- Written by Peter Burnett Peter Burnett
Filed under 'Sex Clubs of the Enlightenment', The Beggar's Benison was a drinking club in Anstruther, Fife, which lasted from its establishment in until 1836.
The Beggar's Benison is famous now for the collective masturbation of its members, something that made up a part of the intititaion ceremony. The club's members were basically from the upper classes of Fife society, being landowners, merchants and customs contrololers and the like, and they dined and drank together, and related obscene songs and toasts. Much of their purpose of the club was the discussion of sex and anatomy, and the club had a stock of pornography as well as a habit of hiring naked "posture girls" for the members to examine.
This is a list of the Club's Founding Members, as related in a document titled
RECORDS OF THE MOST ANCIENT AND PUISSANT ORDER OF THE BEGGAR'S BENISON AND MERRYLAND, ANSTRUTHER,
published in Anstruther and PRINTED FOR PRIVATE DISTRIBUTION ONLY (MDCCCXCII)
The Founding Members of The Beggar's Benison:
Was one of the last Lairds of Kinaldyf and was noted far and near as one of the most jovial Squires of Fife.
Was the leading Merchant of his time in Anstruther, and occupied the stately old Tenement built on the site of the original Castle of Dreel. With its back stair to the sea, this house was unique on the coast. Mr. Wightman was factor for the Earl of Kellie, who was out in the Rising of 1745* The shrewd old Countess Janet discovered, at the death of the factor, that he was far behind in money transactions, and accordingly she seized the house, and bestowed it on " Butler Robertson/' who had fed the fugitive Earl, so as to blind even the domestics, while hiding in the great Tree at the Castle*
Was one of the scions of the lordly House of Kellie. He owned lands in the Parish of Carnbee, but like so many muirland Squires he lived at Anstruther Wester. Mrs Oliphant, the distinguished Novelist, is allied through her mother to this branch of the family.
Was a well-to-do Whig farmer in the Parish of Kilrenny.
Was a substantial Burgess of Cellardyke, where his descendants even yet own considerable property. He farmed certain of the old Kirk Lands of Kilrenny. He was a dour Presbyterian,—one of the first to take road on the Sabbath day to the Kirk, attired in his braid bonnet, knee breeks, arid sky-blue coat with its shining brass buttons. Albeit, he was as likely as not to be in the lead with his grey mare when a cargo of smuggled tea or gin was to be run at Innergellie haven. In these exploits he had for his right hand (missing word) his friend John Goupen.
Sir Thomas Erskine, Bart.
Was one of the sons of the staunch Jacobite of Cambo. Cardinal Erskine was of this family. Sir Thomas was the chief Jester and Poet Laureate of this rollicking Confraternity, and his Songs were the terror, by their scathing wit, of the Pharisees of the Kirk. He got the soubriquet of " Fiddler Tarn.'
Was a Merchant and Bailie of Crail. He was the son of the Laird of Carnbee and brother-in-law of James Moncrieff of Sauchope. The Bailie was the life and soul of the Jacobite party, and so was the successor of Bailie Harry Crawford, who gave a lodging in his. big house to Borlum in '15.
Was a kinsman of the above Robert and James Lumsdaine, of Innergellie.
Was son of Sir Alexander, who married the heiress of Newark, the granddaughter of the famous soldier David Leslie, first Lord Newark. Sir Alexander was stripped of his lands ; but penniless as he was, David and his younger son were the life and soul of the table.
One of the Whig Councillors of Pittehweem, son and fadir of the wily Politician Bailie James Melville, usually spoken of as the " King of Pittenweem," who built the big house at the Shore occupied by Charles Moyes, the brother of the blind Philosopher,
Was a Merchant in Anstrtither, the son of "Long Leslie" (?) the Curate of Ceres, with whom Archbishop Sharpe (afterwards Episcopal Minister of Crail) smoked his last pipe. By the gift of his sister the widow of John Lindsay, David owned the fine old house which stood on the site of Johnstone Lodge. He was an uncompromising Jacobite.
Was a Surgeon at Anstruthfer, and was one of the brothers of the Rev. James Nairn Minister of this Parish. He was one of the props of the Kirk; and nothing can so well illustrate the priceless value of the Order that men so different in temper and politics as David Leslie and Dr. Nairn could meet at the Beggar's Benison Altar as " brithers a'".
Was Shipbuilder at Anstruther and Chief Magistrate of Kilrenny. He was also a zealous Whig and leading supporter of the General. He likewise represented his native Burgh of Kilrenny in the General Assembly. The consequence of the Bailie is so far seen to-day in the fine old tenement built by him in the west end of Cellardyke.
Merchant arid Bailie in Anstruther, afterwards Comptroller of the Customs at Kirkcaldy.
William Leslie Anstruther
Assumed (though improperly) the title of Lord Newark which by the Patent became extinct at the death of his grandfather) the second Baron
Clerk of Customs was his successor as Chief Magistrate at West Anstfuthen
Sir Charles Erskine, Bart.
Of Cambo, the devoted friend of Prince Charlie, fell at the Battle of Laffeldt, 1747.
John McNaughton (or McNachtane)
Was Collector of Customs at Anstruther till he was appointed Inspector General at Edinburgh, where he latterly resided, and instituted there a Branch of the Beggar's Benison in 1766.
Was Chief Magistrate of West Anstruther. He was especially active in the interest of General Philip Anstruther of Airdrie, so unpopular as the one Scottish M.P. who supported Walpole in the attempt to disfranchise the City of Edinburgh over the Porteous Mob, The Bailie was one of the best wirepullers of his day; but here the Whig faction was defeated, for in the general Election of 1741 the General was ousted from his seat by Colonel John Stuart, one of the younger sons of the Earl of Moray.
Comptroller of Customs at Anstruther. He was hanged at Carlisle for his share in the Rising of '45.
An influential Merchant and Bailie of Anstruther. He was a man of decision and spirit, and ruled the Council as with a whip.