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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter XII. The Burgh Records from 1666 to 1679.


THE year 1666, or annus mirabilis of Dryden, so memorable as that of the Great Fire of London, and also to Scotch Presbyterians in connection with the disastrous termination of a rising in the west country in the defeat at Rullion Green, is chiefly noticeable as regards Culross in reference to the revived claim of jurisdiction over her made by Lord Colville of Ochiltree. The particulars of this contest will shortly be explained, but I have first to notice two entries in the burgh records belonging to the earlier part of the year.

The first of them is not a particularly savoury one, and may therefore be skipped by the fastidious reader. As an illustration of the strange coarse manners of the time, it seems too curious to be omitted:—

“11 January 1666.

“The quhilk day, anent the complent given in be Thomas Lies, officer of the said burgh, procurator-fiscall at the court of Culrois, for the tounis interest, against William Master-toun, merchand, bulges of the said burgh of Culrois, mak-and mention that the said William, upone the second day of January instant, in the night tyme, accompanying Mr Alexander Couper, lait scholmaster at Culrois, in his imprisonment within the counsell hous of the tolbuthe of the said burgh, for deteaning and keiping up of the kirk’s registers and rytis, the said William, without any regard or respect he had, as ane burges of this burghe, to the magistrates therof, or place where he then was, being the speciall seat of justice within this burghe, he rose from the tabill where he was sitting with the said Mr Alexander and certeine other discreit and honorabill personis who war lykwayes accompanying the said Mr Alexr., and there most obsurdly and undiscreitly fyled and abused the said counsell hous by putting forth his filthe and excramentis therintill within ane brasen pott belonging to James Bennet, cordiner, burges of the said burghe, being then within the said counsell hous, to the great dishonour and contempt of authoritie and place where he then was, as the said bill of complent in the self proportis; qlk being callit, the said William Mastertoun compeaipnd personallie in judgment, and he being interrogat be the saids baillies if it was true what was conteanit in the said bill of complent, he immediatlie confest and acknowledge the samyne to be of veritie. And the saids baillies finding the said William Mastertoun culpabill and guiltie of the foresaid wrong and abuse by his own confession, thairfor they have convict and decernit the said William in ane unlaw of four punds Scottis, and ordanis the samyne to be payed before his removall furthe of the said tolbuthe; wherupon the said Thomas Lies, procurator - fiscall aforesaid, askit and took instrumentis and act of court.”

The next entry gives a specimen of the paternal ideas of government prevalent in those days regarding the fixing of the price of commodities, and affords some interesting statistics on the price of grain and beer:—

“The qlk day thair was produced befor the saids baillies and counsell ane proclamation anent the pryces of aill and bear issued furth from the Honorabill Lords of his Majtestie’s most Honorabill Privie Counsell of Scotland, off the dait the eightene day of January last, ordanying (for the causes thairin exprest) that quhen the pryce of the boll of the best rough bear1 is six punds Scottis of Linlithgow measure, that the pynt of the best aill and best drinking bear sail be sold at twelf pennies Scotis—that when the pryce of the best rough bear sail be eight pund Scottis the boll, that the pryce of the best aill and best drinking bear be sold at twentie pennies Scottis—and that when the pryce of the best rough bear is at ten pund Scottis the boll, the pynt of the best aill and best drinking bear be sold at two shillings Scottis in tyme coming; and also ordanying the said proclamation to be punctuallie observit be all brewaris and tapsteris within the kingdome, certifeing thame thairby if they failzie they sail be dischargit brewing, tepping, or retailing for a full year efter their transgression, and further fynfed at the discretione of the judge and qualitie of the offence, as the proclamatione conteanyng divers others clauses for punishing of the transgressors therof at mair lenth proportis: qlk being read and dewlie considerit be the saids baillies and counsell, they, be pluralitie of voices, judgit it expedient that the said proclamatione sould be published at the mercat croce of this burgh upon Fryday next, that the brewaris within the samyne burghe and other persons mentionat in the said proclamatione might pretend no ignorance therof.”

From the above we learn that when “ rough bear ” was at its cheapest (6 Scots, or 10s. sterling, the boll), the proportion of the price of a Scotch pint, or rather more than two imperial quarts of ale, to the value of1 a Linlithgow boll of barley, was as 1 to 120; at its medium price of 8 Scots, or 13s. 4cL sterling, the proportion borne by the cost of the pint to that of the boll was as 1 to 96; and at its highest price of 10 Scots, or 16s. 8d. sterling, the proportion was 1 to 100. We may fairly conclude that at this period the price of “ rough bear ” (now almost obsolete as a growth) seldom rose above the last or fell below the first of these rates. At the present day the average price of the imperial quarter of barley may be stated at 1, 8s. The old Linlithgow boll contains nearly six bushels, and its value may be taken at 18s. 8d., or about two-thirds the cost of an imperial quarter. Reckoning the price of an imperial pint of beer at 4d., the proportion borne by it at the present day to the value of the old boll of six bushels is 1 to 56; and the Scotch pint, at the same rate, would only be as 1 to 14. It is evident, therefore, that our ancestors drank ale at a wonderfully cheaper rate than we do—that is to say, at less than one-eighth of the cost. Taking into account, however, the difference between the values of money two hundred years ago and at the present time (moderately estimated at the proportion of 1 to 3), it would seem that the price of grain (at least of barley) was fully twice greater in the days of Charles II. than in those of Victoria.

Another subject for remark is suggested by the above minute of the Culross town council. Ale and beer were then, and continued for a long time subsequently to be, the popular beverage in the Scottish Lowlands, where, notwithstanding the general opprobrium which has generally attached to their inhabitants in connection with this matter, ardent spirits, and more especially whisky, were but little used till about the middle of the last century. In almost all the cases related either in the kirk-session or burgh records, where the keepers of “ eall houses ” are summoned for selling liquor on Sundays or otherwise prosecuted, the liquor supplied by them is almost invariably ale; and this appears also to have been most generally in vogue on all ordinary occasions. “French wyne,” or claret, indeed, was in common use among the upper classes, and was procurable in almost every hostelry. But whisky, though undoubtedly largely consumed in the Highlands, as also in Ireland, was by no means then, in the Lowland counties of Scotland, the common potation which it has since become. In the whole of the kirk-session records I have only found one reference to it, and that of a comparatively recent date.

The struggle which the burgh of Culross had to wage this year, and apparently not very successfully, with Lord Colville of Ochiltree, discloses a strange phase of ancient manners, as exhibited in the system of heritable jurisdictions, finally abolished in 1748. The Colvilles of Ochiltree, so called from their descent from Robert Colville, a natural son of Sir James Colville of Easter Wemyss, have already been noticed. The last of the four Robert Colvilles who had successively enjoyed the estate of Cleish, was raised to the peerage in 1651 by

Charles II., under the title of Lord Colville of Ochiltree. He died at Crombie in 1662, and being predeceased by his son David Colville, was succeeded by his grandson Robert, who inherited the family estates as Robert, second Lord Colville of Ochiltree, and died at Cleish in 1671. It was he who came so seriously into collision with the burghers of Culross.

In speaking of those Lord Colvilles of Ochiltree thus descended from an illegitimate son of Sir James Colville of Easter Wemyss, it is necessary to distinguish them carefully from the Lord Colvilles of Culross, who were also descended from the same common ancestor, but through his legitimate son and successor.

Previous to the Reformation, the Earls of Argyll, who had their residence at Castle Campbell, held, as already mentioned, the office of hereditary bailies of the abbey and regality of Culross under the supremacy of the abbots. On the suppression of the monasteries, and annexation of the property belonging to them to the Crown, this office of bailiary of the lordship of Culross was, in 1569, transferred from the Argyll family to the second Robert Colville of Cleish, grandfather of the first Lord Colville of Ochiltree, as a heritable fief.

The authority thus claimed by Lord Colville of Ochiltree over the territory of Culross was that “ of all jurisdictions civil or criminal, and of all the amerciaments, bloods, and casualties to his own behoof.” That is to say, he claimed to act as judge in all matters civil and criminal, and to receive for his own behoof all the fines and forfeitures levied in his court. These must have formed a considerable source of revenue; and it is therefore no wonder that he insisted so strongly on the maintenance of his rights, in which, as he argued, he and his predecessors had been seized prior to the erection of Culross into a royal burgh, and the annexation of the abbey and its revenues to the Crown. But whilst his authority over the landward portion of the regality was undisputed, it was maintained, on behalf of the inhabitants of the burgh and its territory, that the royal charter in their favour superseded and abrogated, as regarded them, all other claims of jurisdiction.

Whether, previous to 1666, any endeavour had been made by Lord Colville’s predecessors to enforce their asserted right, does not appear. Regarded simply from a legal point of view, there could be little doubt of its being well founded—and so it was held by the Court of Session on coming up before them this year for their judgment. But a question was raised as to whether the burgh might not have acquired, by long and continued exercise, a prescriptive right to the jurisdiction, in civil and commercial matters at least, which Lord Colville might in such a case be held to have forfeited through disuse. A proof was ordered as to this, and here the history of the suit abruptly terminates. How it was settled we are not informed, but the victory certainly did not remain with the town. Possibly the process may have been allowed to fall into abeyance, from the death of Lord Colville a few years afterwards, and the minority and non-insistance of his son and successor. The claim was certainly considered a valid one by the family, as in 1733, we shall find it urged on the burgh authorities of Culross by Lord Colville’s great-grandson, Robert Ayton Colville of Craigflower.

About this time the town seems to have been much troubled with the “ invasione of the Hieland-eris and other extraingald persons.” It was therefore ordered,

“That ane watche be keipit everie night from this night [26 November] furthe, consisting*of the number of eightene persons; and appoyntis and ordanis that there be two persons in everie quarter within this burgh for govemyng the said nightlie watche—they ar to say, for the west quarter, David Mitchell, baillie, and William Drysdeall; for the northe quarter, James Makie, thesaurer, and James Shanks; and for the east quarter, Johne Archibald and Robert Bill: and ordains the govemoura of the west quarter to begin, the northe next, and the east quarter last, and swa to continew ilk persone their tour about during the tyme that the said watching sail happen to remayne unforholden.”

But “Quis custodiet custodies?” The remedy threatened to prove worse than the disease, as we find under:—

“3 December 1666.

“The said day the saids bailleis and counsell, taking to consideratione the abuse that formerly hes bene committit in keiping of the nightlie watche, and for preventing of the lyk in tyme comeing, the saids baillies hes statut and ordanit that if an y of the souldieiris that comes to the watche be found full,1 that they be removed that night from the watche, and pay twelf shillings Scottis upon the morrow unforgiven.”

We hear no more of the “Hielandens”; but the breaking out of a new war with Holland, and the hostile armaments despatched by the Dutch to the British shores, are thus referred to and provided against:—

“21 June 1667.

“The said day the saids bailleis and counsell, taking to their serious consideratione that whereas this kingdome is greatlie threatned to be invaded be forrane enemies, and that it was requisite that this burghe alseweill as other burghes within this kingdpme war put in ane powstoir of defence against the forrane enemie: Thairfor the saids bailleis and counsell have statut and ordanit that all fenceabill persons within this burgh and libertie theroff, bothe frie and unfrie, be sufficientlie provydit with armour of their owne, such as musquettis, fyrelocks, stocks, and pykes, and that they mak their randesvowes therewith in the Sandie Heavin upon the sixt day of July next to come; and ordanis ilk persone that sail not be so pro-vyded with the forsaid armour the forsaid day, to pay ane unlaw of ten punds unforgiven, and ordanes suche persons immediatlie therefter to be poyndit or wardit therefor.”

About a fortnight previous, the magistrates had enacted the following sumptuary laws regarding “brydells,” “bankquettis,” and “wakkis”:—

“10 June 1667.

“The said day the saids baillies and counsell, with advyse of my Lord Provost, upon certane considerations moving 1 The italics are my own them, have ratifieit and approven, lykas they, be the tenor of this present Act, ratifies and approves, the former Acts maid anent brydell lawings, and that the pryce therof be eight shillings Scottis to ilk person that shall happene to be at any brydell in tyme coming within this burgh and libertie theroff, allenerly and no dearer; and that under the payne of ten punds Scottis to be payed by those who shall happen to transgress the samyne toties quoties.

“Lykas the said day the saids bailleis and counsell, with advyce of my Lord Provost, upojie certane good respects and considerations moving thame to-day in regard of the great superfluitie and abuse formerlie maid at banquettis within this burghe and libertie theroff: Thairfor they, be pluralitie of voices, have dischargit, lykas they, be the tennor of this present Act, discharges, all bankquettis to be had at the baptizing of children within this burghe and libertie theroff, as said is, except onlie aill and bread, and no other great cheir; and that the number of persons that ar to be at the baptizing of the said children, being their godfathers and godmothers, be onlie sex men and sex women. And ordains that whosoever sail contraveane or transgres this present Act sail pay ane unlaw of ten punds Scottis mony unforgiven toties quoties.

“The samyne day the saids baillies and counsell, with advyce of my Lord Provost, taking to consideration the great abuse, undecencie, and disordour done at lait wakkis within this burgh and libertie theroff, they, for the better ordering of the samyne in tyme coming, have statut and ordanit that there come no person to lait wakkis within this burghe and libertie theroff in tyme comeing uninvited, and that the persons be bot few in number, and suche as the partie concerned sail desyre; and ordanes that the baillies in everie quarter where any suche lait waks sail happene to be herefter attend the samyne, that no abuse nor disorder be done.”

The disorders attending an Irish wake were evidently in former times by no means a peculiar characteristic of the Green Isle. The term “lait wakkis,” or “late wake,” would have called down the denunciation of Jonathan Oldbuck, who, it may be remembered, descants with some prolixity to his nephew Hector M‘In tyre on the impropriety of using this instead of “lyke wake,” which carries with it the evidence of its origin from the Anglo-Saxon lich, or German Leichnam, a corpse. But with all deference to the learned antiquary, “late wake” seems to have been in quite as common, if not greater, use.

To prevent any irregular conversation at the meetings of the Town Council, we find enacted:—

“16 December 1667.

“The qlk day the saids baillies and counsell, for the better ordour and conformitie to be used be them in tyme comeing whill they are in counsell, have statut and ordanit that none of the baillies nor counsellaris in no tyme coming, qll they ar sitting in counsell as said is, presume nor tak upone hand, under whatsomever cullor or pretext, to debait or contend or mak speitche ane with another, bot that they ordour their speitches to the preses that sail happene to be for the tyme — ilk contravener under the payment of ane shilling sterling.”

Hitherto there is little evidence obtainable from the burgh records regarding the tyrannical government under which Scotland then groaned, or the still more unconstitutional proceedings of the military who scoured the country in pursuit of the recusant or fugitive Presbyterians. Two reasons may be assigned for this: first, the circumstance that the hottest period of persecution had not yet arrived; and secondly, that there is little likelihood of any record being kept or notice taken of the arbitrary proceedings of the soldiers and their officers. Culross, indeed, and its district, do not seem to have experienced the same severity of oppression that fell so fearfully on the western counties. But evidence is not wanting either, as we shall see from time to time, of the merciless and oppressive system which then prevailed making its crushing influence perceptible. The entry to be quoted will fully bear out this remark:—

“1 January 1668.

“The qlk day the said bailleis and counsell, taking to consideration that wheras thair was ane ordour laitlie sent to this burgh be Sir Peter Wedderburne, clerk of his Majestie’s Secret Counsell in Scotland, for subscryving of the declaratione and sending over the samyne be the saids bailleis to Edinburgh against the fyft of January instant; and in regard Bobert Blaw, ane of the present bailleis of this burghe, had for the present refused to subscryve the said declaratione: Thairfor the saids baillies and counsell have not onlie suspendit the said Bot. Blaw, baillie, from executing the office of magistracie or as counsellar within this burghe ay and qll till he subscryve the said declaf-atione, but also hes convict and decemit him in ane unlaw of one hundrethe punds Scottis for refusing to subscryve the declaratione aforesaid.”

The Sir Peter Wedderburn above mentioned was Sir Peter Wedderburn of Gosford, knight, father of Sir Peter Wedderburn of Gosford, who was created a baronet by Charles II., and by marrying the heiress of Pitfirrane, near Dunfermline, was obliged to assume the name and arms of the Halket family. Probably, as things went in those days, he was a respectable man; but it is difficult to conceive the existence of any respectability in connection with the holding of office under the odious Privy Council, presided over by Lauderdale and his compeers. A similar sentence to that pronounced on Blaw was three weeks afterwards directed against James Craiche, Dean of Guild, and two of the town councillors, named respectively John Bumsyde and John Sands. At first sight the reader may imagine that Bobert Blaw must have been a troublesome contumacious man to have refused subscriptions to a declaration, when ordered by his brother magistrates, who themselves had received instructions from the authorities in Edinburgh. But before forming any opinion on the matter, it will be as well that he peruse the declaration in question, of which, at the risk of wearing out his patience, I herewith present a copy:—

“I solemnly swear, in presence of the eternal God, whom I invocat as judge and witnes of my sincere intentione of this my oath, that I own and sincerely profess the true Protestant religion, conteinit in the Confession of Faith, recorded in the first Parliament of Xing James the Sixt, and that I believe the same to be founded on and agreeable to the written Word of God; and I promise and swear that I shall adhere thereto during all the days of my lyftyme, and sail endeavour to educate my children therein, and sail never consent to any change or alteration contrare thereto; and I disowne and renounce all such principles, doctrines, or practices, whether popish or jezaweiticall, which ar contrar unto and inconsistent with the said Protestant religion and Confession of Faith. And for testification of my obedience to my most gracious soveraigne Charles the Second, I do affirm and swear, by this ipy ' solemn oath, that the King’s Majestie is the only supreme governor of this realm, over all persons and all causes, as well ecclesiasticall as civill; and that no forraigne prince, person, pope, prelate, state, or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superioritie, preheminencie, or authoritie, ecclesiasticall or civill, within this realm; and therefor I doe utterly renounce and forsak all forraigne jurisdictions, powers, superiorities, and authorities, and doe promise that from henceforth I sail bear faith and true allegiance to the King's Majestie, his aires and lawful successors, and to my power sail assert and defend all rights, jurisdictions, prerogatives, privileges, preheminencies, and authorities belonging to the King’s Majestie, his aires and lawful successors. And I farther affirm and swear, by this my solemn oath, that I judge it unlawful for subjects, upon pretence of reformation, or any other pretence whatsoever, to enter into covenants or leagues, or to convocat, convein, or assemble in any councils, conventions, or assemblies, to treat, consult, or determine in any matter of state, civill or ecclesiastick, without his Majestie’s speciall command or express licence had thereto, or to tak up armes against the King or those commissionated by him; and that I sail never armes or enter into such covenants or assemblies, and that there lyes no obligation upon me from the National! Covenant, or the Solemn League and Covenant, so commonly called, or any other manner of way whatsoever, to indevour any change or alteration in the government either in Church or State as it is well established by the lawes of this kingdom. And I promise and swear that I sail with my utmost power defend, assist, and mainteen his Majestie’s jurisdiction foresaid against all deedly;1 and I sail never declyne his Majestie’s power and jurisdiction, as I sail answer to God. And finally, I affirm and swear that this my solemn oath is given in the plaine genuine sense and meaning of the words, without any equivocation, mental reservation, or any manner of evasion whatsoever; and that I sail never accept or use any dispensation from any creature whatsoever. So help me God.”

It will be pretty plain, I think, that few persons, almost of any shade of political or religious opinion, who had in the slightest degree the courage to avow and maintain their sentiments, could have subscribed such a declaration as the above without a feeling of the most thorough degradation and self-contempt. Yet such were the declarations sought to be imposed by the Government of the day on the Scottish people, and such was the depth of craven submission to which it was attempted to reduce them. It has been a good deal the fashion to represent the Presbyterians in the reigns of Charles and James IL as a fanatical, obstinate, and precise set of men, who aimed at the realisation of Utopian ideas in Church or State such as could never be carried out or conceded with safety in any community. But it is at least equally certain that their rulers endeavoured to subject them to a mental thraldom which had hitherto been unprecedented in Great Britain, and could only find a parallel in the countries of the Inquisition. The Presbyterians, rightly or wrongly, regarded their form of religion as of divine origin, and would have felt as sincere and conscientious scruples in admitting the right of a prelatical king to determine the constitution of the Church, as a Protestant would experience in acknowledging the supremacy of the Pope, or an early Christian in worshipping the image of the Roman emperor.

In what follows next we get some statistics of the prices of foreign liquors in those days:—

“10 November 1668.

“The quhilk day the pettie impost of wyne, strong wateris, forren bear, and aill ventet within this burgh, was sett to William Drysdeall, merch. and burges of Culrois, from the first day of November 1668 to the first of November 1669, for payment of the soume of threttene hundrethe and fyftie merkis Scottis money,1 at four quarters in the year—Candlemas, Witsonday, Lambes, and Mertynmes 1669 yearis—who fand Alexander Aitkene, ane of the lait baillies of Culrois, John Sands, ane other of the lait baillies therof, and Kobert Bald, cordiner, burges of the samyne, cautioners for him. And the said principal taksman, and his cautioneris forsaids, actit and obleigt themselves, con-junctlie and severallie, to mak payment of the said soume at the foresaid dyettes; and the said Wm. Drysdeall actit and obleigt himself for his cautioneris releiff.

“Heir followis the pryces sett doun be the saids baillies and counsell to be taken for wyne, strong watteris, forrane imported bear, and aill ventet within this burghe during the space above writtene, be the taksman aforsaid, from the brewaris and venteneris of the samyne—viz.:

For the puncheon* of French wyne . 4 0 0

For the rundell of seek . . . 1 10 0

For the whole anker of brandie . . 10 0

For the half anker . . . . 0 10 0

For the barrell of forrane bear . . 0 12 0

For brewing of the boll malt . . 0 13 4”

“French wyne” was doubtless what we now call claret, and which in those days, and for nearly a century afterwards, was an extensive article of import and consumption in Scotland. “Seek,” or sack, so familiar to all students of Shakespeare, was the old name for sherry—i.e., the dry wine, from the French sec. From a passage in Ben Jonson’s *Bartholomew Fair" it clearly appears that the terms “sack” and “sherry” were synonymous, the former being the older and more popular word :—

“Latlleme Leatherhead (hobby-horse seller).
“And because he would have him their first meeting to be merry,
He strikes Hero in love to him with a pint of sherry,
Which he tells her from amorous Leander is sent her,
Who after him into the room of Hero doth venture.
Puppet Jo. A pinte of sacke, score a pint of sacke in the Comrey
Cokes. Sack! You said but e’en now it should be sherry.
Puppet Jo. Why, so it is; sheny, sherry, sherry!
Cokes. Sherry, sherry, sherry!
By my troth, he makes me merry
I must have a name for Cupid too.”

It would also appear, from the foregoing list of prices, that “strong waters” signified brandy. What is referred to in several entries as “aqua vitas” was doubtless whisky, which, at the date of which we speak, seems to have been comparatively little drunk, at all events in the Lowlands.

The next extract gives us an unpleasant idea of the condition of the wells of Culross:—

"1 November 1669.

“Act against such persons that sail washe at Bessie Barrels Well9 or other wells within this burgh, ayther clothes or other things in tyme coming.

“The said day the baillies and counsill, taking to their consideratione the severell complents given in by severell of the burgesses and inhabitants of this burgh, against those that resort to the wells of this burgh with their foull lin-nings and yairn and such lyke, to wasche them therat, which poysons and abuses the samein wells, to the great hurt and prejudice of the whole inhabitants within this burgh, and other his Majesty’s leidges resorting thither; for preventing of the same in tyme comeing, they have unanimously appoynted that certificatione be immediatlie made, by touck of drums, to all those that shall be found doing the lyke in tyme coming, that they shall immediatlie pay ane unlay of fourty shillings Scots for the transgression, by and attour the breaking of the tubs, toties quoties!1

The “middings” are also a constant trouble :—

“6 December 1669.

"The forsaid day the officer is ordered, ilk day after the dait heirof, to take inspection of the street betwix the cross and the strand of this burgh, whither their be any middings lying upon the same; and to enquyre for the owners theirof, and to poynd them for twelve shilling Scots, to be imployed be him for his owne proper use, toties quoties. Qherin iff he failzie he is by this Act ordenied to pay twelve shillings himself for the failzie.”

In an inquest held under date September 14,1670, for serving George Lumsdane heir to his father, Sir James Lumsdane of Innergellie, there occur among the names of the jurors, “ Robert Newall, lait clerk ot Culrois; Andro Gray, merchant, burges therof; and Hercules Huntar, chirurgeon, within the samyne.” This is the earliest notice that 1 have found of a resident Esculapius in Culross.

The two following extracts from the town council minute-book are interesting in connection with a subject of which it may seem strange to many, as it has also done to myself, that so little notice is furnished by the burgh records of Culross. It is well known that trials and executions for witchcraft were exceedingly common in Scotland during the seventeenth century; and the Presbyterian polity has been credited with much of the injustice and cruelty which thus took place. No doubt the Presbyterians believed devoutly in the existence of witches, and the duty of pursuing them to the death; but though it is said that Sir George Mackenzie, the King’s advocate and public prosecutor in the reigns of Charles and James II., discredited the reality of such a crime, it is certain that, under the Episcopal sway, prosecutions for witchcraft were quite as common as at any other period—and the Government of the day had nearly as much to answer for in this respect as for the cruel persecution of the Covenanters. Yet, as regards Culross, there is not so much evidence demonstrative of either of these points as might have been expected. Possibly, indeed, many of the prosecutions may have been carried on before -Lord Colville’s Regality Court, of whose proceedings no records, so far as I have been able to discover, are now in existence. The adjoining parish of Torrybum was, we know, famous for its witches; and we have already seen how that, at an earlier period, the subject had engaged the attention both of the kirk-session and burgh authorities. But I have not found recorded in the proceedings of either, one indubitable instance of an execution on this account having taken place within the territory of Culross.1 There is, indeed, in ‘ Satan’s Invisible World Displayed,’ a horrible story of . a poor woman, under sentence of death for witchcraft, endeavouring to make her escape from the Culross tolbooth, and injuring herself so dreadfully that she had to be carried to the place of execution in a chair. The event is detailed there professedly by an eyewitness; but it .is impossible to receive any statement on the authority of such a book. It has generally happened that witches, notwithstanding all the diabolical influence at their command, remained involved in the utmost poverty and want, and had to exemplify in the fullest extent the axiom of the devil being the hardest of taskmasters. But, from what follows below, it would seem that they were occasionally possessed of property sufficient to render their escheats or forfeitures matters of such importance as to induce the magistrates of a royal burgh to come forward as competitors in the division of the spoil.

“2 August 1675.

“The quhilk day the saids magistrattis and counsell, upon the consideratione of the great panes and expence this place hes bene at in prosequieting the four witches to deathe, and that nevertheles there ar divers persons given in for the gift of their escheit: They therefore have com-niissionat John Kennewie, their clerk, to goe over, and to give in for the samyne in behalf of this burghe; and failzieing his procuring therof, they have ordered him to tak the accompt of the expenses alongst with him, and to petitione the excheker that whosoever gett the gift they may be ordered to take it with the burdene of the said accompt.”

*16 July 1677.

“The forsaid day the magistrates and council, considering that they ly out in ane considerabill somme of the money expended in thair recovering of the gift of escheat, they thairfor ordeans the gift to be send over, that homing be raised against these lyabill in payment of thair proportiones, if they give not satisfactione once this week.”

Whether the magistrates succeeded or not in recovering their claims in the above case, we are not informed, as nothing further appears in the minute-books either in reference to it or any other prosecution for witchcraft. Some proceedings of a mild character will be found recorded a good many years subsequently in the kirk-session archives in connection with charming and suchlike occult arts. But as regards the civic records, they are, for a long time subsequent as well as previous to this period, singularly meagre and devoid of interest. The entries exhibit also an unusual amount of confusion and bad grammar. It was now a time of persecution— though the hottest period of it had not yet arrived —and a general blight, civil and ecclesiastical, had overtaken Scotland. For several years there seems to have been no regular ministry in Culross; and as we learn from the prelatical Kirk records themselves, a fearful tide of moral and spiritual declension had set in. Here is some endeavour on the part of the magistrates to remedy the temporal disadvantages thereby occasioned:—

“23 August 1675.

“The samyne day the saids baillies and counsell, upon consideration that there ar many poore indigent householders within this place who thinks evill to beg, and ar in a sterving condition; and that there is seldome preaching here, and that many devertis [sic] the goeing to the churche, so that thair can be no suplie gotten for thame without ane remeid therto: They have therfor appoyntit that ane roll be drawine of the inhabitants, and given to two in each quarter of the town, that they may goe throw eache fourt-night and collect what they ar Christianlie disposed to bestow in charitie for the maintenance of the said poore, that they sterve not, as licklie they will if not supplied as aforsaid; and that the collectoris be changed every quarter, as the saids baillies thinks fitt.”

Mr Burnett was inducted in 1676 as minister of the first charge of Culross; and probably in consequence of this, the following edict is issued by the magistrates:—

“27 April 1676.

“The said day it was intimat at the head court to the inhabitants, that such of thame as have disearted the church hitherto, shall for the future be moir observand in going thairto; otherwayes such of thame as have not yett bene summoned elaequhair, will be proceided against be the baillies, conforme to the Act of Parliament.”

The system of quartering soldiers on a town or individuals, so frequently employed as an engine of oppression, seems to have been the common method in those days of enforcing payment of taxes. We find frequent instances of this in the burgh records. Here is one:—

“18 December 1676.

“The said day, upon consideratione that the party of horse are still quartering for what is yett deficient of the twelf moneths cess which Baillie Aitkene hes intrometted with, the magistrats and counsell have thought fitt that he be imprisoned till payment be maid therof; and as to the ryding money, they ar to take such ane course as the party shall judge convenient, by poinding the deficients for the samyne.”

We have seen how, in 1668, Robert Blaw, one of the Culross bailies, was, with others, deprived of office and fined in 100 Scots by his brother magistrates for refusing to subscribe the declaration demanded by the Government. Nine years afterwards, in 1677, he and William Gray, a girdlemaker, were fined by the Privy Council, as we are informed by Wodrow, in the sums respectively of 2000 and 200 merks Scots for frequenting conventicles. The same authority states, moreover, that on the same day Adam Stobie (or Stobow) of Luscar was “ fined by the council in 3000 merks for keeping conventicles, withdrawing from public ordinances, reset and converse with intercommuned persons, and, after payment of the fine, ordered to be transported furth of the kingdom.” An interesting corroboration of the last-mentioned circumstances is furnished by the narrative of Captain John Creichton, a soldier of fortune, of Irish extraction, whose Memoirs were edited by no less a personage than Dean Swift, and will be found in the edition of his collected works. Creichton had been introduced, in 1674, to the Marquis of Athole, and received into his troop at Stirling under Lieutenant-Colonel Cockbum. Soon after this he was largely employed in the west in the suppression of conventicles, and he was afterwards the principal actor in the famous hunt after the Rev. David Williamson, who took refuge in the house of Lady Cherrytrees, near Edinburgh, and eluded capture by a singular device on the part of his hostess. Then he goes on to tell how, some time after, he had been directed by General Dalziel to take the command of a party of foot-guards, and go in pursuit “ of a notorious rebel, one Adam Stobow, a farmer in Fife, near Culross.” I shall tell the rest of the Btory in Creich ton’s own words:—

“This fellow had gone through the west endeavouring to stir up sedition in the people by his great skill in canting and praying. There had been several parties sent out after him before I and my men undertook the business; but they could never discover him. We reached Culross at night, when I directed the ensign and all the men to secure three or four rebels who were in the place, while I, with two or three of the soldiers to assist me, went to Stobow’s house, about a mile and a half from Culross, by break of day, for VOL. I. Z fear some of his friends might give him notice. Before I got to the house I observed a kiln in the way, which I ordered to be searched, because I found there a heap of straw in the passage up to the kiln-pot. There I found Stobow lurking, and carried him to Culross, although his daughter offered me a hundred dollars to let him go. We returned immediately to the general at Edinburgh with Stobow and the prisoners taken by the ensign at Culross. They continued awhile in confinement, but Stobow, at his trial, found friends enough to save his life, and was only banished; yet he returned home a year after, and proved as troublesome and seditious as ever, till, at the fight at Both-welT Bridge, it was thought he was killed, for he was never heard of afterward.”

There seems uo reason to doubt that the “ Adam Stobie of Luscar” mentioned by Wodrow is the same as the “Adam Stobow” of Captain Creichton. I have not been able to discover the name of Stobow or Stobie, whether as a farmer or proprietor, in any part of the parish of Culross at the period under consideration. There is an estate named Luscar near Camock, in Fife, about five miles from Culross; and this, in all probability, was the place visited by Creichton. Yet he speaks of it as being only a mile and a half from Culross. Taking these as Scotch miles, they would amount nearly to three English ones, and in this way his statement would tally with the real distance between the places. At all events, he may readily be conceived to have let his memory make a slip; and it is quite possible, too, that in a rapid ride at early mom he might easily fancy the distance traversed less than it really was. Any further solution of the question seems now unattainable.

It is only too probable, from the account given by Captain Creichton, that several persons who were captured by his troop at Culross paid the penalty of death for their adherence to their principles. The following entry shows that the Presbyterian recusants had begun to hold meetings for religious worship in the neighbourhood of Culross:—

“7 November 1678.

“The said day the said Sir Alexr. Bruce signified to the town council that he is informed that there are certain disorderly conventicle meittings in and about this burgh and elsewhere, to which certan of their burgesses doeth repair; and therfor desired the saids magistrates to advert to it, by their tymus proceiding against them, conform to the Act of Parliament; the which advyce of his they find convenient, and accordingly thinks fitt they be proceidit against vi supra with all expeditione.”

This Sir Alexander Bruce of Broomhall has been already referred to. Though a steady supporter of the Government, and in after-days a stanch Jacobite, we are informed by Wodrow that he had, in 1677, to submit to a fine of 1200 for not having enforced on his tenants the subscription of a certain bond; and as some of them, by repeated attendance at conventicles, had rendered themselves liable in a heavy amount of accumulated impositions, Sir Alexander was obliged to make these good.

From a report to the Privy Council, quoted by Wodrow, we learn that the magistrates of Culross were at that time cited before the Committee “ for permitting one Michael Potter, a fugitive person, to be schoolmaster there, and for resetting one William Adam, a fugitive and banished person, and others.” It goes on farther to say—

“There being a conventicle kept in Culross Sabbath was eight days, which was dissipate by Captain Buchan, and about eighteen persons seized upon and imprisoned in Culross ; upon examination, the Committee finds that the magistrates had set some of them at liberty at their own hand. The Committee has ordered the magistrates to call them all back to prison, and hath condescended upon the persons most substantial of them, and appointed the magistrates to produce them before the Council this day se’en night; and if the rest, who are mean persons, will give bond to keep their own parish churches and not keep conventicles, they have appointed them to liberate them, otherwise to continue them in prison. The Committee find the magistrates are culpable, and deserve to be fined; but it is their opinion that the Council shall delay to punish them for some time, that they may see what will be their future carriage, and have time to search for and apprehend the said William Adam, —which the bailie present undertook to do.”

There is nothing about these proceedings in the minute-book of this period, though a few years hence we shall find the magistrates getting into some trouble with the Privy Council. Perhaps they were too much frightened to make any entries on the subject, for there seems no reason to doubt the accuracy of the circumstances quoted by Wodrow. As regards the holding of conventicles, it has always been a tradition that this took place in a secluded part of Culross Moor, now covered with wood; but nothing definite can be stated regarding the locality. No doubt the unpleasant experiences of Sir Alexander Bruce in the way of pecuniary mulcts would render him doubly eager in urging the suppression of these meetings on the Culross magistrates.


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