Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 97 been either lost or slighted.” which we learn that Some verses, signed ‘‘ T. C.,” are prefixed, from ‘‘ The sword has always flonrish’d, and the bow, So long neglected, claims ita birthright now, And our cockmatches owe their rise to you.” From which it may be inferred that this species of amuselhent had been introduced into Scotland by Machrie, who terms it “ a very Innocent, Noble, and highly Heroiclc Game ! ! ” The style of this curious publication is highly inflated, and the attempt to confer dignity upon this wretched and cruel sport is ludicrous enough. After very minute researches into the antiquity of the ‘‘ royal recreation,” the history of the cock and its habits, the proper mode of treatment, etc., the author concludes--“ I am not ashamed to declare to the *odd that 1 have a special veneration and esteem for those gentlemen within and about this city who have entered on society for propagating and establishing the royal recreation of cocking (in order to which, they have already erected a Cockpit in the links of Leith), and I earnestly wish that their generous and laudable example may be imitated to that degree, that (in cock-war) village may be engaged against village, city againet city, kingdom against kingdom-nay, the father against the son, until all the wars in &rope, wherein so much Christian blood is spilt, be turned into that of the innocent pastime of Cocking.” From the date of Tdachrie’s work until recently, the practice of cockfighting seems to have been pretty general, especially in gdinburgh, where a regular cock-pit was erected, and liberally supported for many years. On turning over the files of the Edinburgh journals, the names of gentlemen still alive are to be found, who now, it is to be presumed, would not be disposed to consider their former ‘( cocking ’’ propensities with much complacency. An attempt was made two or three years since to revive the “royal recreation” in a certain city in the west, but it was very properly put down by the magistracy. No. XLV. JADIES DONALDSON, THIS Print represents a half-witted journeyman baker, whom Kay has thought worthy of immortality, on account of his enormous strength. Many instances of this simpleton’s extraordinary physical powers are remembered : Amongst these is the fact of his having frequently, for the amusement of himself and the butchers, knocked down a strong bull-calf with one blow of his prodigious fist. His good nature, however, was often imposed upon by fools as great as himself, who used to load him with burdens sufficient for any three ordinary men. The Print has been entitled I‘ 0 Dronth ! ” by the limner, being a far-fetched allusion to Jamie’s thirsty employment. 0
Volume 8 Page 141
  Enlarge Enlarge  
98 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. No. XLVI. MR. ALEXANDER THOMSON AND MISS CRAWFORD. THOSE who recollect MR. THOMSON, affirm this representation of him to be extremely faithful. He was very remarkable for the length of his arms, which, while walking, he kept dangling by his side, as represented in the Print. He carried on business as a grocer in a shop nearly opposite the Tron Church, where, by persevering industry and fair dealing, he is said to have amassed a considerable fortune ; from which circumstance, together with his long and honourable career, he obtained the title of the “ Prince of Grocers.” Not much in accordance, however, with this high-sounding title he was known also by the less dignified appellation of “Farthing Sandy,” owing to his having at one period issued a great number of brass farthings, for the better adjustment of accounts with his numerous customers. Thomson was a widower of long standing; but having grown in riches as well as in years, it appears strange fantasies of greatness began to flit before his imagination. He used to compare himself with the other grocers as a large mastiff dog, placed in the centre of a number of little terriers. With a view to his aggrandizement, he sought to connect himself by marriage with some family of aristocratic blood j and with this “ intention full resolved,” he is represented in the Print as “ casting an eye” at Miss Crawford-a lady somewhat whimsical, if not altogether fantastical, in her dress and manners. The scene is lirnned by Mr. Kay as witnessed on the Calton-Hill, the day on which Mr Tytler’s “ fire-balloon” ascended from the Abbey grounds. The “ Prince of Grocers,” however, was not successful in his pursuit, and ultimately became, among the ladies, an object of ridicule, being known by the feminine sobriquet of “Ruffles,” from a practice he had of hiding his long fingers in his sleeve appendages. Had the widower aimed at less lofty game, there would have been no doubt of success ; his ‘‘ old brass would have bought a new pan.” Notwithstanding his reputed riches, it is said that Thomson left a mere trifle at his death, having been nearly ruined by a son, who afterwards went to Jamaica, where it is believed he died a mendicant. His house was at the Abbey-Hill. MISS CRAWFORD, the object of the grocer’s ambition, was the daughter of Sir Hew Crawford of Jordanhill, and resided at the time at a place called Redbraes, Bonnington Road. She continued “deaf as Ailsa Craig” to the wooing of old Ruffles, preferring a life of single blessedness, although it
Volume 8 Page 142
  Enlarge Enlarge