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  • Writer's picturePamela Lawton

The Unique and Unusual

In my walks around Edinburgh I often encounter mysterious objects and interesting stories---here are just a few: On my walk to work I pass a lovely ceramic relief embedded into a stone wall. It caught my attention, and in Googling the quotation on the piece discovered it is an homage to Salvadoran social justice warrior Bishop Oscar Romero--the MLK, Jr. of El Salvador.

There is also a small statue of a Moroccan Prince on the outside of a tenement building---two stories connect to the figure. In the 17th century one Andrew Gray was accused of assaulting the unpopular Provost of Edinburgh, but managed to flee the country before his execution. He ended up a slave of the Emperor of Morocco, but managed to rise through the ranks of the Emperor’s court. Eventually he returned to Edinburgh, cured the Provost’s daughter of plague, married her and set up home in the Canongate tenement.

In another story, Helen Gloag a Scots woman kidnapped by Barbary pirates as she sailed from Scotland to South Carolina wound up the 4th wife of a Moroccan Prince. Helen became the favored wife and Empress and eventually corresponded with her brother. She was instrumental in the release of seafarers and slaves captured by pirates.

One of many iconic natural landmarks in Edinburgh is Arthur's Seat, the main peak in a group of hills within Holyrood Park, that provides excellent views of the city. In late June 1836, a group of boys headed out to the north-east slopes of the peak to hunt for rabbits. What they found there has remained a baffling mystery ever since.

In a secluded spot on the north-east side of the hill, the boys discovered a small cave in the rock, hidden behind three pointed slabs of slate. Concealed within were 17 miniature coffins. Eight of these coffins survive to the present day, and are on display in the National Museum of Scotland. No one really knows who left them their or their purpose.

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