During the summer of 1889, the Royal Burgh of Tain was overrun with criminals. The local authorities were left with little option but to act. Morning raids were made on several premises, in late June, resulting in most of the town bakers being arrested and the shocking discovery of some 'Fancy Bread.'

Tain-Selling Bread Unstamped Bread. 

In the Burgh Court-house on Saturday, William Ross, John Mair, James Robertson, bakers, Tain and Mrs Kemp, merchant, Tain, were charged, before Provost Vass, with a contravention of the Police Act in so far as on the previous day each of them sold, or exposed for sale, a loaf or half-loaf which the imperial weight was not marked in distinct figures. They all pleaded guilty, Mr Ross said he wanted the public to know that there was not a loaf underweight in his shop. He was told, however, by the Burgh Fiscal, that there was not a complaint against him in relation to the weight. The Provost in passing sentence remarked that he never saw a stamped loaf in this district, but that the public was as much to blame as the bakers on account of their accepting unstamped bread. The sentence of the Court was a fine of 2 s. 6 d. each.” Inverness Courier, July 5, 1889

Tain Light Bread

For some time past complaints have been made to the authorities as to the selling of light bread in the town. Inspector Cameron and Constable MacLennan, Tain, armed with the necessary warrant from the Magistrates, on Friday entered the shop of Mrs Kemp, merchant, High Street, for the purpose of weighting all loaves of bread in her possession. The result of that weighting was that a sack of loaves was metred. They found 14 long-shaped 4lb. loaves deficient in weight, varying from two to five ounces; 12 round-shaped 4lb. loaves deficient in weight, varying from 12 to 14 ounces; 6 round-shaped 2lb. loaves deficient in weight, varying from 6 to 8 ounces.

Mrs Kemp was accordingly brought up the same day before Provost Vass, and charged with selling or exposing for sale loaves of bread light or deficient in weight, contrary to the Act 25 and 28 Vic., cap 101. She craved an adjournment of the trial till Monday so that the person who supplied her with the bread might be present in the Court. This was accordingly done. On Monday she again appeared before Provost Vass and Baillie Wallace and pleaded not guilty to the charge. 

The first witness called was Dean of the Guild Ross, who stated that he was called into the shop of Mr Ross, baker, where there was a girl who had bought two loaves from Mrs Kemp. He saw the loaves weighed, and they came to 3lb. 2 oz. He went to Mrs Kemp and asked her to weigh a loaf, but she refused to do so. He remembered seeing a placard in Mrs Kemp’s window as to the 2lb. and 4lb. loaf being sold there at a reduced price. Inspector Cameron stated that he went into Mrs Kemp’s shop on Friday morning and weighed some bread, which was produced in Court. Mrs Kemp admitted that she was selling the long shaped loaves as 4lb. loaves, but he found them short of weight from 2 to 5 oz. Constable MacLennan corroborated the above.

Mr Alex Paterson, baker, Fife-Keith, who supplied the bread, appeared for the defence and stated that he did not sell the loaves produced as being 2lb. but simply as scones. In their part of the country they were called scones, but in the North, they were called “horacks”. In regard to the 4lb. loaves he did not sell them as 4lb. loaves but as “buttered plain loaves.” Butter was used in their manufacture, and he could not afford to sell them as 4lb. loaves. He did not sell any of that kind of bread at home unless they were asked for. All the bread he sold in his own shop was full weight.

The Procurator-Fiscal, in addressing the Bench, stated that it was not fair to the working people that such bread should be allowed to be sold, as they when wanting a loaf would get one of these loaves which were deficient in weight under the impression that they were getting full weight. Mrs Kemp denied selling them as loaves, but simply as fancy bread. The provost stated that the Magistrates had no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that these loaves were sold as 2lb. and 4lb. loaves, and as the loaves were deficient she was liable in a penalty not exceeding 40 S. for each loaf, but they would modify that penalty to 40 S. or seven days imprisonment. Inverness Courier, July 5, 1889

(Mrs Kemp was having none of this and dragged the case to the High Court in Edinburgh).

Important Ross-shire Case in Edinburgh

Some time ago there appeared a report in our columns regarding the trial and conviction by the Tain Provost and Magistrates of Mrs Kemp, merchant, Tain, for selling light bread. Mrs Kemp raised a suspension in Edinburg against W. J. Macdonald, Burgh Fiscal, Tain, to have the conviction set aside on various grounds, among others that the proceedings against her were irregular, harsh, and oppressive. On the 29th ult., the suspension was tried before the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, when the Court unanimously decided the case in Mrs Kemp’s favour, quashed the conviction, and allowed her expenses. Robert Munro, writer, Tain, took up the suspension on behalf.   Inverness Courier 01 November 1889.