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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Glasgow circuit court trial: An audible witness


SOME years ago a Lord of Justiciary was presiding at a circuit trial in Glasgow where several females were in succession examined as witnesses. Whether it arose from their unusual exposure in the witness-box (a square structure in the centre of the old Court Hall, elevated considerably above the floor), from fear of their expressions being laughed at, or from whatever other cause, certain it is they spoke so inaudibly and indistinctly that the jury again and, again complained, and his lordship as often admonished them to speak out; but, notwithstanding repeated admonitions, they again and again resumed their undertone till of new reminded ;—on this account the patience of the judge was most severely tried, and by the time the examination was finished he was visibly suppressing great irritation.

At this juncture there approached through the crowd towards the witness-box a tall, stout fellow, with a fustian sleeved jacket, capacious corduroy inexpressibles, blue rig-and-fur hose, and strong clambers of shoes, well supplied with tackets—who, with pavier-like thumps, tramped up the wooden steps into the box, laid his bonnet on the seat, and sousing himself down on it, stared about with seeming indifference, as if he had nothing more to do. This uncommon nonchalance his lordship eyed with surprise, and having promptly ordered him to stand up, he administered the oath, and then with a fearful scowl and gruff manner addressed the occupant of the box :— "Witness, let me tell you that my brother (meaning the other judge) and I have this day been put to a great trouble examining witnesses who would not, or could not, speak above their breath. Now, sir, I see you are a strong young man, and, being a carter, as I understand, and accustomed to speak out to your horses, you can have no such apology; and therefore let me tell you once for all, that if you speak not at the top of your voice, you shall be sent down to jail in an instant."

Ere this judicial volley was well over, the witness, unconscious of any wrong done by him to call for such a threat, changed colour, stared wildly around, hitched up the waistband of his small clothes, and betrayed such strange symptoms that his lordship, imputing them to disrespect or indifference, called out:

"Stand still, sir; mind what I have said to you."

This acted like an electric shock on the witness, for he instantly grasped the bar before him, stood stock-still, and gaped like one petrified. His lordship then resumed his seat, and called out to the witness:

"What’s your name?"

"Bauldy M’Luckie," was instantly roared out in a voice more resembling the discharge of a piece of artillery than the ordinary action of the vocal organs. The amazement of the audience was succeeded by a burst of irrepressible laughter, and the lengthened bawl of— "Si—lence," by the macer, while the effect of it on his lordship was such that, instinctively dropping his pen, clapping both hands to his ears, and looking at Bauldy, he exclaimed:

"What’s the meaning of that, sir?"

Bauldy, who thought his lordship now meant to quarrel with him for not speaking loud enough, immediately answered in the same tone:

"I never spoke louder to the brutes in my life." A perfect explosion of laughter succeeded, which, for some time, defied every effort of the macer and the court to suppress it; even his lordship, whose kindness of heart was well known, smilingly observed:

"Surely you don’t consider us your brutes, sir; you should know there’s a difference between roaring and speaking. Remember where you are standing, sir."

This memento wrought on Bauldy prodigiously; his hands clenched convulsively the bar in front, the perspiration broke in drops on his face, his eyes seemed fixed, and his whole frame fearfully agitated. In vain were questions put to him from both sides of the bar—fruitless were expostulations or threats—his answers were all of the non mi recordo class, except two, to which no importance seemed to be attached by anyone unless Bauldy, namely:

That he staid wi’ his mither in the Briggate; and he kent she was aulder than himsel’."

Seeing, therefore, that nothing further could be elicited from Bauldy, his lordship, imputing it to Bauldy’s wish to conceal the truth, in a surly manner ordered him to get away. This operated like, a charm. Bauldy and bonnet were instantly in motion. His precipitate tramp down the narrow steps, however, ended rather ungracefully, for, having tripped himself, down he came, full length, on the top of a man whose rueful gestures, under the weight and desperate grasp of Bauldy, found no consolation or apology other than the convulsive laughter of the audience, and the hasty remark of Bauldy at striding away.

"Did ye ere see sic a cankry buffer as that?"

On getting outside, Bauldy met his mother and some cronies, to whom he related his trials, and his awful "fear that they might knock the bottom frae ‘neath" his "feet, and send" him "below in an instant, as his lordship said."


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