alias Bell Geordie.


Blythe, blythe, and merry are we,
Hearts that care can never ding ,
Let Time pass - we'll steal his glass'
And pu' a feather frae his wing! " (Old Song.)

This truly was an old character worthy of being commemorated. He flourished in the city both in the end of the last and in the beginning of the present (19th) century. He succeeded a still more remarkable man - viz., Dugald Graham, who, we learn from authenticated accounts, was at the battle of Falkirk, and wrote many queer pieces of poetry, in which he seems to have excelled at the interesting and very important time when Prince Charlie, with his Highland Clans, invaded this city in the year 1745. A specimen of his verses we may here shortly give, simply remarking that this Dougald the bellman, who held considerable sway in the city at that memorable date, was a devoted Loyalist "for great George our King." Dougald was very satirical on the appearance of the Highland army bivoucked in Glasgow, as we find from one of his droll ditties :


Their count'nance fierce as a wild boar,
Out o' their eyes lang down their hair;
Their very thighs red tanned quite,
But yet as nimble as they'd been white.
Their beards were turned black and brown,
The like was never seen in our town;
Some of them did barefooted run,
Minded no mire nor stony group;
But when shav'n, drest, and cloth'd again,
They turned to be like other men.
Eight days they did in Glasgow rest,
Until they were all clothed and drest,
And tho' they on the best o't fed,
The town they under tribute laid,
Ten thousand sterling made it pay
For being of the Georgian way,
Given in goods and ready cash
Or else to stand a plundering lash;
And cause we did militia raise,
We were esteemed as mortal faes,
For being opposed to Jacobites,
They plainly called us Whiggonites;
But for peace sake to get them clear
Of everything they furnish'd were
A printing press and two workmen
To print their journals as they ran.

Dugald's dry wipe at those who were "in the Georgian way" can only be excelled by the satirical humuor of the Highlanders themselves in their apology for obtaining supplies in Glasgow and other places.

"Many of the crew, indeed, were greedy
To fill their bellies when they were needy,
They cocks and hens and churns and cheese
Did kill and eat when they could seize;
And when the owners did exclaim -
Houp poop, hersel be far frae hame,
You need not fash to say nothing,
Hersel brings you a bra' new king.."

We need not dwell longer on these doggerel but humoursome verses pertaining to Glasgow in the year '45. Yet, after the passing away of a century and twenty-two years, what have we remaining as tangible relics to inform the present generation of the "Rebellion?" In a sense absolutely nothing of importance, unless the records of history be so considered. In bygone times, grandmothers and great-grandmothers would sit at their firesides and tell the youngsters how they had seen the Prince at the Saracen Head Inn and,walking up and down the Gallowgate and the aged veterans of the Glasgow, Paisley, Stirling and Dumbarton militia might be heard relating the stirring incidents of their campaign. But there is no gratification of this kind now.

If the modern inquirer would wish to peruse a few of the martial features of this turbulent period, let him repair to the Tower of London, and to some of our feudal buildings and castles where guns and pikes, scythes claymores, and Lochaber axes, and such like implements of war are deposited as memorials, and he will depart with the conviction that it was no fun at all to meet one of the "Highlan Teevils " in the furious combat. On places here and there ball marks and impressions of ordnance communicate their tales as effectually as the ruins of the exploded Church of St. Ninians. A chance person yet shows from his repository a disk, pistol, "Andrea Ferrara " sword, or rusty charger as the emblems of weeping Culloden, while the young lady at the piano with a blithe heart, dissociated from the horrors of the scenes which gave birth to the effusions, sings us one of those touching lyrics the Jacobite songs which, as poetical embellishments, will ever preserve in remembrance the events of " the Rebellion."

We must now, however, digress to take up the qualities of the modern Bellman as we find and remember some of them in the person of the aforesaid George Gibson alias Bell Geordie now to be reviewed shortly in this chapter. These qualities, indeed, were of no small order. It was his duty, primo loco, to ring his bell, the age of which no one could tell; it had descended down through many generations. He proudly held the handle of it in his right hand at all meetings of the magistrates - he himself being dressed in red royal livery coat, with gilt buttons displaying the city arms, blue plush breeches, white stockings and buckled shoes, and a cocked hat on his head, like the Trumpeters who come yet to Glasgow with the Lords of Justiciary at the Assizes.

For that duty Dugald had 10 a year allotted to him, not a bad salary in those days; but he had many perquisites, many fees appertaining to his office which increased it materially. Thus every movement of any consequence in the city behoved to be announced by the bellman in his official costume, to the citizens throughout the ancient landmarks of the city for "one silver sixpence paid down to him in his loof ": every sale on every warrant of the magistrates entitled him to a fee of one shilling; and he reaped a great harvest of sixpences and shillings when the herring boats arrived in their season, generally about the 4th of June, the King's birthday, with "the brave caller herrings" from the Gareloch for that was the great place for the capture of myriads of herrings in these days; and the primary duty of the Bellman was to carry the very first string of them - namely, the brave caller herrings, for that was the singular designation they had then as they have still - to his honour the water Bailie.

An important magistrate he certainly was at that period, though much more exalted and comprehensive now in respect of the vast and increasing magnitude of the river. We have actually seen "Buckers," as they were called, chasing shoals of herrings as far up the river as Bowling Bay. It is amusing here to notice, but the circumstance has been well attested to us by our late departed friend "Senex" and others, that the old bellman first above named - viz., Dugald Graham - towards the end of the year 1790, being then nearly eighty years of age, his voice began to fail him, and no wonder, and, therefore, says "Senex " (page 59 of Glasgow Past and Present) the magistrates and council resolved to elect an assistant and successor to him. Accordingly they advertised that candidates for the situation were to appear on a certain day to give a specimen of their abilities in the open air, so that the clearness and extent of their respective voices might be tested. The candidates were directed to cry the following Proclamation as proof of their being fit for the situation:

"Notice. - There has just arrived at the Broomielaw a boat-load of fine flesh herrings, selling at three a penny." (Tingle, lingle, lingle.)

When the day of trial arrived - we give this on the authority of Senex (who, we have no doubt, was a juvenile witness of the exhibition) - various candidates appeared, and a number of our citizens also assembled to witness the exhibition. After several candidates had given specimens of their talents, it came to the turn of Geordie, who rung the bell with a good birr, and with a clear and powerful voice repeated the above proclamation, after which, turning round to his audience, he recited the following lines of his own poetry:

"Now, my gude folks, this cry is all hum,
For herrings in the boat are not yet come
Therefore you needna fash to gang awa
To seek sic dainties at the Broomielaw;
But if they come, and I'm town-crier then,
I'll tinkle thrice my bell and let ye ken."

This practical effusion of Geordie's was received by the audience with loud laughter and clapping of hands, in which demonstration of approbation the magistrates and council themselves heartily joined, so that Geordie was unanimously elected assistant city bellman. This is humoursome enough in its way. We wonder what would be thought of it now in the midst of bulls and bears and railway speculators of one kind or another going on in the city. But Geordie improved much his situation. Dr Strang assures us in his well-written account of the Clubs of Glasgow, that Geordie, who received now the indellible name of Bell Geordie, always secured a goodly audience, for no sooner was the triple clinket of his skellart heard than every house in the neighbourhood was sure to despatch a messenger to hear what he had honestly to communicate "Of this well-known functionary," says Dr Strang, "who for so many years filled the public ear, and, what is more, who gratified it, not only by the news he had to tell, but by the clever and original manner in which he told his tale, it is perhaps enough to say that no individual ever paced the Trongate in his time who was better known or longer remembered." That certainly is no small certificate of character from the pen of the late justly-esteemed Chamberlain of the city of Glasgow. But alas! Geordie, favourite as he was, was abruptly dismissed from his situation by the magistrates in the way we shall soon state, but not till we give a few other samples of his abilities not heretofore given that we are aware of in any previous publication, though disjointed bits of them may have been handed down from one person to another.

We give some of the following remarkable notices proclaimed through the streets by Geordie with his bell, as culled from a small scrap-book in our possession; and no doubt whatever need be entertained about the authenticity of them, because the most of them were actually printed in the old Glasgow Mercury and Courier newspaper at the time. The following shows how the magistrates and ministers of the city acted together staff in hand in these days in cases of suspected crime, which devolves now entirely on the head of the Fiscal:

" Whereas, - A report hath been spread that John Graham, grocer, in this city, or some of his family had set fire to his shop, the magistrates and ministers, after making inquiries, find the report false - April, 1780."

" Whereas, - It has been reported abroad that Emilia Inglis, who stood on the Tolbooth stair-head last Wednesday, was prosecuted by her master for no other crime than selling one gill of acquavitae and a few confections, this is to inform the public that, after due enquiry, her master cannot be blamed."


Notice - James Hodge, who lives in the first close above the Cross on the west side of the High Street, continues to sell burying crapes ready made, and his wife's neice, who lives with him, dresses dead corpses at as cheap a rate as was formerly done by her aunt, having been educated by her and perfected at Edinburgh, from whence she has lately arrived, and has brought with her all the newest and best fashions.


Notice.- Miss Christian Brown, at her shop West side of Hutcheson Street, carries on the business of making dead flannels, and getting up burial crapes: Miss Brown also carries on the mantua making at her house in Duncan's Close, High Street, where a mangle is kept as formerly. She can likewise take in a boy board and lodge.


Notice.- Miss Christy Dunlop, Leopard Close, High Street, continues to dress the dead as usual. She has always crapes ready made.

Our readers may well startle at such announcements, but the fact is that "dressing the dead" was an important affair in the last century, and the materials of "their last dresses " were specified by several Acts of Parliament! Sometimes they were to be clothed in woollen, sometimes in linen, according as the one or other branch of manufacture needed help at a "dead lift."


Notice.- (20th March, 1780) - Archibald M'Alister, tailor, begs to say that he is to set out for London, by 1st May, and to reside some time there. He humbly thanks all his employers, and hopes they will renew their favour, if he is spared to return, and sets up to carry on the tailor trade again. He hopes those who have had had any business with him will come forward before he goes, as he would wish no dispute for the future.


The following will give our fair readers some notion of the style and price of dresses, in this city, in the year 1780 :

Notice. - Just arrived at Kirkland's, Fiddler's Close, High Street, Glasgow, Langley's rich and elegant assortment of India, London, and Manchester Goods, which will be sold remarkably low:- Muslims, plain and fancy, 2s 6d to 15s a yard; thread, satin, and shagreens, as low as 21s a gown-piece; worked and plain cherryderries and ginghams sprigged, 22s a gown-piece ; Turkey mantuas, 3s 6d a yard; gentlemen's vest pieces, beginning at 9s; silk velderino, for ladies' shoes or vests, 9s; gingham waistcoat fronts, 3s to 5s; gown chintzes, 25s to 52s 6d; real corded silk tabbies for gent's waistcoats and breeches; worked aprons ; and other things too numerous to mention.

Then we have this announcement of a steady rival in trade:

Notice.- John Inglis, haberdasher, will remove from his shop in the Gallowgate, to the elegant premises in the Trongate, near to the Tron Steeple.

Many yet in Glasgow, may remember this old trig haberdasher, in his powdered hair and velveteens, as also the shop of the Messrs Millers, nearly opposite. His son, our esteemed friend, Mr Peter Inglis, is now one of the most flourishing and extensive sheep farmers in Australia.


This seems to have been a pretty flourishing trade in Glasgow at the period referred to; and we would almost infer from the following notices, that there were more frosty pows then in the city than are to be seen at the present time. Thus:-

" John M'Kechnie, in the third story of the Old Coffee House, near the Cross of Glasgow, hereby intimates that he keeps a constant supply of all kinds of wigs of the neatest fashion and best materials and workmanship, where likewise may be had the different kinds of hair used for wigs, either raw or curled."

His rival, Mr Duncan Niven, wig maker, same street, hereby intimates that he has procured the best materials and most skilful hands. Good and fashionable wigs on a few days' warning. All kinds of hair and furniture for wigs. He would willingly overlook a late advertisement of John M'Kechnie's, (the one above given,) for Mr M'Kechnie can be but an indifferent judge of the newest fashions or neatest work."

This was certainly a neat left-handed fit from one wig maker to another.


Notice. - George Tassie & Co., Glasgow, shammy, buck, and doe breeches makers, carry on their business at the new Golden Glove, head of King Street. But Mr Basil Ronald, hoisted his sign-board, and exhibited the best patterns of his bucks-doe breeches, newly arrived from London," and he in common with Mr Brown and others, had all the breeches to themselves at fabulous prices, so long as they remained in fashion.

This introduced the saying amongst the Billies or Baillies of Glasgow. Does your wife wear the breeches ?


"Notice- (11th October, 1781.) - Mr Fraser will open his dancing school in M'Nairs Land, King Street on the 46th inst. Terms easy." (This hall of Fraser's still to the fore, was the most fashionable and celebrated of any at that time in Glasgow.)

" The Misses Logan respectfully intimate that they have opened a boarding school for ladies, genteelly situated, up the second close in King Street, two stairs up,"

"Robert Brown, perfumer, in the High Street, respectfully notifies that he sells the following articles :Chevalier Ruspini's tincture and dentrifice; ladies' black sticking plaster for patches ; tongue scrapers ; white and black pins for dressing the hair; French chalk; powder machines; powder bags; silk and Swandown puffs; craping, punching, and truffle irons; bath garters; soft and gluey pomatums. As Robert Brown makes all his own hair powder, the public may depend on having it genuine."

"Barry Parkhill, at the head of the New Wynd, Trongate, respectfully announces that he makes all kinds of silk and linen umbrellas, much cheaper than English ones, viz., - from 12s to 32s, and ladies having old silk gowns, can have umbrellas made out of them."


Notice. - (June 1785) - John Miller, grocer, does not impose upon the public with a hum - he means, with a humbug article. He sells genuine coffee at 2s; chocolate at 3s and 4s a 1b.; old rum at 10s, brandy, 12s a gallon; ferintosh at 5s 8d, and good aqua at 4s a gallon; porter, 3d and 4d a bottle."


"Robert Kalley, grocer, in the Gallowgate, hereby intimates that he has taken an oath not to adulterate his teas, so that the public may depend on a genuine article."

In consequence of additional taxes, the Glasgow Wine Merchants announce that they will raise the price of genuine port to 28s a dozen; sherry to 29s and 31s; and old rum to 12s a gallon. Not a word about champagne. It does not seem to have been introduced in Glasgow, at that period.


"Notice - (30th June, 1803.) - Fine smoked beef and bacon for sale, at Samuel Ramsay's cellar, Turner's Court, Argyle Street. He requests his customers to supply themselves forthwith, as Hamburgh is taken, and no more to be got."


"A neat, well furnished house, at the west end of Rottenrow, pleasantly situated upon the common gardens."


An advertisement (mirabile dictu) headed, " City Chaimberiain's Office, 5th April, 178," announces that there is to be set, a garden belonging to the City, at the back of the High Chuch; as also, the grass of St Andrew's Church-yard, and that of the walks in the Green, are to be disposed of by public or private roup.


'Charles Macfarlane, Buck's Head Inn, respectfully announces that an ordinary is kept at his house every day, at three o'clock. Charge, eightpence a head."


"Mrs Lamont, of the Swans' Tavern, head of Stockwell, entry by Argyle Street, respectfully announces that she has soups ready from 12 till 2 daily. Hams at any time."

John Drinan, late waiter to the Tontine, announces that he has opened the Anacreonic Taproom, in the New Wynd. Whilst Alexander Mill, cook to Mr Reid of the said Tontine Hotel, informs those who wish to learn cookery that he takes in scholars at a guinea a month.


Notice. - The celebrated Mr Newham has arrived in Glasgow, and living at No. 161 Stockwell. He cures the afflicted, by touching them with a rag dipped in a little spirits. His faculty is a wonderful blessing, and was bestowed on him in a bye-way, where doctors never knew to walk. His fee for an examination is one guinea; but the poor will be considered."

Following on the heels of the above, we find that Dr Katterfelto, M.D., F.R.S., announces his arrival. "He will give his first lecture on the 6th of March instant, (1787) in the Black Bull Inn: Entry, 2s 6d. The doctor is accompanied by his wonderful Morocco black cat - an animal of much merit, which gained him at one time in London, 3000. The doctor shows his various occult secrets, which have much surprised the learned, and many kings and queens of Europe. He will exhibit his grand mechanical exhibition, and perpetual motion. Such a wonderful exhibition may not appear again in Glasgow for a century to come."


Pert on the above there arrives, 9th May of the same year, the Honourable Mr Nicholson, "a man (says the notice) possessed of an exclusive and peculiar power over the most irrational part of human nature [what a slap at Katterfelto, above given!] he having taught a tutle to fetch and carry; learnt a hare to beat a drum; perfected six turkey-cocks in a regular country dance; taught three cats to strike several tunes on the dulcimer with their paws, and imitate the Italian manner of singing but above all, his conquering the natural obstinacy and stupidity of a pig, the greatest curiosity now in the kingdom. Now exhibiting at Mr Fraser's Dancing Hall, M'Nair's Land, King Street. Entry, 6d."

But Katterfelto was not to be done by the Honourable Mr Nicholson; so he trips up his heels in Fraser's Hall, takes it over his head, and makes the following glaring announcement :- "Dr Katterfelto, that great divine and moral philosopher, (sic orig.,) is now about to exhibit again in this city." And in a subsequent notice, date, July 21st, he declares,- "He is positively certain that the Grand Signior, His Holiness the Pope, the Emperor of Germany, as well as many other kings, queens, and princes in Europe, have not seen such great wonders as any ladies and gentlemen have seen in Glasgow, these six weeks past, at Fraser's Hall, King Street, and such wonders, wonders, wonders, and wonders!! as may never seen again, including his grand museum, value, 7000, and his famous Morocco black cat, which gained 3000 in London. Front seats, 1s ; back, 6d

No wonder that we have since had so many biologists and darling quacks in Glasgow!

But we have now to introduce to our readers,


"Notice. - (May, 1802.) - M r James Scott, surgeon-dentist, of 28 South Bridge, Edinburgh, intends to visit Glasgow annually, and will be found at Mrs Paterson's lodgings, Garthland Street."

We can speak of this character from personal recollection. He succeeded so well in Glasgow, where there were so many toothaches to mend, that he took up his permanent abode at No. 6 Miller Street, in the year 1819, in the pretty house there built by Mr Macready, the father of the celebrated tragedian of that name, which was pulled down a few years ago to make way for the spacious offices of the Glasgow and Loch Katrine Waterworks.

In that house we were very often entertained when first coming to Glasgow. It had mirrors of plated glass indented from top to bottom in its diningroom walls, the first of their kind seen in the same way in Glasgow; and Doctor Scott, for now he was so called, became the observed of all observers. Yet he was a very illiterate man, for, though he could pull a tooth with the greatest alacrity, he could scarcely put two lines together with anything like credit. He grew tremendously fat, and no wonder, for we have seen him pocket as many as fifteen and twenty guineas in a morning in the shape of dentist fees. He had then the emoluments of the tooth trade in Glasgow almost entirely in his own hands. He lived well - a jolly bachelor to the backbone.

He had an only sister, no great beauty, well stricken in years; but somehow they acquired a great taste for riding through the city every afternoon, Sunday not excepted, from three till four o'clock, on two small handsome white and grey riding ponies, the smallest of their kind then seen in Glasgow, attended by a smart little boy also on his pony, attired in the most attractive livery. It was almost ludicrous to see the Doctor with his great haunch astride the back of the docile little pony. Some cried that he would break its back - others said that it was a shame for him to besmear his carcase on the tender hide o' the puir dumb horsey; but the Doctor insisted that his pony, which was always well fed, could carry eighteen stone with the greatest ease. Occasionally he revisited Edinburgh the place from whence he came; and there, as many know, he was made for a long while the laughing stock in "Blackwood's Magazine" under the title of the "Oddontist " in the Noctes Ambrosianae, from the pen of Professor John Wilson.

We are forgetting, however, our own dear Bell Geordie, abler man by far than the " Oddontist," but with nothing like his emoluments for scraping and drawing teeth. We could give many others of Geordie's original squibs and advertisements preceded and followed by the tinkle of his famous bell, and illustrative of the good and bad cheer of Glasgow at the period he was one of its most active observers; but these we must trip over just now, because we are afraid we are already exhausting the patience of our readers: therefore we proceed now to give only a few farther specimens of what may be termed the lure of his more racy and ludicrous and dignified effusions.

The following is his hit addressed TO ALL IDLERS AT THE CROSS OF GLASGOW.

"What is't ye do, ye leather-winged bats
Must I forsooth call forth the guards
To push ye to your loomsteeds ?
Hence! nor pollute the Cross
With ill-timed 'observations on the times'
And Government's misconduct.
They're known full well: nor need
The testimony of your Corporation.
Get home, lazy dogs! - shave your beards,
Mend breeks - sew shoes - kill swine!"

Leaving him in that rather Shaksperian humour, he descends into a more ludicrous one by this " PETITION' OF THE COWS ON THE GREEN OF GLASGOW.

"At a meeting (we are quoting now from an old extract) of the Cows of the Green of Glasgow in common pasture assembled - the Bull in the chair; Bell Geordie was duly constituted the clerk of the meeting. The following draft of a petition was drawn up and unanimously adopted, and ordered to be presented by the Towns' Herd to Queen Charlotte, the spousa cara of His Britannic Majesty King George the Third, protesting to Her Majesty against the continual parading of Volunteers on one of the best grass plots in Scotland, that has not been ploughed up since the glorious Revolution - a lapse of time during which three millions of Glasgow have been born or died, on a moderate computation."

If anybody doubts the reality of that composition as here given, we desire them, on the authority of the late Dr Strang, to turn up the files of the Glasgow Courier newspaper (once a great paper in its day) under date 1st May, 1797, where they will find it. But Bell Geordie was no small wag in another way. He says:

The old world, was drowned - don't you remember
Its weather was just like a Glasgow September
An even-down pour! and all black about
Which saps down our buildings, though never so stout,
In town or in country, its equal to stay,
The streets are all dirt, and the roads are all clay."

We must come, however, to the close of his harangues, which fatally terminated his official, but hitherto jolly career in Glasgow. One day, in the Old Burgh Court Hall at the Cross, it was his misfortune to chaunt the following lines rather too near the ears of some of the worshipful Bailies assembled in the place:

"If in our Courts a stranger keeks,
His eye meets neither squires nor bankers;
But judges wha shape leather breeks,
And justices wha sowther tankers."

This was deemed to be an unpardonable offence - a gross insult to some of the magistrates whose ancestors had both "shaped leather breeches " and "sowther'd tankers," and, therefore, according to the statement of "Senex" in his writings the red coat was summarily stripped from the back of poor unsuspecting Geordie, the bell was taken from him, and he was thus ignominiously dismissed from the office of city bellman, to the great grief, we have no doubt, of all his cronies and himself.

It was really melancholy to see," as our old venerable friend "Senex" remarks, "how chopfallen poor Geordie was when he next appeared on the streets of Glasgow. He could not recover his spirits, and so for some time, as been often remarked in other cases of misfortune, he "Poured spirits down to keep spirits up."

Occasionally he would venture out to the streets "in the gloaming," and whistle up some of his old favourite tunes. He was, indeed, a great and celebrated whistler his day, as another Glasgow character afterwards was; when he was recognised on the streets, he received little assistance from the cold hand of charity, for he had nothing else to depend upon. It was thought the magistrates would relent and restore him to office, but they never did so.

He latterly became totally blind. "Pity the sorrows of a poor old man." And in that stricken and

helpless condition he was sometimes led by a pretty little girl, his granddaughter, to the "Arn's Well " in the Green of Glasgow to bathe his eyes, and to quaff the pure cordial from its delicious stream.

The strength of his intellect never deserted him, and, as he had often jingled with delight for others, he prepared at last to jingle quietly and soberly for himself to the anticipated sphere of another world. It is good to notice that he received his last final "Notice" with great resignation, and he was carried decently to the "Hie Kirk burying-ground "

'Where servants, masters, small and great,
Partake the same repose;
And there in peace the ashes mix
Of those who once were foes."     



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