Dr Glen and the Daft Laird

15] Little is known about Dr Glen, the character on the left. He made his fortune practicing medicine abroad.  According to Kay he enjoyed considerable celebrity for the amount of his wealth and the tenacity with which he held on to it.  It is said that on the death of his wife he tried to buy a second-hand coffin.  Late in life he became a freemason and entered into the spirit of masonry with ardour and enthusiasm becoming a leading spirit in the fraternity.  His Lodge, being short of funds, elected Glen as their Master and was rewarded with a donation of £100.

16] The second figure is referred to as Laird Robertson or ‘the Daft Highland Laird’.  He was an ardent Jacobite who had taken part in the ’45 rebellion for which he had been imprisoned in the Old Tolbooth Jail. During this confinement he began to display symptoms of insanity which was to cause much amusement. This took the form of an obsessive wish to be hung, drawn and quartered for his role in the rebellion.  On being discharged from jail he did his utmost to reoffend by drinking the health of the Pretender and shouting treasonable remarks but was disappointed not to be taken seriously.  He managed to get himself jailed again by refusing to pay his landlady although he had ample means. Once in jail he refused to leave, insisting that he should be tried for treason and only left when he was led to believe that the judges were assembled awaiting his presence to commence the trial.  

The laird had a kindly nature and was fond of children to whom he distributed sweets, while he gave snuff and tobacco to any adult who would have conversation with him. Thus he became a popular figure with young and old despite, or perhaps because of, his eccentricities.  He had a talent for carving wooden heads of public figures which he stuck on the end of his staff. The drawing makes him appear as a jester bearing a staff decorated with two miniature heads, the lower one being that of the Dr William Robertson who is described above, and the upper one Dr James Graham.  Dr Graham studied medicine in Edinburgh and became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.  He travelled to America where ‘having the advantage of a good person, polite address, and agreeable conversation, he made a great deal of money’.[i] He returned to Britain where he set up a pioneering sexual health clinic – the ‘Temple of Health and Hymen’ furnished with paintings and statuary designed to ‘Prevent barrenness, and propagate a much more strong, beautiful, active, healthy, wiser, and virtuous race of human beings…’  The Temple contained a grand Celestial Bed furnished with perfumes, music and electrical apparatus and ‘all that can ravage the senses’.  The mattress contained hair from stallions’ tails.  Couples, who could afford to spend £50 for a night in the bed, were assured that they would be blessed with progeny. Why these two men – one a distinguished academic and the other a notorious quack – were chosen to decorate the Daft Laird’s staff, is a mystery. 

There is, however, a link between Dr Glen and Dr Graham. Dr Graham had treated Dr Glen successfully for sore eyes which others had failed to cure.  They fell out when Dr Glen offered him a purse of 30 guineas assuming that Dr Graham would not accept it for reasons of professional courtesy.  To his consternation and distress Dr Graham graciously accepted the money.  Sir Walter Scott, as a child, was also a patient of Dr Graham receiving electrical treatment to his paralysed leg. Many years later he wrote ‘every age must swallow a great deal of superstitious nonsense…I was early behind the scenes, having been a childhood patient of no less a man than the celebrated Dr Graham, the great quack of the olden day.  I had…a shrewd idea that his magnetism was all humbug; but Dr Graham was as much admired in his day as any of the French fops’. [ii]   

Late in life Graham developed a religious mania and founded his own church.  At times his behaviour became so frenzied that he had to undergo periods of restraint.  He died in poverty in 1794 and is buried in Greyfriars’ Churchyard.  The residue of his Temple and Celestial Bed – ‘A quantity of glass and crystal trumpery, the remains of the splendid apparatus, were sold on the South Bridge for next to nothing’.[iii]

[i] Chalmers, J Andrew Duncan Senior p129

[ii] Life of Sir Walter Scott vol ix p328-9.  Letter to Lady Louisa Stuart, 31 October 1830

[iii] Ibid vol 1 p135