Notes to pages 124-150

p. 124 ‘Your daughter Margaret and her children’: Jean and Tytler had two daughters, twins, Helen and Margaret. There is no record of their birth, but the ages they gave at various times during their lives suggest that they were born around 1787. Both came to Salem with their parents.  Margaret married Daniel Anderson on Janury 23rd, 1813 in Salem. They had five daughters, The youngest, Elizabeth Eaton Anderson was born 25 August, 1830, so she would be the littlest listener to Ben’s tale; the eldest, Helen Tytler Anderson was born in 1817 and would have been elsewhere (she was married in 1842 to William Phillips Cummings . The others, Sarah, Eustace and Lucy would have been eleven, ten and eight in 1833.

p. 125 Tytler published two descriptions of whaling, one in the EBII, under the entry Fisheries, and one, a shortened version, in his Universal Geographical Grammar (this one is online HERE). They constitute the fullest description of UK whaling from that era. The remarkable thing is that they are written from experience. A the end of his first (and as it turned out, his only) year at Edinburgh University Tytler engaged as ship’s surgeon on The Royal Bounty, a whler out of Leith bound for Spitzbergen. Ben’s story is drwan from these two texts.

p. 130 I have no information concerning how Tytler met Jean Aitkenhead. He was working in the dispensary in 1782 when they were married, and she was living in The Pleasance, so their paths may well have crossed. As will become clear, I have used the confused memory of an eighty-year-old woman to present a number of options of which a visit to the dispensary is probably the least likely.

Thomas Aikenhead (c. March 1676 – 8 January 1697) was a Scottish student from Edinburgh, who was prosecuted and executed on a charge of blasphemy. He was the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy. His ‘indytment’ can be read HERE.

p. 133 ‘walks through parkland’; the land in question is what is now known as ‘The Meadows.’ It was then in the ownership of Thomas Hope, who had had it drained (it had once been the ‘Burgh Loch’ and the source of Edinburgh’s drinking water).

Hallow Fair:

“At Hallowmas, whan nights grow lang,
And starnies shine fu’ clear,
Whan fock, the nippin cald to bang,
Their winter hap-warms wear,
Near Edinbrough a fair there hads,
I wat there’s nane whase name is,
For strappin dames and sturdy lads,
And cap and stoup, mair famous
Than it that day.” (from Robert Fergusson’s poem ‘Hallow Fair’)

The Fair, held at that time on the Bruntsfield Links (west of the Meadows) was a likely place for couples to meet, as Fergusson recorded:

“Here country John in bonnet blue,
An’ eke his Sunday claise on,
Rins efter Meg wi’ rokelay new,
An’ sappy kisses lays on;”

'Horse Fair on Bruntsfield Link sEdinburgh − Paul Sandby
‘Horse Fair on Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh − Paul Sandby

p. 134 Gibbet Loan

Various maps of the period show the name ‘Gibbet Loan’ in slightly different places. Gibbet Toll, however, stood on the corner where the Commonwealth swimming Pool now is, on the path up towards Arthur’s Seat. The only tenement shown on these maps is that at the east end of what is now Preston Street, but which on some maps os indeed labelled ‘Gibbet Loan’.

Map of Gibbet Loan; Ainslie 1804
Map of Gibbet Loan; Ainslie 1804

p. 134 ‘some kind of mutiny’:

“In August 1778 the Regiment marched to Leith for embarkation to the East Indies– but a dispute regarding their terms of service lead the men to march back to Edinburgh and they took up a position of protest in the vicinity of Arthur’s Seat, remaining for several days. During this protest, the men were amply supplied with food and ammunition by the populace of the capital, who had taken side with them in their grievances. After three days of negotiations, compromises were reached and the men again marched from the capital to their quarters at Leith, this time led by the Earl of Seaforth, but the idea of sending them to India now having been abandoned.  At this time, the Regiment was designated as the 78th Regiment of Foot.” (from Wikipedia)

(from Clan Macrae

'Edinburgh' by Louise RaynerIn 1778, the Earl of Seaforth, the chief of the Mackenzies, raised a regiment of about 1,000 men from his estates. So great a proportion of this number were Macraes that the regiment – officially named the 78th Seaforth Highlanders – became commonly known as the Macraes.

In June 1778, the newly levied regiment came to Edinburgh and were quartered in the castle and elsewhere in the city. In August, they were moved to Leith for embarkation to Guernsey. Most men had enlisted for no more than three years and there was a written condition attaching to their enlistment that they would not serve their time outside Britain. The rumour, though, was that the whole regiment was to be sold to the East India Company for service in the East Indies. The Highlanders sought reassurances from their officers, but the explanations they received were far from convincing.

On Tuesday 22 September, the regiment were marched to Leith Links and ordered to board the boats assembled there. The rumblings of discontent spilled over and the men refused to obey. Some eventually did take to the boats, but some six hundred remained defiant. Fearing that other troops might be called against them, and after some hours of discussion, they then marched in regular order to Arthur’s Seat, with two plaids fixed on poles instead of colours and with the pipes playing at their head. Having ascended the former volcano, they took up position around the top of the crags and prepared to defend themselves against any assault, vowing to remain there until their just demands were satisfied or they were ejected by force of arms.

The sensation this caused among the citizenry of Edinburgh was considerable. A large crowd had turned out to witness their march across the city, and many now proceeded to keep the mutineers supplied with provisions. The sympathies of the ordinary people of Edinburgh plainly sided with the Highlanders.

'Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat' by Hugh William WilliamsThe authorities, as can be imagined, did not view the mutiny in the same benevolent light. The senior generals of the army in Scotland immediately summoned more troops to Edinburgh and assembled a substantial force comprised of men of the 11th Dragoons, the Buccleugh Fencibles and the Glasgow Volunteers. Fortunately, the generals were disinclined to resort to force of arms and instead began negotiations. General Skene, the Earl of Dunmore and the Duke of Buccleugh were among those who visited the encampment over the next few days to conduct talks with the Macraes. To their credit, the Highlanders remained respectful and well disciplined throughout, but remained staunch in their demands: a pardon to all of their number for all past offences; that all levy money and arrears due to them should be paid before embarkation; and that they should not be sent to the East Indies.

On the Friday morning, the generals at last conceded and signed a bond confirming all the Highlanders’ demands, whereupon the Macraes formed themselves into marching order and left the hill, with the pipes playing and a large crowd walking behind. Thereafter, on the Tuesday morning, one week after the mutiny started, the regiment assembled in front of Holyrood Palace and marched to Leith with the Earl of Seaforth and General Skene at their head. There, they took ship to Guernsey, cheered by a large portion of the people of Edinburgh.”

Whatever the deal arranged by the generals, the Regiment did eventually leave for the East indies in 1781; during the voyage 274 died and many suffered debilitating illnesses. Very few ever returned to Scotland.

The only mention I have found of hte story that one soldier died falling from Arthur’s Seat is in Jack Campin’s Edinbro’ Edinbro’

What happened on September 22nd was described by one of the officers of the regiment in a letter to a newspaper:

‘The companies who, by being stationed in the Castle, had not imbibed these absurd ideas, prepared for their embarkation with the utmost cheerfulness and marched down as far as the New-Bridge in good order and high spirits; they were then assaulted by the companies quartered in the town, who, with the assistance of the populace, soon threw them into confusion. Every effort of the officers to reduce them to obedience was in vain, as in their endeavours they were insulted, pelted with stones, and struck by the mob, who surrounded them, and the men encouraged and assisted in every act of mutiny and insolence.’

The mutineers then went to the Canongate prison, broke it open to release some soldiers held there for riotous behaviour, and dispersed after a harmless exchange of gunfire. When the remaining troops assembled on Leith Links to embark, the officers again refused to pay them anything until they were on board. So the majority – about 500 of them – marched to the top of Arthur’s Seat and stayed there, being supplied with food and drink for two days by the people of the town, many of them Highlanders like the troops. They came down to embark after getting complete agreement to their demands: a full pardon for the mutiny, payment of all arrears, an undertaking that they would never be sent to the East Indies, and their officers subjected to an immediate court of inquiry under officers of other regiments with any soldier permitted to testify. There were only a few minor wounds in the episode and one soldier was killed falling off Arthur’s Seat in the dark.”

p. 135 ‘the stonemasons’ strike’: Jack Campin’s note on the Macrae mutiny is also the source for this: ” The year 1778 had seen the first big strike recorded in Edinburgh’s history, a bitter confrontation between the journeymen stonemasons and their employers for higher wages, with workers from many other trades contributing to the strike fund. Memories of this must have been in the minds of the many people of the city who helped the MacRaes against their officers.”

p. 135 ‘The Pleasance’; “Historically, the street was one of the main routes into Edinburgh from the south, meeting St Mary’s Wynd (now St Mary’s Street) at St Mary’s Wynd Port, one of the gateways of the town walls. The name derives from the Scots plesance, meaning a park or garden. It first appears in 1507 as the name of a nearby house and was later transferred to the street and then the suburb which was part of the regality of the Canongate. The derivation of the name from a nunnery of St Mary of Placentia, often mentioned in histories of Edinburgh, is an invention by William Maitland in his 1753 History of Edinburgh.”

The record of the Banns of marriage between Tytler and Jean Aikenhead describe her as ‘residencer in the Pleasance’

p. 135 ‘Mother used to offer her services…’; There are two entries in Peter Williamson’s Directory for the City of Edinburgh;
1774/5 ‘Mrs Aitkenhead makes grave-cloths, grass-market, n. side (the only entry for this name);

1778/79 ‘Aitkenhead, room-setter, s.side, grass-market’
I have no other evidence that these entries were made by Jean’s mother, nor that she was in Edinburgh at this or any other time.

p. 137 ‘The intent of matrimony…’; the article from which this is an excerpt was published in the G&LWM for June 29, 1774, under the title ‘Sentiments on Love and Marriage’.

p. 138 ‘William our first child…’; William’s obituary was published in The Paisley Advertiser, 12 September, 1828, where he is described as ‘age 62’ and ‘the son of the well known Mr Tytler of Edinburgh, commonly called “Balloon Tytler” , who wrote the article Chemistry in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and largely contributed to other departments of that work.’
I am extremely grateful to Mr Greg Hughes [who is descended from William] for pointing me to this information; from it we have deduced that William was born in Leith in 1766, and was thus the oldest of Elizabeth Rattray’s contribution to the Tytler family. His life is surprisingly well documented in his military pension records, and will be discussed more fully at a later stage.

p. 138 ‘about to be brought to bed with our Lizzie.’; again, for information about Lizzie, I am grateful to Greg Hughes. Her story is told later.

p. 138 ‘a good deal of disagreement…’ The only source for this ‘disagreement’ is a rather unpleasant commentary in Kogan’s The Great EB The Story of the Encyclopdedia Britannica. ‘Tytler’s first wife deserted him. His second wife nagged and scolded him incessantly, and not without cause.’ (p.16).  Tytler did, however, publish an article in The Weekly Mirror for November 10, 1780, ‘The Danger incurred by Wives when they scodl their Husbnds for Staying late Out at Night’: ‘I am persuaded indeed that a jealousy of this kind taking place on the woman’s part soon after maariage, hath ruined the happiness of many thousands.’

p. 139 ‘I consider soldiers in all ages…’; the article quoted is from the Weekly Mirror‘ for March 9, 1781.

p. 141 The sole source for tytler’s playing the bagpipes is Robert Anderson’s brief biography first published in Cromek’s Reliques of Robert Burns in 1808.
“amidst the drudgery of writing, and the cares which pressed upon him daily, he exhilarated his spirits at intervals, with it tune on the Insh Bagpipe, which he played with much sweetness, interposing occasionally a song of his own composition, sung with great animation. A solace of this kind was well-suite4 to the simplicity of his manners, the modesty of his disposition, and the integrity of his .character, such as they were before he suffered his social propensities to violate the rules of sobriety. ”

The ‘Irish bagpipes’, as they were frequently termed, were in fact widespread across the country, being apparently derived from the ‘New or Pastoral Bagpipe’ for which a tutor was published in London in 1740. In fact the EBII has a description of these pipes, presumably written by Tytler. (quoted on p. 154)
This mention of Tytler’s piping by Anderson is presumably what lead to his inclusion in the notorious painting of the inauguration of Burns as poet-laureate, a matter which will be discussed later.  The image of Lizzie dancing to his pipes is, of course, a fancy of my own.

p. 141 ‘one or two of the songs Jamie wrote…’ Exactly how many of the songs in Johnson’s Scottish Musical Museum are Tytler’s work is unclear. It is interesting to note that those which are generally accepted to be his, are the worst of the bunch.

In this context it is worth quoting Allan Cunningham’s note to one of Tytler’s songs, included in his Songs of Scotland Ancient and Modern (1825), as an example of the way Tytler’s story was generated by those who never met him, from the opinions of others:
“p 292 Note to The Bonnie Bruckett Lassie:
James Tytler, the author of this popular song, was a clever and very eccentric character – a printer, a publisher, a poet , a compiler, a projector, a wild democrat, and a maker of balloons. His labours were many and unproductive. he was familiar with all the varieties of evil fortune, and experienced by turns the misery of a poet, a publisher and a drudge to literary speculators. This person exhibited a sad image of daily dependence for bread on the pen. With leaky shoes, a hat without a crown, neighbourless kneebuckles, clothes ragged and stained with poet’s and printer’s ink and animated by whisky, he has been seen gliding from house to house at the twilight, as much from dread of encountering a creditor as from shame of his wretchedness. At last he entered deeply into the wild schemes of our revolutionary fanatics and was obliged to seek refuge in America where he died in the fifty-eighth year of his age. This song, to which alone of all his works he owes the notice of his name, originated in an ancient lyric of the same title which is not suitable ladies’ reading.”

Other songs Cunningham credits to Tytler were:
The Mucking of Geordie’s Byar  The chorus of this song is old; the rest is the work of Balloon Tytler [p.91]
The Young Man’s Dream This song is the composition of Balloon Tytler [p.121]

Another of the songs ascribed, to some extent, to Tytler was taken up by respected singers and became popular many years after Tytler’s death:



Lass Gin Ye Love Me - a broadsheet printing, 1856
Lass Gin Ye Love Me – a broadsheet printing, 1856

p. 143-146 The Electro-Magnetico Celestial Bed: Graham’s story is outlined in the wikipedia page designated to him : HERE.  The reference there to this page yields more information.

p. 146 the story of Walter Scott’s encounter with Graham’s electrical contraptions is told in volume one of Sir Walter Scott The Great Unknown by Edgar Johnson, as remembered by John irving. (1970).  The notion that a son of Tylter’s named George was friends with Scott, is  possible, but ungrounded in any documentation of the life of the great man.

p. 147 ‘The Bickerings’; once again I have placed Tytler’s (possible) son george in the context of Walter Scott’s boyhood. Scott tells the famous story of ‘Green Britches’ in his General Preface to the Waverley Novels; Robert Chambers found a reference  in the Town Council records for 1529 to ‘Bykkerringis betwix Barnis’ : it was included in his essay on the Bickers in his Traditions of Edinburgh.