Support independent journalism - become a member

Donald, where’s your fivers? A tailor’s adventure in Edinburgh

Publication: Broughton Spurtle

A man walking wearing a kilt

A cautionary tale for visitors. Shared by the Broughton Spurtle in their latest issue. But originally published in the Edinburgh Evening News on the 3 October 1898.

The Edinburgh detective staff are at present investigating a case in which a young tailor, belonging to the Isle of Skye, got swindled out of close upon £10 by means of the confidence trick in Picardy Place last Friday night.

About half-past eight o’clock that evening, the tailor was sauntering up Leith Walk when he was accosted by a polite and affable gentleman, who asked if he would be kind enough to direct him to the Picardy Place Hall.*

The tailor stated that he was a stranger and regretted being unable to give the desired information.

The gentleman explained that he also was a stranger in Edinburgh, and the two soon got into friendly conversation, and the tailor was invited to a public house to have some refreshments.

A bottle of lemonade for the tailor and a glass of beer for the friend having been disposed of, the couple were in the act of leaving when they were met at the door by a second ’gentleman,’ who was also politely asked if he could direct them to the Picardy Place Hall. This he agreed to do, and by the time they arrived at Picardy Place, the three appeared to have got quite confidential.

Gentleman No. I explained to Gentleman No. 2 (the temporary guide) that he was on his way to get some money from a person occupying offices in the hall. Money was no object to him, and to show appreciation for the friend’s kindness in coming to direct him to the hall, he offered to give him £15 for a loan of £5 until he returned from the office. The ‘fiver’ was merely wanted to show that both were equally honest and had every confidence in each other.

This rate of interest appears to have taken the tailor’s fancy, and he had no doubt of the bona-fides of the transaction when the guide, with every manifestation of regret, brought forth £2 and nearly wept because he did not happen to have any more.

The bait was then next thrown skilfully to the tailor, who at once advanced £5 on his own account, for which he was to receive £15 whenever this new-found philanthropist got this business completed in Picardy Place Hall. He also advanced another £4 on behalf of Gentleman No. 2, to be repaid at the same time, and for which he was to be paid a similar rate of interest.

Having thus obtained from him £9, all his earnings,* Gentleman No. I crossed over to the hall while No. 2 had occasion to see a friend along the street. No. 2 handed the tailor his walking cane while No. I left his umbrella in the same safekeeping, and both strongly advised him not to leave that particular spot until they returned.

This took place about nine o’clock, and about half-past 11, the dupe was found by the police standing in Picardy Place carefully guarding an old umbrella valued at about sixpence and a cane worth half that amount. It was difficult for the man to believe that he had been swindled. 

* This may have been the Ancient Free Gardeners’ Institute at No. 14, currently being converted into a hotel. See Scottish Construction News and ‘The Past Is Not a Foreign Country’.

** Equivalent to about £700 today.

Previous: Dumfries and Galloway: Are we facing a crisis in rural education?

by Dalry School Parent Council, Glenkens Gazette

Mother and daughter at a play area

Next: One mum’s solution for an entire community

by Marc Hindley, Forres Local