WHEN Cromwell’s forces were garrisoned
in Glasgow, AD. 1650, the city was put under severe
martial law, which, among other enactments, ordained : "That every person
or persons coming into the city must send a paiticular account of
themselves, and whatever they may bring with them, unto the commander of
the forces in that place, under the penalty of imprisonment and
confiscation, both of the offender's goods and whatever chattels are in
the house or houses wherein the offender or offenders may be lodged," etc.
At this awkward time Francis Semple of Beltrees, author
of Elegy on Habbie Simpson, Maggie Lauder, etc., had
occasion to come to Glasgow, and accordingly set out on his journey with
his lady and a man—servant, going, as usual, to the house of his aunt on
his father's side, an old maiden lady, who had a
jointure of him, which he paid by half-yearly
When he came to his aunt’s house, which was on the High
Street, at the Bell of the Brae, and known as "The Duke of Montrose’s
Lodging, or Barrell’s Ha’," his aunt told hint that she must send an
account of his arrival to the captain of Cromwell’s forces, otherwise the
soldiers would come and poind her movables. Francis Semple replied to his
"Never you mind that; let them come, and I’ll speak to them."
"Na, na, I maun send an account o' your coming here,"
said the good lady; and seeing that maun be, must be, her nephew Francis
"Gi’e me a bit of paper, and I’ll write it mysel’
;" then taking the pen, he wrote
"Low doon near by the city temple,
There is ane lodged wi’ auntie Semple,
Francis Semple o’ Beltrees,
His consort also, if you please;
There’s twa o’s horse, and ane o’s men,
That’s quartered doon wi’ Allen Glen.
Thir lines I send to you for fear
O’ poindin’ of auld auntie’s gear,
Whilk never ane before durst stear,
It stinks for staleness I dare swear.
(Signed) FRANCIS SEMPLE."
Directed "To the Commander of the Guard in Glasgow."
When the captain received the rhyming epistle, he could
not understand it, on account of its being written in the Scottish
dialect. He considered it an insult put upon him, and, like a man beside
himself with rage, he exclaimed:
"If I had the scoundrel who has had the audacity to send
me such an insulting,
infamous, and impudent libel, I would make the villainous rascal suffer
for his temerity."
then ordered a party of his men to go and apprehend a Francis Semple, who
was lodged with a woman of the name of Semple, near the High Church, and
carry him to the provost. Mr. Semple was accordingly brought before the
provost, and his accuser appeared against him, with tbe obnoxious document
When the alleged libel was read, it was
impossible for the provost to retain his gravity during its perusal, nay,
the captain himself, after hearing an English translation of the epistle,
could not resist joining in the laugh. From that moment he and Beltrees
became intimate friends, and he often declared that he considered Semple
to be one of the cleverest men in Scotland. Indeed, so great was his
attachment, that on no account would he part with Beltrees during his
residence in Glasgow.
The time, therefore, that Semple intended
to have passed with the old lady, his aunt, was humorously spent with the
captain and the other officers of Cromwell's forces, who kept him in
Glasgow two weeks longer than be otherwise would have stayed.