THE death of Elizabeth, March 24, 1603, opened the way for King James to the English throne. He left Scotland on the 5th of April, after taking a tender farewell of his Scottish subjects, and promising to revisit them once every three years. He did not allow one year to elapse without making an effort to accomplish a union between England and Scotland; but it ended in the comparatively narrow result of establishing that the postinati – that is, Scotsmen born after the king’s accession to the English crown – should be regarded as naturalised in both countries.
James continued to be anxious for the reduction of the Scottish Church under the royal supremacy and a hierarchy. The personal influence he acquired as king of England enabled him in some degree to accomplish this object, though all but wholly against the inclinations of the clergy and people.
At a parliament held in Perth (July 1606), under the king’s favourite minister, George Home, Earl of Dunbar, bishops were introduced, and the king’s prerogative confirmed in ample style. The Scottish statesmen and councillors were full of servility to the king. James caused several of the more zealous Presbyterian clergy, including the venerable but still energetic Andrew Melville, and his nephew James, to be brought to a conference in London, hoping to prevail upon them to cease their opposition; but it ended in the one being banished for an epigram, and the other being confined for life to the town of Berwick. In 1610, the king’s supremacy was acknowledged by the General Assembly, and consecrated bishops were settled in authority over dioceses. A court of High Commission, with immense power over clergy, schools, colleges, and people, was also introduced. Regal influence, gold, cajolery, and a judicious deliberation, effected the appearance of an Episcopal reformation, while the great bulk of the people endured with a silent protest what they could not resist.
The king’s sole visit to his native kingdom took place in 1617, as to some extent detailed reformation of the natural religion, by paving the way for an introduction of some of the English ceremonies.
Beyond inducing a few ministers to accept the mitre, and obtaining a hollow conformity from persons in authority, James made no progress in converting the Scotch to Episcopacy, excepting in Aberdeenshire and some other northern provinces. The people refused to kneel at the communion, or have baptism and the eucharist administered in private. The holy-days were disregarded. Withdrawing from the churches, the people began to meet in conventicles or in private houses for worship after their own manner. The established church sank into the character of ‘an institution.’
The English reign of James VI. was, nevertheless, in secular respects, a comparatively serene and happy time in Scotland. Peace blessed the land. For the first time, the law was everywhere enforced with tolerable vigour; some practical improvements were introduced. Even the Highlands began during this period to show some approach to order.
James died March 27, 1625, in his fifty-ninth year, after a nominal reign over Scotland of little less than fifty-eight years.
Intelligence of the death of Elizabeth, which took place at an early hour on the morning of Thursday the 24th March, was brought to King James by Robert Carey, a young aspirant of the English court, who, making a rapid journey on horseback, reached Holyroodhouse on Saturday evening (Mar. 26) after the king had retired to rest. The son of the governor of Berwick came next day and delivered the keys of that town to the Scottish monarch. On the ensuing Sunday (Apr. 3), James appeared in his ordinary seat in St Giles’s Kirk, attended by a number of the English nobility; and after service, addressed the congregation, promising to defend the faith, and to ‘visit his people and guid subjects in Scotland every three years.’ On the 5th of April, ‘his majesty took journey to Berwick; at whilk time there was great lamentation and mourning amang the commons for the loss of the daily sight of their blessit prince.’
June. – The pestilence, which had for some time been raging in England, is noted as now affecting the south of Scotland, and continuing till the ensuing February. – Chron. Perth.
July 21. – James Reid, a noted sorcerer and charmer, was strangled and burnt on the Castle-hill of Edinburgh for his alleged practice of healing by the black art. ‘Whilk craft,’ says his dittay, ‘he learnt frae the devil, his master, in Binnie Craigs and Corstorphin Craigs, where he met with him and consulted with him to learn the said craft; wha gave him three pennies at ane time, and a piece creish [grease] out of his bag at ane other time; he having appeared to the said James diverse times, whiles in the likeness of a man, whiles in the likeness of a horse… whilk likewise learned him to tak south-rinning water to cure the said diseases.’ Other crimes were alleged against him. The authorities made short work of so grievous an offender by sending him direct from judgement to execution. – Pit.
Oct. 2. – Campbell of Ardkinlas, set on by the Earl of Argyll, exerted himself to capture Macgregor of Glenstrae, who for some months had been under ban of the government on account of the slaughterous conflict of Glenfruin. He called Macgregor to a banquet in his house, which stands within a loch, and there made no scruple to lay hold of the unfortunate chieftain. Being immediately after put into a boat, under a guard of five men, to be conducted to the Earl of Argyll, Macgregor contrived to get his hands loose, struck down the guardsman nearest him, and leaping into the water, swam to land unharmed.
Some time after, the Earl of Argyll sent a message to Macgregor, desiring him to come and confer with him, under promise to let him go free if they should not come to an agreement. He ‘came with the Earl of Argyll to Edinburgh’ (January 9, 1604), ‘with eighteen mae of his friends.’ The remainder of the transaction is narrated by the diarist Birrel. Macgregor ‘was convoyit to Berwick by the guard, conform to the earl’s promise; for he promised to put him out of Scots grund. Sae he keepit ane Hielandman’s promise, in respect he sent the guard to convoy him out of Scots grund; but they were not directed to part with him, but to fetch him back again. The 18 of January, he came at even again to Edinburgh, and upon the 20 day, he was hangit at the Cross, and eleven mae of his friends and name, upon ane gallows; himself being chief, he was hangit his awn height above the rest of his friends.’
James Melville notes in his Diary the appearance of a brilliant star which shone out this year ‘aboon Edinburgh, hard by the sun,’ in the middle of the day; ‘prognosticating, undoubtedly, strange alterations and changes in the world; namely, under our climate.’
This notice most probably refers to a star of the same kind with that mentioned in 1572, and nearly as brilliant, which is described as having appeared in the east foot of Serpentarius, in October of this year.
Dec. 7. – ‘Ane hour before the sun rose, the moon shining clear two days before the change, in a calm and pleasant morning, there was at ane instant seen great inflammations of fire-flaughts in the eastern hemisphere, and suddenly thereafter there was heard ane crack as of a great cannon, and sensibly marked a great globe or bullet, fiery coloured, with a mighty whistling noise, flying from the north-east to the south-west, whilk left behind it a blue train and draught in the air, most like ane serpent in mony faulds and linkit wimples; the head whereof breathing out flames and smoke, as it wald directly invade the moon, and swallow her up; but immediately the sun, rising fair and pleasant, abolished all. The crack was heard of all, within as without the house; and sic as were without at the time, or hastily ran out to see, did very sensibly see and mark the rest above rehearsed. Here was a subject for poets and prophets to play upon…’ – Ja. Mel.
June 17. – ‘Ane combat or tulyie [was] foughten at the Salt Tron of Edinburgh betwixt the Laird of Ogle [Edzell], younger, and his complices, and the young Laird of Pitarrow, Wishart. The faught lasted frae 9 hours till 11 at night, twa hours. There were sundry hurt on both sides, and ane Guthrie slain, which was Pitarrow’s man, ane very pretty young man. The 18th, they were accusit before the Council, and wardit.’ – Bir.
The Lairds of Edzell and Pitarrow were committed to ward for not having confined their sons, as the chancellor had commanded. Edzell, foreseeing troubles to himself and his son from the death of Guthrie, sent a surgeon to examine the corpse, with a view to establishing that the young man had not died of the wounds he received in the tulyie, but had been ‘smoored in the throng.’
Edzell was in his way a remarkable man. Possessing a degree of taste uncommon in that age, he had built for himself, at Edzell on the Esk in Forfarshire, a mansion of singular elegance, possessing in particular a screen-wall, ornamented with allegorical figures, the remains of which even at this day excite the surprise of the passing traveller. His latter days were clouded by the consequences of the violent passions of his eldest son, one of the principals in the above combat.
July. – At the end of this month, the pest broke out in Edinburgh, Leith, St Andrews, and other parts of the kingdom. Among the first houses infected in Edinburgh was that of the Chancellor Dunfermline. James Melville, looking to the recent proceedings of this statesmen against the more zealous ministers, considered him as overtaken by ‘the penalty pronounced by Joshua upon the building up of Jericho… His eldest and his only son died, and a young damosel his niece, so that he was compelled to dissolve his family, and go with his wife alone, as in hermitage, with great fear of the death of his daughter also, on whom the boils brake forth. This was marked and talked of by the people.’
Nov. 5. – On the evening of this day, when the Gunpowder Plot was to have taken effect, a high wind produced some effects in the north of Scotland, which seemed in harmony with that wild affair. ‘All the inner stone pillars of the north side of the cathedral church at Dornoch (lacking the roof before) were blown from the very roots and foundation, quite and clean over the outer walls of the church; which walls did remain nevertheless standing, to the great astonishment of all such as have seen the same. These great winds did even then prognosticate and foreshadow some great treason to be at hand; and as the devil was busy then to trouble the air, so was he busy, by these his firebrands, to trouble the estate of Great Britain.’ – G. H. S.
The Privy Council issued sundry proclamations ‘anent the Poulder Treason,’ one for the apprehension of Percy, the prime conspirator.
March 29 and 30. – The equinoctial gale of this year is described by a contemporary chronicler as of extreme violence. He says, with regard to the two days above noted: ‘The wind was so extraordinary tempestuous and violent, that it caused great shipwreck in Scotland, England, France, and the Netherlands. It blew trees by the roots, ruined whole villages, and caused the sea and many rivers so to overflow their wonted limits and bounds, that many people and chattels were drowned and perished.’ –Bal.
Sep. 4. – The Chancellor Dunfermline intimated to the king the pitiful case of the inhabitants of Dumbarton, their town being unable to defend themselves against ‘the surges and inundations of the sea, which is likely to destroy and tak away their haill town, and cannot be repulsit by nae moyen their poor ability and fortunes are able to furnish.’ Those who were appointed to inquire into the matter now reported that it would require at least thirty thousand pounds Scots to make a proper bulwark. It was proposed to defray this charge by a tax on the country.
Dec. 23. – The Privy Council had some time ago issued a proclamation forbidding what was called the backing of pairties to the bar – that is, each party in a lawsuit coming into court with a number of friends and favourers behind him, with a view to exercising some influence over the course of justice. Finding that the former denouncement of ‘this indecent and unseemly custom’ had not been attended with any effect, partly through the public being unacquainted with it, and partly through the negligence of the officers of the law, the Council now renewed their proclamation, with assurance that their orders would in future be strictly acted upon. The practice continued in force some years later. – P. C. R.
Jan. 20. – At this time, Gordon of Gight, Forbes of Corsindae, and some others, formed themselves into what they called the SOCIETY OF THE BOYS – much after the manner perhaps of the Whiteboys of Ireland in more recent times. They bound themselves by oath to consider all quarrels as common amongst them, and are accused of having committed ‘open and avowed reifs, herships, and other enormities, in all parts where they be maisters and commanders.’ All this appears from a letter of the Privy Council, of date January 20, 1607, to the Marquis of Huntly, commanding him to take order for their suppression, ‘as your lordship wald eschew that hard censure and construction which his majesty maun mak of your behaviour in this point.’
June 2. – The Privy Council refer to ‘a very ancient and lovable custom’ of giving a blue gown, purse, and as many Scotch shillings as agreed with the years of the king’s age, to as many ‘auld puir men’ as likewise agreed with the king’s years; and seeing it to be ‘very necessary and expedient that the said custom should be continuit,’ they give orders accordingly. – P. C. R.
The ‘auld puir men’ so favoured were called the King’s Bedesmen, and were privileged to go about the country as beggars, notwithstanding any general enactments that might exist against mendicancy. Their blue cloak bore a pewter badge with assured them of this right. They were expected to requite the king’s bounty by their prayers; and, doubtless, as they had such an interest in the increase of his years, their intercessions for his prolonged life must have been sincere. The distribution of their cloaks and purses used to take place on the king’s birthday, at the end of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, till a time not long gone by.
Nov. – ‘A vehement frost continued from Martinmas till the 20th of February. The sea froze so far as it ebbed, and sundry went into ships upon ice and played at the chamiare a mile within the seamark. Sundry passed over the Forth a mile above Alloa and Airth, to the great admiration of aged men, who had never seen the like in their days.’ – Cal.
The keenness and duration of this frost were marked by the rare occurrence of a complete freezing of the Thames at London, where accordingly a fair was held upon the ice. In Scotland, rivers and springs were stopped; the young trees were killed, and birds and beasts perished in great numbers. Men travelling on their affairs, suffered numbness and lassitude to a desperate degree. Their very joints were frozen; and unless they could readily reach a shelter, their danger was very great. In the following spring, the fruit-trees showed less growth than usual; and in many places the want of singing-birds was remarked. – Jo. Hist.
Horse-racing was early practised as a popular amusement in Scotland. In 1552, there was an arrangement for an annual horse-race at Haddington, the prize being, as usual, a silver bell. Early in the reign of James VI., there were races at both Peebles and Dumfries. The Peebles race was accustomed to take place on Beltane-day, the 1st of May; it was the chief surviving part of the festivities which had from an early period distinguished the day and place, and which were celebrated in the old poem of Peebles to the Play.
The great difficulty attending such popular festivals arose from the tendency of the people to mark them with bloodshed. Men assembled from different parts of the country, each having of course his peculiar enmities, and the object of similar enmities in his turn; and when they met and had somewhat inflamed themselves with liquor, it was scarcely avoidable that mutual provocations should be given, leading to conflicts with deadly weapons. So great reason was there now for fearing a sanguinary scene at Peebles, that the Lords of Council thought proper to issue a proclamation (April 28) forbidding the race to take place. – P. C. R.
May 31. – Margaret Hertsyde had entered the service of the queen in a humble capacity in Scotland, and accompanying her majesty to England, was there considerably advanced, and received from the queen many marks of favour. Enriched with the royal liberality, she returned to her native country as a great lady, attended by her husband John Buchanan, who had been a servant of the king. The pair attracted an invidious attention by the high airs they gave themselves, affecting by the purchase of land to become persons of quality, appearing in a carriage drawn by white horses, and apparently wholly forgetful of their humble origin. It was therefore with no great regret that the people learned that Margaret was apprehended, on suspicion of having taken jewellery from her royal mistress to the value of £400 sterling. The unfortunate woman confessed her guilt to the queen; but on her being brought to trial at Linlithgow some technical difficulties arose as to how far a person could be considered guilty of theft who had only withheld unaccounted for certain articles of which she had been in trust. A direct conviction could not therefore be recorded. In these circumstances, by an irregularity which marks the character of the age, the king interfered, with an order that Margaret Hertsyde be declared infamous and banished to Orkney. She was also adjudged to pay £400 sterling to the commissioner upon her majesty’s dotarial estate of Dunfermline. A grave historian of that day moralises upon the case as a sad example of the mutability of fortune.
In 1619, ‘her doom having been humbly and with great patience embraced and underlain by her, and her behaviour continually sin syne having been very dutiful,’ Margaret so far succeeded in obtaining the king’s grace as to have the reproach of infamy removed. – Pit. Jo. Hist.
July 5. – Dundee is described as suffering under ‘the contagious sickness of the pest, and a great many of the houses are infectit therewith, and greater infection like to ensue in respect of the few number of magistrates within the same, and the little care and regard had of the government thereof, ane of the said magistrates being departit this life, and ane other of them visited with disease and infirmity, and not able to undergo sae great pains and travels in his person and otherwise as is requisite at sae necessar a time.’ For these reasons, the Privy Council appointed three citizens to act as assistant-magistrates. – P. C. R.
July 13. – We hear at this time of one of the last attempts to settle a dispute by regular combat; and it is the more remarkable, as several persons were concerned on each side. On the one part stood ‘the Lord Sinclair, David Seton of Parbroth, and John Sinclair elder and John Sinclair younger, sons to the said Lord Sinclair;’ on the other were George Martin of Cardone and his three sons. A mutual challenge had passed between the parties, ‘with special designation of time, place, form, and manner of the combat,’ and the rencontre would have, to all appearance, taken place, had not some neighbours interfered to prevent it. The parties were summoned before the Privy Council, to answer for their conduct.
Martin and his sons were denounced as rebels for not appearing (July 21). – P. C. R.
Nov. 8. – ‘There was an earthquake at nine hours at night, sensible enough at St Andrews, Cupar, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, but more sensible at Dumbarton; for there the people were so affrayed, that they ran to the kirk, together with their minister, to cry to God, for they looked presently for destruction. It was thought the extraorinar drouth in the summer and winter before was the cause of it.’ – Cal.
At Perth, this earthquake shook the east end of the Tolbooth, insomuch that ‘many stones fell aff it.’ – Chron. Perth.
At Aberdeen, where the shock excited great alarm, the kirk-session met, and accepting the earthquake as ‘a document that God is angry against the land, and against the land, and against this city in particular, for the manifold sins of the people,’ appointed a solemn fast to be held on the ensuing day, and ‘the covenant to be renewed by the haill people with God, by halding up of their hands publicly before God in his sanctuary, and promising by his grace to forbear in time coming from their sins.’ There was one particular sin which was thought to have had a great concern in bringing about the earthquake – namely, the salmon-fishing practised on the Dee on Sunday. Accordingly, the proprietors of the salmon-fishings were called before the session and rebuked. ‘Some,’ says the session record, ‘promist absolutely to forbear both by himselfs and their servands in time coming; other promised to forbear upon the condition subscryvant; and some plainly refusit anyway to forbear.’1
Jan. 5. – ‘… the wind did blow so boisterously, that the like was not heard in the memory of man. Houses in burgh and land were thrown down with the violence of it; trees rooted up, corn-stacks and hay-stacks blown away. Some men passing over bridges were driven over violently and killed. The wind continued vehement many days and weeks, even till mid-March, howbeit not in the same measure that it blowed this day.’ – Cal.
Aug. – There was a Presbyterian prejudice against burying in churches, and the blame of kirk-burial had not only been a subject for the pamphleteer, but the legislature. Nevertheless, John Schaw of Sornbeg in Ayrshire, on the death of his wife, resolved to inhume her corpse in his parish kirk of Galston, in spite of all the minister and session could say or do to the contrary. Accompanied by his brother and his ‘bailie,’ and attended by a numerous party, ‘all bodin in feir of weir,’ he came to the church, broke up the door with fore-hammers, and dug a grave, in which he deposited his spouse. He was afterwards glad to make public repentance for this fact, and pay twenty pounds to the box-master of the kirk, besides which the Privy Council ordained him to appear again as a penitent, and solemnly promise never again to attempt to bury any corpse within the church.’ – P. C. R.
Under favour of the king, a number of strangers had been introduced into the country to practise the making of cloths of various kinds. A colony of them was settled in the Canongate, Edinburgh, headed by one John Sutherland and a Fleming named Joan van Headen, and ‘are daily exercised in their art of making, dressing, and litting of stuffis, and gives great licht and knowledge of their calling to the country people.’ These industrious and inoffensive men, notwithstanding the letters of the king investing them with various privileges, were now much molested by the magistrates of the Canongate, with a view to forcing them to become burgesses and freemen there in the regular way. On an appeal to the Privy Council (Oct. 26), their exemption was affirmed.
The time was approaching when, in accordance with a recent act, the Egyptians were to depart from Scotland, under pain of being liable thereafter to be killed by any one without challenge of law. In anticipation of this dread time, one of the nation, named Moses Faw, appeared before the authorities of the kingdom, and pleaded for permission to remain under protection of the laws, on the ground that he had wholly withdrawn himself and his family from that infamous society, and was willing to give surety for his future good behaviour. The desired permission was extended to him on that condition (Nov. 9). – P. C. R.
Feb. 27. – Alexander Kirkpatrick, younger of Closeburn, being in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh for the slaughter of James Carmichael, son to John Carmichael of Spothe, the Lady Amisfield, wife of a neighbour, came to the prison and entered into conference with the keeper in his private apartments. At her persuasion, the man allowed ‘Young Closeburn’ to come to speak with her; and she then executed her design of exchanging clothes with him, and so allowing him to escape. The lady was warded in the Castle; but what ultimately became of her does not appear. – Pit.
July 27. – Piracy was at this time a flourishing trade, and the Scottish and Irish seas were a favourite walk of its practitioners. Vessels of various countries besides Scotland were pursued by these marauders and mercilessly plundered, their crews seized, tortured, and sometimes slaughtered, or else set ashore on desolate coasts, that they might not be readily able to take measures of redress. The Long Island, on the south-west coast of Ireland, appears to have served as a regular station for pirate ships; they also haunted much the Western Isles of Scotland. In 1609, a piratical crew, headed by two captains named Perkins and Randell, started from the Long Island in a vessel of 200 tons, named the Iron Prize, attended by a nimble pinnace of about half that burden; and for some months they roamed about the northern seas, picking up whatever small craft came in their way. They even had the audacity to show themselves at the mouth of the Firth of Forth. The attention of the Privy Council being called to their proceedings, three vessels were fitted out in a warlike manner at Leith and sent in quest of the pirates. Perkins and Randell had meanwhile come to Orkney to refit. They ‘landed at the castle, and came to the town thereof,’ where they ‘behaved themselves maist barbarously, being ever drunk, and fechting amang themselves, and giving over themselves to all manner of vice and villainy.’ Three of them attacked a small vessel belonging to the Earl of Orkney, lying on the shore, and were taken prisoners in the attempt by the earl’s brother, James Stewart. A day or two after this event, the three government ships made their appearance, and immediately a great part of the piratical company made off in the pinnace. A pursuit proving vain, the government ships returned and attacked the Iron Prize; and after a desperate conflict, in which they had two men killed and sundry wounded, they succeeded in capturing the whole remaining crew, amounting to nearly thirty men, who, with those previously taken, were brought to Leith and tried (July 26). Being found guilty, twenty-seven of these wretched men, including the two captains, were hanged upon a gibbet next day at the pier of Leith. Three were reserved in the hope of their giving useful information.
Oct. 21. – ‘The Archbishop of St Andrews [Gladstanes], reposing in his bed in time of the afternoon sermon, the Sabbath after his diocesan synod in St Andrews, was wakened, and all the kirk and town with him, with a cry of blood and murder. For his sister son [Walter Anderson], master of his household, with a throw of his dagger, killed his cook [Robert Green], while as he was busy in dressing the lord-bishop’s supper. The dagger light[ed] just under the left pap of the cook, who fell down dead immediately.’ – Cal.
The young man was committed to prison; but ‘the poor man’s friends being satisfied with a piece of money, none being to pursue the murder, he was by moyen [influence] cleansed by a white assize (as they call it) and let go free.’ – Row. This trial took place before the regality court of St Andrews. On the ensuing 17th January, letters were raised by the king’s advocate against the assize, but with what result does not appear. – P. C. R.
Nov. 1. – ‘… before the going to of the sun, there were seen by twelve or thretteen husbandmen great companies of men in three battles, joining together and fighting the space of an hour, on certain lands perteening to my Lord Livingston and the Laird of Carse. The honest men were examined in the presence of divers noblemen, barons, and gentlemen, and affirmed constantly that they saw such appearance.’ – Cal.
Dec. 23. – We have now the first hint at public conveyances in Scotland in a letter of the king, encouraging Henry Anderson of Trailsund to bring a number of coaches and wagons with horses into Scotland, and licensing him and his heirs for fifteen years ‘to have and use coaches and wagons, ane or mae, as he shall think expedient, for transporting of his hieness lieges betwixt the burgh of Edinburgh and town of Leith… providing that he be ready at all times for serving of his majesty’s lieges, and that he tak not aboon the sum of twa shillings Scots money for transporting of every person betwixt the said twa towns at ony time.’
Dec. 24. – A patent was granted for the establishment of a glass manufacture in Scotland. The business was commenced at Wemyss, in Fife, and, about ten years after, we find it, to all appearance, going on prosperously. ‘Braid glass’ – that is, glass for windows – was made, measuring three-quarters of a Scots ell and a nail in length, while the breadth at the head was an ell wanting half a nail, and at the bottom half an ell wanting half a nail. It was declared to be equal in quality to Danskine glass. The glasses for drinking and other uses not being of such excellence, it was arranged that some specimens of English glass should be bought in London and established in Edinburgh Castle, to serve as patterns for the Scotch glass in point of quality. For the encouragement of the native manufacture and to keep money within the country, the importation of foreign glass was (March 6, 1621) prohibited. – P. C. R.
May 10. – It was found necessary to put some restraint upon the number of poor Scotch people who repaired to the English court in hope of bettering their circumstances. The evil is spoken of as a ‘frequent and daily resort of great numbers of idle persons, men and women, of base sort and condition, and without ony certain trade, calling, or dependence, going from hence to court, by sea and land.’ It was said to be ‘very unpleasant and offensive to the king’s majesty, in so far as he is daily importuned with their suits and begging, and his royal court almost filled with them, they being, in the opinion and conceit of all behalders, bot idle rascals and poor miserable bodies;’ the country, moreover, ‘is heavily disgracit, and mony slanderous imputations given out against the same, as gif there were no persons of guid rank, comeliness, nor credit within the same.’ The Council, therefore, deemed it necessary to cause an order to be proclaimed in all the burghs and seaports forbidding masters of vessels to carry any people to England without first giving up their names and declaring their errands and business to the Lords, under heavy penalties. – P. C. R.
July 11. – From an act of the Privy Council of this date, we get a curious idea of the customs of the age regarding legal suits. It was declared that one of the chief causes of ‘the frequent and unlawful convocations, and the uncomely backing of noblemen and pairties upon the streets of Edinburgh,’ was the fact that ‘noblemen, prelates, and councillors repairing to this burgh do ordinarily walk on the streets upon foot, whereby all persons of their friendship and dependence, and who otherwise has occasion to solicit them in their actions and causes, do attend and await upon them, and without modesty or discretion, importunes and fashes them with untimely solicitations and impertinent discourses, and sometimes by their foolish insolence and misbehaviour gives occasion of great misrule and unquietness within this burgh.’
The remedy ordered was as curious as the evil itself. It was, that noblemen, prelates, and councillors, when they come to the council or are abroad in the town on their private affairs, should, as became their rank, ‘ride on horseback with footmantles or in coaches’ – thus freeing themselves of that flocking of suitors which so much beset them when they appeared on foot. – P. C. R.
July 17. – This day, John Mure of Auchindrain, James Mure, his son, and James Bannatyne of Chapeldonald, were brought to trial in Edinburgh for sundry crimes of a singularity atrocious character. The first of these personages has been before us on two former occasions (see pages 146 and 172), to which reference may be made for an introduction to what is now to be related.
Auchindrain, it appears, felt that the boy William Dalrymple, who had carried the letter making the appointment for a meeting with Colzean, was a living evidence of his having been the deviser of the slaughter of that gentleman. He got the lad into his hands, and kept him for a time in his house; then on his wearying of confinement, sent him to a friend in the Isle of Arran; thence, on his wearying of being ‘in a barbarous country among rude people,’ he had him brought back to his own house, and, as soon as possible, despatched him with a friend to become a soldier in Lord Buccleuch’s regiment, serving under Maurice, Prince of Orange. Dalrymple had not been long in the Low Countries, when he tired of being a soldier, and came back to Scotland. Once more he was at large in Ayrshire, and a source of uneasiness to Mure of Auchindrain. It was now necessary to take more decisive measures. Mure and his son (September 1607) sent a servant to the young man to take him to the house of James Bannatyne of Chapeldonald, and arranging to join them on the way, ‘held divers purposes, speeches, and conferences with him, tried of him the estate of the Low Countries and sundry other matters,’ and finally placed him as a guest in Chapeldonald House, under the name of William Montgomery.
According to appointment, at ten o’clock of the evening of next day, James Bannatyne came with Dalrymple to meet the two Mures on the sands near Girvan. There, the elder Mure explained to Bannatyne the cause of his fears regarding the young man, telling him ‘he saw no remeed but to redd Dalrymple furth of this life, since he could not otherwise be kept out of his way. Whereunto Bannatyne making answer, that it was ane cruel purpose to murder the poor innocent youth, specially seeing they might send him to Ireland, to be safely kept there… Auchindrain seemed to incline somewhat to that expedient; and, in the uncertainty of his resolution, turning toward the part where his son stood, of purpose, as appeared, to consult with him, young Auchindrain perceived them no sooner near, but, thereby assuring himself of their assistance in the execution of that whilk his father and he had concluded, he did violently invade Dalrymple, rushed him to the ground, and never left him till, helped by his father, with his hands and knees he had strangled him.’
The horrid deed being accomplished, the Mures, with spades they had brought, tried to bury Dalrymple in the sand; but, finding the hole always fill with water, they were at length obliged to carry the body into the sea, going in as far as they could wade, and hoping that an outgoing wind would carry it to the coast of Ireland. Five nights after, it was thrown back upon the beach at the very scene of the murder, and was soon found by the country-people. The Earl of Cassillis heard of it, and caused an account of the discovery to be published throughout the district. By the mother and sister of Dalrymple, it was at once pronounced to be his corpse, and suspicion instantly alighted upon the Mures. A relative, advised with about the rumour, said it could not be safe for them to brave the law in the teeth of so much prejudice; neither, supposing they absconded under such a suspicion, could their friends stand up for them. The only expedient was to make an excuse for going out of the way – assault, for instance, Hugh Kennedy of Garriehorn, a servant of the Earl of Cassillis, a man against whom they had many ‘probable quarrels.” The Mures actually adopted this expedient, setting upon Garriehorn in the town of Ayr, and only failing to slay him by reason of the vigour of his defence. The earl then saw that it was necessary to take strong measures against enemies capable of such doings, and he accordingly had them summoned both for Dalrymple’s murder and for the assault of Garriehorn. They allowed themselves to be put to the horn – that is, denounced as rebels for not appearing – but loudly professed that, if freed on the score of the assault, they would stand their trial for the murder, alleging their entire innocence of that transaction. The king was now made acquainted with the case, and, by his orders, Auchindrain the elder was seized, and thrown into the Tolbooth in Edinburgh. The two culprits nevertheless continued to feel confidence in the want of proof against them, believing that, if Bannatyne were out of the way, it would be impossible to bring the fact home to them. The younger Mure, still at large, accordingly dealt with Bannatyne to induce him to go to Ireland. It is a wonder he did not at once send his friend to a more distant bourn. When Bannatyne was gone, young Mure came boldly forward to take his trial, somewhat to the embarrassment of the officers of justice. However, by the suggestion of his majesty, he was not allowed to depart till he should have suffered the torture, with a view to making him confess. To the admiration of all, he bore this treatment with unflinching fortitude, and confessed nothing.
Public sentiment now rose in favour of the Mures as persecuted men, and the Privy Council was inclined to let them off; and would have done so, had not the king continued firm in his belief of their guilt, and ordered them to be detained. Some years passed on, and proof seemed still past hope, when the Earl of Abercorn contrived to find out Bannatyne in Ireland, and caused him to be brought over to his own house in Paisley. There, Bannatyne gave a full account of the murder, but claimed, as fulfilment of a condition, that he should be allowed his freedom. The earl told him he had had no such understanding of the matter; but, to take away all ground of complaint, he would liberate him for the meantime, but at the end of ten days make every possible effort to take him unconditionally, whether dead or alive. At this Bannatyne hesitated; he knew that already the Mures had been laying plots to get him cut off in Ireland – now, between their vengeance and the extreme persecution threatened by Lord Abercorn, he could see no chance for safety. He therefore avowed his inclination to make a full confession before a court of law, and trust to his majesty’s clemency.
On being confronted with Bannatyne, the Mures appeared as obstinate in their protestations of innocence as ever, contradicting everything he said, and denouncing him as a tool of their enemies. They were, nevertheless, brought to trial, along with Bannatyne, on the day above noted – found guilty, and condemned to be beheaded at the Cross of Edinburgh, with forfeiture of all they possessed to his majesty’s use. So ended this extraordinary tissue of crimes, old Auchindrain being at the time about eighty years of age.2 – Pit.
Sep. 24. – ‘Sir James Lawson of Humbie, riding in Balhelvie Sands, where many other gentlemen were passing their time, sank down in a part of the sands and perished. He was found again o the morn, but his horse was never seen.’ – Cal.
Oct. 25. – It had been customary for the Scottish universities to receive students who had, through misbehaviour, become fugitives from other seats of learning; and now, as a natural consequence, it was found that the native youth at the university of Edinburgh, presuming on impunity for any improprieties they might commit, or a resource in case of punishment being attempted, ‘has ta’en and takes the bauldness to misknow the principal and regents, and to debord in all kind of uncomely behaviour and insolences, no wise seemly in the persons of students and scholars.’ The Privy Council therefore issued a strict order forbidding the reception of fugitive students into the universities. – P. C. R.
Nov. 4. – The Privy Council was at this time obliged to renew former acts against Night-walkers of the city of Edinburgh – namely, idle and debauched persons who went about the streets during the night in the indulgence of wild humours, and sometimes committing heinous crimes. If it be borne in mind that there was at that time no system of lighting for the streets of the city, but that after twilight all was sunk in Cimmerian darkness, saving for the occasional light of the moon and stars, the reader will be the better able to appreciate the state of things revealed by this public act. The Council ordered that no persons of any estate whatsoever presume hereafter to remain on the streets ‘after the ringing of the ten-hour bell at night.’ The magistrates were also ordained to appoint some persons to guard the streets, and apprehend all whom they might find there after the hour stated. – P. C. R.
Mar. 28. – Proceeding upon the principle that the smallest trait of industrial enterprise forms an interesting variety on the too ample details of barbarism, I remark with pleasure a letter of the king of this date, agreeing to the proposal lately brought before him by a Fleming – namely, to set up a work for the making of ‘brinston, vitreall, and allome’ in Scotland, on condition that he received a privilege excluding rivalry for the space of thirteen years. About the same time, one Archibald Campbell obtained a privilege to induce him ‘to bring in strangers to make red herrings.’ In June 1613, he petitioned that the king would grant him, by way of pension for his further encouragement, the fourteen lasts of herrings yearly paid to his majesty by the Earl of Argyll, ‘as the duty of the tack of the assize of herrings of those parts set to him,’ being of the value of £38 yearly. – M. S. P.
June. – There was at this time an ‘extraordinary drowth, whilk is likely to burn up and destroy the corns and fruits of the ground.’ On this account, a fast was ordered at Aberdeen. – A. K. S. R. In September, and for some months after, there are notices of ‘great dearth of victual,’ doubtless the consequence of this drought. ‘The victual at ten pound the boll.’ – Chron. Perth.
Aug. – Edward, Lord Bruce of Kinloss, lost his life in a duel fought near Bergen-op-Zoom with Sir Edward Sackville, afterwards Earl of Dorset. They were gay young men, living a life of pleasure in London, and in good friendship with each other, when some occurrence, arising out of their pleasures, divided them in an irremediable quarrel. Clarendon states that on Sackville’s part the cause was ‘unwarrantable.’ They met, accompanied by their respective friends, at a spot near Bergen-op-Zoom, ‘where but a village divides the States’ territories from the Archduke’s… to the end that, having ended, he that could, might presently exempt himself from the justice of the country by retiring into the dominion not offended.’
In the preliminary arrangements, some humane articles were agreed upon, probably by the influence of the seconds; but, if we are to believe Sir Edward Sackville, Lord Kinloss, in choosing his weapon, expressed some blood-thirsty sentiments that gave him reason to hope for little mercy if he should be the vanquished party. Being on his part incensed by these unworthy expressions, he, though heavy with a recent dinner, hurried on the combat. To follow his remarkable narrative:
‘I being verily mad with anger [that] the Lord Bruce should thirst after my life with a kind of assuredness, seeing I had come so far and heedlessly to give him leave to regain his lost reputation, bade him alight, which with all willingness he quickly granted; and there, in a meadow ankle-deep in water at the least, bidding farewell to our doublets, in our shirts, began to charge each other; having afore commanded our surgeons to withdraw themselves a pretty distance from us, conjuring them besides, as they respected our favours or their own safeties, not to stir, but suffer us to execute our pleasures; we being fully resolved (God forgive us!) to despatch each other by what means we could. I made a thrust at my enemy, but was short, and in drawing back my arm, I received a great wound thereon, which I interpreted as a reward for my short-shooting; but, in revenge, I pressed in to him, though I then missed him also, and then received a wound in my right pap, which passed level through my body, and almost to my back. And there we wrestled for the two greatest and dearest prizes we could ever expect trial for – honour and life; in which struggling, my hand, having but an ordinary glove on it, lost one of her servants, though the meanest, which hung by a skin… At last, breathless, yet keeping our holds, there passed on both sides propositions of quitting each other’s swords; but when amity was dead, confidence could not live, and who should quit first, was the question; which on neither part either would perform, and restriving again afresh, with a kick and a wrench together, I freed my long-captivated weapon; which incontinently levying at his throat, being master still of his, I demanded if he would ask his life, or yield his sword; both which, though in that imminent danger, he bravely denied to do. Myself being wounded, and feeling loss of blood, having three conduits running on me, which began to make me faint, and he courageously persisting not to accord to either of my propositions, through remembrance of his former bloody desire, and feeling of my present state, I struck at his heart, but with his avoiding, missed my aim, yet passed through the body, and drawing out my sword, repassed it again through another place, when he cried: “Oh, I am slain!” seconding his speech with all the force he had to cast me; but being too weak, after I had defended his assault, I easily became master of him, laying him on his back, when, being upon him, I redemanded if he would request his life; but it seemed he prized it not at so dear a rate to be beholden for it, bravely replying, “he scorned it.” Which answer of him was so noble and worthy, as I protest I could not find in my heart to offer him any more violence; only keeping him down, until at length his surgeon, afar off, cried out, “he would immediately die is his wounds were not stopped.” Whereupon, I asked if he desired his surgeon should come, which he accepted of; and so being drawn away, I never offered to take his sword, accounting it inhuman to rob a dead man, for so I held him to be. This thus ended, I retired to my surgeon, in whose arms, after I had remained a while for want of blood, I lost my sight, and withal, as I then thought, my life also. But strong water and his diligence quickly recovered me, when I escaped a great danger. For my lord’s surgeon, when nobody dreamt of it, came full at me with his lord’s sword; and had not mine, with my sword, interposed himself, I had been slain by those base hands; although my Lord Bruce, weltering in his blood, and past all expectation of life, conformable to all his former carriage, which was undoubtedly noble, cried out: “Rascal, hold thy hand!” ‘
Thus miserably, a victim of passion, died a young nobleman, who might otherwise have
‘The unfortunate Lord Bruce saw distinctly the figure or impression of a mort-head on the looking-glass in his chamber that very morning he set out for the fatal place of rendezvous where he lost his life in a duel; and asked of some that stood by him if they observed that strange appearance: which they answered in the negative. His remains were interred at Bergen-op-Zoom, over which a monument was erected, with the emblem of a looking-glass impressed with a mort-head, to perpetuate the surprising representation which seemed to indicate his approaching untimely end. I had this narration from a field-officer whose honour and candour is beyond suspicion, as he had it from General Stuart in the Dutch service. The monument stood entire for a long time, until it was partly defaced when that strong place was reduced by the weakness or treachery of Cronstrom the governor.’ – Theophilus Insulanus’s Treatise on the Second-Sight. 1763.
Dec. 16. – The Privy Council of Scotland had this day under their consideration a subject which must have sent their minds back to the associations of an earlier and more romantic age. That custom among the people of the Scottish Border of going into Cheviot to hunt, which had led to the dismal tragedy narrated in the well-known ballad of Chevy Chase, was, it seems, still kept up. What was once the border of either country being now the middle of both in their so far united condition, the king felt the propriety of putting down a custom so apt to lead to bad blood between his English and Scottish subjects; and accordingly, his Council now ordered that the inhabitants of Roxburgh and Selkirk shires, of Liddesdale and Annandale, should cease their ancient practice of going into Tynedale, Redesdale, the fells of Cheviot and Kidland, for hunting and the cutting of wood, under pain of confiscation of their worldly goods. – P. C. R.
Mar. 3. – (Tuesday) at ‘half an hour to sax in the morning, ane earthquake had in divers places.’ ‘On Thursday thereafter, ane other earthquake at 12 hours in the night, had baith in land and burgh.’ – Chron. Perth.
In this year, a small volume was printed and published by Andro Hart of Edinburgh, under the title of Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio, &c., Auctore et Inventore Joanne Napero, Barone Merchistonii, Scoto. This was a remarkable event in the midst of so many traits of barbarism, bigotry, and ignorance; for in Napier’s volume was presented a mode of calculation forming an essential pre-requisite to the solution of all the great problems involving numbers which have since been brought before mankind. John Napier is believed to have been engaged in the elaboration of his Logarithms for fully twenty years, while at the same time giving some of his time to such inventions as burning-glasses for the destruction of fleets, to theological discussions, and the occult sciences. The tall, antique tower of Merchiston, in which he lived and pursued his studies, still exists at the head of the Burgh-moor of Edinburgh.
The latter part of the winter 1614-15 was of such severity as to be attended with several remarkable circumstances which were long remembered. In February, the Tay was frozen over so strongly as to admit passage for both horse and man. An enormous fall of snow took place early in March, so as to stop all communication throughout the country. On its third day, many men and horse perished in vain attempts to travel. The accumulation of snow was beyond all that any man remembered. ‘In some places, men devised snow-ploughs to clear the ground and fodder the cattle.’ – Bal. The snow fell to such a depth and endured so long upon the ground, that, according to Sir Robert Gordon, ‘most part of all the horse, nolt, and sheep of the kingdom did perish, but chiefly in the north.’
Feb. 28. – This day, John Ogilvie, a Jesuit, was hanged in Glasgow, being the first priest who had suffered in that way in Scotland since the execution of the Archbishop of St Andrews at Stirling in 1571.
Apr. 26. – ‘Amang the mony abuses whilk the iniquity of the time and private respect of filthy lucre and gain has produced within the commonwealth’ – thus gravely commences an act of the Privy Council – ‘there is of late discoverit a most unlawful and pernicious tred of transporting of eggs furth of the kingdom.’ ‘Certain avaritious and godless persons, void of modesty and discretion, preferring their awn private commodity to the commonweal, has gone and goes athort the country and buys the haill eggs that they can get, barrels the same, and transports them at their pleasure.’ As an unavoidable consequence, ‘there has been a great scarcity of eggs this while bygane,’ and any that are to be had have ‘risen to such extraordinar and heich prices as are not to be sufferit in a weel-governit commonwealth.’ ‘Moreover,’ proceeds this sage document, ‘if this unlawful tred be sufferit to be of ony langer continuance, it will fall out that ina very short time there will no eggs nor poultry be funden within the country.’
The Council was therefore prompted to order letters to be directed to all merchants and owners of vessels forbidding them to carry eggs out of the country, on a pain of heavy fines and such further punishment as the Council might see fit to decree. – P. C. R.
Jan. 27. – ‘About five afternoon, there was a great fiery star, in the form of a dragon with a tail, running through the firmament, and in the running giving great light and spouting fire, which continued a pretty space before it vanished. Others describe it thus: that the night being fair and frosty, there arose a great fiery light in the south-west, after the setting of the sun, and ran to the north-east, having at the end thereof as it were the shape of the moon; and when it vanished out of sight, there were two great cracks heard, as if they had been thunder-claps. There followed a great calmness and frost for eight or ten days; but the month following was bitter and stormy weather.’ – Cal.
June 30. – This day being Sunday, Sir Robert Crichton of Cluny went to attend morning-service at St Cuthbert’s Kirk, near Edinburgh, and had sat there a considerable time quietly, when he observed a boy belonging to the Earl of Tullibardine come to the door and look in. As the earl had before this time ‘sought both his land and life,’ he judged the boy to be a spy, and apprehended that some evil was designed to him. He therefore rose to go out, hoping peaceably to convey himself beyond the earl’s reach; but no sooner had he done so than three men of the king’s guard – all, be it remarked, bearing the name of Murray, being that of the earl – rose from a seat behind and showed a warrant for taking him. By their own confession, they had come to church for the purpose of lying in wait to take Sir Robert, though intending not to meddle with him till the end of the service. They now told him that they were willing to wait for him till the dismissal of the people, keeping him meanwhile in a chamber adjoining to the church, whereas if he went forth by himself he might get skaith, as there were several of the earl’s ‘folk’ in the kirkyard. Sir Robert, however, disdained to submit to this ignominious treatment; so he and his son, drawing their swords, prepared to offer resistance. Of course, a tumult took place in the church, ‘to the scandal of religion, and the great grief of the haill parochiners and others convenit at the sermon.’
The three guardsmen were ordered, for this offensive affair, to appear in the place of repentance in the church, and crave forgiveness of God and the people, while Sir Robert was committed to ward in the Tolbooth. – P. C. R.
A few years later (December 18, 1623), we find the Council issuing a strict order against the use of captions in churches.
A few months after the above date, we find a curious reference to wool in the Privy Council Record. The document states, that ‘in some remote and uncivil places of this kingdom’ an old and barbarous custom was still kept up of plucking the wool from sheep instead of clipping it. The king, hearing of the practice, wrote a letter to his Council, denouncing it as one not to be suffered; telling them it had already been reformed in Ireland, under penalty of a groat on every sheep so used, and was ‘far less to be endured in you.’ The Council immediately (March 17, 1617) passed an act in the same tenor, and further stating that many sheep died in consequence of this cruel treatment – concluding with a threat of severe fines on such as should hereafter continue the practice. – P. C. R.
Sep. 16. – ‘… there arose such a swelling in the sea at Leith, that the like was not seen before for a hundred years. The water came in with violence beside the bulwark, in a place called the Timber Holf [Howf], where the timber lay, and carried some of the timber and many lasts of herrings lying there, to the sea; brake in sundry low houses and cellars, and filled them with water. The like flowing was in Dunbar, Musselburgh, and other parts of the sea-coast. The people took this extraordinary tide to be a forewarning of some evil to come.’ – Cal.
Acts of Privy Council against beggars were frequently issued, Edinburgh being infested with them – ‘strang and idle vagabonds’ – ‘having their resets in some parts of the Cowgate, the Canongate, Potterrow, West Port, Pleasance, [and] Leith Wynd.’ The Council at one time ordered the magistrates of Edinburgh and Canongate to get these wretched people expelled from their respective bounds, and suffer them no longer to seek alms on the streets.
Dec. 10. – The Privy Council this day ordained that there should be a school in every parish in the kingdom, for the advancement of the true religion, and the training of children ‘in civility, godliness, knowledge, and learning.’ The school was in each case to be established, and a fit person appointed to teach the same, upon the expenses of the parishioners, at the sight and advice of the bishop of the diocese.* This order for the plantation of schools was not vigorously carried out, and in 1626, King Charles I. is found making an effort to remedy the defect.
Feb. – ‘ The new market-cross of Edinburgh was founded by the community of the said
May 13. – ‘The king entered into Scotland accompanied with the Duke of Lennox, the Earls of Arundel, Southampton, Pembroke, Montgomery, and Buckingham, Bishops of Ely, Lincoln, and Winchester, and sundry barons, deans, and gentlemen. He stayed in Dunglass two nights, and a night in Seaton. On Friday the 16th, he came to Leith, and about four afternoon, out of Leith to the West Port of Edinburgh, where he made his entry on horseback, that he might the better be seen by the people; whereas before he rode in the coach all the way. The provost, bailies, and council, and a number of citizens arrayed in gowns [of plain velvet], and others standing with speat [sharp-pointed] staves, received him at the port.’ The provost and the town-clerk having severally harangued him, five hundred double angels (20s. sterling) in a silver double-gilt basin, were presented to him – ‘wha, with ane mild and gracious countenance, receivit them with their propyne.’ ‘The cannons of the castle were shot. He was convoyed first to the Great Kirk, where the Bishop of St Andrews had a flattering sermon upon the 21st Psalm, and thanked God for his prosperous journey. He knighted the provost… When he came to the palace of Holyroodhouse, the professors and students of the College of Edinburgh presented to him some poems made to his praise and in sign of welcome.’ – Cal.
On the 19th of June, the king formally visited the Castle of Edinburgh, in order to celebrate his fifty-first birthday on the natal spot. Andrew Kerr, a boy of nine years of age, welcomed him at the gate in ‘ane Hebrew speech.’ On the 26th, ‘there was a timber house erected on the back of the Great Kirk of Edinburgh [south side], which was decored with tapestry, where the town prepared a banquet for the king and the nobility. The day following, sundry knights and gentlemen of good note were banqueted in the same house and made burgesses. They danced about the cross with sound of trumpets and other instruments; throwed glasses of wine from the cross upon the people standing about, and ended with the king’s scoll [health].’ – Cal.
June 30. – The king commenced a second excursion in his native dominions by Stirling, Perth, St Andrews – thence back to Stirling, where he received a deputation of Edinburgh professors, who disputed before him in the chapel-royal of the castle, in the presence of the English and Scottish nobility and many learned men.
In the course of his excursion, the king had a hunt in the neighbourhood of Dunfermline. At this time the coal-works at Culross, on the shore of the Firth of Forth, were conducted with great activity under their enterprising proprietor, Sir George Bruce. James invited his company to dine with him at a collier’s house, referring to an elegant mansion which Sir George had built for his accommodation in the town of Culross. They proceeded in the first place to examine the coal-works, which were then wrought a considerable way under the sea, issuing at some distance from shore in a little island or moat, where the product of the mines was put directly on board vessels to be transported to various places. The king and his courtiers, unaware of this peculiar arrangement, were conducted along the mine till they reached the sea-shaft, and here being drawn up, found themselves suddenly surrounded by the waves. James, always apprehensive of attempts on his life, was excited to great alarm by this unexpected situation, and called out ‘Treason!’ His courteous host reassured him by pointing to an elegant pinnace moored by the moat to carry him ashore, in the event of his not wishing to return by the mine. Doubtless the affair added a little zest to the banquet which the party immediately after partook of in the hospitable mansion of Bruce.
The king pursued his progress by Glasgow, Paisley, Hamilton, and Dumfries, passing across the Border to Carlisle on the 5th of August, amidst the general regrets of his subjects. It was remarkable how much peace and good feeling prevailed amongst the people during the royal visit.
June 11. – The Privy Council was informed of ‘an abuse lately taken up by a number of young boys and pages, servants to noblemen, barons, and gentlemen.’ It was represented that these persons, ‘whenever they fund ony boy newly enterit in service, or pagerie, as they term it, lay hands upon him, and impose upon him [the payment of] some certain pieces of gold, to be spent in drinking, riot, and excess, for receiving of him in their society and brotherheid.’ It was further alleged that, ‘if ony of thir new enterit boys refuse to condescend to them this point, they do then shamefully misuse them, awaiting all occasions to harm and disgrace them;’ so that many open disturbances were the consequence. The Council issued a proclamation against these practices, threatening heavy punishment to all who might be guilty of the like in future. – P. C. R.
June. – The king’s declaration regarding sports on the Sunday and other holy-days came to Edinburgh. The king willed that no lawful recreation be barred to the people – ‘such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting… nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances, and the setting up of May-poles;’ seeing, however, that no one was allowed so to indulge who had not previously attended service in church.
It is manifest from the church-registers of that time that the universal external observance of the Sunday as a Sabbath, for which Scotland has long been remarkable, was not yet established. In August 1628, the minister of Carstairs regretted to the presbytery of Lanark the breach of the Sabbath ‘by the insolent behaviour of men and women in footballing, dancing, and barley-breaks.’ About the same time, two tailors were libelled before the same court for working on Sunday. Such things could not have happened a few years later, or at any time since.
July. – A mysterious affair occupied the attention of the state officers. While the servants of one Kennedy, a notary, residing in Galloway, were ‘filling muck in beir-seed time,’ they had found a withered human hand amongst some dung. No person having lately been murdered or missed in the country, it was impossible to tell whence this severed member had come, or to whom it belonged. Kennedy, who had lately come to the house, professed to know nothing of the matter. It seemed to him that the hand had been there many years. This affair might have passed over with little notice, if it had not been followed up by a series of marvellous occurrences. As his wife was sitting with some gossips at supper in her husband’s absence, some blood was observed upon the candlestick, and afterwards some more matter resembling gore was found on the threshold of the cellar door. It was also stated that, as Kennedy was walking one day with the minister, near the parish church, some drops of blood were seen upon the grass. All these things being reported to the authorities in Edinburgh, they gave orders for Kennedy’s apprehension, and he was accordingly brought thither, and kept six weeks in the Tolbooth. When examined, he could assign no cause for the above facts, but ‘complained that his cattle and horses had died in great number, and that his wife had long been vexed with extraordinary sickness; all which he ascribed to witchcraft used against them.’ It being impossible to bring anything home against the man, he was dismissed. – M. S. P.
Aug. 29. – Mr John Guthrie, minister of Perth, ‘on ane Sunday after the afternoon’s sermon, married the Master of Sanquhar with Sir Robert Swift’s daughter, ane English knight in Yorkshire. Neither of the parties exceeded thirteen years of age.’ – Chron. Perth.
Nov. 18. – ‘About the midst of November, there appeared a prodigious comet in the morning, in the north-east, broad, and stretching with a large tail towards the north-west. It appeared fine and clear some few days in the beginning, and after became more dim and obscure, and vanished away at last in the north. This comet by appearance portended the wars of Germany, which began not long after, and continueth yet to this hour.’ – Cal.
Dr Bembridge, ‘a very profound and learned mathematician,’ obliged the king with an account of this comet. He told him it was as far above the moon as the moon is above the earth, and not less than 2,300,000 English miles! Rushworth speaks of it as followed by, first, the Bohemian wars, then the German and Swedish, &c. ‘Dr Bembridge observed it to be vertical to London, and to pass over it in the morning; so it gave England and Scotland in their civil wars a sad wipe with its tail.’ – Foun. Hist. Ob.
This notable comet was observed in Silesia, Rome, and Ispahan [in Iran]. From Skipton’s observations, Halley afterwards computed its orbit. It passed its perihelion on the 8th of November, at little more than a third of the earth’s distance from the sun. On the 9th of December, its tail was 70º in length, being, according to Kepler, the longest that had been seen for a hundred and fifty years.
This comet is also remarkable as the only one, besides another in 1607, which was observable by the naked eye in the first half of the seventeenth century; whereas in other spaces of time of the same extent, as many as thirteen have been detected. The comet of 1607, which is the same with that seen in 1682, 1759, and 1835, and usually known as Halley’s comet, is not mentioned by any of our contemporary chroniclers as having been visible in Scottish skies.
Dec. 25. – Christmas was observed in Edinburgh at the command of the king, and two churches opened for service; but the attendance was scant. ‘The Great Kirk was not half filled, notwithstanding the provost, bailies, and council’s travels… The dogs were playing in the flure of the Little Kirk, for rarity of people, and these were of the meaner sort… Mr Patrick [Galloway] denounced judgments… famine of the word, deafness, blindness, lameness, inability to come to the kirk to hear and see, to fall upon those who came not to his Christmas sermon.’ – Cal.
March 23. – It had been a custom of the congregations in Edinburgh to hold a meeting on the Tuesday before the administration of the communion. ‘If anything was amiss in the lives, doctrines, or any part of the office of their pastors, every man had liberty to show wherein they were offended; and if anything was found amiss, the pastors promised to amend it. If they had anything likewise to object against the congregation, it was likewise heard, and amendment was promised. If there was any variance among neighbours, pains were taken to make reconciliation, that so both pastors and people might communicate in love at the banquet of love.’ On the present occasion, the affair had much the character of a modern public meeting, and the people stood boldly up to their pastors, arguing against the innovations of worship now about to be introduced, particularly kneeling at the sacrament. – Cal.
The period at which we have now arrived, being one of internal peace, is distinguished as the time when the practice of several of the useful arts was first introduced into Scotland. Sir George Hay, the Clerk Registrar – ancestor of the Earls of Kinnoull – a man of talent and intelligence, had set up, at the village of Wemyss, in Fife, a small glasswork, being the first known to have existed amongst us. An ironwork, of what nature we are not informed, was also originated by Sir George.
July 22. – The Privy Council informed the king that Sir George Hay had enterprisingly set up works for iron and glass, which for some years he supported at high charges, in hopes of being remunerated by profits. ‘But now he has found, by experience, that all the country dispatch of his glass in ane haill year will not uphold his glassworks the space of ane month.’ It was entreated that the king would allow of Sir George’s glass being sold unrestrainedly in England, and at the same time restrict the exportation of coal into that country. By such means he admitted he had a hope of thriving. – M. S. P.
It would appear that the native manufacture, after all, prospered; for in February 1621, the Privy Council appointed a commission, including Sir George Hay, to meet and confer anent the glassworks, to examine and try the glass, and see that measures were taken for the full supply of the country, so as to save the introduction of foreign glass.
The commission soon after reported that the glassworks at Wemyss were going on satisfactorily. The cradles or cases contained fifteen wisps, each wisp having three tables, three-quarters of a Scots ell and a nail in depth. The glass was fully as good as Danskine glass, though they could wish it to be ‘thicker and tewcher.’ Being less sure of the character of the drinking-glasses produced, they recommended patterns of English glass of that kind to be established in Edinburgh Castle, for trying the sufficiency of Scots glass in all time coming. On the strength of this report, the Council granted the desired monopoly as against foreign glassmakers, on certain conditions, one of which was, that the price of ‘braid glass’ should not exceed ‘twelve punds the cradle.’ – P. C. R.
Oct. 20. – Before this time, soap was imported into Scotland from foreign countries, chiefly from Flanders. The king now gave a patent to Mr Nathaniel Uddart for the manufacture of soap within the country, and Mr Nathaniel accordingly raised a goodly work at Leith, furnishing it with all matters pertaining to the business. Before he had been at work two years (June 21, 1621), he petitioned the privy Council that foreign soap should be prohibited, professing to be able himself to furnish all that was required for the use of the country-people, and thus save money from being sent out of the country – a piece of false political economy much in favour, as we have seen, in those days. The Privy Council, after taking some pains to ascertain the character of ‘Mr Nathaniel his soap,’ and becoming convinced that he could furnish the quantity needful, granted the prohibition requested, but not without fixing down the native manufacturer at a maximum price. This was decreed to be £24 per barrel for ‘green soap,’ and £32 per barrel for ‘white soap,’ each barrel to contain sixteen stone.
Horse-racing was, from an early time, practised as a pubic amusement at various places in Scotland. One of these, not formerly noticed, was Paisley. A silver bell of four ounce weight was made in 1608 to serve as a prize for the Paisley race: such was in those days the accustomed prize at a race, giving rise to the proverbial expression – ‘He bore off the bell.’ It may be remarked, however, that the winner of a silver bell at a race did not obtain it as permanent property, but only for a year’s keeping, as is customary with the silver arrows and silver clubs now played for by archery and golfing societies.
June. – The tanning of leather may be said to have been introduced into Scotland at this time. About a dozen tanners from Durham, Morpeth, and Chester-le-Street were brought in, under royal patronage, in order ‘to instruct the tanners and barkers of the kingdom in the true and perfect form of tanning.’ They were invested with certain privileges, and distributed to various parts of the kingdom. It was hoped through this means that much money which was usually spent on foreign leather would now be kept within the kingdom.
Unfortunately for the success of this reformation, a tax was put upon the leather – four shillings Scots per hide for the first twenty-one years, and thereafter one penny. The consequence was a grievous discontent among the cordwainers, who everywhere did what in them lay to thwart his majesty’s design. ‘To steir the people up to exclaim against it, they have very extraordinarily raised the prices of boots and shoon to twenty shillings [Scots] or thereby the pair of boots, and six shillings or thereby the pair of shoon, more nor was paid before;’ thus oppressing the whole country, and particularly the poorer sort of people, besides slandering the king and his Council. In January 1622, the Privy Council dealt with a complaint that many of the tanners throughout the country, disregarding the obvious benefit to themselves and the commonwealth from the new modes, continued the old practice of letting their leather remain but a short time in the pots, and then bringing it to market in a raw state. By way of a caution to these persons, a certain number of them were proclaimed rebels.
We find it noted that in this year a pearl was found in the burn of Kellie, a tributary of the Ythan, Aberdeenshire, so large and beautiful that it was esteemed the best that had at any time been found in Scotland. Sir Thomas Menzies, provost of Aberdeen, obtaining this precious jewel, went to London to present it to the king, who, in requital, ‘gave him twelve or fourteen chalder of victual about Dunfermline, and the custom of merchant goods in Aberdeen during his life.’ It has been reported that this pearl was inserted in the apex of the crown of Scotland.
Apparently this circumstance called the king’s attention to the old repute of certain Scottish rivers for the production of pearls. In January 1621, we find the Privy Council adverting to the fact, that the seeking for pearls had for many years been left to interlopers, who pursued their vocation at unseasonable times, and thus damaged the fishery, to the hurt of his majesty’s interest, he having an undoubted right to all pearls, as he had to all precious metals found in his dominions. Being now inclined to take up pearl-seeking on his own account, he issued a proclamation for the preservation of ‘the waters wherein the pearls do breed;’ and took measures to have the fishery conducted on a regular plan, ‘no pearls to be socht or taken but at such times and seasons of the year when they are at their chief perfection both of colour and quality, whilk will be in the months of July and August yearly.’ The Privy Council commissioned three gentlemen to protect the rivers, and ‘nominat expert and skilful men to fish for pearls at convenient seasons;’ one gentleman for the rivers of Sutherland, another for those of Ross, and another (Mr Patrick Maitland of Auchincroch) for the waters Ythan and Don.
In more recent times, there has occasionally been successful fishing for pearls in the north, it being said that ‘about the middle of the last century, a gentleman in Aberdeen got £100 for a lot of pearls found in the Ythan.’ The mouth of the river has a great mussel and cockle fishery, and is accordingly the haunt of an extraordinary variety and quantity of sea-fowl. In summer, when the water is low, school-boys often amuse themselves by going in search of pearls, feeling with their toes for the shell, which is distinguished by its curved shape, and gripping it when found with a kind of forceps at the end of a long stick.
Feb. 6. – The church historian Calderwood notes the occurrence of three fires in Edinburgh in one day as being regarded by people as ‘foretokenings of some mischief.’ ‘About the same time,’ he adds, ‘there came in a great whale at Montrose, which was also apprehendit to be a forerunner of some trouble.’
Mar. 1. – On a complaint that coal had risen to eight shillings the load, the privy Council had interfered in the usual rash manner, and dictated a certain maximum price to be exacted for the article; namely, seven shillings the load – that is, horse-load; for coal was borne at this time, and for a long time after, on horseback. Certain coal-proprietors – Alexander, Master of Elphinstone; Samuel Johnston of Elphinstone; Sir James Richardson of Smeaton; Robert Richardson of Pencaitland; Jonet Lawson, Lady Fawside; and David Preston of Whitehill – now petitioned, setting forth that the cost of mining coal had greatly risen of late years, and that the dearth of the article to the public was much owing to the base fellows who act as carriers of coals. It was represented that some of the proprietors of ‘coal-heughs’ were £10,000, and some even £20,000 out of pocket. The Master of Elphinstone’s coal of Little Fawside had been on fire for several years; another mine of the same owner had caused an outlay of £8000. The Smeaton pits had been so unproductive for some years as scarcely to supply the laird’s house. The coal of Elphinstone had proved for nine years barren, and 20,000 merks had been sunk upon it, being more than it promised ever to repay. The coal of Mickle Fawside had undone the late laird’s estate, and ‘made him to sell ane part of his auld heritage:’ what with fire on the one hand and water on the other, it was a hopeless case. As for the coal of Pencaitland, it was wasted and decayed, past hope of recovery, but at such extraordinary charges as it was not worth having bestowed upon it. The basis of the evils complained of lay with the coal-carriers, who dealt fraudulently with the public. Had the particulars been rightly known, the Lords, it was assumed, would never have given a decreet against the complainers, ‘who are gentlemen of grit charge and burden,’ overlooking the faults of those base fellows who carry coals.
The Lords appointed a commission to inquire into the matter, and report what prices they thought ought to be fixed for this necessary article. In consequence of a report soon after given in by this commission, it was ordained that the price of coal at ‘the hill’ should be 7s. 8d. (7⅔d. sterling) per load; and it was at the same time agreed that a measure for the load and a charge for carriage should afterwards be appointed. – P. C. R.
On the 23d April 1623, an act of Privy Council was passed in favour of Samuel Johnston, laird of Elphinstone, in consideration of his having super-expended 20,000 merks on his coal-heughs, ‘to his great hurt and apparent wrack.’ It was stated that he had entertained forty families of men, wives, and children at the work, whose weekly charges exceeded two hundred merks. His coal would be lost and these work-people thrown on the world, if some remedy were not provided, as he could no longer strive with the adverse circumstances in which he was placed. On the other hand, if the work could be held forward and got into proper order, it might be ‘a gangand coal’ for a hundred years to come.
The Council, in consideration of the losses sustained by the laird, and to save so many poor people from being thrown out of employment, granted him what he asked as a remedy – namely, a license to export coal for seven years.
It follows from the laird’s statement that the average weekly gains of a collier’s family reached five merks, or about 5s. 6d. sterling.
May. – ‘About this time there was a great earthquake in the town of Montrose and thereabouts, to the great terror of the inhabitants, so that many fled out of the town. Some was slain with the thunder there.’ – Cal.
June. – Some foreign vessels trading for coal and salt having been shipwrecked, during the severe storms of the past winter, on the ‘blind craigs’ (that is, concealed rocks) in the Firth of Forth, it was proposed, by the enterprising coal and salt proprietor, Sir George Bruce, that he should be allowed to erect beacons at those dangerous spots, and reimburse himself by a small tax on the foreign vessels frequenting the Firth during the ensuing year. Hearing of this proposal, the other coal-proprietors in Fife and the Lothians felt that they were much concerned, seeing that ‘no stranger-ships come that way but either for coal or salt,’ and they considered that ‘the payment of this duty wald carry with it a very great reproach and scandal to the country, as if such a small piece of work in the most eminent river in the kingdom could not be gotten done without the contribution and help of strangers.’ For these reasons, they themselves undertook to set up the required beacons. – M. S. P.
This movement may be regarded as another mark of the enlightened attention now beginning to be paid to things in which the material interests of the people were concerned. How far the proposal of Sir George Bruce was carried out we do not learn; but the probability is that he did not allow his plan to fall asleep. It bears out our view of the spirit beginning to manifest itself in Scotland, that the royal burghs, a few years later (September 1631), contemplated having lights erected on the Isle of May in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, and on ‘the Skairheids’ (P. C. R.); and soon after, one was actually put upon the May, being the first known to have been formed in connection with the Scottish coast, and for generations a solitary example of those of the island generally. A Fife laird, Alexander Cunningham of Barns – a relative, it would appear, of the wife of the poet Drummond – had the merit of establishing this useful protection for shipping. Obtaining the proper authority from Charles I., he, in 1635, erected on the isle ‘a tower forty feet high, vaulted to the top, and covered with flag-stones, whereon, all the year over,’ says Sir Robert Sibbald, writing in the reign of Charles II., ‘there burns in the night-time a fire of coals for a light; for which the masters of ships are obliged to pay for each ton two shillings [twopence sterling]. This showeth light,’ he adds, ‘to all the ships coming out of the Firths of Forth and Tay, and to all places between St Abb’s Head and Redcastle near Montrose.’
Through a natural antagonism, we may suppose, between the powers of darkness and the interest here concerned, the architect of the May light-tower was drowned on his return from the isle in a storm, believed to have been raised by witches, who were in consequence burnt. The fire was duly kept burning by the successors of Cunningham till the erection of a regular lighthouse on modern principles by the Commissioners of Northern Lights. It required three hundred and eighty tons of Weymss coal annually, that kind being selected on account of the clearness of its flame. In 1790, the tack or lease of this privileged light, with its tax of three-halfpence a ton on Scottish, and threepence on foreign shipping, rose from £280 to £960, and in 1800 it was let at £1500; ‘a striking proof,’ as has been remarked, ‘of the increase of the trade of this country’ during the period.
Aug. 4. – This was a day of great concern and sorrow to the earnest Presbyterians of Scotland, as on it the parliament sitting at Edinburgh ratified the Five Articles introducing Episcopalian fashions into the church. At the moment when the commissioner, the Marquis of Hamilton, rose to apply the sceptre to the bills, thus giving them symbolically the royal assent, a flash of lightning burst into the house, followed by a second and a third, and these by loud thunder. A heavy darkness ensued. The discharge of rain was so great, that the ceremonial return to Holyroodhouse could not be effected, and all rushed home in confusion. The people, affected by these signs and wonders, called the day Black Saturday.
Oct. 12. – This day, Friday, commenced a remarkable flood in the Tay, which lasted for three or four days, and caused extensive destruction. The beautiful bridge, newly completed across the river at Perth, was swept away, excepting one arch only. In the middle of the second night, the water had risen so high, that the people living in low houses near the Castle Gavel Port in Perth, were obliged to remove to higher houses. The town was so environed with water, that no one could enter or leave it for several days. Children were let down from upper windows into boats, in order to be carried to places presumably safer. Household stuff and provisions were destroyed. The rain was accompanied by a violent wind from the east, which would somewhat help to maintain the waters of the river at a high elevation. The water flowed in the High Street and the Speygate ‘like mill-sluices;’ and one Charles Rollock became a distinguished public benefactor by going about in a boat through those streets and rescuing people who were in danger of drowning – a service for which he afterwards received a double angel (20s. sterling) in recompense.
The people were thrown into a state of extreme consternation, looking for nothing but the entire destruction of their fair city. ‘Whereupon Mr John Malcolm, minister, powerfully endued with God’s spirit, caused ring the preaching-bell on Sunday at seven hours in the morning, and the haill inhabitants came to the kirk. And there he exhorted them to repent of their sins, which had provoked the said judgment of God to come upon the city; assuring them that if they were truly penitent therefor, and would avow to God to amend their lives in time coming, God would avert his judgment, and give them deliverance. The like humiliation of men and women has not been seen within Perth before. Fasting, preaching, and praying continued all that week.’ – Session Register of Perth. One of the remarks current among the more serious class of people on this occasion was, that the inundation was sent as a judgment on Perth, on account of the five Episcopalian articles passed there by the General Assembly three years before.
It is remarkable that, though there has been a bridge across the Tay at Perth so early as the beginning of the thirteenth century, the structure now destroyed was not replaced till the erection of the present beautiful fabric in 1771, the intercourse during the intermediate hundred and fifty years being maintained by ferry-boats.
June 3. – ‘… there was a fiery dragon, both great and long, appeared to come from the south to the north, spouting fire from her, half an hour after the going to of the sun.’ – Cal.
July. – An act of Privy Council of this date aims at a restriction of the importation of wine into the Western Islands – ‘with the insatiable desire whereof the said islanders are so far possest, that when there arrives ony ship or other vessel there with wines, they spend both days and nights in their excess of drinking, sae lang as there is any of the wine left; sae that, being overcome with drink, there falls out mony inconvenients amangs them, to the break of his majesty’s peace.’ – Gregory’s History of the Western Highlands.
July 30. – The Privy Council had the subject of that ‘infective weed callit tobacco’ under their attention. The king had formerly, upon good reasons of policy, forbidden its importation into the country; but this decree had been sadly evaded, insomuch that ‘the country was ever universally filled with tobacco, and public and common merchandise made of the same.’ Then his majesty had tried the restraining effect of a duty (20s. Scots or 1s. 8d. English per pound); but the tobacco-merchants had learned the trick of smuggling, and it was not likely they would let it lie unfruitful when they could thereby save the payment of a tax. It had now, accordingly, become necessary to impose a new restraint; and the importation was again prohibited under pain of the goods being confiscated to his majesty’s use. – P. C. R.
An act of the Privy Council in the subsequent November explained that the king did not mean by this restraint ‘to deprive his loving subjects of the orderly sale and moderate use of tobacco,’ but only to prevent the abuse or excessive use of the herb. The prejudice of King James against tobacco was a strong feeling, partaking much of the character of antipathy. He published anonymously, and afterwards acknowledged the quaint pamphlet, A Counterblast to Tobacco, in which he argues against the use of the herb as a physical as well as moral corruption.
If a tradition existing in 1667 is to be believed, King James was fain on one occasion to get over his antipathy to tobacco, but, to be sure, the compelling cause was a powerful one. ‘The smoke of it’ [tobacco], says a writer of that date, ‘is one of the wholesomest scents that is against all contagious airs, for it o’ermasters all other smells, as King James, they say, found true, when being once hunting, a a shower of rain drove him into a pigsty for shelter, where he caused a pipeful to be taken on purpose.’
Jan. – ‘Lord Colville took journey to France, to crave the re-establishment of the Scots Guard and Company of Scottish Men at Arms, according to their first institution and the French king’s promise often made to that effect.’ – Bal.
The Scots Guard of the French king was an old institution, and for a long time past the command had passed from generation to generation of the Sieurs D’Aubigné (Earls and Dukes of Lennox). Louis XIII. readily agreed to the proposed revival of the corps, and designed to confer the command on Ludovick, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, the favourite councillor of King James. It chanced, however, that the duke was suddenly cut off by apoplexy (February 1624), ‘beloved and lamented’ beyond all remembered example, ‘because he was naturally inclined to do good without distinction of persons.’ – G. H. S. The honour was therefore transferred to his nephew, Lord Gordon, son of the Marquis of Huntly.
In July 1625, Lord Gordon made his first muster of the corps on the Links of Leith, in presence of several officers deputed by the French king for that purpose. These gentlemen had been conducted to Edinburgh by Sir Robert Gordon, Tutor of Sutherland; they were there entertained in the handsomest manner by the Lord Gordon and other nobles, ‘and sent home again to their master, the French king, in great satisfaction and content.’ Lord Gordon’s younger brother, Lord Melgum, was his lieutenant; and the first gentleman of the company was Sir William Gordon, son of George Gordon of Kindroch, a branch of the family of Pitlurg. – G. H. S.
June 20. – ‘… the king’s picture in the hall of the palace of Linlithgow fell… and brake in pieces. The like befell the king of France’s picture, in that same place, six weeks before his death.’ – Cal.
Such incidents were then invariably noted with superstitious awe. Aubrey tells us that on the first day of the sitting of the Long Parliament, the picture of Archbishop Laud fell in his closet by the breaking of the string.
During the earlier half of this year, Scotland suffered under a famine of extreme severity. There was a vast increase to the usually inordinate number of beggars, in consequence of many of the poorer class of tenants throwing their farms into the hands of their landlords and wandering forth in search of food. The Privy Council therefore took measures for bringing the principal men together in their respective county towns to arrange for a taxation according to means and substance, in order to procure victual for the poor. A hundred merks for every thousand pounds of substance was the rate recommended.
In July, the famine ‘increased daily, till at last many, both in burgh and land, died of hunger. Many poor came to Edinburgh for succour, of which number some died in the streets.’ A fast was held on account of the calamity; ‘the sermons began every day in the week at seven hours, and ended at nine. Immediately after the fast was ended, that same night, 7th of July, there was such a fire in the heaven, with thunder and fire-flaught, that the hearers and beholders thought verily that the day of judgment was come.’ – Cal.
July 15. – While the Egyptians were everywhere a proscribed race, and often the victims of indiscriminate severity, there was one spot where mercy and even kindness seems to have been extended to them. This was Roslin. Sir William Sinclair of Roslin, Lord Justice-general under Queen Mary, riding home one day from Edinburgh, found a poor Egyptian about to be hanged on the gibbet at the Burgh-moor, and brought him off unharmed. In remembrance of this kindness, ‘the whole body of gipsies were accustomed to gather in the stanks [marshes] of Roslin every year, where they acted several plays during the months of May and June.’ So tells us the quaint Father Hay, a connection of the Roslin family; and he adds: ‘There are two towers which were allowed them for their residence, the one called Robin Hood, the other Little John.’
At the time noted, the Privy Council had their attention called to this Patmos of the outlawed race, whereupon they issued an order to the sheriff of the district, who happened to be Sinclair younger of Roslin himself, commanding him ‘to pass, search, seek, hunt, follow, and pursue the said vagabond thieves and limmers,’ and bring them to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh for the punishment. – P. C. R.
An order for the execution of a number of Egyptians was actually issued on the ensuing 27th of January.
Nov. 30. – ‘… about nine hours at night, there appeared like a rainbow in the west, the moon shining clearly in the east, with some rain in the meantime, whereat many wondered.’ – Cal.
Jan. – From Martinmas of the preceding year to the end of January in the present, there was a hard continuous frost, which, after a slight thaw, was resumed, and lasted till the 23d of February. During this time, ‘eleven carts, with twenty-one puncheons of wine, came over upon the ice from Dundee here.’ – Chron. Perth.
Feb. 18. – The Town Council of Aberdeen had occasion to consider an abuse which had lately crept into their burgh, in the form of ‘costly banqueting at the baptising of bairns,’ and the ‘convocating of great numbers of people thereto.’ It is mentioned that on these occasions there were ‘all sorts of succours [sugars], confections, spiceries, and dessert, brought from foreign parts, beside great superfluity of venison, and wild meat of all sorts… and withal, extraordinary drinking and scolling [health-drinking]… to the slander of the town, in sic a calamitous time, when God is visiting the whole land with dearth and famine, and mony poor anes [are] dying and starving at dykes and under stairs for cauld and hunger.’
The Council ordained that thereafter no person of whatever degree should have ‘mae than four gossips and four cummers at the maist’ at their baptisms, that not more than six women be invited ‘to convoy the bairn to and frae the kirk,’ and that twelve should be the utmost amount of company present ‘at the dinner, supper, or afternoon’s drink.’ All extravagances at table were at the same time strictly forbidden.
Nov. 28. – The pest, which had been for some time before in Holland, broke out ‘in sundry houses in Edinburgh, to the great terror of the whole town. It began in Paul Hay4 a merchant’s house, a month before, and was not known till now; therefore the more dangerous, because hard to discern the clean from the unclean. Upon the last day of November, the president and other lords of Council and Session, meeting together, resolve to rise, and continue the session till the 8th of Januar.’ – Cal.
Deeming, as was formerly remarked, anything that illustrates the progress of the arts as worthy of notice in this record, though perhaps trifling in itself, we may advert to Mr Alexander Hamilton, brother to the secretary Earl of Montrose, as having now obtained a patent of twenty-one years for a new cart invented by him, ‘wherein greater weight and burdens may with far less force be drawn, and conveniently carried, than hath been done with ony other kind of cart hitherto known or heretofore used.’ – P. C. R.
In this year we have the latest known notice of a woman of extraordinary attainments who had lived for many years in Edinburgh, practising an art in which she was long after pronounced to have never been excelled. Caligraphy, or the art of beautiful writing, was in greater vogue in the seventeenth century than in our more utilitarian days. Under what circumstances Esther Inglis, a Frenchwoman residing in the Scottish capital, came to give her days to so laborious an art, we do not learn. Neither are we aware how it was that Esther came to live in the Scottish capital. There, however, we find her, so early as 1599, writing one of the little manuscript volumes which have given her celebrity. This book, preserved in the Bodleian Library, is entitled Les Proverbes de Salomon, escrites en diverses sortes de Lettres par Esther Anglois Françoise. Á Lislesbourg en Écosse, 1599. ‘This delicate performance,’ says an old writer, ‘gains the admiration of all who see it; every chapter is wrote in a different hand; as is the dedication, and some other things at the beginning of the book, which makes near forty several sorts of hands. The beginnings and endings of the chapters are adorned with most beautiful head and tail pieces, and the margins are elegantly decorated with the pen, in imitation, I suppose, of the beautiful old manuscripts. The book is dedicated to the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth’s great favourite.’ A copy of the French Psalms, written by her, and presented to Queen Elizabeth, is in the library of Christ Church, Oxford. There is also in the Bodleian a manuscript of hers. The latest known of Esther’s works is a volume preserved in the Royal Library, Esther Inglis’s Fifty Emblems, dated at Edinburgh 1624.
When the king was at Stirling, Esther’s son presented to him a little book entitled Sidus Celeste, and he experienced some of James’s good-natured patronage in consequence. In June 1620, Esther is found addressing the king in behalf of this son, who, having completed a school-course, ‘would gladly follow theology.’ But as Dædalus was not able to free himself of his imprisonment in the isle Creta but by the help of wings made of pens and wax, even so my son is not able to free himself of inability to effectuate this his affection but by the wings of your majesty’s letter, composed by pen and wax, through which he may wing his flight happily to some fellowship, either in Cambridge or Oxford, as occasion sall fall out.’ If so far favoured by his majesty, ‘I may have my tossed mind relieved of the great care I have perpetually for this said youth.’ – An. Scot.
Ballard states, on the authority of a memorandum of Hearne, the antiquary, that Esther Inglis was married to a Scotsman, named Bartholomew Kello, and had a son, named Samuel Kello, who was educated at Christ Church College, Oxford, and was afterwards minister at Speckshall, in Suffolk.
Mar. 30. – The news of the death of King James – which occurred on the 27th of March – reached Edinburgh on the 30th at the outbreak of a storm of extraordinary violence which raged along the whole coast, destroying much shipping and throwing down several harbours. ‘The water raise above the harbour of Leith, and ran into the houses of the town; yea, the boats and barks within the same floated so above the shore, that some of them were cast away upon the sides of the houses; and great ships therein could not be keepit, with all their anchors and cables, from doing great skaith, ilk ane to ane other, whereof the like was never heard tell of in our days.’ – Jo. Hist.