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Tales from the tron

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This spring, SHBT bring you ‘Tales from the Tron’. In this five-lecture series, guest speakers will cover the story of the Tron from the fantastical public spectacles staged at the Salt Tron on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, via a shopper’s prehistory of Marlin’s Wynd, through to the Tron Kirk in its urban context and the working class and slum clearances of Old Edinburgh. Our final lecture, A Walk through a Thinking Machine: from Riddle’s Court to the Tron with Patrick Geddes, will end with a walk to the Tron Kirk to explore how we use spaces and places to learn.

the ballad of a great disordered heart

The Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and The Consulate General of Ireland invite you to The Ballad of a Great Disordered Heart. A film screening with live music at Riddle’s Court.

A film about the handful of streets around the Cowgate in Edinburgh which have long housed a proud Irish diaspora. A film about folk music and its power to connect people.

Musician Aidan O’Rourke, from the celebrated folk trio Lau, lives in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. During lockdown, Aidan got to know three of his octogenarian neighbours, all called Margaret, and listened to their stories. The Ballad of a Great Disordered Heart explores through music and storytelling what home and belonging mean.

Before the tron kirk: mount parnasuss and a miraculous tree at the salt tron

During the 16th and early 17th century, the Salt Tron – the weighing beam and public house that stood where the Tron Kirk was later constructed – was one of a selected handful of key locations which repeatedly enjoyed a central role in public ceremonies. In striking opposition to its utilitarian, everyday commercial identity, the Salt Tron area became the location for the staging of fantastical spectacles, where performers impersonating mythological figures, historical heroes, or celebrated ancestors amazed the crowds, accompanied by skilled musicians and often in eye-catching settings. An analysis of the various events staged at the Salt Tron by the civic authorities to publicly celebrate the successes of the Stewart monarchs, reveals the richness of the cultural life in Edinburgh at this time, and the complexity of the relationship between town and Crown. It also establishes the remarkable importance of the Salt Tron area to outline and display the burgh’s identity and aspirations, both in everyday circumstances and during exceptional public events.

Marlin’s Wynd

Gone with the wynd: a shopper’s prehistory of the tron kirk

It’s the 1580s in the Royal Mile, so where could you buy 60 shirts, foil cloth breeches, drawing boards, pan hats, Spanish almonds, Swedish iron bars, confectionary boxes, French canvas and 636 golf balls? Before the Tron Kirk was built in the 1630s, wooden shops lined the wynds, selling both the exotic and mundane. The residents were equally intriguing, tailors and booksellers, widows remarrying, five nuns, and a pioneering spinster ‘being and abyding without marriage’. Meet the ancestors with Morag Cross.

Image from the National Portrait Gallery

Puddings, printing and palladianism: the tron in its urban context 

The Tron Kirk was not only an important addition to the religious buildings of Edinburgh, it was also an important intervention in the city and very quickly became a landmark and place of gathering.

This talk, from Dr John Lowrey, focuses mostly on the period between the 1640s and the 1824 (the year of the great fire that destroyed the Tron steeple), looks at the Tron in its urban surroundings from the tightly-knit fabric of the seventeenth century in an area of trade and commerce (including the pudding market) to the modernisations of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Foremost among those, of course, was the building of the South Bridge, which had a major impact on the fabric of the church as well as completely altering its urban surroundings. How and why that happened will be explored and the theme of trade and commerce will be a constant thread running through the talk, from the markets of the seventeenth century to the luxury shops of the early nineteenth.

We will follow up with a walk around the Tron area, linking the current urban and architectural fabric of the church and its surrounding buildings to the history of the site.

Tenements, the working class and slum clearance in old edinburgh

Tenements surround the Tron Kirk on every side, they line the streets of Old Town and Canongate and they sprawl across the older city districts in rows. But what is a tenement? What makes them so abundant in Scotland? What would life have been like for those living in the old closes and wynds of Edinburgh long before the advent of council housing changed living standards in Scotland forever? Join us for a talk which will take you through the interesting history of the tenement and working-class culture in Edinburgh, the politics of housing in Scotland and the various efforts at slum clearance that have changed the character of urban Scotland forever.

A walk through a thinking machine: from riddle’s court to the tron with patrick geddes

The ceiling of the Geddes Room in Riddles Court is elaborately painted – with prominent figures of the past, inscribed stories, and symbols of different fields of knowledge, from medicine to poetry. It was created in the 1890s, when Riddles Court was appropriated as a student residence by Patrick Geddes, as part of his programme to bring gown together with Edinburgh’s Old Town and both the ceiling, the building, and indeed the city that surrounds it are manifestations of what he called a ‘Thinking Machine’. 

In this session, Ed Hollis, professor of Interior Design at the University of Edinburgh, will talk and walk us through this thinking machine, from the ceiling at Riddles Court to the Tron Kirk, exploring how Geddes – and we – use spaces and places to learn. 

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