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Aberdour and Inchcolme
Lecture 1


Nature and plan of the work—Sources of information—Notices of the parish and church in the twelfth century—Natural features of parish—The Castle: its antiquity and appearance—The Viponts and Mortimers—The ballad of Sir Patrick Spens—Randolph, Earl of Moray—The Douglases—Origin of the family—The ‘Flower of Chivalry’—The Regality of Aberdour—The first Earl of Morton—The Regent Morton—John, Lord Maxwell—William, the eighth Earl— The Castle burned—Cuttlehill—The dishonest trooper—The gallery and the schoolmasters.

In this and subsequent lectures I am desirous of calling your attention to the leading historical incidents, of a civil, ecclesiastical, and social kind, which are connected with our village and its immediate neighbourhood, being of opinion that much that is fitted to be instructive, as well as interesting, is to be found in such local notices.

When I first came among you, a perfect stranger to the neighbourhood, I could not help being greatly struck with its singular beauty. But when I had gazed and admired, I naturally began to put the questions to myself—What of the history of this place? What events, of an important or interesting kind, have taken place in it, or near it? What associations are connected with that venerable pile, the old castle? What memories linger around the old church, which stands in so secluded and picturesque a spot, and of .hid. the trees have begun to take possessionno, that the worshippers have, for so many years, forsaken it. What historical incidents are there, belonging to the noble house of Morton, on the one hand, and of Moray, on the other? What incidents of an interesting kind are there associated with the village itself? How long has the smoke curled over its roofs; and children, in groups, played on its door-steps ; and the hum of industry been heard in its streets? What have the fortunes of the village been, in earlier and later times, during seasons of peace and war? What are the legends that are told around its firesides on winter evenings? What notable men—nobles or ecclesiastics, soldiers or sailors—have been connected with the place? What men noted for their virtues have lived in it; and, leaving their names inscribed on the mouldering tombstones of its churchyards, have at the same time left their worth imprinted on the memories and hearts of the villagers?

These, and a hundred other questions, naturally suggested themselves; and to very few of them, as you may well suppose, could I at first give a satisfactory answer. Snatches of old ballads, read in early days—ballads which tell of ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ and the ‘Bonny Earl of Murray ’—were no doubt recalled to memory; and, along with these, historical recollections of the 'Good Regent' and that other, of very different mould, who pronounced the panegyric over the grave of Knox: ‘There lies one who never feared the face of man!’ But all else was to learn.

From that time to this, I have, as occasion has offered, been quietly learning the history of the place; and I am here to-night to share with you what I have learned. When I thus speak, it is of course implied that I believe I have something to tell which is not generally known. Indeed, I cannot help wondering that so little seems to be known regarding the history of Aberdour and its neighbourhood. I cannot attribute this to any want of interest in their native place, or any want of intelligence, on the part of the inhabitants. It is rather to be traced to the difficulty of getting at the sources of information. For it has to be confessed that the history of Aberdour has yet to be written, and, indeed, has hardly been touched. There are no doubt such notices of it as give excursionists all the information they may care to have. There are notices in Gazetteers, which are meagre enough, and not over correct in the information they do give. There are the two Statistical Accounts. But the old one, though very good in a strictly statistical point of view, does not enter at all on the antiquities of the parish ; and the new one is little better than an abridgment of the old, adapted to a later time. In Sibbald’s History of Fife the whole notices of Aberdour are comprised within a page or two; and the letterpress of Swan’s Views of Fife leaves untouched some of the most interesting features of its history.

What, then, it may be asked, are the authorities from which I have drawn my materials? In the earliest part of the history I have gone to the ms. Register of Inchcolme, the printed Morton Papers, and the charters and other valuable documents lying in the charter-room at Donibristle—to which, through the kindness of the Hon. John Stuart, afterwards eleventh Earl of Moray, I have been allowed access. From these sources I have got information which is not to be found in either the earlier or later printed histories of our country. And as regards the later part of the history, I have carefully examined the Kirk-Session records of the parish, which, through the courtesy of the Rev. George Roddick, I have for a considerable time had in my possession. In addition to these authorities, I have had many charters and papers of various kinds put into my hands by the feuars and other inhabitants of the village. Another source of information, regarding local matters, it would be ungrateful in me not to mention. It is pointed out in the lines of Allan Cunningham

Much with hoary men
He walked conversing, and sedately glad,
Heard stories which escaped historic pen.

A single remark more, and these preliminary statements, already too long, are at an end. I wish it to be distinctly understood that the historical notices of Aberdour and its neighbourhood, which I am to lay before you, in this and other lectures, do not pretend to be exhaustive. More information than I now have, and more leisure than I can command, would be necessary ere anything having the least claim to be an exhaustive history could be produced. Moreover, I do not keep by a rigid order of a chronological kind; indeed, in some instances it will be seen that the order of acquiring my information determines the order of my narration. On the present occasion I do little more than look at the history of the village, as that is reflected from the history of its ancient and now ruined Castle.

Aberdour, as the most of you are probably aware, derives its name from the little stream, the Dour, that runs between the Easter and Wester villages, and falls into the Firth of Forth at the harbour. The prefix, Aber, signifies the mouth of a stream ; and it is generally coupled with the name of the stream whose outlet to the sea, or confluence with another stream, is pointed out. Thus the name Aberdour signifies the mouth of the Dour; and as Dour means water, the name, reduced to its ultimate elements, means the mouth of the water. Both parts of the word are undoubtedly Celtic, and by many held to be Cymric or British. I need hardly say that names of places in Scotland of which this can be truly said are very old; and the first notices of Aberdour carry us back to a very remote antiquity indeed.

Situated on the southern shore of Fife, one of the seven provinces of the ancient Pictavia, or Pictland, one might naturally expect to find some notices of it in the Chronicles of the Piets and Scots, but this expectation, I regret to say, has not been realised. The earliest notice of the place, so far as I know, is to be found in the Chartulary of Inchcolme. There, in a Bull of Pope Alexander the Third, of the year 1178, mention is made of the church of Aberdour. And as the mills of Aberdour are mentioned soon afterwards, we may believe that the village, in some form or other, existed as early as the twelfth century. One would like to travel still further back, and inquire if anything definite is known of the neighbourhood during the occupation of the country by the Romans, or during the period between the time of their departure and the twelfth century. Of these periods not much bearing on the neighbourhood can with certainty be said. We learn something regarding the condition of the early inhabitants of the country from the weapons of war, or of the chase, which have been found imbedded in the soil. The Rev. Robert Liston, in the Old Statistical Account of the parish, speaks of such weapons, in the form of axes, hatchets, and spear-and arrow-heads, made of flint and other hard kinds of stone, having been found in his time on a farm in the neighbourhood. That farm I know to be Dalachy; but the weapons alluded to, as well as some stone coffins found about the same time, have long ago disappeared.

Sir Robert Sibbald, after a careful consideration of all the facts which have come down to us regarding the ports in Fife which the Romans made use of, has concluded that Aberdour was one of them. How interesting it would be to have a view of the country around us as it then appeared ! The great natural features of the landscape would, of course, be the same as now: the Binn lying like a huge sleeping elephant; Dunearn Hill, shooting up its head, as if keeping watch over the scene; the Firth, studded with its islands, glittering in the morning sun as if every wave were floating unnumbered diamonds on to the beach; Arthur s Seat, Salisbury Crags, and the Castle Rock of Edinbuigh a mere hill-fort then, we may presume—keeping watch and ward on the opposite coast; while the bold and beautiful line of the Pentlands shuts in the landscape on the southwest with a mountain wall. But strange-looking galleys are in the bay; the strange accents of Roman and other tongues cleave the air; and a few rude huts near the beach are probably all that represent our village. The Roman invasion was, in its results, manifestly beneficial to our country. It brought its rude and hardy tribes into contact with civilisation of a certain kind; and, what is better still, it opened up a way for the pioneers of Christianity. What we know of these pioneers and their labours in the kingdom of the Picts, especially along its southern boundary, laved by the waters of the Forth, must be told in another connection.

It is time for us to come to a later period, and more definite information regarding our village. And in order that historical personages and events may be associated with definite places, let me ask you to accompany me in thought to our old Castle. This is by far the most ancient building in our immediate neighbourhood. A single glance shows that the site it occupies is one of great strength, defended as it is by the little valley of the Dour on the west, north-west, and south-west; and a steep declivity, that bends away down to the Firth, on the south and south-east. The position, moreover, is one of great beauty, commanding a delightful view of the Firth, with its winding shores, its jutting promontories, its deeply indented bays, and its picturesque islands, which gleam ‘ like emeralds chased in gold.’ At this date it is difficult to form an accurate idea of the appearance presented by the Castle in its better days, before additions, out of keeping with its original form, had been made to it, and ere the tooth of time had gnawed its earliest masonry down to its present state of abject and hopeless ruin. For, the present pile, I need hardly say, is not all of the same age. The original castle, which is the westernmost part, was a huge square keep, of very great strength. And one can easily imagine, from what remains of it, how it must have looked, towering over the little valley of the Dour in solid massive strength —its barbican wall stretching away to the east—and scowling defiance at the invader. The description of Crichton Castle, as given in Marmion, is strikingly suggestive of the appearance of our old baronial keep:—

The castle rises on the steep
Of the green vale of Tyne,
And far beneath, where slow they creep
From pool to eddy dark and deep,
Where alders moist and willows w'eep,
You hear her streams repine.

The towers in different ages rose,
Their various architecture shows
The builders’ various hands.
A mighty mass, that could oppose
When deadliest hatred fired its foes,
The vengeful Douglas bands.

If in this description we substitute the Dour for the Tyne, and make the Douglases the defenders and not the invaders of the keep, we have a wonderfully accurate description of the site and general appearance of our old Castle, as well as a note of its owners, through many centuries.

There have been, apparently, three several additions made to the original castle, on its eastern side; and appearances favour the idea that some addition may have been made on its western side, too. From initials which are still to be seen over the window of the easternmost part of the building, it appears that this portion was added by William, the eighth Earl of Morton. The date, 1635, is to be seen on a sun-dial built into the south wall; and the same date, I have been assured, was to be observed, not many years ago, above one of the windows. These dates confirm the supposition that this part was erected by Earl William, of whom we shall have more to say at a later stage. No one who examines it with any degree of care can fail to be struck with its highly-finished masonry; and, as Billings has remarked, the change that took place, in the seventeenth century, from Gothic forms to the unbroken lines of Italian architecture, is here very distinctly indicated. This part of the Castle buildings is associated, in the minds of some of the older people of the village, with stories of schoolboy days. The gallery, as the upper story is called, was used as a school before the present parish school was built; and at an earlier time a troop of horse, under the command of Lord Morton, had their quarters here. The original keep is wellnigh, but not exactly, square. Its walls are strong and massive, and bear every mark of a hoary antiquity. Time and long-continued neglect, on the part of those who own it, are however gradually working its destruction. Some of my audience will remember that a large portion of the north and west walls fell, during the night, in the midst of a thunderstorm, in the year 1844, the noise of the fall being so loud as to awaken and alarm the inhabitants of the easter village. Great masses of the fallen masonry are still to be seen, the mortar binding the stones as with bands of iron.

It is difficult to speak with certainty as to the precise age of the venerable pile. That a castle stood here long before the Douglases became the proprietors of the lands and barony of Aberdour is undoubted. That the oldest part of the present Castle was that in which the Yiponts and Mortimers—the first barons of Aberdour of whom we have any knowledge—successively had their abode, is exceedingly likely. But in the absence of conclusive evidence it would be rash to make the assertion. On the supposition that it was built by the Yiponts, the building must be somewhere about seven hundred years old. The Viponts are believed to have been of Norman extraction, and to have settled in Scotland early in the twelfth century. About that time they possessed the lands of Aberdour, and they had extensive estates in other parts of Scotland, as various chartularies prove. I have read somewhere that the fishermen of the Forth used to chant a song to the beat of their oars, every verse of which ended with the refrain—

The leal gudeman of Aberdour
Sits in Sir Alan Vipont’s tower.

Nisbet, in his Heraldry, tells us that as early as the year 1126, the second year of the reign of David the First, the lands and barony of Aberdour passed into the hands of Sir Alan de Mortimer, who married Anicea, the daughter of Sir John Vipont. The Viponts were a brave and warlike family. One of them, Sir William, fell on the field of Bannockburn, contending nobly for the independence of Scotland; and another of them, Sir Alan, valiantly defended the Castle of Lochleven against the English during the reign of David the Second. It is pleasing to have the name of Vipont so intimately connected with Aberdour. Sir Walter Scott has made a member of the family one of the heroes of his matchless tales; and James Grant has made Roland Vipont represent the last of the noble race, in the story of Jane Seton.

The Mortimers, who, as we have seen, acquired the castle and lands of Aberdour by the marriage of Sir Alan with the daughter of Sir John Vipont, are frequently spoken of in history by the surname of de Mortuo Mari, as the Viponts are under the Latinised form de Vetere Ponte. The Mortimers, like the Viponts, are understood to have been of Norman extraction; both took part in the Crusades; and indeed the Mortimers seem to have got their family name from some deed of valour performed near the Dead

Sea. We have not many notices of the Mortimers and their possessions in those old days, when, as David Vedder sings—

The morning’s e’e saw mirth and glee
In the hoary feudal tower
Of bauld Sir Alan Mortimer,
The Lord of Aberdour.

Sir Robert Sibbald tells us that Sir Alan gave the half of the lands of his town of Aberdour to God and the monks of St. Colme’s Inch, for the benefit of a burial-place for himself and his posterity in the church of the monastery. Of this somewhat apocryphal story we shall, however, have something to say at a later stage. At present all that needs to be said regarding the matter is, that Sir Alan apparently did not get the benefit of the kind of burial for which he had stipulated; for, as Sibbald tells the story,

‘Sir Alan being dead, the monks carrying his corpse in a coffin of lead, by barge, in the night-time, to be interred within the church, some wicked monks did throw the samen [same] in a great deep betwixt the land and the monastery, which, to this day, by the neighbouring fishing men and salters, is called “Mortimer’s Deep.”’

We have seen that there were brave soldiers in those early days connected with Aberdour; and we may venture to put in our claim for at least one brave sailor, although not belonging to any family who owned its castle or lands. Who of us has not read with delight in boyhood’s days, and with scarcely abated interest in maturer years, ‘the grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spens,’ as Coleridge has termed it? Its authorship and the date of its composition are alike unknown, although some believe it to be comparatively modern, and the work of the authoress of ‘Hardy-knute,’ Lady Wardlaw of Pitreavie. There are several versions of the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens, some of which evidently connect it with the period of King Alexander the Third. That period was one which was noted for great prosperity to Scotland; but the King’s untimely death plunged the nation into deep sorrow, and the wars to which the question of the succession to the Crown gave rise rolled a tide of fire over the land. Alexander’s son, who bore the same name, was dead; and so was his daughter Margaret, who had been married to Eric, king of Norway, and had left behind her a newly-born child, known as ‘the Maid of Norway.’ It had been resolved that, in the event of no other children being born to King Alexander, the crown should go to the Maid of Norway. But disaster followed on the heels of disaster. King Alexander was killed by falling over the cliffs at Kinghorn, and the youthful queen died at Orkney, on her way to Scotland; for at that time, I need hardly remind you, Orkney was no part of the realm of Scotland. It is difficult to fit the story of the ballad of ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ into the history of the time; for, so far as I am aware, there is no historical notice of a shipwreck connected either with the return voyage of those who conveyed the daughter of King Alexander to Norway, or with the voyage of those who conveyed his granddaughter to Orkney. But that the ballad has reference to one or other of these occasions is undoubted; and as King Alexander is spoken of as being alive when the voyage to Norway took place, we must conclude, either that the ballad relates to the former of the events I have referred to, or that a very considerable poetical licence has been taken by its author. King Alexander is represented as sitting in his tower of Dunfermline, then a royal residence; and to the inquiry what captain could be got skilful and trusty enough to undertake the voyage to Norway, an ancient knight exclaims that no better sailor than Sir Patrick Spens is to be found in all the land. Sir Patrick was accordingly sent. But the voyage was made at a stormy season, and although he and his crew reached Norway in safety, they returned to Scotland no more. The following is the best version of the ballad:—

The King sits in Dunfermline tower,
Drinking the bluid-red wine,
‘O whaur will I get a skeely skipper,
To sail this new ship o’ mine?’

O up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the King’s right knee,
‘Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sailed the sea.’

The King has written a braid letter,
And sealed it with his hand;
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.

‘To Noroway! to Noroway!
To Noroway on the faem!
The King’s daughter, of Noroway,
’Tis thou maun bring her hame.’

The first word that Sir Patrick read,
Fu’ loud, loud laughed he,
The neist word that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his e’e.

‘O wha is he has dune this deed,
And tauld the King o’ me;
To send us out, at this time o’ the year,
To sail upon the sea?

‘Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet,
Our ship maun sail the faem;
The King’s daughter, o’ Noroway,
’Tis we must fetch her hame.’

They hoysed their sails on Mononday morn,
Wi’ a’ the speed they may;
They hae landed in Noroway
Upon a Wodensday.

They hadna been a week, a week,
In Noroway but twae,
Whan that the lords o’ Noroway
Began aloud to say—

‘Ye Scottishmen spend a’ our King’s gowd,
And a’ our Queenis fee.’
‘Ye lee! ye lee! ye leers loud,
Fu’ loudly do ye lee!

For I brocht as much white monie
As gane my men and me,
An’ I brocht a half-fou o’ red gude gowd
Out ower the sea wi’ me.

Make ready, make ready, my merry men a’,
Our gude ship sails the morn.’
‘Now, ever alake, my master dear,
I fear a deadly storm!

I saw the new moon late yestreen,
Wi’ the auld moon in her arm;
And if ye gang to sea, master,
I fear we’11 come to harm.’

They hadna sailed a league, a league,
A league but only three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind grew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.

The ankers brak, and the top-masts lap,
It was sic a deadly storm;
And the waves cam’ o’er the broken ship
Till a’ her sides were torn.

‘O where will I get a gude sailor
To tak’ my helm in hand,
Till I get up to the tall top-mast,
To see if I can spy land?’

‘O here am I, a sailor gude,
To take the helm in hand
ill you go up to the tall top-mast;
But I fear you ’11 ne’er spy land.’

He hadna gane a step, a step,
A step but only ane,
When a bout flew out o’ our goodly ship,
And the salt sea it came in.

‘Gae fetch a web o’ the silken claith,
And anither o’ the twine,
And wap them into our ship’s side,
An’ letna the sea come in.’

O laith, laith were our gude Scots lords
To weet their cork-heeled shune;
But lang or a’ the play was played
They wat their hats abune.

And mony was the feather-bed
That flattered on the faem;
And mony was the gude lord’s son
That never mair cam’ hame.

The ladies wrang their fingers white,
The maidens tore their hair;
A’ for the sake o’ their true luves,
For them they ’11 ne’er see mair.

O lang, lang may the ladies sit
Wi’ their face into their hand
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailing to the strand.

And lang, lang may the maidens sit
Wi’ their gowd kaims in their hair,
A’ waiting for their ain dear luves,
For them they ’11 see nae mair.

Half ower, half ower to Aberdour,
’Tis fifty fathoms deep,
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi’ the Scots lords at his feet.

The version given by Sir Walter Scott in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and by Motherwell in his collection of ballads, has the last verse thus—

O forty miles aff Aberdeen
’Tis fifty fathoms deep,
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi’ the Scots lords at his feet.

This seems tame, compared with the other version. It may indeed be objected that we, who are connected with Aberdour, are hardly to be considered unprejudiced judges in such a matter. But this cannot fairly be said of Dr. Robert Chambers, who has given his opinion in the following words:— ‘I think it extremely probable that Sir Patrick Spens lived near the little port of Aberdour, which port might then have been in use as a sort of haven for Dunfermline, from which it is not far distant. In the last verse of the ballad, the shipwreck is described as taking place half-way back from Norway to Aberdour; and it is certainly a likely circumstance that the ship was destined to the same port from which she set out.’ As adding greatly to the probability of this theory, he mentions the fact of the existence of an extremely fine tract of hard white sand, to the east of Aberdour, which is commonly called ‘the White Sands;’ and this, he thinks, is ‘the strand5 referred to in the third verse of the ballad. [The verse quoted on last page is not the only instance in which A berdeen has usurped the place of Aberdour. In the Songstresses of Scotland, by Sarah Tytlerand J. L. Watson, the following passage occurs in the notice of Joanna Baillie (page 251):—‘ In a third letter the author of the Cottagers of Glenburnie vows that the next time the author of the Plays of the Passions visits Scotland, she will insist on taking her to Aberdeen, quoting an anecdote of an old gentleman who had travelled twice through Europe, and had never seen anything to be compared to Aberdeen, but the bay of Naples. Mrs. Hamilton prophesies that if Walter Scott would open the cry about Aberdeen, as he has done about Loch Katrine, scenery, how the world would be deafened by reiterated praises!’ In every instance Aberdeen has here been put by mistake for Aberdour!]

Bishop Percy, in his Reliques of Ancient Poetry, also gives ‘Aberdour' in the closing verse of his short version of the ballad; and he appends two notes to it, which connect themselves, in an interesting way, both with Aberdour and Lady Wardlaw, to whom I have lately referred. He speaks of our village as ‘lying upon the river Forth, the entrance to which is sometimes denominated De mortuo Jlfari.’ The good Bishop seems to think this a connecting-link between the place and the shipwreck of Sir Patrick Spens,’ not knowing the incident which gave rise to the name of ‘Mortimer’s Deep.’

His note in reference to the author of ‘Hardyknute’ is also very interesting. Apparently unaware of the fact that Lady Wardlaw was the authoress of ‘Hardyknute,’ and suspected of being also the authoress of ‘ Sir Patrick Spens,’ he says An ingenious friend thinks the author of 'Hardyknute' has borrowed several expressions and sentiments from the foregoing [Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens], and other old Scottish songs in this Collection. If Lady Wardlaw was the authoress of both ballads, there is another and simpler way of accounting for the similarity of expressions and sentiments contained in them.

Returning from what may seem a digression, we have something more to say regarding our old Castle. It is not because of any dearth of heroes connected with Aberdour that I have turned your attention to the somewhat shadowy form of Sir Patrick Spens. We have already seen the link. that binds the names of Vipont and Mortimer to the place; and now another name appears, to which even these must yield the palm. Who that has read the history of the noble contendings of our countrymen during that eventful period which followed the mournful death of Alexander the Third, and called into the field Wallace and Bruce, and the noble band of patriots who fought under their banners, can have forgotten the name of Randolph, Earl of Moray! When Wallace had stirred the souls of all true-hearted Scottishmen to their very depths in favour of liberty, and the just independence of their country, in spite of the arrogant claims of Edward of England, the younger Bruce, aided by his two noble friends and compatriots—Randolph and the Black Douglas—led his countrymen on to victory, and immortalised not only himself, but his companions and their country, by the glorious enterprise. That Aberdour can claim some connection, although remote, with ‘ the good Sir James Douglas/ as his countrymen long delighted to call him, is well known to all of you, the noble family of Morton being a branch of the Douglas line. But probably no one now listening to me has heard of any connecting link between our village and Randolph. A short time ago I as little dreamt of this as any of you; and it was with a thrill of delight, as well as surprise, that I found among the Morton papers a charter that put it beyond all question that the barony of Aberdour belonged to Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, more than five hundred years ago. How much does this simple fact increase the interest we naturally have in the neighbourhood in which we live; and also the interest which, apart from this association, we might naturally take in the gallant warrior and wise statesman! Strange as it may appear to some minds that are less under the spell of local associations than we are, we now read with greatly intensified interest the exploits of the old soldier—the nephew of King Robert the Bruce. We enter with greater eagerness into the history of his early imprisonment in England, his recapture of Edinburgh Castle from the Southern invader, his brave conduct at Bannockburn, where he commanded the left wing of the Scottish army, and the wise and energetic measures he employed, as Guardian of Scotland during the minority of David the Second.

Randolph and the good Sir James Douglas were warmly and generously attached to each other, as only great and kindred spirits can be ; and they were both unflinching and unwearied in their defence of their master, the Bruce. You must often have heard the story how the Bruce, feeling himself near his end, summoned Sir James to his dying couch, and charged him to convey his heart to the Holy Land, and bury it as near the sepulchre of the Saviour as he could; and how the Douglas, when his sovereign had breathed his last, got his heart embalmed, and put into a silver casket, which he hung round his neck with a silver chain, as he set out to fulfil his friend’s dying request.

There is something romantic in the story of that journey, and something truly pathetic in Douglas’s end. On his way to Jerusalem he passed through Spain, and became entangled in a fight with the Saracens. Seeing, near the close of the battle, one of the knights who followed him surrounded by the Moors, he took the casket in which the Bruce’s heart lay, and, casting it into the thick of the fight, exclaimed, ‘On, heart! as thou wert wont, and Douglas will follow thee, or die.’ And, like a true warrior, he followed it, and died, trying to rescue a friend from death. The body of Douglas, along with the casket, was brought back to Scotland, and the Bruce’s heart was buried in Melrose Abbey by Randolph, Earl of Moray and Lord of Aberdour.

There is an act of devotion on the part of Randolph to his uncle, the Bruce, recorded in the Morton papers, and also in the Chartulary of Dunfermline, which no historian, so far as I am aware, has noticed. In common with his countrymen of that period, Randolph believed in the efficacy of prayers for the dead. This was one of the doctrines, as Hallam tells us in his History of the Middle Ages, which appear to have been either introduced, or sedulously promoted, for the purposes of sordid fraud. But it is too much to expect that a soldier like Randolph should have been above the prejudices of his time, in a matter of this kind. And there is great interest in the fact that he made over to the monks of the Abbey of Dunfermline the lands of Culhelach—now known as Cullelo, and at that time forming part of the barony of Aberdour—with the view of securing prayers for the soul of his dear uncle, King Robert the Bruce, and the souls of his ancestors and successors. And we learn further from the Chartulary of Dunfermline that he gave the lands of Bandrum and Kin-edder, in the parish of Saline, for a similar service to be done to himself. It is a singular thing that after the earldom of Moray has passed through so many hands—the Dunbars, the Douglases, the Crichtons, the Gordons, and three different families of Stewarts—the lands of Cullelo should again be in the possession of an Earl of Moray. It is also an interesting fact that the ancestor of an ancient family in our neighbourhood—the Moubrays of Cockaimie and Otterston—was a companion-in-arms of the brave Randolph. At the battle of Bannockburn the Castle of Stirling was held, in the interest of King Edward of England, by Sir Philip de Moubray. After that decisive battle, however, Sir Philip cast his fortunes into the same scale with those of Scotland; and he fell at the battle of Dundalk, bravely fighting by the side of Edward Bruce and Randolph, Earl of Moray.

Randolph died very suddenly at Musselburgh in the year 1332, not without the suspicion of having been poisoned by an English monk, as Father Hay himself relates; and he was universally lamented as an incorruptible Regent, a brave soldier, a wise statesman, and a noble-hearted man. He lies buried in the Abbey of Dunfermline beside his uncle, the Bruce, whom he served so faithfully and loved so well. Sir Walter Scott thinks it not unlikely that the pathetic ballad, ‘Lord Randal, my son,’ may have been written in connection with the melancholy end of Randolph. The evident youth of the victim in the ballad makes this, in our view, unlikely. But which of us has not felt what an amount of simple pathos there is in the closing lines of the ballad, in which, in reply to his mother’s fears that he has been poisoned, Lord Randal says—

‘O yes, I am poisoned; mother, make my bed soon;
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down’!

The barony of Aberdour did not continue long in the family of Randolph. The Earl had two sons, who, like himself, were warriors, and, like himself, died prematurely. Thomas Randolph, the second Earl, fell at the battle of Dupplin; and John, the second son and third Earl, found a soldier’s grave at Durham. Their sister, Lady Agnes, a noted heroine, was married to Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, and the earldom of Moray was for a time continued in their family. But before John Randolph fell, the barony of Aberdour had passed into the hands of the Douglases. Among the Morton papers there is a charter of the year 1341, in which John Randolph gives, grants, and confirms to Sir William Douglas of Liddesdale, his dear and faithful friend, the lands of Aberdour, with all their pertinents, for homage and service. And as John Randolph died childless, it cannot be, as some have affirmed, that the lands of Aberdour passed into the hands of the Douglas family by marriage.

It would be an easy matter to fill many lectures with the exploits of the family of the Douglases, who, in one of their branches, now became proprietors of the lands and castle of Aberdour, and have continued to own them through more than five centuries. Hume of Godscroft has written a whole volume on their lineage and history. However they may be traced, the fortunes of the family have been very fluctuating. At one time, as in the case of the good Sir James, a Douglas is the King’s right-hand man; at another, as in the reign of James the Second, the decision seems to hinge on a single battle whether a Stewart or a Douglas shall sit on the throne of Scotland; and at a later period still, in the reign of James the Fifth, a royal proclamation is issued forbidding a Douglas to come within six miles of the King, on pain of treason.

The history of the house of Douglas has engaged the attention of many antiquaries, and after the speculations of George Chalmers in his Caledonia, and others, the simple truth seems at length to have been reached by Cosmo Innes. ‘The ancestry of the first William of Douglas,’ he tells us in his Sketches of Early Scotch History, is not to be found in a Scotch charter-chest. Like other knightly and baronial families of the Lowlands, he probably drew his origin from some Norman or Saxon colonist, who, in that age of immigration and fluctuating surnames, sunk his previous style, perhaps some changing patronymic, like those of the ancestors of the Stuarts and of the Hamiltons, though little dreaming how illustrious was to become the name which he adopted from his settlement on the bank of the Douglas water.’ The earlier name of the Stewarts was Fitz-Alan, and an earlier name of the Hamilton family was Fitz-Gilbert; but as these earlier names gave place to those of Stewart and Hamilton, so the earlier name of the Douglas family, which is now lost, gave place to that by which they have been so long known. I must, however, content myself, in what remains of this lecture, with notices of the briefest kind regarding those members of the family who owned the castle and lands of Aberdour. Sir William Douglas, the first of these, was so pre-eminently a hero in the estimation of his countrymen, that his name has been handed down by them linked with the epithet of the ‘Flower of Chivalry.’ It has to be admitted, however, that the less closely the claims of the ‘Knight of Liddesdale ’ to this title are examined, the better will it be for his fame. However fairly chivalry may have flowered in his person, its fruit was of so very sanguinary a hue as not to be very pleasant to look at. Indeed, so many acts of bloodshed are attributed to him, that when thinking of him as we look at our own old castle, or as we gaze at the ruins of Hermitage Castle in Liddesdale, we are constrained to acknowledge that the ‘Flower of Chivalry’ yields rather a tainted odour.

From Sir William Douglas the lands of Aberdour passed to Sir James, his nephew, the son of the gallant defender of Lochleven Castle, and to him also passed the lands and castle of Dalkeith, which Sir William had acquired by marriage. But I am not to treat you to an enumeration of family connections, which at best confer but a minor distinction, and can only be regarded with much interest when associated with individual worth.

I may say here that in 1383 the barony of Aberdour was constituted by King Robert the Second an entire and free regality; and in a charter of confirmation, a copy of which is in my possession, this regality is said to include Woodfield, Tyrie, Seafield, and the two Balburtons, all of which were then in the possession of the proprietor of the lands of Aberdour. When we come to speak more particularly of Aberdour Wester we shall find that it was a burgh of barony, as Aberdour Easter was a burgh of regality. In the case of a burgh of barony the baron might not only hold courts for causing tenants to pay rents, but he could decide in cases of debt, and punish for bloodwytes (which originally meant the crime of shedding blood, although latterly it came to signify the fine imposed for that crime) to the extent of ^50 Scots. And if the baron had, in addition to this, that fearful charge to be put into the hands of any single individual, the power of pit and gallows, he had a criminal jurisdiction nearly as ample as that of a Sheriff of the time. In the case of a regality the superior had a jurisdiction equal to the Supreme Court in criminal cases. He could even repledge from the Sheriff, and had a right to all the moveables of delinquents and rebels who dwelt within the bounds of his own jurisdiction.

The next name of special interest which we have to notice is that of the first Lord Morton. He married the Countess-Dowager of Angus, the daughter of James the First, and so was a brother-in-law of James the Second. He was a great favourite of the King’s, and received from him the title of Earl of Morton, as well as several valuable grants of land. It was this Earl who founded the Hospital of St. Martha—the ‘Nunnery,’ as it came by and by to be called—in Easfer Aberdour, the history of the foundation of which I shall relate to you in a subsequent lecture.

From the first Earl of Morton we pass to the fourth, the celebrated Regent. He was the son of Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech, and having married the daughter of the third Earl, he wilily succeeded to his title and estates in 1553. Of this remarkable man we can at present say little, intending at some future time to devote an entire lecture * to his history. Suffice it to say just now that he was a man of great natural ability and very considerable acquirements. He was brought up and received his education in England, the dislike of James the Fifth to the whole family of the Douglases having kept them there, in virtual banishment, up till the very period of that King’s death. On Morton’s return to Scotland he at first joined the ‘Lords of the Congregation,’ as they were called, and helped to advance the cause of the Reformation, but his efforts were by and by more turned in the direction of personal aggrandisement and State intrigue. He had some share in the movement which led to the murder of Darnley. At least it was capable of proof that he knew of it, and did not divulge what he knew, and consequently he had for a time to live beyond the bounds of the kingdom. After Darnley’s death Morton again made his appearance, and played a most important part in State affairs. When the Regent Moray fell under the hand of a cowardly assassin, Morton gradually worked his way up to the highest place of political importance. He had been a principal actor during previous regencies; and now that he was unfettered, he carried out with great ability, daring, and unscrupulousness, a policy whose principal object seems to have been self-aggrandisement by impoverishing the Reformed Church and infringing the liberty of the subject. This policy, of necessity, made the Regent many enemies; and as the youthful King grew up, means were not wanting for entrapping Morton through some of his own schemes. In short, after the murder of Danrley had ceased to draw much attention to it, Morton was accused by one of the King’s favourites of being an accomplice in the sanguinary plot, and, having been declared guilty, he was beheaded at Edinburgh on the 3d of June 1581. ‘Never was there seen,’ says Archbishop Spotswood, ‘a more notable example of fortune’s mutability than in the Earl of Morton. He who a few years before had been reverenced by all men, and feared as a king, was now, at his end, forsaken by all and made the very scorn of fortune, to teach men how little stability there is in honour, wealth, friendship, and the rest of those worldly things that men do so much admire.’

It is an interesting thing for us to know that, soon after his resignation of the regency, Morton retired for a time to his castle of Aberdour, where he spent his time chiefly in husbandry and gardening. I have seen several charters which were signed by him while resident here. One would like to know what the appearance of this notable man was as he paced through our village, what his demeanour was as he worshipped in our old church, and his talk as he busied himself with his trees and flowers.

On his execution and attainder, a new charter of the earldom of Morton was ratified in favour of John Lord Maxwell, but the attainder was ere long rescinded, and the dignity passed to the heir of entail, Archibald Earl of Angus, who was the last Earl of Morton, of the house of Dalkeith.

The next proprietor of the lands and castle of Aberdour, who demands special notice at our hands, is William, the eighth Earl, who was Lord High Treasurer of Scotland. If some of the earlier proprietors of these lands were noted for their bravery, Earl William was renowned for his loyalty. Few subjects have made greater sacrifices for their sovereign than he did for Charles the First. He disposed of his lands of Dalkeith, and other properties belonging to him, to the amount of £100,000 Scots of yearly rental; and this splendid sacrifice he made in order that he might the better support the Royal cause. As some compensation for his generosity, he got a mortgage on the islands of Orkney and Shetland, by a charter under the Great Seal in 1642. The sale of the lands of Dalkeith was the means of bringing him into closer relationship with Aberdour. Having built a large addition to the Castle, on its eastern side, he took up his residence there. It was he, too, who laid out the terraced garden at the south side of the Castle, who built the wall round it, who erected the summer-house at the south-east corner of it, and planted those fine old planes, elms, and other trees, which so greatly adorn the Castle grounds. I have in my possession copies of various charters signed by him at Aberdour between the years 1632 and 1647. He died in the year 1648.

The next incident connected with the Castle which I have to notice is that which left it a blackened ruin. During the troubles of 1715, when the Earl of Mar made a very foolish demonstration in favour of the old Pretender, a troop of dragoons were stationed in the Castle, in the Hanoverian interest; and I have been told, on what I consider good authority, that a fire accidentally broke out in a bedroom occupied by one of the officers, which led to the destruction of the inhabited part of the Castle. A valuable library, belonging to the Earl of Morton, is said to have perished at the same time.

The Castle having thus become uninhabitable, the Earls of Morton acquired Cuttlehill House, and a considerable portion of land belonging to it, on the west side of the Dour, and this became their Aberdour residence. It is almost in every case to be regretted when the old name of a property is made to give place to a new; and I cannot help being sorry on account of the change in the present instance. Aberdour House, as what was originally known as Cuttlehill House is now called, has been built at two separate times, the older part bearing the date 1672. The obelisk which crowns the hill—the original Cuttle-hill—was built by one of the Earls, in order that it might be a prominent object from the family seat at Dalmahoy; but the trees have now almost concealed it from the view even of passers-by.

One other glimpse of the history of the old Castle, and I have done. In the year 1758 the western part of the Castle buildings was again roofed in, and some considerable time afterwards a troop of horse, under the command of Lord Morton, were quartered there. The circus-ring in which they exercised their horses can still be traced on the Castle green. I have reason to believe that there are, among my audience to-night, those who are old enough to have seen some of these soldiers, for the troop was soon afterwards disbanded, and some of the members of it took up their permanent residence in the village. A story I have heard of one of them, who, we may suppose, was by no means a fair representative of his comrades, is, I think, too good to be allowed to pass into oblivion. The name of the delinquent I do not know, but that is of little consequence. He had strolled to a farm-house in the neighbourhood, in which he found the goodwife busy preparing ‘sowans’—a dish the nature of which need not be explained to a Scottish audience; and, acting on what the poet has called

The good old rule, the simple plan,
That he should take who has the power,
And he should keep who can,

he helped himself unstintedly to the best fare the house afforded, and put it into a wallet with which he had knowingly provided himself. The goodwife saw that it was useless, at this stage, to interfere, and so allowed him to go; but not before she had laid her hands, still wet with the liquid of which the sowans were being made, gently on his back, which he, no doubt, interpreted as merely a gentle hint to depart. Having a shrewd guess who the intruder was, she went to the Castle on the afternoon of the same day, and made her complaint to Lord Morton. The troopers were ordered out in a body, and stood in a row, facing their captain. Of course all denied having the remotest knowledge of the matter—the culprit being, in all likelihood, the loudest in his denial. The farmer’s wife, being asked to point out the invader of her household stores, replied, £ My Lord, I canna tell by their faces; but if your Lordship will mak’ them turn their backs I’ll sune find him oot.’ Whereupon they were ordered to wheel round, and there, on the back of the luckless wight, were seen the marks of the ten wet fingers ! The next application to his back, we may safely conclude, would not be quite so gentle.

As I have already noticed, the ‘gallery’ afterwards became the school; but I suppose there are few now who remember much about the Gibsons — ‘Muckle’ and ‘Little Tammy,’ as they were respectively and rather familiarly called,—and Lumgair, and Watson, the teachers, and fewer still who can boast of having stood on the ‘shakin’ wa’,’ or made an attempt on the 'Jay’s Nest.’

I confess to a great liking for reminiscences of the past; and as even ministers must have some relaxation of mind, I have, for a considerable time past, made it mine to gather from aged lips, and older books and papers, these and such-like stories of the bygone time. And my pleasure will be increased if I think that, by thus stringing together what I have collected, I have given some amount of rational pleasure to the inhabitants of the village. I entertain the opinion, in which I suppose I am far from singular, that it is a good thing to call up, as fully and correctly as we can, before the mind, those who, in the past times, have peopled the same land with us, or even lived in the same village. And if, as will infallibly happen in such a retrospect, we are brought face to face with error as well as truth, with evil as well as good, it will say little for our discernment and our wisdom if we do not learn the lesson, to follow after the things that are true and good; for these alone look well in every light, and these alone tend to our individual happiness, the welfare of our fellow-men, and the glory of God.


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