Real and Imagined Local History…
Itâ€™s fast approaching autumn proper: season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, damp leaves and who knows, maybe even the wandering dead spirits of The Wauchope family who lived in the mysteriousÂ Niddrie House.
A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) told me that she once saw the ghost of Lord Wauchope, otherwise known as Major General Andrew Gilbery Wauchope, manifest in her back garden resplendent in nineteenth century country gentry attire â€“ no doubt he was keeping an eye on the carcasses of dead pigs away from enemy lines for itâ€™s known that animals were butchered near to where she lives on Niddrie Mains Road. Â No mist then obscured her viewÂ nor was she mellow inÂ her then state of mind.
But who can really say? Certainly the whole site which once accommodated the former house and grounds remains atmospheric to this day, with very visible reminders of noble bloody pasts.
One of the first things I noticed living in Niddrie were the few mighty ancient trees which still stand on what was once the Wauchope Estate: vast living brown and green columns that must have taken hundreds of years to grow. I still pass by one incredible speciman very often, I think itâ€™s a cedar of some kind. I see them as living reminders of a past that cannot quite be erased by modern housing, bikes or even the odd joy rider.
Watching this particular cedar sway gently in breeze I am transported in my mindâ€™s eye back hundreds of years to when the former Hunterâ€™s Hall Park really must have served as a hunting ground for the Wauchope nobility who inhabited and owned this piece of Lothian for hundreds of years
Niddrie House (otherwise known as Niddrie Marischal House) was home of the Wauchope family of Niddrie.Â The house was situated at Niddrie very near the current Jack Kane Centre and about four miles South East from central EdinburghÂ Â The house was rebuilt around 1636 on the site of an earlier medieval tower house.Â It was demolished around 1968.
Photographs of the period show an imposing house with elongated windows and chimneys, high cedar trees, ivy clad walls and small flights of stone steps. Although the grounds behind where the house once stood have been dug up to accommodate a new connecting road, I can still recall walking around the former square field like Hunterâ€™s Hall Park, home of foxes and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and no doubt other nocturnal crawlers and creepers whether earth or air boundâ€¦
Of course the Niddrie Burn still winds its way towards Portobello and the sea and I reckon in the shadow of dank dusks or half twilights one can still see hunters on horse back no doubt after deer or wild boar. I donâ€™t think an area of land can ever completely erase a sense of history or character â€“ thankfully. It is precisely because these old wild enchantments have not been stamped and driven out completely that I have featured Niddrie House and its former owners briefly in my first novel â€œA Dwarfâ€™s Taleâ€ which recounts the heroic adventures of two unusual Edinburgh heroines. Political satire and commentary combines with magic and philosophy, humour and horror; pasts, presents and presences in different worlds in other words.
Follow Sarah on Twitter: @ShortsEdinburgh
Her novel is published by www.austinmacauley.com