Copyright
William Drysdale.

Old faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) online

. (page 11 of 25)
Online LibraryWilliam DrysdaleOld faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Mr Marquis Chisholm, being sung by Mr Stembridge Ray at
the banquet held in connection with the laying of the founda-
tion-stone of the Wallace Monument on 24th June, 1861.
Since then it has become familiar in every clime where Scottish
foot has trod.

In 1870 Sinclair died at Stirling, and was interred in Stirling
Cemetery, where a suitable monument marks the spot. Sin-
clair, although his lot has been that of an obscure bard, is much
above the average minor minstrel. His poems are character-
ised by deep reflective thought and powerful imagery; and if
the sun of fortune had shone upon him he would undoubtedly
have taken place as one of the first of our minor poets.



124 OLD STIRLING.



THE BATTLE OF STIRLING BRIDGE.

To Scotland's ancient realm

Proud Edward's armies came,
To sap our freedom and o'erwhelm

Our martial force in shame.
" It shall not be," brave Wallace cried ;
" It shall not be," his chiefs replied ;

" By the name our fathers gave her,
Our steel shall drink the crimson stream,
We'll all her dearest rights redeem,

Our own broadswords shall save her."

With hopes of triumph flushed,

The squadrons hurried o'er
Thy bridge, Kildean, and heaving rushed

Like wild waves to the shore.
" They come, they come," was the gallant cry:
" They come, they come," was the loud reply.

" O strength, thou gracious Giver ;
By love and freedom's stainless faith,
We'll dare the darkest night of death

We'll drive them back for ever."

All o'er the waving broom,

In chivalry and grace,
Shone England's radiant spear and plume,

By Stirling's rocky base.
And stretching far beneath the view,
Proud Cressingham, thy banners flew,

When, like a torrent rushing,
O God ! from right and left the flame
Of Scottish swords like lightning came,

Great Edward's legions crushing.

High praise, ye gallant band,

Who, in the face of day,
With daring heart and fearless hand

Have cast our chains away.
The foemen fell on every side,
In crimson hues the Forth was dyed,

Bedewed with blood the heather :
While shouts triumphant shook the air
" Thus shall we do thus shall we dare.

Wherever Scotsmen gather."



A FEW LOCAL POETS. 125

Though years like shadows fleet

O'er the dial stone of time, .

Thy pulse, O freedom, still shall beat

With the throb of manhood's prime.
Still shall the valour, love and truth,
That shone on Scotland's early youth,

From Scotland ne'er dissever;
The shamrock, rose, the thistle stern,
Shall wave around her Wallace cairn,

And bless the brave for ever.



THE ROSE IN THE BURIAL GROUND.

Meekly thou bend'st thy lowly head
To airs that lingering breathe around,

And shedd'st thy sweetness o'er the dead,
Thy tears on holy ground ;

And, longing for the blessed light,

Dost chide the tardiness of night !

Where the serene are lying low
The brave their last lone bed have made

How passing beautiful art thou,
In silence and in shade,

Thou type of fond remembrance set

O'er one whom memory treasures yet !

Thou speak' st of long lost memories
Of pleasure, in her golden noon,

Of hopes that blossomed to the skies,
And withered all too soon ;

Of the deep anguish of the soul

The shattered wheel, the broken bowl.

And gentler thoughts than these oh, yes !

The sigh of love, the tear of grief
Shed o'er thee ; with the tender kiss

Imprinted on thy leaf;
The heart's best blessings, though the grave
May close on them we cannot save.



126 OLD STIRLING

An only sister may have brought
Thee in this simple beauty here.

Perchance a sorrowing mother sought
Her lost child's lowly bier ;

She loved him and she wished to prove

To others how intense that love.

It may be that he sleeps, whose name,
Bright and unsullied, blameless, free,

Might have descended on the stream
Of years to immortality :

Enough, the final die is cast ;

The dream, the aspiration past !

It matters not : the crowd may pass
Thee by unheeded ; with the wane

And rise of moons, the long lank grass
Shall wreathe the stone again ;

And other hearts shall mourn their woes,

Even where the Good and Great repose !



R. M. Stupart.

A Stirling poet, now nearly forgotten, and whose book of
poems, " The Bard of Strilia," is but rarely seen, was Mr Stup-
art, writer, who resided in his own property at the head of
King Street, lately rebuilt by Messrs M'Aree Brothers, and
who was uncle of the late John Stupart, for some time Super-
intendent of the Burgh Police. His poems are of average
quality, his best piece being ''An Address to the Auld Brig."
He also wrote " The Farmers' Sabbath," after the style of
Burns' " Cottar's Saturday Night ; " " Auld Handsel Monday,"
which gives a capital idea how that day used to be kept ; " The
Demagogue," " Praying Willie's Petition," which was said to
have reference to Bailie Jaffray, a much-respected citizen who
had a grocer's shop near the head of Baker Street. Another
of his pieces referred to "Ragman Johnnie," who occupied
that shop at the foot of the Vennel Close, Baker Street, long
occupied by the deceased ex-Bailie Watt, baker. Johnnie and
his wife dealt in earthenware, with which they travelled the
district, and were thriving in this way for a time; but both



A FEW LOCAL POETS. 127

becoming addicted to liquor, they were soon reduced to circum-
stances of poverty, from which, however, they were reclaimed
through the refusal of the landlady of a public-house (" Luckie "
Corbie's, where they had spent a goodly part of their earnings),
to lend them half-a-crown to enable them to purchase some
bargain they had seen in the market. A soldier advanced the
money to Johnnie, and from this dated the reformation of
Johnnie and his wife, who soon accumulated a fair amount of
this world's gear, and enjoyed peace, comfort, and respect.
The poem is too long to insert entire, but part seven (which
we append) tells the end of Johnnie and his wife

Doun the hill, fu' sweet thegither,

John, and Mary slipped on ;
Time and tide there's nane can tether,

Auld age male's the twa to moan.

Twa score years they had been married,

Lyart locks bedeck ilk head ;
Here nae langer Mary tarried,

Now she's numbered wi' the dead.

Lang and waefu' Johnnie mourned,

Pearly tears ran frae his e'e,
Greeting sair he o'er her mourned.

When he saw his wifie dee.

Sair he sighed, and sad lamented,

Sair he grat about her death,
Sair he graned, and, quite demented,

Wished that death had ta'en them baith.

In the grave he greetin' lowered her,

Let her down wi' cannie care ;
Sair that day he sorrowed for her

Grat, puir chield, in sad despair.

Some few years puir Johnnie toddled,

Unco frail, about the toun,
But aye countin' o'er the bodies,

Gatherin' siller aye, the loon.

Three score years and ten he numbered,

Three score years and ten he saw,
Then fu' soundly Johnnie slumbered,

For grim death took him awa'.



128 OLD STIRLING.

Many cam' to Johnnie's funeral,

To attend him to the grave,
Deep in blacks, for the auld scoun'rel

On the hats the crape did wave.

What a gatherin' o' gentry

Was that day frae a' aroun' ;
Lots o' braw folks frae the country

Cam' that day into our toun.

And auld Stirling's dandy Bailies,

Wi' their Provost at their head,
Cam' in blacks gude worthy fellows

Mourning for Rag Johnnie dead.

And in mourning cam' our clergy,

A' the black coats there were seen,
Screedin' graces at his dredgy,

Sic a sadness ne'er was seen.

In a hearse and four they drove him,

Slow and sadly, to his grave ;
Now he sleeps in silent slumber,

And the grass does o'er him wave.

Farewell now to Ragman Johnnie,

Farewell to the Gipsy Fair,
Farewell to his cart and pony,

Farewell to his earthenware.

Farewell now to Ragman Johnnie,

Farewell to his rags and hair,
Farewell to his dru'ken cronies,

Farewell now, ye cantie pair.

Farewell aye to Ragman Johnnie,

Farewell to our evening fun,
Farewell to his face sae bonnie,

For Rag Johnnie's race is run.

Mr Stupart also wrote over a dozen songs, some of them
connected with the district.



A FEW LOCAL POETS. 129

David Taylor.

1817-1867.

David Taylor, known in the locality in which he lived as " the
St. Ringans Poet," was born at Dollar, in Clackmannanshire,
and was the child of somewhat unfortunate circumstances. His
father, also named David Taylor, was a builder in Auchter-
muchty, in Fifeshire. As such he seems to have met with
success, and in the course of time " wooed and won " the
daughter of a supervisor in Cupar Fife. Some time after the
marriage Taylor eloped with his domestic servant, Janet Eadie
by name, and settling down in Dollar (man and wife of course
in the eyes of the world), the subject of our sketch was born
to them on 4th April, 1817. Shortly after his birth the family
removed to St. Ninians, and here the poet spent the greater
part of his life. Taylor, after receiving what education was
considered necessary, was apprenticed to the handloom weav-
ing, which calling afforded him the means of subsistence.

During his early years he began to clothe his thoughts in
verse, his compositions generally finding publicity in the
"Clackmannanshire Advertiser." While resident in St. Ninians
he contributed to the " Poets' Corner " of " The Stirling Obser-
ver" and "The Stirling Journal," also contributing to the
" Alloa Journal" during the time he was employed in Alloa.
His premier song is undoubtedly " The Proof o' the Puddin's ihe
Preein' o't," and, although perhaps it is not so well known now
as formerly, it will always be regarded as an admirable specimen
of our Doric song. Not a few of his effusions had a purely
local significance, and were accorded hearty reception, ' St.
Ringan's Glaur " being one of the most taking.

In addition to his claim as a poet, Taylor deserves some
notice as a musician. In the winter months he divided his
time and energies between weaving tartan and teaching music.
For a long time he conducted a singing-class at Chartershall,
and from thence went forth not a few who have made names for
themselves in the world of music. Taylor was much given to
I



130 OLD STIRLING.

the composing of psalm tunes, and the history of his music is
interesting. A choir, which met in Stirling once a week for
practice, were the poet's critics, and after having written out
a piece he set off on the choir practice night, manuscript in
hand. It was then sung over in presence of the choir and
conductor, whereupon corrections were suggested, considered,
and, if approved, adopted. One of his melodies, and the best
"The Grey Hill Plaid "finds a place in "The National
Choir."

Taylor died a comparatively young man. In the summer of
1867 he was employed in a mill at Alva, and it was during this
time that he met his death. The 10th July was a warm day,
his web was completed, and, leaving two boys to loom another,
he proceeded to the Devon to bathe. Failing to return, the
alarm was raised, and after some search his body was discovered
in the river, that Devon he had so often celebrated in song.

In 1893 Mr William Harvey collected his poems, and with a
short memoir, notes and glossary, issued them in book form.
The reception accorded the volume in St. Ninians was very
hearty, and showed that the poet was remembered with kindly
feeling. He finds a place in a work issued some time ago under
title, " The Poets of Clackmannanshire," and he is also included
in Mr D. H. Edwards' " Modern Scottish Poets," while as a
musician he is remembered in Baptie's " Musical Scotland."

Taylor's poems and songs evince considerable power. In
satire he is strong and forcible, but in his calmer moments,
when his lyre is strung for its own sake, his work is char-
acterised by felicity and grace.

THE PROOF O' THE PUDDIN'S THE PREEIN' O'T.

Tune " Rock and the Wee Pickle Tow."

Young Maggie looks weel, neither foolish nor vain,
But love keeps folk whiles frae the seem' o't ;

I'll ken better after I mak' her my ain,

For the proof o' the puddin's the preein' o't.

We think lassies at first gentle, modest and kind,

Like goddesses, lovely, exalted in mind :

But will we think sae when in wedlock we're joined?
The proof o' the puddin's the preein' o't.



A FEW LOCAL POETS. 131

I maun tak' the lassie for better for waur,

My fortune nane need try the spaein' o't,
For wha can pry into futurity far?

The proof o' the puddin's the preein' o't ;
I'll study to please her as weel as I can,
And gie her my siller to ware when its wan ;
I think she will follow economy's plan

But the proof o' the puddin's the preein' o't .

She says what is best to do aye she will try,

But what if she's tryin' the leein' o't?
However, I'll come to the truth by and by,

For the proof o' the puddin's the preein' o't.
But takin' a wife is a serious joke,
It's something like buyin' a pig in a pock ;
She may be a gude ane, she may be a mock

The proof o' the puddin's the preein' o't.



Dougal Graham.

1724-1779.

It is notable that a number of those who are known as
"Glasgow Characters" were natives of Stirlingshire. "Haw-
kie," the Trongate Demosthenes, was Born at Chartershall,
near Stirling ; Jamie Blue, the Goose-dubs Cicero, was born
at Killearn ; and Dougal Graham, the Skellat Bellman, was
born under the shadow of Stirling Castle.

The little village of Raploch, about one mile westward from
Stirling, and just at the foot of the rock on which Stirling
Castle stands, claims Dougal as her son. The date of his birth
is somewhat uncertain, but it must have been about 1724. He
was born of extremely poor parents, who could afford him little
or no education. Dougal, however, managed to pick up a
smattering of both reading and writing, and so equipped him-
self for his after life. His first employment was that of herd,
and he was for some time engaged in farm service at Campsie.
This life, however, was not suited to his tastes, and when he
had saved sufficient money, he invested in a packman's outfit,
and began touring through the country. He was on the road



132 OLD STIRLING.

when Prince Charlie's army was marching southwards, and,
meeting the soldiery just when they had crossed the Forth at
the Ford of Frew, a little above Stirling, he attached himself
to them, and shared their subsequent wanderings. It is sup-
posed, however, that he did not, owing to deformity, which
was great, engage in active warfare, but rather remained as a
camp follower, selling his packman's stock to the soldiers, and
hoping to be recognised as a faithful adherent if Charlie should
attain his ambition. He was a spectator, says a biographer, of
the victory of the insurgents at Prestonpans ; participated in
the fruitless expedition to the heart of England ; was with
them when the skirmish occurred at Clifton ; saw the fight on
the South Muir at Falkirk ; and was in the retreat to the
north, where, at Culloden, on 16th April, 1746, the rising was
irretrievably crushed by Cumberland.

Leaving the Jacobites at Culloden he made his way to Glas-
gow, where, it is said, he learned printing and set up a press
in the Saltmarket. About 1770 the Magistrates of Glasgow
appointed him " skellat " bellman, which position brought him
a salary of ten pounds a year and a picturesque attire. In this
position he continued until his death, which took place on
20th July, 1799.

The most ambitious of his poetic effusions was the " Rhyming
Chronicle of the Last Jacobite Insurrection," which was pub-
lished shortly after Dougal left the Highland army, by James
Duncan, a printer in the Saltmarket. Although of no great
merit, it enjoyed a wide circulation and ran through many
editions. It gives interesting descriptions of several incidents
connected with the rising, and humorous pen portraits of many
of the persons concerned. He was also the author of several
other poems, one of which, entitled " Turnimspike," was highly
spoken of by no less a person than Sir Walter Scott. In
addition to his verses he wrote many prose chap books. These,
for the most part, were grossly obscene, but they suited the
taste of the age in which they were written, and may be read
with profit even yet as illustrations of Scottish life, for, as
Motherwell said, "DougaFs pictures of manners, modes of
thinking and conversation are always sketched with a strong
and faithful pencil."



A FEW LOCAL POETS. 133



TURNIMSPIKE.

(Tune" Clout the Caudron.")

Her sell pe Highland shentleman,
Pe auld as Pothwell Prig, man;

And mony alterations seen

Amang te Lawland Whig, man,

Fa a dra, diddle diddle dee, &c.

First when she to te Lawlands came,
Nainsell was driving cows, man ;

There was nae laws about him's nerse,
About te preeks or trews, man.

Nainsell did wear the philabeg,
Te plaid pricked on her shouder ;

Te guid claymore hung py her pelt ;
Her pistol charged with pouder.

But for whereas these cursed preeks,
Wherewith her legs pe lockit ;

Ohon that ere she saw the day !
For a' her heughs pe prokit.

Every thing in te Highlands now

Pe turned to alteration;
Ta sodger dwall at our door cheek,

And tat pe great vexation.

Scotland be turned a Ningland now,
The laws pring in te caudger ;

Nainsell wad dirk him for his deeds,
But oh ! she fears te sodger.

Anither law cam after tat,
Me never saw the like, man,

They mak' a lang road on te crund,
And ca 'him Turnimspike, man.

And wow she be a ponny road,
Like Loudon corn rigs, man,

Where twa carts may gang on her,
And no prak ither's legs, man.



134 OLD STERLING.

They charge a penny for ilka horse,
In troth she'll no' pe sheaper,

For nought but gaun upon the ground,
And they gie her a paper.

They tak' te horse then py te head,
And there they mak' him stand, man ;

She tell them she has seen the day
They had nae sic command, man.

Nae doubt nainsell maun draw her purse;

And pay him what him like, man;
She'll see a shudgement on his toor,

That filthy turnimspike, man.

But she'll awa' to ta Highland hills,
Where deil a ane dare turn her,

And no come near to turnimspike,
Unless it pe to purn her.



SOME "ORRA" FOLK.
"Ponte."

E tacksman of the Shore dues being informed one day
that there was an old man, clothed in rags, lying at
the lime-kilns which then stood in the now enclosed
ground of the Government Works on going there he

found it to be too true. Mr P mentioned the matter to

some gentlemen, with the result that the man was removed to
lodgings in town and clothed. And what a change! A tall,
straight, and gentlemanly-looking person, with long grey hair
and good features, although that was about all that could be
said in his favour. For some time previously he had lodged
about St. Ninians, the late Mr Ramsay of Barnton having




SOME "ORRA" FOLK. 135

given him a dole to live upon, and he was in the habit of wander-
ing about the burns on Sauchie estate with a fishing-rod. It was
said he had at one time been a solicitor; had been elected M.P.
for Pontefract, but been unseated. It was also reported he
had driven his " four " to the races, but had run through his
money and credit and been cast off by his connections. He
was very kindly treated by the Stirling folks, and lodged for a
time in a house at 17 Baker Street. The late Sir John Hay
was a frequent visitor to Mr Ferguson (" Ponte ") when he got
too frail to leave the house, and on these occasions it was a
sight to see Sir John who was very stout being ^pushed up
the steep and narrow stair. Very few enquiries were made
concerning " Ponte," who died as he lived, a venerable-looking,
but foul-tongued old man. He was a constant attender at the
Small Debt Court, and paid great attention to the cases.



Johnny Buchan and Others.

Johnny Buchaii's public-house (which went by the name of
"Noah's Ark") at the "Backraw," or St. John Street, was a
favourite rendezvous of members of the Town Council, as well
as of many merchants and legal gentlemen of the town.
Johnny was a little man, who knew full well what he was about.
Many a trick was concocted in his house, Bailie Steel being
one of the leading spirits. When Johnny died, " Nelly's" a
shop a few doors above the Industrial School entry in Baker
Street, and kept by Peter Fisher became the " howff." Many
a merry night was spent there, with a late Chief-Constable of
the County as chairman. The little back room was always
filled, toddy round was the rule, for which they " sold the
mare," or played " Simon says, Thumbs up." It was amusing
to see bailies, councillors, merchants, and others, some of thorn
bordering on seventy years of age, as anxious as schoolboys at
the " selling of the mare," or holding up their thumbs for
"Simon" to say, "Thumbs up," "Thumbs down," or "Wiggle-
waggle." The little kettle, or " Nelly," as it was christened,
was kept always steaming on the hob ready for use. We doubt



136 OLD STIRLING.

there are but few now alive of those who gathered there.
Peter, the host, died at Falkirk some years ago, aged 93. It
was he who supplied the schoolboys with "scrapings" from his
shop higher up the street, he having been a confectioner before
starting the public-house.

M'Cracken's Inn, with entrance from King Street next the
Union Bank, and Duncan M'Laren's house in Port Street, were,
forty years ago, great resorts of the townspeople. What
quantities of sweet ale were drunk there, a thing never asked
for now. John Chrystal's house, near the end of Port Street,
was the meeting-place of the llth (or Highland) Company of
Rifle Volunteers, John being a member of the corps. He was
a stocking and hose weaver, and supplied the Highland regi-
ments. Many nights of fast and furious fun were spent in
" John's."

One of the pipers of the llth Company, well-known in town,
and a great favourite, was sitting with others in one of the
boxes on a prohibited day, when the bells began ringing for
afternoon service. " Davie " started up, saying that he had for-
gotten to take Nicol Reid's place in the precentor's box in the
West Church, and was out of the house like a shot. Davie got
to the church in time, and did duty with the first psalm. The
minister, the Rev. Wm. Findlay, then prayed, and afterwards
gave out another psalm, but the day being warm, and what
he had got in " John's " taking effect, Davie was in a sound
sleep. Dr Findlay, brother of the minister, went up to the box,
thinking he had taken unwell, but all he could do was to signal
to his brother to go on with the service, the precentor taking
his rest till the congregation was dismissed. Davie was a grand
precentor as well as a good piper, and often led the psalmody
when the militia were embodied.



" Cocky' Riddel.

A worthy tradesman, named Riddel, a tinsmith, who went by
the cognomen of " Cocky," had his shop in an old building
opposite Bank Street which was taken down and re-built by
Messrs Young, bakers. Riddel was an elder in the West



SOME "ORRA" FOLK. 137

Church before the Disruption, when the Rev. Robert Watson
was minister. One Sabbath Mr Watson intimated a meeting
of the members of the congregation to consider the best means
of warming the church. The meeting was accordingly held, at
which " Cocky " stood up, and, addressing the gathering with
all seriousness, said, " Minister and friends My way of looking
at it is, that the best' way of warming the members would be
by putting in a barrel of good strong ale at the end of the
church, and that it should be distributed through the congrega-
tion in mugs to those who wanted it." This proposal was, of
course, received with laughter, and the heating gone about in
another manner.



A Bit of Sharp Practice.

On an occasion in the "fifties," when the town fishings were

being exposed to let (in the Court House), Mr P , one of the

partners of a firm who were lessees of the fishings for a long
period, was deputed to be the bidder at the roup. On the
fishing being " put up " the bidding lay between Mr P and
a person from Edinburgh, whom he suspected of being a "white-
bonnet." Mr Jt> , who had not the best of tempers, after
bidding beyond what was agreed upon by the partners, turned
to the Edinburgh party, and told him that he was " not worth a

damned farthing." A short time after, Mr P was served

"with a Court of Session summons, damages five hundred
pounds, which summons put him in a fix. After consideration
it was agreed that he should go to Edinburgh and engage an
agent, which was accordingly done. The agent, after making
enquiries, found that the pursuer was an undischarged bank-
rupt ; some of his debts were brought up ; he was then put
safely in the Calton Jail, and kept there until he withdrew the
action.

Isaac Spyron,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Online LibraryWilliam DrysdaleOld faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 25)