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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


126 BI 0 GRAPH I CA L S KET C HE S. who had sat in the former Parliament.’ He was again returned for the same county in 1784, but “vacated his seat in 1789, by accephg the office of Inspector of Military Roads ; the duties of which he performed for some years with assiduity, travelling on foot over extensive tracts of rugged ground in the Highlands, for the purpose of ascertaining the proper courses for the roads, to the great advantage of the public, by rendering the lines shorter, and avoiding the expense of several bridges deemed necessary under the former plans.” On the declaration of war by the French Convention against Great Britain and Holland, in 1793, seven regiments of Fencibles were ordered to be raised in Scotland for the internal defence of the country. One of these, the West Lowland Fencibles, being under the immediate patronage of the Eglinton and Coilsfield families, Major Montgomerie was appointed Colonel, Glasgow was fixed as the head-quarters of this regiment. The Colonel lost no time in beating up for recruits throughout the west country, and especially in Ayrshire, where he was eminently successful. At the village of Tarbolton alone, in the immediate neighbourhood of his paternal seat of Coilsfield, a company of volunteers were soon congregated ; and the circumstance of their departure for head-quarters is still remembered as a day of note in the annals of the village.8 In the morning On this occasion an expedient was resorted to by the candidates, in order to prevent their friends among the freeholders, who might have troublesome creditors, from being laid hold of at the critical moment of election. The advertisement, which appeared in the newspapers of the day, ia as follows :-“In order to prevent vexations diligences being used against individuals in the shire of Ayr, by attacking the electors of either party, at the eve of the Michaelmas Head Court, or upon the day of election, in hopes of that critical period to recover payment, Sir Adam Fergusson and Major Montgomerie, the two candidates, hare agreed that, in the event of any of the friends of either party being attacked, a real voter present, in the interest of the opposite party, shall retire out of Court ; which renders it vain for any person to think they shall have a better chance of recovering payment, by using rash means, at this particular time.” a Douglas’s Peerage, by Wood. Among others who “followed to the field” was an eccentric personage of the name of Tait. He was a tailor, and in stature somewhat beneath the military standard ; but he was a poet, and zealous in the cause of loyalty, He had sung the deeds of the Montgomeries in many a couplet ; and, having animated the villagers with his loyal strains, resolsed, like a second Tyrtsus, to encourage his companions at arms to victory by the fire and vigour of his verses. It is said he could not write, nevertheless he actually published a small volume of poems. These have long ago sunk into oblivion. He was a bachelor ; and, like a true son of genius, occupied an attic of very small dimensions. At the “June fair,” when the village waa crowded, Saunders, by a tolerated infringement of the excise laws, annually converted hi8 “ poet’s corner” into a temple for the worship of Bacchus, and became publican in a small way. He was himself the presiding genius, and his apartment was always well frequented, especially by the younger portion of the country people, who were amused with his oddities. He sang with peculiar animation ; and failed not to give due recitative effect to the more lengthy productions of his muse :-it might he in celebration of a honspiel, in which the curlers of Tarbolton had been victorious over those of the parish of Stair-of a love-match-or such other local matter calculated to interest his rustic hearers ; by whom his poems were highly applauded 89 being “unco wee1 put thegither.” One in particular, on In. Alexander of Ballochmyle, ww much talked of, probably from the circumstance of the lady having condeacended to patronise the village laureate, by requesting his attendance at Ballochmyle, where he recited the piece-was rewarded-and afterwards continued to be a privileged frequenter of the hall. He was, no Still I ‘ Sawney Tait the tailor ” is well remembered. Some of his songs obtained a temporary popularity. Poor Smmders, unluckily, waa more in repute for his songs than his needle.
Volume 9 Page 169
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