William Drysdale.

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

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"Back Walk" and through the "Double Hedges" (between
the Smith Institute and the bowling green), or by Wolf Craig
and Dumbarton Road to the racing field. One wondered
where all the beggars, all the halt, lame, blind, and deformed
came from. Every corner was taken up, and a miserable lot
they were. Poor wretches, how they got a living it was diffi-
cult to imagine. Then there were the Swiss hurdy-gurdy girls
(some of them very pretty), and the man with the French
fiddle, girls with baskets of sweeties (a small parcel done up in
fancy coloured paper cost sixpence : more can be got now for
twopence) ; stands with all kinds of fancy goods (which you
got a chance of by investing a penny in the lottery) ; the
woman selling " gallaces " (braces) ; wheels of fortune, boxing
booths, cheap Johns, Aunt Sallys, and a score or so of refresh-
ment tents. A great attraction was " Feed the Ravens "


(Johnny Salmon, erroneously termed "Robbie"), from Kirk-
caldy, who was a constant attender at Stirling Races, and the
meeting would have been robbed of half its delights at
least for the youngsters had he been absent. We think, since
" Feed the Ravens " disappeared, the secret of ginger-bread
making has been lost. His was simply delightful or maybe
we thought so then, there were so few attractions in that line.
He took up his stance between the grand stand and the first
tent, and, after addressing his audience, " fed the ravens " (the
crowd of young men and boys who always congregated about
him, by scattering a handful or two of his gingerbread amongst
them, in order to attract greater attention to his wares)
then for the fun looked forward to by the "young deevils."
A sedate countryman with a " tile " on (they were more com-
mon in those days) has come to see the fun. "Come here,"
says Salmon ; " would you like a snap ? " Nothing more cer-
tain when got for nothing, so over he comes. " Give me your
hat," says Salmon ; so Innocence hands him his head-gear,
which is filled to the top, and the countryman turns away with
his load. But, alas! " the ravens" are there, and in an instant
the hat is torn from him, the contents plundered, and the poor
man might count himself lucky if he got back his hat minus
the brim. " Oh, you rascals! " lisps "Feed the Ravens," with
a wink and a " poor body" to the victim. He would say to a
countryman, while supplying him with some of his com-
modities, " Eh, Jock, you were awfu' blate wi' Jenny last
night ; but noo wi' thae you can face her like a Lammermoor

The hour for racing, however, arrives, the course is cleared,
the railings lined with all manner of carriages and crowds of
spectators; the grand stand is filled to overflowing, the judge
takes his place, the weighing is done, and the trial spin is
over. But why need we describe what is so well-known ? Be-
tween the races the tents are filled, the musicians tune up,
the stand proprietors call out their wares, and all goes merry
as a marriage bell. At night the town is crowded, and the
fun goes on " fast and furious " until midnight, when a little
quietness is got in preparation for the coming day.

The first of the races held at Stirling took place on 7th, 8th,


and 9th October, 1806, and were a great success. On October
7th, 50, given by the Magistrates of Stirling, was won by Mr
Baird's "Bess," beating Mr Millar's "Aurora." October 8th,
50, for all ages, won by Mr Baird's " Juno," beating Mr Best's
"Fairy." The Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt Stakes 3
subscribers, 5 guineas each won by the Hon. Captain Flem-
ing's " Tom Pipes," beating Captain Hamilton's " Scogie " and
Mr Graham's "Fidget." October 9th, 50, for all ages, won
by Mr Baird's "Newblythe," beating Mr Best's "Juno" and
Mr Millar's " Aurora." The stewards for the next year's races
were the Duke of Montrose, Viscount Primrose, Mr Graham of
Airth, and Mr Stirling of Keir.

Ramsay of Barn ton.

The disappearance of Mr Ramsay gave the death-blow to the
Stirling Races. Some pranks had taken place on the railway
near Falkirk, Mr Ramsay being fixed on as the leader in
the " ploy," and he left the country. Some time thereafter
his death was announced, and his body brought home and in-
terred, and although there was considerable doubt in the
minds of the public as to his death, it was, alas, too true. The
sporting Mr Ramsay was out of existence, and Stirling Races
have been dormant ever since. Sir William Don, an Aberdeen-
shire landowner, a man over six feet six inches in height, was
one of his companions in the railway affair. He took to the
stage, and the writer saw him play in " Toodles " at the
Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow.

Miss Meek.

Among the many visitors to Stirling Races was a Miss Meek,
who drove from Glasgow in a four-horse carriage (with out-
riders) filled with " linties. ; She put up at Gibb's Inn, until
some county ladies complained, and threatened to leave if she
and her band were allowed to remain. The writer was sub-
sequently in a situation at Turner's Court, Argyll Street, Glas-
gow (the house is now the Cobden Hotel), his employers'
counting-house window looking into the court. One day a


member of the firm, pointing to an old woman below, told him
that was the famous Miss Meek. She had over her arm an
old sack, and with a bit of wood was searching the street refuse
for rags, paper, or any other thing for which she could get a

Burke's Racing Fiasco.

On Saturday, 29th September, 1848, the streets of Stirling
were crowded by numerous respectable parties of pleasure-
seekers from Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other
towns, who had been induced to visit the " ancient rock " from
its having been extensively announced through the country, by
means of placards and advertisements in the public papers, that
Mr Burke, of London, proposed to drive four-in-hand from
Stirling to the race course, and afterwards ride the same horses
over forty hurdles and clear twenty-four miles within an hour.
It had been also announced that two races were to take place,
the one for a cup of one hundred sovereigns, and the other for
a cup of twenty-five sovereigns.

Although early on Saturday the whole affair seemed likely
to prove a hoax, yet thousands congregated on the ground,
many of them trusting to its being a bona-fide match, from Mr
Burke being well-known to the sporting world as having on
several occasions performed some wonderful feats in matches
against time. There had been no particular hour mentioned
for the match coming off, but it seemed to be generally under-
stood that 2 o'clock was to be the hour. At 4 o'clock, how-
ever, there was no appearance of Mr Burke or his four-in-hand,
and the hopes of the thousands on the ground that there would
be some sport were only buoyed up by the appearance of some
hurdles across the course, and the appearance of a thorough-
bred walking about in his clothing and mounted by a light

Shortly thereafter Mr Burke appeared upon the ground, and
proposed that the sports of the day should commence with a
private match he had made with a gentleman in the neighbour-
hood for 10. To this the gentleman at once agreed, and,
taking out his purse, proposed that the money should be
staked. Mr Burke said there was no necessity for this, as


they could easily settle after the race was run, but to this the
gentleman decidedly objected. Whereupon Mr Burke ordered
his jockey to walk about for five minutes, and if the other
horse was not mounted by that time, to go over the course,
and he would then win the match by a walk over, at the same
time declaring the other only wanted to back out.

By this time, however, the assembled crowd, already
irritated by the length of time they had been delayed, and
becoming disgusted with the shuffling conduct displayed by
Burke, at once proceeded to show their sense of his conduct
by knocking him down and giving him a good pummelling.
Fortunately for him, through his own exertions and the assist-
ance of several gentlemen, he managed to get to the saloon of
the grand stand, otherwise he must have been seriously in-
jured, as his assailants seemed determined to wreak their
vengeance upon him to the utmost extent.

On his taking refuge in the saloon, the mob began to attack
it, and attempted to force an entrance, causing considerable
damage. So serious did the affair now appear that a messen-
ger was sent to the Castle for the assistance of the military,
and in a short time a detachment of the 93rd, numbering a
hundred men, was on the ground, when quietness was at once
restored ; Mr Burke, disguised in the coat of one of the gentle-
men present, and wearing a fur cap belonging to one of the
police, managed to escape from the ground without detection,
and so ended his " extraordinary match " and cup races.

It may have been, on Mr Burke's own showing, perhaps to
a certain extent doubtful whether the match was intended, or
whether a hoax, with a good deal of the swindle mixed with it,
was alone aimed at.

Undoubtedly he brought to town on the Monday previous
four race horses, and they could scarcely be termed " broken-
down coursers," seeing that "Pawnbroker" (a famed horse of
that time) was one of them, and these horses were in regular
training throughout the week. But it was said that one, if
not more, of the horses had been removed from Glasgow with-
out the consent, or even knowledge, of the owners, and certain
it was that the owner of " Pawnbroker " came to Stirling the


preceding day, and took his horse off to Glasgow. Mr Burke
had also engaged the different railway trains, which arrived in
Stirling at a suitable hour, by which he cleared about 60, and
this being followed by the fact that no match or race came off,
so fully convinced the crowd that the whole was a barefaced
imposition, that they betook themselves to " Jeddart justice,"
and gave Mr Burke what he in that case richly deserved.

Melville Terrace Trees.

In 1816 the trees on both sides of Melville Terrace, at that
time Melville Place, were disposed of by the Town Council to
a carpenter, and were saved from the hatchet only through the
public-spirited interposition of the late Mr Murray, of Pol-
maise. The following verses were at the period composed by
a lady resident in the Terrace. They are entitled



The eyes are dim, the heads are low,

The hands are cold that brought us here ;

Prescriptive right we soon might show,
For we have stood the hundredth year.

Another hundred let us stand,

The beauty of your town we'll be.
Consent not that, with murd'rous hand,

The axe be laid unto the tree.

O ye, who in your hands have now
Power to condemn, and power to save,

Need ye be told how oft to you
In early life we pleasure gave?

Soon as ye were released from school
How oft, in troops, our shades below,

Have belted button to a bool,

To climb our very highest bough !


The daring elf was aye our care,

Its tiny footsteps to sustain;
Though poised at times, as in mid-air,

Yet safely it came down again.

When Melville Place was but a name,

A spot the townsmen meant to feu,
From far and near the bidders came :

Our beauty was the charm that drew.

And, ever and anon, we've been

To all who built beneath our shade,
A constant and a powerful screen

From eastern blasts that oft invade.

Our humble merit do not scorn ;

On twig more slender than the line
By which our topmost leaves are borne

Connexion of ideas twine.

To some, perchance, our forms recall

The dear loved spot that gave them birth,

A tree that near their father's hall
Was rooted in their native earth.

To some, when autumn browns the vale,

And lays our leafy honours low,
A whisper floats upon the gale,

" How frail the state of man below."

A leaf that hangs on naked spray,

And lightly trembles to the blast,
May warn the thoughtless of decay

That here their day will soon be past.

In spring, when nature's charms abound,

And leaves break forth upon the tree,
The meditative mind has found

The hope of immortality.

For though man's race in dust may lie
Like leaves when scattered on the ground

Through faith your hopes will soon descry
Eternal spring, beyond life's bound.

Another hundred let us stand,

The beauty of your town we'll be ;
Consent not that, with murd'rous hand,

The axe be laid unto the tree.



Provost William Anderson.


mONOTONOUS as is the stream of human affairs in
general, particularly in a small provincial town,
there does occasionally appear an individual whose
singularities attract public attention more than
the even course of his compeers, and stamp him with the
designation of an eccentric.

Such a man was Provost William Anderson, for many years
the only agent the King's Edinburgh printers had for the sale
of Bibles, &c., in the West of Scotland. He was also permitted
to print Shorter and Proof Catechisms and the Book of Pro-
verbs as school books. The Provost and a brother and sister
were triplets, who all arrived at years of maturity. The Pro-
vost, educated from the -funds of Allan's Hospital, was
apprenticed to a bookseller, and after having learned this pro-
fession, carried it on in his native place in such a manner as to
obtain a much larger share of business, as well as a more exten-
sive trade connection, than usually falls to the lot of a
provincial bookseller. He was for many years the oldest book-
seller in Scotland, and being universally esteemed, a number of
the trade presented him with his portrait, which afforded him
great satisfaction. It was afterwards engraved, and a copy,
purchased by his successor in business, and richly gilded, was
suspended in the shop a circumstance which pleased the Pro-
vost so much that few days passed on which he did not call in
to see it.

In one thing he resembled the no less gruff but more stern
Dr Johnson, as he thought it a luxury to be wheeled in a post-
chaise. The greatest pleasure he enjoyed in his later years was


an annual sojourn of two months at Bridge of Earn, where he
was quite the lion of the place, and in the inn held the dignity
of president, whatever might be the rank of the parties present
at the dining-table. This, to him, was to enjoy life in perfec-
tion, and formed the very highest item, in his estimate, of
human blessedness.

Among his other dignities, the Provost was for many years
a Justice of the Peace. On one occasion, when presiding, the
names of certain subscribers to some public function, and who
had not implemented their promises, were to be called over in
open court, with the intention of affronting them out of their
dues. The Provost, anxious that every person should hear the
names of the delinquents, ordered silence, and called upon the
Clerk to proceed, when that functionary a bit of a wag rose,
and, clearing his throat with a decorous a-hem, read in a slow
and sonorous tone, " William Anderson, Esq., Provost of Stir-
ling, and Justice of the Peace." "Whisht, whisht, sir; what's
that you're saying ? There is your two guineas, and let us hear
no more of that."

In municipal politics the Provost was Liberal according to
the narrow policy of his day, and in national affairs decidedly
Ministerial, believing that as the Ministry was the choice of
the King, it was always well chosen, and that it was the duty,
as well as to the interest, of a royal burgh to support the
Ministry of the day, because then, he concluded, he was sup-
porting the constitution.

As a Magistrate, the Provost had one qualification of great
value : he was an excellent " Buff the beggar," for, although
himself educated upon charity, he heartily hated a poor man,
considered poverty a crime, and on that account exerted him-
self to put it down. At ten every forenoon he appeared in
Broad Street, and with a formidable sloethorn cudgel over his
shoulder, backed with his singularly forbidding countenance,
surrounded with a grotesque drapery of grizzled locks, the back
part of which was tied in a queue, he was the terror of the
mendicant, and with laudable impartiality chased sorners and
beggars of every class from the purlieus of his favourite haunt.
He was elected Provost in 1793, 1794, 1813, 1814, and 1829
during the sixty years he was dabbling in municipal politics.


When the burgh was disfranchised, he actively exerted himself
to bring about the desirable result, and succeeded, much to the
benefit of the public charities of the place.

The most singular idea the Provost cherished, and that for a
long series of years, was that he might die Provost ; and the
reason he assigned for this was as preposterous as the wish was
extravagant, namely, that the procession at his funeral would
be the finest thing in the world. " Bless you, sir," he said to
a friend when conversing on the subject, " only think what a
fine thing it will be for the whole Town Council, and the Town
Clerk with his ink-horn, preceded by the Town Officers, and
followed by the Constables, with the Guildry and Seven Trades,
and myself the principal person in the cavalcade." So entirely
was his mind engrossed with this absurd idea, that it is only
surprising he did not wish, like Charles II., to see his funeral
obsequies enacted while he was still alive.

However, in accordance with his wish, the whole pantomime
was actually exhibited before the public gaze, and thus was
turned into ridicule the most serious transaction connected
with our earthly pilgrimage. As if to exaggerate this curious
conceit, a pompous programme was drawn up of the order of
procession, in which the Seven Trades were introduced in the
following manner : (1), The officer of the Trade ; (2), The mem-
bers of the Incorporation, four and four; (3), The old deacon
of the Trade ; and this pomposity was observed with the
skinners and fleshers, although it was well-known that at that
time these two trades consisted only of two members each.
The funeral cortege came down St. John Street and Spittal
Street, turning into Baker Street by Bank Street, and then up
to the churchyard by Bow Street and Broad Street. The coffin
was carried shoulder-high, and was covered by the Guildry
mortcloth, on which was deposited the Provost's cocked hat.
While the procession was passing up Baker Street, near to the
" Bishop's Close," a hen which had got closed in by the crowd,
and could find no way of escape, took to her wings and perched
on the cocked hat, cackling in an outrageous manner.


Provost Qalbraith.


The earlier part of Provost Galbraith's life was passed in the
army, in which he attained the rank of Captain. He served for
twenty-four years under the late Duke of Kent, father of Her
Majesty Queen Victoria, and under his immediate command in
Nova Scotia. He was for thirteen years Adjutant of the Duke's
regiment, the 1st Royal Scots, and gained the high esteem of
His Royal Highness as a good soldier and most zealous and
efficient officer. Captain Galbraith saw active service with his
regiment in the winter of 1813-14, when, owing to the severity
of the weather, the troops suffered greatly, no less than 120
men of the battalion perishing in a snow-storm while traversing
the forest of Schrieverdinghen. In the attack on Bergeu-op-
Zoom, 8th March, 1814, the Royal Scots, rushing to storm the
water port, became exposed to the guns of the Arsenal, and
were so hemmed in on every side that the whole battalion, after
a brave resistance, were taken prisoners. It is recorded that
to save the colours of the regiment from becoming trophies to
the enemy, Lieutenant Galbraith swam out under heavy fire
and sank them in the Zoom.

His regiment being stationed in Stirling Castle in 1811-12,
led to Captain Galbraith marrying the elder daughter of Bailie
Gibb, and thus allying himself with a Stirling family of very
ancient lineage, which has been clearly traced back for a num-
ber of centuries. A gravestone of this family in the old portion
of the Cemetery has the date 1579 ; another stone adjoining it,
bearing also the name of Gibb, is inscribed 1525.

Captain Galbraith retired from the army in 1822. In 1830
he became connected with municipal affairs, when, under the
old elective system, he was elected a Councillor for one year, and
was at the same time appointed third Bailie. In 1831 he was
again elected a Councillor, and became second Bailie. He was
returned to the Council, and advanced to the dignity of Pro-
vost in 1832 the last year of the old system of municipal
election. He did not stand for re-election in 1833 the year


when the Municipal Reform Act came into force but was re-
turning officer at the first election under the new system. He
re-entered the Council in 1834, and was again chosen Provost ;
likewise in 1837, 1840, and 1843, at the expiry of the respective
triennial terms for which he was returned, and was at the head
of the poll on each occasion, except in 1843, when Mr George
Mouat had a majority over him of one vote. Captain Gal-
braith thus served as Provost of Stirling for thirteen years,
twelve of them consecutive.

During his Provostship he had the honour, as chief repre-
sentative of the municipal authorities, of receiving Her Majesty
the Queen on the occasion of her first visit to Scotland, and
presenting to her the keys of the ancient and royal burgh, a
function which it was unanimously agreed he discharged in an
eminently dignified and befitting manner. The Provost took
occasion to bring under Her Majesty's notice the relations in
which he had stood to Her Majesty's father.

Provost Galbraith finally retired from public life on account
of failing health. On his death, in September, 1847, he was
accorded in recognition of the regard and esteem in which he
was universally held, both in his public and private capacity a
public funeral, at which the whole community of Stirling may
be said to have assisted, embracing all the public associated
bodies, private citizens of all ranks, and the scholars of the
various public schools, as well as the military in the garrison.

In every relation of life the subject of this sketch displayed
most estimable qualities. He was an efficient and courageous
soldier, an upright and conscientious Magistrate, a sincere
friend, hospitable, genial, and courteous in the highest degree ;
affectionate, loving, and indulgent in his family circle. He led
a blameless life, and was eminently " Vir integer, scelerisque

Provost Dick.

1858-1861. ,

Provost Dick was a native of Stirling, and, along with his
father and brothers, successfully conducted a woollen factory
in the Craigs. In 1830 he first entered the Council as Deacon


of the weavers, and, under the Reform Bill, was elected a mem-
ber of Council in November, 1833, and chosen Bailie, which
office he held for many years. Mr Dick retired from. the Coun-
cil in 1849, but returned in 1857, and sat as a common Coun-
cillor for a year, when he was unanimously chosen Provost,
which office he held for three years. In November, 1861, he
finally retired, and died on 22nd -April, 1865, aged 79.

Mr Dick was a Commissioner of Supply and a Justice of the
Peace for Stirlingshire, and took a lively interest in county
business. Apart from this, however, he had strong literary
and antiquarian tastes, and was an extensive collector of
ancient coins. He was accustomed, in his early days, to go
much about Ayrshire, and had an enthusiastic admiration for
Burns and all connected with him.

Having intimate acquaintance with the history of Stirling, he
delighted to tell old stories of " The Rock." He contributed
a series of papers to the " Stirling Journal," entitled, " Stirling
Heads of the Olden Time," which possessed much interest,
giving, as they did, a vivid picture' of by-gone days. Every-
thing connected with the past had a strong attraction for him,
and few men knew better than he about the old families of
Stirling. The first stained-glass window in the West Parish
Church was erected to the memory of Provost Dick by his

Provost John Murrie.


This estimable gentleman died at his residence, Murray
Place, 19th January, 1881. Born at Methven, Perthshire, in

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