Site icon Random Scottish History

WORK OF SOCIETIES, &c., Various Contributors (Apr., 1895), pp.231-236.

“SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES OF SCOTLAND (11th March). – Mr. D. P. Menzies described the bagpipes preserved in the family of pipers associated with the chiefs of Menzies, which, according to a tradition more easily stated than verified, were said to have played the clan into the battle of Bannockburn. In the discussion which followed, Mr. Glen stated that the chanter, differing from the kind now used, was similar to the Black Chanter of Cluny Macpherson, which was used in the ’45. 

The second paper, on “The Monumental Effigies of Scotland from 13th to 15th century,” by Mr. Robert Brydall, was illustrated by a series of drawings by the author. The custom of carving monumental effigies in full relief, he said, did not appear to have prevailed in Scotland until the 13th century, the incised slab, and a peculiar treatment of the figure in flat relief, having been the previous monumental forms. While it was on record that certain tombs or effigies, such as those of The Bruce and Robert II., were sculptured on the Continent and in England, the greater number were executed in Scotland. The destruction and dilapidation of these splendid works of art in Scotland was scarcely conceivable until the list was reckoned up. If they excepted the mutilated coffin lid of William the Lion at Arbroath, the effigy known as Marjory Bruce at Paisley, and the unidentified Stewart of Bute at Rothesay, they had no Royal effigies left in Scotland. Of those of Church dignitaries, most had disappeared, while of those that remained none had escaped mutilation or decay. Even the knightly effigies, of which more examples had been preserved, were for the most part in much the same sad state. In strong contrast to the English effigies, with their beautifully enamelled heraldry and metal figures, the Scottish effigies, with the exception of two or three in marble, were of ordinary stone, and the only suggestion of the use of other material was in the hollows for the face and hands in the fine incised slab at Creich, also in contrast with England. There was no doubt that many of the Scottish effigied tombs were coloured and gilt; and worn, defaced, and mutilated as they were, their study was still full of interest to the artist, the antiquary, and the historian. Mr. Ross, architect, and Mr. Balfour Paul, Lyon King of Arms, expressed their high sense of the value of the beautiful drawings exhibited, and made remarks on the interest of these Scottish monuments and the desirability of a complete description of every example being obtained as speedily as possible. 

In the next paper, Dr. Joseph Anderson gave an account of the cave recently discovered at Oban, which had been explored, under the auspices of the society, by a local committee. All the implements recovered were of bone or deer-horn, except some hammer-stones and chips of flint. Among other articles found were a series of barbed harpoons or fish spears, made of deer-horn, the largest of which was 6 inches in length, and had a perforation in the butt-end to receive the line, for use as a disengaging harpoon-head. The cuts had been made by sawing with a rough tool, such as apparently would be made with a splinter of flint. These harpoons were extremely interesting as the first specimens obtained from a Scottish cave. Similar articles had been found in Oronsay in a mound explored in 1880-82. A further remarkable feature was the presence of a large number of small implements (see Mr. Anderson Smith’s outline tracing, actual size, of which apparently the polished butt-end was the end used. The only thing he knew resembling them was the tool used in polishing leather and rubbing down the seams of skin-made garments. The age of the occupation of this cave, Dr. Anderson considered, was strictly limited by the character of the fauna to the neolithic period of the Stone Age at the earliest. 

The last paper was a description by Mr. H. F. Morland Smith of a Rune staff of Swedish origin presented to the Museum by the Hon. John Abercromby.” 

*     *     *     *     *

“GLASGOW ECCLESIOLOGICAL SOCIETY (25th March). – The Rev. John Charleson, B.D., read a paper entitled “A Pilgimage to Paisley.” Approaching Paisley from the north-east, he said he saw a coronal-tipped tower rising above every roof and spire. Is this, he thought, built over S. Mirren’s shrine, or for the honour of the other saints to whom Paisley’s erstwhile fair Abbey was dedicated? Or does it crown some other temple built for the glory of God in the faith once delivered to the saints? It cannot surely be for the glorifying of some paltry modern sect and the perpetuation of error and schism? He loathed to say it was, and yet he knew it was. Soon he found himself beside an ancient, smoke-begrimed ruin called the Abbey. He spoke of the “Sounding Aisle” on the south side, once the chapel of S. Mary, S. Columba, and S. Mirren, of the north transept with its spacious window, and of the aisleless choir, now roofless and waste. But it still retains the four seats for the celebrants at the altar, the credence niche and water drain. No altar now is there, but a waste of tombs; and the long reach of the choir is open to the skies, to the blast and the rain. A hideous post-Reformation wall separates the nave proper from the choir and chancel, and in this nave worships the Abbey Parish congregation. To a lover of the beautiful and of a true ecclesiology it is, alas! A veritable chamber of torture. In a setting of perfect mediaeval architecture there is an extraordinary jumble of painted windows, put in evidently with entire and naïve disregard of order and right principles of ecclesiastical art. Some of these windows are good when taken by themselves, but the colouring and subject-matter of one window contrast so fearfully with those near it that a very painful impression is made upon the visitor. The arrangements for worship are of an equally Philistine character. Instead of the holy table occupying the chief place as the centre of the Church’s holiest act of worship, a pulpit rises in the centre in front of the east wall, dominating all else, even the table of Communion itself, which is literally placed under it, as if the Holy Eucharist were a wholly secondary matter. It is difficult to see how a true catholic faith can possibly flourish in such an abode of barbarico-Puritan mal-arrangement. The venerable ruins of the Abbey Church cry aloud for reform and restoration. Is there none of Paisley’s sons will set himself to restore the Abbey – a work, the performance of which would add undying lustre to his name? Mr. Charleson also visited the large church erected by the Coats family, which he alluded to as a sort of petrified apotheosis of modern sectarianism. Within, the view is at first somewhat impressive. |Everything from roof to floor is of the finest material, but the nave is so short as to spoil the vista and give the impression of dumpiness. In looking up to the chancel and arrangement at first glance seems good. The pulpit is placed to the side, in front of the arch, as if the preacher pointed the way to the holy table of Communion within the chancel. A cruel disillusionment awaits a nearer approach. What seemed a beautifully-carved altar at the quasi-east end turns out to be the back of the keyboard of the organ, so that here verily the organist presides in what in primitive times was the bishop’s chair or the holy table itself. But, as if to make confusion worse confounded, instead of there being a table of Communion the breadth of the chancel is occupied by a great marble bath, used by the baptists for their rite of immersion. It does not, then, surprise us to see the representation of the Holy Supper put to the side, as being of smaller consequence than Baptism. This so-called chancel is not a chancel, but a baptistry. He learned, however, that a Communion table is yet to be placed in front of the chancel. This, as the church is confessedly an imitation of Gothic, and Gothic is Christianity expressed in architecture, becomes still more absurd. Unsectarian Christendom puts the baptistry either outside the church or near the entrance, because Baptism is the sacrament of initiation; it puts the Eucharist in the place of honour. Here, however, Baptism is made, not the beginning, but the most prominent thing of all; the cart is put before the horse. The building is primarily a Baptistry, a place for baptism; instead of being a Church. It is a genuine tribute paid by a wealthy family to one of our many modern sects.”

*     *     *     *     *

“THE EDINBURGH ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION visited (9th March). – Liberton House, the former residence of the Littles, the owners of the barony. The house belongs to a transition period when defensive architecture, even in the case of structures without any claim to rank as castle of fortress, had not yet been wholly abandoned, and when the state of society made it necessary to retain safeguards against sudden  attack. Though disfigured extremely by an alteration in the height of the walls, which have been considerably raised, and in the pitch of the roof, which has been depressed, the outlines of the original elevation are still clearly traceable. The bold and picturesque corbelling in the upper part of the tower and the quaintly-inscribed sundial, built into the angle of the outer walls, were pointed out. The interior part of the house has undergone a complete though strictly conservative restoration. It was explained how, by the removal of modern lath and plaster, one by one the many interesting features of the building were opened out and eventually brought back as far as possible to their original condition.”

*     *     *     *     *

“DUMFRIESSHIRE AND GALLOWAY ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY (8th March). – A motion was adopted expressing regret for the death of Mr. Patrick Dudgeon, of Cargen. A superstitious custom in Galloway was the theme of a paper by Mr. John McKie, R.N., Kirkcudbright. Superstition died hard, and customs lingered in the land for generations after their original cause had disappeared. The habit of putting “cow sherne” into the mouth of a young calf before it was allowed to milk its mother was one commonly practised within his recollection; and from an old woman who followed the practice he received the following explanatory legend: In the olden time, when Galloway was stocked with the black breed of cattle, there was a carle who had a score of cows, not one of which had a white hair on it. They were the pride of the owner. One day, while they were being driven out, the carle’s dog worried the cat of an old woman who lived in a hut hard by, and though he expressed sorrow for what his dog had done, she cursed him and all his belongings. Afterwards, when the cows began to calf, instead of giving fine rich milk as formerly, they only gave a thin watery ooze, on which the calves “dwined away” to skin and bone. During this unfortunate state of affairs a pilgrim, on his journey probably to the shrine of St. Ninian, sought lodgings for the night. The wife of the carle, though unwilling to take in a stranger during the absence of her husband, eventually granted his request. On her making excuse for the poverty of the milk she offered, he tasted and said the cows were bewitched, and for her kindness he would tell her what would break the spell. This was to put some “cow sherne” into the mouths  of the calves before they were allowed to suck. As the carle approached his home when returning from his journey he noticed a bright light in the hut of the old hag who had cursed him. Curiosity induced him to look in; he saw a pot on the fire, into which she was stirring something, muttering incantations till it boiled, when, instead of milk as she doubtless expected, nothing came up but “cow sherne.” This left no doubt that it was the ungrateful old witch who had bewitched the cows. Next day, when she came expecting her usual dole, the carle’s wife caught hold of her before she had time to cast any cantrips and scored her above the breath until she drew blood with a crooked nail from a worn horse shoe, which left her powerless to cast further spells. The cows now gave as rich a yield of milk as formerly; and the custom thus begun was continued long after witchcraft had ceased to be a power in the land.

Mr. James Shaw read “Notes from thirty years’ residence in Tynron,” a Nithsdale parish, commenting on changes on popular customs occurring within his memory. Black Galloway cattle had disappeared and given place to Ayrshires, and Cheviot sheep were yielding to black-faced. The plaid was less common now than formerly. Wives and maidens on Sundays used to be seen carrying their shoes and stockings in a napkin, ready to put on at the side of the rivulet nearest the church. The old “Candlemas Bleeze” had ceased, and the Christmas present come in its room. On folklore Mr. Shaw had one or two odd facts to record. A woman about thirty or forty years ago caused her children to wash their feet every Saturday evening. As soon as the ablutions were performed a live peat or coal was thrown into the tub, the person doing so walking three times around it. After this the contents were thrown out. Mr. Shaw also stated that “Hurlbausie” was the name given by the old people to the planet Jupiter.”

*     *     *     *     *

“GLASGOW ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY (21st March). – Dr. David Murray from the chair made fitting reference to the great loss which the society had sustained by the death of their president, Mr. C. D. Donald. Mr. Donald, he said, had been cut off suddenly and in the midst of his days, just when his faculties had come to full maturity, and when reading and thought, experience and observation, were bearing fruit in a firm grasp of affairs and a deep insight into life and action. It was but four months since they welcomed him to the president’s chair, but he had long been a member of the society. Mr. Donald was not a specialist in any branch of archaeology, but he was well acquainted with the trend of archaeological science, and had a thorough grip of the principles. He was the founder and the heart and soul of the Regality Club. He was author of many of its papers – a series of graphic and accurate accounts of the Glasgow of last century. Mr. J. Dalrymple Duncan and Dr. J. O. Mitchell also spoke in appropriate and feeling terms. 

Mr. George Neilson read a paper on “Caudatus Anglicus: A Curious Mediaeval Slander,” dealing with the origin and history of the term Caudatus applied to Englishmen. It was shewn to have been in use from the end of the twelfth century, invariably applied to Englishmen, and in a great mass of cases, in conjunction with sarcastic references to the possession of tails. Divergent theories had been propounded to explain this remarkable belief of the middle ages. The two most important were – first, an etymological explanation which accounted for caudatus as signifying a coward and connected with a tail between the legs; second, that given by mediaeval chroniclers and ancient legend. These latter authorities said that when St. Augustine came into England the inhabitants of a southern county mocked him by affixing fish tails to his garments, and that in divine revenge the inhabitants of the district ever afterwards carried tails. Many curious citations illustrative of mediaeval wit were given, proving the use to which this epithet was put. It was demonstrated to have been frequently applied by Frenchmen and Scotsmen to Englishmen from twelfth to the sixteenth century. It was utilised continually for purposes of international satire, and thus formed a somewhat spicy part in the epigrammatic quarrels between representatives of the antagonistic nations. Mr. Neilson’s opinion was that the etymological explanation was inadequate, and that the term was the evidence of a widely existing belief of early ages that in certain parts of England men had been punished by the infliction of tails. In Scotland ill luck had attended its use, for in each of three historical instances of the Scots thus taunting the English, the English had enjoyed the revenge of inflicting an immediate defeat. Professor Lodge, and other speakers as well as the chairman, expressed concurrence in this view, indicating further that the belief in tailed men was of very old standing amongst mankind, and had persisted down to relatively recent times even in Britain.”

Exit mobile version