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great success, and after about an hour's absence returned with bona fide notes for the amount, having transferred the victim's cloak, which he liked ill to wear, to other shoulders. His insolence was intolerable ; and at a Falkirk market he had given some gentlemen such insulting treatment that a warrant was granted for his apprehension. This came to the knowledge of his employer, and he was sent out of the way to a wood east of the fair. When the officers had retired in despair, a messenger was sent to inform him he was now safe, and might return. The messenger did not find him in the wood, but in the middle of the publicroad, busy as ever insulting other two gentlemen, who were also determined to have him apprehended. He was not particular to a shade in his transactions. He had bought twenty beasts from a dealer, and got delivery, but could not pay them. The dealer incarcerated him in the prison at Stirling, and thought he had him fast for the winter; but he got friends, and he was released, to the astonishment of all his acquaintances, and to the dismay of his incarcerating creditor, who was present. He appeared as a spectre at the White Hart Inn, the great resort of cattle-dealers, on the evening before Hallow Fair, and resumed his duties the following day. He was an adept at his business. He could tell in ten minutes, after 500 or 600 cattle were drawn up on the market in different lots, if they were all right. At dressing, shoeing, and counting cattle, he was unequalled.
Gangs of pickpockets frequented the Falkirk and Hallow Fair markets; they were well known to the dealers, and would not meddle with them. They were dressed in different garbs, as respectable farmers, drovers, and shepherds; and there was never a Falkirk nor Hallow Fair passed without robberies being committed. When we met the gangs (and there was one gang that consisted of six members), we asked them what sort of market they had had; and they told us whether it had been good, bad, or indifferent-laughed,
and passed on quite coolly. It would have been a treat to my readers to have heard our friend the Top Sawyer chaffing the members of the long firm. I recollect being at Bridge of Allan (a fashionable place of resort) on the Saturday before Falkirk market, when the notorious gang took up their quarters at the hotel, and lived in the most extravagant manner over Sunday. No one knew them but myself, and they passed for farmers waiting for the market, till I apprised my acquaintances that they were pickpockets.
We had one “Irish Bill,” whose impudence even exceeded that of Top Sawyer's. He was the greatest "snarer of hares and killer of black fish” ever known in this country. He has been incarcerated in jail for trespassing more than twenty different times. When it came a severe winter he allowed the game-watchers and water-bailiffs to apprehend him. He got his two, three, or four months; and when his term of imprisonment expired he returned to his old avocations. He said he was much more comfortable in prison in such a winter than starving in the country. He had the constitution of a horse : he has been often known to wade the rivers in quest of black fish (foul salmon) for nights, and return in the morning, throw himself down in a cold barn, and never change his clothes. He was one night at the black fishing at Bridge of Alford, when he was very hard pressed by the water-bailiffs. The “crusie" was dipped, and Bill could not be found. The watchers were certain he had not escaped them. After a long fruitless search it was given up. He had taken hold of the branch of a shrub, keeping his head above the water, and thus escaped detection, as he was not inclined to go to prison at the time. He spent the whole of his earnings in the public-house. He was a most tractable workman on the farm if you could only have kept him at it. He was never known to take an article not his own, with the exception of the game and foul salmon. He would work very well for a week, but you could not keep him longer; he must have his wages, and if they were refused he would kick up a row and force a quarrel with his employer, and give him such impudence that he was very glad to get rid of him : after he got his wages he went direct to the public-house and spent the last farthing. He was a very quiet civil man when sober-except when he wanted his wages-and made himself very agreeable ; but his impudence was unparalleled when he was in his “cups.” I will give my readers just one example of it, and they may judge if the above picture be overdrawn. At the time of the Crimean war, with the fate of Sebastopol hanging in the balance, the late Lord Aberdeen, who was then Prime Minister, happened to be returning from his estates in Cromar to Haddo House, and had stopped to feed his horses at Muggarthaugh Inn, within two miles of where I write. His lordship was walking before the inn when “Irish Bill ” sallied out from his “cups” (a good many people were within hearing at the time): he stood up before the Premier, and after giving his lordship a great deal of impertinence (he could not get away from him), “ Well, man,” says Bill, "have you ta'en Sebastopol yet?” Bill must now be a very old man; but he was alive not more than two months
We had another drover, “Old Talavera," who had fought at that memorable battle. He was from the far Highlands, and came south at the droving season. He was very parsimonious, and very unpopular amongst his fellow-drovers; he always bought meal, and carried it along with him for his daily sustenance, and he never paid for a repast in the public-house. When his comrades found Old Talavera asleep, they salted his meal. However strongly it was salted, Talavera would not throw it away. The quantity of water he drank after such meals was enormous, and his waggish companions watched him as he passed the different streams on the way. When Old Talavera was in good humour, which
was not often, he became very eloquent on how he fought for three days and three nights at the battle of Talavera.
I am not at present overwhelmed with work, otherwise I would not have thought of relating what may be considered such trivial anecdotes by my readers; but they are penned on the 4th January 1875, when I am shut up by the storm, the railways blocked, and no letters to answer, as we have had no post for four days. I think it may interest my readers if I relate two or three of the greatest robberies that have been committed in my father's time, and in my own time, where those connected with the cattle trade have been the sufferers. I have heard my father often relate how a dealer from the north was returning from a Falkirk Tryst, and got to Stirling, where he put up for the night. He had his own horse, as was the practice in those days. It was the universal custom with every one who had any care for his horse to go out before going to bed and see the animal fed--a practice I never neglected. He had to go up a lane to the stable, when he was knocked down and robbed of £3000, of which he never recovered a shilling.
A countryman of my own was robbed of £800 or £900 on the evening of a Hallow Fair with a more fortunate result. He was robbed by a man and woman in going up the stair of the White Hart—which is a dark one. The police could find no trace of the money. A suspicious character offered the clerk of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway booking-office a £5 note, and asked two or three tickets, and got back the change. The clerk suspecting all was not right, telegraphed to Glasgow, and the greater part of the money was recovered, being found in his possession.
A butcher, a most respectable man, bought twenty beasts at Falkirk, went to the bank and drew money to pay them, and asked the seller to go to the back of the tent and he would pay him. He felt some one pressing him, and said, “What are you pressing at?” When he put his hand into his pocket the money was gone, and he never got a farthing of it.
An old gentleman came to Hallow Fair with thirty of the best Galloways I ever saw together. They made £13 a-head-a very high price at that time. He was much elated about his cattle ; but he had fallen into bad company, was robbed of their price, and never recovered a farthing. I think I see to this hour the sorrowful look of the poor old man taking his seat on the top of the coach on his way home.
I knew intimately another man who was forced into a lobby in Leith Walk at twelve o'clock in the day and was robbed of £300; but he was very drunk at the time. I believe he never got a farthing of it.
The greatest robbery of all happened to a friend of my own, a large cattle-dealer from the south. He arrived late in Edinburgh along with other dealers the day before the Michaelmas Tryst of Falkirk. The coach arrived in the New Town. His friends wished him to sleep with them in the New Town; but he would go to his old quarters, at the Harrow Inn, in the Grassmarket. In taking the near road through the New Town to the Old by the narrow lane, which must be well known to many of my readers, he was knocked down and robbed of £4000. He never recovered a shilling of it. He came to the market the next day, bought his usual number of cattle, which were paid for by his friends. He lived many years after the robbery, and paid 20s. in the pound to his death.