EXTENSIVE BUILDING SCHEMES ENTERED INTO-IMPROVEMENTS IN DWELLINGHOUSES-A ROAD FORMED THROUGH LOCHAR. MOSS-INSTITUTION OF A GRAMMAR SCHOOL IN THE BURGH-SINGULAR REGULATIONS FOR ITS MANAGEMENT-COCK-FIGHTING IN THE SCHOOL A FAVOURITE PASTIME OF THE PUPILS-ENDOWMENT OF SEWING AND MUSIC SCHOOLS-LIBERAL EDUCATIONAL BEQUESTS BY BAILIE PATERSON-CHARITABLE BEQUESTS BY THE REV. JOHN RAINING-PROGRESS OF THE PORT-CONTINUANCE OF SMUGGLING- FRESH ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE “RUNNING” TRADE-GIPSY LIFE IN THE DISTRICT: NOTICES OF BIG WILL BAILLIE AND JOCK JOHNSTONE-FEARFUL SCENE AT THE EXECUTION OF JOHNSTONE.
WHEN the excitement caused by the Rebellion had fairly subsided, a spirit of improvement sprang up in Dumfries which produced valuable results; and before the first half of the eighteenth century had passed away, the sky-line of the town – to use an artist’s term-did not differ very materially from what it is at present. At the date of the Union, the Mid-Steeple rose up in the centre of the Burgh; a spire-surmounted church soon afterwards was erected at its northern extremity, which was ere long followed by another in the south ; whilst, in the meantime, many houses were rebuilt, several roads were formed to connect the town with the neighbouring district, new schools were instituted or endowed, and several springs of charity began to flow for behoof of the poor. Leaving the building of the churches to be noticed afterwards at greater length, we shall briefly glance at some of the other operations and occurrences belonging to the period.
For many years after 1715, the Town Council books contain numerous references to the removal of ruinous tenements, and their replacement by new erections; as if. in the course of a generation or so a considerable proportion of the Burgh had been rebuilt. And the new houses were, it may be inferred, much better than the old ones had ever been. The latter for the most part were roofed with straw or other vegetable substance, and many of them were of wood or clay. As a consequence, fires were of frequent occurrence: a most destructive one nearly ruined Lochmaben-gate in 1691, and another of less extensive sweep did much damage to Friars’ Vennel in 1701. Not till 1724 did the town possess “a water engine” for use on such occasions. On the 15th of July, 1723, the Council, after taking into account the great loss caused by fires, ordained that henceforth all heritors and others, in reconstructing or reroofing houses joining with or fronting into High Street, should cause the roofs to be made of slates or tiles, and not of straw, heather, broom, breckans, or other combustible matter, under the penalty of one hundred pounds Scots.
In the old fighting times, as has been repeatedly noticed, Lochar Moss was prized by the inhabitants as a natural barrier of defence. Now, however, they had no reason to dread hostile incursions from the South; and, in order to open up a closer communication with Lower Annandale and Cumberland, the Council, assisted by neighbouring proprietors, projected a passage through the Moss. In terms of the contract, it was to extend “from Hannay’s Thorn to the syde of the Lake of Lochare, in the place where the bridge went over to Colin;” was to cost a hundred and fifty pounds sterling; and to be completed by Michaelmas, 1724, about which time it was duly opened for public use. [Pennant, writing in 1770, says :-” Over Lochar Moss is a road remarkable for its origin. A stranger, a great number of years ago, sold some goods to certain merchants in Dumfries upon credit; he disappeared, and neither he nor his heirs ever claimed the money. The merchants, in expectation of the demand, very honestly put out the sum to interest; and after the lapse of more than fifty years, the town of Dumfries obtained a gift of it, and applied the same to the making of this useful road. Another is now in erection for the military, to facilitate the communication between North Britain and Ireland by way of Portpatrick.” – Tour in Scotland, vol. ii., p. 95.]
Soon after the Reformation a grammar school was set up in the Burgh, and a parish school beyond it for the rural districts. Ninian Dalyell-who, it is said, gave lessons to the great Reformer Welsh-is the first teacher of the Burgh school of whom we read. At first its masters taught English as well as the classical languages; and up till nearly the close of the seventeenth century, there seems to have been only one authorized teacher in the whole town. When, in 1663, Mr. Matthew Richmond was appointed to succeed Mr. M`George as rector of the grammar school, he was spoken of in comprehensive terms as “schoolmaster of this Burgh.” The duties assigned to him were multifarious, he being required to precept in the church, to officiate as parish clerk, as well as to give instructions in Greek, Latin, and English, all for X100 Scots a year, “with the benefit of quarter-days ” (free-will offerings from the pupils), and fees for marriage proclamations, baptisms, and burials. Mr. John Fraser was schoolmaster in 1673, with a salary of X40 Scots per quarter.
In June, 1724, the Council were fortunate enough to secure the services as rector of the Rev. Robert Trotter, A. M., who by his learning threw a bright lustre over the Burgh school. He was son of the Laird of Prentonnan, parish of Eccles, Berwickshire, head of the old Border clan of the Trotters, who boast of a Norman lineage, and who fought gallantly at Flodden under the Earl of Home. Rector Trotter published a valuable Latin grammar, that was long popular as a school book. [“Grammaticae Latino Compendium ad Puerorum captum summa ope concinnatum. In usum Scholar Drumfriesiensis, Auctore Roberto Trottero, A.M., Scholarcha ibidem. Edinburgi : Typis Thomae Lumisden and Joannis Robertson. Anno Dom., 1732.” In a presentation copy to him of Johnston’s Latin Psalms of David, from the editor, Gulielmus Landerus, he is styled “Doctissimo Viro Roberto Trottero, A.M., Scholae Drumfriesiensis Proefecto meritissimo, 1740.” The year of his death is not certain ; but he was alive in 1760, in the winter of which year he went to place his grandson Robert at College in Edinburgh, and travelled with him on foot from Dumfries in one day to Morton Hall, the seat of Mr. Trotter, a relation of his. A thruch stone, with a Latin inscription written by himself, was erected to his memory in St. Michael’s churchyard, but has unaccountably disappeared, and when searched for about forty years ago, it could not be found; but the late Mr. Crombie said he had seen the stone some years previously, He is mentioned in ” Heron’s Tour” as an eminent Latin scholar, in the ” Scottish Nation,” also in a note to Anderson’s “Lives of the Poets,” and by other authors; and could converse with learned men in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. When at church, he always used a Greek Testament. It is also related of him, that when engaged in prayer during the great storm known as ” Windy Saturday,” the window was violently blown in on his sick grandson, then in bed, hurting him severely. This grandson was afterwards an eminent physician for fifty-five years in the Glenkens, Galloway, where the family have long maintained a respectable position in society. In Douglas’s ” Baronage ” the family is said to have borne originally the Norman name of Gifford; and in the ” Ulster Journal of Archaeology” it is stated that the first of the name in Scotland was a Celtic chief, who saved the life of King Fergus when his galley was wrecked on the shore of Skye; who, taking hold of the King, cried out, “Trouthard!” viz., “Come here to this rock!” The place where this occurred was called Troutharness, now Trotternish, in Skye, and the Celtic chief and his descendants took the name of Trouthar, now Trotter.] On his induction he had to subscribe twenty conditions, some of which were in effect as follows. During the summer half-year, beginning on the 1st of April, the teacher, under teacher, and children were to enter the school at seven o’clock each morning, and continue there till nine; the rest of the hours being from ten till twelve, and from two till six, forming altogether eight hours daily, except on Saturdays, when the school was closed at noon. In winter the morning classes were omitted, the course of study remaining in other respects the same. After such lengthened hours during the week, the children might have been permitted to remain away from drill, and out of harness, on the Lord’s day. But no : it was any thing save a day of rest to them. Rule number four required that the teacher, his usher, and the pupils should be present at the school each Sabbath morning by nine o’clock, and should at the ringing of the steeple bells repair to the church, the master going before, his assistant bringing up the rear; that they should return to the school at one o’clock, proceed to the church again, go back to the school after worship, and there be catechised on the lectures or sermons they had listened to; and then, supplementary to all this, two scholars were selected each Sabbath to repeat or read the Larger or Shorter Catechism in the church, during the intermission, to such of the congregation as chose to remain between the services. In accordance with the seventh rule, the under teacher was enjoined to put fresh rushes on the schoolhouse floor once a month, “for preventing the spoiling of the children’s cloaths.”
We learn from other regulations, that on Candlemas day literal candles, as well as other gifts, were brought as offerings by the children to their teachers; and that the Latin scholars were required, in their converse with each other, in and out of school, to speak exclusively in that tongue. But the strangest rule of all was one relating to the mode in which the rough pastimes of an annual festival were to be conducted by the pupils. Fastern’s E’en [The English Shrove Tuesday, held on the 6th of April.] had for ages been associated with fighting cocks; and always, when the season came round, young and old, rich and poor, shared eagerly in the cruel but exciting sport. It must have been looked upon as something like a national institution, when “the most potent, grave, and reverend signiors” of the Dumfries Town Council made the following arrangements for its observance in their Burgh school. – “That at Fastern’s Even, upon the day appointed for the cocks fighting in the schoolhouse, the under teacher cause keep the door, and exact no more than twelve pennies Scots for each scholar for the benefit of bringing in a cock to fight in the schoolhouse; and that none be suffered to enter that day to the schoolhouse, but the scholars, except gentlemen and persons of note, from whom nothing is to be demanded; and what money is to be given in by the scholars the under teacher is to receive and apply to his own use, for his pains and trouble; and that no scholars except who pleases shall furnish cocks, but all the scholars, whether they have cocks or not, are to get into the school” – such children as have none, paying two shillings Scots by way of compensation. What a ludicrous mixture does this academic code display of piety and pedantry, of hard mental labour and boisterous relaxation! The scholars of a former generation, and probably those of this one also, were allowed play-acting as a pastime, as appears from a charge made against the Council in 1693 of £7 5s. Scots “for 10 pr. deals at 14s. 6d. each, for a stage to the scholars when they acted `Bellum Gramatical.’ “
Rector Trotter retired in 1760 on a yearly allowance of £30 from the Burgh. His assistant and successor was Dr. George Chapman, who also earned literary distinction as the author of an excellent treatise on education.
So early as 1719, the Town Council instituted and endowed a school in which girls were to be taught “shaping and sewing all sorts of white and colloured seims, embroydering and paistry.” We are apt to think that such an institution as this is a thing of modern growth; and it says much for the wisdom of our ancestors that they in this manner made provision for the industrial up-bringing of their female children. Dame Glendinning, the first teacher of the school, was allowed five pounds sterling of annual salary, besides a fee of half-a-crown per quarter from each pupil, burdened with the condition of instructing six children of poor burgesses free of charge.
In further illustration of the growing refinement of the times, it may be stated that, about twenty years afterwards, the Town Council voted an annual salary of £100 Scots to a teacher of “the tuneful art.” They were led to do so from a belief ” that it will be of considerable advantage to the youth of the Burgh and others, that a music school be erected.” The school, when opened, was made “free to all” – the usual distinction between burgesses and other inhabitants having been set aside; and that the music master might have plenty to do for his money, he was required to give lessons daily in the Burgh school, Sundays excepted, from twelve till one o’clock, and from six till eight o’clock in the evening.[Education in other useful occupations was also promoted by the Council. On the 24th of December, 1753, Thomas Huddleston, cook and confectioner, was admitted a freeman and burgess on condition that he should teach three poor girls “the arts of cookery and confectionery or paistry.”] We find early traces also of a spinning school, the numerous wheels in which had for their chief motive power a money grant from the Town Council. It was superintended in 1751 by Elizabeth Hill. Her scholars that year numbered forty, for teaching whom she received a salary of £2 10s. sterling per annum.
To Bailie John Paterson, who died in 1722, the High School and the cause of education generally in Dumfries were deeply indebted. He bequeathed eight thousand merks as a fund from which to maintain a schoolmaster “for teaching children in ane free schooll in this Burgh the Latin Rudiments and grammer, rhetorick, classick authors, and Greek New Testament;” also seven thousand merks in payment of a second preceptor ” for teaching of children of burgesses, who shall be indwellers and burthin bearers within the Burgh, and of eight children of the poorer sort of merchant burgesses and burthin bearers, in the arts of writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, and navigation.” The moneys, amounting to £835 6s. 8d. sterling, were secured partly over the twenty-four merk land of Preston, with the merse and fell of Criffel in the parish of Kirkbean, the eight merk land of Kirkbean, and the eight merk land of Nimbellie and Fallowend in the same parish; and partly over the seven merk land of Meikle Culloch in the parish of Urr. The mortifications or deeds of the intelligent and benevolent testator were laid before the magistrates and Town Council on the 5th of February, 1722; and they, with the ministers of the parish, being named administrators of the trust, took steps for giving it effect with the least possible delay.
Bailie Paterson was born in the parish of Newabbey in Kirkcudbrightshire. In early life he commenced business as a merchant in Dumfries, and for many years took an active part in its public affairs. In his benefactions he remembered the place of his birth, as well as the town of his adoption. The bridge at the entry of the picturesque village of Newabbey bears an inscription that it was built by him in 1715; and the poor of that parish have reason to bless the name of Bailie John Paterson, he having left a large sum for their behoof – £156 -which, invested in land, and slightly added to from other sources, yields a handsome rental of £190 to the parochial funds of Newabbey. A humble tombstone in St. Michael’s churchyard, just at the entrance on the right hand side, bears the simple inscription:-” Here lies John Paterson, merchant, late Bailie of Dumfries, who died 17th January, 1722, aged 65 years.” [An adjoining stone erected in memory of Bailie Paterson’s son, who died in his seventeenth year, bears upon it the following epitaph:-
When When parents, friends, and neighbours hoped to see
This early bud of learning, piety,
And temper good, produce some fruit,
Behold, Death plucks the plant up by the root.”]
With all truth there might have been added:” Bailie Paterson was a large benefactor to the public, having left considerable sums for the endowment of Dumfries schools, and built a bridge at Newabbey, and provided for the poor of Newabbey, his native parish.” [Birth-place and Parentage of William Paterson, by William Pagan, of Cupar. Mr. Pagan shows pretty conclusively, in this work, that Bailie Paterson was not, as is popularly believed, brother to the projector of the Darien scheme, and that it is probable they were not in any way related to each other.]
In the following year Mr. John Raining, a Dumfriesian long resident in the city of Norwich, “devised liberal things” for the benefit of his native Burgh. An extract from his last will and testament was produced at a Council meeting held on the 24th of October, in which he bequeathed five hundred pounds sterling to be laid out to interest or in the purchase of lands or tenements for behoof of six poor old widows, sixty years of age or more, belonging to the town; the overplus, after so doing, to be applied in paying a schoolmaster for teaching destitute fatherless boys in English, Latin, and arithmetic. Mr. Raining also left ten pounds to be distributed among the poor of Troqueer parish, a similar sum for the poor of Holywood parish, and many additional sums for charitable and religious purposes in other parts of Scotland and in Norwich.
As results of these benefactions, two seminaries apart from the grammar school were opened; one for arithmetic, mathematics, and writing, the first master of which was Mr. Charles Mercer; the other for English, which was first taught as a separate branch by Mr. James Turnbull. Mr. Alexander Shand, who succeeded the latter in 1755, had an annual salary of £11; £6 of it being taken direct from the Burgh revenue, and £5 from Raining’s mortification. He was also provided with a school-house and residence; and his income was eked out by the quarterly wages, whose amount was “left to the generosity of the inhabitants,” and by £4 paid to him yearly for precenting in the New Church. If Young Dumfries was not well tutored, a hundred years ago, in Latin, Greek, English, mathematics, writing, and music, it was certainly not for the want of teachers.
The importance of the Nith, as a means of trading intercourse, was now more than ever recognized. We find the Council, in the summer of 1772, causing sundry huge rolling stones to be removed that- impeded the channel at Kingholm, and taking other steps to make the river more navigable. For a series of years after the Rebellion had been suppressed, the legitimate commerce of the port steadily increased ; and the lapse of time brought no diminution of the “running trade,” though, after a party of soldiers had been stationed at the town, in 1720, the smugglers conducted their proceedings with greater caution.
In this respect, the annals of Dumfries, from 1715 till the second Jacobite insurrection, are characterized by the same incidents as those that occurred during the earlier part of the century: the systematic landing of contraband goods, extensive seizures of them by the Government officials, frequent conflicts between the daring free-traders of the Dirk Hatteraick [Yawkins, the prototype of Dirk Hatteraick, plied his vocation for many years in the waters of the Solway.] type, and the not less courageous guardians of the law; and all the other features of the long war waged for and against the revenue duties. A few details will suffice. In order that the Custom-house officers might be able more effectually to cope with the enemy, they procured two fast-sailing skiffs from Whitehaven, “built as near as possible to the shape of an Isle of Man boat,” the dimensions being sixteen feet and a half keel, six feet two inches beam, twenty feet from stem to stern, and costing with full outrig about £12 each. By means of these cutters in the Solway, and numerous riders, runners, and waiters on shore, a good look-out was kept, and many a smuggling enterprise was checked, or rendered fruitless; though hundreds more, in spite of all that could be done, were carried to a successful issue every year.
“On the 10th of September, 1722,” the collector writes, “we went to a place called Kirkbride, about seven miles from Dumfries, in pursuance of an information of some brandy lying there. Accordingly we found five small casks of brandy in and about the house of one Andrew Hewitson; and after we had got it upon horseback, and brought it a small way from the house, the said Hewitson raised the whole country about upon us, who came with stones, clubs, and fire-arms, and violently deforced us of the said seizure.” [Custom-house Records] “This is to inform you,” the collector writes again, under date 2nd May, 1726, “that upon the 28th ult. the King’s warehouse here was broken open betwixt one and two of the clock that morning, and five casks of brandy taken out thereof; to our great surprise, considering the strength of the warehouse, for it had a strong double door” with a big lock, and padlock affixed by a chain, which every body thought impregnable; “but it appears the door has been forced open by a crow iron, and the great chain been broken by the same instrument. As soon as we were informed of the same, we immediately got a warrant to search for the stolen brandy, and were informed that it was lodged in the Bridgend of Dumfries, where we found it in a house belonging to Robert Newal, wright there, and brought the same back to the warehouse.” [Custom-house Records] It is then stated by the writer that, after great exertions, two of the “authors of the villainy” had been apprehended, and that he expected all the others would be secured. “We persuade ourselves,” he goes on to say’;` getting virtuously indignant, “that a vigorous prosecution of the guilty now will effectually secure the warehouse from ever being broken again; for altho’ the warehouse has been broken open in this place before, yet the offenders were not discovered, which has given those fellows the assurance at this time to commit such a villainy.”
A Leith merchant, named Briceson, figures in the next narrative as a smuggler bold. He is described as “one of the greatest runners upon this coast,” [Ibid] for the apprehension of whom both the Excise and Customs’ officers held warrants, which they had vainly tried to enforce. It was his practice, we infer, to run tobacco and brandy from the Isle of Man to the Solway coast; sell as much of them as he could to the people of the district, and send the rest overland to his establishment at Leith. On the 12th of August, 1726, whilst a boatman named Affleck was proceeding to Dumfries with three casks of brandy which he had seized at Glenluffing Moss, Briceson appeared upon the scene. He had brought the liquor across the sea to a friend; and not liking the idea of its being diverted into another channel, he, assisted by the son of his confederate, set ruthlessly upon the revenue officer, who had to relinquish his prize, and was glad to escape with bare life from his assailants.[Ibid] Whether this notable smuggler-merchant, who acted so much in the style of a modern filibuster, was ever brought to justice, is not mentioned; but we may be sure that his premises in Leith would not be allowed to remain long open after this outrage. was reported.
Often, it is said, the smugglers obtained a wonderful amount of co-operation from the well-trained horses which they either had in their employ, or which were placed at their service by the people of the district. Individuals, according to a writer in the Dumfriesshire Magazine, then alive (1821), or only recently dead, had frequently seen one famous troop of these quadrupeds, heavily laden, at day-dawn, with contraband goods, unattended by any human being, and preceded by a white horse of surpassing sagacity, scouring along the Old Bridge, down the White Sands, and through the streets of Dumfries, without’ any one daring to interrupt their progress. Indeed, in those days, such an attempt was not likely to be often made; for it was notorious that the inhabitants themselves were too deeply implicated in similar transactions, to induce them to restrain others. “It is related, however, that on one or two occasions, when some individual more officious than the rest rashly attempted to intercept the leader of the troop, the wily animal either suddenly reared and struck its opposer to the ground, or by a peculiar motion swung the kegs with which it was loaded with so much violence that no one durst approach within its reach.”
It was found in course of time that the boats from Whitehaven, though built according to the Manx model, were easily distanced by the free-trading craft; that the aid given to the revenue officers by soldiers was irregular, and of little value; that the export of prohibited articles, as well as the import of contraband goods, went on increasing; and that, therefore, a reform of the protective system of the Solway was urgently required. Actuated by this conviction, representatives from the ports of Dumfries, Whitehaven, Carlisle, and Workington, held a conference at Wigton, Cumberland, on the 20th of November, 1724, and agreed to lay before the Customs’ authorities certain remedial proposals. They recommended that two well-armed, well-manned sloops should be procured, fitted for both sailing and rowing, and that one of them should be stationed at Silloth, on the English side, the other at Annan Waterfoot, so as to command the open channel, whilst the smaller boats in the service should be employed along the shore. The Dumfries collector, in urging the adoption of this scheme, says:-“The charge of each of these sloops would amount in the first year to £180, and afterwards to £130 yearly-which, indeed, will be an additional charge upon the revenue; but I am convinced your honours will find it very sufficiently made up, either by the increase of the King’s moiety of seizures, or the advance of the duty at the foresaid ports, and particularly the duty on tobacco; for, notwithstanding of the great quantity of tobacco made use of in this country, there is but a small consumption of what is legally imported and fairly pays duty, which makes it plain that there are vast quantities of that commodity run from the Isle of Man.” He expresses his belief that were one of these sloops placed on each side of the Frith, the passage betwixt them is so narrow, that it would be difficult for any boat to pass undetected; though at the same time the little revenue yawls would be needed to cruise after such contraband craft among the sandbanks and up the creeks, as succeeded in eluding the guardians of the channel.
These proposals were partially acted upon; yet the profits of the running trade were so much greater than its risks, that it continued to flourish. The first notice of tea being brought into the County occurs in September, 1724, in which month “one small cask of Bohea” was seized near the Border. In the same year we begin to read of malt and wool as articles of export-quantities of the latter being carried from farm-houses down to the Colvend coast, and smuggled from Glenstocken to that rendezvous of all lawlessness, the Isle of Man. [In a valuable manuscript account of the Burgh of Annan, prepared by the late Mr. John M’Lellan, writer there, he says :-“Annan Waterfoot, Newbie, Seafield, Battle-Hill, and Port Stormont, were all noted landing-places for contraband goods. There is a vaulted subterranean cellar standing till this day at Waterfoot, which was used in these times as a depot for smuggled brandy, &c. At Kenziol and the other places named there were also depot-cellars; and frequently ankers of liquor were secreted in fields and gardens along the shore. Having been checked by legislation, another system of smuggling sprang up, viz., the carrying of whisky across the Border in skins and tin casks, which has also now ceased, owing to the alteration of the revenue laws, by a wise equalization of the duty in Scotland with that of England. Large casks of whisky were brought from Leith by carriers to supply the spirit merchants of Annan. Several puncheons would often be disposed of in a night, to gangs who proceeded across the Frith, the difference of duty (4s. or 5s, a gallon) being the gain for the risk of detection by the revenue officers.”]
So rigid were the revenue regulations at this period, that when some charitable people in Dumfries commissioned two ship loads of oatmeal from Ireland that the poor might obtain it cheap when it was hardly to be had of home growth for love or money, the collector durst not permit the meal to be landed till he was specially authorized to do so by his official superiors. The officers were also scandalized by a daring innovation which had sprung up, especially at Kirkcudbright, of importing Irish cattle, and they sorely bewailed the connivance given to it by the County gentlemen and their tenants. Long before other districts of Scotland knew anything of tea save the name, it was a familiar beverage on the banks of the Nith and along the shores of the Solway. Unfortunately, “the cup which cheers but not inebriates” was for the most part obtained by the Dumfriesians in an illicit way, the same smuggling boats that brought them casks of rum, wine, and brandy, or rolls of tobacco, supplying them with chests of tea; and so common had it become in 1744, that magistrates and moralists lamented its use by the lower classes as a pernicious luxury.
At a meeting of the Burgh and County authorities, held in the summer of that year, presided over by Sir William Maxwell of Springkell, with Provost Ewart of Dumfries taking a part in the proceedings, a solemn manifesto was launched against smuggling, which was decried on four grounds-because of its illegality, the thriftlessness to which it led, the luxurious habits it engendered, and the encouragement it gave to the King’s enemies in France, from which many of the “run” goods were derived. Mark the weighty words, the serious tone, of the opening statement. “‘We, the Justices of the Peace, Commissioners of the Land Tax, and Heritors of the Shire, comprehending the Stewartry of Annandale, the Five Kirks of Eskdale, and the Magistrates and Burgesses of the Burgh of Dumfries hereafter subscribing, under a just concern for the welfare of our country, in a special manner for this part of it, observe with regret that much idleness and luxury prevail, and being in a particular manner highly sensible of the pernicious consequences of unlawful smuggling, equally notorious and disgraceful, and that the people of all ranks have been for many years past so infatuated that, disdaining the produce of our own grain, out of an affected delicacy have wantonly indulged themselves in the excessive use of French wines and brandies, and of late years run teas have been purchased at so low a rate that the use thereof is become universall, even among artificers, to the impoverishment of this country, and the ruin of the usefull and industrious husbandman.”
This grave preamble is followed by a lamentation “that to such a scandalous height is this hurtful practice arrived, that in some parishes upon the sea-coast even servants of both sexes have no sooner earned their wages than the same are laid out in carrying on this unlawful business, whereby the smugglers secure their assistance, so that many attempts of the proper officers to seize run goods have been audaciously defeated, and they themselves beat and abused.” All this would have been bad at any time, but at present it is doubly criminal, “now that this nation is engaged in a just but dangerous and expensive war against France,” when “it would be a kind of treason against our country to use goods which are the produce of France, whereby money, which is the sinews of war, would be impressed into our enemies’ hands, to our own destruction.” For these reasons, moral and patriotic, the subscribers of the document covenanted ” to discourage and bear down this infamous trade,” by refraining from the use of French liquors during the continuance of the war,. by discouraging all publichouses in which they were sold, by moderating and discouraging the drinking of tea in their several families, and suffering none knowingly to be used in them which was not bought in the way of lawful trade, and by dismissing all servants who took part in or patronized the running traffic.
One portion of this curious agreement breathes the very spirit of Burns’s lines:
“Wae worth that brandy, burning trash! –
Fell source o’ mony a pain and brash –
Twines mony a poor, doylt, drunken hash
O’ half his days!
An’ sends, besides, auld Scotland’s cash
To her warst faes.”
And the closing part of it looks almost like a prose version of other stanzas in the poem from which we have just quoted, so recommendatory is it of “guid auld Scotch drink, in glass or jug.” “And, moreover,” say the subscribers, “we resolve and promise that we encourage the brewing and retailing of strong ale, the distilling and retailing of spirits made from our own malt or other grain ; and we will not countenance any publichouses who do not retail our own strong ale and spirits, and will discourage all who retail French wines and spirits.” Right cordially could the resolutionists have sung the lines, had they then been penned, in which their own sentiment is so forcibly expressed:
Let Let husky wheat the haughs adorn,
An’ aits set up their awnie horn,
An’ pease and beans, at e’en or morn,
Perfume the plain:
Leeze me on thee, John Barleycorn,
Thou king o’ grain!
“On thee aft Scotland chows her cood,
In souple scones-the wale o’ food! –
Or tumblin’ in the boilin’ flood,
Wi’ kail and beef;
But when thou pours thy strong heart’s bluid,
There thou shines chief.”
Three hundred copies of this document were printed and circulated, and its originators were at great pains otherwise to get its sentiments generally adopted and acted upon in the district. Considerable success attended their efforts; but neither this well-meant movement, nor the whole local machinery of the Custom-house, backed by military power, sufficed to stop the adventurous Manxmen, who continued to prosecute their trade, till, in 1784, Pitt cut it up effectually by his celebrated commutation measure, which reduced the duties on excisable articles so that the lawful dealer was enabled to compete with the smuggler. By those who had thriven upon the illicit traffic, this statute of the “heaven-born minister” was denounced as ” the burning and starving Act.”
With the smugglers were often conjoined another lawless class, the gipsies – the latter of whom swarmed in some parishes of Dumfriesshire during the early half of the eighteenth century, and long afterwards. Among these strange people “of the wandering foot” were the Kennedys, who made Mid-Annandale their chief haunt; the Gordons, whose tents were chiefly set up in Dryfesdale and on the Galloway side of the Nith; and the Baillies, who roamed about in all directions, and were ranked as the “upper ten” of the tinkler tribes. And truly, to see a band of the Baillies mounted on horseback, attired in coats of scarlet or Lincoln green, ruffled in front and at the -wrist, booted and spurred, with cocked hats for head-gear, armed with swords and pistols, and followed by hunting dogs, was an imposing spectacle, that . went far to vindicate their claim to high descent and gentle blood. With showy, fantastic cavalcades such as this, our Dumfries forefathers a hundred and thirty years ago were not unfamiliar; but they were much more conversant with the shady side of gipsy life-with the plebeian vagrants who vended and mended small tin wares, who robbed the hen-roost and the fold, and who with nimble finger did a large stroke of business in the High Street or on the Whitesands at every Candlemas fair. Even the haughty Baillies, who held their heads so high, and cut such a dash as they rode through Nithsdale, lived, like the mosstroopers of old, whom they otherwise resembled, by plunder alone. If labour was irksome to the sons of Little Egypt generally, it was doubly odious to those of them who bore the name of and counted cousinship with the royallydescended Laird of Lamington.
Of their predatory doings tradition has preserved numerous illustrations; but we shall only adduce one of rather an agreeable nature, the hero of which was none other than Big Will Baillie, the chief of the clan, who, though ” a rank riever,” almost rivalled Robin Hood himself in acts of generosity. A stalwart farmer from Hutton, in Annandale, having had his pocket picked at a crowded Dumfries fair of a large sum in gold, with which he was on his way to buy cattle, bethought him of a plan for recovering his lost purse, or at all events of getting some trace of it. Filling another purse with small stones, he mingled in the crowd; and soon after he felt the bait nibbled at. A young spare fellow, whose tawny face betrayed his origin, having stealthily clutched the fancied prize, he was seized in turn by the farmer, who, taking the pickpocket aside, laid before him the alternative of bringing back the purse of gold, or being treated to free lodgings in the Tolbooth. The gipsy lad, having due regard for his own neck, took the farmer, by whom he was still held fast, to a low house down one of the closes leading from the Vennel, and there introduced him to a tall, portly individual, dressed like a gentleman. The latter, on being whispered to by the youth, told his rural visitor to describe the purse he had lost, and the nature of its contents. “A purse of green worsted, with forty gowden guineas in it,” was the prompt reply. “There it is,” returned the stranger, giving back to the delighted farmer his own veritable purse, with its full tale of “jingling Geordies.” Need we add that it was the gentle gipsy riah, or chief of the Baillies, who acted this congenial part. Will had his headquarters for many years in this same house whenever he visited Dumfries, which was usually twice a year at least, during the great horse fairs in February and September; and, by means of numerous lightfingered emissaries belonging to his tribe, he managed to make more money on such occasions than any dozen of honest dealers. No wonder that he and his boon confederates, male and female, ” lived like lords and ladies gay.” But never after the incident we have just narrated did he make the little house in the Vennel his place of rendezvous. The Annandale farmer returned to it in the evening, in order, as he told the occupier, a poor widow, to give Mr. Baillie a treat for restoring his purse; but the gipsy chief, knowing that he had been identified, and his retreat revealed, had, to the great grief of his hostess, who knew him only as Mr. Stewart, bidden her a long adieu. For many years afterwards, however, a stranger called every six months with money for her rent-in recognition, it was understood, of the former attention which she had paid to her mysterious lodger. [This story forms one of M’Vitie’s Tales, and is also related in Simson’s History of the Gipsies, pp. 197-8.]
So much for the Bailies and their chief: let us turn for a minute to notice a humbler gang, and illustrate by a more tragical incident the darker features of gipsy life. On the 7th of March, 1732, John (or, as he was usually termed, “Jock”) Johnstone, was, with several other “tinklers,” found guilty by the Kirkcudbright justices of being “an Egyptian vagrant and sorner;” and for such negative crimes he was whipped through Bridgend, and then burned on the cheek. This was not the first or last time in which Jock suffered punishment; but all the stripes, scorchings, and imprisonments he was subjected to did no more to cure his wandering and thievish disposition than to take the tan from his visage. When Jock was roaming about, he was invariably accompanied by quite a seraglio of women; and on one occasion-ever memorable to him-he withdrew with some of them to a small ale-house, kept by an old widow named Margaret Farish, at Parkgate, eight miles from Dumfries, on the Edinburgh road. A quarrel between one of his concubines and the hostess, about the price of the liquor, provoked the interference of Jock. Heated with drink and rage, he repeatedly struck the poor old woman on her head with the heavy pint stoup in which the ale was served, killing her on the spot.
He was apprehended at Lockerbie next day, and forthwith lodged in the Dumfries Tolbooth. During the dreary interval before his trial, he was allowed the companionship of a pet jackdaw, which had travelled the district with him in happier days for them both. But just as the judges passed the prison, on their way to court, the heralds of the procession blew a flourish with their trumpets, and that moment the gipsy’s feathered favourite dashed convulsively against the iron bars of the window, and dropped down dead. ” Lord ha’e mercy on me! for I am gane!” cried Jock, naturally enough considering that the fate of the poor daw was ominous of his own: and so it turned out. He was condemned to die; but life was sweet, and he resolved to keep it or sell it dearly, while deceitful hope buoyed him up with the idea that the men of his tribe would yet enable him to elude the gallows. Jock doggedly refused to leave his cell; and as he was one of the strongest men in all Dumfriesshire, it was with the utmost difficulty that he was dragged out and carried to the upper story, from the front of which the fatal noose hung dangling, waiting for its human tassel. The convict wanted the thumbs of both hands, and was often called “Thoomie Johnstone” on that account; but this defect no way unfitted him for maintaining a tremendous resistance. Apprehensive of a rescue, the authorities placed a hundred stout burgesses, armed with Lochaber axes, as a guard around the Tolbooth. Eventually, long after the appointed hour, the figure of Johnstone appeared upon the scaffold, enclosed by six town officers; and we must leave the scene that ensued to be described by the Rev. Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk, [Autobiography of the Rev. Dr. Alexander Carlyle, minister of Inveresk. W. Blackwood & Sons, 1860. In this work there are numerous references to Dumfries, Dr. Carlyle having at various periods paid visits to it, as he had several relatives residing in the town. “The first journey I made,” he says, “was to Dumfriesshire, in the summer 1733, when I was eleven years of age. There I not only became well acquainted with my grandfather, Mr. A. Robison [minister of Tinwald], a very respectable clergyman, and with my grandmother, Mrs. Jean Graham, and their then unmarried daughters, but I became well acquainted with the town of Dumfries, where I resided for several weeks at Provost Bell’s, whose wife was one of my mother’s sisters, two more of whom were settled in that town-one of them the wife of the clergyman, Mr. Wight, and the other of the sheriff-clerk. I was soon very intimate with a few boys of this town about my own age, and became a favourite by teaching them some of our sports and plays in the vicinity of the capital that they had never heard.” Again he says: “I passed most of the summer of this year  in Dumfriesshire, where my grandfather kept me pretty close to my studies; though I frequently walked in the afternoons to Dumfries, and brought him the newspapers from Provost Bell, his son-in-law. . . . During the period when I so much frequented Dumfries, there was a very agreeable society in that town. They were not numerous, but the few were better informed and more agreeable in society than any to be met with in so small a town.”] who, when a boy, viewed it from the window of his uncle Provost Bell’s house, situated opposite the prison.
“When Jock first issued from the door,” says Carlyle, “he looked a little astonished; but looking round a while, he proceeded with a bold step. Psalms and prayers being over, the rope was fastened about his neck, and he was prompted to ascend a short ladder fastened to the gallows, to be thrown off. Here his resistance and my terror began. Jock was curly-haired and fierce looking, and very strong of his size-about five feet eight inches. The moment they asked him to go up the ladder he took hold of the rope round his neck, which was fastened to the gallows, and with repeated violent pulls attempted to pull it down, and his efforts were so strong that it was feared he would have succeeded. The crowd in the meantime felt much emotion, and the fear of the magistrates increased. I wished myself on the top of Criffel, or anywhere but there. But the attempt to go through the crowd appeared more dangerous than to stay where I was. I returned to my station again, resolving manfully to abide the worst extremity. Jock struggled and roared, for he became like a furious wild beast, and all that six men could do they could not bind him; and having with wrestling hard forced up the pinions on his arms, they were afraid, and he became more formidable; when one of the magistrates recollecting that there was a master mason or carpenter of the name of ‘Baxter who was by far the strongest man in Dumfries, they with difficulty prevailed with him, for the honour of the town, to come on the scaffold. He came, and putting aside the six men who were keeping him down, he seized him, and made no more difficulty than a nurse does in handling her child; he bound him hand and foot in a few minutes, and laid him quietly down on his face near the edge of the scaffold, and retired. Jock, the moment he felt his grasp, found himself subdued, and became calm, and resigned himself to his fate.” Carlyle closes his graphic narrative by saying: “The dreadful scene cost me many nights’ sleep”-a circumstance not to be wondered at. If a rescuing party of Jock’s friends had appeared in his time of need, they would very likely have succeeded in carrying him away in triumph. [We are partly indebted to Mr. W. F. Johnstone, bookseller, Dumfries, for our reminiscences of Jock Johnstone. He had them from his father, the late Mr. Walter Johnstone, who possessed a rare store of Annandale traditions, many of which he committed to paper; but unfortunately the manuscript has been lost sight of. An account of the gipsy chief is also given by Simson, pp. 200-1.]