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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 229 The ‘I severe and lengthened disease” under which Mr. Moss had been labouring, terminated in his death on the 11 th of January 18 17. The following notice of this event occurs in the newspapers of the period :- “ Died, at Edinburgh, Mr. Moss, after a lingering disease of nearly three years’ duration, the pains of which he bore with exemplary fortitude, Mr. Moss was long the great dramatic favourite of the Edinburgh public ; and many still recollect the excellence with which he portrayed Lingo, and many characters of the same stamp.” No. xcv. NR. ROBERT MEIKLE. THIS gentleman maintained a very respectable professional character in Edinburgh as a writer, and was Assistant-Clerk in the Court of Session. He is said to have been extremely attentive. to business, and was much esteemed by his friends for the possession of many of those ‘‘ social qualities” which, in the Bacchanalian spirit of last century, were as much a passport to good society as temperance and decorum are in the present. We need scarcely add that he was a most zealous member of the honourable fraternity of free-masons, and seldom failed to join his brethren on the annual festival of the good Saint Andrew. A ridiculous incident, arising out of his ‘‘ social qualities,” is preserved of the “ Grand Clerk,” and a bottle friend, the “ Grand Secretary.” They had been enjoying themselves in Douglas’s tavern, Anchor Close-a favourite resort at that period--over a goodly dose of “ nut brown ale,” with a due proportion of Glenlivet, by way of stimulant ; when, staggering forth about ten o’clock at night, both perfectly “ glorious,” the one carelessly remarked to the other,- “ Robbie, ye’re fou’.” Robbie, misunderstanding his friend, replied, “ Confound you, sir! wha’s a sow B ’-at the same time aiming a terrible blow at his unconscious companion ; but the blow falling short, the “ Grand Clerk” tumbled into the gutter, and was ultimately carried home in a state much more easily conceived than described. Such scenes were by no means of rare occurrence in those “ golden days ; ” and what would now destroy the respectability of any professional gentleman, did not then at all affect his reputation. MR. MEIKLE filled the situation of Clerk to the Grand Lodge for fifteen years, with great credit to himself and benefit to the society; and was afterwards chosen Secretary in 1796. This latter office he held only fifteen months, in consequence of his death, which happened on the 18th of February 1797. He was succeeded in the clerkship by Mr. Thomas Sommers, glazier ; and, on this gentleman’s death, in 1799, the office was devolved upon Mr. James Bartram, brewer, who took his place in the grand centenary procession on St. Andrew’sday, 1836. Mr. Meikle was married, and had a family.
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230 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. No. XCVI. MR. THOMAS NEIL, WRIGHT AND PRECENTOR, IN THE CHARACTER Or “THE OLD WIFE.” IT is now thirty-six years since this (‘ son of song” departed to the ‘( world of spirits ; ” yet he is well remembered by many of the old inhabitants of Edinburgh. He was forty years a precentor in the Old Church ; and, it is believed, the last time he oficiated was at the re-opening of that place of worship, at the close of last century, after it had undergone some extensive repairs. Perhaps no man in Edinburgh of his time possessed greater local notoriety than “ TU NEIL.” He was a universal favourite, and seemed formed for the very purpose of “ smoothing the wrinkled brow of care ; ” and although his wit . may not have been of the most brilliant description, yet there was in the manner of the humourist an inimitable archness, which irresistibly compelled even the most serious of his auditors to “hold their sides” for a time. The clear, strong, musical voice with which he was endowed peculiarly adapted him for the desk, and no derogatory tongue has yet dared to say that he did not perform his duties regularly and with propriety ; but there was a solemnity in the walls, and a dulness in the long faces of a church, which by no means comported with his own mirthcreating features. There, in giving due effect to some humorous Scottish ditty, his whole powers of music and mimicry found ample scope. He could also sing, with great pathos, many of our most pathetic national melodies : but Tam had not a heart for sadness. “He possesses the knack of setting off his songs with so much drollery,” is the remark of Kay in his notes, “ and such a singular peculiarity of manner, that in all probability he will never have an equal or successor. He has the art of adapting not only his voice, but his very features, so much to the subject of the song-especially where it will admit of mimicry-that a stranger, who may have seen him in the Old Man’s WGh in one company, would not know him half an hour after as the Old Fife in another,-so very different a turn does he give to his voice, features, and action.” The latter of these songs, in the character of which he is represented in the Print, was one of his particular fwourites. With a handkerchief wrapped over his head, his lips compressed, and his long chin set prominently forward, his imitations of the querulous voice of age were quite inimitable. There was another production (a catch), familiar to the vocalists of the present day, called “TheMerry Christ’s Church Bells,” in which Neil displayed, with wonderful effect, the compass and harmony of his voice ; and so peculiar As we have already said, Tam was a precentor. It was in the tavern that Tam was glorious!
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