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The History of Brechin to 1864
Chapter VI. The History of Brechin from 1700 TO 1727


Presbyterianism was fully established in Scotland in 1700, and, with a very partial interruption, the Presbyterian clergy have exercised all the powers and enjoyed all the privileges of Established clergymen in Brechin since that time. The records of the Presbyterian kirk of Brechin are commenced with a sketch of the state of Church affairs in 1700, a sketch which we give at full length in preference to any abridgment, as it appears to have been the joint production of the committee of the presbytery of Brechin appointed to attend to the settlement of all matters connected with the parish of Brechin. This sketch is in these terms:—“The church of Brechin being a collegiate charge, supplied by two ministers, the bishop in time of Episcopacy did supply the vice and room of one of them two, either by himself or his chaplain preaching a diet in the Sabbath’s forenoon; and he that was called the second minister ordinarily preached the afternoon's diet. Episcopacy being abolished in Scotland in the year 1689, Mr James Drummond (who was then Bishop of Brechin) was laid aside, and his charge became vacant But Presbyterian government not being then fully constitute, and judicatories presently erected in Angus, Mr Lawrence Skinner, the Episcopal incumbent, who supplied the afternoon s diet, took occasion to possess the forenoon’s diet also, having assumed his son, Mr John Skinner, to be his helper; and thus the whole charge was possessed and supplied for some years thereafter, till the death of the said Mr Lawrence Skinner, which happened in August 1691, whereupou the said Mr John Skinner, his son, took possession of the whole charge alone, and continued preaching the whole day till the month of (blank) in the year 1695; at which time Mr (blank) Abercrombie, minister at Lauder, by virtue of a commission from the Presbytery of Dundee, took possession of the forenoon's diet of preaching in the church of Brechin, and declared vacant that charge formerly supplied by the bishop; and thereafter the said diet was supplied by several Presbyterian ministers, the said Mr John Skinner still preaching in the afternoon, until the first day of August 1697 years, on which day Mr Ninian Lumie, minister at Preston, by commission from the presbytery of Dundee, did declare vacant the charge possessed by the said Mr John Skinner, and supplied the afternoon’s diet of preaching also; after which time both diets of preaching, forenoon and afternoon, were constantly supplied by Presbyterian ministers and probationers, until the month of March 1703, at which time Mr John Skinner foresaid, at his own hand, invaded the pulpit, and took possession of the afternoon's diet of preaching, and dispossessed the presbytery thereof. Thereafter, the united presbyteries of Brechin and Arbroath, in conjunction with a committee of the synod, did, in the church of Brechin, upon the third day of December 1703 years, by prayer and imposition of hands, solemnly set apart, consecrate, and ordain Mr John Willison, first minister of the Gospel there. There being no session constitute at the time of the said Mr John Willison his settlement, the foresaid united presbyteries did appoint a committee of their number to meet at Brechin from time to time, and take care of the concerns of said town and parish of Brechin instead of a session, and till such time as they should procure the legal establishment of a session there, as an extract under the hand of the presbytery clerk at more length bears, the tenor whereof is as follows: At Brechin, December 29, 1703, the united presbyteries of Brechin and Arbroath, taking under their consideration the many scandals abounding in the parish of Brechin, and understanding by Mr John Willison, now minister there, that there is a necessity of setting about the establishment of an eldership in the place, for management of the poor’s money, who are now at a great loss, Mr Skinner having deserted the landward session, with whom formerly he had met, as also for exercise of discipline against scandalous persons, and strengthening his hands in the work of the ministry; therefore, for carrying on the foresaids ends, they do nominate and appoint their following members, viz., Mr George Wemyss, Mr James Forsyth, Mr John Glassford, Mr James Robertson, Mr John Willison, together with Mr James Kerr, clerk, to meet as a committee of the said united presbyteries:—and do hereby fully empower and authorise you to call before you all scandalous persons in Brechin, and order them to satisfy the discipline of the Church when required thereto, to take under their inspection the case and necessities of the poor of the place, and to set about the constituting an eldership, either by ordination or admission of such persons in the place as have been formerly elders, or been named to be elders, in Brechin, as they shall see cause, and to do every other thing they shall find necessary and expedient for the exercise of discipline, for suppressing of vice and immorality, removing of disorders and irregularities, and strengthening Mr Willison's hands in the place:—and it is hereby also appointed that the said committee (of whose number three are to be a quorum) shall be answerable and accountable to the said united presbyteries in all their actings and proceedings, and shall produce their minutes to them when called for; and the said committee are appointed to have their first meeting to-morrow, at Brechin, against ten o'clock in the forenoon, with power to them to choose their own moderator and clerk, and to appoint the diets of their meetings afterwards as they shall see cause. Extracted furth of the records of the Presbytery by (sic subscribitur) James Kerr, elk. presb/” This entry is succeeded by the records of the committee of presbytery, acting as a session till February 1704, when a session is constituted from the members of the congregation.

The Presbyterian Church government, thus re-established, does not seem to have commanded unanimous approbation—at least the town council talk very unceremoniously of Mr John Willison and his pretended sessionand from various entries in the public records, it is evident the gentry in the neighbourhood were still favourable to Mr John Skinner, the deposed Episcopal clergyman.

Mr Skinner seems to have put the presbytery to no little trouble before they got quit of him. In 1704 he was called before that church court, but he gives the members plainly to understand that he will continue to exercise the office of minister in the church of Brechin as he had formerly done, upon which the presbytery “declared the said Mr Skinner an intruder, and therefore to have no relation to the parish or congregation of Brechin.” When this was intimated to Mr Skinner, he, as the records of the presbytery inform us, very abruptly threw down a paper, neither signed nor indorsed, and thereupon took instruments in the hands of the clerk, and “ also at the same time delivered a double of the said paper to one John Spence, fiscal in Brechin, and took instruments in the hands of the said Spence,” a contumelious way of speaking which does not show that the members of presbytery were then themselves in the mildest of moods. Various attempts at adjustment seem to have been made, recommended even by the Lord Advocate, but all apparently failed; and Mr Willison, the Presbyterian clergyman, reported to the presbytery in 1705 that Mr Skinner had repossessed himself of the afternoon diet, and that he, Mr Willison, had been informed, that if he should adventure to retake the pulpit from Mr Skinner, he would be actually rabbled by a violent mob, who were resolved to support the Episcopalian clergyman, “to which they were not a little encouraged by the magistrates, who refused all concurrence or assistance to him, Mr Willison, on this matter.” Energetic measures were resolved upon by the presbytery, and proceedings seem to have been commenced in different courts of law, but still the matter hung up, and the affair is again and again adverted to in the records of presbytery, till finally, in 1708, a libel is raised against Mr Skinner, charging him as an intruder, and a preacher of unsound doctrine. Mr Skinner declines the jurisdiction of the presbytery upon various grounds, all of which are repelled, and a number of witnesses being examined, the libel is found to be proven; and, finally, on 14th September 1709, Mr Skinner is deposed, a sentence which is subsequently enforced by warrant of the Court of Justiciary. In one of his papers, Mr Skinner states that he was “ legally settled minister at the church of Brechin in the year 1687, as appears by my presentation, collation, and instrument of institution," so that it would appear he had been twenty-two years a clergyman in Brechin. Mr Skinner resumed the pulpit of Brechin in 1715, during the brief rebellion raised by the Earl of Mar, and in 1722, as the presbytery records informs us, he attempted to open a “ meeting-house" in Brechin, but we find no mention of Mr Skinner in any public, records after this period, and we have understood that he left Brechin and went to Edinburgh, where he died about 1725. There can be no doubt that Mr Skinner was an intruder, and acting contrary to the laws of the land, but there scarce appears to be any ground for the other charges brought against him, and of this the presbytery themselves seem to have been aware, for, in 1709, they “shew Mr Trail (then clerk) that it is not the mind of the presbytery that the minutes of the process should be produced in open court" in the General Assembly.

Mr Skinner being got rid of, the next step was to fill up the vacancy in the church of Brechin, for which purpose the presbytery named two of their number “ to speak to the magistrates and desire them to call some fit person in time, and appointed also letters to be written to the landward heritors about the same business. The magistrates, however, did not pull with the church courts, and in March 1710, the presbytery find that the right to fill up the vacancy had fallen into their hands, and they therefore choose Mr William Trail, probationer, and appoint a call to be drawn up to him; but Mr Trail “because he had heard the people in Brechin were dissatisfied with him upon the account of his voice,” declined the office; and therefore the presbytery “resolved to give a call to Mr John Johnston as soon as possible, seeing the people of Brechin are so desirous of him." Mr Johnston was in consequence ordained minister of Brechin, upon the 18th of May 1710, since which time the church of Brechin has had two clergymen.

We have formerly noticed that there were two sessions in Brechin, a landward session and a burghal session; but by the exertions of Mr Willison, an Act of the General Assembly was obtained in 1708, uniting the two into one session, and since then there has been but one session in the parish of Brechin.

Mr Willison was a very popular preacher in the Kirk of Scotland, a leading member in the local church courts, and a firm supporter of the kirk. His name still stands deservedly high as the author of the “Afflicted Man's Companion,” written, as he himself says, “ that the afflicted may have a book in their houses, and at their bedsides, as a monitor to preach to them in private, when they are restrained from hearing sermons in public.” He is also the author of “The Mother's Catechism,” a little work still in use, besides which he wrote two treatises on the Lord's Supper, and a variety of other religious works. Mr Willison was likewise the principal composer of the “ Impartial Testimony,” a work held to contain a true statement of what were then deemed the principles of the Kirk of Scotland. Mr Willison's Presbyterian principles were not in accordance with the feelings of the people in Brechin; and we are informed that he was persecuted in every way by the inhabitants, especially by those of the higher ranks, most of whom were violent Jacobites and Episcopalians. Mr Willison was translated from Brechin to Dundee, where he died on 3d May 1750, in the seventieth year of his age, and forty-seventh of his ministry. When he removed to Dundee he found it impossible to command the services of a Brechin carter to convey his furniture to his new charge, so violent was the prejudice against him. In his difficulty he applied to Mr John Guthrie, tenant of Kincraig, great-grandfather of Mr Alexander Guthrie, present provost of Brechin; and Mr Willison received from Mr John Guthrie the assistance of which he stood so much in need. In 1746, the horses of Mr John Guthrie were seized by the Hanoverian party, to convey their baggage to the North, when the farmer of Kincraig posted to Dundee, and obtained from his friend Mr Willison a letter to the Duke of Cumberland, who, the moment he read the letter, caused the horses to be returned to Mr Guthrie.

It is curious enough to find the Presbyterian Church drawing a revenue from a Popish ceremony. In 1704, the session considering that it is ordinary for people to cause toll the bells at the interment of their relations, fix the rates which are to be paid for doubling of the three bells, knelling of them, or knelling any of the bells. This practice, commenced in Popish times, and then intended to give warning to those within hearing of the belta to pray for the souls of the departed, whose bodies were about to be committed to the earth, continued down as late as 1807; when, in consequence of the bells having been frequently broken by this mode of tolling, the town council, at whose expense the small bells then cracked were recast, prohibited the practice.

Mens minds were still unsettled in regard to political matters, as well as in regard to church government, and a good deal of manoeuvring seems to have taken place in the burgh about the commencement of the century to gain the political ascendancy; amongst which manoeuvres we may notice the resolution not to elect a provost, whereby the bailie nominated by Lord Panmure would have taken the chief direction as senior magistrate. But these plots were met by counterplots, and it is hard to say which party was right, when Queen Ann herself was hesitating between the Whigs who had called her to the throne, and the Tories who supported her exiled brother. Still the town council, although plotting with a view to the affairs of the State, found time for minor matters. Thus, in 1703, they strictly prohibit any one from casting feal in the Den, unless for the repair of the bow butts, that is, for repair of the butts erected in the time of James I., for the practice of archery, and retained as butts for ball shooting, till the late Mr. John Henderson superseded them by shooting espaliers on the same place. Next year the council make an ordinance, scarcely so legitimate; for they ratify the whole former Acts of council, discharging the inhabitants from pursuing their neighbour inhabitants before any judicatory without the burgh. An Act more self-denying occurs in March 1705, when the council, “in respect that the town's common good is greatly emburdened,” appoint that at all meetings 14 ordinary ale99 shall only be drunk, “and no strong drink to be called for or paid on the public account." We have formerly adverted to the expense the burgh incurred in supporting their member of Parliament. In May 1700, it is enacted that there be allowed to the present session of Parliament, and in all time coming, for the commissioner’s expenses, thirty shillings Scots money for each day he is absent, and this besides the ordinary horse hire, back and fore, and no more to be allowed, and that for each day the commissioner is detained at the Parliament allenarly. The right to elect a member to Parliament was then considered a burden, instead of a privilege, as at the present day; and the member, we see, was allowed his expenses, in place of being put to great cost in obtaining his seat, and maintaining himself in it, as is the present not very creditable practice.

On 1st May 1707, England and Scotland were legally united into one kingdom, under the title of Great Britain, and the Parliament of Scotland was abolished. This measure created no little sensation throughout the two kingdoms. The town council of Brechin instructed their commissioner, Francis Moli-son, to vote in the Scotch Parliament for the “union betwixt Scotland and England, and for all necessary supplies by this kingdom,” thus showing that the court party was then predominant in the burgh ; but we have understood that the commissioner disobeyed these instructions and voted against the union. The mode of electing the first member from this town to the British Parliament, is not made plain in the burgh records. It is stated, on 24th September 1707, that Provost Young is appointed “ commissioner to meet with the burghs of Aberdeen, Montrose, Aberbrothick, and Bervie; and that at Montrose the 26th day of September instant, anent giving instructions to (blank) Scott of Logy, younger, who is to represent in the British Parliament, the 14th October next, the burghs of Aberdeen, Brechin, Montrose, Arbroath, and Bervie; and this is all which we learn from the record on the subject. In May 1708, the council, in obedience to a precept from the Earl of Northesk, then sheriff of Forfar, nominated. Provost Young their commissioner, to go to Aberdeen on 26th May, and meet with the other commissioners from this district of burghs, and elect a member to the Parliament of Great Britain, summoned to meet at Westminster on the 8th July ensuing. Who was then elected member is not recorded. This mode of election continued, each of the five burghs presiding alternately, till the Act of 2 and 3 William IV., c. 65, in 1832, put the election directly into the hands of the people, and conjoined Brechin with the other three Angus burghs, Forfar, Arbroath, and Montrose, and with the burgh of Bervie in Kincardineshire, in the right to return a member of Parliament. It may be noticed in passing, that the order of precedence adopted in convening the burghs for the first election of a member to the Parliament of Great Britain was “ Aberdeen, Montrose, Brechin, Aberbrothock, Inverbervie; so that the designation of the “Montrose District of Burghs” in the Reform Act, when Aberdeen had a member assigned to itself, is only carrying out the old designation of this district of burghs, notwithstanding that Arbroath certainly now is the largest of the whole. According to the order in which the shires were called in the Scottish Parliaments, Edinburgh of course stood first, Ross was the thirty-third and last, while Forfar stood the twenty-fifth.

In 1709 all the burghs of Scotland were called upon to make returns of their setts to the Convention of Royal Burghs, and the following is engrossed in the council book of Brechin, as the then recognised constitution of the burgh, and as a copy of what had been sent to the Convention:—“That the town council of the royal burgh of Brechin consists of thirteen members, whereof eleven merchants and free brethren of the guild of the said burgh, and two tradesmen, all residenters and inhabitants of the said burgh, they do out of the aforesaid number of eleven, elect and choose a provost and two bailies, a dean of guild, town-treasurer, and master of the hospital. There is no fixed day for the annual election of this burgh of Brechin, but either the town council of the said burgh, some time before Michaelmas, yearly, do appoint and fix a day for the same peremptorily, or otherwise, the provost or preses of the town council for the time do call a council to meet at any time they think fit, some few days more or less as they please, not exceeding five or six days, and most frequently fewer days before Michaelmas, in order to choose a new council and leet the magistrates; and then the old council elects the new council, and both old and new councillors leet two persons of the new council, in order to choose one of them provost; and a leet also of four persons of the new council to the end two bailies may be chosen out of the same; and cause public intimation thereof to be made by tuck of drum through the whole burgh; and upon the day appointed for the election, the new council meets, and in conjunction with the six deacons of crafts of the said burgh, out of the foresaid leet of two persons for the provostry, do elect a provost for the ensuing year, and then, by virtue of a contract betwixt the Bishop of Brechin, Patrick Maule of Panmure, and the magistrates and town council of Brechin in anno 1637, the Earl of Panmure, or any having right from him, being called, name a bailie out of the said leet of four persons so elected and chosen by the said town council of Brechin, and to which bailie he is obliged to give and grant deputation of the offices of justiciar and constabulary within the said burgh of Brechin; and then the council and deacons of crafts, out of the remaining three persons, choose another bailie, and thereafter the council choose a dean of guild, treasurer, and master of the hospital for the ensuing year.” Subsequently, in 1729, an Act of council was passed, declaring that in case of equality of votes, the provost had both a deliberative and a casting vote, and that the neglect to state this was an omission when transmitting the sett to the Convention. This sett was slightly altered at different times. The family of Panmure being forfeited in 1715, the council thereafter elected both bailies. In 1726, by an agreement with the trades, the deacon convener was received as one of the tradesmen who were necessarily members of council; and in 1820, by a like agreement, the incorporated trades were allowed to name both the trades’ councillors; and the guildry incorporation were authorised to elect their own dean, who was granted a seat in council. Of the thirteen members of council, ten continued to be self-elected, while one was elected by the guildry, and two by the incorporated trades, till the Act of Parliament, passed in 1833, generally known as the Burgh Beform Act, placed the election of the whole councillors upon a new footing, and gave to the proprietors and tenants of houses rented at 10 the right and privilege of electing the town council.

Mr John Doig, an elder of the Presbyterian Church, and a decided enemy of the Jacobites and of Episcopacy, had, in 1709; obtained the ascendancy in the councils of the burgh, and then held the office of provost. He is not much indebted to popular tradition, nor does he seem to have owed much to popularity during his life. No doubt he was a zealous and able man, and did many things for the weil of the burgh, as well as for his own benefit. In 1709 he had an Act passed appointing the council to meet “each Monday by ten hours in the forenoon;” but if such weekly meetings took place, the transactions then discussed have not been minuted In April 1712, a serious riot is recorded as having occurred in the burgh, in which James Millar, deacon of the shoemakers, led on a party to “beat, blood, and wound in the head and other parts of the body, the said John Doig,” and the offenders are recommended by the council to the attention of the Lords of Justiciary. What was the result we are not informed.

We have formerly mentioned that the cathedral church was not originally supplied with fixed seats, but that desks, as they are termed, gradually crept in after the Reformation. So late as 1715, we find applications made for liberty to fix seats in empty places in the church, and in 1710, the session appointed “ intimation to be made to the people who take their chairs out of the church, that they who do so shall lose their ground right.” In the subsequent year, 1711, the session, with the view of increasing the poor s funds, granted liberty to the parishioners to erect headstones in the churchyard ; but there is a strange dietinction drawn between the burgh and landward part of the parish, for, while the burgesses are allowed to erect headstones on payment of 20s. Scots, the landward parishioners are ordained “to pay half-a-crown for the said privilege.”

The linen trade had by this time taken root in Brechin, and on 6th October 1712, Robert White and David Windrim were appointed by the council “to be stamp-masters of this burgh for stamping all linen cloth.” Under various Acts of Parliament this office of stamp-master was continued, and by the increase of the linen trade the situation came to be one of considerable emolument within the burgh; but, in 1824, Parliament saw cause to abolish the practice of stamping linens, and it is believed that, since then, the linen cloth made has been fully as good as it was during the period when each web was measured, examined, and stamped by a public officer. When the council named the first linen inspectors, they also ordained “ two stamps, bearing the town’s arms, to be made and delivered to them for stamping of the cloth/’ The stamp which was used when the office was abolished, was a large Scotch thistle, with the name of the stamp-master and the word “ Brechin'’ below the thistle. This same thistle, with the stamper’s name and residence effaced, was long used in the office of the first printers in Brechin, as a decoration to the ballads which they occasionally issued from their press. These same printers, we may add, were, under the firm of Black & Co., the printers of the first edition of this work.

In 1713, Brechin was the returning burgh for this district of burghs, and Provost Doig was then named commissioner; but Bailie James Spence was named the commissioner to choose a member to the first Parliament of George I. in 1715, when Arbroath was the presiding burgh. In this same year, 1715, Mr Andrew Doig was sent commissioner to Arbroath to meet with commissioners from some other burghs, appointed, agreeable to Act of Convention, “to endeavour to adjust a plan for the common interest of the said burgh of Arbroath, so that the magistrates thereof may proceed to elect a dean of guild and council.” This was with a view to the establishment of a guildry in Arbroath, but we presume the troubles which arose in Scotland at this time had prevented the carrying out of this municipal improvement then; for it was not till 1725 that the magistrates and town council granted a seal of cause to the incorporation of guildrymen, a legal recognition which they claimed in virtue of a charter of Novodamus by James VI. in 1599. The guildry then constituted in Arbroath was framed after the model of the Brechin guildry; and the Brechin guildry would now do well to follow the example of the Arbroath guildry, which in 1856 was formed into a friendly society by the authority of the Court of Session, in virtue of the Act of Parliament for abolishing the right of exclusive trading within burghs.

But we approach to “Mar’s year,” the attempt to restore the exiled Stewarts in 1715, for which so many plots and counterplots had been carried on in the State, in every burgh, and in this our small city. Queen Ann died suddenly in 1714; George I. ascended the throne ; he was austere with the Earl of Mar; that nobleman hastened to Scotland; raised the standard of revolt in Braeinar; proclaimed James VIII. of Scotland and III. of England as king of Great Britian, and involved himself and many a noble family in ruin by a hasty and ill-timed rebellion. Earl Panmure proclaimed King James at the cross of Brechin, and joined the standard raised by Mar. Earl Southesk also joined this unfortunate attempt. Both forfeited their estates in consequence. Many of smaller name, connected with the burgh, also acceded to this rebellion; and for years afterwards we find the kirk-session refusing church benefit to great numbers till they had satisfied the discipline of the kirk for joining this “ unnatural rebellion/ The session-clerk chronicles the rising very briefly and distinctly. After an entry, dated 31st August 1715, he says:—“ In the month of September following broke out the late Earl of Mar’s rebellion, against our most gracious sovereign, King George, and the Protestant succession in his family, and in favour of a Popish Pretender whom they called King James the Eighth ; the which rebellion continued till the month of February thereafter; and this is the reason why there was no meeting of the session from the foresaid thirty-first of August to the twenty-ninth of February thereafter.”

The records of the session of Menmuir show the distracted state of the times in a very interesting minute, of which this is a copy:—“ 4th September 1715. After prayer, sederunt, ministers and elders met in session. This session taking to their serious consideration the troublesomeness of the times, and the distracted state of this land, and considering also, that they have in their hands the most part of the poor’s stock in specie, and being very solicitous and concerned that it should be safe in this critical juncture; therefore earnestly recommend to, and appoint the minister to secure and hide the poor s money the best way he can—via, the money received from Grandtullie's factor, and a hundred pounds Scots received from Bailie Spence, in name of the Laird of Balzeordie. Sederunt closed with prayer. Whereupon the minister went to Brechin, and the Reverend Mr John Willison, one of the ministers of Brechin, did direct him to a retired and safe place for securing the said money ; upon which the minister returned home, and did communicate the matter to two of the elders, and with one of them did carry the money received from Grandtullie's factor to the said place, and secured the other hundred pounds got from Bailie Spence, in name of Balzeordie, another way." This retired and safe hiding-place had most likely been somewhere about the church, not improbably in the bottom of the round tower.

Mr Gideon Guthrie, an Episcopal clergyman, or nonjurant minister, as those of his persuasion were then generally termed, gave great offence to the Presbyterian clergymen at this time, and in August 1715, Mr Johnston, one of the Established clergymen of Brechin, reports to the Presbytery “ that the affair anent Mr Gideon Guthrie is come to this issue, that he is discharged to preach or exercise any part of the ministry within the parish of Brechin, under the pain of 500 merks, toiles quoties, and further declared incapable, for seven years, of any post or benefice within Scotland, as also fined in 100 merks and ordered to go to prison till payment thereof, as the sentence in itself more fully bearsbut in place of going to prison, Mr Guthrie went to the pulpit of Brechin, which he and Mr Skinner jointly assumed possession of, for the brief period when their party was predominant during Mar’s rebellion. For this proceeding, Guthrie was called to strict account by the presbytery when the rebellion was suppressed, but he seems to have fled from the effects of his rashness, and we hear no more of him after that. No proceedings apparently were adopted against Mr Skinner, whose age probably had mollified the feelings of his opponents in reference to him.

Provost Doig was superseded during this rising—Bailie Spence, whom we have alluded to as the commissioner for electing a member of Parliament to the first House of Commons assembled by King George, having apparently assumed the sway of the town. On 29th September 1715, eight of the members of council meet, the whole council, as the minute bears, having been lawfully summoned “except John Doig, who could not be found at home,” and these eight re-elect six of themselves with seven others of true Jacobite principles, and this Jacobite council then choose office-bearers, carefully, however, avoiding to elect a provost, an office which they probably held belonged to the bishop, whom doubtless they expected to see restored. Spence is named by Panmure to be his bailie, “justiciar, and constable,” and thus Spence in fact acquired all the powers of chief magistrate. The minutes of this council are few, and only such as appear to have been forced upon them in ordinary routine. This council had more important matters to attend to than make minutes. On 11th May 1716, however, a poll election takes place in the church of Brechin, under the superintendence of John Scott of Heatherwick, Esq.; Alexander Duncan of Lundie, Esq.; and Colonel Robert Reid, commissioners appointed by Government; when all our Jacobite friends are superseded by Provost Doig and his party. The whole thirteen members of council are unanimously elected on this occasion, from which circumstance we may fairly infer that, in 1716, none dared vote but in such way as Mr Doig chose, without the risk of being reckoned Jacobites and enemies to the Government of King George. Previous to the poll election the town seems to have been ruled by Governors, likely appointed by the Government of George I. Thus the mills, weighhouse, and flesh booths are exposed to let on 4th May 1716, in presence of “ Mr Andrew Doig, one of the govemours of Brechine,” and they are finally let on 7th May. in presence of “ John Doig, Mr Andrew Doig, and Robert Whyte, govern our s.” We presume Mr Andrew Doig had been a literary man ; for while he always receives this title in the council minutes, the other members are designated by their simple names. The Doigs were a powerful family about Brechin at this time; and the board in the session-house records that Bailie David Doig of Cookston gave the church a new folio Bible in 1728, which we believe was in use till another was got when the church was repaired in 1807. Bailie Doig’s Bible superseded that given to the church in 1655 by the Rev. Mr Lawrence Skinner, as recorded on the session-house board ; and we have it from tradition that Bailie Doig’s book was given to supply the place of Mr Skinner's, because the latter was of a prelatic, if not of a Popish tendency!

But the session record gives the most graphic account of the state of matters, and we quote it at length, leaving our readers to apply such saving clauses as their own feelings may suggest:— “ Brechin, March 4,1716. The session being constitute, sederunt, ministers, elders, and session clerk ut supra. This day the session taking to consideration that during the late unnatural rebellion the ministers were forced to retire for their safety, and the church was intruded upon by Mr John Skinner, late Episcopal incumbent here, now deposed by the church and banished out of the bounds of this presbytery by a sentence of the Lords of Justiciary, and Mr Gideon Guthrie, late Episcopal preacher in the meeting-house here, and turned out by a sentence of the said Lords, and that John Doig of Unthank, the present provost, was imprisoned by the rebels, and Bailie Spence usurped a most tyrannical power over men’s bodies and consciences, and threatened and forced people to hear the foresaid rebellious intruders drink disloyal healths, and otherwise to countenance the said rebellion, and particularly did wickedly impose a base and traitorous oath upon the people, called the Test, in which, beside other absurdities and contradictions, they did swear to the Popish Pretender as king, and renounce our only lawful sovereign King George as a foreign prince, with which wicked impositions and base oath a great number of the people, and even several of (he elders, have complied, either out of ignorance or slavish fear, or desire to shun suffering. And the ministers having laid this affair before the presbytery for advice, it was the presbytery’s judgment that all the elders who had so complied and taken the foresaid oath, should be discharged from the exercise of their function of elders, and for removing of the scandal that they and all others, guilty of the foresaid compliances, should not only confess their sin in so doing before the session, but appear publicly and acknowledge the same before the congregation, and that they and every one of them should do this before they be admitted to partake of sealing ordinances or church benefits. And the ministers having represented this day to the session that they had accordingly been dealing with the elders and a great many others, privately, who had made defection and sinfully complied as aforesaid, in order to bring them to a sense of their sin, and they being willing to compear and confess in manner above written, and for that end were attending this meeting of the session, in order to appear this day before the congregation, whereupon compeared (certain individuals who are named,) all which persons above mentioned professed their sorrow to the session for their said defection, and their willingness to acknowledge the same before the congregation and be rebuked therefor.” But no “ rebuke ” was given, the session contenting themselves with the admission of their power to rebuke. With more contumacious spirits, some years afterwards, the session was more severe.

The church records of the neighbouring parish of Stracathro are much of the same stamp. They state, under date 2d November 1715, that “ Mr John Davie, factor to the Earl of Southesque, intruded on the ministers charge by taking the keys of the church, ordering the kirk-officer to ring the bells at the ordinary time of day, the people being warned the day before to wait on, and join in, the worship of a pretended fast or humiliation-day for success to the Pretender’s arms, and that under the pain of taking each man, master and servant, to the camp at Perth ; which warning so prevailed that it brought the whole parish together at the time appointed to the church, where and when Mr Davie himself came in the head of near eighty men under arms, with beating drums and flying colours, and preached a little in the church, and after that kind of worship was over, he mustered up his men again at the kirk gate, and on their front went to Kinnaird.’* Truly Mr Davie had been a factor, and not a mere rent collector. The same minutes mention that during this intrusion, which continued to February 1716, the minister preached in the manse, and the collections made being inconsiderable, he applied them “ to the relief of some poor indigent people in the parish of Brechin *—true Hanoverians, no doubt. Order being restored, the minister, in April 1716, laid before the session an appointment on him by the presbytery of Brechin to inquire at them the reasons why they joined Mr Davie, “ and the minister finding their reasons no way satisfactory, he solemnly rebuked them,” and also for their pecuniary intromissions with the collections, of which they were unable to give any account, further than it was spent on the poor. The minister, Mr Glassfurd, seems to have been in a minority in his own parish,

James, “the Pretender/* as it is known to the historical reader, landed at Peterhead on 22d December 1715; came to Brechin on Monday 2d January 1716; remained there till Wednesday; then went to Perth and met his army, the members of which were as little pleased with him as he was with them. After playing the king at Perth for a brief space, James returned to Montrose, and from thence quitted for ever “his ancient kingdom of Scotland,” having embarked with the Earl of Mar on the evening of 4th February 1716, on board a French vessel lying off Montrose to receive them.

Tradition tells us that the northern lights were extremely brilliant during the winter of 1714-15, and we have ourselves received it from a person who was told by her mother, that, during this winter, armies of men and horses were seen fighting in the sky! Our narrator believed this as much as she believed the holy writ, and said that all Mar's fortunes and misfortunes were distinctly portrayed in the sky ere he himself had raised the standard of revolt. Truly might the fate of this nobleman be compared, in the words of Burns, to

“the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place.”

So far all appears, Brechin became perfectly quiet after this insurrection was quelled. A company of soldiers was stationed in Brechin for some time, but these soldiers were more an annoyance than a protection to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Provost Doig remained in office till his death in 1726. Bailie Spence died some time previous to 1722, for we find in that year his daughter, Miss Katherine Spence, designed as daughter of the deceased Bailie James Spence, elected to the office of schoolmistress, for instructing little ladies “in the arts of sewing and working of lace.” Miss Spence is the first schoolmistress of the burgh, and it is pleasing to observe Provost Doig, her father’s opponent, voting her a salary of 30 Scots for her services. In this same year 1722, the meal-market was erected, in the street now called Swan Street, on the site of an old tenement purchased for the purpose. This erection, demolished in 1788, led to the opening up of the street alluded to, which still occasionally receives, jointly with its new title, its old name of the Meal-Market Wynd, although the meal-market was removed about 1787 to the same place as the butcher-market, in a building a little below the Bishops Close. The meal-market has been long non-existent, the trade being carried on by grocers and bakers in their private shops, and the place formerly used as the public meal-market being let for a warehouse. The butcher-market also is now non-existent, all the modem fleshers resorting to separate shops, and the court and covered sheds formerly occupied by them being now used on Tuesdays as a market for poultry, butter, and eggs, brought into town by the country people; and the front part of the house, where carcasses were formerly hung in warm weather, being now wholly occupied as a public weigh-house, for which it was originally intended, and always partially used.

In 1723 the six incorporated trades established a general fund for the relief of their poor. It was agreed that this fund should be maintained by small contributions levied on each entrant freeman or apprentice, by fines imposed for offences against the rules of the corporation, and by a fine imposed in these words: “ And if any prentice, journeyman, freeman, either young men or widowers, shall (as God forbid) fall in the sin of fornication, then, and in that case, each person so transgressing shall pay into this fund the sum of two pounds Scots,” to be doubled in case of aggravation. The fund has been long in abeyance, but we humbly think the six trades might do worse than apply their funds for the maintenance of such a charity. In 1726, as already noticed, an arrangement was made between the town council and the trades, whereby the council agreed to receive the deacon convener, ex officio, as a member of council yearly. This arrangement was effected by a bond subscribed by. seven members of council only, and seems to have arisen out of a wish to give the superiority to the then dominant party in council; but the agreement, although frequently questioned, was regularly acted upon, and so became part of the set of the burgh after its date, the convener, when changed by the trades, being as ai matter of course changed by the council.

The affairs of the guildry appear to have excited very little interest about this period. Tear after year passes without any meeting, and even when a meeting does occur, a brief minute is entered as an apology for the neglect; but in 1748, the members resolved to meet on the third Thursday of October yearly, a practice which has been pretty regularly followed ever since. The dean of this time was Mr John Lyon, a connexion of the Strathmore family, through that branch to which the estate of Aldbar for some time belonged.

The north side and north aisle of the church having fallen into decay, the session, after much difficulty, prevailed on the heritors to repair the building in 1718, “the factors appointed by the Government on the forfeited estates of Panmure and Southesk promising to pay what lies to their share when called for." But this repair does not seem to have been complete, for next year the session demand a further repair on the steeples and aisles, an expense to which the heritors again demurred, but which they were ultimately compelled by “homing” to pay. Some of the items of the expenses of the repairs are curious as showing the price of building materials in 1722; they are thus stated in the Act of Presbytery on which the law proceedings followed: Thirty-two bolls of lime with the sand cost Is. 6d. per boll of lime, and 2s. Scots for the load of sand to each boll, inde 32 Scots; forty deals are 12s. Scots each; three hundred nails are 2, 8s. Scots; twenty garron nails, 10s. Scots; “item for a big teakil, being double the hight of the small steeple, 40 Scots;” but this “big teakil/' whatever that word may mean, and certainly it had been big, when it. was double the height of the small steeple—this teakil, after being used, is to be sold, along with some other materials for scaffolding, at 33, 6s. 4d. Scots. The slating is estimated to cost ten merks Scots per rood, and there being three roods and twenty-four ells of slater-work required, the expense of the roof is 21?, 10s. Scots. The whole repairs, after deducting for scaffolding, &c., to be sold, are decreed to cost the heritors 380 Scots.

In consequence of the disturbed state of the kingdom after 1714, the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not celebrated in the church of Brechin for several years, but in 1720 the session “resolved to set about that work/' and in the March of that year the ordinance was dispensed. The discipline of the church gradually grew stricter after this period; and persons were now censured for faults which had for some time previously been looked over, the session having resolved “to revive their old laudable custom of sending some of their number through the several corners of the town every Lords day.” Marriages, up to this date, were usually celebrated in the cathedral, and we have various acts of the session censuring individuals whose mirth had overcome their prudence, and led them to behave indecorously at such ceremonials. In 1717, however, marriages in private houses are recognised by the session, for there is a minute in that year imposing a small fine on parties who prefer to have the ceremony performed elsewhere than in church. A public marriage, in a Presbyterian kirk, before the congregation, would at the present day draw general attention—no such thing having occurred with the parents of any of the oldest persons alive.

Although Mr Skinner had now retired from the field, the Presbyterian kirk was annoyed by Episcopalian clergymen still visiting the burgh, and in 1726 the ministers of Brechin laid before the presbytery “ a presentation against Masters John Grub and Francis Rait, who keep an illegal meeting-house in the town and parish of Brechin, and baptize and marry, to the great disturbance of the said town ; ” a presentation which was subsequently enforced before the Lords of Justiciary to the effect of shutting up this meeting-house.

George I. died in 1727, and with the close of his reign we shall close our chapter.

Amongst the poets of the period to which this chapter relates, we can notice, as connected with Brechin, David Watson and James Carnegy. Mr Watson was born at Brechin in 1710, was educated at Saint Andrews, and afterwards became Professor of Moral Philosophy in Saint Leonard’s College of that city, but retired from the Professor’s chair when his college was united with Saint “Salvador’s in 1747. He then became author by trade, went to London, and fell a prey in 1750 to the dissipation which was the ruling vice amongst the wits of that time. He published a translation of Horace of no mean merit, and a “History of the Heathen Gods,” which, in our day, was a standard school-book. Mr Carnegy was the son of the laird of Balnamoon, where he was bom in 1715. He came of a good stock —in the moral acceptation of the word—and was himself a man of genuine worth and warmth of heart. In early life he composed the beautiful and still popular ballad of “Low Down in the Broom,” adapted to a chorus of great antiquity, noticed in the “ Complaynt of Scotland,'1 written about 1540. Mr Carnegy was a staunch Jacobite, and was out in 1745, after which he was obliged to consult his safety by living as a servant with one of his own tenants, till the Act of grace in 1748 restored him to his family and the world.

William Guthrie, an eminent miscellaneous writer, was the son of Mr Gideon Guthrie, the Episcopal clergyman spoken of above, and was born at Brechin in 1708. In early life he commenced author by profession, and removed to London in 1730-For many years he collected and arranged the parliamentary debates for the Gentleman*8 Magazine and other periodicals, and lived in habits of intimacy with Dr Johnson. About 1745, he managed to let it be known to Government that he was a person who could write well, and that it might depend on circumstances whether he should use his pen as the medium of attack or of defence. The matter was placed on its proper footing, and Mr Guthrie received from the Pelham administration a pension of 200 a year. On a change of the ministry, nearly twenty years afterwards, we find him making efforts for the continuance of his allowance. “The following letter, addressed to a minister/1 says Mr Bobert Chambers, in his “Biographical Dictionary." is one of the coolest specimens of literary commerce on record. June 3,1762,—My Lord, In the year 1745-6, Mr Pelham, then first lord of the treasury, acquainted me that it was his Majesty’s pleasure I should receive, till better provided for, which never has happened, 200 a year, to be paid by him and his successors in the treasury. I was satisfied with the august name made use of, and the appointment has been regularly and quarterly paid me ever since. I have been punctual in doing the Government all the services that fell within my abilities or sphere of life, especially in those critical situations which call for unanimity in the service of the Crown. Your lordship will possibly now suspect that I am an author by profession—you are not deceived, and you will be less so, if you believe that I am disposed to serve his Majesty under your lordship’s future patronage and protection, with greater zeal, if possible, than ever. I have the honour to be, my Lord, &c., William Guthrie." As a reward for his submission to the powers that were, Mr Guthrie’s pension was continued to the day of his death, which took place on the 9th March 1770, in the sixty-second year of his age. His body was interred in the churchyard of Mary-le-bon, London, where a neat monument, which we have seen, erected to his memory, states him to have been “the representative of the antient family of Guthrie of Halkerton, in the county of Angus, North Britain,” a statement erroneous at least in one respect, as to the locality of Halkerton, which is in Kincardineshire. Mr Guthrie’s name is best known by his “Historical and Geographical Grammar,” which had reached its twenty-fourth edition in 1818. In 1765, he published, jointly with Gray and other literary men, “A History of the World,” and in 1767 appeared his “ History of Scotland,” in ten volumes, in which, with true national fervour, he maintains the high antiquity of everything connected with Scotland.


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