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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Francis Semple of the Beltrees, and Cromwell's Captain


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 instalments.

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 aunt:

"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 said:

"Gi’e me a bit of paper, and I’ll write it mysel’ ;" then taking the pen, he wrote as follows:

"Glasgow,
"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."

He 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 as evidence.

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.


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