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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Hugh Macpherson, sometime Clerk to the Perth Carriers


Hugh Macpherspn, or "Wee Hughie," as he was commonly termed, was born in the district of Badenoch, some sixty years ago. His father, who lived to a great age, was shepherd on an extensive farm in that quarter; and both his parents were persons of ordinary stature. When Hughie first ventured forth of his native fastnesses, he made his debut in the Lowlands, attired in the Highland garbóbonnet, kilt, and plaidówith a pair of top-boots in lieu of hose! For some years after his arrival in Perth, he was employed as a clerk in the George Inn; next in the shop of a grocer; and subsequently with Messrs. J. and P. Cameron, carriers betwixt Perth and Edinburgh. The tartans had, long ere this, given way to a coat of dark green, light vest, darkish trousers, and high-heeled boots; a dress to which he adhered without alteration for a length of time. Hughie was, in his own estimation, a perfect dandy. Every new suit, to make sure of being fashionably fitted, cost him a visit to Edinburgh. At length, that he might take charge of his employers' establishment there, he had the peculiar satisfaction of being removed permanently to the capital.

Hugh was a well-known character, the oddness of his figure, and his excessive self-conceit, making him the subject of much diversion. While in Perth, some one having drawn a caricature of him, he at once sought reparation by challenging the offender to fight a duel;. but this display of spirit only tended to make matters worse, for, in another picture, the little mountaineer was grotesquely exhibited brandishing a pair of pistols not much shorter than himself. Proud and vindictive, he was easily affronted; and nothing vexed him more than to be underrated, or looked upon in the light of pity, by the fair sex. If insulted in their presence he became perfectly furious. On one occasion, at a wedding party in Edinburgh, Hugh was dancing with great spirit, and in imagination as big as the tallest in the company, when a waggish participator in the reel, seizing a favourable opportunity, tripped up his heels, sending him head-foremost into the ashpit. Those who were present will not easily forget the miniature hero's countenance on regaining his feet. Seizing a candlestick, in a fury of passion, he hurled it with all his force at the head of the offender, who, escaping by the door, narrowly missed the blow.

It was a failing of the little man to be most vulnerable to female influence. His heart (to use a vulgar simile) was like a box of tinder, liable to be ignited by the smallest spark. A look, a glance, or a smile, was sufficient to flatter him that he had made a conquest. His credulity in this way led to many mortifying deceptions.

Hugh was altogether a gay, lively fellow, and could join in a night's debauch with the best of them. Drinking with a party one evening in a tavern on the South Bridge, he had occasion to quit the apartment for a short time, and mistaking his way on returning, walked into an empty hogshead lying beside the door. What with the darkness of the night, and the effects of the liquor, Hugh in vain kept groping for the handle of the door, while his friends within were astonished and alarmed at his absence. Losing all patience he at last applied his cane, which he always carried with him, so vigorously against the end of the barrel, that not only his friends, but a party of police, were brought to his rescue. Nothing afterwards could incense Hugh more than any allusion to his adventure in the sugar hogshead.

The print of "Little Hughey" was executed in 1810. He had been in Edinburgh a year or two previous, having been first employed by the Perth carriers about the year 1806. Although a capital scribe, and one who understood his duty well, his peculiarities of temper and manner were continually involving him in difficulties.

On leaving the service of the Messrs. Cameron, with whom he had been above four years, he was next employed as clerk to the Hawick and Carlisle carriers, Candlemaker Row; and subsequently, in a similar capacity, at Lord Elgin's Colliery, Fifeshire. He afterwards went to Kirkaldy, where he acted as clerk to a flesher, and died about the year 1886.


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