“Lawless Lobbans”

“The Lawless Lobbans of Glass”

A series of eight full-page articles in the Huntly Express in 1969 told in great detail the exploits of James Lobban (1791–1879; m. Elizabeth Simpson). From the detail and the extensive dialogue in Scots, written 100 years after the events, it’s evident that the unknown author introduced much from imagination, but they are based on true stories.

James was a man of prodigious size and strength and almost legendary ability to steal without getting caught. [For instance, he was able to conceal his wheat thefts because the common practice at harvest was to gather 10 sheaves into a stook; if there were sheaves left over at the end of the row, they were wedged into existing stooks, so there were 12 sheaves instead of ten. Lobban then looked for the bigger stooks and pinched the extra sheaves, so that no stooks were missing. This became a sort of a joke among the farm hands, who would say, when they had to push in extra sheaves, “That’ll be twa tae Lobban!”]   Two of his sons,  William (1826–1901) and Charles (1836–1918) also figure in one of the stories.

In Ch. 4 of his book, The Scottish Name LOBBAN (link below), Malcolm Lobban summarized these stories and added the genealogical context. He also introduces Alexander Lobban “the Forger,” who was transported for 7 years to New South Wales. The full genealogy is in Syd Lobban’s Tom of Glass tree.

Link to Malcolm Lobban’s Ch. 4 (download pdf)


The original articles in the Huntly Express are listed below with links to the pdfs.
These pdfs from photocopies of the articles are posted with the permission of Scottish Provincial Press, Inverness and Huntly Express.

“Huntly Police Puzzled by Sheep Stealing”  (8 Aug 1969)

“Caught Red-Handed in the Glass Bobby’s Hen House”  (12 Sep 1969)

“Kirkhill’s Cart & Harrows Disappeared Overnight”  (19 Sep 1969)

“Newmill Market resembled a Pagan Festival”   (3 Oct 1969)

“Night Watchman failed to catch Lobban”  (10 Oct 1969)

“The Mysterious Marauder at Boghead”  (17 Oct 1969)

“The Missing Barley unearthed –Under the bed”  (31 Oct 1969)

“Longboard disappeared after Asswanley Ploughing Match”   (7 Nov 1969)

[Webmaster’s note: I particularly enjoy the direct quotes in Banffshire dialect — e.g., “Ye pickit up this twa-hunnerwecht bag aff o’ the road, an’ shoothered it an’ cairriet it here, and you nae weel? Fit wid ye manage tae dee if ye wis weel?”   The dialect is explained in this note from electricscotland:

    “The vernacular of Banffshire, like that of Aberdeenshire, belongs to the north-east division of Scottish dialects. Both counties have the characteristic of sounding f instead of wh in certain words; as fah, fahn, fahr for who, when, where. “Fahr are ya gain?” (Where are you going?) “Fah fuppit th’ folpie?” (Who whipped the whelp?) Folpie shows one of the favourite forms of diminutive so common in Banffshire. Another is ik, and still higher, ikie; as beast, beastie, beastik, beastikie. The idea of diminution is carried still further by the adjective wee, by doubling the wee, and by adding yet again little, as little wee, little wee wee. Diminution is expressed by the word bit, always used in the construct state, as a bit beastie, and by the word nyaff, as a nyaff o’ a mannie, a nyaff o’ a doggie. The word horse, for example, may be used in descending scale from horsie through a multiplicity of degrees to little wee wee horsikie.
    “Within the county four divisions of dialect have been distinguished—the fishing, the lower, the middle, the higher. The fishing population accent the last syllable, throw the ictus on the last word of the sentence, and lengthen vowels. The lower district is marked off from the middle by a softer pronunciation and a slight lengthening of some vowels. Thus bone, stone are been, steen in the lower district, but behn, stehn in the middle. In the middle district meal, peat, beast, beat are sounded mehl, peht, behst, beht, while in the lower they are as in standard English. The upper district has been influenced in its accent by Gaelic.]


Stephanie turned up two links that reproduce original news stories about Charles’ and William’s exploits, gathered by the Glass Community Association from the Banffshire Journal and General Advertiser, 25 Feb. 1862:  Charge of sheep stealing,  and the Elgin Courier 7 March 1862: Assault on and deforcement of an officer.  The trial of the Lobbans for sheep stealing is described in the image below from the Aberdeen Journal.

Aberdeen Journal 30 April 1862, courtesy of Ross Murray.


Page created by Chris S Lobban, 31 Oct 2018, revised 8 Mar. 2020.