This was not a win-win situation for the Committee of the Laurencekirk School Board when they failed to appoint a local man to the janitor’s position. Angry residents protested on Saturday 7th October, 1893.
At about 9pm, a crowd numbering around 50, gathered outside the shop of William Ironside, merchant/member of the Committee and a bag of straw was set alight in the shop doorway. The disturbance lasted a quarter of an hour; closing the shop Ironside went home, only to be aroused in the early hours of Sunday morning when rioters smashed four large panes of plate glass in his shop.
Sergeant Low of Laurencekirk first arrived at Ironside’s shop after the fire had burned out. The crowd with Sergeant Low following closely, moved on to committee member, W W Dow’s house. Crowd numbers had increased to 200-300. Stones were thrown, windows and slates of the house broken, cursing and swearing indulged in. Sergeant Low’s warnings to the ringleaders fell on deaf ears.
Mr Dow testified in Stonehaven Sheriff’s Court (18th October, 1893) that he heard there was to be a demonstration against the Committee, burning of effigies and so on. On Saturday night, about 10pm a noisy crowd had gathered in front of his house. All of the windows were broken and he and his family took refuge in the back room from the stones and missiles. He did not look out and could not identify anyone in the crowd.
Charged were, William McKenzie, tailor; George Milne, blacksmith; Robert Mitchell jun. plumber; Alexander Baird, baker; James Hampton, telegraph clerk; James Massie, joiner and Robert McKay, labourer all residents of Laurencekirk and all pleaded not guilty.
Sheriff Robertson found there was a distinction between the parties who were members of the crowd, those who had gone as a crowd with the intention of committing certain acts and those who went to look on and he thought it was up to the prosecutor to show that each of the accused belonged to the first class.
Alexander Baird was of the second class and had his case dismissed.
He wasn’t so lucky the following year, fined 10s for using obscene language. Perhaps he should have attended a few of the Evangelist meetings run by his cousin, Charles Baird.