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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter XIII. The Burgh Records from 1679 to the Revolution


ABOUT this period a distinguished historical per-sonage may have been seen passing through Culross. This was no other than the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth, who, as we are informed by Captain Creichton in the Memoirs already quoted, made a journey into Fife to visit the Duke of Rothes, shortly after the battle of Bothwell Bridge, which had been fought in the course of this summer. He travelled from Glasgow by way of Stirling; and although we cannot be certain that he passed through the town, it is at least highly probably that he either did so, or took the road from Clackmannan through Culross Muir. He crossed, it is likely, Newmill Bum by the picturesque old bridge which still remains; then passed through Torrybum, over Cairney Hill, to Dunfermline, and from thence journeyed by Lochgelly and Auchterderran to Leslie. We can, of course, only speculate, but it may be received as an indisputable fact that the son of Charles II. and Lucy Waters, the husband of the heiress of Buccleuch, and ancestor of the present Duke of that name, did make the journey above indicated from Stirling to Leslie; and there is no reason to believe that he would follow any but the most direct and commodious road. Such a course would necessarily lead him through Alloa and Clackmannan, and likewise in all probability through Culross. He had just gained a great victory on behalf of his father; and it must always be remembered to his credit, that his clemency to the vanquished, and general desire to conciliate by mild and humane measures, excited the ill-will and opposition of the merciless set of men then at the head of Scottish affairs. Irresolute and weak-minded he might be, but we cannot regard his aberrations with much severity; and when we think of his capture a few years afterwards in the muddy ditch at Sedge-moor, and his execution subsequently in Lincoln’s Tnn Fields, we may be pardoned for dwelling a moment on this glimpse of the handsome and ill-fated scion of royalty, as he slowly rides with his-gay retinue through the old burgh, and pressing on more rapidly as he leaves it, disappears along the winding shore-road beneath the Valleyfield Braes.

We must now turn again to more serious matters. Things were becoming worse and more intolerable every day, both in Scotland and England, — the arbitrary powers of the Crown having recently been greatly increased by the triumph in South Britain of the Tory party. The Duke of York was sent down as viceroy to Scotland, and a veritable reign of terror was the result,—nothing ever recorded of French dragonnades, or Spanish persecutions in the Low Countries, surpassing in atrocity what the Lowland Presbyterians of Scotland had to undergo for about six or seven years, between the battle of Bothwell Bridge and the commencement of the reign of James II. The punishment of death was decreed against any one who should be found attending a conventicle; and commissions were granted to various noblemen and military officers for taking cognisance of and punishing disaffected persons, the effects of which proved nothing short of the letting loose on peaceful districts of a set of lawless desperadoes, who, under the guise of royal authority, exercised the most inquisitorial sway, and perpetrated the most horrid cruelties. It has often been sought to palliate the iniquities which then took place, by pleading exaggeration on the part of the Presbyterian writers in after-times, by •endeavouring to throw a halo of chivalry around the Cavalier or Government party, and by presenting the recusant Presbyterians in an odious as well as ridiculous guise as a set of hot-headed fanatics or canting hypocrites. But all this will not do. Trying the question at the tribunal of common-sense, it is utterly impossible to acquit the Government of the time of gross corruption and malversation, or its subordinate officers of the most dreadful cruelty and oppression. How are we to account for the old and ineradicable feeling in the minds of the Scottish peasantry against Episcopacy, and the strong and persistent voice of tradition, more especially in the western counties, in depicting the period between the Restoration, and Revolution as the most •wretched in Scottish history, from the combined effects of ecclesiastical misrule and military lawlessness ? And to clench the whole argument, the country became at last thoroughly tired of the state of things, got quit of it as an intolerable burden, and from the Revolution to the present day has never allowed it to be reimposed.

Here is one of the “ commissioners ” above referred to making his appearance in Culross:—

"21 November 1681.

“The forsaid day, in presence of the saids baillies and counsell, compeared ane noble and potent earle, Charles, Earle of Mar, who produced before them ane commissione direct be his royall highness James Duke of Albany and York, and the Lords of his Majestie’s Privie Counsell, to the magistrates and counsell of this burghe, of the dait the twentie-fourt day of September last bypast, ordering his lordship therby for administering the test to thame; in obedience wherof the said magistrates and counsell did in dewtiful manner accept of the samyne test, and did dewlie subscryve the samyne, as they war thairto requyred, qlk was done in that maner as the said test was fullie and in-geniouslie explened be the said Lords, efter the samyne explanatione was read, and in other wayes”

Many persons at this period refused to accept municipal office, as the doing so involved the taking of the test oath, which recognised in the completest and most abject manner the dictum of the King’s absolute supremacy in matters both civil and ecclesiastical. On 6th October 1681 we find the names of “Alexr. Halliday, Thomas Ogilvie, Johne Mul-tray, Johne Sands, Rot. Hun tar, Geo. Clerk, and Adame Pearsone, who refused to accept or to subscryve the test, being presented be the Earle of Mar in counsell this day to them, bot the remanent councillaris gave their oathes of fidelitie efter the usuall maner.”

In the following month of January fresh troubles assail the burgh, in consequence of a prosecution in regard to taking the test, which, it would appear, had been evaded by many members of the corporations on the occasion of the last municipal election. The magistrates call before them and examine the deacons of the crafts, who can only plead their ignorance of the law in neglecting to enforce the test on their constituents, and request that all members of corporations who now refuse to take it may be deprived of their rights of freemen, and their names reported to the Lord Advocate. This was no other than the famous Sir George Mackenzie, a name then carrying almost as much terror with it as that of Claverhouse in connection with the persecution of the Presbyterians. He had just summoned the magistrates of Culross to give an explanation of their conduct before the Privy Council in Edinburgh ; and, as may be expected, the consternation thus excited in the minds of the civic magistrates was extreme. The town council minutes report nothing further in the matter, but it would appear that the burgh of Culross narrowly escaped on this occasion the imposition of an exorbitant fine.

In further reference to these persecuting times, the following curious paragraph may be quoted from Fountainhall’s 1 Decisions ’:—

"December 2, 1684.—The Lady Colvill is imprisoned in Edinburgh Tolbooth by the Privy Council for her irregularities, and particularly for breeding up her son, the Lord Colvil, in fanaticism and other disloyal principles, and abstracting and putting him out of the way when the Council was going to commit his education to others, for which we have Acts of Parliament as to the children of Papists, which may be extended exjoaritate to others."

The. Lady Colville spoken of here was the widow of Robert, second Lord Colville of Ochiltree, who had the dispute already related with the burgh of Culross regarding his heritable jurisdiction as lord of the regality. Her maiden name was Margaret Wemyss, and she was a daughter of David Wemyss of Fingask. Wodrow mentions her as petitioning the Council “for a better room than she hath in Edinburgh prison; which is granted her.” He adds, however, that she was rather roughly treated, and was more than once liberated on bond, and reimprisoned. We have no further intelligence regarding her. With her son Robert, third Lord Colville of Ochiltree, who died without issue, the title be* came extinct, and the representation of the family has devolved (through female succession, however) on the Colvilles of Craigflower.

In an account of charges given in to the town council of Culross on December 11, 1684, by Bailies M'Donald and Blaw, regarding their mission to Edinburgh to settle matters with the Lord High Treasurer, who had demanded an account of the common good of the burgh since the year of the Restoration, we find the following items:—

“Imprimis, given for advyce anent the giving in the accompts to the High Treasurer,

3 rix-dollars is . . . . 8 14 0

Item, for horse-hayre from Culros to Edinburgh, and from Edinburgh to Culros, and fraight . . . .600

Item, for the baillies necessar charges for the space of eight days at Edinburgh, and upon the rod . . . 18 18 0 ”

It would appear from the above that a rix-dollar of those days amounted to 2,18s. Scots, or 4s. 10d. sterling; also, that the hire of a horse from Culross to Edinburgh, including the freight at Queens-ferry, was 30s. Scots (2s. 6d. sterling), or at most 5s. sterling for two persons. The expense of maintenance in Edinburgh and on the road seems to have averaged for each person 1,3s. 7d. Scots, or nearly 2s. sterling per day. Civic magistrates would hardly travel at so cheap a rate nowadays, even though we make the utmost possible allowance for the difference in the value of money.

The irrepressible middens again come up in a council minute of 19th November 1685. There must have been something pre-eminently precious about them to the heart of the ancient Scot, when so many vain threats and remonstrances had to be addressed to him on the subject by his civil rulers, who, to do them justice, seem to have tried their utmost to abate the nuisance. But the force of public opinion and fashion was too strong for them; and nearly a century later we find Smollett, through the remarks of Mrs Winifred Jenkins, immortalising the “ flowers of Edinburgh,” as popular irony gently denominated the unsavoury discharges and odours then so prominent a characteristic of the capital. Mrs Hamilton, in her ‘Cottagers of Glenbumie,’ contributed a good deal to expose the practice; but the middens continued to remain the opprobrium of Scotland down to the first visitation of the cholera, when the dread of the pestilence at last effected what no arguments on the question of cleanliness had been able to accomplish, and that venerable institution of our forefathers as an adornment of the public streets may now be said to be a thing of the past.

On 21st January 1687 the Earl of Kincardine appears before the town council and produces a list of the names of such persons as the Privy Council desire to be appointed magistrates and councillors of the burgh of Culross, and a letter from the same authority empowering his lordship to take charge of the election. The force of overbearing authority could no farther go, , and it is difficult to conceive of a more pitiable state of things than that revealed by the arbitrary commands of the Privy Council, and the abject submission of the burghers, in whose municipal records the degradation is registered under the title, “Act of Admission of the Baillies and Counsell of Culros—1687.” But the tide was just about to turn.

The Earl of Kincardine referred to as taking a chief part in these proceedings was Alexander, third Earl, son of Alexander, second Earl, and Lady Veronica. He seems to have been but a degenerate scion, and in his latter days, besides being afflicted with blindness, became almost lunatic. His sister, Lady Mary Cochrane, wife of William Cochrane of Ochiltree, induced him to resign the Kincardine peerage into the Crown’s hands, with the view of a new patent being made out which would render it transmissible to heirs-female. The validity of this deed, however, on the part of the Earl, was disputed; and as he left no issue, his cousin, Sir Alexander Bruce of Broomhall, already mentioned, succeeded in establishing his right to the title in preference to Lady Mary. He became fourth Earl of Kincardine, and transmitted the title to his descendants—his grandson Charles, ninth Earl, succeeding in addition, in 1747, to the title of Earl of Elgin, which has since been united with that of Kincardine.

Culross must about this time have been in a miserable condition indeed, as on 26th January 1687 we find “the magistrate and toun councell taking to ther serious consideration the varie meine condition of the toun by the debts theroff, and the great trubell off the magistrate and other expenses by divers contingencies with lawers and others in persuing and defending the common affairs of the said burgh, which for the tyme are in greatt disorder and confusion.” Her day of prosperity was now nearly over.

The postal arrangements, in a minute of 18 th April 1687, again engage the attention of the authorities, but it is still only with Edinburgh that these are maintained.

Notwithstanding all its troubles, the town council resolves to have its usual good dinner on the marches day:—

“9 May 1687.

“The samen day the magistratis and toune counsell, considering the laudable custome of this buigh anent the convening of the burgesses and inhabitants in arms upon Whitsunmonday, the laite trubles being so very great, they were fearing to put the inhabitants to that chaiges and expenses they used ordinarly to be at: Theirfore they ordayned the heall toune counsell, with sutch other persons as the magistrate should nominat, to be in readiness upon horse back upon Monday next, being Whitsunmonday, for ryding of the marches, conforme to the ordinary custome, and that to attend the Earle of Kincardine; and allows the mill capons and hens to be brought for making the ordinary dinner, as is used upon that day.”

Of this date (13th June 1687) another ordinance is issued against “ vagabond sturdie beggars, able and solitarie men and women who have no callings nor tread.”

The following refers to the legal provision for the maintenance and repair of highways by the system which existed till very recently, and was denominated “ statute labour.” Like the old French corvee, though in a much milder form, this imposed on every one the duty of contributing his labour for a certain number of days in the year towards the repair and maintenance of the public roads. The burden might be commuted by a money payment, reckoned at so many days’ wages; and this used to be levied on a rather unfair principle, as the landed proprietors and the owners of small tenements paid nearly the same amount:—

“11 July 1687.

“The samen day the magistrates and toune counsell, considering that his Sacred Majestie and Estates of Parliament hath, by severall Acts of Parliament, ordayned the reparation of high wayes and bridges; and particularlie the eight Act of the second session of Parliament of our dread Soveraigne King James the Seventh: . . . Therefore the sayd magistrats and toun counsell of this burgh, considering how mutch the highways and small bridges in and about this burgh, within the liberties theroff, is decayed and failed, and that for neglect of repairing, as the burgesses and inhabitants are oblidged by the said Act of Parliament —thairfore they ordayne, and is hereby ordayned, that the whole inhabitants within this burgh and liberties therof that are masters of families, upon the first advertisement given to them by the toune officers, that they shall be in readiness to work, ilk one of them, their six days for repairing of the said high wayes or bridges, either leading to the burgh or within the burgh, they always being within the liberties therof, or sutch as the Justice of the Peace within the shyre shall think fit or allow to be done for the profit of this burgh; and that sutch persons who have horses send their horses furnished for the sayd work during the space foresaid, and sutch as have not horses are hereby ordayned either to goe and work themselves or hayre others in their place furnished with shuffels, mattoks, barrows, and sutch lyke, conforme to the forsayde Act of Parliament for repairing of the sayde highwayes and bridges, ilk persone being warned to the effect and causes forsayd, under the payne and penalties contyned [in] the sayde Act of Parliament, toties quoties, as they shall trangress.”,

An entry of this date (25th August 1687) inaugurates a system which was pursued very systematically throughout the succeeding century, and cannot be said to have been very conducive to the interests of the town. Culross Muir, a tract of considerable extent, was the property of the burgh; and as a large portion of it seemed capable of being enclosed and converted into arable land, the adjoining heritors were becoming eager of acquiring and adding to their own estates such parts of it as lay adjacent. In the depressed condition of the town’s finances it was doubtless considered a most advisable procedure to increase its revenues by feuing out portions of comparatively unproductive territory. But the burgh authorities would have shown more wisdom, at least as viewed in the light of subsequent experience, had they retained the domain in their own hands, and expended on its reclamation the funds which were wasted in profitless litigations, and possibly, also, still more unjustifiable outlays. It has been the opprobrium. of Scottish burghs that by their financial waste and mismanagement they were almost all reduced to a condition of bankruptcy, from which in recent years they have only begun to recover. Much was spent in civic dinners and guzzling, and a good deal also in various kinds of peculation, which were veiled under the specious forms of travelling expenses and suchlike in connection with municipal business. In one ancient royal burgh it is said that the provost, when he had any business of his own to transact in Edinburgh, had not the smallest hesitation in engaging a post-chaise to convey him thither and back, the expense of which was debited to the civic funds, on the con* venient plea of some town matters requiring attention at the time. And the provosts’ wives were not slow to improve the occasion. “ Many a grand ride,” I have heard a lady say, in irreverent reference to the lord and lady mayoress of the burgh in question, “ did Auld Luck and her gudeman get to Edinburgh in a post-chaise. And mony a gude dinner did he and the bailies get at the toun’s expense.” It is only justice to Culross and her civic magnates to say, that I never heard of any such malversations being specially attributed to them. And also, with regard to the feuing of the common moor, there is no reason, however inadequate might be the returns thereby realised, to accuse them of any jobbery, or the heritors of any unauthorised appropriation. As far as I can discover, everything seems to have been done openly and in due legal form. I would also direct the reader’s attention to the condition embodied in the under-quoted extract regarding the planting of the roads through the moor with trees. Though Scotland was then very barre'n of wood, the result of the wasteful demolition of the old forests, our forefathers seem to have been strongly impressed with the expediency of having wayfarers duly screened and provided with shelter from sun and rain. To such enactments we are indebted at the present day for many of our pleasant country roads, though passengers in vehicles, public and private, have been frequently not a little inconvenienced by projecting boughs. In the broad highways constructed in more recent times for the mail-coaches, the sides of the roads, unless where bordered by regular woods or plantations, are generally destitute of trees.

“The samen day, in reference to ane Act of counsell, daited the first day of August instant, anent the supplicatione given in by John Blaw of Castlehill, Bobert Broune of Barhill, and others, ordering the piece of moore land to be marched and meithed to the said John Blaw and Bobert Broune this day, the Dean of Guild, with such of the magistrates and counsell as was with him, dedared that they have given the said moore lands sought for by the said John Blaw, and had marched and meithed the samen; and the yearlie feu-dutie therof, and other services proper to the said John Blaw, as being the toun’s vaasall, being referred to this day, the heall counsell, with advise and consent of the said noble Earle,1 ordayned and hereby ordaynes the whole common moore to be set out by the magistrates, Dean of Gild, and thesurer in all tyme coming, and that not only to the said John Blaw of Castlehill, but to any other whatsomever person or persons who shall demand the samen, and that for twentie shilling Scots of feu-dutie yearlie for eatch aiker, with power to the magistrates and Dean of Guild to cause measure and meith the samen at any tyme they please, and to secure the said fewers of the moore land in due forme as shall be thought fit. And it is hereby expressly declared that no man shall imped or hinder any pairt of the said moore land to be taken (in feu-farm as said is), to be taken from the magistrates, and that under the pretext because it layeth neerest of his owne arable land, but that all and sundrie of the burgesses who shall supplicat the magistrates or counsell for any pairt of the said moore land first, and shall get the grant, they shall possess the samen peacibly and their successors for the forsaid feu-dutie. And it is lykwise hereby ordyned that the said feuers of the moore land shall plant the king’s highway where their fewes are with trees, and mentayne the samen, and with all other services dew in the lyke case. And ordaynes the said John Blaw his entrie to be at Martimes next, or any else who pleaseth, as said is.”

On 12th September of the same year a long diatribe is recorded on the part of the magistrates, bewailing, as formerly, the wretched condition of the town in consequence of the incubus of the quarter-ing-parties, and reproaching the late town council for its mismanagement and malversation in office. A long list is given of accounts “ for eall, meat, and other vivers,” supplied by “ the brewars within the brugh of Culross” to the soldiers from the garrison at Blackness, whose governor, it would appear, the bailies had been endeavouring to conciliate by a present of coals. Some settlement had to be made both with the soldiers and the brewers; and accordingly, two of the bailies are deputed to go over to Blackness and settle with the governor of the garrison, whilst an assignation is to be made by the brewers of their debts to the town treasurer, who is to pay them “ when the brugh shall be made able, or that the samen debts shall be allowed to all and every one of them in their public dues they are lyable to pay as burgesses.” The number of names given as “ brewers ” is somewhat overwhelming, and induces the suspicion of there being either some mistake in the entry itself, or that every person who could pretend to the capability of “ brewing a peck o’ maut ” fell under the designation, and had to contribute his quota towards the entertainment of the soldiers.

A week afterwards, on 19th September, a letter arrives “ from the Lords of his Majestie’s most Honorable Privie Counsell to the magistrates and toun counsell of this burgh for his Majestie’s service, ordering the said magistrates and counsell to continue in their respective offices, and impouring them to exerce therin till his Majestie’s further pleasure be signified; which letter being publikly red, the whole magistrates and counsell most freely and willingly did condescend to serve his sacred Majestie in their severall stations to the uttermost of their power during his royall will and pleasure.”

Comment on the above is unnecessary, as it is also on an entry in the minute-book of date 21st February 1688, in which is recorded a new election of magistrates in accordance with the commands of the Privy Council, “founded upon ane letter under his sacred Matie’s royall hand, daited at the Court of Whytehall the tent day of November last, nominating and appointing the persons particularly after-named to be magistrates and counsellors for the space therin contyned.” It is almost identical in terms with an entry of the preceding year, and shows to what a state matters had now come in this country. But it was the last election by royal mandate, and ere another took place a new rSgime had commenced.

A council minute of 25th June 1688, ordering a civic holiday, with all the demonstrations customary on such occasions, “for joy of the birth of the most Seren Prince, the Prince and Stewart of Scotland,” contrasts strangely, like Diyden’s poem on the same event, with the circumstances that shortly afterwards ensued, and made the little Prince and his friends fugitives from Britain. It is scarcely necessary to remind my readers that the infant whose birth the Culross people are here summoned to rejoice over became known in after-days as the “Old Pretender,” the cause of the rebellion in 1715, and the father of the still more famous Pretender, Prince Charles Edward, the hero of the “Forty-five.” The entry in question is the last in the burgh records of any interest prior to the Revolution. Civil and, ecclesiastical oppression had done their part, and civic mismanagement as regards finances had also been great Various persons, including Sir Alexander Bruce of Broomhall, had lent money to the town on the security of the New Mills, and these creditors were now pressing for payment. Drowned in debt and difficulties, with her municipal liberties extinguished, distressed inhabitants, and a declining trade, Culross, on the eve of the Revolution, was indeed in a pitiable condition.


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