The following was part of a series of historical tales about Dundee which appeared in ‘The People’s Journal’. ‘The Cradle of Logie’ is a sombre piece of Dundee folklore surrounding the dreadful mistreatment of an Indian princess by Fletcher Reid of Logie House, and the brutal revenge carried out by her father. This episode (although many of the details are highly doubtful) demonstrates the significant connection between the east coast of Scotland and India. Many landowners (or rather the sons of landowners) from the region made their fortunes in the East India Company. When they returned flush with the rewards of their plunder of the subcontinent, these nouveau riche were dismissively called ‘nabobs’.
In the earlier years of this century Logie House, near Lochee was the residence of Fletcher Reid, a man who had risen to some distinction in the service of the Indian Government. At that time there stretched in front of the house a large field, and in the middle of the field stood a lofty pole with a gilded ball and spire on the top. Long ago the plough and harrow gave place to stone and brick and lime, and many people, dwellers in the locality and others, will be interested to learn that the street built on this field is called Polepark after the flagstaff. Our illustrations are taken from Crawford’s plan of Dundee published in 1777.
Some ninety years ago the people residing in the neighbourhood of Logie House were surprised one morning at finding a number of workmen commencing to lay the foundation of a cottage within the grounds. What, they asked, could Fletcher Reid of Logie want with a house like that? and why should he erect it within his entrance gates? Great were the curiosity and mystification even among the servants themselves, and thus it is that we find James, the gardener closeted with Mrs Saunders, the housekeeper, on the evening of the day above alluded to. Mrs Saunders, for reasons known to herself, and also to James, has provided that worthy with a hearty meal and something to drink, and the two now settle down for a gossip.
“’Deed, Mistress Saunders,” began Jeems, in his slow, deliberate way; “ think the maister maun be clean daft. That Indian cleemat’s been ower muckle for’m. They tell me noo—”
“Daft,” broke in the housekeeper. “’Od, there wid be some excuse for’m if he wis. Dae ye think sae?”
“I believe it’s that strayaigin’, ne’er-dae-weol Laird of Brechin that pits a’ the mischief intill his heed,” said Jeems. “Did ye hear aboot the twa idyits ridin’ at nicht to the kirkyaird on a hearse an’ blawin’ trumets. It’s eneugh to bring a judgment on the toon.”
“Guidsake, Jeems, dinna speak that way,” said Mrs Saunders, glancing round uneasily. “What wi’ the maister’s cantrips, and that young Indian heathen woman, his wife’s manoeuvres, I’m turnin’ clean nervous. “What dae ye think be married a cratur’ like that for?”
“Faix, Mrs Saunders, he married her for rizzens that shouldna animate the breest o’ ony man when he—ahem—when he gangs about sic business,” rejoined James, with a meaning glance at the buxom housekeeper, who would have blushed if she had been twenty years younger. “Ye ken hoo mony rupees and gowd and jewels he got wi’ her frae her faither, wha’ is the Rajaw o’ some ootlandish place oot there, and a verra big man amang thae heathen blackguards. They say the maister himsel’ was a big man there to; but, losh, Mrs Saunders, that’s no sayin’ muckle, for it stands to rizzen that amang thae puir black heathen cratur’s any man with a heid on his shoothers an’ a pair o’ breeks on—”
Here an imperative ring at the bell, calling for Mrs Saunders, cut the conversation short, and James had to leave, much against his will. James and the housekeeper “understood” one another.
By-and-by the cottage was finished. It was a little ugly stone building with a door and no window. At each corner projected an ornamental pinnacle, resembling the knobs of a cradle and the cottage was dubbed the “Cradle of Logie.” Surely the rich Anglo-Indian must be mad? Yes, he was mad—not mentally, else he might have been forgiven, but morally—mad with evil passions, mad with lust, mad with drink, mad with every conceivable kind of wickedness known to our depraved human nature. In this particular instance his diabolical purpose was soon unveiled. His gentle wife, the daughter of an Indian prince, whom he had married out in India, had grown distasteful to him. So this monster in human shape built this little, close, undrained, unlighted place as a prison for her, and here he shut her up and deprived her of proper food and every necessary, and even decency of life. Starved, beaten, shut up, without ever getting a breath of air or seeing a ray of sunlight, the poor creature soon pined away and died.
Her husband, heartless ruffian that he was, soon revealed the secret of his cruelty by marrying an English lady who had taken his fancy, and who knew better how to please him than the poor Indian girl.
After his second marriage Fletcher Reid bethought him of another visit to India, and accordingly he and his wife embarked on board the sailing vessel Queen of Ind, and looked forward to a happy honeymoon.
Now, strange as it may seem, the tale of Reid’s fiendish cruelty to his young wife had gone out to India before him. Through the medium of his agents in this country the Rajah had heard the whole story, and great was his anger and deep his sorrow. For, though a heathen, he had tenderly loved his gentle daughter, and had only given her to Fletcher Reid when that Iago had made the most solemn protestations of his affection for her. Reid is said to have sworn that he would “treat her as he would do a child which is rocked in a cradle,” and to have signed a promise to that effect with his blood. How he kept these solemn vows we have already seen. Calling his family and friends together, the Rajah told them the horrible story of his daughter’s sufferings and death, when all with one accord took the most fearful oaths of vengeance against the faithless Scotchman. When, therefore, they learned that Reid and his new bride would shortly land on Indian soil, they almost leaped for joy.
And now, after a pleasant voyage, the stately Queen of Ind, with Fletcher Reid of Logie and his wife on board, sails up the river Hooghly. Reid is standing on the deck scanning with interest the well-known scene, and pointing out its features to his bride. Does no remorseful thought strike him now as he remembers the last time he beheld that scene, as, with his young wife by his side, he watched the hills fading in the distance, and told her of the mountains of his native land whither they were going? Does he not think of her timid, childish fears, and how she clung to him and confessed her terror at the prospect of such a long journey? and of how he kissed her and promised to protect her, and gave her new assurances of his unquenchable devotion and his undying love? Once he might have repented, but now the image of his Creator within him is faint and blurred, and there is nothing to respond to any touch of goodness. Of all the dreadful things in this world, there is nothing more awful than a human soul given up to evil.
Now they land and proceed on a visit to the bungalow of an old friend, a planter in the neighbourhood. A series of festivities was got up in their honour, and all was mirth and gaiety. One day a boar hunt was started, and Reid, with his merry companions, rode off into the jungle. While just preparing to cross a little stream he was startled by the sound of footsteps close behind, and before he knew what was going to happen he found himself a prisoner in the hands of a band of natives.
“What means this outrage?” he demanded in their own tongue. Surprise and alarm were strong within him, for in the faces and dresses of some of his captors he recognised friends and servants of the Rajah. To his angry questions and expostulations he got no reply whatever. He was bound securely on a horse and surrounded by the band; he found it quite impossible to move, much less to make any attempt at escape. Two of the band, he noticed, were detached and sent on in advance, no doubt to warn some one of their approach. It was morning when the capture had been effected, and as the day wore on, and the march continued at a rapid pace, Reid began to recognise the country through which they were passing. Judge of his horror and dismay when he saw that the road led directly to the Rajah’s palace. Even under that burning Indian sun he felt a cold chill running down his back and a cold sweat breaking over him.
If Reid could have seen the preparations made for his reception by the Rajah he would have been even more alarmed. On a large open space before the house a wooden stand had been erected. Before the stand four strong posts had been driven into the ground, and to each post a wild, untamed horse was tethered. The dreadful meaning of these preparations was well understood by the natives, who were used to acts of vengeance. All of them had known and loved the gentle girl whom the Scotchman had married and taken away from them.
Now two scouts hurry in from the forest and delver their message, and soon the Rajah, with his wife and sons and daughters, takes up his place on the stand. He has not long to wait. The barking of dogs, the clatter of hoofs, and the sound of loud voices announce the approach of the cavalcade, and now it breaks through the forest and reaches the open ground. When the Rajah sees the white face and trembling form of his once plausible and affectionate son-in-law, a look of fierce enjoyment lights up his swarthy features. As soon as the party come within hearing distance, he shouts out, speaking in his own language, for he knows t will be understood—
“Now, Scotchman, now is our day of vengeance. It is your turn to beg and pray for mercy, as once did my poor daughter, done to death at your hands.”
Fletcher Reid saw at once that there was no hope for him. Even f his guilt had not been half so black as it was, he understood the Oriental nature too well to think that any mercy would be extended to him. The whole story in all its hideousness, was evidently known, and Reid, in his inmost heart, recognised the justice of his sentence. Being, however, not without courage, he resolved to die bravely.
“Had I any chance, Rajah,” he said, “your vengeance would not be so easily taken. But I am in your power.”
“And justly so,” rejoined the Prince. “They say the God you and your countrymen profess to serve is a God who loves righteousness. They tell me that the country you come from is strong in its devotion to that God. It cannot be true, else why was your fiendish cruelty permitted, and why was it left to me, whom you call a heathen, to tear you limb from limb? But enough of this. Proceed, men!”
Fletcher Reid of Logie was now unbound, and securely held by one detachment of his captors, while the other proceeded to unloose and harness the four horses tied to the stakes. One horse was securely attached to each of his limbs, and the head of each was pointed in a different direction. The doomed wretch gave utterance to no cry of despair, to no prayer for mercy. All the manifold wickedness of his past life must now have risen before him, unadorned by any voluptuous feeling of pleasure, undisguised by any thrilling form of passion. His sins in all their hatefulness must have been naked and open before him.
“Scotchman,” said the Rajah once more, “this death, horrible though it be, is far too painless for such as you. I have no tortures to match those which you inflicted on my poor girl. They tell me, however, that your God punishes the wicked with the most awful torments for ever and ever. If it be indeed so I am content. Now, men.”
The Rajah gave the signal, the whips cracked, the horses pulled.