‘Bodkin Has a Fearful Night of it’ (9 November, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles 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.

Maister Editor,—I’m no gi’en to quarrel wi’ the weather, nor wi’ ony o’ the ither arrangements o’ Providence, but I canna help remarkin’ that the cauld in the end o’ last week has gi’en me something like the influenza, or, as Tibbie calls it, the “Fleen’ Nancy.” Were I as weel proteckit frae the bitin’ breath o’ auld John Frost by a hap-warm o’ creesh as s my friend Saunders Mucklepaunch the butcher, for instance, I could afford to set what philosophers ca’ the climatic influences at defiance; but, like the maist o’ my professional britherhood, I’m furnished wi’ a tabernacle that is but spairly fortified against the cranreuch an’ the nirlin’ winds o’ the winter solstice. Had it no been for the care bestowed on me by my adorable Tibbie, lang, lang ere noo wad I ha’e been ower that bourne whence nae traveller ever returns; but thanks to her thrift, an’ providence, an’ incomparable housewifery, here am I to this oor an’ day yet, aye able to stap aboot, an’ crack a joke—aye able to wield my needle—aye able to tak’ my bite an’ soup—an’, to mak’ a lang story short, aye i’ the land o’ the livin’, instead o’ bein’—as I micht ha’e been, but for Tibbie’s carefu’ nursin’—i’ the land o’ the leal. That’s the view that Tibbie taks o’ the subject at ony rate; an’ as she doesna like to be contradickit, an’ as I’ve nae objections to her believin’ that I hold my life frae her as my feudal superior an’ lord-paramount, I mak’ her quite welcome to nurse the idea in her bosom, the mar sae as it presents a powerfu’ incentive to her to exert hersel’ to the utmost for my comfort. An’, to gi’e Tibbie her due, she is a burnin’ an’ a shinin’ licht in my hoosehold. The provision she maks for my corporeal delectation is something quite marvellous. Within the last week or twa she has made nae fewer than half-a-dizzen o’ double-milled flannel sarks, four worsted slips, wrocht by her ain twa hands, an’ seven or aucht pairs o’ stockin’s o’ the very best lambs’ wool that she could get in a’ Reform Street—forbye twa pairs o’ pin mittens—ane o’ them for every day, an’ the ither for Sunday’s wear—an’ a’ to enable me

“To thole the winter’s sleety dribble

An’ cranreuch cauld.”

But, as Burns observes in the very neist verse—

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,”

An’ sae it faired wi’ Tibbie’s schemes for the comfort o’ my corpus. The sudden cheenge o’ the temperature i’ the end o’ last week completely nirled my neb, an’ sent the cauld shivers shootin’ like arrows through my very banes an’ marrow. A’ Saturday an’ Sabbath I was juist at deid’s door, scarcely able to wingle a’e leg bye the ither. My head-piece was completely stappit up, an’ as douf an’ fushionless-like as an auld foggie turnip; an’ an attempt to blaw my nose garred a’ the internal organization thereof crack an’ fizz like a ginger-beer bottle castin’ the cork. My throat was like an open sepulchre in a literal sense, as it was a’ red flesh, an’ was as dry as a whistle. I couldna lat ower my spittle withoot doin’ violence to my feelin’s. My respiratory machinery, too, was as stiff as a rusty lock, an’ the words cam’ up frae the bottom o’ my chest wi’ a hoarse an’ raspin-like soond, as if they had been generated n the interior o’ a bass fiddle, or the drone o’ a bagpipe. Tibbie declared it was ugesome to hear me, an’ frichtsome to see me. Tibbie is a great physician in her ain hame-ower way—she kens a’ aboot the virtues o’ marshmallows, horehund, and docken blades, an’, as I tell her sometimes, if she wad juist set up business as a quack doctor, an’ advertise like Holloway, she wad be able by-and-bye to retire on a fortune. She has great faith in Colosynth’s pills, as an antidote to a disordered stamack; an’ for a cauld, she kens o’ naething better than to bathe the feet in het water, sup a pint o’ boilin’ brochan, sweetened wi’ treacle, an’ swallow a Dover’s poother to induce a copious perspiration. An auld wife’s cure that maybe, but auld wives’ cures are no aye the warst.

Weel, ye see, on Saturday nicht, Tibbie gets a’ her prescriptions prepared, an’ I placed mysel’ entirely oonder her jurisdiction. I believe I wad hae swallowed a dose o’ arsenic at her biddin’, wi’ the same feelin’ o’ resignation that I swallowed the pills an’ the Dover’s poother. Twa pills was to be the dose, an’ so she put them into a jug wi’ a narrow mooth, wherein there was a wee sup water to synd them doon wi’. I coupit up the jug, an’ swallowed the contents wi’ a sair struggle—my stamack, meanwhile, giein’ sundry intimations that the pills were very unwelcome visitors. In ither words, I was like to send them up again ootricht. Hoosomdever, by desperate effort, I succeedit in forcin’ Messrs Colosynth to preserve the status quo. Tibbie, havin’ put me through a’ my ither facin’s, concluded her doctorin’ by rowin’ up my head in a wab o’ flannel, an’ clappin’ on it my identical white night-cap as a sort o’ cope-stane to keep the ither theekin’ frae hirslin’ aff in my sleep. Whereupon I creepit awa’ to my roost, an’ happit mysel’ ower head an’ ears amang the gude warm blankets. In ten minutes I was asleep an’ on waukenin’ aboot eleven o’clock, when Tibbie cam’ to her bed, I was as weet, though scarcely as dirty, as if I had been hauled through the “fulzie” in Camperdown Dock. But O thae vile pills! They lay at the root o’ my tongue like twa mill-stanes. Every time I waukened through that lang and wearisome nicht, an’ I’m sure I did sae a score o’ times, there they lay like twa imps o’ darknes [sic] playin’ their “fantastic tricks” in my puir inside. If Tibbie hadna assured me to the contrary, I wad hae oondoubtedly believed as gospel the idea that mair than ance taen possession o’ my brain that she had by mistak’ gi’en me a couple o’ buck shot instead o’ the orthodox Colosynth’s.

It was somewhere aboot three o’clock i’ the mornin’, as Tibbie discovered afterwards on risin’ an’ feelin’ the hands o’ the clock, that I fell into an awfu’ quandary in my sleep, something sae horrible an’ awfu’ that I’ll think o’t wi’ fear an’ tremblin’ even until my deein’ day. I felt as if there was a mountain restin’ on the region o’ my stamack, weighin’ me doon—doon—doon—to the very centre o’ the earth. Desperately did I struggle to fling aff the fearfu’ incubus, but alas! a’ my struggles were in vain. I was powerless as Prometheus when he lay bound hand an’ fit on the tap o’ Mount Caucasus, wi’ the eagle preyin’ upon his vitals. I thocht I was in the ither warld, but in what department thereof I couldna exactly determine. Fearfu’ sichts did I behold, that made my very hair stand on end—or at least attempt to stand on end—for Tibbie had taen due precautions against a contingency o’ that kind by rowin’ up my head in a panoply o’ flannel. On my breast-bane sat a fiend o’ monstrous shape an’ hue, whase peepers were like the bull’s eyes on the paunches o’ a couple o’ policemen; whase mooth, half-a-yard wife, displayed twa raws o’ teeth that blinkit fire when they snashed forgainst ane anither; an’ whase body was covered wi’ spines, like the quills o’ the fretfu’ porcupine. In the ae hand it wielded a pick, an’ in the ither a shovel, wherewith it commenced to drive a shaft doon into my very heart.

“Avast there, will ye,” quoth I, “D’ye mean to murder me?”

“Ye blethern’ scamp,” quoth he, “Ye’ve been fillin’ the Journal, for months an’ months on end, wi’ stuff that canna be ony langer tholed, an’ dearly sall ye pay for yer folly, for I’ve been commissioned by the avengin’ sprites to punish ye for yer iniquity. This very nicht I thocht to possess my soul in patience, but behold when I opened the paper, there was that everlastin’ nonsense o’ yours. Noo, what hae ye got to say for yersel, why sentence o’ death sidna gang furth against ye?” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Has a Fearful Night of it’ (9 November, 1861)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 6.’ by a Correspondent in New York (11 March, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Here the discussion focuses on murders, executions, and funerals.

Murders, Executions, and Funerals.

                On Friday of last week there were no fewer than seven executions in different States—three of them coloured men and four whites. One of the latter has been eighteen months in jail, and received sentence of death three times for the same crime. These seven were all murderers—two of them were executed at St Louis, State of Missouri, and in that State two men are under sentence of death. Another was hung a week ago, and twenty-seven are awaiting trial for murder. The newspapers here give graphic, but disgusting, accounts of executions. Here are a few extracts given us of one that took place in New Jersey last week. We are told on the morning of the execution the culprit several times walked to the window of the jail, and looked out upon the crowd which began to gather in the muddy streets. It was a gaping, idle crowd of slatternly women, beer-soaked men, and a large number of children. In one obscure corner of the street was an old woman kneeling and praying with spirit—swaying her body back and forth, mumbling over prayers for the murderer. She remained in her praying attitude for upwards of an hour regardless of the cold rain which was falling. Then we are told of how, when the condemned man was brought out to the gallows, one of the jailers who had hold of his arms had over-stimulated himself for the ordeal, and began to show signs of toppling over, and had to let go his hold of the prisoner. Next, of how, when this poor wretch was hurled into eternity, of the bending of the knees, twitching of the fingers, contortions of the limbs and body; of how the doctors immediately seized his wrists,, and kept correct record of the dying man’s pulse until his heart cease to beat; of how when cut down the noose of the rope had to be cut, as it was so deeply imbedded in his muscular neck, and of the face turning black and livid, and other disgusting details. One would think we ought to have had our morbid curiosity fully gratified by this account of the last moments of this felon; but not so, for in two days after we read of how the body was taken to an undertaker’s shop, where a motley throng was assembled. It rained incessantly, but the crowd was not to be deterred from seeing the last act of this disgraceful spectacle played out. The pavement in front of the shop was blocked, and the crowd filled the roadway in a solid phalanx extending twenty or thirty yards up and down the street. The crowd was not made up of loafers, but of well-dressed, respectable-looking people, and there were quite as many women to be seen around as men. Two policemen stood guard at the door. They had orders not to admit any boy or girl under eighteen years of age. It is only charitable to suppose that those guardians of the peace were but poor judges of age, as droves of young girls of not more than fifteen or sixteen gained admission, and gazed curiously, though quite unconcernedly, on the ashen face of the dead man. Fathers and mothers, to their shame be it said, brought children of tender years to see the dead felon, with his unhappy wife and worse than fatherless children weeping and wailing around the head of the coffin. The face and chest of the dead were exposed to view, a section of the lid of the coffin being removed for that purpose. The body was attired in a black suit, and a white collar and necktie concealed the ugly mark left by the rope upon the neck. The widow, with her boy and girl children, sat at the head of the coffin moaning and sobbing piteously while the curious throng filed around the dead man, peering curiously at the ghastly face as they paused a moment or so in passing by.

When the funeral rites had been concluded, the clergyman called upon all those present to with draw save the widow and her children, that, free from observation, they might take a last look at the dead husband and father. The scene that ensued was very painful. The poor women broke down utterly, and had to be led away by her friends, while the little lad, as he kissed the cold cheek of his dead father, wailed piteously, “Oh, my father; oh, my father.” On the arrival of the funeral cortege at the burying-ground, notwithstanding the heavy rain and the fact that the ways were ankle deep in mud, the road was lined five or six deep with men, women, and children, who had been waiting for hours to see the body of the murderer carried to its last resting-place. When the coffin was removed from the hearse a disgraceful scene ensued. A crowd of some hundreds of men and women, many of the latter carrying babes in their arms, rushed helter-skelter over newly-made graves, kicking aside, as they strode recklessly over, planted flowers placed by loving hands over the graves of their beloved ones, and even when the coffin was lowered into the grave they hooted and yelled, and the boys raced around the grave as though the occasion was the visit of a circus, instead of the burial of a fellow creature. The grave was speedily filled up, the crowd rapidly dispersed, and within five minutes only two or three morbidly curious people, who had arrived late upon the scene, stood around the spot beneath which lay the dead murderer in his gaudy coffin with its inscription—“Martin Kankowsky, died January 6, 1882, aged 35 years.” Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 6.’ by a Correspondent in New York (11 March, 1882)”

‘Bodkin Rejects Another Tempting Offer’ (2 November, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles 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.

Maister Editor,—The ither afternoon I happened to be oot on business that behooved to be done by a wiser head an’ a mair experienced hand than Willie’s, though, to gie the loonie his due, he can be trustit noo wi’ maist jobs i’ the tailorin’ line, an’ at rinnin’ a bit errand, especially, he has few marrows an’ nae superiors o’ his ain eild within the four corners o’ Dundee. Hoosomdever, I mak’ a point o’ doin’ a’ the very particular jobs wi’ my ain twa hands, an’ gaen a’ the mair important messages wi’ my ain twa feet, in order that, if onything sid gang wrang wi’ them—a circumstance no that likely to happen, hooever, when I hae the orderin’ thereof mysel’—the blame may be mine, an’ mine only.

Weel, ye see, I was abroad on the day in question on an errand that I wadna hae trustit Tibbie wi’, far less Willie Clippins; an’, to be short, an’ at the same time, explicit, I may juist say that my object was to kity gentleman—a customer o’ mine—wha had come to the praiseworthy resolution o’ takin’ to himsel’ a wife. A marriage coat I always exercise my utmost skill on, baith for my ain credit an’ for that o’ the bridegroom. A marriage coat maun please at least twa pairties. It maun please the gudeman himsel’, an’ it maun suit the fancy o’ the gudewife. Noo, a young wife, wi’ nae encumbrance on her hand, has little else to do but juist to sit an’ criticise the abuliement o’ her husband, an’ spy oot ferlies in the handiwark o’ his tailor, an’, if sae be she find faut wi’ ought that can be fairly laid to his door, ten to ane but the gudeman will be ordered to employ anither craftsman the next time he needs a coat—an order, of course, that maun be implicitly obeyed. Havin’ surmountit the perils o’ the bridal coat, hooever, I’ve less misgivin’s aboot the next ane that is required, because, besides havin’ already secured the confidence an’ favour o’ the gudewife, she will by that time hae got a wee cherub in her lap, whase “guips, an’ cranks, an’ wanton wiles” will engross nae that little o’ the critical observation that erstwhile was bestowage coat. The short an’ the lang o’t is, I never but gang hame wi’ a marriage coat mysel’, in order that I may see wi’ my ain een whether or no the fit be perfection, an’ never do I leave it until perfection has been attained.

In takin’ hame the particular coat specified, I behooved to gang through the Coogate. So, as I was stoitin’ alang, wi’ the broon paper parcel in my oxter, an’ croonin’ twa verses o’ a sang laigh in to mysel’, to shorten the gaid a bit, on passin’ the mooth o’ an entry, whereat stood a rather weel-dressed young gentleman, tovin’ awa at a cigar, an’ wha had evidently been makin’ desperate though unsuccessful efforts to raise a luxuriant crap o’ hair aboot his mou’, I feels something gie a smart pouk at my coat-tail. Gien’ a gline ower my richt shoother, my e’e lichtit on the dandified object aforesaid, wha tipped me a mysterious wink, an’ made sundry signs for me to follow him doon the entry. I aye like to be accommodatin’ to everybody, an’ so I turns on my heel, an’ abandons mysel’ to his leadin’ strings. On the cheek o’ the entry I observed the name “B. Bobbins,” paintit in moderate-sized Roman capitals, so I cam’ to the immediate conclusion that I was aboot to hae an interview wi’ Mr B. B., on what business it fairly dang me to imagine. At the ben end o’ the passage there was a door leadin’ into a sma’ apartment, that served Mr B. B. as a sort o’ coontin’-room, though my private opinion is that the said B. B. has unco little to coont in it, except it be his ain ten fingers. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Rejects Another Tempting Offer’ (2 November, 1861)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 5.’ by a Correspondent in New York (4 March, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Here the discussion focuses on women in America and the culture of marriage and divorce.

“There is no want of public speakers amongst them. In what is called the Free Methodist Church there are any amount of orators. The minister of the congregation will speak for about half-an-hour. Then he leaves it to his flock to gay the rest. He no sooner sits down than one of the sisters gets up and rattles on until from the sheer want of breath (not of words) she sinks exhausted into her seat. She no sooner faints than up pops another sister and repeats the dose, and so on. A few Sundays ago I, along with some friends, went to a Temperance meeting to hear a celebrated sister, and I can assure you she was “boss” of that meeting.”

American “Ladies” and Divorces.

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

                Sir,—I want to tell you now what I think of the women folk of this country. From the time the feminine gender of America can lisp the name of “pa” or “ma” they begin to learn to be pert, forward, impudent, and cute, with plenty of gab. It is said that the animals we get the hams from grow ugly as they grow old, and, so far as salt tongue is concerned, the same can be said about the American ladies, By-the-by, there are no women here; they are all ladies. In their homes they are, generally speaking, slovenly-looking, going about their household work dressed like a broom-handle with a mutch and nicht gown on. Out shopping, they are dressed from top to toe with Gainsborough hats, fur-trimmed dolmans, Berlin cloaks, neal [?] sacques, ulsterettes, buttoned-up kid boots, white gauntlets, lace veils, and a large display of candlestick-gold jewellery. There is no want of public speakers amongst them. In what is called the Free Methodist Church there are any amount of orators. The minister of the congregation will speak for about half-an-hour. Then he leaves it to his flock to gay the rest. He no sooner sits down than one of the sisters gets up and rattles on until from the sheer want of breath (not of words) she sinks exhausted into her seat. She no sooner faints than up pops another sister and repeats the dose, and so on. A few Sundays ago I, along with some friends, went to a Temperance meeting to hear a celebrated sister, and I can assure you she was “boss” of that meeting. She both started and ended the meeting herself. Some brothers tried to get in a few words, but it was no use. They would have required a sharp knife to “whyte” their words, and then watched for a chance to get them in edgeways. Here is an anecdote which illustrates their cuteness. A certain gentleman went home one night rather late and rather unsteady. His wife was in bed, and he, not wanting to let her know that he had been looking on the wine when it was red, quietly slipped off his clothes and as quietly slipped into bed and on purpose not to let her find any perfume he might have, he turned his back to her. She lay very quiet for a few minutes, but she could stand it no longer. So she bawls aloud—“John, you need not try to fool me, for you are drunk through and through.

I am sorry to say that I do not think the moral status of the people here is so high as that of the old country, more especially among married people. It is quite a common thing to hear of a married man eloping with another man’s wife or vice versa, or some deviation from rectitude regarding the marriage vows. The divorce courts are well patronised institutions here, so much so that lawyers advertise through the press where and when people will get divorces consummated on the shortest notice and the least expense. The New York Herald, one of the most respectable newspapers in America, is lying before me, and in it are no less than six advertisements from lawyers on this matter. Here is a copy of one which is a facsimile of the others. “Absolute divorces, quietly and speedily, without publicity—desertion, drunkenness, incompatibility, every known cause. Pay when divorced. Detectives furnished, always successful,—F.K., lawyer, 317 Broadway, New York.” AS I have said, there are six such advertisements in one newspaper, and I don’t think it says much for the honour of these lawyers to hold out such inducements for people to pluck themselves apart—those whom a higher Power hath united together. I hope your readers will not think that I have the least idea that this opinion applies to the ladies of America as a rule. God forbid. I believe there are plenty of decent, moral women in this country as well as in ever other; but what I do say is, that a great many irregularities go on here both by males and females. We have little need for this sin amongst us, for there is plenty of crime here without it. Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 5.’ by a Correspondent in New York (4 March, 1882)”

Correspondence on ‘Kilts v. Breeks’ Part 6 (June and July 1892)

In ‘The People’s Journal’ for the 5th December 1891, an article was publish reporting on a plan to merge the Queen’s Own Cameron (79th) Highlanders with the Scots Guards and in consequence replace their kilts with breeks. The exploits of the Highland Regiments of the British Army had become one of the most important outlets for Scottish national pride. The thin red line at Balaclava, Waterloo and many other world famous battles amplified the image of Scots as a warrior people, and it was the kilted regiments portrayed in paintings and verse which made them distinct from the other nations of the British isles (especially the English). This potential de-kilting of the Cameron Highlanders also came at a time when modern Scottish nationalism was being born as calls for Home Rule intensified. All this made the proposal to remove the kilt, this great symbol of Scottish prestige, a contentious issue with readers. The paper received months worth of correspondence, some tongue-in-cheek, others apparently with a surprising amount of vitriol. The arguments for and against the kilt presented by readers gives a brilliant insight into how late 19th century Scots saw themselves, or at least how they hoped Scotland was viewed internationally.

4th June 1892

Kilts v. Breeks.

We have as much matter in type on this “Kilts v. Breeks” controversy as we shall be able to publish for two or three weeks to come, and the “cry is still they come.” Anything further that may come to hand will have to be disposed of in the briefest way possible, as there are other questions of vastly more importance than the mode of covering a Highlandman’s legs that have for a long while been waiting for discussion.

Cease Fire!

            Admirers of the kilt, “Cease fire,”

Throw up the sponge, an’ then expire;

Our very patience now you tire

About your kilt.

Breeks are a dress for every nation,

For men of every clime and station,

They suit our every occupation—

Not so the kilt.

See kilty in a gale of wind.

With tartans flying far behind;

His thin, sharp knees sae hack’d an’ sore,

And you’ll not want it any more—

The tartan kilt.

Hiram Meek. New Deer.

 

What the Kilties Have Done.

Sir,—The controversy on the above very interesting subject still rages in your much esteemed paper, and it must be admitted that a great deal of spite and ill-feeling have been bandied about. The upholders of the kilt have allowed their patriotism to run away with their common sense, as they have uttered much that, to put it mildly, would have been better left alone. But although some of them have erred, it is left to the breek champions to “take the cake” for foolishness and inaccuracy. Take for instance “Tom Brown,” who boldly asserts that the Saxon race “have always been far ahead of the Celt in civilisation, literature, and art.” Well, Mr Tom Brown & Co., please tell us why, if we were such barbarians,

The Immaculate Southron

came to Scotland to look for a king? Does he know that Scott, Burns, Blackie, and Byron are probably more read than any other authors he can put forward? He may object to Byron being claimed as Scotch, but he was by descent and sentiment a thorough Scotsman. I needn’t take up space naming famous Scotch artists, in every way at least equal to any of his much-boasted Saxons. Tom Brown also draws attention to

Flodden and Culloden;

but I think it won’t be a difficult matter to “knock holes” in the contention that they in any way minimise Bannockburn, for “Tom Brown” must bear in mind that at Flodden the English army was superior in both numbers and discipline, while the Scottish King made the terribly foolish mistake of allowing the English time to get on at least equal terms with him. Had Bruce or Wallace been there, the “Sassenach” would have sung another tune. As it was, the Scots kept their ground until night. That is more than can be said regarding the English at Bannockburn. “Common Sense,” too, tells us that he “read with great amusement, &c.” Well, all I’ve got to say is there is mighty little amusement or common sense either in his effusion, and it would be well if he would take the advice he so thoughtfully gives to “Highlander,” viz., make himself more acquainted with the history of our country. Does he know anything about the war we had with France in Egypt? Does he not know that it was our

Gallant Black Watch

that saved the day at the Battle of the Pyramids, as they entirely annihilated the French cavalry, who were doing terrible mischief? He won’t know, perhaps, that the 42d, when receiving the cavalry, opened their ranks and allowed the cavalry to ride through them, and then bayoneted them almost to a man. The “gay Gordons” weren’t idle either the same day. Again, I would draw “Common Sense’s” attention to the Crimea. At the Alma, after the most of the English troops had endeavoured to storm the heights, and even the immaculate Household troops were unable to get up, Lord Raglan, as a forlorn hope, sent orders to

Our Grand Sir Colin

to advance his brigade and see what he could do. That sublime charge, probably never equalled, was performed as steadily as if on parade. The first of the brigade to cross was the superb 42d, who only halted for a moment to “dress,” and then they advanced where others had failed, and—to quote Mr James Cromb—”it was this single Highland regiment against the field.” I think it is a pity that Sir Colin didn’t do as he at first intended—that is, to use a company or two of the 42d to save their own flank. I am certain they could have done it; but Sir Colin, with a true soldier’s eye, saw a better, or at least safer, plan, and interposed the brave Sutherland lads, who were advancing to the rear of the 42d and to the left. But why continue? Let “Common Sense” peruse Mr Cromb’s book, and he will gain some very valuable information. Let us just look for a moment at

The Indian Mutiny,

and see what the kilt did there. The gallant 78th fought the whole time in their Highland dress, and, as is well known, gained for themselves the proudest title in the British Army, the “saviours of India.” Havelock, although an Englishman, had the greatest confidence in their powers, and never was his trust betrayed. During the Mutiny, too, did the Black Watch, although suffering from cholera, march the enormous distance of 87 miles in three days? And yet we hear of doing away with the uniform that was worn by such men! In conclusion, let me say to

The Opponents of the Kilt

that should it ever come to pass that a Government was mad enough to order the disuse of the kilt, they had better take away the names too, for what would a Highlander be without his kilt?

Stand fast by your tartan, lads,

And let the nation know

That still beneath the Highland plaid,

True Scottish blood doth flow.

Rise for your rights and let them know

The garb our fathers wore

Is dear to every Scottish heart

Within our rock-bound shore.

That written a few years ago by Mr A. Dann, of Edinburgh, strikes the keynotes of all leal Scottish hearts.—I am, &c.,

Black Watch. Langholm.

 

Scotch Egotism Reproved.

Sir,—I am afraid “J. T. H.” had been indulging in Scotch whisky hot before he wrote in defence of the kilt and the superiority of Scotchmen. He asks who would have the presumption to even breathe that an Englishman was equal to a Scotchman? I have mixed a good deal among Englishmen, and I can honestly say that they are equally as good as Scotchmen—in some respects better. For one thing, they lack that spirit of egotism that a large number of my brother Scots seem to possess, and I am sure every unprejudiced Scotchman will agree with me on that point. The persistency with which some of your correspondents claim all the honour for Scotchmen of deeds done by Highland regiments is absurd, when it is a well-known fact that they are largely composed of Englishmen and Irishmen.—I am, &c.,

Fairplay. Newcastle-on-Tyne.

 

“Hersel’” & Co. Receive a Clamehewit.

Sir,—If low slang and scurrilous language constitutes a good writer, the calumniators of the kilt have not their equals outsides of Billingsgate. If we dare to defend ourselves when they attack us with their foulest venom and their keenest fangs, they call us turbulent, bombastic, and prideful, and style our garb the habiliment of the savage and the cattle lifter. Highlanders are a peaceable and law-abiding people, and only administer chastisement when a few benighted scribes and would-be critics become senseless, churlish, and intolerant. If Highlanders were to allow ciphers like “Hersel’” and his effeminate backers to assail their garb and character with impunity they would be unworthy of their ancestors who defied the Romans to bring Caledonia under their degrading subjection the same as they brought the rest of Britain. They would also be unworthy of the names of the men who upheld the honour of the Highlanders and their garb at Corunna, Fuentes d’Onor, Toulouse, Waterloo, and Alma, and who were often highly complimented for their bravery, discipline, and good conduct by such famous Generals as the Duke of Wellington, Sir John Moore, and Sir Colin Campbell. If we had our cattle lifters in the Highlands in “the good old times” we had and still have the cheat, the sneakish hen stealer, the garroter [sic], and the body lifter in other places, and dressed in nothing less than that highly civilised thing called the “breeks.” The good character of the Highlanders is so well known, their garb so famous and venerated, that the raving of a few shankless, chestless, and brainless fanatics, who probably belong to a different and inferior species than Scotchmen, cannot do either a grain of harm. I hope Scotchmen will not be so easily hoodwinked as to help to put down the only garb and regiments we have that are not English and claimed as belonging to England.—I am, &c.,

Lochaber. Continue reading “Correspondence on ‘Kilts v. Breeks’ Part 6 (June and July 1892)”

Sandy Grosset on ‘His First Cricket Match.’ (13 July, 1889)

In this Scots column the recurring character Sandy Grosset explores his first cricketing experience. Cricket is not, perhaps, a game associated with Scotland but in the 19th century there was a thriving club scene. The People’s Journal regularly featured cricket scores alongside Football and Bowls. Forfarshire Cricket Club, based at Forthill in Broughty Ferry is still one of the predominant cricket clubs in Scotland, and Forthill one of the best cricketing facilities. Their long history is demonstrated in the same 13 July edition of the paper:

Forfarshire v. Perthshire.

                These Clubs met at Forthill on Saturday, and the match, as usual, attracted a large number of spectators. The annual holidays in Perth commenced on Saturday, and crowds of people left the city by road, river, and rail. Thousands of the holiday-makers found their way to Forthill.

Dundee United v. Newport.

                The Newport had the Dundee United at Newport on Saturday.

St Andrew’s Cross v. Douglasfield (Dundee).

—An enjoyable and exciting match was played between the above team in the Baxter Park on Saturday before a large number of spectators.

Blackness Foundry (Dundee) Loom Shop v. Low Shop.—Played on Stobsmuir. The Loom Shop were victorious by 29 runs. For the winning side, J. Soutar played a splendid not out innings of 35. Ross batted well for the Low Shop. D. Smith had five wickets for 7 runs.

Maister Editur,—After I got back from my venturesome jaunt into Stirlingshire I gaed up to the brig where the men forgaither these fine nichts to hear the crack o’ the toon. Young Jack Tamson had been visiting his freen’s in the South, an’ he was having a’ the say till himsel’. Jack lays off a story real well, an’ I’ll just gie ye the account o’ his first cricket match in his own words.

“Weel, boys,” he said “if ye jist ha’d a wee i’ll tell ye a’ aboot it. Ye maun ken I wus stayin’ wi’ ma faither’s brither’s sister, an’ her son wus the captain o’ the Clubs, an’ a great player. Him an’ me yist to hae richt cracks at nicht aboot cricket, an’ I aften telt him I wus ane o’ the best players in the half o’ Scotland (I didna say what half), an’ captain o’ the Thingambob Club, forbye bein’ goal-keeper to the Camlachie Club; but he said I meant ‘wicket-keeper’ an’ no ‘goal-keeper,’ an’ I said, ‘Exactly; oh ay, oh ay; exactly,’ a’ the time lachin’ up ma sleeves to think that he wud never ken what thumpers I wus tellin’ him, for I kent nae mar aboot cricket than a sookin’ turk ey daes aboot fiddlin’.

“Ae micht he invited me to gang an’ see his Club playin’ a match the next day. I was tae get a drive in their machine an’ dinner alang wi’ them, so it wud cost me nocht. I said I wud be vera gled. Next mornin’ I fan’ mesel’ amang the best cricket players o’ the place, drivin’ awa’ through the country, an after three oors’ drivin’ we arrived at our destination. Ane o’ the men didna turn up, but them that did said they cud gae withoot him; sae the match was begud. The ither team gaed in first, bit they a’ cam’ back wi’ soor faces afore they wur vera lang awa’, an’ whan they wur a’ pit oot, a’ got their dinners, an’ me amang the rest.

“Whan dinner wus bye, Bob, that’s my cusine, sent in his team, bit they didna dae ony better than the ithers, an’ whan their last wicket fell they wur seven rins shin’. I heard some ane cryin’ for the next man, an’ Bob cam’ rinnin’ tae me an’ ast me tae gan an’ play. I said I kent nocht aboot it, as nether I did, bit he said I wus jist jokin’, an’ wud hae me in jist tae ha’d the bat till the ither man got an over as he said, sae I threw aff ma coat; an’ he sent me to get a pair o’ battin’-gloves in a bag, tellin’ me to get a guid pair, bit when I went I cud only see ae pair, an’ some pairs o’ skeleton gloves. ‘Losh bless us!’ says I to mysel whun I saw the skeletons, ‘they English folk bate the vera deevil, to think that they canna gang an’ play a cricket match withoot takin’ skeleton gloves wi’ them to rob folk; I wunner hoo they work them. Pit them on an’ slip them intae ither folk’s pockets; that’s the way an’ nae mistake. I’d better say nocht aboot them. Bob’s forgot they’re here, or he—

“Look sharp, sir!” I hears Bob cryin’, sae I put on the pair o’ glovesؙ—an’ gie clumsy they wur—an’ cam oot.

“Man,’ says Bob “those are wicket-keeping gloves; here, put on this leg-guard till I bring you a pair,” sae he gaed awa’ an’ I put on the leg-guard; sune he cam’ back, an’ put a pair o’ the skeletons on me.

“I lifted a bat, an’ had jist got out to the field whun he cried on me to come back. I did, wunnerin’ whut wus up noo. “Don’t you see you’ve put it on the wrong leg?” “Na, na,” says I, “I hae’t on the richt leg.” “But the right leg’s the wrong one;” sae he put ane on ma ither leg an’ I gaed awa’ to play.

“The man I wus in wi’ wus ca’d Gordon an’ the first twa baa’s pased him, bit he hit the third, an’ I wus lookin’ whar it wus gan when he cries, “Are you coming?” “O aye!” I answered, and threw doon ma bat an’ ran to meet him. I wus jist gan to ask him whut he wantit whun he stoppit and growled, “You’re a confounded ass, if ever there was one,” an’ then turned back. I didna ken jist whut to dae, for it took ma breath awa’, but mindin’ whut Bob had telt me, aye to rin whun Gordon ran, an’ to turn whun he turned, I jist said the same an’ turned an’ ran back. I wus jist steppin’ owre a whit line afore the wickets whun the man that had the baa threw it at me wi’ a’ his micht, bit luckily it hit the wickets an’ no me.

“How’s that?” he cried.

“O,” says I, “it didna hit me, an’ mebbe jist as weel for you, for if it had I wud a went roun’ yer face like the rim o’ a hat, an’ made it as flat as a scone in five minits less than nae time.” Continue reading “Sandy Grosset on ‘His First Cricket Match.’ (13 July, 1889)”

Correspondence on ‘Kilts v. Breeks’ Part 5 (May 1892)

In ‘The People’s Journal’ for the 5th December 1891, an article was publish reporting on a plan to merge the Queen’s Own Cameron (79th) Highlanders with the Scots Guards and in consequence replace their kilts with breeks. The exploits of the Highland Regiments of the British Army had become one of the most important outlets for Scottish national pride. The thin red line at Balaclava, Waterloo and many other world famous battles amplified the image of Scots as a warrior people, and it was the kilted regiments portrayed in paintings and verse which made them distinct from the other nations of the British isles (especially the English). This potential de-kilting of the Cameron Highlanders also came at a time when modern Scottish nationalism was being born as calls for Home Rule intensified. All this made the proposal to remove the kilt, this great symbol of Scottish prestige, a contentious issue with readers. The paper received months worth of correspondence, some tongue-in-cheek, others apparently with a surprising amount of vitriol. The arguments for and against the kilt presented by readers gives a brilliant insight into how late 19th century Scots saw themselves, or at least how they hoped Scotland was viewed internationally.

7th May 1892

Kilts v. Breeks.

“Hopes the Kilt Will Never Die Out.”

Sir,—In this discussion more has been said against the English than in favour of the kilt. I am a true born Scotsman, and have heard my own countrymen speak against the kilt, thus showing that a difference of opinion exists regarding it. Some correspondents show very bad taste in the way they have talked of the English. I went to England when I was 30 years of age, and have lived among English of all sorts for over 20 years, and I have noticed from the first the absence of that antipathy towards Scotchmen which I am sorry to say exists in Scotland towards Englishmen. I admire the kilt, but every one does not do justice to it, as I think it only looks well on men of good stature, especially on our soldiers. That it is healthy there can be no doubt. As to its being a fit dress to wear that is only a matter of opinion. Hoping the kilt will never die out—I am, &c.,

J. MacDonald. Heaton, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

 

An Improvement on the Kilt Suggested.

Sir,—I seldom see a kiltie down in this North-East Lowland County, unless one or two that put in an appearance at our local games, and the way they strut about if they happen to be able to drawl out a kind of a tune from the great bagpipes! They seem to think people are admiring them when they are looking at them. Other four races forby the Highlander would rivet the Londoner’s gaze quite as much, viz.:—the Hottentots, Kaffirs, Red Indians, and South Sea Islanders. The advocates for the kilt tell us how it shows off the leg, and we cannot deny but it does, and rather much so at times. Any one who has legs he wants specially to be seen should get trousers to reach about half down to his knees, with the stocking at present worn with the kilt. I am, &c.,

Faugh Faugh. Turriff.

 

Kilt Fast Dying Out.

Sir,—At the annual meeting of the Gaelic Society in Stirling some time ago, although the attendance, &c., was all that could be desired, there was one drawback—not one person present wore the kilt. But don’t jump; it was hardly so bad after all, for one man actually did wear the kilt. Yet this single exception to the rule only served to make the absence of the “garb of Old Gaul” the more remarkable in an assembly of Highlanders, where it ought to have been worn “all over the shop.” If “W. C. Davidson” is open to conviction, this circumstance ought to convince even him that the use of the kilt is fast dying out, and that it will soon be where it ought to be—in the rag store. Mr Davidson seems to think it a most remarkable thing that Londoners should stand in crowds at hall doors to get a glimpse of a Highland dancer; but there is nothing remarkable in this. Had a clown or a Zulu chief performed to their respective vocations, the chances are they would have been received with a great deal more merriment. The appearance of a Highlander fully rigged out creates exactly the same stir among Londoners as a Horse Guard dressed in helmet and cuirass would in Scotland here.—I am, &c.,

Hamish.

 

The Kilt in Cold and Wet Weather.

Sir,—I have not seen a copy of the People’s Journal for many years until today. A new arrival in the “Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas” is a subscriber, and I am to have the privilege of perusing the Journal once again. I was rather amused n reading the letters of “Hersel’” and “Cabar Feidh” in the “Kilts v. Breeks” discussion, the former against the kilt and the latter in favour of it. If above correspondents are examples of attack and defence the kilt need have no fear of losing or adding to its glory or utility. At the Edinburgh review in 1831 a regiment wearing Gordon tartan trews, hailing from your quarter, stood next a thousand kilts, one of which covered the thighs of the subscriber. The heavens leaked that day, and so did the breeks leak—so much so that they clung close to the legs of the men, a cold moisture causing numbers a death-like chill, and I saw several breeks (of the Gordon tartan, too) carried off the field in fainting condition. How about the thousand kilties? They were all right. With plaids thrown over the shoulder, and the incessant downpour of rain sliding off the kilts as off an umbrella, the greater part of the body was kept dry. The knees were certainly exposed, but what of that? They are the strongest part of a man’s body, and least susceptible to cold. As to the feet, the kilties all wore the well-known pipe-clayed spats. This on such a day was also of immense advantage. None of our men lost their shoes. The consequence was that notwithstanding a tedious sit-up and no-sleep journey from the North not one of our kilted warrior citizens fell out or had to be carried off the field, as were such a number of breeks. Regarding the kilt in hot climates, I am intimate with many men of the Camerons and Seaforths who fought in India and Egypt. In marching in a foreign clime the perpetual joggling of internals is more liable to bring on very troublesome conditions and weaken men more than a good deal of hard work. The best outward remedy for this is the wearing of a wide belt of flannel tied tightly around the stomach. In the kilt we have the desired belt in its best form. Nothing could possibly be better adapted to a foreign clime. The legs are left free and cool, and, if at night it does blow cold, it is a mistake to think that because the knees are exposed, the whole body must be cold. The wind blows the kilt against the legs, and between the edge of it and the top of the hose there are no organs of the body exposed. At night in camping out the kilt can be used as a rug, whereas a pair of breeks will serve as a pillow, but a pillow is a luxury when roughing it. In regions of an Arctic aspect the kilt may be out of it, but I assure you so also are the breeks.—I am, &c.,

A Highlander. Duluth, Minn.

 

“A Fule’s Dress.”

Sir,—I once heard a decent old farmer remark on seeing a kilted ploughman pass along the road, “Weel there’s aye been fules in warld sin ever I min, an’ they’ll be till the en’, an’ that’s ane too.” The kilt is nothing else than an improvement on the primitive Indian’s blanket, a most ridiculous dress for any civilised human being. I cannot understand how enlightened men of the 19th century could be so devoid of common sense as compel our array to wear a blanket round their thighs. What earthly difference does the variegated colours make to the comfort of it? Some variegated colours make to the comfort of it? Some people do go to extremes when they could imagine the kilt to have the least credit in the victories that have been won by kilted soldiers. Breeks would have won all the same; it’s the legs and not the covering that contains the smeddim. But, sir, I have no hesitation in saying that many a poor fellow owes his death to the kilt. I have been told over and over again by soldiers how they got severe colds by the wearing of this outlandish dross, and how thankful they were to get into a pair of breeks made out of an old kilt. Will Scotty, who is credited to be sitting on the North Pole, be found kilted and plaided in tartan array? If so, I do feel for this poor shanks. It may be easier to dance in a kilt than it is in trousers; but, great Scotland! is that argument in favour of it? I have always had the idea that there is a screw loose somewhere when I see an apparently intelligent man dressed out in a kilt, buckles, sporran, and all the other ridiculous appendages that go to make up a Highlander.—I am, &c.,

J. Davidson.

 

14th May 1892

Kilts v. Breeks.

The Bagpipes.

Ye curious shapit, ancient thing

I’m unco fain yer praise to sing,

Ye hae sae mony parts;

He had a pair o’ clever han’s

Wha made an’ played ye ‘mang the clans

Ere Bruce was King o’ hearts;

Here’s to yer chanter, bag, an’ reeds,

Drones, virls, an’ ribbons braw—

Ye’ve witnessed mony gallant deeds

When wi’ the “Forty-Twa,”

Ye’ve served them an’ nerved them

To strike for liberty,

Ye’ve charmed us an’ warmed us,

An’ sae we’re prood o’ ye.

O’ a’ the instruments, I ween,

That ever I hae heard or seen,

Ye really ding them a’;

While ye are on the battlefield

Oor kiltie lads ‘ill never yield,

An’ never rin awa’,

For when ye gie yer warlike squeel

They bravely forward go,

Wi’ bayonets fixed o’ deadly steel,

Syne woe be to the foe.

At lairge then, they chairge then,

While ye keep up the strain,

An’ glorious, victorious,

Ye cheer them back again.

Auld Alister M’Alister

Could on ye play an’ wi’ ye stir

The lassies on the green;

An’ sae could Habbie Simpson weel,

An Rab the Ranter, pawkie chiel’,

Wha played to Anster’s queen.

Were Maggie Lauder livin’ still

She wad be prood to see

This short address whilk wi’ guidwill

I hae presented ye.

Ye’ve feared men, an’ cheered men,

In every land an’ clime;

We’ll hae pipes, an’ play pipes,

E’en to the end o’ time.

The Roper Bard. Dundee. Continue reading “Correspondence on ‘Kilts v. Breeks’ Part 5 (May 1892)”