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Weekly Mailing List Archives
17th November 2006

It's your Electric Scotland newsletter meaning the weekend is nearly here :-)

You can view what's new this week on Electric Scotland at and you can unsubscribe to this newsletter by clicking on the link at the foot of this newsletter.

See our Calendar of Scottish Events around the world at 

Well am now working from an Internet cafe in South Carolina. As usual I find I can't type that well with the notebook keyboard so things going much slower than usual.

Have managed to get some things up for you this week but not as much as usual. That said have made a start at the new book from Australia of which more below.

I expect to be back home in Canada this time next week. In the meantime you can see some pics I have taken in South Carolina at

Some of the stories in here are just parts of a larger story so do check out the site for the full versions. You can always find the link in our "What's New" section at the link at the top of this newsletter and pick up poems and stories sent into us during the week from Donna, Margo, Stan, John and others.

This weeks edition is by Donald Bain. He has produced an interesting article about US relations with Scotland: It’s time for a new dialogue.

Also an interesting article from Peter Wright about the Pechs...

"LONG ago there were people in this country called the Pechs; short wee men they were, wi’ red hair, and long arms, and feet sae braid, that when it rained they could turn them up owre their heads, and then they served for umbrellas. The Pechs were great builders; they built a’ the auld castles in the kintry; and do ye ken the way they built them?—I’ll tell ye. They stood all in a row from the quarry to the place where they were building, and ilk ane handed forward the stanes to his neebor, till the hale was biggit. The Pechs were also a great people for ale, which they brewed frae heather; sae, ye ken, it bood (was bound) to be an extraornar cheap kind of drink; for heather, I’se warrant, was as plenty then as it’s now. This art o’ theirs was muckle sought after by the other folk that lived in the kintry; but they never would let out the secret, but handed it down frae father to son among themselves, wi’ strict injunctions frae ane to another never to let onybody ken about it.

"At last the Pechs had great wars, and mony o’ them were killed, and indeed they soon came to be a mere handfu’ o’ people, and were like to perish aft’ the face o’ the earth. Still they held fast by their secret of the heather yill, determined that their enemies should never wring it frae them. Weel, it came at last to a great battle between them and the Scots, in which they clean lost the day, and were killed a’ to tway, a father and a son. And sae the king o’ the Scots had these men brought before him, that he might try to frighten them into telling him the secret. He plainly told them that, if they would not disclose it peaceably, he must torture them till they should confess, and therefore it would be better for them to yield in time. ‘Weel,’ says the auld man to the king, ‘I see it is of no use to resist. But there is ae condition ye maun agree to before ye learn the secret.’ ‘And what is that?’ said the king. ‘Will ye promise to fulfil it, if it be na anything against your ain interests?’ said the man. ‘Yes,’ said the king, ‘I will and do promise so.’ Then said the Pech ‘You must know that I wish for my son’s death, though I dinna like to take his life myself.

My son ye maun kill,
Before I will you tell
How we brew the yill
Frae the heather bell

The king was dootless greatly astonished at sic a request; but, as he had promised, he caused the lad to be immediately put to death. When the auld man saw his son was dead, he started up wi’ a great stend,’ and cried, ‘Now, do wi’ me as you like. My son ye might have forced, for he was but a weak youth; but me you never can force.

And though you may me kill,
I will not you tell
How we brew the yill
Frae the heather bell!’

"The king was now mair astonished than before, but it was at his being sae far outwitted by a mere wild man. Hooever, he saw it was needless to kill the Pech, and that his greatest punishment might now be his being allowed to live. So he was taken away as a prisoner, and he lived for mony a year after that, till he became a very, very auld man, baith bedrid and blind. Maist folk had forgotten there was sic a man in life; but ae night, some young men being in the house where he was, and making great boasts about their feats o’ strength, he leaned owre the bed and said he would like to feel ane o’ their wrists, that he might compare it wi’ the arms of men wha had lived in former times. And they, for sport, held out a thick gaud o’ em’ to him to feel. He just snappit it in tway wi’ his fingers as ye wad do a pipe stapple. ‘It’s a bit gey gristle,’ he said; ‘but naething to the shackle-banes o’ my days.’ That was the last o’ the Pechs."

You can read this weeks issue, see the pictures and listen to the Scots language at 

MSP Linda Fabiani is now back in harness in the Scottish Parliament and has brought us up to date with her first diary since her return which you can read at 

You can read her past entries at

The Scottish Nation
My thanks to Lora for transcribing these volumes for us.

Now onto the D's and added this week are Deloraine, Dempster, Denham, Denholm, Dennistoun, Dick, Dickson and Dingwall.

The Dick entry is quite large and here is a bit from it...

DICK, a surname of great antiquity in Scotland, supposed to be of Danish extraction, and to have had the same origin as the name of Van Dyke, )or lord of the Dykes) in the Netherlands.

The progenitor of the Dicks of Prestonfield in Edinburghshire, was one William de Dyck, who was first magistrate of Edinburgh in 1296, before the institution of the office of lord provost. To this family, who were deeply embarked in commerce, Scotland owes much of the advancement of her foreign and domestic trade during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Their immediate ancestor, James Dick, a considerable merchant at Arbroath, lived in the reign of King James the Fifth, and chose that port for his residence, for the convenience of shipping and carrying on a foreign trade. In a charter under the great seal, dated in January 1539, he is designed “merchant burgess” of Arbroath. Contemporary with him was Sir Alexander Dick, archdean of Glasgow, who got a charter under the great seal of the lands of Dillerburn, Doggflatt, &c., in the county of Peebles, 29th September, 1548.

James Dick’s son, Alexander Dick, resided chiefly in the Orkneys, where he had some landed property. He was a person of considerable knowledge and learning, and after the Reformation he was appointed provost of the Cathedral church of Orkney. He died before 1580. His son, John Dick, also a man of abilities, was proprietor of the islands of North Ronaldshay, Ormsay, &c., and carried on, from the Orkneys, a very extensive and advantageous trade with Denmark. Having gone there in command of one of the largest of his own ships, about the time that King James the Sixth went for his queen, in 1590 he returned with the squadron which conducted her majesty to Scotland, and becoming a great favourite with the king, afterwards resided chiefly at Edinburgh.

His only son, Sir William Dick, a banker in Edinburgh, and one of the most eminent Scotsmen of the seventeenth century, acquired considerable wealth, even in his father’s lifetime, and advanced to James the Sixth six thousand pounds sterling, to defray his household expenses when his majesty held a parliament in Scotland in 1618. In 1628 he farmed the customs on wine at six thousand two hundred and twenty-two pounds sterling, and the crown rents in Orkney at three thousand pounds sterling per annum, and afterwards the excise. By his connexion with the northern islands and Denmark he introduced a most advantageous and extensive trade from the Baltic to the Firth of Forth, as well as from the Mediterranean, by which and his negociating bills of exchange from Holland, he acquired great wealth. Besides the islands of North Ronaldshay, Ormsay, &c., and his paternal inheritance in the Orkneys, he possessed many lands and baronies in Mid Lothian, East Lothian, the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Dumfries-shire, &c., all of which were confirmed to him by no less than eight chatters, under the great seal, from Charles the First. The barony of Braid in Mid Lothian, the precept of which is dated in 1631, became one of the chief titles of his family. In the beginning of 1638, he joined with the earl (afterwards the marquis) of Montrose and other loyalists, for the national covenant, and in that critical year, and also in 1639, he was elected lord provost of Edinburgh. In 1641, when Charles the First intended to visit Scotland, application was made to Sir William (then Mr.) Dick for money to defray necessary expenses, and he frankly advanced one hundred thousand merks, for which he obtained security on the king’s revenue 9th August of that year. With a portion of this sum the arrears due to the Scots army appear to have been paid. In the following January he received the honour of knighthood, and subsequently was created a baronet of Nova Scotia. Some time thereafter a bill was drawn upon him by order of parliament for twenty thousand pounds sterling, which he was obliged to pay, receiving as usual government security.

In 1644 he petitioned the estates for payment of a portion of the large sum owing to him, saying he was willing to take the rest by instalments, when the matter was referred to a committee. In the following March the parliament assigned him £40,000 sterling, owing “of the brotherly assistance by the parliament of England,” and ordained him to have real execution upon his bond of two hundred thousand merks. They also gave him the excise of Orkney and Zetland, and also of the tobacco; but no part of that money was ever paid. In December of the same year he again petitioned parliament for payment of some portion of it, “for preserving of his credit,” &c., but received only empty promises. He was then one of the committee of parliament, and up to 1651 his name appears on the committee of estates; but seeing matters carried to extremities, and obtaining no redress for himself, he soon after withdrew from public affairs. The parliamentary party, treating him as a malignant (as the loyalists were then called), subjected him to heavy fines, and obtained from him at different times the large sum of £64, 934 sterling. He and his family were ultimately reduced to very indigent circumstances, and in Cromwell’s time he went to London, to endeavour to procure repayment of the sum due to him, but was thrown into prison by order of the Protector, and died at Westminster, 19th December 1655, in want, it is said, of even the commonest necessaries of life. At one period he was reputed the wealthiest man in Scotland of his time, and was generally believed by his contemporaries to have discovered the philosopher’s stone! [Archaeologia Scotica, vol. i. p. 336.] In 1656 was published at London a folio pamphlet with the title of ‘The lamentable case and distressed estate of the deceased Sir William Dick;’ containing several copper-plates; one representing Sir William on horseback, attended by guards, as lord provost of Edinburgh, superintending the unloading of one of his rich argosies at Leith; a second exhibiting him as arrested, and in the hands of bailiffs, and a third showing him dead in prison. The tract is greatly valued by collectors of rare publications, and in a note to the Heart of Mid Lothian, in which David Deans makes allusion to his “sacks of dollars,” Sir Walter Scott mentions that the only copy he ever saw for sale was valued at thirty pounds

You can read the rest of this account at

You can read the other entries at 

The Celtic Monthly
A magazine for Highlanders

Added the November and December 1902 issues which contain...

November 1902
Matheson of Shiness, Achany and The Lews, Sergeant Jim of the Gordons, Mackays and Mackintoshes in America, Highland Scenery and Climate, "Rarities in Caithness and Strathnaer, Histories of the Bagpipes, MacLean Lord of Dowart, The Martial Music of the Clans, Mod prize poem, The Eight Men of Moidart.

December 1902
Captain Charles. H. MacLean, Scottish Clans Association of London, Lady MacKintosh of the '45, Lament to the Late Lieut-Gen. Sir Herbert MacPherson, The Martial Music of the Clans, MacKays and MacKintoshes in America, About Tomintoul, In the Westering of the Sun, Coming Home.

You can see the issues to date at 

Memoirs of Peter Henry Bruce, Esq
A Military Officer, in the services of Prussia, Russia and Great Britain (1783)

Not had time to get the next book up but hopefully next week.

You can read this publication at 

History of the Burgh of Dumfries
Got up two more chapters from this book. The previous chapters can be read at 

Now up to Chapter 55 and here is how that chapter starts...

BEFORE the close of the protracted agitation to which the reader's attention has just been turned, the fearful malady, cholera morbus, began to excite alarm throughout the country. It had long scourged India. In 1831 it appeared in the northwest of Europe, and after committing sad ravages there, crossed over in some Hamburgh vessels to Sunderland, first startling that town with its presence on the 26th of the following October. Next spring many places far separate from each other were visited by the fell disease, and the towns that had hitherto escaped awaited their turn in gloom and terror. Dumfries for the two preceding years had been more than usually healthy; but as soon as the warning note was sounded from Sunderland, steps were taken to improve its sanitary condition, which was admittedly defective. A vigorous Board of Health was constituted on the 15th of March, 1832, [The Board (constituted by a Privy Council order) consisted of the following gentlemen:-Provost Corson; Bailie Robert Armstrong; Bailie James Swan; Mr. George Montgomery, dean of guild; Mr. James Thomson, deacon-convener; the Rev. Robert Wallace; Dr. William Maxwell; Mr. Archibald Blacklock, surgeon; Mr. James M`Lauchlan, surgeon; ex-Provost M'Kie; ex-Provost Fraser; Mr. John Commelin, agent for the British Linen Company; Mr. John M `Diarmid; Mr. Robert Threshie of Barnbarroch ; and Mr. James Broom, town clerk.] and under its directing agency, supplemented by private effort, the houses of the humbler classes were cleansed with hot lime; and, what was of more moment, perhaps, supplies of nourishing soup and other food were served out to many of their inmates during the winter season. After much had been done to put the old tenements of the closes, in which hundreds of families dwelt, in better order, and effect other improvements, the town was still in a very unsatisfactory state. The scavenging was deficient; the drainage merely nominal; and, worst of all, the water supply was limited and impure.

With the exception of what was furnished by a few wells and private pumps, all the water used for domestic purposes was carried by hand or carted in barrels from the Nith by four old men, who doled it out in tin pitchers or cans, from door to door, at the rate of five capfuls a penny. The river, when swelled by heavy rains, which was often the case, became thick with mud; and it was constantly exposed to a more noxious pollution, caused by the refuse poured into it from the town. The quality of the water did not improve by being borne about in barrels of suspicious aspect; and often, indeed, the liquid drawn from them during summer acquired a taste-me-not repulsiveness by the presence of innumerable little objects, pleasant to no one save an enthusiast in entomology. Besides, the water, whether bad or indifferent, was often not to be had for love or money by the families who depended on the barrels. Sometimes these intermitting fountains stopped running altogether. At such periods, portions of the town experienced a water-dearth, and obtained a faint inkling, at least, of one leading phase in Oriental life. When the Burgh was originally built, the houses were massed in closes together, that they might be more easily defended against a foreign enemy; and when cholera came, as come it did, these places of defence were its chief objects of attack. The town, in fact, as a whole, when looked upon from a sanitary point of view, lay open and exposed to the visitation. A neighbouring city, Carlisle, had a passing call from the disease in July. Coming nearer and nearer, it entered the little village of Tongland Bridge, where it left two victims; and after lingering some weeks about the district, doing little harm, but gathering increased power and venom, the fell destroyer burst upon Dumfries.

The first sufferer was a respectable elderly widow, named Paterson, residing in English Street, who was seized on the 15th of September, and died on the following day. [The second case occurred on the 16th, and the third on the 17th September, in a house of three stories directly opposite to Mary Paterson's house. The names of the sufferers were William Bell and John Paton; who, being advanced in years, both rapidly sank and died. There were some miserable lodginghouses, for the reception of vagrants from all parts of the kingdom, adjoining Mary Paterson's house ; and such was the anxiety of her neighbours to witness and relieve her sufferings, that two gentlemen, and a town's officer, had to stand at her door till within an hour of her death, to prevent them harassing both her and her medical attendants; one of whom, Mr. M`Cracken, shortly afterwards fell a victim to the disease.--Note by DR. BLACKLOCK.] A man in good circumstances, also advanced in life, who resided in an opposite house, hearing of what had occurred, became much alarmed, took ill, and was a corpse before twenty hours elapsed. These were the first prey of the pestilence. For about a week afterwards, it seemed to be but dallying with its work, at the rate of only one death per day: a heavy mortality in a population of ten thousand, yet not very alarming, every thing considered. " Can this really be cholera?" many asked; and some concluded that it was a mere British imitation of the Asiatic disease; others, that it was the real disorder, but of a mild type, and that the town was going to get off with a very slight attack. From the 15th of September till the 24th, inclusive, there were seventeen cases, nine of which were fatal; but when, on the 25th, fourteen new cases and nine deaths were announced, all the people felt that the veritable plague was in their midst, and were filled with fear and trembling.

You can read the rest of this chapter at 

The whole book can be read at 

A Group of Scottish Women
by Harry Graham (1908).
Our thanks to Julie for transcribing this for us.

We now have more chapters up and here is a bit about Lady Anne Barnard (1750 - 1825)

Scotland has probably produced a greater number of popular songs than any other country, with the exception perhaps of Germany. The picturesque character of the scenery, the dramatic simplicity of peasant life, the mellifluous music of the dialect, combine to clothe the romantic ballads of the north with an atmosphere of pathos, of grace and humour, which cannot be surpassed or rivalled south of the Border. Of the many ballads to which I refer, several of the best known and the most popular are the work of Scottish women. Sir Walter Scott, in one of his letters, gives several instances of these:- “Flowers of the Forest,” by Miss Elliot of Minto; “An’ were na my heart licht, I wad dee,” by Lady Grisell Baillie; Lady Elizabeth Wardlaw’s ballad of “Hardyknute”; “I have seen the smiling of fortune beguiling,” written by Mrs. Cockburn to the same air that inspired Miss Elliot; and lastly, “Auld Robin Gray,” by Lady Anne Lindsay. To these the novelist might well have added the two ballads composed by Miss Oliphant of the “Auld Hoose of Gask” – afterwards Lady Nairne – “The Laird o’ Cockpen” and “The Land o’ the Leal,” whose genuine charm and humour still survive the passage of years. “Place ‘Auld Robin’ at the head of this list,” says Sir Walter, “and I question if we masculine wretches can claim five or six songs equal in eloquence and pathos out of the long lists of Scottish minstrelsy.” It may, therefore, be of interest to note the circumstances under which the most famous of these songs was written, and to make the acquaintance of its author.

The characteristics peculiar to each of the great national families of Scotland have been described from time immemorial by the alliterative epithets which tradition has affixed to their names. Thus we read of “the gay Gordons,” the “doughty Douglasses,” the “gallant Grahams,” the “haughty Hamiltons,” the “handsome Hays,” the “mucklemou’ed Murrays,” and the “light Lindsays.”

[Cf. “From the greed of the Campbells,
From the ire of the Drummonds,
From the pride of the Grahams,
From the wind of the Murrays,
Good Lord deliver us!”]

Of these, by no means the least interesting is the light-hearted family of Lindsays, whose name appears in Doomsday Book, and whose history supplies a chapter of romance worthy of the pen of a Stevenson or a Balzac.

Lady Anne Lindsay, the author of “Auld Robin Gray,” was the daughter of James Lindsay, 5th Earl of Balcarres, by his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Dalrymple of Castleton. She was the eldest of a family of ten, and was born at Balcarres, on the Fifeshire coast, in the year 1750. Her father was an accomplished gentleman as well as an intrepid soldier. In the famous rising of 1715 he fought in the Stuart cause, but later on was wise enough to stifle his private feelings for the sake of his country’s welfare, and served with gallantry in the army of George II. at Dettingen and Fontenoy. At heart he was ever a Jacobite, a fact which he found some difficulty in reconciling with the habits of a Whig. He could not always conceal his partisanship for the Stuarts, and was inclined on every possible occasion to expatiate upon the beauties and the wrongs of Mary, Queen of Scots, and deplore the union of the two crowns of England and Scotland. He was, however, affirm believer in the old Jacobite adage that “when war is at hand, though it were shame to be on any side save one, it were more shame to be idle than on the worse side, though blacked than rebellion could make it.” At Sheriffmuir he had led his three famous troops of gentlemen-rankers, who fought as common soldiers for the Pretender and routed double their number of the King’s dragoons. But when subsequently pardoned, he was willing to accept an English commission in the Scots Greys, in which regiment he conspicuously distinguished himself on several occasions.

The Lindsays were all born soldiers. Lady Anne’s brother James suffered the unique experience of being struck at the battle of Ticonderoga in 1777 by thirteen bullets, of which all but one passed through his clothes without injuring him. Another brother, John, was taken prisoner by Hyder Ali in 1780, and confined at Seringapatam, together with Captain (afterwards Sir David) Baird, the son of Mrs. Baird of Newbyth. [When the news of her son’s capture was broken to this ruthless of lady, and it was stated that the captive officers had been chained together, two and two, “Lord pity the chiel that’s chained to our Davy!” was her now celebrated comment.] Alexander, the predecessor of James, Earl of Balcarres, and uncle to Lady Anne Lindsay, anticipated by a couple of centuries the famous remark of an English Statesman, [The late Viscount Goschen.] who, at the time of the Fenian riots, when asked by a terrified colleague, “What are we to do?” answered at once, “Do? Why, make our wills and do our duty!” He was in command of a small body of troops besieging a town in Flanders in 1707, and was being threatened by a superior force. On his determining to persevere in the siege, a timid subordinate inquired anxiously, “What are we to retire upon?” “Upon Heaven!” replied the earl.

Lady Anne’s father, Lord Balcarres, was something of a philosopher, a man of large impulses and generous instincts, and universally popular in his own countryside. At one time a number of robberies had been committed in Fifeshire, and the criminals were at length brought before the County Court. “Why did you never come to my house?” asked Lord Balcarres. “My lord,” they replied, “we often did. Everywhere else we found closed doors, but at Balcarres they stood always open, and where such is the case it is a rule among us not to enter.”

The story of Lord Balcarres’ wooing is a romantic and curious one. When a comparatively elderly man he fell desperately in love with Miss Dalrymple, a girl who was forty years his junior, and who naturally declined the honour of his hand. The rejected suitor thereupon tool to his bed, and became so ill that his life was despaired of. He was well enough, however, to make a will in which he left half his estate to the object of his choice. And she, hearing of this remarkable bequest, “first endured, then pitied, then embraced,” and so consented to marry the old earl, who at once recovered his health with commendable promptitude.

And you can read the rest of this entry at 

The other chapters can be read at 

History of the Royal Caledonian Society of Melbourne
Thanks to the society for letting us publish this book.

Here is the Foreword and we also have the first three chapters up...

By The Right Honourable R. G. Menzies, K.C., M.P. Prime Minister of Australia and President of The Melbourne Scots

MY friend Alec Chisholm has written a careful but entertaining history of the Royal Caledonian Society of Melbourne. He now appeals to my pride by asking me to write a foreword.

My qualifications for performing the task are sketchy. I am a Scot on my father's side. The Melbourne Scots have done me the honour of making me their President. But (and here's a serious subtraction), I have no Scots burr on my tongue, I have not yet (oh, shame!) worn a kilt, and cricket commands my love much more than tossing the baber. Why, then, this honour? The answer is simple. We Scots have memory but no regrets; pride but no envy. In our modest way we admit that J. M. Barrie was right when he said, in his Rectorial address at St Andrews (where my paternal grandmother was born) that "We come of a race of men the very wind of whose name has swept the ultimate seas."

Many of the early pastoralists of Victoria were Scots lowland farmers; Scots figured importantly in the foundation of Melbourne's business. They have (as Mr Chisholm shows) played a prominent part in politics, possibly out of proportion to their actual numbers in the population. Why is this? As witnesses, both Mr Chisholm and I may be found disqualified by bias. But, if allowed to testify, I think we might say that there are two Scots characteristics which endure, which the world values, and which mankind needs.

One is a sense of continuity. No great good is done by those who say, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." But the man who feels pride in the past and a sense of responsibility for the future, though he may be called "dour", or "canny", or even-in Barrie's celebrated phrase-"a Scotsman on the make", does much for development and growth and the stability of society.

The second characteristic is allied to the first. It is the spirit of independence. That spirit is today in the twilight. We have learned to lean, to criticize, to expect, to see our neighbour's duty much more clearly than our own. It is impossible to believe that this is a permanent state of mind. But if and when we come out of it, the sturdy independence of the sons and grandsons of Caledonia will have played some part in the revival.

April 26th, 1950.

You can read this book at

So completes this shorter than usual newsletter but am very pressed for time this week as I am trying to meet a MacGregor descendant in the local area and need to move if I am to meet my appointment.

And that's all for now and I hope you all have a great weekend :-)


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