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Greyfriars Kirkyard

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"Greyfriars is a place of many associations. There was one window in a house at the lower end, now demolished, which was pointed out to me by the gravedigger as a spot of legendary interest. Burke, the resurrection man, infamous for so many murders at five shillings a-head, used to sit thereat, with pipe and nightcap, to watch burials going forward on the green. In a tomb higher up, which must then have been but newly finished, John Knox, according to the same informant, had taken refuge in a turmoil of the Reformation. Behind the church is the haunted mausoleum of Sir George Mackenzie: Bloody Mackenzie, Lord dvocate in the Covenanting troubles and author of some pleasing sentiments on toleration. Here, in the last century, an old Heriot's Hospital boy once harboured from the pursuit of the police." (Robert Louis Stevenson[1]

Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. For many people, the graveyard is associated primarily with Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal dog who guarded his master's grave, and whose statue stands just beyond the entrance to the kirkyard.

The kirkyard has an important place in Scottish history; in 1638 the National Covenant, a protest against attempts by King Charles 1 to exert control over the Scottish Church, was signed in front of the pulpit of Greyfriars Kirk, and in 1679, about 1200 Covenanters were imprisoned in Greyfriars Kirkyard pending trial. The present Kirkyard contains "The Martyrs Monument" commemorating the hundred or so Covenanters who were subsequently executed.

The Kirkyard[2] is the burial place of many of these and of many other notable Scots. One of the graves is that of Duncan Ban MacIntyre (d 1812) who fought against the Jacobites in 1745, never learned to read, and sold illicit whisky in the Lawnmarket to make a living, but who is recognised as one of the most important Gaelic poets of his time. Others buried there include:

  • Joseph Black [r]: (1728 – 1799) Scottish physicist and chemist, known for his discoveries of latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide [e]
  • John Porteous [r]: (d. 1736) Captain of the city guard of Edinburgh during the riots of 1736 when the city guard fired on the people; Porteous was tried and sentenced to death, but reprieved; however, armed men seized him from prison and hanged him in the street. [e]
Major General William Farquhar, (ca. 1770–1839) 1st Resident of Singapore
  • James Douglas [r]: (c. 1525-1581) Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, executed for his complicity in the murder of Darnley. [e]
  • George Buchanan [r]: (1506 - 1582), historian and humanist scholar; argued that the source of all political power is the people, that the king is bound by those conditions under which power was first committed to his hands, and that it is lawful to resist, even to punish, tyrants. [e]
  • Alexander Henderson [r]: (c. 1583 – 1646) Scottish theologian, mainly responsible for the final form of the National Covenant. [e]
  • William Carstairs [r]: (1649 – 1715) Scottish clergyman and friend of William, prince of Orange; he was implicated in the Rye House Plot, after the discovery of which he was interrogated under torture of the thumbscrew. [e]
  • George Watson [r]: (1654 – 1723) Chief accountant to the Bank of Scotland when it was founded in 1695; in his will he left generous sums for "entertaining and educating the male children and grandchildren of decayed merchants in Edinburgh" - the first school became what is now George Watson's College. [e]School Founder died 1723
  • Colin MacLaurin [r]: (1698–1746) Scottish mathematician who published the first systematic exposition of Newton's calculus. [e]
  • Thomas Ruddiman [r]: (1674 - 1757) Scottish classical scholar and grammarian; author of Rudiments of the Latin Tongue. [e]
  • Allan Ramsay [r]: (1713–1784) Scottish portrait-painter of the "Rococo Era". [e]
  • Duncan Ban MacIntyre [r]: (1724 – 1812) One of the most famous Scottish Gaelic poets, best known for his poem "Moladh Beinn Dòbhrainn" (Praise for Ben Doran). [e]
  • William Creech [r]: (1745 – 1815) Publisher of the first Edinburgh edition of Robert Burns' poems; member of the jury in Deacon Brodie's trial for robbery. [e]
  • Henry MacKenzie [r]: (1745 - 1831), Scottish writer, nicknamed 'The Man of Feeling' after the title of his best known novel. [e], "The Man of Feeling" died 1831
  • Thomas McCrie [r]: (1772 — 1835) Historian, writer, and dissident preacher. [e]

Duncan Ban MacIntyre's memorial was renovated in 2005, after a fundraising campaign of over a year at the cost of about £3,000 [3].


  1. Edinburgh Picturesque Notes
  2. Greyfriars Kirkyard
  3. [1]