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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
A Washerwoman's North Woodside adventure in 1773


THE following particulars of a second accident in the same North Woodside coal pit into which Lieutenant Spearing fell in 1760, are condensed from an oral narrative of the sufferer. The incident happened in 1773. The sufferer was a washerwoman, who lived in the neighbourhood of North Woodside, whose Christian name was Janet, but her surname is unknown. She had received a quantity of linens and body habilirnents from a lady in Glasgow, to be washed and to have the benefit of a few days’ exposure to the sun upon the green fields of the country.

These being ready and made up into a goodly load, she returned to Glasgow with them on her back. The lady being well pleased with the washing and the white appearance of the linens, not only paid Janet her full demand for her labour, but also treated her to a dram and a fran a kebbock or skim-milk cheese, which she enclosed between two pieces of oatmeal cake or bannock, the same being the best part of a whole tirkle. This turned out a lucky circumstance for Janet, who, with many thanks, after having secured her well-earned penny in her capacious leathern pouch hanging by her side, deposited the kebbock and the bannock in her apron, which she tucked up like a bag, and secured it behind her with a substantial brass pin. Thus equipped, Janet set out on her journey home.

It was in the month of September or October, 1773, and in the height of the nutting and brambleberry gathering season, and upon a Saturday evening, that the accident in question occurred. The road to Janet’s dwelling skirted the wood referred to by Mr. Spearing, and Janet on her way home had plucked a few ripe brambleberries which here and there had sprung up wild by the wayside of her path, when she observed some hazel shrubs in the wood with clusters of ripe nuts on them. She had obtained only a very few of these nuts when a cluster of rich filberts hanging on a shrub in a thicket caught her attention.

Already had the brown tinge of autumn coloured the tips of their outer husks, and they seemed to droop their heals as if they tempted the hand of man to pluck them. Janet seeing the rich prize in view, and unconscious of her danger, stepped rashly forward and seized it; but alas! at this moment, while firmly grasping this forbidden fruit, she fell headlong into the very same coal pit so accurately described by Lieutenant Spearing.

Janet was quite stunned with the fall, and for some tune remained insensible; but, on recovering her recollection, she found herself lying at the bottom of the pit., with the fatal cluster of filberts still firmly grasped in her hand. Notwithstanding of the pit being about fifty feet deep, she had received no serious injury by her fall, and accordingly having gathered herself up, and given her clothes a little shaking, to put them to rights again, she began to examine consequences.

"Janet, with Scotch prudence, began, in the first place, to examine her leather pouch, to see that none of her money had fallen out of it in the course of her descent, and to her great comfort she found it all safe and snug, not a halfpenny of it having gone amissing.

"She then commenced calling loudly for assistance, in the hope that some passers-by might hear her cries; but her efforts were all in vain, for no one approached her dreary abode, or heard the often—repeated and lamentable sound of her voice. At length, wearied and fatigued with continual vociferation, she beheld darkness approach, and then despaired of getting any deliverance for that night; so she calmly unfolded her apron, took a portion of the kebbock and bannock to her supper, and then quietly composed herself to sleep. Janet made no complaint with regard to toads, frogs, and other vile reptiles, for the truth was, that she cosily turned up her flannel petticoat over her head, then tucked it firmly under her chin, and so went to rest without fear or trembling.

"The next day was a Sunday, and Janet fondly hoped that some graceless weaver, or some blackguard collier, would be ransacking the wood for nuts, and would hear her cries; but in this she was again mistaken, for on that day she did not hear the tread of a single foot, or the voice of man ; but ever and anon she distinctly heard the distant bells of Glasgow ringing their solemn tolls before church service began, and this brought to her mind a sad and melancholy foreboding that these might be her funeral knell. Still, however, bright hope never deserted her, and though she was not a religious woman, nevertheless she inwardly prayed for assistance from Him who is the dispenser of all good.

"Sunday passed over—a sad and melancholy day—without a glimpse of relief, so Janet at night had again to compose herself to sleep, in the hopes that Monday might luckily bring some person within the reach of her voice, for this she clamorously exerted at every rustling noise she heard, fondly hoping that such noise might be the approach of a deliverer. Janet never made a complaint of having undergone any inconvenience from the want of water during the time that she remained in this dismal abode. As for food, her kebbock and bannock, by good management, served to keep her from starving.

Monday passed over her like Sunday without a footstep being heard in the vicinity of the pit, so that poor Janet began to entertain the worst fears of her forlorn situation.

"On Tuesday, however, a labouring man happened to be passing, and fortunately heard the cries of Janet. On reaching the pit he called down to her, inquiring at her if any accident had happened ? when Janet informed him bow she had fallen into the pit, and begged him to procure assistance for her relief: this was immediately got, and Janet again brought into the bright light of day, not a whit the worse of her three nights’ immurement.

"Not long after her deliverance, a match was struck up between Janet and her rescuer, and it would be well if the story, like most novels, had ended in a happy marriage but unfortunately, Janet’s hits band turned out an idle, drunken fellow, who lived upon his wife’s industry.

"Poor Janet,when excited by his miserable drunken habits, has been known in bitterness of heart to have exclaimed to him that— "‘The devil himself, had certainly had a hand in bringing them together at the mouth of the North Woodside coal pit.’


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