I like puzzles, especially geographical ones. That’s what really interests me about my Gazetteer for Scotland project – its the interesting places, the unusual, the stories that can be told. So when a gentleman contacted the School of GeoSciences to asking the following, I was intrigued:
“As a youngster there was a story that went around to the effect that there was an underground stream/river that ran from somewhere in the Craiglockhart area and ran through Gorgie coming out at Roseburn roughly where Murrayfield stands today.”
I had an inkling there was indeed more than one culverted stream in W Edinburgh, and inspection of the First Edition of the Ordnance Survey Six Inch map showed this to be true. The stream the gentleman was eluding to was recorded as the Gorgie Burn, which once powered mills in that part of the city, mills which later became the Glue and Gelatine Manufactory of J & G Cox. According to the map, the stream rose in Craiglockhart Pond and fell into a mill lade, which abstracted water from the Water of Leith. Was the stream still there? Well Craiglockart Pond drains into a concrete plug-hole, and having cycled down the route of the stream, according to the map, there was no sign and no clues. I did find a modest outflow in Roseburn Park, beyond Murrayfield but was assured by a seemingly knowledgeable Council worker that this just drained floodwater from the rugby stadium. Further map work suggested the stream began as the Meggetland Burn, becoming the Moat Burn and then the Gorgie Burn. I contacted a friend who is involved with the Friends Of Craiglockhart Woods and Nature Trail. They had always wondered where the Pond drained to, but were able to put me on to a local historian, who had yet another name for the stream: the Megget Burn. I contacted the Water of Leith Conservation Trust and they had never heard of any of these and had no idea. They were very interested if I turned up anything. They suggested Edinburgh Council, and with the help of their Flood and Water Services staff, a little more map work and a further bit of field work, the mystery was solved. There is a stream, it run entirely in a culvert, and falls into the Water of Leith some distance west of its original outfall, because the old mill lade has long been filled in. (The photo shows the rather unimpressive outflow). So if you want to know how a Gazetteer for Scotland entry is written, that’s a pretty good explanation. You can read the entry on the Moat or Gorgie Burn for more information.
The Council had a further interesting comment: “Water courses are in riparian ownership, so are the property of the owner of the land through which they pass“. I wonder how many landowners know this passes through their property, or will they get a shock when the culvert collapses one day?
One further point, illustrative of the tangents that are inevitable with a project such as this: John Cox of the Glue Manufactory (isn’t that a lovely word, so much better than the modern contraction “factory”) was concerned for the health of his fellow Edinburghers, so much so that he was responsible for creating the remarkable Royal Patent Gymnasium, and you can read all about that in the GfS entry for the little-known King George V Park. Enjoy!