‘The Treatment of the Poor.’ by A Christian Democrat (7 February, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. Here the topic tackled is the impact of Gladstone’s Education Act, their positive impact and how it can be improved upon. This was prompted by the publication of a book on vagrancy in Scotland by a former Sheriff of Aberdeen William Watson. Vagrancy was an issue which preoccupied contemporary liberal commentators, perhaps disproportionately. Vagrancy symbolised everything which the ‘People’s Journal’ sought to eradicate from the working class of Scotland through their doctrine of self-improvement.

Sir,—The Education Act of Mr Gladstone’s Government has already done much good, but it does not yet reach that class fully for whose benefit it was chiefly designed. The way in which the Poor Law is being administered in many parishes is rapidly increasing vagrancy, and thousands of uneducated children are growing up a curse to themselves and a burden to society. I argued at the time that the land of the country ought to have borne a far larger proportion of the school rate. The ratepayers were taxed at the expense of the landowners. They ought to have been forced to provide far better schools. The great expense of the recent Act is the best proof that they were neglecting their duty. Now, not content with taking the school teind as a bribe to let the Education Bill pass, they are in Parochial Boards forcing the poor literally upon the parish. Sheriff Watson, of Aberdeen, in a recent ale pamphlet* tells us that vagrancy is rapidly increasing in Scotland. In 1873 the number of vagrants in Scotland was 40,678. In 1878 they had increased to 54,236. The indignant Sheriff traces this largely to the selfishness of Parochial Boards, who are encouraged by the Board of Supervision to refuse all outdoor relief, and to apply the Poorhouse test rigidly. I do not deny that in certain eases the Poorhouse test is valuable, but it is often applied so as to decrease pauperism only to increase vagrancy. The Education Act is fitted to deal with the evil. Children move from place to place; they cannot be got at, not kept at school. Sheriff Watson argues that while children of working people are well provided for, the very poor are, in some respects, worse off than before the passing of the Education. Subscriptions can hardly now be got for ragged schools. People are so assessed that they refuse to give to voluntary schools for the neglected. Even criminal children, the Sheriff tells us, are better cared for than are the children of the very poor. Reformatories are supported by Government aid, stylish schools are built for the children of the ratepayers, but the “mitherless bairn,” the forgotten poor, are flouted at the doors of the Parochial Board, and flung out to wander over the country as vagrants and beggars.

Besides losing their education, the Sheriff goes on to show that they are never trained to work. The skilful workman, be his labour ever so hard, has a pleasure in it, but boys who have never learned any handicraft hate work. The only work they have ever got to do has been in Poorhouses or the like, and work has never been to them anything but repulsive. In this way a large class grow up injuring the moral tone of the working population and increasing the dangerous classes. I think that in rural parishes especially far more attention ought to be paid by the people to the administration of the Poor Law. If a Chairman does happen to be a man of sense and humanity the poor will be cared for, but if he is a selfish man, bent only on lessening the rates and decreasing pauperism, he will refuse all outdoor relief and flout the poor. Pauperism will of course diminish, but vagrancy—a far worse evil—will rapidly increase. I do hope that the new County Reform Bill will not much longer be delayed, and that the whole administration of the Poor Law will be placed upon a more popular basis.

In not a few parishes houses are allowed to go to decay, and labourers forced to walk miles to their work, lest their families gain a settlement. Cruel wrong is being done in this way, and it is very difficult to get the evil stopped. Electors in cities do not know the sufferings of the poor in rural districts, and the county franchise is so high that a whole suffering class are dumb and helpless. Sheriff Watson shows clearly how a great commercial disaster, when not properly met, depresses the moral tone of a whole district. He instances Aberdeen, and shows that when the workman and his family get out of work and lose hope they go rapidly down. Continue reading “‘The Treatment of the Poor.’ by A Christian Democrat (7 February, 1880)”

‘Home Rule and the Land Laws’ by A Christian Democrat (31 January, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The issue of Home Rule for Ireland was key ahead of the 1880 general election. Charles Stewart Parnell had just assumed leadership of the Home Rule League which would consolidate its dominant position in Ireland that year at the polls. I believe this editorial demonstrates that the issue was a confusing one for Scottish Liberals at this relatively early stage in the movement. A tentative support for the Irish right to self-governance was tempered by an axiomatic belief that a united ‘British’ state was a force for good domestically and internationally. This can be clearly seen in the overt ‘British’ exceptionalism of the final paragraph.

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

Sir,—In this letter I propose to discuss what we ought to do for Ireland, and what we ought not to do. First of all, we ought not to do anything to raise false hopes nor awaken false fears. The integrity of Britain must remain, property in Ireland must be protected, and order must be preserved. We must do nothing to cause capital to leave Ireland nor to awaken hopes doomed to bitter disappointment. All this being clearly understood, I do think we should hear what Irishmen really wish to be done. Mr Gladstone, it is true, has done more for Ireland than all the statesmen who ever loved her. I am constantly feeling anger rising in my heart towards Irishmen when I see their want of gratitude to the truest, greatest friend they ever had. But sir, when I remember the cruel wrongs of Ireland, the generations who have suffered grossest injustice, I check this rising anger and feel that if I were an Irishman as I am a Scotchman I should probably retain too keen a sense of the past to be as grateful as I ought to e to even Mr Gladstone. It is because we forget the past, which is more than most Irishmen can do, that we are so impatient of Irish unrest and dissatisfaction. Sir, let us try to shut our ears to all foolish clamour. Neither intimidated by threats, nor careful to gain temporary popularity, let us look at the Irish questions fairly in the face, and while clearly stating what cannot be conceded to any clamour, let us see what can be fairly and justly done. Sir, I appeal to Scotchmen. We know what English oppression means. Scotland felt it over and again, and we can sympathise with Irishmen. I rejoice to know that a noble and gallant young Scotchman is likely to represent Liverpool [Referring to John Ramsay, the future 13th Earl of Dalhousie, then styled Lord Ramsay]. Irishmen, if they were wise, would vote for him to a man, and ask no questions.

The first thing I would give to Irishmen is a fair hearing. Even Mr Bright, generous as he is, and just as he ever wishes to be, is not an Irishman. I wish to hear Irishmen state their own case. What do they mean by “Home Rule?” Do not let us be frightened by a bogey. I wish to approach this fearful thing, to hear it speak, and to know what it has to say for itself.

We in Scotland are about to raise a loud clamour for “Home Rule.” We wish the counties put under “Home Rule;” we wish the liquor traffic put under “Home Rule;” we wish more “Home Rule” at our Parochial Boards, and less dictation by a central government. Our educational and borough affairs are already under “Home Rule.” Let us quietly hear what Ireland really does mean by “Home Rule” before we refuse it.

Students of history know that when Ireland had a Parliament of her own it was neither a blessing nor an honour to her. But, sir, we are not all students of history. The people who are about to elect a new Parliament need to be informed. The knowledge may exist in the brains of students or in dusty blue-books. I wish living Irishmen to state what they know, and what they propose, for the information of the present electors. If the Parliament of Ireland was a curse and not a blessing, this is a most important fact, which an honest inquiry would make plain to Irishmen themselves, and is a strong argument in favour of inquiry. Let us hear Irishmen state their own case in their own way. What are the real wishes, their genuine aspirations? What do they, “in the heart of them,” as Carlyle would say, mean by “Home Rule?” Then, sir, I do earnestly wish to know what Mr Parnell wants. Is there a real injustice yet left in the Land Laws in Ireland? I fear there must be, else he would be powerless. What is wrong? What is wanting? In what is Mr Gladstone’s great measure defective? Continue reading “‘Home Rule and the Land Laws’ by A Christian Democrat (31 January, 1880)”

‘Political Oppression in the Counties’ by A Christian Democrat (17 January, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. This powerful attack on the undemocratic actions of Conservative parliamentary candidates and the established church’s failure to mobilise voters appeared in the buildup to the 1880 general election. Readers were urged to go to the polls, high turnout was the way to defeat the Conservative government of Disraeli. Perhaps the most interesting passage is the attack on the government’s wars in Southern Africa and Afghanistan (the infamous battle of Isandlwana would still have been in the minds of many).

“How will our missionaries look the people of India in the face as messengers of peace on earth and goodwill to men now? How will they go to Zululand with the Gospel? We have ravaged the homes of the people, sent fire and sword into peaceful valleys, and trampled every principle of righteousness under foot, and then we send missionaries to convert the countries we have made desolate with most cruel and unjust war. The voters of Scotland must take this responsibility. If they wish an end put to this kind of policy they must come as Christian men to the poll, and send men to Parliament who will demand with authority that all this shall be changed.”

The 1880 election saw victory for Gladstone’s Liberals, and a reduction in the Tory vote in Scotland (winning just 6 of 58 seats, down from 18 in 1874).

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

Sir,—I appeal to the people. No abuse, however powerfully defended, can resist the will of the people. A great crime is being done, a cruel wrong, under the protection of the law, is being inflicted, and there is no helper. I invoke the indignation of a people who love justice and hate oppression. In all our counties some proprietors of the soil are forcing the very best men and women to leave their homes or to violate their conscience. In Perthshire, for example, the Earl of Mansfield is inflicting most cruel wrong on a population whose only fault is their liberal opinions. Here are two facts:—In 1843 on the Logie-Almond estate there were 87 cottagers belonging to the Established Church. In 1878 only 23 remained. Of the twenty-one men who voted for Mr Parker in 1868 only four now remain on the estate. Sir, I accuse the noble Earl of a deliberate attempt to violate the Constitution. I denounce him as a setter of class against class, as a destroyer of that happy and cordial relationship which should exist between laird and tenant. I ask for Parliamentary inquiry. The House of Commons is insulted and its privileges and rights violated y this Earl, who uses the rights of property in this unrighteous way. Noble Christian men are banished from the homes of their fathers; families are torn up and flung houseless upon the world; men are forced to abandon their lawful calling—all for purely political honesty. They have committed no crimes; they have only exercised the rights put into their hands by Parliament. Sir, I call on Parliament to defend these honest men, who are punished for doing honestly the work Parliament gave them to do. Nor is the Earl of Mansfield the sole offender. All over our counties, and in Perthshire particularly, is this cruel and unconstitutional policy being pursued. I warn such violators of the spirit of the law that they shall not escape public censure. But, sir, they care for nothing. Public opinion they defy. They know they are abhorred, and that all honourable men despise their conduct. Parliament must instantly assert its power, and punish these violators of the equitable spirit of our law.

A host of little factors and small country bankers infest our counties. They know every man and his circumstances. If there is a bill to be renewed, if in consequence of bad seasons there is an arrear of rent, if there is any little difficulty perplexing a voter, then is the opportunity of these official oppressors. They have no shame, no delicacy. They come to the voter and simply say—“Now, are you to vote for our candidate? Give me your hand and your word that you will!” In vain the poor man tries to evade a direct reply. His wife, his daughters, his sons see his humiliation and burn with shame and rage. They all know the situation; they belong to the Free Church or the United Presbyterian; they are humbled and distressed. The shameless coward presses his advantage and the vote is promised. In hundreds of homes in Scotland this plan is pursued. And when stalwart noble men, like those at Logie-Almond, declare themselves staunch, out of twenty-one in a few years only four are left—the rest driven helpless from their homes. Sir, you as the editor of the People’s Journal have great influence. I call on you to wield it now. Especially I ask the voters in the villages who have feus to vote to a man against a system like this. I ask the Liberal candidates for burghs to raise this question. I call on the House of Commons to defend its privileges. I ask every honest man to stamp the cruel, cowardly conduct of these petty factors and pompous little bankers with their contempt. I ask Boards of Directors of our great banks to see that their influence and wealth are not used in this degrading oppression.

But, sir, I appeal chiefly to Christian men, who hold aloof from politics. I claim their help. Is Christianity only an affair of prayer meetings and religious observances on Sabbath days? No verily. The other side are organised. The licensed spirit trade to a man vote, and try to influence other voters. Their money interest is at stake, and they unite and make a mighty power, not in towns only but in counties. A languid and fitful opposition will not avail against an organisation like this. I wish to press on Christian men their duty as citizens. In municipal elections and in parliamentary voting I ask them to come to the poll. Men of high character are returned indeed by small majorities against men who are a shame to constituencies, but the majorities are too small—they should be overwhelming. The reason is that good, easy-going men do not trouble themselves to vote. A Scottish man with stuff in him should despise even being sent for or conveyed to the poll. To vote is his duty, his principle, he ought to vote frankly and openly too, giving all the influence he possesses to the side his conscience approves. The real weight of the Christian sentiment of the country is never felt in Parliament. A great statesman like Mr Gladstone requires to be insulted and driven from office before the good men of Britain are roused to take an interest in politics. Sir John Lawrence, and Lord Northbrook, and the Duke of Argyle have all entered their solemn protest against this unrighteous war in India. They have protested in vain. Why in vain? Because Christian men stayed away from the poll at the last election, and said that Whig and Tory had nothing to do with their religion. Sir, these men are responsible for this war. They did not support the right men at the right time, and the affairs of the county have fallen into the hands of men who “go in for gunpowder and glory.” Continue reading “‘Political Oppression in the Counties’ by A Christian Democrat (17 January, 1880)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 8.’ by a Correspondent in New York (8 April, 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 employment.

Employment Agencies—How to Purchase Land—Best States to Settle In.

Before referring to the principal States which are most recommended to those who follow agricultural industry, allow me to warn all intending emigrants, of what ever class or sex, not to be led away be advertisements, whether in newspapers or otherwise, inviting there to patronise what are called “intelligence offices” or “employment agencies.” The advertisement generally reads something like this—“All unemployed help gladly assisted in obtaining employment. Call from 10 to 2. Merchants Mutual, 42 Fourth Avenue.” There are a great many such offices in large cities here. I have no doubt some of them are honest enough, but the difficulty is in knowing which is which.

Again there is another form of getting employment when emigrants (or greenhorns as they are called) land here; it is termed “The Castle Garden Labour Bureau.” I believe this Bureau is an honest affair. But I think it is far better for the emigrants, both male and female, to bring, if they can, a little money with them, so that they can go to any place where they may have relations or acquaintances, or where they have some knowledge that some particular State or place has more inducements than others for them. The following is a summary of the number of emigrants who were provided with work by the Labour Bureau last year, with the wages paid to farm hands and female servants:—

Males. Females.
Irish, 11,131 8,863
German, 23,812 1,125
Scandinavians, 812 273
Russians and Poles, 912 21
Swiss, 1,070 166
Hungarians and Bohemians, 585 147
English, Scotch, and Welsh, 522 302
French, 106 28
Hollanders, 58 9
Italians, 32 5
Arabs, 3
Turks, 3 1
Canadians, 10
Armenians, 2

The average monthly wages paid to farm labourers and female servants for whom work was procured, according to the statistics of the Labour Bureau, was as follows:— Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 8.’ by a Correspondent in New York (8 April, 1882)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 7’ by a Correspondent in New York (1 April, 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 literature and a visit to Niagara falls.


Barnum’s Show—Visit to Niagara

                If there is one thing above another in which you far excel the Yankees it is in literature. We have two or three good magazines and a few good newspapers, but, generally speaking, the American press is very frivolous. The one half is taken up with politics, and the other half with anything that is horrible, sensational, or laughable. But what must I say in speaking of periodicals? All I have seen are of the Jack Sheppard and Claude Duval kind. But such stuff pleases the readers, and, I suppose, pays the publishers. But the literature of America wants the backbone of the literature of Great Britain. But we must not lay all this to the blame of Brother Jonathan himself. We must remember the heterogeneous mass of people there are in this country. The cosmopolitan character of nationalities which are represented in America may be gathered from the fact that over fifty different kinds, embracing every land and clime in Europe—Asia, Africa, and Australasia—landed in New York last year. So that in printing matter there are lots of different tastes to be considered.

There is one class besides the Chinese who are held in low estimation in America—viz., the poor darkie. As far as I have ever seen there is nothing but his colour (a thing he cannot help) to mark him out as not being in most respects the equal of his brother of the North. Not long ago ta conductor of a street car was fined for turning one out of his car merely because his skin was black, and there is a manager of a theatre going to appear as defendant in a case where he turned one out of his place of amusement. There was a Yankee who was going a-fishing and took a young ebony along with him. On crossing a very dangerous ferry the young darkie fell overboard. The Yank instantly sprang after him. Both were nearly drowned before they were got on board the boat again, and the rest of the white passengers began to remonstrate with the white man for being so foolish as to risk his life for a negro. He replied—“I didn’t care a cuss for the darned black whelp, but he had all the bait in his pocket.

I think it was Geordie the Third that said, “Sailors earned their money like horses and spent it like asses.” I think this may apply very well to Americans generally, for they win good wages by working hard, and they are not slow in spending them. It is quite a common thing for a young man to take his sweetheart or a married man to take his wife out on Sunday in a vehicle and drive her all round the town, and in winter the wife or sweetheart thinks herself slighted if she is not taken out sleigh riding. Why, this very day (second day of the year) I saw dozens and dozens of working men with their wives and sweethearts sleigh riding, and very expensive riding it is too. It is a very poor working man’s house that has not either an organ or piano in it, and almost every one has got a sewing machine. Then as to theatres, circuses, wild beast shows, and such like, they must be patronised. Some of these shows are of great magnitude, and can only pay in large places, but this does not hinder the people who live in smaller places from seeing them, for they will lose a day’s wages, pay railway fare, and all incidental expenses to see them. The great showman Barnum consolidated with another large show last year, and went round the country. Among other large places he visited Syracuse. At that time I was working 27 miles off, but the workmen where I was resolved to take a day and go to see the show, and I was as stupid as to follow suit. This cost each of us two and a half dollars for wages, one half dollar for railway fare (special train for the occasion), one half dollar for admission to the show, one half dollar for dinner and tea—total, four dollars or sixteen shillings and eightpence to see a circus and wild beast show. I have said that the shows are of great size here. On that occasion there were fifteen thousand people under one canvas roof. They performed in three rings at the same time. To show the extent of their menagerie they had twenty-one elephants, one of them a baby a few months old. Everything belonging to this exhibition was on the same scale. This beats your Wombwell of your Newsome, doesn’t it? Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 7’ by a Correspondent in New York (1 April, 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)”

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.,



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)”