Death of a Maid

Death of a Maid

Imagine your surprise when you stand beside the Mercat Cross, a shade walks over to you and says.

“Let me tell you of my life in this city and of my Murder.”

You stand there as the people around you fade, and the shade becomes more substantial. She says.

“My lover and Murderer was hanged here for his many crimes. I was not his first.”

Her pale beautiful face looks at you.

“Walk with me and I will tell you of my life and death.”

She walks away from you past the Mercat Cross, past the large Cathedral. Follow her, then she stops in the gap between the church and the buildings. She is standing upon a mosaic of cobles in the shape of a heart.

“To the people of this city it is known as the Heart of Midlothian. But the stones are stained by the blood of my life, the life that my lover took from me. The blood has faded from the bright red to the muted colour you see today.”

She points, look down and you will see the stylised heart. If you wish you can imagine the bright red blood fading with age and seeping away through the cracks of time, dulled with age.

“Walk with me to the well and my death.”

Walk further up the road till you come to a tall stone block.

“This well was moved after the meeting between me and my lover. I met him one morning whilst I was collecting water for my Mistress. He was tall and handsome dressed in fine clothes with a sparkling smile. His charm shone on that dull day.

She walks away from you across George IV Bridge and leads you off to the left to the first side street, your guide stops.

“In my time this street was not known as Victoria Street. But the Artists of the Bow. Walk with me to the North Bow Steps. These steps I would take on a Sunday with my employer’s family to church. The soldiers would take these same steps to the shops below for their military needs.”

Your guide walks up the steps, follow her to the corner of the Upper Bow and Lawnmarket. She points to the church on the left.

“This is the church that those in service attended. My Master and Mistress attended St Giles down the hill from here. Sunday after church was a time of rest for those in service. My lover would meet me here and we would walk along the street under the Castle to the steps that led to a small garden. It is to one side of the steps, in the spring it was filled with blossom.”

Your guide walks away from you past the buildings, all weathered, to one side is the castle its esplanade plainly seen and the rock it stands upon. You watch her walk past the first opening, past more buildings and a view of tenements on your left she stops at Granny’s Green Steps.

“The trees have all gone now, but I can still smell the blossom.”

Your ghostly guide walks down the steps and as you get to the corner of King Stables Road and Grassmarket. She stops looks around smiles at you.

“My lover and Killer would take me to dine and visit with friends. The hostelries are the same. Some names never change, The Black Bull, The White Hart. But the other side has changed. Gone are the animal pens the hill that had the outer wall on it.”

Close your eyes think of the noise of cattle and sheep, people making merry. If you were lucky you may even meet the Bard. Now open your eyes and imagine the wall behind the buildings. And beyond that wall is one of the leading lights of the enlightenment, Education.

“Walk with me to the well I normally drew fresh water for my Mistress.”

Turn to the left walk along the street of this vibrant area of Edinburgh to the well.
As you get to the well your guide is sitting on its base.

“The day I met my Lover and Killer this well was surrounded by a mob drinking and celebrating the death of a city guard, so I walked to the next well. I was born in the basement of the tenement to the left of this well. It no longer exist, the building looks the same but the doors are taller and wider. If you look across the road you can see Heriots Close. Up that Close was the school I attended from the age of 4 from 7 in the morning till 11o’clock in the morning, then we were sent to the work house to pay for our education. As a girl I was sent to a candle picker’s workhouse. That is I worked out the wick from old candles. Separating the wax from the wick to be twilled into new long wicks and make new candles. The workhouse I was sent had been in that gap.”

You watch as your guide walks across the mini roundabout, ignoring the traffic, which you must watch out for. If you do not wish to meet her. She stands at the gap then beckons you to walk up the hill. Follow her to the first opening on the left as she turns the corner. You enter Merchants Street, the shade walks under the archway, you can see secure corrugated doors of the Sheriff Court above. She stops and points down to her left.

“At the age of 12, I was taken away from the Candle Pickers workshop by the rich merchant who owned the building. He wanted a girl to be his young wife’s maid, since I was homely at that time but bright he took me into service. He was a kind man and I loved his wife like the sister I had lost. They replaced my Mother and Father who died in one of the plagues that swept through the city from time to time. The house was destroyed in the fire after my death, look down the close and see what is left.

If you look now you’ll see new buildings all around but there is an outcrop of old stone, weathered, jagged and a familiar red brown volcanic old stone jutting out of the new.

“That was where I worked for six wonderful years .They took me away from a horrible, painful, smelly work place. I was told the last overseer was hanged for the way he treated his charges and that was not just the girls. I am sad to look at this place, come. ”

Your companion says, as she walks away from Dyer’s close, to the end of Merchant Street. You see her walk up the hill to the little life like statue with a lot of people milling around and touching its nose.

“I do not know how long I laid under the earth until I felt the heat of a small being upon my lap. It nestled where my unborn child would have been and brought me solace in my cold sleep. I know not his name but he has a master near. This small dog’s shade would snuggle within mine heart and make me warm.

Your guide walks off towards the church yard and goes in, you have to follow her to hear the end of the story. She stops in the middle of the graveyard.

“I am laid to rest here, I know not where. I had confided in my Mistress of my condition and of my love for the father. She loved me as a daughter and welcomed the news with such joy. It was my Mistress who passed on the note, asking me to meet my Lover early on that May morning so we may walk up Arthur’s Seat and take the due that morning to bring us luck. I had confided to him the day before that I was with child. The Master of the house who considered me his daughter, unbeknown to me followed me to this meeting. He had heard rumours about a resurrectionist who fitted the description of my lover. He could only wish for my happiness so out of love he watched. I ran to my lover, hugged and kissed him. He stood back from me and produced a knife. With no remorse he slashed me across the neck, from left to right and right to left.
I could hear my master shout as he ran at my killer and strike him. As the light faded all I could hear was. “She’s worth 40 quid tay me.”

The shade leads you round in the quiet of the graveyard, relax in the quiet in the middle of a very noisy city. Have a look at the great and good of this old city, be amazed that at one point you see the skull and cross bones. Your guide again places a hand on an arm.

“My master, Father, was so concerned for my physical body that he did not want a stone erected in my name. So you will not see a marker for me. Bless him he planted a tree to mark the resting place of my unborn child and me. That tree has purple leaves and I play with my child and the wee dog around it in the quiet of the day as the sun comes into our little world.
You may ask what my name is, the colour of the leaves give me away, my name is Violet.

This is a work of fiction and I hope you enjoyed the walk around the city I call home. This is fiction these events did not happen and I have used my recollection of this city’s history to make this story. IT IS A FICTIONAL STORY nothing more nothing less.


Thank you and I hope you enjoyed the walk and the occasional stop for a pint. I know I would stop for one.

Chris Mclennan.

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