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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Bailie Hunkers, a Glasgow Civic of Restoration Times


THE following, said to be from a Manuscript History of the Burgh, furnishes an account of a gentleman best known to his contemporaries by the cognomen of Bailie Hunkers—a nickname for which he was indebted to his obsequious and time-serving disposition. The circumstances connected with its first application to him have been thus related:-

The city of Glasgow, or, more properly speaking, the members of the Town Council, had authorised the provost, who was going to London on some business partly his own and partly connected with the affairs of the town, to purchase a portrait of His Majesty Charles II., and also that of his predecessor, Charles I., to be hung up in the Town Hall. It so happened that the pictures arrived during the absence of the provost, and the duty of seeing them properly placed devolved on Bailie Bunkers, as senior magistrate, who accordingly ordered them to be put up in the Town Hall.

During the time that the master of works and his men were employed in the operation, Bailie Hunkers, accompanied by Lord Hilton, Mr. Gilbert Burnet, sometime Archbishop of Glasgow and afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, with several of the professors, came in to pay their respects to the shadows of sovereignty; and on seeing the master of works and his assistants working in the presence of these august semblances of royalty with their heads covered, and in the same irreverent manner as if they had been putting up the pictures of men of common mould, the wrath of the bailie burst forth in fiery indignation against the offenders.

Ordering in the town-officers, he commanded the workmen and their employers to get down on their knees, or hunkers, himself setting the example, and in this position to repeat after him a submissive acknowledgment of their offence, and their sincere contrition for the same. The companions of the bailie, not to be behindhand with him in loyalty in those dangerous times, also made similar obeisance, though secretly contemning in their hearts the time-serving sycophant who had set them the example. Such general displeasure did his conduct on this occasion excite, that ever after the nickname of Bailie Hunkers became affixed to him in such a manner as in a great measure to supersede that of his own.


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