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NOTES., J. Bain, R. R., & N. A. J. (Jan., 1895), pp.50-53.

The Comyns in the West of Scotland.

“A NOTICE (since mislaid) appeared in the Glasgow Herald some years ago [I believe, after checking, he’s talking about the ‘The Rhind Lectures’, Glasgow Herald, 5th – 18th  November, 1893], in a paper on Place-Names, as to the estate of Nenflare [Nemphlar] on the Clyde being part of the barony of Polkelly in Ayrshire, which is interesting for several reasons. Under the name of “Nenflare,” it appears in 1303-4 as the property of Sir Edward Comyn, held under Edward I., then in possession of a large part of Scotland. (Calendar of Scottish Documents, vol. ii. pp. 424-8.) Edward Comyn was lord of Kilbride in Lanarkshire, and many other lands in England. He fell at Bannockburn, leaving two daughters, both of whom seem to have married Englishmen. Rowallan in Ayrshire also belonged at this time to a Comyn related to, but distinct from, the Kilbride Comyn. It must have come to the Mures by a Comyn heiress, for the garbs of Comyn appear on the arms of the Mures of Rowallan. And when Sir Adam Mure procured, in 1393, the erection of Polkelly and other lands, including Nenflare, into a barony, he was clearly uniting old Comyn estates. Scottish antiquaries are generally aware of the early greatness of the Comyns in Scotland. I am not sure that their Lanarkshire possessions are so well known. In Clydesdale alone they held Kilbride, Dalserf, and Nenflare, with I believe “Ferme-Comyn,” a little above Glasgow (afterwards Hamilton Farm)1; and on the north boundary of Lanarkshire, though de facto in Dunbartonshire, the extensive baronies of Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld – all forfeited by their opposing Robert Bruce in the War of Independence.


1 My authority for this will be found in the Acta Dominorum Auditorum, p. 134, where on 13th February, 1489-90, in the action by Thomas Stewart of Minto against Patrick Hamilton of the Ferme for non-payment of 750 marks Scots due under his bond to Thomas for failing to infeft him heritably in the lands of “Ferme Comyn,” the defendant was decerned in absence to pay the money and expenses, etc. This is the only notice I have ever seen of Ferme Comyn. In that neighbourhood there were several “Fermes” – e.g. Crawford’s Ferme, Hamilton’s Ferme, and Noble’s Ferme, distinguished by their owner’s names. We may fairly add a fourth.

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White Hat as a Symbol of giving Possession.

“By the old Burgh Laws the heir of a burgess had his interests well protected. He was secured in the succession of heritages to which the burgess had himself succeeded, while of moveable goods the best of every sort were set apart for his appropriation (Leges Burgorum, c. 106, 114, 116). Property, however, which the burgess acquired by purchase could be disposed of without the heir’s consent (ib. c. 21). In the appended extract from the Peebles MS. Records, a burgess alienated to his son, not only the heritable property then belonging to him, reserving his own liferent, but also all land and heirship goods he might be possessed of at his demise. The lands, which had probably been purchased by the donor, and thus were not claimable at law by the heir, were transferred by delivery of the usual symbols – earth and stone: but with regard to the “guids,” which “pertenys or may perten of law tyl a burges ayr,” possession was given by delivery of a white hat. Can anyone expound the signification of this curious symbol or cite analogous instances?

The entry in the records narrating the transaction is dated 29th November, 1471, and is as follows: – “Thom Doby, burges of Peblis, with erd and stan, had resingnet and gewyn up the few of his land, with pertinentis, lyand awest half Peblis Water on the North Raw, betwixt the landis of the hous of Mewrus1 on the est sid of the ta parte, and the land of Sanct Mechallis on the west syd of the tother parte, in Wylʒam Smayllis hand, balya in that tym, and than incontinent the said balya layd that erd and stan in the hands of Thom Doby, the son of the sayd Thom, and gaf to hyn and tyl hys ayris, gattyn of hys body, herrietable stat and sessyng of the few of the sayd land with the pertinentis, reservand the frank tenement to Thom Doby, elder, his fader. And gif it happynis the said Thom Doby, yonger, to haf na barnis gottyn with his body to joys the said land and ayr it, than sal the sayd land, with the pertinentis, com agayn to the nerest and mast lauchful ayr of Thom Doby, elder. And than furthwith the said Thom Doby tuk a quhyt hat and resingnet and delyverit up all ayrchep in the sayd balyais hand, als wel his land that he had or mycht haf at the wyl of God at hys later dayes, and than incontinent the said balya delyverit and gaf possession with the said hat, in name of ayrschep, to the said Thom Doby, yonger, als fer has2 pertenys or may perten of law tyl a burges ayr to haf of quhat guidis thair is or beis in the tym after the quantyte of gudis. Befor thir wytnes: – the said balya, Wyll Dekyson, custumar, Stevyne Darlyng, Rob of Wygam, Wylle Forfayr, Wylle Robyson, Robyn of Chawmyr, John Darlyng, Rynʒyn Darling, John of Wodhaw, serjand, and Thom Yong, clerk, with other mony present.

R. R.”

1 The monks of Melrose had more than one property in the burgh of Peebles. One of these adjoining the cemetery of the parish church appears to be here referred to.
2 i.e., so far as. “Has” is a form of “as” common in early records; and conversely, “as” takes the form of “has.”

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The Wolf was Sick.

“THE beauty of certain early chronicles lies in the fact that you can never guess what out-of-the-way thing you may happen to find in them. The historographer in the middle ages had a truly catholic taste: he could find room in his ample pages for a two-headed calf, a shower of blood, or a jest on the slipperiness of the fair sex, quite as readily as for a copy of Magna Carta, or “gud King Robert’s testament.” It was a pleasant surprise the other day to light on a certain well-known rhyming proverbial parable embedded in the great fifteenth century storehouse of mediaeval Scots lore. Everybody knows the lines: –


The Devil was sick, the Devil a monk would be:
The Devil got well; the devil a monk was he!


But not everybody has read in Walter Bower’s Scotichronicon (ed. Goodall, vol ii. p. 292) [15th century publication] the following very close Latin equivalent: –


Lupus languebat, monachus tunc esse volebat
Sed cum convaluit lupus ut ante fuit.
[The wolf was sick, he vowed a monk to be:
But then he got well, a wolf as of old was he!]


This leonine and lupine couplet is introduced in most incongruous connection with the burial of King Robert the Bruce! Bower prefaces it with the words ut fingit poeta [pretends to be a poet]. Who was the poet?

N. A. J.”

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