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The exact origins of the name are unknown. The name entered the history books in the 15th century in Peebleshire and Fife. John Porteous, Captain of the Edinburgh City Guard, ordered his men to fire on a mob which was demonstrating at the execution of a smuggler in 1736, killing several people. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but then reprieved. However, he was later seized from prison by a mob, who hanged him from the pole outside a dyer's shop.