Heather Jock

This postcard was made from an earlier portrait of William Brodie, an itinerant Scottish performer who called himself Heather Jock.  Born in Paisley in 1802, he entertained village crowds into his seventies.  His songs and dances were especially popular with children.  In The Saturday Review (London) of Jan. 30, 1897, R. B. Cunningham Grahame wrote:

So no one asked his reasons, but accepted him just as he was, with headdress like an Inca of Peru stuck all about with pheasants’ and peacocks’ feathers, bits of looking-glass, adorned with heather, and fastened underneath his jaws with a black ribbon; with moleskin waistcoat; bee in his bonnet; humour in his brain; with short plaid trousers, duffel coat, and in his hand a rude Caduceus made of a hazel stick, in the centre a flat tin heart, set round with jingling bells, and terminating in a tuft of heather.


William Brodie 2b

Heather Jock lived in retirement until the age of 82.  The original portrait of him with the two boys was probably made around 1870.  The postcard was made roughly 30 years later by taking a photograph of the original, then printing cards from the new negative.  Some clarity and detail were lost in the process.

Scottish sculptor and printmaker Robert Bryden memorialized Heather Jock in an etching, which you can see here on the Future Museum website.

The card was mailed from Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, Scotland, on June 6, 1905.  It arrived in Savannah, Georgia, on June 19, only 13 days later.

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6 thoughts on “Heather Jock

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    1. Cunningham Grahame also muses, “Then it occurred to me that Heather Jock had been a different character from what he really was, and that there had been something noble and adventurous in his career. That he had, somehow, fought against convention….”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Did you find out who he was by googling a description of the photo? What a fascinating character. I notice that the Future Museum seems to know nothing about their etching. Have you let them know what you discovered? Great research!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You may have been distracted by his fabulous headdress or his Caduceus and missed the name at the bottom, added by the original photographer or the later copier. Without that I never would have figured out who he was. He was one-of-a-kind! And beloved, by all accounts. I did try to contact the Future Museum via their website but didn’t receive a response.


    1. I hadn’t seen that, thank you! All the information in that Facebook post was familiar to me, so they must have looked at the same sources I did. I could have included more of it in my blog post, but it’s often hard to decide how much to include. I was intrigued by the fact that their photo had a different texture from mine, like laid paper, so it might have been scanned from a book or a photogravure.


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