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Broadside report regarding a woman who masqueraded as a man, c. 1820


A particular account of John Thomson, a journey-
man plasterer, who has been working in one of
the New   Buildings   in   Lord Moray's Park, for   six weeks
past.   and   lodged near the canal bason, and who was dis-
covered by a strange   accident,   to   be a Female, on Tuesday
last, and who is the same woman that went under the name of
John Oliver, last year in Glasgow, and followed the trades of
a weaver. plasterer and Flesher.

A female was discovered on Tuesday last, working in one of
those New Buildings rearing in Lord Murray's Park, as a
Journeyman Plasterer; and went by the name of John
Thomson, upon enquiry, she is the same that was discovered
in Glasgow last year, and before describing how she was dis-
covered on Tuesday last, we copy her life, from the Glasgow
Chronicle published at that time.

She belonnged originally to   Saltcoats,   is about twenty-
seven years of age, and for better than four years she has, of
her own free choice, worn the attire, and discharged the la-
borious duties, of one of the Male Sex.    Her real   name   is
Helen Oliver: but she has assumed the name of her brother
John.    About six years ago, while she was a maid servant in
a farm house in west Kilbride, a particular intimacy took place
between her and a person in a neighbouring house, who osi-
eiated as ploughman.    Being frequently seen walking to-
gether in queit and sequestrated places, they were regarded
as lovers; ultimately however this " ploughman" turned out
to be also a female; and it is believed by Helen's relatives
and acquaintances, that it was the arguments of this person-
age which   induced   her   to   abandon   the female dress and
duties,    Upon Sunday the 4th of January, 1818, while in
her parent's house at Saltcoats, she requested her mother to
give her her " wee cutty pipe," and she would give her two
new ones in exchange.    To this unusual demand the mother
after some questions assented ; and early on the following
morning,   Helen   helped   herself to a suit of her brother's
clothes and disappeared.    She went to Glasgow, where she
learned   the   plastering   business, and wrought at it in Kil-
marnock, Paisley, Lanark, and Edinburgh.    She returned
again to Glasgow, where she got a master, but shortly after
her master employed a man who belonged to Saltcoats, and
who knew her,   he told   the other workmen that she was a
female; being thus discovrred, she wrote a letter to her em-
ployer, thanking him for his kindness to her, and confessed
that she was a woman.    It is supposed   she went to Aber-
deen after leaving Glasgow, as she said she wrought in that
quarter last, when her present master   employed her;   she
has been working at the same house for six weeks back, and
    lodged with a washerwoman adjoining the Canal Basin, her
neighbour workman never took the   least suspicion   of her
being a female, but observed that she was a delicate person,
and thought her rather consumptive, her colour was   ruddy,
but her make of a slender form for a man, she would   have
been at her work still without creating the least suspicion, as   
   she never associated with her neighbour workman, but an ac-
cident happened last Tuesday which made her make her es-
cape, she was mounted on a scaffold about 5 feet high, alrng
with two others, when her foot slipped and she tumnled down
her side struck a hod, which with the pain made her insensi-
ble for a few minntes, but the immediately   recovered,   and
wrought ds usual.

On   of the men who was on the scaffold beside her, observed
while she was   lying,   that the lime which she had on the
hawk in her hand, had fallen about her neck and breast, and
he began to scrape it off, in doing which he loosed a button
of her waistcoat to get the lime cleaner off, and in so doing
he discovered her   sex,   but said   nothing   to her.    At the
dinner hour he told   his   neighbour workmen what he had
discovered ; and they in the afternoon in her presence, talk-
ed of John Oliver, the female plasterer, who, they were sus-
picious was not far distant   from   them ? she   had seen that
she was discovered, and upon a   pretence of going for some
thing, she has not been seeu since, except by a labourer, who
knew her as John Thomson,   that met her   on the Mussel-
burgh road, with a bundle below her arm, still in men's ap-
parel, and it is supposed she will find work in Haddington,
but in all liklihood, she will again change her name.

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Probable date published: 1820   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(069)
Broadside report regarding a woman who masqueraded as a man, c. 1820
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