Home Page John Wilson Related Sites Acknowledgements Send a message Email about the diary Start from January 1st

April 3rd 1819

Previous day Next day

James Sandy, The Alyth Genius

When James Sandy was twelve he fell from a tree near to his home in Alyth. As a result of the injuries he suffered he lost a leg.

More bad luck was to befall him when he was sixteen. After very heavy rains the Alyth burn flooded and the water poured into the ground floor of his house which was built beside the burn. His mother tried to drag him upstairs to safety and in the struggle the other leg was broken. James was unable to walk and spent the rest of his life lying on a couch.

He had already shown great abilities as a craftsman and his couch was specially designed with raised sides to which could be fixed lathes and vices and cases to hold his tools. Here he worked producing a large range of objects.

In a poem written after his death by John Smith some of his multitudinous talents were mentioned.

Dirks aní sowards, bows aní arrows
Magic mirrors, wheels for barrows
Traps aní cages, singiní sparrows
Scapes for bees.
Model cairts, aní pleughs aní harrows
He made wií ease.
Fuí lang he wrocht, aní planned wií care
Tae makí aní mould, improve, repair;
Aní ilka science received a share
Oí his rare skill
His snuff boxes with hinges rare
Are in use still.

He was prepared to try his hand at almost anything including false teeth and artificial limbs. He was well known for his work on fine optical instruments, clocks and musical instruments. However, he achieved a wider fame with the production of a new type of snuff box which was airtight when closed but contained a special hinge which did not become clogged with grains of snuff.

When he was fifty-three he decided to get married. Perhaps it was an unwise decision. He died nineteen days later on April 3rd 1819.

Previous day Next day

Perthshire Diary Home | Author | Perthshire Links | Reference | Contact Us | Tell a friend | Browse