In the 17th and 18th centuries the main source of local news in many Scottish towns was the town crier.
In small towns this was often an elderly woman such as Dalkeith woman Beetty Dick.
She would announce local news or items lost. Townspeople paid Beetty to advertise their businesses – “tripe, piping hot, ready for supper the nicht at 8 o’clock” to advertise Jeanie McMillan’s in North Wynd.
This etching, by John Kay, shows Beetty Dick carrying her ‘clap’. This was a wooden plate and spoon used to draw attention to her proclamation.
Beetty lived from 1693 to 1773. She was a spinster living in the West Wynd (now Eskdaill Street) and later in Tolbooth Close. She charged a penny for an announcement.
John Kay was born near Dalkeith in 1742. He was a prosperous barber and also an artist in Midlothian and Edinburgh.
His portraits became famous, and 900 caricatures of local characters and celebrities have left a record of their appearance. Beetty Dick was engraved in 1809.
Photo: Midlothian Council Local Studies/Scran
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