History

ANCIENT FELINE FAR FROM HOME

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, Pompeii was not the only casualty. 

Herculaneum – nine miles to the north – was likewise engulfed, a pyroclastic surge burying the town and smothering many of its inhabitants in a thick shroud of volcanic ash.

Emanuel Maurice, Prince d’Elbeuf, began excavating here in 1719, and it was from his posthumous estate that the Edinburgh diarist and lawyer James Boswell acquired ‘not cheap’ the plaster cast of a young female cat (shown foot of page) during his Grand Tour of Italy, Corsica, and France in 1764/66.

NEWS FROM THE MEWS 4

1839–43 

SOUP-KITCHEN.—We understand that a soup-kitchen was opened on Saturday at Greenside Row, which will be a great boon to the poor of that densely populated parish, among whom for some time back there has been much sickness, and many very distressing cases of fever. We learn that it is under the management of the excellent minister of the parish and his session.

Scotsman, 16 January 1839

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NEWS FROM THE MEWS 3

1837–38

Fire.—On Thursday night, about seven o’clock, the premises in East Thistle Street Lane, in which Messrs M’Crie & Co. carry on the business of paper-staining, caught fire, which, however, by the prompt attendance of the firemen, was soon got under with an engine, and with comparatively little damage.

NEWS FROM THE MEWS: 1

In the weeks to come, as a diversion from current inconveniences and alarms, Spurtle will serialise a previously unpublished work compiled by A. J. McIntosh entitled News from the Mews

It is a selection of Victorian newspaper reports detailing events in the – generally overlooked – back streets and service lanes of Edinburgh’s New Town. 

A few of these have already appeared in the printed pages of the Broughton Spurtle. Most, though, appear here for the first time in over a hundred years.

EDINBURGH AND THE BALD COCKATOO

Edinburgh’s earliest zoo – the Royal Edinburgh Zoological Gardens – was established in 1840 in Broughton Park, on ground now bounded by West Annandale Street, Bellevue Street, Melgund Terrace, and East Claremont Street.

It was never a financial success and closed in 1857, amid widespread and long-standing concerns about the welfare of its specimen species. Financial concerns predominated.

THE GHOSTLY TRACE OF LONG LOST BOOTS

 ‘What is this life if, full of care, 

 We have no time to stand and stare?’ 

What would the poet W.H. Davies have to say about so many who now seem umbilically affixed to their mobile phones, as if their very survival depended on them?

How many, while so engaged, never look up or around them when they might discover architectural marvels and throngs of silent watchers over our beautiful city?

And in Broughton Street, for example, how many ghostly survivals of its past will they have missed?

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