JAMES I. was peaceably succeeded on the throne by his son Charles I., then in the twenty-fifth year of his age. The administration of Scottish affairs continued to be conducted by the Privy Council in Edinburgh. For the endowment of the Episcopal Church now established, the king (1625) attempted a revocation of the church-lands from the lay nobles and others into whose hands they had fallen; but this excited so strong a spirit of resistance, that he was obliged to give it up. He ended by issuing (1627) a commission to receive the surrender of impropriated tithes and benefices, and out of these and the superiorities of the church-lands, to increase the provisions of the clergy. These proceedings, though legal, were unpopular. The nobles, alarmed for their property, began to lean towards the middle and humbler classes, who objected to a hierarchy on religious grounds solely. While all was smooth on the surface, a strong spirit of discontent ran through society. The more zealous Presbyterians formed the habit of meeting in private houses for prayer and worship. They beheld with apprehension the tendency to medieval ceremonies which Charles and his favourite councillor Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, were manifesting in England.
The king paid a visit to Scotland in 1633, in order to be crowned as its sovereign, and to see what further could be done for perfecting the Episcopal system. His reception was respectful, but not so affectionate as that experienced by his father.
One thing Charles had long considered as necessary to complete his favourite project in Scotland – the introduction of a liturgy into the ordinary worship. He thought the proper time was now come, because he everywhere saw external obedience. A service-book being accordingly prepared by Laud, on the basis of that commonly used in England, an order of Privy Council was given for its being read in the churches. This was precisely what was necessary to exhaust the popular powers of endurance. It seemed to the multitude as if popery, almost undisguised, were once more about to be introduced. When the dreaded book was opened in St Giles’s Church (July 1637), the congregation rose in violent agitation to protest against it. It was hooted as a mass in disguise, and a stool was thrown at the head of the reader. Similar scenes occurred elsewhere; but the clergy in general had declined to bring the book forward. The state-officers and bishops now found themselves objects of popular hate to such an extent that they could not present themselves in public. The service-book was not merely a failure in itself, but it had produced a kind of rebellion. Charles discovered, when too late, that, as usually happens with men of headstrong temper, the truth had been concealed from him. The general obedience had been a hypocrisy. Nineteen-twentieths of the people were in their hearts opposed to his measures, and now he had given them occasion to declare themselves and enter at all hazards upon a course of resistance.
May. – The town-council of Aberdeen at this time anticipated the wisdom and good manners of a later age, by ordaining that ‘no person should, at any public or private meeting, presume to compel his neighbour, at table with him, to drink more wine or beer than what he pleased, under the penalty of forty pounds.’ – Kennedy’s Annals of Aberdeen.
July 20. – By the royal command, a fast was held throughout Scotland, in consequence of the heavy rains which had prevailed since the middle of May, threatening the destruction of the fruits of the earth. It was a time of calamity. The marriage of the king to the Princess Henrietta Maria of France (June 16th), had of course brought the mass into London, and ‘no sooner was the queen’s mass, the plague of the soul, received, than a raging pestilence broke out in the city of London and parts adjoining, which in a short time cut off above 40,000 persons.’ – Stevenson’s Hist. C. Scot.
Oct. – A taxation was granted to the king by the Scottish parliament, amounting to £40,000 Scots. Some of the burghs came to an agreement with the Lords of the Privy Council for certain proportions of this taxation, to be paid annually while it continued; and we are thus supplied with a means of estimating the comparative importance and wealth of some of the principal towns in the kingdom. We find the following towns set down, with the annexed sums at their names: Glasgow, £815, 12s. 6d.; Linlithgow, £163, 2s. 6d.; Stirling, £422, 17s. 9d.; St Andrews, £490; Dunbar, £90, 15s.; Culross, £84, 10s.; Canongate, £100; Hamilton, 100 merks.
June 15. – ‘Betwixt the hours of eight and nine in the morning, there appeared a phenomenon in the open firmament, which was looked on by many as a presage of some future calamity. The sun shining bright, there appeared, to the view of all people, as it were three suns; one be-east, and the other south-be-west the true sun, and in appearance not far from it. From that which lay south-west, there proceeded a luminary in the form of a horn, that pointed north-west, and carried as it were a rainbow, in colour gray, but clearer than the rest of the sky. Whether these signs were ominous or not, manifold were the calamities which then prevailed.’ – Stevenson’s Hist. C. Scot.
Oct. 10. – As the Privy Council was sitting in its chamber in Holyrood Palace, a singular outrage took place. One John Young, poultryman, attacked Mr Richard Bannatyne, bailie-depute of the regality of Broughton, at the council-room door, and struck him in the back with a whinger, to the peril of his life. The Council, in great indignation, immediately sent off Young to be tried on the morrow at the Tolbooth, with orders, ‘if he ben convict, that his majesty’s justice and his depute cause doom to be pronounced against him, ordaining him to be drawn upon ane cart backward frae the Tolbooth to the place of execution at the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh, and there hangit to the deid and quartered, and his head to be set upon the Nether Bow, and his hand to be set upon the Water Yett.’ – P. C. R.
The latter part of this year, marked by a military disaster and disgrace nearly unexampled in British annals,1 was made further memorable by a tempest of extraordinary violence, which destroyed a vast quantity of mercantile shipping, including many collier vessels carrying their commodity to the Thames. At one part of the coast of Scotland, a high tide, assisted by the storm, produced an inundation over a large tract of low land. It came, says a contemporary writer, upon the Blackshaw in Carlaverock parish, and upon certain parts of the parish of Ruthwell, ‘in such a fearful manner as none then living had ever seen the like. It went at least half a mile beyond the ordinary course, and threw down a number of houses and bulwarks in its way, and many cattle and other bestial were swept away with its rapidity; and, what was still more melancholy, of the poor people who lived by making salt on Ruthwell sands seventeen perished; thirteen of these were found next day, and were all buried together in the churchyard of Ruthwell, which no doubt was an affecting sight to their relations, widows, and children, &c., and even to all that beheld it. One circumstance more ought not to be omitted. The house of Old Cockpool being environed on all hands, the people fled to the top of it for safety; and so sudden was the inundation upon them, that, in their confusion, they left a young child in a cradle exposed to the flood, which very speedily carried away the cradle; nor could the tender-hearted beholders save the child’s life without the manifest danger of their own. But, by the good providence of God, as the cradle, now afloat, was going forth of the outer door, a corner of it struck against the door-post, by which the other end was turned about; and, going across the door, it stuck there till the waters were assuaged.
‘Upon the whole, that inundation made a most surprising devastation in those parts; and the ruin occasioned by it had an agreeable influence on the surviving inhabitants, convincing them more than ever of what they owed to divine Providence; and for ten years thereafter, they had the holy communion about that time, and thereby called to mind even that bodily deliverance.’
Dec. 25. – There now being much anxiety about foreign invasion, some care was taken to ascertain the state of the national defences, and there was also a proposal to fortify various places, of which, it may be remarked, Leith was one. Sir John Stewart of Traquair, had been sent to inquire into the condition of Dumbarton Castle, and now reported as follows: ‘At his entry within the castle, he found only three men and a boy in ordinar guarding the same. The walls in the chief and most important parts were ruinous and decayed; the house wanting doors, locks, or bolts, and nather wind nor water tight; the ordnance unmounted, and little or no provision of victuals and munition (except some few rusty muskets) within the same.’
The description, it is to be feared, was generally characteristic. In those days, which we look back upon as so romantic, there was one thing wanting – revenue. In Scotland, owing to the poverty of the government, national buildings alternated between long periods of neglect and decay, and abrupt attempts at repair when there was a pressing need. As to the case of Dumbarton, Sir John Stewart was empowered to get it put into proper order, with a promise of reimbursement. – P. C. R.
Dec. 2. – George Lauder of the Bass, and his mother, ‘Dame Isobel Hepburn, Lady Bass,’ were at this time in embarrassed circumstances, ‘standing at the horn at the instance of divers of their creditors.’ Nevertheless, as was complained of them, ‘they peaceably bruik and enjoy some of their rents, and remain within the craig of the Bass, presuming to keep and maintein themselves, so to elude justice and execution of the law.’ A Scotch laird and his mother holding out against creditors in a tower on that inaccessible sea-rock, forms rather a striking picture to the imagination. But debt even then had its power of exorcising romance. The Lords of Council issued a proclamation, threatening George Lauder and his mother with the highest pains if they did not submit to the laws. A friend then came forward and represented to the Lords ‘the hard and desolate estate’ of the two rebels, and obtained a protection for them, enabling them to come to Edinburgh to make arrangement for the settlement of their affairs. – P. C. R.
Jan. 26. – On this day – an unusual season for thunder in our climate – a ‘thunder-clap’ fell upon Castle-Kennedy, the seat of the Earl of Cassillis in Ayrshire – ‘which, falling into a room where there were several children, crushed some dogs and furniture; but happily the children escaped. From thence descending to a low apartment, it destroyed a granary of meal. At the same time, a gentleman in the neighbourhood had about thirty cows, that were feeding in the fields, struck dead by the thunder.’
May 14. – Died Jean Gordon, remarkable in our history as the lady whom James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, divorced in 1567, in order to be enabled to ally himself to Queen Mary. She survived that frightful time, in peace and honour, for sixty-two years, exemplifying how durable are calmness and prudence in comparison with passion and guilt. Since her separation from Bothwell, she had been the wife of two other husbands – first, Alexander, Earl of Sutherland; and second, the Laird of Boyne. The lady was buried in Dornoch Cathedral.
In the course of 1629, Isobel Young, spouse to George Smith, portioner in East Barns in Haddingtonshire, was burnt for witchcraft. She had been accused of both inflicting and curing diseases; and it appears that she and her husband had sent to the Laird of Lee to borrow his curing-stone for their cattle, which had the ‘routing ill.’ This is interesting as an early reference to the well-known Lee Penny, which is yet preserved in the family of Lockhart of Lee, being an ancient precious stone or amulet, set in a silver penny. It is related that Lady Lee declined to lent the stone, but gave flagons of water in which the penny had been steeped. This water, being drunk by the cattle, was believed to have effected their cure.
One Alexander Hamilton was apprehended as a notorious warlock, and put into the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. He ‘delated’ four women of the burgh of Haddington, and five other women of its neighbourhood, as guilty of witchcraft. The Privy Council sent orders (November 1629) to have the whole Circean nine apprehended; and as their poverty made it inconvenient to bring them to Edinburgh, the presbytery of Haddington was enjoined to examine them in their own district. What was done with them ultimately, we are not informed. Another woman, named Katherine Oswald, residing at Niddry, near Edinburgh, was likewise accused by Hamilton, and taken into custody. This seems to have been considered an unusually important case, as four lawyers were appointed to act as assessors to the justices on her trial. – P. C. R. It was alleged of Katherine that she had that partial insensibility which was understood to be an undoubted proof of the witch quality. Two witnesses stated that they ‘saw ane preen put in to the heid, by Mr John Aird, minister, in the panel’s shoulder, being the devil’s mark, and nae bluid following, nor she naeways shrinking thereat.’
Hamilton alleged that he had been with Katherine at a meeting of witches between Niddry and Edmonstone, where they met with the devil. It was also stated that she had been one of a witch-party who had met at Prestonpans, and used charms, on the night of the great storm at the end of March 1625. But the chief articles of her dittay bore reference to cures which she had wrought by sorcery. Katherine was convicted and burned. – B. A.
The warlock Alexander Hamilton also accused the Lady Home of Manderston, in Berwickshire, of having practised against the life of her husband, Sir George Home, by witchcraft. Patrick Abernethy, notar in Duns, and William Mowat, a servant, were accordingly cited by the Council to come and give information regarding the case. The presence of Sir George himself was of course desirable; but Sir George, like many other good Scotch lairds, of that day and of later days, was under some danger of the law on account of his debts. It therefore became necessary to send him a protection, in order that he might be enabled to appear in the city. There does not seem to have been any other foundation for the charge than the fact that Sir George Home and his wife did not live on amicable terms.
Hamilton himself was tried (January 22, 1630), when it came out that he had begun his wicked career in consequence of meeting the devil in the form of a black man on Kingston Hills, in Haddingtonshire. Being engaged to serve the fiend, he was instructed to raise him by beating the ground thrice with a fir-stick and crying: ‘Rise up, foul thief!’ He had consequently had him up several times for consultations; sometimes in the shape of a dog or cat, sometimes in that of a crow. By diabolic aid, he had caused a mill full of corn, belonging to Provost Cockburn, to be burned, merely by taking three stalks from the provost’s stacks and burning them on the Garleton Hills. He had been at many witch-meetings where the enemy of man was present. This wretched man was sentenced to be worried at a stake and burned.
In March 1631, occurred a case which throws some light upon the affair in which Sir George Home of Manderston was the intended victim. John Neill, in Tweedmouth, was then brought forward and tried for sorcery and witchcraft. It was alleged of him that ‘he made a man’s wife wash her husband’s shirt in a south-running water, and then put it on him; whereupon he recovered.’ His professes skill in both laying on and taking off diseases. Amongst other things laid to his charge was ‘meeting with the devil and other witches on Coldingham Law, and consulting how Sir George Home of Manderston might be destroyed, to that end getting ane enchanted dead foal, and putting it in Sir George’s stable, under his horse’s manger, and putting a dead hand enchanted by the devil in Sir George’s garden in Berwick; by which enchantments Sir George contracted a grievous disease, of which he could not be recovered till the said foal and hand were discovered and burned.’ He was found guilty. – B. A.
Lady Jean Drummond, only daughter of the Earl of Perth, was married to the Earl of Sutherland, with a portion of 5000 merks, ‘the greatest portion that ever was given in Scotland before that time.’ – Hist. House of Seytoun.
This notice may be held to imply that 5000 merks (£287, 17s. 4d.) was an uncommonly liberal portion for a woman of family in that age; but the writer is not correct in saying that it was unexampled till 1629. In 1583, Lady Anne Montgomery of Eglintoun brought her husband, Lord Semple, 6000 merks; and the dowry of Jean Hamilton, the vicar of Dunlop’s daughter, in 1613, was 5000 merks.
Dec. 26. – In the fertile district between Falkirk and Stirling, there was a large moss with a little loch in the middle of it, occupying a piece of gradually rising ground; a highly cultivated district of wheat-land lay below. There had been a series of heavy rains, and the moss became overcharged with moisture. After some days, during which slight movements were visible on this quagmire, the whole mass began one night to leave its native situation and slide gently down to the lower grounds. The people who lived on these lands, receiving sufficient warning, fled and saved their lives; but in the morning light they beheld their little farms, sixteen in number, covered six feet deep with liquid moss, and hopelessly lost.
The singular nature of this calamity, and the sad case of the poor people who had by it lost their all, drew general attention. The Privy Councillors sent commissioners to the place to ‘give order where and in what places draughts sall be casten, levels and passages made, and what else is fitting to be done, for securing the neighbouring lands from inundation and skaith.’ Therre was also a general collection of money throughout the kingdom for the relief of the sufferers. – P. C. R.
Apr. 21. – John Hart, printer in Edinburgh, being about to bring out an edition of the Bible, the town-council gave him formal permission to take a new apprentice ‘for the advancement of the said wark,’ ‘notwithstanding the time of three years be not past since he replaced an apprentice last;’ ‘providing always it sall not be lawful to him to tak and have ane other prentice before the expiring of six years.’ – Ed. Coun. Reg.
May 29. – On the birth of the prince, afterwards Charles II., which took place between eleven and twelve this forenoon, the Lyon King at Arms was despatched by the king from London to carry the news to Scotland. The Lyon arrived in Edinburgh on the third day thereafter, June 1st, when immediately cannon were shot, bells rung, and a table spread in the High Street, between the cross and the Tron, for two hundred persons, including the nobility, Privy Council, and judges, the company being waited on by the heralds and trumpeters in their official dress. – Bal.
‘In this May were five Saturdays, five Mondays, twa changes of the moon, twa eclipses of the sun, ane other of the moon, all in our horizon.’ – Chron. Perth.
Sep. 23. – Susanna Chancellor, daughter of the Laird of Shieldhill, was accused before the presbytery of Lanark of consulting with charmers, and ‘burying a child’s clothes betwixt [three] lairds’ lands, for health.’ By penitently presenting herself on her knees before the reverend brethren, she was saved from the due punishment. – R. P. L.
Oct. – At no great distance from the castle of Strathbogie – the modern Huntly – where the great marquis held state, dwelt two gentlemen of figure, Gordon of Rothiemay and Crichton of Frendraught. In consequence of a dispute about the salmon-fishings in the Doveran, these two gentlemen fell into litigation and bad blood; and at length, finding Rothiemay obdurate, Frendraught had to get assistance from his neighbours to execute the laws upon his antagonist. On New-year’s Day 1630, a bloody encounter took place between them, and Rothiemay was so severely wounded as to die three days after.
Frendraught could plead that he had been only carrying out the behests of the law against one who set legal rights and decrees at defiance. But the Marquis of Huntly and other Gordons felt that it was a hard thing for Rothiemay to lose his life on such an account, and Frendraught accordingly fell under their displeasure. The young Laird of Rothiemay, calling in the assistance of the outlaw James Grant, laid waste the lands of Frendraught, who was driven in succession to the Earl of Moray, the king, and the Privy Council for the protection of the laws. It was found necessary by the Council to send a commission to allay the heats which this affair had called forth. When Sir Robert Gordon and other commissioners arrived on the ground in May, they found James Grant and two hundred Highlanders assembled at Rothiemay, ready to lay waste Frendraught’s estate with fire and sword; and it was with no small difficulty that they were stayed. Sir Robert, as a connection of both Frendraught and the Gordon family, was well qualified to bring about a reconciliation, and this he effected with the assistance of the Marquis of Huntly. It was arranged that Frendraught should purchase the forgiveness of the Rothiemay family by paying a sum of money. ‘And so, all parties having shaken hands in the orchard of Strathbogie, they were heartily reconciled,’ says Sir Robert in his gossiping History. One cannot but see in this mode of stilling quarrels an encouragement to new ones. Frendraught, having acted all along under law, out to have been protected by the law, instead of thus having to pay a fine of fifty thousand merks (£2915) to buy off the vengeance of a family by whom the law was disregarded and broken. But in those days the law could only be executed by favour of the leading men of the country. These leading men had their passions and their partialities. Sir Robert Gordon probably purchased Frendraught’s safety on the best terms which, in the circumstances, could be obtained.
These circumstances form merely the introduction to a long series of disastrous mischances which befell the Laird of Frendraught, and which have made his name memorable in Scottish tradition. In the course of autumn, a gentleman named John Meldrum, who had assisted him in the fray with Rothiemay, quarrelled with him for not being satisfactorily rewarded for his help on that occasion. To make matters right, this gentleman came and took two horses from Frendraught’s lands! Frendraught, hearing that the culprit was harboured by a brother-in-law, Leslie of Pitcaple, came thither to seek back his property; but the encounter only led to one of his friends wounding a son of Pitcaple with a pistol-shot. Here was a new trouble for the unfortunate Frendraught. In great concern for what had taken place, he rode to the Marquis of Huntly at the Bog – the modern Gordon Castle – to beseech his intercession for the stanching of the quarrel. At the same time comes Pitcaple, full of designs of vengeance against Frendraught. The marquis was obliged to detain the latter as his guest, to save him from Pitcaple, who went away in great wrath.
Next day, when Frendraught proposed to go home, the marquis caused his son, Viscount Melgum, to accompany him with some other friends, in order to protect him by the way. It chanced that the Laird of Rothiemay, so lately reconciled to Frendraught, was present on this occasion; he generously offered to be one of the escort. So Frendraught set out with his gallant company, and reached home in safety.
It was only in conformity with the customs of the age that the laird and his lady should invite Lord Melgum, Rothiemay, and the rest of the party to remain for the night. They did so. The gentleman consented; and after a merry supper, were conducted to bedrooms in the tall narrow old tower, which, with a modern addition, formed the castle of Frendraught. In the first floor, over a vault, through which there was a round hole, lay Melgum and two servants; in the second was Rothiemay, also with a servant or two; in the third, two gentlemen named Chalmers and Rollock, and some more servants, were accommodated.
About midnight (Oct. 8), the tower took fire in a sudden manner, ‘yea, in ane clap,’ says Spalding, and involved the whole of the inmates in destruction, except Chalmers, Rollock, and a servant who slept beside Lord Melgum. Swift as the fire was, three persons escaped, and Lord Melgum might have also saved himself, if he had not, under a friendly impulse, run upstairs to rouse Rothiemay. While he was engaged in this act, ‘the timber passage and lofting of the chamber takes fire, so that none of them could win downstairs again.’ So they turned to a window looking towards the court-yard, where they were heard repeatedly calling: ‘Help, help, for God’s cause!’ The windows being stanchioned, and the access by the stair cut off by the flames, it was impossible to render any assistance, and accordingly the six persons inclosed in the burning tower were all piteously burnt to death. Melgum was but twenty-four years of age, and left a widow and child; Rothiemay was unmarried. It is stated by Lady Melgum’s chaplain, that in that last moment of extremity, Lord Melgum induced Rothiemay to make open profession of the Catholic faith; and so, ‘they two being at a window, and whilst their legs were burning, did sing together Te Deum; which ended, they did tell at the window that their legs were consumed, recommending their souls to God, and the nobleman his wife and child, first to God, and then to the king.’ A popular ballad of the day speaks of their being called on to leap from the window:
‘How can I leap, how can I win,
How can I leap to thee?
My head’s fast in the wire-window,
My feet burning from me.’
He’s ta’en the rings from aff his hands,
And thrown them o’er the wall;
Saying: ‘Give them to my lady fair,
Where she sits in the hall.’
This dismal event created a universal feeling of horror, and plunged the friends of the deceased into the greatest grief. The laird and Lady of Frendraught were to all appearance deeply concerned for what had taken place. On the morning after the fire, the lady, ‘busked in a white plaid, and riding on a small nag, having a boy leading her horse, without any more in her company, in this pitiful manner she came weeping and mourning to the Bog, desiring entry to speak with my lord; but this was refused; so she returned back to her own house the same gate she came, comfortless.’ – Spalding. He repulse was the more remarkable, as Lady Frendraught was a cousin of the marquis, and brought into bonds of sympathy with him and his family by being a Catholic. A fixed suspicion that she and her husband were the authors of the fire had taken possession of the Huntly and Rothiemay families, as well as of the populace generally, though not the slightest evidence of guilt has ever been brought against them; and their loss of valuable papers, and of gold and silver articles, to the value, it was alleged, of a hundred thousand marks (Scots), rendered any concern of theirs in the fire-raising the reverse of probable. The laird himself acted in the manner of an innocent man anxious to clear himself of suspicion. He came immediately to the Chancellor Lord Dupplin at Perth, desiring his protection, and offering to submit to trial. The Privy Council do not seem ever to have felt that there were any grounds for charging him with the guilt popularly imputed to him.
More particular suspicions fell upon John Meldrum of Redhill, the quondam adherent of Frendraught, but who had latterly fallen into such bad terms with him; likewise upon John Tosh, the master-household of Frendraught. These persons were accordingly apprehended, brought to Edinburgh, and examined. A servant-girl called Wood was also seized and subjected to torture, with a view to extracting her knowledge of the circumstances; but this only produced prevarications, making her evidence of no avail, and for which she was scourged and banished the kingdom.
In March 1631, the Marquis of Huntly, having resolved ‘not to revenge himself by way of deed,’ as his panegyrist Spalding does not fail to tell us – as if it were a great merit – proceeded to Edinburgh in order to lay his wrongs before the Privy Council. Four commissioners appointed by this body soon after proceeded to Frendraught, which they examined with great care, in company with several noblemen and gentlemen of the district. They found evidence that the fire had originated in the ground-vault of the tower, where there were marks of it in three several places, one of these being directly under the round hole in the roof which communicated with Melgum’s apartment above. They could not determine whether it was accidental; but they felt assured that ‘no hand without could have raised the fire without aid from within.’
While these matters were pending, there occurred an incident in itself of little importance, but which marks the spirit of the time. The young Earl of Sutherland, brother to Lady Frendraught, and whose late father was cousin-german to Huntly, in the course of a journey to Edinburgh, resolved to spend a night with the marquis, and for that purpose sent forward his message from Elgin. When he arrived in the evening at Bog of Gight, the marquis gave him a cold reception, and told him that he must either break with his brother-in-law Frendraught, or with himself, as he could not with honour throw off his sister’s husband as long as he was law-free. Huntly immediately answered: ‘Then God be with you, my lord,’ and turned away. The Earl of Sutherland lodged that night at a neighbouring hostelry, and in the morning pursued his way south. The singularity of such an event, in an age when it was disrespectful to pass a friend’s door without partaking of his hospitality, gives it great significance.
John Tosh, after submitting to examinations by torture, and denying all guilt, was charged (August 3, 1632) with the offence of setting fire to the tower from within; but the charge was never brought before an assize, the assessors finding that an insuperable bar lay in his having passed through the ordeal of torture without confession. There were some suspicious circumstances against him, chiefly of the nature of inconsistencies in his own declarations; but it was certainly possible to account for these upon a different theory from that of his being guilty.
John Meldrum was tried a twelvemonth later, and as it clearly appeared that he had uttered deadly threatenings against Frendraught’s life, even specifying burning as the means, he was found guilty, and executed. The theory of his guilt seems to have been, that he had set fire to the tower, in the belief that the laird slept there, and effected his purpose by thrusting combustibles and fire through three slits in the wall. It must be admitted that Meldrum was the only man, of all concerned, in whom motive for murder appears; but his guilt is, after all, far from being clear. The wall was ten feet thick, and the commission had decidedly pointed to an origin within. No trace of combustibles was ever adduced, and it was proven that he had been at Pitcaple, ten or twelve miles off, that night. On the whole, when the matter is viewed without the passions of the time, it seems most likely that the fire was accidental.
As for the Gordon family, it remained fully convinced of the guilt of the Laird and Lady of Frendraught; and since full retribution could not be obtained by the law, they behoved to have it in some other way. Thus a standing feud was originated between the families.
Mar. 31. – There being a scarcity at this time on the continent, while Scotland possessed a considerable quantity of wheat, the Privy Council, considering these facts, and, moreover, that wheat is not ‘the common grain wherewith the whole lieges are ordinarily fed,’ granted license for the exporting of 4000 bolls. – P. C. R.
Feb. 7. – ‘There began a great storm of snow, with horrible high winds, whilk were noted to be universal through all Scotland… The like had never been seen in these parts, for it would overturn countrymen’s houses to the ground, and some persons suddenly smo’ered within, without relief. It also threw down the stately crown bigged of curious ashlar wark, off the steeple of the King’s College of Old Aberdeen. This outrageous storm stopped the ordinary course of ebbing and flowing on sundry waters by the space of twenty-four hours, such as the waters of Leith, Dundee, Montrose, and other ports – whilk signified great troubles to be in Scotland, as after ye sall hear how truly came to pass.’ – Spal.
An irregular tide on the east coast of Scotland is no unexampled phenomenon, and could easily be explained; but it would probably defy a Humboldt or a Whewell to explain another wonder which a grave church historian of the eighteenth century – a ‘writer’ in Edinburgh, too – sets down as occurring at the same time. ‘What was yet more marvellous,’ says he, ‘the moon, though in her first quarter, set not, but was seen from the Wednesday to the Thursday at even.’
George Nicol, the son of a tailor in Edinburgh, and who had been secretary or clerk to Sir Archibald Acheson, under an unlucky zeal for the public good, resolved to expose some malpractices of the Scottish rulers which had fallen under his attention, or which he believed to exist. Being in London, he presented to the king some information against the Chancellor, the Earls of Morton and Stratherne, the Lord Traquair, the Lord Advocate, &c., for mismanagement of the treasury. These officers were summoned to London to meet the charges brought against them, when it soon appeared that Nicol had advanced what he could not prove.
He was sent back to Scotland under the power of the men whom he had accused, and was adjudged (Mar. 5) by the privy Council guilty of lease-making, and to stand at the entry of the session-house for an hour, and two hours at the cross, with a paper on his head bearing, ‘Here stands Mr George Nicol, who is tried, found, and declared to be a false calumnious liar,’ and thereafter to receive six stripes on his naked back by the hand of the hangman, and then to be led back to the Tolbooth with his shoulders still exposed.
This prototype of Scottish political reformers met ‘with much compassion from the promiscuous beholders, who generally believed he suffered wrongfully.’ He was afterwards deported to Flanders.
Colin Campbell, Laird of Glenurchy, who had succeeded his father Duncan in 1631, seems to have outrivalled him in his taste for elegant things. In the quaint memoir of his family, the Black Book of Taymouth, written about this time, it is stated: ‘The said Sir Colin bestowit and gave to ane German painter, whom he entertainit in his house aucht month, and that for painting of thretty brods of the kings of Scotland, and of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, and twa of their majesties’ queens of guid memory, and of the said Sir Colin his awn and his predecessors’ portraits, whilk portraits are set up in the hall and chalmer of dais of the house of Balloch, the soum of ane thousand pounds.’
He also patronised the portrait-painter, George Jameson, now in the zenith of his fame and settled in Edinburgh. From a letter written by this distinguished person to Sir Colin, June 23, 1635, it appears that he charged for his portraits twenty merks each, he furnishing ‘claith and colours.’ The laird had given an order for pictures of a considerable number of his friends, and Jameson promised, if he began in July, to have sixteen ready in September.
His labours are thus spoken of in the family chronicle: ‘Sir Colin gave unto George Jameson, painter in Edinburgh, for King Robert and King David Bruces, kings of Scotland, and Charles I., king of Great Britain, and his majestys’ queen, and for nine more of the queens of Scotland their portraits, whilk are set up in the hall of Balloch, the soum of twa hundred threescore pounds.’ … ‘For the knight of Lochow’s lady, and the first Countess of Argyll, and six of the ladies of Glenurchy their portraits, and Sir Colin his awn portrait, whilk are set up in the chalmer of dais of Balloch, [he gave] ane hundred fourscore pounds.’
June 15. – The king arrived in Edinburgh, accompanied by the Duke of Lennox, the Marquis of Hamilton, and divers other Scotch and English lords and gentlemen to the number of about five hundred. His furniture and plate were carried about with him in princely form. He, riding on horseback, was received at the West Port in a theatrical manner, after the fashion of the allegorical entertainments with which Ben Jonson has made us familiar.
Next day (Sunday) the king made a procession in his coach to the castle, where he was magnificently banqueted, ‘served with his awn officiars and with his awn provision, vessels, and plate.’ Thence he returned next day, conducted by his nobility in state, in his royal robes, to the Abbey Kirk of Holyrood, and there was solemnly crowned by the Bishop of Brechin.
July 10. – On his return to Edinburgh, from a visit to Perth, the king crossed the Firth of Forth, in fair weather; nevertheless, a boat perished in his sight, containing thirty-five of his domestics, all of whom excepting two were drowned.2 ‘His majesty’s silver plate and household stuff perished with the rest; a pitiful sight, no doubt, to the king and the haill beholders… betokening great troubles to fall betwixt the king and his subjects, as after does appear.’ – Spal.
July 30. – License was given to one Edward Graham to have the keeping of a camel belonging to the king, and to take the animal throughout the kingdom that it might be shown to the people, ‘by tuck of drum or sound of trumpet, from time to time, without trouble or let,’ he and his servants engaging to behave themselves modestly, and not exhibit the camel on the Sabbath-day. – P. C. R.
William Coke and Alison Dick were burnt for witchcraft on the sands of Kirkcaldy. An account, which has been preserved in the session records of the parish, of the expenses incurred on the occasion reveals some parts of the process of witch-prosecution, including the lamentable fact of the concern borne in such matters by the ministers of religion. There is first paid, for the kirk’s part, £17, 10s., composed as follows: Mr John Miller, when he went to Preston for a man to try them, £2, 7s.; to the man of Culross, when he went away the first time [probably a pricker], 12s.; for coals for the witches, £1, 4s.; in purchasing the commission, £9, 3s.; for one to go to Finmouth for the laird to sit upon their assize as judge, 6s.; for harden to be jumps to them, £3, 10s.; for making of them, 8s. Then, of the town’s part, for ten loads of coal to burn them, 5 merks, £3, 6s. 8d.; for a tar barrel, 14s.; for tows, 6s.; to him that brought the executioner, £2, 18s.; to the executioner for his pains, £8, 14s.; for his expenses here, 16s. 4d.; for one to go to Finmouth for the laird, 6s.: in all £17, 1s. Sum of the expense, £34, 11s. Scots.
‘About this time, a pot [eddy-pool] of the water of Brechin, called South Esk, became suddenly dry, and for a short space continued so, but bolts up again, and turns to its own course; which was thought to be an ominous token for Scotland, as it so fell out.’
A sudden desiccation of stoppage of the flow of rivers is a phenomenon not unknown to modern science. The rivers Teviot, Clyde, and Nith were all of them reduced, on the 27th of November 1838, to such a smallness that the mills everywhere ceased to work. The small feeding-streams were observed on this occasion to be completely dried up. The phenomenon was variously attributed to an earthquake (though none was felt), to a high wind obstructing the current, and to a frost. Mr David Milne made some careful inquiries into the subject, and ascertained that on the previous evening the thermometer had suddenly sunk to 26 degrees all over the south of Scotland, producing a very low temperature. He considered the depletion to be caused by the frost arresting the small rills in the upper parts of the rivers, and yet not sufficient to prevent the water further down from flowing away.3
The spring of this year was cold and dry. During the months of April and May, there was no rain for seven weeks; consequently, the seed in some places never germinated. The summer, however, proved so fine, that after all there was a tolerable harvest.
‘The gose-summer4 was matchless fair in Moray, without winds, wet, or any storm; the corn was well won; the garden herbs revived, July flowers and roses springing at Martinmas, whilk myself pulled. The kale shot and came to seed, and the March violets were springing as in April.’ – Spal.
Nov. – A specimen of religious courtship of this age is given by Mr John Livingstone in his Memoirs. The lady was daughter to Bartholomew Fleming, merchant in Edinburgh. ‘When I went a visit to Ireland in February 1634, Mr Blair propounded to me that marriage. I had seen her before several times in Scotland, and heard the testimony of many of her gracious disposition, yet I was for nine months seeking, as I could, direction from God about that business; during which time I did not offer to speak to her, who, I believe, had not heard anything of the matter, only for want of clearness in my mind, although I was twice or thrice in the house, and saw her frequently at communions and public meetings, and it is like I might have been longer in such darkness, except the Lord had presented me an occasion of our conferring together; for in November 1634, when I was going to the Friday meeting at Ancrum, I met with her and some others going thither, and propounded to them by the way to confer upon a text whereupon I was to preach the day after at Ancrum, wherein I found her conference so judicious and spiritual, that I took that for some answer to my prayer to have my mind cleared, and blamed myself that I had not before taken occasion to confer with her. Four or five days after, I propounded the matter to her, and desired her to think upon it; and after a week or two, , I went to her mother’s house, and being alone with her, desiring her answer, I went to prayer, and urged her to pray, which at last she did; and in that time I got abundance of clearness that it was the Lord’s mind that I should marry her, and then propounded the matter more fully to her mother. And although I was fully cleared, I may truly say it was above a month before I got marriage affection to her, although she was for personal endowments beyond many of her equals; and I got it not till I obtained it by prayer. But thereafter I had a great difficulty to moderate it.’
From this union proceeded a family which has made a distinguished figure in the United States of America.
Dec. 14. – Died at Stirling, the Earl of Mar, Lord-treasurer of Scotland, the school-friend of King James VI., and a most respectable nobleman. Scot of Scotstarvet, who seems to have had rather more than the usual relish for the misfortunes of his neighbours, says of Lord Mar: ‘His chief delight was in hunting; and he procured by acts of parliament that none should hunt within divers miles of the king’s house; yet often that which is most pleasant to a man is his overthrow; for, walking in his own hall, a dog cast him off his feet, and lamed his leg, of which he died; and at his burial, a hare having run through the company, his special chamberlain, Alexander Stirling, fell off his horse and broke his neck.’ – Staggering State of Scots Statesmen.
The winter 1634-5 is described by a contemporary as ‘the most tempestuous and stormy that was seen in Scotland these sixty years past, with such abundance of snow and so rigid a frost, that the snow lay in the plains from the 9th of December to the 9th of March.’ – Bal.
Jan. ? – ‘… there was seen in Scotland a great blazing star, representing the shape of a crab or cancer, having long spraings spreading from it. It was seen in the county of Moray, and thought by some that this star, and the drying up of the pot of Brechin, as is before noted, were prodigious signs of great troubles in Scotland.’ – Spal.
The year at which we are now arrived is the epoch of the establishment of a regular letter-post in Scotland. There was previously a system of posts, in the proper sense of the word – namely, establishments at certain intervals where horses could be had for travelling, and which had the occasional duty of forwarding packets of letters regarding public affairs. As illustrative of this system of posts, which was probably limited to the road between Edinburgh and Berwick (as part of the great line of communication with London), with possibly one or two other roads – On the 29th of March 1631, the Lords of the Privy Council dealt with the fault of —— Forres, postmaster of Haddington, respecting a packet of his majesty’s letters which had been lost by his carelessness. It appears that Forres was bound to have fresh horses always ready for the forwarding of such packets; but on one late occasion he had sent a packet by a foot-boy, who had lost it by the way, and he had never taken any further trouble regarding it. On the ensuing 3d of November, the Council had occasion to find fault with William Duncan, postmaster in the Canongate, and more particularly with a post-boy in Duncan’s employment, because the latter, instead of carrying his majesty’s packet to the postmaster at Haddington, had given it to ‘a whipman’ of Musselburgh, to be carried to Duncan’s house there (designing probably that it should be forwarded by another hand). The Council recommended Sir William Seton ‘to prescribe regulations to the postmasters for the sure and speedy despatch of his majesty’s packet, both anent the postmasters their constant residence at the place of their charge, and keeping of ane register for receipt of the packets.’ – P. C. R.
These circumstances appear as characteristic of a time when the postal arrangements were at once very new and very simple.
The post between London and Edinburgh was of course conducted on horseback. It usually went twice a week, sometimes only once. Three years after, when the troubles had begun, the communication became insecure. A person in England then wrote to his friend in Scotland: ‘I hear the posts are waylaid, and all letters taken from them and brought to Secretary Cooke; therefore will I not, nor do you, send by that way hereafter.’
June. – ‘There was seen in the water of Don a monster-like beast, having the head like to ane great mastiff dog or swine, and hands, arms, and paps like to a man. The paps seemed to be white. It had hair on the head, and the hinder parts, seen sometimes above the water, seemed clubbish, short-legged, and short-footed, with ane tail. This monster was seen swimming bodily above the water about ten hours in the morning, and continued all day visible, swimming above and below the bridge without any fear. The town’s-people of both Aberdeens came out in great multitudes to see this monster. Some threw stones; some shot guns and pistols; and the salmon-fishers rowed cobles with nets to catch it, but all in vain. It never shrinked nor feared, but would duck under the water, snorting and bullering, terrible to the hearers and beholders. It remained two days, and was seen no more.’ – Spalding (altered).
It seems most probable that this was one of the herbivorous cetacea, as the manatus. ‘They have,’ says Cuvier, ‘two mammæ on the breast, and hairy moustaches; two circumstances which, when observed from a distance, may give them some resemblance to human beings, and have probably occasioned those fabulous accounts of Tritons and Sirens, which some travellers pretend to have seen.’ The manatus haunts the mouths of rivers in the hottest parts of the Atlantic Ocean, and it is just possible that a stray individual may have found its way to the coast of Scotland, more especially as it was the summer season.
Sep. 26. – The pest was at this time at Cramond, near Edinburgh – supposed to have been introduced by a ship from the Low Countries, where the disease largely prevailed. The inhabitants were ordered to keep within their own parish, and two clengers from Newhaven were despatched to bury the dead and take all other needful steps to prevent the spread of infection. A strict order was issued to prevent the landing of people out of ships from Holland, or any intercourse with such vessels as might come into the Firth of Forth.
During the ensuing year, the plague declared itself in London, Newcastle, and other towns in England, but hardly appeared in Scotland till November, when the towns of Preston, Prestonpans, and Musselburgh were slightly infected.
July 27. – This was a terrible day for the broken men who had for the last few years been carrying on such wild proceedings in Morayland and other districts bordering on the Highlands. Lord Lorne – who soon after, as Marquis of Argyll, became the leader of the Covenanting party – had exerted himself with diligence to put down the system of robbery and oppression by which the country had been so long harassed; and he had succeeded in capturing ten of the most noted of the caterans, including one whose name enjoys a popular celebrity even to the present day. This was Gilderoy or Gillieroy; such at least was his common appellation – a descriptive term signifying the Red Lad – but he actually bore the name of Patrick Macgregor, being a member of that unhappy clan which the severity of the government had driven to desperate courses thirty years before. Another of the captured men was John Forbes, who seems to have been the fidus Achates of the notorious outlaw, James Grant. These ten men were now brought to trial in Edinburgh. It was alleged of Gilderoy that he and his band had for three years past sorned ‘though the haill bounds of Strathspey, Braemar, Cromar, and countries thereabout, oppressing the common and poor people, violently taking away from them their meat, drink, and provision, and their haill guids.’ There had also been a cruel slaughter of one of the Clan Cameron. If the doom of the ten caterans was duly executed – and we know nothing to the contrary – they were all, two days after, drawn backwards on a hurdle to the cross, and there hanged, Gilderoy and John Forbes suffering on the gallows ‘ane degree higher’ than that on which their companions suffered, and further having their heads and right hands struck off for exhibition on the city ports.
Gilderoy, as is well known, attained a ballad fame. there is a broadside of the time containing a lament for him by his mistress, in rude verses not altogether devoid of pathos. She says:
My love he was as brave a man
As ever Scotland bred,
Descended from a Highland clan,
A catter to his trade.
No woman then or womankind
Had ever greater joy
Than we two when we lodged alone,
I and my Gilderoy.
There is something almost fine in the close of the piece:
And now he is in Edinburgh town,
‘Twas long ere I came there;
They hanged him upon a pin,
And he wagged in the air:
His relics they were more esteemed
Than Hector’s were at Troy –
I never love to see the face
That gazed on Gilderoy.
July 23. – The intrusion of a service-book or liturgy upon the Scottish Church has been alluded to in the introduction to the present section. There was an almost universal unwillingness, even among the friends of the reigning system, to give efficacy to the royal orders; for it was seen that the congregations would not calmly see this innovation effected. It was resolved, however, that on Sunday the 23d of July the book should be used in the cathedral church of St Giles, Edinburgh.
To pursue the narrative of a contemporary – ‘How soon as Dr George Hanna, dean of Edinburgh, who was to officiate that day, had opened the service-book, a number of the meaner sort of people, most of them waiting-maids and women, who use in that town to keep places for the better sort, with clapping of their hands, cursings, and outcries, raised such an uncouth noise and hubbub in the church, that not any one could either hear or be heard. The gentlewomen did fall a tearing and crying that the mass was entered amongst them, and Baal in the church. there was a gentleman standing behind a pew and answering “Amen” to what the dean was reading; a she-zealot, hearing him, starts up in choler: “Traitor,” says she, “does thou say mass at my ear!” and with that struck him on the face with her Bible in great fury.
‘The bishop of Edinburgh, Mr David Lindsay, stepped into the pulpit, above the dean, intending to appease the tumult, minding them of the place where they were, and entreating them to desist from profaning it. But he met with as little reverence (albeit with more violence) as the dean had found; for they were more enraged, and began to throw at him stools, and their very Bibles, and what arms were in the way of [their] fury. It is reported that he hardly escaped the blow of a stool, which one present diverted. Nor were their tongues idler than their hands. Upon this, John Spottiswoode, archbishop of St Andrews, then Lord Chancellor, and some others, offering to assist the bishop in quelling the multitude, were made partners of the suffering of all these curses and imprecations which they began to pray to the bishops and their abettors. The archbishop, finding himself unable to prevail with the people, was forced to call down from their gallery the provost and bailies and others of the town-council of Edinburgh, who at length, with much tumult and confusion, thrust the unruly rabble out of the church, and made fast the church doors.
‘The multitude being removed, the dean falls again to read, in presence of the better sort who stayed behind; but all this while, those who had been turned out of doors kept such a quarter with clamours without, and rapping at the church doors, and pelting the windows with stones, as that the dean might once more be interrupted. This put the bailies once more to the pains to come down from their seat and interpose with the clamorous multitude to make them quiet. In the midst of these clamours, the service was brought to an end; but the people’s fury was not a whit settled; for after the bishop had stepped up into the pulpit and preached and the congregation dismissed, the bishop of Edinburgh retiring to his lodging not far distant from the church, was environed and set upon with a multitude of the meaner people, cursing him and crowding about him, that he was in danger of his life, and to be trodden down amongst the people; and having recovered the stairs of his lodging, he no sooner began to go up, but he was pulled so rudely by the sleeve of his gown that he was like to have fallen backwards. Nor was he in more security, having gotten to the top of the stairs; for the door he did find shut against him, and so was at a stand, likely to have been oppressed, had not the Earl of Wemyss, who from the next lodging saw the bishop in danger, sent his servants for to rescue him, who got him at last, breathless and in much amazement, into his lodging.’ – Gordon’s Hist. of Scots Affairs.
Tradition in modern times has represented an herb-woman, named Jenny Geddes, as the heroine who more especially cast her stool at the bishop. Wodrow, however, has given us a different account in his Analecta. ‘It is,’ says he, ‘a constantly believed tradition that it was Mrs Mean, wife to John Mean, merchant in Edinburgh, that cast the first stool when the service-book was read in the New Kirk, Edinburgh, 1637; and that many of the lasses that carried on the fray were prentices in disguise, for they threw stools to a great length.’ Mrs Mean had been the subject of a relenting and humane act on the part of the government. When her husband was under restraint for nonconformity in 1624, he was liberated on a petition setting forth the delicate state of his wife’s health, in order that he might be enabled to return to Edinburgh and attend upon her.
‘After this Sunday’s wark, the haill kirk doors of Edinburgh was lockit, and no more preaching heard [for four or five weeks]. The zealous puritans flockit ilk Sunday to hear devotion in Fife; syne returned to their houses.’ – Spal.