Canongate Kirkyard is the final resting place for many famous individuals who played interesting parts in British and world history. The following are brief notes concerning some of them.
1 DRUMMOND, George. Lord Provost born 1687. With Argyle’s forces at Sheriffmuir; fought at the battle of Prestonpans; six times Lord Provost of Edinburgh; founder of Royal Infirmary; laid foundation stone of North Bridge. Died 1766.
2 JARDINE, John, DD. Theologian, born 1716. Minister of Lady Yesters and Tron Church, 1750-54; Dean of the Order of the Thistle, 1763; contributed to the first Edinburgh Review, 1755. Died 1766.
3 JARDINE, Sir Henry. Antiquary and Scholar, born Edinburgh 1766. Solicitor for Taxes in Scotland; became King’s Remembrancer in 1820. Knighted 1823. Died 1851.
4 SMITH, Adam.
Political Economist, born Kirkcaldy 1723. Educated Glasgow and Oxford; lectured Edinburgh 1751, in which year he began his memorable friendship with David Hume; Professor of Logic, Glasgow 1751-5; of Moral Philosophy 1758-63; travelled in France 1763-5; at Kirkcaldy 1765-76; in London 1776-8; returned to Edinburgh as Commissioner of Customs 1778; Lord Rector and LL.D Glasgow University, 1787. Died 17 July 1790. Chief Works – The Theory of Moral Sentiments 1759; An Inquiry into the nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations 1776.
5 GREGORY, John, MD, FRS. Distinguished Physician and Writer on Miscellaneous Subjects, born Aberdeen 1724. Came to Edinburgh 1742 and became Member of Medical Society; friend of Mark Akenside; studied at Leyden; appointed Professor of Philosophy at Aberdeen; went to London 1745; published several books. Died Edinburgh 1773.
6 KEITH, Robert.
Historian, and Bishop of Fife, born 1681. Tutor of Lord Keith, afterwards tenth Earl Marischal; published several theological works, including a Catalogue of Scottish Bishops. Died 1757.
7 CHALMERS, George. Philanthropist. Originally a plumber in Edinburgh; founded Chalmers Hospital. Died 1836.
8 RUNCIMAN, Alexander. Historical Painter, born Edinburgh 1736. Commenced history painting in 1760; went with his brother in 1766 to Rome where he studied for five years; settled in Edinburgh 1771. Died suddenly 1783.
9 RUNCIMAN, John. Painter, born 1744. Brother of above, considered by many to be the superior painter; two of his works The Flight into Egypt, and King Lear in the Storm may be seen in the National Gallery. Died on his way to Naples 1763.
10 FERGUSSON, Robert. Poet, born 5 September 1760. He was originally intended for the Church, but not being suited for this, he ultimately obtained employment as a copyist. He wrote verses on all sorts of occasions, chiefly for Ruddiman’s Weekly Magazine. No one could think ill of Fergusson, who was the friend and brother of everybody. He was a good singer and fond of society, but fell into habits of dissipation; and becoming insane, died in a lunatic asylum 16 October 1774. His grave remained quite undistinguished until Burns arrived in Edinburgh. On reaching Fergusson’s grave, Burns uncovered his head, knelt down, and embraced the venerated clay. Burns afterwards obtained permission from the Magistrates to erect this monument to the memory of Fergusson.
11 This stone, erected in 1765 for the Society of Coach Drivers in Canongate, reminds the visitors that the coaches for London started from the various inns and courts in the Canongate. A coach and four is carved on the stone.
12 BRUNTON, Mary. Novelist, born 1778. Studied history philosophy, and criticism; first literary effort Self Control 1811; Discipline followed 1815; started Emmeline 1815, which was not completed owing to her death 7 December 1818.
13 RAMSAY, James.
Bishop of Dunblane and Ross. Son of Principal Ramsay of Glasgow University. Died 1696.
14 STEWART, Dugald. Philosopher, born 1753. Succeeded his father as Professor of Mathematics in the University; changed his chair to that of Moral Philosophy in 1785; published the first volume of his Philosophy of the Human Mind in 1792; lectured on Political Economy in 1800. A monument to his memory is erected on the Calton Hill. Died 11 June 1828.
15 MONUMENT erected by the late Mr Ford of Edinburgh to the memory of the soldiers who died in Edinburgh Castle from 1692 – 1880 and interred here with military honours.
16 LOTHIAN, William, DD. Born 1740; for sometime minister of the Church here; published the History of the United Provinces of the Netherlands (1780). Died 1783.
17 LAMPE, John Frederick. Musician and Composer, born Saxony 1708. Handel’s bassoon player in the Opera band in London 1785, of which instrument he was said to be the finest player of his day; composed several pieces for Rich of Covent Garden. Greatly esteemed by Charles Wesley, who wrote a hymn on his death commencing ‘Tis done, thy Sovereign will’s obeyed; wrote several books on the theory of music. Died 1751.
18 FETTES, Sir William. Founder of Fettes College, twice Lord Provost of Edinburgh. Monument erected by Trustees of the Fettes endowment. Died 1856.
19 WILLIAMS, Hugh William. Landscape Painter, familiarly known as Grecian Williams owing to the peculiar characteristics of his work, due no doubt to the influence of his long tour in Greece and Italy. Born 1773 on board ship. Worked principally in water colour. Examples of his work may be seen in the National Gallery. Christopher North in the Noctes Ambrosianae makes the shepherd say of Williams:- As for the man himself I like to work on him for he has gotten a gran bald phrenological head. The face is at once good natured and intelligent and o’ a the painters I ken his manners seem to me to be the maist the manners o’ a gentleman and a man of the world. Died 23 June 1829.
20 GORDON, Sir John Watson. Portrait Painter, born 1788. Exhibited at first public exhibition in Edinburgh in 1808 A Scene from the Lay of the Last Minstrel. After Raeburn’s death in 1823 he was the leading practitioner of portrait painting in Scotland. Chief works:- Sir Walter Scott (original unfinished study in Scottish National Gallery), J G Lockhart, Professor John Wilson, Sir David Brewster. Died 1864.
21 BONAR, Horatius, DD. Scottish Divine, and Hymn Writer, born 1808. Engaged in mission work at Leith; Moderator of General Assembly Free Church 1883; edited a number of religious papers; published theological works; and wrote several hymns including I heard the voice of Jesus say. Died 1889.
22 CLARINDA, Mrs Maclehose. Sweetheart of Burns. Immortalised by the correspondence that passed between the poet and herself. Died 22 October 1841.
23 HARDY, Rev Thomas, DD. Scottish Divine, born 1748. Professor Church History in the University, Chaplain to the King and Dean of the Chapel Royal; advocated unity between the two parties of the church; formed Society for the Benefit of the Sons of the Clergy. Died 1798.
24 BELL, Benjamin.
Surgeon and Anatomist, born 1748. Studied under Gregory; 29 years Surgeon to the Royal Infirmary; was considered to be the most successful operator of his day; published several medical works and essays on agriculture. Died 1842.
25 FORSYTH, Robert. Miscellaneous Writer, born 1766. Originally intended for the Church, but abandoned divinity for the bar, subsequently taking up literature. Published The Beauties of Scotland, 5 volumes 1805-06. Died 1846.
26 WALKER, Dr John. Eminent Naturalist, born 1730. Son of the Rector of the Canongate Grammar School; Regius Professor of Natural History, and Keeper of University Museum 1779. Died 1803.
27 ALSTON, Charles, MD. Eminent Botanist, born 1683. Went to Leyden to study botany; returned to Edinburgh; appointed King’s Botanist at Holyrood House, the gardens of which he enriched by large collections made in Holland; appointed Professor of Botany at the College; published several works on botany and materia medica. Died 1760.
28 IRVING, John.
Writer to the Signet. Intimate friend of Sir Walter Scott, attended High School with him and nursed him during his illness. Irving is the chosen friend mentioned by Scott in his general preface to the Waverley Novels.
29 FRASER, Luke.
Eminent Latin scholar, one of the Masters of the Royal High School. Sir Walter Scott was for some time in his class. Died 1821.
30 WILKIE, Dr Thomas.
Born 1648. Divine, first Minister of the newly-built Canongate Church; twice Moderator of the General Assembly; Chaplain of the Scots Parliament. Died 1711.
31 RIZZIO, David. It is said that during the Rebellion Rizzio’s body was removed from Holyrood and placed in a churchyard close by, and this is supposed to be his last resting place. Though there is, no evidence to justify this supposition, there is a very strong tradition that it is so.
32 MACLEOD, Lord, son of 3rd Earl of Cromartie. He was an adherent to Prince Charlie. He and his father were captured at Dunrobin Castle and sent as prisoners to London. They were convicted of high treason and the Earl was sentenced to death. The sentence, however, was remitted, Lord Macleod being pardoned. Died 1789. Other members of the family are also interred here.
33 BALLANTYNE, John. Publisher, partner in the firm of John Ballantyne & Sons, and friend of Sir Walter Scott. Buried in the churchyard but the place of sepulture is not known. Scott along with Lockhart attended his funeral and as he stood by his grave he whispered to Lockhart, I feel as if there would be less sunshine for me from this day forth. He died in debt, but left a legacy of ,2000 toward the completion of the Library at Abbotsford.