"Theft of Ale. —At the Burgh Court of Pittenweem on Saturday — Provost Henderson and Bailie Christie on the bench — five fisher youths, only the first having reached the age of thirteen, to wit, the brothers Robert and George Anderson, Alexander Parker, David Duncan, and Thomas Mather, were charged with theft, in as far as that they stole a dozen bottles of ale from a box left in the recess near the old toll on Wednesday, the 10th inst. It appears that the ale had been so left till the return from St Monance of the Anstruther Brewery cart, when the opportunity had been taken by the schoolboys to pilfer the bottles and secret them in some ruins near Colin Fowler's Close, when an accident discovered the trick to P.C. Reith. The child Mather, being only eight, was not placed at the bar, but he, like the others, confessed his guilt. He was suitably admonished by the Provost, but the others were each fined in 2s 6d, or three days in jail, with a pointed warning that in the event of a second conviction they would get so many strokes with the lash."
Dundee Courier - Friday 26 February 1886, page 3.
The brewery cart seems to have been a particularly Scottish institution. It was used to deliver beer to customers in villages a distance from the brewery. There seem to have been misuses of the system, with the carters illegally hawking beer while on their rounds. This was forbidden. The ywere only legally allowed to deliver beer that had been previously ordered, not to retail it from their carts. I'll be returning to this soon.
Note that there's nothing about the boys being underage. That because - with regards to the court and the drinking of alcohol - they weren't underage. Twelve year olds were still allowed to drink in the pub un the 1880's. It was a simpler and happier time. Obviously apart from the poverty, disease and squalour.
Three days in jail does seem a little harsh. I wonder if their parents paid the fine or let them get banged up? I guess we'll never know. Still preferable to the lash, I suppose.