The following epistle is an early appearance in ‘The People’s Journal’ of Tammas Bodkin, the character used by editor William D. Latto to speak frankly (and amusingly) on current affairs. Latto became editor of the people’s journal in December 1860 and used the platform to launch Tammas, bringing himself a fair amount of fame in Victorian Scotland. In this column Tammas returns to the debate in the Liff and Benvie parish regards to changing the mode of assessment for levying the poor-rates (parish tax for poor relief) to ease burden on working people. The adoption of the rental system in favour of the ‘means and substance’ mode of assessment was enacted in a vote on 19th of March 1861. This issue was of particular importance for Dundee, where the ‘People’s Journal’ was campaigning for the rental system to be put in place.
‘Dundee is the only large town in Scotland that adheres to the system [‘means and substance’]. When we first began agitating for a change to rental there were about seventy parishes on the same system as Dundee, but now the number is reduced to eighteen’
Maister Editor,—My guidwife was unco sair displeased at me for wreatin’ in my last letter aboot her speakilation in Virgin Marys, an’ she has threatened to apply to Sir Cresswell Cresswell if I dinna desist frae makin’ a warld’s wonder o’ her and hers, as I did last week. I’m auld eneuch to hae learned that there’s naething to be gained by fechtin’ wi’ a woman, except sour kail an’ reekit tea, an’ therefore I maun hae regaird to her admonition, joost for the sake o’ preventin’ a stour i’ the hoose. I ventured to advise Tib to gang an’ hear George Roy lecturin’ on “The Affections,” thinkin’ that she micht be nane the waur o’ hearin’ her duty to her husband laid doon, but I got an unco short cut for my pains. “Set him up, indeed, to lecture on the Affections,” quoth she, “whan he is sae destitute o’ affection himsel’ as never to hae gotten a wife yet. Folk sid aye practise what they preach, Tammas, an’ when George Roy has been as lang married as I’ve been, he’ll maybe be able to describe the ‘tender flame’ a wee thocht mair minutely than he a’thegither cares aboot. I’ve been a wife for twa dizzen o’ years noo, an’ I think I sid ken a muckle aboot ‘love in a’ its stages and phases’ as ony George Roy. Na, na; if George Roy wad put me up to the plan o’ excerceesin’ my Generalship as successfully ower Tammas Bodkin as Mrs Young did ower ‘our John,’ I wad maybe gang an’ hear him, but no ae fit to hear him speakin’ a parcel o’ nonsense that he kens naething aboot.” Tib was in a real passion, an’ she gaed ben the hoose and clashed the door ahent her wi’ sic a thud that a couple o’ trenchers fell aff the rack in the floor, an’ gaed a’ to crokonition. “Do’d that sairs ye richt weel, my lady,” quo I to mysel’ when I heard her gatherin’ up the broken pigs an’ flingin’ them into the ase backet. Hooever, I didna lat my speerits doon, an’ I’m bound to say I didna let her’s very far up that afternoon, for I tore awa at the needle at nae allooance, an’ sang as heigh as I could roar— Continue reading “‘Bodkin on Parochial Matters’ (23 March, 61)”