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History of Aberdeen and Banff
Chapter IV


The fifteenth century—Alexander Stewart, earl of Mar: his career in Aberdeenshire, France, and the Netherlands—the battle of Harlaw—Irvine of Drum and provost Davidson—Mar as protector of Aberdeen—rise of the Gordons—Huntly appointed lieutenant-general — his part in the civil wars— Aberdeen fortifications—the second earl of Huntly—battle of Ssauchieburn and death of James III.—action of Aberdeenshire lords — Sir Andrew Wood and the forest of Stocket—hospitality of Aberdeen--royal visits — Perkin Warbeck—municipal organisation — privileges of the guild — "simple burgesses" — civic oligarchy — burgesses of trade — crafts v guildry — crimes and punishments — the candlfmas pageant— maritime commerce — enlargement of St Nicholas' church — episcopal, municipal, and private liberality—importation of materials — condition of the church in the two counties— bishops as statesmen and courtiers — the religious orders : arrival of the Franciscans—pestilence.

The great actor on the stage of Aberdeenshire history during the first third of the fifteenth century, and a man of more than provincial or even national celebrity, was Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, illegitimate son of the Wolf of Badenoch. He had begun life as a brigand chief or leader of Highland caterans, and in a wild time his career was distinguished above all others as one of daring and adventure. After the settlement of his quarrel with the bishop he seems to have been on friendly terms with the leading citizens of Aberdeen, or possibly they deemed it expedient to disarm the hostility of a person so formidable for mischief. In the town's accounts for 1398 there are several charges for the entertainment of Stewart and other "neighbours of the town " at the tabernci or wine-booth of Robert Davidson, who was then one of the four baillies, ending with a " stirrup-cup " as he was leaving. The earldom of Mar was held at this time by Countess Isabel, wife of Sir Malcolm Drummond, the brother of Queen Annabella. Drummond received the king's licence to build a fortalice at Kindrochit, and during its construction he was captured by a body of caterans, of whom Stewart was believed to be the instigator, and thrown into a dungeon, where he soon died. A year or two afterwards, in 1404, Stewart at the head of his caterans stormed the Castle of Kildrummy, which was occupied by the widowed countess, persuaded or compelled her to marry him, and in anticipation of the questions likely even in that barbarous age to be raised concerning his conduct, assembled the vassals and tenantry of the earldom, and in their presence and that of the Bishop of Ross presented himself .at the outer gate, where he was met by the countess, and there, with much ceremony, went through the form of surrendering the keys of the castle into her hand, in order, as he pretended, that she might dispose of them as she pleased. The countcss discharged her part in this strange comedy by declaring, as she held the keys in her hand, that she freely chose Stewart for her husband, and gave him the Castle of Kildrummy, the earldom of Mar, the lordship of Garioch and several baronies, the forest of Jedburgh, and all other lands belonging to her in right either of her father or of her mother, to be held by herself, her husband, and their heirs; whom failing, her own lawful heirs. Stewart had been strong in lawlessness, but now he availed himself of the forms of law and had charters executed to give effect to this arrangement so beneficial to himself. To one signed at Kildrummy the witnesses were the Bishop of Ross, Sir Andrew Leslie, Sir John Forbes, Alexander and Duncan Forbes, Alexander Irvine of Drum, and William de Camera, or Chalmers, of Findon, who had been Provost of Aberdeen. A confirmation charter by King Robert III. was issued without delay, and henceforth Stewart's designation was Earl of Mar and Lord of Garioch. The countess survived only three years.

Such were the means by which a bold adventurer of ability possessed himself of the greatest position in the north. He was appointed Sheriff of Abefdeenshire, and the English fleet having appeared off the coast and attacked the fisheries, he put out to sea with Aberdeen vessels and ravaged the Northumbrian coast. Stewart was a man of the world, and he saw much of the world. There are on record several letters of safe-conduct authorising him to pass through England at the head of bodies of knights and retainers, from which it appears that he attended and took part in the tournaments that were one of the features of the life and fashion of the time. In 1408 he visited Flanders and the Court of France, and made a brilliant display with his large train, which included the young Lord of Sutherland, with Irvines, Keiths, Hays, and other north-country gentlemen. Wyntoun the chronicler, who had his information direct from members of Mar's retinue, and was sprung from a family long connected with the earldom, tells how he "passed into France with a noble company, well arrayed and dai. itily, knights, squires, and gentlemen, full sixty," and how in royal state he kept open house and table in Paris for twelve weeks, and was "commended of all nations for wit, virtue, and largesse." On his way home he passed Bruges, then the great commcrcial emporium, and was induced by the Duke of Holland to go to the help of the secular bishop-elect of Liege, the duke's brother, in reducing the burghers to subjection. With John Menzies for standard-bearer and Alexander Keith and Alexander Irvine as his principal lieutenants, and his command consisting of five banners besides his own, Mar threw himself into the fray and exercised against the Walloon burghers the skill in warfare which he had acquired as a brigand chief among the hills of Aberdeenshire. His arms prevailed, and again he married an heiress with lands. He now called himself Lord of Duffle in Brabant; but the lands were difficult to get hold of in those unsettled times, and the marriage itself was soon dissolved. From this curious episode the Aberdeenshire knights obtained an experience that was to serve them at Harlaw.

The conflict there to be waged began to loom vaguely in view. In a notable company assembled as the earl's guests at Kildrummy in December 1410 were Gilbert Greenlaw, Bishop of Aberdeen and Chancellor of Scotland; Henry de Lichtoun or Leighton, rector of Kinkell and afterwards bishop; and two provosts of Aberdeen, William Chalmers and Robert Davidson. Relations had of old existed between the earldom and the civic chiefs, and Chalmers, who was a younger son of Chalmers of Balnacraig in Cromar, had become the earl's vassal by acquiring the lands of Easter Ruthven near Tarland, besides which he was clerk of the Justiciary Rolls north of the Forth, and, as we have seen, he was one of the witnesses to the charter or contract of marriage at Kildrummy in 1404. With Chalmers or his son, who was also a Provost of Aberdeen and held national office in connection with the Exchequer, Robert Davidson appears as joint-collector of the king's or great customs at the port. While holding this office and carrying on his taberna in the Shiprow, where he had entertained Stewart, Davidson appeared professionally as a pleader in the burgh court and collected debts or revenues for various clients, among whom had been Sir Malcolm Drummond. James Stewart, brother of Robert III., and the Duke of Rothesay. Fashionable life in Paris, and feats of war in the Low Countries, had been talked of by this Yule-tile party, and coming events, in which the earl and the provost were to be chief actors, may have been sufficiently foreshadowed to be a subject of conference. Tor only a few months were to elapse before it fell to the lot of Mar, as head of the chivalry of the northern counties, to stem the invasion of Aberdeenshire under Donald, Lord of the Isles. The encroachments which the Crown had for some generations been making on the semi-independence of the island chieftain, who was also Lord of Lochaber on the mainland and held some baronial fiefs in Buchan, had embittered him against the Scottish Court and led him into intrigues with England. Donald was closely connected with Aberdeenshire through his wife, a daughter of Walter Leslie, Earl of Ross. After Leslie's decease, his widow, who was countess in her own right, married the Wolf of Badenoch, and her son, Alexander Leslie, came into the succession, his wife being a daughter of the Regent Albany. On the resignation of their daughter and heiress, who was weakly ana deformed, and whom Albany persuaded to take the veil, her maternal uncle, John Stewart, now Earl of Buchan, succeeded to the Ross earldom. It was claimed, however, by Donald in right of his wife, and he proceeded to enforce the claim by arms-Such was the pretext of Donald's inroad; but we must look upon the movement which he headed as one of a long series of outbreaks of north against south, Celt against Saxon, seen as far back as the early days of the Teutonic colonisation and recurring down to 1745.

With the clansmen of the northern Hebrides, Ross, and Lochaber, the Lord of the Isles swept through Moray, the Enzie, and Strathbogie, and arrived in the Ganoch on his way to Aberdeen. The burghers knew full well what was involved in such an invasion of Celtic barbarism, and southern towns recognised at once that the plunder of Aberdeen would greatly increase their own peril. Coming forward as natural leader, the Earl of Mar summoned to his aid the barons and burghers not only of the region immediately threatened, but of the Mearns and Angus, whence there responded to his call Sir Alexander Ogilvy, Sheriff of Angus ; Sir Robert Maule of Panmure; Sir James Scrimgeour, Constable of Dundee; Sir Robert Melville of Glenbervie, Sheriff of the Mearns and laird of Kemnay; and Alexander Straiton of Lauriston, with their friends. Mar's own vassals and retainers formed a nucleus, and the knights who had shared his experiences on the Continent must have been invaluable in the hasty work of organisation. A mounted squadron was led by Sir Andrew Leslie of Balquhain, who had already defied his enemies from his fortress high .on Bennachie, a man of roughest type, notable as a lawless barbarian even in the days of the Wolf of Badenoch and his son. Of Aberdeenshire barons who hastened to meet the invasion were Sir Alexander Irvine, Sir Alexander Keith, and the heads of the rising families of Gordon, Forbes, and Leith, with several of the lesser men of the Garioch and Buchan. Provost Davidson led forth a body of his fellow-citizens, including, as would seem, forty burgesses, whose names are recorded in the Council Register as having been specially " chosen to go out against the caterans." The place of rendezvous was probably Inverurie, whence on the 24th of July Mar advanced about three miles to Harlaw to meet the Highland horde. In numbers the two forces were very unequally matched. Donald's following is said to have been at least 10,000 strong, while that of Mar hardly exceeded as many hundreds. Possibly there is some exaggeration in the one case and under-statement in the other, for the chroniclers and ballad-makers are on the Lowland side and may not be strictly impartial historians. In the order of battle the southern auxiliaries and the burgesses were placed in the vanguard. Mar commanded the centre ; on the left were Irvine, the Leiths, the Leslies, and the Gordons, and on the right the Keiths and Forbeses. The mail-clad Lowland warriors with their spears ploughed through the Celtic host or withstood its furious rush, but the Highlanders and Islesmen were able by their great superiority in numbers to close round their assailants and attack them with claymore and dirk. The battle lasted till evening, when Donald drew off in the direction from whence he had come. Mar held the field, but with his exhausted and weakened force he was unable to pursue the retiring host. Many of the flower of the chivalry had fallen, among them Sir Alexander Irvine, Provost Davidson, several of the southern knights, and six sons of Sir Andrew Leslie. Irvine and Davidson were deeply lamented, and the oldest of the Harlaw ballads recites their bravery in plaintive stanzas :—

"Good Sir Alexander Irvine
The much renounit Laird of Drum,
Nane in his days were better sene
When they were semblit all and some ;
To praise him we should not be dumb,
For valour, wit, and worthiness ;
To end his days he then did come
Whose ransom is remediless.
And there the knight of Lauriston
Was slain into his armour sheen,
And good Sir Robert Davidson
Who Provost was of Aberdeen."

It was, indeed, no exaggeration of Sir Walter Scott to speak of the coronach for "the sair field of Harlaw" having been cried in one day from the Tay to the Buck of the Cabrach. It was at heavy cost, but Aberdeen was saved from an imminent peril, and the counties to the south of it from the prospect of a devastating raid.

Warned by this Highland invasion and their narrow escape, the citizens of Aberdeen set about looking after their defences ; but they were soon lulled into a sense of security until new danger arose. The Earl of Mar was regarded as protector of the town. An ordinance of the alderman, baillies, and count :1 of 1412 provides that "nane haff lord na lordship" over the citizens other than the king, the Duke of Albany, and the Earl of Mar. After Mar's death in 1435 Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum was chosen by the citizens as their captain and governor, and this arrangement was followed in the reign of James III. by the citizens entering into a bond of manrent with the Earl of Huntly (1462) for ten years, whereby he undertook to preserve the freedom and property of the citizens, who on their part bound themselves to give their hospitality to the earl and his company when he came to the burgh, and to take such part with him in his defence as they would for the defence of their own persons. The connection thus established was to continue not for ten years only but for two centuries, until the power of the head of the house of Gordon was broken by the wars of the Covenant.

Aberdeen was one of the four burghs which in 1424 made up the ransom of James I., and David Menzies, one of its wealthiest citizens, was sent to England as a hostage for the payment of the money. One of the earliest Acts of his reign commands all barons north of the Mounth to repair or rebuild all ancient castles or fortalices, and to reside in them, or at least expend on their respective estates the rents locally collected. Absentee landlordism had become, in Aberdeenshire in the fifteenth century, an evil -which was thought to call for legislative intervention.

The troubles attendant on the minorities of the second and third Jameses affected these counties only by enabling the barons to secure an increase of power and independence. It was on the death of the Earl of Mar that the primacy among the northern nobility passed to the head of the Gordons. As in the case of so many other families, the Gordon possessions descended to an heiress, Elizabeth Gordon, who in 1408 conveyed her name and possessions to Sir Alexander Seton, second son of Sir William Seton "of that ilk," who thus became the ancestor of the noble house of Huntly. Alexander Seton, Lord of Gordon, appears as one of the most active statesmen and soldiers of his day. Soon after his connection with the north began he fought under Mar at Harlaw, and though frequently employed in missions to England, where also he was one of the hostages for James I., he spent much of his time in Aberdeenshire, where he greatly extended the Gordon lands and laid the foundations of a strong clan following. He is said to have rewarded all who took the name of Gordon, and became his vassals, with a gift of meal, whence certain branches of the clan wrere called the "Bow or Meal" Gordons, as the "Jock" and "Tam" Gordons distinguished the collateral or illegit;mate descendants of the original stock. It is only by such a process of adoption that the large number of Gordon families existing as early as the latter half of the fifteenth century can be accounted for. In 1436, or the following year, Sir Alexander Seton was summoned as a peer of Parliament by the title of Lord of Gordon ; and it was probably at the same time that a similar call was addressed to his immediate neighbour, Sir Alexander Forbes of Druminnor, as Lord Forbes. Forbes had hitherto been the principal vassal of the earldom of Mar. Another peerage creation of this time was the earldom of Rothes, to which George Leslie of the Aberdeenshire family was called.

Alexander Gordon, the second of the Seton-Gordon line, was created Earl of Huntly in 1444-1445. He was of the party of the Regent and the Chancellor in their quarrels with the Douglases, and it was probably through his influence that Aberdeen resolved in 1444 to disregard the inhibition sent out by the queen's mother and the Bishop of St Andrews against payment of revenues to the persons who had the king in keeping—namely, Livingston and Crichton.

During the crisis which followed the murder of the Earl of Douglas in Stirling Castle, when the Earls of Crawford and Ross, with the Douglas Earls of Angus, Moray, and Ormond, were ready for rebellion, Huntly was appointed Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, and proceeded at the head of an armed force to join the king's troops. Near Brechin he encountered the Earl of Crawford, called "the Tiger Earl," in a protracted and sanguinary battle. The Gordons prevailed in the end, but at heavy cost, two of the earl's brothers and several other Aberdeenshire gentlemen having fallen in the fight. A threatened raid across the Spey by Douglas, Earl of Moray, caused Huntly to retrace his steps. He gave battle to Moray at Dunkinty in 1453 and was defeated, but in the following year he succeeded in driving the Earls of Ormond and Moray out of the north.

A new charter which Huntly received in 1457 enumerates the possessions which had already come into the hands of his house, constituting him the greatest power in the north of Scotland. Strathbogie, Aboyne, Glentanar, Glenmuick, the lordship of Badenoch, and the Enzie, with the original Gordon lands in Berwickshire, were all the property of the first earl. The second earl added the lands of Schivas, in Buchan, and Boyne and Netherdale in Banffshire. The influence of Huntly pervaded the two counties; their dest inies were involved in his fortunes; they shared in his ambitions and suffered by his fall.

Aberdeen and Banff were touched only to a slight extent by the troubles through which the country passed in the minority of James III. When James escaped from the power of the Boyds and became his own master, only to fall into greater difficulties with a disaffected and rebellious nobility, Huntly and the northern lords held loyally by the cause of the Crown. The citizens of Aberdeen, notwithstanding their paction with Huntly, do not seem to have been always ready to take the field with him. When he desired them to meet him at the Cabrach in July 1463, to take part in an expedition against another Donald of the Isles, they craved through the provost to be excused on the ground that they had no horses and could obtain none, as the country gentlemen had likewise been summoned to this service, and also because the king had charged them to attend to the defence of the town, being " sickerly informed" that an English fleet was on the coast. In 1476 the king's brother, John, Earl of Mar, was placed in a position of "charge and command" in Aberdeen, and the citizens were enjoined to obey his call 111 regard to any actions or quarrels he might have within the burgh. No long time had elapsed, however, when Mar became an object of jealousy to the king and ended his days under suspicious circumstances as a captive in Craigmillar Castle. In 1480-1482 the Aberdonians were alarmed at the quarrels between the king and his brothers, and, in view of the danger from the English fleet, steps were taken to have a fosse constructed about the town and the harbour blocked by a boom thrown across its entrance. The citizens were ordered to have their weapons of war in readiness in their shops and booths, and were forbidden to remove their goods from the town or shirk their part in its defence under the penalty of loss of burgess-ship and forfeiture of property.

The second Earl of Huntly, who succeeded in 1470, married the Princess Annabella, daughter of James I., and added to the prestige and possessions of the house. When in i486 the revolt of the nobles, with Angus at their head, drove James III. to the last extremity, he came north and was joined by Huntly, the Earl Marischal, the Earl of Erroll, and Lord Forbes, all of whom, with their followers, accompanied him to the south to deal with the rebellion. The unsuccessful conflict at Sauchieburn and the flight and death of the king soon followed. The Aberdeenshire lords were eager for vengeance, and Lord Forbes and others sought to stir up the citizens of Aberdeen by perambulating the streets with the bloody garment of the late king displayed on a spear. The citizcns agreed to take part in punishing the traitors and changing the Government; but their opposition to the de facto rulers of the country soon abated, and in a short time they had a new grievance, arising out of an attempt by Sir Andrew Wood of Largo, the redoubtable Scottish admiral who had done gallant service against the English, to possess himself of the forest of Stocket and the Castle Hill, of which a gift, hitherto unheard-of, had been made to him in writing by the late king in recompense for his deeds of naval war. The citizens would brook no such invasion of their patrimony, and the provost and four of his colleagues appeared before the Lords of Council in defence of the town's rights, armed with the charter of Robert I. and the Exchequer receipts. These documents were conclusive, and the judgment in favour of the town was confirmed by letters under the great seal.

James IV. paid several visits to Aberdeen in the early part of his reign, and, as had been the custom on the occasion of previous royal visits, was loyally entertained by the town, and presented with a "propine" or gift—a form of hospitality which sometimes had to be provided by means of money borrowed from wealthy citizens. Less welcome guests were eight English followers of "the Duke of York," or Perkin War-beck, whom the king quartered upon the town. The impostor had married Lady Catherine Gordon, Huntly's daughter, and when in 1496 the king undertook an expedition into England to prosecute Warbeck's pretended claims to the throne, Aberdeen was seriously alarmed at the prospect of a rupture with Henry VII. It was not asked to join in the expedii on; but the possibility of a landing of its "auld enemies of England'1 led the town council to take measures for offering resistance. All freemen of the burgh were summoned to a " wapinschaw," or military review, on Cunninghar Hill, duly armed with a spear or bow and targe. A fosse and breastwork were to be constructed, with the co-operation of the ecclesiastical authorities, between the Dee and Don; a blockhouse of great strength was to be erected at the Sandness to guard the harbour; the fishing-boats were to be kept atloat for the safety of the men and lands of Torry, on the south side of the Dee; and all " outdwellers" of the burgh were to be brought in as far as possible for the common defence. In return for the co-operation of the ecclesiastical authorities the citizens were to repair with all their strength to the defence of the cathedral, the bishop's palace, and the families and habitations of the canons in.Old Aberdeen. In connection with these preparations we hear for the first time of "carts of war, guns, and artillery." Happily the efficacy of these measures and munitions was never put to the test.

Aberdeen in the fifteenth century presents us with the most perfect specimen that we have of the municipal organisation of a Scottish royal burgh. Unlike Edinburgh, Stirling, or even Perth, it was rarely, and only for a brief interval, that the power of the town council was overshadowed by the presence or intervention of the Crown. Monopoly and exclusive privileges were the basis of the earlier charters, and in the preservation of these rights an oligarchy naturally arose which claimed the power to administer the town's affairs. The privileged class consisted of the burgesses of guild, and to confine its membership to the ruling families or to persons whose wealth or influence could be of service to it was its steady policy. From an early period a qualified freedom had been introduced and persons admitted as " simple burgesses," who shared in the trading privileges of the guild as far as the home trade in goods of Scottish origin was concerned, but were not allowed to take part in the foreign trade, deal in imported goods, or share in the government of the town.1 The policy of the Bruces and Stewarts- favoured oligarchical rule in the royal burghs, and an Act of James III., after reciting the " great trouble and contention " caused at popular elections, prescribed that the outgoing town council should elect its successor and both together appoint the magistrates and officials. In the preceding reign Aberdeen had endeavoured to confine admission to the guild to sons and sons-in-law of the burgesses. During the whole century the magistracy seems to have been in the hands of a small number of families, including those of Menzies, Chalmers, Rutherford, Reid, and Cullen, most of whom were already becoming landholders in the county. Burgesses were admitted by favour at the request of some of the neighbouring nobility, and honorary burgess - ship was conferred as a distinction upon eminent visitors to the city; but the council rolls show how limited was the concession of the franchise from all causes. The aristocratic element in the government of the town became further strengthened by the admission of sons and kinsmen of the country gentry to the guild freedom; but occasional interference of the barons and landholders in municipal affairs followed, which had to be met by repeated enactments of the council against citizens purchasing "lordship" or the countenance and support, in their contentions, of some feudal magnate.

The last class of citizens were the burgesses of trade, whose freedom conveyed merely the right to carry on their handicrafts and to be protected in the retail of their wares in their own booths. From an early time the craftsmen had their own particular guilds for the regulation of their affairs; and by a general Act of 1424 parliamentary recognition was given to these bodies with their deacons or masters, who were to "govern and assay" all work "so that the king's lieges be not defrauded and skaithed" in time to come as they had been in the past. But the rising power of the crafts soon began to be regarded with jealousy by the town councils and with suspicion by the Crown, and in 1427 the appointment of heads or wardens of the respective crafts and general supervision were vested in the councils.

In Aberdeen, as in other Scottish burghs, the craftsmen formed an opposition to the governing body, and throughout the fifteenth century there was a growing friction of classes in the town. About the middle of the century the crafts seem to have taken the law into their own hands and appointed their deacons without reference to the council The Crown naturally took the part of the oligarchy and pronounced the elective powers of the craftsmen to be "dangerous." A law of 1491 checked their pretensions for a time, but only to stimulate a more determined vindication of craft rights in the following century.

Though excluded from participation in the government of the town and from all benefit from its largely increasing property, the artisans had their full share of all the municipal obligations. "As well unfree as free men" were bound to rise at the bidding of the magistrates to keep watch and ward in their turns, to aid in the "stanching" of trespassers and rebels, and to walk armed to and from their work. The peace was frequently broken both by " outdwellers" and the inhabitants themselves. Culprits were tried by an assize of the citizens numbering from five to twenty. Slaughter in a broil was generally a matter for composition. Crimes of violence, offences against the municipal regulations, and interference with the town's property or with guild privileges, seem to have been the most common offences that came before the court. Forestalling and regrating were heinous offences and promptly punished. In most breaches of public order the punishment had an ecclesiastical as well as a civil side.

The great civic show of the year was the procession of the craftsmen to St Nicholas' Kirk, on Candlemas day, and a pageant supplied by the various trades. An abbot and a prior, called the Lords of Bon-Accord, were chosen by the council to superintend and head the pageant, while to each trade was assigned the charge of providing certain characters to figure in the procession. Thus it was ordered in 1442 that the litsters or dyers should provide the emperor, two doctors, and an indefinite number of squires; the smiths and hammermen, the three kings of Cologne; the tailors, Our Lady, St Bride, St Helen, and St Joseph, with squires; the skinners, two bishops and four angels; the weavers and waulkers, Simon and his disciples; the cordwainers, the messenger and Moses; and the fleshers, two or four woodmen; while the brethren of the guild were to provide the knights in harness with their squires, and the bakers to supply the minstrels. The Lords of Bon-Accord were masters during their term of office of the other holiday revels, such as the festivals of St Nicholas the patron saint of the town, the 1st of May, and Corpus Christi day. The saturnalia carried on under their auspices not infrequently drew upon their rule the reprehension of the town council, but their proceedings did not become licentious until the eve of the Refoimation. We find the record of two miracle plays acted during the fifteenth century. One, the " Haliblude," was performed at the Windmill Hill in 1440, and the other on the feast of Corpus Christi, 1479. The former was given at the expense of Richard Kyntore to procure his admittance to the guild, and the latter at the expense of the town. These miracle plays, however, do not seem to have been of common occurrence or a regular part of the proceedings of the Lords of Bon-Accord.

Aberdeen had early embarked in maritime commerce. During the fifteenth century Flanders was the chief emporium of this commerce, which was also to a certain extent carried on in times of peace with English ports, such as Yarmouth. But the English trade had its risks from the frequent and sudden outbreaks of war, and in 1441 the alderman and another citizen were sent to England at the expense of the town to recover certain ships and merchandise which had been captured by the English. Piracy being rife, Aberdeen merchantmen always put to sea in fighting trim, and next year an English vessel was captured, brought into the port, and ordered to be detained pending the judgment of the king and his Council. When, however, a ship of Campvere, which had recently become the staple port for Scottish merchants in place of Bruges, was driven upon the coast in 1456 the town did its best, to save the property from the rapacity of some of the lairds. The intercourse with Flanders was so frequent at this period that the hos-pitium of Lawrence Pomstrat at Flushing, near to which Campvere was situated, was marked out as that to which Aberdeen traders should resort. A letter of James II. to the town implies, indeed, that Pomstrat held a position in relation to Scottish trade analogous to that of a modern consul. In 1478 Aberdeen agreed to share the expense of a commercial mission to the Duke of Burgundy, but the death of Charles the Bold interfered with its despatch. Skins, wool, and salmon were still the principal exports, and the ships brought back wine, fine cloths, spices, and hardwares. A similar trade on a much smaller scale was carried on with some of the French ports. The king's revenue was partly paid in barrels of fish, which were consigned to " factors" at the staple port to be exchanged for the return cargoes.

A public work in which Aberdeen was much interested in the latter half of the fifteenth century was the enlargement of St Nicholas' Church. The two great bells called Lawrence (" Lowrie") and Mary had been placed in the towei in 1351 by Provost Leith as his atonement for slaying Baillie Catanach. Early in the fifteenth century a demand for more altars and masses had set in. Chantries were multiplied, little chapels were dotted all over the building, and the traders and more important families had their separate altars and chaplains.1 This development raised a question of discipline and the framing of necessary regulations both by the municipal and the ecclesiastical authorities, and to a demand for the extension of the church fabric. In 1449 the town council imposed taxes upon exports to Bruges for "the reparation of the parish kirk," and on a lower scale upon certain exports to the Firth of Forth or elsewhere. The work seems to have proceeded slowly till 1477, when Bishop Spens gave his second tithes for the building of the choir, a gift which the council and community immediately followed up with a donation of all fees of the alderman, baillies, dean of guild, and "abbot and prior," the surplus revenue of the common good, and all other profits that might accrue, for seven years, and "more if need be," as also 70 a-year from the town's fishings in the Don and Dee until the choir were " fully built and complete." There were also voluntary contributions on a liberal scale by individual citizens. Bishop Blacader, afterwards first Archbishop of Glasgow, on his appointment to the see of Aberdeen, but before his consecration, withdrew the temporary gift of the second tithes, and the c.'tizens in their wrath passed an ordinance that no "neighbour dwelling within the burgh should give him support under penalty of loss of freedom and possessions." It was under the vigorous administration of Blacader's successor, the great Bishop Elphinstone, that the choir of St Nicholas was completed and consecrated.

The church was wholly under the control of the town, and the bishop's relation to it was merely that of its vicar. Though there was so large a clerical staff, divine service does not appear to have always been performed with regularity, and the council resolved that chaplains should regularly maintain matins, high mass, and evensong under penalty of suspension for a year. The chaplains were a troublesome body to keep in order, and their constant appeals to the town council to take action for the recovery of the r dues seems to indicate personal unpopularity. St Nicholas' Church was the visible representation of the religion, the patriotism, the wealth, and the taste of the burgesses. The st machar's cathedral. materials used in building it were procured from distant places at heavy cost. The stone for the walls was not the native granite but freestone imported from Covesea, in Morayshire ; lime for use by the masons was specially brought from Dysart, and lead for covering the roof was purchased in England at a cost of four and a-half lasts of salmon.

As to the condition of the Church throughout the two counties at this period there is little definite information on record. The lives of the bishops were written by Hector Boece, and the chartulary of the diocese is extant; but from neither of these sources is there much to be gathered concerning the state of religion or the rural clergy. Aberdeen was on the whole fortunate in its bishops, but many of them were statesmen and held office at Court, necessitating frequent absence from the diocese. Gilbert Greenlaw, who was bishop at the beginning of the century, was chancellor under Robert III., and ambassador to Charles VII. On his return he found the Church in a very low state, attributed by Boece to che oppression and rapacity of the nobles. Henry de Lich-toun, the next bishop, translated from Moray in 1422, was frequently called upon to undertake embassies. He was sent to England, where he was one of the commissioners for obtaining the ransom of James I.; to Rome, and to France, where he was concerned in the negotiation of the unfortunate marriage of the Princess Margaret to the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XI. St Machar's Cathedral had been originally designed by the second Bishop Alexander Kinninmond, but it was Bishop Lichtoun who laid the foundations of the great central steeple, which fell in 1688, and of the two western granite towers. Boece is full of the praises of Bishop Lichtoun, but in the chartulary we find him diverting revenues to the maintenance of the hospitalities of the episcopal palace. The efforts of James I. to raise the standard of morality among the priests of the diocese were, it is to be hoped, unnecessary; at ail events, we find no evidence of the king's policy having been actively seconded by the bishop and chapter. Ingram de Lindsay, the next bishop, is stated by Boece to have been beloved by his people, and to have chosen to incur the royal displeasure rather than promote unworthy men to benefices. His successor, Bishop Thomas Spens, was an active courtier and statesman, whose d'ocese saw little of him during the twenty years of his episcopate ; but he rebuilt the bishop's palace beside the cathedral, and erected a chapel at Glenbucket in consequence of six of the parishioners there having been drowned in crossing the Don while on the long journey to their church of Logie-Mar at Eastertide. Bishop Blacader's reign was brief, and apart from his resumption of the revenues which Lis predecessors had dedicated to church-building, the chief recorded act of his episcopate is the excommunication of the Highlanders who had raided his lands of Birse. After he had been translated to Glasgow, where he became first archbishop, he prosecuted before the Lords of the Council some burgesses of Aberdeen and other inhabitants of his former diocese for debts due to him before his translation.

The religious orders continued to flourish throughout the fifteenth century, though perhaps with less influence in the north - east than in other parts of Scotland. The Trinity Friars, with their ample endowments coming down from the days of the Celtic dynasty, were the principal order in Aberdeen. The Dominicans, or Black Friars, had the benefit of the special devotion of the Marischal family and the benefactions of James III. The Carmelites were a poorer and less important bod)-, and did not, like the Dominicans and Trinity Friars, hold lands in the county. To these orders were added in 1471 the Franciscan or Grey Friars, whose monastery occupied the site of Marischal College.

As the century had begun so it ended with a visitation of pestilence, which in 1499 and 1500 made its appearance all over Scotland. A number of the houses where the plague had appeared were closed for fifteen days, and orders given for burning all goods and clothes liable to carry infection. The epidemic was brought to Aberdeen by a ship from Danzig.


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