John Macdonald was a servant to several 18th century noblemen and colonial officials. According to his writings, Macdonald was the son of an affluent tenant farmer from Inverness. When his family was “ruined” in the 1740s Macdonald, then just a young boy, was placed in service. He became a footman and valet and later spent more than 30 years traveling the globe with a succession of masters. Better educated and more literate than his colleagues, Macdonald penned a memoir that contains rare glimpses of life as a working-class tourist abroad. It also describes racier aspects of foreign life, like this fertility ritual in western India:
“At Dillinagogue there was a tank where the Gentoos [Hindus] bathe themselves and the women in particular. At the end of the tank is a piece of rising ground with a cross fixed 12 feet high, where a priest sits most days, naked as he was born. When the women come to enter the bath they make the priest a grand salaam [greeting]. They have a shift on when they entered the water. When a young girl who has been betrothed for some years is going home to her husband… goes to take the bath, she makes a grand salaam to the priest and kisses his private parts, hoping he will pray that they may have children. I took a great delight in going to see those ceremonies.”
In 1617 Somerset magistrates heard several charges against William Zane, a horse-breaker from the village of Long Sutton, near Somerton. Zane had committed a series of public indecencies involving women and young girls. The worst of these was the seduction of Ann West, with whom he had fornicated after promising had marriage; he later collected a ten pound dowry from her parents. According to testimony, their affair was revealed when Zane arrived at the West home and:
“…called for Ann West, she being then at the street door, and because she came not presently unto him, he came forth to her and pulled her into the chamber by the arm, then having his private members showing out of his breeches.”
However this was not the first time Zane had been free with his genital endowments. Several weeks earlier he:
“…came into the house of William Parsons, being one of his neighbours, finding the wife of William sitting at her work, drawed out his private member and laid it upon her shoulder and wished aloud that her shoulder was another thing…”
On another occasion Zane thrust his hand under the skirts of a young girl, making her cry. When the girl’s mother confronted Zane in public and dressed him down, he responded by sneaking into her yard and soiling her clean washing with “filthy ordure and dung of people”. The magistrates found Zane guilty and sentenced him to a series of public whippings. He was also ordered to repay the ten pounds to Ann West’s parents and to pay two shillings a week for the upkeep of her child. Ann West was also sentenced to a whipping for premarital fornication.