Dr Muckersy and Mr
Fleming were, upon one occasion, summoned to Mid Calder to appear
before the Sheriff on their respective appeals against being
assessed for 'keeping a man servant'. The case illustrates how the
net of the law is sometimes very vexatiously stretched for the
purpose of extorting money. It also shows the shrewd sense of wit
and humour possessed by the worthy Dr, as well as the close intimacy
between these two divines.
Riding together on horseback to Mid Calder —on the very horses that
were indirectly the cause of their trouble—seeing they were charged
duty for keeping a man-servant to groom their horses and sort their
gardens. The conversation naturally turned upon their grievance in
this matter. Mr Fleming thought he had no right to be charged with
duty as he did not keep a man-servant in livery, which he supposed
to be the meaning and purport of the tax. Not so, thought the worthy
Dr, who kept his own counsel, but kindly ventured to predict to Mr
Fleming, “you will have to pay and I'll get off free “ How is that?
demanded Mr Fleming; but the Dr’s Scotch caution simply allowed him
to reply, “well, you’ll soon see. When the respective cases were
called in court, it so chanced that Mr Fleming’s was first, and upon
being asked by the judge, “Do you deny keeping a man-servant?’ Mr
Fleming-answered, “no, but I only keep him to sort my horse and
garden, and not for personal attendance in livery ” “You must pay
for all that,” cooly answered the judge while signing the award in
favour of the taxgatherer. On the Dr’s case being called, the same
question was asked, “Do you deny keeping a man-servant, &c. to which
the Dr replied, in the loudest tones of his remarkably rough voice,
“I do, my lord! I keep no man-servant for Nanna Nathan sorts my
horse and delves my garden This cool rejoinder fairly surprised and
convulsed the court, judge and all having a hearty laugh at the
shrewdness of the Dr and the evident blunder of the assessor. Nanna,
it appears, was one of a class fast dying out in Scotland, who, like
John Grumblie’s wife, could either milk the kye or hand the pleugh.
While old John Liddle was Mr Fleming’s man-servant, for whom he had
to pay as the Dr had shrewdly guessed would be the result, though he
took care that the fun should be enjoyed in open court, where Mr
Fleming laughed as hearty as any.
The End of Appendix.