Greyfriars Kirkyard and Edinburgh Castle
|Year established||1561 - 1562|
|Location||Old Town, Edinburgh|
|Owned by||City of Edinburgh Council|
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located at the southern edge of the Old Town, adjacent to George Heriot's School. Burials have been taking place since the late 16th century, and a number of notable Edinburgh residents are interred at Greyfriars. The Kirkyard is operated by City of Edinburgh Council in liaison with a charitable trust, which is linked to but separate from the church. The Kirkyard and its monuments are protected as a category A listed building.
Greyfriars takes its name from the Franciscan friary on the site, which was dissolved in 1559. The churchyard was founded in 1561/2, to replace the churchyard at St Giles, which was considered full. A record from the Town Council records for 23 April 1561 reads:
The Kirkyard was involved in the history of the Covenanters. The Covenanting movement began with signing of the National Covenant in Greyfriars Kirk on 28 February 1638. Following the defeat of the militant Covenanters at Bothwell Brig in 1679, some 1200 Covenanters were imprisoned in a field to the south of the churchyard. When, in the 18th century, part of this field was amalgamated into the churchyard as vaulted tombs the area became known as the "Covenanters' Prison".
During the early days of photography in the 1840s the kirkyard was used by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson as a setting for several portraits and tableaux such as The Artist and The Gravedigger.
The graveyard is associated with Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal dog who guarded his master's grave. Bobby's headstone at the entrance to the Kirkyard, erected by the Dog Aid Society in 1981, marks his actual burial place in an unconsecrated patch of the Kirkyard - a peculiarity which has led to many misunderstandings and fictions about his burial. The dog's statue is opposite the graveyard's gate, at the junction of George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row. The grave of Edinburgh police officer John Gray, where the dog famously slept for 13 years, lies on the eastern path, some 30m north of the entrance. The stone is modern, the grave originally being unmarked. Newer researchs suggest that this story is a myth.
Enclosed vaults are found mainly on the south edge of the graveyard and in the "Covenanters' Prison". These either have solid stone walls or iron railings and were created as a deterrent to grave robbing, which had become a problem in the eighteenth century. Greyfriars also has two low ironwork cages, called mortsafes. These were leased, and protected bodies for long enough to deter the attentions of the early nineteenth century resurrection men who supplied Edinburgh Medical College with corpses for dissection.
Notable monuments include the Martyr's Monument, which remembers executed Covenanters. The Italianate monument to Sir George Mackenzie was designed by the architect James Smith, and modelled on the Tempietto di San Pietro, designed by Donato Bramante. Duncan Ban MacIntyre's memorial was renovated in 2005, at a cost of about £3,000, raised by a fundraising campaign of over a year. The monument of John Byres of Coates, 1629, was one of last works of the royal master mason William Wallace.
Alleged paranormal activities
Since 1999, when a homeless person broke into Mackenzie's stone coffin for the night, Greyfriars Churchyard has been the epicentre of an escalation of unexplained events linked to the ghost of Mackenzie; known colloquially as the Mackenzie Poltergeist. The Mackenzie Poltergeist has been called the most well-documented paranormal phenomenon in the world. Even before 1999, there had been reports of unusual disturbances in the graveyard. Between 1990 and 2006 there were 350 reported attacks and 170 reports of people collapsing. Visitors reported being cut, bruised, bitten, scratched and most commonly blacking out. Some complained later of bruises, scratches and gouge-marks on their bodies. Most attacks and feelings of unease occurred in MacKenzie's Black Mausoleum and the Covenantors Prison. In 2000, an exorcist, Colin Grant was summoned to the graveyard to perform an exorcism ceremony; he was said to have picked up "evil forces" and claimed that the forces were too overpowering and feared that they could kill him. A few weeks later, he died suddenly of a heart attack. Edinburgh City Council closed off that part of the cemetery until an Edinburgh-based historian and author, Jan Andrew Henderson, persuaded the council to allow controlled visits to that part of the churchyard and in turn this developed into a nocturnal guided tour, which became a local attraction. Greyfriars Churchyard and, in particular, MacKenzie's Poltergeist, have been featured on paranormal TV programmes, including Fox's Scariest Places on Earth, and ITV's Extreme Ghost Stories.
- James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton (d.1581), Regent of Scotland
- George Buchanan (d.1582), historian and reformer
- Alexander Henderson (d.1646), churchman and statesman
- John Mylne (1611–1667), mason and architect
- Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll (1629-1685), nobleman
- Sir George Mackenzie (1636–1691), Lord Advocate
- Mary Erskine (1629–1708), founder of The Mary Erskine School
- Archibald Pitcairne (1652–1713), physician
- William Carstares (1649–1715), churchman and statesman
- George Watson (1654–1723), accountant and founder of George Watson's College
- Colonel Francis Charteris (1675-1732), notorious rake and member of the "Hell-fire" club
- Captain John Porteous (c.1695–1736), soldier and lynching victim
- Colin MacLaurin (1698–1746), mathematician
- Duncan Forbes, Lord Culloden (1685 – 1747), politician and judge.
- William Adam (1689–1748), architect
- Thomas Ruddiman (1674–1757), classical scholar and grammarian
- Allan Ramsay (1686-1758), poet
- James Stirling (1692-1770), mathematician
- William Robertson D.D. (1721–1793), historian
- James Craig (1739–1795), architect and designer of Edinburgh's New Town
- James Hutton (1726–1797), geologist
- Joseph Black (1728–1799), physician
- Duncan Ban MacIntyre (1724–1812), Gaelic poet
- William Creech (1745–1815), bookseller
- Henry Mackenzie (1745–1831), writer and author of The Man of Feeling
- Thomas McCrie (1772–1835), historian
- Major General William Farquhar, (c.1770–1839) 1st Resident of Singapore
- William Wallace (1768-1843), mathematician
- William McGonagall (1825–1902), poet (unmarked grave)
Martyrs' Monument (left), commemorating Covenanters who died during 'The Killing Time' (1661–88)
- "Greyfriars Churchyard". Historic Scotland. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
- Edinburgh Council Records 23rd April 1561
- Gifford, John (1989) William Adam 1689–1748, Mainstream Publishing / RIAS. pp.62–67
- unknown (29 September 2006). "Moat Haunted". The Scotsman. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Clydesdale, Lyndsay (30 October 2006). "Spooky Scotland". Daily Record. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
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