22.5.12

Jim Ferguson Stories... Annie Miller

Jim Ferguson wrote three short pieces of historical fiction for NothingAboutUs - these were told as stories by the Clyde on 28th April, formed part of the project 'wordbank' (source material for messages sent over the river) and one of the stories was printed in the NothingAboutUs booklet.

At our Main Event a lot of people were asking for copies of these stories to take home, so we're publishing them here so you can continue to enjoy them...

Annie Miller – Sunday, September 2nd 1787 
By Jim Ferguson

My name is Annie Miller. My husband died today. He has been shot by soldiers of the 39th Foot Regiment. Though I am myself a Govan lassie I married Alexander Miller of the Calton after meeting him at the Govan Fair. We had much in common from the first. I was surprised to see that Alex was very taken by the fine needle work in the Govan Weavers Society banner.
This delicate embroidery made a deep impression on him and he resolved to learn something more of it. I told him that my mother had woven some of the fine yarns that were used in the making of the banner and when I says that I had been taught the same trade by her, he immediately demanded that he be shown the spinning wheel. He wanted to see this for himself. And wha’s gonny dae the carding? I asked him. Only for himself to reply, You’re lookin at the very man.

Awa ye go, says I. But he insisted, and as he carded the wool I spun it into a very fine yarn and aw the time he was watching me carefully, as if to memorise for himself how it was done. Wool is a fine yarn to spin, I says to him, it leaves the hands soft. No ataw like linen then, he says. Like he was a party to my own mind, for I was aboot to say the same. And we laughed, and began to sing together an auld Jacobite weaving song that many who considered themsels North Britons would have looked upon disapprovingly. Near sunset we took a walk along the banks of the Clyde, around the foot of Doomster Hill and it was there I conceived my firstborn.

I am surprised that such a happy memory should come upon me, when now, in our loom shop, not ten feet away, lies my dead husband with a hole in his body. It seems that certain of the worthies of Glasgow were there to witness the bloody mess, and that the riot act had not been read before the bastards opened with their muskets. Lord Provost and the Sheriff-depute, both these men I hold responsible. I hold that these men are guilty of murder, and indeed those who have the dubious distinction of ranking themselves among the officer class, especially one Colonel Kellet who I am told gave the order to fire; a man who clearly cares nothing about leaving children faitherless. And our own weans in there now washing the body. I have told them to leave no blood on the body. My Alex will go to the grave like an innocent. And when, at our first meeting, we were finished with the spinning he says, Do you know how I got cried Alexander, it was after the English poet Alexander Pope: Alas what wonder! Man's superior part, Uncheck'd may rise and climb from art to art; But when his own great work is but begun, What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone. I did not stop to think what this could mean for it was then he kissed me. And I kissed him back, passionately, I am not ashamed to say. If anything killed my Alex it was indeed his passion for justice, for proper wages and to live with dignity, passion for bread for the wee yins, for no house to go hungry. This I thought was passion good and I do not worry for my sense of reason has left me, and now I wish that you leave me alone in my mourning. My man is gone but my reason and my passion will return, and justice will be done for the Martyrs of the Calton. And soon, after the funeral of Alexander Miller, I will move back to my mother’s cottage in Govan, and there in peace I’ll bring up my weans. There I will weave and spin aince again.

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