by Rob McClure Smith Read author interview March 15, 2007
“Here, hen, hold yir Teddy and ah’ll tuck ye in and tell ye the story of Hangin’ Dragon.
“Years back, there wis nae Glesca hangman, and when Edinburgh’s executioner put oan his expenses two bob for a padlock—tae lock up his drunk wife while he wis gone—the auld city fathers thought it better that a prisoner in the Tolbooth, a whip-the-cat waitin’ hangin’ for theft, be offered a pardon, oan condition he take the job. At his first stringin’ up, the fella tae be lynched freed his hands and leapt up tae grab the gallows’ arm, swingin’ there screamin’ like a banshee aw the while— much like yirsel oan the monkey bars—till Baillie Richard Dreghorn smacked a cane oan his fingers, shoved the new hangman oot the way, and drew the bolt hisself. Back then, yir neck didnae break, mind, ye’d jist choke in the noose and strangle as ye twisted there.
“Oh, that Dreghorn wis the scourge of shebneeners and Resurrectionists. As well, bye the bye, the ugliest man in all of Glesca, known the city ower as ‘Dick Dragon.” See, as a boy, the smallpox took oot an eye and collapsed his nose flat agin his cheek, which wis pitted and pockmarked like a currant bun intae the bargain. Mammies scared their naughty weans, like yirsel, wi’ his name, and a scream of ‘Hangin’ Dragon!’ wid scatter the rowdiest mob of midnight boozers.
“From oot his big mansion oan Great Clyde Street the Baillie wid strut, in silks and lace and that gold-tipped walkin’ cane, scootin’ after every rustling petticoat that passed. He liked wee lassies. Wan time, chasin’ a red ribbon cross toon, the Baillie found his path blocked by a gypsy and this Romany’s big dancing bear lumbering doon Argyll Street. Right scunnered, he drew his sword and pricked the animal’s rear end till the great beast, thinkin’ he had a new dancin’ partner, swept Dreghorn intae his arms and did a jig that ended wi’ the pair of them goin’ arse ower tits into a manure pit. Well, the Baillie had that bear arrested and sentenced tae death, as a warnin’ tae ither bears. No sweetie, he widnae let naebody hang the bear! No, he had it led doon the Gallowgate, right where we walked this mornin’, and afore a big crowd of slummies he had it skinned alive, afore he shot it wi’ his ain musket. Hush noo. Right after that, we elected him Lord Provost.
“Aye, yon Hangin’ Dragon wis a character the like of which ye don’t see the day. Even if the spey wives do say he walks these streets still, tap-tapping his cane oan windows, lookin’ in wi’ his horrible pocky face and red fleshy eye socket, creepin’ into lassies’ dreams when they think they’re safe in the Land of Nod.
“Sleep tight, hen, ye sure ye want that nightlight oan?”
About the Author:
Rob McClure Smith has been published in Other Voices, Confrontation, Chelsea, Vestal Review, Versal, Barcelona Review, Word Riot, other places.