Interregnum, 1649-1660, pp.278-301.


THE execution of the king, among its other bad effects, put enmity between the ruling powers of Scotland and England. The leaders at Edinburgh, notwithstanding their condemnation of the late ‘Engagement,’ upheld monarchy in principle; and therefore, while England was declaring itself a commonwealth or republic, Scotland proclaimed the late king’s son – a youth of nineteen, living in exile – as Charles II., King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland. At the same time, the Scots were determined not to receive the young king as their sovereign, or to befriend him in any way, until he should have accepted that Solemn League and Covenant which proclaimed a crusade against all doctrine inconsistent with pure Presbyterianism.

Commissioners sent to the young king at the Hague negotiated for his coming to Scotland as their covenanted monarch. He would fain have evaded the condition; but on that point no concession could be made. He, therefore, while the treaty was going on, was induced to sanction a descent upon Scotland, which Montrose had planned, with a view to raise the royalists.

Seeing no better course now open to him for the recovery of his kingdoms, Charles agreed that, on coming into Scotland, he should sign the Covenant. Charles landed at the mouth of the Spey, and was received with all outward appearances of respect by the Scottish leaders and the chief divines, while they trusted him with no real power. He visited Aberdeen, Perth, and Stirling, everywhere a mere puppet, and much at a loss, it is said, to endure the long sermons to which his situation compelled him to listen.

Cromwell, fresh from the reduction of Ireland, came into Scotland with an army in July, to put down this movement. He found the campaign less simple than he anticipated. Distressed by want of provisions and by sickness, he was even inclined to withdraw along the east coast. But the Scottish army posted on the Doon Hill, near Dunbar, made such a movement impossible. In these circumstances, he must soon have been brought to a capitulation. But the imprudence of the Scottish leaders, in forcing General Leslie to attack the English, proved his salvation. He gained a complete victory (September 3, 1650), killing three thousand, and taking several thousand prisoners, many of whom were sent to the plantations as slaves. Edinburgh and its castle fell into his hands, along with most of the southern provinces.

Scotland had now expended nearly the whole of her military strength in a vain endeavour to support her ecclesiastical system, in connection with a limited monarchy, against the English commonwealth. Her towns and principal places of strength fell into the hands of the English troops. The Committee of Estates were surprised and taken prisoners at a place called Alyth, on the skirts of the Grampians. The General Assembly was dispersed, and no church-courts above synods were allowed to meet. With little ceremony, the country was declared to be united with England.

During the greater part of this time Cromwell was the undisputed ruler of Scotland, as well as of England and Ireland. At length, after his death in 1658, confusion and difficulty were renewed, and to these an effectual stop was not put till, by the happy intervention of General Monk, Charles II. was restored as king (May 1660).



This was a year of extreme dearth. Wheat was at seventeen pounds Scots per boll; oats, twelve pounds; and other grains in proportion. Owing, also, to the coldness and dryness of the spring, the herbage and hay proved deficient, and cheese and butter consequently attained high prices – the former three, and the latter six pounds per stone. ‘In the beginning of June, the parliament licensed Englishmen to buy and transport oxen, kine, sheep of all sorts, likewise horses and colts; which was one of the most hurtful acts could be made to ruin Scotland, and advance the designs of the enemies thereof; bestial of all sorts being at so high a rate these four years past in this country, and flesh in the common markets scarce buyable but at very exorbitant rates; the like has not been seen in this kingdom heretofore since it was a nation.’ – Bal.

The luxuries of life were correspondingly dear at this time: the best ale, 3s. 4d. (3d. sterling); sack wine, 36s.; and French wine, 16s. per pint.

Aug. – ‘About Lammas and afterwards, in many parts of this kingdom, both among bear and oats, there were seen a great number of creeping things – which was not ordinar – which remained in the head of the stalk of corn, at the root of the pickle.’ – Lam.

‘About Lammas… there was a star seen by many people of Edinburgh, betwixt twelve and two hours of the day, even when the sun shined most bright; which was taken for a comet, and a forerunner of the troubles that followed.’ – C. P. H.

No such comet is noted by astronomers, the only two in the first half of the seventeenth century being in 1607 and 1618. It was probably a star of high magnitude, or planet rendered visible by some extraordinary state of the atmosphere.

Lord Linton, son of the Earl of Traquair, married Henrietta Gordon, daughter of the lately executed Marquis of Huntly, and relict of George, Lord Seton; she being an excommunicated papist. ‘The minister of Dawick, being an old man, did marry thir foresaid persons privately, without proclamation of their banns, according to the custom; for which, shortly after, he was excommunicate, his church declared vacant, and he by the state banished.’ – Lam. Lord Linton was fined in £5000 Scots, and likewise excommunicated and imprisoned. – Nic.

In the year 1649, as is believed, a cateran named Mac-Allister, with a band of followers, kept a large portion of Caithness in terror. The people of Thurso having somehow given him offence, he determined to revenge himself by suddenly coming down upon them on a Sunday and burning them in church. He and his men had provided themselves with withes of twigs to fasten the doors, in order to keep the people in, while fire should be set to the building. Some one remonstrating with him for contemplating such an unholy design on the Sabbath-day, he avowed that, in spite of God and the Sabbath both, he would shed blood. Fortunately, some humane person became aware of the design, and set off at speed to give the alarm. This had scarcely been done, when the caterans, twenty in number, arrived. There were seven doors to the church, as may be verified by an inspection of the ruins at this day. An old woman dexterously thrust her stool into one near which she sat, so as to prevent it from being closed; the people were eager to defend the rest as far as they could. Mac-Allister himself came to the door of a gallery at the south-west angle of the building, accessible by an outer stair. Here sat Sir James Sinclair of Murkle, an able and determined man, who made a practice of coming to church armed. Meeting the robber in the doorway, he thrust his sword through him, but with no apparent effect. His servant, however, superstitiously fearing that Mac-Allister was impervious to cold steel, cut a triangular silver button from Sir James’s coat, and with that shot the fellow in the head. He tumbled over the stair, saying in Gaelic: ‘Hoot-toot, the bodach has deafened me!’ It was a mortal wound in the ear. The rest of the party were then set upon by the congregation, and after a hard contest, overpowered, many of them, like their master, being killed.


Mar. – Throughout this and the ensuing two months, there ‘fell out much unseasonable weather, the like whereof was not usual, for weets, cold, frosts, and tempests.’ – Nic.

The same writer informs us that on the 28th of May ‘there rained blood the space of three miles in the Earl of Buccleuch’s bounds, near the English border; whilk was verified in presence of the Committee of State.’

In the ensuing month there was an epidemic called the Irish Ague, ‘which was a terrible sore pain in the head, some saying that their heads did open. the ordinary remedy was the hard tying up of their head. A disease not before this known to the inhabitants of this kingdom.’

May 15. – ‘The new Psalm-books were read and ordained to be sung through all the kingdom.’ – Nic. This was the translation of the Psalms which is still used by the Church of Scotland and all Presbyterian congregations in the kingdom. It was based on a homely version produced originally in 1643, by Francis Rous, a member of the long Parliament, who ultimately became provost of Eton, and died in 1658. What was rather odd, Rous was at this time joined to the Sectaries, against whom the Scotch Church entertained so bitter a feeling. It must be admitted that his version underwent great improvements in the hands of the committees of the General Assembly appointed for its revision.

May 21. – The Marquis of Montrose, taken in an unsuccessful attempt to restore the king without the ceremony of the Covenant, was hanged in Edinburgh on a gibbet thirty feet high. The heroic firmness displayed at his death harmonised well with the gallantry exhibited in his short but brilliant career. It affords a striking idea of the taste of men of the highest rank in that age, that the Marquis of Argyll appeared on a balcony to see him driven on the hangman’s hurdle to the prison from which he was two days after to walk to the gallows, and that Lord Lorne took post at a window near the scaffold, to see the body cut to pieces after death. The head being stuck on the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and the limbs sent for exhibition over the ports of Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, and Aberdeen, Charles II. was compelled to behold those ghastly relics of the most loyal of his subjects, when, less than a month after, he progressed through the country. If Montrose had died free of excommunication, his body would have been given to his friends; as matters stood, it was inhumed beneath a gibbet at the Burgh-moor. There was, however, a female heart that secretly wept for the untimely end of the Great Marquis. His niece, Lady Napier, sent men by night, who dug up the body and stole away the heart; and this relic she consigned to a steel case made out of the hero’s sword, which again she inclosed in a gold filigree box, which had been presented by a doge of Venice to her husband’s grandfather, the inventor of the logarithms. It will be found that, after the Restoration, when it became the fate of Argyll and others to atone by their blood for the severities inflicted on Montrose, the remains of the culprit of 1650 were gathered together and treated with a funeral that might have been honourable to a king. The heart and its case were, however, retained in the possession of the Napier family for several generations, and only were lost sight of amidst the confusions of the French Revolution.

July. – Cromwell having crossed the Tweed with his army on the 22d of this month, a large body of troops assembled on Leith Links to oppose him, all animated with a good spirit in behalf of their king and country, but unluckily not all equally sound in the faith of the Solemn League and Covenant. Thousands were sent back, ‘to the discontentment of much people.’ The leaders thought it safer to meet Cromwell with twenty thousand who were of right principles, than with thirty thousand of whom a third were merely patriotic and loyal. While the army, as honest John Nicoll remarks, ‘stood daily in purging upon the Links,’ the young king came to review them, and doubtless was right sorry to see so many hearty soldiers turned away from his banner.

Aug. – While the two hostile armies lay about Edinburgh, ‘there was such a great scarcity, that all sorts of vivres, meat and drink, could hardly be had for money, and such as was gotten was fuisted [musty], and sald at a double price. The haill inhabitants were forced to contribute and provide for the [Scottish] army, notwithstanding of this scarcity; as also to furnish feather beds, bowsters, cods, blankets, sheets… for the hurt soldiers to lie upon, with pots and pans for making ready their meat; and to collect money for providing honest entertainment to the hurt soldiers that lay in the [Heriot’s] Hospital and Paul’s Wark.’ – Nic.

Sep. – The bellman was accustomed to intimate the death of a citizen through the streets, and in the same way give invitations to the funeral. At this time the Edinburgh official was ordered to give up the phrase, ‘faithful brother or sister,’ and retain brother or sister only.1Nic.

Nov. 13. – At this distressing time, when the best part of the country was in the hands of foreign invaders, and the ancient monarchy of Scotland threatened with destruction, there occurred a calamitous event which must have been peculiarly bewailed. The palace of Holyrood being then in the occupation of a party of the English troops, took fire, and was in great part destroyed. The most interesting portion of the building – the north-west tower, containing the apartments of Queen Mary – was fortunately preserved; but the principal façade was laid in ruins, so that the general appearance was, on a restoration, much changed. About the same time, the English soldiery, for the sake of fuel, broke down the furniture of the University buildings, the High School, and of three churches – College, Greyfriars, and Lady Yester’s – besides the plenishing of many houses in town and country.


‘In all parts of the land, where the English army come, the ministers fled, and the Lord’s houses were closed and laid waste; so that the word of the Lord became very precious to many.’ ‘The land [was] mourning, languishing, left desolate, every part thereof shut up, and no safe going out nor coming in… the Lord hiding his face all this time for the sins of Scotland.’ – Nic.

Dec. – ‘I thought it good to remember here how that the names of Protestant and Papist were not now in use… in place thereof raise up the name of Covenanters, Anti-Covenanters, Cross-Covenanters, Puritans, Barbarteris, Round-heads, Auld Horns, New Horns, Cross-petitioners, Brownists, Separatists, Malignants, Sectaries, Royalists, Quakers, Anabaptists.’ – Nic.


This year was one of even greater dearth than the preceding, bear being £20 Scots per boll – equal to £1, 13s. 4d. – in many parts of the country. The best sack wine was 4s. sterling, and French wine 1s. 6d. per pint. The best ale 4d. a pint. ‘Yet God’s providence was such toward the nation, that even when our awn corns failed us, the English nation did bring in abundantly wheat, bear, peas, and such like, and brought down the dearth of our mercats, by [beyond] expectation.’ – Nic.

Dec. – One good consequence of the English military rule now established in Scotland was the introduction of some improved police regulations into Edinburgh. Householders were compelled to hang out lanterns, from six to nine at night, at their doors and windows; by which arrangement ‘the winter night was almost as light as the day.’ The expense was reckoned to be about forty-five pounds a night. Rigorous measures were also taken for the cleaning of the streets and lanes, and for preventing foul water being thrown forth from windows.

It would appear that these regulations were steadily kept up during the English occupation. In April 1657, there was a petition from the magistrates of Edinburgh to the commissioners of justiciary craving remission of certain fines, amounting in all to £50 sterling, which had been imposed on the magistrates ‘for not cleansing the streets.’ The alleged that they had ’employed scavengers’ with a view to giving the commissioners satisfaction. – B. A.

Nicoll, writing towards the close of 1651, gives a second and most unflattering picture of the moral conditions of Scotland. ‘Under heaven,’ he says, ‘there was not greater falset, oppression, division, hatred, pride, malice, and envy, nor was at this time, and diverse and sundry years before (ever since the subscribing the Covenant); every man seeking himself and his awn ends, even under a cloak of piety, whilk did cover much knavery.’ He adds: ‘Much of the ministry, also, could not purge themselves of their vices of pride, avarice, and cruelty; where they maligned, they were divided in their judgments and opinions, and made their pulpits to speak ane against another. Great care thay had of their augmentations, and Reek Pennies,2 never before heard of but within thir few years. Pride and cruelty, ane against another, much abounded; little charity or mercy to restore the weak, was to be found among them… This I observe not out of malice to the ministry, but to record the truth, for all offended, from the prince to the beggar.’

About April 1652, we begin to find dissent taking recognisable forms. There were now Antinomians, Antitrinitarians, Familists,3 and Seekers, as well as Brownists, Independents, and Erastians. Where there had formerly been no avowed Anabaptists, there were now many, ‘sae that thrice in the week – namely, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – there were some dippit at Bonnington Mill betwixt Leith and Edinburgh, both men and women of good rank. Some days there would be sundry hundred persons attending that action, and fifteen persons baptised in one day by the Anabaptists.’ Among the converts was ‘the Lady Craigie Wallace, a lady in the west country.’ – Nic. In autumn, at Cupar, Mr Brown, preacher to Fairfax’s regiment, re-baptised several of the soldiers ‘in the Eden, near to Airdrie’s lodging, by dipping them over head and ears, many of the inhabitants looking on.’ – Lam.


Mar. – The Castle of Dunnottar was now almost the only place of strength in the kingdom which resisted the English arms. It held out with a small garrison, under the command of George Ogilvie of Barras, whose anxiety to maintain his post was increased by the consideration that within these sea-girt walls rested the regalia of the kingdom – the crown, sceptre, and sword of state – which had been consigned by the Committee of Estates to this fort, under the care of the Earl Marischal, as being the strongest place in the kingdom that remained untaken after the reduction of Edinburgh Castle. For many months, Ogilvie and his little garrison had defied the English forces; but now it was likely that he could not hold out much longer – in which case, of course, the regalia must fall into the hands of the enemy. The Earl Marischal had been taken with the Committee of Estates at Alyth, and shipped off the London as a prisoner. He contrived, however, to send by a private hand the key of the closet in which the regalia lay, to his mother, the Dowager Countess, who, by the advice of her son, opened a communication with Mr James Grainger, minister of Kinneff, a person in whom the family reposed great faith, with a view to his assisting in the conveying away of the precious ‘honours.’ The minister and his wife, Christian Fletcher (posterity will desire the preservation of her whole name), entered heartily into the wishes of the countess. Mrs Grainger, by permission of the English commander, visiting the wife of the governor of the castle, received from that lady, but without the knowledge of her husband, the crown into her lap. The sceptre and sword, wrapped up in a bundle of hards or lint, were placed on the back of a female attendant. When Mrs Grainger and her maid returned through the beleaguering camp, it appeared as if she were taking away some lint to be spun for Mrs Ogilvie. So far from suspecting any trick, the English officer on duty is said to have helped Mrs Grainger upon her horse. The castle was reduced three months afterward, when great was the rage of the English on finding that the regalia were gone. It was adroitly given out that they had been carried beyond sea by Sir John Keith, a younger brother of the earl, and handed to King Charles at Paris.

In reality, on reaching the manse of Kinneff, Mrs Grainger had delivered the crown, sceptre, and sword to her husband, who took the earliest opportunity of burying them under the floor of his church, imparting the secret of their concealment to no one but the Countess Marischal. To the credit of the worthy minister and his wife, they preserved their secret inviolate till the Restoration, eight years afterwards, when ‘the honours’ were exhumed, and replaced under proper custody. An order of the Scottish parliament, dated January 11, 1661, rewarded Mrs Grainger with two thousand merks; Ogilvie was created a baronet; while Sir John Keith, whose immediate concern in the affair does not appear to have been great, was made Knight Marischal of Scotland, with a salary of £400 yearly; to which rewards was added in 1677 a peerage under the title of Earl of Kintore.

Mar. 29. – Being Monday, a celebrated eclipse of the sun took place between eight and eleven in the morning, with a perfectly clear sky. ‘The whole body of the sun did appear to us as if it had been covered with the moon; only there was a circle about the sun that appeared somewhat clear without any light [the corona?]. At that time there did a star appear in the firmament, near to the place of the eclipse.’ ‘There was ane manifest darkness for the space of some moments.’ – Lam. ‘The time of the eclipse it was exceedingly fearful and dark, to the terror of many.’ – Nic. Another account says the darkness continued about eight minutes, and the people began to pray to God.4 ‘The like, as thought by astrologers, was not since the darkness at our Lord’s passion. The country people, tilling, loosed their ploughs, and thought it had been the latter day… The birds clapped to the ground.’ – Law. The day of this eclipse was long remembered, under the name of MIRK MONONDAY.

June 17. – ‘It pleased God to lay the town of Glasgow desolate by a violent and sudden fire… The far best part of the fore streets and most considerable buildings were burnt, together with above fourscore lanes and closes, which were the dwellings of above a thousand families, and almost all the shops and warehouses of the merchants, many whereof are near-by ruined. Besides, a great many more of widows, orphans, and distressed honest families, having lost what they had, are now put to starving and begging. The like of this fire has not been formerly heard of in this nation.’ – Nic. ‘It was said 1060 houses burnt.’ – C. P. H.

This summer was remarkable for clear, dry, warm weather, parching up the herbage, and producing exceedingly light crops on the best lands. The harvest commenced in June, and in a field near Dundee there were stooks on the 7th of July. At the end of July and beginning of August, the harvest was general; and before the end of the latter month, all was ‘in’ – circumstances unexampled, and which have perhaps never again occurred. ‘The pease wallowed [that is, faded in the bloom] a fortnight before Lammas, whereas some years they continue till Michaelmas.’ – Lam. ‘All the corn was got in without rain, and long before the usual time. The like harvest was in England.’ ‘It is truly reported that in England there was such abundance of white butterflies as was never heard of before. They destroyed all cabbage; and divers cobles coming from sea, hardly could see the land for them.’ – Nic.

The summer ‘produced ripe wine-berries and grapes, and abundance of Scotch chestanes openly sauld in the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh, and baken in pasties at banquets.’ – Nic.

The weather, strange to say, remained of the same character all the latter part of the year, so that fruit-trees had a second blossoming in November, and some of them brought forth fruit, ‘albeit not in perfection.’ The furze and broom bloomed again; the violet, not due till March, presented its modest head in November. Birds began to build their nests, and lay eggs, at or near Martinmas, and salads and sybows were cried and sold in Edinburgh on the 27th of November. – Nic.

In some churches in Fife, as Kirkcaldy and Kennoway, the English soldiers ‘did pull down the stool of repentance; they did sit in them also, in contempt, in some places where they came, in time of sermon.’ Several ministers were openly challenged for their expressions in prayers and sermons, by these soldiers. Mr George Hamilton at Pittenweem was so troubled by some of Fairfax’s regiment, that he had to break off; ‘at which time there was great uproar in the church there.’ – Lam.

Aug. – The Earl of Crawford, having been taken by the English at Alyth a twelvemonth before, now lay a prisoner in the Tower. The countess – a sister of the late Duke of Hamilton – desiring to visit her husband in his affliction, left Scotland for the purpose in a stage coach which had recently been established for the keeping up of communication between the two countries – ‘the journey coach,’ says Lamont, ‘that comes ordinarily between England and Scotland.’ We do not learn the periods of departure, or any other detail regarding this vehicle; but from a paragraph which occurs under May 1658, we may presume that it did not go oftener than once in three weeks, and charges for a seat fully as much as a first-class railway ticket of the present day.

Oct. – Four English gentlemen – Messrs George Smith, John Martin, Andrew Owen, and Edward Mosley – the commissioners appointed by Cromwell for the administration of justice in Scotland in place of the Court of Session, commenced their labours in the criminal department at Edinburgh. The Scottish civil bench having not long been free from an evil reputation for budds or bribes, and to the last liable to the charge of partiality, it is alleged that the English judges rather surprised the public by their equitable decisions. It is added that some one, in a subsequent age, was lauding, to the Lord-President Gilmour, the remarkable impartiality of these judges and the general equity of their proceedings, when the Scottish judge answered in his rough way: Deil thank them, they had neither kith nor kin!’


June. – Early in this month, a number of pellochs or porpoises were thrown ashore dead on the coast of Fife; ‘whilk was taken to be very ominous.’ – Nic.

(Sep.) – The heat of the summer 1652, and the earliness of the harvest, had not been attended with such plenty as to produce extraordinary cheapness. During this summer of 1653, wheat was £1, 5S. sterling per boll, and the inferior grains about 20s. An excellent crop having been secured, ‘the prices fell strangely, so that from Michaelmas till the end of the year, oats were at [6s. 8d.] per boll, and wheat [11s. 8s. and 13s. 4d.].’ – Lam.

The Trembling Exies – that is, ague – was this year ‘exceedingly frequent through all parts of this nation, in such condition as was never seen before… the smallpox also, whereof many people, both old and young, perished.’ – Nic.

Mar. – From October by-past to this date, the weather was dry and fair to such a degree as to make the period like a second summer. Nicoll states that, in all that time, there had not been above six showers of wet or snow, and two of these fell on Sundays.

May 4. – General Monk coming down to Edinburgh to take command of the forces against Glencairn and Kenmure, and to proclaim Oliver’s union of Scotland and England, had a most honourable reception. ‘The provost and bailies in their scarlet gowns met him at the Nether Bow Port, the haill council in order going before them.’ After the proclamation, they ‘did convoy him to a sumptuous dinner and feast, prepared by the town of Edinburgh for him and his special crowners [colonels]. This feast was six days in preparing, whereat the bailies of Edinburgh did stand and serve the haill time of that dinner.’ ‘There was great preparation for firewarks, whilk was actit at the Mercat Cross betwixt nine and twelve hours in the nicht, to the admiration of many people.’ – Nic.

Next day was proclaimed an act of grace, forfaulting the heirs of the Duke of Hamilton and some score of other nobles, and imposing huge fines upon sundry others; for example, £15,000 on the heirs of the Earl of Buccleuch, £10,000 on the Earl of Panmure, £6000 on the Earl of Roxburghe, £5000 on the Earl of Perth, and the latter sum and other sums down to £1000 on upwards of fifty others, noblemen and gentlemen [these sums being of sterling money]. Landed proprietors, merchants, and indeed the entire community, were now in a state of prostration in consequence of the wars. According to the diarist Nicoll – ‘The poverty of the land daily increased, by reason of inlaik of trade and traffic, both by sea and land, the people being poor and under cess [tax], quarterings, and other burdens.’

In April of this year, an additional trouble and burden fell upon the people, in consequence of the royalist insurrections, no person being now allowed to travel from home without a pass, for which a shilling sterling was charged.

The summer of this year was exceedingly fine, producing ripe peas and cherries at the beginning of June, and yielding an early and abundant harvest; so that the best oatmeal was only fourpence sterling per peck. ‘The lambs and fowls were also at ane exceeding cheap rate’ (Nic), and it is also stated that, from the abundance of herrings in the west seas, these fish were sold so low as twopence a hundred. Cheese was, in the west country, at 2s. 6d. sterling per stone. – Caldwell Papers.* This bounty of Providence is not spoken of by contemporary journalists as abating in any degree the sufferings of the people, though these, we cannot doubt, would have been much greater if there had been a dearth. Just at this time, Nicoll returns to the subject of the general distresses of the country. ‘Much people,’ he says, ‘were brought to misery,’ and the land ‘groaned under its calamities and burdens.’

Owing to the drought of the summer, the wells on which Edinburgh depended for water ran dry, ‘sae that the inhabitants could not get sufficient for ordering their meat.’ Nevertheless, ‘all the west country had more than ordinar abundance of rain and weet.’ – Nic. The same writer adds afterwards that the people of Edinburgh were obliged to go a mile before they could get any clean water, ‘either for brewing of ale, or for their pot meat.’

June 1654. – This seems to have been the time when the word Tories, since so notable, was introduced into our island. It had been first applied to a number of predatory outlaws in Ireland. Thus becoming familiar as a term for brigands, it naturally was applied to a number of irregular soldiers connected with the insurgent army of the Earl of Glencairn, who, according to Nicoll, lay in holes and other private places, and robbed and spoiled all who fell into their hands, ‘ofttimes with the purse cutting the throat of the awner.’ The English troops bestirred themselves to capture these Tories, and in July, eight were taken out of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and as many out of the Canongate jail, besides others from Perth and Dundee, and shipped at Leith to be sold as slaves in Barbadoes. – Nic.

Oct. – In the course of this month, a number of hares came into the city of Edinburgh, even into its central parts, the High Street and Parliament Close, ‘to the great admiration of many.’ ‘The like was never heard nor seen before.’ – Nic. This singular circumstance was probably in some way a consequence of the dry nature of the season.

Nov. – At this time commenced the series of alleged incidents constituting the once famous history of the DEVIL OF GLENLUCE.

A poor weaver named Gilbert Campbell, at Glenluce in Galloway, had given offence to a sturdy beggar, named Agnew, ‘a most wicked and avowed atheist, for which he was hanged at Dumfries.’ The wretch went away muttering that he would do the family a mischief. Whether before or after Agnew’s death does not appear, the weaver and his family began to be annoyed with whistling noises, and by petty acts of mischief – as the mislaying and destroying of little articles, and the throwing of stones and peats, all by unseen hands. Their clothes were sometimes drawn from them as they lay in bed. At the suggestion of some neighbours, Campbell sent away his children, and for the time peace ensued. So it was, after all except Tom had been brought back, and not so after Tom had returned likewise; but, to show that this was a point of indifference, when Tom had been again sent away in the keeping of the minister of the parish, the annoyances recommenced. This lad, it may be remarked, said he had heard a voice warning him not to go back to his father’s house; and when he did return, he was ‘sore abused,’ and thus once more driven away.

In February, the family began to hear a voice speak to them, but could not tell whence it came. ‘They came at length in familiar discourse with the foul thief, that they were no more afraid to keep up the clash with him than to speak with one another; in this they pleased him well, for he desired no better than to have sacrifices offered to him. The minister, hearing of this, went to the house upon the Tuesday, being accompanied by some gentlemen; one James Bailie of Carphin, Alexander Bailie of Dunragget, Mr Robert Hay, and a gentlewoman called Mrs Douglas, with the minister’s wife, did accompany. At their first coming in, the devil says: “Quam literarum is good Latin.” These are the first words of the Latin Rudiments, which scholars are taught when they go to the grammar-school. He cries again: “A dog!” The minister, thinking he had spoken it to him, said: “He took it not ill to be reviled by Satan, since his Master had trodden that path before him.” Answered Satan: “It was not you, sir, I spoke to; I meant the dog there;” for there was a dog standing behind backs. This passing, they all went to prayer; which being ended, they heard a voice speaking out of the ground, from under the bed, in the proper country dialect, which he did counterfeit exactly, saying: “Would you know the witches of Glenluce? I will tell you them;” and so related four or five persons’ names that went under a bad report. The weaver informed the company that one of them was dead long ago. The devil answered and said: “It is true she is dead long ago, but her spirit is living with us in the world.” The minister replied, saying (though it was not convenient to speak to speak to such an excommunicated and intercommuned person): “The Lord rebuke thee, Satan, and put thee to silence; we are not to receive information from thee, whatsoever name any person goes under; thou art seeking but to seduce this family, for Satan’s kingdom is not divided against itself.” After which, all went to prayer again, which being ended – for during the time of prayer no noise or trouble was made, except once that a loud fearful yell was heard at a distance, the devil threatening and terrifying the lad Tom, who had come back that day with the minister, “that if he did not depart out of the house, he would set all on fire” – says the minister: “The Lord will preserve the house, and the lad too, seeing he is one of the family, and had God’s warrant to tarry in it.” The fiend answered: “He shall not get liberty to tarry; he was once put out already, and shall not abide here, though I should pursue him to the end of the world.” The minister replied: “The Lord will stop thy malice against him.” ‘

After a great deal of the like talk with the unseen tormentor, ending with a declaration from him that he was an evil spirit come from the bottomless pit to vex this house, and that Satan was his father, ‘there appeared a naked hand, and an arm from the elbow down, beating upon the floor till the house did shake again.’ This the minister attested, and also that he heard the voice saying: ‘Saw you that? It was not my hand – it was my father’s; my hand is more black in the loof [palm].’

Sinclair, who relates these things (Satan’s Invisible World Discovered), states that he received them from a son of Campbell, who was at Glasgow College with him.


Feb. – In consequence of excessively stormy weather this month, many thousands of dead eels were cast out upon the banks of the North Loch at Edinburgh, ‘to the admiration of many.’ – Nic.

A severe frost set in, and continued till the middle of April, to the interruption of farmwork; and it was deemed necessary to announce a fast for an early day. ‘No sooner was this fast and humiliation intimate from the pulpits of Edinburgh, but it seemed – and there was no doubt – the Lord was weel pleased; and it was his pleasure to tryst the desire of the people with fair and seasonable weather.’ – Nic.

May. – We incidentally learn the wages of a skilled artisan in Scotland at this time from the account which Lamont gives of the expense of slating and painting the house of Lundie in Fife. The work was done by David Brown, slater in Anstruther, and his son, and so well, he said, that it would not need to be touched again for seven years. David and his son were paid for this work – their diet in the house during the twenty-four working-days they were engaged upon it, and twenty-four shillings Scots, or two shillings sterling, per day, in money.

July. – On a Sunday, at the close of this month, the communion was administered in Edinburgh, the first time after an interval of six years, for so long had the rite been discontinued in the capital and other parts of the kingdom, by reason of the troubles and divisions which had prevailed. From one disqualification and another, ‘much people was debarred.’ – Nic.

Oct. – Owing to the dearth of victual, the burdens of the people were felt as more than ever oppressive. Yet at this crisis, the cess imposed by the English was augmented a fifth. In Edinburgh, another cess was imposed, ‘for buying of horse and carts, for carrying away and transporting of the filth, muck, and fulzie out of the closes and causey of Edinburgh; whilk [the tax] much grievit the people, and so much the more because the people receivit no satisfaction for their money, but the causey and closes continued more and more filthy, and no pains taken for clenging the streets.’ – Nic.

Rather oddly, the more the poverty of the people increased, vanity the more abounded; ‘for at this time it was daily seen that gentlewomen and burgesses’ wives had more gold and silver about their gown and wyliecoat tails nor their husbands had in their purses and coffers.’ ‘Therefore great judgment was evidently seen upon the land, and the Lord’s hand stretched out still.’ – Nic.

The Edinburgh municipality, though it had for some time had a plack on every pint of ale sold in the city, was 1,100,000 merks [upwards of £51,000] in debt. ‘Oh, for the miseries of kirk and state at this time!’ exclaims Nicoll. ‘The lord’s anger hot against both, and nane to stand up in the gap.’


Apr. – The spring being alarmingly bad, ‘the presbytery of Lothian did conclude a fast to be keepit in the beginning of May; whilk was keepit in all the kirks of the presbytery, and although with great waikness, yet it wanted not the awn happy effect and blessing, for frae that day the Lord did produce much fair and pleasant weather,’ and ‘the like summer and harvest was never seen in this age.’ – Nic.

June. – It is remarked how much of deceit and cheating was practised at this time among certain traders in Edinburgh. The beer, ale, and wine sold in the city were all greatly adulterated. It was customary to mix wine with milk, brimstone [sulphur], and other ingredients. ‘Ale was made strong and heady with hempseed, coriander-seed, Turkish pepper, soot, salt, and by casting in strong wash under the caldron when the ale was in brewing.’** Blown mutton and corrupted veal, fusty bread and light loaves, false measures and weights, were common. In all these particulars, the magistrates were negligent, so that ‘the people were abused and neglectit.’ – Nic.

Aug. 17. – At four o’clock in the morning, according to Bailie, there was ‘a sensible earthquake’ in all parts of the town of Glasgow, ‘though I felt it not.’ ‘Five or six years ago, there was ane other in the afternoon, which I felt, and was followed by that fearful burning, and all the other shaking [that] has been among us since. The Lord preserve us from his too well-deserved judgments!’


June. – The magistrates of Glasgow at this time provided themselves with an engine ‘for the occasion of sudden fire, in spouting out of water thereon,’ after the form of one recently established in Edinburgh. – M. of G.

Sep. – The magistrates of Glasgow, feeling the need for ‘ane diurnal’ – that is, newspaper, a luxury hitherto little known in Scotland – ‘appoint John Fleming to write to his man wha lies at London’ to cause one be sent for the town’s use. Before this time, it appears that John Nicoll, a legal agent in Edinburgh, often quoted here on account of his Diary, had supplied the magistrates of Glasgow with weekly intelligence.***

Dec. – Notwithstanding a good harvest, ‘poverty and scarcity of money daily increased, by reason of the great burdens and charges imposed upon the people, which constrained them to sell not only their lands and estates, but even their household geir, insight, and plenishing, and some their claiths and habulyiements. Witness the bell, which did daily ring in Edinburgh, making intimation to the inhabitants of such frequent rouping as was in use.’ – Nic.


May. – Stage-coaches were at this time advertised to go from ‘the George In without Aldersgate’ to sundry parts of England thrice a week; to Leeds, Wakefield, and Halifax once a week, charge 40s.; to Durham and Newcastle, once a week, charge £3; and ‘to Edinburgh in Scotland, once in three weeks, for £4, 10s.’ – in all cases, ‘with good coaches and fresh horses on the roads.’ – Mercurius Politicus.

Oct. 1. – A supplication was this day given in to the town-council of Glasgow by one Robert Marshall, showing that he was willing, if permitted, to exercise the calling of a house-painter in the city. The council, having had it represented to them that there was ‘but one the like within this burgh, and not ane other in all the west of Scotland,’ gave Robert permission to wash and paint houses to any who pleased to employ him. – M. of G.

This gives a curious idea of Glasgow two centuries ago. The magistrates had a little before this time induced a printer to come from Edinburgh and settle amongst them. The man does not seem to have succeeded, for, in May 1660, they give him fifty merks, ‘to help to transport his guids and flitting to Edinburgh again.’ A few months afterwards, Robert Sanders was encouraged to set up a printing-office in Glasgow, with a pension of £40 a year, ‘he to print gratis anything that the town shall employ him to print.’ In 1660, they caused a plasterer to be sent for from Perth, ‘to come here for plastering of Hucheson’s Hospital.’ – M. of G.


Jan. – The people of Edinburgh were regaled with the sight of a travelling dromedary, probably the first that had ever come into Scotland.**** ‘It was very big,’ says Nicoll, ‘of great height, and cloven-footed like a cow, and on the back ane seat, as it were a saddle to sit on.’ ‘Being kept close in the Canongate, none had a sight of it without threepence the person. There was brought in with it ane little baboon, faced like unto an ape.’

Jan. – At this time the public received a great surprise in the sudden reappearance of a nobleman, Lord Belhaven, who was understood to have been dead for the last six years and upwards. At the forfeiture of the Hamilton family under the English tyranny, Lord Belhaven found himself engaged as security to the creditors of that house for a much larger sum than he could pay; so, to escape comprisings of his lands and imprisonment of his person, he fell upon an extraordinary expedient. He took a journey to England, and when he had passed Solway Sands, he caused his servant to come back to his wife with his cloak and hat, and had it given out that he and his horse had sunk in the quicksands, and were drowned. None were privy to the secret but his lady and the servant. The report passed everywhere as authentic, and to make it more plausible, his lady and children went in mourning for two years. Passing into England, Lord Belhaven put on a mean suit of apparel, hired himself to be a gardener, and worked at this humble employment during the whole time of his absence, no one knowing this part of his course but his lady. During his absence, his only son, ‘a very hopeful youth and pretty scholar,’ was struck with a fever, which in a few days carried him off. ‘In this real death by God’s hand, who will not be mocked, the hope of that house perished.’ – Bail. The Duchess of Hamilton having at length come to a composition with her creditors, his lordship returned to Scotland, and resumed his rank, ‘to the admiration of many.’ – Nic.

June 21. – This day, Heriot’s Hospital, which had been founded in 1628, being now complete, was solemnly dedicated by the ceremony of a preaching in the presence of the magistrates of Edinburgh, the preacher, Mr Robert Douglas, receiving five double pieces for his pains. There were placed in it ‘thirty-five boys, of honest parents, but decayit in means, all of them weel arrayit in purpour clothes and cassocks.’ ‘This hospital,’ says Nicoll, ‘was not ane ordinary hospital, but a hospital very famous, with halls, chalmers, kitchens, brew-houses, yards, orchards, a chapel, and all other necessaries.’

Sep. 1. – The town of Edinburgh obtained an additional impost upon the ale sold in its bounds; it was now a full penny sterling a pint, so that the liquor rose to the unheard-of price of 32d. Scots for that quantity. ‘Yet this imposition,’ says Nicoll, ‘seemed not to thrive; for at the same instant God frae the heavens declared his anger by sending thunder, and unheard tempests, and storms, and inundations of water, wilk destroyed their common mills, dams, and warks, to the town’s great charges and expenses.’ Eleven mills belonging to Edinburgh, and five belonging to Heriot’s Hospital, all upon the Water of Leith, were destroyed on this occasion, ‘with their dams, water-gangs, timber and stone warks, the haill wheels of their mills, timber graith, and haill other warks.’ The chronicler, somewhat awkwardly for his hypothesis, admits that many neighbouring towns suffered by the like destruction of their mills.


1  The formula used on the occasion is given in the following terms by a writer of the seventeenth century: ‘When any one dies, the bellman goes about ringing the passing bell, and acquaints the people therewith in the following form: “Beloved brethren and sisters, I let you to wit that there is ane faithful brother lately departed out of this present warld, at the pleesure of Almichty God (and then he bveils his bonnet); his name is Wully Woodcock, third son to Jemmy Woodcock, a cordinger; he ligs at the sixt door within the Norgate, close on the Nether Wynd, and I would you gang to his burying on Thursday before twa o’clock, &c.” The time appointed for his burying being come, the bellman calls the company together, and he is carried to the burying-place, and thrown into the grave as dog Lion was, and there is an end of Wully.’ – A Modern Account of Scotland, 1670. Harleian Miscellany, vi. 121.
2  Apparently a tax imposed on houses – equivalent to hearth-money.
3  A small sect who held that families were the only proper congregations.
4  Burgh Record of Peebles.
*  I obtained the ‘London Quarterly Review’ (Oct. 1855) in which is a run-down of the ‘Caldwell Papers‘.
**  I feel the need again to compare and contrast with the state of things in London at a much later date. Now from what Chambers quotes here, he would seem to baulk at the idea that the traders in Edinburgh at this time (1656) were so uneducated, sly, and backwards that they adulterated alcoholic beverages.
My area of historical interest began with Victorian London and one of my favourite writers is James Greenwood who wrote ‘Seven Curses of London’ in 1869 (approx. 10 years after Chambers wrote this book). In it he states:
‘Alcohol has enough to answer for; but there can be no doubt that for one victim to its intoxicating qualities, two might be reckoned who have “come to their death bed” through the various deadly poisons it is the publican’s custom to mix with his diluted liquors to give them a fictitious strength and fire…
As is well known, the most common way of adulterating beer is by means of cocculus indicus. This is known “in the trade” as “Indian berry,” and is the fruit of a plant that grows on the coast of Malabar. It is a small kidney-shaped, rough, and black-looking berry, of a bitter taste, and of an intoxicating or poisonous quality…
Fox-glove is a plant with large purple flowers, possessing an intensely bitter nauseous taste. It is a violent purgative and vomit; produces languor, giddiness, and even death. It is a poison, and is used on account of the bitter and intoxicating qualities it imparts to the liquor among which it is mixed.
Green copperas, a mineral substance obtained from iron, is much used to give the porter a frothy top…
Hartshorn shavings are the horns of the common male deer rasped or scraped down. They are then boiled in the worts of ale, and give out a substance of a thickish nature like jelly, which is said to prevent intoxicating liquor from becoming sour.
Henbane, a plant of a poisonous nature, bearing a close resemblance to the narcotic poison, opium. It produces intoxication, delirium, nausea, vomiting, feverishness, and death,…’
The list really does continue for quite some time with such entries as “nux vomica”, “oil of vitriol, or sulphuric acid”, “wormwood”, “sulphate of iron and alum”.
In the edition of Punch, from which I’ve already chosen excerpts for Random Scottish History, they create a conversation in which the publican divulges his secrets to an absconding friend. The articles are in chronological order and this one in particular is under the title ‘PUNCH’S COMPLETE TRADESMAN’, dated 21st of March, 1857., p.118.
***  Examples of old Scottish newspapers can be found in Gallery 1 of the ‘Memorial Catalogue of the Old Glasgow Exhibition.’
****  Chambers has already described the touring of a camel through Scotland in the chapter Reign of Charles the First, 1625-1637, on the 30th of July, 1633.
In the 16th century Glasgow Cathedral had restoration work done that included carved stone panels depicting a “row of curious sculptured beasts” that included “A Unicorn, a Camel, a Leopard, and the Serpent in the Garden…” – ‘Scots Lore‘ (1895), chapter entitled A MEDIAEVAL ARCHITECT. Part II. – HIS WORK AT PAISLEY AND GLASGOW.