I have written plenty of tips about kilts, music, food, dialect, Nessie, history, flora & fauna and anything you ever wanted to know about Scottish culture.
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Just outside St Giles Cathedral on the cobbles on the west side towards the castle you will find a big heart. It is the Heart of Midlothian and the custom is to spit on the centre and it is supposed to bring you good luck.
You'll see lots of references to "Deacon William Brodie" around Edinburgh and if you're anything like me you'll have never even have heard of the guy. Brodie was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 book "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde". In the mid-1700s, Brodie was a respected Edinburgh cabinetmaker, tradesman, a member of the town council, and a pillar of the community... by day. By night he secretly led a life of gambling, drunkenness, and debauchery. He frequented the lowest levels of brothels and pubs. (Shows you how little has changed in the world of politicians.) He was a skinny, sickly, and homely looking man. Brodie began making wax impressions of the keys to the houses and shops where he was doing woodwork so he could later make a copy of the key and then burglarize these establishments by night. Eventually he formed a small gang to further his criminal behaviour. They even stole a silver mace from the university. After a failed attempt at trying to rob from the Excise/Tax Office (which collected all tax money for Scotland), one of the Deacon's accomplices turned him in for the reward. Brodie was sentenced and hanged on a gallows that he himself had designed and built.
But, it's said that he really didn't die; that he had constructed a harness to wear under his collar, that he'd paid off the hangman and priest. During restorations to the Edinburgh graveyard, his plot was in fact empty.
As a child Stevenson had an original "Brodie & Brodie" cabinet in his bedroom in Edinburgh. He grew up fascinated by the spectre of the Deacon and often related his own use of alcohol and drugs to the double life that Brodie had.
There is a pub on the Royal Mile near the castle called "Deacon Brodie's Pub", an alley has been named after him, and you can even find some wooden statues of him in front of some establishments. But to get the real feel of what he was like, go and lurk around in "Fleshmarket Close" pretending to be Mr. Hyde!
Maybe the locals are so used to the drizzle that they no longer carry them but I found as I was walking back a couple of nights that no one was using them even though it was raining hard enough that I normally would. Transported back to high school when it was sooooo uncool to carry an umbrella and not wanting to look like an outsider (ha, ha!), I just put my hat on but I found that rather peculiar.
Near St. Giles, there is a heart pattern in the cobblestones marking the site of the old Tolbooth which served as a town jail and where taxes were collected, nicknamed the "Heart of Midlothian" by Sir Walter Scott in a novel that I'm quite sure I will never tackle. It's said that spitting in the heart is supposed to bring good luck, our guide said the custom likely came from a disdain of the tax collectors.
There's a pub in the Grassmarket called Maggie Dickson's, near where the gallows used to stand. Maggie Dickson was hanged here for the crime of concealing the death of her prematurely born, illegitimate child. After her hanging, the dead body was placed in a coffin and put in a cart for the trip to be buried near where she lived. Enroute, noises were heard coming from inside the coffin, apparently the hangman had not properly checked to see if she was really and truly dead. She made a full recovery and after some legal squabbling, the opinion was rendered that someone who had already been pronounced dead could not be hanged again. She lived for another 30 years became known as "Half-Hangit Maggie".
As a city which has a long military presence and lineage - there are many military memorials scattered throughout Edinburgh.
This one commerorates the link between Scotland and Norway.
"During the war years, 1940-1945, the Norwegian Brigade and other army units were raised and trained in Scotland. Here we found hospitality, friendship and hope during dark years of exile. In grateful memory of our friends and allies on these isles. This stone was erected in the year 1978"
When walking through the Old Town, down the Royal Mile, there is a little cobble stone heart, which marks the very centre of the Mid-Lothian region. You're supposed to spit on it as you walk past it - yuck :) it dates from the 1600s as this is where prisoners were beheaded.
Being from London, where everybody is brisk and cold, I found Scottish people to be strikingly friendly and helpful. They've won me over! Though I did make a terrible faux-pas. When buying stamps, the man at the kiosk asked me where I was sending to. I said, "this country", and then correcting myself I said, "England". Later my companion pointed out that it had sounded like, "this country, England." Looking back, I do remember that the man at the kiosk looked unimpressed!
The city has been home to many military groups. This memorial is in the memory of The Royal Scots Greys - it marks the dead of the Boer War (1899 - 1902) and World War II (1939 - 1945).
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