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notes, &c. Strange payments were sometimes offered. On one occasion an Irishman, who appeared to have been “holding his Christmas," bought sixty horned cattle from me, the best in the fair, at £14, 148. a-head —a long price at that time. The beasts were good, and the price was good. He presented first £70 in gold; he then took out a handkerchief, the contents of which were £100, £20, £10, £5, and £1 notes. Such a miscellaneous payment I had never seen offered, and I believe no one else had, at Falkirk or any other place. It would have been hopeless for us to attempt counting it, and Mr Salmon, agent for the Commercial Bank, took the business in hand. Looking first at the confused mass of notes, all “head and tail," and then scanning the appearance of my customer, he began his task ; but with all his practice it took him a quarter of an hour to assort the payment. He threw back two £l-notes to the buyer, who got into a towering passion, and, with words that I cannot put upon paper, asked him if he thought he would offer forged notes. Mr Salmon meekly replied that M‘Combie might take them if he pleased, he had got nothing to do with that, but he would not. Our Irish friend then exchanged the notes, for he had no want of money. I did not even know the gentleman's name; I never saw him before, and I never, to my knowledge, saw him afterwards.
There were in such large markets as Falkirk and Hallow Fair great chances of good prices to be had at times. When cattle were selling dear, buyers from England, Wales, Ireland, and all parts of Scotland, congregated at Falkirk : they were not all judges alike, and some sellers at such a time were always sure of a good price. For the amusement of my readers, I will give a few examples. On the second day of an October Falkirk Tryst (I had sold out, as I generally did, the first day), I was standing with a dealer from the north who had forty or sixty-I think sixty-two-year-old polled stots to sell. He had just parted with a customer for 28. 6d. a-head, having offered them at £8, 158., and refused £8, 12s. 6d. A gentleman's land-steward rode through the lot of cattle on a milk-white horse. The steward looked first to the right and then to the left with wonderful quickness, and then asked the price of the cattle. I thought the seller's conscience a trifle lax when he asked £13, 138. a-head. Being very young, I turned my back, as I could not keep my gravity. The owner then asked what he would give. £11, 11s. was the answer. No sooner were the words out of the man's mouth than down came the clap, “They are yours.” I could stand it no longer, and drew back agbast. The buyer became suspicious that all was not right; and my father, who was held in great esteem both by buyers and sellers, acted as umpire, to whom both parties referred the transaction. Being the only witness, I was closely interrogated by the umpire, the buyer, and the seller. I told the price asked and the price offered. The matter had now assumed a serious aspect. My father, after hearing the evidence, which was not denied, and the price having been fairly offered and accepted, could only decide one way. I recollect his words when he gave his decision : "Well, sir, the beasts are dear according to this market, but they are good growers, and you will soon make them worth it; my decision is, you must take them.” They were paid for, and went across the ferry to Fife again. In a rising market I have seen cattle raised £1 a-head ; and if the jobber does not take a price when there is a rise, and fairly in his power, he is a fool, for he will soon find out that the buyers will have no mercy upon the sellers when in their power. In all my experience, the above, in a dull day, or any other day, was the most glaring start I remember.
I never attended the fairs in Angusshire, but on one occasion Mr Thom hauled me off to Forfar market in the beginning of November, before Hallow Fair of Edinburgh. We were in partnership at the time, and bought seventy small polled stots to take to Hallow Fair, to which we had sent off two or three droves the week before. We could get but one drover, a townsman, to assist in lifting them, and had to turn drovers ourselves. We had not gone above a mile on our way to Dundee with the cattle when it came on a fearful night of rain, and got very dark. Mr Thom quarrelled with the drover-a useless creature—and sent him about his business, so that we were left alone with our seventy beasts in the dark, on a road with which we were entirely unacquainted. We went on for hours, not knowing where we were going, till at last we came to a bothy, where we asked the servants what we were to do with our charge, and if we were on the road to the ferry at Dundee. We were told, first, that we had taken the wrong road, and were miles out of our way; and second, that we might put the cattle into a field close at hand. We put the cattle up accordingly, and went to a public-house near by, which was kept by a very decent man, Edward, a cattle-dealer. We got supper, and took an hour or two in bed ; and between one and two o'clock in the morning, the rain having abated and the moon risen, we started the drove and had the beasts at Dundee and across the ferry by the first boat at eight o'clock in the morning, with no assistance whatever. We now started fairly on our destination for Edinburgh, and having got food for the cattle and bread and cheese for ourselves, about three miles up the south side of the Tay we hired a sort of drover, and bent our way by Rathillet. About dark we arrived at — (Mr Walker's), where we not only got as much turnips and straw to our beasts as they could eat, but were ourselves treated like princes by Mr Walker. He gave us the best bed in the house, would not let us go without a good breakfast in the morning, and would accept of scarcely any remuneration. We started for Lochgelly after breakfast, but Mr Thom persuaded me to turn off and take Falkland market, which
was held that day, while he and the drover proceeded straight to Lochgelly with the cattle. Falkland was far out of the way, but he assured me there were plenty of horses to hire there, and that I could easily join him at Lochgelly at night. When I got to Falkland, I found there were only four beasts in the market that suited our trade, which was not encouraging, as I did not want plenty of money if I could have got anything to lay it out on. I found also that Mr Thom had been mistaken about the hiring. Not a horse was to be got at any price, and I had no help but to set off on foot for Lochgelly, on a road I had never travelled. I had scarcely left Falkland when I was overtaken by a heavy rain, which continued throughout my journey. I had first to climb a long steep hill for about three or four miles, and when at last I got to the public road, I found it one mass of mud, in consequence of the large coal traffic, and the heavy fall of rain. I had a deal of money with me, and, as it was quite dark, I was rather uneasy about it, meeting so many miners and coalcarters under such circumstances, and in a part of the country with which I was utterly unacquainted. The road is a very long one, and with such a protracted soaking in the mud, my feet began to fail me. I at last reached my destination, however; and with considerable difficulty—for I had never been in Lochgelly before—I hunted up Mr Thom, whom I found comfortably quartered beside a good fire, with supper before him. But my troubles were not yet over. One of the servants at the place was leaving, and what was termed a “foy” was being held that night. She had collected a great number of her friends, who kept the house in an uproar the whole night. We went to bed, but could get no sleep, the row these revellers made was so great, and our bedroom door was all but broken open two or three times. Our remonstrances had no
effect, and sleep being out of the question, we got up - about one o'clock, hunted up our drover, and started our drove once more, although the night was as bad as could be. By about nine o'clock A.M. we arrived at Queensferry ; but by this time I had strained my leg, and was unable to proceed. I was therefore left on the north side in charge of the cattle, while Mr Thom crossed to the south side to procure the necessary food for the other droves during the market. It will thus be seen that we droved the seventy cattle from Forfar market all the way to Queensferry in two days and three nights during the short day of November, going out of our way once as much as six miles. I cannot say what the distance waş exactly, but it must have been at least seventy miles—a feat in cattle-droving unparalleled in my experience. After a day's rest I crossed the ferry with the cattle, assisted by the drover. The beasts were dreadfully jaded, and with difficulty reached their destination, within a mile of the market-stance. The journey had told severely upon them, and two went down immediately on reaching the field. We tried every means to stir them, but failed. They were hand-fed, and with great difficulty got to the market, where they were quickly sold, though how they were got to their destination I never learned.
At a very good Hallow Fair, I had forty smallhorned Cabrach beasts and forty small polled stirks standing alongside of each other. I had been within 78. 6d. a-head of selling them once or twice, when a stranger priced them, a very well-to-do and apparently young man. My price was £7, 7s. a-head for the eighty. He just took one look through them, and said, “Well, I shall have them, and you meet me at the Black Bull at eight o'clock, and I will pay you for them.” It not being the custom of the trade to get all our askings, I was a little nervous about my customer, but found he was all right. I met him at the Black Bull at the hour mentioned. He was in great spirits, and paid me in Bank of England notes.