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Significant Scots
Dougal Graham


GRAHAM, DOUGAL, the rhyming chronicler of the last rebellion, was probably born early in the seventeenth century. Unfortunately, none of the works we have met with give any account of his parentage or early life. It has been said that he was engaged in the rebellion of 1745-46, but without sufficient authority. He had, to use his own words, "been an eye-witness to most of the movements of the armies, from the rebels’ first crossing the ford of Frew, to their final defeat at Culloden;" but it would seem from this expression, as well as from the recollections of some of his acquaintances, that it was only in the capacity of a follower, who supplied the troops with small wares. But Dougal’s aspiring mind aimed at a higher and nobler employment,—the cultivation of the muse; and no sooner was the rebellion terminated by the battle of Culloden, than he determined to write a history of it "in vulgar rhyme." Accordingly, the Glasgow Courant of September 29, 1746, contains the following advertisement: "That there is to be sold by James Duncan, printer in Glasgow, in the Salt-Mercat, the second shop below Gibson’s Wynd, a book entitled, A full, particular, and true account of the late rebellion in the years 1745 and 1746, beginning with the Pretender’s embarking for Scotland, and then an account of every battle, siege, and skirmish that has happened in either Scotland or England: to which is added, several addresses and epistles to the pope, pagans, poets, and pretender, all in metre, price fourpence. But any booksellers or packmen may have them easier from the said James Duncan, or the author, D. Graham. The like," the advertisement concludes, "has not been done in Scotland since the days of Sir David Lindsay!" This edition is now to be procured nec prece nec pecunia; the eighth edition, however, contains a preface by the author, in which he thus states his reasons for undertaking so arduous a task. "First, then, I have an itch for scribbling, and having wrote the following for my pleasure, I had an ambition to have this child of mine placed out in the world; expecting, if it should thrive and do well, it might bring credit or comfort to the parent. For it is my firm opinion, that parental affection is as strong towards children of the brain as those produced by natural generation."—"I have wrote it in vulgar rhyme, being what not only pleased my own fancy, but what I have found acceptable to the most part of my countrymen, especially to those of common education like myself. If I have done well, it is what I should like, and if I have failed, it is what mankind are liable to. Therefore let cavilers rather write a better one, than pester themselves and the public with their criticisms of my faults." Dougal’s history has been on some occasions spoken of with contempt,—and, as it appears to us, rather undeservedly. The poetry is, of course, in some cases a little grotesque, but the matter of the work is in many instances valuable. It contains, and in this consists the chief value of all such productions, many minute facts which a work of more pretension would not admit. But the best proof of its popularity is, that it has run through many editions: the eighth, which is now scarce, was printed at Glasgow in 1808, with a "True Portraiture" of the author. Beneath it are the lines:

"From brain and pen, O virtue! drop;
Vice! fly as Charlie and John Cope!"

As the book became known, Dougal issued editions "greatly enlarged and improved." That of 1774, while it contains many additions, is said to want much of the curious matter in the editio princeps.

In 1752, Graham styles himself "merchant in Glasgow," but it would appear that his wealth had not increased with his fame:

"I have run my money to en’
And have nouther paper nor pen
To write thir lines."

Afterwards he became a printer; and it has been affirmed, that, like Buchan, the chronicler of Peterhead, he used to compose and set up his works without ever committing them to writing. The exact date at which he became bellman is not known, but it must have been after 1770. At this time, the situation was one of some dignity and importance: the posting of handbills and the publishing of advertisements were not quite so common; and whether a child had "wandered,"—"salmon, herring, cod, or ling" had arrived at the Broomielaw, - or the grocers had received a new supply of "cheap butter, barley, cheese, and veal," the matter could only be proclaimed by the mouth of the public crier.

After several years of, it may be supposed, extensive usefulness in this capacity, Dougal was gathered to his fathers on the 20th of July, 1779. An elegy upon the death of that "witty poet and bellman," written with some spirit, and in the same verse as Ferguson’s elegy upon Gregory, and that of Burns upon "Tam Samson," was published soon after. We may be allowed to sum up his character in the words of its author:

"It is well known unto his praise,
He well deserv’d the poet’s bays;
So sweet were his harmonious lays:
Loud sounding fame
Alone can tell, how all his days
He bore that name,
Of witty jokes he had such store,
Johnson could not have pleased you more,
Or with loud laughter made you roar,
As he could do:
He had still something ne’er before
Expos’d to view.

Besides his history, Dougal wrote many other poems and songs, some of which, though little known, are highly graphic. They would form a pretty large volume, but it is hardly probable that in this fastidious age any attempt will be made to collect them.

Biography of Dougal Graham

The negligence of contemporaries by failing to appreciate the real worth of the great men of their time has often been a subject of remark. No special case need be cited to give point to the recurrence of the proposition here, for many such instances will readily suggest themselves to the mind. The reasons for this fact are many, and of divergent natures. Though it is beyond the scope of the present inquiry to discuss the general question, it may be observed, however, that some of the more potent causes which in the past have led to this unfortunate result are being rapidly removed through the spread of knowledge among the great mass of the people, and through the remarkable activity of the press in its various branches. Personal gossip regarding the hereditarily and individually great is now and then served up to the public, and it is always received with unmistakable relish. Autobiography, also, has become fashionable, and this, within recent years, has often shed light upon opinions and actions about which some doubts had formerly existed. These and other circumstances, in themselves perhaps not unmixed good, will tend to keep the biographers of the great men of this and the last generation from being placed in the awkward position in which almost all who attempt to record the lives of men who have achieved local or universal fame prior to the present century must at times find themselves placed. Insufficient data is the great obstacle in the way of the latter class. Traditions difficult to credit and as difficult to refute; suggestions more or less probable; and many obscurities, all incline to make their work perplexing, and, to a certain extent, unsatisfactory. Yet the task must be undertaken, and the earlier the better, in order that such scraps of information as have come down from the past to the present may be preserved.

Dougal Graham, the literary pedlar and bellman of Glasgow, like many a greater man, has suffered unmerited neglect, and the value of his work was not discovered, or appreciated, until it was almost too late to retrieve the loss involved by the remissness of his contemporaries and immediate successors. Motherwell, lamenting this fact, says very truly,‘ That a man who, in his day and generation, was so famous, should have left no dear recollections behind him; some Boswell to record his life, actions, and conversation, need be subject of admiration to no one who has reflected on the contemptuous neglect with which Time often treats the most illustrious dead. Graham was first noticed as having done something for the literature of his country by Mr. E. J. Spence, of London, who in 1811 published Sketches of the Manners, Customs, and Scenery of Scotland. Motherwell, in the short-lived Paisley Magazine, next set forth fully Graham’s title to the regard of his compatriots, and rescued a few recollections concerning him which, in the course of a year or two more, would have been lost. M‘Vean, in the appendix to his edition of M'Ure’s History of Glasgow, issued in 1830, added a few additional particulars. Then Dr. Strang, through the medium of his work on Glasgow and its Clubs, contributed his mite to the small collection of knowledge concerning our author. Graham has provided only one or two details about himself; an advertisement in a Glasgow newspaper fixes the date of one of the most important events of his life; and Dr. Strang has preserved some stanzas of an elegy on his death, written by some unknown poetaster. There, practically, our knowledge ceases. All beyond what is to be gained from these sources is tradition or inference, and not a little of what has thus been put on record has been questioned. A c metrical account of the author/ according to an existing tradition, was prefixed to an early issue of Graham’s History of the Rebellion of 1J45-46, but owing to the disappearance of the first and second, and some of the subsequent editions, this account, if it ever existed, can now afford no assistance, nor can the tradition itself be traced to its source. Sir Walter Scott felt interested in Dougal’s work, but unfortunately he has contributed nothing to his biography, though it is believed to have been his intention to have done so. Such being the state of matters, it is only fair at this stage to assume that comparatively few of the events in the life of Dougal Graham have been ascertained beyond doubt, and that much that is related about him might be overturned even by some minute discovery. The probabilities, however, are against such a happy occurrence at so remote a period. His career, in so far as it is known, is not without a touch of romance, and it furnishes the key to a proper acquaintance with his works.

Graham, according to all accounts, was bom in the village of Raploch, near Stirling, in or about the year 1724. If, as has been supposed, his History of John Cheap the Chapman is autobiographical, this is his own story of that important event—‘I, John Cheap by chance, at some certain time, doubtless against my will, was born at the Hottom, near Habertehoy Mill. My father was a Scots Highlandman, and my mother a Yorkshire wench, but honest, which causes me to be of a mongrel kind.’ Should this account be accurate, the names of the places seem to be veiled ; but the uncertainty as to its application to Graham himself makes it of comparatively little value. Unfortunately, Nature endowed him with a deformed body, and his physical defects developed with his growth. His parents, from their humble position in life, were unable to give him anything beyond the common education of the time, which was of a very scant description, but he seems to have learned more by his native wit than by the instructions of the schoolmaster. Taught no trade, his youth would probably be spent at farm work, or at such odd employment as he could find, it may have been in the weavers shop, or in the saw-pit, much the same, in all likelihood, as his father had done before him, and as we may still find men doing in remote country hamlets. Leaving the old home under the shadow of Stirling Castle, Graham went in his early youth as a servant to a small farmer in the neighbourhood of the quaint little village of Campsie. A tradition regarding his residence there lingered about the place for nearly a century, for Spence saw traces of a turf cottage said to be the birth-place and early residence of Dougal Graham.1 As there are no good grounds for questioning the statement that Graham’s birth-place was Raploch, may it not be considered a feasible idea, in view of Spence’s remark, that our author’s parents removed to Campsie, and that he went with them ? How long Dougal remained with the farmer is unknown. Of an unsettled disposition, he, like his creation John Cheap, made himself a chapman when very young, in great hopes of being rich when he became old ; and for some years he wandered over the country in the exercise of his craft. The political events of the time, however, effected another and more important change in his career, and rapidly developed in him the mental capabilities with which nature had, by way of compensation, endowed him.

The outbreak of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 found Graham ready to follow the Young Chevalier. When the Highland army was on its southward march, he joined it on the 13th of September of that year, at the Ford of Frew, on the Forth. At that time he was probably about twenty-one years of age. The capacity in which he became attached to the Prince’s forces has been matter for conjecture. His physical deformities are assumed to have unfitted him for active service, and everything points to the conclusion that he was not a soldier, but rather a sutler, or camp-follower, blending, probably, his political aspirations with commercial pursuits. In the preface to his History of the Rebellion, he avoids saying he participated actively in the events he records, but plainly states that he had ‘ been an eye-witness to most of the movements of the armies, from the rebels first crossing the Ford of Frew to their final defeat at Culloden.’ Throughout the whole course of the seven months* campaign, Graham accompanied the rebel army, and while he has carefully recorded its movements, he has given no indication of how he himself was occupied, or of any adventures that may have fallen to his share. There can be little doubt that, to a man of his temperament, the march to Derby and the retreat upon Inverness, would be highly educative in its effects, by showing him life in various parts of the country he had in all likelihood never visited before, and by bringing him into contact with men of all ranks. In this short period his knowledge of men and manners would be largely increased, and the experience thus gained would greatly facilitate the production of those graphic and truthful descriptions which sometimes adorn —sometimes, it must also be admitted, tarnish—the literary efforts of his later years.

Until this time, Graham is not known to have made any effort in the direction of literature, though, in view of the magnitude of the task he set before himself on the conclusion of the rebellion, it is not improbable he may have courted the Muses from afar, and indulged in poetical, or rhythmical, fancies for the amusement of his customers and entertainers in his youthful chapman days. However that may be, Dougal, immediately after the disaster at Culloden, rapidly made his way homewards, and set about committing to verse a narrative of the expedition of Prince Charles. The self-imposed duty was great, but he was equal to it. The battle of Culloden was fought on the 16th of April, 1746, and five months later Graham’s work was announced. In the Glasgow Courant, of the 29th September, the following advertisement appeared:—

‘That there is to be sold by James Duncan, Printer in Glasgow, in the Salt-mercat, the 2nd Shop below Gibson’s Wynd, a Book intituled A full, particular, and true Account of the late Rebellion in the Year 1745 and 1746, beginning with the Pretender’s Embarking for Scotland, and then an Account of every Battle, Siege, and Skirmish that has happened in either Scotland or England.

‘To which is added, several Addresses and Epistles to the Pope, Pagans, Poets, and the Pretender: all in Metre. Price Four Pence. But any Booksellers or Packmen may have them easier from the said James Duncan, or the Author, D. Grahame.

‘The like has not been done in Scotland since the Days of Sir David Lindsay.

There is every reason to believe that this work became popular immediately on its publication. Scattered broadcast over Scotland by chapmen and others, while the events of which it treated were still agitating the minds of the people, Graham’s name by it would be brought boldly to the front, and there would be opened up for him the possibilities of a career wider than any he could have contemplated under ordinary circumstances. In every way the work appears to have been a success, and the judgment pronounced upon it by Dr. Robert Chambers has been concurred in by all who have read the production—‘ The poetry is, of course, in some cases a little grotesque, but the matter of the work is in many instances valuable. It contains, and in this consists the chief value of all such productions, many minute facts which a work of more pretension would not admit.’* Sir Walter Scott’s estimate of it was not less favourable, for, writing to Dr. Strang in 1830, he said—‘It really contained some traits and circumstances of manners worth preserving.’

Although the issue of the History of the Rebellion was probably large, it is remarkable that now, and for many years past, no copy of the first edition has been known to exist. It would be difficult to explain the cause of such a total disappearance. The fact must be regretted both from literary and bibliographical points of view, for a copy of it, besides being of interest in itself, would clear up several obscurities and differences of opinion that have arisen in relation to it and subsequent editions.

Prior to the publication of the History of the Rebellion, Graham was not a resident in Glasgow, though it is probable he would be known to many there, for he must have had frequent occasion to visit the city for the purpose of purchasing his stock-in-trade. These visits would bring him into contact with booksellers, and the numerous tradesmen whose wares would be represented in his miscellaneous pack. The title-page of his work is said to have contained these lines :—

‘Composed by the poet, D. Graham,
In Stirlingshire he lives at hame.’

It would be useless to say whether the wide term c Stirlingshire’ bore reference to Raploch, or to Campsie, as has been suggested; but the verse may fairly be considered, by the prefix ‘poet’ to the author’s name, to give countenance to the inference that Graham was not quite a tyro in the art of verse-making, and that previous to the publication of his History he was regarded by his intimate friends, at least, as having qualified for the title. However that may be, Dougal seems now to have made Glasgow his home. Possibly he still continued to ply his calling as a pedlar; but he added to this a profession for which his natural capabilities specially adapted him. In Glasgow, he became the poet of passing events. Little of local importance seemed to have escaped him, and the few metrical pieces now extant, and attributed to him by various authorities, can only be regarded as the representatives of an extensive issue of facetious broadsides and chap-book ballads. Among those believed to be referable to this period of his life, are John Hielandmaris Remarks on Glasgow, and Tumimspike. Although these have never been acknowledged by Graham himself, in the formal way that he has acknowledged the authorship of the History of the Rebellion, there is a concensus of opinion that these two poems are undoubtedly his production. In them the acquaintance he made with Highland modes of thought and expression during the progress of the Jacobite campaign, served him in good stead. M'Vean attributes a humorous piece, entitled Tugal M‘Tagger, to Graham, but this has been questioned on several grounds, perhaps the most forcible suggestion being, that its style and rhythm are liker the work of Alexander Rodger than of Graham. Personally, we feel inclined to support M‘Vean, and that for a variety of reasons, which may be better explained when dealing with the bibliography of our author’s works ; while other metrical compositions of a similar character will also fall to be considered under the same head.

Dougal was now a man of some note, and, in addition, he is believed to have gradually worked himself into a position of comparative freedom from pecuniary troubles. In the time of his poverty he vented his ill nature on his Roman Catholic fellow-subjects in verse far from elegant, charging them with having brought about, for reasons best known to himself, the unsatisfactory state of his exchequer:—

‘You Papists are a cursed race,
And this I tell you to your face;
And your images of gold so fine,
Their curses come on me and mine.
Likewise themselves at any rate,
For money now is ill to get.
I have run my money to an en*,
And have nouther paper nor pen
To write thir lines the way you see me,
And there’s none for to supplie me.’

Like many another man, Graham becomes incoherent when indulging in strong language. But matters did not always remain in this sad state, and when he published the second edition of his History of the Rebellion he was able to call him-. selfc Dougal Graham, merchant, showing he had advanced a step in his commercial position. There is no reason to suppose he had a place of business, such as a shop or warehouse, but the probability is that he had become one of the better class of chapmen, whose packs contained a large variety of finer goods than were usually hawked through the country.

The second edition of the History of the Rebellion was published in 1752, probably with additions to include the adventures of Prince Charles after the defeat at Culloden. This edition, like the first, has disappeared, and at present no copy is known to exist. The re-issue of his work would assist Graham in his pecuniary affairs, and it is said that he was able to begin a business which, even in these early days, would require some little capital. According to M'Vean, Graham, after 1752, became a printer, and, like Buchan, the chronicler of Peterhead, he composed his works and set them up at the case without committing them to writing; or, as Strang puts it, he was in the habit of at once spinning thought into typography. Beyond that there is no information as to DougaPs experience at the printing trade, though it must suggest itself as strange that so many of his chap-books should be issued by other parties, by Mr. Caldwell of Paisley, for instance, who is reported by Motherwell to have said:—‘We were aye fain to get a haud of some new piece frae him.*

Like Sir Walter Scott, who took a great interest in him and his works, Graham after a time appears to have turned his attention more particularly to prose composition, indulging rarely in verse. The period during which most of his prose chap-books were written and issued was probably between 1752 and 1774, the latter being the date of the publication of the third edition of his History of the Rebellion ; though one or two are known to have appeared subsequent to that date. These works would greatly add to his credit with the people, and there can be no doubt that they had a most extensive circulation. ‘A’ his works took weel/ says Mr. Caldwell, MotherwelPs informant, ‘they were level to the meanest capacity, and had plenty o* coarse jokes to season them. I never kent a history of DougaPs that stuck in the sale yet.’ Better testimony as to their popularity could scarcely be desired; and that the author was awarded a share of the favour his works received cannot be doubted. It has sometimes been thought that several of his chap-books were to a certain extent autobiographical—such, for instance, as fohn Cheap the Chapman—but the absolute impossibility of separating fact from fiction makes them of no value in this direction. Whether printed by himself or others the number of his works still known to exist prove him to have been a most prolific writer, and it can be fairly assumed that, in a pecuniary sense, they were successful. None of them appear to have been published under Graham’s own name, but were either issued anonymously or under a cognomen which would probably be well understood in his own time as referring to him, such as ‘The Scots’ Piper,’ ‘John Falkirk,’ and ‘Merry Andrew at Tamtallon.

An advertisement which appeared in the Glasgow Journal of 14th June, 1764, has raised the question of Graham’s domestip relations. Everything known points to the conclusion that h& never entered into the conjugal yoke. The announcement spoken of ran thus :—

Notice.—Whereas, Jean Stark, spouse to Dougal Graham, ale-seller, above the Cross, Glasgow, has parted from her husband, he thinks it proper to inform the public that she be inhibit by him from contracting debt in his name, or yet receiving any debt due to him, after this present date.’

It has been usual to assume that this advertisement had no reference to our author, and, even though the names are the same, we see no reason to dissent from the general verdict. There is neither direct information nor obscure indication of Graham having at any time been an ‘ale-seller.’ The incident, however, has given Professor Fraser an opportunity of pointing out a failing of Dougal’s—‘ In one sense, he was always a large dealer in spirits, but it is not so certain that he was actually a publican.’* Judging from his works, and if the few traditions concerning him are to be accepted as evidence on this point, he was not a teetotaller, but that in itself was no remarkable circumstance in the times in which he lived.

An event of the first importance in Graham’s life was his appointment to the post of skellat bellman of the city of Glasgow. One would naturally have thought that in this matter at least there would have been no room for any dubiety concerning the various circumstances of the appointment, especially as it was to a post of some credit under one of the most ancient municipal corporations in Scotland, but that is not so. The ‘ skellat * bell, it may be explained, was the one used for ordinary announcements by the town-crier, as the ‘ mort ' bell was in use on the intimation of death. In former times the crier, on obtaining possession of the two bells, had, according to the Burgh Records, ‘ to cum bund for the soume of thrie scoir pundis' Scots, or £5 sterling; and in addition to the importance of the office, it was always regarded as being of some pecuniary value. As the appointment was in the gift of the magistrates, it is surprising that no notice is taken in the Town Council Records of Graham's incumbency. Motherwell put himself to some trouble in this matter, and wrote to Dr. Cleland, author of the Annals of Glasgow, then Superintendent of Public Works in the city, requesting information. In October, 1828, he received this reply—‘With regard to Dougal Graham, I may safely say there is nothing in the Records concerning him. This, from my own knowledge, corroborated by Mr. Thomson, one of our Town-clerks, who lately made an index of everything in the books for 150 years back.' In order to satisfy himself on this point, the editor of these volumes took advantage of the opportunity kindly afforded him of going over the Burgh Records in the Town Clerk's Office, and a careful search over the Council Minutes for a period of fully forty years was unproductive of any result other than that recorded by Dr. Cleland. As to the date of the appointment, therefore, some doubt exists. Turner, a town officer of fully eighty years, told Cleland that when he was a boy of about ten years of age, he remembered Graham as bellman, and Motherwell infers from this statement that our author was enjoying the whole emoluments of office about 1750. M‘Vean, however, is of a different opinion, and says Graham could not have been bellman earlier than 1770, ‘as an old gentleman remembers other four bellmen, who held office before Dougal, and after the year 1764.' Possibly Turner's memory may have been failing him in his old age, and he may not have been accurate by ten or fifteen years. M‘Vean was certainly in as good a position as any one to ascertain the true version, and there seems no reason why his statement should not be accepted in preference to the haphazard guess by Motherwell.

Tradition has it that Graham did not obtain the office of bellman without some little difficulty, because of his connection with the Jacobite movement. Here is the story as given by Mr. Caldwell, the Paisley publisher:—‘In his youth he was in the Pretender’s service, and on that account had a sair faught to get the place o’ bellman, for the Glasgow bailies had an illbrew o’ the Hielanders, and were just doun-richt wicked against onybody that had melled wi’ the rebels; but Dougie was a pawkey chield, and managed to wyse them ower to his ain interests, pretending that he was a staunch King’s man, and pressed into the Prince’s service sair against his will, and when he was naithing mair than a hafflins callant, that scarcely kent his left hand frae his richt, or a B frae a bull’s fit.’ In addition to this subtle reasoning with the magistrates, Dougal is said by some writers to have effected very material alterations on the third edition of his History of the Rebellion, published in 1774, in order to please the Whig patrons of the office to which he aspired. Here is a difficulty not easily overcome. Caldwell’s information was likely to be correct, and it is further supported by the knowledge that during the Jacobite risings the Glasgow bailies, and the citizens generally, were staunch supporters of the House of Hanover. The first thought that must suggest itself to the mind is, that it was not at all likely that Graham would seek to publish in Glasgow a Jacobite history of the Rebellion, at a time when the city authorities were applying to Parliament for an indemnification for the money and supplies levied on them by the Prince and his army. But assuming that Graham did publish a history of this complexion, we have M‘Vean’s statement, to all appearance founded upon a personal knowledge of the second edition—though he seems to regard it as the first—in these words:—‘In 1752 Dougal talks of the rebels with a great deal of virulence; in 1774 he softens his tone, and occasionally introduces apologies for their conduct* Possibly no one of the present generation, or of the one immediately preceding it, has ever seen a copy of this second edition ; and in the absence of other and more conclusive evidence, the ipse dixit of M‘Vean must be accepted, and it goes directly against the assumption that Graham changed the political colouring of the third edition of his history to please the Glasgow bailies. If his appointment as bellman took place in 1750, as Motherwell, on what have been considered too slender grounds, has suggested, there might be some reason for entertaining the idea; but taking the date given by M‘Vean as approximately accurate it seems altogether out of the question. Caldwell, with his admitted knowledge of the incident, does not even hint at such an action on Graham's part, but only supplies a very feasible account of the explanation afforded to the magistrates. Then, again, it could not be the case surely, if the bailies were ‘wicked against onybody that had melled wi' the rebels,' that the best way to appease them would be to introduce into the History of the Rebellion apologies for the conduct of those whom they regarded with such detestation. Dr. David Laing, writing, apparently, with a personal acquaintance of the second edition, says:—‘The second edition, 1752, bears, “Printed for and sold by Dougal Graham, merchant in Glasgow.” In the third edition, 1774, the work was entirely re-written, and not improved. . . . The first edition is so extremely rare, that only one copy is known to be preserved, and, as a literary curiosity, it might be worth reprinting; although it demolishes the fine story of the author's difficulty in obtaining the bellman's place from the Glasgow bailies, on account of his being a Jacobite, and having joined the Pretender's army.'4 But more than that, there are in the third edition itself some lines which go against the notion of alterations in respect of the colouring of the events recorded. In ‘The Author's Address to all in General' there is this verse:—

‘Now, gentle readers, I have let ye ken,
My very thoughts, from heart and pen,
’Tis needless now for to conten*,
Or yet controule,
For there’s not a word o’t I can men',
So ye must thole.’

He then proceeds to describe barbarities on both sides, of which he had been witness. In the preface also he says:— ‘I have no dread of any Body’s finding Fault with me for telling the Truth, because Charles has no Sway here; Duke William, once the Idol of the loyal British, is gone to the House of Silence, and, I believe, if I should take the Liberty to tell the Truth of him, no Body could blame me.’ The contention here is not that Graham was not sufficiently worldly to stoop to trimming, but rather that the undoubted alterations made on the third edition were not of the character many have imagined them to be. M‘Vean says that many ‘curious passages’ in the 1752 edition were suppressed in the one of 1774, but he makes that statement with reference to the toning down of the virulence against the rebels. Of course the disappearance of the first and second editions precludes the final and decided settlement of this not unimportant question, but the arguments and citations now brought forward can only lead to the impression that Graham made no alterations on the political tone of the third edition of his history in order to win the Glasgow bailies over to his cause. There were alterations and amendments, but these, it may be surmised, would be more of a literary than political character. The suggestion that they were of a different nature appears to have arisen from a mistaken notion of M‘Vean’s statement, which notion, by some means or other, became connected with the difficulty Graham had in obtaining the office of bellman. The two together make a most probable story, but it is a story which seems to be founded upon insufficient premises. It is curious that a somewhat similar misunderstanding arose with regard to Chambers’s History of the Rebellion of 1745-6, and that in order to put the public right, the author had to pen such words as these, as a preface to his seventh edition:—‘It has been customary to call it [this history] a Jacobite history. To this let me demur. Of the whole attempt of 1745 I disapprove as most men do. But, on the other hand, those who followed Charles Edward in his hazardous enterprise, acted according to their lights, with heroic self-devotion. . . . Knowing how these men did all in honour, I deem it but just that their adventures should be detailed with impartiality, and their unavoidable misfortunes be spoken of with humane feeling. There is no other Jacobitism in the book that I am aware off.

But leaving the region of debate, it will be refreshing to turn to a humorous story on record, as to the competition Graham had to face before he 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 came. He entered into the spirit of the contest, and his 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' 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—to be endowed with that ready wit which has always been a characteristic of the true Scottish bellman—and he was accordingly invested with the official garments, and with the magisterial authority to exercise his new calling. In the year 1774, probably two or three years after the events just related, the third edition of Graham’s History of the Rebellion, with amendments, was published. This edition, like its predecessors, was successful, and it is understood to be the last edition issued during the author’s lifetime. Dougal, as an official of the Corporation of Glasgow, had now become a personage of no little importance in the community. These were not the days of cheap advertisements, reaching half-a-million readers in a few hours, or of posters and handbills apprising the lieges of meetings and sales, or of the lost, stolen, and strayed. All this Graham, with the aid of his bell, had to intimate to the public. The ‘ trial scene ’ affords a specimen of the kind of work he had to perform. He had also, to a certain extent, to act as attendant on the magistracy. The story goes that Dougal was on one occasion passing along the Gallowgate, making some intimation or another. Several officers of the 42nd Highlanders, then returned from the American War of Independence, where their regiment had been severely handled by the colonists, were dining in the Saracen’s Head Inn, situated at the foot of the Dovehill. They knew Dougal of old, and they thought to have a joke at his expense. One of them put his head out of the window, and called to the bellman—‘ What’s that you’ve got on your back, Dougal?’ This was rather a personal reference, for Dougal had the misfortune to be c humphie backit.’ But he was not put out by the question, for he at once silenced his interrogator by answering—‘ It’s Bunker’s Hill; do you choose to mount ? ’ The good stories about Graham are said to have been legion, but they have, unfortunately, been allowed to die out; otherwise, a collection of his jokes and bons mots might have been a formidable rival to the now classical Joe Miller.

But death put an end to Dougal’s happy-go-lucky existence while he was still in the prime of life. He died on the 20th of July, 1779, at the age of fifty-five or fifty-six, in what circumstances, or of what trouble, cannot now be discovered.

These were not the days of newspaper obituaries, or he would certainly have been awarded a half-column notice. This, of itself, is unfortunate, for then many biographical details could have been obtained, and subsequent writers of Graham’s life would have been able to produce a record of his career more satisfactory to themselves and their readers. That Dougal did not die unregretted, is witnessed by an elegy of twelve stanzas, written at the time of his death by some unknown poetaster. This lament has, unfortunately, only come down to the present generation in a fragmentary form, Dr. Strang5 having preserved seven of the verses :—

‘Ye mothers fond! O be not blate
To mourn poor Dougal’s hapless fate,
Ofttimes you know he did you get
Your wander’d weans;
To find them out, both soon and late,
He spared no pains.
Our footmen now sad tune may sing,
For none like him the streets made ring,
Nor quick intelligence could bring
Of caller fish,
Of salmon, herring, cod, or ling,
Just to their wish.

‘The Bull Inn and the Saracen,
Were both well served with him at e’en,
As ofttimes we have heard and seen Him call retour,
For Edinburgh, Greenock, and Irvine,
At any hour.

‘The honest wives he pleased right well,
When he did cry braw new cheap meal,
Cheap butter, barley, cheese, and veal
Was selling fast.
They often call’d him “lucky chiel,”
As he went past.

In concluding this biographical notice of Dougal Graham, it will be appropriate to make one or two quotations which will give a full and just idea of his personality. Our author seems to have taken a portrait of himself—and through his modesty it is not too flattering—when he thus delineates John Cheap, the Chaptnan:—‘John Cheap the chapman, was a very comical short thick fellow, with a broad face and a long nose; both lame and lazy, and something leacherous among the lasses; he chused rather to sit idle than work at any time, as he was a hater of hard labour. No man needed to offer him cheese and bread after he cursed he would not have it; for he would blush at bread and milk, when hungry, as a beggar doth at a bawbee. He got the name of John Cheap the chapman, by his selling twenty needles for a penny, and twa leather laces for a farthing/ Mr. Caldwell, of Paisley, told Motherwell that ‘ Dougald was an unco glib body at the pen, and could screed aff a bit penny history in less than nae time. A* his warks took weel—they were level to the meanest capacity, and had plenty o* coarse jokes to season them. I never kent a history of Dougald’s that stack in the sale yet, and we were aye fain to get a haud of some new piece frae him/ Dr. Cleland, on the information of Turner, an old Glasgow town-officer, was able to supply Motherwell with this notice:—‘When Turner was a boy of about ten years of age, Dougald was bellman, and being very poetical, he collected a crowd of boys round him at every corner where he rang the bell. Turner says that Dougald was “ a bit wee gash bodie under five feet.” ‘John Falkirk is believed to have been a nickname assumed by, or applied to, Graham upon various occasions, and this description of him is prefixed to one of the editions of John Falkirk's Cariches, published soon after his death:—‘John Falkirk, commonly called the Scots Piper, was a curious little witty fellow, with a round face and a broad nose. None of his companions could answer the many witty questions he proposed to them, therefore he became the wonder of the age in which he lived. ... In a word, he was M‘Vean says:—‘Dougal was lame of one leg, and had a large hunch on his back, and another protuberance on his breast. Strang, referring to the portrait prefixed to the third edition of the History of the Rebellion , and reproduced in this volume, thus pictures Graham: ‘Only fancy a little man scarcely five feet in height, with a Punch-like nose, with a hump on his back, a protuberance on his breast, and a halt in his gait, donned in a long scarlet coat nearly reaching the ground, blue breeches, white stockings, shoes with large buckles, and a cocked hat perched on his head, and you have before you the comic author, the witty bellman, the Rabelais of Scottish ploughmen, herds, and handicraftsmen! But here is an even more graphic pen and ink portrait, some of the details, no doubt, filled in from imagination, but with the tout ensemble admirably preserved, and true to life:—‘ It must have been a goodly sight to see Dougal in his official robes, the cynosure of every eye in the busy Trongate, or the life and soul of the company in Mrs. M‘Larty's “wee bit public,’ where he and his cronies were wont to quench their native thirst. He must, indeed, have been a grotesque figure. “A wee bit gash body under five feet high;” with a round, broad, red and much-seamed face; a prominent nose, truncated d la Punch; an iEsopian hump on one shoulder, and a large protuberance on one breast; legs of unequal length and peculiar shape ; a long scarlet coat hanging down from the shoulders to the ground; blue breeches set off by white stockings, and large brilliantly buckled shoes: with an imposing cocked hat perched fiercely on one side of the massive head.'

These word paintings, together with the two portraits given in this work, will afford the reader a most vivid conception of the appearance of the king of Scottish chapmen.

The Collected Writings of Dougal Graham
'Skellat' Pellman of Glasgow by George MacGregor in two volumes (1883)

You can download this two volume edition in pdf format below...

Volume 1  |  Volume 2


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