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Old reminiscences of Glasgow and the west of Scotland : containing the trial of Thomas Muir ... (Volume 1) online

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Houston, one of the city surveyors, died not very long
ago. There was, as we also remember, another old, clever,
witty man, dwelling in Wood Lane, Broomielaw, of the
name of John Mackinlay. He transacted nearly the
greater part of the brokerage at the Broomielaw, and
bought and sold coals in the city ; and he could tell from
his "weather glass " his own eyes whether it was safe
for the fly-boats at the Broomielaw to scud down to
Gourock, with their limited number of passengers for the
coast. Fancy these two old cocJdes Houston and
Mackinlay having the entire surveillance of the
Broomielaw at that time in their own hands ; where no
shed, or receiving boxes, were to be seen, and only a few
oil lamps at midnight to disclose the appearance and
boundaries of the whole harbour of Glasgow, where
now myriads of gas lamps and other things are to


be seen guiding to the boundless commerce of the
world !

Now, then, for our particular story. There came to
Glasgow from Eothesay, about the period referred to, the
aforesaid John M'Dougall, a tall, burly-looking fellow,
upwards of six feet high, with a considerable dash of
impudence about him ; and impudence, we must say,
is a thing which sometimes succeeds well in this world
much better than modest merit, clad in honest attire.

From being at .first in a small way, as the agent of
some of the Rothesay and Campbeltown packet boats (not
steamers), coming to the Broomielaw with fresh and salt
herrings, Mr. M'Dougall advanced to be owner and part
owner of several small brigs, sloops, or schooners as they
were then called adventuring out to sea, and trading
to other places far beyond the Kyles of Bute. He seems
at an early period, to have formed the plan, or the resolu-
tion, and took care for reasons which shall presently
appear to INSURE every one of these vessels, and their
cargoes, to their full value, and sometimes considerably
beyond it. In that way he became, at first, a pretty good
customer of the Glasgow underwriters, or insurance
brokers of that day; there were only a few not more
than a dozen or two of them at that time in Glasgow,
such as the Lillies and the Gilberts, the Loudens and the
Alstons, the Bennetts and the Browns transacting their
business chiefly under the pillars, or piazzas of the old
Exchange or Tontine Coffee-room, then the great mart of
business in the city.

None walked so haughtily mixed with Highland
pride into the old Exchange, as Mr. John M'Dougall.
He was now becoming a mighty man of business in the
city. His office, we may state, was then in St. Enoch's


Square his house in Jamaica Street, in that fine old
range of buildings on the west, recently demolished, but
then forming the mansion houses of some of the first
families in Glasgow such as the Douglases, the Bogles,
the Hamiltons, &c., &c. Every year, apparently, was
adding, by some unknown means or another, to the re-
puted wealth of Mr. John M'Dougall ; and in rapid
process of time he began to build an elegant mansion at
the Kyles of Bute, to the wonder and astonishment of
some of his friends in that quarter. About that same
period, we may remark, that Mr. Kirkman Finlay (Lord
Provost of Glasgow), purchased the then barren, but now
splendid estate of Toward, nearly opposite to Eothcsay.
That estate, we remember, was originally called " Auchi-
willan." There was an old castellated ruin upon it,
covered over with ivy, which we used to admire ; and the
modern magnificent castle of Toward was erected by Mr.
K. Finlay, above named, who was father of the present
esteemed Member for Argyllshire in Parliament. It now
stands conspicuous for its lofty grandeur, in that romantic
quarter of the Clyde, with the beautiful woods and fields
which he planted and improved ; but which were, pre-
viously, only the recesses of peats, heather, and moss.
The estate of Auchiwillan, now called Toward Castle,
belonged to a poor old Highland gentleman of the name
of Campbell John Campbell, Esq. of Auchiwillan but
he became involved by cautionary obligations, and was
obliged to sell it. He was a relative of the mother of Sir
Colin Campbell, afterwards the illustrious General and
Field-Marshal, LOLD CLYDE ; from whom, we may remark,
we have several kind letters in our possession, with the
undoubted certificate of his birth and baptism in this city,
which we of course greatly prize ; nor is it, we hope,


here too egotistical for us to state though others pro-
bably will accuse us of that frailty that we have also
many kind and amusing letters from the late gallant
Admiral Sir Charles Napier, who often called upon us in
Glasgow, and has frequently warmed his gallant toes at
our humble office fires in the city, long before we ever
thought of bringing some of these Reminiscences to light.
And why should we conceal these things ? They rather
afford us pride and pleasure, which not a few of our critics
may envy ; but none of our real friends can be otherwise
than pleased to hear us thus simply allude to them. In-
deed, we might go farther, and state that we believe we
retain in our possession at this moment, more original
letters from distinguished Statesmen, Warriors, and Chief-
tains, than any other person now alive in Glasgow. This is
glorification, certainly; but it may be excused, considering
the numberless trials and scenes which we have witnessed
during many eventful years.

We resume our immediate narrative by saying that the
above-named Mr. John Campbell of Auchiwillan, soon
after the sale of his estate to Mr. Kirkman Finlay, came,
with his venerable wife and two sprightly daughters, to
reside in George Street, Glasgow, in the court then known,
by the name of the " Coach Office Court;" and they were
next door neighbours of Mrs. M'Kinnon Campbell of
Ormaig, one of the prettiest widow ladies at that time in
Glasgow now all dead. We narrate some of these cir-
cumstances because they give us the opportunity of say-
ing that in going to Castle Toward, or coming up from
Rothesay, Mr. Kirkman Finlay who had very great
influence in Glasgow, as we shall show, in another direc-
tion, ere long made the acquaintance of Mr. John
M'Dougall or, rather, Mr. M'Dougall, with his bold


assurance, fastened on the acquaintance of Mr. Finlay ;
and the latter ultimately endeavoured to save his neck
from the GIBBET, as we shall show in the sequel.

At last and to cut this narrative short, though we
might enlarge upon it in various ways, but we must try
and take care not to fatigue our readers over-much it
came to be reported, or rather "the disastrous news"
reached the underwriters in Glasgow, that several of Mr.
M'Dougall's ships, or vessels largely insured had been
lost, or foundered at sea, but that the captains and crews-
were all most "providentially saved." Of course the
honourable underwriters, with the evidence and informa-
tion imparted to them, had to cash up for the loss to Mr.
M'Dougall; who became, of course, perfectly satisfied with
the amount paid down to him. When the underwriters
came also to settle with him promptly, in several other
instances of greater or minor importance, he in order,
as he said, to show his proper sense of gratitude to them
for their punctuality and honourable conduct, and to
soothe them so far for their additional losses would invite
them to nice entertainments in the Tontine Hotel, with
turtle and venison, and claret and rum punch galore, &c.
The underwriters, in their innocent simplicity but
liking very well the good tilings of this life, such as Mr.
M'Dougall's good dinner parties afforded partook of
them with considerable relish, little imagining that the
costs thereof were coming, in the long run, out of their
own pockets. They had no more idea of that than Jonah
probably had of his destiny in the WHALE'S BELLY.

It began, in process of time, to be mooted, and with
some it was particularly observed, that the more Mr.
M'Dougall's ships or vessels were lost, or foundered at
sea, the more of them he began to purchase and to build;


and that those " sad disasters at sea," as some called them,
so far from diminishing his "means and substance," made
him appear in reality to be a much more opulent and
thriving personage.

He continued to give good dinner parties, and fashion-
able balls. His establishment, for a time, was the most
dashing in the city. Mr. Michael Rowand, the manager
and partner of the old Ship Bank, living almost next door
to him, in the same street, was not to be compared to
John M'Dougall, Esquire of Tighnabruaich, for dainty
dishes and choice wines. In fact, he became one of the
leaders of the ton in Glasgow, and was admired as such
by many " hangers-on " of the city, whereof some exist to
this day.

Under the rose, he had what was called and is still
called in numerous instances " a sleeping partner " in
business with him in Glasgow, of the name of Mr. James
Menzies, residing in the Stockwell. Menzies was then
one of the most extensive fish-curers and dealers in the
city. He shipped off large cargoes of salt herrings from
the Broomielaw to the Netherlands, to Holland, and
to Spain; and Mr. M'Dougall always appeared as his
insurance broker. But although they were partners in
these herring speculations, which generally turned out to
be pretty profitable to all concerned, yet Mr. M'Dougall
took care to keep Mr. Menzies, who was rather an un-
couth sort of a man, at a pretty respectable distance from

On one particular occasion the news was propagated
that Mr. Menzies' herring vessels sailing from the Clyde,
but fully insured, had a tremendous run of bad luck.
They were all foundered, so the news came to the under-
writers, near the Craigs of Ailsa, or the Paps of Jura


therefore the Glasgow underwriters, through the' agency
of Mr. M'Dougall, behoved again to cash up for the loss.
"Unfortunate man, this Mr. Menzies ;" so Mr. M'Dougall
with his long canting face, adjusted for the occasion
was wont to say in the underwriters' rooms in Glasgow.
"Poor old man! he has lost the large profits he would
have made on this year's herrings from Holland ; " and
Menzies himself, perfectly alive to the whole transac-
tions, whether by sea or land, would dexterously walk
up and down near to the doors of the underwriters,
wringing his hands, and looking sorrowful and dejected
to such a degree, that he touched the hard and flinty
heart of old bachelor Mr. Andrew Gilbert, one of
the chief underwriters then in the city, who, by his
parsimony, amassed considerable wealth, and purchased
the property of YorTdiill, now becoming of such value
to our River Trustees ; but it was then a sort of despised
property, valued at about 500 per acre, at which price,
we know, Dr. Cleland once valued it ; whereas it now
brings triple that price, at least ; and there is still a
valuable piece of it on hand. "We remember perfectly
of the adjoining lands of Kelvinhaugh, belonging to the
sequestrated estate of M'Gregor & Co., calico printers, one
of whose partners forged the Government Stamp, and was
obliged to fly for his life to America, and hence the pro-
perty came into the market, and was exposed to public
roup repeatedly, and ultimately sold at the small reduced
upset price of 7000 sterling ; whereas that same pro-
perty, one way or another, has subsequently realized
upwards of 70,000 sterling, such has been the astonish-
ing rise in the value of property in that district. We
may observe that Mr. Graham Gilbert, the famous painter,
succeeded to the lands of Yorkhill, through his marriage


with, the niece, we think, of old Mr. Andrew Gilbert
and hence he takes the name of Gilbert ; nor can he, we
hope, take offence at us for telling this story, which does
not detract from the repute of his ancient sire in any

At last two famous vessels belonging to Mr. M'Dougall,
one called the " Mary," and the other the " Friends," of
Glasgow, came to be despatched by Mr. M'Dougall from
Glasgow, the one from Port-Dundas, through the Frith of
Forth, ostensibly bound for Hamburgh ; the other from
the Broomielaw, bound direct for Trinidad. Mr. John
M'Dougall had cautiously secured Policies of Insurance
Tipon both, vessels, with the underwriters of Glasgow and
Lloyd's, to the value of upwards of 40,000 sterling.

"We are now coming close upon his heels with our re-
markable story; but we must take a farther glimpse of
him in one of his snug recesses in Glasgow. There
happened to be a famous spirit-dealer at that time in
Glasgow, of the name of John Hutcheson, in the Candle-
riggs ; and in one of his back apartments Messrs. John
M' Dougall and James Menzies used frequently to meet
with sea-faring captains and their mates, ere sailing on
their projected voyages. Johnny Hutcheson, the spirit-
dealer, sometimes cocked his ears, and overheard strange
conversations between them, about ships, cargoes, and
underwriters, but he became particularly interested about
& calker he heard them describing, for boring holes in a
ship's bottom !

The spirit-dealer, in his simplicity, thought that a
calker could only mean something in the whisky line ;
but when he beheld it with his eyes, in the shape of a
large gimlet (or iron instrument), brought out from one
of their own pockets, and handled by them at his own


table, in his own back shop, he became prodigiously
amazed ; and by-and-bye he placed the tip of his ear to
the wooden partition of his shop, in order that he might
gather up some farther particulars of their conversation
an inquisitorial infirmity which probably pervades
other ranks of the community to this day. For some
reason or other, which we cannot very well explain
probably they thought he was listening to them too
narrowly Messrs. M'Dougall and Menzies quarrelled
with Johnny Hutcheson, not the spirit-rapper, at that
time, but the ~bonafide spirit-dealer ; and they afterwards
threw him into jail for some borrowed money which he
owed them, but could not pay. It is singular how
wonders are sometimes wrought in a prison house, when
the prisoner conies to reflect, or be aroused to a proper
sense of his situation.

Johnny, in prison, accidentally heard some of his fellow-
prisoners tell the news, that another squadron of Messrs.
M'Dougall and Meuzies' ships had foundered at sea, but
that the captains and crew were again "providentially
saved." Johnny cocked his ears in grim reality in jail, at
this news ; and the calker, and some of the conversation
above alluded to, flashed across his memory. Revenge, they
say, is sweet ; and Johnny bristled up with indignation,
that he should be kept in limbo by M'Dougall and Menzies
for a paltry debt ; so he sent for some generous friends,
and contrived to raise the necessary funds for his libera-
tion, which he accomplished in a day or two after ; and
soon learned all the news about the ships, from the news-
papers and other channels. Johnny, therefore, was now
adjusting his own compasses, and eagerly on the look-out
for squalls with M'Dougall and Menzies.

But another chain of marvellous events occurred in a


different direction, .which, with the leave of our readers,
we shall now relate. It smacks like a novel, but it is all
founded on truth, and actually occurred in this city of
Glasgow, wherein we write.

On the very morning of the day of Johnny Hutcheson's
liberation from Glasgow Jail, as above stated, old Mr.
Colin Gillespie of Anderston at that time one of the
most respectable and extensive calico printers in Glas-
gow, or in Scotland while walking into the Tontine
Coffee-room to read the news (as he was wont to do
pretty regularly in that place), observed a poor humble,
but neat clad widow woman, sitting complacently at the
foot of the Candleriggs, with her basket before her, offer-
ing "remnants " that is, small pieces of printed calico
cloth for sale. Mr. Gillespie, touched by the poor
woman's respectful demeanour, was about to slip into
her hand a silver sixpence, and pass on ; but he became
perfectly thunderstruck and amazed, as, when looking
more earnestly at her basket, he discovered that some of
the "remnants" which it contained, were parts and por*
tions of his own printed calicoes, some of them having
his own peculiar " dye/' or mark,, upon them; and all
recently sold by him, for shipment abroad, to Messrs. J.
Finlay & Co., and Messrs. J. T. and A. Douglas & Co.,
and other eminent firms, well known in the city. Mr.
Gillespie, standing amazed alongside of the poor widow
woman, and musing to himself, said (and this we heard
from his own lips), " How is it possible that my goods
should be cut up, and selling here as 'remnants,' in this
way, since they were all carefully packed up in my own
warehouse ; and duly invoiced, and shipped off in Mr.
M'Dougall's ships the 'Mary' and the 'Friends'
bound for Hamburgh and Trinidad?" While old Mr.


Gillespie was thus absolutely musing to himself in the
manner we have just stated, who -most singular to
relate should come up to him, at that poor woman's
basket, but another old, steady, and famous manufacturer
of his day in Glasgow, viz., Mr. James Dalglish ; related,
we think, to the present M.P. for the city. Mr. James
Dalglish and Mr. Colin Gillespie saluted each other, for they
were warm personal friends. Mr. Dalglish cannily rubbed
his spectacles, and, on the hint of Mr Gillespie, began
to inspect the basket with the " remnants." " Bless me,"
said he, " here's anither ' remnant ' of the very goods our
folks sold to Mr. M'Dougall, for shipment in his vessel
the ' Friends ' for Trinidad ! How the deevil have they
got here ? Can any of our warehouse chaps have been
purloining, or cheating, or robbing us of our goods, and
selling them before our very faces, on the streets of Glas-
gow ?'' " Dinna blame me," said the poor, honest basket
woman. "Dinna blame me, dear kind-hearted gentle-
men," she again said, curtseying with all the benignity of
a gentle lady. " Oh, dinna blame me, for I'm neither a
thief nor a resetter the Lord forbid ; for I purchased
the goods just yesterday, in Mr. M'Dougall's ain stores in
Turner's Court, aff Argyle Street. He's a braw, decent
gentleman," continued she, " and sold them unco cheap
for ready-money, to her and other poor bodies, to enable
them, with their baskets, to earn their bit livelihood by
honest means!"

Antecedent to these simple, but remarkable occurrences
the importance of which will soon appear the start-
ling news had arrived in Glasgow and was communi-
cated by Mr. John M'Dougall, with a most sorrowful
face, to the assembled and dismayed underwriters that
" the ship ' Friends ' had foundered at sea, off the coast


of Holland, but that the captain and crew were again
'most providentially saved,' by a Spanish vessel, that
had 'heaved-to/ bound for Cuxhaven, where they were all
landed safely; while the 'Friends,' and her valuable
cargo, perished, without leaving a Vestige of the wreck
behind." Letters and affidavits, attesting the verity of
these facts, were written and made out in Holland by
the Captain of the " Friends " certified, as genuine,
with the seal of the Dutch Consul and duly transmuted
to Glasgow, by the Captain of the " Friends," to his much
respected and esteemedyHewcZand owner, John M'Dougall,
Esquire, of Glasgow.

Without any loss of time, Captain Robert Duncan, the
master of the "Friends," bringing with him another
duplicate of the above credentials, arrived in the city.
His mate, Mr. Daniel Bannatyne, came along with
him; and as they had often been "foundered at sea " on
previous occasions, they became objects of interest and
curiosity in Glasgow then of much smaller dimensions
than it is now ; and where everybody in the seafaring
line could scan the latitude and the longitude of their
friends at sea.

Ere many hours elapsed, after their safe arrival in the
city, Captain Duncan and his mate (Bannatyne) fell out,
and began to curse and swear, not merely at themselves
and their voyages, but principally against Mr. M'Dougall
and Mr. Menzies, for their stratagems on dry land. The
PLOT was now hatching ; it was getting pretty transpar-
ent at several points. Mr. John Hutcheson, but recently
escaped from prison, nursing his wrath to keep it warm ;
the woman, with her basket, now in custody in the
Fiscal's office and Messrs. Gillespie and Dalglish, cogi-
tating on their recent discoveries, per that basket, held a


confabulation with some of the Law Agents of the Under-
writers, represented by the firm of Messrs. James King
and Simon Campbell, in Brunswick Place [Mr.
Campbell is still alive, and is now one of the most vener-
able and respected practitioners before the Courts in
Edinburgh ; and will not, we think, impeach any of our
statements] and so, from less to more, it was resolved
to take somewhat daring, but most serious proceedings
against the great John M'Dougall, Esq. of Tighnabruaich,
and his humble and less guilty associate, James Menzies.
By an old Act of Parliament, in the reign of George the
Xhird (1789), it was inter alia declared (so the crime
seemed to have been in vogue at that time), that the
fraudulent casting away, or sinking of ships at sea, for the
purpose of defrauding the underwriters, was an heinous
orime, punishable with DEATH ; and ample powers
were given to any of His Majesty's Justices of the
Peace to seize and bring to justice all such offenders,
Ac., &c.

In proceeding now with our diversified, but consecu-
tive narrative, we have to observe that the active Fiscal
of the Justices at that time in the city, was Mr. Charles
Stewart trained up in the office of Mr. Thomas Meek,
one of the ablest lawyers in Glasgow, whose father in
the days of the Revival of old was minister of the parish
of Cambuslang, and Doctor of Divinity in connection
with the College of Glasgow.

Mr. Stewart Mr. Charles Stewart from having the
same name as the Pretender of 1745, was called, by the
young scribes in the city, " the Black Prince," and a sour,
sulky dog he was, not approaching in the most distant
degree to what we have heard our grandmothers describe
of the handsome appearance of " bonnie Prince Charlie,"


one of whom, as we have already stated, saluted him in
the city of Edinburgh.

Mr. Fiscal Stewart, when some of the foregoing facts
and circumstances were represented to him, scratched his
head, but lost no time in getting a warrant written out
for seizing the persons of the said John M'Dougall and
James Menzies, and bringing them before the nearest
Justices for examination, respecting the capital crimes
now laid to their charge.

This warrant was immediately placed in the hands of
Messrs. Alex, and Stuart Turner, messengers-at-arms,
two brothers carrying on a respectable business of its
kind in Melville Court, off the Trongate much superior
to that of Eailton & Morgan, whom we have already
finished. The Messrs. Turner had six or eight strong
bodied officers, or concurrents, in their office, ready for all
sorts of business in the civil or criminal line ; so when
Fiscal Stewart brought to them, as above stated, this im-
portant warrant the like of which had never been seen
or applied for in the city of Glasgow it was arranged
that Mr. Alexander Turner, the senior messenger, with
three of his able-bodied concurrents, should forthwith
proceed in quest of the great John M'Dougall, with the
view of his apprehension ; whilst Stuart Turner, the
junior messenger, should go, with two of his concurrents,
in quest of the smaller Mr. Menzies in the Stockwell.
Mr. Alexander Turner and his concurrents, with a resolu-
tion befitting the occasion, soon captured Mr. M'Dougall,
when counting his hundreds of pounds with seeming
security, in his own office, and summing up his Bank-book
with its thousands therein. The great delinquent, taken
by surprise, now trembled, for the first time in his life,
from head to foot. He offered to give Mr. Turner all the


money he had upon him, and something more, if he would
only allow him "to slip away; "but Mr. Turner was
immoveable, and scorned the bribe ; and, therefore, as his
last alternative, Mr. M'Dougall entreated that instead of

Online LibraryPeter MackenzieOld reminiscences of Glasgow and the west of Scotland : containing the trial of Thomas Muir ... (Volume 1) → online text (page 40 of 48)