Scottish Grifters Con the Rich Out of Money in 1720s Edinburgh #History #Scotland

Cards Edinburgh

Long before films like The Grifters or The Cincinnati Kid, a group of Scottish card sharps stole from the Rich. Or did they just understand the mathematics of probability, human psychology and the art of the con? What they did wasn’t illegal in 1720s Scotland, but the Edinburgh establishment were outraged …

The Reverend Robert Wodrow reports:

‘I am informed by very good hands, that these five or six years ther hath been at Edinburgh a Club of Gamsters, or rather cheats and sharpers, in a society and concert one with another, about six or seven in number, who act to one another’s hands.

Severall of their names I have heard, Steuart, Keith, and others; and their work is to trace out and decoy young gentlmen and noblmen when they come to toun to game; and one of them will lose fifty pound in a night, till the young spark be engaged, and then another comes, and soon gains the whole, and it may be a third comes, and stands at the back of the person they designe to rifle, and by signes and words unknouen to others discovers his game to the other; so, by one method or other, they are sure to win all at last.

That for these severall years they divide of clear gain by these vile practices upwards of 25,000 mark a year. [i.e., above £16,666 Scots per year, or nearly £100,000 over five years.]

The Magistrates and some of the lauers are at present thinking on some methods of reaching them, and think to prosecute them for the money they win at gaming; but the process will be hard and difficult.

Houever, this with many other things encrease our nationall guilt, and fill our cup of judgments.’ (Wodrow, Analecta, III, 486.)

For more wonders and crime stories in early-modern Scotland, see here.

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~ by drmarkjardine on August 7, 2018.

One Response to “Scottish Grifters Con the Rich Out of Money in 1720s Edinburgh #History #Scotland”

  1. Hello Mark,

    Here is a copy of the New Cumnock Covenanters leaflet.

    all the best Bobby ________________________________

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