Dreadful Riot and Military Massacre at Tranent, on the First Balloting for the Scots Militia for the County of Haddington. Chapter from The Lamp of Lothian, or, The history of Haddington: in connection with the public affairs of East Lothian and of Scotland, from the earliest records to the present period. By James Miller, 1844.
The introduction of any novel measure, whether it be good or bad, is generally opposed by the multitude. The agitated mass look to present inconveniency rather than to future benefit: hence the turnpike-act, which, by giving the country excellent roads, and was the first thing to improve our internal traffic, was strenuously opposed on account of the trifling tax it levied, which was nothing compared to the advantages it brought. In like manner the temporary and necessary measure of a national militia was violently opposed. However fond our ancestors might be of the deadly game of war, the modern "gudewives of Scotland" could not bear the idea of the male branches of their family, just after they had reached the age of manhood, and just after they had acquired some useful profession, of being compelled to enter the ranks even for a limited period ; and, it was rather unfortunate, that the task of "taking up the names," or making up the lists of those liable to serve in the militia, should have fallen on the parochial schoolmasters,—an employment which many a worthy man amongst them regretted,—as it rendered them unpopular in the eyes of the parents of the children they had hitherto taught; and, as a necessary consequence, first laid the foundation of" subscription," or what were called " opposition schools."*
* Footnote - The following extracts, from the official papers, give a specimen of how the schoolmasters were treated, and may serve as a preamble to the chapter.
Robert Paisley, schoolmaster in Tranent, took up the list of persons liable do serve under the militia-act in that parish, and while in the discharge of his duty many complaints and threats were used against him. On the evening preceding the meeting of the lieutenancy at Tranent, on the 29th August 1797, he heard a drum coming down the town, accompanied by a mob, and being warned by some persons that it was not safe to remain at home, he took shelter in the minister's house, till the mob left the town, which was in course of half an hour. On his return to his house, he learned from his wife, that the mob had come to it, and threatened to tear him in pieces could they have got him ;—that they demanded the parish books and lists, along with the extracts of the young men's ages, and other papers relative to the business ;—all of which she was compelled to deliver except an uncorrected copy of the list, which had been left at the house of John Glen, where the lieutenancy were to meet next day :—they also threatened to burn his master's house (meaning Mr Anderson's of St Germains, one of the deputy-lieutenants.)
Paisley immediately went to St Germains, and acquainted Mr Anderson with what had happened, where he also met with Mr Cadell of Tranent, another deputy-lieutenant. As he considered himself in imminent danger, the gentlemen excused him from attending the meeting next day. He accordingly went to Bankton, a farmer's house in the neighbourhood : from thence to Prestonpans, and afterwards, for greater safety, to Edinburgh ; and did not sleep in his house, nor hold a school, till one month had elapsed from the time of the riot. One reason that Paisley gave for being so much afraid of returning to his own house, was, from the excitement raised against him, by a paragraph which appeared in the " Scots Chronicle," (a paper lately started in Edinburgh,) as introductory to the account of the affair at Tranent, wherein it was mentioned in substance, that the deponent's wife had deceived the people in giving them a wrong book. Paisley afterwards called on Mr John Johnstone, the printer of the newspaper, and told him he was in danger of his life from that paragraph, upon which he promised to correct it in the next publication. Paisley, therefore, wrote a paragraph in the printing-office for insertion: but, in place of it, Johnstone substituted another, which did not answer the purpose. This was adduced as proof against the publisher of the "Scots Chronicle," in an action raised against him by the Lieutenancy of the County for a libel.
David Graham, schoolmaster of Salton, took up the lists of persons liable to serve in the militia for that parish. In the course of doing so, threats were used against him ; and a day or two previous to the meeting of the lieutenancy at Tranent, about forty or fifty people assembled in the village of Salton, for the purpose of getting up the list and books from him; but keeping within doors, and some person informing the mob of the danger of their conduct, they desisted and retired. Graham continued teaching till the night previous to the military-meeting; when, fearful of molestation, and that the lists might be taken from him, he went down to Tranent, and slept in the house of John Glen, whither he carried the lists: but left the session-books at home.
Alexander Thomson, schoolmaster of Ormiston, took up the names, and made up the lists of the people liable to serve in that parish, which he affixed on the church-doors, during which he met with no threats or obstruction of any kind; but on the day of the Lieutenancy-meeting, when on the road to Tranent, and a little way from the village, he was met by a crowd of women, who demanded from him his papers. At first he told them that he had none ; but the mob insisting, and saying that they would not harm him if he gave up these papers, and as he saw it was needless to resist, he allowed them to take them from his pocket, after which he was allowed to proceed to the house of John Glen at Tranent.
The night previous to the first lieutenancy-meeting at Tranent, for the purpose of ballotting for the militia, the mob, after visiting the Meadow-mill and the village of Seton, passed through the streets of Prestonpans, about ten o'clock, to the tuck of the drum, and carrying the session-books of Tranent by way of triumph, but which they promised to take care of. They called upon the people to turn out, for the purpose of opposing the militia-bill, and threatened those who did not. The general interrogatory to those they met, was, " Were they for a militia, or not?" and, according to their negative, which in few cases they durst evade, were they left unmolested. Mr Anderson was under considerable alarm that the mob would burn his house ; and sent off" his children during the night to a farm-house in the neighbourhood; but, on coining near to St Germains, the mob turned to the left; and proceeded as above mentioned to Seton and the Meadow-mill.
The first symptoms of outrage appeared on the evening of the 28th, when an orderly dragoon, riding through Tranent, was assaulted by the people with stones, and driven out of the town, on the supposition that he was carrying some message relative to the militia business. In the course of the night, Mr Anderson of St Germains received a note from the Marquis of Tweeddale, the lord-lieutenant of the county, which he forwarded to Major Andrew Wight at Port Seton, commanding the latter to send his troop of yeomanry cavalry to Haddington, and to be present at the meeting at Tranent himself. Major Wight accordingly went up to St Germains early in the morning, where, along with Mr Anderson, he found Captain Finlay of the Cinque Ports cavalry, with a party consisting of about twenty-four of his regiment. In the course of the morning Mr Anderson's troop of yeomanry also assembled there, and Mr Cadell of Cockenzie, and Mr Gray of Southfield, two other deputy-lieutenants, also arrived in the course of the morning. Several people came in, confirming the opinion of the agitated state of the country, particularly Hugh Ramsay, the schoolmaster of Gladsmuir, who said he had been threatened, and turned out of his house. Meanwhile a great assemblage of people had taken place, and were increasing every minute at Tranent, which gave ground to suppose that great outrages would be committed. It occurred to Major Wight, that the small force assembled at St Germains, would scarcely be sufficient to enable them to carry on the business of the day without interruption, although it might be sufficient to protect them from danger, he accordingly proposed to Mr Anderson, that they should send to the camp at Musselburgh for a reinforcement, which the latter at first declined ; but as it was represented to Captain Finlay, that, from the situation of Glen's house where they were to meet, and the narrowness of the street, a determined mob might drive his party out of the street, and by getting an opportunity of assaulting the house, break up the meeting, about eight o'clock in the morning an orderly dragoon was sent to the commanding officer at Musselburgh for a reinforcement.
The deputy-lieutenant left St Germains for Tranent a little after eleven o'clock. They were escorted by Mr Anderson's troop of yeomanry cavalry, and a detachment of the Cinque Ports light cavalry, commanded by Lord Hawkesbury. [Footnote - Afterwards Earl of Liverpool and prime minister. His lordship was blamed for remaining at Haddington, as his presence might have prevented the outrages of the soldiery—the opprobrium of which fell on Captain Finlay.] These were afterwards joined by a party of the Pembrokeshire Cavalry, about eighty in number. Mr Cadell, Major Wight, and the other gentlemen, rode in the rear of the soldiers. They passed several assemblages of people on the road, particularly women and children. When they came near the village of Seton, where the road strikes off to Tranent, they saw a congregation of women and children, among whom there seemed to be a good deal of talk. One of them in particular, who seemed to be the leader of the party, came up, and, in a very insulting manner, addressed Mr Cadell, saying, " John, take care of your head!"—and this woman's behaviour seemed to indicate that mischief was intended.
On arriving at Tranent the party and the cavalry proceeded to Glen's house, where the meeting was to be held. They found a great concoure of people in the town; but still chiefly women, who were running about extremely clamorous and abusive. One tall thin woman, the very prototype of Meg Merrilees, acted a conspicuous part. She came running up to the head of the horses, holding out a great stone in her hand, and swearing that "she would have their heart's blood !" Much about the same place of the street, Major Wight and Mr Cadell passed some women sitting upon a wall, one of whom called out to them, "that they should have their brains knock'd out!" Upon which the gentlemen smiled, when another woman cried out, "Ay, you may laugh now; but it will be otherwise with you by and by!" Upon arriving near the head of the village, where the road joins with the high road from Edinburgh to Haddington, they heard a drum beating a little to the right, which they conceived to be some signal for assembling the people, or commencing a riot, as the mob had got possession of the town-drum the previous evening, upon which Mr Cadell and Mr Gray rode forward towards the drum; but shortly returned to Glen's, as the streets were now crowded with men armed with sticks and stones, and attended by a great number of women : one of whom, called Crookston, advised Mr Cadell to go home ; and another told Mr Gray, " that he should not go home with his life if he entered Glen's inn."
Upon finding most of the schoolmasters assembled, the deputy lieutenants proceeded to execute the business of the day. About this time a reinforcement arrived from the camp at Musselburgh, consisting of two troops of the Pembrokeshire cavalry, which were ordered to take post, with the other detachment, in the upper part of the town: the gentlemen studiously avoiding to post any of the troops in front of the house, lest it should have been said by the people, that they were interrupted or intimidated from coming up to the house with their objections.
After choosing Mr Anderson of St Germains, preses; and Mr Thomson, schoolmaster of Ormiston, clerk ; it was thought proper to announce to the people, the mode in which the gentlemen intended to conduct the business. Major Wight accordingly went to the window, and, in an audible voice, announced to the people in the street, that the meeting were now ready to hear their appeals or objections against the lists, as given in by the schoolmasters; that they should do so, parish by parish; and that, first, the name of the parish, and then the individual names of that parish, as they were called, should be announced to the people from the window." By this time the mob had commenced throwing stones, one of which struck the house, near the window, where the Major stood. Some of the people called out, " that they could not hear for the noise what he said ; and that if he would come down to the street, that he should be perfectly safe." Upon this Major Wight went down to the street, in front of the inn, when the people formed a small circle around him ; and he repeated what he had told them from the window. Some of the people listened to him with great attention ; but the majority were clamorous, and bellowed out: " That they would have no militia!—no, militia !"
At the same time, a man of the name of Duncan, a collier, whose person the Major knew, came forward into the circle, and told him that the people wanted to make a proposition to the gentlemen. Upon which the Major asked him what that proposition might be? He said that the proposition was, "That if the gentlemen should agree that there should be no militia, that then the people should come to an agreement;" in other words, that if the deputy-lieutenants would go away, without attempting to carry the militia-act into execution, the mob would permit them to do so without breaking their heads ! Major Wight told Duncan, " that the meeting could listen to no such proposition ;— that they had come there to execute the act by hearing appeals, which they were ready to do, but would attend to nothing else." Upon which Duncan replied, "They would have no militia!" in which he was joined by several of the people about him. The Major continued, "That the act must be executed; that they were determined to execute it; and warned the people not to oppose it at their peril." Duncan persisted : "That they would have no militia ; for it was against the union." The Major answered, "That he (Duncan) knew nothing about the union, and was talking nonsense." He then left the mob, and returned to the meeting.
The deputy-lieutenants proceeded first with the upper parishes of the district: They began with Humbie and Salton, and then proceeded to Ormiston. From both of which various appeals were heard, and the names of several persons erased, who had brought forward what were considered as sufficient objections. From the parish of Ormiston one man was struck off, on an authority not a little remarkable. His father had been a quaker, and, on the score of age, his appeal was granted, on the evidence of an entry in the family-bible, which the meeting held to be sufficient, on account of the practice of quakers not registering their children. [Footnote - A person of the name of Christie]
The meeting then proceeded to the parish of Prestonpans, and had gone about half through the list, when a man called Nicolas. Coutterside, a potter, whose name was in the roll, came into the room, and produced a paper, which was put into Major Wight's hands. Conceiving it to be some certificate relative to the person's age, it was received; but, on examination, it was found to contain resolutions of the most seditions, if not treasonable nature, and threatening the gentlemen of the meeting with personal violence if they proceeded with their business.
Footnote - The subjoined is a copy of this absurd communication:
"To the honourable Gentlemen assembled at Tranent, for the purpose of raising six thousand Militia-men in Scotland:
Prestonpans, 28th August, 1797.
"Gentlemen,—The following are the declarations and resolutions to which the undersigned do unanimously agree:
1.—We declare that we unanimously disapprove of the late act of Parliament for raising six thousand militia men in Scotland.
2.—That we will assist each other in endeavouring to repeal the said act.
3.—That we are peaceably disposed ; and should you, in endeavouring to execute the said act, urge us to adopt coercive measures, we must look upon you to be the aggressors, and as responsible to the nation for all the consequences that may follow.
4.—Although we may be overpowered in effecting the said resolution, and dragged from our parents, friends, and employments, to be made soldiers of, you may infer from this what trust can be reposed in us, if ever we are called upon to disperse our fellow countrymen, or to oppose a foreign foe."
The signatures of this silly document have not been preserved. The gentlemen very properly dismissed Coutterside simpliciter.
It was addressed to the gentlemen of the meeting in general, and signed by about thirty people, including Coutterside, mostly potters in Prestonpans, in the form of a circle, or what sailors' call " a round robin:" a method adopted to place the signature on an equal footing in regard to presidency. The meeting having taken the paper into consideration, moved that Coutterside should be committed for presenting such a paper, but, after some deliberation, it was agreed, on the suggestion of Mr Anderson, and because Coutterside appeared to be a remarkably stupid fellow, that he should only be severely reprimanded and dismissed. While this man was in the room the women continued very clamorous on the street; but when he was dismissed there was a sudden stillness, and some of the constables or other people in waiting, who were standing near the window, said that the women were going away; upon which, one of the gentlemen observed: " We shall have the men upon us immediately !" Some one called out, that the men were assembling from all quarters ; and the words were hardly spoken, before a violent attack was made on the house by a volley of stones, which were thrown in at the windows. Upon this an officer, with six or seven dragoons, came riding up to the door, on a signal from Captain Finlay, with their swords undrawn by their sides. One of the women threw a stone at one of the soldiers, upon which the officer ordered them to draw their swords. The men then pranced their horses about, as they often do at reviews, to keep back the crowd. The people proceeded to throw stones, broken bottles, and sticks, and many men continued to join the mob. The stones came with such violence, that the gentlemen were forced to rise from the table, which was opposite the window, and take refuge in different parts of the room for safety, while some of the schoolmasters, more timorous, retired to the back apartments. Mr Cadell now thought it advisable that the riot-act should be read, a copy of which had been sent to him by Mr Craw, clerk of the peace at Haddington, that morning.
Although there was a guard of a sergeant and ten men at the door, and opposite the window, they had little influence in restraining the mob. Stones continued to be thrown, upon which Mr Cadell opened the window, and entreated the people to desist, and, at the same time, attempted to read the riot-act, but he was soon forced to retire. The Cinque-ports and Pembrokeshire cavalry now rode along the streets for the purpose of dispersing the mob. For a considerable time they rode backwards and forwards, firing their pistols in the air, without ball, which had no other effect than to encourage the audacity of the mob, who called out to one another, that " they need not be afraid, as the soldiers were firing without ball!" When the streets were a little cleared, Mr Cadell again attempted to read the riot-act; but he could not be heard. The dragoons made a second attempt to form opposite Glen's inn ; but they were again assaulted so violently, as to be immediately driven back, and one of their sergeants either fell, or was knocked from his horse, much stunned and stupified, with his helmet off. At this time the mob occupied two lanes, [Footnote - The inn then possessed by John Glen was the house opposite that now occupied by Mr Black, and presently inhabited by Mr Brockley, tinsmith, &c. These two lanes were " Glen's close," directly opposite the inn, and the "Lady's close," a little farther east on the same side] which led to two yards, and these being considerably higher than the street, and otherwise so situated, that the dragoons, who had only their swords drawn, could not reach them, they were annoyed with impunity; and each time that the dragoons were driven past the house, the mob renewed their attack upon it, by throwing stones in at the windows, and by pressing upon the door. [Footnote - It is reported, that but for the herculean strength of the late Mr William Dodds, tenant in Westbank, who was in the yeomanry, and happened to be in the room, the door would have been forced open.] About this time also a party of the mob had gone round into a field at the back of Glen's house, and commenced throwing stones in the same violent manner into the back windows, and particularly into the room where the gentlemen had met, so that it was no longer possible to find a place of safety in the room, or even in the house.
Major Wight now perceiving that they were all in imminent danger, as the house apparently would be forced, were the people not dispersed ; and, unhappily, from a conviction of the necessity of the measure, for the personal safety of himself and the other gentlemen, in the heat of the moment, called out to a party of dragoons as they were riding past the house, " Why don't you fire?" Upon this the dragoons in the front of the house began to fire with their pistols upon the mob, but at first seemingly without effect: at length, however, from the horrid yell which arose from the people immediately opposite the house, it was evident that the shots had taken effect, and, accordingly, the mob began to give way. At a short interval afterwards, the dragoons began firing their pistols on the mob at the back of the house ; and, particularly, one dragoon was observed dismounted, and firing his carabine, apparently at some object on the top of s house, on the same side of the street with Glen's inn. [Footnote - Some person who had taken his station there to throw stones. Supposed to be William Hunter, among the first killed.]
The mob now dispersing, and the village appearing tolerably quiet, several gentlemen went down to the street with a view of pacifying the misguided multitude. While Major Wight and Mr Cadell were standing at a little distance from each other on the street, they observed the man Duncan, who had formerly addressed them. Mr Cadell called out, in a loud and determined manner: " That fellow ought to be seized ;"upon which the Major sprang forward with a view to lay hold of him, but Duncan made off, and ran up a lane into a small stackyard, which was much crowded with people, who all of them seemed to have sticks or bludgeons in their hands. Duncan perceiving from the nature of the place that he could not escape, turned round, and struck the Major a blow upon the head with his stick. The blow did not stun him, but beat down his hat and spectacles upon his face, in such a manner that he could not immediately see Duncan, to apprehend him. [Footnote - Major Andrew Wight was a native of Ormiston. He was in the Honourable East India Company's service] Mr Cadell, however, having followed them up the lane, immediately knocked down Duncan, and, with the assistance of Mr Steele, one of the constables, they seized him and several others. Some of the dragoons, who had been ordered to dismount, came up the lane into this court or yard, to whom the prisoners were delivered. The dragoons were further ordered to search the lanes and houses in the neighbourhood, and seize such of the rioters as they could find, which they accordingly did, and apprehended a great number.
The village appearing now to be sufficiently cleared, it was thought proper that the business of the day should be resumed. Accordingly Mr Cadell and Mr Gray returned to Glen's inn; and having collected the schoolmasters and their papers together, they proceeded to hear the remaining objections. A number of people who had taken refuge in the neighbouring houses, came forward, when they were heard with the same degree of attention as formerly, and some names were struck out of the list of each of the remaining parishes. The business of this unhappy day being concluded, the persons apprehended, to the number of thirty-six, were sent under a guard to Haddington, to be afterwards examined.
Previous to having recourse to extreme measures, the military suffered much provocation from the mob; but after they were authorized to act offensively, they exercised barbarities worse than that used by the highland enteral)s against the covenanters in the west, and which would not now be tolerated. Parties of cavalry, armed with pistols, carabines, and swords, rode through the fields and high roads, to the distance of a mile or two around Tranent, and, without the smallest provocation, wantonly and barbarously fired upon, or cut with their swords, many persons at that distance, and actually put to death several decent people, who were going about their ordinary business, and totally unconcerned or unconnected with what was going on at Tranent. No blame, however, was laid to the charge of the yeomanry—under such leaders as the late Mr Anderson of St Germains, none could be incurred. [Footnote - David Anderson, Esq. was appointed president of the board of Revenue in Bengal, when the celebrated Warren Hastings was governor-general, in February 1781. Mr Anderson returned from India with Mr Hastings in 1785. For several years he took the lead in the public measures of the county of Haddington, and filled the important office of vice-lieutenant at his death, which happened in 1826.]
The following is a list of the killed and wounded, agreeable to the deposition of the witnesses at the inquest:
1. - Isabel Roger, (the sister of Archibald Roger, the writer of a letter giving an account of the transaction, which was inserted in the " Scots Chronicle," and libelled on). She was a girl of nineteen years of age. She was pursued by a dragoon into the passage of a house in Tranent, and there shot dead by him. She was buried on the day following, her brother attending the funeral.
2. - William Smith, upon a stair, opposite the inn, in Tranent.
3. - William Hunter, shot on a house-top, adjoining to the inn.
4. - George Elder, on the street.
5. - Peter Ness, a sawer of timber, residing at Ormiston. He had not been in the street of Tranent at all daring the riot, and was in a field on the south of the village, going towards Ormiston, when the mob had dispersed. He was attacked by five or six dragoons, who firing at him repeatedly, killed him, and then dismounting from their horses, were believed to have robbed him of his watch, as he wore it that day, and was found dead with his pockets turned inside out. John Gould, sawer of timber, who had accompanied Ness to Tranent, on their ordinary business, escaped the fate of his companion, by remaining within a house in the village till after the scouring parties were called in from the country. Gould had been informed, that the soldiers Mere galloping up and down the fields shooting people like partridges ; and took this precaution.
6. - William Lawson, carpenter in Tranent, when walking along the highway, with his carts loaded with wood, from Ormiston to Tranent, and at the distance of half a mile from the town, was met by a party of cavalry, one of whom shot him in the groin without the least provocation. When the murderer presented his pistol, Lawson begged of him not to fire, till he should hear him speak, as he had not been near Tranent that day, since the morning that he went to bring home his wood. Notwithstanding this reasonable remonstrance, the ruffians fired and mortally wounded him. Lawson instantly fell; and while lying on the ground, another of the dragoons came up, and snapped his pistol three times at his head. Lawson, on his death-bed, said to his surgeons and his friends who attended him, that he thought the last man the most cruel of the two for repeatedly endeavouring to fire at him in that situation.
7. - Stephen Brotherston, who had no concern in the riot, when walking on the Ormiston road, about a mile from Tranent, with his wife and an old man of the name of Crichton, were met by a party of the cavalry, and, on their approach, they stepped aside into a field by the way side. As the party came up, one of them fired, and shot Brotherston; after which the same, or another dragoon of the party, alighted, and came into the field, where the unhappy man, mortally wounded, was supported by his wife and his old friend Crichton, and struck the latter six times with his sword; by one of which strokes the poor man's face was laid open through the nose to the bone. The dragoon then turned to the dying man, Brotherston, whom he struck across the belly and the legs with his sword ; during which, Brotherston's wife, who held her dying husband in her arms, repeatedly called out, to "strike her rather than her husband, for they had shot him already !" The only reply the dragoon made to this appeal, was to " damn her soul," and ride off.
8. - William Laidlaw, a farmer's servant, who had no concern in the riot, when at his lawful occupation in the fields, was wantonly attacked by the same party, and shot.
9. - William Kemp, a boy of eleven years of age, walking on the road to Ormiston, a mile from Tranent, was attacked by a dragoon, who, in riding past him, " damned his soul!" and made a stroke at him with his sword, which cut off a piece of a small switch, which the boy had in his hand. His brother, a lad of thirteen years of age, on seeing the dragoons riding up, ran out of their way into an adjoining field, whither he was pursued by one of them, who wantonly and barbarously stabbed the boy in the breast, and then by a merciless, repeated blow, cleft his head in two.
10. - Alexander Moffat, servant to William Hunter, brewer in Pencaitland, who was not present at the riot, was in a field at a short distance from the Pencaitland road, when a dragoon rode up, and fired his pistol at him, but, missing his aim, he stopped to load his pistol, during which another dragoon pursued Moffat. This man's helmet happening to fall off, he called on Moffat to turn back, and lift it up, and he should receive no harm. Moffat did so, and, after delivering the helmet into the dragoon's hand, he turned about, and was going away, when the dragoon fired his pistol or carabine at him, and shot him dead!
11. - John Adam, a collier, in a small village, about a mile and three quarters from Tranent, when walking quietly on the public Haddington road, was shot through the head by a dragoon belonging to one of the parties of cavalry. Adam, on receiving the shot, fell down into the ditch by the road-side; and three or four other dragoons of the party as they came up fired their pistols at the wounded man's body as he lay in the ditch, and others hacked the body with their swords. He had got 2s. out of the family purse that morning, to buy some necessaries for his wife, then lying in child-bed. Some of the troops having dismounted, were supposed to have robbed the dead body of the 2s., as no money was found about Adam when his corpse was brought into his house.
1. - Adam Blair, a school-boy, when walking peaceably through a field, to the north of Tranent, was ridden down by a party of the cavalry, who damned him, stabbed him in the arm as they rode over him, and left him for dead lying on the ground. Blair had so far recovered from the effects of the first attack upon him, as to be able to walk homewards to Penston, a village situated on the south-east of Annfeld near Tranent. He was walking in company of a boy of the name of William Tait, when the dragoons came up. One of them pushed Blair into the ditch by the wayside, and was going to stab him, when the boy called out for "mercy," as he had not been in the mobs. The dragoon, however, struck Blair with his sword repeatedly on the head ; and others of the party, in passing, also struck him, while he was lying in the ditch with his face downwards. In this situation the boy received four wounds in his head, and a stab in his neck, during which one of the soldiers called out: " That is the b_____ whom I stabbed before ;" and the dragoon who made the last stab at him, said : " It is needless to put off any more time with him, for he is certainly dead now !" Blair miraculously survived these repeated attacks ; but by the great loss of blood, havoc of his person, and terror of his mind, he was for some time in a very feeble state of health, approaching to imbecility.
Footnote - The school-boy, Blair, was afterwards a very eminent man—the late Rev. Adam. Blair, minister of Ferry-Port-on-Craig, author of the History of the Waldensis, &c. Mr Blair, in a letter with which he favoured the author writes:
Ferry-port-on-Craig, near Dundee, 4th June, 1835.
"Dear Sir,—I shall never, while I retain my senses, forget the bloody work at Tranent.—I went to the school of Tranent that morning, by the master's previous desire; but finding no teacher, and the scholars dispersed, I remained some time in Tranent, and stood in the street while the Lieutenancy arrived with the Yeomanry and Cinque-port Cavalry. I saw also a party of the Pembrokeshire Cavalry arrive. I remained in the town till the throwing of stones began, and the soldiers rode four times through among the people. When the firing commenced I left the street, and walked along the north-side of the town, where two lads and myself heard a ell, and five or six dragoons rode over me as described above.
I was examined by the sheriff-substitute in Haddington, along with many others, with a view to the prosecution of the Lieutenancy. This is said to have been set on foot by some of the Whigs of the time; but the matter was dropt.
I have had some thoughts of drawing up a short account of the Tranent Riot, but it will be more permanent in your larger work.
Yours, &c. Adam Blair.
To Mr James Miller, editor of the Haddington County List.
Mr Blair was a native of Penston in East Lothian. He was distinguished as a man of learning, a general scholar, and had a profound acquaintance with systematic theology. He died in the thirty-second year of his ministry, universally regretted as a faithful pastor by his flock, 28th November, 1840. He was about compiling a body of divinity, which promised great success from his deep research as the author of the history of the Waldensis, he is justly celebrated.
2. - Alexander Robertson, servant to James Clark, farmer at North Winton, who had not been at Tranent on the day of riot, was attacked by a party of these dragoons in a field on the southeast of Tranent; and, on his begging for mercy, one of the dragoons without speaking, or attending to what he said, struck at him with a sabre, when Robertson lifting up his right arm to save his head, he received a severe cut in his hand. By a second blow on the left side of his head, he was struck to the ground senseless, where he remained a long time, and was at last taken up, and assisted to go home, his face and clothes being covered with blood*.
3. - Robert Ross, mason in Pencaitland, who had not been at the riot, when walking upon the high-road near Buxley, in company with William Symington, coal-grieve in Pencaitland, was attacked by a party of dragoons, about eighteen in number, one of whom rode up to Ross, and, presenting his pistol, said, " Damn you, you b____, I will put yon into eternity in a moment!'' At the same time another dragoon rode up to Symington, and, presenting his pistol, threatened to put him to death ; upon which both these persons implored mercy; and Ross observing one of the party, apparently in the dress of an officer, he ran up to him, and got under his horse's neck, calling out: " Sir, I expect mercy from your hands at least!" While the poor man was in this situation, a private of the party cried out, " Damn him : put a dozen of bullets through him!" But the officer, whose protection he had claimed, and to whose horse's neck he still clung, would not permit him to be put to death.
4. - John Blackie, a carter, walking peaceably along the Haddington road, near a place called Annfield, about a mile and a half east from Tranent, was met by a party of dragoons, one of whom, on coming up, fired at him with a pistol, the ball of which grazed Blackie's right ear. Three others, in passing, struck at him with their sabres, but he fortunately eluded their blows.
5. - William Tait, a boy of seventeen, who was walking on the highway in company with Adam Blair when he was so grossly maltreated, was attacked by four dragoons of the same party, who discharged their pistols at him. The shot did; not take effect; but one of the dragoons in passing made a stab at Tait with his sabre, which went through the left pocket of his jacket. Tait, on this assault, leapt over the ditch by the side of the road, crept through a hole in the hedge, and hid himself under a cart on the other side, where he lay till the dragoons were out of sight.
6. - William Montgomery, an old man, some years above 70, was employed in spreading manure on his little farm, on the north of the Haddington road, nearly opposite to the place where the inhuman murder of John Adam was perpetrated, when some of the party who had committed that crime approached him, and one or two, in an exulting tone, as on the discovery of fresh game, called out: " We'll shoot the old b_____;" and were going wantonly to take aim, when an officer interposed, and saved the old man's life.
7. - The same party then rode on to the farm-house of Adniston, which is situated at the distance of two miles from Tranent; and here again most wanton outrages were committed. A number of dragoons rode up to the door of the house, possessed by the farm-servants of Adniston, and knocked violently. [Footnote - Mr George Tillans inhabited the house.] The mistress of the family immediately opened the door, and submissively asked their commands, on which a dragoon fired his pistol at her: the ball luckily struck the lintel of the door, and passed over the woman's head, but the flash of the powder was so near as to singe her face, and nearly put out one of her eyes. The poor woman, wounded and terrified, shut her door, and locked it, upon which the dragoons began to fire in at the windows, whilst others of them broke open the door, by battering it off the hinges with large stones. In the meantime the distracted family, consisting of a man, his wife, his brother, two fellow-servants, and two children, attempted to make their escape from the fury of the soldiers, by leaping out of a back window, into a garden behind the house. But by the time they had run a few paces, the dragoons having broke open the front door, and burst through the back window in pursuit of them, apprehended and carried them prisoners to Tranent, though they had not even heard of the riot there; and could not comprehend on what account they had been thus attacked, and carried off as prisoners.
8. - The same party, in returning to Tranent, visited the house called "Haldane's or Jailor's Hall," possessed by Mr Carnegie of Leith, where (that gentleman being from home) some of the dragoons amused themselves, among other violences, with holding the points of their naked sabres close to Mrs Carnegie’s breast for several minutes.
Such are the particulars of these fatal and disgraceful outrages, which we could scarcely believe possible to have happened, except in a country overrun by an invading army. Had any of the ringleaders fallen, there would have been less cause for regret; but the majority were innocent and harmless persons, who had not mingled in the riot, and who were even at a distance pursuing, their ordinary avocations at the time the riot happened.
The facts above detailed became the subject of precognitions, by the authority of the Court of Justiciary, at the instance of the relations of the murdered persons ; und they were laid before the Lord Advocate of Scotland, with a view to prosecution ; but his lordship, for reasons best known to himself, did not think it proper to institute such prosecutions. On the contrary he lodged a complaint against Alexander Ritchie, W. S., who was employed in taking these precognitions, for having, as his lordship alleged, instigated the unfortunate people to these steps. His petition and complaint, however, was dismissed by the Court of Justiciary as incompetent, and his lordship saw the futility of renewing his prosecution against Mr Ritchie.
These melancholy events excited the indignation of the whole community. One Archibald Roger, whose sister had been slaughtered, addressed a letter to his wife, detailing the unhappy affair, which was published in the Edinburgh Scots Chronicle, and became the matter of a serious prosecution of Johnstone, the printer of that paper, by the Lieutenancy of the County : It was expressed in the following words:
" Letter from a person at Tranent, to his wife in Edinburgh.
Dear Wife,—This comes to acquaint you, that you need not weary for my returning home, for my sister is to be buried this afternoon at four o'clock, and I cannot come away till I see her decently interred. I am sorry to inform you of the cruelties that were committed here yesterday: There were six persons shot dead on the spot, of which my sister was one, and she was shot within the door of a house in the town. The number of wounded is not yet ascertained, but I am just now informed that fifteen dead corpses were this morning found in the corn-fields; and it is not known how many more may be found when the corn is cut, as the Cinque-ports Cavalry patrolled through the fields and high roads, to the distance of a mile or two miles round Tranent, and fired upon with pistols, or cut with their swords, all and sundry that they met with. Several decent people were killed at that distance, who were going about their lawful business, and totally unconcerned with what was going on in the town. I am informed that this was unprovoked on the part of the people, for they assembled peaceably by public intimation from the Lord-Lieutenant and his Deputies, to state their objections, if they had any, to the roll; but when they presented their petitions and certificates, they were totally rejected, especially by Mr ****, who told the people he would receive none of them, as they were determined to enforce the act; and as the people insisted to be beard, he, with his own hands, pushed them from the door, upon which some boys and women threw several stones at the windows. The assistance of the cavalry was immediately called for, and ordered to charge sword in hand, and then followed the bloody business above related. But my hand can scarcely hold the pen longer to give you any further details.—I am your loving husband,
Tranent, August 30th. (Signed) A____ R_______."
As a necessary consequence the deputy-lieutenants felt hurt at the animadversions made on their character in the above anonymous letter, which was not only declared to contain a false and erroneous statement, but was considered to be a fabrication of the Whig or opposition party connected with the paper. An action was therefore entered before the Court of Session, at the instance of Mr Cadell, against John Johnstone, the printer of the Scots Chronicle, and John Morthland, advocate, the supposed editor and proprietor of that paper. They were pursued for L.5000 sterling damages, less or more, as the Lords should decern, besides L.500 in name of expenses.
In his defence Mr Johnstone stated, that this action though carried on in the name of Mr Cadell, did not originate with him ; and that, therefore, it should not be entertained by the court; that the printer had caused soften several expressions in the letter, so as to prevent any just grounds of offence; and that he had uo animus injuriandi against the prosecutor, with whom he was altogether unacquainted.
Mr Cadell [John Cadell, Esq. of Tranent], in his condescendence, stated, " that, without the imputation of vanity, it was from a sense of duty that he distinguished himself by his exertions to appease the tumult, and to convince the people of their error. He made repeated attempts to speak to them from the windows of Glen's house, notwithstanding that he was at every time pelted with a volley of stones and brick-bats. Afterwards, when the riot increased to such a degree that the lives of the gentlemen in the house were evidently in danger, the pursuer, who was a justice of peace for the county, and had brought a copy of the riot-act in his pocket, again went to the window in order to read it to the people, and to warn them of their danger, but he was again driven back by a shower of stones. Having failed in this attempt, he read the riot-act upon the stair of the house ; but still, as it was possible that this might not be known to the majority of the people, so anxious was Mr Cadell to prevent mischief, and to put the deluded people on their guard, that, in spite of the remonstrances of the rest of the gentlemen, he actually went down to the street, where he publicly proclaimed to the people that the riot-act had been read, and warned them of the consequences of persisting in their outrageous behaviour. In doing which he was most grossly maltreated by the mob; and it was with great difficulty that his own servant rescued him from their hands, and got him pulled back into the house, the doors of which were immediately barricaded."
All this happened before any orders whatever were given to the soldiers either to charge or fire. In short, it was argued, that the whole of the proceedings of that day were marked upon the part of the deputy-lieutenants and justices, by the utmost propriety and impartiality in the execution of the act, and by the greatest tenderness and humanity towards the people, in their attempts both to prevent and quell the riot; and that in consequence of the publication libelled, Mr Cadell's family were thrown into the greatest alarm and consternation, apprehending that he would be waylaid and assassinated, or that his house would be burned.
Morthland, in his replies, endeavoured to prove that he had no connection with the paper further than its occasional legal adviser ;—that the present prosecution had been marked with an anxiety to trace (evidently for a different and unavowed purpose) what, or whether any assistance or countenance had at any time been given by him to the newspaper called the Scots Chronicle. Johnston in his defences, on the matter libelled, stated, as a mark of the orderly nature of the mob; 1st. That the deputy-lieutenants were escorted into Tranent by Mr Anderson's troop of yeomanry cavalry, and a detachment of the Cinque-ports Light Cavalry, commanded by Lord Hawkesbury. These were joined by a party of the Pembrokeshire cavalry, about eighty in number. The people conducted themselves in so quiet and orderly a manner after the arrival of the deputies, that the attendance of the whole of that military force was deemed unnecessary. Accordingly the whole of the yeomanry corps was detached to Mr Anderson's house at St Germains; and the noble commander of the Cinque-ports Cavalry perceiving no appearance of riot or disturbance, considered his presence to be unnecessary, and set off to Haddington, leaving the command of the cavalry to a young gentleman, one of his captains. He then goes on to state, that " the deputy-lieutenants, perhaps offended by the appearance of the crowd,—perhaps misapprehending the nature of their duty,—spoke to the people in a menacing style, and one of them even went so far as to strike a young lad with a stick, who presented a paper, said to be the extract of his baptism ; and this before there was any appearance of riot on the part of the people," who did not commence throwing stones till some of them had been pushed from the door, and their petitions rejected. The defender then proceeded to give a detail of the killed and wounded, after the cavalry were ordered to charge, as we have already narrated.
The parties were next commanded to bring forward witnesses in proof of their condescendence, before the sheriff-deputes of Edinburgh or Haddington, while Mr Cadell moved the production of the business books of the Scots Chronicle office, which was granted.
The schoolmasters and the other gentlemen, who were examined as witnesses for the pursuer, gave in general a favourable view of the proceedings of the meeting. Andrew Gray, Esq. of Southfield, declared ; That he was present at a meeting of the lieutenancy of Haddington, when a newspaper was produced containing the letter libelled ;—that the meeting were unanimously of opinion, that this letter was a scandalous and infamous attack upon the lieutenancy and Mr Cadell, and the latter having proposed to prosecute, the meeting unanimously agreed to support him,—in other words, to bear their share of the expenses. This witness, however, made one deposition rather against the equitable character of the court; namely, "that he saw from notes and markings upon the printed papers sent to him by Mr Cadell, that some articles of Mr Johnstone's condescendence were not allowed to go to proof by the Court of Session.
In the course of the examination of Mr Morthland, and John Lander, clerk to the proprietors of the paper, it appeared that the Earl of Lauderdale, General Macleod, Sir John Henderson, Mr Dugald Bannatyne, and some other gentlemen, had been connected with the original establishment of the Scots Chronicle ;— that his lordship had subscribed L.100 as his contribution to the concern; and that in July 1796, Morthland had applied to the Bank of Scotland for a cash account, to the extent of L.600 in his name; the co-obligants along with him to be Lord Lauderdale and Mr Stirling of Drumpellier, which application was, however, refused by the directors.
It further appeared that Morthland was nearly involved in a dispute respecting some reflections in the Scots Chronicle upon the volunteer corps, and, particularly, upon two individuals, who had been active in endeavouring to apprehend a person, who was attempting to raise a disturbance on the evening of the King's birth-day, one of whom was Mr Thomas Scott, W.S., a brother of Mr (afterwards Sir Walter) Scott,—the latter of whom waited upon Morthland, and got a public and satisfactory explanation.
Footnote - It may be interesting to state this evidence, from the circumstance of Sir Walter Scott having been connected with it. In the year 1790, a few days after the King's birth-day, a paragraph appeared in the Scots Chronicle, reflecting upon the behaviour of two volunteers on the evening of that day, one of whom was Mr Thomas Scott, W. S. Being informed that Mr Morthland was connected with that paper, either as editor or conductor, Mr Scott went in search of him, for the purpose of telling him his mind on the subject. He did not meet with Mr Morthland in the parliament-house, where he first went, but afterwards met with him on the bridge, and then told him that he had seen such a paragraph in the Scots Chronicle,—and asked him whether he was the author of the paragraph, the conductor of the newspaper, or in any way connected with the paper? Mr Morthland returned such vague and confused answers, that Mr Scott could not make out whether he confessed or denied his concern with the paper: on which he told him, " that the author of the paragraph was a d___ liar, and the editor or publisher of the paper an infamous scoundrel, and at the same time gave his name to Mr Morthland. From Morthland's behaviour on this occasion, it struck Mr Scott that he was the author of the paragraph. After he went home, he received a note from Mr John Clerk, advocate, mentioning that he would call upon him at six o'clock in the evening upon particular business. Conjecturing what this business would be, he sent for Mr George Abercrombie, advocate, to be present at the meeting. Mr Clerk accordingly came, and in presence of Mr Abercrombie and Mr Walter Scott, declared that Morthland had no connection with the Scots Chronicle but as its legal adviser, and that the paragraphs were shewn to him before insertion, merely that he might give his opinion whether or not they were actionable. After this and other explanations, a hostile meeting between the parties was prevented. The friends of Mr Scott, however, thought it necessary that a contradiction of the offensive paragraph should appear in the newspaper, and Mr Walter Scott wrote to Morthland and Johnstone to that effect.
As a proof of the obnoxious nature of the libel inserted in the Scots Chronicle, it appears to have been inserted by Mr Johnstone in the hurry of the moment after softening down some of the expressions, and with great hesitation. He had been dragged from his bed for this purpose; and, through the carelessness of the compositor, the paper was allowed to go to the press (1st September, 1797,) without some contemplated alterations. The public mind was so much excited, that a considerable crowd had assembled previous to the publication of the paper in front of the printing-office. In the meantime Mr Johnstone was undergoing an examination before the Sheriff, and, on his return, he found that some corrections had not been made. The press was stopped a second time, and further alterations adopted ; but the people were so urgent for copies, they would not wait: so that Johnstone was under the necessity of breaking away a capital letter, which appeared to be C, in the communication sent by Adam Roger, evidently intended for Mr Cadell.
After about fifty witnesses had been examined on both sides, Mr Johnstone was found guilty of the libel cited by the Court of Session, and fined in L.300 ; but on the cause being appealed to the House of Lords, the sentence was reversed, and Mr Cadell, (who represented the lieutenancy,) was fined in the same sum, but which we believe was never exacted.
The day after the riot, the Earl of Haddington, Mr Law, the sheriff; James Wilkie, Esq. of Gilchriston, and other justices, took a precognition at Haddington respecting it, when it was evident from the whole of the depositions that the deputy lieutenants had acted under great irritation at Tranent, and had not used that conciliating conduct which has the best effect upon the ignorant, or with those who consider themselves in any manner aggrieved. It appeared that a different conduct had been pursued by Mr Sheriff Law and Mr Wilkie the day previously at Haddington, when employed in a similar business, with the happiest effect; though no doubt they had a different class to deal with, being chiefly country people or agriculturists, while the others were colliers and salters; and it being well understood, as one of the justices observed, that " the best way to manage the colliers, is not to rub them against the hair!"
The thirty-six persons taken prisoners to Haddington only suffered a few days confinement in the jail of the burgh, while the precognitions were going on. Several of them were taken to Edinburgh, to undergo a justiciary trial; but the soldiers, who were the only evidence brought against them, contradicted each other, particularly respecting the identity of a person considered the principal leader of the mob,—in consequence of which, it is believed, they were all acquitted, with only a severe reprimand.
" Man, vain man !
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
As makes the angels weep."—Shakspeare.
Footnote - After this unfortunate riot, a considerable antipathy was manifested against the soldiery, which was particularly directed to those who were considered to have been engaged in the late murderous affair. Two of the Cinque-ports cavalry having gone into a public-house in Aberlady, were dogged by a joiner, who was employed at Gosford, for the purpose of revenge. He went into the room where the soldiers were drinking, and gradually edging himself up to the fireplace, where he observed a large poker, he seated himself by the ingle-nook, and called for drink. The soldiers invited him to taste with them, which was readily accepted; and the joke went round on varied subjects, as men will talk over their cups. One of the dragoons happening to rise for some purpose, while his back was turned, the joiner, watching the opportunity, seized the poker, and, aiming a blow at his unconscious comrade, laid him senseless on the floor, while the next moment the other soldier shared the same fate. The ruffian immediately made his escape as adroitly as possible, in which he seems to have been favoured. He durst not, however, return to his employer; but made the best of his way to Leith, where his friends found means to get his working tools conveyed to him. Here he got on board of a vessel, which conveyed him to London, from whence he embarked to North America. On the banks of the Hudson the smiles of fortune visited him; and after the lapse of many years, when care had silvered his brow, and the Tranent riot was forgotten, the joiner returned to his native land with a small competency. In the neighbourhood of Salton he plied his vocation within these few years, undisturbed and unchallenged, and, doubtless, in his calmer moments regretted the rashness of youth.
Riot at Tranent.
From “The Edinburgh magazine, or Literary miscellany”
Oct 11 - Came on the trial of David Duncan, coallier in Penston, Elisabeth or Elly Duncan, servant or late servant to John Davidson coallier in Elphingston, John Nicholson, servant or late servant to Archibald Park at Windymains, Francis Wilson, merchant in Tranent, Robert Mitchell, servant to Anfrew Blair, corndealer in Tranent, and Neil Redpath, servant or late servant to George Dickson, tenant in Lampuchwells, in the county of Haddington, indicted for mobbing and rioting at Tranent on Tuesday the 29th of August last, with an intention of resisting and obstructing the execution of a public law.
David Duncan, John Nicholson, and Francis Wilson were outlawed for not appearing, and their bailbonds declared to be forfeited.
Mr L'Amy observed, that the Prisoner styled Elisabeth Duncan, was misnamed in the libel, her name bring Allison, and not Elisabeth. This he proved by an extract from the parish register. The Court sustained the objection, and the Prisoner was dismissed ; but, upon a petition from the Lord Advocate, a new commitment was made out.—She was admitted to bail.
Redpath and Mitchell pled Not Guilty.
Mr Anderson of St. Germans, Mr Caddel, and Major Wight, three of the Deputy Lieutenants, gave a most accurate and circumstantial detail of the progress of the rioters. From information, and from drums being beat in the neighbouring villages the night proceeding the 29th of August, the day fixed for correcting the lists, and the threats that had been made to burn the houses of those who did not join the rioters, the Deputy Lieutenants were induced to apply for some of the Cinque-Port cavalry, who, with the yeomanry of the county, proceeded to Tranent on the forenoon of Tuesday the 29th of August, and went into the house of Mr Glen a vintner, which had been previously appointed for the purpose of correcting the lists. They had not proceeded far in the execution of their duly, however, when they were effectually interrupted by showers of stones from the mob assembled in the streets, who amounted to several hundreds, which broke not only the glass but the wood of the windows, and obliged them to seek for shelter in the corners of the room. They were in the utmost danger of their lives,—One of the Deputy Lieutenants proposed going out to read the riot act; but he was dissuaded from this purpose by his brethren, who told him it could not be done without the hazard of his own life. It was then read on the staircase. The stones still continuing to pour in upon them, the cavalry were ordered to fire, which they accordingly did, but discharged their pistols in the air; this tended only to irritate the mob. The military at last had recourse to their carabines; upon which, after several people had unfortunately fallen, the mob dispersed, and the Deputy Lieutenants finished the business of the meeting.
While the Deputy Lieutenants were employed in examining the lists of the parish of Prestonpans, a man came in with a paper, which was supposed to be an application from some person who thought himself aggrieved by having his name inserted in the militia list, but it was far different.
(The paper was read in Court, and is as far as we can recollect, nearly as follows :)
"Gentlemen.—We whose names are subscribed unanimously declare our disapprobation of the militia act, and our determination to support and assist each other in procuring its repeal. Our dispositions are peaceable, and if urged to resistance by coercion, we consider you as the aggressors, and you are responsible for the consequences. We maybe overpowered; we may be dragged from our parents, our friends, &c. to become soldiers; but you will from thence infer what trust is to be reposed in us, if called to oppose our countrymen, or to disperse a foreign foe."
The signatures are what is called a Round Robin, being written in a circular form, so as that no person may appear to have taken the lead. The bearer of this paper behaved with much insolence, but when seriously questioned relative to it, pretended ignorance of its contents.
One of the Cinque Port Cavalry swore that he saw Mitchell run up a stair, and throw a large bludgeon at the horsemen. This witness pointed out the pannel in Haddington among 36 prisoners, and also in Court. Another of the same corps saw a man active in the mob very like him, but could not be certain.
Two of the cavalry swore to Redpath —one of them saw him first about the skirts of the mob, where he seemed to be only a spectator; and saw a man afterwards with a blue jacket, which he took to be him, on the top of a house. The other swore he saw him employed in throwing stones.
The exculpatory evidence proved that Mitchell was in the house of Glen, and likewise in the house of Irvine opposite ; but did not fix the precise time when he left the one or entered the other. Most, of the witnesses deposed it was before, or about the commencement of the firing.
With regard to Redpath, the exculpatory evidence went to proves that he met on the street with one Brotherson; who, likewise about the beginning of the firing, invited him to the house of his sister-in-law in Tranent, where he staid till the rioters were dispersed, Brotherson himself was examined in exculpation, and, on a question by the Lord Advocate, what conversation took place in his sister-in-law's during the time Redpath was there, which was near about two hours, he persisted in saying they had no conversation respecting the riot, nor did they ever open their mouths; although he afterwards admitted the maid servant went sometimes to the door, and brought them intelligence of what was going on. The Court committed him to prison till Friday at ten o'clock, for concealing the truth upon oath.
The Jury returned their verdict yesterday, all in one Voice, finding the Libel Not Proven, on which the Prisoners were acquitted and dismissed from the bar.
A petition was presented to the Court from Francis Wilson, in Tranent, praying to be reponed against the sentence of outlawry pronounced against him, as he could not attend the Court sooner.
The Court then pronounced sentence of Outlawry on Thomas Cunningham at Pencaitland, and on James Whitlaw, servant at Woodlands, accused of being instigators, and of being active at the mobs at Tranent, for not appearing to stand trial.
Proceedings in the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh against ALISON DUNCAN, NEIL REIDPATH, and ROBERT MITCHELL, on an Indictment charging them with Mobbing and Rioting in resistance of the execution of the Militia Act, 11th and 12th of October: 37 GEORGE III. A. D. 1797.
Elizabeth or Elly Duncan, servant, or late servant to John Davidson, collier, in Elphingstone.
Neil Reidpath, servant, or late servant to George Dickson, tenant in Lampockwells, in the country of Haddington, and
Robert Mitchelly, servant, or late servant to Andrew Blair, corn-dealer, in Tranent, Panels.
Indicted and accused at the instance of Robert Dundas, esquire of Arniston, his majesty’s interest for the crimes of mobbing, riot, and others in manner mentioned in the criminal libel raised thereanent, bearing
That whereas by the laws of this and of every other well-governed realm, mobbing and rioting, more especially with the intent and purpose of resisting and opposing the execution of a public law, and when accompanied with circumstances of great violence and outrage, are crimes of an heinous nature and severely punishable : Yet true it is and of verity, that the said David Duncan, Elizabeth or Elly Duncan, John Nicolson, Francis Wilson, Robert Mitchell, and Neil Reidpath, are all and each or one or other of them, guilty actors, or art and part of the aforesaid crime or crimes, in so far as on the twenty- ninth day of August one thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven, or on one or other of the days of that month, or of the month of July immediately preceding, or of September immediately following , David Anderson, esq. of Saint Germains, John Cadell, esq. of Cockenzie, Major Andrew Wight of Ormiston, and Andrew Gray, esq. of Southfield, all deputy lieutenants of the said county of Haddington, having met in the house of John Glen, inn-keeper, in the village of Tranent, parish of Tranent, and county of Haddington aforesaid, in order to carry into execution an act of the thirty-seventh of George the third, cap. 103, intituled “ An Act to raise and embody a Militia Force in that part of the Kingdom of Great Britain called Scotland,” by receiving the lists from the different parishes of those liable to serve in the militia, and adjusting and amending the same in terms of the said statute: a number of riotous and disorderly persons, among whom were the said David Duncan, Elizabeth or Elly Duncan, John Nicolson, Francis Wilson, Robert Mitchell, and Neil Reidpath above complained on, or one or other of them, armed with great sticks, bludgeons and other offensive weapons, and assembled on the streets of the said village of Tranent: And while the before-named persons, deputy lieutenants of the said county of Haddington, were proceeding in discharge of their duty, and in terms of the said statute, to carry the same into effect, the said riotous and disorderly persons, among whom were the afore-named persons above complained on, or one or other of them, did thereupon beset the house of the said John Glen, where the said deputy lieutenants were so met, and did in the most riotous and outrageous manner, assault the said house with stones, by breaking the windows, and attempting forcibly to enter the same ; to the great terror, annoyance, and danger of the said deputy lieutenants; one of whom, and who was also a justice of the peace, attempted in vain, and at different times, to read the act of George the first, commonly called the Riot act, but was prevented by the violence and outrageous proceedings of the said mob; and when the said deputy lieutenants went into the street to endeavour to preserve the peace, they were assaulted in a violent manner with sticks and stones, and otherwise maltreated and insulted by the said mob : In consequence of all which outrageous and violent proceedings, the said deputy lieutenants were at that time compelled to desist from the execution of their duty : And they, the said deputy lieutenants, having, in consequence of what they had previously learned as to the intentions of the said mob, considered it absolutely necessary for their own safety, and for the support and protection of the law, to call in the aid of the military, then stationed at Haddington, being a detachment of the Cinque Port light dragoons, then under the command of captain David Finlay; also of a party of the Yeomanry Volunteer cavalry of the said county of Haddington, whom it was found afterwards necessary to reinforce by a detachment of the Pembrokeshire cavalry, under the command of captain John Price, from the troops then encamped at Musselburgh, the said riotous and disorderly, among whom were the aforenamed persons above complained on, who look an active and leading share in the said riot, did then and there violently assault with stones, bludgeons, and other offensive weapons, the said military so assembled for protection of the said deputy lieutenants, and in support of the law, and did wound, and severely bruise, to the effusion of their blood, and imminent danger of their lives, several of the said military: And the said military having for a considerable time, and notwithstanding of the great violence of the said mob, endeavoured to persuade the said persons, thus riotously assembled, among whom were the afore-named persons above complained on, to desist from their violent and outrageous proceedings; they were at last in consequence of orders given them, by some one or other of the said deputy lieutenants and with a view to protect themselves as well as the said deputy lieutenants (who were in imminent danger of their lives) from the fury and violence of the said mob, compelled to resist force by force ; in consequence of which, several of the said persons thus riotously assembled lost their lives, and others of them were severely wounded, all of which was occasioned by the violent and outrageous proceedings of the said mob, and in which the persons above complained on took an active and leading part: And the said David Duncan havinv, on the 31st day of August 1797, been brought before William Law, esq. sheriff substitute of the shire of Haddington, did in his presence emit and sign a declaration; And the said Elizabeth or Elly Duncan having, on the said 31st day of August 1797, been brought before George Buchan Hepburn, esq. of Smeaton, one of the justices of the peace for the county of Haddington, did in his presence emit a declaration which, as she said she could not write, was signed by the said George Buchan Hepburn : And the said John Nicolson, and Francis Wilson having, on the 1st day of September, 1797, been brought before the said George Buchan Hepburn, did in his presence emit and sign two separate declarations respectively : And the said Robert Mitchel and Neil Reidpath having, on the said 1st day of September, 1797, been brought before the right honourable the earl of Haddington, did in his presence emit and sign two separate declarations respectively.
All which declarations above libelled, together with a paper addressed thus, “To the Honourable Gentlemen assembled at Tranent, for the purpose of raising six thousand Militia men in Scotland," and which appears to bear date the 29th of August, 1797, and has a number of subscriptions wrote in a circular manner annexed thereto: As also a letter bearing date St. Germains, Monday, half-past nine, (signed) “ D. Anderson," and addressed,“ Captain Finlay, or the Commanding officer, Haddington,” will all be used in evidence against the said persons above complained on, and will for that purpose be lodged in due time in the hands of the clerk of the High Court of Justiciary, before which they are to be tried, that they may have an opportunity of seeing the same. At least at time and place above, libelled, the aforesaid riotous and outrageous proceedings took place, and the afore-named persons above complained on, or one or other of them, are guilty actors or art and part in the aforesaid crime or crimes ; ALL WHICH, or part thereof being found proven by the verdict of an assize, before our lord justice general, lord justice clerk, and lords commissioners of justiciary, in a court of justiciary, to be holden by them within the criminal Court-house of Edinburgh, upon the ninth day of October next to come; the said persons above complained on, ought to be punished with the pains of law to deter others from committing the like crimes, in all time coming.
Follow the declarations of the panels libelled on.
In the petition for the procurator fiscal anent the riot at Tranent ;
Declaration of D. Duncan
Haddington, 31 August, 1797 .—Compeared David Duncan, coallier in Penston, who being examined and interrogated, declares, that he was at Tranent on Wednesday last, by ten o’clock in the forenoon, for a pair of shoes to his wife. That he continued there till the riot began, and for a good while after. That he had a large stick in his hand. Acknowledges that when Mr. Cadell was reading, or attempting to read, the Riot act, at the house of John Glen, he the declarant threw a stone at the window, but which did not strike him, Mr. Cadell, though he intended that it should. Denies that he threw a stone at Captain Finlay, or that he shaked his stick at him, but acknowledges that he gave him bad names, and that he picked up a sword which fell from captain Finlay, and carried it into a house. Admits that he made a stroke at major Wight at Tranent upon Tuesday last, when the said major Wight was endeavouring to apprehend him, and after he had knocked him, the declarant, down. Acknowledges that when major Wight was mentioning the intention of the meeting of the deputy lieutenants at the door of John Glen's house, the declarant interrupted him, and said, that they would have no militia, for that they never had a militia in Scotland. And declares all this is truth, and three words delete before signing. In witness whereof the declarant has subscribed this declaration, consisting of this and the preceding page, before Henry Davidson, writer, in Haddington, and Donald MacDonald, residenter there.
(Signed) David Duncan. William Law
Henry Davidson, witness
Donald Macdonald, witness
In the Precognition anent the Riot and Obstruction of the Militia Act at Tranent:
Declaration of E. Duncan
Haddington, August 31, 1797, - Appeared Elly Duncan, present prisoner in the Tolbooth of Haddington, who being examined, declares that she is servant to John Davidson, coallier in Elphingston, and that she went to Tranent on Tuesday last about ten o'clock, being sent by her mistress to get some sarken cloth for her use, at Mr. Pringle’s, shop-keeper at Tranent; that she did not call for the cloth at the shop, but she went to the street to look for her father; that when she first went to Tranent, she went to the house of Tibby Selkry, where she staid a considerable time, and that there were a great many people in the house, but she does not recollect any conversation ; that she was afterwards taken prisoner by captain Finlay, and declares this is truth, and that she cannot write. This declaration was emitted before the under-subscribing justice of peace, and the following witnesses:
(Signed) Geo. Buchan Hepburn
Henry Davidson, witness
Donald M’Donald, witness
In the Precognition anent the Riot and Obstruction of the Militia Act at Tranent:
Declaration of J. Nicolson
Haddington, Sept. 1, 1797.-—Compeared John Nicolson, servant to Mr. Park, at Windymains, present prisoner in the Tolbooth of Haddington, who being examined and interrogated, declares that his name was upon Humbie Kirk porch upon Sunday, as within the age of the statute, and he came to Tranent on the Tuesday, as he understood the order upon the said church required him to appear; that the mob was beginning when the declarant came in; that he saw a great part of the military at the east end of the town, and a few at the door of John Glen's; that he came so far down the town, and went into the house of James Irvine, cow-keeper, where he remained during all the time of the riot, and he heard the firing while there; that after the firing ceased, he left that house, and on his way home, he was taken prisoner by the military, about half a mile from Tranent; that he never looked out of the said house, during the time of the said riot. Declares that he had only a small walking stick in his hand. Declares that he never, during the whole course of the day, lifted or threw a single stone at the military, and adds that he is certain Irvine, his wife and daughter, and another woman, were in the house during the time of the riot; and can declare that the declarant was also there the whole time, and declares all this is truth.
(Signed) John Nicolson,
Geo. Buchan Hepburn
Henry Davidson, witness
In the Petition or Precognition anent the Riot and Obstruction of the Militia Act at Tranent ;
Declaration of F. Wilson
Haddington, Sept. 1, 1797. —Compeared Francis Wilson, merchant in Tranent, present prisoner in the Tolbooth of Haddington; who being examined and interrogate , declares, that he never was out of his house during the whole time of the riot at Tranent on Tuesday last; that he never attended any meeting antecedent to that riot; that on the Monday night previous to the riot, and after dark, he saw a drum beat through the streets, and followed by a considerable multitude; the drum as he thinks was beat by a man, but owing to the darkness of the night he cannot be certain, and indeed he was not anxious to see or have any intercourse with these people; that after the riot was over, an order was issued for every house door and window in Tranent to be shut, and the declarant was active in obeying it; that previous to this order, the following persons had taken refuge in the declarant’s house, and he thought himself happy in having it in his power to keep them there, viz. William Reid, coallier; John King, coallier, in Penston; John Connel, coallier there; Mathew Smith, coallier there; James Henderson and Edward Henderson, both from Penston ; William Donaldson, coallier at Fallside, and Francis Donaldson, also coallier from that place. And declares, that all these people came into his house an hour before the riot began, and remained there till taken out by captain Finlay and some of the military, after the riot was over; that the declarant was also taken prisoner by the military, and was found concealed in a closet, into which the anxiety of his wife had compelled him to go; that the declarant was informed yesterday by his brother, that a man from Ormiston, whose name his brother did not know, was seen during the time of the riot upon a house top, and that this man was dressed in green; declares, that after the declarant-was taken prisoner, and placed along with the others, when captain Finlay asked his name, he answered that his name was Harry Dundas, and immediately after, when Mr. Cadell asked the same question, he, the declarant, told his real name; and declares all this is truth, three words delete before signing.
(Signed) Francis Wilson.
Geo. Buchan Hepburn.