Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Deeper Understanding


Oor wee toun o' Embra's been hame tae mony a great mind ower the years, an' nane greater than the 'eminence grice' that wis Davie Hume. Born up the Lawnmarket in 1711, this wee laddie wis sae unco bright an' sharp-mindit that he uptook a place at the University when he wis bare ten year-auld. Can ye imagine ony o' oor wee tykes fae the present day bein sae keen oan the learnin when they've got their X-boaxes an' their Nintendos tae amuse thersels wi? Ah cannae see it masel.

But study the lad wid, an' study weel he did, an' by the age o' twenty-six he had produced his 'Treatise oan Human Nature' which ah'm telt is yin o' the foundation stanes o' Western philosophy. Ah say ah'm telt it is fer try as ah may ah couldnae get past the first chapter. Let's jist say its a bit oan the dry side, an' some o' the words he uses are awfy awfy lang...

Ah'm nae alane in this, fer it didnae exactly set the heather alicht at the time, it nivver selt, an' Davie eventually had tae tak up tutorin rich bairns tae earn his livin. Still, he worked up his thoughts, kept oan at the scrievin, an' in time he wis grantit the acclamation he deservit. Noo part o' the reason he wisnae popular cam fae the fact that the man wis - God forbid - an atheist. There werenae mony o' us aboot at the time, an' them that were tendit tae keep it tae thersels. But no oor Davie. In fact, no lang efter the '45 he published his deeply atheist work 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding' which upset the kirk sae much he wis charged wi heresy! The ony reason he got aff wi it wis by arguin that, seein as he wis an atheist, he lay ootside the kirk's jusrisdiction! Clever laddie. Lucky laddie tae, fer it wis ony a few year afore this that Tam Aitkenheid, a right smart-alec student up at the University, had got hissel hung jist fer sayin Christianity wis a lot o' keich. Served him right tho, ah nivver took tae the jumped-up wee nyaff...

Anyway, tae ma wee story. Yin sunny morn ah wis takin the air wi ma pal Jean an' we were walkin the Lang Dykes, which used tae run alang Barefoot's Park jist up fae the Nor Loch. They were layin oot the New Toun at this time, an' the Lang Dykes wis soon tae become St Giles' Street, or at least it wis supposed tae become St Giles' Street, till auld King George stuck his neb in, said we couldnae cry it that name fer there wis a slum area in London toun cried that an' could we no cry it efter his sons, the bonnie princes? So, Princes Street it became, an' Princes Street it still is. Interferin auld bugger so he wis.

We were daunerin alang when we spied a commotion doon in the loch. Noo, tae pit ye in the picture the Nor Loch wis still a big feature in thon days, it hadnae been drained yet, an' filled the vale atween the Old an' New Touns. It stretched fae whaur Ramsay Gardens stauns noo, doon tae past whaur the North Brig had no lang been built, an it must hae been aboot fower hunnert feet wide in the middle. It wisnae awfy deep though, an' jist doon the hill fae the Lawnmarket there wis a sortae steppin-stane-brig across the loch. Geordie Boyd the draper fae Gosford's Close had startit it when he couldnae be bothered walkin aw the way doon the High Street tae the North Brig tae get across tae see the new works, it wis kent as Geordie Boyd's Mud Brig. In time of course it got bigger an' bigger an ye'll ken it th'day as the Earthen Mound, on tap o' which staun the twa Art Galleries.

Fae whit we could see, some auld bloke had been tryin tae cross the mud brig, slipped or tripped, an' tumblit intae the loch. Noo that's somethin ye widnae want tae dae fer it wis a stinkin myre at this time, back in the days o' 'Gardy Loo!' an' aw the piss an' shit fae the auld toun found its way doon the closes an' wynds an' intae the loch, it wis in effect an open sewer. So we ran doon tae see if we could help the puir auld man.

We got doon there, an' as we were nearin we could see that the auld bloke wis that fat he couldnae get hissel up. He wis lyin oan his back in aboot three inch o' smelly foul water, yelpin an' greetin an' cryin 'Help me, ah cannae get up, help!'

It wis Jean that first noticed that the man wis Davie Hume. He bided up Mylne's Court at the time, but he wis biggin a new hoose at St Andrews Square, yin o' the first in fact, an' wis oan his road ower tae see how the work wis progressin. Jean an' I had been, er, partakin o' a wee refreshment fae ma hip-flagon o' sherry afore this an' we were in a jestin mood, so ah cam up wi a wee jape tae amuse wersels. We baith pit shawls ower oor heids an' pit oan like we were fisherwummin fae Newhaven, aw rough-like, a bit like yer chavs an' chavesses o' the present day.

"Whit ye waantin Mister? Ur ye aawright thair? Ur ye waashin yur herr? Div ye waant a wee drinkie innit?" that sortae thing. Jean wis puirless laughin by this, then ah went oan "Wid ye likie a wee haun up? Tell us the Lord's Prayer an' the Creed an' we'll see whit wee kin dae fur ye!" me kennin he wis an atheist an' aw. Ah think it wis aboot this pynt that Jean doublet up laughin an' ah'm sure ah heard the tinkle o' pish...

Tae the man's credit tho, he lay there oan his back in the dirty water, shut his een, an' recitit the prayer an' creed, an' sae yince we had composed oorsels we hitched oor skirts up, waded in as dainty as we could manage, an' hoisted auld Davie tae his feet. Puir auld sowel, he looked a sicht. Ah'm thinkin he must've drunk some o' the water when he fell in the loch, fer ah heard that he telt this story tae a pal o' his efter this, an described us 'Newhaven fishwives' as "the maist acute theologians ah ever did meet" an' the bold man only went an' convertit tae Christianity fae that day forth! Bit o' an ain goal that if ye ask me, haein spent maist o' ma life tryin tae convert fowk the ither way roond! Ah suppose ye cannae win them aw.

Ah'll no bore ye wi ma tales much further, exceptin tae add a wee dessert. A few month efter this occurrence Davie had bigged an' moved intae his new hoose. As ah telt ye it wis yin o' the first in the area, an' the streets hadnae been furnished or named or onythin. Ah had been carousin up the High Street this yin nicht, an' me an' Jean were stoatin back doon the road tae Leith when we happened tae be passin by Davie's new hoose. Ah mind sayin tae Jean how we had tae commemorate oor Holy Conversion somehow, so ah got oot ma bit chalk that ah aye kept haundy, climbed up oan the railins ootside his front door, an' wrote "St David's Street" oan the side o' his hoose.

Intit funny how some jokes stick, lang efter ye've finished laughin at them? The cooncil cam along, saw ma wee bittie grafitti, an' thocht that wis the street's official name, so St David's Street it remains tae this day...

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