Tag Archives: Greyfriars Kirkyard

The Mylne Tomb

In the historic cemetery known as Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Edinburgh is the tomb of the Mylne family who were architects and master masons to the Kings of Scotland. Enclosed with an iron fence the memorial is attached to the east wall of a tenement building on Candlemaker Row. The tomb contains the remains of John Mylne, Robert Mylne, William Mylne and Thomas Mylne.

geograph ccl kim traynor
Creative Commons License, Kim Traynor. Source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2034883

The pediment at the top of the memorial hosts two cherubs flanking the heraldic shield of the Mylne family identified by a knight’s armoured helmet, and a shield containing a Patonce cross with three 5 point stars.

Directly beneath the shield is a grotesque representing a dragon. Additional examples of Memento Mori are present in winged effigies, skulls, an hourglass and crossed torches.


The main inscription written in Latin is displayed in Drapery held in the mouth of a ram:
“John Mylne, who, at the expiry of fifty-five years of this frail life, sleeps softly here, sixth Master-Mason to the King of the family of Mylne, of remarkable skill in the building art, frequently Deacon-Convener of the Trades of Edinburgh, the circumspect and faithful representative of the metropolis on several occasions in the public Parliament of the Kingdom; a man adorned with gifts of mind above his condition in life, of a remarkably handsome person, upright, sagacious, pious, universally respected.
Robert, his brother’s son, emulous of his virtues, as well as his successor in office, has, out of gratitude, erected this monument, such as it is, to his uncle. He died 24th Dec. 1667, in the fifty-sixth year of his age.


John Mylne’s character is described in a smaller shield:
Great artisan, grave senator, John Mylne,
Renown’d for learning, prudence, parts, and skill,
Who in his life Vitruvius’ art had shown,
Adorning others’ monuments: his own
Can have no other beauty, than his name,
His memory and everlasting fame.
Rare man he was, who could unite, in one,
Highest and lowest occupation;
To sit with statesmen, councillour to kings,
To work, with tradesmen, in mechanick things;
Majestick man, for person, witt, and grace;
This generation cannot fill his place.

cartoucheTwo Corinthian columns are inscribed with dedication.
The left column commemorates Robert Mylne:
Sacred to the Memorie of Robert Mylne of Balfargie,
Master Mason to severall Kings of Scotland;
and Survieor to this Citie,
who, duringe ane active life of honest fame,
Builded amonge manie extensive warks
Mylne’s Court, Mylne’s Square, and
the Abbie of Halie rud house,
Leaving by ane Worthie Wife,
Eight Sonnes and Six Daughters,
All Placed in the World with Credit to himself,
and consecrated this Monument,
To the Honour of his Ancestrie.
Died Decr. 10th, 1710; aged 77.”

Edinburgh places and people

The column on the right:
To the Memory of Thomas Mylne Eldest son of William
Mylne a Deacon of the Masons in Edinburgh
Who Died 5th March1763
To the Memory of William Mylne Master Mason
Eldest son of Robert Mylne of Balfargie
Who Died 9th March 1728.

A cartouche at the base of the stone is inscribed:
Reader, John Mylne, who maketh the fourth John,
and, by descent, from father unto son,
Sixth master mason to a royal race
Of seven successive Kings, sleeps in this place.



Greyfriar’s Kirkyard


Greyfriars Kirkyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland is located at the southern edge of the Old Town. It has hosted the bodies of the dead since 1562. It contains a variety of vaults, sepulchres, tombs and mausoleums. The location of many graves is unknown, and bones are regularly washed to the surface during heavy rainstorms. The hundreds of persecuted and martyred Covenanters buried here have given rise to stories of hauntings.

Hugo Arnot, Edinburgh historian, describing Greyfriars Kirkyard in 1779:
The graves are so crowded on each other that the sextons frequently cannot avoid in opening a ripe grave encroaching on one not fit to be touched. The whole presents a scene equally nauseous and unwholesome. How soon this spot will be so surchrged with animal juices and oils, that, becoming one mass of coruption, its noxious steams will burst forth with the prey of a pestilence, we shall not pretend to determine; but we will venture to say, the effects of this burying-ground would ere now have been severly felt, were it not that, besides the coldness of the climate, they have been checked by the acidity of the coal smoke and the height of the winds, which in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh blow with extraordinary violence.”

The small 17th century Greyfriars Kirk is still a working parish. A museum and gift shop are also located on the site.

One of the most infamous deceased is Sir George Mackenzie, a Scottish lawyer, Lord Advocate, essayist and legal writer. His professional life was a contradiction with the refusal to endorse the popular belief of actual witchcraft, and his relentless persecution of the Presbyterian Covenanters who were against King Charles I’s desire to convert them to the use of High Anglican practices (Episcopal Church Government). For his inhumane maltreatment of the Covenanters, he was nicknamed Bluidy George Mackenzie.

In 1679, 1200 prisoners were imprisoned in a walled section of Greyfriar’s burying ground now known as the Covenanters’ prison. They suffered inhumane conditions with a large percentage of prisoners dying within a few months. The remainder were executed when they did not swear allegiance to the King.


When Bloody George Mackenzie died at Westminster England on 8 May 1691, his body was removed to Edinburgh and buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard close to the Covenanters’ Prison. Erected over his grave was a rounded mausoleum.

A legend tells of a highwayman fleeing from justice who sought refuge in the tomb. When he was captured 6 months later he related stories of coffins moving within the mausoleum and Bloody George scratching from within his coffin.

In 1999, a homeless man looking for shelter broke into the tomb of Sir George Mackenzie, desecrated the coffin, and discovered a hidden room filled with skeletons beneath the tomb. For more creepy detail on this event, visit The Mackenzie Poltergeist

Immediately, stories circulated about strange incidences within the churchyard; intense cold, loud breathing noises, mysterious cuts and bruises, visitors becoming unconsciousness, and unidentified laughter; all of which was attributed to the Mackenzie Poltergeist.

Two failed exorcisms have not prevented ‘Ghost Tours’, or schoolboys from regularly knocking on the Mausoleum to shout, “Bloody Mackenzie, come out if you dare!”