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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 291 all his attention, and week after week he used to travel from Kinross to Edinburgh (a distance of twenty-seven miles) to inquire about the progress of his law-suit. Eay relates that when the Print was published in 1802, no fewer than one hundred and sixteen subscribers were obtained among the gentlemen of the legal profession-so well acquainted were they with the proprietor of the middenstead. The result of this appetite for law on the part of poor Andrew was the total neglect of his business at Kinross. His affairs consequently went to ruin, and the unfortunate litigant died in the jail of Cupar, in 1817, where he had been incarcerated for debt, No. CXIX. THREE LEGAL DEVOTEES. ANDREW NICOL, MARY WALKER, AND JOHN SKENE. THIS is allowed by some to be one of the best of Kay’s etchings. ANDREW NICOL, whom we have noticed in the preceding page, may here be supposed newly arrived from Kinross with the plan of his middenstead. His simple face and genuine Lowland garb are well depicted ; and the credulous attention with which he is listening to the Heckler is truly characteristic. MARY WALKER, whose vacant countenance indicates insanity, was an intolerable pest about the Parliament House. The object of her legal solicitude was the recovery of a sum of money which she conceived to be due her by the Magistrates of Edinburgh. JOHN SKENE-the smart, consequential - looking personage in black, engaged in expounding some knotty point to the Kinross litigant-was an individual whose brains, to use the expression of Major Campbell, were pretty considerably “ conglomerated.” He was a flax-dresser, hence his soubriquet of the Heckler; but this plebeian avocation was with him a matter of secondary consideration, as he conceived he was commissioned to hold two situations of the highest importance in the country, viz.-Superintendent of the Court of Session, and of the General Assembly. The way he found leisure to fulfil the high duties he thus imposed on himself was not a little remarkable. He worked nearly all night at the dressing of flax-only retiring to rest for an hour or two towards morning. He then rose, and, having arrayed himself in the clerical style represented in the Print, proceeded to the Parliament House, with all the
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292 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. self-consequence of a parvenue peer. The Heckler believed his presence actually necessary to the proper despatch of business, and in this way continued his extraordinary exertions session after session. Like Bartoline Saddletree in the Heart of Midlothian, he was a propounder of the mysteries of law ; and although not so loquacious as the saddler of the Lawnmarket, was nearly as sane on any other topic, excepting church matters. The sitting of the ecclesiastical court was another important and busy season. Over the deliberations of this reverend body he wielded the same imaginary control ; but he invariably declared the clergy were much “ worse to keep in order than the lawyers.” For a madman, the Heckler wore an air of remarkable sedateness, and counterfeited the clerical character to such perfection, that Dr. Blair is said to have been on one occasion nearly placed in an awkward predicament by the deception. He called on the Doctor as a reverend brother of the cloth, and made offer of his services for a day in the pulpit, which were accepted. He accordingly proceeded to the High Church the succeeding Sunday, where he was fortunately detected just in time to prevent the ridiculous exhibition. The services of the Heckler were all performed pro bono publico; but, like most other great patriots, he began to tire of the labour and inconvenience to which his liberal principles subjected him, and at length applied to the Exchequer Office for remuneration. Aware of the character, his claims were listened to by the underlings with mock gravity, and his visits were for some time encouraged, till at last, getting tired of his importunities, he was ordered not to trouble them in future. This rebuff was nearly productive of a tragedy; as he next day entered the Office, armed with a loaded pistol, and threatened to shoot Mr. Baird, one of the gentlemen of the establishment. This was carrying the joke too far. The Heckler was instantly disarmed, and confined as a lunatic. He lived in the Potterrow, and died many years ago. No. CXX. FOUR BUCKS. DR. EISTON, SIGNIOR STARILINI, CAPTAIN M‘KENZIE, AND MACNAB OB’ MACNAB. THE first of these figures (to the left) is the likeness of DR. EISTON, son of Mr. John Eiston, solicitor-at-law in Edinburgh.l While a student at the University, young Eiston was, in the estimation of thejine young men of those Mr. Eiston reaided in one of those houses at the foot of Allan’s Close, leading into Lady Mary King’s Close. Mr. Eiston’s was considered a fashionable house in these days, and he used to give a great many d i e m and evening entertainments.
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