‘Old Stories Retold: The Cradle of Logie’ (26 November, 1887)

The following was part of a series of historical tales about Dundee which appeared in ‘The People’s Journal’. ‘The Cradle of Logie’ is a sombre piece of Dundee folklore surrounding the dreadful mistreatment of an Indian princess by Fletcher Reid of Logie House, and the brutal revenge carried out by her father. This episode (although many of the details are highly doubtful) demonstrates the significant connection between the east coast of Scotland and India. Many landowners (or rather the sons of landowners) from the region made their fortunes in the East India Company. When they returned flush with the rewards of their plunder of the subcontinent, these nouveau riche were dismissively called ‘nabobs’.

In the earlier years of this century Logie House, near Lochee was the residence of Fletcher Reid, a man who had risen to some distinction in the service of the Indian Government. At that time there stretched in front of the house a large field, and in the middle of the field stood a lofty pole with a gilded ball and spire on the top. Long ago the plough and harrow gave place to stone and brick and lime, and many people, dwellers in the locality and others, will be interested to learn that the street built on this field is called Polepark after the flagstaff. Our illustrations are taken from Crawford’s plan of Dundee published in 1777.

Some ninety years ago the people residing in the neighbourhood of Logie House were surprised one morning at finding a number of workmen commencing to lay the foundation of a cottage within the grounds. What, they asked, could Fletcher Reid of Logie want with a house like that? and why should he erect it within his entrance gates? Great were the curiosity and mystification even among the servants themselves, and thus it is that we find James, the gardener closeted with Mrs Saunders, the housekeeper, on the evening of the day above alluded to. Mrs Saunders, for reasons known to herself, and also to James, has provided that worthy with a hearty meal and something to drink, and the two now settle down for a gossip.

“’Deed, Mistress Saunders,” began Jeems, in his slow, deliberate way; “ think the maister maun be clean daft. That Indian cleemat’s been ower muckle for’m. They tell me noo—”

“Daft,” broke in the housekeeper. “’Od, there wid be some excuse for’m if he wis. Dae ye think sae?”

“I believe it’s that strayaigin’, ne’er-dae-weol Laird of Brechin that pits a’ the mischief intill his heed,” said Jeems. “Did ye hear aboot the twa idyits ridin’ at nicht to the kirkyaird on a hearse an’ blawin’ trumets. It’s eneugh to bring a judgment on the toon.”

“Guidsake, Jeems, dinna speak that way,” said Mrs Saunders, glancing round uneasily. “What wi’ the maister’s cantrips, and that young Indian heathen woman, his wife’s manoeuvres, I’m turnin’ clean nervous. “What dae ye think be married a cratur’ like that for?”

“Faix, Mrs Saunders, he married her for rizzens that shouldna animate the breest o’ ony man when he—ahem—when he gangs about sic business,” rejoined James, with a meaning glance at the buxom housekeeper, who would have blushed if she had been twenty years younger. “Ye ken hoo mony rupees and gowd and jewels he got wi’ her frae her faither, wha’ is the Rajaw o’ some ootlandish place oot there, and a verra big man amang thae heathen blackguards. They say the maister himsel’ was a big man there to; but, losh, Mrs Saunders, that’s no sayin’ muckle, for it stands to rizzen that amang thae puir black heathen cratur’s any man with a heid on his shoothers an’ a pair o’ breeks on—”

Here an imperative ring at the bell, calling for Mrs Saunders, cut the conversation short, and James had to leave, much against his will. James and the housekeeper “understood” one another.

By-and-by the cottage was finished. It was a little ugly stone building with a door and no window. At each corner projected an ornamental pinnacle, resembling the knobs of a cradle and the cottage was dubbed the “Cradle of Logie.” Surely the rich Anglo-Indian must be mad? Yes, he was mad—not mentally, else he might have been forgiven, but morally—mad with evil passions, mad with lust, mad with drink, mad with every conceivable kind of wickedness known to our depraved human nature. In this particular instance his diabolical purpose was soon unveiled. His gentle wife, the daughter of an Indian prince, whom he had married out in India, had grown distasteful to him. So this monster in human shape built this little, close, undrained, unlighted place as a prison for her, and here he shut her up and deprived her of proper food and every necessary, and even decency of life. Starved, beaten, shut up, without ever getting a breath of air or seeing a ray of sunlight, the poor creature soon pined away and died. Continue reading “‘Old Stories Retold: The Cradle of Logie’ (26 November, 1887)”

‘Auld Granny—A Right-of-Way Story’ by J.A. (10 November, 1860)

This short story by J.A. from Baldovan touches on the issue of rights-of-way which was somewhat contentious at the time, with access to the Dundee Law being made difficult for locals. It is also interesting to note that the antagonist is a wealthy East India merchant, new money taking the place of the old aristocracy.

Near a pleasantly situated village in the south of Scotland, there is an old church-yard, which, at the time we allude to, had been shut up for a considerable number of years; but it was still the favourite resort of the villagers during the long evenings in the summer months. The path which led to it was about three-quarters of a mile in length, and was kept in good order by the villagers, who cut the grass, and carried it home for food to their cows. One morning they were surprised to see the small estate, on which part of the path and the church-yard was situated, advertised for sale. Various offers were handed in, and at last it was sold to a wealthy East India merchant, who was possessed of more money than brains, and a heart as cold as Greenland ice. A few days after the purchase, he made his appearance, accompanied by his wife, and two proud haughty daughters. During the first two months of the residence there, they were little seen, it being the depth of winter; but spring came with its cheering influences, and the youngsters of the village began to turn out to cull the wild flowers, and search the woods for the earth nuts that were thickly scattered over them. One morning their sports were suddenly put a stop to by the appearance of the new Laird amongst them. He ordered them to begone! warning them if ever he caught them there again he would horse-whip them. They needed no second telling, but quickly scampered off to the village, and breathlessly told their friends all that had happened. These ominously shook their heads, and said one to another—”I doot the new Laird winna fill the auld ane’s shoes.” Things went on smoothly for another month, and during that time workmen had been employed to carry out some alterations on the house and grounds, and, amongst others, a new carriage-drive. The villagers saw, with consternation, by the stakes which had been driven in to mark its course, that it would cross, and consequently shut up their favourite path. A meeting was called, and three of the village worthies were appointed to wait upon the Laird, and learn his intentions of the matter. They did so, at the earliest opportunity; but he only laughed them to scorn, and told them he could do with his own as he chose. They answered him firmly, but civilly, that the path had belonged to their forefathers for generations, and they could not stand quietly by and see their rights trampled on with impunity. The Laird, seeing he was to meet with determined opposition, promised to make another to them equally good, if he were allowed to make his drive. The drive was accordingly made, a fancy wire-fence was run along each side of it, entirely shutting up the ancient path to the church-yard. True, another had been substituted in its place, but care was taken to make it as circuitous as possible, with the view of driving them from it altogether. Continue reading “‘Auld Granny—A Right-of-Way Story’ by J.A. (10 November, 1860)”

‘Pompey’s Breakfast—A True Picture of Edinburgh Life’ by James Easson (4 December, 1858)

The following is the first of James Easson’s short stories published in the ‘People’s Journal’. Easson—or ‘the people’s poet’ as he was posthumously dubbed by a reader—wrote many short stories, sketches, essays and poems from 1858 until his death in 1865. In many ways Easson was the sort of contributor that the ‘Journal’ was founded for. He was a painter decorator from Dundee who found an audience in the paper and was loved by its readers. He died in the Royal Lunatic Asylum in Dundee after three weeks of paralysis aged just 31, his only living relative being his Grandmother Betty Easson. Readers donated money to pay for his burial and the support of Betty when his death was announced. His stone can still be visited in Dundee’s Eastern Necropolis and the inscription reads; ‘Erected by the Proprietors of “The People’s Journal” in Memory of a Working Man who had Rare Literary Gifts and Whose Writings are his Best Memorial’.  For a full collection of his work and a short biography, see ‘The Life and Works of James Easson; The Dundee People’s Poet’ by Anthony Faulks (Dundee, 2016).

One fine morning during the past summer, and at an unusually early hour, the mansion of a rich East India Captain, situate in one of the fashionable crescents of Edinburgh, was thrown into great confusion, and its inmates into great distress, for a lamentable—a very lamentable—occurrence had just taken place. Was it the death of the master of the house, who had been found dead in his bed? No. Neither had the Captain’s niece eloped in the night, nor any other calamity of any such sort, but it was Pompey—her little lap-dog, Pompey—he had refused to east his breakfast, which to serve up was the special duty of the tall footman, John. Oh, poor dear little creature, Pompey—the dear, dear little dog—the fine little pet; so the crusty old Captain’s niece was half beside herself to think that her sleek little doggie, Pompey, had not taken his usual meat—the poor little creature!

John, the tall footman, was in agonies; the cook was in a stew last she might be blamed doing the poor little doggie’s chicken over brown. The fat house-maid sat in the drawing room sofa, wringing her hands—the butler vainly tried to pour oil on the troubled waters of their feelings by assuring them in a whisper that Pompey was over-fed, and that it was only a slight colic. But all this would not do: they ran up stairs and down stairs—to the kitchen and back to the servant’s hall—asking and answering questions as to the state of the poor little Pompey, who lay before the fire in the latter place like a big fat sheep, scarcely able to move from excess of fat and want of exercise.

Never, never had the dear little pet refused his breakfast before (such was the wail of the house-maid)—the most regular dog in his habits, and so sensible too! He was so fond—so very fond—of the Captain too; he lay at his bed-room door all night and whined, just like a little baby, when the gruff old man gave him a kick that sent him spinning over the stair-rail. Oh, deary, deary—and he would not eat! Oh, could not that cook prepare a sweet little sauce for the dear animal’s chicken? if not, what was she good for? What a state of mind the kind-hearted Miss Catherine must be in, when she should come down to the drawing room and have him brought up to her on the rug! The soft-hearted house-maid was all but crying at the bare reflection of that trying scene. Continue reading “‘Pompey’s Breakfast—A True Picture of Edinburgh Life’ by James Easson (4 December, 1858)”