Sandy the poacher

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poacherHELENSBURGH had its fair share of poachers and one, in particular, stood out — Sandy.

He was well acquainted with all methods, legal or illegal, for getting bird, beast or fish, by gun or by rod. In some quarters he was looked up to, in others not so.

There are numerous stories about him, and here are one or two.

In the company of two companions Sandy used to go on expeditions. Some of these would last for days and they would travel for miles. On one occasion they set off with a cart to carry their catch and had shooting licences, which may or may not have been legal.

They were a few days into the expedition and had reached Crianlarich. Whenever they were stopped, usually by gamekeepers, they would talk themselves out of trouble.

Another time, near Inveraray, they ran into a gamekeeper who was adamant that they should accompany him to Inveraray — and the jail. One of the three shot him in the backside with buckshot, not a serious injury, but he unable to chase them.

Yet another time they ran into a gamekeeper and he was stripped and his hands tied behind his back. A hare was fastened across his chest and some grouse round his loins. He was then left to walk the four miles back to his home.

When Sandy was jailed, it was in Dumbarton and the jail was not exactly high security. Prisoners had access to lots of parts of the building, and they had ropes for those who wished to escape as well as methods for getting drink in.

Sandy was a bit low for the first week or so. Then he heard the chickens outside — the Governor's chickens. "Says I to myself, says I, if ye can poach when you're in limbo, my man, you'll be naething short of a hero," he said.

He always carried hooks somewhere on him and found one. With some twine and some tasty bait he threw the fishing line out of the window, and before long had a chicken which was hauled up and and pulled through the window.

Although he knew the governor quite well he had no hesitation in taking his chickens. This happened over a number of weeks, each chicken being covered in clay and cooked on an open fire.

The governor came to see him one day, explaining that his chickens were flying over the wall and disappearing. Could Sandy come down and clip their wings?

On his release Sandy was walking along a Dumbarton street when he met the governor of the jail. They shook hands to show there was no ill-feeling and Sandy was taken for a drink.

The governor was still puzzled over his sheep, and Sandy asked that, if he gave the Governor some information, nothing would be be done to him. The Governor agreed, so he then went on to explain what he had done.

  • Excerpts from "A Nonogenarian's Reminiscences of Garelochside & Helensburgh".