Saturday, January 31, 2015

Vagrants & Beggars. Article III, 21/08/1879 - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, and Neighbourhood - Part C

Article III, written by Alexander Gunn, aka A Native of Badbea, was printed in the Northern Ensign on 21 August, 1879. Part C
The illustrations I have used were not published with the original article.  The etchings are those of Walter Geikie - Google Books
"Previous to the passing of the Poor Law (Scotland) Act, a considerable number of vagrants or beggars came the way of Badbea, out of the way as it was. There used to be several of these impotent, and we might say impudent class of beggars, who had to be carried from place to place, reminding us of the men "sick of the palsy and carried by four," and also the important "man laid at the beautiful gate of the temple." These persons were carried on a hand - barrow from place to place. If they came from the west, they were carried to Ousdale, and there laid down at the door of the shepherd, who was the sole occupant of the place in our day. By him and his family, the party would be conveyed to the nearest house in Badbea, and so on, from house to house till he reached the end of the village, when he had to be sent on to Berriedale Inn, which was the nearest point, and there they were lodged.

There were also a few sturdy lazy beggars who came our way at a time, and they were even worse to get quit of than those who needed to be carried.
Caithness Chair
I remember one of the last - named class coming our way one afternoon, and pretending to be a "dummy." Our parents happened to be from home, which the fellow seemed to notice, for he took up his abode at the fireside, and out of there he would not move. We could talk to him as we like, but he paid no heed to us. We did not like his presence in the house, and no one about hand but we young folks, so we fell on a plan by which we thought we could get quit of him. We had some powder in the house, which we took, and laid a train underneath the dummy's chair, and carried the train a considerable distance from him, so that in setting fire to it we would not be near him. We left the door open at the same time, anticipating that he would make for the outside. We got all things in order and then set to the match, when the whole thing exploded, and as there was a considerable quantity below the chair, the powder having been put in from behind, it raised the chair with great force, and threw the occupant to the floor, who, as we expected, made for the door, which as soon as we got him out, we shut and barred, so that he did not get in again. It cured him of his dumbness, as we heard him uttering very refined expressions outside.

But many a child of God found food and shelter in Badbea, especially at the communion seasons at Berriedale. We have seen ten or a dozen people lodged in our house on such occasions, from Thursday to the following Monday, and John Badbea would have as many entertained in his house. The prayer meetings held in the evenings, after returning from the day's services, were on such occasions the most sweet and solemn we ever witnessed, and it would be sometimes one and two o' clock in the morning before people would disperse. These were indeed precious times, and I believe no one who enjoyed them can ever forget them. As I have already said, the Badbea people were simple and kind - hearted, and were ready at all times to extend a helping hand according to their means, to any one of whom they saw stood in need of help".

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