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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter V. General History of Culross from 1600 to 1629


FROM an untoward mischance, to be referred to more particularly afterwards, the burgh records of Culross from 1600 to 1652 have disappeared. We are therefore thrown back again on the general history of the period, which, though certainly much more copious than that of preceding ages, is still by no means ample or minute regarding this town and district. Fortunately, over a considerable portion of the space during which the Town Council minutes are awanting, we shall have the aid of the much more curious and interesting Kirk-session Records.

The favour with which James VI. regarded Lord Kinloss and his brother, Sir George Bruce, as well as the convenient proximity to Dunfermline, must have frequently led the monarch to Culross, both on his hunting excursions and at other times, and it was probably on one of these occasions that he made the memorable visit to Sir George’s coal-pit which tradition has recorded. The story, indeed, is merely traditionary, but has every semblance of truth, and the incident most probably took place before James’s accession to the English throne, when he had such good cause, from the emergence of so many plots against him, to suspect the existence of one more, in the event of his being suddenly confronted with any surprising or unlooked-for circumstance. Lest my readers may have forgotten it, it may be as well here to quote the story as related by the author of the ‘ Old Statistical Account of Culross,’ whose account, so far as I know, is the earliest on the subject that appeared in print:—

“These works appear to have been in their most flourishing state in the reign of James VI., a little before, and some time after, his accession to the crown of England. They were then wrought a considerable way under the sea, or, at least, when the sea overflowed at full tide, and the coals were carried out to be shipped by a moat within the seamark, which had a subterraneous communication with the coal-pit.

“There is a tradition that James VI., revisiting his native country, made an excursion into Fife, and resolving to take the diversion of hunting in the neighbourhood of Dunfermline, invited the company then attending him to dine along with him at a collier’s house—meaning the Abbey of Culross, then belonging to Sir George Bruce. Being conducted by his own desire to see the works below ground, he was led insensibly by his host and guide to the moat above mentioned, it being then high water; upon which, having ascended from the coal-pit, and seeing himself without any previous intimation surrounded by the sea, he was seized with an immediate apprehension of some plot against his liberty or life, and called out "Treason! * But his faithful guide quickly dispelled his fears by assuring him that he was in perfect safety, and pointing to an elegant pinnace that was made fast to the moat, desired to know whether it was most agreeable to his Majesty to be carried ashore in it, or return by the way he came; upon which the Xing, preferring the shortest way back, was carried directly ashore, expressing much satisfaction at what he had seen. It is certain that at that time the King was sumptuously entertained at the Abbey, some of the glasses, Ac., then made use of in the dessert being still preserved in the family; and the room where his Majesty was entertained still retains the name of the King’s Boom”

Such is the story; but I venture to think, as already indicated, that, though true in the main, the incident must be referred to a previous period, at some date about the beginning of the sixteenth century, before James had left Scotland to ascend the English throne. In the first place, Sir George Bruce’s .mining operations and erection of the Castle-hill Moat had commenced nearly thirty years before the King’s visit to his native country in 1617. Of this we are informed by John Taylor in his ‘Pennilesse Pilgrimage,’ shortly to be quoted. It is not likely that so extensive and interesting a work would be in existence within an easy distance of the royal palace of Dunfermline without James having paid it a visit of inspection. Then we know that in those days James was much harassed by troubles and conspiracies, and he would be far more likely to have conceived apprehension of a plot against him, when the divine rights of majesty were set little store by in Scotland, than on a subsequent visit to the country, when he had been so many years Sovereign of Great Britain and Ireland, and could have had little fear of a design against his safety by a Scottish subject. Sir George Bruce, too, could hardly have been the owner, so early as 1617, of the mansion of Culross Abbey, which afterwards became the property of his descendants the Earls of Kincardine. It was certainly transferred to them by the representatives of its builder, the first Lord Kinloss, and very probably by his lordship’s grandson Robert, second Lord Elgin, on the death of his father Thomas, first Lord, in 1662, the same year in which Sir George Bruce’s grandson Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine, succeeded to that title on the death of his brother Edward, the first Earl. It is shortly after this last period that we have the first evidence of Culross Abbey being occupied by the Earls of Kincardine, the previous residence of the family having apparently been the tenement in the Sand Haven of Culross, which had been built by Sir George Bruce, and continued long afterwards in possession of his descendants.

I make little doubt of King James having made an excursion to Culross from Dunfermline in 1617, of his having been received there by Sir George Bruce, revisiting the moat in his company, and afterwards being entertained with great state in the splendid new edifice on the crest of the hill, which had some years previously been erected by his counsellor, Lord Kinloss, and was now the heritage of his lordship’s second son, Lord Thomas Bruce of Kinloss, who in 1633 was created by Charles I. Earl of Elgin. The Kinloss family, after the removal of the Scottish Court to England in 1603, seem to have chiefly resided in and identified themselves with that country, and it is quite possible that Lord Thomas Bruce may have accompanied the King on his visit to Scotland, and entertained him as host at his mansion of Culross Abbey. My impression is, that several traditional accounts have been jumbled together in the story in the Old Statistical Account, though at the same time I must admit that the real facts of the case seem now to be unattainable. The dismantling and evisceration of the Abbey in after* days by Sir Robert Preston, though he subsequently restored it in its present form, have effectually destroyed all reminiscences of the King’s Room.

The proclivities of James VI., it is well known, were always in the direction of Episcopacy, as a system of Church government more favourable to kingly authority than the more democratic constitution of Presbytery. Whilst king of Scotland only, however, his hostility against the latter was necessarily much hampered and circumscribed, and he could condescend so far to the prejudices of his Scottish subjects as to term the service of the Church of England “ane ill-mumbled mass.” But circumstances were considerably changed after he had succeeded to the English crown, and experienced the dutiful obsequiousness of English courtiers and churchmen. To the end of his days he henceforth pursued steadily a course of undeviating hostility towards Presbytery and its ministers—a course which, united with the extreme notions of royal prerogative inculcated by James, ultimately brought to the scaffold his unfortunate son Charles I., who inherited, with greater energy in action, all the proclivities which his father was generally content to indulge by lordly assertion and blatant harangue.

James succeeded in imposing a modified Episcopacy on the Scottish nation, but met with great opposition to his measures. He committed Andrew Melville, the eminent Presbyterian leader, to the Tower; and many of the ministers, including Welsh, John Knox’s son-in-law, were imprisoned and rigorously dealt with. Mr Robert Colville, the successor of Mr Dykes in the charge of Culross, made himself conspicuous by his opposition to Episcopacy, and is mentioned by Calderwood as one of the ministers who paid a visit of condolence to their imprisoned brethren in Blackness, and afterwards to the same band of sufferers at Linlithgow Palace, to a chamber in which they had been brought under guard from Blackness for examination. It does not appear, however, that Mr Colville himself ever sustained any inconvenience from his anti-Episcopal proclivities, though a helper of .his, Robert Melville by name, is recorded to have made a curious demonstration against the bishops in Culross Church in the presence of Adam Bannatyne or Bellenden, Bishop of Dunblane, the diocese to which Culross belonged.

We are informed in an Appendix to Row’s History by another hand, that Bishop Bannatyne was related to Robert Colville, the minister of Culross, who had considerable influence with him. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that Colville was allowed to remain unmolested, notwithstanding his own strong Presbyterian leanings and the very pronounced views of his helper. He is said to have lived on the most friendly terms with John Bow, who was minister of the neighbouring parish of Camock, and is reported on one occasion to have offered a large sum of money to the historian if he would exchange cures with him,—“ Mr Robert Col-vill declaring that he was most desirous to transport to Camock, alledging that his burden in Culros was intollerable, more than 2000 communicants, whereas in Camock there wes not many above one hundreth. And then he said that he was propheta in sua patria; but he altogether refused Mr Robert Colvin's offer, saying that he was weaker then he, and therefore wold be loath to slay himself for world’s gaine.”

The large number of communicants above mentioned must not be understood by any means as denoting that they were all parishioners of Culross. It was then, and for a long time afterwards, considered to be a highly becoming and edifying act to attend the communions of neighbouring parishes as well as of that to which the individuals specially belonged. Certain parishes enjoyed great reputation in connection with their communions, and the number of communicants was consequently, as in Culross, extremely large. But the paucity of communicants at Camock, which Mr Colville seemed to regard as a good reason for desiring his translation thither, did not continue long under the ministry of John Row, under whose incumbency the communions there became famous both for the number of persons present and the general fervour of the services. Individuals of the highest rank—-including, as we are informed, several countesses—used to resort thither. This was probably the commencement of that reputation which the place enjoyed in reference to those occasions down to a comparatively recent period.

During Row’s ministry the barony of Camock was, about 1602, purchased from Lord Lindsay of the Byres by Sir George Brace, the merchant prince of Culross, who henceforward took his principal designation from this estate. Among other rights which he thus enjoyed was that of patron of the church of Camock, which he repaired and slated. He seems to have lived on very friendly terms with Row, whom he endeavoured to shield from the consequences of his uncompromising opposition to the bishops. Regarding this we are informed that Sir George,

“Being Episcopall in his judgment and a great courtier with King James, dealt eamestlie with him [Bow] to compeer before the High Commission, promising to write in his favour to the Archbishop of St Andrewes, assuring him that he eould not be censured; but he refusing, telling him that if he compeared he wold declyne that court as ane unlawful judicature not appoynted by Christ, Sir George Bruce wrote to the Archbishop Spottiswood and to Mr Peter Bruce his friend, and sent his letters with one Bichard Chrystie, one of his servants. Also his nephew, William Rig of Athernie, and his second sonne, Mr John How, went along to the Bishop with Bichard Chrystie; but the Bishop little regarded William Big or any other that spoke for him. Bichard Chrystie, after sundrie arguments, came in with one weightie argument, saying, * Thir coales m your moores are verie evill, and my master hath verie many good coales; send up a veshel everie year to Culros, and I shall see her laden with good coales.’ This prevailed, yet for the fashion he wes by the High Commission con-fyned to his own congregation. . . . After this the Archbishop of St Andrews intreated Sir George Bruce to persuade him to come and speake with him, assuring him that he sould be a freind to him, &c. But when Sir George Bruce dealt with him to doe so, he flatlie refused, alledging that honest ministers that went to the Bishop roosed1 themselves little of it, and that the bishops had given it out that they had consented to their corrupt courses and given them satisfaction. His refusall was evil taken by his patron, yea he never wes so well pleased with him thereafter, but keeped a grudge at him to his death, whilk fell out shortlie after King James’ death 1625.”

Whatever may be thought of Sir George Bruce’s views on Church and State, the above extract presents him as a very kindly disposed, well-meaning man. It also bears testimony to his reputation as a coalmaster. Regarding the douceur to Spottis-wood to propitiate him on behalf of the minister of Camock, we are further informed that notwithstanding the strong opposition Row made to Episcopacy both in preaching and non-compliance, the Archbishop, receiving every year his ship-load of coals, was induced to leave the recalcitrant parson unmolested, and “so he continued in his ministrie.” Other ministers were not so favourably dealt with as Row.

Besides his coal-works, Sir George was carrying on a lucrative business in the manufacture of salt, which, though not probably originated by him at Culross, was certainly largely promoted and increased. From a letter of his to Lord Salisbury, dated from Royston in England, 8th April 1611, and preserved among the State Papers, we learn that the King, in consideration of his long services in manufacturing white salt, had recommended to the Commissioners for Suits his petition to be allowed to furnish Boston, Lynn, and Hull with salt. This was doubtless in the way of a monopoly, according to the common custom in that age of rewarding Court favourites; and Sir George begs the Earl to further the application, in remembrance of his old friendship for the knight’s late brother Lord Kinloss.

The first Lord Kinloss had indeed been liberally rewarded for his good services in promoting James’s accession to the English crown. It appears from the State Papers that on one occasion he had received 2000, and on others various grants of lands. As already mentioned, he erected Culross Abbey in 1608, and died shortly afterwards in 1610. He was succeeded by his eldest son Edward, second Lord Bruce of Kinloss, who in the same year was invested with the Order of the Bath. The latter acted also as one of the King’s gentlemen of the bedchamber, and seems to have been a youth of great gallantry and spirit. He has achieved a reputation of a special kind by his tragic end in 1613, in a duel with Sir Edward Sackville, afterwards Earl of Dorset, as related below.

We hear nothing almost of Lord Edward Bruce in connection with Culross, though we are told that in pursuance of the intention of his father, the first Lord Kinloss, he had resolved to build at Culross a hospital for old men and women—a project which his brother, Thomas Bruce, first Lord Elgin, afterwards carried into execution. He seems to have chiefly resided in England, and, in common with other Scotsmen, incurred great popular odium about 1612, when the wrath of the English was greatly excited against the Scots in consequence of the alleged favouritism to them of King James—a feeling which had recently been much intensified by Sir John Ramsay having struck Lord Montgomerie's brother across the face with a rod at a horse-race, and also by Lord Sanquhar’s assassination of a fencing-master. Lord Edward was at one time in great danger of his life when seated in the theatre, and was indebted for his preservation to an old gentleman who had been a Mend of his father, and contrived to have him carried away to a place of safety.

In the beginning of 1613 a report was bruited abroad of a deadly quarrel having arisen between Sir Edward Sackville and Lord Edward Bruce, and of the latter having declared his intention of going abroad to meet Sackville in mortal combat.

This report proved only too true, and in the course of the same year news arrived of a bloody duel having been fought near Bergen-op-Zoom, in Holland, between the two noblemen—of Lord Bruce having been killed, and Sir Edward Sackville dangerously wounded. A full account of the affair was drawn up by the latter for his vindication; but even on his own showing, he cannot be acquitted of the charge of having acted with undue passion and violence. The incident excited a great sensation at the time, and has been immortalised by Sir Richard Steele in his account of it in the ‘ Guardian.’ The origin of the quarrel is unknown, but from an expression made use of by Lord Clarendon in reference to the transaction and Sackville’s share in it, there is little reason to doubt that a lady was concerned; and it seems very questionable, also, whether the affair redounded to the credit either of Sackville or Bruce.

The story of the fight may thus be told. Acting on the promptings of wounded honour, Lord Edward Bruce sent a challenge from Paris by the hands of a Scottish friend to Sir Edward Sackville, who was then residing with his father-in-law at the latter’s seat in Derbyshire.. Sir Edward is spoken of by Lord Clarendon as a headstrong follower of pleasure, and as he was also a married man, an unfavourable suspicion is excited against him from the first. Lord Kinloss requested him to give him a meeting abroad, and speaks of his being confident of Sackville’s honour being equally powerful to do himself right, as it was to do a wrong to the writer of the letter.

This expression has been interpreted as expressing Lord Edward’s confidence in the justice of his cause ; and it has been pointed out that Sir Edward Sackville, in his account of the duel, takes no notice of this allegation, as if he had been conscious of its truth. The reader will form his own conclusion as to this argument, which does not appear to me to have great force.

Some special prohibition or interference had probably taken place which prevented the combat being fought on British soil, and it is possible also that Lord Kinloss had been ordered into exile for a while by the King, who cherished great regard for the memory of his father. Sir Edward replied to Lord Bruce’s letter, expressing his readiness to give the meeting proposed, and promised within a month to inform him duly of all particulars regarding time, place, and weapons. He proved as good as his word, and on 10th August 1613 wrote from Tergosa or Goes, a town in Zealand in Holland, saying he was waiting there to give Lord Kinloss the satisfaction he required, and requesting him to repair thither with all speed. Lord Bruce sends the following reply

"I have received your letter by your man, and acknowledge you have dealt nobly with me; and now I come with all possible haste to meet you. Ed. Bruce.”

In pursuance of this arrangement the belligerents met at Tergosa, from which it was now agreed that they should proceed first to Antwerp, and then to Bergen-op-Zoom, so as to be near the frontier between Holland and the Flemish territories of the Archduke of Austria, and thus secure an easy retreat for the survivor, in case of one of them being killed. To a place, accordingly, between these towns Lord Bruce and Sir Edward Sackville, accompanied by their seconds and surgeons, proceeded on horseback, one of the combatants keeping about two hundred yards in advance of the other. According to Sir Edward’s account, which is all that we have of the transaction, Lord Bruce displayed a fierce determination to have the life of his antagonist, and with that view was desirous that the encounter should take place without the presence of any second. This, however, was peremptorily declined; and the parties having arrived at the place agreed on, alighted from their horses, and made preparations for the onset. The locality was a meadow ankle-deep in water; and there the two young men, stripped to their shirts, began the fatal encounter. Sir Edward Sackville having become very excited, was threatened for a time with being worsted, and he received several severe thrusts from Lord Bruce’s sword, till the weapons of each having become respectively entangled, a mutual release was proposed. This was declined by both, and the victory was now evidently to be on the side of him who could first make his opponent let go. Sir Edward, by a violent effort, succeeded in freeing his own weapon, whilst he retained hold of that of Lord Bruce, at whose throat he now made a lunge, and called on him to ask his life or yield his sword. The demand being refused, he passed his sword twice through the body of the young nobleman, who thereupon exclaiming, “Oh, I am slain! ” endeavoured with all his remaining strength to trip up and overturn his antagonist. But this was only the last effort of despair, and Lord Bruce was immediately prostrate on the ground under Sir Edward Sackville. To the reiterated request of the latter that he would ask his life, he replied with defiant scorn. At this point Lord Bruce’s surgeon, who had hitherto remained at a distance, exclaimed that if the wounds of his unfortunate patron were not forthwith cared for, he would immediately die; and then, on Sir Edward’s inquiring whether his antagonist wished now to have medical attendance, a faint consent was expressed. But by this time it was too late, and in a few moments the ill-Btarred Lord Bruce expired. At the very last he gave tokens of his generosity of disposition. Seeing his surgeon rushing, sword in hand, against Sir Edward Sackville, he exclaimed with all the strength he could muster, “ Rascal, hold thy hand! ” Even this interposition would have been unavailing had not the other medical attendant advanced to his master’s assistance.

So ends this tragic history, the circumstances giving rise to which must apparently ever remain a mystery. The body of the unfortunate Lord Edward was deposited in the church of Bergen-op-Zoom, and a monument was erected to his memory—remains of which, it is said, are still to be seen in the rains of that building, which was in great part demolished in the siege which the town sustained in 1747. Like St Cuthbert of Lindisfame, however, whose body experienced a posthumous history in a succession of transits, a part of Lord Kinloss was destined to undergo the same fate. His heart, after being taken out and embalmed, was sent over to his native country and deposited in the family vault, adjoining the Abbey Church of Culross. Tears passed on, and the circumstance became all but forgotten, being only preserved as a traditional remembrance, which was even regarded by some as legendary. But on Sir Robert Preston in the beginning of the present century becoming possessed of the Culross estate, he resolved to test the truth of the story by instituting a search in the part of the vault where the heart was said to have been deposited. This was accordingly done in 1808, and the undertaking was crowned with success, the heart being found in the place in question enclosed in a silver case, which had been deposited between two flat stones, and had engraved on it the inscription, “Edward Lord Bruse.” Drawings of the case were taken, and it was again deposited carefully in its resting-place. The incident of the duel was used by the late Dr Robert Chambers as the basis of his story, entitled “The Tale of the Silver Heart,” which appeared in one of the early numbers of ‘ Chambers’s Journal.’ It contains a number of additional circumstances beyond what are above related; but these I may state, on the authority of the author himself, to be only romance. There i8, however, a curious supernatural story quoted by Dr Chambers in his ‘ Domestic Annals of Scotland,’ from * Theo-philus Insulanus’s Treatise on the Second Sight ’ (1763), which may have some interest for my readers:—

“The unfortunate Lord Bruce saw distinctly the figure or impression of a mort-head on the looking-glass in his chamber that very morning he set out for the fatal place of rendezvous, where he lost his life in a duel, and asked of some that stood by him if they observed that strange appearance—which they answered in the negative. His remains were interred at Bergen-op-Zoom, over which a monument was erected, with the emblem of a looking-glass impressed with a mort-head, to perpetuate the surprising representation which seemed to indicate his approaching untimely end. I had this narrative from a field-officer, whose honour and candour are beyond suspicion, as he had it from General Stuart in the Dutch service. ,The monument stood entire for a long time, until it was partly defaced when that strong place was reduced by the weakness or treachery of Crons-strom, the governor."

It would appear from a letter of the Duke of Lennox to Lake, preserved in the State Papers, that some purposes of revenge against Sir Edward Sackville had been cherished by the Bruce family, on account of the death of their kinsman. A certain Archibald Primrose, evidently the first laird of Bumbrae, and father-in-law of Sir George Bruce, is adduced as the authority for the statement. Nothing of the kind, however, ever subsequently transpired.

In 1618 the celebrated John Taylor, the “ Water Poet,” made a journey to Scotland, and in the course of it paid a visit to Sir George Bruce at Culross. He has left a record of his jaunt in his ‘ Pennilesse Pilgrimage/ which recounts his adventures with much quaint humour. His account of Culross and Sir George’s mining operations is extremely valuable and interesting. After reaching Edinburgh and Leith, he crosses to Burntisland, and then travels to Stirling. Here is his narrative of his visit to Culross:—

“But I, taking my leave of Dumfermeling, would needs goe and see the truely noble knight, Sir George Bruce, at a towne called the Cooras. There he made mee right welcome, both with varietie of fare, and after all he commanded three of his men to direct mee to see his most admirable cole-mines, which (if man can or would worke wonders) is a wonder. For my selfe, neither in any travels that I have beene in, nor any history that I have read, or any discourse that I have heard, did never see, read, or heare of any worke of man that might parallel or be equivalent with this unfellowed and unmatchable work. And though all I can say of it cannot describe it according to the worthines of his vigilant industry, that was both the occasion, inventor, and maintainer of it; yet rather then the memory of so rare an enterprise, and so accomplisht a profit to the commonwealth, shall be raked and smothered in the dust of oblivion, I will give a little touch at the description of it, although I amongst writers am like he that worst may hold the candle.

“The mine hath two wayes into it, the one by. sea and the other by land: but a man may goe into it by land, and return the same way if he please; and so he may enter it by sea, and by sea he may come forth of it. But I for varieties sake went in by sea and out by land. Now men may object, how can a man goe into a mine, the entrance of it being into the sea, but that the sea will follow him and so drown the mine? To which objection thus I answer: That at low water, the sea being ebd away, and a great part of the sand bare, upon the same sand (being mixed with rockes and cragges) did the master of this great worke build a round circular frame of stone, very thick, strong, and joyned together with glutinous or bitumous matter, so high withall that the sea at the highest flood, or the greatest rage of storm or tempest, can neither dissolve the stones so well compacted in the building or yet overflow the height of it. Within this round frame (at all adventures) hee did set workemen to digg with mattakes, pickaxes, and other instruments fit for such purposes. They did dig forty foot downe right into and through a rocke. At last they found that which they expected, which was sea-cole. They following the veine of the mine, did dig forward still; so that in the space of eight-and-twenty or nine-and-twenty yeeres, they have digged more then an English mile under the sea, that when men are at worke belowe, an hundred of the greatest shippes in Britaine may saile over their heads. Besides, the mine is most artificially cut like an arch or a vault all that great length, with many nookes and by-wayes; and it is so made, that a man may walk upright in the most places, both in and out. Many poore people are there set on work, which otherwise through the want of employment would perish. But when I had seene the mine and was come forth of it againe, after my thanks given to Sir George Bruce, I told him that if the plotters of the powder treason in England had seene this mine, that they (perhaps) would have attempted to have left the Parliament House, and have undermined the Thames, and so to have blowne up the barges and wherries wherein the King and all the Estates of our kingdome were. Moreover, I said that I could afford to turn tapster at London, so that I had but one quarter of a mile of his mine to make mee a celler to keepe beere and bottle-ale in. But leaving these tests in prose, I will relate a few verses that I made merrily of this mine:—

“I that hare wasted months, weeks, dayes, and houres
In viewing kingdomes, countries, tounes, and towers,
Without al measure, measuring many paces,
And with my pen describing many places,
With few additions of my own devizing
(Because I have a smacke of Coriatizing),
Our Mandewill, Primaleon, Don Quixot,
Great Amadis, or Huon, traueld not
As I have done, or beene where I have beene,
Or heard and seene what I have heard and seene ;
Nor Britaines Odcombe (zany-brane Ulissis)
In all
hiB ambling saw the like as this is,
I was in (would I could describe it well),
A darke, light, pleasant, profitable hell;
And as by water I was wafted in,
I thought that I in Charon’s boate had bin.
But being at the entrance landed thus,
Three men there (stead of Cerberus)
Conuaid me in, in each one hand a light,
To guide us in that vault of endlesse night
There young and old, with glim’ring candles burning,
Digge, delve, and labour, turning and returning,
Some a hose with baskets and with baggs,
Resembling furies, in infemall haggs;
There one like Tantall feeding, and there one
Like Sisyphus he roules the restlesse stone.
Yet all I saw was pleasure mixed with profit,
hich proved it to be no tormenting Tophet:
For in this honest, worthy, harmelesse hell,
There ne’er did any damned deuill dwell;
And th* owner of it gaines by’t more true glory,
Than Rome doth by fantasticke Purgatory.
A long mile thus I past, doune, doune, steepe, steepe,
In deepnesse far more deepe then Neptune’s deepe,
Whilst o’er my head (in fourfold stories hie)
Was earth and sea, and ayre and sun and skie,
That had I died in that Cimerian roome,
Four elements had covered o’er my tombe.
Thus farther then the bottome did I goe
(And many Englishmen have not done so),
Where mounting porposes and mountaine whales,
And regiments of fish with finnes and scales,
’Twixt me and heaven did freely glide and slide,
And where great ships may at anchor ride.
Thus in by sea, and out by land I past,
And took my leave of good Sir George at last.

“The sea at certaine places doth leake or soak into the mine, which, by the industry of Sir George Bruce, is all conveyed to one well neere the land, where he hath a device like a horse-mill, that with three horses and a great chaine of iron, going downeward many fadomes, with thirty-six buckets fastened to the chaine, of the which eighteene goe downe still to be filled, and eighteene ascend up to be emptied, which doe emptie themselves (without any man’s labour) into a trough that conveyes the water into the sea againe, by which means he saues his mine, which otherwise would be destroyed with the sea; besides, he doth make every weeke ninety or a hundred tunnes of salt, which doth serve most part of Scotland, some he sends into England, and very much into Germany: all which shows the painfull industry, with God's blessing to such worthy endeavours. I must, with many thanks, remember his courtesie to me; and lastly, how he sent his man to guide mee tenne miles on the way to Sterling, where, by the way, I saw the outside of a faire and statelie house called Alloway, belonging to the Earle of Marr, which, by reason that his honor was not there, I past by, and went to Stirling.”

If the date assigned to King James's adventure at the Castlehill Moat is correct—that is to say, if it took place in 1617, on the occasion of his Majesty’s revisiting Scotland—it might have been expected that Taylor, in going over the works in the following year, would both have been informed of their having been honoured so recently by the inspection of royalty, and have recorded the circumstance to enhance the interest of his description. As he has not done so, I conceive that I am warranted in referring the incident to a previous period, ere James had become King of England. And I think Taylor’s narrative also demonstrates tolerably conclusively that in 1618 Sir George Bruce was then residing in the house in the Sand Haven of Culross, and not, as has been surmised, in the Abbey. Had he then been an occupant of the latter, there is little doubt that Taylor, who describes so carefully all the grand mansions which he visits, would not have failed to include an account of the splendid residence of his host. That he makes no mention of it, is easily accounted for by the circumstance that it would scarcely be visible to him, as he travelled by the low road along the shore to Culross, and Sir George would be quite sufficiently employed in showing his guest the wonders of his own mining operations, without taking him to see the house, which ten years before had been erected by his brother, and was now the property of his nephew, the third Lord Bruce of Kinloss, afterwards Earl of Elgin.

Over the moat itself and the workings connected with it, was suspended now the fatal sentence—Cito peritura. By a singular coincidence, the same year that witnessed the deaths of King James and Sir George Bruce, chronicled also, within three days of the royal demise, the destruction of the monument of industrial enterprise with which both their names are connected. The following account of the great storm in which it was overthrown is given by Calderwood:—

“Upon the penult of Marche [1625], by reason of a boyster-0U8 and vehement wind blowing in the night, and a hie tide in the sea rysing above the accustomed maner, the ships in the harberie of Leith were so tossed that manie of them, dashing one upon another, were broken and spoiled. Some mariners and skippers, lysing in the night to rescue them, were drowned. The like havoc was done in sundrie other parts upon the coast-side alongs the Firth, in Salt* prestoun, Kirkcaldie, Ardrosse, and other parts; saltpannes were overthrowne, ships and boats broken, colheughes beside Culross drowned. The like of this tempest was not seene in our time, nor the like of it heard in this countrie in anie age preceiding. It was taken by all men to be a forerunner of some great alteration. And indeed the day following— to witt, the last of Marche—sure report was brought hither from Court that the King departed this life the Lord’s Day before, the 27th of March, about the noontide of the day, at Theobalds.”

In reference to the above as quoted by him in his ‘ Domestic Annals of Scotland,’ Dr Chambers remarks—“This was long after remembered as the storm of the Borrowing Days, such being a popular appellation for the last three days of March, as expressed in a well-known popular rhyme.”

The works thus destroyed were never again reconstructed, and after a while the stones of the ruined moat were disposed of and carried away to build the pier of Leith. Traces of the original erection are still visible at ebb tide, on the stony eminence in the sea opposite Dunimarle, where it formerly towered above the surface of the water. It will be described more folly afterwards in the chapter on the monuments of Culross.

George Bruce of Camock, the second of that name and designation, is frequently also styled Sir George Bruce; but he really never seemB to have enjoyed the rank of knight. As already mentioned, he married Mary, daughter of Sir John Preston of Valleyfield, and was father of Edward and Alexander Bruce, who were afterwards successively first and second Earls of Kincardine. He seems, like his father, to have occupied the house in the Sand Haven of Culross, and to have taken a deep interest in all matters concerning the town and district. In July 1629, the General Convention of Royal Burghs was held at Culross; and George Bruce, as commissioner for the town, was elected moderator of the Convention. By one of its acts, five hundred merks were granted to the burgh of Culross for the repair of its harbour.

Somewhere about this time, or perhaps a year or two previous, must be placed the death of the first Lord Colville of Culross, elder brother of the Commendator. He had served with considerable distinction in the wars of Henry IV. against the Catholic League, and made an expedition in his old age to France, where he was treated with great kindness, and received a pension from the King in recognition of his services. In a letter dated 15 th November 1624, preserved in the State Papers, “ Old Lord Colville” is spoken of as having arrived from Boulogne, doubtless on his return from that visit. He was proprietor of the estate of Tillicoultry, at the foot of the Ochils, which had come into the possession of his ancestors in 1483. It continued in the family till 1634, when it was sold to the poet, William Alexander of Menstrie, afterwards Earl of Stirling. In his latter days Lord Colville chiefly resided there, and was particularly fond of walking on a beautiful terrace at the north end of the Kirk-hill, and of reposing himself under a thom-tree, which, when the Old Statistical Account was compiled, was still in existence. One day, whilst he was standing on a stone, looking up to the thom-tree, and recounting his battles, he fell down the slope of the terrace, and it is said was killed on the spot. His son Robert, Master of Colville, had predeceased him in 1615, and he was now succeeded in the title by his grandson James, who thus became second Lord Colville of Culross. We shall hear more of the family in the next chapter.


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