Margaret Paton’s donkey and Sir Arthur Halkett

Dear blog reader

I do hope you enjoy this description of one of Cairneyhill’s bygone modes of transport which I only discovered recently.

Jacqueline

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DUNDEE COURIER SATURDAY 17 MAY 1862

A GENTLEMAN AND A CHRISTIAN

Many of our fellow townsmen will be unacquainted with old Margaret Paton, who acts as a carrier between Cairneyhill and Dunfermline with her donkey cart – but there will be few who have not cast an eye of admiring respect on the little stout and still rosy-cheeked old woman.

Margaret is now 84 years of age, and shows as firm a frame and undaunted a pluck as if she had a lease of signed and sealed to carry it out to the hundred. Besides her health, strength, and high spirits, she carries an honest, grateful heart beneath her druggit gown, and at the present time she has a noble story to tell that, while reflecting no small credit on herself, stamps the character of one of our neighbouring proprietors with the native and genuine superscription of ‘a gentleman and a Christian’.

A short time ago Margaret’s breadwinner, her donkey, was nearly done up, and on its last legs, and how to get another to replace it was beyond the depth of her purse, and, it may be, the extent of her credit. One day lately, as she was toiling along the road with her poor old ass, every footlift of which threatened to be its last, ‘Wha did I foregather wi,’ says she, ‘but his honour, Sir Arthur Hawkett.’ ‘Is this you, Margaret,’ says he? ‘Ye’re no very weel set on wi’ yer donkey, I see. He’ll tak a lang lang time to tak’ ye frae Cairneyhill to Dunfermline, I am sure, frae the pace that the puir brutes noo making.’ ‘Indeed, Sir Arthur,’ says I, ‘it took us the day three guid hoors to measure the road atween Cairneyhill and Crossford – it did a’ that’ – ‘That manna be ony longer,’ says he – ‘ye maun get a new donkey – but whether it is to be you or me that’s to be at the expense o’t? That’s the question.’ ‘Hoot yer honour,’ says I, ‘ye ken that had I haen the needfu’ o’ my ain I would haen anither donkey lang afore this. But times are sadly changed noo, Sir Arthur, and pouches are no sae bauld and buirdly as they aince war.’

‘Aweel then,’ says he, ‘since your pouch canna do’t, then mine mau, that’s a.’ ‘Ah, Sir Arthus,’ says I, ‘ye maun excuse me, I hae seen mony imperfect conclusions in mu lifetime, that I am a wee thing tarred wi auld Saunt Tammas’s unbelieving speerit. I maun find things just in my hand afore I’ll hae faith in them.’ ‘Never you fear, Margaret’ says he, ‘Awa ye gang and bargain for a new ass, and come doon to my house, and I’ll pay the price o’t.’ ‘Was that no noble offer in the guid young gentleman. It was keeping me frae beggin’, keepin’ me like an auld independent wifie. I gaed awa hame and sent aff a friend to bargain for anither donkey, it was this ane. Three pound was to be the price o’t, and the bargain was made, I set awa myself to Pitfirrane House. Losh [illegible] hoo I trummelled, as I gaed along a long trance under the guidance o’ a servant, trummelled like a juniper buss, as we drew near the room whar Sir Arthur was. At length and lang, he sees me and cries, ‘Margaret, hae ye bargained for an ass yet?’ Makin a curtchy, I said I had, and that it would cost three pounds. I had hardly got oot the words whan his han’ was in his oxter pouch, an’ oot cam’ the pocket-book, an in to my lap fell the three pounds. I tauld him that I would maybe gar twa o’ them do, and wishes him to tak’ back ane. ‘Toots,’ says he, ‘if ye can gar twa i’ them do, keep ye the ither, for ye well deserve it.’ There’s a man, an’ a gentleman, an’ a verra Nathaniel for you. I could kneel doon and’ kiss the verra shoe points o’ the noble youth. The blessin’ o’ God be wi’ him for ever more!’

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It is believed this is the Arthur Halkett referred to:

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