Crosswords & Humbugs Buried in Edinburgh

There’s a little church on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh called Canongate Kirk. (Or the Kirk of the Canongate if you want to sound posh.) It’s the church the Queen attends when she’s in town, and you can see the “royal pew” there.

But that isn’t this little church’s only quirky claim to fame…

canongatekirk copy

For one thing, the royals like the church for weddings. Zara Phillips was married here in 2011. But honestly, I couldn’t care less about the royals. More interesting to me are the hidden gems the Canongate Kirkyard holds.

Handel‘s bassoon player is buried here. No joke, John Frederick Lampe played the bassoon for Handel in the London opera scene. Not exactly Bon Jovi’s guitarist, but close enough.

This is a bassoon. Apparently. Via musiclaughtersilence.blogspot.com.

This is a bassoon. Apparently.
Via musiclaughtersilence.blogspot.com.

Not cool enough for you? Okay, how about…

The inventor of the crossword. I can’t back this one up with shaky internet research, but it’s too cool a thought to let die. (Pun intended.) According to our Edinburgh tour guide, the inventor of the crossword is buried in Canongate Kirkyard.

Arthur Wynne was his name. He immigrated to the U.S. and created the diamond-shaped “Word-Cross” game for a New York newspaper in 1913. It later evolved into the square “crossword” we know today!

And boy did it become a craze. (Think Furbies in the late 1990’s.)

Via tumblr.com.

Via tumblr.com.

To give you an idea of their popularity:

In 1923, there was a cartoon published of a wife ordering her husband to “Rescue the papers…the part I want is blowing down the street.”

The husband answers: “What is it you’re so keen about?”

“The Cross-Word Puzzle,” she replies. “Hurry, please, that’s a good boy.”

But if you’re not into crossword puzzles, then there’s one more body in Canongate Kirkyard that might peak your interest: the remains of one Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie. Sound a bit like a Dickensian typo? There’s a reason for that.

Charles Dickens cites the grave of Scroggie as the inspiration for his character Ebenezer Scrooge in his novella “A Christmas Carol.”

Michael Caine never did anything as fabulous as "The Muppet Christmas Carol." Via tumblr.com.

Michael Caine never did anything as fabulous as “The Muppet Christmas Carol.”
Via tumblr.com.

The story goes that Dickens was strolling through Canongate Kirkyard (as you do), when he stumbled upon Scroggie’s grave. According to Dickens’ diary, three factors made the name of this innocent man become synonymous with people who hate Christmas.

1. It was getting dark out.

2. Dickens was just a little bit dyslexic.

3. Dickens obviously didn’t back up his stories with incredibly credible Wikipedia searches!

So he misread the description on Scroggie’s gravestone. It said that he was a “meal man,” meaning he sold corn, but Dickens misread this as a “mean man.”

Via tumblr.com.

Via tumblr.com.

Poor Scroggie! Even Dickens said of the “mean” description that it must have “shrivelled” Scroggie’s soul to carry “such a terrible thing to eternity.”

Well he wasn’t carrying anything but corn to eternity ’til you showed up, you old buffoon!

This is a bassoon. Apparently. Via musiclaughtersilence.blogspot.com.

Not to be confused with an old bassoon.

Unfortunately, you can’t see Scroggie’s grave today. It was lost to reconstruction in the kirkyard in the early 20th century.

But you can take a stroll through the kirkyard at dusk, probably somewhere above the remains of old Scroggie, and see what inspiration finds you! (The only inspiration that found me was for this lousy blog post.) Good luck!

Annie Cosby

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  1. I loved it…especially the Scroggie bit.

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