As morning broke in the little parish of Borgue in the south of Scotland, Hugh climbed down from the loft in the barn and walked stiffly past his house and down to the creek. The dirty wig on his head was backwards and his shirt was covered in little patches he’d cut from his trousers.
When he reached the brook, Hugh knelt down and removed his hair-piece and held it under the water until he’d recited the Lord’s Prayer ten times. Lifting the sopping wig onto a branch, Hugh sat down cross-legged and stared. At first the water poured out of the woolen strands in a thick stream and Hugh’s eyes remained transfixed on the sparkling braid. Soon the stream slowed to a steady drip but Hugh’s gaze didn’t move. It remained focused on a point of air a few inches below the wig.
He sat like a statue for two hours, eyes unmoving, until the wig was completely dry and the silence was finally broken by his mother’s voice.
“Hugh, what are you doing?”
Hugh didn’t answer, didn’t turn around, but ever-so-slightly began to rock back and forth.
“Hugh, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
Hugh stood and turned to see his mother with a young woman.
“This is Nickie, Hugh,” his mother said.
“Nickie Hugh,” he repeated and turned his head swiftly away.
"No, Hugh, Nickie Mitchell," she corrected but Hugh was already on his way back to the creek where he began arranging pebbles into neat little stacks.
There was no term yet for Hugh Blair’s behavior on this July 4, 1745, but the court records detailing the challenge and invalidation of his arranged marriage to Nickie Mitchell due to mental incapacity would later be used to document the earliest identified case of autism.