P Hay Hunter
A FIRST READIN O THE BILL
NO lang efter this, it micht be a fortnicht or three weeks, Tod-Lowrie an his freends brocht in their Bill in the parliament. It wis aa in the papers, an ae nicht I sat doun to read it ower to mysel; an I buid to lay my hale mind til't, for thae laayers' screeds are unco swirlie, an ye canna gae straucht at the meanin o them, nae mair nor a ferret efter a rabbit. As my auld faither uised to say, there's aye ower mony Knotty Tammies in the laayer's parritch.
As faur as I coud mak oot, Pringle haed been gey near the mark in what he said aboot the Bill. Nae dout, it made a wheen chainges. The Commissioner's Walk in Embro wis to be duin awa wi. I mind o seein't aince whan I wis a haflin laddie, an a bonny show I thocht it, wi the sodgers, an the cooncillor bodies in their reid cloaks an cockit hats, an the muckle guns firin frae the Castle, an the crouds in the streets; but efter aa, the kirk coud dae fine wantin thar, an the toun's folk hae plenty to leuk at ony day o the week. An there wis to be nae mair proclaimin o banns in the kirk. Weel, that seemed a kind o peety, tae. The lads haed aye been uised, as faur back as I coud mind, to gang to the session clerk on the Setturday nicht, an tak their cryin silIer an their witnesses wi them; for my ain pairt, I wad raither be cried in the kirk nor battered up on the registrar's buird; but that wis juist a maiter o feelin, an it cam to the same thing in the end. An the minister an session werena to hae a sate ony mair on the Parochial Buird. I haed ne'er attendit ony meetins o the Buird mysel, no bein able to leave my wark, sae that didna mak ony difference to me; but I haed aye understuid that the minister spak up for the puir, an kent whae needit a bit help better nor ony ither body, an whiles got a laid o coals or a pair o buits for some puir cratur that micht ha wanted them gin he haedna been there to pit in a wird. But aabody kens that there never wis a great measure o reform cairrit yet, withoot somebody bein nane the better o't; an forby that, gin the Buird wis to be eleckit, there wis nae reason what wey the minister shoudna get a sate on't.
As for what wis to be duin wi the kirk, I coudna but say it aa seemed fair eneuch. We haed been telt, at some o the defence meetins, that aa the pairish kirks wad be selt by unction, or ens pou'd doun an cairted awa; an the ministers turned oot o hoose an haud. But there wis naethin o that kind in the Bill. It said that the congregations were to hae the kirks to worship in, an the ministers were to keep their manses. An the man wis nane sae ill aff that sat in Snawdon Manse rent free; a muckle, weel-biggit hoose it wis--it haed fourteen chimley-cans, nae less--in a pleesant, lown spot, wi mebbe hauf an acre o gress an gairden grund roon' aboot it, an a stable an byre an pig's crave, an a yaird for keepin fuils, an a deuk-pond, an in fack aathing a body coud want to live like a gentleman. I coud ha been daein wi a hantle less mysel.
But whaur the Bill cam oot best, in my opeenion, wis the wey it disposed o the glebes an steepen's. There were different things ye micht dae wi them. Ye micht pit up a ospital on the glebe, or ye micht mak a public park o't. Weel, naither the tane nor the tither wis muckle wanted in Snawdon, for it wis a by-ordinar healthy pairish, an onybody that wisna weel wad raither dee or get better in his ain hoose; an as for a public park, if ye were minded to tak a walk, there were the roads, an if ye wanted to sit doun an rest ye, there were plenty o dykes an palins.
Than, wi the steepen', ye micht set up a public library, or ye micht spend it on what they caa the "hiecher yeddication." I canna say I thocht muckle o thae objec's. I didna see ony great need o. a library, for if ye were keen o readin, an the papers didna content ye, there wis the comporture aye gaun roon', an ye coud buy a beuk oot o his pack that wad keep ye gaun a gey while, an no cost ye that muckle to speak o. An as for the tither objeck, seein it taks the buird offisher to be aye huntin up the folk to get them to send their weans to the schuil at aa, an ye'll no finnd ane in a score that wull keep a laddie at the schuil a day efter he's passed his standards, I coudna see what wey guid siller shoud be wasted on the hiecher yeddication, whan there didna appear to be that muckle o a demand for the lower kind.
But there were ither proveesions in the BiII mair like the thing. Ye micht tak the glebe, an divide it up into gairdens for the workin folk, or ye micht mak smaa allotments o't. Maist o the feuars in Snawdon village haed bits o kail-yairds o their ain, that gaed wi their hooses, an didna want mair; an I coudna but think, it wad be a kind o peety to brak up the glebe into gairdens. But for smaa allotments, there wis nae dout it wad dae fine. There were three fields o't, weel fenced an drained, lyin bonny to the sun, an clever land; no sae clean as it shoud ha been, for the minister wis a better haun at the preachin nor at the fermin; but no wantin that muckle to mak it as guid a bit o hauch-grund for crappin as there wis in the pairish.
An than, oot o the steepen', the pleuchmen micht get what they wanted to stock their smaa haudins, an for my pairt I coudna think o a better or mair sensible wey o layin oot the siller. I didna ken to a saxpence what the steepen' o Snawdon pairish micht come til. An'ra Wabster, an Tam Arnott, an some mair o them, uised to pit it awfu hie, an say it wis fair disgracefu for ae man to hae sae muckle aa to himsel. It wis a sayin o my auld faither's--maidens' tochers an ministers' steepen's are aye less than they're caad; an nae dout it wis true. But as faur as I coud mak oot, there wis atween three an fower hunder in the year comin in, an onybody coud see that that wad gae a guid wey in settin up a wheen o us in oor smaa haudins, aince we got them.
Weel, that wis Tod-Lowrie's Bill, or at ony rate the main pints o't. I'll no say I wis aathegither satisfied in my ain mind that it wis aa richt, but there wis nae denyin that it leukit bonny in prent. They telt us at the defence meetins that the siller belanged the kirk, an gin we teuk it awa frae the kirk, an spent it on ither things, it wad be what they caad sacrileege, an we need expeck nae blessin, but a curse o the maist fearsome kind, to gang wi't. An'ra Wabster said far his pairt he wis wullin to risk the curse, as lang as he got the siller; but aabody that haed ony acquentance wi An'ra kent that he didna mean abuin the tae hauf o what he said. An if it wis true what they telt us at the defence meetins, that to gae in for disendowment wis juist robbin the sanctuary, an as guid as sayin we thocht mair o oor bodies nor we did o oor sauls, than it buid to be said the Bill didna leuk that vera bonny, whan ye cam to consider it. But than, on the tither haun, Tod-Lowrie an his freends said the teinds didna belang the kirk ava, but the nation--in ither wirds, oorsels; an aa we wad be daein wis juist to tak the cash oot o ae pooch an pit it intil anither; an it wadna be as if we were tuimin the poach, aither, for the kirk wads hae plenty to gae an wi, an nae diffeeculty in raisin mair. The hale question cam to be, Whaas aucht the siller? I hae heard mony answers in my day, an mony argyments aboot it; but I canna say I ever got it made clear to my mind yet.
I no said a wird to Jess aboot the Bill. What wis the uise?--she wadna ha understuid it, for thae things are ower deep for the minds o weemen folk. An forby that, it wad ha been eneuch for her that Tod-Lowrie haed onything to dae wi't--she wad juist ha flown into a passion, an refuised to leuk at the maiter frae ony pint o view but her ain. An as she never leuked into the papers for hersel, but aye lippened to me to read oot to her aboot the murders, an railway accidents, an sic like, she no kent onything aboot it. O coorse, if Archie Howden haed been comin up oor wey, he wad ha let the hale thing oot; but it sae happened that Archie haed a job doun in the low country, that keepit him awa frae hame for a week or twa; an I canna say I wis in ony great hurry for him to come back. I heard plenty aboot the Bill ootside, but I no said vera muckle: for I wanted to keep my mind open, as I haed promised to Pringle, or aince I haed heard what Tod-Lowrie haed to say.