so it's handy that the city remembers many of its former inhabitants with drinking holes, allowing me to link two popular pastimes - history and alcohol!
Here are five establishments named for former inhabitants of the city....
Notable for being the highest pub in Edinburgh (geographically speaking), the Ensign Ewart is situated near the top of the Royal Mile on the Lawnmarket.
It is named for a former solider with the Royal North British Dragoon Guards, Charles Ewart, who played a crucial role in the British victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815. Ewart seized the ceremonial eagle standard of one of the French regiments, helping to break up the cavalry forces and leading to the final defeat of Napoleon's armies.
After his death, Ewart's body was buried outside Manchester before later being exhumed and reburied on the esplanade at the front of Edinburgh Castle. The eagle standard that Ewart captured is still on display in the regimental museum of the Royal Scots inside Edinburgh Castle.
ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL
Born on Charlotte Square in the New Town in 1847, Bell is today best known for his work inventing the telephone, for which he was granted a US patent in 1876.
Both his mother and his wife were deaf, and so his initial intention was to create a device that would enable better communication for people who were hearing impaired. He would later establish the American Telegraph and Telephone Company (which survives today as AT&T), although he is less well-known for his views on compulsory sterilisation and his membership of several high-profile eugenics organisations...
Today Bell has a branch of a Wetherspoon's pub named for him at the west end of George Street, just around the corner from the building in which he was born.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Another figure celebrated not far from his birthplace is the writer Arthur Conan Doyle, born in a building on Picardy Place in Edinburgh's New Town, which has since been demolished.
Doyle trained as a medic at the University of Edinburgh, and after relocating to London he became famed for writing the Sherlock Holmes stories, featuring the world's greatest consulting detective. Holmes was based on one of Doyle's tutors at university, although none of the stories are set in Scotland.
Edinburgh famously has more statues of dogs than it has of historical women, but one particular woman has been given a pub instead - Maggie Dickson was one of the last people to survive an execution in the city, and her pub on the Grassmarket overlooks the site where she nearly met her death in the 1720s.
Accused of murdering her newborn child, Dickson was sentenced to be hanged, and after the execution took place her body was being transported out of the city for burial in the village where she came from. Part way along that journey, the coach driver bearing her coffin had cause to stop, and in doing so discovered that Dickson wasn't 100% dead - despite having been hanged, she was able to be revived, causing a significant legal discussion to take place in the city: should the authorities seek to hang her again, to complete the botched job? Or would that be in breach of the law, since she had - technically - already been hanged, as per her sentence...?
In the end Dickson was allowed to live, but the law changed with the sentence being amended to "be hanged until dead" for subsequent executions.
Dickson allegedly lived until her early 80s, and bore another six children in the latter half of her ife.
Another convicted criminal who was not so lucky as to survive the gallows was Deacon William Brodie, a locksmith and cabinet maker with premises on the Lawnmarket.
Brodie was discovered to have been living a double life, and went on to inspire the creation of one of literature's most influential creations as the prototype for Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde...
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth, an adopted native of Edinburgh, with over 20 years experience of living and working in the city...
Search the blog archive...