BURNS was standing one day upon the quay at Greenock, when a wealthy merchant, belonging to the town, had the misfortune to fall into the harbour. he was no swimmer, and his death would have been inevitable had not a sailor, who happened to be passing at the time, immediately plunged in, and, at the risk of his own life, rescued him from his dangerous situation. The Greenock merchant, upon recovering a little from his fright, put his hand into his pocket, and generously presented the sailor with a shilling. The crowd, who were by this time collected, loudly protested against the contemptible insignificance of the sum; but Burns, with a smile of ineffable scorn, entreated them to restrain their clamour – “For,” said he, “the gentleman is, of course, the best judge of the value of his own life.”
The Best Judge, pp.53-54.
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My name's Jenny, I'm in my late-thirties, from Glasgow and I'm your friendly local (as everything online has become) Scottish historian. View all posts by FlikeNoir