Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Mr. Francis Braidwood, Cabinet-Maker

This caricature of a respectable citizen was meant to satirise his somewhat extravagant and fastidious taste in matters of dress and fashion. According to Kay's notes, he "was among the first of the bucks who appeared with shoestrings instead of buckles." In the Print it will be observed that these appendages are prominently displayed, especially on the "cloots" of one of the "fellow bucks," with whom the artist has thought proper to confront him. The engraving originally bore the inscription—"I say don't laugh, for we are brothers." Although by no means a fop, in the common meaning of the term, Mr. Braidwood was not insensible to the advantages he possessed in a tall, athletic frame, and commanding appearance ; but, much as the caricature was calculated to wound his feelings, he displayed his good sense by taking no other notice of it than to join heartily in the laugh which it produced.

The father of Mr. Braidwood (William) was a candlemaker at the head of the West Bow ; and so strictly presbyterian and religious, that he obtained the soubriquet of the Bowhead Saint. In burlesque of his uncommon zeal, it is told that he once caused a bird, with its cage, to be placed in the City Guard for profaning the Sabbath by whistling "O'er the water to Charlie." The real circumstances of the case were these. On one of his rounds to see that the day of rest was properly respected—a self-imposed task, undertaken by certain of the citizens —he happened to meet a person in livery carrying a cage and bird. Conceiving this to be a violation of public decorum, he remonstrated with the footman, who retaliated in such an abusive manner as led to the forcible seizure of the feathered songster.

Mr. Braidwood was a man of great personal strength, and well calculated to act as a conservator of order. On another occasion, hearing a noise issuing from a tavern in the neighbourhood of James's Court as he passed, he immediately entered and began to expostulate with the landlord. The latter at once acknowledged the impropriety of entertaining such brawlers on a Sabbath morning, but told him iu a whisper that he was afraid to challenge his customers, one of them being no less a personage than Captain Porteous of the City Guard. This notorious individual—whose fate is well recorded in the Heart of Mid-Lothian—was a man of loose habits, and so reckless and tyranical that few were inclined to come into collision with him. Mr. Braidwood felt no such dread. Armed with a small sword, which he usually carried, he rushed into the apartment, denounced the conduct of Porteous to his face, and seizing the cards with which the party were engaged, threw them into the fire, while the Captain and his associates —astonished and overawed—retreated with precipitation.

Mr. Francis Braidwood, the subject of our sketch, was apprenticed in early life to a cabinet-maker. On the expiry of his indenture he repaired to London, where he remained for a short time, in order to acquire a more thorough knowledge of his profession. He then returned to Edinburgh, set up business on his own account, and was for some years eminently successful. He was elected Deacon of the Wrights in 1795, and Deacon Convener the year following. His workshop was at one period in the Pleasance, near the head of Arthur Street, and his furniture shop or warehouse on the South Bridge. Latterly he removed to Adam Square, and occupied the premises situated immediately to the south of the School of Arts.

Mr. Braidwood inherited a considerable portion of the personal prowess of his father. In every way respectable as a citizen, he was no bigot in religion, and participated joyously in the amusements and recreations peculiar to the times. He was a member of the Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Club, and was greatly celebrated as a golfer. He used to say that "fatigue was merely ideal." A contemporary member of the Society recollects having played at golf with him on one occasion from six in the morning till four in the afternoon; and while our informant admits being " quite knocked up," he states that Mr. Braidwood did not seem in the least fatigued. (Mr. Braidwood was in the practice of taking bets at golf, the stipulations of which were that he should have two strokes at the ball with a common quart bottle, while his opponent should have one in the usual way with his club. However disadvantageous this might seem, he invariably came off the victor.) So devotedly fond was he of this ancient game, that when no longer able by reason of age to go round the Links, he came regularly every Saturday and played at what are termed the short holes; and to the last he continued to dine regularly with the Society at their weekly and quarterly meetings.

Of Mr. Braidwood's good nature and social humour, the following instance is told. At a convivial meeting of the Golfing Society at Bumtsfield Links on one occasion, a Mr. Megget—one of the members, and a good golfer—took offence at something Mr. Braidwood had said. Being highly incensed, he desired the latter to follow him to the Links, and he "would do for him." Without at all disturbing himself, Mr. Braidwood pleasantly replied, "Mr. Megget, if you will be so good as go to the Links, and wait till I come, I will be very much obliged to you". This produced a general burst of laughter, in which his antagonist could not refrain from joining; and it had the effect of restoring him to good humour for the remainder of the evening.

Mr. Braidwood was a member of the Spendthrift Club, so called in ridicule of the very moderate indulgence of its members ; and he was one of the four B.'s—"Bryce, Bisset, Baxter, and Braidwood"—who, after attending church during the forenoon service, generally devoted the latter part of the day, if the weather was fine, to a quiet stroll into the country. Several others joined the B.'s in their "Sunday walks." (The brother elders of some of the B.'s were not a little dissatisfied at being so frequently left to officiate singly at the church-doors in the afternoon.) The present Mr. Smellie, and the late Mr. Adam Pearson, Secretary of the Excise, were frequently of the party. They usually met at the Royal Exchange, immediately on the dismissal of the forenoon church; and, as suggested by Mr. Braidwood, their plan was always to walk in the direction from whence the wind blew, as by that means they avoided the smoke of the city both in going and returning.

Mr. Braidwood was a captain of the Edinburgh Volunteers, and entered with great spirit into the military proceedings of the civic warriors. Not satisfied with the prosperity he had experienced as a cabinetmaker, he latterly began to speculate in the working of quarries ; and contracted for buildings not only in Scotland but in England. In these, however, he fell so far short of the success anticipated, as to occasion a considerable diminution of the wealth he had previously acquired.

Mr. Braidwood married a Miss Mitchell, daughter of a brewer in Leith. At his death, which occurred about ten years ago, he left two sons and two daughters.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus