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Biggar and the House of Fleming
Chapter IX - Biggar Kirk (Continued)


MALCOLM Lord Fleming, in his testament, executed in the spring of 1547, still further manifested his care for the pjjW* erection of the Collegiate Church of Biggar. In that document he says, 'I leif my vestments that were indued to the Kirk of Biggar and Colledge of the samin, and all other profits, whilk belanga to themselves as the erection of the Colledge bears, to the utility and profite of the samen, ay and while the Kirk, Colledge,

Alemosineress, and mansion-house be biggit; and putt in their own places as the erection of the said Colledge bears, and ordines v merks of my own propir guddis to be tane to buy vestments, and bigging of the said Colledge, and mansions, chalices, or ony other necessar things that is needful for the said Colledge.’ He further orders, ‘ All my clayths to be dealt betwixt my twa sonis gotten with my wife, and pairt of thaim to be given to the Colledge of Biggar, as my executors and oversman thinks expedient, and leif to the Gray-friers of Glasgow xx lib to pray for me, xx lib I leif to the ffour chaplains of the Lenzie and Biggar to pray for me, and to be divided as my executors find expedient.’

It is not unlikely that the old Parish Church of St Nicholas at Biggar was used as the burial-place of the Fleming family. In Catholic times a strong desire prevailed to deposit the remains of the dead in consecrated ground, particularly in a place so sacred and hallowed as the area of a church. Kings, nobles, priests, and indeed all ranks, were anxious that their ashes should lie in a spot where the exercises of religion were daily performed, where the constant presence of holy men shed a solemnizing influence, where no rude hand dared to commit violence, and where they would remain in calm and undisturbed repose till the time when the sound of the archangel’s trumpet would animate them anew, and summon them into the presence of their Creator and Judge. It is certain, at least, that Malcolm Lord Fleming intended that his new church at Biggar should be the burying-place of his family. In his testament, after leaving his soul to Almighty God, the Virgin Mary, and all holy saints, he says, 4 Gif it happynis me to decess in weirs or ony uther deid, as God pless, giffen my body be gottin quharever I decess, to be erdit in my Colledge Kirk of Biggar.’ He also in the same document left orders that, immediately after the completion of the College, his father's cymmeter ’ was to be carried from the Castle of Boghall to that sacred edifice, whilk sail be bora the xii day of October in the solemnest gate that can be devisit baith to the honour of God.* In the chancel of the new Church, at the spot where the high altar in former times stood, nearly all the members of the Fleming family have been interred from the days of the founder to the end of last century. The last person buried in it was Lady Clementina Fleming, who carried the Biggar estates into the family of Elphinstone, and who died in 1790. The banners and escutcheons of this noble family were wont to hang in ample fold over the graves of the deceased barons, but these have all disappeared for nearly a century. The only memorial of the dead interred below is a marble slab, inserted into the wall, to the memory of Jane Mercer, wife of the Honourable George Keith Elphinstone, who died in 1789. It is understood that a large number of other persons besides the Flemings were* interred within the walls of the Church. It is certain that when excavations were made in the floor, some years ago, to introduce a heating apparatus, large quantities of the remains of mortality were dug up.

The practice of kirk burial was in popish times quite common throughout the whole country, and, therefore, the Presbyterian clergy, at the Reformation, set themselves with vigour to repress it, as it savoured, in their opinion, of Popery and superstition. In the General Assembly which met at Edinburgh in 1588, they passed an act against it; and in the General Assembly of 1643, they declared that all former acts and constitutions made against burial in kirks were again ratified, and that all persons, of whatsoever rank, were inhibited and discharged to bury within the body of the kirk, where the people meet for the hearing of the word and the administration of the sacraments, or to hang pensiles or boards, to offer honours or arms, or to make any such like monuments, to the honour or remembrance of any deceased person, upon walls or other places within the kirk. These acts set the landed proprietors and the Established clergy completely by the ears. The lairds, whose ancestors from time immemorial had interred their dead within the walls of the parish kirks, insisted on continuing the practice* maintaining that they had a right so to do, both by prescriptive usage wad feudal superiority. The clergy took their stand on the acts of the General Assembly, and resisted with their usual warmth and obstinacy.

Some of the lairds in the neighbouring parishes had sad bickerings with the clergy in regard to this practice. They took forcible possession of the churches, and there interred their dead, in spite of all the acts and anathemas of their spiritual instxtoctors, though, as might be expected, they had very generally in the end to submit to the fines and penances that were consequently imposed. We will give one or two instances from the records of tbe Presbyteries of Lanark and Biggar,

On the 22d of January 1624, John Chancellor of .Shieldhill was summoned to appear before the Presbytery of Lanark at its next meeting, and answer the charge of burying within the Kirk of Quoth-quan. On the 17th of June following, it is reported that the Laird hes promised to gif satisfactioune to ye Session of Quodquan, and to find oawtione -to abstain from kirk burial in all tyme coming.’ The Laird, however, after all, was resolved to take his own way; and when his wife died, in 1639, he interred her forcibly in the Kirk of Quoth-quan. The clergy, led on no doubt by his own pastor, George Bennet, pounced upon him again, and summoned him to appear before them at Lanark, on the 28th of March of that year. The record says, 'Ye Laird of Shielhill oompeiris and acknowledges his fault in burying his wife in ye Kirk of Quodquan, and is ordered to find cawtione to renounce his kirk buriell in tyme coming, under ye pain of xl lib, and is ordeined to be censured by ye Kirk Sessione of Quodquan, for breking up ye door of ye Kirk.’ John Muir, the Laird of Anniston, was antaigned for committing a similar offence. The minutes of Presbytery record as follows: ‘Qlk day, compeirit ye Laird of Anaston, and confessit his fault, both in taking ye key of ye kirk doore of Sytningtoun from ye minister thairof, and also burying his faither within ye samen, for qlk faults he oblissis himself under ye pain of xl lib to satisfy the Injunctiones of Presbytery to abstain from kirk buriell in all tyme coming under the foresaid penaltie totia quoties be this act subscribed with his hand at Lanark 25th of Junii 1625.' Twenty years after this date, viz., on the 25th of February 1646, the next Laird of 4 Anieaton1 was summoned before the Presbytery of Biggar, and accused of burying his father in the Kirk of Symington. He oonfessed the fault as charged, but pretended that he was not aware of the acts of the Church on the subject; that he was sorry for what had taken place, and promised forbearance in time to come. The Presbytery condemned him to make a public confession of his fault in the Kirk of Symington the next Lord's day, and to bind himself under a penalty of a hundred pounds, not to offend in like manner again. We will only cite another instance. On the 10th December 1629, the Rev, Janies Baillie, minister of Lamington, was enjoined by the Presbytery to take security from Thomas Baillie, the Laird of Lamington, that he would be present at next meeting of Presbytery, to receive his injunctions for his offence in breaking up the door of Lamington Kirk, and burying his child within the walls thereof; and if he refused, his pasta1 was to proceed against him by public admonition. The Laird, however, appeared before the Presbytery on the 31st of the month referred to, and 4 was ordeyned to mak his pubhcki repentance in sack olaith ane Sabbath day, and pay iiij lib in penalty.’

In May 1666, John, Earl of Wigton, wa interred in Biggar Kirk with -all due solemnity, just about the time that the kirk sessions were battling with all their vigour against the practice of Kirk burial. Anthony Murray, factor at Biggar to his Lordship, enters in his books that he had (allowed to ye compter,1 that is, himself, ‘ ye sowme of ane hunder and two punds eighteen shillings and tuo pennies Scots disbursed be him at Biggar at my Lord’s funeralL’ He also mentions that he had given himself credit for the price of three bolls of meal, at four pounds and half a merk per boll, which were consumed in my Lord’s house at the burial in May; and that six firlots of the meal was at that time given to the poor.

The Flemings, most likely from being patrons of the parish, were not disturbed in their kirk buriaL No account has been left of the ceremonials observed at the funeral of any member of the family. These were, no doubt, very imposing, especially so long as the family continued its adherence to the popish faith. A statement of the funeral expenses of Lady Margaret Fleming, whose remains were interred in Biggar Kirk in December 1675, is still preserved. It details the expenses incurred before the body was brought to Biggar, and after it arrived at that town. As this statement may be interesting to some readers, we give a few of the items:—‘To Georg Stark going through ye Monkland wt letters to ye buriall, L.1, 4s.‘for a dosen of great prinies to prin ye mortcloath and horscloath, 2s.;’ ‘to ye footman Anderson to go to Carluik to advertise ye peopell to have provision for man and horse, 8s.;’ ‘ for breid and drink at ye dryburn qn ye corps halted, L.4, 6s.’ The cortege remained during the night at Carluke, and the bill of the inn in which the men and horses were chiefly accommodated has also been preserved. It is dated at4Carluik, Dec. 22d 1675,’ and shows that the disbursements were for 8 gallons of ale, L.6, 8s.; for bread, L.2; for beef and mutton, L.3; for brandy, L.4, 10s.; for pipes and tobacco, 6s.; for coals and candles, 10s.; for eight pecks and three capful, most likely of com, L.5, 5s.; for straw for seven horses, L.1, 8s.; for breakfast to the coachman and footmen, L.1, 7s.; for additional breakfast, L.1, 4s. 6d. The amount of the whole expenses in the inn was L.25, 18s. 6cL Some other disburse* ments took place at Carluke, such as L.4, 10s. ‘for sex horse and sex men that was not in yt house,’ and 18s. ‘ given to ye bellman.’ A halt was next made at Camwath, and the bill for refreshments at that town was L.4, 12s. 8d.

Among the items of expense at (Bigair’ were ‘4 pund of candell, L.1; 4 pund of buter, L.1; ane pund and a half of plumdames, 5s.; ane quarter a pund of ginger, 8s. 4cL; half a peck of salt, 2s. 8d.; 4 hens, L.1, 10s.; two sheip, ane of ym L.5, and ane oyr L.6; 4 dosen of pypes, 10s.; fyve loads of coall, L.1, 7s.; 2 cariag horse to bring ye wyn and oyr necessaries out of Edinr., L.5; ane man for his hyr and quarter yt was hyrd be Wm. bows to bring out ye links and torches, L.8, 16s.; James Rob for coming to Carluik wt ye torches, L.1; ye man that brought ye mortcloath to Cumbemald, L.2; ye cotchman and his man at bigair for horse stall and diat, L.4; a pynt of wyn and two gills of brandy and glase to James Carmichael’s weif, L.2; Hew Anderson and his daughter besyd ane firlot of meal, L.1, 6s.’

At the death of the founder of the College Church, in 1547, the building, as we have already observed, was unfinished. His son and successor, James Lord Fleming, carried on the work; but, from some cause or other, he also failed to complete it, as well as the hospital for the bedesmen, and the manses for the priests. On the 5th of May 1555, he obtained a charter from the abbot and convent of Holyrood, conferring on the College of Biggar the patronage and emoluments of the Church of Dunrod, in the diocese of Whithorn, avowedly on the ground of the scanty provision made for the provost and prebendaries of the College. This charter has been preserved in the chartulary of ‘ the Monastery of Holyrood, and is of considerable length. As everything of this kind possesses not merely a local, but a general interest, we will give an abridged translation of its principal points. It is addressed by Robert Stewart, commendator of the Monastery of the Holycross, to the reverend father in Christ, Andrew, by the grace of God Bishop of Candida Casa, and Dean of the Chapel Royal at Stirling. It sets out by saying that all sincere endeavours to promote the worship and honour of Almighty God, made' by the faithful, ought to be extolled, approved of, and assisted by every person to the utmost extent of his power. The abbot and monks of Holyrood had, therefore, fully appreciated the singular affection, piety, and beneficence displayed towards God and the holy Catholic Church by the late noble and potent Malcolm Lord Fleming, who in these miserable and heretical (Lutheranis) times, and at his own expense, had erected a magnificent church at the town of Biggar, in honour of Almighty God and the Virgin Mary, and commonly called the College of 4 The Blessed Mary of Biggar,’ in which a provost and a certain number of other religious men had been appointed, established, and set apart to the service of God and the blessed Virgin. James Lord Fleming, son and heir of the late Malcolm Lord Fleming, had lately presented to the said abbot and monks a petition, which showed that his Lordship, moved by pious zeal and devotion, was striving to follow in the footsteps of his excellent father, and was endeavouring not merely to uphold the College, but to improve it with most watchful care. The petition also reminded them that they had in their hands the right of patronage of the Church of Dunrod; and they felt that in these evil times it was incumbent on them, so far as their ability extended, to increase the means of religious worship, and render assistance to Lord Fleming, so that he might not be deterred from pursuing his excellent purpose and design, and feel too great inconvenience from the slender endowment and scanty revenue of the numerous religious men officiating in the College at Biggar. They had therefore resolved, in chapter assembled, after mature consideration, and with the consent of the venerable John Stevenson, prothonotary apostolic and precentor of the Metropolitan Church of Glasgow, first provost of the College of Biggar, and present vicar of the Parish Church of Dunrod, to give up all and whole the produce, rents, rights, and emoluments belonging to the vicarage of Dunrod, so far as their power extended, in order that they might be united, annexed, and incorporated with the provostship of the said College. They provided, however, that a vicar stipendiary should be appointed to discharge the duties of the Parish Church of Dunrod, and should receive for stipend twenty merks Scots annually, together with a house and garden, and an acre of arable land. They conclude by calling on the bishop of the diocese to approve and confirm the nomination of the paid vicar, and the annexation and incorporation of the produce and rents of the vicarage and other things, as already stated; to supply any omissions that they had made; and to accept the signatures of their agents, acting in their name. To the charter is appended the seal of the monastery, and the subscription of the abbot and monks, and of John Stevenson, provost of the College of Biggar.

John Stevenson, or Steinstoune, as he spelled his name, was the last Roman Catholic precentor of the Metropolitan Church of Glasgow. He was the first provost of the Collegiate Church of St Mary’s of Biggar, and held, besides, the office of a Lord of Session. An interesting relic of this ecclesiastic, long preserved by the late Principal Lee, is now in the possession of Adam Sim, Esq. This is a copy of the historical fragments of the Babylonian priest Berosus, which belonged to him, and which has his autograph both on the title-page and on the last leaf. The following is the inscription on the last leaf:—

‘Spe expecto,

Sum ex libris magistri Johannis Steinstoune, Metropolitane Glasguensis prjBcentoris, de Collegiat. Ecclee. Be Marie de Bigger prsepositi—et Ami-corum, 1548.’

The glory of Biggar Kirk, as a collegiate establishment, was shortlived. The provost, canons, singing boys, and poor men, scarcely felt themselves warm and at ease in their new possessions, when they were roused and perturbed by the thunders of Knox and other leaders of the Scottish Reformation. The crusade against popish idolatry burst forth with destructive fury in 1559. The monasteries and other religious houses were attacked and demolished by the 4 rascal multitude,’ and their revenues reverted to the Crown, or were seized by the rapacious and turbulent nobles. How far the principles of the Reformation had at that time made progress among the burgesses of Biggar, it is perhaps impossible now to say. The powerful influence exerted over them by Lord Fleming, in virtue of his feudal rights and prerogatives, would no doubt prevent them from laying violent hands on the new ecclesiastical edifice of Biggar Kirk, had they been so disposed. The monuments of idolatry connected with its walls were, at any rate, few. The heads of two or three saints, the emblems of a dove, or even of a serpent, were not calculated greatly to rouse the destructive propensities of the Reformers, who may have sprung up within the bounds of the burgh and barony. Some of the most offensive may have been defaced in the manner in which they are now to be seen. The altars would be overturned, the sacred furniture and utensils would be carried off, the priests would cease to perform their masses, the organ and the singing boys would become silent, and the poor bedesmen would no longer sit at the graves of the founder and his relatives, and pray for the safety of their souls.

A great difficulty was felt in supplying the places of the Romish priests. A sufficient number of regularly ordained Protestant clergymen was not to be found. It was, therefore, laid down in the 4First Book of Discipline/ that ‘ To the churches where no ministers can be had presentlie, must be appointed the most apt men, that distinctlie can read the common prayers and the Scriptures, to exercise both themselves and the Church till they grow to greater perfection, and in process of time he that is but a reader may attain to a further degree, and by the consent of the Church and discreet ministers, may be permitted to minister the sacraments,’ etc. The names of bishop and archbishop were distasteful to the Presbyterian Reformers, and therefore they appointed persons whom they called superintendents, who were employed in visiting the churches in a district assigned them, and preaching the word from parish to parish. Under this arrangement, William Millar was reader at Biggar in 1567, and William Hamilton in 1571, with a salary each of L.20. It is not unlikely that these two officials had been prebendaries in the collegiate establishment of Biggar, as it is known that this class was largely employed at the period as readers and exhorters. In 1574 a new ecclesiastical arrangement, carried into effect by the Earl of Morton, then Regent of the kingdom, provided that several parishes should be placed under the pastoral superintendence of one minister, while the readers were still to continue to discharge their duties in each parish.

During the existence of this plan, Ninian Hall was appointed mini-ster of Biggar, Lamington, Hartside, Coulter, Kilbucho, and Symington, with a salary of L.114, 13s. 4<L The readers in these parishes, and their salaries, were as follows, viz.: at Biggar, David Makkie, L.20; at Lamington and Hartside, John Lindsay, L.22, 4s. 5^cL; at Coulter, William Millar, L.16; at Kilbucho, Andrew Jardine, L.16; and at Symington, John Lindsay, L.16. In 1576 Walter Haldane was minister of Biggar, with a stipend of L.112, and the kirk land of Biggar; and the reader was John Pettilloch, with the former salary of L.20. Walter Haldane had also the oversight of the parishes of Coulter, Lamington, and Symington. He appears in the end to have committed some misdemeanor; for in May 1588 he was deposed, as unworthy to fill his sacred office. The readers and exhorters were debarred from celebrating marriages or administering the sacraments, but it appears that in many instances they overstepped the bounds prescribed to them. We find, for instance, in the records of the Presbytery of Glasgow, that James Waugh, reader at Quothquan, was accused of celebrating irregular marriages; and was, besides, a drunkard, a fighter, a wanton, and inconstant. It was therefore declared by the General Assembly, in 1580, that ‘thair office is no ordinar office within ye Kirk of God;1 and in the year following it was enacted that this office should be finally abolished, that the churches should be arranged into a number of presbyteries, and that none but a regularly ordained clergyman should be permitted to discharge the duties connected with public worship.

Although the ecclesiastical system of Scotland was changed at the Reformation, it yet seems that, for a considerable period afterwards, some of the clerical staff of Biggar College was kept up, at least in name. William Fleming, a son of John Fleming of Carwood, was presented to the office of provost, and the parsonage and vicarage of the Collegiate Church of Biggar, by John Lord Fleming, on . the 1st of January 1573. This person, or perhaps another of the same name as he, is styled a servant of Lord Maitland of Thirlestane, obtained a tack of the teinds of the parsonage and vicarage, in 1590, from commissioners appointed by John Lord Fleming to sell or wadset such of his teinds and benefices as they should see fit, during his absence from this country. William Fleming, who obtained this tack, procured a decreet from the Lords of Session, on the 26th November 1593, against the feuars, farmers, parishioners, tenant?, tacksmen, rentallers, and others indebted in payment of the teinds, fruits, rents, and emoluments of the provostrie of the College of Biggar, and the parsonage and vicarage of 'Thankerton, united and annexed to the said provostrie, commanding them to make payment, under the penalty of having diligence executed against them, and being committed to ward in Dumbarton Castle. A gift of the provostship, with its fruits, rents, emoluments, and casualties, was conferred by John, Earl of Wigton, on Patrick Fleming of Ballach, on the 81st of March 1661. John, Earl of Wigton, patron of the College Kirk and prebendaries thereof, with consent of William Fleming, the provost, on the 14th of May 1616, granted a disposition in favour of James Duncan of the pre-bendship that was endowed with the teinds of Auchynreoch, and the two acres of land lying in the town and territory of Kirkintulloch. Whether these persons officiated as the parish ministers of Biggar, we have not been able to ascertain.

As we formerly stated, the parish of Thankerton was joined to the Collegiate Kirk of Biggar previous to the Reformation. It was this circumstance that led the Commissioners for the Plantation of Churches, on the 5th of December 1617, to unite and annex the Church and Parish of Thankerton to the Church and Parish of Biggar, and to decern that the Earl of Wigton, patron of these churches, and tacksman of their teinds, should provide and maintain a passage-boat on the Clyde, for the accommodation of the parishioners of Thankerton, when they attended divine service at the Kirk of Biggar. The people of Thankerton by and by became averse to repair to the Kirk of Biggar, and they rebelled in the same way as the people of Libberton afterwards rebelled in regard to the Kirk of Quothquan. On the 13th of May 1630, the minister of Biggar lodged a complaint with the Presbytery of Lanark, that the parishioners of Thankerton refused to attend the Kirk of Biggar, on the ground that it was inconvenient to travel so far to the examinations, by which they were prepared for participation in the sacrament of the Supper. The parishioners were therefore summoned before the Presbytery, to show the grounds of their refusal On the 27th of the same month they appeared by commissioners before the Presbytery, and positively asserted that they would not attend divine service at Biggar; ‘quhair-fore ye breether ordaine ye censures of ye kirk to proceed against thame for contumacie.’ On the 10th of June following, they, again appeared, and informed the Presbytery that they had held an interview with the Earl of Wigton, and that he had promised with all possible diligence to meet with the Presbytery in order to concert some method, 4 how ye Kirk of Thankerton may be served.’ The Presbytery therefore thought it advisable to proceed no further with the infliction of spiritual censures on the people of Thankerton. The dispute, however, was not so soon settled. We find that in the spring of 1635, the Archbishop of Glasgow wrote a letter to the Presbytery of Lanark, ordering George Ogstoun, minister of Covington, to signify to the parishioners of Thankerton that they should repair to the Kirk of Biggar, in accordance with the decision of the Commissioners' for the Plantation of Churches. The Presbytery, however, brought the subject before the Synod; and the result in the end was, that Thankerton was joined to the parish of Covington.

Thomas Campbell was minister, or what was called parson and vicar of Biggar, about the beginning of the seventeenth century. On the 13th February 1607, he granted a tack of the teinds of Biggar, during his lifetime, to John, Earl of Wigton, for the payment of four chalders of oatmeal, between (Youl and Candlemas,’ and relieving his Lordship of the communion elements and all stents and taxation. In 1644, when the Presbytery of Biggar was formed, a Thomas Campbell was still minister of Biggar; but whether this was the same individual who granted the tack to the Earl, it is very difficult to say. At that time Mr Campbell was an old man, incapable of discharging the duties of his office. The pulpit of Biggar was therefore, for several years, supplied by members of the Presbytery. Many applications were made to the Earl of Wigton to issue a presentation in favour of some acceptable minister, but nothing was done till Qptober 1646, when a letter was laid before the Presbytery of Biggar from his Lordship, ‘whairin he did nominat Mr Alexander Livingston, now minister at Carmichael, for ye Kirk of Biggar;’ and a ‘supplicatione’ from the parishioners was at the same time presented, calling on the Presbytery to take all necessary steps to forward so desirable a settlement. The Presbytery therefore lost no time in prosecuting the matter before the Presbytery of Lanark; and this Presbytery having obtained a decision favourable to the translation from the Commission of the General Assembly, and being satisfied that Mr Livingstone was inclined to accept the presentation, they agreed to transport the said Alexander Livingstone to the Kirk and Parish of Biggar. Mr Livingstone was most acceptable both to the Presbytery and the people of Biggar. He was an eloquent and effective preacher. On the 27th of January 1647, he preached a popular sermon, from Eph. iv. 11, 12, before the Presbytery, preparatory to his settlement, which gave the members so great satisfaction, that they put on record that they praised God for the gifts and graces which He had bestowed on their intended colleague. The following extract from the report of his induction, on the 3d of February 1647, can hardly fail to be read at the present day with interest by the parishioners of Biggar:—‘And haveing seriouslie exhorted ye whole people of that congregatione, especiallie ye present elderis of ye same, that in regaird they had been so long destitute of a pastor, and now that they had received one soe hopefull to doe good among theme, and one whome they had so eamestlie socht for, that they wold testifie yr thankfullnes to God for him, and that they wold reverence and obeye him as yr pastor in all things in the Lord. Thairafler the said ministeris, elderis, deacones, and parochiners respective, in signe of yr consent, did tak the said Mr Alexander Livingstone be ye hand, and gave to him most heartilie ye richt hand of fellowschip.’ Mr Livingstone, as is well known, demitted his charge in 1662, rather than comply with the new ecclesiastical arrangements then established by law. His future history is shrouded in obscurity.

No record exists, so far as we know, that describes the ecclesiastical condition of the parish of Biggar during the persecution, from 1662 to 1688. It appears to have been favoured with the ministrations of one or two successive curates; and there is evidence to show that some hot contentions took place in consequence of the withdrawal of the parishioners from the Parish Kirk, and their attendance on conventicles.

The first curate at Biggar, of whom we know anything, is Richard Brown. His name appears repeatedly in the books of the Earl of Wigton, as having received his stipend, which appears to have been paid partly in money and partly in victual. For instance, it is recorded that there was allowed ‘Richard Brown, minister at Bigyar, the soume of fourscore pund qlk completes his silver stippand cropt 1674.’ The following order regarding the payment of his victual stipend, from William, Earl of Wigton, to Bailie James Law of Biggar, is still preserved:—* James Law, at sight heirof, pay to Mr Richard Broune, our minister at Bigger, twelve bolls victuall, tow pairt meal and third pairt beir, faill not heirin, as ye will be answerable to us; and this, with his receipt, shall be your sufficient warrand. Given under our hand at Bigger Januar sixten, jaj vi seventie-fyve (1675) years.

Mr Brown’s receipt is written on the same sheet; and whatever may have been his merits in other respects, we can say at least that he was a good penman. At what time Mr Brown was settled we have not discovered, but we have found references to a kirk session at Biggar in 1666. He was most likely settled by that time, and, though an Episcopalian, appears to have had a kirk session. At that time, and for many years subsequently, the Earls of Wigton paid L.60 Scots, as interest, or, as it is called, annual rent, on a sum of L.1000 to the kirk session of Biggar. The next Biggar curate whose name has been preserved is John Reid, who was translated from Walston to Biggar in the end of the year 1685.

After the Revolution, William Jacque appears to have been for some time minister of Biggar. He was succeeded in 1697 by Robert Livingstone, who was translated from Libberton. Mr Livingstone died in 1733. A Mr Jack was appointed his assistant and successor in 1732; and he continued to officiate here till the 27th April 1749, when he was translated to Carnwath.

The curators of the heirs of John, Earl of Wigton, viz., William, Earl of Panmure, and William Fleming of Barrochan, in 1751, issued a presentation to the Kirk of Biggar in favour of Mr William Haig. The call to this gentleman was supported by Lady Clementina Fleming, and her husband, Mr Elphinston, by Mr Chancellor of Shield-hill, Sussana Lockhart, widow of Mr Dickson of Hartree, by Robert Forsyth, Robert Hamilton, and his sister Margaret Cooper. But, on the other hand, it was opposed by Lady Persilands, Mr Brown of Edmonstone,—James Telfer, Laurence Boe, James Bertram, John Gladstanes, James Smith, and James Melrose, all resident heritors except James Melrose; by four of the elders, twenty-five feuars of the town of Biggar, and one hundred and twenty-five householders. The Presbytery, in these circumstances, decided that they could not proceed to the settlement of the presentee, and resolved to apply to the patrons to be relieved from any further trouble in the matter; but Gideon Lockhart, writer, Lanark, as agent for the presentee, protested and appealed to the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The case, accordingly, came before the Synod, and afterwards before the Gene ral Assembly. The deliverance of the Assembly was, that ‘in present circumstances it is not expedient to appoint the settlement of the presentee, and do remit to the Presbytery of Biggar, to deal with all concerned, in order to bring about a comfortable settlement of the parish.’

As the parishioners, almost unanimously, still persevered in their opposition to the settlement, the Presbytery found that they could proceed no further in the case; and therefore another appeal was made to the higher ecclesiastical courts. The Commission of the General Assembly appointed a committee to deal with objections. The following objections were laid by the elders before the committee:—‘1st. He began on a high enough key, but he was not able to hold out the whole length of the service. 2d. That he was so unwieldy and infirm, that they had no prospect of his being able to perform the duties of his office by visiting his parishioners, particularly the sick.’ The whole people intimated that they adhered to these objections. The committee thereupon exhorted them to be cautious what they said, as every statement made would go to proof; and reminded them that further opposition on their part would have the effect of keeping the Church longer vacant The answer of the parishioners was, that they were determined to persevere in the course on which they had entered, as in their opinion the settlement of Mr Haig would be no better than a vacancy. The consequence of this decided opposition was, that Mr Haig was induced to write a letter to the Presbytery from Edinburgh, on the 8th of June 1754, resigning any right which he might have acquired to the incumbency of Biggar.

On the 27th of June, Bailie Carmichael appeared before the Presbytery, and laid on the table a presentation to the Kirk of Biggar in favour of Mr John Johnston, minister of the Gospel in the Castle of Edinburgh. John Gladstanes, one of the elders, at the same time presented a petition, signed by all the elders, the resident heritors, and a large number of the heads of families, craving that the Presbytery would proceed to the settlement of Mr Johnston with all convenient speed. Mr Johnston was consequently inducted to the charge of Biggar on the 26th September 1754. Mr Johnston died on the 15th of October 1778. The next incumbent of the parish of Biggar was Mr Robert Pearson, who, as elsewhere related, was violently obtruded in 1780. Mr Pearson dying in 1787, Mr William Watson was admitted to the charge on the 23d October 1787. This divine died in 1822, and was succeeded in 1823 by the present incumbent, the Rev. John Christison, A.M.

The Flemings, from an early period, were patrons of the Parish Church, and also of an hospital dedicated to St Leonard. No account of this latter institution can now be obtained, and the very spot on which it stood is not known. It is supposed that the lands belonging to it were those of Spittal on Candy Bum, and that it was from this circumstance that they acquired their name ; Spittal being a corruption of the Latin word hospitium—a house of entertainment. We know that Malcolm Lord Fleming, who founded the College Kirk of Biggar, bestowed the church lands of Spittal on this establishment for the endowment of one of the prebendaries, who was to be called Canon of the Hospital of St Leonards. The charter chest of the Wigton family contains many documents which refer to the patronage both of the Church and the Hospital. There is, for instance, a precept of Sasine, granted by James H., for infefting Robert Lord Fleming in the lands of Biggar, and the patronage of the Church and Hospital, which bears date 31st May 1446. This was relative to a charter proceeding upon the personal resignation of David Lord Hay of Tester. A claim, it would seem, was made by Lord Hay to these patronages, and a lawsuit was the consequence. Commissioners appointed to settle the dispute held a meeting at Glasgow on the 31st of July 1469, and gave forth a decreet, by which they declared that the patronage belonged to Robert Lord Fleming, as the true, loyal, and only lawful and undoubted patron of the Church of Biggar. Reference is also made to Lord Fleming’s right of patronage to the Church and Hospital of Biggar in documents dated 1470 and 1472. The patronage of Biggar Kirk has remained with the Fleming family and their descendants ever since, and at present (1862) is the property of Lady Hawarden, the daughter of the late Admira^ Fleming.

The stipend of the Parish Church of Biggar, which, in 1821, was fixed at seventeen chalders, half oatmeal and half barley, was two years ago augmented to nineteen. The sum derivable from this source is stated to be L.307, 3s. 0d. per annum. An allowance of L.8, 6s. 8d. is also given for communion elements; and the glebe, extending to ten acres, is said to let at L.4, 4s. per acre. The free teind in the parish is still upwards of L.200.


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