A story of shocking depravity on the part of poultry has just been told in the Sheriff’s Court at Oban.
John Turner Laggan claimed £50 damages, restricted to £12, against a local distillery company for injury done to his hens “by said company having allowed intoxicating material to flow into the Laggan burn.”
This material, it was said, caused drunkenness among the pursuer’s poultry, and consequently rendered them of little, if any, value to him.
Mr Laggan stated that for some years past he had been making a considerable income from keeping poultry, but since the starting of the distillery he had made little or nothing. His hens and ducks would not eat. They were, he might say, almost always under the influence of drink, except on Sundays, when the distillery was not working.
On Sundays their condition was pitiable in the extreme. Mondays were the worst days, for then the hens drank excessively, fell into the burn frequently, and lately he had to keep a boy to look after them on Monday mornings.
They took no food unless they first had a walk to the Laggan burn. He thought it was a hen he had bought at Fort William that had made the discover first, and that she had led the rest astray.
Superintendent Moss was then asked by Mr Scott to place on the bench a large cage of wickerwork containing the Fort William hen referred to.
Mr Scott (to Mr Laggan): This is the Fort William hen? – It is. Is it sober? – It is not.
Anyone could notice that this was correct, for the bird sat on the bottom of the cage and put its long neck through the bars, looked sideways at the ceiling, crooning to itself in what was termed a “maudlin style”. Finally she seemed to address some forcible remarks to his lordship, who ordered her to be taken away.
Was this hen at the distillery burn this morning? – Anyone could see that. (Laughter.)
How are the other hens this morning? – Worse than this one.
Was this the only one you could take to court? – Yes.
Why? – The rest were too drunk.
So that on the whole the Fort William hen is not the worst? – That is so.
How do you account for that? – She can stand it better.
Cross-examined: What do the hens do when they return from the burn? – Sleep.
Anything else? – After a sleep they generally fight.
In the end Sheriff Mactavish declared that the case being a peculiar one, he should have to postpone his decision.
Outside the court the Fort William hen was the object of much interest. A thoughtful individual presented to it a fully half a glass of whisky, which it took greedily. This revived it considerably, and it cackled at a great rate, to the intense enjoyment of the bystanders.
The Yorkshire Evening Post, November 20, 1896.