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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 425 The centre figure, DR, WILLIAM LAING, represented as holding a little girl, his niece, by the hand, was a medical gentleman of good reputation and respectable character, His conciliatory manner and amiable disposition gained him the esteem of a numerous circle of friends. He originally .came from Jedburgh. The attitude in which he is portrayed was suggested by the Doctor himself. As an instance of Dr. Laing’s kindly disposition, and the interest which he took in the encouragement of youth, a gentleman well known in the literary circles of Edinburgh, and to whose extensive information the proprietor of this work is much indebted, mentions that he was for several years a pensioner of the Doctor, who insisted on his calling every New-year’s-day to receive a gift of two shillings and sixpence; and which he obliged our respected friend to accept, even after he had become so old as to be ashamed of the donation. Dr. Laing lived in Carrubber’s Close, where he died 13th March 17 8 9. The last figure of the group, DR. JAMES HAY, of Hayston, was long well known in this city, where he died on 10th October 1810, in the eightysixth year of his age. Having adopted the medical profession, he served as an army-surgeon in 1744, under the Duke of Cumberland in Flanders, where, being a man of shrewdness and observation, the beautiful and well-cultivated fields of that country attracted his notice, and probably gave him a taste for agricultural pursuit,s, which afterwards proved a source of amusement to him, when he succeeded to his paternal property of Hayston, in Tweeddale. His spirited example and intelligence tended greatly to improve and advance the agriculture of that district. Notwithstanding these pursuits, Dr. Hay lived chiefly in Edinburgh ; and, as was the custom of the time, was a regular frequenter of the meetings of the citizens at the Cross,’ among whom he was esteemed for his gentlemanly manners and friendly address. It was probably on occasion of some of those accidental greetings that Kay may have seen the parties together whom he has grouped in this Print. Dr, Hay held the office of Inspector of the Military Ward in the Infirmary of this city till his death. In 1805, on the failure of the heirs-male of the body of Sir James Hay of Smithfield, he was served heir to the baronetcy, as the lineal descendant of Sir James’s next brother, and became Sir James Hay. His grandson, Sir John Hay, who for some time represented the county of Peebles in Parliament, was succeeded in the title by his brother, the late Sir Adam Hay, Bart. At the time the foregoing Print was executed, Dr. Hay lived in New Street, Canongate. He had previously resided in the Potterrow, near which there is a small street named after him. Edinburgh at that time was confined almost exclusively to the old city. The concouwe of the They there met to discuss the topics of the day, and These meetings always The Cross was situated in the centre of the principal citizens at the Cross served a double purpose. to see their acquaintances, without the labour and waste of forenoon calls. took place between the hours of one and two. street of the old town. 3 1
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43G BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. No. CLXVIII. GEORGE MEALMAKER, AUTHOR OF THE ‘‘ NORAL AND POLITICAL CATECHISJI OF NAN.” GEORGE was an extensive weaver in the Seagate of Dundee, at a period when the giant power of steam had not come into competition with the hand-loom. Unfortunately for himself, he became deeply infected with the political spirit of the times; and in 1796, from his superior capacity acquired the distinction of a leading member of one of those societies of “ United Scotsmen,” formed at that period in various parts of Scotland, ‘‘ particularly in the counties of Fife, Forfar, and Perth.” The object of these associations was ostensibly the attainment of annual parliaments and universal suffrage; but they were conducted in a manner unwarrantable by law-by means of signs and oaths of secrecy. Mealmaker was charged not only with having taken the test of secrecy himself, but with having administered the oath to others, and with being otherwise active in promoting the extension of what was then considered an illegal combination. He was also accused of having circulated various “ seditious and inflammatory papers or pamphlets,” particularly “the Moral and Political Catechism of Man ; or, a Dialogue between a Citizen of the World and an Inhabitant of Britain,” to which was added a narrative of his arrest, examination, and imprisonment, written by himself, and printed by T. M‘Cleish. The trial took place at the High Court of Justiciary, on the 10th January 1’198. Mr. Clerk and hlr. White spoke for the prisoner; and the Solicitor-General and Mr. Burnett for the Crown. On proof being led, the existence of the societiestheir dividing into other bodies, when the members became numerous-their signs, countersigns, committees of secrecy, etc., as set forth in the indictment, were fully proven by the witnesses, one of whom was committed to prison for prevarication upon oath. After the Lord Advocate had addressed the jury on the part of the Crown, and Mr. Clerk for the prisoner, the evidence was summed up by Lord Eskgrove, when the jury were enclosed a little before four in the morning. Next day they unanimously returned a verdict of guilty ; and the pannel was sentenced to fourteen years’ transportation. On receiving sentence the prisoner addressed the Court, and blamed the jury for precipitancy, having taken only half an hour to consider the verdict. He said “he was to be another victim to Parliamentary Reform ; but he could easily submit, and go to that distant country where others had gone before him. With regard to his wife Edinburgh, 1797. The pleadings on the relevancy lasted nearly four hours. 12mo.
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