‘Importance of this Election’ by A Christian Democrat (27 March, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The newspaper endorsed the Gladstone’s Liberals in the 1880 general election.

Sir,—Never in the history of Scotland was there so important an election as this. The question to be decided is not whether this or that candidate is a better speaker, a more popular man, or personally to be preferred to some other candidate. Electors should dismiss such considerations from their minds. Important and far-reaching principles are before the country.

I ask electors to say whether we are to pursue a domineering, overbearing policy towards Ireland. Are we to send more gunpowder, more police, more penal laws, or are we to send to our sister isle a message of peace and “goodwill?” A great country like ours can afford to be magnanimous. We can forget the veiled rebellion, we can overlook the unreasoning and unwise cry for separation, and for Home Rule in its foolish sense. I ask Scotchmen to remember the crimes, the insults, the centuries of cruelty under which poor Ireland has suffered, and to be large-hearted enough to forgive her impatience, Even when the cruel barb is torn out of the festering wound, time, the great healer, has to do its work. It requires slow gliding years to cover with grassy green the red scars of war, and long summer days to cover with flowers the graves of ancient feuds. Ireland will yet do justice to Mr Gladstone. Her heart is generous, although it still trembles with sad and cruel memories. Scottish men, it is for you to say whether you will follow Mr Gladstone in dispensing to Ireland kindly justice, in extending to her the hand of a loving sister, asking her on equal terms to share alike our glory and our cares, or to mock her with continued insults, and, instead of kindness, sympathy, and righteousness, to confront her with reproaches and continued indignities.

Again, I ask what good cause abroad has this Government ever sympathised with? Where has she spoken out for freedom, as Lord Russell did for Italy, as Lord Granville did for Belgium? How shall our missionaries go to Zululand with the Christian watchwords of “Peace on earth and goodwill to men?” Alexander Duff and Norman M’Leod spent their lives for India. How shall their followers tell the people in Afghanistan of the mercy and justice, of the truth and love of the religion of Britain? Men of Scotland, if you go to the poll and vote for Tory candidates, however excellent in private life you may know them to be, you become not only directly responsible for the cruel and unrighteous policy of the past six years, but you bid Lord Beaconsfield God speed. You bid him persevere in fighting all the little nations who can be destroyed without immediate danger, and go on alienating the sympathy of the great Powers, who, depend upon it, will one day rejoice when disaster overtakes us.

I accept the letter of the Prime Minister. I peril the election upon the issues he himself has raised. Whoever is for Tory rule in Ireland, whoever is for Tory foreign policy, vote for the men who in years by-gone have supported the Government. But whoever approves of Mr Gladstone’s policy towards Ireland, whoever approves of his foreign policy, let them vote for Gladstonian Liberals. Sir, I am as zealous for the honour of my country as any Tory that breathes. They impose with brazen-faced audacity upon electors when they claim a monopoly of patriotism. I desire to see my country great and glorious; loved at home for order, liberty, justice; revered abroad for respect to public law, for regard to the rights of the weak; showing sympathy with freedom, fearless of the scowl of the masters of millions of bayonets. It is because these are my aspirations, my ardent desires, that I so love the greatest statesman England ever saw—a man who in his living eye, in his uplifted hand, in his tongue of fire, is the impersonation of expression of all that is true and noble in English history; the exponent of a policy wise, conservative, and worthy of the genius of Edmund Burke, of the sagacity of Sir Robert Peel; a man whose monument the children of those who now vilify and reproach him shall build in purest marble, and crown with wreaths of laurel.

A Christian Democrat.

‘The Duty of the Electors’ by A Christian Democrat (20 March, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The newspaper endorsed the Gladstone’s Liberals in the 1880 general election.

Sir,—A great crisis in the history of our country calls upon all men to act.

When this Government took office electors were not asked their opinion on foreign affairs. Now, however, if I vote for a supporter of the Government I take my share of the responsibility for the cruel and unjust wars in which Britain has been engaged, and directly encourage the Government to go on in their unrighteous course. I ask electors to rise superior to personal considerations. The candidates of the Government may, in private life, be most estimable, but if they favour the foreign policy of the Government they shall have no vote of mine. Sir, I consider that the liberation of the Church from State patronage and control is a most important matter. I think temperance legislation even more pressing. I am anxious to sea the county franchise settled on a just basis. I do not think any of these questions unimportant. Sir, I ask how can Parliament ever devote itself to questions of domestic legislation or to Irish wrongs while a foreign policy of bluster and supremacy, of glory and gunpowder is pursued? The thing is impossible; and, therefore, I urge on all friends of domestic reform now to join in turning out this Government which, by its wasteful expenditure and its blustering foreign policy, renders all salutary home legislation impossible. Sir, I consider that the man who knows how to subordinate questions of importance, how not only zealously to labour but hopefully and earnestly to wait, shows a well regulated mind.

The question now above all others is the foreign policy of the Government. Lord Derby and Lord Carnarvon see the danger of this career of folly. Sir, this policy of Lord Beaconsfield resembles the vain-glorious crusade of the First Napoleon. It is far more worthy of a boastful new-made Emperor than of the solid sense and calm dignity of England.

I call on the thoughtful Christian men of Scotland to ponder the state of affairs to be swayed only by the high consideration of duty, and to vote only for men who can be relied on to put an end to this wasteful foreign policy, which is destroying the industries of our country, disturbing the peace of the world, and tarnishing the honour of England as a calm, just, and wise nation. Ireland known that from Tories she can only expect repression, insults, and indignities. From Mr Gladstone she will get justice and equal rights. It is the ambition of his life to strengthen the union with Ireland by just and wise legislation. He will strive so to act that Irishmen will be as wishful for the union as Scotchmen. He believes in justice, the Tories in bayonets. Mr Bright may in a Liberal Administration be Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and were it no Her Most Gracious Majesty would be represented by a man of whom even Queen Victoria might be proud.

I call on all real Conservatives, on all men who desire to see Britain united at home, loved and respected abroad, influential for good the world over, so to vote as to enable the Queen to call her counsels statesmen who will uphold the moral greatness of England, give peace and confidence to commerce, and secure time for calm and serious consideration of the important home legislation which touches the welfare and happiness of our own people, but which during the past six years has been neglected, while Government has been chasing the ignus fatuus of foreign supremacy or wasting the resources of the country in an inglorious and happily unsuccessful attempt to bolster up the worst Government of modern times.

A Christian Democrat.

‘Scottish Characters — Jock Bouce, Sheriff Jameson’s Fule’ (5 January, 1889)

The following is one of a series of stories and anecdotes about local Scottish eccentrics. They remain an insight into the characters and exploits that had already passed into folk memory by the late 19th century.

John Younger, or rather jock Bouce, for that was the name he was most familiarly known by in and around Cupar Fife, was one of those half-witted, innocent characters so plentiful in Scotland in the earlier and middle part of this century. Bouce lived with his father at the Backbraebead, Cupar Fife, in a single-roomed house, and after his father’s death he still retained the house down to the time of his own decease, which was a very sad affair indeed, he being suffocated and burned to death in his own house. It was surmised that he had risen out of bed in the night time to replenish his fire with coal, and that in turning his back to the fire his shirt had caught fire. Helpless and aged, for he was close on 70 years of age when this occurred, he succumbed to his injuries. He was found quite dead lying on the floor of his house the next morning by his next door neighbour. This happened about eight years ago, and he was buried in the old churchyard in Cupar Fife.

The above sketch of Bouce represents him being shaved. It is from a photograph by Mr D, Gordon, Cupar Fife, and the picture on the contents bill is from a photograph by Mr R. Heggie, Cupar Fife. He was about 50 years of age at the time this was taken, and it will give my readers some idea of what like he was.

I shall endeavour to lay before you some of his quaint sayings and doing. Bouce was left at home by his father to look after the house one day, and to superintend the cooking of the dinner, which was Scotch kail and a well-stuffed haggis boiling amongst them. When his father came in from work they sat down to dinner. After they had had their kail Bouce’s father set about getting out the haggis. He stirred away n the pot, but nothing like a puddin’, as he called it, could be found.

“John! John! What hae ye dune wi’ the puddin’,” he asked.

“Ah tae do!” said Bouce, “D’ye think I ken, faither? It’s maybe up the lum for ocht that I ken. I believe the cat’s taen’d,” and diving below the bed he came out with the skin of the haggis, saying, “Eh, aye, faither, the cat’s taen’d, and here’s the skin o’t,” as though the cat would not have eaten the skin as well; but in reality it was Bouce who ate it himself.

It is as the Sheriff’s gardener, or rather “fule,” that Bouce can be seen best. The Sheriff was always very good to him, overlooking all his misdeeds and laughnig at his tricks. Many of Bouce’s jokes are forgotten by those who heard them at the time they were uttered; still I have succeeded in gathering a few of them from some of the old folks who remember him best.

Bouce was one day bedding a large pig belonging to the Sheriff, and it, resenting the intrusion of its domains, was buff, buffing at his heels, and he, thinking that the pig was crying “Bouce! Bouce!” stuck the graip with which he was spreading the bedding into the pig’s side, saying, “Ah tae do! I’ll Bouce ye if ye cry Bouce tae me, ye baste.” The pig had to be killed.

Bouce was carrying a young pig home to the Sheriff on another occasion, and meeting a man he told him where he had been for it. The man to annoy Bouce struck the sack on his back with the pig in it with his plumet stick, which, unknown to Bouce or him either, proved fatal to the pig. Arriving home Bouce put it in the cruive, when he discovered it was dead. Making tracks to get out of the Sheriff’s way, he met him full in the face. “Well, Bouce,” said the Sheriff, “did you get the pig?” “Yes, sir,” said Bouce. “It’s in the cruive.” “Come and let me see it.” “Ah tae do, sir!” said Bouce; “I’ve been owre lang already.” After some persuasion Bouce was induced to return with him.

“That pig’s dead, Bouce,” exclaimed his master. “Ah tae do! you’re richt, sir; it’s choked itsel’ wi’ the chinge o’ meat,” replied Bouce readily.

Bouce was tarring a paling one day, when the Sheriff, dressed in a fine light suit of clothes, leant against it, bouce dropped his tar brush and, clapping his hands, said, “Aff wi’ thae claes. They’re mine noo, sir, and folks should aye stick up for thair ain.”

Bouce get all the Sheriff’s soiled clothes.

The Sheriff meeting Bouce one day saw two bunches of his own grapes sticking out of Bouce’s pocket. “Where got you these grapes, Bouce?” he asked. “Ah tae do, sir!” said Bouce, “I never kent you had dishonest folk aboot ye. That maid o’ yours, Peg Milne, has put them intae my pouch, instead o’ Jock Tamson’s, the joiner. He’s her chap, ye ken, and he is working up at yer house. She made a mistake, the limmer, but I sanna mention’t.” Such was the case, as was afterwards learned, though Bouce kept the grapes.

A policeman was sent for to take Bouce to the Sheriff Court, where they dressed him in a red coat, and placed him at the bar. He was charged with stealing a quanitity of apples and pears belonging to the sheriff, his master, and now his Judge. Bouce blurted out, “Ah tae do! it wasna me, sir. It was Kate Wallis taen them awa’ in her milk pitcher ,and she telt me they were split yins.” Continue reading “‘Scottish Characters — Jock Bouce, Sheriff Jameson’s Fule’ (5 January, 1889)”

‘The Appeal to the Country’ by A Christian Democrat (13 March, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The newspaper endorsed the Gladstone’s Liberals in the 1880 general election.

Sir,—I appeal to the moral sense of the electors. The question which is asked at each voter is this, Has the Government of Lord Beaconsfield acted justly or unjustly? Have they done right or wrong? I was not responsible for the cruel and bloody wars they have waged. I was not consulted. I am not to blame for their support of Turkish misrule. I never voted on the subject. Now, however, I am called upon to vote. I am asked to ratify the policy of the Government. I am asked to share in their guilt, and to bid them God speed in their course of injustices and wrong. Electors can no longer waive the question, they are forced to pronounce their verdict and to take the responsibility of their vote.

Moderate and thoughtful men like Sir Kenneth Mackenzie feel compelled to come to the front and denounce the conduct of the Government. Men who are not known as politicians at all, scholars, historians, and men of science who retire from the arena of party battles, have one by one come forward to give their emphatic condemnation of the undignified and unsuccessful policy pursued by Lord Beaconsfield. Has Turkey been reformed? Are the miserable people who groan under the rule of the Turks happier or more prosperous? Have the designs of Russia been thwarted? On the contrary, she has gained far more than she ever expected; and the War in Afghanistan in which the country is now involved has been forced on by the increasing influence of Russia, whose influence it was the avowed object of the Tory Government to destroy.

The Government has been in power six years. They have had a splendid and solid majority. What reform have they carried? They are the avowed friends of the farmers. What measure have they carried for his relief? What have they done to improve or benefit the country? Taxation in heavier, wages are lower, work is more difficult to be got, business is unsettled, and anxiety and mistrust prevent trade from recovering.

In Dundee, in Fifeshire, in Inverness-shire, in Perthshire electors have a golden opportunity of destroying this Government so unworthy of all the great traditions of our country, and which has proved itself so utterly incompetent to deal with the great questions which it has mismanaged. Sir, I ask electors to scorn all interference with their freedom. This is too important a trust to be lightly tampered with. Let men of principle firmly resist all unrighteous and unjust pressure, and give their votes with a due sense of their responsibility, and I do not fear the [illegible],—I am, &c.,

A Christian Democrat.

‘Scottish Characters — Old Peter, A Deeside Notable’ (29 December, 1888)

The following is one of a series of stories and anecdotes about local Scottish eccentrics. They remain an insight into the characters and exploits that had already passed into folk memory by the late 19th century.

Old Peter was one of the best-known characters on Deeside. Redolent of the soil, he had all the characteristics of the pawky Scot. The keenness of his wit, the readiness of his repartee, and the humour of his stories made his name famous and many of his sayings proverbial over a wide district. But alas, most of the spiciest were too gross in subject and too coarsely treated to be fit for the reproduction. Sprung of a race of brawny blacksmiths, he dated his earliest recollection to fleeting from his father’s vengeance for some youthful peccadillo, and with childish, ostrich-like eagerness hiding his head under a cornstack, but leaving his bare posterior uncovered by its petticoats, a ready prey to the improvised tawse of the ragged ends of his father’s leather apron. Although bred to the business he preferred the free air to the stithe of the smiddy, and indulged his taste for roving by acting as drover to the Southern markets. He never wearied of telling how he evaded tolls and pontages by swimming his droves through the Tay or Forth, himself clinging to the tail of the hindmost steer, or the straits to which he was put to provide sustenance for himself or his flocks by the way, being reduced sometimes to dining off “cauld steer” made in the heel of his shoe—i.e., a little oatmeal mixed with cold water. But that he qualified his cold water when he could is told by the following incident:—On one occasion he was seen by a minister to whom he was well known, lying prone and drinking water from a roadside rivulet. “What are you dong, Peter?” said the minister. “O, I’m makin’ toddy.” “But where’s the whisky, Peter?” “O, i drank it last nicht, an’ noo I’m mixing them.” Once in his sweethearting days he won a wager that he would visit his ladylove one night after a fail of snow, and yet no one would suspect his nocturnal escapade. This he accomplished by tying his shoes on his feet heels forward, so as to leave all the tracks pointing away from the house.

By and by he married and settled down on a small croft in the midst of a wide expanse of moorland, densely covered with broom and whins. Here he developed into an expert smuggler and poacher. Knowing the haunt of every bit of fur and feather, he always kept the pot boiling. Successive lairds and keepers winked at his delinquencies for the sake of his independent bearing and conversational charm. After they had hunted the moor with varying but generally indifferent success. Peter’s grand chance came. “They’ll not be back to-day again.” So an hour after their disappearance he would shoulder his gun and soon return with a fat hare or a brace of partridges. He seemed to know exactly where to find them, but he had no compunction about shooting a hare on her form or partidges on the ground.  TO a neighbour he was always generous in sharing his spoils of the chase, often bringing a pail of hare soup and handing it with a mysterious air to the guidwife to be hidden from the youngsters, as he whispered—“Mony ane can tell a tale wha canna lift a lid.” Standing in a very exposed situation, his house formed a convenient outlook for the appearance of the gaugers, and all Peter’s ingenuity was often exercised to outwit them. Once having a sack of malt hidden in the barn, and seeing the gauger coming, he commenced taking one of his small stacks into the barn, and when the gauger accosted him with—“Well, Peter, have you anything concealed to-day?”—he said—“Oh, ay, there’s a sack o’ maut aneath the mow there,” at the same time leisurely and unconcernedly carrying in and piling the sheaves on the top. So impressed was the gauger with his nonchalance that he thought Peter was only chaffing him, and left without further search. On another occasion, seeing the gauger coming. Peter hastily buried a eask in the kailyaird, and was busily engaged hoeing his kail when the exciseman arrived. In these exploits he was ably seconded by his wife, who was an apt pupil. IN the cosy fireside corned a most canningly concealed contrivance existed for fermenting the wort. This when in full operation made considerable noise, so once when in active use a surprise visit of the gauger nearly led to detection. Ut the goodwife smothered her motherly feelings, and so persitently pricked her young child—an infant in arms—with pins that his noisy squalls not only deafened the gauger but materially shortened his visit. At another time, seeing a suspicious horseman approachong, she hurriedly donned a huge cloak, fashonable in those days, and concealing a “greybeard” of whisky under each arm, she walked thorugh a narrow footpath amongst the whins, dropping the compromising kegs in the thickest bushes, only to find on reaching a neighbour’s house that the suspicious stranger was the doctor! Peter had no love for children, and used to prompt the older ones when tired rocking the cradle to drop a pinch of snuff in the eyes of the infants. The effect was magical.

Peter delighted in a little “cow-couping,” and was perhaps as honest and veracious as the majority of that class. He firmly believed in the existence of some inherent defect in every animal offered for sale. “They either puttit or ate claes!” Once taking a rather lean animal to market, he was accosted by a probable purchaser, “That’s a gey thin ane, Peter.” “For as thin’s she is ye canna see through her,” was his ready answer. “Oh, I mean she’s gey an’ peer.” “Though she’s puir she’s no gettin’ aff the parish yet,” he replied again. Poter’s brusque satire made him dreaded, if not covertly disliked by his compeers. Of a man with an erect carriage he would say, “Ay, there he goes, carrying his head as if he owned thousands. Perhaps so he does—though they’re live stack.” He was a veritable Munchinsen as to his hunting, shooting, and fishing adventures, claiming as his own various ancient exploits—such as killing three wild geese at one shot with the ramrod left in the gun. Continue reading “‘Scottish Characters — Old Peter, A Deeside Notable’ (29 December, 1888)”

‘Imperialism’ by A Christian Democrat (6 March, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The newspaper endorsed the Gladstone’s Liberals in the 1880 general election.

“In their long defence of slavery in the British Colonies; in their open sympathy with the slaveholding confederacy; in their treatment of the black men in Jamacia [sic]; in their defence of the lash in the army for the back of the common soldier; in their constant insulting treatment of Irishmen, this Tory spirit has been manifested.”

Sir,—Imperialism is a hateful word to every true friend of liberty. Events have proved that the change in the style of the Sovereign was only too faithful a symbol of the change in the policy of Britain. Our Government has become Imperial in the very worst sense of that unwelcome word. The Ministers of England used to boast of her justice. Now they parade her power. Our statesmen used to speak of the duty England owed to humanity, of her homage to morality, her sympathy with freedom the world over. Now we hear only of British interests. War is declared, respective of the people. They are only consulted after a policy is adopted; and war is defended, not because the duty of making it could not be denied, but solely because some supposed interest of Britain required bloodshed.

The whole power of England is hurled against barbarous nations. Warriors are sent by express to ravage and destroy, and when they return from their inglorious work of devastation they are sent post haste to Balmoral to receive the congratulations of the Empress of India, and are awarded the honours of the State. Thus the Government ministers to the vainglory of the thoughtless who control elections thus they flatter the army and win favour from a Court which has always felt Constitutional Government, especially in foreign affairs, less to its taste than Imperial sway. More even than blundering misgovernment has this haughty, domineering, Imperial temper alienated and embittered the spirit of the Irish people, and turned millions of men into our bitter enemies. In India this same domineering spirit has now full scope.

Surely justice and wisdom alike should dictate a policy of kindliness, moderation, and goodwill. But this boastful Government, for the sake of displaying military glory and physical force, fling away moral influence, and pursue a course which ever reminds India of her subjection. Young Indian men are being educated in thousands. Their quick intellects will perceive that England desires constantly to remind them of their subjection as a conquered and inferior race. Every public document, every proclamation of the Government, every stamp of the Post Office will tell them that they are not our fellow subjects under a Constitutional Sovereign, herself subject to law, but that they are the conquered races who are dominated by an Empress. Continue reading “‘Imperialism’ by A Christian Democrat (6 March, 1880)”

‘Unnecessary Evils Connected with Honest Labour’ by A Christian Democrat (28 February, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. This patronising letter exemplifies the paper’s aim to foster self-improvement among its readers.

Sir,— To win their bread by honest labour is the lot of the great majority. I do not consider this a misfortune. On the contrary, work is to us all a discipline, a privilege, and in itself far from injurious in any way. But, sir, workmen have often to submit to evils connected with their labour, which they feel all the more keenly that they know they are not necessary. Since I feel sure that many of these evils exist from pure want of consideration, I think much good may result from attention being called to them. First of all then, when a family is out of work there is no open labour market. Especially is this the case in country districts. The farmer has the corn market; the flax merchant has a weekly exchange; but for labour there is no proper open market. Employers would often be glad to buy labour which is abundant within a few miles of their works, while working people often sell their labour for less than its real market price. Strikes, too, are not infrequent from pure ignorance. To employed and employers alike a labour exchange would be a real advantage. The want of it leads to feeing markets in the country, and to arrangements (in towns) with foremen not at all favourable to the elevation of the operatives.

Again, in the best works persons out of employment are admirably met. There is a fire in winter, a comfortable seat, and a civil, kindly word, but in other public works the arrangements are very different. It is always a painful thing to refuse employment to a person willing to work, and when this must be done it should always be in a kindly way. In many country districts wages are still paid in public-houses. Woodcutters, labourers, and quarrymen often are so paid, and this is a custom fraught with countless evils.

Another and perhaps the very worst influence to which workmen have to submit is irregular employment. In many seaports engineers are made to work night and day to refit engines and boilers, then for days together they are idle. Sailors, miners, porters, and other whole classes of workmen are subject to irregular employment. More still, their work is generally far too severe while they are at it. A very littler arrangement would often obviate this irregular mode of working and save workmen from a strain which few natures can bear. All overtime, night work, and extra hours should as far as possible be avoided. When extra labour is needful care should be taken to secure relays of men, or where this is quite impossible, proper food should be provided. At a recent breakdown on a railway, which is usually well managed I found many of the workmen who for twelve hours had not tasted food except the bit of dry bread they had with them. Appliances for supplying hot milk, coffee, or soup are so simple that employers should see that they are at hand. At all great works they are sure to be required. Now and then managers think that there will be no more use for extra appliances. A dram of wretched whisky instead of good food is often given, not grudging of expense, it is pure want of taking proper thought a little beforehand. Continue reading “‘Unnecessary Evils Connected with Honest Labour’ by A Christian Democrat (28 February, 1880)”

‘Scottish Characters — Jock M’Cue’ (22 December, 1888)

The following is one of a series of stories and anecdotes about local Scottish eccentrics. They remain an insight into the characters and exploits that had already passed into folk memory by the late 19th century.

Private M’Cue, better known among his intimates as “Big Jock,” was a bit of a character in our regiment, from which he retired not so very long ago. By way of introduction, I shall relate a story of which Jock was the actual hero, which went the round of every Scotch regiment a few years ago, and eventually, I believe, found its way into print.

At the time the incident happened Jock was a recruit of a week’s standing in one of our Northern depots: and while in the hands of a drill sergeant on parade, he drew upon himself the notice of the Sergeant-Major by his inattention. The Sergeant-Major was a very little man, and coming up to Jock, who was looking about and did not see him, he seized him by the shoulder, turned him round to the front, and shoved his chin upwards till his gaze was fixed on the sky above. “Now, my man,” said he, “that is the position of a soldier; see that you keep it.” “And have I always to be like this,” sad innocent (?) Jock. “Yes.” “Weel, Sergeant-Major, I’ll bid ye guid-bye, for I’ll ne’er see ye again.”

During the few months Jock remained in the depot he proved a thorn in the side of his more immediate superiors by his assumption of stupidity and habit of getting drunk regularly every pay night. On one occasion when standing half-drunk by his berth at roll call, he was the recipient of a torrent of abuse from his pay sergeant, who wound up by asking Jock if he thought the non-commissioned officers of his company had nothing to do but look after him. “Weel, sergeant,” was the reply, “yer non-commissioned officers micht as weel be lookin’ after me as be n the puirshoose.” As the pay sergeant was known to have emerged from a charity school, and was besides universally unpopular the hit told, and Jock had more peace afterwards.

One afternoon Jock and some cronies having got half fou’ in the canteen, resolved to finish the spree in the adjoining village. They proceeded to leave barracks, but were met at the gate by a lady who took a great interest in the welfare of soldiers, and was much respected by them in consequence. Saluting her they attempted to pass on, but their evident hurry and disinclination to speak at once caused the lady to guess what was the matter, and hurry back after them with an invitation to tea at her house. She was well acquainted with all but Jock, and as she would not be put off, the whole party accompanied her to her residence, which was not far distant. At the door they were met by two young lady visitors, who, after seeing our friends settled down to their tea, prepared to enliven the meal by singing a hymn. While doing so one of our soldier friends, with the laudable desire of making the best of his position, quietly appropriated a large jar of jam which had been placed near him on the table, and began surreptitiously to sup it with a table (not tea) spoon. This was too much for Jock, who, after looking wistfully at the jam for a short time lost patience: and while the singing of the hymn was in full progress he seized a loaf near him, and flung it across the table at the offender’s face shouting, “For G—d’s sake, man, hae some decency afore folk.” Thereafter, in the language of the newspaper reporter, the meeting broke up in confusion.

After some months spent in the depot, Jock, with others, was sent to join his regiment in Egypt, and early brought himself under the notice of his officers. Jock had been taken to the orderly room as second evidence in a case of drunkenness, the prisoner being a crony of his own, and was asked if the man had been drunk when he was arrested. “Weel, sir, he had yill [beer],” was Jock’s reply. The Colonel was more French than Scotch, and had not the slightest idea what Jock meant. This was exactly what was intended by our hero. He was tried again, this time by the Adjutant, “Was the man drunk? Yes or no?” “Weel, I wadna like tae say the man was drunk, but there’s nae doot he had yill, sir; the man had yill.” After another attempt to get a precise answer, equally unavailing, Jock was dismissed as incorrigibly stupid. Continue reading “‘Scottish Characters — Jock M’Cue’ (22 December, 1888)”

‘The Liverpool and Southwark Elections’ by A Christian Democrat (21 February, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The discussion here is a further reaction to the Liberal loss in the Liverpool by-election. In the lead up to the 1880 general election, this editorial urges the Liberals to put forward a strong message and provide an alternative to the failed and costly foreign policy of the incumbent Conservatives. As is often the case, the use of the words ‘England’ and ‘Britain’ are revealing of the mindset of Scottish Liberals in this time before the growth of the Scottish home rule movement.

Sir,—I venture to say that the time has now come when our Liberal leaders ought not to rest contented with fault-finding. They should lay before the county a bold and sagacious—a Christian foreign policy. I do not think that when Sir Stafford Northcote tells us that he is about twenty millions behind, the country will be greatly surprised. The Government will say that one month of European war would have cost far more. They will plead that they have preserved peace to England, and that in passing through a crisis so unexampled they have done well to increase the efficiency of our forces. They will urge that Russia, by stirring up mischief in the East, had to be met; that the Afghan war, vexing and costly as it is, was needful to show Asiatic Princes how vain a thing it is to oppose the power of England, and how dangerous to coquet with our enemies. In the interests of 200,000,000 of Indian peoples it was needful, at all costs, to show our power when it was defied. Future peace, civilisation, and prosperity to a fourth of the human race depend on the unquestioned stability of the British power in India. So the Government will reason. The men in Liverpool and in Southwark are undoubtedly influenced by these considerations. Admitting the mistakes of the Government, they see no alternative policy offered by the Opposition. They hear only that England is wrong—always in the wrong; but this they hear from men who never yet had a good word to say for any war except the cruel and bloody civil war of America.

Mr Gladstone alone, of all our leaders, took a great and statesmanlike view of the duty of Britain. He did not rest with fault-finding. He proposed a great, wise, and glorious policy. He advised Parliament to fulfil its duties. By the Treaty of Paris, which cost our country so dear, Turkey was bound to set justly to the races subject to her sway. Notoriously she had violated that Treaty by unheard of misrule and villainous injustice. Mr Gladstone called upon the British Power to assert itself, to do its duty. He proposed to sail the fleet to Constantinople to demand the enforcement to the Treaty of Paris. He asked Europe to vindicate the European Treaty, and to call the Pachas [Pashas] to justice on pain of dismissing them out of Europe bag and baggage. The Tories nobody expected to support a policy like this; it was in favour of freedom and liberty. But, sir, I say the responsibility of refusing to adopt this policy rests on the Liberal party itself. Lord Derby, of course, would neither take the responsibility of signing the Berlin Memorandum nor of proposing any other basis of European concert. The Manchester men, as usual, declared we were islanders, and that our business was to spin our cotton and keep our shops. Mr Gladstone, great heroic statesman as he is, stood alone! We see now that if his advice had been followed Russian anxiety for the liberty of the Slav would have been relieved; the nationalities in the east of Europe would have, under the magic touch of British influence, sprung into vigorous life; Russian schemes would have been utterly thwarted; and Turkish Pachas for ever rendered powerless. Not a drop of blood would have been shed, and England would have earned the gratitude of the world. Mr Gladstone’s advice was not followed. The Tories saw their chance. They appealed to the bastard patriotism of the county, they paraded Imperialism, and pandered to Jingoism. Again and again has this section of the Liberal party flung the affairs of the county into the hands of the Tories. Sir, I want a Liberal foreign policy worthy of Oliver Cromwell. I wish Mr Gladstone, with his just pride in the moral and material greatness of England, to sway its power. He inherits from Sir Robert Peel the great tradition that the first consideration for a British statesman is not what are the rights of England—this is the cry of the Tory party; no, nor what are the rights of England—this is the cry of the Tory party; no, nor what are the interests of England—this is the constant cry of the Manchester school. Mr Gladstone’s policy is grander than all this. His first question is not what are the rights nor what are the interests. He asks, first of all, chief of all, what are the duties of England? Continue reading “‘The Liverpool and Southwark Elections’ by A Christian Democrat (21 February, 1880)”

‘Scottish Characters — Stronie Gordon, An Aberdeenshire Notable’ (15 December, 1888)

The following is one of a series of stories and anecdotes about local Scottish eccentrics. They remain an insight into the characters and exploits that had already passed into folk memory by the late 19th century. Here the focus is on an ‘astronomer’ named Robert Gordon from Fyvie in Aberdeenshire.

Among the many characters in humble life that were so common over the country a few years ago, and whose lives have not hitherto been written, none were better known in the North of Aberdeenshire than Robert Gordon, the wandering astronomer. In the parish of Fyvie and surrounding district, to which he mostly confined his wanderings, his simple, witty, and genial disposition always made him a welcome guest wherever he went. Gordon’s title of astronomer, or “Stronie,” as he was generally called, arose form his claiming to have full control of the elements, and any favour asked by Stronie was always to be repaid with suitable weather. Rain or sunshine, frost and snow, were all mixed up in Stronie’s wallet, and according to his statement you had only to mention what was wanted and he had full power to supply it. Of course his promises were very seldom fulfilled, a circumstance which often got him into trouble with his benefactors, but he generally contrived to bring himself out of the difficulty with flying colours. At the time I refer to he was rather past middle life, with no fixed place of abode, but simply wandered from place to place, always taking care to call about meal hours. During the summer season he would often lie for whole nights in the open air and talk to the stars, but his general resort was the farmer’s barn or other outhouse. Never could he be induced to sleep in a house with a fire in it or even the comforts of a bed. He had his regular place of lodging as he wandered through the country, and he claimed access to these more as a right than a privilege. One night the late Mr Maitland, of Balhaggardy, was showing him into the barn for the night, when Stronie, after making up a bed of straw for himself in a corner, lighted his pipe and was proceeding to lie down among the straw and take smoke, when the farmer called out, “Stonie, fat on earth dae ye mean lichtin’ yer pipe there? Ye’ll burn the hale toon. Man, ye serly dinna min’ whaur ye are?” “Ay, fine that; I’m just in my ain barn, Maister Maitlan’, an’ the suner ‘at ye shut the door frae the ootside the sunner I’ll win to sleep,” said Stronie with all the coolness imaginable.

He had a great love for spirits, and every opportunity of indulging in a drop of the mountain dew was eagerly taken advantage of by Stronie. One Fyvie market-day Stronie asked three farmers who were standing together, to give him a penny each to enable him to get a drop of the “cratur,” which, after a good deal of chaff, they consented to do, providing he in return would send them favourable weather for the harvest. This Stronie promised, and, taking the coppers, was just in the act of moving away when one of the farmers remarked that he might count himself lucky. Stronie turned round, and lifted his old tile hat, saying, “Thank you, boys; thank you. I suppose ye think ye’ve dune something gran’ to pairt wi’ a copper to an auld man; bit I’ll tell ye fat it is, I’ve gotten mair frae auld Laird Sangster for as muckle sunshine as gar a skape o’ bees cast nor ‘ve gotten frae a’ the three o’ ye for a hale hairst o’ dry weather. Hooever, I maun bid ye guid day in the meantime an’ a guid market to ye, an I’m sure gin thieves dinna ripe yer pouches yer ain han’s winna heirie ye.”

A few weeks after Stronie came as usual to the farm of Westertown to lodge for the night, and, as ill luck would have it, rain was falling in torrents, and harvest work for the time being was completely suspended. The farmer, who was one of the three he had met in the market, threatened to turn him out of doors, to find lodgings elsewhere, as he had failed to fulfil his bargain for dry weather.

“Hots, hoots, hastie man, dinna be ower hard on the puir auld astronomer,” said Stronie; “faith, I tell ye I’m hardly to blame this time. I had the cloods as weel tied up as ever I had a’ my life, bit thae rascals o’ herd loons lowst a’ my strings.” This had the desired effect, and Stronie was allowed to remain. Stronie one day entered the public house at Wartle known as the Drum Inn, and ordering half a gill of rum, drank it off, threw down the twopence on the counter, and was hurriedly turning to leave, when the innkeeper, Peter Rothnie, called him back, “Look here, Stronie, that winna dee; ye want a penny.” “Na, na, Peter, ye’re clean wrang this time,” said Stronie, “I think, gin ye look richt, its yersel’ ‘at wants the penny.” Continue reading “‘Scottish Characters — Stronie Gordon, An Aberdeenshire Notable’ (15 December, 1888)”