EDINBURGH'S New Town is built on the same esoteric principles as the Temple of Solomon and the Great Pyramid, according to a local historian.
James Gilhooley claims to have proved that dividing the length of the New Town's 18th century reference points by their width comes within three‑thousandths of pi, a figure which crops up significantly in ancient civilisations.
It is also revered in Masonic circles, and the builders of Edinburgh's New Town were masons to a man, according to Mr Gilhooley.
A maverick anti-establishment figure. Mr Gilhooley is the author of A Directory of Edinburgh in 1752, published by Edinburgh University press but now out of print. For eight years he has been compiling a computer database of Edinburgh between 1690 and 1800, which has attracted interest from universities around the world.
According to him, the reference points of the original early New Town were, to the last the vestibule of the current Royal Bank of Scotland building in St Andrew Square; and, to the west, a point near the corner of Charlotte Square and Glenfinlas Street, the then limit of the available land. If that distance of 469.3 metres is divided by the distance between Princes Street to the south and Queen Street to the north - 149.4 metres - the result is 3.1412, almost the value of pi, 3.1415.
"That is one of the fundamental measurements involved in the Temple of Solomon and the Temple of Cheops, which is very esoteric stuff. It is also fundamental to the beliefs of Freemasonry, and nearly all of those involved in planning the New Town were freemasons, including the lord provost, George Drummond, William Milne, the city architect," Mr Gilhooley said. Although pi was a value derived from a circle, it had many other applications. "It is nothing more than a ratio which relates to all kinds of things. The Egyptians used it for astronomical calculations. It is also used for expressing frequencies, for example."
The result would be pi whether the calculation was done in "metres, feet, inches or barleycorns".
Mr Gilhooley said that James Craig had won a competition in 1766 to design a plan for the New Town, a prestigious development to take the better - off away from the poor. Craig's original plan, bizarrely enough, was based on the Union Flag, but only formed a basic guide for city architect Mime's more practical plan.
Asked how he had stumbled upon his discovery, Mr Gilhooley said: "I am an engineer by training and you get very used to realising the proportions of things. Effectively, I noticed there was something quite odd about the proportions. It can't be accidental. To come within that level of accuracy means that someone sat down and did it deliberately."
Mr Gilhooley a non‑mason, added: "If it wasn't for freemasons we probably wouldn't have had a New Town. They were also involved in building the Royal Infirmary, the City Chambers, indeed anything that was built in the town between 1730 and the 1900s."
Yesterday, James Clark, assistant director of the Edinburgh New Town Conservation Committee said he was open minded on the theory. "The amount of land available to them at that time originated purely for natural reasons. It is what Edinburgh was left with after the lee Age and just how that happens to be proportioned is more an accidental matter, 1 would think, than anything else. "I suppose, yes, it is possible but it would be very difficult to prove one way or another. I am open minded on it."
Andrew Fraser, the president of the Old Edinburgh Club and co-editor of a book on James Craig, said the plan had to fit with the geography of the site and what the council owned at the time.
Dr Fraser said: "I would be slightly worried about the measurements. I suspect you can decide whether you are including the pavements and so on. Milne was a master-mason but it is not too clear whether he was too keen on the mystical side of things."
Dr Fraser added that he would like more proof of the use of the reference points. " I would have thought it was a strange idea and 1 would like to see a little more evidence."
Robert McNeil. The Scotsman. 24th November 1998.