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History of Aberdeen and Banff
Chapter VIII


The second university and the wandering scholars—The fifth Earl Marischal — His embassy to Denmark — The Keiths and the Church revenues—The response in Aberdeen to the new demand for education—Futile attempts to reform the older university— Grant of Church lands to the Earl Marischal—His foundation-charter of Marischal College—Organisation and early officers—A university at Fraserburgh—Aberdeen professors in Continental universities—The grammar-school : Cargill and Wedderburn—Illiteracy of craftsmen — Lack of schools in rural Aberdeenshire— County families and the grammar - school : Fight for the Yule holidays—Education in Banff—The witch mania : Witch-burning in Aberdeen and Banff.

High in the list of public benefactors whose action had a permanent influence on the social or intellectual life of the two counties must be placed the fifth Earl Marischal. In the latter part of the sixteenth century the political leadership of the north-east, from which the house of Gordon had been ousted by Murray, was to a certain extent transferred, as we have seen, to that of Keith. The fourth Earl Marischal had gained much wealth by the practical disendowment of the Church—chiefly through other than legislative means. His grandson, the fifth earl, had been a student at King's College, and had passed on to France and to Geneva, where he had Beza for preceptor. Both Beza and Andrew Melville speak of him as a talented and accomplished student. After leaving Switzerland he visited some of the European Courts, and returned to Scotland with scholarly attainments and a culture far above that generally possessed by the Scottish nobles of the time. Soon after his accession to the peerage, in 1581, report was made to the English Government that his revenue was greater than that of any other earl in Scotland—in this respect also he had taken the place formerly held by Huntly —and that he was " esteemed honest, religious, and favouring the best part." When King James, disappointed in his hopes of marrying the eldest daughter of the King of Denmark, resolved to send an embassy to woo her sister, he selected as its head the Earl Marischal's uncle, Lord Altrie, formerly Robert Keith, the second lay abbot or commendator of Deer, upon whom the abbey lands and revenues were conferred as a temporal lordship; but not being looked upon with cordiality by the Privy Council, Altrie declined the delicate mission. It was then intrusted to the earl himself, who had his Continental experiences and his wealth, accomplishments, and address to aid him in his task. There were difficulties and jealousies of many kinds to overcome or overbear, but the mission was carried out by the earl from his own resources in a style befitting its royal and national character. This mission was a great event in the north, and its successful accomplishment placed the Crown in the earl's debt and improved his political standing. Soon after his return he was rewarded with the high administrative office of Lieutenant of the North, in the exercise of which he consolidated the Protestant party, and had the chief hand in rendering nugatory the victory of Huntly and Erroll at Glenlivet and making further resistance on their part hopeless. His heavy outlay on the Denmark mission, in which he was accompanied by an ample retinue, was to be reimbursed from the revenues of lands at the king's disposal.

When the Marischal estates were at their maximum, in the time of the fifth earl, it was said that he could travel from Berwick to Caithness and sleep every night on his own land. His properties ranged from Haddingtonshire and Linlithgowshire to Akergill, in Caithness; and in the northeast, besides Dunnottar, Durris, and others in Kincardineshire, he had Skene, Kintore, Inverugie, and Altrie, in Aberdeenshire, Troup and Durn in Banff, and Duffus in Moray. Yet he did not hold his estates and revenues without challenge. When, on the death of Lord Altrie, the Deer abbey lands passed to the earl, his younger brother, Robert Keith of Benholm, took forcible possession of the abbe}', and held it for six weeks. The earl appealed for aid to the city of Aberdeen, of which he may be said to have been the social and political head, and where he had a mansion, of which, as the residence fittest for the entertainment of royalty, the provost and magistrates had obtained the use for the king when they had him as a guest. The appeal was not made in vain, for the city sent forty hagbutters to fight the earl's battle with his brother; and as Marischal obta;ned letters from the king charging his majesty's subjects in the sheriffdoms of Forfar, Kincardine, Aberdeen, and Banff to assist him, Keith retired to Fedderet in the same district, where, after a siege of three days, the brothers came to terms. Marischal did not press" matters to an extremity, but two or three years later he had to take legal proceedings against his brother for seizing possession of the family estate in Caithness. Similar troubles broke out on other occasions, and it is clear that the younger members of the family were ill pleased at the concentration of all wealth and power in the hands of the earl. Benholm bore the commendator's name of Robert Keith, and thought he should have succeeded to the Altrie lordship.

The holders of the abbey lands, first the commendator and then the earl, came under the censure of the Kirk for withholding revenues that should have gone to the " poor ministers," and in popular belief the appropriation of the Church revenues marked the beginning of a canker that ended in the destruction of the noble family of Keith. At this very time, indeed, according to the tradition of a later day, the countess, a daughter of the Earl of Home, endeavoured to dissuade her husband from " meddling with the Abbey of Deer," but "fourteen score chalders of meal and bere were a sore temptation," which he could not withstand. The tradition goes on to say that Lady Marischal had a strange vision of monks slowly picking with penknives at the Castle of Dunnottar until it was reduced to a wreck, its rich contents being cast on the waves of a tempestuous sea. The dream, which was put on record during the seventeenth century " Troubles,"1 was held to be premonitory of the falling fortunes of the Keiths. Their grasping of the lion's share of the Church spoils exposed them to hostile feeling on the Protestant as well as the Roman Catholic side, and it is usual to connect with this state of matters the defiant motto which the fifth earl inscribed on a tower which he built on the abbey lands and on his college in Aberdeen—"They haif said : Quhat say thay? Lat thame say."

The history of the north-eastern counties is further differentiated from that of Scotland as a whole by the response that was made in Aberdeen to the demand that arose at the Reformation for the better education of all classes. In the latter part of the sixteenth century this demand proceeded on the one hand from the leaders of the Protestant Church who had their quarrel with the greater landlords, by whom the ecclesiastical endowments had been appropriated, and on the other from the county families and wealthier burgesses, who had become alive to the value of education as a passport to employment and distinction under the new conditions. The foundation of Marischal College, though secondary in importance to that of the elder university, nevertheless marks a new stage in the intellectual development and character of these counties. It must be regarded, however, as a response to a pre-existing demand, and as only serving in its degree to give force and direction to a movement already in progress. The partial reform of King's College under Arbuthnot left it in a condition satisfactory to none of the parties in Church or State. Andrew Melville, by whom the mantle of Knox had been inherited, was the great university reformer of the time, and shortly after he had assumed the principalship of Glasgow he accompanied Principal Arbuthnot from the General Assembly of 1575 to the district of their common nativity north of the Tay, discussing the university question, and settling the principles embodied afterwards in the scheme of reform known as the New Foundation. Commission after commission was appointed, without leading to effective reform. One, in 1578, recommended measures for restoring the " dilapidated " funds of King's College, and another formulated a scheme. As royal commissioners, Earl Marischal, the Commendator of Deer, and others asked the General Assembly to "visit" the college and " depute some persons to take trial of the members thereof that they be qualified to conform to the new erection." In response to this request the Assembly appointed a committee, including James Lawson, who had been sub-principal under Arbuthnot until recalled to Edinburgh as successor to Knox, to consider the proceedings of the commissioners. The current was running counter to the Presbyterian party at the time, and nothing having been done by this committee, partly by reason of its negligence, according to Calderwood, and partly through the Aberdeen regents ignoring it, another committee was nominated, before whom the sub-principal (Rait) and the regents were to be summoned by Mr Peter Blackburn, minister of Aberdeen, to appear at St Andrews " under pain of disobedience to the Kirk." The Presbyterian party was dissatisfied with the college, and mention is made of " the hazard of scholars skailing to St Andrews," which was now dominated by Melville ; but the king was opposed to the " new erection." Lennox and Arran, now in power, were equally opposed to the Presbyterian party and polity. Assemblies ceased for a time to be held, and nothing was done. Another drowsy commission was appointed in 1584, in which Marischal, who was engaged on such affairs of State as the Gowrie trial, the measures against the Catholics, and the embassy to Denmark, had no part. It was in the autumn of 1592, the year of his appointment as lord-lieutenant, that he received his charter of the lands and barony of Altrie, including the lands formerly belonging to the Monastery of Deer, as also the Templar lands of Dunnottar and Fetteresso, and other properties in Kincardineshire, with a long list of crofts and annuals that had belonged to the Black and White Friars in Aberdeen, all resigned by him for new infeftment. University reform, in which he had been keenly interested ever since his college days, continued to lag and slumber.

Marischal being now in power and having ample means at his disposal, resolved to found and endow a new university (the terms Gymnasium, Academia, and Collegium are also used in his foundation-charter) in accordance with the principles and scheme which he had recommended to the Church and Government. The charter, which is dated Apri' 2, 1593—six months after the grant of the Friars' and other lands—sets forth, though not in the terms that were applicable to the state of education in Bishop Elphinstone's time, that in many places in the north of Scotland the means for obtaining a liberal and Christian education either did not exist or were neglected, so that few "have been trained in the humane arts, through whose exertions and zeal the Church might flourish, the country become illustrious, and the commonwealth be more and more enlarged," wherefore, following the example of kings, princes, nobles, and bishops who had erected colleges "to be abodes sacred to the Muses and, as i^ were, nurseries where young men might receive a godly and liberal education in letters and in arts," he desired to found :n Aberdeen " a public Gymnasium in the buildings formerly belonging to the Franciscans (the transference of which to this use seemed most opportune and convenient) where young men might be thoroughly trained and instructed in the humane arts, philosophy, and a purer piety, under the charge of competent and learned teachers."1 Besides the buildings of the Franciscans the properties formerly belonging to the Preaching and Carmelite Friars in Aberdeen were given in perpetuity as an endowment for the new college, and the charter lays down rules for the appointment of officers, prescribes the curriculum and method of graduation, forbids the residence of women within the walls, and provides for the maintenance of discipline and for periodical visitations by the Chancellor, the Rector, and the Dean of Faculty. The curriculum is almost identical with that set forth in the foundation of Edinburgh University and in Melville's schemes of reform for the other colleges, but Marischal College had the priority in professors who confined themselves to particular branches, so that, in the language of the charter, the students rising step by step might have teachers worthy of their talents and of the subjects of study. This method, however, was after a time departed from in favour of the alternative system of regents, each of whom taught the same students for three or 'four £ears in all the branches. In regard to discipline the most distinctive provision is one designed to checkmate " the cunning of Satan " in endeavouring " to lead away youth from the profession of the Gospel back to the darkness of Popery," and requiring that before the Principal at entrance, before the Rector at matriculation, and before the Dean of Faculty at graduation, and once at least every year, the student should profess acceptance of the Confession of Faith. Marischal College was thus to be a strictly Protestant institution. It began with a Faculty of Arts alone, and with three regents as compared with the four at King's College, with six bursars as against twelve, with a lower scale of emoluments, and with greatly inferior buildings. To obviate risks which had been made manifest by what had occurred at King's College, the earl, who was Chancellor of his university, retained in his own hands and for his heirs the power of nominating all its members, but the admission of professors was to be in the hands of the Chancellor, Rector, and Dean, the Principal of King's College, and the Ministers of Aberdeen, Fetteresso, and Deer —the Principal to have a vote in the election of Regents and the three Regents a single vote in the election of Principal. The charter was immediately approved and confirmed by the General Assembly and by Parliament, and the town, which took an active interest in the scheme, repurchased and conveyed to the earl for the purpose of his university the Franciscan buildings and lands which it had previously sold. Among several entries in the town's accounts with reference to the foundation of Marischal College is an item of ^80 for the expenses of the bishop, minister, and town clerk in going to Edinburgh on business connected with it, and one of for printing Latin verses by Thomas Cargill "in commendation of my Lord Marischal for erecting the new college in Aberdeen."

The first Principal was Robert Howie, one of the city ministers, and on his removal to St Andrews as Principal of St Mary's College, after Melville, he was succeeded by Gilbert Gray, one of the earliest alumni of Edinburgh. Andrew Aedie, who had resided in Danzig and was a member of a prominent Aberdeen family engaged in the Polish trade now rising in importance, was third Principal, his immediate successor for a short time being William Forbes, who had been a professor in the college and was afterwards first Bishop of Edinburgh. Dr Patrick Dun, who came after Forbes, was the first lay Principal, and though, according to the severe standard of his Puritan and Quaker son-in-law, Alexander Jaffray, he was "unfit for training up youths" and gave "no good example," his name stands out in Aberdeen history as that of the benefactor who bequeathed "the town and lands of Ferryhill" to the provost, magistrates, and community for the maintenance of four teachers at the grammar-school. The early regents or professors were often, perhaps usually, young men who had recently graduated, and many of whom retired from their work in the college to become parish ministers. Among them was Thomas Reid, afterwards L»n Secretary to King James, and Adam Reid his brother, who was promoted from the regency to be minister of Methlic, William Forbes and Patrick Dun afterwards Principals, Peter Blackburn son of the bishop, William Wedderburn brother of the better known David Wedderburn, master of the grammar-school, and William Aedie who succeeded Wedderburn in the professorship of Greek. As Marischal College throve, a fourth regent was soon provided for, and benefactions poured in— 6000 merks from Dr Duncan Liddel1 for the professorship of mathematics, with the lands of Pitmedden for bursaries, as also his books and mathematical instruments; 4000 merks from Dr James Cargill for bursaries; 6000 from Patrick Copland for a professorship of divinity, and the same sum from Secretary Reid for a librarian, together with his valuable library. These are examples of the many benefactions that augmented the efficiency of the younger college as years went on; and it prospered likewise in reputation and the number of its students. King's College at last obtained its reformed constitution in 1597, but the cloud overshadowing it did not yet disappear. David Rait, who served half a century as regent, sub-principal, and principal, holding the last-mentioned office from 1592 to 1632, seems to have been an obstacle to the adaptation of the college to the spirit and requirements of the time. Marischal College had the support of the zealous Protestant party, and it prospered all the more by reason of the lethargy at King's.

Of the zeal for higher education prevailing at this period, we have a singular illustration in the erection and temporary existence of a legally constituted university at the little seaport of Faithlie, beside the headland of the ancient Taixali. In 1592 Sir Alexander Fraser obtained a charter of novodamus of the lands of Philorth, by which Faithlie was erected into a burgh of barony to be called the burgh and port of Fraser or Fraserburgh, power being granted to build in it a college or colleges and to establish a university having all the privileges and immunities granted to any university in the kingdom. The powers thus conferred were immediately brought into exercise, and an Act of Parliament of 1597 recites that Sir Alexander Fraser, having at great expense begun to erect college buildings, ought to be helped and supported in his undertaking, and gives the sanction of the king and three Estates to a grant to the college of the parsonages, vicarages, prebendaries, chaplainries, altarages, teinds, and other ecclesiastical revenues of the parishes of Philorth, Tyrie, Crimond, and Rathen, on condition that the masters of the college should serve the kirks or, with advice of the patron, provide sufficient men for this purpose. Charles Ferme or Fairholme, who had been one of the earliest students in the University of Edinburgh, and soon after his graduation had become a regent there, was appointed minister of Fraserburgh and head of its college. For colleagues, under the Act of Parliament, he had John Gordon, minister of Crimond, son of the Laird of Lesmoir; Duncan Davidson, minister of Rathen and previously a regent in King's College ; and John Howesoun, minister of Tyrie. There is no specific record of how the work of the college proceeded, and it came to an untimely end in 1605, when the Principal and seventeen other zealous Presbyterian ministers were denounced and imprisoned by the Privy Council for holding the forbidden Assembly in Aberdeen. Ferme survived his liberation till 1617, but of the college there is no further record except that a portion of the buildings remained standing for 200 years, a memorial of the educational zeal of a former day. The University of Fraserburgh, framed on the same model as Marischal College and the " new foundation" of King's, but without their resources, could have few attractions to offer to students from a distance.

While, however, the foundation of the second university in Aberdeen must be regarded as a cardinal event in the intellectual history of the north-east of Scotland, an examination of facts and dates makes it clear that before Marischal College came into existence, and while the facilities for general education even in its elementary stages were still very meagre, these counties were recruiting the ranks of learning to an extent that must be regarded as remarkable and perhaps unique. The Aberdeen scholars, who are conspicuous by the eminence of a few of them, and still more by their numbers, belong almost exclusively at this period to the ranks of the comparatively wealthy, including some notable accessions from among the burgesses. The starting of the second university has accordingly to be viewed as a response to a pre-existing demand for education, and not as the cause of this intellectual activity.

It was just before the time of King James that John Skene, a son of James Skene of Wester Corse and Ramore, incurred punishment at the Song - School along with a Lumsden (of Cushnie) cousin, and fought in the interest of the master of the grammar - school in a quarrel at St Nicholas' Church. A student of King's College when it was at its lowest ebb, and a graduate of St Andrews, he became for a time a regent in St Mary's College, and travelled in the Scandinavian countries and Eastern Europe, where he saw at Cracow " a great multitude of Scotchmen." Next he appears as a successful advocate in Edinburgh, and ultimately as Lord Advocate and Clerk Register. King James demurred to his being appointed a member of the Earl Marischal's embassy to Denmark, but gave in to Sir James Balfour's irresistible argument " that he was best acquainted with the conditions of the Germans and could make them long harangues in Latin," and was a "good, true, stout man like a Dutchman." Skene was also ambassador to the States-General, and one of the commissioners for the projected union of the kingdoms in the wake of the union of the Crowns. His literary works are still of importance in relation to the history of Scotland. " He was the first," says Dr Hill Burton,1 " in any systematic way to collect the Acts of Parliament and other native laws of his own country"; and his treatise, ' De Verborum Signifi-catione,' is described by Dr W. F. Skene "as a most useful work, invaluable to the student of ancient Scottish history, and a monument of his learning and industry." Skene had several brothers who were men of learning and distinction. One was commissary of St Andrews and Dean of the Faculty of Arts; a second was an alumnus of Maris and advocate in Edinburgh ; a third, Dr Gilbert Skene, was professor of medicine in King's College, author of a tract on the plague, and in the latter part of his career settled in Edinburgh and was physician to the king. Sir John Skene's son was President of the Court of Session. In former days all learning had been concentrated in the Church, but new avenues to professional employment were opened up when the practice of law and medicine passed into secular hands. The Skenes were numerous, and many of them entered the learned professions, while others went into the trade with Poland, in which Aberdeen for more than a century took an active part.

Another eminent Aberdeenshire lawyer and writer on jurisprudence was William Barclay, professor of civil law at Pont-a-Mousson and Angers, reputedly one of the most learned men of the age. Another William Barclay, a brother of the Laird of Towie-Barclay, born about 1570, studied under Lipsius at Louvain, was Professor of Humanity at Paris, returned to Scotland as a physician, and wrote, besides Latin verse, a panegyric on tobacco, and two poetical pieces, ' Callirhoe, commonly called the Well of Spa, or the Nymphe of Aberdene resuscitat,' and ' Apobaterium, or Last Farewell to Aberdene'—on the occasion of his return to France to settle at Nantes.

In the galaxy of Aberdeen scholars the brightest star is Dr Arthur Johnston. A younger son of the head of the old Aberdeenshire landed family of Johnston of Caskieben, and related through his mother to Lord Forbes and the Earl Marischal, he acquired the rudiments of Latin at Kintore, passed into Aberdeen, and in 1599 is found entered as a Master of Arts in the books of the Casimir College of Heidelberg, at which seat of learning he was in 1601 a professor of philosophy.1 Proceeding to Sedan in 1603 with Walter Donaldson, who had been his fellow-student and teaching colleague at Heidelberg, Johnston was for a few years professor of logic and metaphysics there, and on the promotion of Donaldson to the principalship succeeded him in the chair of physics. An excursion to Padua, where he received the degree of doctor of medicine, formed an interlude in his Sedan career, which latterly was enlivened by the presence of Andrew Melville, the exiled Presbyterian leader, whose release from the Tower of London in 1611 on the solicitation of the Huguenot Duke of Bouillon, the founder and patron of the University of Sedan, may have been really due to the two Aberdonians with whom he became associated as a colleague in the closing years of his eventful life. Johnston had returned to Aberdeen by 1622, when he received the freedom of the city as an honorary burgess; but in his later years, while his family resided in Aberdeen, much of his time was spent in London, where he attended King James as physician, held the appointment of physician-in-ordinary to Charles I., and took his place among the fashionable and learned society of the time. Before he left Sedan his fame as a Latin poet had spread through all the learned world. His version of the Psalms in Latin verse—undertaken, it is said, at the instance of Archbishop Laud—was extolled to the undue disparagement of that of Buchanan, who was the victim of many antipathies. Controversy on the respective merits of the two versions had been raging for a century before it evoked the famous 'Vindication' of Buchanan by Thomas Ruddiman, the eighteenth century Latinist and critic, himself among the most notable products of north-eastern scholarship. To the ' Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum'—a brilliant collection of Scoto-Latin song, published in two volumes by Blaeu of Amsterdam for Sir John Scot of Scotstarvet—Johnston was the most extensive contributor. His younger brother, Dr William Johnston, was also a professor at Sedan, and afterwards first occupant of the chair of mathematics in Marischal College. Of the Crimond branch of the same family, and of a slightly older generation, was Professor John Johnston of King's College, Helmstadt, and Geneva, and colleague of Melville at St Andrews. Robert Gordon of Straloch, geographer, antiquary, and poet, is said to have been the first graduate of Marischal College (1597), his chief work, belonging to a late period of his life, being the Atlas—partly from his own surveys—published by Blaeu of Amsterdam at the instance of Scot, and including the map of the two counties which, as collated by Dr Joseph Robertson with other drawings by Gordon and his son the parson of Rothiemay, is a historically valuable delineation of the two counties. Along with his map Gordon contributed in Latin a ' Description of the Sheriffdoms of Aberdeen and Banff,' at once vivid and exact.1

Several of the wandering Aberdeen scholars were zealous Roman Catholics, and did their best to lead a reaction against the ecclesiastical revolution. Some of these we have already met with. James Gordon, son of one Earl of Huntly and brother of another, taught languages and divinity in Rome, Paris, and Bordeaux. Another James Gordon, distinguished as " Lesmorasus," was Principal of the Jesuit Colleges of Toulouse and Bordeaux. George Con, of the family of Con of Auchry, in Buchan, was a scholar and author as well as Catholic "trafficker," and died suddenly when he was about to receive a cardinal's hat. Fathers Tyrie and Hay, likewise sons of Aberdeenshire county families, were Jesuit controversialists of similar mould. Another Jesuit, Thomas Dempster, the very type of wandering scholar, made his start at Aberdeen, took Cambridge by the way, and was a teacher successively in a dozen different colleges of France, Spain, Italy, and the Low Countries, and the author of various controversial and historical works, the latter tinged with inventive imagination.

From the burgess ranks came Dr Walter Donaldson, friend and colleague of Arthur Johnston, lecturer on moral philosophy at Heidelberg, professor at Sedan, and Principal of the university there. Gilbert Jack, another product of the city, an orphan committed by his mother to the care of Thomas Cargill, master of the Grammar-School, but a student of St Andrews, passed to the Continent, studied and lectured on philosophy at Helmstadt and elsewhere, and was professor of metaphysics at Leyden, where he graduated in medicine: he wrote several medical treatises, attained wide fame among the scholars of the time, and declined an invitation to fill the chair of civil history at Oxford. Alexander Anderson, the eminent mathematician and physicist of Paris, was of an Aberdeen burgess family; and Dr Duncan Liddel, also a burgess's son, may be regarded as another typical Aberdeen scholar. Born in 1561, and educated at King's College, Liddel sailed at eighteen in one of the Aberdeen ships trading to Danzig, and passed to Frankfort-on-Oder, wrhere he came under the influence of Dr John Craig, afterwards physician to James VI., studied medicine, and taught mathematics and philosophy. From Frankfort he passed on to Rostock and Helm-stadt. Devoting special attention to astronomy, then a very progressive science, he lectured on the various theories, and made the acquaintance and incurred the disfavour of Tycho Brahe. At Helmstadt he headed the medical school, and was first physician to the Court of Brunswick. After his continental experience, which included travel in various countries, Liddel returned to Aberdeen, and became one of the great benefactors of its higher education.

The teacher of all the Aberdonians who attained distinction in the last two decades of the sixteenth century was Thomas Cargill, master of the grammar-school, who with his brother Dr James Cargill, a medical practitioner of local celebrity, was a son of Thomas Cargill, " merchant burgess of Aberdeen." Cargill's successor, who had been one of his pupils, was David Wedderburn, also the son of a burgess. Arthur Johnston in one of his poems, after enumerating certain of the citizen families, introduces the ranks of-learning associated with citizenship by asking "Why refer to you, O Liddel! or the Cargill brothers, or Wedderburn, a match for both ? "1 As a writer of Latin verse Wedderburn is second only to Johnston. Though a successful teacher, he had to apply for an increase of stipend to enable him to live in some measure as other scholars in other professions," and part of the duties of his office under the arrangement then come to was to " compose in Latin, both in prose and verse," as required by the authorities in connection with public affairs. Besides being a contributor to the ' Delitise Poetarum Scotorum,' he was, like Vaus, his predecessor of a century before, the author of a Latin Grammar, and the town council on several occasions voted him sums of money to defray his expenses in going to Edinburgh, St Andrews, and Glasgow to oppose a renewal of the monopoly in favour of Alexander Hume's grammar, and to procure the approbation of the Council and Church for his own work. The Hume monopoly was similarly objected to in Glasgow. Wedderburn's elementary grammar in English was an innovation that became immediately popular, and though Parliament refused it the monopoly, the Convention of Royal Burghs requested that it should be used in the burgh schools. Humanity was taught by Wedderburn to the " high class " of Marischal College on the death of Principal Gray, and for a short time he held the appointment of Grammarian or Humanist at King's College; but these university appointments were not permanently compatible with his onerous duties as head of the school. After forty years' service the town council granted him a retiring pension of 200 merks a-year, in respect that he had served the burgh so long " with common applause both of the council and community."

But while the rise of Marischal College was a response to the growing demand for education, and education in its intermediate stage was efficiently attended to at the grammar-school, much still remained to be done at the lower steps of the educational ladder. Nowhere indeed till after several generations had come and gone was full effect given to the famous

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PREVAILING ILLITERACY.

recommendation of the First Book of Discipline, drawn up by Knox in 1560, and subscribed by the lords and the Kirk, that there should be a schoolmaster able at least to teach the grammar and Latin tongue in every parish of any importance, and that in rural parishes the reader or minister should take care of the youth of the parish, and see to its elementary and religious instruction. In 1563, as again in 1577, the General Assembly appointed a commission for planting schools in Banffshire and other northern counties, but complaints of the neglect of education from lack of sufficient provision for the support of a qualified schoolmaster long continued to be made.

The grasping policy of the nobles and gentry obstructed the execution of the great design formulated by Knox, and, in a typical district of central Aberdeenshire a century after these dates, more than half the parishes in the Presbytery of Alford were still without a school.1 From the complaints of the General Assembly as to the decay of schools and the neglect of education, especially in upland parts, no exception can be claimed on behalf of these counties, and even in what may be called the middle class the art of writing was not generally possessed. Surprise is indeed excited by the number of written contracts of this period that are signed by the new class of notaries-public on behalf of the parties to the agreement. Not only is this seen in such cases as that of a contract of multures between John Leslie of Wardes and the town of Inverurie in 1600, where fifteen out of sixteen burgesses sign "with our hands at the pen led by the notary because we cannot write ourselves"; but even in Aberdeen the same inability to write is evidenced in a document of much importance in the history of the municipality, namely, the decree arbitral, or " Common Indenture," by which in 1587 the settlement was reached of a prolonged conflict between the town council and the craft burgesses. This deed, which fixed the terms on which craftsmen were to be admitted, defined their trading privileges and those of the merchant burgesses respectively, and provided that the craftsmen should have representatives among the auditors of the town's accounts, was signed by the craftsmen representatives according to the usual formula, " with our hands at the pen led by the notaries." The art of writing, it therefore appears, was not generally possessed even in Aberdeen by the employers of artisan labour at this period. The notaries who played so useful a part in the execution of deeds were numerous all over the country, finding employment not only in towns and populous places but in rural districts without any nucleus of population. They performed a service to the public which in earlier times had been discharged by the clergy, and their art was much in request now that the era of loans and wadsets was in progress, while penmanship was still an accomplishment of the few.

The master of the Grammar-School exercised control over all elementary and intermediate teaching except that imparted at the music-school. In 1586, on the complaint of Cargill, John Cumming, a notary, was prohibited from holding a school and abstracting children from the principal school without the master's licence and tolerance; and in 1594 David Kanzie was similarly prevented from giving instruction in " oratory poetry, and sic as belangis to that liberal science." Such restrictions were not peculiar to the northeast, but were generally imposed in favour of the burgh schools of Scotland. They were put in force in Aberdeen, partly, as would appear, to save the interests of the master of the Grammar-School, who was ill remunerated, and whom we find at different times applying for augmentation of fees or of stipend. The authorities did not always turn a deaf ear to the demands made upon them. Thus in 15S3 John Phinevin, " teacher of the young children," applied for a schoolroom or money to pay the rent of one, and the Dean of Guild was ordered to give him the yearly feu-duty of a derelict property in the Schoolhill. We even hear of some little provision being made for the education of girls, as John Thomson and his wife, with another female teacher, are in 1598 authorised to teach "maiden bairns," but "to have no man teacher under them." In the autumn of 1607 an Englishman named Edward Diggens arrived in Aberdeen, with testimonials from Glasgow, Dumfries, and other places, and applied for a licence to teach writing and arithmetic for three months, the poor to be taught gratuitously, and no one to pay " except they be profited." The offer was accepted, but only on the grudging condition of the teaching being strictly limited to writing and arithmetic, and that the scholars exceed the age of ten years. In 1612 there was a writing-school, having for its master Gilbert Leslie, who also held the ecclesiastical office of "reader"; and in 1625 an "English school" was included with the grammar-school and the music-school in a visitation appointed by the town council In rural Aberdeenshire some of the readers may have been efficient and zealous teachers of youth. Dr Arthur Johnston records that it was at Kintore that he became a nurseling of the muses and learned as a stripling to speak Latin words. This must have been about the beginning of the tenth decade of the sixteenth century, when John Chalmers was reader at Kintore. Johnston's brother, John Johnston of Caskieben (now Keithhall), as senior magistrate of Invermie, was instrumental with his two colleagues in the magistracy, members of the family of Leslie, in establishing a grammar-school on the basis of the "common good" of the township, but on the appointment of the second teacher in the following year it became a parochial as well as burgh school. Generally speaking, no provision whatever existed in rural parts for higher instruction. This was provided at the Grammar-School in Aberdeen, the master of which received a fixed quarterly fee for teaching the sons of burgesses, but was allowed to make his own terms or charge a higher fee for boys from the county.1 That the Grammar-School drew a large number of its scholars from the landed families of Aberdeenshire comes prominently into view in connection with a long struggle for the immemorial Christmas holidays. To the stand made by the new clergy at the Reformation against observance of "the superstitious time of Yule" the boys never gave in, and year by year, with swords and even firearms, they continued to "take" the school and hold it as if against a siege—a process known in the English schools of a much later day as " barring out." The rebellion became an annual event, and the impatience of youth led occasionally to its breaking out days or even weeks before Christmas. An insurrection of more than ordinary magnitude occurred at the beginning of December 1612, in which the boys of the song-school and writing-school were associated with those of the grammar-school, and it is of some historical importance as preserving the names and parentage of a number of the youths receiving education in Aberdeen. The insurgents took possession of the song-school and held it for two days, until the town council, after consultation with the bishop and city ministers, ordered the ringleaders to be apprehended by force. Twenty-one of the scholars were brought before the magistrates, only one of them being the son of a burgess. The others were sons of country gentlemen of the families of Gordon (Lesmoir, Cluny, and Tillygreig), Irvine, Innes, Forbes, Cumming (Culter), Johnston, Chalmer (Balnacraig), Seton, Fraser, Meldrum, Ogilvie, Norie, Cru-ckshank, and Farquharson (Invercauld). Country families, it thus appears, were numerously represented among the pupils of David Wedderburn. The handicraftsmen of the time, as we have seen, were generally unable to write, but the merchant burgesses could not carry on their transactions without some knowledge of letters and arithmetic, and here we have evidence of a general demand for education among the ruling classes in the country. One son of a craftsman who had been at the school a few years before was William Guild, afterwards principal of the older university, and son of the Matthew Guild, armourer, who rebelled against the attempted suppression of the time-honoured pageants and processions.

In Banff there was a grammar-school in pre-Reformation days, but of the part which it played in northern education prior to about the end of the first quarter of the seventeenth century there is no definite record. Its master is found from time to time acting as a notary or witness to legal documents. A new departure took place in 1585, when there is a charter of Bishop Cunningham providing anew that a grammar-school be established and continued in the burgh of Banff, with a rector, pious and moral and skilled in the Greek and Latin tongues : his presentation was to rest with the town council, and his collation with the Bishop of Aberdeen. By this charter the bishop set apart tithes to the value of about £745 Scots for his salary.

But it is to Aberdeen that we must look as almost exclusively the seat and source of the education that made the north-east so potent a factor in the thought and action of the new age; and yet even at this very time when the northern city was providing itself with its second university, and sending its scholars all over Europe, we are confronted in its local annals by one of the pages least creditable to the shrewdness and common-sense of its ruling class. For once the Aber-donians responded too readily to southern example and leading. While martyrdom for conscience' sake is unknown m the history of Aberdeen, the records of the city are unhappily stained by a number of executions for the imaginary crime of witchcraft. The zeal of James VI. against witches infected the ministers and local authorities in different parts of Scotland, and there were numerous accusations, trials, and burnings, chiefly of hysterical and eccentric women, for supposed "sorcery, enchantment, and devilish practices." The witch mania, which had been rampant in the south and west of Scotland, manifested itself in Aberdeen in the closing years of the sixteenth century. In 1597 no fewer than twenty-four of its victims were burned to death in the city— a dismal passage in the local retrospect, though it has to be read in the light of the fact that the alleged witches put to death in Scotland from first to last number about 4000, and that witch-burning was a folly of the time in which many countries were concerned. Under commissions from the king, the sheriffs, provost, and baillies of Aberdeen issued orders to the ministers and elders to give information as to any suspected persons in their parishes. A few of the ministers and sessions answered to the call with lists of names. The minister of Lumphanan gave up seven of his parishioners, and the parson of Kincardine four. In Crornar, and in Dyce and Fintray, the kirk-sessions met and resolved to transmit names; but as regards the greater part of Aberdeenshire there is no record of action by ministers or sessions. The supposed witches were accused of raising storms, stopping mills, making cows cease to give milk, afflicting with illness persons who had offended them, assuming the shape of four-footed animals, and taking part in a midnight devils' dance at the market-cross of Aberdeen. In the Dean of Guild's accounts there are particulars of the outlays on different kinds of fuel for the executions, the executioner's fees, the "trailing" through the streets of one poor victim who had committed suicide in prison, and the burning on the cheek of four suspected witches who were banished. The Dean himself received a vote of thanks and of money for the " extraordinary pains" he had taken " on the burning of the great number of witches burnt this year," and for other services. The mania ran its course and became discredited, but occasional executions for witchcraft continued through the seventeenth century, and even so enlightened a man as Bishop Patrick Forbes favoured the extermination of witches by violent means. In 1630 the town council resolved to apply to the Lords of the Privy Council for a commission for apprehending some women denounced by a Marion Hardie; and the Guild accounts of rather earlier date contain items "for a barrow to carry the cripple witches," "disbursed for entertaining the witches," for writing the "dittays" against them, and for the clerk to a previous commission. "Scourgers to bury the witch " receive remuneration, and there is a payment for "towis to harle her throw the town." At Banff, about the same period, John Philp was burned to death for the crime of witchcraft. Questions of witchcraft, sorcery, and charming long continued to exercise the ecclesiastical authorities, but the crop of witches was henceforth more abundant in other parts of Scotland than in Aberdeenshire,' where their repression at the stake had fallen into desuetude long before the last Scottish burning for this crime, which took place at Dornoch in 1722. In the early years of the seventeenth century—as if in revulsion from the mania—several persons were subjected to discipline by the kirk-session of Aberdeen for accusing their neighbours of witchcraft.


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