Being resident in Edinburgh it is often easy to walk down historic roads and have little idea how significant they are. The Royal Mile is brimming with historical significance, yet I had never given any time to one of the more important features on the street: Canongate Kirkyard.
Due to ancient parish boundaries Canongate Kirkyard, which is located near the bottom of the Royal Mile toward Holyrood, is the final resting place of several soldiers from Edinburgh Castle with a monument dedicated to them at the north-most section of the kirkyard.
However, the most famous resting place is that of the great Kirkcaldy born Adam Smith, author of 'The Wealth of Nations' and pioneer of economics. Smith was laid rest in the kirkyard in 1790 and many tourists from all over the world have visited his final resting place. It is common to find students having their photograph taken beside it with their sleeve covering their hand as they point towards his memorial to signify 'the invisible hand of the market' a term Adam had coined.
Beyond Adam Smith's decorative grave stands a memorial stone which appears to have been placed in any available spot. Erected by the famous poet Robert Burns in memory of Robert Fergusson (1750-1774), the young and talented poet who died tragically at the age of 24, said to have fallen down stairs intoxicated and hit his head, who was thrown in an unmarked paupers grave somewhere in the Canongate. Fergusson had inspired Burns and also the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson who had intentions to clean up the memorial but died before completion. There too lies a plaque in honour of Stevenson's adoration for Ferguesson: A bit of fan rivalry?
Scattered throughout the kirkyard are various and historic graves such as Mary Balfour (1778-1818) who was a Scottish novelist known for 'Self Control' published in 1809. The mausoleum of Dugald Stewart (1753-1828), a much celebrated philosopher, lies to the north amongst the soldiers graves.
To the east lies a monument to Sir William Fettes (1750-1836), founder of the famed Fettes College, with a small plaque commemorating the burial sites of John and James Ballantyne, whose efforts in printing Sir Walter Scott's works gave way to his fame.
Then there lies a mysterious memorial to 'Clarinda'. This is for a close friend of Robert Burns, the famed Mrs Agnes Maclehose whom Robert Burns befriended and wrote his famed poem 'Ae Fond Kiss'.
"Had we never lo’ed sae kindly,
had we never lo’ed sae blindly,
never met, or never parted,
we’d hae ne’er been broken-hearted”
Canongate Kirkyard has within its old stone walls really shows the true history of Edinburgh. There are notable people and those that time forgot, but it is truly remarkable to wander around this ancient site and soak up the atmosphere and reflect on the stories that each stone contains.