Friday, 31 January 2014

Edinburgh, the enlightenment walk with Stuart Usher (3rd part) - The 25th of January 2014 (morning)


We had to look for shelter under some arcades as the rain kept on pouring down whilst we listened attentively to the story of the taming of Bucephallus, the horse of Alexander the Great, considered one of the most famous horses of Antiquity, whose statue we could see right in front of where we were standing.

We then walked into a rather interesting pub, "Jinglin Geordie", located in a narrow down town street, where we had a drink and rested for a while in a semi covered inner courtyard pertaining to the pub until we set off  for the last part of our guided walk - The Scottish  National Gallery.

(To be continued)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Edinburgh, the enlightenment walk with Stuart Usher (2nd part) - St. Giles Cathedral - The 25th of January 2014 (morning)


We followed Stuart into St. Giles Cathedral, whose actual building dates back to the 14th century, though extensively restored in the 19th century. Dedicated to Saint Giles, the patron Saint of Edinburgh it is said to have been the focal religious point for about 900 years and have had fifty side altars and separate preaching halls by the middle of the 16th century.

It was from there that John Knox is said to have directed the Scottish Reformation. A bronze statue representing him could be seen on one of the aisles.

The stain glass windows started being fit in the 19th century and to be honest I felt they gave a rather  peculiar type of luminosity to the whole ensemble with its Thistle chapel (honouring the knights of the most ancient and most noble  Order of the Thistle) with a rib vaulted ceiling and carved heraldic canopies. 

The Gothic exterior is dominated by a tower said to have been the only part not to have been subjected to renovation.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Edinburgh, the enlightenment walk with Stuart Usher (1st part) - The 25th of Januray 2014 (morning)


As we were dramatically attempting to open our umbrellas under the strong wind and pouring rain by King Stables' Road we were unexpectedly approached by a gentleman asking us whether we would like to go on a guided tour with him. Having looked up we realised that in front of us stood Stuart Usher himself, the guide we had selected on the internet.

The visit commenced outside the entrance of Usher Hall, which opened its doors to the public in1914. It is said to be among the world's most outstanding concert halls and considered a landmark in the heart of Edinburgh.

Its rotund-shaped building, though subjected to recent  renovations did stand elegantly in Lothian Road and the fact that Stuart happens to be a direct descendant of the benefactor Andrew Usher, a whisky distiller who in 1896 donated quite a high amount of money of the building of the Hall made it a lot more interesting. 

As we walked up Johnston's Terrace Stuart had us immersed  into the history of Edinburgh Castle from the high Middle Ages through to the Scottish independence, the long siege and the Civil and Napoleonicc wars.

With his amazing story-telling capacity he had us mesmerised while listening to his accounts related to the philosopher David Hume, the protestant reformer John Knox, the writer Robert Louis Stevenson and even characters such as Deacon Brodie, the anatomist Robert Knox and the murderers Hare and Burke.

Willian Brodie (1741-1788) commonly known by the prestigious title of Deacon Brodie was a Scottish cabinet-maker, Deacon of a trades guild and Edinburgh city Councillor who maintained a secret life as burglar by night.

His life is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's story " Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".

"Deacon Brodie" and Stuart Usher.

Note: Body-snatching became prevalent prior to the Anatomy Act in 1832 allowing the legal supply of  corpses  for anatomical purposes in the UK. A certain  William Hare and his accomplice William Burke ended up being caught  and later hanged following the gruesome discovery of their actions so as to deliver corpses to Dr. Knox' s Dissecting Rooms at Surgeon's Square. Dr. Robert Knox was acknowledged as the most popular 18th century lecturer in Anatomy in Edinburgh. Despite not having been prosecuted  his involvement in the body-snatching murders was clearly made known.

"Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief
Knox the boy who buys the beef!"

(To be continued)