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The History of Brechin to 1864
Chapter VIII. The History of Brechin from 1760 TO 1800


The long reign of George III. affords many circumstances of heart-stirring interest to the general historian, but few circumstances which can be rendered of much excitement by the chronicler of local events. The internal affairs of burghs in the eighteenth century may be of vast importance to the inhabitants of these burghs, but they have little connexion with general history, and hence have little interest for the general reader. Our subsequent details, therefore, we suspect, will command the attention of few persons not directly connected with Brechin, if indeed what we have already written shall command attention from any not so connected, or even from persons interested in the ancient burgh. But in the hopes that we may find some readers of some description, we shall hold on the even tenor of our way.

Situated inland, the expense of sea-borne coal has always been severely felt by the inhabitants of Brechin. Originally, feal and peats were the fuel generally used, and rarely is an excavation yet made in the streets but the site of some ashes’ pit, or peat stack, is discovered. Besides peats, pob, the refuse of lint, was very generally burned by the poorer part of the community; and so many accidents had occurred from the use of this fuel, that, in 1761, the town council passed an act prohibiting the burning of pob in time to come. For the same reason, and at the same time, the council discharged flax-dressers from having their shops under the same roofs with dwelling-houses. Still further to prevent accidents by fire within the burgh, the council, next year, prohibited the repairing of any house with thatched roofs or wooden vents, and ordained that all new houses should be covered with slate or tiles, and have the vents

carried up with stones. These acts, like many others of the same stamp, were only observed by those whom it suited to observe them. The evils then attempted to be remedied by municipal enactments have been all removed by the progress of improvement. The last thatched tenement within the burgh was a house in the Lower Wynd, now called Church Street, next to the site of the present schools, and long inhabited by a primitive personage, named Tibbie Patter, whose only companions were a cat and a brace of ducks. Upon Tibbie’s death, in 1810, the house, which was composed of stone and clay, and thatched, was ' pulled down, and replaced by a substantial erection of stone and lime. A humorous friend of ours was wont to style this last of the thatched biggings “Patter Hall,” the house and inhabitants being unique of their kind. Recent improvements in machinery have rendered the employment of flax-dressers so dependent on spinning-mills, that the trade, as a separate profession, is almost entirely abandoned, the flax being heckled at premises adjoining the mills, or more generally by machinery within the mills, and thus hecklers’ shops are now unknown in the town, while the pob which served for fuel in 1760, is now wrought up into coarse yams for the manufacture of bagging and like purposes.

A contest rather amusing, but not without interest in a political view, occurred amongst the incorporated trades in 1731. The tailors had resolved to augment their wages to sixpence per day, and had made a regular act of their craft to that effect. This was viewed as a serious matter by the other five trades, and the convener assembled the incorporations to debate the point, upon which the deacon of the tailors lodged a protest, bearing that the deacons of the other crafts were not competent to judge what wages were sufficient for tailors, and ought not to interfere in the matter. There appears much reason in the protest, but the convener and his court did, notwithstanding, interfere; found that the tailors had been “guilty of a highnous trangression” in making of their act, ordered it to be rescinded, and fined them in 20 merks for their conduct. The tailors gave in, pleaded they had made the offensive act “ inadvertently,” and the convenery court reduced the fine to 4s. 6d. sterling.

The convenery court went still further at this time. They ordained that no matter relating to trades affairs should be taken before any other court than the convenery court. Possibly it was in consequence of this enactment that, in March 1766, a solemn complaint was laid before the convenery court against a taifor for “mismaking of a great or big coat.” On this complaint the court, after- due inquiry by three tailors, found that the fault of the coat lay in the tightness of the sleeves only, and that this tightness arose from the shrinking of the cloth in consequence of exposure to rain, and not from the cabbaging of the tailor, who was honourably acquitted, but, rather inconsistently, appointed to “widen the sleeves upon his own proper expenses.”

In 1763, a garden, situated at the mouth of the Bishop’s Close, was purchased for the purpose of building a flesh-market upon. This market was used both for the killing of animals and retailing of their flesh till 1797, when a slaughter-house was erected at the Den-side; and now that has been superseded, and premises for the slaughtering of cattle erected in 1865, on part of the Trinity Muir market stance. The flesh-market, which, in 1763, was doubtless a very great improvement, has now become of no use for the purpose intended, all the butchers occupying separate shops in different parts of the town, a distribution of the craft which is much more convenient for the inhabitants than when the whole fleshers were collected in one public market, even although in the most centrical part of the town. The number of butchers too has so much increased that the flesh-market would not accommodate above half of those of the present day, and this increase we look upon as no uncertain sign of the increased comforts of the people of Brechin since the time when the flesh-market was erected. The market, as we formerly noticed, is now however used for the sale of dairy produce, poultry, &c., on Tuesdays.

A serious riot occurred amongst the trades at the “intaking” of the Trinity Fair in July 1765, in consequence of which the council published a formal order regulating the precedency of the incorporated trades upon all subsequent similar occasions. This enactment, we believe, has been strictly observed ever since.

The order of precedency is this: The free members of the hammermen, glovers, and bakers go first, abreast; the free members of the shoemakers, weavers, and tailors follow next; then the wrights and butchers; and, lastly, the apprentices and servants of the different crafts, keeping the same order as that assigned for their masters. The butchers and wrights never had any voice in the municipal elections, although they enjoyed corporate privileges. About the end of the eighteenth century the butchers and wrights formed themselves into two friendly societies; and in 1827, when the rage came for breaking up such societies, the funds of these two bodies were divided, and the butchers and wrights then ceased to exist either as societies or corporate bodies. The glovers at present are in abeyance, having neglected, in 1836, to elect office-bearers, and we presume they will be content so to remain in time to come, the more especially as there has been no actual glover in the burgh for many years. The other five trades still exist—the hammermen, bakers, shoemakers, weavers, and tailors: the last four composed chiefly of persons, handicraftsmen of the trades to which their names point; the first including smiths, watchmakers, and saddlers—the saddlers having originally been, claimed by this craft, from the quantity of iron work about the ancient trappings for horses. In 1766, the guildry incorporation renewed- an existing ordinance of that body, by which any individual claiming admission as a guild brother was obliged to renounce all right to vote in the elections of the trades; and the trades as strictly prohibited those who became guildry-men from any title to interfere in their elections; so that within the town there were two public bodies jealously watching over the aristocracy and democracy of the burgh, and both looking with Argus eyes at the magistracy and close council of the town, till the Reform Act of 1832 threw the incorporations comparatively into the shade, and brought forward the 10 voters as a body commixing and superseding both guildry and trades.

Upon the petition of the doctor of the grammar-school, or second teacher in that establishment, the council, in July 1765, in respect that “ the expense of living and other necessaries was, of late years, much increased/’ augmented the quarterly fee payable to the doctor from Is. to Is. 6cL, but ordained him “ to teach each scholar who shall apply for the same, writing and arithmetic for the said quarterly payment, as well as Latin.” This office of doctor was abolished in 1783, when Mr William Dovertie was appointed “ teacher of English, writing, and arithmetic within the burgh,” and allowed the salary formerly paid to the doctor, with authority to uplift from his scholars, “ from those he teaches English only, 1s. 6d.; from those who he teaches English and writing, 2s.; and from those who he teaches English, writing, and arithmetic, 2s. 6d.,” quarterly. Mr Dovertie, however, taught the foreign languages, because Mr Linton, the rector, taught English and figures, and thus, in each of the schools, all the branches of education were taught till a formal division was made in 1834. The fees exacted about 1780-90 did not exceed 3a 6d. per quarter for every branch of education except bookkeeping, which was charged at a guinea the course. The fees were not augmented till 1801.

In July 1766, the Dove Wells of Cookston were purchased from the proprietor of that estate, and water was introduced into the town by means of lead pipes. It was then agreed, at a head court called for the purpose of considering the matter, that the expense should be defrayed by an assessment of Is. per on the rent, laid on for fifteen years. The person employed to lay the pipes was a Robert Selby, plumber in Edinburgh, and his contract amounted to 287, 4s. for pipes of one-and-a-half inch diameter, weighing 20 lbs. per yard, all carriages being defrayed by the burgh. By means of these pipes the town till recently was well supplied with pure spring water of an excellent quality. The increase of population, however, has led to the introduction of water from Burghill by means of cast-iron pipes, these being cheaper and equally effective as lead. To enable the community to pay the original expense, a credit was applied for and obtained from the Dundee Banking Company for 500; but, in 1769, an arrangement was entered into with Earl Panmure, whereby he acquired a right to a pipe of half-an-inch diameter, for conducting water from the town s fountains to Brechin Castle, and the earl paid the bond to the bank. In consequence, the proposed tax of Is. per was never levied, and the inhabitants were formally relieved of it by an act of council, dated 1st November 1770. A tax, however, was raised for maintaining the wells, which was collected by a treasurer named by the inhabitants. Many of the proprietors bought up this tax, by which means about 100 were raised. Unfortunately, however, the fund came into bad hands, and most of the cash was lost, while the whole expense of maintaining the public wells was thrown on the burgh funds. The maintenance of fountains, wells, and pipes has cost, first and last, no little money; but this expense, together with the other municipal expenses, have hitherto been paid from the burgh funds. The cross, the capital, as it may be termed, of the burgh, was pulled down in 1767, by order of the council, and the stones were employed in “ building the six wells proposed for discharging the water in the townthe reasons given for this demolition being the saving of expense to the community, and the increased accommodation afforded at the market-place by the removal of the cross. The site of this ancient erection was pointed out by a circle intersected by a cross, marked by stones placed in the causeway, opposite the town hall, till, in 1837, this memorial of bygone magnificence was entirely effaced by the devoted followers of Macadam.

The proposal for a canal between Glasgow and Carron in 1767, seems to have alarmed the magistrates of Edinburgh, and the council of Brechin were weak enough, in consequence of a communication addressed to them from a committee of the convention of royal burghs, to write their then representative in Parliament, urging him to use his endeavours to have the measure delayed, “that an affair of such importance to the country in general may be more deliberately gone about” The canal has since been made, and carried on to Edinburgh, but is now all but superseded by a railway between these two extensive towns.

In 1768, some of the country gentlemen in the neighbourhood had a regular battle with the magistrates in the Trinity Muir market arising out of a dispute about enclosures erected by the council in the Common Muir. The magistrates were supported by the council and incorporations in going to law, and after a long discussion before the Court of Session, it was found that the right to enclose lay with the council, but that they had enforced their title in an improper manner. Thus both parties were, to a certain extent, found wrong, and both were mulcted in no small sums to the Edinburgh gentlemen who condescend to wear wigs and gowns, and to pocket the money and laugh at the simplicity of those who employ them.

In 1770, and the years immediately succeeding, large portions of the Common Muir were feued off to the Earl of Panmure, Mr Carnegy of Balnamoon, and other gentlemen, to the advantage equally of the burgh and of the feuars. From the feuing of this muir a great part of the revenue of the town now arises, and as this muir continues to be subdivided and improved, so will the revenue of the burgh continue to increase. A plan of all these feus will be found in the charter room, framed by Mr George Henderson, land-surveyor and nurseryman, in 1829, and will afford to any one inclined to examine it a distinct view of the great extent of the Trinity Muir, originally belonging to the town, and described as extending from the Gallows of Keithock to the Gallows of Fearn. We had many a pleasant early morning walk and ride with Mr Henderson in ascertaining boundaries to be inscribed on this map, for it well deserves that name, and is of great value to the corporation.

A melancholy account is given of the state of the public school-house in 1772. It is said to be “ ruinous, and in great danger by the back wall thereof being in daily hazard of falling,” in consequence of which the council directed it to be repaired— not too soon, certainly.

The river Esk overflowed its banks in 1774. The whole bleachfield was then covered, and the inhabitants of the Lower Tenements were driven to the higher apartments of their houses> the under stories being quite under water.

It was in 1776, that the famous act was made, which we have so often heard referred to at public meetings, as an instance of how the best of measures may be misapprehended by public bodies. In June that year, the council directed the magistrates to oppose the bill then intended to be brought into Parliament for making toll roads in the county, because, as the minute of council bears, “ the establishing a toll would be highly prejudicial to the trade and manufactures of this burgh in particular, and to the country adjacent in general." The toll roads were, however, made, and in the year 1793 the council subscribed thirty guineas towards the erection of a bridge at Finhaven upon the line of the toll-road, which has ever since continued the direct route between Brechin and Forfar, although travellers now generally go by the round about railway between these places; a circumbendibus which will surely soon be superseded by a direct line between the two towns. Roads must always continue for the convenience of the internal intercourse of the country, but modern economists have begun, like the Brechin council of 1776, to doubt whether the public highways of a nation might not be more fairly maintained than by a tax on the passengers travelling over them, so that the act, which almost since its date has been matter of mirth to the political philosophers of the burgh, may yet come to be held up as proof of the wisdom of our ancestors.

The muckle bell was recast in 1780. The expense was defrayed chiefly by publio subscriptions. How this recasting came to be necessary is not on record; but tradition tells that some limbs of the law, and other young bucks, having become too jovial, climbed up into the steeple one Saturday night by means of the timber then kept in the fore churchyard by the carpenters of the town, and having thus gained admission to the belfrey, rung the bell till they broke it. Doubtless, these gentlemen, though keeping in the shade, would be liberal in their subscriptions towards the recasting of the bell. A few friends of ours, now all in their graves, were in their heydays seized with a similar fit of frolic and mischief. Amongst other tricks, they pulled down the sign of a worthy burgess, more noted for jaw than judgment. We shall never forget the queer appearance of the gentleman of the brush, who was employed next day to replace the demolished sign, and who had the utmost difficulty in answering, with becoming gravity, the numerous questions put by passers-by regarding the cause of his labour. The painting! which might have been finished by the clever, good-humoured artist in half-an-hour under ordinary circumstances, occupied him for four or five hours, but the account of cost we believe was never rendered. Many guessed at the offenders, but the fiscal, if he sought it seriously, got no clue for a prosecution, and the lads, who had been foolish enough for once, gave up all such tricks for the future.

A very formal act of the town council, dated 3d October 1781, regulates the mode of sitting in the loft of the church belonging to the municipal authorities. By this act it is appointed that the office-bearers shall sit in the front pew, the provost in the chief seat with the first bailie and dean of guild on his right hand, and the youngest bailie, clerk, treasurer, and master of the hospital on his left, and that the other members shall sit in the pew behind. The cause of this formal minute is said, by tradition, to have been, that the deacon convener for the time usurped a seat in the front pew, and we have heard that the “bold bad man” persevered in his claim notwithstanding of this act of council. The magistrates, therefore, wishing to shame the convener out of his presumption, put the town-officers into the front pew alongside of him, and retired themselves to the back seat. The audacious tradesman, however, at the end of the sermon, rose, and, with great nonchalance, made his bow first to the clergyman, and then turning to the right, bowed most profoundly to the one town-officer, and turning to the left, bowed as profoundly to the other town-officer, agreeable to the mode then practised by the provost “himsel', worthy man.” When called to account before the council for infringing the act alluded to, the deacon replied that it was not he but the magistrates who had infringed the act, by sending the town-officers to the front seat, and retiring themselves to the back one. The contest, like most others of the same kind, was dropped by the magistrates, and the convener, meeting with no opposition, quietly seated himself where he found most room. But the act has ever since been referred to as regulating the right and precedence on the subject So many of the members of council, of modern times, have been dissenters from the Kirk of Scotland, that, generally, “ample room and verge enough” is to be found for any councillor fond of a front seat.

John Duncan, Esq., a native of Brechin, and sometime proprietor of Bosemount, who realised a handsome fortune in the exercise of the medical profession in India, presented the town council with a China bowl still in existence, and which bears on its base this inscription:—“ Canton, 1785—from John Duncan per favor of Captain Stewart, Belmont." A ship, the crest of the family of Duncan, appears on two sides of this bowl, while the remaining two sides carry copies of the city arms; and the centre of the bowl is graced with a similar ornament, surrounded with the words, “Success to the City of Brechin.” The bowl is a splendid specimen of china, and capable of containing twenty Scotch pints, or a gallon of whisky made into punch. When it arrived in Brechin, the topers of the day considered it necessary to try if it would hold in. Accordingly a feast was proclaimed and a company assembled, one of whom, on returning to his family circle, and expatiating upon the beauty of the bowl, declared, amongst other wonders which it possessed, (speaking with a lisp,) that “there were mith in the bowl;” the jolly citizen having mistaken the lemons put in to season the punch for Chinese mice swimming amongst the potent liquid.

On Saturday, the 19th March 1785, Andrew Low, a native of Brechin, was hanged on the west end of the hill of Forfar, between the hours of twelve midday and four in the afternoon, having on the 28th January previously been found guilty by the unanimous voice of a jury, of two separate acts of housebreaking and theft. Low is said to have been the last person in Scotland upon whom the sentence of death was passed by a sheriff. The judge presiding was Patrick Chalmers, Esq., of Aldbar, who, it may be interesting to know, acted at the time as sheriff-depute of the whole of Forfarshire for the salary of 150 yearly. The office of sheriff principal was then in Scotland, as now in Eng-* land, an honorary office, and the sheriff-depute was really the highest legal authority in the county, having a substitute or substitutes under him, officiating in the ordinary courts as at present The place where Low was executed is still pointed out upon Balmashanner hill; and at no distant date the name and age of the unfortunate lad were cut out upon the turf, on the old site of the gallows. Fortunately the laws now are not so bloody, and crimes like those of Low would only be visited by transportation for life, or a term of yeara. Low's fate was long a matter of conversation and regret in Brechin, but it was darkly insinuated that he had been led by cunning men to be participant in a deeper crime than mere housebreaking and theft.

The Bridge of Brechin stood very much in need of repair in 1786, and a Mr Stevens, mason, estimated that 350 were required to put it in a proper condition. The council, who by this time began to see that the county had as much interest in this bridge as the burgh, subscribed 21 to assist. The remainder of the cash was raised partly by voluntary subscription in the town and neighbourhood, and partly by a county assessment.

In the same year, 1786, a collection was made at the church door for the benefit of the Infirmary of Aberdeen, to which the kirk-session minutes state this parish had been much indebted; and in the following year, 1787, a similar collection was made for the benefit of the lunatic asylum of Montrose, upon the assurance, as the minutes of session bear, that in consequence “our insane poor, after this, would be admitted to the said hospital on easier terms.” The session minutes of the same year record, that his majesty’s proclamation for the suppression of vice and immorality, and for the more religious observation of the Lord’s Day, had been read from the pulpit, “and the congregation suitably exhorted.”

The council, in January 1788, “considering that the meal-market of this burgh has not for many years been used for the purpose of selling meal, and that the wynd wherein it is situated is a very public entry to the town,” ordained the market to be pulled down. This market was situated in Swan Street, which was then called the Meal Market Wynd, and this market was directly opposite where the Union Bank now is.

This was rather a stirring year this 1788. The town-hall and prisons were pulled down, and the present erections built by public subscription. The town council commenced the subscription with 300, and resolved to begin the work when 500 were subscribed. Sir David Carnegie of Southesk, then Member of Parliament for this district of burghs, came forward with fifty guineas, and the rest of the sum having been readily contributed, the work was commenced early in the spring of 1789. The total amount subscribed, including the 300 given by the town, was 529, 11s. But the extra work went beyond the subscriptions, and another 100 were voted from the town’s funds to finish the work, and to procure a new clock, which was furnished by Mr John Drummond, watch and clockmaker of Brechin. More extras yet arose, and finally, a carte-blanche was given to the treasurer to pay all accounts still remaining due. The guildry incorporation gave 50 to the rebuilding of the town-house, in consequence of which the council, on 9th September 1790, passed an act, declaring that the large east room or hall immediately above the ground story, “ shall, in all time coming, have the name of, and be termed the guild hall of Brechin, with liberty and privilege to the guildry of Brechin to hold therein their annual head court, and any other meetings called or summoned by the dean of guild of Brechin for the time/' The right thus granted still continues to be exercised. The hall when finished was ornamented with two very handsome crystal chandeliers, which tumbled down, first one then another, within the year, leaving the suspicion that the suspending rod had been cut through with a file by some miscreant. The debris lay in the garret till some twenty years ago, when it, with other lumber, was disposed of. Then it was discovered that a ring on each suspending rod had caused a current of electricity to circulate round each rod, and cut it neatly through, as if done by a workman.

“Application having been made from the magistrates and town council of Montrose to the magistrates and town council here, asking aid for making an intended road from the Bridge of Tayock to Montrose;” the Brechin council, by a minute in February 1789, authorised twenty guineas to be subscribed for this purpose.

One of the little bells having been cracked, was recast at London in 1789, at an expense of 6, 18s. 5d., which sum, with 2, 5s. 5Jd. of incidental expenses attendant on the re-hanging of the bell, was chiefly defrayed by a contribution at the kirk door.

Disputes arose in 1790, about the rights of publicans to pitch tents in the Trinity Muir markets, when the council very properly passed an act ordaining that all the then possessors of sites should be allowed to occupy them themselves, but not to give them over to any other person; and that upon the death of these possessors, or upon their absenting themselves from the principal market, the sites should revert to the magistrates, to be by them disposed of to new comers. The same rule yet continues, and some rule certainly is required when these canvas houses amount in number, occasionally, to nearly fifty.

Lady Saltoun, happening to be in Brechin in 1780, walked with another lady from the inn, then the Swan Inn, where the Union Bank now stands, down to see the church and steeple; and in returning it came on a shower, when Lady Saltoun put up her umbrella, a large green silk one. This caused a general turn out in the street, with “Lord preserve us, what is that she has got above her head?” And “God guide us, only see what is above her head!99 Our informant, a very aged gentleman, says he was then only a boy at the school, but the thing was so new and so very remarkable that he never forgot it Lady Saltoun’s was a visit and away, but a few years afterwards an umbrella was again brought to Brechin by a lady from Montrose on a visit to her friends in this quarter, and such attention did it command that the lady was never permitted to walk the streets, with the instrument displayed, without attracting a host of spectators, male and female, who, despising the rain, followed her wherever she went. Previous to the introduction of umbrellas* the ladies, in rainy weather, wore cloaks with immense hoods spread out by splits of bamboo, and which covered caps, bonnets and all. Females in the lower ranks of life wore plaids over their heads, closely pinned under their chins. A few of such plaids were till lately to be seen, worn by the old ladies, who, from poverty and deafness, occupied the seats alongside the pulpit of the cathedral church, but they have all now disappeared.

Gin was the peculiar drink of the people at the period we write of, and it was customary to give a dram in a cup. A lady, to whom we owe our existence, being by the death of her parents left early in charge of the household, had, according to the practice common then, and not uncommon now, to give a dram to a washerwoman, and, thinking to be genteel, presented it to her friend in a glass; the woman of soap-suds repudiated the offer with scorn, and desired to have no one watching, and ordered a sup m a cup in the guid avid folks' way, and was quite contented when the same measure was served up to her in a china cup. Gin and water was too common a beverage amongst bibbers, and a meridian was frequent at this time with men considered other* wise sober. Whisky, however, gradually superseded gin; and whisky toddy, tumblers and glasses, put cups and pint stoupe out of fashion.

The same household to which we refer had at the beginning of the century, when we were young, the kitchen dresser and plate-rack handsomely decorated with well scoured, bright shining plates, ashets, &o., of pewter; but Wedgewood, with his cheap stoneware, so easily kept clean, has put pewter out of fashion. We have when a boy ate off pewter flat plates, meat cut from flesh served on pewter salvers or ashets, the handles of the knives used being also of pewter. At this time we were dressed in corduroy clothes, the breeches buttoned over the jacket, a most unbecoming dress; we had leather thong for shoe-ties, each shoe being equally well suited for either foot, and being duly changed each morning so as to wear fair; while our head was covered with a leather cap, flat to our caput and with a glazed front; the cap being a most handy thing for carrying either water or dust as play might require. Some of the charity boys in England still wear the same dress which was usual in Brechin for years after 1800.

A statistical account of the parish, written in 1790, states that “there are neither Jews, negroes, nor Roman Catholics in the parish, but some of those sturdy beggars called gypsies occasionally visit it." The gypsies still continue their visits, and a few negroes and Roman Catholics may now be found amongst us, but the Jews consider us “too far north” for them as yet.

In the following year, 1791, the council of Brechin and county gentlemen were up in arms against the community of Montrose, because the Montrosians purposed erecting a bridge across the Esk, opposite what was then called the Fort Hill, without leaving any passage for vessels to go farther up the river. The agitation was renewed in 1800, when the town council of Brechin “considering that the open and free navigation of the river South Esk is of the utmost importance to the interest of the town of Brechin,” agreed to sist themselves as parties in an action at the instance of Sir David Carnegie of Southesk, and John Erskine, Esquire of Dun, against the commissioners then appointed for erecting a wooden bridge at Montrose. These differences were all happily settled, and part of the wooden bridge was made to rise and fall so as to allow vessels to pass; and this wooden bridge having subsequently, in 1826, been superseded by an iron suspension bridge, accommodation for the passage of vessels has been found by converting the stone bridge farther on, over another narrower and deeper branch of the Esk, into a swivel bridge.

The Dundee Banking Company established an agency in Brechin about 1792, being the ’ first bank which, did business regularly in Brechin. The Bank of Scotland opened an office in August 1792, but the agency having been unfortunate, was withdrawn in 1803. The Dundee Banking Company was succeeded by the Dundee New Bank about 1804, and this branch of the Dundee New Bank remained till 1818. The Dundee Union Bank in 1809 opened an agency in what was then termed the Upper West Wynd, now called Saint David Street, and when the Dundee Union Bank was amalgamated with the Western Bank in 1844, the agency was continued in the same place as a branch of the Western Bank; but when that bank failed in 1857 the same agents procured a branch of the Royal Bank, which is still continued, now in Swan Street, by Mr James Guthrie, a member of the family under the original firm of Messrs David Guthrie & Sons. A Provincial Bank was established in Montrose in 1814, which sent agencies to Arbroath and Brechin. The agency in Brechin was under the management of different gentlemen at different times, but was never fortunate. The agency was withdrawn in 1828, and the bank was dissolved in 1829, when it was ascertained that there had been a great loss incurred, chiefly arising from misfortunes in the Arbroath and Brechin agencies. The British Linen Company sent a branch here in 1836, under charge of Messrs Speid and Black, and the agency still continues in the same house in Clerk Street, under the management of one of the original agents, Mr 1). D. Black. The City of Glasgow Bank established an agency in 1854, which is conducted by Mr John Don, in St David Street The Union Bank has an agency in Brechin, which was opened in 1855, under the charge of Messrs Gordon and Lamb, and their office is also in Swan Street. Recently the Clydesdale Bank has appointed Mr George Scott to be their agent in Brechin, and his office is in Panmure Street There are thus five bank agencies in Brechin, besides the Post-Office Savings-Bank, a Tenements Savings-Bank, and a Parochial Savings-Bank conducted in the parochial school-room each Tuesday evening, by Mr David Prain, parochial schoolmaster, which began first in 1847 as a branch of the Montrose Savings-Bank, but was in 1852 constituted a principal bank, under authority of the acts of Parliament made for the benefit of Savings-Banks.

Two acts of the town council of 1792 display no little liberality ; the one is directing a petition to government for the removal of the penal statutes against Episcopalians, from which act the two members belonging to the trades alone dissent; and the other is authorising a petition against the slave trade.

In the same year Adam Gillies, esquire, then advocate in Edinburgh, afterwards one of the senators of the college of justice, by the title of Lord Gillies, was appointed ruling elder, an office which he continued to fill for forty years, when he resigned the situation. Lord Gillies, who was youngest son of Mr Robert Gillies, merchant in Brechin, died in December 1842.

In this year also the council subscribed 10 towards the erection of the new University of Edinburgh, and the guildry bought for the public use a set of standard weights and measures; so that this year 1792 may truly be marked in the annals of Brechin with a white stone, unless indeed we reckon as of a less liberal and tolerant spirit, the resolution then adopted by the council “to address his Majesty, expressing their gratitude for his royal goodness" in publishing a “ proclamation relative to suppressing seditious and inflammatory publications which tend to dissatisfy the people with the present happy constitution."

At this time the public streets were much in need of repair, but although the guildry contributed twenty guineas, the council found their means would go no farther than to pave the street from the South Port to the Path Head, and a contract was accordingly formed in 1793 with Charles Jack, mason, for the completion of the work. Jack adopted the then rather novel, but since frequently practised mode of ploughing up the old road to make room for the new causewaying. It is somewhat remarkable that this street, while it was the first which was causewayed, remained the last in that state, the others having been all previously Macadamised, as all the streets are now.

On the 21st January 1794, we have this minute of council:— “Which day the council having taken into their consideration, the present critical situation of the country, are unanimously of opinion that it is necessary to declare their affection to their sovereign and their firm attachment to the present happy constitution, and that they will use their utmost exertions to suppress all seditious principles, tumults, and disorders that may arise, tending to subvert the same; and they do hereby express their detestation and abhorrence of all levelling and equalising principles. The council further appoint a meeting of the principal inhabitants, to be held in the guild-hall of Brechin, upon Monday next, the sixth current, at 11 o’clock forenoon, to concur with them in their loyalty and attachment to the king and constitution. And the provost having laid before the council a subscription paper he had received from Sir David Carnegie of Southesk, baronet, deputy-lord-lieutenant of the county, in consequence of the county resolutions of the 28th July last, published in the different newspapers, and recommended to the members of council to subscribe the same, and which paper met with the approbation of the members of council, and was accordingly subscribed. Lastly, the council recommend to the provost to publish those, their resolutions, in the different Edinburgh newspapers." The six incorporated trades passed similar resolutions, even more decided, and certainly better expressed. These loyal addresses were followed up by as loyal actions. In 1796, four men were raised from the burgh to serve in his Majesty’s navy, the expense being defrayed by an assessment on the burgesses, amounting to upwards of 100, and in 1798 the town gave 105 as a subscription to the loyalty fund, and for the prosecution of the war then pending with France.

The incorporations and burgesses began in 1770 to stir “in the matter of reform/’ as it is generally called in their books, and to demand inspection of the town and hospital accounts, that is, to control the ways and means; but the council of that period were noways inclined to be so controlled, and although they agreed to give access to these accounts to a limited committee named by themselves, they refused to lay the accounts before the incorporations as a body. The struggle was subsequently renewed at different periods, and partial concessions were, from time to time, made by the council. In 1799, the council, for the first time, appointed the accounts of the burgh to .be laid open for public inspection. This practice continued till the act of 1822, which ordained the accounts to be yearly exhibited for a given period. An abstract of the whole accounts is now printed and published each year for the information of the burgesses, agreeable to act of Parliament. In 1790 the agitation of reform was renewed. It was then moved in the guildry, that the dean, appointed by the town council, was a mere police magistrate, and had no right to interfere in the management of the funds of that incorporation; and although this motion was not persisted in, the feet of such a proposal being seriously entertained, shows the feelings of the period, and that the knowledge of the rights of the people had made considerable advances.

The “dear years," as they were termed, produced considerable distress in Brechin ; meal, then the staple of the labouring classes, being scarce and high priced; the consecutive bad harvests about the close of the century having created almost a famine in the land. In 1796 the town council voted 20 from the town’s funds, and 20 from the funds of the hospital, for the aid of the poor. In 1799, a similar subscription was made. The other corporations in the burgh came forward as readily, and private charity was very active The oldest recollection which the writer of this work has, is of seeing the people crowding about the door of the flesh-market, part of which had been converted into a meal market, and struggling hard with each other for liberty to purchase, at a ransom, a small quantity of meal, every man holding his pock or little bag at arm’s length above his head, while he attempted to force his body through the mass of suffering humanity around the door of the market.

We have already mentioned that what was then the flesh-market is now used as a market for the sale of dairy produce, and is situated on the High Street, immediately below the Bishop's Close. It was a trying time then—war abroad, and famine at home. To alleviate these distresses in part, a soup-kitchen was opened in Brechin in 1800, a species of charity which has often since been resorted to with much benefit to the poor members of the community.

The ministers of the crown were seriously alarmed at the threats of invasion held out in 1798 by the French directory and Bonaparte, then general of the French armies, afterwards emperor of that great nation, and, finally, an exile in the Island of St Helena. We have in our possession some of the circulars issued to the magistrates of this district, giving directions for the protection of the country in the event of invasion. One schedule requires a return of all the male inhabitants between fifteen and sixty, distinguishing those capable of service from those serving in the volunteer corps, and from aliens and quakers, and it requires also a return of the persons, who, from age, infancy, or infirmity, might be incapable of removing themselves in case of such a necessity. Another schedule demands a return of the number of bestial of different kinds in the district; of carts and waggons; of corn-mills, with the quantities of com they could grind in a week; of the ovens, and quantity of bread they could supply in twenty-four hours, and of the dead stock in the round. A third schedule applies to the arming of those willing to serve as soldiers on foot or horseback, with swords, pistols, firelocks, and pikes, and of those willing to act as pioneers. More private instructions directed the blowing up of bridges, felling trees across roads, and picking up the highways, removing the inhabitants to the Highlands, and burning the provender left behind. How thankful ought we to be that it was not necessary to resort to any of the extremities contemplated in case of invasion, and that no such precautions as those then adopted are requisite in our days. But we may remark that the tactics recommended in 1798 were exactly those pursued nearly five hundred years before by King Robert the Bruce, when Scotland was invaded by Edward II. of England, and which mode of defeating an invading enemy is so strongly enforced in “Good King Robert’s Testament,” or in the instructions which Bruce left for his nobles at the time of his death in 1329.

Our gentlemen burgesses were not behind others in determination to stand up for their homes and their hearths, and to maintain the constitution. A regular paper was drawn up and subscribed by forty-eight individuals, on 6th July 1795, by which they agreed to enter into a voluntary company for supporting the present constitution of this country, and for suppressing of riots and quelling disturbances in the city; the corps to be under the directions of the magistrates for the time being, and not to be marched more than two miles beyond the liberties of the city during our pleasure; we are to have the election of our own office-bearers, are to furnish our own clothing, are to serve without pay, and being all, or most of us, engaged in trade, are not to be bound to attend the exercise but when convenient. The magistrates certify these heroes “to be respectable inhabitants of the place and loyal subjects, and that arms may be safely put into their hands.” Of these forty-eight gentlemen, when this work was published in 1839, five still resided in the town, one in the immediate vicinity, and two at a distance, but the remaining forty, and the three magistrates who approved of their conduct, were then gathered to their fathers. Since then all have succumbed to the fate of humanity. The terms of service thus proposed were not such as Government required, and the gentlemen, after studying the act of Parliament then passed for the embodying of volunteers, were obliged to write to Sir David Carnegie, baronet, of Southesk, the acting deputy-lieutenant in this quarter, “ that, considering their close engagements in business, it will be impossible for them to come under the provisions of that act; ”and so terminated this display of loyalty. But a regular corps of volunteers, embracing men of all classes in the burgh, capable of bearing arms, was subsequently raised under the provisions of the act. This regiment was under the command of Major Colin Gillies, whose sword and symbol of authority is in our custody. The corps was disembodied at the peace of Amiens in 1802, and was succeeded by another which -ultimately merged into the local militia—a set of troops which came to be not a burgh but a county force, the different companies raised in different towns having been amalgamated and formed into one regiment. “Fuit Ilium; the days of burgh soldiering are over,”—we said in 1839 ; not so, we have at present two companies of gallant defenders, which, united with the companies in the neighbouring towns, make a very handsome regiment of light infantry.

James Hutton, one of the town-officers of Brechin, appointed in January 1788, and who survived till 1825, and William M'Arthur, another officer of this period, who lived till 1837, occasionally trespassed so far on the good nature of the magistrates as to dictate the sentences to be pronounced both in civil and criminal matters. When any of the bailies ventured to differ in opinion from Hutton, he would say, “Well, bailie, you may do as you like, but what I state is the law.” McArthur, again, when gently reprimanded by the provost for some misdemeanour, pulled off his coat and tossed it in the magistrate's face, desiring him to wear the livery and be his own officer. M‘Arthur existed for many years on public charity. Hutton was the pensioner of the burgh at his death. So difficult was it found to procure proper officers in the eighteenth century, and so demoralising was the situation presumed to be, that one of the chief magistrates declared, he verily believed, if the senior bailie were made a town-officer, he would become a blackguard in a month. Happily, steady men are now found to fill these situations with credit to themselves and advantage to the community, without exposing the virtue of any of the magistracy to a trial

The statute labour road act came into force about 1790, and we have in our custody a valuation made up with reference to the act, from which it appears, that at this time, the dwelling-houses within the burgh, exclusive of shops, manufactories, &c., were estimated as being rented yearly at 899, 5s., and that 97 burgh acres of land were valued at 250, 11s.; that the number of saddle-horses within the burgh was 24, carriage horses 34, and horses for hire for working land 2, while there was ostensibly only one riding horse for hire in the town.

Dr H. W. Tytler, who was a practising physician in Brechin during the greater part of the period embraced in this chapter, and who died in 1808, was a man of eccentric habits, but an excellent scholar. He was the sou of the minister of the parish of Fearn, a learned, zealous, and popular clergyman. Dr Tytler was first known as an author by a translation of “ the works of Callimachus " from Greek into English verse, published in 1793; and in 1798 he laid before the public, “Fsedotrophia, or the Art of Nursing Children; a poem in three books, translated from the Latin of Scavola de St Marthe, with medical and historical notes,” a work which has been much commended by critics. Dr Tytler also translated the poetical works of Silias Italicus, which remain unpublished, with the exception of a very few beautiful specimens which appeared in the Scots Magazine for 1808.

Mr James Tytler, the author of the once popular songs of “The Bonnie Bruikit Lassie,” “Loch Errochside,” and “I've laid a Herrin’ in Saut,” was a brother of the doctor’s, and spent a good deal of his time about Brechin. Mr James Tytler, who was also bred to the medical profession, was the principal editor of the first edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” and was engaged in many other literary works, but although a man of great abilities, was a person of very unsteady habits. He was the first person in Scotland who adventured in a balloon. The attempt was made from a garden within the sanctuary of Holy-rood, where poor Tytler was then from necessity residing, and was made in a balloon constructed by Tytler himself, upon the plan of Montgolfier. The attempt was unsuccessful, and entailed upon the aeronaut the sobriquet of “Balloon Tytler.” Of course, such an attempt excited no little interest in Brechin, where the man was so well known. A strolling company of players had their then residence in Brechin, and in the evening, when the news of the failure of the balloon came to the burgh, this party were performing a piece in which a gentleman is supposed to despatch his servant to procure some intelligence. The person who acted the part of the servant had either got too much liquor, or been too deeply imbued with the success of the balloon scheme, or perhaps partly both, for when he returned on the stage, and was asked, according to the trick, “What news?” he rejoined, “News, news, why Tytler and his balloon have gone to the devil,” an answer which enraged one part of the audience as much as it amused another. Balloon Tytler died in America in 1803, having been obliged to emigrate there in consequence of some of his writings having given offence to the. British Government of the time.

Bumese, the author of the romantic and popular legend of “Thrummy Cap,” as well as of some other poems of less note, was a baker in Brechin. While in Brechin he wrote a play, and prevailed on his acquaintances to enact it. The poet baker not only wrote the stage directions, but he instructed his “corps dramatique” to repeat them. Accordingly, the first words uttered by the hero of the piece were, “ Enter Lord Buchan, bowing,” the actor, of course, suiting the action to the words. The mirth of the audience was unbounded, and the play was received with raptures of applause—but not repeated- Burness’s habits were erratic. He left the baker trade, and served for many years as a soldier in the Forfarshire militia. When that regiment was disembodied, he became a traveller for a periodical publishing company in Aberdeen, and while thus employed, lost his life amongst the snow, near Portlethen, in February 1826.

About the close of this century, there lived in Brechin, the proprietor of a small Highland estate in the vicinity, of whom many facetious stories are told. An Englishman was boasting mightily in the company of the laird, of the wonders of his native land. “Houts,” says Ogil, “come awa’ to the Den and I’ll show you a greater wonnar.” Accordingly he led the southron to what was called the Sandhole Brae, and stationing the gentleman in the recess made in the brae by the removal of the sand, Mr Simpson went himself to the foot of the bank, some thirty yards off, and gesticulated violently as if screaming loudly, but took care not to utter a sound. The Englishman, of course, heard nothing, and when questioned by Ogil, declared, that although from the motions made by the laird, he was sensible that gentleman was speaking loud, yet he had not been able to gather a syllable. “ A’ owin’ to the wonnarfu’ nature o* the grand,” said Mr Simpson; “ but try’t yoursel’ I” The situation of parties was then changed, the English gentleman going to the foot of the brae and bawling as loud as he could, while our friend gazed upon him with lack-lustre eyes as if hearing nothing. The southron was satisfied that if there were astonishing things in England, and amazing echoes in Ireland, there were as wonderful braes in Scotland which interrupted all sound. On another occasion the laird called on Mr Colin Gillies, corn merchant of Brechin, with a sample of barley which he wished to sell. Mr Gillie8,our Volunteer Major, expressed himself highly pleased with the quality of the grain, but said he did not think Mr Simpson’s estate could hare produced such fine barley:—“Was it not a picked sample ?"—“ I’ faith is’t, Colin,” rejoined Ogil, “ I pick’t it out o’ Sanny Mitchell's bere-stack,as I cam’ by this momin’.” Mr Mitchell rented a piece of the best land in the neighbourhood; but Ogil’s humour secured a purchaser for the barley, whether the stock should or should not be equal to the sample shown. When people were inclined to boast of their birth or connexion with nobility, Ogil would remark, “Ou, ye’ll be like the laird of Skene’s bastard dochter, wha said she was not only Noble but she was Nignoble.” The laird of Ogil’s facetiae would make no nignoble volume.

Dr David Doig, though not a native of Brechin, was born its immediate neighbourhood, and received his early education at our schools. His father rented the small farm of Mill of Melgund in the adjoining parish of Aberlemno, where David was born in 1719. In his sixteenth year he was the successful candidate for a bursary in the University of St Andrews. Having finished the usual course of classical education he commenced the study of divinity, but was prevented from completing his. studies by some conscientious scruples regarding certain of the articles in the Confession of Faith. Thus diverted from his intention of entering the Church, he taught for several years in the parochial schools of Monifieth in this county, and of Kenno-way and Falkland in Fife. In 1740, his reputation as a teacher obtained for him the situation of rector of the grammar-school of Stirling, where he remained till his death in 1800. Though Dr Doig never published any separate work of his own, his contributions in prose and verse to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Scots Magazine, the Bee of Dr Anderson, and other respectable periodicals, would have filled many volumes. The doctor lived in terms of the closest intimacy with most of the literary men of his time, particularly Lord Kames, Dr Bobertson, Dr Anderson, and Hector Macneil, Esq., the latter of whom dedicated to him his justly popular poem of u Scotland’s Scaith, or the History of Will and Jean.”

George Rose, a late eminent political character, was born at Woodside of Dunlappy, a parish adjoining to Brechin, on 17th January 1744. His father, who was a clergyman of the Scottish Episcopal communion, had a brother who kept an academy at Hampstead, near London, where young Rose received his education. Having the good fortune to attract the notice of the Earl of Sandwich, then at the head of the Admiralty, Rose was appointed Keeper of the Records by this nobleman. After occupying several subordinate situations in the public offices, Mr Rose was, in 1803, made Vice-President, and soon after President of the Board of Trade, with a salary of 4000 a-year, in which situation he continued till his death in January 1818. Mr Rose was the author of “ Observations on the Historical Work of Mr Fox,” and of several political pamphlets.

Mr Norman Sievwright was the English Episcopal clergyman of Brechin of this period He died on 21st March 1790, in the forty-first year of his ministry. He was settled in Brechin, we believe, about 1750. Mr Sievwright was a learned man, fully impressed with the dignity of the English Episcopal order, in contradistinction to the claims of the Scottish bishops. “ He was,” says his son, Mr John Sievwright, “the champion of the Church of England, and of the constitution settled at the Revolution in 1688, which brought on him the hatred of the disaffected party in the country.” Mr Norman Sievwright published several works on divinity and controversy, and left behind him five manuscripts, one on the Hebrew language, a subject upon which he had previously published; one entitled “A Supplement to the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland;” another entitled “The Church of England Defended;” and two musical pieces, none of which has ever been printed.

Dr John Gillies, the author of the “ History of Greece," and of many other works of learning, and long historiographer for Scotland to his Majesty, was born at Brechin on 18th January 1746, and died in 1836, at the age of ninety. He was the brother of Mr Colin Gillies, whom we have just mentioned as a com merchant in Brechin, and major of the Brechin Volunteers; and of Mr Adam Gillies, one of the senators of the College of Justice, under the title of Lord Gillies. Another brother, William, was an eminent com factor in London.

In 1770, great improvements were made in the burgh by the removal of outside stairs, projecting gables, and other obstructions. In 1790, similar improvements were effected, and about 1800 the remaining obstructions of this description were almost all swept away. These alterations cost the town council heavy sums of money. By these improvements the Timber Market, now called Market Street, formerly so obstructed with foreshots, covered with thatch, that the fraternity of freemasons were prohibited from walking in it by torchlight, became a regular, if not an elegant street. The High Street, which previously consisted of as many terraces as there were separate houses, was then brought to one inclined plane, while, by the removal of the steps at the end of each separate pavement, the footway was thrown upon one gradual slope. The Upper Wynd, now called St David Street, formerly little else than a sink, was made a respectable thoroughfare ; and St Mary’s Street, previously scarce wide enough for one cart, and disfigured by an unseemly ditch on the north side, was made a decent passable street All the other streets met with similar improvements. Credit, therefore, belongs to the magistracy and town council of this period, and although their successors have done much for which they deserve praise, yet we must not forget, that in the period succeeding the rebellion of 1745, improvements first began to be seriously thought of in Brechin. Any one who has seen the ancient and decayed burghs of Fife, and will contrast the streets of these burghs with those of Brechin, may form some idea of the herculean tasks which the town council of Brechin encountered in bringing the city to its present state, defective as that may be in the regularity and uniformity of the buildings.


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