Sir, – It may interest some of your readers belonging to Dufftown and that neighbourhood to know something of the origin of the “Boys’ Ball” – The Dufftown Juvenile Society; and as I was born in Dufftown shortly after George the Fourth was King, I can remember some events that happened in my native place more than fifty years ago.

About the “Yule time” of 1834 two Dufftown “loons,” James and Peter Grant, were on a visit to their grandfather, a feuar in Charlestown of Aberlour, and while there they were taken by a friend to see the “Boys’ Ball” in Aberlour, which was then in great vogue amongst the old and young in “Skerdistan ” and the vicinity. The boys enjoyed the ball very much, and when returning “o’er the hill” to Dufftown next day their conversation was principally about the ball they had been at. They were regretting much that they had not a ball “o’ their ain” of the same kind in Dufftown, and they resolved to try and get their schoolfellows and other boys about Dufftown to assist them in getting a Boys’ Ball for themselves. Their funds were low; they had only 3d between them – James 2d, and his brother 1d. The penny was to be expended in purchasing a book to put subscribers’ names in, and the 2d for their entry money – 1d each.

When they returned to school they laid their scheme before some of their schoolfellows, a number of whom laughed at the idea of getting up a ball by penny subscriptions. Their ardour was damped a good deal, but a few their classfellows entered heartily into the matter. George Milne, now a bootmaker in Edinburgh, was then, and for many years after, a close friend and companion of James Grant’s. They set about getting subscribers’ names, and although a penny was all the subscription that was asked, still that small sum was sometimes ill to be got. (I do not think the schoolboys then had so many pennies as the boys of their age nowadays have; at anyrate ours were “few and far between.”) 

The two brothers, along with George Milne, persevered against all opposition, but, with all their zeal they had only between forty and fifty names on the “bookie” before “hairst play” came. The first eight names, I think, were James Grant, George Milne, George Collie, Alexander Forbes, Peter Grant, Alexander Peddie, John Mellis, and William Sturm. 

The late John Walker was then a general merchant in Conval Street. He employed a few shoemakers upon his premises, and the boys often visited them in their workship in the evenings, and they encouraged the youths to persevere. The subscribed 1s amongst them. The matter began to be talked about in the village about the Martinmas time, and a number of additional names were added to the list. The late William Cantlie of Keithmore was then in company with the late Thomas Beaton as general merchants and ironmongers on the Square; and they, along with the late John Grant, the late William Gordon (“Watchie”), and others, became boys again for a time, and took their young friends by the hand. When they entered into the enterprise, their funds amounted to 11s 6d or 12s, I think; but in a few days they had 20s, and then the boys were jubilant and “danced wi’ Glee.”

By this time there were two “bookies” with names. They were produced, a proper list made out, arrangements made for a public meeting to arrange about appointing office-bearers to get materials for a walk through the town, also about the ball, &c. &c. The flag was made by the late Thomas Beaton. It was of strong yellow cotton, with the name of the Society – The Dufftown Juvenile Society – painted or printed on it, witch paper pictures pasted on it. James Dey gave the pole, and a number of sashes were also supplied, which were of the same kind of striped cotton, with roseats and ribbons, and “Oh, but we were braw!” 

“Jossie” Watt was sent for to Inveravon to come and play the flute at the walk, and John Murdoch beat the drum. There were upwards of 200 boys at the walk, and a number of the principal men about the place took part in the procession. Sandy Green and old Adam Myren were in the “fiddlers’ laft” in the hall at night; and thus the first boys’ ball at Dufftown was instituted at Christmas 1835. – Yours, &c.

A Dufftonian.