Gold has been found and worked for in Scotland from very early times. The gold ornaments discovered with prehistoric relics were doubtless made from native gold.
The earliest authentic notice regarding gold in Scotland is a grant made by King David I., A.D. 1125, to the Church of the Holy Trinity of Dunfermline, of his tenth of all the gold found in Fife and Fothrik.1
There is also an Act of James I., A.D. 1424, which states, ‘Gif ony myne of golde or siluer be fudyn in ony lordes landes of the realme, and it be prwyt tht thre half-pēnys of siluer may be fynit owt of the punde of leid, the lordes of parlimēt consentes tht sik myne be the kinges as is vsuale in vthir realmys.’2
It is stated in Chalmers’s Caledonia that ‘James IV., who was a great dabbler in alchemy, appears to have wrought some (gold) mines in Crawford Moor. In the Treasurer’s Accounts of 1511, ‘12, and ‘13, there were a number of payments to Sir James Pettigrew, and the men who were employed under him in working the mines of Crawford Moor.’ In the time of James V. 300 men were employed in these mines for several summers in washing gold.
In 1567 the Regent Murray granted a licence for nineteen years to Cornelius De Vois, a Dutchman, who came with recommendations from Queen Elizabeth, to search for gold and silver in any part of Scotland. It appears that Cornelius so far prevailed on the Scots to ‘confederate’ that they raised a stock of £5000 Scots (equal to about £416 sterling), and worked these same mines under royal privileges. What ultimately became of Cornelius’s adventure does not appear, but we are told by Atkinson that it was subsequently taken up by one Abraham Grey, a Dutchman.3
In 1583 a contract was entered into between King James VI. and one Eustachius Roche, described as a Fleming and mediciner, whereby he was allowed to break ground anywhere and search for the precious metals. In 1588, although he is still described as the tacksman-general of the mines, it may be inferred that that adventure was more or less unsuccessful, for in that year we find him entering into a new contract with the king for a superior kind of salt.4
In 1593 King James VI. granted to Thomas Foulis, a goldsmith of considerable eminence in Edinburgh, a lease of the gold, silver, and lead mines of Crawford Moor and Glengoner for twenty- one years, in consideration of the loans (which amounted in 1594 to no less than £14,598) he had had from him.
We do not know what success attended the gold-diggings in the hands of this goldsmith, but we find that before the expiry of his lease they were actively worked by an Englishman named Bulmer, who it is said was in partnership with Thomas Foulis, with the licence and favour of Queen Elizabeth and a patent from King James VI. Five different moors were worked by this speculator, namely – Mannoch Moor and Robbart Moor in Nithsdale, the Friar Moor on Glengoner Water, Crawford Moor in Clydesdale, and Glengaber Water in Henderland, Peeblesshire. He built for himself a house in Glengoner, on the lintel of one of the doors of which were carved these lines:-
‘Sir Bevis Bulmer built this bour,
Who levelled both hill and moor:
Who got great riches and great honour
In Short-cleuch Water and Glengoner.’5
An Act of the Privy Council of 11th June 1616, granted to Stevin Aitkinsoun, an Englishman, power ‘during his lyfetyme to searche, seik, worke, dig, try, discouer, and find oute… seames and mynes of gold and silver… in Crawfurde Mure.’ And it provided that all the gold and silver should be brought to his ‘Majesties Conezie-house,’6 at Edinburgh, to be coined, one-tenth to be His Majesty’s due, and nine-tenths of the coined money to be delivered to ‘the said Stevin.’
In 1619 an Englishman named George Bowes procured a commission to work the gold mines in Scotland. At Wanlockhead he discovered ‘a small vaine of gold which had much small gold upon it.’ He swore his workmen to secrecy, and after working the vein for some time he carried off to England a considerable quantity of gold. Before leaving he closed up and concealed the shaft, and although it has been looked for it has never been refound.7
Gold is still to be found by washing at Wanlockhead, in Dumfriesshire, although the expense of procuring it far exceeds the value of the gold so obtained. In 1872 a nugget of considerable size was found by a miner named Andrew Gemmell.
In 1867 gold was discovered in Sutherlandshire in a sufficient quantity to be remunerative. Whether the Kildonan Diggings would have repaid the expense of working them for any length of time was not ascertained, for they were stopped by the Duke of Sutherland in 1869. Since their stoppage gold of a similar character has been found under similar circumstances in the following Scottish counties – (1) Caithness, (2) Shetland, (3) Inverness, (4) Nairn, (5) Moray, (6) Aberdeen, (7) Lanark, and (8) Bute.
The Sutherland diggings of 1867-9 created a voluminous literature of their own. Detailed reports on special goldfields were made in the local newspapers-
(1) Sutherland and Caithness, in the Northern Ensign of 1869.
(2) Inverness, Nairn, and Moray, in the Inverness Courier of 1870.
(3) Perthshire, in the Perthshire Advertiser in January and February 1869.
(4) Forfarshire, in the Dundee Advertiser in November 1869.
The general subject of the goldfields of Scotland was also discussed, and several papers on it are published in the transactions of various scientific associations-
(5) The British Association, 1867.
(6) The Geological Society of Edinburgh, 1868.
(7) The Royal Geological Society of Ireland, 1869.
All Scottish gold contains a considerable percentage of silver. Professor Church has made the following analysis of the gold from Wanlockhead:-
|Gold,||86-60 per cent.|
|Silver,||12-39 “ “|
|Iron,||-35 “ “|
|Other substances and loss,||-66 “ “|
[A. J. S. B.]
RING made of Sutherland Gold.
(1391) Lent by MRS. MOWBRAY.
RING of Sutherlandshire Gold, dug by the brother of the lender.
(1437) Lent by MRS. MOWBRAY.
1 Registrum de Dunfermelyn, p. 16, No. 28. Bannatyne Club, 1842.
2 Thomson’s Acts of the Scottish Parliaments, vol. ii. p. 5.
3 Discoverie and Historie of the Gold Mynes in Scotland, 1619. Bannatyne Club, 1825.
4 Domestic Annals of Scotland, vol. i. p. 189.
5 Archæologia Scotica, vol. iv. p. 404.
6 i.e. Mint.
7 Discoverie and Historie of the Gold Mynes in Scotland, 1619. Bannatyne Club, 1825.