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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish
Dan Cooper


No inhabitant of Kirkintilloch is better known than Dan, partly from his costume—which is as curious as any ever worn by man—and partly from his gentle character; for he is really an “innocent” in every sense of the term. His face and figure have now been familiar for two generations on the streets of the town. His upper garments are not


Dan Cooper

different from other people’s; but he wears a veritable woman's petticoat, of coarse blue material, reaching down to his heels, which gives him a somewhat patriarchal appearance.

Dan manages to live respectably, being both able and willing to work when he gets the chance. His chief occupation is carrying in coals for the lieges; and as he is generally liked as well as pitied, he may be said to have a monopoly of the business. He has also an allowance from the parochial board; and as he is often treated to plates of soup and other viands, besides occasional gifts of pennies, he may be said to be fairly comfortable.

Every one has their troubles in this world, however, and Dan does not escape; possibly his greatest being the frolicsome boys on the street, who delight to make pretence of stealing the coals under his charge, for the pleasure and excitement of being chased by him.

Dan values quantity more than quality, and prefers six big copper pennies to one little silver sixpence; and it is said that some mean persons take advantage of this, and palm off halfpennies instead of pennies on poor Dan. When he is presented with food he devoutly asks a blessing, which is generally of considerable length: and on Sundays he goes regularly to church, decently clad, and scarcely recognisable. It is reported, however, that one night in church he let his book fall in the pew before him, and in stretching over to recover it his shoes came off with a clatter, and he nearly followed his book. Our informant naively added, that “even the Auld-Licht folk were obleeged to lauch.”

A lady in the East-side who had got delivery of a cart of coals, had engaged Dan to put them in, but after waiting some hours for him without his appearance, she concluded that he was otherwise engaged, and hired another person to do the work. Dan turned up, however, just as his rival had begun his task, and stood, sad and sorrowful, till it was nearly completed, when, on the lady coming out to explain matters, he thus accosted her, "Oh, woman! my heart’s jist like to break to see hoo thae coals is haunl’t.”

Dan was carrying a can of milk one day when a mischievous boy said to him that his “can was ruinin' oot” The poor fellow lifted it up, poured out the milk, and looked at the bottom of the can.

A young woman, in a frolic, urged him to go with her to a church meeting on a certain evening, and named the hour. He punctually appeared in his Sunday costume, Bible in hand, and asked if “the big lass” was in. On being told that she was away from home, he turned on his heel, and did not appear at the same house for many months after.

His photograph was taken, shovel in hand, and one showed it to Dan; being curious to know if he would recognise his own likeness. He looked at the picture attentively, and at last said, “Fm no sure o’ mysel', but it's awfu' like my shool.”

With all his simplicity, Dan has flashes of shrewdness. Some one told him that an asylum was to be opened at Bellfield “for a' the daft folk.” “Aweel,” replied he, “they’ll no* be mony left in Kirkintilloch.”

He was visiting Luggiebank House, at the time occupied by Mr. Little, and the night being dark, Dan was furnished with a lighted lantern to enable him to get home safely; but the poor fellow, no doubt feeling the responsibility too much, carried it only to the end of the avenue, blew out the light, carried the lantern back to the house, and thanked the inmates.

Dan’s father must have been a lively character—he hopped on one foot from the one end of Kirkintilloch to the other for a wager, and successfully accomplished his task.

Dan’s grandfather, or as he was always called :—

OLD DANNY COOPER

was decidedly an original. He was a decent, well-behaved labourer, and was beadle or church officer in Dr. Marshall’s church. He performed his duties as beadle steadily and well, but of politeness or tact he was totally destitute—as indeed might be expected,—and his terse answers and sayings gave much amusement.

A young minister was officiating for the doctor one Sunday, and Danny, after carrying the Bible to the pulpit, returned to the vestry to shew the young man in, when he found him adjusting his gown carefully. Danny waited a minute, but losing patience suddenly said, “Is’t a’ richt noo?” “Oh, yes,” said the clergyman. “Come awa' then,” said Danny, and marched off without looking whether he was followed or not.

The late Dr. King officiating in the same circumstances, asked Danny after service if he could have a glass of wine as he felt rather exhausted. Danny replied in his usual manner, “There’s nae wine here, but if you like to gie me a saxpence, I’ll gang up to the Black Bull for a gless o’ whusky to ye.”

The regular precentor had got leave of absence one Sunday, and his place was supplied by a fellow townsman for the day, who unfortunately fell asleep towards the close of the sermon. The doctor finished his discourse and gagle some verses of a paraphrase to be sung, without observing the slumbering leader. Old Danny, however, was on the alert, and roused the sleeper just in time for his duty; but unfortunately for him the first line he had to sing was:— “Ye indolent and slothful rise,” and the laughter that ensued both inside and outside of the church was such that the poor fellow fairly left the town in consequence.

The doctor was instructing one of his classes one evening, and Danny was in attendance. He always wore thick heavy shoes, and in moving about on the bare wooden floor he made a good deal of noise. The doctor at last said, “Daniel, I wish you would make less noise with these heavy boots of yours.” Danny however considered this request unreasonable, and replied in a snappish tone, “Davart! I canna carry them on my back, surely, can I?”

The church in these times was lighted by candles, the ends of which were afterwards used in the session-house and vestry. A Bible-class of young women had met and the doctor was instructing them, but the candles being few in number, the room was rather dim. At last the doctor said to Danny, “Daniel, I wish we had some more light.” Danny’s answer sorely tried the gravity of the class:— “The doups are a* dune, sir.”

On another occasion when the people were assembled in the session-house and sitting around the walls waiting for the doctor, Danny, who was in attendance, and moving about, stumbled over an outstretched foot, and nearly fell. He recovered himself, however, and tersely said to the individual who had caused the mishap, “Can ye no' keep in yer feet,— d—n ye!”

Danny was very fond of whisky, and could drink an inordinate quantity without much effect on him. He was being treated one day, and after swallowing three glasses was asked by his host, “How do you like that whisky, Danny?” “I hinna fand the taste o’t yet,” replied he.


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