Lachlan McBain (1716-1818)

Kay’s engraving of McBain singing his sales song

51]  Lachlan McBain (1716-1818)  had served as a soldier in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, taking part in the defeat of Prince Charles at Culloden.  On his discharge he made a living by manufacturing toasting forks and fly-jacks – metal devices for cooking meat over an open fire. He acquired notoriety in the city by advertising his wares in a loud voice, singing a ‘roasting toasting ditty’.  By doing this outside the windows of the Law Courts in Parliament Square, he upset the lawyers to such an extent that they felt obliged to pay Lachlan a sum of money for which he promised not to let his voice come within  hearing of the Courts in future.  The next day he turned up with a loud bell to announce his wares and received an additional douceur to refrain from further visits, which this time he observed.  Lachlan caused similar annoyance to William Creech, bookseller in the Luckenbooths, who, being a baillie, was able to bring an action against him.  At the hearing before the magistrates Lachlan was able to produce his discharge papers from the army which asserted his right to pursue his calling in any city except Oxford or Cambridge and the complaint was dismissed. To get his revenge Lachlan continued to call his wares with renewed vigour outside Creech’s shop until the poor man was forced to follow the lawyers’ example and buy Lachlan off. At the age of ninety seven Lachlan who had fallen on hard times was admitted to the Charity Workhouse where he was caught having an amorous affair with the old nurse of the establishment who was twenty years younger.  As a result both were expelled from the workhouse. They got married and Lachlan spent his last days supported by his wife.  He died in 1818 aged 102.  Kay has produced a second etching of Lachlan, made after his discharge from the workhouse, which shows a pathetic bent old man still trying to sell his wares.