Site icon Random Scottish History

WORK OF SOCIETIES, &c., Various Contributors (May, 1895), pp.286-292.

SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES OF SCOTLAND (8th April). – In the first paper the Earl of Southesk gave notice of the stone with an Ogham (?) inscription recently found in digging a grave in the churchyard of Abernethy, Perthshire. [See p. 115, antea.] A few days after its discovery the stone was sent for inspection to the Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, where, owing to peculiarities discussed at length in the present paper, doubts arose as to the character of its inscriptions, which, if not fictitious, appeared to have been recently tampered with. It was subsequently sent by Rev. Mr. Butler to the author of the paper, who, after the most ample opportunities of scrutiny of the stone and study of its inscriptions, felt himself still unable to arrive at any certain conclusions. The paper was thus an impartial account of what he had personally heard, seen, and noted in the matter, without expressing an opinion on either side. In general character the inscriptions on this stone resemble no existing example. The stem-line is horizontal and as straight as if run with a ruler instead of being irregularly hand-drawn and vertical, while nothing resembling the arcs on the line, or the crown and bird above and below it, occurs elsewhere. The letters are all vowels, and the inscription yields no definite meaning, instead of embodying proper names in the manner of all other Ogham epitaphs. The workmanship is suspicious, the lines being mere scratches, such as might be produced by an iron nail, and their freshness is so glaring that they cannot but be recent. The presence of moss on one edge of the stone shows that that part of it must have been not long ago exposed to the air. Finally, the neatly balanced arrangement, the affectation of novel Ogham forms, the easy symbolism of the crown and the dove, and the triteness of the initial capital beneath the crown were all suggestive of modern forgery. After having stated the arguments in favour of the inscription in similar detail, the author proceeded to point out that it bears no resemblance to any Ogham relic in Ireland, England, or Wales, its letter-forms being Pictavian, though its symbolism rather approximated to that of a mithraic, gnostic, or semi-Christian type. So far as the inscription itself was concerned, it was noticeable that each section of it consisted of the same combination of letters merely transposed, so that the second combination was the first read backwards. The inscriber, whether ancient, mediaeval, or modern, appears to have worked not entirely at random, but with a definite purpose, whatever that may have been. In moving a vote of thanks to Lord Southesk for putting the case on record, Mr. Gilbert Goudie gently expressed what seemed the general opinion that the stone is a fraud, perpetrated by some person unknown. 

In the second paper Mr. J. M. Mackinlay called attention to the traces of the cultus of St. Fillan to be met with at Killallan, in Renfrewshire, where, besides the name of the old parish itself, which means the Church of Fillan, there is a Holy Well bearing his name, which had the reputation of restoring weak and rickety children to health after they had been bathed in it, and an offering of some rag from their clothing appended to the neighbouring bushes. The question, however, arose – To which of the two St. Fillans was Killallan dedicated? The Fillan of the sixth century, disciple of St. Ailbe, who gave his name to the site at the south end of Loch Earn, was commemorated on the 20th of June; but the St. Fillan’s Fair at Killallan was held in January. The St. Fillan of the eighth century, who settled in Glendochart, and whose bell and crozier are now in the museum, was commemorated on the 9th of January, and was no doubt the Saint of Killallan. Another chapel and well sacred to St. Fillan were found in Ayrshire, on the Blackhouse Burn, between Skelmorlie and Knok, at a place called Chapelyards. Near the church and well of St. Fillan, at Killallan, there is an earthfast boulder known as St. Fillan’s Seat. Both the Fillans had stone seats, one at Killin and the other at Dunfillan, in the parish of Comrie, which had the reputation of curing rheumatism. The old parish church of St. Fillan, at Killallan, has the date 1695 upon the lintel, but though the roof was still on it in 1791, it is now an ivy-covered ruin. It is said that when the church was unroofed the bell, bearing St. Fillan’s name, was removed to Barochan House, where it still remains.

In the third paper Mr. Lockhart Bogle gave some archaeological notes on Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the chiefs of Macleod in Skye. The statement of Dr. Johnson and others that a castle had been erected at Dunvegan by a Dane in the ninth century is not substantiated by any evidence now forthcoming. The keep, which is the oldest portion of the now existing buildings, is not earlier than the fourteenth century. A drawing of the probable appearance of the castle about this time, with its sea-wall girding the rock on which it stands, and ground plans distinguishing the ancient from the more recent work, were exhibited. Other drawings shewing the various additions made to the original castle by its successive proprietors down to the date of Dr. Johnson’s visit and afterwards were also exhibited, with sketches of several curious details of the structure and carvings built into the walls.

Mr. George F. Black, assistant-keeper of the Museum, contributed a short note on a very interesting charm-stone, a ball of rock-crystal mounted in silver, with turquoise-coloured settings and loops for suspension, which was exhibited by Colonel Eyles Gordon, of Inverleny (through Mr. A. J. S. Brook, F.S.A.Scot.). and is said to have been in the possession of the family of the Gordons of Carall for 600 years.

From G. F. Black’s ‘Scottish Charms and Amulets’ (1894).

Mr. W. Jenkinson Kaye, F.S.A.Scot., exhibited a rubbing of the memorial brass of Sir Rodger de Trumpington, in Trumpington Church, Cambridgeshire, dating from 1289.”

*     *     *     *     *

“DUMFRIESSHIRE AND GALLOWAY ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY (12th April). – Mr. J. W. Whitelaw read notes on Incidents in Nithsdale during the ’45, the staple of which was drawn from the correspondence between the Duke of Queensberry and his Commissioner, James Ferguson, younger, of Craigdarroch. The letters, in draft, belong to Captain Cutler Ferguson of Craigdarroch. They contain much interesting material regarding the beginnings of the rebellion, and about the conduct of the Highland army during its stay in Dumfries and at Drumlanrig during the retreat. Mr. J. G. H. Starke of Troqueer Holm, discoursing on “Troqueer in the olden time,” after a reference to the high circular mound called the Moat, cited a charter of 1365 – conveying a twenty pound land with a house (cum uno burgagio) in the vill of Traqwayre – to prove the ancient existence of a village of Troqueer. It had long disappeared. Adjoining, but distinct from it, was Maxwelltown, formerly known as the Brigend of Dumfries, so styled to mark it out as an adjunct of the town. Hither fled all outlaws from justice and persons banished from Dumfries. In 1716 the Kirk Session of Troqueer called in question a farmer who had one Sunday, at the church door and in the village, warned shearers “to repair to the Mains of Terregles to begin shearing on Monday and following days.” The Session considered “that this was no work of necessity but a breach of the Lord’s Day.” The ecclesiastical rulers were no less strict in enforcing the observance of Fast Days. In 1701 a certain John McKie was found guilty of great contempt and ordered to be rebuked for not observing a day set apart for solemn fasting and humiliation. In sermon time he had walked on the Dock, drunk a choppin of ale instead of going to church, and sent his son with two horses to plough in the adjacent parish of Terregles “because there was no Fast kept there.” “

*     *     *     *     *

“GLASGOW ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY (18th April). – Dr. David Murray was elected president till November in room of the late Mr. C. D. Donald. 

Mr. F. T. Barrett read a paper on “Local Place-names available for the Designation of Civic Wards.” The Society had, on his initiative, approached the municipal authorities with a suggestion that when the new wards into which the city of Glasgow was about to be divided were arranged the official designation of such wards should be by names, instead of, as at present, by numbers; the names selected to be such as were associated historically with the localities included within each ward respectively. The practical advantage of such a change was obvious. A number did not of itself suggest any idea of locality, while a name known historically brought to the mind at once the quarter of the city indicated. What the Archaeological Society was interested in was to maintain, as far as the changing conditions of the times would permit, all the associations which linked the present with the past. He suggested, for consideration, a list of 80 names of several classes. Prominent among them were the names of the old communities and districts now incorporated in the city, such as Anderston, Gorbals, Camlachie, Blythswood, Saltmarket, Langside, Strathbungo, &c. 

Dr. James Macdonald read a note on the “Excavation of a ‘Roman’ Bath at Newfield, Dundonald, Ayrshire.” This circular basin which, as it turns out, is shown on an estate plan of last century, although without any descriptive words attached, was referred to by George Chalmers in his Caledonia as a Roman bath. Recently Dr. Macdonald had assisted in having it examined and sections made. It was 4 feet 9 inches in depth and had a stone bottoming. Owing to unexpected difficulties that were encountered, the excavation had not been so complete as was intended. It showed, however, quite conclusively that the basin could have been no bath either Roman or native, but was probably used for watering horses or cattle on the farm of Boghead. The paper was illustrated by drawings made on the spot by Mr. Emmet Brady. 

The chairman, Dr. Murray, said that a more complete example of Jonathan Oldbuck’s praetorium had never before come under his observation, for Dr. Macdonald’s explanation of what was seemingly a horse pond being converted into a Roman bath was perfect. 

Dr. J. O. Mitchell next read a paper on the “Story of Katherine Carmichael,” which has since been published (4th May) in the Glasgow Herald. A brief abstract follows:- 

          Cowthally Castle, by Carnwath, the seat of the Somervilles, was noted for hospitality: the wits of the day declared that its name should be “Cow-daily.” James V. was a frequent visitor. Especially he was there in July, 1532, on the marriage of the Laird of Cockpool to Margaret Somerville, eldest daughter of Hugh, Lord Somerville, then lord of Cowthally. Among the guests his quick eye caught a young girl whose face was new to him: he marked her beauty and grace – she was but sixteen, and country-bred. She was Katherine Carmichael, daughter of John Carmichael, laird of Medowflat, a small property in Covington, and hereditary captain of his own Royal Castle of Crawford. At once he “did affect her extremely, and begin his intrigues of love.” The Lady Somerville detected his evil purpose, and as long as the girl was under her roof safeguarded her. But the young libertine was not to be so baulked. A few weeks afterwards, “upon Saturnesday at night,” he appeared unexpectedly at Cowthally, and urged Lady Somerville to have Katherine there to meet him. On her refusal, he denounced her as ” most courteous or rather the most scrupulous persone under heaven,” and forthwith sent off a horseman to tell the Captain of Crawford he would be with him the next night.: His Majesty would go a-hunting in his own Baronie and lodge in his own castle. And so on the Sunday morning, after duly hearing mass at the “Colledge Church of Carnwath,” he rode up Clydeside, and as night fell he pulled up at Crawford Castle. What game he had come to hunt they all knew: even Katherine could not misread his purpose; but James was a young and gallant cavalier, he was the King and had her father’s fortunes in his hand to make or mar, and she could not escape his eager siege. Few in her day, maid or matron, would have needed a second summons. It says much for Katherine’s virtue that it was near a year before she surrendered, and became the King’s maitresse en titre, with the Bog House of Crawford-John as her abode; the King built it for her with the stones of the Castle of Crawford-John. In her dreary oubliette two children were born, Joneta Joanna or Jean Stuart, and John Stuart.

After four years came the order of release from the Bog House of Crawford-John. In 1536 Katherine, and my lord’s cousin, young Somervill of Cam’snethan (known as the Laird wi’ the Plaides), and the King himself made up a marriage between him and Katherine. A happy marriage it proved for Cambusnethan. Katherine  was a faithful wife to him and a loving mother to his children. In 1552, when she was but 36, she died. Both Katherine’s children by the King were favoured by fortune, but in character both  unluckily took after the father rather than the mother.

Jean Stuart, “The Lady Jean,” who married Archibald, 5th Earl of Argyle, was the Queen’s favourite sister, and was with her at supper “in her cabinet in Halyrudhous on that fatal nynt day of Merche, the zeir of God 1565 zeirs, quhilk was Settirday, at aucht hours at evin,” when Mary dimly saw Rizzio dragged away.

John Stuart, as a child, was made Commendator of the Priory of Coldingham. In the writings of Knox and his friends there are various notices of Priour John, none of them complimentary. When the Queen would dance, nay, once, when on good news from Paris, she “was merry, excessively dancing till after midnight,” she had her brother the Priour’s example to encourage her. He was a dancer, habit and repute, was the priour. “The Lord John of Coldingham (Randolph writes to Cecil) hath not least favour [with the Queen] by his leaping and dancing.” But the priour is charged with something much worse, charged with scouring the streets by night, masked – nay, “the ryoters brak up Cuthbert Ramsaye’s gates and doores, and searched his hous for his daughter-in-law Alesone Craik in despite of the Erle of Arran, whose harlot she was suspected to have been.”

The Lord John was not a long liver. In 1563 he went north to hold Justice Courts. It was his last circuit. At Inverness, when there was little yet to show for it, only some theeves and murtherers hung and two witches burnt, Lord John was seized with mortal sickness. Then, ’twas said, he repented him of his evil past, and asked God’s mercy. Whether he got it Knox much doubts.”



New Series, vol. ii., part iii. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons.

“This record of a portion of the work of the Glasgow Archaeological Society in 1893 and 1894 contains a multifarious assortment of matter…

His Grace Archbishop Eyre has an attractive topic in the ancient seal of the burgh of Rutherglen. Signant ista tria rata navis nauta Maria was the legend of the earliest seal, translated by the Archbishop – “These three fixed things form the seal, the ship, the sailor, Mary.” The allusion is to the galley with its crew, and the virgin, the emblems of the seal. In the cut illustrating the paper the virgin is seated with the child, whilst an angel on each side waves a thurible. Through a very odd, but easily understood, process of degeneration, the thuribles came to be mistaken for thistles. Ure, in his History of Rutherglen, speaks of the angels as two priests holding up thistles in their hands. The town hall of Rutherglen, built in 1862, carries a shield giving effect to this conception. A second paper from Archbishop Eyre’s pen consists of Notes on the Old Western Tower of Glasgow Cathedral, the destruction of which, in 1846 and 1848, it narrates, criticises, and deplores. It is pitiful to think that this action was taken by the authorities on what were considered sound architectural and antiquarian grounds. Mr. G. W. Campbell writes an excellent notice of John Snell of Ufton. A tombstone to “Andro Snell, Smith,” in Colmonell churchyard, Ayrshire, marks his father’s grave. Some letters are here printed, also a synopsis of his Will, made in 1677, two years before his death, instituting the Snell Exhibition in Glasgow University. In his note on the “Roman” Bridge, near Bothwell, Dr. James MacDonald defines it as a duty with regard to Roman traces, not to scatter doubts and leave the matter there, but by a careful examination and a sifting of the evidence to endeavour to separate what is Roman from what has wrongly been assumed to be so. Applying his method to the high, narrow circular-arched bridge over the South Calder, Dr. Macdonald, without entering upon the larger question of the road, of which it is a part, gives many weighty reasons for believing that the adjective “Roman” does not belong of right to the present structure. His photographic plate itself is enough to compel the conviction that he is right. Incidentally he has some interesting observations on mediaeval and seventeenth century bridges, and the finance of their erection and maintenance. The Rev. W. Lee Ker writes discursively on the Papingo – the sport of shooting with arrows at a mark of figure made after the semblance of a parrot. He has collected a good many contemporary allusions to the sport in the records of Kilwinning and Irvine. In the former town, according to his account, the papingo was in post-Reformation times fixed to a pole laid on the top of the sole remaining tower of the Abbey. A discussion of the tradition of Repentance Tower, near Ecclefechan, is being re-issued in separate form and may be noticed in a future number. Professor Ferguson’s introduction to his Bibliographical Notes on Histories of Inventions and Books of Secrets (first supplement) records with some pleasantry how near allied to his joys are the woes of a bibliographer. Referring to a previous publication of his in 1890 on the same subject, he says:- “Books which I had not heard of previously have come unexpectedly into my hands; editions which I knew of by repute, but had not seen, have thrust themselves upon my attention; copies of books mentioned in my earliest papers, a dozen years ago, have emerged from their hiding places after I had given up all thought of them; of certain books which I was fain to revere as nearly, if not altogether, unique, other copies have risen up to spoil my descriptions and chill my exultation. One result, hitherto, of my experience, is to make me deny the existence of a unique book. There may be many so considered, but their single blessedness cannot be demonstrated, and I take leave to doubt it as a cardinal principle of the science.” Amongst the histories of inventions that of Polydore Vergil comes first on the list, a book the great interest of which by no means expired with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its being then in so many forms reprinted, testifies to a very remarkable popularity. As for the other authors on inventions and secrets, an untechnical critic is apt to feel that their very names are formidable, and to ask who knows them – except Professor Ferguson?”

Exit mobile version