Imatges de pàgina

Of the burning of old Major Weir and his sister on the Gallows Hill, near Edinburgh, in 1670, traditions still exist.

Mr. Sinclair, a fatuous professor of philosophy at Glasgow University, thus describes the event:


Major Thomas Weir was born in Clydsdaile, near to Lanerk, and he had been a lieutenant in Ireland long since. What way he came to get some publick command in the city of Edinburgh, in the year '49 and '53, we know not, but it seems he had always been called Major Weir since that time. It seems he had some charge over the waiters at the ports of the city, being, as it were, a check to them. Coming one day, as his custome was, he found some of them in a cellar, taking a cup of ale, neglecting their charge. After a gentle reproof, one of them replyed that, some of their number being on duty, the rest had retired to drink with their old friend and acquaintance Mr. Burn. At which word he started back, and, casting an eye upon him, repeated the word Burn four or five times; and, going home, he never any more came abroad till a few weeks after he had discovered his impieties. It was observed by some that, going to Liberton, he sometimes shunned to step over Liberton-burn, and went about to shun it. Some have conjectured that he had advise to beware of a burn or some other thing which this equivocal word might mean. If so, he had foreseen his day approaching. A year before he discovered himself he took a sore sickness, during which time he spake to all who visited him like an angel, and came frequently abroad again.

"This man, taking some dreadful tortures of conscience, and the terrours of the Almighty being upon his spirit, confessed to several neighbours in his own house, and that most willingly, his particular sins which he was guilty of, which bred amazement to all persons, they coming from a man of so high a repute of religion and piety. He ended with this remarkable expresssion: 'Before God,' says he, 'I have not told you the hundred part of that I can say more and am guilty of.' These same abominations he confessed before the judges likewise. But after this he would never to his dying hour confess any more, which might have been for the glorifying of God and the edification of others, but remained stupid, having no confidence to look any man in the face, or to open his eyes.

"When two of the magistrates came to his house in the night time, to carry him to prison, they asked if he had any money

to secure? He answered, none. His sister said there was, whereupon, to the value of five dollars, in parcels here and there, were found in several clouts. His sister advised the two magistrates to secure his staff especially; for she also went to prison. After he was secured in the Tolbooth, the bailies returned, and went into a tavern near to Weir's house, in the West Bow, a street so called there. The money was put into a bag, and the clouts thrown into the fire by the master of the house and his wife, which, after an unusual manner, made a circling and dancing in the fire. There was another clout found, with some hard thing in it, which they threw into the fire likewise; it being a certain root which circled and sparkled like gunpowder, and passing from the tunnel of the chimney, it gave a crack like a little cannon, to the amazement of all that were present.

"The money aforesaid was taken by one of the two bailies to his own house, and laid by in his closet. After family prayer was ended, he retired into the same closet (where I have been), during which time his wife (who is yet living) and the rest of the family were affrighted with a terrible noise within the study, like the falling of an house, about three times together. His wife, knocking, gave a fearful cry: My dear, are you alive?' The bailie came out unafrayed, having (as he said) heard nothing. The money was presently sent away to the other bailie's house, a great distance from Weir's, where, as was reported, there was some disturbance, but in broken expressions.

[ocr errors]

"During the time of his imprisonment Weir was never willing to be spoken to, and when the ministers of the city offered to pray for him he would cry out in fury, Torment me no more, for I am tormented already.' One minister (now asleep), asking him if he should pray for him, was answered, 'Not at all.' The other replied in a kind of holy anger, 'Sir, I will pray for you in spite of your teeth, and the devil your master too,' who did pray, making him at least to hear him; but the other, staring wildly, was senseless as a brute. Another, who is likewise at rest, demanded if he thought there was a God. Said the man, I know not.' That other smartly replied, 'Oh, man, the argument that moveth me to think there is a God is thyself, for what else moved thee to inform the world of thy wicked life.' But Weir answered, 'Let me alone.' When he peremptorily forbade one of his own parish ministers (yet alive) to pray, one demanded

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

if he would have any of the Presbyterian on, if by the lanthorn they could see what persuasion to pray. He answered, “Sir, she was; but haste what they could, this you are now all alike to me.' Then said long-legged spectre was still before them, the minister to him, 'I will pray with moving her body with a vehement cachinyou.' 'Do it not,' said the other, upon nation a great unmeasurable laughter. your peril,' looking up to the beams of the At this rate the two strove for place, till house. But prayer was offered up so much the giantess came to a narrow lane in the the more heartily, because the company Bow, commonly called the Stinking Closs, about expected some vision. It is ob- into which she turned ; and the gentleservable that, in things common, he was woman looking after her, perceived the pertinent enough; but when anything about Closs full of flaming torches (she could Almighty God and his soul's condition give them no other name), and as it had came about, he would shrug and rub his been a great multitude of people, stencoat and breast, saying to them, “ Torment toriously laughing and gapping with takies me not before the time. When he was at of laughter. the stake to be burnt, the city minister The major's poor old half-crazed sister called to a churchman there looking on, came next to the gallows. She confessed being one of that persuasion whereof Weir various horrible crimes, which most prowas formerly deemed to be, to speak to bably had never been committed. She also him; but no sooner he opened his mouth, owned that the Queen of the Fairies had than he made a sign with his hand and his helped her in spinning, and that her brother head to be silent. When the rope was and friend, soon after the battle of about his neck to prepare him for the fire, Worcester, had driven to Dalkeith in a he was bid say, 'Lord be merciful to me!' (most uncomfortable !) fiery chariot. On But he answered, “Let me alone, I will the scaffold the poor wretch tried to strip not; I have lived as a beast, and I must off her clothes, in order to die with the die as a beast.' The fire being kindled, greatest shame possible, and the rough both he and his staff, a little after, fell into executioner had at last to fling her by force the flames. Whatever incantation was in from the ladder. Her last words were his staff is not for me to discuss. He could true to the sect to which her brother had not officiate in any holy duty without this claimed to belong : rod in his hand, and leaning upon it, which "Many,” she said, “weep and lament

, made those who heard him pray admire for a poor old wretch like me, but, alas ! his fluency in prayers. Its falling into the few are weeping for a broken covenant.” fire with him (let others search out the Sir Walter Scott, in his Demonology and disparity) minds me of this passage. In Witchcraft, describes Major Weir's house, Shetland a few years ago a judge having at the head of the West Bow, as then in the condemned an old woman and her daughter, course of being destroyed. It was a gloomy, called Helen Stewart, for witchcraft, sent high-storied structure, with the usual outthem to be burned. The maid was so side stairs of the Old Town fortresses of stupid that she was thought to be pos- poverty, and it had been alternately a sessed. When she had hung some little brazier's shop and a magazine for lint. In time on the gibbet a black, pitchy-like ball his High School days, Sir Walter Scott foamed out of her mouth ; and after the says, no family would inhabit the haunted fire was kindled it grew to the bigness of house, and bold was the urchin who dared a walnut, and then flew up like squibs into approach the gloomy ruin, at the risk of the air, which the judge, yet living, attests. seeing the major's enchanted staff parading It was taken to be a visible sign that the through the old apartments, or hearing the devil was gone out of her.

hum of his sister's necromantic wheel.” "Some few days before he discovered him- In 1727, the last witch was burnt in self, a gentlewoman coming from the Castle Scotland. She was a poor, half imbecile Hill, where her husband's niece was lay- old Highland woman, near Littledean, in ing-in of a child, about midnight perceived Sutherland, who was accused of having inabout the Bow-head three women in win- duced the devil to shoe her lame daughter, dows, shouting, laughing, and clapping to serve as a horse on which to ride to their hands. The gentlewoman went for- witches' meetings. The poor old crone ward, till just at Major Weir’s door there and how pathetic the picture is !) is said arose, as from the street, a woman above to have sat by the fire prepared for her the length of two ordinary females, and death warming herself calmly, while the stepped forward. The gentlewoman, not wood was being heaped ready for the exeas yet excessively feared, bid her maid step 'cution. In 1736, the cruel witchcraft Act


was repealed, much to the anger of the more zealous Presbyterians.

The last authentic witch-trial in England, according to Mrs. Linton, who has studied the subject, and written a most interesting book upon it, was in 1712, when Jane Wenham, of Walkerne, a little village in the north of Hertfordshire, was sentenced to death, but eventually, thanks to a humane judge, obtained a pardon. Yet still this wise and over self-satisfied century must remember that so conservative are folly and superstition, that only the other day an English labourer was brought before a magistrate for trying to disenchant himself by scoring a supposed witch "above the breath."

'Twas only a passing thought, my friend,
Only a passing thought,

That came o'er my mind like a ray of the sun
In the ripple of waters caught;
As it seemed to me, as I say to thee,

That sorrow, and shame, and sin
Might disappear from our happy sphere,
If we knew but to begin,

If we knew but how to profit

By wisdom dearly bought:
'Twas only a passing thought, my friend,
Only a passing thought.

Why should the nations fight, my friend,
Why should not warfare cease,
And all the beautiful world repose
In innocence and peace ?

It seems to me, as I say to thee,
The weak may yet be strong;

There needs but the breath of love and faith

To right the weary wrong,

To right the weary wrong, my friend,
Throughout the world mistaught:
'Twas only a passing thought, my friend,
Only a passing thought.

But though only a passing thought, my friend,
You know as well as I

That thoughts have a fashion to grow to deeds
Under the ripening sky.

So pass it on; let it walk or run,

Or fly on the wings of the wind,
Or, better still, on the wings of the press,
For the service of mankind;
For the service of mankind, my friend,
That needs but to be taught:
'Twas only a passing thought, my friend,
Only a passing thought.



LET us stroll along Coventry-street, and across Leicester-square, that spot dear to the heart of the refugee famous for its regular production of dead cats as some unworthy fields are for their regular crops of stones-and turning up a narrow court to our left, we shall find ourselves all at once in Newport Market.

Struggling through a chaos of vegetables, we are in a long, narrow, paved

alley, crowded thickly on either side with butchers' shops. "Buy! buy! what'e buy?" is the word. Brisk acolytes skirmish around us, brandishing formidable knives and truculent-looking cleavers. Joints, prime, middle, and common, hang about in sanguinary profusion; while a brisk business is going on in smaller pieces, scrag, sticking-piece, or those mysterious morsels of meat popularly known as "block ornaments." Hither come the proprietors of dingy restaurants scattered about Soho, where melancholy imitations of French dishes-alas! how different from the divine originals-are vended, at infinitesimal prices, to seedy men in strange attire-men full of schemes for the regene ration of mankind, but inappreciative of the virtues of clean linen-men skilled in many sciences and learned in various tongues, but ignorant, it would seem, of the chemical operation of soap and water when briskly applied to the human body.

Hither, too, at the stroke of noon, comes the British artisan in quest of his simple, but wholesome, strength-giving dinner. Tom Painter walks up to the shop he most affects, and with a scornful glance at the odds and ends-heart, liver, and other "innards "—with an impatient push past leathern-faced old hags chaffering for block ornaments, turning over with unwashed hands, and even testing by the evidence of their olfactory organs the freshness of a doubtful morsel-T. P. selects a prime piece of beef, commands the butcher to cut him his half-pound of steak from that piece, and "just there," indicating with his finger the favoured spot. Having carefully wrapped his steak in a fresh cabbage-leaf, T. P. now hies him to the "pub" he uses. Ordering his pint of beer, and handing over his meat to the attendant sprite, Tom whiles away the time with the Morning Advertiser till his steak arrives hissing hot, and falling to with relish, the honest fellow heartily enjoys his well-earned meal.

[ocr errors]

Our friend Tom has probably consumed as much, if not in actual weight, certainly in money value, as would, laid out to better advantage, and aided by a little decent cookery, have provided a meal for his entire family; but Tom has an honest and thoroughly English horror of any piece of meat not distinctly traceable to the animal and portion of the animal whence it was hewed. "Likes to know," he says, "whether it's dog or whether it's horse," and abhors all messes and kickshaws as only fit for Frenchmen, who being brought up, and even weaned on frogs, of course know no


[ocr errors]




better. If his work be not too far off, of “the double,” dined gloriously upon the T. P. indulges in "a pipe and half a screw,' same, assisted only by a lump of bread, a and during his dinner-hour is a happy man. pinch of salt, and a pint of "aff-naff.”

Perhaps the only comfortable hour out of Late on certain evenings the nostrils of his twenty-four is the one spent on the the wanderer in Newport Market are assanded floor of the Cantankerous Croco- sailed by an odour of exceeding savouridile, for his home is not a very cheerful ness. This hunger-compelling scent proone, poor fellow. The “missis” does' her ceeds from a singular dish called "faggots," best, good soul, but the “kids” are always all hot-round lumps compounded, it is teething or having the measles, and as soon believed, chiefly of the interior organs of as Tommy gets over the croup, Jenny is animals, highly seasoned; the faggot is, inbarking her poor little heart out with the deed, a sort of degenerate Southron imitahooping-cough.

tion of the Scottish national dish, haggis. Large baskets, resting on the stalwart Hungry children crowd round the steaming arms of stout Frenchwomen, come to New. dishes of brown and savoury spheres, greeport Market, and are certain to be stored dily inhaling the delightful odour, while with the cheaper pieces of meat, not for those happy in the accidental possession of getting bones for soup-making, eggs, and "browns," rush to gratify their appetites endless onions, mighty carrots, and crisp in more substantial fashion. Under the heads of celery, peering cunningly from flaring gas-lights slipshod girls, carrying beneath the half-opened basket lid. All basins hidden under their pinafores, bear this carefully assorted vegetable matter will off triumphantly their supper to the poor ponvert the humble shin of beef into the home, where probably even such slender savoury dishes denounced by our friend meals as “ faggots” afford are somewhat T. P. “ messes.”

The swine-savoury food of the Saxon- Hidden away in the dingy regions of Finsis well represented in Newport Market. bury is a small market, the site whereof is For roasting or boiling, either to be served now advertised for sale. The huge board brown and crisp with toothsome crackling, announcing the approaching sale and deor seethed to serve as an humble hand- molition of the entire institution would in maiden to the delicate capon or lordly itself produce a depressing effect were it turkey. Sausages in endless rows tempt not at once evident that the market has prothose admirers within whom faith is not bably nearly abolished itself. If any

busi. dead; tripe, and eke cow-heel, excite the ness were ever done there it must have all gastronomic propensities of the boys who been done with long ago. There appears hail from "Brummagem." ” On Wednes- to be very little meat for sale at Finsbury days and Fridays there is a brisk trade Market, the wealth of its wares seeming doing in tripe. Wholesome and tender rather to consist of stray bunches of attripe is a decided favourite, owing, possibly, tenuated-looking carrots, forlorn turnips, to its elastic properties. Deftly prepared pale with rage at their excessive distance with onions and milk, it yields to no from anything resembling a leg of mutton, food in the world for lightness and digesti- and hopeless potatoes, evidently wishing bility; fried in batter, it makes a more that the sack were closed over their eyes, ostentatious dish, while, if cheapness be weary with looking for the customers who the main object to be attained, it can be never come. On mature reflection I have eaten, by a hungry man, cold, as pur- come to the conclusion that the market chased in the tripe-seller's shop. Many is only kept open through downright years ago, I knew a foreign gentleman English adherence to obsolete forms, that (slightly at issue with the powers reigning the merchants expose a few vegetables for on the continent of Europe at that time, form's sake only, and then consume the in consequence of a benevolent project he dusty carrots, forlorn turnips, and gritty had once entertained for blowing the Ger- salads themselves. The whole neighbourmanic Diet into the air), who generally hood has a weary and seedy air, as if it commenced the day (about two P.M.) with were tired of the sham, and would be a light repast consisting of a cup of coffee, heartily glad of the advent of some newer à cigarette, and a game of chess at a and stronger organisation. neighbouring cigar-shop, preserving, by Let us go on through some sleepy-looking this temperate breakfast

, an unimpaired streets till Curtain-road is at last reached, appetite for dinner. On tripe days, at the and here it seems at the first blush as if canonical hour of six P.M., he visited the the entire population were about to undertripe-shop, and selecting a choice morsel | take the operation known as “shooting the moon.” Furniture in the roads, fur- brawny throat, hitched his much-enduring niture in the pathways, furniture in pas- donkey to his barrow, and proclaimed the sages. Everywhere nothing but chairs and excellence of his wares in louder and hoarser sofas, ready packed for travelling. On closer tones than ever. Meanwhile the designs inspection, however, it turns out that all for the market assumed grander proporthis furniture is entirely new, and that tions, and a stately structure astonished the furniture is the staple product of this re- eyes of the natives of Shoreditch and Bettmote region. Shoreditch Church now nal Green. heaves in sight, and a little beyond it is a The original benevolent purpose of the very imposing pile of building in the noble founder being rendered abortive, the Italian Gothic style. This is Columbia building was continued on a more ambiMarket, built at an immense expense by tious scale than had been intended, and the the Baroness Burdett Coutts, and by that present handsome structure was opened as munificent lady presented a few weeks a general market, on April the 28th, 1862 since to the corporation of the City of A large quadrangle for the wholesale dealers London.

was enclosed by handsome Gothic houses, London is famous for its surprises: ele- shops for retailers, and pretty arched colongant churches buried in reeking slums, nades, with abundant stone benches, proand ambitious mausoleums rearing their bably for the accommodation of " loafers" heads in the back yards of dismal, gaunt- generally. The market was opened, it is looking warehouses, are common enough, true, and only required two elements to but the traveller is scarcely prepared for insure success, that is, buyers and sellers. so rich an architectural apparition as Co- Nobody took anything there to sell, and if lumbia Market in the dreary regions of he had done so nobody would have gone Shoreditch. Its construction came about there to buy it; the costermonger preferred, in this wise. Some few years ago, during as an astute man of business, his regular the reign of Sir Richard Mayne, that auto- beat, regular customers, and certain procrat issued a ukase, decreeing the virtual fits; the few adventurous spirits who had abolition of the costermonger. The kerb- speculated to the extent of taking shops or stone business was henceforth to cease. The stands, gave it up as a bad job, and in too coster himself was to share the fate of the many cases “skedaddled," in defiance of

Charley,” and such like old world entities, the laws of landlord and tenant. he, his fur cap, his highlows, his plush waist- Proving an utter failure as coat, glittering with pearl buttons, his market, the Columbia building was reshort-pipe, his “ kingsman,” his “ White-opened as a wholesale fish market

, on chapel brougham” and his “ Jerusalem February the 21st, 1870, and dragged on a pony,” were to be relegated to the limbo of languid existence till a short time ago, extinct institutions. The Baroness Bur- when the generous baroness handed over dett Coutts at once extended her warmest the entire property, costing little less than sympathy to the

poor fellows who were to three hundred thousand pounds, to the corbe suddenly deprived of the only liveli- poration, engaging herself to build, at a hood they were capable of earning. further cost of sixty thousand pounds, a

Much marvelling" where the poor don- tramway to the terminus of the Eastern keys lived,” this charitable lady decided Counties Railway. It is not altogether im. on building a market, which should, by possible that when the tramway is conremoving the kerbstone traffic to one pleted (within two years hence), Columbia central spot, enable the poor itinerant Market, in the hands of the City anthoretailer to sell his little stock of rabbits, rities, will become a formidable rival, if not fish, or vegetables without falling under the absolute successor of Billingsgate. The the ban of the police. The present site railway connexion with Harwich being made was selected, a network of dirty streets perfect, fishing-sloops will be able to disand noisome alleys disappeared as if by charge their cargoes at that port into railmagic, and the new market was commenced way cars running straight from Harwich in earnest. No sooner was that market into the market itself, thus saving all the fairly begun than, with the consistency and time occupied in the tedious voyage up the steadiness of purpose so eminently charac- Thames. The great bogy, Vested Interest, teristic of our police magnates, the late will rear his head on high, fight his hardest czar rescinded his severe edict, and the to defeat this project, and raise innumer costermonger, endowed with a fresh lease able difficulties, according to custom, but of life, knotted his kingsman round his the direct communication with Harwich

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

& retail

« AnteriorContinua »