Sometime flesher in Hillend near Avonbridge. Married to Janet Clarke with whom he had at least three children, Benjamin, Daniel and Janet.
In 1766 he was charged with stealing 120 sheep from a farm in Peebleshire, and his case became James Boswell's first as an advocate. Boswell, with the help of Andrew Crosbie, managed to secure a verdict of "Not proven". Reid was again charged with sheep-stealing in 1774, but this time Boswell did not succeed in getting him acquitted. On August 2, 1774, John Reid was convicted of sheep-stealing and was
"judged to be carried from the bar back to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, therein to be detained until Wednesday the seventh day of September next, and upon that day to be taken forth of the said Tolbooth and carried to the common place of execution in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh, and then and there betwixt the hours of two and four o'clock in the afternoon of the said day to be hanged by the neck by the hands of the common executioner upon a gibbet until he be dead, and ordain all his moveable goods and gear to be escheat and inbrought to His Majesty's use, which is pronounced for doom."1