3rd October

Miss Menie Trotter of Mortonhall

after Lord Cockburn and Clementina Stirling Graham
for Freeland Barbour

Miss Menie Trotter was one of that singular race of old Scotch ladies who were spirited, resolute, indifferent to modern fads and fashions, and who spoke, dressed and did exactly as they pleased. She was penurious in small things, but otherwise generous. She kept all her bills and banknotes in a green silk bag that hung on her dressing-table mirror, and all her coins in two white bowls, silver in the one, copper in the other. She mistrusted banks but was trustworthy of individuals until their honesty could be disproved: she once sent as a present to her niece a fifty-pound note wrapped in a cabbage leaf, in the care of a woman who was carrying a basket of butter to the Edinburgh market.

Miss Trotter was of the agrestic order – that is to say she was entirely rustic in appearance and manners. Long walks in the country were her chief pleasure, and ten miles at a stretch nothing to her even in old age. She lived alone but enjoyed the company of friends, and entertained them liberally. Every autumn she slaughtered an ox, and with her guests ate her way through him, nose to tail, but only on Sundays. This meant that the beast lasted half through the winter. Not long before her death she urged her neighbour Sir Thomas Lauder to dine with her the following Sunday: ‘For, eh! Sir Tammas, we’re terrible near the tail noo!’

About this time, a friend asked her how she was feeling.

‘Very weel, quite weel,’ she replied. ‘But, eh, I had a dismal dream last nicht, a fearfu dream!’

‘I am sorry for that,’ the friend said. ‘What was it?’

‘Ou, what d’ye think?’ said Miss Trotter. ‘Of aw the places in the world, I dreamed I was in Heeven! And what d’ye think I saw there? Thoosans and thoosans, and ten thoosans upon ten thoosans, o stark-naked weans! That wid be a dreadfu thing, for ye ken I never could bide bairns aw my days!’

Her name could be the title of a Scottish dance tune, and perhaps she has had one written for her. She certainly deserves one. Would you not agree, Mr Barbour?

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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