THE late Professor Gillespie, of St. Andrews, remembered seeing Burns on a fair day in August, 1790, at the village of Thornhill, where a poor woman, named Kate Watson, had taken up the publican’s trade for that occasion without a licence.
“I saw the poet,” he says, “enter her door, and anticipated nothing short of an immediate seizure of a certain grey-beard and barrel which, to my personal knowledge, contained the contraband commodities our bard was in search of. A nod, accompanied by a significant movement of the fore-finger, brought Kate to the doorway, and i was near enough to hear the following words distinctly uttered:-
“’Kate, are you mad? Don’t you know that the Supervisor and I will be upon you in the course of forty minutes. Good-bye t’ye at present.’ ”
I had reason to know that the friendly hint was not neglected. It saved a poor widow from a fine of several pounds for committing a quarterly offence, by which the revenue of the country was probably subject to an annual loss of five shillings.