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Greyfriars Graveyard Tour

Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard Edinburgh

Greyfriars Graveyard Tour is my selection of the famous residents of Edinburgh that were buried in the Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard. Greyfriars Kirk opened in 1620 the graveyard was in existence as a municipal burial ground from 1562. The Friars were given the lands circa 1470 and the original friary was destroyed by the Reformers in 1559. Stories of Ghosts and and supernatural events when walking past Mausoleums, Tombs and Graves of the departed. The first grave at the gates Greyfriars Bobby dog icon of Edinburgh.  The Judge who sentenced 100's to death, Tom Riddle A.K.A Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter),  John Porteous hanged, James Borthwick the tombstone with the skeleton from 1675,  Allan Ramsay Poet, Joseph Black, William Creech and Mary Erskine, George Watson, James Craig (architect), John Bayne.

This was where the affluent were interned. Look inside the Kirk where the museum can be found. 

Greyfriars Candlemaker Row Entrance.JPG

Greyfriars Graveyard Tour
Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard Edinburgh
Greyfriars Graveyard from Candlemakers R

John Kay 1742 – 1826

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

John Kay is buried in Grayfriars Burial Ground Edinburgh. He was a well-known figure around Edinburgh Born in 1742 in Dalkeith Midlothian. He began his working life at 13 becoming an apprentice to the local Barber. At 19 he moved to a Barbers shop in Edinburgh. He loved sketching and painting. His free time was taken up in what was to become what he was remember by. John Kay was a painter of miniatures and caricaturist. Through his paintings and Sketches the people of Edinburgh through the Enlightenment are still visible due to John Kay. There is a plaque on the wall in the High Street Edinburgh where he lived (Geddes’ Entry). John Kay died in Edinburgh on 21 February 1826 and was laid to rest in Grayfriars Burial Ground. Many of his caricature drawings were purchased by the subject he had drawn in the sole purpose of being able to destroy it.

Grayfriars Burial Ground John Kay

William McGonagall

(Professor Minerva McGonagall)

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

William McGonagall is also buried in Grayfriars burial ground. Known in his time as the world’s worst poet me died in South College Street Edinburgh.  He wrote circa 200 poems, which including as some of the worst ever written in English literature. William was born in 1825 and lived most of his life in Dundee. He performed in front of the rich and famous and royalty a very popular literary figure of his time.  Sir William Topaz McGonagall inspirational name of the head of Gryffindor House, Professor Minerva McGonagall. His grave stone can be found in the far left corner of Grayfriars near to Heriot's School (Hogwarts) Gates.

Grayfriars burial Ground William McGonag

Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh after spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner, John Gray.  Bobby himself died in 1872. A year later a statue was erected at the top of Candlemaker Row across from the Greyfriars Kirkyard.  There is also a red granite headstone in Greyfriars kirkyard near the gate. Have a stroll around the Greyfriars Kirkyard and see many famous and powerful people of old Edinburgh. Greyfriars Bobby died 14th January 1872 age 16 years.

Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.

Grayfriars Bobby Grave Kirk Main Gate

George Mackenzie (The Covenanter’s Judge)

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Rosehaugh Close (now Melrose Close named after Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh King’s Advocate. Sir George McKenzie (George Bloody Mackenzie) is still known today due to his tomb in Greyfriars which is said to be haunted.

George Mackenzie was the judge that sentenced the Covenanters to death. The spirit of George MacKenzie is said to cause bruising, bites and cuts on those who come into contact with the spirit or touch his tomb. Some visitors have reported feeling strange sensations. The Poltergeist seems to only attack people that are in the Covenanters Prison area which is now kept locked. Contact the kirk museum regards entry.

MacKenzie Mausoleum Greyfriars (2).JPG

Robert Chieslie

Greyfriars Graveyard

Walter Chieslie of Dalry built Dalry House (Orwell Place Edinburgh) in 1661 he was father to Robert Chieslie, who became was Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1694 -96. He was one of the Darien Scheme investors who lost a fortune and died in the Edinburgh Asylum at Bristo. He is buried in Grayfriars burial ground in the mausoleum of Advocate George ‘Bloody’ MacKenzie. His brother John is also interned in the same tomb. John was guilty of murdering Lord Carnwath. This is the most hunted grave in Greyfriars with three ghosts.

Sir Robert Sibbald 1641 – 1722

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Sir Robert Sibbald was Physician to King Charles II and first Professor of Medicine in the University of Edinburgh, President of the Royal College of Physicians 1648 – 1685 and co-founder of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. 

Greyfriars Graveyard Robert Sibbald Plaque

Thomas Riddell (Riddle)

Lord Voldemort

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Tom Marvolo Riddle known to be a Dark Wizard and enemy of Harry Potter. Tom Marvolo Riddle, was born and raised in a Muggle orphanage, but eventually attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (1938-1945). He changed his name to Lord Voldemort. It is said the character’s name was inspired by the tombstone in Grayfriars burial ground.

Grayfriars Dr Vordamort Harry Potter Character Greyfriars Graveyard Edinburgh

Covenanters Prison

(The Presbyterians)

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

The National Covenant signed in Greyfriars in 1638, promised to defend Presbyterianism from intervention by the crown.

​Through the gates is the part of the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard which was once in 1679 a prison for more than 1000 supporters of the National Covenant, who had been defeated by Government forces at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge 22 June 1679.  They were imprisoned for more than 4 months with little or no food and no shelter, some were tried and executed, others died in prison, some escaped and others were set free after signing a bond of loyalty to the crown.

​In November 1679 the remaining 257 prisoners were taken to Leith and place aboard a ship that was bound for the American Colonies, however all but 48 were drowned when the ship was wrecked of the coast of Orkney. Nine of the 48 were said to have escaped.

The area of the prison was much larger than it is now as it took in where houses have been built and new graves were installed here in 1705 when the graveyard required more space for the Edinburgh people. The Covenanters (Presbyterians) immigrated to North America in the early 1700s and William Tennant founded the Log College in Neshaminy Pennsylvania in 1735.

The Covenanters of North America became the members of the reformed Presbyterian Church. 

Covenanters Prison Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

The inscription on the plaque at the side of the gates to the Covenanters’ Prison



Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Behind these gates lies part of the Greyfriars Kirkyard which was used in 1679 as a prison for more than one thousand supporters of the National Covenant who had been defeated by Government forces at the battle of Bothwell Brig on 22 June. For more than four months these men were held here without any shelter, each man being allowed 4 ounces of bread a day. Kindly citizens were sometimes able to give them more food. Some of the prisoners died here, some were tried and executed for treason, some escaped, and some were freed after signing a bond of loyalty to the Crown. All those who were persecuted and died for their support of the National Covenant in the reigns of Charles II and James VII are commemorated by the Martyrs’ Memorial on the north-eastern wall of the Kirkyard. The Covenant, which was first signed in Greyfriars Kirk in 1638, promised to defend Presbyterianism from intervention by the Crown. In November 1679 the remaining 257 men, who had been sentenced to transportation overseas, were taken to Leith and placed on board a ship bound for the American colonies; nearly all were drowned when this ship was wrecked in the Orkney islands (where there is a monument in their memory), but 48 of the prisoners survived. The section of the Kirkyard used to imprison the Covenanters lay outside the existing south wall, and included the area now covered by buildings on Forrest Row. The area behind the gate was laid out for burials in 1705 and contains many fine monuments, but these did not exist at the time of the prison. This plaque has been provided by the Greyfriars Kirkyard Trust with the support of the Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association.

Covenannters Prison Plaque Greyfriars Edinburgh

In the Covenanter's Prison

Mary Erskine 

Greyfriars Graveyard

Mary Erskine married in 1661, a writer of the signet (advocate). He unfortunately died 10 years later. Mary remarried Chemist with his own apothecary but he also died prematurely. With the money she had accumulated she opened a bank and amassed a large fortune, which she gifted money to the Edinburgh Merchant Company who establish the first hospital (boarding school) for girls, named The Merchant Maidens Hospital which opened in the Cowgate in the Merchants Hall which was situated where the arch of the George IV Bridge now stands in 1694. In 1704 she opened a further Hospital for girls, The Trades Maiden Hospital. Its first location was on Jamaica Street next to Argyll Square (Chamber Street and West College Street). It remained there until 1855, when it moved out to a villa named Rillbank. Edinburgh Sick Children’s Hospital now occupies the site. In 1892 it moved again to Ashfield, on Grange Loan. At the west corner of Blackford Avenue. The latest move was to 61 Melville Street in 1975 and its new home was renamed Ashfield in commemoration of its former premises.

Covenanters Prison Grounds Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard Edinburgh

In the Covenanter's Prison

James Hutton

Greyfriars Graveyard

James Hutton was born in Edinburgh in 1726 and died in Edinburgh 1797 age 70 years. At the age of 14 years he became a student of the University of Edinburgh he went on to travel to France where he became a doctor of medicine. He then went to London and then returned to Edinburgh. He continued the study of the Earth as geology and meteorology were his great interest. Hutton was part of the Edinburgh Enlightenment and as a scientist was regularly seen with Adam Smith, David Hume John Playfair and Joseph Black another famous scientist. His magnum opus was the theory of the earth which made the foundations to Geology James Hutton has been known as the Father of Modern Geology.   

Joseph Black

Greyfriars Graveyard

Joseph Black was a physicist and chemist who discovered magnesium, latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide. In 1757 Joseph Black was appointed Regius Professor of the Practice of Medicine at the University of Glasgow and in 1766 he became Professor of Medicine and Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. Both the University of Edinburgh and Glasgow have chemistry buildings named after him. Joseph Black was part of the Edinburgh Enlightenment and was at the gathering when Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns met for the only time.

In the Covenanter's Prison

Joseph Black’s Plaque

The inscription reads, "Joseph Black, Doctor of Medicine,-born in France, but a British subject, his father being a native of Ireland, and his mother of Scotland,-first a student in the University of Glasgow, and afterwards in that of Edinburgh, was a most distinguished Professor of Chemistry in both Universities; a felicitous interpreter of nature; acute, cautious, and skilful in research; eloquent in description; the first discoverer of carbonic acid and latent heat,- died in the 71st year of his age, AD 1799. His friends, who were wont to esteem his worth and abilities, have sought to mark out the spot which contains his body by this marble, as long as it shall last." Joseph Black's death in 1799.

William Creech FRSE 

Greyfriars Graveyard

William Creech was the main book publisher in Edinburgh. He was also a printer, bookseller, politician and Edinburgh’s Lord Provost in 1811. He was also a freemason and friends with Dr T Blacklock and Henry MacKenzie, both invited Robert Burns to Edinburgh. They introduced William Creech to Burns and he became his publisher and published the first Edinburgh edition of Robert Burns' poems 650 copies sold out in the first day to lodge members.

William Creech Publisher Edinburgh Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard
William Creech Inscription Grave Greyfriars Edinburgh

William Adam 

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

William Adam was born in Fife in 1689 and was one of Scotland’s greatest architects and he could also be said to be one of the first true entrepreneurs with many varied business interests.  He died in 1747 and his son John Adam designed and built the family mausoleum in 1753 in Grayfriars. One of his best house designs that he built was for Robert Dundas when he built Arniston house for the Viscount in 1726.

Grayfriars Burial Ground William Adam Architect Edinburgh
William Adam Mausoleum Greyfriars Edinburgh

Mort Safes

Greyfriars Graveyard

Mort safes were a form of cage over a grave to stop the grave robbers from taking the bodies and selling them to the Medical College to be used to teach the students human anatomy.  This was before the 1832 Anatomy Act regulated the legal supply of corpses for medical science.

Mort Safe Greyfriars Edinburgh
Mortsafe Plaque Information, Greyfriars Graveyard Edinburgh

Captain John Porteous

Greyfriars Graveyard

The killing of John Porteous Captain of the City Guard.

Three robbers were caught and imprisoned for carrying out a robbery. William Hall, George Robertson and Andrew Wilson. At their trial William Hall was sentenced to transportation to the colonies for life, but Andrew Wilson and George Robertson were sentenced to hang and were imprisoned in the Tolbooth in Edinburgh’s High Street awaiting execution. George Robertson escaped and made his way out of Britain. However, Andrew Wilson was to be publicly hanged in the Grassmarket in April of 1736. On the day of the execution a riot began and the City guard was called out, led by Captain John Porteous.

Due to the rioting Captain John Porteous instructed his men to fire above the heads of the crowd, this made the riot even more heated, the shots from the city guard had hit and killed onlookers that were watching the proceedings from their windows.

With the crowd getting even more violent,

Captain Porteous gave the order to shoot into the crowd, which resulted in more deaths. Later that day Captain John Porteous was arrested and charged with murder. At his trial on 5 July 1736, he was convicted by a unanimous decision and found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. The execution took place in the Grassmarket on 8 September 1736. 

Captain John Porteous Grave Stone Grayfriars Graveyard Edinburgh

Walter Geikie

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

Walter Geikie was born in 1795 a deaf painter and founder of the first deaf church and deaf society. His true memorial can be seen in our city art galleries and in the quality of life and dignity accorded to deaf citizens of Edinburgh today. Walter Geikie loved to sketch street scenes in ink and of real life.

Waltr Geikie Founder deaf church Geyfriars, Edinburgh memorial Plaque

Union Carbide Gas Disaster

Memorial Plaque

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

In memory of almost 4000 deaths and 40,000 people disabled maimed or suffering serious illness from the gas leak in December 1984 in Bhopal India.

"never think you stand alone"

BHOPAL India Union Carbide Gas Disaster Memorial Plaque Greyfriars

George Buchanan 1506 - 1582

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

George Buchanan, was born in Stirling in 1506 and died in Edinburgh in 1582. He followed the Calvinist theory throughout his life. A Humanist scholar, fluent in Latin, he travelled and was a teacher in France and Portugal. Teaching both Mary Queen of Scots and her son King James VI. He was a renowned writer of poetry, plays and other literary works. He was the Keeper of the Privy Seal. He also conspired with Elizabeth I to have Mary Queen of Scots arrested which led to her execution. His work ‘Rerum Scoticarum historia’ (The History of Scotland) completed just prior to his death in 1582

Greyfriars graveyard george buchanan Grassmarket Edinburgh

Allan Ramsay (1686–1758)

Greyfriars Graveyard

Allan Ramsay was a trained Wigmaker and poet. He died in Ramsay Lodge, Ramsay Garden on Castlehill where he spent the last years of his life. In 1725 he opened the first lending library in the High Street Edinburgh which was the first lending library in Britain. Allan was born in Lanarkshire in the west of Scotland on 15 October 1686. He died on 7th January 1758. Allan Ramsay established the Jacobite Literary Society in 1712. He became a bookseller in 1721 which he retired from in 1740. He is remember mostly for being a pioneer in the use of the Scots Language in contemporary poetry.

Allan Ramsay Poet Greyfriars Edinburgh

James Craig 

Greyfriars Graveyard

James Craig was the winning architect of the design for Edinburgh’s new town a competition held by King George III. He was only 23 years of age when he won but never saw the end result as he died prior to its completion.

James Craig New Town Designer

John Byrne

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

John Byrne’s tomb is built into the wall of Grayfriars burial ground. John Byrne He was a writer to the signet (solicitor to the King) and a wealthy landowner. He was born in (1620) Pitcarlie Fife which is just north of Auchtermuchty. The Tomb was built by his surviving wife in 1684 three years after his death. 

Grayfriars Burial Ground John Byne Grave

George Watson 

Greyfriars Graveyard

George Watson was born in Edinburgh in 1654 and had a long and successful career as an accountant and merchant banker. He became the first accountant of the Bank of Scotland. On his death he bequeathed money to the Edinburgh Merchant Company to open a Hospital (boarding School) for the poor children of Edinburgh. The School is still in existence to this day. George Watson died on 3 April 1723. This memorial was erected | In 1991 to mark the 250th | Anniversary of the opening | of George Watson’s Hospital and the 120th anniversary | of George Watson’s Ladies’ | College the forerunners | of | George Watson’s College. George Watson who founded the College was born in Edinburgh in 1654 and died in 1723. The School opened in 1741 in Lauriston Place opposite George Heriot’s School. The Boys school moved to its present building in Colinton Road in 1932.

George Watson Greyfriars Edinburgh

George Foulis of Ravelstoun 

Greyfriars Kirk Edinburgh

George Foulis purchased the Ravelstoun Estate in 1620. Where he built a tower house in 1622 where he lived with his wife Janet Bannatyne. An inscription on a lintel reads GF- NE QUID NIMIS 1622 JB. These inscriptions are found on most old houses showing the initials of the owners, when they moved in, or when they married. In this case (GF) George Foulis NE QUID NIMIS (Nothing in excess) 1622 year house built (JB) Janet Bannatyne.  In the grounds is Ravelston Tower, the stair-tower of Old Ravelston House. George Foulis, laird of Ravelstoun (Ravelston) was born in 1569 the second son of Sir James Foulis of Colinton. George Foulis became a Bailie (Councillor) of the city of Edinburgh. He married Janet Bannatyne (1603). George Foulis died in 1633 and is buried in Grayfriars Burial Ground.

George Foulis Grave Stone Greyfriars Edinburgh

James Borthwick

James Borthwick of Stow was the world's first Apothecary Surgeon he was born in 1615 and died in 1675. In 1657 he became the first apothecary Surgeon and teacher of anatomy

James Borthwick Greyfriars graveyard Edi

Covenanters' Memorial Monument

Grayfriars Kirk Edinburgh


Halt, passenger, take heed what you do see This tomb doth shew, for what sane men did do

Here lies interr’d the dust of those who stood ‘Gainst perjury, resisting unto blood.

Adhering to the Covenant, and laws Establishing the same, which was the cause

Then lives were sacrificed unto the lust Of Prelatists abjured. Though here their dust

Lies mixt with murderers, and other crew Whom justice justly did to death pursue.

But as for them, no cause was to be found Worthy of death, but only they were found.

Constant   and   stedfast   zealous as For the Prerogative of CHRIST their KING.

Which truths were sealed by famous Guthrie’s head And all along to Mr Renwick’s blood

They did endure the wrath of [?enemies] Reproaches torments deaths and injustice

But yet they‘re those who and now triumph in glory with the LAMB.

From May 27th 1661, that the most noble Marquis of Argyle was beheaded, to the 17 th of Febry 1688 that Mr James Renwick suffered, were one way or other Murdered and Destroyed for the same Cause, about

Eighteen thousand of whom were execute in Edinburgh about a  Hundred of Noblemen, Gentlemen, Minister, and Others noble Martyrs for JESUS CHRIST. The most of them lie here.

Covenanters' Monument Grayfriars Edinburgh

A stone open bible once stood below the inscription.

The Plaque shows what was written on the open pages.
























CHAP.2nd.10.  BE THOU



Covenanters' Monument Bible inscription
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