‘Hugh Sutherland, Ahoy! A Play in One Act’ (8 April, 1871)

The following play appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ following the conclusion of a singular newstory that had been ongoing for a few weeks. Hugh Sutherland, a tailor, applied for an interdict against the Provost James Yeaman, as well as the magistrates and town council of Dundee. This body were going to use public money to fund a banquet in honour of the royal marriage between Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne. The case ultimately failed but gained some notoriety in the London press, critics of Sutherland claimed it was an opportunistic piece of advertising whereas the ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ proclaimed: “we sadly require a few Hugh Sutherlands on this side of the Border to teach our guardians, vestrymen, and others that they can no longer be allowed to indulge in their gluttony at the public expense.” Clippings from the ‘Journal’s’ coverage of the story will appear below.

Time,—The nineteenth century. Place,—A garret at the foot of Hilltown. Dramatis Personae,—1, Mrs Mysie Macdoons; 2, Baldie, her eldest son, aged 9 years; 3, Joe, the youngest son, aged 7 years; 4, Hugh Sutherland, the tailor.

Enter Hugh with his suit, composed of his goose, smoothing board, tape scissors, chalk, &c.

MYSIE—Gudeness sake are you here at last, Huie? O, you’ve been lang o’ coming; but, like a bad shilling, ye aye turn up. My twa laddies hae been oot o’ a’ patience for ye, and nae wonder, for they are inside oot. Nae want of ventilation wi’ them, I can tell you. Sanitary deputations, so far as they are concerned, can remain at home. They havena got to the kirk or Sabbath schule thae twa last Sabbaths for want o’ claes, an’ they hae positively fallen off in their religious instruction. They canna even get oot to the bools, poor things! and yesterday was washing day, and bairns at hame on such an important occasion are aye a bather. Is there onything about tailors in the Education Bill, Huie?

HUGH—Weel, Mysie, I’ll jist sit doon an’ hae a draw at my cuttie, which will gie ye time to rin’ doon. Nothing like getting off the bile in the morning—nothing, Mysie.

MYSIE—There’s nae bile aboot me, man—only a wee thing cranky; and there is nothing like telling ane’s mind.


MYSIE—Weel, when you are blasting, I will look oot some o’ the gudeman’s trowsers, to be made doon for the callants. There is naething like economy, Huie.


MYSIE—Here’s a pair of corderoys which I think might do for Baldie. There is nothing like corderoys for wear, Huie.


BALDIE—But, mither, the breeks are a’ clooted, d’ ye see.

HUGH (withdrawing his pipe, and sending a curling volume of smoke aloft)Never mind, my young fashionable; I will put the cloots at the back, and you will never see them.

MYSIE—Then here’s a pair o’ shepherd tartans, which I think should do for Joe.

JOE (looking at the inexpressibles with suspicion)—“Not for Joe.”

HUGH—Why not for Joe, you young Arab?

JOE—Because they will not stand the mud. They will aye be in the washing tub; and I would hae to gang to my bed till they were washed and dried.

MYSIE—Drat the laddie is no far wrang—soap is dear and labour’s no cheap. See, here’s anither pair o’ blacks, noo nearly browns, for they have been at births, marriages, and funerals since ever they were born. Will they dae, do you think, Huie?—there is nothing like gude black claith.


MYSIE—Weel, I see you pipe is oot; so if you set too I will take my stocking, and we’ll hae a crack together for auld langsyne. There is naething like a twa-handed crack, Huie.

HUGH—(Squatting himself into state)—Nothing.

MYSIE—Weel, hoo has the warld been using you since I saw you last?

HUGH—Just as weel as can be expected I am everybody’s body when wanted, and naebody’s body when not wanted.

MYSIE—I see ye hae been takin’ yersel’ up wi’ politics, or what do you ca’ that sort o’ thing?

HUGH—Oh, sometimes I look and see what the upper Houses are doing.

MYSIE—But I am thinking ye sometimes meddle with the lower Houses. Wha on earth was that who asked in the papers the other day wha Hugh Sutherland was? I thocht it was a gey bit o’ Impudence, for everybody wha kens onything at a’ would ken wha Hugh Sutherland was.

HUGH—O, it was that speiring body o’ the Advertiser and People’s Journal. He would speir the very internals oot o’ you if he could, but he did not get much oot o’ me. I only telled him I was a tailor, which was small and pipers’ news. I didna’ tell him a’; I ha’ the knack o’ aye keeping something to mysel’.

MYSIE—But were you no a tailor a’ your days, Huie?

HUGH—Lord bless you! no, Mysie. I was ance a precentor, and led King David’s psalmody.

MYSIE—A precentor! Goodness gracious! Whaur did you sing?

HUGH—At Arbroath, amang the Red Lichties.

MYSIE—Wha are the Red Lichties? Are they ony freends to the French Reds?

HUGH—They are neither kith nor kin. Their forefathers and the present generation have been noted for their great wisdom and foresight. It was them, woman, who invented the red danger light in the lighthouses.

MYSIE—What sort o’ a licht is it?

HUGH—Oh, it was a wonderful invention. They put in plain white glass in the lamp, lighted the lamp, and then painted the sea-staring pane red.

MYSIE—Aye, man, wasna’ that clever?

HUGH—I should rather say so.

MYSIE—Did the Red Lichties patent their invention?

HUGH—No, but it sticks to them and will stick to them like a burr. The danger licht will never gang oot as lang as the Brothock runs through the toon.

MYSIE—And hoo did you get on as precentor, Huie?

HUGH—Oh, brawly for a while; but the minister drank the stipend, and I did the same with my salary. The minister was tried and deposed, I being the chief witness against him. Missing my vestry forenoon, my mid-day refresher, and my four o’clock closer, I gave way to despondency. The “Bangor” would skirl up on no account, and “Auld Hundred” came to a dead strike, so I hung my harp on a willow tree and betook myself to Harmony Hall, No. 47 Seagate, where I will always be found, if at home, ready to take on new rigging or transmogrification, just to suit the taste of my customers.

MYSIE—Weel, you would nae doot be at the marriage feast?

HUGH—Deed no; I was never asked, though old and decayed. I dined off a penny worth of liver at home, while the Magistrates, Council, and friends nearly burst themselves with luncheons, banquets, &c., &c. There are a few things, however, I escaped which the big-wigs did not and will not escape.

MYSIE—Losh, man, what are they, Huie?

HUGH—Horrible attacks of nightmare through the night, bile in the morning early, brandy and sods at twelve next day, and a threatened and renewed attack of gout in the distance.

MYSIE—Aye, man! ye ocht to be thankfu’. There is naething like temperance, Huie.


MYSIE—What do you think o’ thae bodies they ca’ Good Templars?

HUGH—Nothing. Their good name maks me dry; gie me a mug o’ your Ladywell.

MYSIE—Ladywell indeed! Her Ladyship has gone yell, and there is no a drap in the house; and as for the Monikie, it is no [agreeable]. The night before the great feast, when so many were passed over, the Magistrates cut off the water and betook themselves to wine, leaving horses, men, and cattle to perish from thirst. I would gang out for a drink o’ ale to you, Huie; but the wine-bibbers would bring me up for cheepin’, and I would be fined and ruined by those who set an example to Dundee. There is naething like caution in such times, Huie.

HUGH—Nothing. But as sure as my name is Hugh Sutherland on this and now on the other side of the border, I will see the people of Dundee get rid of their wrongs and get possession of their rights. Take away the Ladywell water! which was dedicated to the Lady Virgin Mary, the head of all purity—and who dare say that the Ladywell water is impure?—it has been the poor man’s companion and help; and, as I have said before, my name is not Hugh Sutherland if the poor do not get their rights.

MYSIE—But they say, Huie, you have got frightened at the Pouers, and you hauled doon your colours, withdrew your interdict against the Pouers dining, and that you were bribed.

HUGH—They tried to bribe me with money, but it was no go, money would not tempt; but, as I want to rise in business, I have been induced to issue the following advertisement:—

Hugh Sutherland,

Late Precentor,

Now Clothier and Taylor,

Harmony Hall, 47 Seagate,

Under the Distinguished Patronage of The Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council of Dundee.

P.S.—Strait-Waistcoats Made to Fit on the Shortest Notice.

MYSIE—That will do, Huie. You’ll surely no let the madcaps tak’ doon our good auld Toon-House.

Hugh—Not if I knows it.

[Here the tete-a-tete conversation ceased. Baldie was first fitted on by the tailor in proper fashion. Joe, with his finger at his nose “Punch” wise, took the liberty of remarking, “My eye, what a Guy,” and was duly rewarded with a sound box in the ear by the tailor whose dignity was offended. Joe took his turn; and, being well fitted, Hugh took his departure; and so ends this little burlesque of Dundee events occurring in the nineteenth century.]

‘The People’s Journal’ of 18 March 1871

The Corporation Dinner.

Application for Interdict.

The following application for inderdict against the proposed Corporation Dinner on the Princess’ marriage-day was yesterday made in the Sheriff Court:—

Unto the Honourable the Sheriff of the County of Forar.

The petition of Hugh Sutherland, tailor, Dundee—petitioner, against James Yeaman, present Provost; James Cox, William Brownlee, James Allan, James Stewart, present Baillies; Robert Macnaughtan, Dean of Guild; George Macfarlain, Treasurer; William Robertson, J. H. Mackay, John M’Lean, Thomas Buchan, George Thomson Graham, Alexander Hay Moncur. William Chalmers, Duncan Macdonald, Thomas Ness, Hugh Ballingall, Alexander Maxwell, David Petrie, James Foggie, and Frank Henderson, present common Councillors of the Royal Burgh of Dundee, and Trustees for the burgesses of Dundee, under trust—respondents.

The petitioner, Hugh Sutherland,

Humbly sheweth,—That your petitioner is a citizen of Dundee and a ratepayer, and one of its burgesses, and has an interest in the funds of the town and of the funds connected with the Burgess Trust, regarding which the respondents are trustees for all concerned, and in seeing that these funds shall not be squandered, but applied to the good and weal of the town, the ratepayers, and burgesses thereof.

That the respondents are the Provost, Magistrates, Town Council, and Police Commisioners of Dundee, and Trustees aforesaid for the burgesses, and are the custodiers of the funds under all their different capacities.

That it is understood and averred that the respondents intend to have cake and wine and a banquet or dinner on Tuesday first at the expense of your humble petitioner and the other ratepayers, fellow citizens, and burgesses of Dundee, and inviting, along with themselves, a number of distinguished and selected individuals, who are to be feasted at the expense of the petitioner and his fellow-citizens, ratepayers, and burgesses.

Under these circumstances the petitioner considers it his duty to present this petition to prevent the public and burgesses’ funds being so squandered.

May it therefore please your Lordship to order service and to grant interim interdict, prohibiting and discharging the respondents and all others from eating cake and drinking wine and feasting, dining, or banqueting on Tuesday first at the expense of the ratepayers and burgesses of Dundee, and to declare said interim perpetual if necessary, and to find the respondents liable in expenses. According to justice.

Hugh Sutherland.

Archd. Paul, Pror. for Petr. [?]

Sheriff Thomson has issued the following interlocutor:—

Dundee, 17th March 1871.—The Sheriff-Substitute grants warrant for serving the respondents named and designed in the foregoing petition with a copy thereof and of this deliverance, and ordains them, if they mean to state a defence, to lodge with the Clerk of Court here a notice of appearance, and that within forty-eight hours after service, with certification. And reserves consideration of the crave for interim interdict until parties be heard. One word deleted.

J. W. Thomson.

On inquiry at the Town-Clerk last night, we were informed that no interdict had been served on him; and he added that he considered the Sheriff had no jurisdiction to interfere with or control the Magistrates and Council in the administration of the burgh affairs.

‘The People’s Journal’ of 25 March, 1871

The Corporation Banquet,—Refusal of the Interdict.—On Tuesday, Sheriff-Substitute Thomson heard parties in the petition for interdict presented by Mr Hugh Sutherland, tailor, against the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council, to prevent the expenditure of public funds in connection with the cake and wine entertainment and Corporation dinner in honour of the marriage of the Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne. Mr Hay, Town Clerk, appeared for Provost Yeaman; and Mr Paul, solicitor, for Mr Hugh Sutherland, tailor, the petitioner. After hearing Mr Paul and Mr Hay, the Sheriff refused to grant interim interdict, and adjourned the farther hearing until the expiry o the induciae, so that the ordinary Sheriff-Substitute might take up the case if he should see fit to do so.


A Tailor Immortalised.

Mr Hugh Sutherland, tailor, Dundee, has actually succeeded in making his name known on this side [of] the Tweed. Whether his courageous opposition to eating and drinking at the public expense, even in honour of a Royal marriage, shall bring him fame or notoriety is a matter of no consequence whatever. Sufficient for the sober-minded Hugh should be the fact that citizen Sutherland’s “manly conduct” has been spoken of admiringly in Brook Street, and that it has received approval in quarters where such protests are not unfrequently treated with disdain. There are, it is true, followers of the aristocracy mean enough to suggest that the fearless tailor was not altogether without an eye to his own glory, and that, being wise in his generation, he chose this special opportunity out of the many opportunities offered him to protest against dining off the funds of the “Burgh Trust,” just because he knew that the very extraordinary circumstance in which the protest was made would attract to himself a very extraordinary share of attention. Mr Sutherland of course, in filing his anti-gluttony petition, was not dictated by any such unworthy motive. He desired nothing else than the salvation of the public purse, and he must be gratified to know that even the Pall Mall Gazette speaks well of him. This is what the Gazette says:—”A tailor in Dundee has taken a step which will excite the stomachic indignation of every local authority in the United Kingdom. He actually applied for an interdict against a proposed dinner to be eaten by the Corporation in honour of the wedding of the Princess Louise. The latest intelligence states that the Town Clerk considered the Sheriff had no jurisdiction to interfere with or control the Magistrates and the Council in administration of the burgh affairs. Whether the feast took place or not remains to be seen, but under any circumstances we sadly require a few Hugh Sutherlands on this side of the Border to teach our guardians, vestrymen, and others that they can no longer be allowed to indulge in their gluttony at the public expense.” After that Mr Sutherland may rest on his laurels, and retire into private life.—London Correspondent of the Dundee Advertiser.


The People’s Journal of 8 April, 1871

Hugh Sutherland and the Corporation Dinner.—Mr Paul, the agent for the petitioner, has intimated to the Town Clerk that he is not to proceed further with the actin against the Council. The action was set down for Wednesday before the Sheriff, when defences would have been stated.



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