Anecdotage of Glasgow
Dougal Graham, Skellat Bellman of
This somewhat remarkable individual, according to his
own testimony, had "been an eye-witness to most of
the movements of the armies(Highland and Royal, in 1745-6),
from the rebels first crossing the ford of Frew
(near Stirling), to their final defeat at Culloden." In 1746, he
published at Glasgow the first edition of his History of the
Rebellion, of which there was a second edition in 1752, and a third
in 1774. He was also author of various Chap. books, long very popular.
The date of his appointment to the post of "Skellat"
bellman of Glasgow is not quite certain, but it appears to have
been about 1770. "Dougal was lame of one leg, and had a
large hunch on his back, and another protuberance
on his breast." A humorous story is on record as
to the cornpetition Dougal Graham had to face before be became bellman.
There were many applicants for the situation, and the
magistrates decided that the merits of each should be put to a practical
test.. Accordingly all the candidates were instructed to be present on a
certain day in the back-yard of the old Town’s Hospital, then situated
in what is now known as Great Clyde Street. The magistrates were present
as judges, and there were with them, no doubt, many of the leading
citizens to witness the interesting spectacle. All the other competitors
having’ shown their skill with the bell, and demonstrated the quality of
their vocal powers, Dougal’s turn then came.
He entered into the spirit of the contest, and his
odd physical peculiarities would greatly assist him. He rang the bell in
a surprising manner, and called out in stentorian tones
Caller herring at the Broomielaw,
Three a penny, three a penny!"
adding pawkily— Indeed, my friends,
But it’s a’ blewflum,
For the herring’s no catch’d,
And the boat’s no come."
The victory was his, and the other competitors were
out of the reckoning. He had shown himself every way suited for the
office—as one endowed with that ready wit and strength of lungs always
characteristic of the true Scottish bellman—so that he was forthwith
invested with the official
uniform, and with the magisterial authority to exercise his new calling.
Dougal died in 1779, and an elegy of considerable
merit was published on the occasion.
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