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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Archibald Campbell, City Officer


Archibald Campbell was a native of Rannoch, in Perthshire; and, in the true spirit of a clansman, gave himself out to be a far-away cousin of the Duke of Argyle. He was born in the year 1708. He was originally in the service of Colonel Campbell of Glenlyon, and came to Edinburgh in the year 1793.

Archie was "a goodly portly man, and a comely," as Sir John Falstaff describes himself; and notwithstanding a certain abruptness and forwardness of manner, was in reality possessed of much good nature, and great warmth and benevolence of heart. From the peculiar situation he held, his person was well known for nearly half a century to almost every individual of all ranks in Edinburgh. Previous to the institution of a regular police, and indeed long after it, he acted as a sort of conservator-general of the public peace, which invidious office he exercised with such perfect fairness and impartiality, and at the same time with so much forbearance, that he never made himself an enemy. On the contrary, he was a universal favourite with the mob. During the long period that the late Mr. James Laing took an active management in public matters, performing in his own person almost the entire duties of Chief Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, Archie was his right-hand sobriety—a virtue so rarely to be met with in persons of his calling— was so conspicuous, that he never was known to be drunk but once; and the shame and remorse he felt on that occasion were such that he hardly ever forgave himself for his indiscretion.

His principal avocation was that of one of the city officers, of whom he was the head, and was styled the Provost's Officer, it being his chief duty to wait upon that civic dignitary. This with him was truly a labour of love; and indeed towards all the Magistrates his civility and attention were unremitting. Whatever occurred of a public nature, during their absence, was sure to be made known to them by a note in the hand-writing of this devoted servant, at all hours of the day, and frequently before they had risen out of bed. He was a steady advocate for giving honour to whom honour was due; and whoever happened to be in office for the time was with him a most especial object of respect. In his eyes the reigning Lord Provost was the greatest man upon earth. Nor did this enthusiastic feeling originate in any slavish or mercenary motive—it owed its existence solely to his innate desire to fulfil to the uttermost his humble, but highly useful and honourable duties. If he happened to meet two of his masters together, his salutation of "Gentlemen—both," with a strong emphasis on the latter word, seemed to imply that he reckoned no one but a Magistrate fully entitled to that appellation. The dialect of his native mountains never entirely left poor Archie, who was a sad murderer of the King's English ; and his ludicrous mistakes and mispronunciations of words were a source of infinite amusement at the Council Board. At the fencing of the Magistrates' Court, after an election, when he had to repeat after the clerk certain Latin words, his mode of doing so was extremely characteristic and amusing. For instance, when lie came to the legal phrase "in statu quo," he pronounced it with a sonorous emphasis thus: "In statter quoh." The following specimen of Archie's English was found among the papers of the late Dr. M'Cleish; the manuscript in the Doctor's hand-writing:—"The Mag. of Edinrs. Proclamation for an ilumination on account of an aledged victory in Rusia over the French Grand Army, 6th Nov. 1813, by Archd. Campbell, their Chief Officer.—' This days gud news caus lumination, but no till monday, because the Lord's Supper is to be dispensed—the morn's night frae 7 oc. to 10 luminate weel.' "

When the Lord Provost or any of his brethren were called on public business to London, Archie, and none hut he, was their faithful satellite ; and if any Scotsman happened to inquire at their hotel for admission to speak with these functionaries, Archie's kindly feelings towards his countrymen, rendered more acute by his distance from home, broke out into most exuberant welcome, while he would address the applicant thus:—"Ou, ay, sir, walk in; ta Lord Provost and Bailies, and a' the Council's here. They'll be unco glad to see you."

Besides his situation of City Officer, Archie held numerous subordinate appointments. He was officer to the Society of High Constables, to the Convention of Royal Burghs, to the Highland Club, and latterly to the Dean of Guild Court. He was King's Beadle at the meetings of the General Assembly, etc.; also a Justice of Peace Constable, and officer to the Stent-masters of Edinburgh; and, in short, he monopolised almost every office of a like nature in the city. At one time, as Officer to the Bailie Court, he had nearly the whole business of summoning parties and witnesses, and executing other matters of form before that Court. His duties in this department were so very considerable, that he used to boast of having had not less than four Writers to the Signet at one time employed as his clerks. Archie actually did keep a clerk, and a queer, mis-shapen, little body John Dalrymple was. He had often to accompany his employer in the discharge of his multifarious duties; and it was not a little laughable to observe the dignity of the City Officer, as he walked through the streets, with his amanuensis following at a proper distance in the rear. If the latter happened to approach rather near, the angry frown of his master—"I say, sir, keep a respectable distance!"—speedily reminded him of his inadvertence.—A rather laughable anecdote is told of Archie and Dr. Black, lately of the Police Establishment, who had his shop at the time referred to in the High Street, a few steps up, in the premises east of those occupied by the Journal Office. Among other tax receipts put into Archie's hands to recover payment, there happened to be two against Mr. Black. As usual, the City Officer set out, accompanied by his clerk, whom he instructed to go up and inquire if the surgeon "had any answer to the twa papers left on a former occasion ; for if he had not, he would come and carry off his caliinany (ipecacuanha) pottles!" Having no particular favour for such customers, and being at the time engaged in adjusting a new patent electrifying machine, with a battery of twelve bottles, the Doctor desired the messenger to return in the course often minutes, when he would endeavour to be jwcpared for him. Archie, in the meanwhile, amused himself by walking up and down at no great distance. True to his time, the clerk returned; and just as he began to shake the handle of the door—which was fastened by a chain, and to which had been affixed a wire from the machine—off went the battery; and the first landing of the unfortunate attendant was on the pavement. As he lay sprawling and gasping, Archie, assisted by Mr. Shade, seedsman (in the front of whose shop the affair occurred), came forward, and lifting up the clerk, began to abuse him for being " trunk like a peast at that time o' day." Dalrymple soon recovered, and endeavoured to give some account of the curious sensation he felt; but Archie still persisted in maintaining that he was the worse of liquor. Rightly calculating on another visit, the Doctor again charged the machine; and he had scarcely done so, when Archie himself was at the door. "Come in, Mr. Campbell," cried the Doctor; and just as Archie applied to the handle, the unexpected shock of the electric battery sent him headlong down the steps, rolling on the pavement, where he lay for a few minutes quite insensible. Mr. Shade and the clerk speedily came to his assistance ; and as he began to recover from his stupor, the seedsman—who spoke with a horrid nasal twang—could not resist the opportunity of cracking a jest at his expense. " You sometimes accuse me of liking a glass, but I think the Doctor has given you a tumbler! " "No, sir," cried Archie, as soon as he had recovered his speech, "He shoot me through the shoulder with a horse pistol. I heard the report, by------. Laddie, Dalrymple, do you see ony plood? I take you both witness ------." The occurrence soon became known in the Council

Chamber. Next day one of the clerks, with affected seriousness, requested him to call on Mr. Black about some trifling matter. "You and the Doctor may paith go to the tevil; do you want me to be murdered, sir? Never having heard of an electric battery at the Rannoch College, Archie was hard to convince that he had been assailed by any thing else than a horse pistol; and he could never again be persuaded to enter the premises of the Doctor.

It is believed that at this period he had amassed several thousand pounds, the greater part of which, however, he subsequently lost in consequence of some private misfortunes. He was much employed in the recovery of small debts, for the proceeds of which he always accounted iu the most prompt and honourable manner; and it ought to be mentioned, as a circumstance highly creditable to his feelings, that he has been frequently known to advance the money out of his own pocket for some poor and unfortunate debtor (as we formerly had occasion to record of his countryman, William Macpherson), rather than adopt what in the nature of the case he considered to be harsh and vindictive proceedings. When he had fairly brought a prisoner to the jail-door, his parting valediction always was, "Walk up stairs, sir—I can dae nae mair for yon." It may be added, while on this subject, as a curious enough circumstance, that when a late well known bookseller, celebrated for his social and convivial qualities, then high in office in the magistracy, had, through negligence, allowed a poinding of his furniture to be executed for assessed taxes, Archie advanced the money, amounting to £14; and, singular to relate, he encountered the utmost difficulty and delay in procuring repayment, as the debtor, though possessed of very considerable wealth, was of a most penurious disposition.

On all occasions of public rejoicings, processions, and spectacles of every kind, Archie acted a most prominent part in marshalling the forces and acting as master of ceremonies; and the authorities have often confessed, that without his powerful aid and experience, they would have many times been completely nonplussed. At public executions, whippings, and other exhibitions of a like nature, Archie was always the officer on duty.

Notwithstanding all his honours and employments, he never forgot his poor relations in the Highlands, but was in the constant practice of remitting them small sums of money. He exerted himself to procure situations for his two brothers, Finlay and John ; for the former of whom he obtained the appointment of city officer, and for the latter, that of porter to the Bank of Scotland. When he had occasion to speak of this last-mentioned personage, he always styled him—"My brither the Banhier.'" His mother having died in Edinburgh, Archie hired a hearse and carried her to the Highlands to be buried. He returned, it was rumoured, with the hearse full of smuggled whiskv. A friend one day began to tease him on the subject. "Wow, man," replied Archie, "there's nae harm done. I only carried awa' the body and brought back the speerit."

For some years previous to his death, and especially after the losses he had sustained, Archie's robust bodily frame was visibly impaired. He lived just sufficiently long to learn the entire demolition of the system of self-election, and bad many surmisings as to the working of Burgh Reform. Indeed, it is said that these coming events so preyed upon bis spirits as to be the principal cause of his death ; for he was observed to be completely crestfallen, and all his energies were prostrate and subdued. He died in October, 1883, within a few weeks of the accession to office of the popularly elected councillors.

It may be added that the print of Archibald Campbell was the last of all Kay's Etchings. The venerable artist, then about eighty years of age, complimented several of his friends with impressions, as the farewell production of his pencil, at the same time apologising for its unfinished state.

THE END.


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