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History of West Calder
Appendix IV. Amusing Anecdote of Dr Mackersy and Mr Fleming


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.


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