14 Clerk Street

14 Clerk Street, Edinburgh. Four floors of flats above a Taiwanese tea place and a Chinese medicine shop. Notable former residents include, in reverse chronological order…

John Scott, a young joiner, charged with “riding his bicycle at a furious and reckless pace down Minto Street”—police estimated 12mph; he said it was more like 11. Fined £1. (1897)

Thomas Calderwood, a destitute and unemployed law clerk from Shetland. Defrauded his landladies out of several pounds (in loans) as well as food and lodging by telling them he was employed be a good law firm. 10 days in jail. (1895)

Alexander Anderson, fireman, and Marion Johnston, his pregnant partner.  Marion laughed at Alexander having difficulty lighting his pipe, so he knocked her down and kicked her hard enough to rupture her internally. She bled to death before the doctor came. 1 year in jail (1890)

Margaret Robertson, who lived there with her father after separating from her husband, Andrew Robertson. Their divorce case was the highlight of the 1887/88 season. (details below…)

Margaret, 27, had (according to the judge) “given herself up to the most intemperate use of intoxicating drinks” and was “in every particular reprehensible.” Her husband was (we are told) a respectable teetotal accountant.

The divorce case involved charges of adultery with:

1. Henry Gardner – whom she met in her hairdressers in College street. She went to his lodgings afterwards, then they “walked about the streets” and got drunk. He was once observed to have stayed in her house for about half an hour.

2. Charles Main, chimney sweep – she asked him to come into her room so he could “hear her playing a tune on the piano”. Her husband discovered them together and attacked Main.

3. Thomas Ludovic, sailor on The Elk – met at the Theatre Royal. A witness said: “Mrs Robertson spoke to him first and laughed a deal in the course of conversation.” They left before the end of the performance, “worse for drink” and were later seen in her bedroom by a maid.

4. An unknown man in a horsedrawn carriage travelling on the Queen’s Drive around Arthur’s Seat. (The cabman, John Doull, said he witnessed her and the mystery man “in the act of connection”.)

5. A Mr Cafinger – had tea for two hours in a sitting room “where there was a sofa”.

Also, a policeman said he had seen her several times with various “young larky fellows, who looked like students”.

 (Who knows if any of this was true.)

The divorce was granted but nine months later, before it was finalised, the couple were reconciled and Margaret quit Clerk Street, returning to the marital home in the New Town. A happy ending, perhaps. (But again, who knows?)

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