‘What time does the One O’Clock Gun fire?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…….is a question oft asked by dull-witted tourists in Scotland’s capital. Sadly, Sergeant ‘Tam the Gun’ McKay hasn’t let one off for a bit, (the shops on Princess Street complained of shoogling masonry.) Nevertheless, the gun is alive and well. Three thousand free copies of Edinburgh’s One O’clock Gun Periodical appear quarterly in celebration of the Festival of Darkness, the Festival of Hope, the Festival of Light and the Festival of Harvest. Sited in old drinking dens, the first edition features magical realist tales involving Charles Baudelaire’s alleged trip to the capital and Bryan Ferry’s encounter with The World of Interiors, an historical treatise on “The Truth about Scotland’s Protestant Martyr Heroes”, tales of molluscs and timekeeping and ideas for surviving Edinburgh winters by plotting in cellars. The ads section has a situation vacant for “Leader of the Edinburgh Mob”.

Clutching at the last vestiges of Empire, the Gun’s editors Lockhart Falkland, (Master without Honour) and Mademoiselle Celeste H. Wyllie are imbibing red wine in the hazy light of Greyfriar’s Bobby’s Bar, with Consigliore, Robin Ruisseaux, The Historian of Fanaticks. Falkland imparts his desire to be gifted a new “colonial swagger stick” for Christmas, “one from the Maldives”, Ruisseaux quips. The editors regard themselves “the legitimate heirs of Blackwood’s Magazine and scandal sheet”, a Tory periodical launched in 1817 by William Blackwood as riposte to the Whig Edinburgh Review. Despite its political conservatism, Blackwood’s supported the radical Romantic movement and vehemently opposed ‘Cockney’ inclinations. So strong was Blackwood’s belief in the Edinburgh literati that writer J.H. Christie fatally wounded John Scott, the editor of the London Magazine, in a swordfight when he accused the Scottish periodical of libel.

Cloaked in the dourest Presbyterian black, the editors shadow Falkland’s gesticulating swagger stick into the haar shrouded Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. It’s the mise-en-scene of Burke and Hare’s grave robbing misdemeanours, organised ghost tours, and innumerable blackened sarcophagi doubling as vagrant real estate. More recently, the necropolis was the focus of a 15 year old’s trial for ‘desecration of sepulchre’, the crime of breaking into the 300 year old mausoleum of Sir George McKenzie, King’s Advocate for Charles II, and decapitating his skeleton. The castle looms over the cemetery as the Editors lead a tour of their favourite crypts, including that of James Craig, the gifted young architect of Edinburgh’s New Town. Ruisseaux, reads eagerly from John Howie of Loch Goin’s Book of Scots Worthies, a gargantuan tome featuring notables such as Scots preacher John Knox. As spring is now upon us, those seeking a first edition Gun will be disappointed. The few remaining copies were recently buried in the Scottish Borders at the location of Robert Wigham’s grave, as plotted in the dénouement of James Hogg’s masterpiece The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824).