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Aberdour and Inchcolme
Lecture 4


The Monastery at first a priory, then an abbey—The Augustinian Rule— The dress of the Canons—Bricius and Walter, Priors, and their contemporaries—Michael and Walter, Priors—The unbearable excesses of Prior William—Excellent qualities of Prior Nigel—Henry, the first Abbot—Quarrel about the mill of Aberdour—Abbot Thomas, his reign and resignation—Abbot William, fight about the multures of Cullelo— An appeal to the Pope—Abbot Bricius—Raids and miracles—Abbot Walter—Abbot John Dersy—Abbot Laurence and his edifices—Abbot John—The ‘ sitting down of the Cardinall’—Abbot Walter Bower — Abbot Michael—Patrick Graham, Archbishop of St. Andrews, a prisoner in the Monastery—Abbot Thomas—Abbot John—Richard Abercromby, the last of the Abbots—The martyr, Thomas Forret, Vicar of Dollar—Sir John Luttrell, Knight and Abbot.

In last lecture I gave a specimen of the Abbots of Inchcolme, as poetry has feigned them; in the present we must pass from the Abbots of fiction to those of fact. Nothing connected with the history of the Monastery, even when dealt with in the homely and popular way in which we are now looking at it, has given me more trouble than the construction of a list of its Abbots. There is scarcely a printed chartulary on which I could lay my hands, that I have not examined with a view to its construction; and yet I am far from supposing that my list is complete.

The first thing to be noticed, in dealing with the Abbots, is the fact, which, so far as I am aware, is stated for the first time in these lectures, that the Monastery of Inchcolme was, at the time of its institution, and for a considerable time afterwards, a Priory; and then settled down under the rule of an Abbot. The difference between a Priory and an Abbey is, in one point of view, not very great; the head of the

Convent, in the case of a Priory, being called the Prior, and the next in order the Sub-Prior : whereas, in an Abbey, the head is called the Abbot, and the next in order the Prior. In another point of view, however, the difference is important and instructive. The tendency of the Papal system, both in regard to the secular clergy and the regular orders, has ever been towards the concentration of power in the hands of a superior. The Great Founder of the Christian faith laid down this rule to His followers: ‘One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.’ But the very genius of the Papal system is to make some one the master of those who, along with him, ought to be considered brethren. When the divergence begins, he is only the first among equals, but, by and by, he assumes fatherly instead of brotherly functions, and ends by claiming those that are of a lordly kind. Among the regulars the Prior now becomes Abbot; and the Abbot, when it is possible, assumes the rank of the lordly mitred Abbot. Among the seculars, the Presbyter becomes Bishop, and the Bishop after a few intermediate stages becomes Pope,—only a father after all, it may be said, but certainly a father of a lordly kind.

In my first investigations into the history of the Monastery, there seemed to be inextricable confusion in the use of the terms ‘Prior’ and ‘Abbot.’ A charter of the Abbey of Dunfermline is quoted by Bishop Keith, in which the head of the Convent is styled Bricius, Abbot of Inchcolme. Then, for a considerable period, the principals of the Convent are designated Priors; and, later still, they appear as Abbots again. Now what is the cause of all this confusion? What I wish I had discovered sooner: simply a mistake on the part of Bishop Keith.

On referring to the Register of Dunfermline, I found Bricius styled Prior, and not Abbot; and a careful review of the whole facts of the case warrants the assertion, that the Monastery, from the date of its institution down till about the year 1233, was a Priory. Bricius, its first head, as we have just seen, is styled Prior. In the year 1178, the Bull of Pope Alexander the Third is addressed to Walter, Prior of the Monastery, and his brethren. In this Bull instructions are given as to the mode in which succeeding Priors are to be appointed. And in connection with the deposition of a Prior, which took place in the year 1224, and of which I shall have to tell you something by and by, Bovver himself uses the words, ‘There was not at that time an Abbot in the Monastery.’

I have so often had occasion to speak of the brethren of the Monastery as Augustinian Canons, and of the rules they followed as the Augustinian Rule, that it may be well to tell you at this stage what that rule was. It varied considerably with the lapse of time; but its substance is to be found in the following regulations.

First.—All private property had to be relinquished by those applying for admission into an Augustinian monastery; and nothing could be taken away by any one who was compelled to leave the Order. Anything in the shape of property offered to any one of the brethren could only be accepted with the approbation of the Prior. Punishment was decreed for contumacy, and all faults and disagreements were to be carried to the head of the convent, to whom also was to be delivered any property that might come into the hands of the canons.

Second.—The Psalms to be sung, and nightly readings, immediately after vespers, were prescribed. Labour was to be engaged in by the members of the convent till about noon, which was usually the dinner hour ; and from that time till between two and three o’clock reading was to occupy their time; after which, work was again to be engaged in till vespers, about four o’clock. When the brethren had to go out on any business, two were to go together. No canon was to eat or drink beyond the bounds of the monastery. No idle talk or gossip was to be allowed: a matter in regard to which it would be well for all to follow the Augustinian Rule. And those who sat working were to be silent,—not so good a regulation this, if the brethren had anything instructive, or even amusing, to say.

Third.—Another rule of the Code was that the brethren should live in the same house, and have their food and clothing distributed by the Superior. Everything was to be held in common. Consideration was to be shown for the infirmity of others; and no one was to hold his head high because of difference of birth. All were to strive to live in concord. Attention was to be given to Divine service at the appointed hours. The churches under their care were not to be put to any secular use. When engaged in singing Psalms, the brethren were to revolve in their minds what they were expressing, and they were to sing nothing that was not enjoined. Fasting and abstinence were on proper occasions to be observed. Those who did not fast in the most rigid way were to take nothing after dinner, except when sick. Reading was to be engaged in, by some one of the brethren, during dinner. When better food than was usually indulged in was given to the sick, the others were not to be discontented; and when those of delicate constitution had better food and clothing bestowed on them, the others were not to fret. The sick were to be treated kindly when ill, but were to return to the ordinary mode of life when well again. The dress they wore was not to be conspicuous. Nothing offensive or unbecoming in gait, dress, or gesture was to be allowed. They were not to fix their eyes on women, even in the church ; and if any letters or presents were found in their possession, they were to be punished for it. Their labour was to be for the common good. Clothing given them by relatives was to be stored in the common vestiary. The same punishment was to be awarded to concealment as was due to theft. Their clothes were to be washed, and they themselves were to bathe, when ordered by the Superior. They were to perform with good-will the duties assigned to them. The books belonging to the Monastery were to be had only at stated hours. The brethren were to avoid quarrelling and litigation, and to be kind and forgiving. The Superior was to be firm, but, if possible, to rule by love rather than by fear. And the code of laws, of which I have given you the substance, was to be read in presence of the Canons once a week.

In short, the Rule is strikingly suggestive of the regulations we might expect in a modern well-ordered boarding-school for boys. The Canons were to behave themselves as boys properly brought up are at the present time expected to do; and if they did not, they were to be punished.

The dress of the Augustinian Canons, I may mention, was a white tunic with a linen gown, under a black cloak, and a hood covering the head, neck, and shoulders.

In calling your attention now to the heads of the Monastery—its Priors and Abbots—it is a matter of regret that so little can be said about many of them. There are not many outstanding names among them. Indeed, if we except Walter Bower, one of the Abbots, and Thomas Forret, one of the Canons, the list does not present to us any names that can be truly said to be historical; and, regarding many of them, all that we know is that they became Abbots of Inchcolme, held office for a time, and then died and made way for others.

This is nearly all that can be said regarding Bricius, the first of the Priors. He was a contemporary of Gregory, Bishop of Dunkeld, who was a great friend to the Monastery. Bricius was also contemporary with Andrew, Bishop of Caithness, and Robert, Abbot of Scone. But when, and by whom, he was appointed, and how long he held office in the Monastery, we cannot say. This we know, that he must either have died, or been removed to some office of a similar kind elsewhere, before 1178. For in that year, as we have seen, the Pope’s Bull of Protection is addressed to Walter the Prior, who consequently must then have been the head of the Convent. Walter was the contemporary of John Scotus, Bishop of Dunkeld; and of Richard, who succeeded him in that See. He was also the contemporary of William, Bishop of St. Andrews; Thomas, the Prior of St. Andrews; and John, the Prior of the convent on the Isle of May. Walter did not end his days on Inchcolme, having been chosen Abbot of Holyrood in 1210. The next Prior was Michael, who before his election had been one of the Canons of Scone—a monastery which also owed its foundation to the munificence of Alexander the First. But Michael did not long enjoy the honours of his office, or feel its cares, as he died the following year, 1211. When this event took place, the brethren of the Monastery seem to have resolved not to go so far for their next Prior; for they elect to that office one of their own number, Simon by name, who had hitherto occupied the place of Sub-Prior. Simon must have died before, or in, the year 1224; for in that year we find William elected to the office of Prior. He had before his election been a Canon of Holyrood; and in the office to which he was now promoted he seems to have given the reverse of satisfaction. Indeed, the Monastery of Inchcolme in the year 1224 is quite in a state of ferment on account of the many and unbearable excesses of Prior William; and matters have come to such a point that the Canons have resolved on bearing the burden of his tyranny no longer. But how is this resolution to be carried out, good Canons of Inchcolme? On this subject we get a little light. They first of all lodge a complaint with the diocesan Bishop, Matthew of Dunkeld. Then—for they evidently wish to have two strings to their bow—they lay their complaint before the King, Alexander the Second. And they speak out like men, these Augustinian Canons of Inchcolme of more than six centuries ago, and declare that they have made up their minds, and are not to be shaken in their resolution, that, rather than settle down in submission to William, their Prior, they will throw their canonical vestments away, and go back to the world, and don mailed armour if need be, and ply the sword instead of the pen. Well and nobly said ! It is a right enough thing for a community to have a head, be he prior or abbot, or whatever else he may be called, provided that he is looking out, and planning, and working, for the general good. But if he fails to do this, or, worse still, does the reverse of it, why, he must simply be told that his services are to be dispensed with! This is just the course which the Canons mean to pursue. King Alexander has first a few words in private with this obstreperous Prior; and then the Bishop has some dealing with him; and both of them find that his behaviour has been most objectionable. So Prior William is told—in the gentlest possible manner for the times, we doubt not, but yet so clearly as to leave no doubt as to the meaning of it—that his services are no longer needed on St. Colme’s Inch. The Prior, of course, sees things in a different light, and finds it hard to be convinced of the propriety of this measure. But when King and Bishop are resolved, and the Canons have their minds made up, what can the Prior do but see his duty summed up in the one word—Walk! And we have to tender our somewhat late congratulations to the members of the Convent on William’s departure.

When Prior William had been thus disposed of, the brethren chose as his successor Nigel, a Canon of the Monastery of Jedvvard, as Jedburgh was then called. Nigel had occupied the place of cellarer in the Monastery there. He has a high character given him in the Scoti-chronicon, as a man of exalted life and great wisdom, who mingled in due proportion the good qualities of religion in the cloister, devotion in the church, prudence in temporal matters, and playfulness in his jokes and other speeches; and it would appear that he not only displayed these traits of character himself, but led those who were under him to do likewise. It is not too much to believe that the Convent, after their recent hard experience, rejoiced under Nigel’s rule, for ‘Jeddard justice,’ it is to be hoped, had not yet come into play.

Nigel appears to have been the last of the Priors; for the next head of the Convent with whom we come in contact is Henry, who is designated Abbot of St. Colme’s Inch. What the circumstances were which led to this change, and by what means it was brought about, we have no means of knowing. Henry was Abbot in the year 1233, as we learn from one of the charters of the Monastery, which tells how a quarrel was composed, which had arisen regarding the mill of Aberdour. And as nothing of more importance than this has come down to us connected with Henry’s tenure of office, I shall tell you about this dispute; for I suppose that even the settling of a controversy about the dues of a mill, which took place eighty years before the battle of Bannockburn, cannot fail to have some interest for us.

The place, to the west of our village, which we know as Couston, then called Colston, belonged to Robert of Rossive (Rosyth); and Balmule, then called Balmacmoll, along with Montequi, in the north part of the parish, belonged to Roger of Balmacmoll, who was married to Christiana, the sister of Robert of Rossive. It is necessary to say further, that Colston, Balmacmoll, and Montequi were all thirled to the mill of Aberdour; in other words, were obliged to get their grinding done there, and quietly pay the miller his dues. Now the mill of Aberdour seems at that time to have belonged to the Monastery of Inchcolme. William de Mortimer had, in the preceding century, made over to the Monastery fifty-two acres of land in Aberdour, as well as the half of the profits of the mill; and I suppose, on the principle that it is needless to make two bites of a cherry, the brethren of the Inch soon got the whole of these profits. Be this as it may, there is a dispute about the thirlage of Aberdour mill in the year of grace I233—Robert and Roger, along with Christiana, Roger’s wife, being ranged on the one side, and the Abbot Henry and his Canons on the other. How long the storm raged we cannot precisely tell. But at length, after the fashion of the time, there is a gathering of wise heads, to whom the matter is referred, and whose award is to be final. Among the magnates are seen William, Abbot of; Dunfermline; Henry, Prior of Culenross (Culross); Peter de Ramsay, who afterwards became Bishop of Aberdeen; John de Haya, Sheriff of Fife, and Archibald de Douglas. And these most grave and potent seigniors, having heard both sides, settle the controversy in this fashion:—Robert of Rossive and his heirs are to pay eight shillings yearly to the brethren of the Monastery, as the mill-dues of the lands of Colston; and after doing this, they are to be left free to grind their corn where they please, and even to build a mill for themselves on their own ground, if they feel inclined to do so, and be free from all further exactions as regards the mill of Aberdour. Moreover, Roger of Balmacmoll, and his wife Christiana, and their heirs for ever, are to have the right of grinding the grain of the lands of Balmacmoll and Montequi, as far as the twenty-first sack, at the mill of Aberdour; and are to be free from any exaction for the repair of the said mill. And in order that the matter may remain thus firmly settled, a document narrating the agreement is forthwith prepared, and has appended to it the seals of Gilbert, Bishop of Dunkeld; of William, Abbot of Dunfermline; of the Convent of Inchcolme; of Robert of Rossive; of Roger of Balmacmoll; and even of Christiana his wife, who seems to have had a seal of her own—which shows how much woman’s rights were respected in our neighbourhood as far back as the thirteenth century! And all these most imposing formalities were gone through in presence of the Prior of Culenross, Mr. Peter de Ramsay, John de Haya, Philip de Sancto [Philiberto], who was at that time the proprietor of Cullelo, Michael Scot—I suppose the famous medicinar and maeician of Balwearie,—Maurice de Kyndelloha, Simon de Horrock, David Dorward, Duncan de Ramsay, Nicolas of Balran, and many others. And so that business is settled, as the document assures us, for ever. But if the heirs of Roger and Christiana chanced to be still extant and resident at Couston and Balmule, and were to come down to Aberdour some of these days to grind their corn, they might search long and wearily without finding the mill. And so these old charters find a voice, which tells us that by and by we, with our projects and arrangements, shall have passed away; and only the curious searchers into old documents will come across our names, if even they survive ! We shall meet these de Ramsays of Balmule at a later stage of our researches, and shall find that some of their representatives in our own day—of the family of the Ramsays of Bamff—hold a high place in the world of letters.

Abbot Henry resigned the care of the Monastery in the year 1244. Whether the weight of years rendered him unfit for the discharge of his duties, or whether it was that he became weary of the quiet, monotonous, and unnatural kind of life worn out on the little island, we cannot tell. Probably the former conjecture is that which is nearest the truth, as he died soon after his resignation. The Abbot Thomas was chosen to wield the rod of authority over the little community which Henry had just laid down. All that we can discover of the reign of Thomas is, that it was praiseworthy. One authority tells us that he was a man of high morality; another that he was noted for his extensive knowledge; while a third assures us that he was renowned for his sanctity. After ruling over the Monastery for about fourteen years, he too resigned his charge, in the year 1258. It is not at all unlikely that some misunderstandings, and jealousies, and heartburnings had crept into the little society on Inchcolme, which may have been the cause of these repeated resignations. When storms without raged for days and even weeks, keeping the brethren close prisoners on the little island, their energies must have become sadly compressed; and this might lead to tempests within the Monastery. When men make a small world for themselves, and insist on shutting the great world out, they are invariably sufferers for so doing; and indeed it is in great mercy that the principle is so widely diffused, that unnatural institutions carry within them the seeds of decay.

After Thomas came another Abbot, William. He was chosen to fill the office on St. Petronilla’s Day—the 31st of May—1258. ‘And who,’ you will ask, ‘was Petronilla?’ She is fabled to be the daughter of St. Peter; and it is said that she was cured of a fever, at Rome, through the intercession of the disciples with her father. All this would, I am sure, be news to St. Peter, if he could only be told it; but this does not hinder many in Popish countries from believing the story, and invoking St. Petronilla’s aid when suffering from fever. Abbot William not only had the good fortune to be elected on St. Petronilla’s Day, but he received the blessing of Richard of Inverkeithing, Bishop of Dunkeld, at Cramond, on St. Columba’s Day, which, from the date of your Fair-day, you know to be the 9th of June, old style. During William’s term of office a good many contests were waged regarding the possessions of the Monastery. These skirmishes are exceedingly interesting, on account of the glimpses of old-world life and manners which they give us. Let us look at one or two of them.

In the year 1277 there is again a dispute in connection with the mill of Aberdour, and the multures due to it. The mills belonging to baronies and monasteries in days of old were frequently the occasion of great oppression, not merely to the peasantry, but also to the subordinate possessors of land. As regards the peasantry you might suppose that, grinding with their own hand-querns, they would be independent of both mill and miller. But there are old Statutes which tell us that the use of querns, or hand-mills, was only allowed in stress of weather; and that those who were found using them in other circumstances were liable to have them taken from them, and so be compelled to grind at the public mill. In some cases tenants were bound to help in bringing the mill-stones home. The mode in which they did this was to put a pole through the opening in the centre of the stone, and trundle it along the road, which was many a time the reverse of smooth. We can conceive that it was a high day in the village when new mill-stones had to be brought home, one relay of stalwart men relieving another, as they became heated and tired with their heavy and rough work, especially after trundling the stones uphill. It is not, however, with the peasantry of Aberdour, but with the proprietor of the lands of Cullelo, that the contest is waged which we have now to look at. Thomas de Philiberto, it appears, was proprietor, not only of Cullelo, but also of other lands in the neighbourhood of Aberdour, in 1277; and these lands, he tells us, he had received as a gift from Richard Seward. It is, I suppose, too much to expect that we should have been told in the old document who this Richard Seward was, and why he made over his lands as a gift to Thomas de Philiberto ; but, in spite of this, we wish we had got this information. There has been a quarrel between Thomas and the Convent of Inchcolme about the multures of these lands of his. But now it is agreed that Thomas shall pay every year fourteen shillings of silver to the Abbot and Convent,—seven of which shall be forthcoming at the Feast of St. Martin, or Martinmas as we now call it; and the other seven at the Feast of Pentecost, that is, Whitsunday. And the most stringent conditions are attached to the agreement, as far as Thomas is concerned; for if the said silver shillings are not duly paid, by him or his successors, the Abbot and Convent are to be at liberty to help themselves to whatever they can lay their hands on, belonging to the delinquents, until they have received what is equivalent to the sum due to them. But it is also stipulated that the payment of the aforesaid fourteen shillings yearly shall relieve Thomas, and his heirs and successors, of all exactions and demands for repairing the mill and the mill-pond. As was common in the case of such agreements, two copies were written: one of which, with Thomas’s seal attached, was kept by the Abbot and Canons; and the other, with the seal of the Convent appended, was given to Thomas. And the names of those who were witnesses to the agreement are embodied in the document. These were —Radulphus, Abbot of Dunfermline; David de Lochore; Radulphus de Lashelis; Duncan of Crambeth; Walter of Strathenry; Simon de Orrock; Hugh de Lochore; William de Fessicart, and many others.

Sometimes the quarrels that arose regarding the possessions of the Monastery took a wider sweep than this, and the noise connected with them travelled all the way to Rome. Of this kind was a dispute between the Convent and William de Haya of Lochorret—a place now known as Borthwick—regarding the lands of Caldside, which he withheld from them. In this case appeal was made to the Pope, Urban the Fourth; and he appointed the Prior of Dunfermline and the Dean of Dunkeld to be judges in the matter. The case came on for trial at Scone, on the first day after Trinity Sunday, in the year 1263. The Monastery was represented by Lambert, one of the Canons; and, as generally happens in such cases, William de Haya had to succumb.

The next Abbot of whom we have found any notice is Brisius, Bricius, or Brice. He lived in the troublous times of John Baliol, between the occurrence of the sad death of Alexander the Third and the final victory of Bruce,—a period in the history of our country full of the direst calamities, yet irradiated by the noblest displays of valour and patriotism, which, in the goodness of God, were at length crowned with unfading liberty. For this happy issue, however, we are in no way indebted to Brice; for he and Adam, the Prior of Inchcolme, swore fealty to Edward the First of England, at Berwick, on the 28th day of August 1296; and thereupon the Abbot had letters to the Sheriffs of Fife, Roxburgh, Perth, and Edinburgh, for restoration of his estates in those shires.

After Brice’s time a considerable period elapses ere we again fall on traces of the Abbots of Inchcolme. This, no doubt, is to be attributed to the unsettled state of the country at that unhappy time. It was during this period that those invasions occurred by means of which the English hoped to subdue our native land. Of these I need not further speak in general terms. But it falls within our sphere to notice how greatly the Monastery of Inchcolme suffered from such invasions. They are most vividly described in the pages of the Scotichronicon, the accounts being sprinkled all over with the diamond dust of the miraculous, in accordance with the rude belief and spirit of the time. I may say, however, that the charters of the Monastery, as well as the pages of Bowmaker, Boece, and Buchanan afford unmistakable proof of the reality and sad results of these incursions.

The first of them occurred in the year 1355, during the turbulent reign of David the Second, when King Edward the Third, along with Edward Baliol, invaded Scotland with a great army and a numerous fleet. One of the vessels of this fleet, manned, it would appear, by more daring seamen than the others could boast of, paid a visit to St. Colme’s Inch. And these English rovers were so daring as to steal the very images belonging to the Monastery, one of the patron saint himself sharing no better fortune than those of inferior sanctity. This rather unusual cargo having been taken on board, the sacrilegious crew turned their prow in the direction of home. Other English vessels studded the waters of the Firth on the same track, and a favouring breeze sped them on ; but it fared otherwise with the one laden with the spoils of the Monastery. Winds shook and waves tossed it, to such a degree that its unlucky crew expected every moment to go to the bottom. Before a merciless wind their vessel scudded, till they neared Inchkeith, and now the horrors of a lee-shore stared them in the face. It will not be wondered at that, in these circumstances, the cause of their misfortunes began to dawn on them; nor will it excite surprise that, being so near the rocks, they confessed their crime to St. Columba, and promised his offended saintship that they would make all honourable amends if he would only let them off on that solitary occasion. The effect was instantaneous! They were at once, and in a most unexpected way, led into a quiet haven at Kinghorn. And it should be noted as creditable, in the circumstances, to these Southrons, that they did not forget in the calm the vows they had made in the storm. They unloaded their ship of the images and other spoils which they had wrongfully taken, and sent them back, with a handsome present of gold and silver, to the brethren of Inchcolme. And the right thing being done, they were not long in bringing up leeway, for a friendly breeze began to blow, and they rounded St. Abb’s Head before the other vessels knew what they were about.

It would appear, however, that the English were not easily and all at once to be taught respect for the saint and his belongings. For, in the following year, a number of Southern pirates cast anchor in the Firth, and plundered the whole coast as far as the Ochils. They even entered the church of Dollar, which lay a considerable way inland, and laid theftuous hands on a beautifully carved wainscot with which the Abbot had lately adorned the choir; for the church belonged to the Monastery. This wainscot they were at pains to take to pieces ; and they put it aboard ship, with the laudable view, no doubt, of making it do service in the South,—an interesting instance of English appreciation of Scottish art at that early period! This being done, they set sail. And great was the glee with which these sacrilegious pirates steered down the Forth. They laughed and shouted, they sang and danced, they played on such musical instruments as they had—perhaps, among the rest, bagpipes which they had stolen ! But their mirth was destined to be shortlived. St. Columba was scarcely prepared to stand all this jeering and flouting; and he was on the watch for them. Accordingly, as they were merrily sailing past the Monastery, on the south side of the island, down went ship, pirates, and plunder, like a shot, to the bottom of the sea ! The sailors belonging to the other vessels were, as in the circumstances was to be expected, a good deal alarmed at this summary way of dealing with their comrades; and there and then they volunteered a vow that they would never again interfere with the Monastery or its inmates, nor, in fact, with anything belonging to such a dangerous saint. I suppose it was some of these rovers, after they reached home, and got their feet firmly planted on shore, who gave the saint the nickname of ‘St. Quhalme,’ as the old chroniclers tell us. He certainly seems to have had the power of raising rather unpleasant qualms in the consciences of those who interfered with his Monastery.

Good lessons are, however, not easily taught; and in many cases they are soon forgotten. So you will not be surprised to hear that, in 1384, the English are at their old tricks again, and are once more giving trouble to the t brethren of the Monastery. This time they are evidently bent on mischief as well as plunder; for a shed near the Abbey church is in flames, and, to all appearance, the destruction of the whole Monastery is inevitable. A great multitude of people—inhabitants of Aberdour, no doubt— have assembled on the mainland, at Bernehill—the site of the present St. Colme House—and, with excited feelings, watch the fortunes of the Monastery. Some are in fear that it will be entirely reduced to ashes; others fall on their knees, and implore St. Columba to take pity on his own church,—when, wonderful to relate, the wind suddenly veers round, and blows back the flames; and the church remains uninjured! Failing in their designs on the church, the Englishmen return to their ships, laden with booty; and, exasperated by their defeat, and stung by it to further mischief, they make for Queensferry, where they set fire to a house, and play many other wild and lawless pranks. By this time, however, they had got welinigh to the end of their tether; for, as St. Columba would have it, they fell in here with Thomas and Nicholas Erskine, and Alexander Lindsay, coming from the east, attended by thirty horsemen; and William Conyngham of Kilmaurs, coming from the west, with thirty horsemen. A bloody combat ensued, and, as was to be expected, the Scots gained the victory. Many of the English were slain; others were taken captive; and others still, betaking themselves to the sea, in the hope of reaching their ship, were drowned. About forty of them, and those the most forward of the incendiaries, clung for safety to the cable attached to the anchor, when a sailor, dreading the attack of the Scots, cut the cable with an axe, whereby all those who clung to it were drowned.

But what more than anything else showed the vigilance of St. Columba remains to be told. He who had planned the mischief, and had set fire to the church of the Monastery, was taken prisoner by Conyngham of Kilmaurs. And when he was captured, a sudden frenzy seized him; and gnashing his teeth, he cried with a most unearthly voice, 'Lo! St. Columba, thou scorchest me, and provest thyself a terrible avenger!’ While in this state—a circumstance which does not seem to have impaired his testimony in the eyes of the chronicler—he declared that, when the church was on fire, he had seen St. Columba extinguishing the flames; and that the saint made some of the fire dart out on him, which burnt off his beard and eyebrows. His fury increased to such a pitch, however, that, as the chronicler rather coolly says, it was found necessary to kill him; and he lies buried in the middle of a cross-road, near the town of Dunipace.

Resuming our account of the Abbots, the next I have to notice after Brice, is Walter; and all I know of him is that, about the year 1420, Sir James Douglas, Lord of Dalkeith, and grandfather of the first Earl of Morton, gave to him, as head of the Convent, the lands of Brego, in the parish of Aberdour, for behoof of the Monastery. It is interesting to notice that this substantial gift was bestowed on the ground of the singular favour Sir James had for the Monastery, and also for its patron saint, Columba.

Walter was succeeded by John Dersy. He had been one of the Canons of Cambuskenneth Abbey; and, after presiding over the Abbey of Inchcolme, he died on the 8th of September 1394. Father Hay speaks of him as a man held in veneration because of his learning and his religious life. He appears to have been succeeded in his office by Laurence. In his time there was an important addition made to the buildings of the Monastery. This was the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was built at the south side of the choir of the Abbey church. The chapel was founded in the year 1402, and its erection was mainly due to the industry of Richard of Aberdeen, the Prior, and Thomas Crawford, one of the Canons. A few years later, in 1408, we find an arrangement entered into between Laurence and Robert de Cardeny, Bishop of Dunkeld, at Auchtertool—in the now ruined house of Hallyards, no doubt—by which the lands of Donibristle, which had hitherto belonged to the bishopric of Dunkeld, were given over to the Monastery, in exchange for Cambo and Clarberston, in the parish of Cramond.

John seems to have succeeded Laurence; at least he fills the office of Abbot in 1409, as appears from an old charter of the lands of Cambo. Another of those singular incidents, into which the chroniclers have imported the miraculous element, seems to have taken place during John’s term of office. Archibald, the fourth Earl of Douglas, having escaped from captivity in England, went aboard ship, accompanied by an honourable band of attendants, with the view of proceeding to the Continent; but, as often as the prow of his vessel was turned in that direction, it was beaten back by contrary winds. At length the cause of the hindrance was discovered, and, acting on the advice of his companion-in-arms, Henry St. Clair, second Earl of Orkney, he devoutly approached the island of Aemona, and, having made a worthy offering to St. Columba, he again went on board. And now all went well; for a favouring breeze sprang up, and he speedily reached his destination!

Before leaving these stories, which have so much of the flavour of the miraculous in them, it is but fair to say that it is not in the pages of monkish chroniclers alone that we find countenance given to the idea of the supernatural, as somehow peculiarly connected with Inchcolme. Old Calderwood the historian, so staid and sure-footed on other ground, hardly avoids tripping when he comes within the influence of this ‘enchanted isle.’ Writing about the events of 1548, when French influence was at work, in many forms, to frustrate the cause of the Reformation, he says:—‘Manie other things occurred at this time, which we omitt. But the sitting down of the shippe called the Cardinall, the fairest shippe in France, betwixt Sanct Colme’s Inche and Cramund, in a fair day and calm weather, is remarkable. God would let us see that the countrie of Scotland can bear no Cardin alls.’ I am sure you will agree with me that when the very name proves so disastrous, it would be foolhardy to trust the reality so far north!

The next Abbot, Walter Bower or Bowmaker, was the most celebrated of them all. He was born at Haddington in 1385, and, after studying philosophy and theology, went to Paris, where he was instructed in the laws. Having returned to his native country, he was elected Abb^t of Inchcolme in the year 1418. He was employed on some occasions in business connected with the State, as well as the Church; but his chief distinction is due to his historical labours as the continuator of Fordun’s Scotichronicon. Fordun’s work is one of the fountains of Scottish history, and, in the form in which it has come down to us, it owes much to Bower. Fordun did not live to complete his work. He wrote only five of the sixteen books which compose the history, thus bringing it down only to the death of David the First. And, although he left a mass of materials for the later part of the history, down till the year 1385, to Bower belongs the credit of continuing the work till the death of James the First in 1437. And he not only wrote, partly from Fordun’s collections, the remaining eleven books of the history, but made a good many additions to the part which the earlier chronicler had written. To this task he is said to have been impelled by the advice of Sir David Stewart of Rosyth. And there can be no doubt that by his literary labours Bower has conferred a great boon on his countrymen, and has thrown an amount of interest around the Monastery which he governed, that otherwise would not have belonged to it. The stories regarding the miraculous interposition of St. Columba, on behalf of Inchcolme, have revealed Bower’s superstition; but this is the fault of the time as much as of the man. Listen to one of his more serious utterances. Writing in reference to the events of 1385, he says: ‘In this same year I, who have composed these sentences, and who throughout the first books am called Scriptor (the writer), was born into the world. Oh ! that I might ere long leave it in purity. I die daily; seeing every day a part of my life is taken away.

I have passed through five of the great periods of man’s life; and it seems to me as if the time past of my life had glided away as yesterday; and, while I spend this very day, I divide it with death.’ It is the old story. Earth’s water-springs cannot slake the soul’s thirst. But Bower no doubt had heard of the unfailing recipe: ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.’ I have notices of him as alive and still acting as Abbot, in 1442.

It was in Bower’s time that the Monastery received rather a remarkable prisoner, in the person of Euphemia, the daughter of Walter Leslie, Earl of Ross, and mother of Alexander, Lord of the Isles. It is on all hands agreed that the son had been guilty of great oppression and cruelty, on account of which he was imprisoned. Having been set at liberty, he rebelled again, and surprised and burnt the town of Inverness. On submitting, with a rope about his neck, to the king, James the First, at Holyrood, his life and private estate were granted him; but that he might do no more harm, he was kept in custody in Tantallon Castle, and his mother, who was accused of inciting him to mischief, was imprisoned on Inchcolme.

Boece makes mention of John Littestair as ‘Coeno-biarcha,’ or head of the Convent of Inchcolme, about this time; but his statement is so vague that I hardly know what to make of it. He speaks of him as being appointed to this office after the return of James the First from England; but Bower was Abbot for a considerable time after that event; and so the statement must remain surrounded by haze till further evidence turns up.

About this time, too, Father Hay speaks of another Abbot of Inchcolme, who made his obedience to the Bishop of Dunkeld, but he seems to have mistaken the Abbot of I-colm-kill (Iona) for the Abbot of Inchcolme; as the poet Crabbe is said to have worked himself up to a state of ‘fine frenzy,’ at the sight of our little island, under the misapprehension that it was Iona.

There can be no doubt that Michael was Abbot of Inchcolme in 1474, for his name occurs in charters of that year connected with the foundation of the Hospital of St. Martha, the history of which I have told you. In all likelihood this is the Abbot of whom Lesley tells us that he was on board Bishop Kennedy’s barge when it was wrecked on the English coast, near Bamborough. Spared by the sea, the Abbot fell into the hands of an inhospitable Englishman. But perhaps I am doing the men of that nation a wrong, in supposing that one of them would act towards the Abbot as this man did. From, his name James Carr or Carrick, it may be that he was a renegade Scotsman, one of the most contemptible of all characters. Be this as it may, Carrick evidently considered himself fortunate in having captured a live Abbot; and although there was no war between the two countries at the time, he refused to part with his captive for a less consideration than J~8o sterling, in the shape of ransom. This seems to have been about the market value of an Abbot of Inchcolme at that time, when brought to the hammer in England. Michael was alive in the year i486.

In Michael’s time the Monastery of Inchcolme could boast of having within its walls one of the most excellent of men, although he came to it, and remained all the time he was in it, a prisoner. This was Patrick Graham, Archbishop of St. Andrews, who may fairly be called a Scottish Reformer before the Reformation. Spotswood, in his life of the Archbishop, states that, in addition to all the other persecutions which this good man unjustly suffered, from the corrupt faction who at that time had sway about the King—James the Third,—he was condemned to perpetual imprisonment. And the historian adds, ‘All these crosses this innocent Bishop suffered most patiently, which his adversaries perceiving, they procured him to be put in close prison, within the Isle of Inchcolme, where he had four keepers watching him, that he should not escape. War afterwards breaking out with England, out of a fear that the English navy (which was then at sea) might fall upon the isle, he was transported to Dunfermline, and from thence to the Castle of Lochleven, where at last he died. This end had that worthy man, in virtue and learning inferior to none of his time, oppressed by the malice and calumnies of his enemies, chiefly for that they feared reformation of their wicked abuses by his means.’ After this statement, Spots-wood proceeds to give a very dark picture of the period: ‘All things went now, in the church, daily from ill to worse.’ ‘At Court benefices were sold, or then bestowed as rewards upon flatterers and the ministers of unlawful pleasures j and in the church, Canonical elections, especially in the Monasteries, were quite abrogated, so that the Monasteries, which were founded for pious and charitable uses, came by little and little into the hands of secular men, who having had their education in the Court, brought with them from thence the manners thereof 3 shaking off all care of discipline, and neglecting the duties of hospitality. This begat great offences, and made the foundations themselves abhorred, partly through the dissoluteness of those that lived in the places, and partly because men saw them converted to other and contrary uses than the first founders had appointed. Neither were the Monasteries only corrupted, but the whole ecclesiastical state became also infected, ignorance and impiety everywhere prevailing, till in the end, the laity putting their hands to the work, made that violent and disordered Reformation, whereof in the next book we shall hear.’ Spotswood, in the above passage, has given the best possible reason for the laity putting their hands to the work of reformation, seeing that the ecclesiastics were either unwilling or unable to enter on it; and if the fabric was as rotten as the historian describes it, he need not have whined over the vigour with which it was overthrown. The persecution of Archbishop Graham had, no doubt, its own share in bringing about the Reformation. From a paper found in the Morton collection, it appears that he was one of the Grahams of Fintry. He lies buried in St. Serfs Isle, Lochleven.

On the 18th of March 1500, Thomas is Abbot of St. Colme’s Inch; for on that day King James the Fourth, whose name never fails to call up the melancholy remembrance of Flodden field, granted a charter to Thomas and his brethren of the Convent, erecting Aberdour-wester into a burgh of barony.

My notices of the Abbots of Inchcolme are now rapidly drawing to a close. After Thomas lay down to sleep under the floor of the Abbey Church, John was elected Abbot. The only notice of him which I have found is in a charter contained in the Canongate Protocol book, Edinburgh, and has reference to a tenement there, belonging to the Monastery of Inchcolme. The date of the charter is 27th November 1521. The next and last Abbot of Inchcolme was Richard Abercromby, who held that office in the year 1543, but I cannot tell how long before. In the absence of undoubted evidence, I shall not make any positive assertion on the matter, but in all likelihood this is the Abbot during whose tenure of office Thomas Forret was a Canon of the Monastery of Inchcolme, and from whom he received so much kind consideration.

Among the many who laid down their lives for Reformation principles in Scotland, there is hardly one whose name calls up such pure, deep, and tender emotion, in the hearts of his countrymen, as Thomas Forret, on whose history we must now dwell for a little. The cause of this interest is easily discovered. Maintaining the truth regarding the way of salvation, at a time when comparatively few of his countrymen knew it, he belongs to that interesting period, the morning of the Scottish Reformation. After brief but diligent and successful labours in his own quiet sphere, in spreading the truth, he was called upon to seal his testimony with his blood, nearly a quarter of a century before the reformed religion was acknowledged by the nation.

There were also blended in the character of the man, and displayed by him in all the positions he occupied—in the cloister, in the vicarage, and at the stake,—such noble and beautiful characteristics, that his memory cannot but be loved as well as revered. And although the details of his life and sufferings which have come down to us are meagre, they yet reveal in so striking a way the ignorance and cruelty of his enemies, as to draw out the sympathies of the heart to the martyr, and set in clear relief the blessings of the Reformation.

Thomas Forret was a gentleman by birth. His ancestors, from at least the time of William the Lion, had owned the estate of Forret, from which they took their name, in the quiet parish of Logie, or Logie-Murdoch, as it used to be called, in the county of Fife. His father held office in the household of James the Fourth, whose hunting excursions frequently led him from Falkland Palace to the King’s Park, on Lucklaw Hill, in the immediate neighbourhood of the estate of Forret.

Young Forret, like many of the sons of the landed proprietors of the period, was destined for the Church, and, after acquiring the elements of a liberal education at home, he was sent to the Continent to prosecute his studies at Cologne. Although inquiry was at that time beginning to be freely made regarding the doctrines and pretensions of the Church of Rome, Forret seems to have been thoroughly protected from such influences in the close University and Protestant-banishing municipality of Cologne. He seems to have returned to his native land a fervent Papist, and soon afterwards we find him assuming the habit of an Augustinian Canon, and entering the Monastery of Inchcolme. How long he remained in ignorance of the truth we have no means of knowing; but when at length it crossed his path, it was in a remarkable way. It was not by the ashes of Patrick Hamilton that Thomas Forret was infected with the new heresy. A dispute had arisen between the Abbot and Canons regarding the portion due to them for their daily maintenance. The Book of the Foundation was appealed to, and the Canons succeeded in getting possession of it, with a view to the settlement of the question in debate. The Abbot, it appears, had reasons of his own for wishing to recover this book, and wiled it from them by giving them, instead of it, a volume of the works of St. Augustine. They read this book with interest, and none of them with greater avidity than Thomas Forret; and from it he got other and better information than the Book of the Foundation could have given him. ‘ Oh ! happy and blessed book,’ he was wont to exclaim, when he came to know the truth, and reflected on the means by which he had found it. St. Augustine seems to have led him to the Bible, and the Bible to that long-buried doctrine, Justification by faith in Christ alone. And, under the guidance of this truth, Forret lived a useful and self-denying life, and at length died a martyr’s death.

Having made the great discovery, his ambition was to communicate to others the blessing which he himself had received. Nor was his labour in vain. Some of the younger members of the Convent were converted to his views. As for the others, he was wont to say that ‘the old bottles would not receive the new wine.’ Richard Abercromby, the Abbot—for I believe he was head of the Convent at the time,—seems to have been an easy-minded man, tolerant of Forret’s views, but apprehensive lest he should get into difficulties through his bold statements of the truth. Several of the churches belonging to the Monastery were served by the Canons. One of the brethren acted as Vicar of Aberdour, and Thomas Forret became Vicar of Dollar. In this situation, as might have been expected, he displayed the spirit, and abounded in the labours of a devoted pastor. Calderwood tells us that ‘he taught his flock the ten commandments, and showed them the way of their salvation to be only by the blood of Jesus Christ. He penned a little catechism, which he caused a poor child to answer him when any faithful brother came to him, to allure the hearts of the hearers to embrace the truth, which, indeed, converted many in the country about.

He rose at six in the morning and studied till twelve, and after dinner till supper in summer. In winter he burned candle till bedtime. When he visited any sick person in the parish that was poor, he would carry bread and cheese in his gown-sleeve to the sick person, and give him silver out of his purse, and feed his soul with the bread of life. He was very diligent in reading the Epistle to the Romans in the Latin tongue, whereby he might be able to dispute against the adversaries. He would get three chapters by heart in one day, and at evening gave the book to his servant, Andrew Kirkie, to mark where he went wrong in the rehearsing; and then he held up his hands to the heavens, and thanked God that he was not idle that day.’ To this I may add that his public spirit kept pace with his devotion to his pastoral work; and the bridge over the Devon, at Dollar, which still goes by the name of ‘the Vicar’s Bridge,’ was planned by his wisdom, and built by means of his generosity.

These glimpses sufficiently reveal the close student, the diligent pastor, and the benevolent and tender-hearted man. And his faithfulness was in keeping with his diligence; for Calderwood further tells us: ‘ When the pardoners would come to his kirk to offer pardon for money, he would say— “Parishioners, I am bound to speak the truth to you; this is but to deceive you. There is no pardon for our sins that can come to us from Pope or any other, but only by the blood of Christ.’” Nor was it merely among his parishioners that Thomas Forret laboured thus assiduously. His proximity to the Augustinian Monastery of Cambus-kenneth brought him into close and friendly contact with the Canons there. We know that his influence with Robert Logie, the instructor of the novitiate in that Monastery, was great; and thus Forret’s influence would tell indirectly on the young Canons at Cambuskenneth, as formerly it had done, in a more direct way, on his youthful brethren at Inchcolme. With Thomas Cocklaw, Priest of Tullibody, he also maintained friendly intercourse, and when these companions of his were compelled to flee the country, heavy suspicion rested on the Vicar of Dollar.

Meanwhile, he continued to preach every Sabbath to his parishioners; and thus he incurred the anger of the Friars— Black and Grey—the preaching orders of the period. Finding, probably, that the Abbot of Inchcolme was little inclined to move in the direction they wished, the Friars accused him to the Bishop of Dunkeld, in whose diocese Dollar was situated. And the burden of their accusation against the vicar was that he was a heretic ; and that he showed the mysteries of the Scriptures to the common people, in English, which they feared would make the clergy odious in their eyes. A summons was issued; and now we are to see the Vicar of Dollar confronted with the Bishop of Dunkeld. Foxe’s account of the Vicar’s examination, as contained in the Book of Martyrs, is quaint, but exceedingly graphic and interesting.

‘The Bishop,’ says he, ‘moved by the Friars’ instigation, called Dean Thomas and said to him, “My joy, Dean Thomas, I love you well; and therefore I must give you my counsel, how you should rule and guide yourself.” To which Thomas said, “I thank your lordship heartily.” Then the Bishop began his counsel in this manner: “My joy, Dean Thomas, I am informed that you preach the Epistle or Gospel, every Sunday, to your parishioners, and that you take not the cow nor the upmost cloth from your parishioners, which is very prejudicial to the churchmen.”’

In case the allusion of the Bishop’s should be misunderstood, it may be said in passing, that on the occasion of a death, the greedy churchmen of those days claimed a cow from the bereaved family, and either the uppermost covering of the bed, or the best suit of clothes belonging to the deceased.

‘“And, therefore, my joy, Dean Thomas,” continued the Bishop, “I would you took your cow and upmost cloth, as other churchmen do; or else it is too much to preach every Sunday, for in so doing you may make the people think that we should preach likewise; but it is enough for you when you find any good Epistle, or any good Gospel, that setteth forth the liberty of the holy church, to preach that and let the rest alone.” Thomas answered, “My lord, I think none of my parishioners will complain that I take not the cow nor the uppermost cloth, but will gladly give me the same, together with any other thing they have ; and I will give and communicate with them anything I have. And so, my lord, we agree right well, and there is no discord among us. And when your lordship sayeth it is too much to preach every Sunday, indeed I think it is too little; and also would wish that your lordship would do the like.” “Nay ! nay ! Dean Thomas,” said my lord, “let that be, for we are not ordained to preach.” Then said Thomas, “When your lordship biddeth me preach when I find any good Epistle, or a good Gospel, truly, my lord, I have read the New Testament and the Old; and all the Epistles and Gospels; and among them all I could never find one evil Epistle, or evil Gospel. But if your lordship will show me the good Epistle and the good Gospel; and the evil Epistle and the evil Gospel; then I shall preach the good and omit the evil.”’

The Bishop evidently felt that this was putting him uncomfortably into a corner, for Foxe adds, ‘Then spake my lord stoutlie, and said, “ I thank God I never knew what the Old and the New Testament was; therefore, Dean Thomas, I will know nothing but my portuise and my pontifical!”’ The Breviary and Book of Ceremonies were the authorities thus referred to, as the Bishop’s ‘Paternoster, Decalogue, and Creed.’ ‘Of these words,’ continues Foxe, 'there arose a proverb, which was long common in Scotland, “Ye are like the Bishop of Dunkeld, that knew neither the new law nor the old law,” “Go your way,” said my lord to the Vicar; “ Go your way, and let alone all these phantasies; for if you persevere in these erroneous opinions, ye will repent it when you may not mend it.” Thomas said, “I trust my cause be just in the presence of God; and therefore I pans [consider] not much what does follow thereupon.”’

To some it may seem almost incredible, that a Scottish Bishop, even before the time of the Reformation in Scotland, should have been so lamentably ignorant; but there is only too good evidence of the accuracy of Foxe’s statements. Archbishop Spotswood’s account is substantially the same. And yet, to his own disgrace and the shame of those who appointed him, George Crichton, the bishop in question, was one of the commissioners by whom Patrick Hamilton was condemned to death for heresy ! It provokes a smile, if not something less genial, to find Bishop Keith saying of him, that ‘he was a man nobly disposed, very hospitable, and a magnificent housekeeper, but in matters of religion not much skilled.’

Once and again, as Calderwood assures us, was Thomas Forret brought before the Bishop of Dunkeld; and, on at least one of these occasions, James Beaton, Bishop of St. Andrews, was assessor to his brother of Dunkeld ; with the view, we presume, of propping up his rather weak theology. It seems to have been after one of the episcopal admonitions which followed up these interviews, that Richard, Abbot of St. Colme’s Inch, becoming seriously alarmed about the Vicar’s position, warned him that he should be less outspoken. ‘Will you say as they say, and keep your mind to yourself, and save yourself?’ asked the Abbot. ‘I thank your lordship' said the Vicar; ‘you are a friend to my body, but not to my soul. Before I deny a word which I have spoken, you shall see this body of mine blow away first with the wind in ashes.’ Noble words ! and noble because so genuine, as the issue proved.

Thomas Forret had the power of attaching others strongly to him. The Abbot of Inchcolme was much his friend; and even George Crichton, the Bishop of Dunkeld, in his dealings with the Vicar, betrayed more ignorance than cruelty. But it was now the fate of Thomas Forret to fall into the hands of one to whose heart pity was a stranger. We allude to Cardinal Beaton. In obedience to a citation Forret appeared before a commission composed of the Cardinal, the Lord Chancellor, and the Bishops of Glasgow and Dunblane. That honest historian, Lindsay of Pitscottie, has given an account of the Vicar’s trial before this commission, which is about as graphic as Foxe’s description of the interview with the Bishop of Dunkeld. But this we can do little more than notice. The chief accusations brought against Forret were his declining to take offerings and cross-presents from his people, special emphasis being laid on ‘ the cow and the upmost clothhis instructing his parishioners to say the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments in English, and his using the New Testament in English. One incident connected with the trial is very instructive. Forret had quoted the Apostle’s words : ‘Yet in the church I had rather speak five words, with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.’ ‘Where findest thou these words?’ said the accuser. The Vicar answered, ‘In my book, which is in my sleeve.’ Then the accuser started to the Vicar, and pulled the book out of his sleeve, and held it up to the people, saying, ‘ Behold ! he has the book of heresy in his sleeve which makes all the pley [disturbance] in the Kirk.’ This was the truth at last. It was God’s Book that had bred all this disturbance in a corrupt Church and a priest-ridden land,—as that Word must ever do when it is freely circulated. And so long as Bible truth is faithfully preached in the pulpits of Scotland, and read in her families, we shall have the surest antidote against error. Having been found guilty of what was laid to his charge, Thomas Forret was condemned to death; and as he had been, in this fashion, a heresiarch and a teacher of heresy, no room was left for recantation. A less distinguished Christian might have had the option given him of burning his fagot; but this was not to be thought of in the case of the Vicar of Dollar. No doubt, too, it was held to be useless in his case, his firmness being on a par with his gentleness. Sometimes, in the very mode in which an eminently good man is persecuted, there is found a tacit admission of his excellence.

An affecting account of Thomas Forret’s execution, written by his faithful servant, Andrew Kirkie, has been preserved. ‘When he was brought to the place of execution’—which was on the Castle Hill of Edinburgh, and, I have reason to believe, on the authority of the accurate David Laing, near, if not on, the site of the Free Assembly Hall—‘ Friar Hardbuchill biddeth him follow him, “Say I believe in God,” saith the Friar; “I believe in God,” saith he; “and in our Ladie,” saith the Friar; “I believe as our Lady believeth,” said he; “Say,” said the Friar, “I believe in God and in our Ladie.” “Cease,” said he; “tempt me not. I know what I should say as well as you, thanks be to God.” So he left him, and tempted the rest in like manner.’ Others, I might have said ere this, were about to suffer martyrdom along with this servant of God. Foxe tells us that three or four men belonging to Stirling suffered death at the same time for the unpardonable offence of being present at the marriage of the Vicar of Tullibody, and for eating flesh in Lent at the said bridal!

Kirkie’s narrative further informs us that: ‘In the meantime, while he’—Forret—‘was saying to the people, “I never ministered the sacrament but I said, ‘As the bread entereth into your mouth, so shall Christ dwell by lively faith in your hearts.’” “Away! away!” said one standing beside him with his jack [coat of mail] on, “we will have no preaching here.” Another taketh the New Testament out of his bosom, holdeth it up before the people, and crieth, “Heresy! heresy!” Then the people cried, “Burn him! burn him!” He crieth with a loud voice, first in Latin, and then in English, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” After [afterwards], first in Latin, then in English, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” After that, as his manner was to end with some Psalm in his prayers, he began at the 51st Psalm, in Latin, “Miserere mei, Dens, secundum magnam misericordiam tuani” [Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness], and so continued till they pulled the stool from under his feet, and so-worried [strangled], and afterwards burnt him.’

Thus died Thomas Forret. And, while our neighbourhood has much connected with it that is intensely interesting, in a historical point of view, that interest undoubtedly culminates in the Monastery of Inchcolme and Thomas Forret, the most distinguished of its Canons; and even when that old weather-beaten tower which crowns the monastic pile has become a heap of ruins, the right-hearted pilgrim will row over to that strangely-interesting island, in order that he may stand on a spot that Thomas Forret has made famous.

Some time ago I examined and copied, at Donibristle, a charter belonging to the Earl of Moray. It is dated 27th April 1543, and has the signatures of the Abbot and the other members of the Convent—fifteen persons in all. Had the charter been dated five years earlier, the name of Thomas Forret might have been expected to appear among the number. But by this time his ashes had been ‘carried away with the wind,’ as he said they should be, ere he would deny a word he had uttered. ‘That, however,’ I said to myself, ‘is the signature of the Abbot who bade him say as his enemies said, and keep his mind to himself, and save himself.’ And as my eye glanced over the signatures of the Canons I could not help saying, ‘These, doubtless, are the signatures of some of the companions of God’s martyred servant, some of the younger of whom believed as he did; and others of them, “the old bottles,” of whom he said that they “would not receive the new wine.”’

Glancing, ere we close, at another of the singular raids to which the Abbey was exposed, during the prevalence of hostilities between England and Scotland, it must have been in Richard Abercromby’s time that the island and Abbey were seized by the English in 1547, immediately after the battle of Pinkie. An amusing account of it is given in a fragment preserved by Sir John Dalyell. As may be gathered from the tone of it, it was written by an Englishman. Patten, the writer, dwells on the importance of the island, as commanding the whole Firth, with the havens on it. The brethren of the Abbey—Abbots and Canons alike—had fled, betaking themselves, no doubt, to their ‘continental’ residence at Donibristle. But a new Abbot was forthcoming in the person of Sir John Luttrell, Knight; and a hundred and fifty soldiers, with seventy mariners, to keep the waters free of invaders, swelled the Convent to larger proportions than usual; thus investing the Abbot with great power. Abbot Luttrell being thus attended, we are told by the facetious writer, ‘ The perfytnes of his religion is not always to tarry at home, but sometime to rowe out abrode, a visitacion; and when he goithe I have hard say, he taketh his summers in barke with hym, which ar very open-mouthed, and neuer talk but they are harde a mile of, so that either for loove of his blessynges, or feare of his cursinges, he is lyke to be soouveraigne ouer most of his neighbours.’ This is very amusing; but, after all, it turns out to be only what our American cousins call tall talk. For Bishop Lesley, speaking of the English at this time, says: ‘Thair flotte [fleet] on the sey brint the toun of Kincorne [Kinghorn], and sum utheris of the sey coist, and tuik the Abbay of Sanct Colme’s Inche, and fortifyit the same, leaving Sir John Lutterell, Knycht, with a garesone of men thairin, quha bruikit [enjoyed] not that hold long, bot was compelled, not long eftir, to depairt thairfra.’

Richard Abercromby was, strictly speaking, the last of the' Abbots. In 1554 we find James Stewart, of Beath, Commendator of the Monastery. About the year 1590 he was succeeded by his son, Henry; and at length, in 1611, the benefice was erected into a temporal lordship in favour of Henry, as Lord St. Colme. But of the changes which the Reformation brought about to the Monastery we must speak at another time, when looking at the question of its possessions, and the many interesting incidents connected with their acquisition and alienation.


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