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Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character eBook

Edward Bannerman Ramsay
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 430 pages of information about Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character.

An old domestic of this class gave a capital reason to his young master for his being allowed to do as he liked:—­“Ye needna find faut wi’ me, Maister Jeems; I hae been langer aboot the place than yersel.”

It may seem ungracious to close this chapter with a communication which appears to convey an unfavourable impression of an old servant.  But the truth is, real and attached domestic service does not offer its pleasures and advantages without some alloy of annoyance, and yet how much the solid benefits prevail over any occasional drawbacks!

The late Rev. Mr. Leslie of St. Andrew-Lhanbryd, a parish in Morayshire, in describing an old servant who had been with him thirty years, said, “The first ten years she was an excellent servant; the second ten she was a good mistress; but the third ten she was a perfect tyrant.”

CHAPTER THE FIFTH.

SCOTTISH JUDGES.

There is no class of men which stands out more prominent in the reminiscences of the last hundred years than that of our SCOTTISH JUDGES.  They form, in many instances, a type or representative of the leading peculiarities of Scottish life and manners.  They are mixed up with all our affairs, social and political.  There are to be found in the annals of the bench rich examples of pure Scottish humour, the strongest peculiarity of Scottish phraseology, acuteness of intellect, cutting wit, eccentricity of manners, and abundant powers of conviviality.  Their successors no longer furnish the same anecdotes of oddity or of intemperance.  The Courts of the Scottish Parliament House, without lacking the learning or the law of those who sat there sixty years ago, lack not the refinement and the dignity that have long distinguished the Courts of Westminster Hall.

Stories still exist, traditionary in society, amongst its older members, regarding Lords Gardenstone, Monboddo, Hermand, Newton, Polkemmet, Braxfield, etc.  But many younger persons do not know them.  It may be interesting to some of my readers to devote a few pages to the subject, and to offer some judicial gleanings[44].

I have two anecdotes to show that, both in social and judicial life, a remarkable change must have taken place amongst the “fifteen.”  I am assured that the following scene took place at the table of Lord Polkemmet, at a dinner party in his house.  When the covers were removed, the dinner was seen to consist of veal broth, a roast fillet of veal, veal cutlets, a florentine (an excellent old Scottish dish composed of veal), a calf’s head, calf’s foot jelly.  The worthy judge could not help observing a surprise on the countenance of his guests, and perhaps a simper on some; so he broke out in explanation:  “Ou ay, it’s a cauf; when we kill a beast we just eat up ae side, and down the tither.”  The expressions he used to describe his own judicial preparations

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