1907 Garden M Hossack: ‘Further reminiscences of the Burgh of Banff’

When my friend John Ord told me how he had discovered the ‘Transactions’ with delight in his youth, I asked him to suggest a story that had stuck in his memory, and he thought of James Edward Kyber. I did a search, and there it is in this Transaction.
This is one of our longest ‘Transactions’. Mr Hossack, the Sheriff-clerk of Banffshire, was by then in his seventies (he was dead within a couple of years). At a brisk pace, you could probably deliver this paper in an hour and ten minutes. It is, however, so enthralling, that I feel quite sure they would have been glad to listen longer. Mr Hossack had been a boy in the Seatown of Banff, and he begins with the harbour. You may know how to load cars on a RORO ferry, but do you know how to load cattle on a schooner? Like Mr Hossack, I was intrigued by the sea shanties on Provost Wood’s stinking guano boats. Did you know there was a navigation school on Coldhome Street? Did you know they played base-ball in Banff? Would you recognise the distinctive livery of Provost Robinson’s servants?
Mr Hossack had a sharp mind and a detailed memory. He talks about specific rights of way, about the visiting circuses, about the specifics of what was sold in each market, about the repertoire of each street musician. He was a natural raconteur, and his characters come to life.
One of these was James Edward Kyber, foreign correspondent for a firm trading in herring. We all know that the Biggar Fountain in Banff commemorates the success of the herring trade with the Baltic. Mr Kyber was a refugee from the Russian Empire. The Banff locals would tease him by mentioning the Czar Nicholas, whom he hated. Mr Hossack presumed he was Russian, but in fact he came from Livonia, a land occupied by the Russians, which is not the same thing. Unlike Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Livonia was not re-founded in the 20C. The last native-speaking Livonian died about fifteen years ago. Mr Kyber’s father was a Lutheran clergyman, and indeed his brother was a Lutheran bishop, who came and visited him in Banff. What caught my friend’s fancy was that the poor man fell on hard times, and killed himself gruesomely. The strange thing was that he still owned an unusual handwritten book given to his father by the great Lavater which Mr Hossack says was worth more than £50, in those days wealth. There is a story there that might resonate many miles from here. Banff has many links with the Baltic.
But do read Mr Hossack.

Here is the link to this Transaction: https://banffshirefieldclub.org.uk/PDFs … nff_WM.pdf

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