Reign of Charles the First, 1637-1649, pp.257-277.


IT was a terrible and most exciting crisis for Scotland, when the people found themselves constrained by all they held sacred to resist their sovereign. Revering the institution of monarchy, and long accustomed to yield to the powerful king of Great Britain a deference which had neither been asked by nor paid to the sovereign of their own rude and inferior state, nothing could have brought them into such an attitude but their anxiety for the avoidance of soul-endangering errors. Even after the riots of July – such was the unwillingness to adopt strong measures – they might have been induced to remain at peace under bishops and Perth articles, if the king had been so far well counselled as at once and gracefully to withdraw the service-book. The king unfortunately determined to persevere in his unlucky course. The consequence was that the great mass of the people, including many of the nobility and gentry, was led into measures, at first of protestation, and latterly of resistance. There was indeed a district in the north-east where Episcopacy was the favourite system. In some other places, papist nobles exercised a limited local influence. The Highlanders were an uninstructed people, with no religious predilections.* But in the Lowland provinces generally, a people far from void of intelligence were intensely earnest in favour of their old simple forms of worship and model of church-government.

In the latter part of 1637, the service-book not being withdrawn, four committees, called Tables, respectively representing the nobles, gentry, clergy, and burgesses, met in Edinburgh to concert measures for giving it an effective resistance. When it became evident, in the ensuing February, that the king was obdurate, the Tables framed a NATIONAL COVENANT, binding all who should sign it to spare nothing which might save their religion. It was signed by a large majority of the people, in a paroxysm of enthusiasm beyond all example in our history.

The king, notwithstanding that a respect for his person and rule was still professed, could not acquiesce in a movement so contrary to the policy he had so long maintained, and which interfered so violently with his own religious convictions. He began to prepare an army for the subjugation of the Covenanters. They on their part made ready for an armed resistance, not professedly to their sovereign, but to the statesmen who guided his counsels. By a great effort, he got together twenty thousand men, and (May 1639) led them towards the Border. under their nobles, gentry, and clergy, the Scots mustered forces to defend their shores from the fleet, to meet the anti-Covenanting party in the north, and to oppose the king at the Border. To the number of about twenty thousand men, commanded by Sir Alexander Leslie, an experienced officer from the German wars, they took post on Duns Law, while the king advanced with his army towards the Tweed. The king, seeing their resolution and discipline, and feeling that he had but slack support from his own army, was induced to offer a pacification. He proposed that everything should be submitted to a General Assembly sitting under his representative, and to a subsequent parliament.

The General Assembly and the parliament met in the course of summer (1639) under royal commissioners, but with only the effect of formally affirming the abolition of Episcopacy. The king accordingly resolved on a second expedition against the Scots. The Scots mustered a second army as good as his own. They crossed the Tweed (August 28, 1640), and advanced on the Tyne. After a smart action, in which they were victorious, they crossed that river, and took possession of Newcastle. With a disaffected army, and all but a few zealots muttering around him, the king could only come a second time to a convention, but now it was upon less favourable terms than before.

In the civil war that broke out in England, when the king raised his standard against the parliament (August 1642), the Scottish nation had no formal reason or pretext for joining on one side or the other; but their sympathies and interests were all engaged in behalf of the Parliamentary cause. A set of commissioners from the English parliament came into Scotland to court its alliance; they were instructed to give the Scottish nation hopes that, in the event of success against the king, the Presbyterian model should supersede the Episcopalian both in England and Ireland. Their Estates, accordingly, entered into what was called a SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT with the English parliament (August 1643), one of the provisions of which engaged them to send an army against the king. Eighteen thousand foot and three thousand horse, to be supported by English pay at the rate of £30,000 a month, crossed the Tweed in the depth of winter (January 1614). Joining the Parliamentary troops at York, the Scots assisted materially in gaining the important victory at Marston Moor, from which the king’s party never entirely recovered. they also besieged and took Newcastle, preserving a laudable moderation in their triumph. The season ended with a marked depression of the royal cause.

In 1648, Cromwell came to Edinburgh, and fraternised with the more zealous Presbyterian leaders. In January 1649, the king was tried for the alleged crime of raising war upon his subjects, and publicly beheaded.



Oct. 3. – This day began a fall of rain in Moray-land, of ten days’ continuance; ‘waters and burns flowing up over bank and brae; corn-mills and mill-houses washen down; houses, kilns, cots, faulds wherein beasts were keepit, all destroyed. The corns, weel stacked, began to moch [become fusty] and rot till they were casten over again. Lamentable to see, and whereof the like was never seen before.’ – Spal.

Oct. 19. – A quantity of gold had been brought into the kingdom by ‘the adventures of Guinee.’ It was ordered to be formed into coin by Nicolas Briot and John Falconer, masters of the cunyie-house, according to the arrangements ordered by the Privy Council in April 1625. – P. C. R. Some gold subsequently brought from the same country to England by the African Company, ‘administered the first occasion,’ as Clarendon tells us, ‘for the coinage of those pieces which, from thence, had the denomination of guineas.’

The digging of gold in Guinea is connected in a melancholy way with Scotland, for fifteen hundred of the Scottish prisoners taken at Worcester in September 1651, [during the English civil war,] were granted to the Guinea merchants, ‘to be transported to Guinea to work in the mines there.’

Dec. 4. – In the night arose ‘ane horrible high wind,’ which blew down the rafters of the choir of Elgin Cathedral, left without the slates eighty years before. This fact reminds us how much of the destruction of our ancient ecclesiastical buildings was owing, not to actual or immediate damage at the Reformation, but to neglect afterwards.

Dec. 26. – This day, in consequence of the late inundation and storms, a bar made its appearance athwart the mouth of the river Dee, ‘mixed with marble, clay, and stones.’ The contemplation of so fatal a stoppage to their harbour threw the citizens of Aberdeen into a state of the greatest anxiety. ‘They fell to with fasting, praying, preaching, mourning, and weeping all day and night. Then they went out with spades, shools, mattocks, and mells, in great numbers, men and women, young and old, at low-water, to cast down this dreadful bar; but all for nought, for as fast as they cast down at a low-water, it gathered again as fast at a full sea.’ The people had resigned themselves to despair, when ‘the Lord, of his great mercy, without help of mortal man, removed and swept clean away this fearful bar, and made the water mouth to keep its own course, as it was before.’ – Slightly altered from Spalding.


On the hill of Echt, in Aberdeenshire, famous for its ancient fortification called the Barmkyn of Echt, there was heard, almost every night, all this winter, a prodigious beating of drums, supposed to foretell the bloody civil wars which soon after ensued. The parade and retiring of guards, their tattoos, their reveilles, and marches, were all heard distinctly by multitudes of people. ‘Ear-witnesses, soldiers of credit, have told me,’ says Gordon of Rothiemay, ‘that when the parade was beating, they could discern when the drummer walked towards them, or when he turned about, as the fashion is for drummers, to walk to and again, upon the head or front of a company drawn up. At such times, also, they could distinguish the marches of several nations; and the first marches that were heard there were the Scottish March; afterwards, the Irish March was heard; then the English March. But before these noises ceased, those who had been trained up much of their lives abroad in the German wars, affirmed that they could perfectly, by their hearing, discern the marches upon the drum of several foreign nations of Europe – such as the French, Dutch, Danish, &c. These drums were so constantly heard, that all the country people next adjacent were therewith accustomed; and sometimes these drummers were heard off that hill, in places two or three miles distant. Some people in the night, travelling near by the Loch of Skene, within three mile of that hill, were frightened with the loud noise of drums, struck hard by them, which did convoy them along the way, but saw nothing; as I had it often from such as heard these noises, from the Laird of Skene and his lady, from the Laird of Echt, and my own wife then living in Skene, almost immediately after the people thus terrified had come and told it. Some gentlemen of known integrity and truth affirmed that, near these places, they heard as perfect shot of cannon go off as ever they heard at the battle of Nordlingen, where themselves some years before had been present.’ – Scots Affairs.


Feb. 8 or 9. – By order of the king, in consideration of the rebellious proceedings in Edinburgh, ‘the session sat down in Stirling. Ye may guess if the town of Edinburgh was angry or not.’ – Chron. Perth.

Feb. 28. – This day commenced at Edinburgh the signing of the NATIONAL COVENANT. After the document had been subscribed by the congregation at the Greyfriars’ Church, before whom it was first presented, it went through the city, every one contesting who might be first, many blindly following the example of others – not only men, but ‘women, young people, and servants did swear and hold up their hands to the Covenant.’ Many copies written out on parchment, and signed by the leading nobles, were carried into the country, and laid before the people of the several towns and districts.

‘This year was ane very dry year, for about the end of August, all the corns was within the yards.’ – Ab. Re.

Oct. – Amidst the excitement of the time, a young woman named Mitchelson, who had been subject to fits, attracted attention in Edinburgh by becoming a sort of prophetess or Pythoness of the Covenant. ‘She was acquainted with the scripture, and much taken with the Covenant, and in her fits spoke much to its advantage, and much ill to its opposers, that would, or at least that she wished to befall them. Great numbers of all ranks of people were her daily hearers; and many of the devouter sex prayed and wept, with joy and wonder, to hear her speak. When her fits came upon her, she was ordinarily thrown upon a down bed, and there prostrate, with her face downwards, spoke such words as were for a while carefully taken from her mouth by such as were skilful in brachygraphy [shorthand]. She had intermissions of her discourses for days and weeks; and before she began to speak, it was made known through Edinburgh, Mr Harry Rollock [one of the clergymen of Edinburgh], who often came to see her, said that he thought it was not good manners to speak while his Master was speaking, and that he acknowledged his Master’s voice in her. Some misconstered her to be suborned by the Covenanters, and at least that she had nothing that savoured of a rapture, but only of memory, and that she still knew what she spoke, and, being interrupted in her discourse, answered pertinently to the purpose. Her language signified little: she spoke of Christ, and called him Covenanting Jesus; that the Covenant was approved from heaven; that the king’s covenant was Satan’s invention; that the Covenant should prosper, but the adherents to the king’s covenant should be confounded; and much other stuff of this nature, which savoured at best of senseless simplicity. The Earl of Airth, upon a time, getting a paper of her prophecies, which was inscribed, “that, such a day and such a year, Mrs Mitchelson awoke and spoke gloriously,” in place of the word “gloriously,” which he blotted out, writt over it the word “gowkedly” or foolishly, [and] was so much distested for a while among the superstitious admirers of this maid, that he had like to have run the fate of one of the bishops, by a charge with stones upon the street. But this blazing star quickly vanished.’ – Gordon’s Scots Affairs.

There seems no reason to doubt that Mrs Mitchelson was a sincere young woman, but in an unsound nervous condition. Ecstatics like her are common in the Romish Church, in which case there is much tendency to visions of St Catherine, instead of ravings about the Covenant. From analogous cases of persons under hallucinations, the giving pertinent answers to ordinary questions, which Gordon adduces as a ground of doubt, does not necessarily infer that Mrs Mitchelson was a cunning woman playing a part.


May. – Gordon of Rothiemay notes a quasi prodigy as happening at Duns Law while the Scottish army lay there. It has a whimsical character, as connecting the Covenanting war with a geological fact. The matter consisted of ‘the falling of a part of a bank upon the steep side of a hill near by to the Scottish camp, which of its own accord had shuffled downward, and by its fall discovered innumerable stones, round, for the most part, in shape, and perfectly spherical, some of them oval-shapen. They were of a dark-grey colour, some of them yellowish, and for quantity they looked like ball of all sizes, from a pistol to field-pieces, such as sakers or robenets, or battering-pieces upwards. Smooth they were, and polished without, but lighter than lead by many degrees, so that they were only for show, but not for use. Many of them were carried about in men’s pockets, to be seen for the rarity. Nor wanted there a few who interpreted this stone magazine at Duns Hill as a miracle, as if God had sent this by ane hid providence for the use of the Covenanters; for at this time all things were interpreted for the advantage of the Covenant. Others looked upon these pebble-stones as prodigious, and the wiser sort took no notice of them at all. I suppose that at this present the quarry is extant, where they are yet to be seen, no more a miracle; but whether the event has determined them to be a prodigy or not, I shall not take it upon me to define pro or con.’

A modern writer may feel little difficulty in defining this magazine of pebbles as merely part of an ancient alluvial terrace, such as are found in most mountain valleys in Scotland, being, in geological theory, the relics of gravel-beds deposited in these situations by the streams, when, from a lower relative position of the land, the sea partially occupied these glens in the form of estuaried. On the banks of the Whitadder, close to Duns Law, we still see such banks of pebbles, the water-rolled spoils of the Lammermuirs, and chiefly of the transition or Silurian rocks.

Nov. 1. – Owing to the confusions, the Court of Session did not sit down as usual for the winter session to-day, ‘but was vacant the haill winter session, to the great grief of the true creditor, and the pleasure of the debtor unwilling to pay his debt.’ – Spal.

Nov. 2. – A base coin called Turners had been struck by the Earl of Stirling under royal license, and were to him a source of considerable gain, at the expense of the rest of the community. On the day above noted, ‘King Charles’s turners stricken by the Earl of Stirling, was, by proclamation at the cross of Edinburgh, cryit down frae twa pennies to ane penny; King James’s turners to pass for twa pennies, because they were no less worth; and the caird turners simpliciter discharged as false cunyie. But this proclamation was shortly recalled, because there was no other money passing to make change.’ April 1640. – ‘You see before some order taken with the passing of turners, whereof some was appointit to pass for ane penny. Now they would give nothing, penny nor halfpenny, for King Charles’s turners; but King James’s turners only should pass. Whereby all change and trade was taken away through want of current money, because this slight turners was the only money almost passing through all Scotland.’ – Spal.

Nov. ? – The Marquis of Huntly being at this time resident in the Canongate, two of his daughters were married there ‘with great solemnities’ – Lady Anne, who was ‘ane precise puritan,’ to Lord Drummond; and Lady Henrietta, who was a Roman Catholic, to Lord Seton, son of the Earl of Wintoun. The ladies had each 40,000 merks, Scots money, as her fortune, their uncle the Earl of Argyll being cautioner for the payment, ‘for relief whereof he got the wadset of Lochaber and Badenoch.’ – Spal. Lady Jean, the third daughter, was married in the ensuing January to the Earl of Haddington, with 30,000 merks as her ‘tocher good.’


Mar. – In Aberdeenshire, there were ‘in this ait-seed time, great frosts and snaw, no ploughs going, and little seed sawing, so vehement was this storm. No peats could be had to burn, for ane lead [horse-burden] would have cost 13s. 4d. [1s. 1d. sterling], whilk would have been coft [bought] other years for 2s. [2d. sterling]. The brewsters left aff to brew for want of fire. The reason of this scarcity was, because the Covenanters, coming here in March 1639, causit the haill servants, who should have casten the peats for serving of both Aberdeens, flee out of the country for fear; and so not only was our peats dear, but, through the unseasonableness of the spring, the victual also became very dear.’ – Spal.


Aug. – ‘In this month, ane great death, both in burgh and land, of young bairns in the pox; so that nine or ten children would be buried in New Aberdeen in one day, and continued a long time. All for our sins, and yet not taken to heart.’ ‘There was reckoned buried in Aberdeen about twelve score bairns in this disease.’

Spalding, who notes these particulars, remarks that, since the beginning of the troubles, there had been no sea-mews seen in the lochs of New or Old Aberdeen, ‘who before flocked and clecked in so great abundance, that it was pleasure to behold them flying above our heads, yea, and some made use of their eggs and birds. In like manner, few or no corbies seen in either Aberdeens at the water-side of Dee or Don, or shore, where they wont to flock abundantly for salmon gouries [offal].’


Apr. – At this time of general strife and trouble, when civil war was beginning to appear inevitable, a monster passed through the country for exhibition to the curious. It was an Italian of about twenty-four years of age, ‘having from his birth, growing from the breast upwards, face to face, as it were ane creature having a head and syde [long] hair, like the colour of the man’s hair; the head still drooping backward and downward. He had eyes, but closed, not opened. He had ears, two arms, two hands, three fingers on ilk hand, ane body, ane leg, ane foot with six taes; the other leg within the flesh, inclining to the left side… It had a kind of life and feeling, but void of all other senses; fed by the man’s own nourishment… This great wark of God was admired of by many in Aberdeen and through the country, as he travelled; yet such was the goodness of God, that he would go and walk where he listed, carrying this birth without any pain, yea unespied when his clothes was on. When he came to the town, he had two servants waiting upon him, who with himself were well clad. He had his portraiture with the monster drawn, and hung out at his lodging to the view of the people. The one servant [was] ane trumpeter, who sounded at such time as the people should come to see this monster, who flocked abundantly into his lodging. The other servant received the moneys frae ilk person for sight, some more, some less. And after there was so much collected as could be gotten, he, with his servants, shortly left the town and went south again.’ – Spal.

It may somewhat stay our smiles at the simplicity of Spalding’s narration, that it was not till the present century that the true theory of such monsters was arrived at – to wit, that they are twin-births, in which, through some simple disturbing cause, development has been arrested or taken a wrong course.

There is an account of this remarkable person, illustrated by a portrait, in Palfyn’s Traité des Monstres, de leurs Causes, de leur Nature, &c. (Leyden 1708). The author had first seen him at Copenhagen, and afterwards at Bâle, while he was still a young man. He bore the name of Lazare Colloredon Genois, and the attached figure had been baptised separately under the name of Jean Baptiste. Lazare is described as a man of good stature and appearance, and of agreeable manners. He wore a large cloak, to conceal the unsightly brother whom nature had attached to his breast. Usually he showed a good deal of vivacity, but was now and then depressed in thinking of what should be his fate, if, as was likely, his brother should die before him. Jean Baptiste was a very imperfect being, nourished only by what Lazare ate; his eyes nearly closed, and his respiration scarcely perceptible.

June. – Up to this time, from the beginning of the year, there was a scarcity of white fish along the east coast, ‘to the hurt and hunger of the poor… and beggaring of the fishermen. It was reported that when the fishers had laid their lines and taken fishes abundantly, there came ane beast called the Sea Dog to the lines, and ate and destroyed the haill bodies, and left nothing on the lines but the heads. A judgment surely from God Almighty, for the like scarcity of fishes to continue so long has scarcely been seen here in Scotland; whilk bred great dearth of meal and malt, at aucht, nine, or ten pounds the boll, and all other meats also very dear.’ – Spal.

The honest town-clerk of Aberdeen probably by sea-dog means the well-known dog-fish, one of the cartilaginous family, which is a constant enemy of our fisheries at this day.

The same authority informs us that dearth continued throughout the ensuing winter. ‘White meal,’ he says, probably meaning flour, ‘was at eight pounds the boll.’ The people had been accustomed to dear summers – the stock of grain of the preceding year usually getting low at that season – but this was the first dear winter for many years. ‘There was also great rains, whereby none was able to travel; great storms in the sea, and few fish gotten, to the great grief of the people.’

In November, when the recent commencement of hostilities between the king and the English parliament must have been thrilling men’s minds in Scotland, Spalding notes, that ‘in ane seaman’s house in Peterhead, there was heard, upon the night, beating of drums, other times sounding of trumpets, playing on piffers, and ringing of bells, to the astonishment of the hearers. Troubles followit.’


Feb. – Whilst the first battles of the Civil War were causing universal excitement, some further rumours of prodigies were circulated in the country. It was stated that a battle was seen at the hill of Manderlee, four miles from Banff; and so strongly did the vision impress itself on the beholders, that many ran to bury their valuables in the earth. At Bankafair and Drum, touking of drums was heard. Mr Andrew Leitch, minister of Ellon in Aberdeenshire, sitting at supper one night, ‘heard touking of drums vively, sometimes appearing near at hand, and sometimes far off. On the 7th of February, it was written here to Aberdeen, that Kentoun battle at Banbury,1 wherein his majesty was victorious, has in vision been seen seven sundry times sin-syne.’ – Spal. On the 12th, about eight in the morning, being a misty day, ‘visions seen at the hill of Brimman, within four miles of Aberdeen. William Anderson, tenant in Crabstone, told me he saw ane great army as appeared to him, both of horse and foot, about eight hours in the morning, being misty, and visibly continued till sunrising; syne vanished away in his sight with noise into ane moss hard beside. Likewise in the muir of Forfar, armies of men seen in the air. Whilk visions the people thought to be prodigious tokens, as it fell out over true.’ – Spal.

The same minister of Ellon, happening to step out of his manse one night between twelve and one o’clock, ‘did see the sun to shine as if it  had been mid-day, and much astonished at so fearful a prodigy, he called up his bedral to see it also; and, lest the truth hereof should not win belief, he caused the bedral to raise a number of the neighbours from their beds, all which did testify the same when the preacher was questioned about it by the committee sitting at Aberdeen.’ – Pa. Gordon. To make up for this unusual solar demonstration, the sun by day ‘was seen in divers parts to shine with a faint beam, yielding a dim and shadowy light even in a clear heaven, and some time did show like a deep and large pond or lake of blood.’


July 7 (Sunday). – A solemn fast and humiliation was kept throughout Scotland, on account of backsliding from the Covenant and the prevalence of vice and godlessness; as also to entreat the favour of Heaven for the Parliamentary arms, and to pray for the filling of the king’s heart with the love of reformation. A fast in those days was a reality. In Old Aberdeen, the people entered the church at nine o’clock, and continued hearing prayers and sermons till two. They might have then dismissed for a space, but they sat still hearing ‘reading’ till the commencement of afternoon service, which ended at six. Then the bell rang for evening prayers, which continued till seven. – Spal.


Of the ecclesiastical discipline of this period and its bearing upon the habits of the people, we get a good idea from the Presbytery Record of Strathbogie, published by the Spalding Club. The whole moral energy of the country appears as concentrated in an effort to fix a certain code of theological views, including a rigid observance of the Sabbath, the suppression of witchcraft, the maintenance of a serious style of manners, and the extirpation of popery.

A committee of the presbytery made periodical visits to the several parishes, called the minister and chief parishioners before them, and examined the parties separately as to each other’s spiritual condition and religious practice. To be absent any considerable number of times from church was punishable; and if the parishioner proved contumacious, he was liable to be excommunicated – a doom inferring a loss of all civil rights, and a complete separation from human converse. Quarrelling and scolding had to be expiated in sackcloth before the congregation. Drunkenness and swearing were also censured. In dealing with these offences, an unsparing inquisition into domestic and family matters was used, and no rank, age, or sex seems to have afforded the subject any protection.

As specimens of religious offences – a gentleman was prosecuted for bringing home a millstone on a Sunday; another, for gathering gooseberries in time of sermon. It was found regarding Patrick Wilson that he had sat up with a company drinking till after cockcrow, consuming in all eleven pints – that is, about two dozen quart bottles – of ale; he had struck a man, and railed in his drink at several gentlemen of the parish. ‘The brethren ordained Patrick to stand in sackcloth two Sabbaths, and pay four marks penalty.’_20180918_035639.JPG

Many traits of barbarous manners occur in the record, showing that the clergy had somewhat rough materials to deal with, in their efforts to build up a perfect system. There were several persons so far left to a wicked nature as to hold the dicta of the reverend presbytery itself in contempt. For instance, John Tulloch, on being summoned regarding an irregularity with Elspeth Gordon, answered, ‘the devil a care cared he for their excommunication; excommunicate him the morn [to-morrow] if they pleased.’ Three witnesses attested regarding James Middleton, that, on his being rebuked by the minister, they heard him say that ‘he cared not for him, nor any minister in Scotland;’ and when the minister threatened to put him in the jougs, they heard him say that ‘neither he nor the best minister within seven miles durst do so much.’

Feb. 27. – The arrangements for the maintenance of a militia in Scotland were fixed by the Estates. Each county and burgh was ordered to raise and maintain a certain number of foot-soldiers (exclusive of horse), according to their respective amounts of population, at £9 Scots per month for each man. The lists are curious, as informing us of the assumed comparative population of the several counties and burghs in that age.

COUNTIES – Aberdeen, 727; Argyll, 323; Ayr, 674; Banff, 159; Berwick, 394; Bute, 51; Caithness, 105; Clackmannan, 58; Cromarty, 11; Dumbarton, 137; Dumfries, 494; Edinburgh, 463; Elgin, 210; Fife, 738; Forfar, 556; Haddington, 376; Inverness, 464; Kincardine, 174; Kinross, 16; Lanark, 598; Linlithgow, 194; Nairn, 35; Orkney, 127; Peebles, 182; Perth, 889; Renfrew, 245; Roxburgh, 642; Selkirk, 142; Stirling, 282; Sutherland, 47; Wigtown and Kirkcudbright, 486. BURGHS – Aberbrothock, 10; Aberdeen, 160; Annan, 3; Anstruther Easter, 31; Anstruther Wester, 6; Ayr, 41; Banff, 8; Brechin, 20; Burntisland, 16; Crail, 24; Cullen, 4; Culross, 12; Cupar, 24; Dumbarton, 12; Dumfries, 44; Dunbar, 12; Dundee, 186; Dunfermline, 12; Dysart, 30; Edinburgh, 574; Elgin, 20; Forfar, 6; Forres, 6; Galloway, 1; Glasgow, 110; Haddington, 36; Inverkeithing, 10; Inverness, 40; Irvine, 23; Jedburgh, 18; Kilrenny, 3; Kinghorn, 14; Kirkcaldy, 46; Kirkcudbright, 20; Lanark, 16; Lauder, 5; Linlithgow, 30; Lochmaben, 3; Montrose, 53; Nairn, 4; North Berwick, 4; Peebles, 10; Perth, 110; Pittenweem, 15; Queensferry, 7; Renfrew, 10; Rothesay, 5; Rutherglen, 5; St Andrews, 60; Sanquhar, 3; Selkirk, 10; Stirling, 36; Tain, 12; Whithorn, 5; Wigtown, 15.

The total number is, for counties, 9999; for burghs, 2000 – total, 11,999. If we assume that the aim was to call out one soldier for every sixty souls, the entire population would be almost 720,000. Edinburgh would have 34,440 inhabitants; Glasgow and Perth, each 6600; Stirling and Haddington, each 2160; Ayr, 2460; Dundee, 11,160; Inverness, 2400; St Andrews, 3600; Dumfries, 2640; Montrose, 3180; &c.

Apr. 1. – ‘This day, Kelso, with the haill houses, corns, barns, barn-yards, burnt by fire, caused by a clenging of ane of the houses thereof whilk was infected with the plague.’ – Hope’s Diary.

The pest appears by this time to have reached Edinburgh. The town-council agreed (April 10) with Joannes Paulitius, M.D., that he should visit the infected at a salary of eighty pounds Scots per month. A great number of people affected by the malady were quartered in huts in the King’s Park; others were kept at home; and for the relief of these, the aid of the charitable was invoked from the pulpits.

It is understood that those who died by the plague were usually buried in places apart from churchyards, from an apprehension that the infection might burst out and spread, if the graves should be reopened.

An anecdote illustrating the terrors inspired in private circles by the plague is related with regard to this occurrence of the disease, in the memoir of the Stewarts of Coltness, by Sir Archibald Stewart Denham of Westshield, a gentleman born in 1683. Speaking of Sir Thomas Stewart, he says: ‘A remarkable incident happened him in his youth, when the pestilence broke out in Edinburgh in 1645. He with a son of Westshield, a merchant apprentice, had gone to a public-house and received change of some money, and next day that house was shut up, as infected with the plague. This gave a strong alarm at home. James Denham was sent for, and both were strictly examined as to every circumstance. Thomas had received the money in change, and so frightened were all, that none would touch the pocket in which the money was but at a distance; and after the pocket was cut out, it was with tongs cast in a fire; and both lads were shut up in a bed-chamber, sequestrate from all company, and had victuals at proper times handed into them. While they thus stood their quarantine, by strength of imagination or power of fancy, some fiery spots broke out on their arms and thighs, and they imagined no less than unavoidable death. They mutually lamented. Thomas had more courage and Christian resignation than his companion. “James,” said he, “let us trust in God and in the family prayers, for Jesus’ sake, who, as he cures the plague of the heart, can, if we are infected, cure the most noisome disease of the body.” They both went to their knees and joined in most solemn prayer, had much spiritual comfort, and in a fortnight were set at liberty, and the family retired to the country.’ – Coltness Collections.

As far as appears, the plague did not visit Scotland after this time -a circumstance the more remarkable, as it was so deadly in London in 1665, and even reappeared there in the ensuing year. In connection with the plague, the tale of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray has obtained a large currency in Scotland. According to a report on the subject, communicated to the Antiquarian Society in 1781 by Major Barry of Lednoch,2 the incident took place in the year 1666; but this is probably a mistake, arising from an assumption that the last great pestilence of London was general over the country (1665 being further mistaken for 1666). Major Barry says:

‘When I first came to Lednoch, I was shown (in a part of my ground called the Dronoch Haugh) a heap of stones almost covered with briers, thorns, and fern, which they assured me was the burial-place of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray.

‘The tradition of the country relating to these ladies is, that Mary’s father was Laird of Lednoch, and Bessie Bell’s of Kinvaid, a place in this neighbourhood, and an intimate friendship subsisted between them; that, while Miss Bell was on a visit to Miss Gray, the plague broke out in the year 1666; in order to avoid which, they built themselves a bower about three-quarters of a mile west from Lednoch House, in a very retired and romantic place called Burn Braes, on the side of the Beanchie Burn. Here they lived for some time; but the plague raging with great fury, they caught the infection (it is said) from a young gentleman who was in love with them both. He used to bring them their provision. They died in this bower, and were buried in the Dronoch Haugh, at the foot of a brae of the same name, and near to the bank of the river Almond. The burial-place lies about half a mile west from the present house of Lednoch [now called Lyndoch], about seven miles north-west from Perth.

‘The major adds: ‘I have removed all the rubbish from this little spot of classic ground, inclosed it with a wall, planted it round with flowering shrubs, made up the grave double, and fixed a stone in the wall, on which are engraved the names of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray.

While the plague, as has been observed, raged in London in 1665, Scotland was free of it; neither is there any notice of the malady occurring in 1666, either in Lamont’s or Nicoll’s Diary, where it could not have failed to be mentioned if it had occurred. It therefore seems necessary to place the story of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray under 1645.

The sad fate of the two girls became the subject of a ballad, which commenced thus:

Bessie Bell and Mary Gray,
     They were twa bonnie lasses,
They biggit a bower on yon burn brae,
     And theekit it ower wi’ rashes.

The rest has been lost, except the concluding stanza:

They wadna lie in Methven kirkyard,
     Amang their gentle kin;
But they wad lie in Dronoch Haugh,
     To beek fornent the sin.


Sep. 17. – A letter of this date, from James Morphie, tailor in Edinburgh, to the Earl of Airlie, has been preserved, and is in its way a curious memorial of the past. When found a few years ago in Cortachy Castle, it contained five pieces of cloth, being, we may presume, those alluded to by the writer, and all as fresh as on the day they were cut.

‘RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD – I received your Lordship’s letter, and have tried for the nearest swatches of cloths I could find, conform to the orders received, and has inclosed them in this letter, with the prices written by them. As for the Kentish cloths your lordship desired, there is few or none to be found; but we expect some to be home shortly. There is only ane swatch of Kentish cloth here, with the price thereof. Likewise receive the piece that was taken out of the tail of your lordship’s doublet. Any of thir clothes your lordship pleases, send for them by the first occasion, or [ere] they be gone. Not troubling your lordship ony forder, but rests your lordship’s humble and obedient servant, JAMES MORPHIE. From Edinburgh, the 17 day of September 1647. [Addressed] For the Right Honourable the Earl of Airly.’

The letter and pieces of cloth were placed in the Arbroath Museum.


July 28. – The Shorter Catechism recently framed by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, for the instruction ‘of such as are of weaker capacity,’ and which has since been in constant and universal use in Scotland, was this day sanctioned by the General Assembly, sitting in Edinburgh.

_20180918_035756.JPGOct. 4. – Oliver Cromwell paid his first visit to Edinburgh. He came hot from the destruction of the Duke of Hamilton’s semi-royalist Scotch army at Preston, designing to confer with the heads of the ultra-presbyterian party for the extinction of that kind of opposition in the northern part of the island. The Earl of Kirkcudbright and Major-general Holburn conducted him into the city, where he was lodged very handsomely in the Earl of Moray’s house in the Canongate; a strong guard of his own troops was mounted at the gate. ‘The Earl of Moray’s house,’ says Thomas Carlyle, ‘still stands in the Canongate, well known to the inhabitants there – a solid spacious mansion, which, when all bright and new two hundred years ago, must have been a very adequate lodging.’

To the fall of this year is to be traced the origin of the term Whig, as applicable to a well-known party in the state. Burnet, who was likely to know the facts well, makes the following statement: ‘The south-west counties of Scotland have seldom corn enough to serve them round the year; and the northern parts producing more than they need, those in the west come in the summer to buy at Leith the stores that come from the north. From a word Whiggan, used in driving their horses, all that drove were called the Whiggamores, and, shorter, the Whigs

After the news came down of Duke Hamilton’s defeat, the ministers animated their people to rise and march to Edinburgh; and they came up marching on the head of their parishes, with an unheard-of fury, praying and preaching all the way as they came. The Marquis of Argyll and his party came and headed them, they being about 6000. This was called the Whiggamores’ Inroad [strictly the Whigs’ Raid]; and ever after that, all that opposed the court came in contempt to be called Whigs.’

We find John Nicoll, the diarist, in 1666, speaking of the west-country Presbyterians as ‘commonly called the Whigs,’ implying that the term was new. The sliding of the appellation from these obscure people to the party of the opposition in London a few years later, is indicated by Daniel Defoe as occurring immediately after the affair of Bothwell Bridge in 1679. The Duke of Monmouth, then returning from his command in Scotland, instead of thanks for his good service, found himself under blame for using the insurgents too mercifully. ‘And Lauderdale told Charles, with an oath, that the duke had been so civil to the Whigs because he was himself a Whig in his heart. This made it a court-word; and in a little while, all the friends and followers of the duke began to be called Whigs.’



1  The battle of Edgehill, fought on the 23d of October 1642.
2  Archæologia Scotica, ii. 108.²
*  This would appear to be entirely incorrect, as can be seen with a mere cursory perusal of Donald McLeod’s ‘Gloomy Memories‘.