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)

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