THE real name of the singularly
gifted waif, long familiarly known to almost every denizen of Glasgow by
the above nickname, was William Cameron. He was born at Plean, in the
parish of St. Ninians, and shire of Stirling, some time between 1770 and
1780, but the precise year is uncertain. He states that he first saw
Glasgow in the year 1796 or 1797 and he worked for some weeks as a
journeyman with M’Luckey, a tailor at the Cross.
Taking a stroll in Glasgow Green on
a Sabbath morning in company with another journeyman tailor, they stood
and listened to a field preacher holding forth to a large audience.
Hawkie thought him but a lame
brother, and said to his companion:
"I could beat him myself."
Next day it was talked about at the
work, and one of the men said:
"So you think you could beat the
To which Hawkie replied:
"Yes, I could."
On the Saturday night it was
arranged that his trial discourse should be preached the next day; and as
Hawkie had no black clothes, the other journeyman went to the
"cork" (master) and asked him for the loan of his black
suit, pretending that it was for the purpose of attending a funeral. The
next day about forty journeymen tailors attended in their trade house of
call, in the Pipe Close, High Street, and there Hawkie was dressed in the
borrowed black suit—to hold forth in his new profession. They arranged to
go to Westmuir, on the road leading to Airdrie; and, accordingly, about
twelve o’clock they set out, some forty or fifty strong, picking up
recruits on the way, and when they got to Westmuir, Hawkie had quite a
large congregation. A man named Donald Bell, journeyman to Mr. Lockhart,
tailor above the King’s Arms in the Trongate, was chosen as precentor.
Hawkie’s parents were Burghers, and
possessed the works of the Rev. Ralph Erskine of Dunfermline, whose
sermons he had often read to his mother, who took great delight in them.
Hawkie, who had a good memory, preached one of Ralph Erskine’s sermons
from the text St. John xiii. 7; and his voice and elocution being then at
their best, he made a good impression on the congregation, and, as he
honestly stated afterwards:
"No thanks to me, for Erskine has
handled the subject well."
At the close of the discourse an
elder was chosen to go round with the "hat" for the collection, into which
the "dust" (money) fell thick and fast. At the conclusion, Hawkie thanked
them for their kindness, and told them, to quote his own words:
"I was sent by the Haldane Society
on an itinerating mission to the west of Scotland, with little more to
depend on than the generosity of the Christian public."
At the close of which pathetic appeal a lash of more
blunt" (money) was pitched into the hat. He and his boon
companions then went on to Camlachie, where they counted the collection,
and found that it amounted to thirteen shillings and some odd coppers. How
it was spent is plainly and bluntly told by Hawkie in these words:
"That night we spent every ring."