John Stewart, Sheriff of Bute.
“I HAVE to acknowledge the unconscious part which Mr. Joseph Bain has in this discovery. His note on “The Comyns in the West of Scotland”1 brought to mind an interesting question which had been laid aside for examination at a convenient season. On referring to the subject, with the intention of supplementing Mr. Bain’s note, I have been led to tell this new and independent story.
On the floor of the chancel of St. Mary’s Church, Bute, lies the effigy of a knight in armour. The stone measures six feet two and a half inches long by twenty-three and a half inches broad at the top, diminishing to twenty inches at the foot. The figure is about five inches in relief. Although it has been long exposed to the weather and to the feet of the careless, its valuable record is still preserved. The scale drawing in the margin […] makes it unnecessary to give any description in detail.
This effigy, according to the Rev. J. K. Hewison, is “said to be that of Angus, Lord of the Isles, who died in 1210, but an examination of some Gothic lettering on the stone led him to believe that it was that of one of the Cummings, who were intimately associated with the island.”2 The early date suggested is at variance with all the facts, and there is no evidence either for Cumming or Angus. The effigy is that of John Stewart, natural son of King Robert II.3 He became heritable Sheriff of Bute about 1385,4 and died before the month of July, 1449.5 The inscription on the edge of the stone so far as decipherable is –
V * * EM CVMIDO DE
* E * * * * * VO * * * VNER –
The third line, on the edge of the stone, is almost entirely broken or worn away. The last word was probably “funeratus.”
The shield bears a bend chequy,6 and not the fess chequy which was borne by the Stewarts of Bute at a later date. In his Heraldry, p. 52, Nisbet writes – “As for the Stewarts, Sheriffs of Bute, the first of them was Sir John Stewart, natural son of King Robert II. By several charters of King Robert III. he is designed Frater noster naturalis [our natural Brother]. What that family carried of old I know not, but in the Books of Blazons of Workman, Pont, and others, Stewart of Bute carried the single coat of Stewart.” In Stodart’s Scottish Arms references to the arms of the Stewarts of Bute will be found from Workman’s MS. (1565-6),
Forman’s Roll (1562), and the illuminated MS. ascribed to Sir David Lindsay (1603-5). I believe this effigy presents the only illustration of the original arms of this house. John Stewart was ancestor of the Bute family.
P. MACGREGOR CHALMERS.”
1 Supra, p. 50.
2 Report Brit. Archae. Assoc. Congress, 1888, p. 56.
3 In 1398 he is referred to as Johanni Senescalli de Bute fratri regis. Ex. Rolls, vol. iii. p. 458.
4 Ibid. vol. vi. pref. xcviii.
5 Ibid. vol. v. p. 364.
6 The seal (date 1443) of “Thomas Stewart, natural son of King Robert II., archdeacon of St. Andrews, bears Scotland surmounted with a bend counter compony (as mark of illegitimacy?)” Laing’s Seals ii. 931.
* * * * *
A Belated Poem.
“IT COMES as a pleasant surprise to find in the original volume of the records of the Parliament of Scotland, embedded among the statutes of the reign of James III., the following little poem1:-
Sede sens ista Judex inflexibilis sta
Sit tibi lucerna lex lux pellisque paterna
A manibus reuoces munus ab aure preces.2
Prent in ye patiens Blynd nocht thi conscience
Do thi Gode reuerence thankand him ay
Dress ye withe diligence to put away negligence
Seiss ye with sufficience This warlde will away.
Serf thi Gode meiklé and ye warlde bissylé
Eit yi met merilé sua may thou leif
Gif Gode sendis ye pouerte Thank ye him rechlé
Ffor he may mende ye sŭdanle and na man to grief.
Who is the author, and how comes it to be there, – surely of all places the strangest to meet with an offering to the Muses? May it be a specimen of one of the “makars” who have obtained their eternity of fame in Dunbar’s Lament with not a known verse of their own to attest their right to the bays; or perchance merely a little pillar set up by some 15th century poetaster desirous above all things of having for it a secure resting place? Each reader may decide for himself between poet and poetaster; to find himself freer than his neighbour is, as a distinguished writer once said, the true reward of every critic. This much, however, will be admitted by every one but a sour critic, that the author, whoever he may be, both in the Latin triplet and in his Scottish verses sings of “sothfastnesse” in the very practical fashion that Chaucer himself does in the famous Balade de bon conseyl, which may indeed, even have furnished the idea without being itself the metrical model.
It is noticeable that the poem stands in the record next, and as if intended to be complementary to, a regulation passed in 1468, enacting that “ye ayris at ar now set salbe lauchfull for seruing of brevis falsing of domys and doyng of all wyer justice,” and the explanation may therefore be that the reverie of the ancient Clerk of Parliament was the result of the day’s business – an over-mastering “phrensy” rendering him oblivious of the important fact that his inspiration on justice and truth was not statute or ordained by his Sovereign and the Lords and Commons then in Parliament assembled. We may smile at it now, and regard it as in a way a refutation of Cowper’s remark that a heavy atmosphere of sadness and gravity always hang over the jurisprudence of a country.
J. T. T. B.”
[Our correspondent will find an explanation of the Latin versicles in Bower’s Scotichronicon (ed. Goodall), ii. p. 299, where is a story, ut scribit Helmandus [as writes Helmandus], of the stern treatment meted out by Cambyses to a judge detected taking bribes. Cambyses ordered him to be flayed, his skin to be used as the lining of the judgement seat, and his adipose tissue to be made into a candle and set within a lantern as a light for the bench. With these gruesome incentives to rectitude beside him the son of the excoriated judge was appointed to his father’s place, and the line of which the Latin quoted supra is only part were written above the judicial seat. In Bower, the three lines above quoted are the first, sixth, and second in order, with textual variations of sint for sit and reseces for revoces. The quoted lines also appear in the Exacta e Variis Cronicis, p. 158. The story, without the verses, is told also in the Gesta Romanorum, of which it forms tale 29 in Swan’s translation, revised edition, 1891. Gower uses it in the Confessio Amantis, book v11. Of classical origin, it was a mediaeval commonplace. The context as now disclosed obviously modifies the suggested translation of the second of the lines, paterna pellis plainly denoting the paternal skin, and lux and lucerna being allusions not less painful. It is a fair inference that the clerk of parliament had studied Bower.]
1 No notice is taken of the poem in the Acts of Parl. (Record Edn, Thomson), but it is printed in the Records of the Scot. Parl. (Robertson’s Edn. Suppressed) at page 49, and a footnote states that “it is in the heart of one of the pages of the manuscript in the same hand that writes the rest of the volume.”
2 Occupying that seat, O Judge stand inflexible
Let thy country’s law be thy meditation, thy glory, and thy vestment;
Put away the gift from thy hands and entreaties from thine ear.
Sens is a contraction for sedens; sede sedens ista = sitting in that seat, i.e. on the Bench. The writer of the triplet probably did not wish the elided letters to be read, so that the metrical scansion might not be marred. Pellis might perhaps fittingly be rendered ermine when it is used of a judge; the evolution is at least temptingly natural compared with the metonymous “vestment.”
* * * * *
A Mediaeval Architect.
“THE article on “A Mediaeval Architect” throws a flood of light upon that – especially from a Melrosian point of view – eminent mason, John Morow. I happened to visit Melrose in 1869, and in the Freemason‘s Magazine and Masonic Mirror (London) for 11th September of that year there is an account of my examination of the old Abbey ruins, including John Morow’s autobiography, and also of some of the documents belonging to the old Melrose masonic lodge. When I visited the Abbey ruins my guide would have it that the ruins seen were the ruins of the structure founded in 1136, and at the building of which John Morow acted as the grand master of the Melrose lodge of masons, who it was asserted built the Abbey. As said John, according to his own account related on the stone tablet, was living in the fifteenth century, his age must have rivalled that of some of the antediluvian [pre-biblical flood] patriarchs, when he was a grand master mason1 in the first half of the twelfth century. We are much indebted to Mr. Chalmers for his careful reproductions of John Morow’s inscriptions. I think, in reference to the phrase, “Ye Hye Kirk,” that Mr. Chalmers is wrong when he thinks that in this case it does not specially apply to St. Andrews Cathedral. I think it does; St. Andrews being then the metropolitan See. Mr. J. T. T. Brown’s article on “The Inquest of David” is valuable; this Inquest helps to prove the absurdity of the pretensions of the lodge of Glasgow St. John to have been engaged in the building of the Cathedral of Glasgow in 1057, more than sixty years before the building of said Cathedral was begun.