ON SEPTEMBER 13, 1854, a case was heard at Alloa Sheriff Court before Sheriff Substitute William Bennet Clark that was brought by Robert Bruce of Kennet.

One of his farm servants who had been employed to work for him had broken her contract.

Janet Bernard of Kennet Village had begun working for Bruce in May of that year to work in husbandry on his farms at Kennet and Meadowend during the summer months until the end of the harvest season.

Throughout that time, she worked conscientiously and continued to turn up until Thursday, September 7, but did not appear after that day.

The charge against her was that she was guilty of absconding meaning, therefore, she had broken her contract with Bruce.

Her defence was that she had not been employed as a farm servant in the way mentioned in court and she did not continue her work as none of her co-workers could shear like her, so had gone to Grassmainston to shear sheep but promised Mr Mack, the overseer at Kennet, she would be back if he would get her 'proper neighbours' as she put it.

Mr Mack said that other women were employed on the same terms as Janet, and that it had been the same practice for over 30 years.

It was their routine to employ as many women from Kennet Village as they could to work for Bruce during the summer season and to work the whole of the harvest.

Ann McDonald, also from Kennet Village, corroborated Macks testimony, stating that for the past 20 years she had worked the summer and harvest on these two farms.

She stated her terms were that if she worked the summer months, she did the harvest too. Another witness, Janet Johnstone, also confirmed this was the situation.

Mr MacWatt, who acted on behalf of Bruce, said the case was clearly proven, but that it was an issue which was reoccurring.

He said that desertion prevailed during the harvest season, putting employers at serious inconvenience and considerable loss.

The case had been brought to show these deserters that they were liable and should be punished accordingly. Janet was to act as an example to others doing the same thing.

Clark was of the view that Janet had indeed deserted her position, but not only that, she had refused to go back.

That being the case, he convicted her of the offence of leaving the job which was in breach of her contract.

She was imprisoned for 14 days.