Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Thon heavy people...

Oh hullo there! Come in, come in an' sit doon, ah've jist pit the kettle oan tae byle. Ah've got some fresh pancakes ah jist made this mornin that'll pit a smile oan yer wee face. Settle yersel doon by the fire, get yersel comfy, an' ah'll tell ye a wee story aboot a couple o' hingings ah went tae up at the Gallowlee oan Leith Walk a few year ago. Noo, afore ye start cryin me a morbid auld craw let me stop ye richt there. Things were different back in the 1750s. Ye've got tae mynd we had nae pictures, nae telly, nae 'Edinburgh Festival' in thon days. Nae fitba matches tae shout at, nae Big Brother evictions tae tak sides oan. We had the penny gaffs aye, if ye wantit a wee laugh, an' there were aye the balladeers up the Mercat Cross if ye wantit tae hear the news, but if ye enjoyed a big crowd an' lots o' bawlin an' shoutin, then the hingins were yer thing.

Hingins were great places tae meet aw yer pals an' catch up oan the gossip. Ye wid see fowk there that nivver cam oot their hoose fer orner, fowk ye had thocht lang-deid. They were great places fer gettin aw the local news, the latest fashion tips, new recipes, an' whit constitutit a 'capital crime' that week. Ye had tae hae that last yin so ye widnae get caught oot yersel. Public mores an' scruples were aye oan the chynge sae it wis better tae be weel-informed oan whit an' whit no tae dae tae avoid the rope. Life an' deith were gey near-neebors back then an' ye were nivver sure ye werenae gaunnae be next up oan the gibbet...

Certain things tho nivver chynge, an' certain crimes were aye seen as beyond the pale. Murder obviously wis nivver luikt kindly oan, an' cannibalism neither, but we'll get tae that in time. First ah want tae tell ye aboot how ye can mak somethin sae bad as murder even worse by tryin tae spin a yarn tae cast a better licht oan yersel.

Wee Norrie Ross had a hard start in life. He wis a bricht young lad fae Inverness, but his fowks baith died when he wis jist fifteen an' he couldnae feenish his education an endit up in service. He managed tae get hissel a guid position as valet-de-chambre tae a young officer in the airmy an' traivellt in Europe wi him durin the war ower Marie-Therese's accession, but he returned tae Embra when peace came in 1748 an' took up as a fitman. It wis at this time that he fell in wi a bad lot an' startit wi the drinkin the sweerin an' the fornicatin. He took up a job wi this auld dowager madame that had a big estate in Berwickshire, but bein the lad he had become, he managed tae get yin o' the scullerymaids in the big hoose pregnant. This caused an awfy drain oan his pockets as he had tae provide fer the lass as weel as hissel, he needit tae get his hauns oan some easy money an' sae yin nicht he decidit tae rob the auld wumman as she wis sleepin.

These things nivver seem tae gang as ye plan them tho. Norrie waitit till aw the hoose wis asleep, climbed the stairs, took his shoes aff an' crept intae the wumman's bed-chamber. Kennin that she kept her safe-keys unner her pillae he drew back her bed-curtains an' tried tae slide his haun in tae retrieve them, but woke the auld bird. She of course startit bawlin. Panickin, Norrie grabbed a clasp-knife fae her dressin-table an' cut the puir wumman's throat tae stop her fae cryin oot. Panickin even mair at whit he had done, he then forgot aw aboot robbin the auld wumman an' jumped oot the windae, runnin fer miles afore he stopped an' hid in a field. He forgot aw aboot the robbery aye, but he had forgot aboot his shoes intae the bargain...

It didnae tak ower lang tae apprehend wee Norrie, an' he wis broucht back tae Embra tae staun trial fer his lady's murder. Here he made a grave error. He tried tae mak oot that the auld wife wis in the habit o' invitin him intae her bed, an' that wis why he had left his shoes at her door. Says he discovered his lady deid in her bed that nicht an' jumped oot the windae tae chase her attacker. Noo murder's a bad enough crime, but castin aspersions oan an auld wumman's guid name in the process wis seen as doublin the sin, an' tae mak the punishment fit the crime Norrie wis sentenced tae hing, but no afore his right haun had been cut aff, an' the murder-knife driven through it, baith tae be hung abune his heid oan the gallows.

Norrie wis taken doon tae the Gallowlee oan the 8th o' January, 1751, an' broucht tae the gibbet. He managed tae draw a fairly big crowd despite it bein a bitter-cauld mornin wi a smirr o' rain in the wind. His right haun wis hacked aff an' speared wi the clasp-knife, then tied up ower his heid, we aw oohed an' aahed a bit, then fower chimney-sweeps hauled oan the rope tae hoist him up. As Norrie's body convulsed he drew his right airm up an' slapped at his face wi the bloody stump. The sicht o' that upset a fair few o' the weaker-mindit fowk in the crowd, which wis a bit rich tae ma way o' thinkin, seein as how we had jist hung the laddie! We watched till he went still, gave him a wee roond o' applause, then we aw driftit aff tae oor work, or tae dae oor messages. We thoucht little mair o' wee Norrie Ross, an' jist got oan wi oor day. Here, hae anither pancake...

There wis tho, this wee story that did the roonds a few weeks efter this. Supposedly this bunch o' men were haein a drinkin session doon yin o' the ale-hooses oan Leith Walk. They were aw fu o' thersels, likely they were still celebratin the New Year, an' haein a braggin contest tae see whit yin o' them wid dae somethin the ithers widnae. Yin o' them, this butcher-man, says there wisnae a cut o' meat that he widnae eat, an' anither yin daurs him tae eat a steak fae the gibbet up the road. Broon the butcher, fer that wis his name as ah heard it, goes an' gets a ladder, climbs up tae whaur Norrie Ross's body's still hingin, an' cuts hissel a hunk o' Norrie's rump, which he taks back tae the pub, grills ower the fire, an' eats wi a slice o' breid an' a tankard o' ale.

Ye heard a lot o' stories like that when oot gettin yer messages, ye were nivver sure whether tae believe them or no. Ah pit that yin doon tae ower much bevvyin an' thocht nae mair o' it. Weel, ah mean, can ye imagine? Cannibalism? In Auld Reekie? Awa an' stop haverin...

Ah wis a wee bit pit oot, ah will admit, when this couple moved intae oor close up the High Street. The Broons were a rough couple nae mistake, him a butcher an' the baith o' them heavy drinkers. He cam fae Cramond an' she fae Ireland, need ah say mair? Ah nivver liked tae run intae him in the common passage, mair sae if it wis a dark nicht, ah couldnae help but think it might be him fae the story ah'd heard, an' her? Well, ye couldnae help but run intae her, she wis aw ower the shop! Fae the luik o' her she could gie as hard as she got, an' ye could hear it o' a nicht. The rammie's the twa o' them wid hae if they'd had a drink in them were legendary up oor stair. Bangin an' shoutin an' sweerin an' crashin. It wis comical tae hear them an' used tae draw a wee crowd oantae the stair tae listen at their door.

There wid've been aboot twinty o' us this nicht, crammed oantae their landin listenin tae the twa o' them at it. We used tae try tae work oot whit wis gaun oan by the noises we could hear, Yell!WheechCrash!! -Aah! She's chucked his tea at the wa, Bang!Thud! -Ooh! He's knocked her aff her chair... We could hear thumps an' bumps, couldnae quite mak oot whit wis happenin, it soundit like they were in a wrestlin grapple oan the flair... Then-

'Murder! help! fire! the rogue is murdering me! help, for Christ's sake! '

Weel that made us sit up! Ah rapped oan the door. "Mrs Broon! Are ye awricht in there?"

Nothin, sae ah hammert hard. "Mr Broon! Let us in! Come oan! Mr Broon!"

Sae ah bent doon tae their keyhole an' peeped in. Oh My God! Ye widnae believe it, whit ah could see wis him liftin her up by the waist wi a big carvin knife in his ither haun, an' stickin her tap-hauf in the fire! Get the polis!!!

By the time the polis got there an' we'd forced the door, Mrs Broon wis lyin hauf-deid oan the flair wi a big gouge oot o' her shooder, an' he wis lyin sleepin in his bed, wi gravy aw ower his lips. When we grabbed him an' he cam tae, he tried tae act oblivious, sayin he didnae ken how it had happened an' she must've fell intae the fire. Weel, ah kent whit ah had seen, that picture'll nae lang leave me, an' we were aw witness tae whit Mrs Broon had screamed. He wisnae gettin aff wi it that easy. Luckily ah wis staunin near enough him tae get in a guid slap or twa afore the polisman pu'ed me back.

We aw had tae gie evidence up at the coort at Broon's murder trial. Ah got a braw new hat fer ma turn. It turned oot a nice day ah mynd. There wis nae contest really, we aw kent whaur he wis gaun, an' sure enough, we had anither wee trip doon Leith Walk tae luik forrit tae. August the 14th, 1754 it wis, beautiful day, hot, but jist a wee breeze tae stop ye fae sweatin ower much. The hingin itsel wis a quick an' unsatisfyin affair. Broon nivver admittit his guilt, nivver showed nae remorse, nae repentance, nothin. Wicked wicked man...

A few days efter they hung Broon his body went missin fae the gibbet. It wis found a couple o' days later in the Greenside burn, taken back ower tae the Gallowlee an' hung up again. A few days efter that it went missin again, but this time they nivver found it...

Are ye sure ye dinnae want anither pancake?

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The man wi the bairn in his een

Come wi me a wee daunder doon the High Street o' Auld Reekie. Ye'd best stick close tae me, it can get awfy crowdit this time o' year, whit wi this damned Fringe Festival cairry-oan. Some days ye can barely see the street fer aw the fowk, but back in its hey-day the High Street wis this busy fae dawn til dusk, every day exceptin the Sabbath, aw year roond. Ye've got tae mynd there were near enough ten times the number o' fowk bidin here as there are nooadays. Then there were the shops, the Luckenbooths, the mairkets, street hawkers, porters, water-cairriers, balladeers, gangs o' bairns an' thoosans o' gossipin wummen, aw jostlin, shoutin an' cairryin oan. Can ye imagine the din?

Let's stop here by the Mercat Cross fer a meenit. Stop an' listen fer a meenit. Imagine aw that throng an' bustle an' noise, can ye? Is it daein yer heid in yet? fer it is mine. An' then imagine it aw fadin awa tae nothin. Imagine it aw gaun quiet. Silence. Desolation. A deithly quiet...

Let's walk doon a bit further, doon past auld John Knox's hoose. Here, haud oantae ma airm, ignore the crowds. Listen tae the hush, the hush o' a toun wi nae life in it, the quiet an' stillness o' a graveyaird. This wis how it soundit in the year 1645. That wis the year we had oor hintmaist visitation o' the Black Deith, oor last plague epidemic. Them that had the means an' somewhaur tae go aw fled the toun, them that didnae had tae take their chances. Great canvas camps were set up oan the Burgh Muir sooth o' the toun, whaur Marchmont an' the Grange noo staun, fer aw the seek fowk tae be quarantined. Houaniver mony fowk widnae go there an' preferred tae stay shut up in their ain hooses.

If ye cam doon wi the plague ye had tae hing a white sheet fae yer windae as a sign fer the plague doctor tae come visit ye, an whit a sicht he wis. He wore this mask wi a big beak oan it, filled up wi flooers an' herbs tae protect him fae the evil air (an' smells) an' a great lang leather coat. Oor first plague doctor, Mr Paulitious, didnae last lang, he wis deid by June, but his successor, George Rae, managed tae see the epidemic oot alive, an' got weel-paid fer his troubles, eventually. The Toun Cooncil ye see, bankin oan the plague doctor no bein aroon at the end o' the epidemic, advertised the job wi a fantastic wage o' a hunner poond a month! Puir George had tae fecht them aw the way tae pay oot, some things nivver chynge...

Ah wis lucky masel, ah've aye had a guid constitution, ah pit that doon tae the sherry, an' ah spent maist o' that year gaun roon ma pals, ministerin tae them that werenae weel, dressin them that had succumbed, an' daein ma best tae cheer up the survivors. It wis hard gaun but ye did whit ye could, ye ken how it is. Ma stairs jist had tae gang dirty. As the year wore oan though, the toun got quieter an' quieter, the mairkets stopped, the shops shut, hooses got boardit up, even some closes, like Mary King's fer instance, got bricked up aw th'gither, though, despite whit fowk like tae tell ye, we nivver bricked fowk up inside them. Eventually it got sae desertit there wis even gress grawn thick atween the causey setts richt in the middle o' the High Street. The toun wis deid, an' we were aw feart o' whit the future wid bring. An' then the Pirates showed up...

Pirates ye say? Aye, Pirates, ye heard me richt. Wid ye credit it, jist as the toun's at it lowest ebb, this big Pirate ship cam sailin intae Leith Roads. There wid've been mass panic in the toun, if we'd had enough fowk tae muster a mass panic. As it wis, we could bare scrape th'gither sixty able-bodit men tae defend the toun, an' they were nae match fer a band o' brigands wi intent. We were aw feart fer oor lives, an' us wummen were feart fer somethin even worse, even ma pal Josie Lafferty wis scared!

The day the Pirates arrived they came intae the Canongate through the Wateryett at the fit o' Abbeyhill, an' cam mairchin up tae the Netherbow, whaur they demandit tae meet wi the Provost. The few o' us that were up an' aboot were cowerin at aw the windaes thereaboots, keekin oot tae catch a glimpse o' the savages, but no wantin tae be seen oorsels. Ah mynd seein the Pirate Captain, a big broad tower o' a man, dressed like somethin fae anither world, aw exotic an' fu o' colour, an' feelin this odd tremble gaun through ma body. No the usual tremble ah got when ah saw an ootlander, this wis different. There wis somethin aboot this man, somethin in his een, somethin burnin there, somethin strange an' yet weel-kent at the same time. Whit wis it? Ah had tae hae a couple o' big sherries jist tae steady ma nerves.

Listenin tae the parley gaun oan doon in the street we could hear the Pirate King tellin the Provost that he wantit a huge ransom fae the toun, somethin like a hauf o' aw oor wealth, or he wid butcher us aw, an' he wantit the Provost's eldest son as a surety in the meantime. Oor Provost telt the Barbar that he didnae hae a son, jist yin daughter, an' he startit greetin as he telt him that she wis in her bed wi the plague an' aw. Somethin saftened in the Pirate's features at this news, a chynge cam ower his face, an' he offered the Provost a new deal. He said that he wid tak the Provost's daughter an' try tae cure her. If he managed it an' the lass survived, the Pirates wid lay aff the toun an' leave us in peace.

Of course the Provost jumped at this chance an' invitit the Pirate up tae his hoose in the Cap an' Feather Close. But naw, says the Pirate, he wid tak ower yin o' the empie hooses in the Canongate an' she could be broucht tae him. So broucht doon she wis, an' he set tae work. We aw held oor breath tae see whit wid happen...

Within the fortnicht the lassie wis sittin up an' seemed tae be oan the mend. The toun breathed a huge sigh o' relief, we werenae gaunnae be slaughtert in oor beds efter aw, an' when word got roon that the Pirate an' the Provost's lassie were gettin, ye ken, close, we aw felt that oor troubles were ahint us. Things were still bad dinnae get me wrang, fowk were still ill, but we could at least look forrit again. Ah startit ma visits up again, an' ah wis oan ma way doon the Canongate this day, gaun doon tae veesit a pal at the White Horse Close, when the big Pirate King suddenly steps richt oot in front o' me. "Sophia ma darlin, can ye still dance the Jig o' Life?"

Weel! Ye could've cowped me ower wi a feather! "Oh. My. God." says me, "Is that you in there Andra?" thinkin fer some reason that this big Pirate had eaten ma wee pal o' aw thae years ago. "It's me Sophia! It's Andra! Ah can hardly believe ye're still alive amangst aw this deith an' pestilence. Ye've even managed tae pit oan the beef!"

That deserved a hearty slap, but insteid ah threw ma airms aroon the big man-mountain an' plonked a big kiss oan his cheek. Turns oot wee Andra had managed tae escape the country aw that langtime ago, got hissel selt intae slavery, an' endit up at the Sultan o' Morocco's coort. Andra wis aye a sharp tack an' had got intae the Sultan's favour an' worked his way up in the piratin business till he had his ain ship. He had returned intendin tae wreak his revenge oan the auld toun, but found yince he got here that he couldnae gang through wi it, thank the Lord. Andra swore me tae secrecy aboot his real identity oan account o' him still bein sentenced tae hing, an' ah've nivver telt anither soul aboot it, no until ah telt you that is, sae dinnae go spreadin it aroon.

It wisnae lang afore Andra an' the Provost's lassie got mairrit, which pit me oot a wee bit, but the way ah see it, there's aye plenty mair fish tae land, ye've jist got tae cast aroon a bit. Still, he wid've been a michty fine catch that yin, especially the way he'd filled oot, if ye ken whit ah mean. He wisnae the bairn ah had rescued fae the Tolbooth cell, he wis a fu-grawn man an' aw the better fer it, though ah could still see wee Andra in thae twinklin een o' his. Him an' his new wife settlet doon in that same hoose in the Canongate, an' tae mark his gratitude tae the Sultan o' Morocco Andra pit up a wee statue o' him oan the front o' the hoose an' named the hoose Morocco Land. Ye see it, up there, see? The hoose has been rebigged ower the years, but the statue remains tae this day, a wee marker o' yin o' Embra toun's closer scrapes wi fate.

Ah aften invitit Andra up tae ma hoose fer a wee sherry an' a blether, but he aye remindit me o' that vow he took oan the banks o' the Nor Loch aw thae years afore, that he wid nivver set fit in the toun again, an' richt enough he nivver went a step beyond the Netherbow, stayin in the Canongate till the day the bonnie lad breathed his last...

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Jig o' Life

Intit funny how a thing can get ye aw fired up at the time, then when ye luik back ye wunner whit aw the fuss wis aboot? Whether it's gettin intae a lather aboot an Englis prayer-buik, or gettin intae a fankle aboot a poll tax, or even gettin intae a stushie aboot the price o a loaf o breid, we've aw been there, an yet, in the words o a famous doctor we aw "learned tae stoap worryin an love the bomb." Weel mibbe that's pushin it a bit far but ye get ma drift. The sair edges saften in time an the grass graws thick. Jist like the auld quarry-holes oan the Bruntsfield Links aw things get smoothed ower by the passin o the years.

That's no tae say that at the time the bluid disnae bile up in yer heid an gie ye that ridd-mist ower yer een. Ah can mind that mist comin doon a few times ower the years an ah kept up ma membership caird o the Embra Mob fer mony a season. Ah wis mair a pairt o the supporters camp raither than the first team, ah wid help oot whaur ah could but ah wis content tae leave aw the rough work tae the menfowk. Yin o the rammies ah mind o wis when that rogue King Chairlie the First cam tae the throne in 1625. We could smell trouble fae the word go, especially efter he mairrit that French Catholic lassie Henrietta Maria an it wisnae lang afore we were oot oan the street nicht efter nicht riotin. As ah wis sayin it felt like a maitter o life an' deith back then, but noo it disnae seem sic a big deal at aw. We were aw scared o the Popery comin back ye see, feart that Chairlie wis oot tae turn oor precious Reformation roon. There we were, staunin oan the brink o the Enlightenment, an yet we were fechtin ower whit leid oor clerics spake at us in, an whether or no we wummen had tae keep a wee calender at oor bedside...

Talkin o' bedsides ah wis hingin aboot wi a braw wee laddie at the time. Wee Andra Gray wis a fiery wee wirey wee sparkler o a boy, he wid sit in a corner fer a while, smoulderin awa, but he wis aye ready tae burst intae life an terr roon a room, jabberin awa wi his grand ideas an plans fer the future like a sputterin caunle-flame. Andra wis a Leveller, an early-doors Communist, an ah jist loved his passion an frenzy, an he wis a great dancer tae boot. Wi his wild shock o rid hair an his lean frame when he took his claes aff an capered aboot ma room he luiked jist like a wee matchstick man, waitin tae be struck...

Mibbe that accounts fer Andra's weakness, his pyromania thing. He jist couldnae help hissel puir laddie, he wis aye settin fire tae stuff, an it wis nae surprise tae ony o us in the Mob when he set fire tae the Provost's hoose yin nicht, while we were haein a wee riot doon the Coogate. It wisnae an awfy guid riot that nicht, it wis kind o routine an ordinar, but Andra's wee spot o incendiary fairly brichtened things up an made the nicht gang wi a bang. No that the Provost saw it that way. The very next day Andra an a hauf-dozen o his comrades were roundit up by the Toun Rats an banged up in the Tolbooth.

Arson's a serious business at the best o times, but back in the seeventeenth century it wis a gey risky yin an aw. Whit wi aw the widden hooses, dae-it-yersel biggin, an lack o fire-fighters, yin flamin hoose could burn the entire toun doon, so it wis anither yin oan their list o 'capital crimes' an puir wee Andra got the fu weicht o the doomsters ca brung doon oan his heid an efter a speedy trial wis sentenced tae hing fae the Tolbooth gibbet.

It'll likely come as nae surprise tae ye that ah wisnae gaunnae staun fer that. They werenae takin ma wee Andra fae me, nae way Jose! That wee human dynamo had far too much life in him tae end up swingin fae Embra's tree o deith, an ah set tae work oan ma plan...

The nicht afore Andra's execution me an ma pal Josie Lafferty cam stoatin up the Krames next tae St Giles an fell agin the Tolbooth door. We were singin an laughin, an makin oot like we were blind drunk. Noo this wis weel past curfew an were chancin oor airms, by rights we should've been liftit fer oor behaviour. The Tolbooth Gairds though, as we had predicted, liked tae chance their airms as weel, an the next meenit the door opened an we were 'invitit' intae the Gairdhoose. As ah mynd it we were mair dragged than invitit in.

Josie wis aff a lang line o 'wummen-o-th-nicht', her ma, her grannie an her grannie's grannie were aw whoors an prood o it (her grannie's ma didnae hae it in her tho) an Josie kent her trade weel. She starts up wi aw the flindrikin an teasin, gettin the Gairdsmen intae a guid fettle. Meanwhiles ah dae a wee wiggly dance, unbutton ma jaiket, an whip oot twa bottles o fine sweet sherry tae which ah had previous addit a wee dash o hemlock. Ah pretendit tae swig fae yin bottle, then let yin o the Gairdsmen chase me roon the room a bit till he'd managed tae grab the bottles fae ma haun. Thae Toun Gairds were a glaikit lot an nae mistake, an ten meenits later the bottles are baith empie an the Gairds are aw lyin comatose oan the flair. Ah buttoned ma jaikit up, telt Josie tae pit her claes back oan, an riflet the Gairds' pockets till ah found the cell keys.

Ye should've seen the luik oan Andra's wee face when ah opened his cell door. His een lit up wi a dancin flame. "Sophia!" he crys, "Ya Brammar!" The puir laddie thocht he wis seein in his last nicht oan Earth, an suddenly me an a hauf-dressed whoor are at his door, ye could see why he wis fair chuffed. He grabs ma airm an starts tae swing me roon. "Whit are ye daein Andra ye wee monkey ye?" says ah. "Ach Sophia, ah'm daein the Jig o Life, will ye jyne me?" an sae we had a wee dance aroon the Tolbooth, him an me.

We couldnae dance fer lang tho, ah kent we had tae get a move oan, the hemlock wid suin enough wear aff. We chucked an auld shawl ower Andra's heid an hurried him back doon through the Krames, ower the High Street an through Mary King's Close, an doon tae the edge o the Nor Loch. There ah had a pal waitin wi a wee boat tae get Andra ower the loch tae the road tae Leith, whaur he might find a way tae safety. Ah took Andra in ma airms an held him ticht. "Oh ma wee Lucifer-stick, will ah e'er see ye again?" ah whispert tae him, an he replied "Weel Sophia, if ye dae it'll no be in auld Embra toun. By faith ah tell ye, ah'll nivver again set fit in that blasted toun as lang as ah live!"

Ah stood there oan the edge o the loch, aw by masel, watchin the wee skiff fade intae the darkness o the nicht, wonderin whit wid become o ma wee man, he wis ony a bairn really, an whether ah wid ever see thae sparkly een again...

Friday, 13 August 2010

Night Scentit Stock.

 "Gardyloo!!"


That wis the cry ye wid hear aw ower Auld Reekie, ten o'clock at nicht an six in the mornin. They were the twa times ye were allowed tae chuck yer refuse oot the windae doon intae the close, aw that ye couldnae burn. If ye were in luck it wid reach the bottom an the scaffies wid shovel it awa, if yer aim wis oot, or it wis windy weather, then yer slops widnae reach the groond, but wid end up splattered doon yer wa, an ye wid hae tae wait fer rain tae clean it aff. It gave the toun quite a scent at nicht, but it didnae smell like a bouquet o' flooers.

Ye'll hear fowk maintain that Auld Reekie got its name fae aw the smoke belchin fae a thoosan chimneys an envelopin the toun. That's mince. The toun wis ca'ed Auld Reekie lang afore we could aw afford tae buy coals, an cam fae the stench o the daily ootpoorins fae aw the windaes. Oan a hot summer's day, wi a Sooth wind blawin, were ye tae staun ower the Nor Loch in Bearford's Park, whaur they bigged the first New Toun, the smell wid've knockt ye oan yer back. Ah wis aye endin up oan ma back in Bearford's Park, but that's anither story fer anither day...

The scaffies, wi their wee barries, wid come an take maist o the dirt awa, but in the auld days we had ither ways o cleanin the closes an aw. A lot o fowk kept swine an hens, sometimes in their ain hooses, sometimes in an oothoose, an they wid grub aroon in the mess eatin whit pickens they could find. Ah kept a few chickens masel, mainly fer their eggs, but haundy fer a roast come the Daft Days. Noo an again ah wid leave the eggs an let a docker raise a brood o chicks ah could sell or pass oan tae ma neebors.

Ah had this yin braw hen fer years, ah cryed her Meg efter the big gun up the Castle fer she shot oot eggs the size o cannonbaws, an she wis a grand layer, kept me gaun in chicks fer as lang. Ah got quite attached tae Meg, she wid aye come runnin when ah ca'ed her name. It didnae maitter how far doon the close she wis, up she wid trot, wi a wee train o chicks ahint her aw cheepin merrily. Meg wis great, Meg did awthin richt, Meg wis the best hen in aw Embra. She had ony yin fault, an that wis that she wid aye get under yer feet when ye least needed it. When ah wis in the hoose say, an ah wis mibbe brushin ma flair, everytime ah turnt roon she wid be at ma ankle, gettin tanglt up in ma skirts, if ah wis wearin them. Ah warned her time an' time again, but she widnae listen. Peety that, or she might hae been wi us still...

Ah wis hingin oot ma windae this night, it wid be aboot seeven o'clock, an ah wis watchin aw the bairns playin doon Libberton's Close. The close ran aff the High Street doon tae the Coogateheid, near enough whaur the George IV Brig noo stauns. Ah stayed up the stair fae John Dowie's alehoose an there wis aye somethin gaun oan in the close, somethin tae watch. Ah wis watchin this auld boy haein a pish in yin o the doorways when ah noticed this figure comin up the close. Ah recognised him richt awa, it wis that Captain Porteous fae the Toun Gaird. Bumptious big eedjit that he wis, a'body hated the man, an ye could see fowk joukin tae get oot his road, pressin thersels intae doorways an the like. Exceptin Meg. Ah saw her jist at the last meenit come wanderin richt oot intae the middle o the close, an ah tried tae shout, but too late.

Porteous tried tae avoid her by takin a wee trip-step, but still managed tae catch her, did a wee skip an a birl, spun roon an landit hard oan his erse in the gundie runnin doon the middle o the close. A dozen heids lookin oot fae their windaes aw laughed at yince, sic wis the popularity o the man. He got hissel tae his feet, his face like thunder an looked aroon fer the hen that caused his fa fae grace, then he liftit his walkin-cane up, an brocht it hard doon oan Meg's wee heid! The murderous rogue!

Ye could see by fowk's reactions, an the sounds o their bawlins an cursins, that Meg wis a weel-loved hen. Men an wummen were appearin at every door an windae barrackin the arrogant Captain. Ah wis fair blazin masel, an near tae greetin. Ah yelled a torrent o unprintable assaults doon at him, an then shoutit that "As God is ma witness ah wish ye hae as mony fowk celebratin at yer ain hinter-end as there were feathers oan that puir chicken!" an ah picked up ma chamber-pot an emptied it doon oantae his heid.

By rights he could've come right up the stair an arrestit me, it wis far too early fer poorin-oot, but the cheerin that wis resoundin roon the close wa's made him see better sense an he jist brushed doon his shooders, shook his heid, and struttit aff up the close. Leavin me tae collect ma puir deid Meg an bring up her brood o chicks oan ma ain sel.

It wis a couple o year efter this that Captain Porteous met his ain sorry hinter-end. He had been locked up in the Tolbooth, that dark an dreary pile oan the High Street, whilst he waitit fer word o his appeal tae come through fae London. That wis the appeal against his sentence o execution fer openin fire oan a crowd o us that were haein a peaceful riot yin nicht. It's a lang story. When the messenger arrived, the nicht o the 7th o' September 1736, wi the news that he had been reprieved, Porteous startit celebratin wi his pals, an telt them the story o ma hen an how ah had cursed him. Called me an auld witch so he did. Said he had cheatit the curse so he did. Said ma pish smelt o' roses so he did, which wis nice o' him...

Ten meenits later, while they're still aw carousin awa, laughin an jestin, they hear the sound o the 'deid-drum' thumpin its doleful beat at the heid o his lynch-mob oan their way up fae the Grassmarket.

Porteous, kennin whit the noise meant, crys oot "Damn the auld wife! She wis right!!"

An' ah wis. It wis a busy nicht in the Grassmarket that nicht. There were as mony fowk there as feathers oan a hen...


Monday, 9 August 2010

Hammer Horror

Wi a title like that ye micht expect this wee story tae be a bit saucy an no awfy serious, but ah'm sorry tae disappoint ye. This tale's a gey tragic yin, an if ye're no in great fettle mibbe ye should look awa fer a meenit. Ah'll gie ye a shout when ye can turn back... dinnae worry, ah'll shout ye...

Right. Noo ma story starts aff up the High Street, but ends up doon somewhaur we've been afore...

The Shaws had bided oan oor landin fer years. Ah can barely mind Mrs Shaw noo, she had passed awa giein birth tae wee Cathy no long efter we'd moved in, an Wullie Shaw had nivver re-mairrit. He went right intae hissel efter that, an kept wee Cathy awfy close, ye barely saw them oot. She kept the hoose fae a young age while Wullie scraped a livin as an upholsterer doon in the Coogate. They had precious few freens an no much in the way o faimly, but fer aw their hardships Cathy turned oot a bonnie lass, no whit ye wid cry 'awfy-bonny', but weel-mannert an quiet-spoken...

Though she nivver went oot o an evenin Cathy had got hersel awfy close-in wi a wee jeweller fae yin o the Luckenbooths up at St Giles kirk by the name o Johnny Lawson. They must've been seein quite a bit o each ither, fer it seems that Cathy had set her heart oan mairryin the laddie. Howanever her faither Wullie had ither ideas an in his een the young Johnny wis aw the wrang sort fer his lassie. Mibbe he'd heard aboot the boy's drinkin, or his fondness fer gamblin at the races doon oan Leith Sands, or mibbe it wis aw the jewellery he wore, but whitever his reasons were, Wullie barred Cathy fae seein him an widnae let the lad come onywhaur near the hoose, little kennin that Cathy wis seein wee Johnny ahint her faither's back...

Insteid, Wullie had set his lassie up wi the son o yin o his ain pals, Sanny Robertson fae the next close up but yin, an wis adamant that Cathy went through wi the match, somethin tae dae wi upholsterers stickin th'gither. Cathy fer her pairt wis jist as adamant that she wid nivver be Mrs Robertson, that she'd nivver liked that eedjit since they were at school th'gither an he gave her the creeps, an so the twa o them were at loggerheids oan the subject. The rows got worse an worse until, this yin nicht, things were reachin burstin point...

The first ah kent things were as bad as whit they were wis when auld Mr Morrison came bangin oan ma door. He stayed through the wa fae the Shaws, an though he wis nae nosey-parker, he couldnae help but hear the rammy gaun oan through the wa fae him. The puir auld sowel wis near greetin as he telt me whit he had heard. Apparently, in amangst aw the rowin he had heard Cathy shoutin the words "barbarity, cruelty an death" a number o times, follaed by Wullie leavin the hoose, slammin an lockin the door ahint him. Efter a wee while o quiet Mr Morrison wis sure he could hear Cathy groanin, like as if she wis hurt, an that wis why he had come tae get me. We went runnin back through intae his hoose an listened at the wa...

Sure enough, ye could hear the puir lassie moanin clear as onythin, an when ah pressed ma lug hard in tae the wa ah could jist mak oot these words, "Cruel faither, thou art the cause o ma death!" Thae words put a chill straight intae ma heart, an they'll bide wi me forever, ma blood run cauld. We ran tae the Shaws' door an startit bangin, but got nae response, an yet still we could hear Cathy's groans, so ah chapped oan the door ower the landin an got yin o the bairns tae run fer a constable. While we were waitin ah chapped oan a few mair doors, an by the time the polis arrived there wis quite a wee crowd oan the stairheid. When he got there he pit his shooder tae the door an burst in. Puir Cathy wis lyin oan their front room flair drenched in blood, white as a sheet, an wi a bloody big knife lyin at her side. The polisman wis first at her side, liftit her up, an asked her if it wis her faither that had done this.

Cathy gave a wee nod o her heid, jist yin nod, an expired, right there oan the flair in front o us...

Jist at that very meenit in walks Wullie Shaw. He wis awready kind o shocked at his front door bein wide open an aw the wummen in the stair staunin in his front room, When he looked doon an saw Cathy lyin there deid oan the flair, he sortae sagged an sortae shrunk at the same time an went doon oan his knees. It wis at this point that we noticed the bloodstains oan Wullie's shirt. We aw jist looked at yin anither... Wullie Shaw... Wee Wullie Shaw... Wha wid've thocht that wee Wullie Shaw wis capable o sic an evil act?

The trial wis a short yin. Though Wullie admitted that the twa o them had been rowin, he maintained that he had left her alive an weel an in yin piece that nicht, an that the blood oan his shirt wis his ain blood fae a cut he had got at his work a couple o days afore. The jury though, oan hearin the words that we had heard her sayin through the wa fae auld Mr Morrisin's, took a different view an Wullie wis found guilty o the murder o his ain dauchter, an wis sentenced tae hing till he wis deid. He wis taken doon tae the Gallow Lee oan Leith Walk an hung in chains. This wid be in the November o' 1721...

The hoose lay empty fer a few month, but by August o the next year, 1722, a new tennant had been found fer it. As he wis settlin in he noticed that the fireplace in the front room wis comin awa loose fae the wa an wis a bit shoogly so he startit work tae fix it. When he moved it though, he noticed a bit scrap o paper had dropped doon ahint the mantlepiece. He got it oot. This is whit wis written oan it:-


BARBAROUS FATHER, —-
Your cruelty in having put it out of my power ever to join my fate to that of the only man I could love, and tyrannically insisting upon my marrying one whom I always hated, has made me form a resolution to put an end to an existence which is become a burthen to me. I doubt not I shall find mercy in another world; for sure no benevolent being can require that I should any longer live in torment to myself in this! My death I lay to your charge: when you read this, consider yourself as the inhuman wretch that plunged the murderous knife into the bosom of the unhappy
CATHERINE SHAW.

The handwritin wis confirmed tae be Cathy Shaw's. Puir Wullie wis innocent o the crime efter aw, an the order wis made tae tak his body doon fae the gibbet, where it wis still hingin efter aw these months, an tae gie it a proper Christian burial. A pair o flags were waved abune his grave as a testament tae his innocence...

As ye can imagine it took a while fer me tae get ower these events, ah had tae talk aboot it a lot tae get it oot o me, but puir auld Mr Morrison wis nivver quite the same again. We've got tae be michty thankfu fer the advances they've made in thae forensic maitters, an that these days a puir faither's life disnae rest oan whit his neebors hear through a connectin wa, or oan no haein a clean shirt. Maist o aw let's be thankful we've come tae oor senses an got past hingin fowk. At least oan the brightside Wullie's body didnae end up burnt an in the mortar fer buildin the New Toun, so that's a sma mercy...

Right, ye can look back noo, ah've feenished. Ah said ye can look- ach weel ignore me if ye like. Ah think ah'll awa up an lay some flooers fer Wullie an Cathy Shaw...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The handsome cabin-boy

Ma pal Jessie Knox fae up the Lawnmarket wis a torn-faced dreep o a lass. Ah'm sorry, but she wis. Fowk were aye comin up tae her tellin her tae keep awa fae their bairns oan account o her face makin them greet. They used tae say she had a face 'as lang as Leith Walk', which is a fair length right enough. It stretches aw the way fae the Tap tae the Fit, as ye can see oan this braw photie. If ye screw yer een up an look really really hard - hing oan a meenit till ah stretch - ye can see me wavin ma hankie oot ma windae, see? there jist up fae the Fit, up aboot the Shin, can ye see me? Yoohooo!

If ye wis tae luik at a map noo, or an aeriel photie like the yin abune, ye wid think that Leith Walk wis built whaur an how it is oan account o it bein the maist direct route fae Embra tae Leith, but as ah've telt ye afore it wisnae aye the main route. The main route atween city an port used tae be the Easter (or Eastern) Road, or else doon by the Water o Leith an roon by Bonnington. There wis aye a path cried the Leith Loan runnin doon atween the fields, though Leith Walk as a street owes its birth tae that auld bugger Oliver Cromwell. It wis his invasion o Scotland in 1650 that set it rollin.

Oor great General Sir Sandy Leslie wis chairged wi protectin the city an port fae the invadin Parliamentary airmy, an so he dug his Royalist airmy intae a trench ahint a great lang rampart, bigged atween the corner o Leith toun wa, an the north slope o the Calton Hill, an then he placed his artillary guns oan the flanks o the hill. Picture at that time nae hooses, jist fields an moors, an fae this lang rampart Leslie's troops had a grand firin-line aw the way tae Restalrig. King Chairlie II, no lang crooned King o Scots at Scone, cam ridin up alang this rampart when he visited Embra, tae review his troops, sae ah suppose ye could say he wis the first person tae use it as a road proper.

When Cromwell decided tae attack, oan the 24th o July he wis makin a great error, he should've kent the toun wis too weel-defendit fer him, an his sodjers were cut doon afore they got onywhere near the King's troops, an he had tae retreat tae Dunbar. The mistake the Scots made wis tae gang oot efter him, an as per usual we turned victory intae defeat, got beat at the Battle o Dunbar an' Cromwell took Scotland...

The rampart Leslie left ahint him made a handy road fer gaun tae Leith an in time it got paved, an leveled, an bigged-up till it's the great street ye see th'day. Fer a lang time though, it stayed a rural road atween twa touns, wi ferms an fields, an country hooses on either side. It wis aye a magnet fer the shows as weel. There were aye circuses, an gypsy camps, fortune-tellers an panoramas, an even a waxworks at Haddington Place. It wis aye heavin oan Sundays an holidays, aw the bairns cam doon tae savour the thrills o Leith Walk.

There wis jist this yin time ah mind o tho, that wisnae sae thrillin. It wis aw the fault o ma pal Jessie Knox, her wi the dreepy visage. Ah'd bumpt intae her in the line at Stobie's the soutars at the Luckenbooths. Ah wis pickin up a pair o shoen ah'd pit in fer re-solin, she wis in complainin aboot a pair she'd jist had re-soled. We'd got talkin, she wisnae in sic a bad mood that day, an we got oantae whit shows were playin at that time, an ah mind her tellin me aboot this handsome sailor-boy she'd seen doon Leith Walk the Sunday past. He had his ain boat she says, an he'll tak ye a ride oan it if ye want, an he'll get ye back in time fer yer tea, an he could tell ye loads o adventures he'd been oan aw ower the Seeven Seas wi the King's Navee. She went oan tae talk aboot his lovely een, an his lovely smile, an his lovely accent. She telt me ah jist had tae get masel doon there. "Oh" thocht ah tae masel, "Ah widnae mind a wee hurl oan that richt enough", an ah set masel tae haein a wee dauner doon the Walk the next time ah had a Sunday aff...

Ah couldnae stop thinkin aboot him, this braw sailorboy that Jessie had telt me aboot. Ooh, they were quite rugged thae sailors, mibbe he wid tak me oot oan his boat an no bring me back fer ma tea, mibbe he wid kidnap me, an we wid get shipwrecked oan a paradise island, an ah wid hae tae luik efter him, make his claes fae leaves an his tea fae nuts. It worried me that ah might no find ony stairs tae clean, but aw in aw it soundit fair romantic, ah could barely concentrate oan ma scrubbin.....

Come ma next free Sunday, which wis aboot a month later, ah wis up at the crack o dawn, washed ma face, pit oan ma best frock an hat, an awa ah went tae see this sailor oan Leith Walk.

An whit d'ye think ah found when ah got there? A Sailor? Oh aye. There wis a sailor richt enough, but no yin ah wid want tae end up marooned oan a desert island wi. Whit ah'm ah talkin aboot onyroads, there wis nae water fer his boat tae sail oan! Did ah say boat? Ah had bigger boats tae play wi when ah got ma tin bath doon oan a Sunday nicht! There, jist doon fae Elm Raw, sittin in this wee dingy dinghy thing wi a broomstick fer a mainmast, unner a tree jist aside the road, wis this gristled auld soak, wi a neb like the biggest strawberry ye ever did see, wi yin een, an aboot fower teeth. When ah gets near, this auld tar pipes up "Oooaarr!! Oooaarr me purty, woi downt ya sid eer own moi kneey an oil tellee a stowree!!" an starts slappin his leg...

Aye, disappointit again. Ah guess Jessie Knox wisnae sae dour as she liked tae mak oot, knockin a rise oot o me like that. The auld sailor as it turned oot, went by the name o Commodore O'Brien, an he liked tae make oot that he wis grantit his boat by the King, which is why he named it the 'Royal Gift'. Kennin whit an eedjit George IV wis, ah could fair believe that, tho whether, as he said, he had sailed it across the Channel tae France oan loads o secret missions, weel, ah'll let ye mak yer ain judgement. He sat in that boat aside Leith Walk fer years an years, tellin stories tae bairns fer pennies, an takin them awa fer 'voyages', an at the very least ah'll say this fer him. He aye had them back in time fer their tea...


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Blawn awa...

That's me jist back fae daein ma messages. Ah went doon intae the Kirkgate. When ah left the hoose ah wis quite geed-up, the sun wis oot, the sky wis blue an the streets seemed fu o licht, but when ah walked intae the Kirkgate the life jist sapped oot o me. It aye dis that tae me these days, it's a sorry excuse fer the street it used tae be, it's aw bare concrete, mean shops an meaner fowks. Wummen oot daein their messages in their pyjamas, bairns joukin aboot at yer legs an screechin like craws, auld men shufflin fae bookie's tae drinkin-hoose an back again. It's no the place it yince wis.

The Kirkgate used tae be the High Street o auld Leith, an it wis aye heavin wi life. Shops, ale-hooses, churches, playhooses aw jostlin up agin each ither, an aw fu o happy fowk gaun aboot their business, cryin oot tae each ither, auld biddies hingin oot at their windaes an wavin tae the bairns, cairts an horses gaun up an doon, even mibbe a sedan chair noo an again. The days when say, Queen Mary or Queen Anne fae Denmark wid cam ridin up fae the Shore oan their way tae Holyrood Palace the entire street wis hung wi banners an flags o aw colour an design, an thoosans o the tounsfowk wid cry an cheer their passin. Happy days...

Still, like aw streets, the Kirkgate had its darker side. Some o the ale-hooses were rough an ready places, filled oan Saturday nichts wi rough an ready sorts, an barely a weekend wid go by withoot a fight brekin oot somewhere 'doon the channel', though nivver usually amountin tae mair than a bloody neb or a scartit fist. There wis this yin nicht tho...

Ah wis workin in auld Mr Cant's ale-shop jist doon fae the Trinity Hoose, tap o Colm's Close, a couple o nichts a week, there werenae an awfy lot o tenements in thon days an stair-cleanin work wis hard tae come by. It wis an ordinary wee pub, but it had been there since time immemorial an aye got guid custom.  Ah wis servin in the saloon bar this nicht when John Mackenzie the young Maister o Tarbet cam in wi a crackin-bonnie young sodjer by the name o Andrew Mowat. They had come doon fae Embra tae visit Tarbet's cousin Mr Sinclair o Mey, an his wee pal Jamie Sinclair, wha were bidin in the lodgins at that time. Tarbet, wha wid go oan tae become the Earl o Cromarty, an Sinclair o Mey were richt young Turks, men o guid means an staunin, baith wi bricht futures aheid o them. We kent them aw in there, cos we had kent their faithers. Tarbet though, wis a wee bit heidstrang, a wee bit skelly, a wee bit up hissel, a jumped-up wee nyaff in fact, an that nicht he wis a wee bit 'unco fu an happy' if ye ken whit ah mean. By the looks o it him an his pal the sodjer had stopped in at a few hostelries oan their road doon fae Embra an tae be frank they were hauf-cut afore they'd even reached Cant's...

As ah mind it they had been haein a guid time in the saloon that nicht. Tarbet an Sinclair were happy tae see each ither, Jamie Sinclair wis readin oot yin o his stories. (He used tae write these strange wee stories o whit wid be gaun oan in the Embra an Leith o the far future, like three hunner year hence. He wis nivver awfy sure if he wis gaun ower fowks' heids, but they seemed tae pit up wi them aw the same, they even laughed. Sometimes they startit laughin afore he'd even startit talkin...) So the hoose wis noisy an lively an abody wis haein a grand time.

Jamie Sinclair had jist sat doon, an the young Maister cried oot fer anither roond o drinks. Ah wis kindae hopin they widnae ask, fer ah wis gey tired an ah jist wantit tae shut the bar an get up the stair tae ma bed, but when ah took ower anither joog o ale the bold yin starts at me. "Come ower here a meenit Sophia, sit oan ma knee an let me gie ye a wee shoogle!" Weel, ah wis haein nane o it. "Awa an bile yer heid ye glaikit tickle-heided malt-worm ye!" says ah. Ah wis nivver shy.

Thing is, neither wis he. He staggers tae his feet an comes roon the table at me. Noo, if it had been his pal the sodjer ah might hae stood ma groond an took whit wis comin tae me, if ye catch ma drift, but no wee Tarbet, naw, no him, no fer aw the tea in China. Ah wis aff an runnin. Ah nipped ahint the bar, through the backshop, oot intae the scullery, took a richt-turn, up the backstair, through the billiard room, oot intae the lobby, took a left-turn, up the frontstair, alang the lobby, up the garretstair an intae ma ain room, an slammed the door shut ahint me. Ah'm quick oan ma feet when ah need tae be. Tarbet meanwhile, had come staggerin ahint me through the bar, through the backshop an through the scullery till he lost me oan the backstair, an insteid o turnin left efter the billiard room an runnin up the frontstair he took a richt-turn an burst intae yin o the front rooms...

This puir wee Frenchman, Monsieur Poiret wid ye believe, wis fast asleep in there, or at least he wis till Tarbet came crashin through his door. Quick as a flash he draws his sword. He must've been sleepin wi it in his haun, which a lot o us did in thae days, an there they froze. A meenit later Mowat appears ahint him an a rammy ensues as they baith jump tae get the sword fae the wee Frenchman. Hearin the noise ah cam back doon the stairs an walked in oan this rumpus, an seein that they had managed tae get the sword fae him, ah shut the Frenchie back intae his room an telt Mowat tae tak his drunken pal an "Get oot o ma pub!" (ah actually shouted that... ah used tae enjoy shoutin that... in fact it wisnae a guid nicht unless ah'd shouted that...) They were aw shoutin an yet laughin at the same time. Ah went doon an sent abody else packin fae the bar, pit the lamps oot, an we aw went tae bed...

It micht've endit there, had the young cock Tarbet no realised he wis still cairryin the Frenchman's sword an he got it intae his heid that he had tae return it pronto an apologise, bein sae weel-reared as he wis. So back they come doon the Kirkgate, back intae the pub (we never locked oor doors in thae days) an start knockin oan the Frenchman's door. Weel he, jist gettin back tae sleep, an thinkin they were back tae assault him again, likely oan account o him bein French an aw, an him no haein a sword tae haun, taks the coal-tongs an starts bangin oan the ceilin, kennin that his twa brithers were bidin in the room directly abune his. They cam runnin doon the stairs wi pistols in their hauns, an run richt intae Tarbet an Mowat, wi the sound o the first Frenchman wailin an greetin fae his room like he wis bein murdered awready, even tho they hadnae touched him. It wis daurk mind, an mibbe in the moonlicht the steel flashed, scarin the Frenchmen, mibbe Tarbet jist staggered in his drink, or tried tae grab at a pistol, whitever, but the next thing the fower o them endit up in a tussle, an then they got intae a grapple, an then a single shot rang oot...

By the time ah had got ma hoosecoat oan, roused auld Mr Cant an got doonstairs, yin o the French brithers wis lyin deid oan the lobby carpet, he'd been blawn awa, an the ither had hauf his finger aff. Wi the gunshot rousin hauf o Leith the Toun Gaird werenae lang in comin, an they didnae tak that lang tae find Tarbet hidin oot the back, ahint the cludgie, wi the sword still in his haun, covert in blood tae the hilt, whimperin tae hissel. He an Mowat, an that Jamie Sinclair were aw arrestit, (Sinclair fer the quality o his scrievins maist likely) but o course, them bein young gentry an aw that, power an position spake its truth, the case wisnae proven an they aw got aff wi it.

Tarbet as ah telt ye went oan tae become the 2nd Earl o Cromarty, an had reached the guid age o seeventy-five when he died in 1731. His son the 3rd Earl went oan tae be yin o the Bonnie Prince's men at the '45. That wee French man nivver got tae be a guid age though, endin his life that night oan the 8th o March, 1691, in auld Leith Kirkgate...

It could aw hae been different, if only it had been the bonnie sodjer that had chased me...