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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of George I: 1714 - 1727 Part 7

1724, July
The danger arising to the government from having a rude people of disaffected sentiments and hardy warlike character seated in the north-west parts of Scotland, was now brought before it with sufficient urgency to cause the adoption of remedial measures. An effectual disarming act, the raising of armed corn panics in the pay of the government, the completion of a line of forts, and the formation of roads by which these should be accessible and the benefits of civilisation imparted to the country, were the chief means looked to for doing away with the Highland difficulty. A sensible English officer, General George Wade, was sent down to act as commander in chief of the troops in Scotland, and carry these measures into effect.

If we may believe a statement which there is all reason to believe except one—the character of its author, who was no other than Simon Lord Lovat—it was high time that something was done to enforce the laws in the Highlands. In William’s reign, there had been an armed watch and a severe justiciary commis­sion; but they had long been given up; so, after a temporary lull, things had returned to their usual course. The garrisons at Fort William, Killicummin, and Inverness proved ineffectual to restrain the system of spoliation, or to put down a robbers’ tax called black-mail (nefarious rent), which many paid in the hope of protection.

The method by which the country was brought under this tax is thus stated: ‘When the people are almost ruined by continual robberies and plunders, the leader of the band of thieves, or some friend of his, proposes that for a sum of money to be annually paid, he will press a number of men in arms to protect such a tract of ground, or as many parishes as submit to pay the contri­bution. When the contributions are paid, he ceases to steal, and thereby the contributors are safe, If he refuse to pay, he is immediately plundered. To colour all this villainy, those con­cerned in the robberies pay the tax with the rest, and all the neighbourhood must comply, or be undone.’ Black-mail naturally prevailed in a marked manner in fertile lowland districts adjacent to the Highlands, as Easter Ross, Moray, and the Lennox.

Directly with a view to the prevention of robberies, and the suppression of this frightful impost, the government established six companies of native soldiery, selected from clans presumedly loyal, and respectively commanded by Lord Lovat, Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochnell, Colonel Grant of Ballandalloch, Colonel Alexander Campbell of Finab, John Campbell of Carrick, and George Monro of Culcairn. The whole, consisting of four hundred and eighty men, were dressed in plain dark-coloured tartan, and hence were called the Reicudan Dhu, or Black Watch. Burt reports an allegation, that one of the commanders (Lord Lovat?) used to strip his tenants of their best plaids, wherewith to invest his men at a review. On the other hand, there were men of such birth and breeding in the corps, that they had gillies to do drudgery for them. They were posted in small parties throughout the more lawless parts of the country, and are represented as having been reasonably effective for their purpose.

For the disarming of the disaffected clans, Wade had his six native companies and four hundred troops of the line ready at Inverness to proceed with the work in June 1725; but the riot about the malt-tax at Glasgow delayed his measures, and it was not till the 10th of August that he marched in force towards the rendezvous of the Mackenzies at Brahan Castle. The heads of the clan saw it to be necessary to obey, or to appear to obey, and also to promise that in future the rents of their chief; the forfeited Earl of Seaforth, should he paid to the state, instead of to Donald Murchison. The general on his part allowed them to understand that, very probably, if they made this submission their chief would he pardoned and restored. One little concession they had to ask from the English general - let him spare them the humiliation of delivering their arms in the presence of the Reicudan Dhu. To this the general consented. He sent the native loyalists to guard the passes to the westward.

It must have been a solemn and interesting sight to an English officer of impressionable feelings, if such a being then existed, when the troops took up their position in front of that grand old Highland fortress, amidst scenery of the most magnificent kind, to receive the submission of a high-spirited people, who had resisted as long as resistance was possible. First came the gentlemen or duine-wassils, about fifty in number, to pay their respects to the general. Then followed in slow procession along the great avenue, the body of the clansmen, in parishes, forty or fifty in each, marching four and four, and bringing their arms on horses. On arriving in front of the house, they unloaded and deposited the weapons, drank the king’s health, and slowly turned away. The chiefs of the several tribes, and other principal gentlemen of the country, dined the same day with the general, and great civilities and mutual assurances of good offices passed on both sides. They promised the general that the rents of the estate should be punctually paid to the crown, for the use of the public, and a dutiful submission (rendered) to his majesty’s government. Weapons to the number of 784 were given in; but in reality they were only the oldest and most worn of the arms possessed by this great clan. Donald Murchison had taken care previously to gather up an their best arms into some central store unknown to the government.’

Following this example, and partly, it is alleged, induced by little favours extended or promised by the general, the rest of the Jacobite clans, the Macdonalds, Camerons, Macleods, &c., made an appearance of surrendering their arms at various appointed stations during the autumn. The entire number of articles given in was 2685. The total expense of the collection was about £2000, and the general gives us an idea of the true state of the case, beyond what he possessed himself, when he tells us that the articles for the most part were worth little more than the price of old iron.

General Wade received submissive letters from many of the chiefs and others who had been in the insurrection of 1715, all professing anxiety for pardon, and promising a quiet life in future. There was none more submissive than one from Rob Roy, who contrived to make it appear that his treason was against his will. ‘It was my misfortune,’ says he, ‘at the time the Rebellion broke out, to be liable to legal diligence and caption, at the Duke of Montrose’s instance, for debt alleged due to him. To avoid being flung into prison, as I must certainly have been, had I followed my real inclinations in joining the king’s troops at Stirling, I was forced to take party with the adherents of the Pretender; for the country being all in arms, it was neither safe nor possible for me to stand neuter.’ Of course, this was meant by Rob as merely a civil apology for deliberate rebellion. To give it confirmation, he told the general: ‘I not only avoided acting offensively against his majesty’s forces upon all occasions, but, on the contrary, sent his Grace the Duke of Argyle all the intelligence I could from time to time, of the situation and strength of the rebels; which I hope his Grace will do me the justice to acknowledge.’ It is to be hoped that Rob was not here so dishonest as to speak the truth. There is ample reason to believe that the frank English general was imposed upon by the professions made by the Jacobite chiefs, for he reported to government that disaffection was much abated, and interested himself zealously for the pardon of several of the attainted gentlemen.

A poor woman named Margaret Dickson, an inhabitant of the parish of Inveresk, was tried under the act of 1690 for concealment of pregnancy in the case of a dead child. A defence was made for her that she was a married woman, though living separate from her husband; but it was of no avail. A broadside - which proceeds upon a strong approval of the text, that ‘the works of God are works of wonder, and his ways past finding out‘—gives a minute recital of the circumstances of her execution in the Grassmarket; how the hangman did his usual office of pulling down her legs; and how the body, having hung the usual time, was taken down and put into a coffin, the cooms of which were nailed fast at the gibbet-foot. It then proceeds. ‘Being put into a cart, to transport her corpse to be interred in the churchyard of Inveresk, whither the magistrates had allowed her friends to carry her, there happened a scuffle betwixt her friends and some surgeon-apprentices and others, their accomplices, on this side of the Society Port. One, with a hammer, broke down one of the sides of the cooms of the chest; which, having given some air, and, together with the jolting of the cart, set the blood and vitals agoing. The people intrusted with transporting her body having stopped at Peffermill to take a refreshment, and left her upon a cart in the highway, two joiners, from curiosity, came from a house to view the coffin, and, to their surprise, heard a noise within. Acquainting the persons concerned, they proposed to open the other side of the cooms of the chest, which, after some opposition, was agreed to. The coom being taken off they perceived her to draw up her limbs. One Peter Purdie, a prac­titioner of phlebotomy, providentially breathed a vein, from which streamed blood, which recovered her so far, that twice she said:

“O dear!” Being brought to her feet, she was supported by two to a brae-side, where the blood returned to her lips and cheeks, which promised a sudden recovery. Being laid upon blankets in a corn-cart, her head and body upheld by a woman, she was driven to Musselburgh, where she remained, at the magistrates’ command, all night; had restoratives and means of sustenance given her; was visited by Mr Robert Bonally, one of the ministers of that place, who prayed over her; and next morning was laid in a bed in her brother James Dickson, weaver, his house, whither a great many flock every day to see her, and not a few gave her money. She had little appearance of recovering her health or senses next day, and cried out to let her be gone, for she was to be executed on Wednesday, but is now pretty well—only com­plains of a pain in her neck. She went to church on Sunday last, and heard sermon, where the people were so anxious to see her, that the minister was obliged to conduct her out of the church­yard to keep her from being trodden down by the multitude. She still remains in a hopeful way of recovering strength and judgment. May this amazing dispensation of Providence be sanctioned to her, and teach all who shall hear it to act a needy dependence upon, and live to the glory of God, to whom belong the issues of life and death!’

Another brief chronicler of the time informs us, that Maggie devoted the Wednesday ensuing upon that on which she was executed to solemn fasting and prayer, in gratitude for her deliverance, and had formed the resolution so to employ each recurring Wednesday during the remainder of her life. It is also stated that her husband, struck with a forgiving interest in her, took her ultimately back to his house. She lived to have several children creditably born, and cried salt for many a day through the streets of Edinburgh, universally recognised and constantly pointed out to strangers as ‘Half-hangit Maggie Dickson.’

At the village of Gilmerton, four miles to the south of Edinburgh, the soft, workable character of the sandstone of the carboniferous formation, there cropping to the surface, tempted a blacksmith named George Paterson to an enterprise of so extra­ordinary a character, as to invest his name with distinction in both prose and rhyme. In the little garden at the end of his house, he excavated for himself a dwelling in the rock, composed of several apartmeuts. Besides a smithy, with a fireplace or forge, there were—a dining-room, fourteen and a half feet long, seven broad, and six feet high, furnished with a bench all round, a table, and a bed-recess; a drinking-parlour, rather larger; a kitchen and bed-place for the maid; a liquor-cellar upwards of seven feet long; and a washing-house. In each apartment there was a skylight-window, and the whole were properly drained. The work cost the poor man five years of hard labour, being finished in the present year. Alexander Pennecuik, the burgess-bard of Edinburgh, furnished an inscription, which was carved on a stone at the entrance:

Here is a House and Shop hewn in this Rock with my own hands.


Upon the earth thrives villainy and wo,
But happiness and I do dwelI below
My hands hewed out this rock into a cell,
Wherein from din of life I safely dwell:
On Jacob’s pillow nightly lies my head,
My house when living, and my grave when dead
Inscribe upon it when I 'm dead and gone:
I lived and died within my mother’s womb.

It is kept in remembrance that Paterson actually lived and practised his calling in this subterranean mansion for eleven years. Holiday-parties used to come from the neighbouring capital to see him and his singular dwelling; even judges, it is alleged, did not disdain to sit in George’s stone-parlour, and enjoy the contents of his liquor-cellar. The ground was held in feu, and the yearly duty and public burdens were forgiven him, on account of the extraordinary labour he had incurred in making himself a home.

The idea of improving agricultural implements was hitherto unheard of in Scotland; but now a thrashing-machine was invented by Mr Michael Menzies, a member of the Scottish bar. On his request, the Society of Improvers sent a deputation to see it working at Roseburn, near Edinburgh; and these gentlemen reported upon it favourably. I am unable to say whether it was identical with a thrashing-machine advertised in July 1735, as to be had of Andrew Good, wright in College Wynd, Edinburgh; one to thrash as much as four men, £30; one to do as much as six, £45; and so on in proportion, ‘being about £7, 10s. for each man’s labour that the machine does, which is but about the expense of a servant for one year. It was held forth, regarding this machine, that for the driving of one equal to four men, most water-mills would suffice, and one so working was to be seen at Dalkeith.

It would appear, however, that the idea of a machine for thrashing had, after this time, completely fallen out of notice, as the one which has long been in use was, in its original form, the invention of Michael Stirling, farmer at Craighead, in the Parish of Dunblane, who died in 1796, in the eighty-ninth year of his age.

‘This venerable man, when in the prime of life, had a strong propensity to every curious invention; and, after much thought and study, he prepared and finished, in 1748, a machine for thrashing his corn. The axis of the thrashing-board was placed perpendicular, and was moved by an inner wheel on the same axis with an outer one that went by water. The men stood round about these boards like lint-cleaners, each man with his sheaf, and performed the work with great rapidity (at the rate of sixteen bolls of oats per diem). Mr Stirling’s neighbours were by no means struck with the invention, but laughed at it, and called him a maggoty fellow. The wonderful powers of the machine, however, drew the attention of strangers, who came and picked up models, and so were enabled to erect others both in Scotland and England.’’ Subsequently, Mr Meikle, at Alloa, obviated the inconvenience of the perpendicular arrangement of the axis, by laying it down in a horizontal form.

A machine for the winnowing of corn was, as far as can he ascertained, for the first time made in this island by Andrew Rodger, a farmer on the estate of Cavers in Roxburghshire, in the year 1737. It was after retiring from his farm to indnlge a bent for mechanics, that he entered on this remarkable invention, and began circulating what were called Fanners throughout the country, which his descendants continued to do for many years. This machine is well known to have been the subject of a religions prejudice among our more rigid sectarics, as indicated anachron­ously by Scott in the conversation between Manse Headrig and her mistress—’ a new-fangled machine for dighting the corn frae the chag thus impiously thwarting the will o’ Divine Providence by raising wind for your leddyship’s use by human art, instead of soliciting it by prayer, or patiently waiting for whatever dispen­sation of wind Providence was pleased to send upon the shieling­hill.’ The ‘scccders’ are understood to have taken very strong ground in resistance to the introduction of fanuers, deeming the wind as specially a thing made by God (He that createth the wind,’ Amos iv. 13), and therefore regarding an artificial wind as a daring and impious attempt to usurp what belonged to him alone. The author has been informed that an uncle of the late national poet, Robert Gilfillan, was extruded from a Fife congre­gation of this kind because of his persisting to use fanners.

About the end of this mouth, the people of Orkney were thrown into some excitement by the arrival of a suspicions-looking vessel among their usually quiet islands. She professed to be a merchantman bound for Stockholm; but her twenty-two guns and crew of thirty-eight men belied the tale. In reality, she was a pirate-ship, recently taken under the care of a reckless man named Gow, or Smith, who had already made her the means of perpetrating some atrocions villainies in more southern seas. His alleged connection with Caithness by nativity, and Orkney by education, was perhaps the principal reason for his selecting this part of the world as a temporary refuge till some of his recent acts should be forgotten. His conduct, however, was marked by little prudence. He used to come ashore with armed men, and hold boisterous festivities with the islanders. He also made some attempts to enter into social relations with the gentlemen of the country. It was even said that, during his brief stay, he made some way in the affections of a young gentlewoman, who little imagined his real character. It was the more unaccountable that he lingered thus in the islands, after ten of his people, who had recently been pressed into his service, left his vessel, and made their escape in a boat—a circumstance that ought to have warned him that he could not long evade the notice of the law. In point of fact, the character of his ship and crew were known at Leith while he was still dallying with time in the taverns of Stromness.

At length, about the 20th of February, Gow left the southern and more frequented part of the Orkney group, and sailed to Calf Sound, at the north part of the island of Eday, designing to apply for fresh provisions and assistance to a gentleman residing there, who had been his school-fellow, Mr Fea, younger of Clestran. Chancing to cast anchor too near the island, the pirate found that his first duty must be to obtain the assistance of a boat to assist his men in bringing off the vessel. He sent an armed party of five under the boatswain to solicit this help from Mr Fea, who received them civilly, but immediately sent private orders to have his own boat sunk and the sails hidden. He took the party to a public­ house, where he entertained them, and so adroitly did he manage matters, that ere long they were all disarmed and taken into custody. The people of the country and some custom-house officers had by this time been warned to his assistance.

Next day, a violent wind drove the vessel ashore on Calf Island, and Gow, without a boat, began to feel himself in a serious difficulty He hung out a flag for conference with Mr Fea, who consequently sent him a letter, telling him that his only chance now was to yield himself; and give evidence against his company. The wretch offered goods to the value of a thousand pounds for merely a boat in which lie could leave the coast; but Mr Fea only replied by renewing his former advice. Some conferences, attended with considerable danger to Mr Fea, took place; and Gow ultimately came ashore on Calf Island, and was secured. It is narrated that when he found himself a prisoner, he entreated to be shot before lie should have to surrender his sword. His men were afterwards made prisoners without much difficulty.

Gow and his company were transported to London, and tried by the Court of Admiralty on the 27th of May. Himself and eleven others were found guilty, and condemned. There was at first some difficulty in consequence of his refusing to plead. The court, finding him refractory on this point of form, at first tried to bring him to reason by gentle means; but when these proved ineffectual, he was ordered to the press-yard, there to be pressed to death, after the old custom with those refusing to plead. His obstinacy then gave way, and his trial proceeded in due form, and he was condemned upon the same evidence as his companions. Nine were executed, of whom two—namely, Gow and his lieutenant, named Williams—were afterwards hung in chains.’

The Scottish newspaper which first narrated the singular story of the capture of these men, remarked: ‘The gentleman who did this piece of good service to his country, will no doubt be taken notice of; and rewarded by the government.’ Sir Walter Scott relates from the tradition of the country what actually happened to Mr Fea in consequence of his gallantry. ‘So far from receiving any reward from government, he could not obtain even Counte­nance enough to protect him against a variety of sham suits, raised against him by Newgate solicitors, who acted in the name of Gow and others of the pirate crew; and the various expenses, vexatious prosecutions, and other legal consequences in which his gallantry involved him, utterly ruined his fortune and his family.’

The Duke of Douglas, last direct descendant of the ancient and once powerful House of Douglas, was a person of such weak character as to form a dismal antithesis to the historical honours of the family—entitled to the first vote in parliament, to lead the van of the Scottish army, and to carry the king’s crown in all processions. Just turned thirty years of age, his Grace lived at his ancestral castle in Lanarkshire, taking no such part as befitted his rank and fortune in public affairs, but content to pass his time in the commonest pleasures, not always in choice society. Amongst his visitors was a young man named Ker, a natural son of Lord John Ker, the younger brother of the late Marquis of Lothian, and also brother to the Dowager-countess of Angus, the Duke’s mother. This youth, as cousin to the duke, though under the taint of illegitimacy, presumed to aspire to the affections of his Grace’s only sister, the celebrated Lady Jane; and it is also alleged that he presumed to give the duke some advice about the impropriety of his keeping company with a low man belonging to his village. Under a revengeful prompting, it is said, from this fellow, the poor duke stole by night into the chamber of Mr Ker, and shot him dead as he lay asleep. Some servants, hearing the noise, came to his Grace’s room, and found him in great distress at the frightful act which he had committed, and which he made no
attempt to deny. He was as speedily as possible conducted to Leith, and sent off in a vessel to Holland, there to remain until he could safely return.

The peerages being politely silent about this affair, we do not learn how or when the duke was restored to Scottish society. More than thirty years after, when turned of sixty, he married the daughter of a Dumbartonshire gentleman, a lady well advanced in life, by whom he had no children. Dr Johnson, who met the duchess as a widow at Boswell’s house in 1773, speaks of her as an old lady who talked broad Scotch with a paralytic voice, and was scarcely intelligible even to her countrymen. Had the doctor seen her ten years earlier, when she was in possession of all her faculties, he would have found how much comicality and rough wit could be expressed in broad Scotch under the coif of a duchess. I have had the advantage of hearing it described by the late Sir James Steuart of Coltness, who was in Paris with her Grace in 1762, when she was also accompanied by a certain Laird of Boysack, and one or two other Scotch gentlemen, all bent on making the utmost of every droll or whimsical circum­stance that came in their way. Certainly the language and style of ideas in which the party indulged was enough to make the flair of the fastest of our day stand on end. There was great humour one day about a proposal that the duchess should go to court, and take advantage of the privilege of the tabouret, or right of sitting on a low stool in the queen’s private chamber, which it was alleged she possessed, by virtue of her late husband’s ancestors having enjoyed a French dukedom (Touraine) in the fifteenth century. The old lady made all sorts of excuses in her homely way; but when Boysack started the theory, that the real objection lay in her Grace’s fears as to the disproportioned size of the tabouret for the co-relative part of her figure, he was declared, amidst shouts of laughter, to have divined the true difficulty— her Grace enjoying the joke fully as much as any of them. Let this be a specimen of the mate of the last of the House of Douglas.

June 24
We have already seen that the favourite and ordinary beverage of the people before this date was a light ale, not devoid of au exhilarating power, which, being usually sold in pints (equal to two English quarts) at 2d., passed in prose and verse, as well as common parlance, under the name of Twopenny. The government, conceiving they might raise twenty thousand pounds per annum out of this modest luxury of the Scotch, imposed a duty of sixpence a bushel upon malt; and now this was to be enforced by a band of Excise officers.

The Scotch, besides the ignorant impatience of taxation natural to a people to whom fiscal deductions were a novelty, beheld in this measure a mark of the oppressive imperiousness of the British senate, and bitterly thought of what the Union had brought upon them. At Glasgow, this was a peculiarly strong feeling, its member of parliament, Mr Campbell of Shawfield, having taken a leading part in getting the malt-tax imposed. On the 23d June, when the act came into force, the populace gave many tokens of the wrath they entertained towards the excisemen who were putting it in practice; but no violence was used. Next day, there was shewn a continual disposition to gather in the streets, which the magistrates as constantly endeavoured to check; and a military party was introduced to the town. At length, evening having drawn on, the indignation of the populace could no longer be restrained. An elegant house which Shawfield had built for himself, and furnished handsomely, was attacked, and reduced to desolation, notwithstanding every effort of the magistrates to reduce the mob to disperse. Next day, the mob rose again, and came to the town-house in the centre of the town, but in no formidable numbers. The military party was then drawn out by their commander, Captain Bushell, in a hollow square, in the centre of the crossing at the town-house, each side facing along one of the four streets which meet there; when, some stones being thrown at the soldiers, the officer gave way to anger, and without any order from the provost, fired upon the multitude, of whom eight were killed and many wounded. The multitude then flew to a guard-house where arms were kept, armed themselves, and, ringing the town-bell to give an alarm, were prepared to attack and destroy the comparatively small military party, when, at the urgency of the provost, the latter withdrew from the town, and sought refuge at Dumbarton.

The news of this formidable riot, or rather insurrection, created great excitement among a set of government authorities which had lately come into office, amongst whom was Mr Duncan Forbes as Lord Advocate. They took up the matter with a high hand. Attended by a large body of troops, Forbes marched to Glasgow, and seized the magistrates, under accusation of having favoured the mob, and bringing them to Edinburgh, clapped them up in the Tolbooth. Such, however, was the view generally taken of the malt-tax, that the Glasgow provost and bailies were every­where treated as martyrs for their country, and as they passed through the streets of Edinburgh to prison, some of the lately displaced government officials walked bareheaded before them. By an appeal to the Court of Justiciary, as to the legality of their mittimus, they were quickly liberated. The only effectual vengeance the government could inflict, was an act ordaining the community of Glasgow to pay Shawfield five thousand pounds as compensation for the destruction of his house. The feelings of the people of the west were grievously outraged by the conduct of the government in this affair, and the more so that they considered it as an injustice inflicted by friends. Was it for this, they asked, that they had stood so stoutly for the Whig cause on every trying occasion since the Revolution?

In August, the officials had a new trouble on their hands. The Edinburgh brewers intimated an intention to discontinue brewing ale. Duncan Forbes stood aghast at the idea of what might happen if the people were wholly deprived of their accustomed beverage. After all, the difficulty involved in a proposal to force men to go on in a trade against their will was not too great to be encountered in those days. The Edinburgh Evening Courant of the 26th of August, quietly informs us that ‘Mr Carr, engraver to the Mint, who kept a brewery in this city, and several others of the brewers, are incarcerate in the Canongate Tolbooth, for not enacting themselves to continue their trade of brewing, in terms of the Act of Sederunt of the Lords of Council and Session.’ ‘The Twopenny ale,’ adds this respectable chronicle, ‘begins to grow scarce here; notwithstanding which the city remains in perfect tranquillity.’ Long before the unimaginal crisis of an entire exhaustion of beer had arrived, forty of the brewers of Edinburgh, and ten of Leith, thought proper to resume work, and the dissolution of society was averted.’

Such were the troubles which Scotland experienced a hundred and thirty-five years ago, at the prospect of a tax of twenty thousand pounds per annum!

Christian Shaw, daughter of the Laird of Bargarran, has been presented in her girlhood as the cause of a number of prosecutions for witchcraft, ending in the burning of no fewer than five women on Paisley Green.’ As this young lady grew up to woman’s estate, she attained distinction of a better kind, as the originator of one of the great branches of industry for which her native province has since been remarkable. She was actually the first person who introduced the spinning of fine linen thread into Scotland. ‘Having acquired a remarkable dexterity in spinning fine yarn, she conceived the idea of manufacturing it into thread. Her first attempts in this way were necessarily on a small scale. She executed almost every part of the process with her own hands, and bleached her materials on a large slate in one of the windows of the house. She succeeded so well, however, in these essays, as to have sufficient encouragement to go on, and to take the assistance of her younger sister and neighbours. The then Lady Blantyre carried a parcel of her thread to Bath, and disposed of it advantageously to some manufacturers of lace…. About this time, a person who was connected with the family, happening to be in Holland, found means to learn the secrets of the thread-manufacture, which was carried on to a great extent in that country, particularly the art of sorting and numbering the threads of different sizes, and packing them up for sale, and the construc­tion and management of the twisting and twining machines.

This knowledge he communicated, on his return, to his friends in Bargarran, and by means of it they were enabled to conduct their manufacture with more regularity, and to a greater extent. The young women of the neighbourhood were taught to spin fine yarn, twining-mills were erected, correspondences were established, and a profitable business was carried on. Bargarran thread became extensively known, and being ascertained by a stamp, bore a good price. By and by, the work was undertaken by others, and in time it became a leading manufacture of the district. About 1718, Christian Shaw married Mr Miller, the minister of Kilmaurs parish, and it is presumed she passed through the remainder of her life much in the same manner as other persons in that respectable grade.

The newspapers of the time at which we are now arrived, present the following advertisement: ‘The Lady Bargarran and her daughters having attained to a great perfection in making, whitening, and twisting of SEWING THREED, which is as cheap and white, and known by experience to be sold under the name of Bargarran Threed, the Papers in which the Lady Bargarran, and her daughters at Bargarran, or Mrs Miller, her eldest daughter, at Johnston, do put up their Threed, shall, for direction, have there­upon the above coat of arms. Those who want the said Threed, which is to be sold from fivepence to six shillings per ounce, may write to the Lady Bargarran at Bargarran, or Mrs Miller at Johnston, near Paisley, to the care of the Postmaster of Glasgow; and may call for the same in Edinburgh, at John Seton, mer­chant, his shop in the Parliament Close, where they will be served either in wholesale or retail: and will be served in the same manner at Glasgow, by William Selkirk, merchant in Tron gate.’

Crawford, in his History of Renfrewshire, tells us that the coat-armorial worn by the Shaws of Bargarran bore—’ azure, three covered cups or.’ There is something amusingly charac­teristic in the wife and daughter of a far-descended Scottish gentleman beginning a business in ‘threed,’ and putting the family arms on their wares.

1725, Oct
After the long period during which religious and political contentions absorbed or repressed the intellectual energies of the people, the first native
who exhibited in his own country a purely scientific genius was Colin Maclaurin—a man of Highland extraction (born in 1698), whose biography relates that he was fitted to enter a university at eleven, mastered at twelve the first six books of Euclid in a few days without assistance, and gained the chair of mathematics in Marischal College, Aberdeen, at nineteen, after a competitive examination of ten days. Having gone to London, and there been introduced to Sir Isaac Newton, Dr Clark, Sir Martin Folks, and other cultivators of science, Maclaurin was encouraged to publish several mathematical treatises which gave him an established reputation while still a young man.

At this time, the advanced years of Mr James Gregory, professor of mathematics in the university of Edinburgh, making it necessary that he should have an assistant, who should also be his successor, Mr Maclaurin became a candidate for the situation, with the recommendation of the illustrious Newton. The appoint­ment lay with the magistrates and town council of Edinburgh, who were the patrons of the university—an arrangement which has been abolished in our age, with little regard to the rights of property, and still less to the practical good working of the connection. On this occasion there were some circumstances alike honourable to Maclaurin, to Newton, and to the Edinburgh municipality. Sir Isaac, hearing there was a difficulty about salary for the new professor, the emoluments being reserved for the old one, wrote to the lord provost of the city as follows: ‘I am glad to understand that Mr Maclaurin is in good repute amongst you for his skill in mathematics, for I think he deserves it very well, and, to satisfy you that I do not flatter him, and also to encourage him to accept the place of assisting Mr Gregory, in order to succeed him, I am ready (if you please to give me leave) to contribute twenty pounds per annum towards a provision for him till Mr Gregory’s place becomes void, if I live so long.’ The town council respectfully declined this generous offer, and made suitable arrangements otherwise for the young professor.

Colin Maclaurin amply justified the recommendation of Sir Isaac by the distinction he attained as a teacher, and his various original contributions to geometry and physics. A general impulse was given by him to the cultivation of science. When any remarkable experiment was reported from other countries, there was a general wish in Edinburgh to see it repeated by Maclaurin; and when any comet or eclipse was pending, his telescopes were sure to be in requisition. Unfortunately, the career of this brilliant geometer was cut short in consequence of a cold he caught while assisting to improve the defences of Edinburgh against the army of Prince Charles Edward. He lies under the south-west corner of the Greyfriars’ Church, where a plain mural tablet arrests the attention of the student by telling that he was elected to his chair, NEWTONO SUADENTE, and calls on all to take as a consolation, in that field of grief and terror, the thought that the mind which was capable of producing such works must survive the frail body.

Nov 20
The post from Edinburgh to London continued to be carried on horseback, and was of course liable to casualties of what now appear to us of a strange character. That which left Edinburgh on Saturday the 20th November 1725, was never heard of after it passed Berwick. ‘A most diligent search has been made, but neither the boy, the horse, nor the packet, has yet been heard of. The boy, after passing Goswick, having a part of the sands to ride which divide the Holy Island from the mainland, it is supposed he has missed his way, and rode towards the sea, where he and his horse have both perished.’

A mail due at Edinburgh one day at the close of January 1734, was apologised for by the postmaster as late. ‘It seems the post-boy who rides the stage from Haddington to Edinburgh is perished in the river Tyne, the mail this morning being taken out of that river.’ That due on the 10th of October in the preceding year did not reach its destination till the evening of the 11th. ‘It seems the post-boy who made the stage between Dunbar and Haddington, being in liquor, fell off. The horse was afterwards found at Linplum, but without the mail, saddle, or bridle.’

On the 9th December 1735, we have the following announce­ment: ‘The London post did not come on till this day at noon, on occasion of the badness of the roads.’—cal. Merc.

As a variety upon these kinds of accident, and equally indi­cating the simplicity of the institution in those days, may be noticed a mistake of February 1720, when, ‘instead of the mail should have come in yesterday (Sunday), we had our own mail of Thursday last returned ‘—the presumption being that the mail for Edinburgh had been in like manner sent back from some unknown point in the road, to London. And this mistake happened once more in December 1728, the bag des-patched on a Saturday night being returned the second Sunday morning after; ‘tis reckoned this mistake happened about half­way on the road.’

The immediate practical business of the Post-office of Edinburgh appears to have been conducted, down to the reign of George I., in a shop in the High Street, by a succession of persons named Meau or Mein, the descendants of the lady who threw her stool at the bishop’s head in St Giles’s in 1637; thence it was promoted to a fiat in the east side of the Parliament Close; thence, again, in the reign of George III., to a detached house behind the north side of the Cowgate. We find that, in 1718, it had a ‘manager’ at two hundred a year, a clerk at fifty, a comptroller, an assistant at an annual salary of twenty-five pounds, and three letter-carriers at five shillings a week. In 1748, this establishment was little changed, excepting that there were added an ‘apprehender of private letter-carriers,’ and a ‘clerk to the Irish correspondents.’ There is a faithful tradition in the office, which I see no reason to doubt, that one day, not long after the rebellion of 1745, the London bag came to Edinburgh with but one letter in it, being one addressed to the British Linen Company.

In 1758, a memorial of traders to the Convention of Burghs expressed impatience with the existing arrangements of the post between Edinburgh and London, which, owing to a delay of about a day at Newcastle, and a pause at York, with other impedi­ments, occupied 131 hours. It was urged that the three posts which passed weekly between the two capitals should depart from Edinburgh at such a time as, reaching Newcastle in 21 hours, they might be in time for immediate dispatch by the post thence to London, and so give a return to correspondence with the metropolis in seven or eight days, instead of about eleven, as at present.

It may be curious to trace the progress of business in this important office, as far as the central Scottish establishment is concerned. The number of persons employed in 1788 was 31; in 1828, it was 82; in 1840, when the universal penny post was set on foot, it reached 136; in 1860, it was 244. The number of letters delivered in Edinburgh in a week in 1824 was 27,381; in 1860, it amounted to 156,000. The number of letters passing through Edinburgh per week in 1824 was 53,000; in 1860, it was 420,000. At the same time, the number of bags despatched from Edinburgh daily was 369, weighing forty-nine hundred­weight. At the time when these notes were drawn up, the establishment had become too large for a spacious and handsome building erected in 1819, and another office of ampler proportions was about to be erected.

Wodrow notes that at this time the merchants of Glasgow, in despair of the colonial tobacco-trade, were beginning to think of ventures in other directions, as the East Indies, and the Greenland whale-fishing. Meanwhile, a Fishery Company, some time since set up at Edinburgh, was languishing, the officials eating up more than the profit. ‘As far as I can see,’ says the worthy minister of Eastwood, ‘till the Lord send more righteousness and equity, and of a public spirit, no company or copartnery among us will do any good.’

In the ensuing August, the same chronicler notes some import­ant points in the progress of Glasgow, without giving us any hint of improvement in respect of righteousness. ‘This summer,’ says he, ‘there seems to be a very great inclination through the country to improve our manufactory, and especially linen and hemp. They speak of a considerable society in Glasgow of the most topping merchants, who are about to set up a manufactory of linen, which will keep six hundred poor people at work. The gentlemen, by their influence, seem much to stir up country-people, and to encourage good tradesmen, and some care is taken to keep linen and webs exactly to standard, and to see that the stuff be good and marketable….. What will come of it, I know not. I have seen frequent attempts of this nature come to very little.’

It is gratifying to think that the year 1725, which is so sadly memorable in the history of Glasgow on account of the ‘Shaw­field Mob,’ really did become the epoch of that vast system of textile manufacture for which the city has since been so cele­brated. The first efforts of her looms were confined to linen cloth, lawns, and cambries. Seven years later, one of her enter­prising citizens, a Mr Alexander Harvie, ‘at the risk of his life, brought away from Haerlem two inkle-looms and a workman,’ and was thus enabled to introduce the manufacture of inkles into his native town, where it long flourished. The establishment of the cotton-manufacture in and around Glasgow was the work of a subsequent age, and need not be dwelt upon here.

Considering the engrossing nature of the pursuits of commerce, it is remarkably creditable to Glasgow that her university has always been maintained in a high state of efficiency, and that she has never allowed the honours of literature to be wholly diverted to her more serene sister of the east. So far had printing and publishing advanced in Glasgow in the reign of the second George, that, in 1740, a type-founding establishment was commenced there, being the first to the north of the Tweed. The immediate credit of this good work is due to Mr Alexander Wilson, a native of St Andrews. He subsequently became professor of practical astronomy in the Glasgow University, and there, in 1769, worked out the long-received theory of the solar spots, which suggests their being breaches in a luminous envelope of the sun’s body.

Favoured by the presence of a type-foundry, two citizens of Glasgow named Faulls, but who subsequently printed their name as Foulis, commenced the business of typography in 1741, and soon became distinguished for their accurate and elegant work, particularly in the printing of the classics. Eager to produce what might be esteemed an immaculate edition of Horace, they caused the successive proof-sheets, after revision, to be hung up at the gate of the university, with the offer of a reward for the discovery of an error. Before 1747, the Messrs Fordis had produced editions of eighteen classics, all of them beautiful specimens of typography.

After all, the merchants of infant Glasgow were able to over­come the difficulties which an iniquitous rivalry threw in the way of their tobacco-trade. It went on gradually increasing till a sudden stop was put to it by the revolt of the American colonies, when it had reached an annual importation of about fifty thousand hogsheads, being the great bulk of what was consumed in the three kingdoms. In the early days of the trade, when capital was not abundant, the custom was for a very small group of the more considerable merchants to advance two or three hundred pounds each, and ask the lesser men around them to add such shares as they pleased; by these means to make purchase of goods suited for use in Virginia, which were sent out under the care of a supercargo, to be exchanged for a lading of tobacco. ‘The first adventure . . . . was sent under the sole charge of the captain of the vessel. This person, though a shrewd man, knew nothing of accounts; and when he was asked by his employers, on his return, for a statement of how the adventure had turned out, told them he could give them none, but there were its proceeds, and threw down upon the table a large hoggar (stocking) stuffed to the top with coin (being of course the money surplus of the goods sent out, after the cargo of tobacco was paid for). The company con­ceived that if an uneducated person had been so successful, their gains would have been still greater if a person versed in accounts had been sent out. Under this impression, they immediately despatched a second adventure with a supercargo highly recom­mended for a knowledge of accounts, who produced to them a beautifully made-out statement of his transactions, but no hoggar.’

Afterwards, the groups of adventurers associated little more than their credit in the getting up of cargoes of goods for the colonial market, and these were not in general paid till the return of the tobacco, at the distance perhaps of a twelvemonth. When the manager of the copartnery was ready to discharge its obligations, he summoned the various furnishers of the goods to a tavern, where, over a measure of wine to each, paid for by themselves, he handed them the amount of their various claims, receiving a discharged account in return. In such retreats all important matters of business were then transacted. They were in many instances kept by the female relations of merchants who had not been successful in business; and in selecting one whereto to summon the furnishers of goods for payment, the manager would generally have an eye to a benevolent design in favour of the family of an associate of former days.

As the century rolled on, and transactions increased in mag­nitude, luxury and pride crept in, men learned to garnish their discourse with strange oaths, and the Wodrow pre-requisite of ‘righteousness’ was always less and less heard of. The wealth of the Tobacco Lords, as the men pre-eminent in the trade were called, reached an amount which made them the wonder of their country. One named Glassford, during the Seven Years’ War, had twenty-five vessels engaged in the business, and was said to trade for half a million. They formed a kind of aristocracy in their native city, throwing all tolerably successful industry in other walks into the shade. Old people, not long deceased, used to describe them as seen every day on the Exchange, or a piece of pavement in Argyle Street so called, wa’king about in long scarlet cloaks and bushy wigs, objects of awful respect to their fellow citizens, who, if desirous of speaking to one of them on business, found it necessary to walk on the other side of the street, till they should be fortunate enough to catch his eye, and be signalled across. All this came to an end with the breaking out of the American war; when, however, the irrepressible energies and wealth of that wonderful people of the west speedily found new fields of operation—cotton, timber, iron, chemicals, ship-building, and (in sober sincerity) what not?

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