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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 143 compensated by his many good qualities-by his constant equanimity, his cheerfulness, his simplicity of character, almost infantine, his straight-forwardness, his perfect freedom from affectation ; and, above all, his unconquerable good nature. He was, indeed, one of the most placable of human beings; and if, as has been thought, he generally had a steady eye, in his worldly course, to his own interest, it cannot be denied that he was, notwithstanding, a warm and good friend, and a relation on whose affectionate assistance a firm reliance could ever be placed.” One slight blemish, however, has been overlooked-personal vanity ; for, strange to say, although in the eyes of others the worthy knight was very far from an Adonis, yet in his own estimation he was a perfect model of male beauty. The general appearance of Sir John is well represented in the Print which precedes this notice. He was short and corpulent-of a florid cemplexion ’- and his front teeth projected considerably. In later life his corpulence increased ; * he walked with difficulty ; and he became rather slovenly in his mode of dress-a circumstance the more surprising, as his anxiety to be thought young and engaging continued undiminished. In this character we are disposed to concur. No. CCXX. OLD JOHN TAIT, THE BROOM-MAKER. THE venerable personage represented in the Print died at the Old Kirk of Gladsmuir, East Lothian, on the 8th January 1772, in the hundred and tenth year of his age. He had been a miner or collier, in his younger and more robust days ; but having, by an accident, been disabled for the pits, he was under the necessity of having recourse to the “ Making of brooms-green brooms”- and was long famed throughout the Lothians as a dealer in that important branch of industry. What the natural colour of his hair may have been we cannot say ; but in consequence of the use of some tincture-Tyrian dye it is said-it generally appeared somewhat of a purple hue. When unbending his mind from severer labours, the knight resorted to Apicius ; and to his success in reducing to practice the gastronomical propositions of that interesting writer haa been ascribed his somewhat remarkable exuberance of abdomen. A legal friend, now, alas ! no more, once witnessed an amicable contest between Sir John and an eminent individual, celebrated for his taste in re wZinu&. The latter was invincible in the turtle soup and cold punch, but the former carried all before him when the “sweets” were placed on the table, To show how easily the victory was won, besides other fruits produced with the dessert, the knight, without any effort., devoured nearly a couple of pounds of almonds and raisins.
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144 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. Until within a few weeks of his death he enjoyed uninterrupted good health-possessed a happy, cheerful temper-and was a universal favourite. Wherever he travelled, his place by the “ farmer’s ingle ” was readily conceded j and all were delighted with his tales of the ‘( olden time,” while, by joining in the song and in the dance-notwithstanding his years-he contributed in no common degree to the mirth of the younger members of the domestic circle. About twelve years before his death, Old John entirely lost his sight ; but what is rather remarkable, he speedily regained it ; and to the last, his vision, as well ’as his recollection, continued vigorous. He was twice married, and had twentyeight children registered on the record of baptisms.’ To his second wife, who survived him, he had been united upwards of sixty years. From the artful arrangement of the inscription on the Print, it will naturally occur to tthe reader that the title- “AN EMINENT JUDGEOF BROOM BESOMS ! ! ! ” however worthy of such a distinction Old John may have been-was meant to satirise an individual in a much higher station in society. The Etching bears to have been published in 1805, shortly after the Police Act for the city of Edinburgh came into operation, when JOHTNA IT,E sq., W.S., was appointed JUDGE OF THE COVRTj and to this gentleman the inscription evidently applies. Prior to this period, the guardianship of the city was entirely in the hands of the Town Guard, who were then disbanded, with the exception of a small body, retained for a limited and special purpose. A Board of Police was institutedthe extent of jurisdiction defined-the duties of the Commissioners and other officials explained-and the Judge of the Court was empowered, under certain limitations, to fine and imprison the offending lieges, without the interference of a Magistrate, as under the old system. As the opening of the Court of Police, on the 15th July 1805, was an event of considerable importance at the time, and conducted with an unusual degree of “ pomp and circumstance,” the following account of the proceedings may not be uninteresting to our readers :- “ On Monday, July 15, at twelve o’clock, the Right Hon. the Lord Provost and Magistrates in their robes, the Sheriff of the county, the Member for the city, and the Commissioners of Police, met in the Parliament House, when John Tait, Esq., delivered his commission as Judge of Police, and was sworn in ; after m-hich they walked in procession to the Police Office, the military and city-guard lining the streets. The Judge of Police was invested in the robe and insignia of office, and supported on his right hand by the Rev. Sir Henry Moncreiff, Bart., and on his left, by Sir William Forbes, Bart. (who had been chairman of the committee of citizens who originally met to frame the bill). “After they arrived at the Court of Police, the Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff, Bart. (one of the Commissioners) consecrated the institution in a very eloquent, impressive, and appropriate prayer. The Lord Provost then desired Mr. Tait to take his seat as Judge of Police, which he clid. The Lord Provost then addressed him in the following speech :- His own account of it was, that he had had twenty-eight children who mfered baptism.
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