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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Hawkie and the wonders of Glasgow Fair


THE following graphic account of Glasgow Fair in the olden time is from the pen of a late local learned sheriff:— This ancient civic saturnalia was, in the beginning of the present century, held in the Stockwell and Glassford Streets. On Wednesday, horses, their tails nicely tied up with straw ropes, lined these streets, and were run out in the other streets which struck off at right angles with these main arteries. Great Clyde Street, as it was then called, was the hippodrome where jockeys showed off their equestrian abilities, etc.

Friday was the festive day of the civic community, and servant girls claimed the afternoon as their peculiar own. Cows on the latter day took the place of horses, requiring less room, and creating less noise, save when a troublesome bull or a frisky stirk sought amusement in the beautiful distribution of the contents of a sweety-wife’s stand, or made the inspection of the interior of a huckster’s shop invitingly opened on their line of march.

The withdrawal of the bestial to the market-place, off the Gallowgate, in the far east (now of such interesting proportions, and probably the best conducted market in the world), for all species of cattle, completely deprived the ancient streets referred to of their usual bustle during the Fair week. Then came the caravans from London with their wild beasts, and Punch and Judy, etc. etc., from other places. The chief receptacle of the caravans was the dung depot, which then occupied the bank of the river between the Stockwell Bridge and the ancient Slaughter House, where the Gallows also was securely deposited, as it has been to a recent date.

Pollito was the man of the wild beasts; Minch and Cardona had a monopoly of the Olympic; a giant, a dwarf, a fat woman, and a fat pig filled up the polite attractions of the happy week. Sometimes cellars and stables were secured for the more aristocratic purposes of the amphitheatre. On one occasion, above a stable door, near Guildry Court, stood the following mysterious announcement, which attracted the attention of Hawkie, and led him to bring it into a great but ridiculous repute.

"A WORSER."

"What in the name of goodness," cried Hawkie, "what can that be?" There’s no such an animal ever afore heard of in the history of zoology, according to the very best of my reading."

So crowds rushed in, especially the country-bred, to see the animal. Anon a gaunt Irishman made his appearance, and drove in a large sow.

Ladies and gintlemen," said he, "you all see this fine animal; you never saw a better of its kind ; this you must all admit." Astonished at this unexpected appeal, an assent was given by the rapt audience in a grumph which would have done credit to the porker itself; and which, in compliment, the sensible animal acknowledged sou marte, which means its own way. Paddy, after exhibiting the paces and dimensions of his apoplectic fellow native, drove his first star of the piece from the arena to behind a curtain of the play, or the performance, which curtain was composed of sundry pin-connected pieces of sacking, smelling villainously of salted fish.

The audience were kept in suspense for a while; their patience was nearly out at the elbows, and their expectation on stilts; at last, the wonderful curtain was slowly drawn, and now entered a living mass of bones, the very ghost of a sow, which the lean kine of Pharaoh would in all probability have refused to recognise on any terms had they met together on the plains of Memphis. In a loud Connaught brawl, the stage-manager of this perform ance exclaimed:

"Now, ladies and gintlemen, you must all admit that this is a worser." Loud laughter proclaimed the success of the trick. With a stroke of his shillalab on the mass of bones, drawing forth the whisper of a squeak and an apology for a grunt, both man and beast disappeared behind the curtain. The audience, thus cheated, were delighted in their turn to be instrumental in cheating others, and so they lauded to the gaping multitude without, the wonderful qualities of the worser, and crowd after crowd filled the pavilion, and paid their pence to Paddy, greatly to his own astonishment and delight.


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