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The Bailie’s Great Adventure
Grant vs Fife

The Bailie’s Great Adventure

Bailie William Mitchell went to Loudon’s Inn to offer Taylor relief. Mitchell found the bailie in the Low Room with two or three men and Grant. Mitchell shook hands with Taylor and asked, “Was the prisoner come back?” or words to that effect. The bailie made some answer and said he wanted to speak with him. They went upstairs to another room. Taylor complained of being fatigued and was to remain at Forres for the day. Mitchell said if Taylor applied he would set him at liberty or make him free of the men. The bailie said the men would not allow him to go to Elgin; and, if he attempted to, a party would intercept him and keep him back till the evening. Mitchell thought Taylor had a long beard and needed dressing. Taylor told Mitchell he had the precept upon him, he was afraid the men might take it from him and he therefore wished Mitchell to take the precept, to keep it for him till he would be leaving the town. When Mitchell and Taylor came down the stairs they saw the men in the lobby or about the doors. (28)

Soon after, Taylor and Grant came out of Loudon’s Inn followed by three or four men. They called on John Muterer, Merchant in Forres at his own shop and almost immediately thereafter accompanied him to his house. Brander, Cattanach and Anderson followed them through Mr Muterer’s garden to his house. Grant took his leave, leaving Taylor to get dressed in Mr Muterer’s house. There the bailie had occasion to go to the littlehouse, Muterer saw the men go and watch at the door until Taylor came out. (29)

When dressed, Taylor found old George Cumming in Muterer’s house. Leaving there, Cumming and Taylor took a long walk; they went in the direction of Burdsyards, still followed by the three men. In the course of their walk, they called at Mr Grant of Thornhill and at Mrs Cockburn’s, both in the vicinity of Forres.

About 3 o’clock they returned to Cumming's house in Forres. Soon after, Taylor and his son dined with Mr Cumming and his family. The three men who still followed also went to Cumming's house where they were shown to a room by themselves and given something to eat.

Before dinner was over Taylor was very much surprised and not a little affected by the appearance of his wife, Mrs Taylor and her sister, Miss Booth. When Mrs Taylor came into the room she was so overpowered in embracing her husband she could not utter a word but burst into tears.

Mitchell, Grant and Muterer had been invited to dinner tea that evening in the house of George Cumming. Mitchell said to Taylor, in a jocular manner, it had been currently reported at Forres he had allowed himself to be taken away by his own son. In other words, as much as to say he had been stolen with his own consent. At this, Taylor seemed displeased and observed no person speaking the truth could say that. He considered himself now the prisoner of the men and he mentioned his own son had taken a list of those who carried him off.

That evening, Taylor received a note from his friend Patrick Duff, junior. He understood Duff had been kind enough to accompany Mrs Taylor and Miss Booth west to Forres that day. Taylor showed the note to either Cumming or Muterer and some conversation ensued about the arrangement proposed.

Brander, Cattanach and Anderson were still in the house, in that room of George Cumming’s house the door of which was immediately opposite to the door of the room in which the party was drinking tea. If the door of the men’s room were open, no person could go out of the other room without being observed by them.

Cumming or Muterer then went to the other room to ascertain whether the men would agree to allow Taylor to return to Elgin with his family in the way proposed by Duff. In a little time, the messenger returned with an answer from the men they would not consent to this arrangement, Taylor must go in the mail coach with them to Elgin. (30)

Taylor remained at Cumming’s house that evening till the mail coach came up, before leaving Forres the bailie called on Mitchell for the precept, which was given to him. The bailie proceeded to Elgin in the mail coach; Alexander Russell and John Grant were in the coach with him. Mrs Taylor, Miss Booth and Francis Taylor, junior, went to Elgin in a carriage. Duff rode to Elgin on Grant’s horse. Brander, Cattanach and Anderson went to Elgin on the outside of the mail coach.

When the coach arrived at McKenzie’s Inn, Cattanach came off and took Taylor by the arm. He pressed him very much to go into the inn. He said they, meaning the Fife councillors, were sitting there. This Taylor indignantly refused. He walked down the street to his own house. Taylor returned to his own house on Wednesday, 15th March between the hours of 8 and 9 in the evening. (31)


Sometime after this, Brander and Russell called on Taylor at his shop. They had heard a report Taylor was going to prosecute them for carrying him away and requested of him not to do so. The bailie said so far as he was concerned he would not prosecute them. He gave them his hand he would not but at the same time observed he could not answer for what the Procurator Fiscal might do.

James Grant, Shoemaker in Elgin; James Farquhar, Carrier or Hirer in Elgin; Alexander Christie, Butcher in Elgin; and William Brander, Squarewright in Elgin were all indicted. Early in April 1820 they were charged with ‘STELLIONATE and REAL INJURY, more particularly the invasion of the person, and masterful seizing and carrying or transporting, or causing to be carried or transported, from one part of the kingdom to another, any of the lieges, forcibly and against his will, without lawful authority, and the detaining any of the lieges in captivity, or in any place, forcibly and against his will, without lawful authority, and the illegally hindering and obstructing any of the lieges in proceeding from one part of the kingdom to another, or putting any of them under restraint, in the exercise of his personal freedom, without lawful authority, especially when committed against any magistrate or councillor of a royal burgh, for the purpose of defeating the freedom of election of any delegate from any of the royal burghs, who, by the constitution of the realm, choose the representatives of burghs to Parliament, or for the purpose of otherwise influencing the election of a member of Parliament’. The trial date being set for a Circuit Court of Justiciary to be held at Inverness in September

The Indictment

Taylor was cited as a witness. He received at least one threatening letter but the contents are unknown.

The Inverness Courier of Thursday, 21st September 1820 reported as follows, “Bail was offered for Mr Grant and his companions from Elgin, accused of STELLIONATE and REAL INJURY, and they and some other were liberated in course of the day. It is rather remarkable that the attested duplicates of the list of Assize, sent to some of the Counties, bore the signature of three of the Judges, although the principal list was subscribed by two of their Lordships. This may account for the objection not having been discovered, till the documents in the Clerk's hands were critically examined, as is usual by the Counsel for the panels on the evening before the trial.”

With this flaw in the indictment, an objection was raised and sustained and the prosecution broke down. On their return to Elgin, a great procession went out to meet the accused parties, where the supporters of the Fife cause feasted them.


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