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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish

Weavers are by some people supposed to be rather a weak and effeminate race of men, but there never was a greater mistake as applied to Kirkintilloch weavers, as Mr. Russell’s letters so conclusively show.

It must be remembered for one thing that the occupation of a weaver was once rather a good one—they were, as a rule, independent of a master, and could take a holiday at any time. They invariably took ample time for meals, and generally a half-holiday on Saturdays. At harvest or other farm-work they were able to cope with any other class of workers. They have always been noted throughout Scotland for their intelligence, possibly more than those of any other occupation; eager for knowledge, great readers— especially of the newspapers—and keen politicians. We believe that not only in Kirkintilloch, but throughout Scotland, the great majority were Radicals, but we must leave our readers to judge for themselves whether this was a proof of their intelligence or not. Certain it is that they have always discussed the affairs of the nation ; have been familiar with the characters and speeches of the men composing each cabinet; and could at all times rule the policy and affairs of the British Government in the Cowgate of Kirkintilloch much better—in their own estimation—than ministers could do in London.

At a large meeting of Radicals in the east-end of Glasgow in the early part of this century, the chairman happened to be a man who had fled from Gallowhill some years before, to avoid the penalty of illicit distillation. The reports by delegates from all parts of the country were being called for by the chairman, who at last said, “And what’s Kirkintilloch daein?” The delegate from Kirkintilloch, who knew the chairman and his antecedents said, “Oh! the Kirkintilloch folk are jist on the swither.” “It*s jist like them,” said the chairman, “if the Luggie was rinnin* whisky, they would be a* soomin in’t like fish, and the deil a drap would reach the Clyde.” “Ay,” retorted the delegate, “and ye had to rin awa frae Gallowhill for makin’t.”

During the French Revolution the weavers had an exciting time of it—the actors in that terrible tragedy being fully criticised—and, as may be supposed, the French names stumbled them a little; but they soon jumped over the obstacles. Robespierre was dubbed “Rabspeary,” and Murat was pronounced with a strong emphasis on the lt rat ”—just as in later times Wilhelmshohe, the residence of Louis Philippe, was elevated into “ Weelam-sheuch.”

The reader must have observed the remarkable statement in Mr. Russell’s letters by an old drill sergeant, that “weavers" made the best soldiers first, because they “were well set up”; and, second, because they “had not been spoiled by eating too much beef.”

This means, that a weavers occupation did not tend to make him stoop like that of a shoemaker or tailor; neither did it stiffen his limbs by hard or heavy manual labour, such as a blacksmith or ploughman. Thus when weavers entered the ranks they were “well set up,” and stood straight.

That they were better adapted for soldiers because of *0/eating too much beef must be a puzzle to an Englishman, and no doubt to many young Scotchmen of the present day. It just means that weavers used more oatmeal than beef, and, consequently, were more “spry” and sprightly, and took up their drill quicker and better than men who were “spoiled by eating too much beef.”

And there is no mystery about it. Oatmeal was the staple food of the Scottish people for hundreds of years, and it may almost be said that they maintained their independence by its means. If there were no virtue in oatmeal, and the people had required as much beef in the time of Wallace and Bruce as they do now-a-days, Scotland would have been sold to the English for a mess of pottage, or, rather, a mess of beef. But our forefathers were wiser men: they despised roast beef, stuck to oatmeal, and fought all their battles by its means from Bannockburn right onwards.

It is amusing and instructive, amid all the analyses of food of every kind in our day, to find that the Scotch get the credit of having hit upon the best, cheapest, and most wholesome national food of all others, in oatmeal porridge, and broth and beef. Since this discovery was made, porridge has advanced in the estimation of the world, and is now offered everywhere—in hotels ocean steamers, etc.

Sad to say, however, while its use is spreading abroad among the most intelligent classes, it is becoming less every year among the working people of Scotland, who do not know the value of the friend they neglect. Look at the numbers of poor rickety children to be seen in Glasgow whose limbs cannot support their bodies—these children, instead of getting “halesome parritch,” are staved off with “a piece,” and, possibly, a little tea. The Loch Katrine water is blamed for this, as being deficient in lime, but oatmeal contains a good deal of lime and would counteract the deficiency if the children could only get it, but their mothers deliberately cheat them out of their inheritance.

Her most gracious majesty Queen Victoria is gifted with strong common-sense, which has carried her through the difficulties of her position with credit. No fear of her neglecting oatmeal. She always gave her bairns porridge, and is fond of roast mutton, “an’ what for no?” The Princess Royal, now dowager empress of Prussia, liked very well to make porridge when she was a young girl at Balmoral.

Dr. W. Gregg, a London medical man, writes as follows to the Evening News and Post:—“Four years since, an old patient, a poor man, consulted me, and asked if I could prescribe a diet for him that would not cost him more than 6d. per day. I replied that I had never attempted to live on so small a sum, but before recommending him what to do I would first try it on myself. I went to a store in Oxford Street and purchased 28 lbs. of the best medium kind of Scotch oatmeal, for which I paid 3s. 10d. I told my cook that she was to cook for me three times a day a soup plate full for breakfast, dinner and supper, and I should not take a particle of anything else. It was cooked in water and eaten with a little milk, one pint a day; this continued for six weeks, and I took not an atom of anything else into my system, keeping an account of the daily cost. It amounted to 5½d. per day, and I felt just as well as before commencing it, if not better. I then recommended it to my poor patient, and he has adhered to it ever since for himself and family, at a very considerable less cost of living and better health. I got to like it so well myself that I still continue to use it, and have not eaten two ounces of animal food per day for the past seven years. I recommend it to all my patients.”

The late Dr. Cleghorn used to pass daily a boy herding a cow, and admired the youth’s appearance of sturdy health and contentment. One day the doctor said to him—“Well, my young man, you seem always to be remarkably cheerful; do you ever weary in such monotonous employment?” “Weary,” replied the boy, “what guid wad wearying do to me? I maun wait till the cow’s time to gang hame, weary or no.” “What,” continued the doctor, “do you get for breakfast that gives you such a rosy face?* “Get! what should I get but parritch, to be sure?” “Ay, and what for dinner?* “Parritch, sin ye maun hae’t.” “Some change for supper, surely, my little hero?” “Just parritch, too, and glad to see them a' times o’ the day.” “Is it possible,” remarked the doctor, “that you feed on nothing but porridge morning, noon, and night?” At this point an acquaintance of the boy passed, to whom he called out, “Losh, man, Jock, here’s a man thinks every day a New’r-day!”

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