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Aberdour and Inchcolme
Lecture 10


Mr. Robert Johnston, ejected minister at the Revolution—An eight years’ vacancy and its baneful results—Mr. David Cumming’s labours—His frequent absences—Labours of the Kirk-Session, as gathered from the Record—Number of elders—Their districts—Act for ‘restraining the number of the Session’—Hugh Bailzie, a troublesome member—His pipe of wine—His tendency to ‘take loans’—Episcopal jealousy of the lay element—Frequency of meetings of Kirk-Session—Efforts on the part of the Session to encourage family worship—Visiting the town on Sabbaths and Tuesdays—Dealings with neglecters of public worship— Certificates—Care required in drawing conclusions from Session Records—‘Foully treated both with hands and tongue’—Dealings with cases of drunkenness—The notorious John Lochtie—The crime of selling drink to beggars—Sir John Erskine of Otterston—Dealings with Sabbath-breakers—William Craig’s ‘straiking of his wife’—A ‘cock-and-bull’ story—Case of murder at Croftgarie—Modes of punishment resorted to by the Kirk-Session: 'sitting down on the knees’ —the ‘joggis’—the branks—the stocks—sackcloth and the repenting-stool—fining—‘Drink and shake hands’—Usages connected with baptisms and marriages—The system of pledges—The abuse of ‘pypers’—'Penny bridles’—Usages connected with funerals—The beadle’s hand-bell—The mortcloth—Burying in the ‘queir’—The horologe—The cause of Education—The long labour to secure a school and schoolmaster’s house—Mr. Francis Hannay—The doctor— Dealings with parents—Dame schools—Management of the poor— The box—Trades—Amusements.

In further prosecuting our investigations into the history of our parish and its immediate neighbourhood, I am in this lecture, first of all, and in a few sentences, to continue the notices, on which I have been able to lay my hands, of the ministers of Aberdour during the remainder of the seventeenth century, and then to lay before you some statements regarding the work of the Kirk-Session, from the period when the record of their labours begins, till the close of that century.

Immediately after the Revolution in 1688, Mr. Robert Johnston, to whom I referred in a previous lecture, was ejected from the charge of the parish and, for eight years, no successor was appointed. In the absence of authentic evidence it would be vain to conjecture what the causes were which led to this prolonged vacancy. The Revolution Settlement had vested the election of ministers of the Scottish Church in the heritors and elders, with the consent of the congregation. It is not improbable that the influence of some of the heritors is to be detected in the prolongation of the vacancy; but even of this we cannot be quite sure. Of one thing there can be no doubt, that this state of matters, which had existed so long, was most injurious to the parishioners, who were ere this, as we have seen, considerably demoralised. The evidence of further declension meets us in almost every page of the Session Record, as soon as the parish is again under the supervision of a minister. The first minister of Aberdour, after the Revolution Settlement, was Mr. David Cumming. He had been licensed in 1696, and was called to the parish in January of the following year. We get a peep into the old church, on the occasion of his call. Mr. Archibald Campbell of Dalgety, the successor of worthy Mr. Andrew Donaldson, preaches the sermon, and thereafter a meeting of heritors and elders is held, when Mr. Cumming’s call is signed by all who are present. Their names are William Wemyss of Cuttlehill, William Orrock of Balram, and Robert Stevenson of Templehall, heritors. Two factors are present, and adhibit their names—David Beatson of Bal-bardie, factor for Charles Stuart of Dunearn; and Duncan Whyte in Whitehill, for the lady of Whitehill. The elders’ names are George and David Moyes, John Davidson, John Johnston, and John Stevenson. And on February 24th, 1697, Mr. Cumming is admitted minister of Aberdour, after sermon by Mr. Thomas James, minister of Cleish, who, a few years after this, was translated to be minister to the Company of adventurers trading to Africa and the Indies, and died on his way to Darien. We get a glimpse of the low state of morality in the parish at the time, when we find the Session enacting, on March 14th, 1697, ‘that no seaman, master or servant, in this parish, presume to cross the water to Leith, as hath been their habit and custom, upon the Lord’s day, with coals or any other goods, on pain of being rebuked before the congregation, and a penalty to the box of £4.’ The practice of burying the dead on Sabbath, which, except in the case of epidemics or other great emergencies, is always indicative of low and unworthy views of the sanctity of that day, was not only quite common at that period, but the people thought nothing of burying in the churchyard while service was going on in the church ! This abuse the Session endeavoured to grapple with and put down. Another indication of a low state of religious feeling among parents was that very few children were in the habit of attending church; and many of them were permitted to wander in the fields during the time of Divine service. Earnest efforts were put forth to remedy this evil, the continuance of which threatened to hand down the the moral blemishes of that period to succeeding generations. There are not wanting evidences of an earnest desire and effort, on the part of Mr. Cumming and his elders, to rectify other abuses which had crept into the parish. But there were two circumstances which greatly limited the amount of good actually done. The first is that Mr. Cumming was frequently from home, and that for lengthened periods. At one time he is absent for more than four months at a time, supplying vacancies in the north—no doubt in obedience to the orders given by the General Assembly to various Presbyteries at that time, ‘because of the scarcity of ministers in these parts;’ at another time the Session appointed one of their number to go to the Presbytery and secure supply ‘during their minister’s absence in the north.’ Another circumstance that limited Mr. Cumming’s influence was that his ministry lasted little more than four years. The little we know of him leads us to the conviction that he was a good man, sincerely bent on doing what he could to elevate a long-neglected, and so a careless, people. He died in the autumn of 1701, in the fifth year of his ministry.

Having disposed of these facts regarding the ministry of Mr. Cumming, I have now to bring before your notice some statements regarding the Kirk-Session, their jurisdiction and labours in the interests of morality, education, and the management of the poor, with such notices of the trade of the place, its holidays, games, and other social usages, as crop up in the Session Records during the seventeenth century.

The Session, as you are aware, was composed of the minister of the parish, and elders who had been ordained to that office. The modifications that Episcopacy made on the constituents of the Kirk-Session will be noticed as we deal with times when that system of church-government was in the ascendant. The members of the Kirk-Session, in Presbyterian times, were, as a rule, selected from the best-educated portion of the community; and, from the Reformation down till after the seventeenth century, many of the noblemen and gentlemen of the country considered it an honour to serve as elders. And it is no slight testimony to the moral and religious character of the Scottish nobility and gentry of those early times, that so many of these classes held office as elders, and that with so much credit to themselves and the office they held. As regards our own immediate neighbourhood, statements made in earlier lectures make it evident that several of the gentlemen in it were members of Kirk-Session. Nor does any difficulty seem to have been experienced in getting a sufficient number of elders—a matter of great importance, inasmuch as a task of this kind, to be carefully and heartily performed, must not be too burdensome. When a Kirk-Session was formed for the first time in a parish, the election was made conjointly by the Presbytery and the congregation. After it was once formed, vacancies were filled up by the Session as they occurred, an opportunity being given to the congregation to state objections. The newly-elected or appointed members were carefully catechised before being admitted, with a view to test their knowledge of Bible facfs and doctrines. In Aberdour the difficulty seems sometimes to have been to keep the Session within reasonable bounds as regards numbers. In 1652 there were no fewer than twenty-one elders. The whole parish was at that time mapped out into districts, and these districts were assigned to elders, in a business-like way that might put some congregations in modern times to shame. This arrangement is in itself so interesting, and it gives such a good idea of the grouping of houses in the village and neighbourhood, more than two centuries ago, that I must give it to you as it appears in the Minutes. It is as follows:—‘1. Robert Logan, for Couston; 2. James Hume, for Boupray, Damhead, and West-mill; 3. James Bell, from his own house till John Tod’s, on both sides of the gait; 4. Andrew M‘Kie and Andrew Finlason, their quarter from John Tod’s to the bridge, on the north side; 5. William Wardoun and John Tod, all the south side, from Andrew M'Kie’s new house to the bridge; 6. David Stevenson’s quarter, from the bridge to his sister’s, on the south side, and to Mr. James Stewart’s, on the north side, taking in the Hillside; 7. William Patone’s quarter, from Jonet Stevenson’s till Hugh Bailzie’s, taking in the Barns, the mill and the gardiner’s; 8. Hugh Bailzie’s quarter, to the east end of the town; 9. Mr. James Stewart’s, from his house to James Fleming’s; 10. William Fleming’s, from his father’s to the east end of the town; 11. William Orrock, Balram, Montcoy, the Mill, and Moyeshill; 12. Robert Stevenson, Over Balmule and Nether Balmule; 13. James Alexander, for Collelo; 14. Robert Ritchie, for Crockgarie and Nether Newton; 15. William Hutsone, for Newton, Whytehill, and Lauchtie’s house; 16. John Hutsone, for E. Bocleavie and W. Bocleavie; 17. John Anderson, for Dachie, Humbie, and Torriehills; 18. William Orrock, for Kilrie.’ Thus the whole parish was divided into eighteen districts—ten of which were in the town, and eight in the country; and while fifteen of these were presided over by one elder each, three of the most populous had two elders each. Of course it is very easy to make such an arrangement as this on paper; but, if the elders were at all diligent, their districts would be well superintended, and not found to be too large. It is most evident that the village of Aberdour was much greater in extent, as well as more populous, then than it is now.

About five years after this arrangement of districts was made, there was a visitation of the kirk of Aberdour by the Presbytery; and one of the results of this visitation was an Act, passed ‘for restraining the number of the Session.’ A committee was appointed to carry out the changes contemplated by this Act. But, after the members of the committee have expended their strength and skill, the result seems very much out of proportion to the noise that has been made about the matter. There were twenty elders when the committee began their labours, professedly to secure a smaller number, by having a new election,—for this was the mode adopted for carrying out the provisions of the Act. Of the twenty original elders, fifteen were reelected. But then, strangely enough, this number was deemed too small, and three new members of Session were added. In short, the whole plan was admirably adapted to rid the Session, in a roundabout way, of a few members who had ceased to be any ornament to it; and I have a shrewd suspicion that this was really the end sought by such a strange measure.

One of the elders not re-elected was Hugh Bailzie. Hugh seems not to have been particularly well suited for the office he held. On one occasion he is spoken to by the minister regarding the abuse of drink in his house—evidently a hostel in Easter Aberdour. And the hint is thrown out in the gentlest way, that, if the abuse is not mended, Hugh will be relieved of the burden of his ecclesiastical office. He promises amendment, but gets into difficulty again with great rapidity. It is noised among the villagers that his servants have brought up a pipe of wine from the White-sands on a Sabbath morning. On being spoken to regarding this matter, the fact is not denied by the elder; but he urges in extenuation the plea that, if the pipe of wine had not been brought up on that day, it would have been spoiled ‘by getting the sun.’ No doubt, it was in the month of June 1652 that the deed in question was done—clear, warm, sunny weather, we may presume—the landscape all aglow, and the sparkling wavelets coming somewhat languidly in at Whitesands Bay, as if they too felt the summer heat oppressive. Not the best weather, it has to be admitted, for Hugh Bailzie’s pipe of wine—claret, we doubt not, brought from France—if it has to lie all day ‘ beeking ’ in the sun. But then it was Sabbath, and Hugh was an elder; and many pleas of greater urgency might be advanced by poorer men, regarding property more precious to them than the pipe of wine was to him. Notwithstanding all this, the pipe was conveyed to Hugh’s cellar. The Session, however, took a mitigated view of the case, and inasmuch as there was a danger that the strong sunshine might have injured the wine, perhaps it might have been added, some danger of pointing the cask out to the exciseman; and furthermore, seeing it was ‘brought up before sunrise,’ the Session dismissed the case with an admonition. Tender dealing seems, however, to have had a stimulating influence on Hugh, in the way of getting him into further difficulties. Great efforts were being made at the time to collect materials for building a school; and a considerable store of stones and lime had been gathered. Hugh has some building of his own going on at the time, and not merely without the consent of the Session, but against the remonstrances of several of its members, he ‘ takes the loan ’ of the stones and lime; assuring them all the while, however, that he looks on the transaction in the light of a mere loan. The Session are very much annoyed at this forced Zoan, and it becomes only too apparent that Hugh is regarded by his brother elders as a thorn in their side. At a meeting of Session, on October nth, 1656, the minister asks the elders if it has come to their ears that ‘ one of their number ’ was lately so much the worse of drink that he had to be led home. It is a pretty full meeting, and Hugh Bailzie is there, but all of them profess their ignorance of any such scandal being abroad—Hugh probably looking the most innocent of the whole number. Mr. Bruce expresses astonishment at this ignorance, as it has come to his ears that Hugh Bailzie is the person in question; and then, with all the emphasis of an Armstrong gun, he discharges the demand at Hugh, whether or not this is true. Perhaps it is due to the suddenness with which the assault is made, but Hugh at once surrenders. It is true, and he is very sorry for it. The clerk is appointed to see what Acts of Session there are in reference to such a case; and Mr. Hannay finds an Act which declares that ‘ if any elder were found in drink he should pay 40s., without any other censure.’ A convenient Act for rich members, certainly. But Hugh is not to get off so easily as this; for the Minute reveals him—after payment of the fine, we may suppose— on his knees before his brother members of Session, ‘craving God mercie for the said vice, and for being an ill example to others.’ It is very soon after this that we find Hugh relieved from the cares of office. I may notice here a curious Act of Session, of date 22d January 1661, enacting that ‘ whosoever is found divulging what is done in the Session, shall, for the first offence, be sharply rebuked, and for the second, be turned off with disgrace.’

It is significant to notice how Prelacy is opposed to the influence of the lay element in ecclesiastical matters. In 1662, when that system was once more set up in Scotland to gratify the Royal will, the Bishop of Dunkeld wrote to Mr. Bruce, asking him to discharge his Kirk-Session, and select five or six godly men to assist him in upholding the fabric of the church, in providing for the poor, and censuring vice and ungodliness. Mr. Bruce does as he is bid, and, setting his Session adrift, appoints six men— whether godly or not we have hardly the means to determine. It is somewhat curious to notice, in this communication, that Mr. Bruce is asked to inform ‘ his brethren, who are next adjacent to him in the same diocese, that they are to do the like, as they shall be answerable.’ There is manifestly in this an allusion to Mr. Andrew Donaldson, whose charge also was in the diocese of Dunkeld.

From 1649 meetings of Kirk-Session appear to have been held weekly at Aberdour. On the occasion of almost every meeting the minister is found asking the elders, one by one, whether they know any who swear, or are given to drink; and whether they (the elders) are doing what they can to encourage family-worship in their quarters. The instructions given as to the means to be employed for encouraging this exercise are singularly minute, as the following extract, of date April 16th, 1650, will show:—‘The quhilk day the Session are ordained to go through their quarters, and try who uses family exercise, and who uses to sit down upon their knees and pray to God; and they are lykewise ordained to hear the form of their prayers.5 How strange this procedure would appear now! At a future diet the elders report, regarding the heads of families in the respective districts, that ‘they see them use familie exercise, and hear the form of their prayers.’

Generally speaking, the members of Session have a good account to give of themselves and their labours. Sometimes, however, they do not attend the week-day service so well as they might, whereupon they get an admonition to do so, ‘to be a good example to the people.’ At other times certification is given that ‘some other course’ will be taken if this is proved insufficient. On one occasion it is enacted that elders absenting themselves from meetings of Session shall pay half a mark. But several of the parishioners would have no objections were the meetings held less frequently. Robert Young, for instance, who has been several times summoned for having his mill going on Sabbath, has been heard expressing the opinion ‘ that it wes never a good world since there wes so many Sessions.’ For this freedom of speech Robert is 'rebooked shairply.’ Two members of Session regularly visited the town during Divine service on Sabbaths, and Tuesdays as well, to see that the people came out to church. This, of course, was a plan more adapted to towns than country parishes; and so it is a feature more noticeable in Aberdour than Dalgety. When any misdemeanour came under the notice of the elders they delated the offenders to the Kirk-Session, whereupon the accused persons were summoned, and asked to give an account of themselves. At other times, and especially in connection with more serious cases, bills setting forth the nature of the fault had to be tabled, and persons named who were to be summoned as witnesses. And before any were allowed to give evidence, the accused individual was asked if he had any reason to urge why such persons should not be heard as witnesses against him. Near relatives and persons otherwise interested, or suspected of being partial, were often set aside. It will, I am sure, surprise those who are not familiarly acquainted with the parochial arrangements of those early times, to learn how wide a sphere the Session had for their labours. A person coming to reside in the town was not allowed to do so without a certificate or a ‘testimonial,’ as it was then called ; and masters were not allowed to keep servants who did not bring such a voucher of character along with them from the Kirk-Session of the place where they formerly lived. There are several instances in the Record of servants ordered to be put away, because of the want of such a certificate. The design, no doubt, was to make sure that the incoming parishioners should be persons of good moral character; but this was hardly the way to secure that end, and it did not really secure it. Of course, masters are, to a certain extent, responsible for the character of their servants; but setting such value as this on a mere certificate was often found to be setting a premium on hypocrisy. In this matter, however, the Session were only acting up to the instructions given by the Synod of Fife. As an illustration of this, at a visitation of the ‘Kirk of Kilmanie,’ in 1611, it was ordained that no servant should be received without ‘ an authentic testimoniall.’ And, at the same time, it was enacted that every cotter absent from catechising should pay 1s.; every husbandman or woman, 2s.; every gentleman or gentlewoman, 6s. 8d.; and every time a person was found drunk he was to pay 6s. 8d., besides undergoing public discipline.

In giving some idea of the jurisdiction of the Session, we shall endeavour at the same time to leave an accurate impression of the general morality of the parish. It must be carefully kept in mind that in such records it is the bad who are chiefly noticed. No one would be so foolish as form an estimate of the morality of the present time, in any of our towns or cities, merely from the records of a Police Court. Some discrimination is needed in estimating the good, in a place, by the proportion that the bad element holds in it. This we must constantly keep in mind. To begin with the lesser moral blemishes that appear in the Session Record, scolding appears to have been a very common employment of the idle wives of Aberdour; and this, we may well believe, had its usual accompaniments,—dirty persons, dirty houses, and dirty children. In dealing with such cases the Session experienced great difficulty, the elders again and again reporting that, in their laudable efforts to reprove such offenders, they were ‘foully treated, both with hands and tongue.’ And I suppose it would sometimes be hard to say which weapon proved the most terrible. Profane swearing was another and a more serious offence, very properly taken notice of by the Session. I much fear that, among a certain class, this vice still abounds. The gross Court of Charles the Second did much to foster it; and at one time it was thought rather a gentlemanly habit to swear roundly. Hardly any one with the slightest pretensions to be a gentleman is now heard openly indulging in this vice, and it is greatly to be desired that the working classes would abandon it as alike foolish and degrading. It cannot be said that dishonesty, in the form of theft, was at all common in the parish in those days. A few cases of the kind are indeed found, but the process of dealing with such characters was both short and sharp. They were generally banished from the place. We have a specimen of this in the case of James Buchanan and his wife, who, in September 1649, were banished the town as ‘notorious thieves and robbers;’ with certification that those who harboured them should be fined in £10', and give other satisfaction, as the Session should deem fit.

Drunkenness seems to have been a commoner vice; but when it could be said that some of the elders were not free from fault in this respect, it is less to be wondered at that other members of the community did not think it a particularly disgraceful thing to be seen the worse of drink. The presence of the military in the Castle was a great means of encouraging this and other vices. Some of the women of Aberdour were, at that time, too fond of their ‘ail.’ Such notices as the following are not infrequent:—

‘The Session ordains Walter Flooker’s wife and Christian Ritchie’s mother to be summoned for drinking during the time of Divine service.’ At another time it is ordained that Mr. Andrew Donaldson, of Dalgety, is to be ‘told about Sandy Anderson’s mother’s drinking and flyting.’ While Janet Taylour, admitting that she was the worse of drink, pleads the excuse, which is not entirely unknown in modern times, that ‘ she was not accustomed to drink; it was through long abstinence, and a little ran in her head.’ Various notices prove the truth of the common saying, that when a woman is given to drink, modesty and virtue are generally given to the winds. Hardly any of the parishioners of Aberdour acquired such notoriety for bibulous habits as John Lochtie did. At an early date it is noted, with evident consternation, by the Session, that ‘John Lochtie has been in Aberdour a whole night; ’ and it is evidently taken for granted that John could not be a whole night in the town without being the worse of drink. As a natural sequel to this, we find John by and by before the pulpit confessing his fault. Then he finds surety for ^£io that he will come under censure if he is in the fault again; and the Session, on their part, give him the assurance that, if they do find him in the fault, they will ‘banish him from the town.’ About half a year passes, and John is just where he was before. On this occasion the Session look a little deeper than John’s propensities, and deal with some temptations to their display. Two of the elders are sent ‘to the browsters, to discharge them selling him any ail, except small drink; which they agree to.’ The drink from which John was thus debarred was probably akin to that which Chaucer calls ‘mychtie aill;’ but either the ‘browsters’ do not keep their promise, or—striking out a path in which some bona fide travellers of the present day follow him—John gets ‘mychtie aill’ elsewhere, for he is still troublesome to the Session. Six whole years pass away, and John is an older man, and apparently a little wiser. For, the next time we get a glimpse of him he ‘lays a tie on himself,’ to use the words of the Minute, ‘not to drink ail of any kind for the space of a year.’ How this plan succeeded we cannot positively say; but it is only in accordance with common sense that they who cannot use, without abusing, anything that is not necessary to life, should abstain from it altogether. Let no one say that teetotalism is a thing of yesterday! John Lochtie became an adherent of the system more than two hundred years ago, on the ‘short pledge’ system; and appearances are in favour of the supposition that John may at length have taken the ‘long pledge' of total abstinence for life.

Not only did the Session labour to keep the inhabitants of the place from abusing the ‘browster’s ail;’ they were at great pains to prevent the beggars who came to the town from being supplied with it. Thus Isobel Johnston had to appear before the pulpit, in July 1654, and crave pardon for her offence ‘in selling drink to beggars;’ and she was quietly told that, in the event of the offence being repeated, a fine of £10, and ‘the jogges,’ will be the consequence. A few years later we find Isobel before the Session again, charged with ‘selling ail to beggars till they are beastly drunk, which is a means of drawing them all to this towne.’ It is evident from this that some restrictions were imposed on the sale of drink to beggars in other places in the neighbourhood. When Isobel is dealt with, she can hardly be made to see that she has been guilty of any fault. One of her excuses is, that ‘she was necessitate so to do, as she had to buy bear from them to sow her lands.’ This points to a curious combination of begging and merchandise ! But the Session do not let Isobel ride off on this plea. They oblige her to find caution for her future good behaviour under a penalty of £10.

I have been speaking of the intemperance of beggars; but sometimes it was found that those who transgressed in this way were at the opposite end of the social scale. Thus Sir John Erskine of Otterston, through several notices that appear in the Session Record of Dalgety, has obtained an unenviable notoriety. At one time an elder of Mr. Donaldson’s, and diligently co-operating with him in good works, we find that by and by Sir John ‘ordinarily goes abroad to other churches on the Lord’s day; and, some time afterwards, a deputation is appointed to meet with him, and ask him ‘to forbear tipling in Aberdour.’ At a later time still we find him accused of ‘drinking and tipling whole days in Aberdour.’ Then we find him rebuked by the Session, of which he had formerly been a member; and poor Sir John’s career, as far as we can trace it, is a downward one.

Sabbath-breaking was a rather common offence in the parish of Aberdour. One of the forms of it, which we have already noticed in another connection, was keeping the grain-mills going on the Lord’s day. Again and again James Taylor, in the West Mill, and Robert Young, in the Nether Mill, are dealt with for this offence. It was found necessary too, to impose a fine of twenty shillings on ‘browsters’ who ‘masked’ on Sabbath night. Very few went near the boats in the harbour in the earlier days referred to in the Session Record. On two occasions, indeed, some boys are dealt with for rowing about in the bay; but I recollect of meeting with only one or two cases of grownup persons being taken on discipline for this offence, in those early days,—one of them being John Anderson, who had crossed from Leith to Aberdour on Sabbath. Aggravated cases of Sabbath-breaking, however, became quite common after the long vacancy in the church that followed the Revolution Settlement, as I have at an earlier stage of this lecture shown. Among cases of a less aggravated kind may be noticed that of a woman named Condie, found guilty of spreading lint on the Sabbath; and that of John Stevenson, who is accused of ‘stepping and pacing, and metting [measuring] land’ on Sabbath, saying all the while ‘that he suld have ane rycht of his brother, by law, and if not he would have ane mendis of his skinne, if he suld be hanged upon the morrow.’

To come to still more serious cases: I find that, in 1650, the fine for ‘ straiking of his wife,’ in the case of William Craig, was ten pounds. It is hardly necessary to say that the offence was one of striking, and not of stroking. Misdemeanours of this kind were, I regret to say, rather common in Aberdour in those days; for in 1652 Mr. Bruce reports to the Session that ‘he spoke privately to them that strikes their wifes; who promised to amend their lives, by the grace of God.’ In the same line of unlawful pugilism was the case of Major Phin, who struck his servant on the Sabbath-day, and was ordered to be spoken to and rebuked by the minister in private.

Now and again, in those old days, cock-and-bull stories of enormous offences, which had no existence save in the imagination of those who devised or repeated them, were noised abroad. Such a tale was that, which you might have heard every gossip in Aberdour repeating, with rueful countenance and sundry grave shakes of the head, at the beginning of the year 1659, when Lady Kinnoul, the daughter of William, Earl of Morton, was living in the Castle. The story, in a sentence, was, that the remains of a dead child had been found in one of the cellars of the Castle. And so deep and widespread was the sensation made by the rumour, that minister and elders went in procession to the old keep, to investigate the truth of the story. The members of the Kirk-Session of that time seem to have been good comparative anatomists; for with one consent they affirmed that the remains consisted ‘of hen, geese, and veal bones.’ The tragedy degenerated into comedy, except in the case of some of the gossips, who are subsequently seen standing in the ‘jogges.’ Of cases of a grosser kind, which are still a disgrace to our country, and especially some of the agricultural districts of it, I do not say a word more.

Let us give a single look at the vagrants who used to infest our neighbourhood in those days. In some obscure corner of our old churchyard lie the remains of one of these—a poor woman who lost her life in a brawl, at Croftgarie, in July 1654. Several vagrants—a man who gave his name as ‘John a’ Gordon’ and three women—came to the farm of Croftgarie, and lodged in one of the outhouses. A quarrel arose between them, in which knives, stones, and stakes of wood seem all to have been used, and one of the women was left dead. The sad affair was made known to the Session by Robert Ritchie, one of the elders, who also informed them that the man who had been guilty of the murder ‘had gotten away.’ After deliberation, the Session, as the Minute assures us, ‘thocht it expedient that the corpse should be interred, and appointed the beadle to make ane grave, in the obscurest part of the churchyard; and, withall, to summon, against the next Session day, all these in Croftgarie who is thocht to give anie light anent the murder, or any other who was known to be present at Croftgarie when the murder was committed.’ Six days after this we have the following Minute, which merits preservation, not merely on account of the facts bearing on the sad case which it records, but also for the specimen it gives us of the language then in common use. The date is 17th July 1654, and the precise words are as follows: —‘The which day compeared James Ferguson, being cited before, to declare what he knew anent the murdering of the beggar, declared that, when he came from the stone quarrie, he saw the beggars fighting, and saw the beggars holding ane man in the byre; and that the man’s awn wife, together with the woman’s sister who was felled, had both of them drawn knyfes in their hand, striking in upon the man with the knifes, and cuist in stones upon him, and he cuist forth at them pieces of trees; and, when he came furth himself, he took up ane stoak [stake] and hit his awn wife that she fell to the ground; and that he spat in his loof, when he took up the staik in his hand, and said that he wald be guid enuch for ane hundred of them—and thereafter [the witness] said that he went into his master’s house, and the scriech arose that he had felled ane woman; whereupon he, with the rest of the families came furth, and fand that the woman was dead. So that he, with Robert Cant, went and followed him [the murderer], and that they called the man back; and declared that the man came back again to them, and that they put him into ane barne, and left the man there; and said that he [the witness] and the rest inquired his name, who called himself John a’ Gordon.’

It is not improbable that John a’ Gordon may have been one of a band of gipsies—some of whom bore that name. But in spite of the effort made by Ferguson and others to imprison him, it is evident that the murderer made his escape; and we hear no more of him. .

I must now allude to some of the modes of punishment to which the Session resorted in cases of discipline. That any punishment, other than that of a moral kind, should ever have been resorted to by Church Courts, is deeply to be regretted. The practice was a departure from New Testament precedents, to adopt those which had been invented by the Romish Church. But the views now generally entertained regarding these matters were not formed all at once, after Reformation times. Progress is made by a succession of steps; and we must judge of the actions of the men of the past by the light they had, not the light we possess. The men of the seventeenth century had made a great advance, in such matters, on the times preceding the Reformation, as we have done on their times. Perhaps the men of next century will think our methods far from perfect. The first and simplest mode of punishment employed by Kirk-Sessions, at the time we speak of, was to make the offender go down on his knees, and ask pardon of God. I do not think the members of Session ever intended this to be understood as a going down on the knees to them. A severer punishment was to do this, either on week-days or Sabbath-days, in presence of the congregation. Then the ‘jogges,’ a species of iron collar, came into play. Some of you may have seen them; I have to confess that I have been in them at the old church of Panbride. Perhaps, however, I should guard my statement by saying that it was not in the way of church censure I had this experience. To the uninitiated I should say that the ‘jogges,’ or ‘jugges,’are formed of two semicircles of iron, joined in one place by a hinge, and fastened at the opposite side by a padlock. They were generally attached to the wall of the church, near the door, by a chain.' The Aberdour ‘jugges’ were removed in the year 1736, and the reason assigned for this measure is stated in a Minute of that year: ‘It was agreed on that the jugs should be taken away from the church door, being put up there in time of Episcopacy.’ The ‘branks’ was another instrument of punishment. It too was made of bands of iron, encircling the head, while a circular jagged piece entered the mouth and kept the culprit from speaking. This punishment was generally awarded for scolding; but witches were, in many cases, burned with the branks on. Then came the ‘stocks,’ made of heavy bars of wood, by which the feet were enclosed. They are frequently referred to, in the Session Record of Dalgety, as used by the laird of Fordell, acting as civil magistrate. ‘Sackcloth’ and the ‘repenting-stool’ were generally used for cases of sexual transgressions, which, wherever they occur, are a disgrace to a neighbourhood. The person who wore sackcloth was generally ordered to be barefooted. ‘Scourging’ was frequently resorted to in the case of boys who misbehaved; and banishment from the town or parish was kept as a last resort in dealing with the incorrigible. We get a curious glimpse of the manners of the time, in the case of a footman of Lord Morton’s, who, in 1672, was accused of having gone into a servant’s room through the window. When this was represented to Lord Morton, he sent a message to the Session, by the hands of Hugh Abercrombie, to the effect that ‘my lord would cause scourge his man, and put him out of his service for his pains.’

Something must be said regarding the fines imposed by the Kirk-Session, of which we have had many instances laid before us. It is greatly to be regretted that this mode of dealing with offences should ever have been resorted to by any Church Court; as the money paid was likely to be looked on, by many, as a quid pro quo, or satisfaction made for the wrong done. But it is either an ignorant assertion or a calumny to say, as some have done, that these fines were imposed by the ministers of the time for selfish personal ends. The fines were imposed by the Session, not the minister individually, and the sums paid were applied to the support of the poor, or other parochial uses. Moreover, many of the fines levied by Ivirk-Sessions, towards the close of the period with which we are dealing, were imposed by Parliament, and not by the Church Courts. Thus, on June 18th, 1673, Hugh Abercrombie is requested to uplift the fines for drunkenness, swearing, scolding, and the like, ‘ according to the 16th Act of the late Parliament; and this he agrees to do, ‘when the sughe of peace shall authorize him.’

A singular custom, already noticed, prevailed in those early times, in connection with the Session’s efforts to compose quarrels; and, not infrequently, this was done in prospect of a Communion season. It would sound rather strangely for a Kirk-Session, now-a-days, to appoint two of their number to see those who had been living in disagreement ‘drink together and shake hands.’ Yet nothing was more common in our neighbourhood in those days. Thus, in July 1652, James Fergusson and his wife, and David Morris and his wife, have been spending a great deal of breath, to very little purpose, in ‘flyting.’ The matter becomes notorious, and reaches the ears of the Session. The disputants appear, in answer to citation, and are ordered to give up their quarrelling, and become good friends again ; and, in token of this, they are asked £ to take one another by the hand and drink together.’ One might have supposed that the former of these acts would have been sufficient to cement the broken friendship, without the latter, as drinking not infrequently leads to quarrelling, and intensifies it where it already exists. But the members of Session are of another mind, and, as they have not got the length of having the drink £ on the premises,’ they appoint two of their number to see the process gone through in a canonical manner—whether in Hugh Bailzie’s hostel or in a private house the Record does not say. The first step is to get pen and ink, and write down the terms of the agreement. James Fergusson is unable to write—a common infirmity in those days—but he touches the pen, when one of the elders, or Mr. Francis Hannay, the schoolmaster, signs his name to a statement, purporting that the said James shall do David Morris and his wife no bodily harm, under a penalty of twenty pounds; it being stipulated that David Morris’s wife is to leave off her scolding. And then David Morris’s wife engages, under an equal penalty, that she will neither scold James nor his wife. These preliminaries being settled, the ale is produced, and there is a general shaking of hands and a drinking of healths, on the part of the former belligerents; and, at next meeting of Session, the two elders gravely report that they saw the parties drink together, in token of renewed friendship. It is to be hoped the Session had some bye-law limiting the time during which these friendly graspings and mutual salutations were to go on, or limiting the amount of ale to be consumed : otherwise, I much fear, they would not always end quite so harmoniously as they began. I should not wish to leave the impression that this mode of soldering quarrels was confined to Aberdour. In Burntisland, as I have evidence to show, the same plan was followed: but I have not met with a single instance of it in the parish of Dalgety, during the pastorate of Andrew Donaldson. My impression is that it points to a low tone of religion, wherever it is found.

I must now give you some idea of the way in which baptisms and marriages were celebrated in the parish in those days. There is not much to say regarding baptisms. In some cases, where it was feared that the education of children might not be attended to, surety had to be found, before baptism, that the child should be instructed. In the case of some of the wealthier people of the parish, the baptism of a child was made the occasion of feasting and merrymaking, very much out of keeping with the solemnity of the ordinance. This was emphatically the case with the baptism of the children of Major Phin of Whitehill. So noisy was one of these occasions that Hugh Bailzie’s wife goes £ across the water ’ for three days to shun the noise and tumult; and Henry Sinclair gets into mischief because of the temptation put in his way. This seems to point to some noisy entertainment in Hugh’s hostel in Easter Aberdour; and, accustomed as his wife must have been to some measure of bustle and excitement, she was evidently apprehensive of no ordinary amount of racketing, when she betook herself to flight for three whole days to escape it. There is a singular notice connected with the celebration of a baptism, which reveals a degree of boorishness in one of the parishioners that strikes one with astonishment. In 1655 several children were to be baptized on a certain Sabbath,—Richard Smyth’s infant being one of the number. Richard, it appears, was very anxious that his child should be baptized before the others; and he carried this feeling so far that he pushed and jostled the other parents, so as to cause quite an excitement in the church. How we should wonder at such an exhibition now-a-days! Nothing could be more decorous than the behaviour witnessed in our churches on all occasions.

In reference to marriages, the Session Record abounds in notices of persons contracted to be married. This ceremony was not only very common, but it seems to have been generally gone through in presence of the Kirk-Session. Proclamations were usually made on three successive Sabbaths; and the persons proclaimed had always to lodge a pledge in money with the Session before marriage. This pledge, in ordinary cases, amounted to five pounds Scots, although it was sometimes more. When no evidence of misbehaviour appeared, this pledge was returned at a stated time after marriage ; otherwise it was forfeited, and went to the support of the poor, or some other of the uses to which the money in the box was applied. In some instances, a poor wight is desirous of being married, but has not the sum to be laid down as his pledge. In that case, he either gets a neighbour to become security for him by depositing the needed sum; or a pledge, which can now be claimed by its original depositor, is allowed by him to remain in the box for a second term of months. A great many of these pledges, I am sorry to say, were forfeited; and it was on this account no credit to Aberdour that its box was so rich. It was customary for members of the wealthier class, when proclaimed, to make a gift to the poor; and sometimes, when in such circumstances nothing is given, the fact is carefully recorded. Thus, when Alexander Monro, governor, or as we would now say, tutor, to my Lord Dalkeith, was contracted to be married to Anna Logan, it is stated that ‘he gave nothing to the poor as yet.’ As the pen has subsequently been drawn through the words, we may conclude that Mr. Alexander at length did the handsome thing, although he was evidently somewhat slow about it.

The marriage ceremony, I have no doubt, was performed by the minister much in the same way as at present. It appears that a collection for the poor was sometimes made at marriages. Thus, in 1682, there is a notice of three pounds having been raised in this way; but that was during the reign of Episcopacy, and the marriage ceremony was, in all likelihood, performed in the church. Weddings seem to have been very noisy affairs among the common people in the seventeenth century. In January 1653 we are told, in a Minute of Kirk-Session, that it is reported by some of the elders that there is ane great abuse at brydalls, with pypers and the like.’ The pipers, I presume, would accompany the marriage party from the house of the bride’s relatives to that of the bridegroom ; and to those who courted notoriety, or whose spirits were flagging, the music might not be altogether without its use. But if the pipes referred to were of the genuine robust Highland type, and more especially if there were several of them within the house in which the wedding party was assembled, the effect would be more striking than pleasant. It was, in all likelihood, on a wide view of the whole accompaniments and effects of these demonstrations on the pipes, that the Session, ‘ for restraint thereof,’ ordained that in future those who were about to be married must consign two dollars into the treasurer’s hands, which should be restored after the marriage, provided there had been no abuse by pipers; but, in the event of such abuse, the said two dollars were to be confiscated for the use of the poor. John Segy had the misfortune not to be married till after the time when this enactment passed into parochial law. Moreover, John would seem not to have had two dollars of his own after laying down his marriage pledge; but the Session proved accommodating. He tabled one dollar, and found security for the other, ‘in case he sould admit playing at his marriage.’ But John was a man who had some respect for the parochial authorities, as well as a becoming regard to the safety of the two dollars. There were therefore no pipers rending the drums of the ears of the guests at John’s wedding. So he got up his pledge, with, however, the abatement of 21s. 6d. to the poor, ‘because he was married out of the parish.’ This looks rather shabby on the part of the Session, seeing that John’s bride may have belonged to another parish ; or, if that did not hold, he may, out of regard to his pledge, have gone to be married in some neighbouring parish where there were no pipers ! The Act against piping at marriages seems to have had a good effect for a time; but, like many other enactments, it began by and by to be lost sight of. Aberdour had, no doubt, a piper of its own; and, in addition to this, Piper Drummond of Auchtertool had a trick of coming down pretty frequently to the village—often, we regret to say, taking more ale than did him good. In short, many causes combined to throw the Act against piping into the shade. But in 1660 it was renewed; and that year was famous in the village, inasmuch as it fixed the tariff of charges in connection with baptisms and marriages. It was resolved by the Session that at every marriage the schoolmaster should have 24s. and the beadle 10s.; at every baptism the schoolmaster should have 10s. and the beadle 6s.; while, of every uplifted pledge, the schoolmaster should have 6s., and of every fallen pledge 18s. I should notice here that the abuses which the Church Courts had to lament, in connection with marriages, were by no means confined to ‘pyping.’ The institution of ‘Penny-weddings,' now happily exploded, or lingering merely in out-of-the-world places, was in great vogue in the seventeenth century. The name by which these gatherings are recorded, even in the Minutes of the Synod of Fife, is ‘Penny-bridles;’ and great were the abuses perpetrated by those who paid their penny for the night’s amusement, and were determined to have their pennyworth of it. Acts were made by Presbyteries, and regulations were laid down by Justices of the Peace, to curb unruly proceedings at gatherings which could not well be entirely suppressed. At length, in 1643, the Presbytery of St. Andrews passed an Act restricting the number of persons present at them to twenty, and the number present at contracts and baptisms to six or seven; and this Act was extended by the Synod to the whole of Fife.

Let me give you now a few notices regarding the funerals of the period. That some superstitious observances should have continued in connection with the burial of the dead, for a considerable time after the Reformation, is not to be wondered at, when we take into account the hold that such usages have on most minds, and especially the minds of the uneducated classes. A common superstition in Fife, at the time we allude to, was displayed in carrying the dead right round the church before interment. Another, which some of the most highly-educated ministers of the Church of England at the present day appear not to have got over, was burying unbaptized infants apart. There was legislation by the Synod of Fife regarding these superstitions as late as the year 1641; an Act of March 14th of that year ordaining ‘that all these who superstitiouslie carries the dead about the Kirk before buriall, as also the burieing of of unbaptized bairnes apart, be taken notice of, and that the practiseris thereof be censured by the Sessioun.’ But it was not entirely among the uneducated that these and similar superstitions lingered; for I find that, in 1650, the Synod took notice of some information they had received ‘ anent some superstitious rites usit in the buriall of the late Laird of Fordell;’ and the Presbytery of Dunfermline were ordered to make inquiry regarding the matter.

The custom existed in Aberdour, as well as in Dalgety and other parishes in the neighbourhood, of intimating deaths orally, with the accompaniment of the beadle’s hand-bell. This custom, indeed, lingered so long in the village that old people retain in their memory the form used on such occasions. After attention had been arrested by the ringing of the bell, intimation was made that such a one had died, at such a time, in accordance with the will of God ; and when these words were uttered, the beadle’s broad blue bonnet was reverently lifted. The early custom seems to have been to invite the inhabitants of the village to the funeral at the time the intimation of the death was made. It was also the very wise custom not to keep the dead very long before burial. In 1698, the fee for ringing the handbell and making the grave was, for adults, 16s. Scots, and for children, 10s.

Vast importance seems to have been attached to the use of the mortcloth in Aberdour; and, as the charge for the use of it was high, it must have largely helped to replenish the box. The latent feeling in the breasts of the inhabitants regarding the mortcloth tariff was that it should be resisted, as exorbitant; and this at length found such loud expression that a small civil war was raging about the matter in 1650. As a means of bringing down the rates, the tailors of Aberdour were public-spirited enough to get an opposition mortcloth made; and many and tough were the discussions between the Session and ‘all the tailors,’ ere the latter laid down their needles and came to terms. The tailors’ mortcloth seems to have passed into the hands of the Session, who no doubt thought they were now masters of the situation. But in this they were mistaken. The ingenuity of the parishioners found a new channel, by getting the use of a mortcloth from another parish, at a lower rate. The Session, however, were not to be out-generalled in this fashion, and they retaliated by enacting that no grave was to be dug until the assurance had been given that the parish mortcloth should be used! This was a master-stroke, and put an end to the war. In 1653 there were two mortcloths belonging to the parish,—one of velvet, and one of ordinary cloth.

The chancel, or ‘queir’ of the church, was used as a burying-place as late as the year 1652, when Mr. James Stewart was summoned before the Session for burying his father there, contrary to an Act of the General Assembly. This was an Act, passed in 1643, discharging ‘all persons, of whatsoever qualitie, to burie any deceased person within the body of the Kirk, where the people meet for hearing of the Word, and administration of the Sacraments.’ Mr. James pleaded in excuse ‘his ignorance of the Act,’ and said he thought ‘the queir was an isle belonging to the Earl of Murray, and not belonging to the Church.’

In 1674 it was enacted that all who put a headstone in the churchyard should pay 40s., and that all who had ‘the meikle kirk-bell’ rung should pay 40s.—both payments going to the poor. I wish some enactment had been made to prevent the appropriation of headstones by those who had no right to them. This was a quite common proceeding in Aberdour till very recently, and it has deprived us of much interesting information. By many, I have no doubt, this has been done without thought; and, where the stones were openly sold, it is not to be wondered at that they were readily bought. I have seen an account carefully written, and rendered by the Kirk-Session of the parish, for stones thus transferred to others. I wish it to be distinctly understood that the transaction is an illegal one, and I trust it will not be repeated.

There is a curious notice of a ‘horologe’ being put up in the churchyard. No doubt it was of the nature of a sundial, and would be useful in regulating the various ringings of the church-bell. In 1656 John Tod has agreed to give George Black a tree, for the purpose of having the horologe erected on it; and the work is to be gone about with all expedition. It is not, however, till 1659, that we know for a certainty that the work has been accomplished. In this year William Main gives in an account to the Kirk-Session ‘for payment of the tree on which the horologe 1s.’ But if William Main, by some lapse of memory, has become oblivious of the fact that the tree was made over freely by John Tod, the members of Session do not share in the blunder; and they give no heed to the claim, ‘ seeing the said tree was given gratis by John Tod.’

Before passing from the consideration of the labours of the Kirk-Session in such matters as have come before our notice, I may, in a sentence or two, say that it would be unfair to judge of these labours by present prevailing ideas.

Much that we have seen the members of Session occupied with would very properly, now-a-days, be considered beyond their province, and the mode in which they went about it would be thought inquisitorial. But an enlightened view of their labours is quite consistent with the opinion that they were not unsuited to the times in which they were put forth. The long reign of Popery had left the mass of the people ignorant and debased to a remarkable degree. Like the Israelites when they left the land of bondage, they carried about with them the marks of their long servitude; and a period of training of a peculiar kind was necessary ere they could be raised to a higher level. But the condition of things is very much altered now from what it was then ; and with education and Christian principle pervading a people, they should no longer need to be held in leading-strings. What should be aimed at, on their part, is the wise self-restraint, which knowledge, going hand in hand with sound principle, should give. But, on the other hand, it is to be remembered that the exercise of Christian discipline has been imposed on the Church for all ages ; and if the outwardly immoral were allowed to enter the membership of the Church, or continue in it unchecked, nothing but mischief could be the result.

We turn now to the state of education in the parish in the seventeenth century. Our Scottish Reformers made most vigorous efforts to advance the education of the people, by means of schools and colleges, as well as by the preaching of the Word. Indeed, schools and colleges were absolutely necessary, in order that the preaching of the Word might be perpetuated—schools, to prepare a people educated so as to understand and profit by what they hear, when the Word is preached; and colleges, to provide an educated ministry, without which the people will not be instructed as they ought to be. And but for the greedy barons of Scotland, who appropriated to their personal use funds given for a higher end, the cause of education might have been in a far more advanced state in the seventeenth century. I regret to say that this parish fared fully as ill as any I know of, in regard to help from the proprietors, to advance the cause of education. During nearly thirty years—from 1650 till 1680—there are, from time to time, efforts made by the minister and elders to get a proper school and schoolmaster’s house built; and yet, with the Earls of Morton and Moray at the head of the proprietors, it seems to have taken all these years to secure this simple yet most necessary equipment. Let me lay before you a few hurried notices bearing on the state of education, and the means provided for supplying it, during these thirty years. In March 1650 the building of a school is mooted, and the minister and elders are to make inquiry at the mason as to the probable cost of it. On the last day of April, as the Minute of Kirk-Session informs us,

‘the Session appoynts ane meeting of the heritors within the parish of Aberdaure, together with the honest men there, concerning the building of ane school.’ The ‘beddel’ was ordered to give notice of it; but, when the appointed day came round, the heritors ‘were not well met,’—had not convened in sufficient number, and so the consideration of the matter was postponed till another day. The month of May comes round, and a meeting of the honest men is held in connection with the matter: and, ‘being inter-rogat by the minister, whether they will haud hand to the doing and furthering of the same, they declared, with one voice, that they were most willing, both with means and paines.’ Whereupon the Laird of Mains, Major Phin, Mr. James Stewart, and James Hume are appointed to ‘consult what will build ane competent school.’ The following month Laurence Coosing, the ‘beddel,’ is ordained ‘to go abroad in the parish, and desire the honest people to bring some stones for the school.’ Meanwhile the Session are busy in their endeavours to provide the means of a good education, by the time the school is ready. Mr. Francis Hannay, the schoolmaster, is probably teaching in some temporary place. But the Session think it necessary that there should also be ‘ ane doctor.’ This functionary, let me say, was not a surgeon or physician: the village, in all likelihood, enjoyed no such luxury at the time we speak of. The doctor, as the term is used here, was evidently what we would now call an assistant teacher; and as assistant teachers, even in those old days, had mouths, and shared the infirmity of the race to which they belonged in requiring clothing, ‘ the Session takes it to their consideration what should be his due and mentenance ; and for that effect appoynts fiftie merks, which was wont to be given out of the penalties and pledges to the schoolmaster, before he had ane provision according to the Act of Parliament, now to be given yearly to the doctor; and more, appoynts that every scholar sould pay to the doctor fourtie pennies every quarter, by and attour the ten shillings to the master. And for his meat, they are to think upon ane way what voluntarilie every pleugh in the landwart will give, either in victuall or in moneyes, and see also what every honest man in the toune will give voluntarilie, year by year, for the advancing of so good ane work,’—a schoolmaster’s Susten-tation Fund, you will not fail to notice! The singular thing in this arrangement is that the doctor’s food is the last thing to be provided for; one would naturally have expected it to be the first. The doctor was evidently got; for, about the close of the year, a committee is appointed, to consider what is to be done about the ingathering of the schoolmaster’s stipend, and ‘ what is auchtand to the doctor.’ At the beginning of the following year, it is complained that the Earl of Moray has not paid the schoolmaster’s salary; but Mr. James Stewart, his chamberlain, agrees to pay it, on condition that the Earl’s name be not heard in connection with the letters of horning that have been issued. Other heritors are evidently in fault as well as the Earl. The school-doctor seems to have fared no better than the schoolmaster; for about the same time four elders are appointed, ‘on each side of the burn,’ to raise twenty pounds on each side, and this is ‘to be done speedily, out of consideration for the doctor’s necessitie.’ In April 1652 the scholars were examined, after sermon, on a Tuesday. Certain elders had been appointed to be present, and the proficiency of the children was approved. In 1654 the school is yet unbuilt. But some money has been collected, through the town and parish, ‘ for the sogers’—in another place it is said to have been ‘for Lawyer’s Regiment;’ and it is now proposed that this money, which has not been applied to the purpose for which it was raised, should be used in building the school. Another windfall comes in, in 1655. It appears that a collection of ^200 had been made some time previously for Kelso— probably on account of the plague which ravaged the town in 1645; and the minister, at a meeting of Session, refers to a disagreeable rumour, that he has kept the money for his own use. He explains that the Synod, having ascertained that more than enough had been contributed for Kelso, had ordered the money collected in Fife to be applied to pious uses in the congregations where it had been raised. And Mr. Bruce shows that he has laid out the sum collected, ‘and twice as much,’ in the purchase of slates, lime, timber, and stones for the school. It seems to have been part of this store of lime and stones that Hugh Bailzie took in the way of loan. In June 1658 the schoolmaster complains that he cannot get his stipend in, and the Session are to do what they can to relieve him. During the following month they so far obtemper this resolution as to lend him twelve pounds, to keep body and soul together. In 1659, it is noticed that the schoolmaster can hardly live, he is so ill paid, and he again gets twelve pounds for his great need. In 1666 the laird of Mains gives his bond for £160, that should long ago have been put to the purpose of building a school. In September of the same year there is a Minute in which the various efforts to build a school are referred to, and the difficulties that came in the way are recapitulated. The Session however are, probably for the hundredth time, resolved to delay no longer; and so the laird of Lundie is to be written to, that the money in his hands belonging to the Session will be required. Other outstanding debts are to be gathered in—the Session apparently having done a good stroke of business by money-lending ; and those who borrowed ‘the great jeists’ are to be asked to restore them. This last-named matter probably refers to some additional loan that Hugh Bailzie, and others who have profited by his example, have been so obliging as to take. But, supposing that these same ‘great jeists’ have meanwhile been incorporated with the borrowers’ buildings, as the stones and lime evidently have been, one cannot help wondering at the nature of the process by which they could be restored. At length, in 1681, we find the heritors decerned, by the Commissariat Court of the diocese of Dunkeld, in their several proportions, for erecting a school-house. So that, as I have already said, it took a thirty years’ campaign to get the parish equipped with school buildings. This reflects little credit on the heritors of the parish, and is not very flattering to the public spirit of the community.

It must be admitted, however, that during all this time, in spite of the want of suitable school buildings, the Session were actively employed in securing the education of the young; and many were the cases of discipline that arose out of the neglect of parents to keep their children regularly at school. From time to time defaulters are summoned, and ordered to put their children to school, on pain of being ordered to ‘come before the pulpit.’ And it is not any paltry excuse, which a careless parent chooses to plead, that will satisfy the Session. Thus the Record tells us that ‘ Robert Peacock told some bad excuses for not putting his bairn to school, wherewith the Session was not well pleased.’ Robert is accordingly ordered to put the bairn to school. In 1651 all children between five and fifteen years of age are ordered to be kept at school, ‘according to the Act of the parish,’ else their parents shall be proceeded against. And in 1653 it is enacted that those who send not their children to school shall be debarred from receiving any benefit of the Church; and this is appointed to be intimated from the pulpit. This ‘Act of the parish’ seems to have been of some standing, for, in January 1650, we have the following notice: ‘The Session ordains John Anderson, in this town, to come before the pulpit the next Sabbath, and make satisfaction for disobeying the ordinance of the Session, and not putting his son to the school; and also to pay 20s., according to the ordinance thereof.’ It is greatly to be regretted that any parents should require pressure in order to the performance of such a simple duty, which they owe, not merely to their children, but to the community at large. A good education, conjoined with a worthy example, is the working man’s best legacy to his family, and they are cruel and unnatural parents who withhold it.

Sometimes, in those old days, as now, foolish stories of ill-usage received at the hands of the schoolmaster were propagated. The Session, in such cases, investigated the cause of complaint with great promptness and impartiality. Thus on March 5, 1650, we have the following Minute: ‘The quhilk day compeared James Kirkland for ane manifest ly, quhilk he spake in face of the Session, in saying that the Master strak the bairns until they were not able to sturre; for the quhilk cause he was shairply rebooked by the Session, and certified, if ever he did the like again, he suld be punished publiquly and examplarily.’ Mr. Francis Hannay was schoolmaster from the time when the Session Record begins till 1669. Of his general qualifications I have already spoken. Of his spouse, Jean Dickson, I know only the name. Mr. Walter Anderson succeeded

Mr. Hannay in office in 1669. An important qualification of the schoolmasters of those and much later times was a good voice and some knowledge of music, as the ‘dominie’ was usually precentor as well. So Mr. Anderson, before he could be duly installed, or even considered an eligible candidate, had to show what his attainments in this department were. Having given satisfaction on this score, he was now open to election for schoolmaster. But the question came then to be, by what method the election was to proceed, so as to test his possession of other needed qualifications. Some thought it best not to admit any one to the office ‘ without a dispute ’—that is, a competition— while others, in their turn, ‘thought this ridiculous.’ Those who were in favour of ‘the dispute’ were left in the minority; and Mr. Walter Anderson was chosen, subject to the approval of the Presbytery. The Presbyterial examination was gone through satisfactorily; and Mr. Anderson was elected for a year,, at the end of which time he might be re-elected, or his services dispensed with, according as he gave satisfaction or not. Mr. Charles M'Kinnon was Mr. Anderson’s successor. He was schoolmaster in 1676; and in May 1681 we have the following notice of him:

‘This day the schoolmaster intimate to the Session that, seeing it hath pleased God that he hath gotten a call to the ministrie, and is now upon his trialls in order to that holy function, and likewise hath a special command from my Lord Archbishop of St. Andrews to preach as often as possibly he can, at the church of Orwell, to which he is now presented by the Right Hon. Sir William Bruce of Balcaskie—that therefore he cannot get his charge attended, and demits the same.’ Mr. M'Kinnon became minister of Orwell on the 7th of September 1681; and Dr. Hew Scott tells us that he was ‘deprived by the Privy Council, 29th August 1689, for not reading the Proclamation of the Estates, and not praying for their Majesties William and Mary, but for the restoration of King James, and confusion to his enemies; not observing the thanksgiving, and not reading the Proclamation for the Collection.’ Mr. M‘Kinnon, it thus appears, was a very pronounced Jacobite. The next schoolmaster of whom we have any notice was Mr. Alexander Christie, whom we find in office down to the close of the century.

We have hitherto been confining our attention to the parish school; but it is evident that there were several dame schools in Aberdour in those days. Thus, in May 1650, Laurence Coosing, the beddel, is ‘ordained to go to the west end of the town, and discharge all schools over which women hes charge;’ from which it appears that it was in the Wester village these dame schools were found. In 1661, an exception to this ordinance is made in favour of the school taught by Margaret and Jean Paton, daughters of Mr. William Paton, formerly minister of the parish. But a rule is laid down by the Session, which is strictly to be observed by these ladies: ‘ No’lads are to be sent to any but the parish school; but the schoolmaster is willing to overlook lasses going to the school kept by Marg* and Jean Paton/ In July 1697 it was enacted that no women teach male children, within the parish, further than the Catechism, under the penalty of ten pounds Scots. The Catechism was thus a school-book in those days—the Shorter Catechism, no doubt.

Regarding the management of the poor I must say a little, ere passing on to themes which will be more interesting to the younger portion of my audience at least. The great reservoir from which the poor drew their supplies was that wonderful institution,—the Box. The funds that flowed into this receptacle came from various sources. The ordinary church-door collections—which from 1670 till 1680 averaged about two pounds Scots weekly—formed a perennial feeder. Forfeited pledges helped to swell the amount; while fines, and gifts bestowed at contracts of marriage, and mortcloth dues, and payment for headstones in the churchyard, and legacies bequeathed for behoof of the poor, were so many tributaries. Then, as regards the outflow from this reservoir, the ordinary poor were the first to have their wants considered and met. Their number does not seem to have been great. But this is one of the points on which the Session Record of Dalgety is more explicit than that of Aberdour. When Mr. Donaldson became minister of Dalgety there were only three persons on the list of paupers. They received twelve shillings Scots each, on the first Sabbath of the month. On the month on which the Communion took place this rate was doubled, as it seems also to have been when sickness supervened. It does not appear how many poor persons there were in the parish of Aberdour, at the time with which we are dealing. But it is evident that the Kirk-Session thought the number sufficiently large; for when John Barr made his appearance in the parish in 1665, he was ordered ‘ to go out of it when the weather grew fair,’ as there were ‘enow o’ poor folk alreadie.’ The paupers wore blue gowns, as appears from a Minute of June 1660, in which it is stated that the elders were appointed to make inquiry ‘what poor ones need bluegounes.’

Repairs on the fabric of the church were paid for out of the Box, till ‘a stent’ was laid on the parish. Some of the accounts for repairs are curious. Thus, in April 1652, the slater’s account for pointing the church—eleven roods and a half in all—came to ^23 Scots; but then there is the addendum ‘for drink-money, £3, 13s. 8d.,’ rather large proportion, it seems to us ! But masons and wrights in those days claimed the same perquisite. Even when a new pulpit was got for Mr. Donaldson of Dalgety, the Session Record bears that there was a considerable allowance for ‘drink-money.’ Out of the capacious Box of the parish of Aberdour came also Presbytery and Synod dues, and a yearly sum of nine pounds for the Presbytery bursar. And wights in distress, because of want of money, who could get no relief in other quarters, applied from time to time, and in many cases not in vain, for aid from the Box. Thus, in 1655, James Hutton owes the terrible Hugh Bailzie, whose acquaintanceship we have already made, a debt of eight pounds, being the price of a musket, and James is in danger of ‘horning’ for this debt. Hugh is willing to let him off for four pounds ; but, if this sum is not forthcoming, he declares he will proceed to extreme measures. The Session evidently believe that Hugh will keep his word; and so, laying James’s case to heart, they advance the four pounds, and he is ‘to pay it when he is able.’ On another occasion we find the Session lending five pounds to Andrew Robertson, ‘to help him to effectuate some business quhilk is in agitation before the Parliament.’ I may mention in a sentence, further, that the year 1651 brought with it great suffering to the poor; and in 1659 there is a notice of some persons shut up on suspicion of being infected by the pestilence at Over Balmule, near John Stevenson’s house. These poor people, and many others in similar plights, had their wants supplied by the Session.

Permit me now to give you some hasty notices of the Trades carried on in the parish in those days. In 1658 the seamen of Aberdour are so important a class that they lay a proposal before the Session to erect a loft for themselves ‘above the entry into the bodie of the church, beneath the pend.’ The Session approve of this proposal, as there is a want of accommodation in the church; and they think the scholars may be accommodated in the seamen’s loft, evidently pointing to the loft at that time used by the seamen, but which had become too small for them. Five years after this the proposal is again before the Session; but whether it was carried into effect or not I cannot say. The notice is interesting, as showing the number of seamen at that time belonging to Aberdour. There is a notice of coals shipped at the harbour as early as 1672, and this occurs in connection with a quarrel between Malcolm M‘Mair and Andrew Coosing about the prior right to a berth at the harbour. A few years later James Cuik and William Aitken are before the Session, charged with ‘loosing their barks’ on a Sabbath to go with coals to Leith. I have already noticed, in another connection, that during the long vacancy which existed between Mr. Litster’s death and Mr. Cumming’s settlement, this form of Sabbath profanation was disgracefully prevalent. There are notices of ‘Fordell Heuch' or coal-pit, and ‘Mains Heuch,’ nearly as early as the beginning of the Session Record in 1649.

Brewing, as many notices have already shown, was a common branch of trade in the village in those days, and the same persons who brewed the ale sold it. No one need be at any loss to count how many breweries once existed in the place, if he is but at pains to visit the beautifully built wells that still remain to tell the tale. One of these, in the lane that branches off the main street in the Easter village, and leads to the Murrel (the Moorhill), is a good specimen of the others, several of which, I am assured, have been filled up. Ale was almost the only beverage used at that time. But in 1658 Robert Ruich appears before the Session, accusing Marjorie Wilson of saying that his spouse was ‘one of the wifes that helped to drink so much aqua vitce.’ But not only was aqua vitce, drunk, it was distilled as well, at an early date in the village; for in June 1664 there is an incidental reference in the Minutes to ‘the brewhouse where they brew the aqua vita.’

Then salt-making was evidently carried on in the village, for in 1699 Robert Rae, salter, is called before the Session for having his salt-pan going on Sabbath. Where-ever a well in the place goes by the name of 'the Panney Well' there, we may be sure, a salt-pan was once at work.

The weavers were an important class in Aberdour as early as the year 1658, for in that year Alexander Gib appeared before the Session in name and on behalf of the rest of the ‘websters,’ requesting permission to ‘put up a pew or two under the west loft.’ The Session grant permission ‘to put up two pews for the said craft, provyding that they put them up in a decent way.’ Towards the close of the century the weavers were evidently a numerous class in the parish. I shall have something to say at a later stage regarding the number of weavers found at work at the close of the eighteenth century. It is only lately that John Seath’s hand-looni, the last of the whole number that ever clicked in our village, has become silent, and been taken to pieces.

Of the millers, and ‘all the tailors' have already spoken; and of the cordiners, or shoemakers, I shall have something to say at a later period. Carters and quarriers, too, have crossed our path. The freestone quarry was that at Cullelo, the product of which was, at a later time, used extensively for building purposes in Edinburgh; and during the eighteenth century extensive quarrying went on at the Hallcraig, the trap-rock there being cut into blocks, which were taken to pave the streets of London. In 1656 Mr. Bruce took advantage of some masons passing through the town to get a window opened under Lord Morton’s loft in the church, as the people complained that ‘it was only a hole to sleep in.’ Evidently there were no resident masons in the place at that time. I may mention that there is a reference in the Minutes to a wind-mill that stood between Dalgety and Aberdour.

References to places in old documents are always interesting. The earliest notices of the Hallcraig—which I have lately had occasion to name—show, by the invariable mode of spelling the word, how mistaken they are who spell it, or think of it, as the ‘Havvkcraig’ or ‘Hawk’s Crag.’ It is the Hallcraig, shortened usually into Ha’ Craig—the rock belonging to or near the Hall, or manor-house of Lord Morton. True to the instincts of their age, boys resorted to it more than two hundred years ago, to rob nests; and there are other allusions to it, sometimes under the name of ‘the Craig.’

The beautiful yellow whin covered the Braefoot in those days, and it seems to have been a place of common resort by the people. The sloping bank called ‘the Heughs,’ lying along the sea-side path leading to Burntisland, was then unplanted and covered over with whins. This probably we might not have known, if John Flooker had not drunk too much ale at Burntisland, and thus created the necessity for his poor wife to go in search of him with a lantern. The object of her search, we regret to say, was found ‘lying among the whins, betwixt and Burntisland/ The links of Aberdour are frequently referred to, but never in such a definite way as to make me quite sure of their locality. The probability, however, is that they skirted Whitesands Bay. Every time they are mentioned it is in connection with some superstitious observances at Yuletide—the great heathen festival that had Christmas engrafted on it. On one occasion we find John Stewart, Andrew Robertson, and various others, charged with being ‘down on the linkes’ at Yule, and charged ‘not to do the like again.’ One could wish that the Minute had been fuller on such an occasion. That superstitious observances connected with Yule were common in Fife as late as the year 1649obvious from the following Minute of Synod, of April 4th of that year: ‘The Assemblie appointis the several Presbitries to enquyre in thair boundis, quhat superstitioun is used in observing of Yuile day, and accordinglie to censure the samen; and to advyse what effectuall course may be taken for suppressing thairof in tym coming When speaking of holidays, I may say that there are various notices of ‘ Handsel Monday/ and the ‘Market day,’ in the Minutes; and the instances in which drunkenness and riot are connected with them are very rare indeed. One or two of these notices may be referred to. When John Flooker’s wife, by the aid of her lantern, found her bibulous husband ‘among the whins, betwixt and Burntisland,’ it was at Handsel Monday time, in the year 1658. John was, however, a notorious character; and little did he suspect that, after the lapse of more than two centuries, his sleep on that memorable night would be so sharply criticised. Then in January 1674 six persons are cited before the Session, for being drunk and disorderly at Handsel Monday time; some of them striking each other, as the Minute has it, ‘both with foot and hand.’ These are, however, so far as I recollect, the only cases of the kind. And much the same may be said regarding the market-day, which, you may remember, I have shown to be St. Columba’s Day—the day of the patron saint of the Monastery in our immediate neighbourhood. There are many indications of business going on, in buying and selling, on the market-day; as indeed it was of old a great time for trading in various kinds of wares, brought to the place, as well as manufactured in it, and exposed for sale on stands. But very few abuses seem to have been connected with it in the olden time, although in recent times some have crept in, and are countenanced by interested parties for their own gain and the public loss. For the credit of our fine old town—for although it has now shrunk into the proportions of a village, it was, in the olden days with which we are dealing, not merely a town, but two burghs, one of barony and the other of regality, united—for the credit of our town, let the respectable inhabitants give no countenance to these abuses, introduced by a few who have little or no character to lose. Let me not be supposed to be an enemy to holidays rightly enjoyed, and amusements which can afford to be looked back upon without regret. From my heart I wish the working man had more of them, and that amusements of a rational kind could be made to take the place of those that, in the judgment of all intelligent men, are both irrational and hurtful.

While speaking of amusements I may refer to some of the games which are incidentally referred to in the Session Record. It is mentioned, in rather a strange connection, that one of the games played out-of-dcDors was ‘Barley-breaks.’ This was a game somewhat akin to that of 'Hide-and-seek,’ played among the stacks of a farm-yard, in which I suppose some of those now hearing me have indulged, in the happy days of childhood. But the remarkable thing, in the case to which I allude, is that it was on a Sabbath this game was played, by seven young women belonging to the parish, in 1650. And what makes the incident stranger still, is the circumstance that it was on a Communion Sabbath, and at least two of the young women had that day been at the Lord’s Table. Our first thought in connection with such a case is that surely Mr. Bruce had not been at sufficient pains to instruct these young women in the doctrines and duties of the Christian faith. But indeed, what minister is there, even in these later days, who has admitted young people to the membership of the Church, who has not been grieved by the misbehaviour of some of them!

Another game referred to in the same incidental way, is that of ‘ballots,’ as it is called in the Minutes, but more correctly 'bullets.’ From inquiries which I have made, I believe this game has lingered longer in the West of Scotland than in Fife. The mode of playing it is this:—Two persons, or parties, furnished each with a metal ball, or bullet, as large as can with ease be grasped by the hand, try, by alternate throws, in how many runs along a public road a certain distance can be accomplished, and the side that covers the distance in the fewest throws is victor. It requires a sharp eye and a steady hand, as well as considerable tact and strength of muscle, to run such a bullet along the highway for a few hundred yards; for sometimes, meeting with an obstruction, it is brought to a dead stand, or it goes off at a tangent and disappears through a hedge. And the avoidance or overcoming of these and similar difficulties so as to reach the goal, or ‘ hail,’ in the fewest number of throws, demands both strength and skill. It is not to be regretted that this game has disappeared, as it was fraught with inconvenience, and even danger, to foot-passengers. This then is the game that John Anderson has been taking part in, on the evening of some fine sunny day, in June 1650, when the roads were just in such a condition as to offer least resistance to the swiftly rolling bullet. But John is evidently a foolish sort of fellow; for, as he returns from his sport, about nine o’clock in the evening, he adjourns to a public-house, and as a natural result of this, he becomes hilarious, and indulges in sundry knocks at the doors of peaceable townspeople who have retired to rest. The consequence of all this folly is that John’s freaks come to the ears of the Kirk-Session,—ears which, as we have already seen, were kept wide open, and had many avenues leading to them—and the bullet-player comes to grief.

There are curious notices in the Record of playing on the ice, and ‘night-waiking,’ and practical jokes of various kinds, not always pleasant to those on whom they were played; and which, like the boomerang, came back to the hand that played them off—in the shape of an interview with the Kirk-Session. But the patience, even of an Aberdour audience listening to stories of their own neighbourhood, has its limits, and these and other themes must meanwhile be passed over in silence.

The men and women whose actions have come before us in this lecture have all passed away. The ministers, the elders, the people,—noblemen and peasants alike—are sleeping in the dust, and their spirits have gone to God who gave them. So will it be with us too, ere long. Let us then strive to live in such a way that our influence, at whatever time traced, and by whomsoever, may be found to have been on the side of what is true and good. Then life shall have been worth living, and death, to borrow the motto of Robert Blair’s tombstone, shall be to us the Gate of Life.


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