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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish
Calico Printers and "Blue Pauls,”


We beg pardon of Mr. Alexander Macnab, of Lily burn, for the title of this article, which couples calico printers and fighting dogs together. We wished to give some account of each, and found that we were anticipated by the author of “The Parish of Campsie,” whose information on both subjects is so full that we cannot do better than give it verbatim—our title, we hope, will therefore pass :—

“The late Mr. James Macnab began life as manager to his uncle, Mr. D. Ferguson, at Milncroft, near Glasgow. In a few years, he joined his brother John, the late Mr. Thomas Boyd, along with a Mr. Smellie, and they commenced business as Calico-printers, at Bellfield, Kirkintilloch, under the firm of Boyd, Smellie & Macnabs. The firm took a lease of the works for nineteen years, from the late Mr. Thomson. Mr. Boyd and the Messrs. Macnab soon found reason to complain of their partner Mr. Smellie. Calico-printing was quite uncongenial to his sporting tastes and proclivities.

“At every public ball, at every wedding to which he could obtain an invitation, at dances of all kinds he was sure to be present. He was also musical and an excellent player on the violin, and was, in consequence, in great request at social and festive gatherings. He was a fine-looking man, and when attired in the full dress of the period, with white hat and top boots, he was a dandy of the first water.

“He had a passion for dogs, having sometimes as many as forty in his possession at one time. Three of these dogs, of the famous Kirkintilloch 1 Blue Pauls’ were matchless fighters, and were never beaten. These were ‘ Courage, *4 Crib,* and ‘Tiflae.' The story of the 'Blue Pauls ’ descended through the male line from a Campsie dog, may be told here, although unconnected with calico-printing at Lilybum.

“A regiment changing quarters, marched through Kirkintilloch shortly after 1820, when there was left behind, strayed, a fine bitch, believed to be the property of one of the officers. This dog was one of a very peculiar kind, which beat all the fanciers to determine the breed. The most plausible conjecture was, that it was a cross between an English bull and some other terrier, probably Bedlington. It was large in sire, and a more game animal never walked. It would face anything. It became the property of what would be called now, a syndicate of the "fancy,* of which a man named Shaw, who kept the ‘Beehive' Tavern in Townhead was a leading man. Dr. Robertson, of Campsie, had a famous white bull dog, *a beauty,’ and said to be perfect in all the points. From a cross between this Campsie dog, and the strayed regimental waif, sprang the race that for a few years were famous as the Kirkintilloch "Blue Pauls.*

“There used, in these days, to be great dog fights at Bishopbriggs, for large sums of money, sometimes even for ^40 or ^50 a-side. This breed was never beat; and so famous did it become, that orders came from every part of the country, even from abroad, to procure dogs of this strain, for which large sums were offered. The strain was soon spoiled by chance indiscriminate crossing, and the qualities that had made the parents valuable, were lost in their *messan* descendants.

“How could Mr. Smellie be expected to plod at Bellfield, when excited with the chances of "Courage,* or *Crib?* After the co-partnery had existed for two years, he retired from the Bellfield firm.

“During the currency of their nineteen years’ lease, great success attended Boyd & Macnab’s, and, according to popular report, a great amount of money was made by the Bellfield firm. Their manufactures were fortunate in obtaining a favourable name; "Bellfield prints* being not only well-known in Scotland, but also in Manchester and London. When Lilybum came into the market, the lease of Bellfield had not expired, and the firm were not at liberty to leave until it had run out. Mr. Alexander Macnab, therefore, secured it in the meantime, and as soon as they were at liberty to do so, the Messrs. Macnab transferred their business from Bellfield to Lilybum. Mr. Boyd went to Barrhead, whither a number of the Kirkintilloch employees followed him.

Kirkintilloch was well known for cock-fighting and badger-baiting, as well as dog-fighting; and the late James Merry, Esq., of sporting celebrity, when a young man, came frequently to see the game-cocks, which were said to be second to none. As the present generation may have some idea of a dog-fight, or a cock-fight, but will wonder what badger-baiting means, we shall endeavour to explain it, as we saw it done in Lanarkshire forty-six years ago, although we never saw an organised match for dog or cock combats.

The sport of “badger-baiting,” although so called, was not exercised in order to bait or worry the badger, but to try the courage of dogs.

A long wooden box was provided, about nine feet in length, and a foot square, open at the one end, and placed in the corner of a room. The badger was brought in, suspended by the tail, and although a peaceable -looking animal, his long sharp teeth and claws showed he was a dangerous customer, but at present he is put in at the open end of the box, and quietly walks to the far end, and turns round to await his foes. A dog is then led in, and his behaviour will be according to his breed and courage. If he only stands and barks, there is no hope of him, and he is at once discarded and another procured. When pure bred and “game” he wastes no time, but runs in on his foe, who, on his part, is not slow to defend himself, and sometimes gives his adversaries dreadful bites, even to the loss of a fore-paw. Generally, however, the dog seized the badger by the top of the neck, and dragged him into daylight, and as nothing would induce him to let go, one man held the badger by the tail, while another, with a large pair of tongs, made for the purpose, and put on each side of the dog’s neck, fairly “choked ” him off. The badger, who seemed quite phlegmatic under the whole operation, was then put into his den to try another subject.

It is well that the Legislature put down all these sports, for there can be no doubt that they exercised a brutal tendency. We ascribe to the passing of this law the decay of the celebrated “Blue Pauls”—their occupation was gone.

We cheerfully give Campsie all the “credit and renown” that can accrue to it for producing the sire of such a notable race as the “Blue Pauls”—all the more readily as the said sire appears to have been a dog of careful education and upbringing; handsome in person; moving in good society; careful of his property ; contented with his environment; and averse to changes—a good Conservative dog, in fact Kirkintilloch, on the other hand, has little or no credit by the mother. If she had even been a native, it would have been something to speak of, but she seems to been left on the streets a waif, from nobody knew where, and of parentage nobody knew what—very likely she had not an atom of property, not even a collar. She “had no stake in the country”—and, in fine, was a disreputable Radical. Her only redeeming quality was that she <c would face anything,” but this only shows that she was a brazen-faced impudent bitch, and all the more a Radical.

But look what a judicious coalition will accomplish; in this case the results were astounding; Kirkintilloch became famous through the mother of the race, while Campsie was never heard of in connection with them. Such is the irony of fate; but the reputation of the “Blue Pauls” only blazed up for a short period, and then died out—pretty like all coalitions before or since.

A celebrated orator in Parliament was reproached by the then Duke of Grafton—who prided himself on his ancestral birth—on account of the obscurity of his origin; and in reply to the duke called him “but the accident of an accident,” and so it is with dogs as well as men, as we have seen. After all, the Blue Pauls turned out to be a doubtful triumph for Kirkintilloch; for what between fighting dogs and fighting weavers, the place got a bad reputation for a time. So much so, that young men who had to leave the town, and seek work elsewhere, were rather reluctant to tell where they came from. A friend of ours tells us that in his youth he got employment in another town without being asked where he hailed from. A few days after a fellow-workman—who had been informed of his origin— spoke to him of it, the conversation being :—“You’re frae Kirkintilloch?” “Oh, yes.” “That’s where the idle weavers sit in dozens at the cross, and when a bee flies past they all rise and run after it, crying, ‘A bummer, a bummer!”

Before dismissing the “Blue Pauls,” we may here give an anecdote which is somewhat “germain to the matter.”

During the Crimean War the late Captain Kenny was drilling a company of recruits on the esplanade of Stirling Castle. Every man of them was from Kirkintilloch; they were newly enrolled, without uniforms, or in mufti, as the phrase is: and, truth to tell, as ragged a lot as ever marched through Coventry; but the real stuff of which soldiers are made.

Being young fellows, rollicky and reckless, it required all the commanding presence and voice of Captain Kenny to keep them in the semblance of order, or attention to his instructions.

Suddenly the captain beheld them looking in one direction, laughing and talking—the last being a bad military offence—and, fairly losing his temper, shouted,

“ATTENTION!!! what the - are you looking at?” One answered, “It’s Coach Will.” “And who is Coach Will?” “He’s frae Kirkintilloch.” The captain, glancing at the new comer, said in vehement tones.

“Surely to goodness this is the last of the ‘Blue Pauls now.”

We must, however, redeem the character of weavers, which we hope to do ere we close, and that to their satisfaction as well as the reader’s, and with interest in a double sense also. The following series of letters appeared in the Kirkintilloch Herald\ and are reproduced with the sanction of the writer, Mr. David Russell, now one of the staff of the Glasgow Herald newspaper.


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