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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter XVI. The Kirk-Session Records from 1693 to 1704


AFTER the removal of Bishop Ramsay from Culross in 1684, the first and second charges were filled respectively by Mr Robert Wright and Mr Alexander Young, who were appointed thereto in that year. Both remained faithful to Episcopacy, and were deposed by the Scottish Privy Council at the Revolution for refusing to read the proclamation of William of Orange. They apparently continued to officiate in the neighbourhood of Culross for some time after their deposition, and, as we shall see, attracted more than once the hostile notice of the kirk-session, now presided over by the celebrated James Fraser of Brea. On the expulsion of Wright and Young he was appointed to the first charge, but the second charge remained vacant from the Revolution till 1698. As he was a man of considerable reputation, a short sketch of his history, derived from his own memoirs, before his appointment to Culross, may not be unacceptable.

Fraser of Brea, so called from the ancestral estate which he inherited, was bom in the parish of Kirk-michael, Ross-shire, in 1639. His family was of some note in that quarter, and his father, Sir James Fraser of Brea, Baronet, was the author of a treatise on certain questions of divinity.

His first settlement seems to have been in the bishopric of Moray, where he soon got into trouble for holding conventicles and refusing to acknowledge the bishop’s authority. He was apprehended in 1677, examined before the Privy Council, and sent a prisoner to the Bass, where he continued for two years and a half. After being liberated from thence, he was again apprehended for continuing his religious ministrations, brought before the Privy Council, and confined, first in the Castle of Edinburgh, and afterwards in Blackness Castle. After another long confinement he was liberated, through the intercession and bond of his friends, on condition that he quitted the country. He took ship for London in May, and arrived there on 16th June 1682. In July 1683 he was apprehended and imprisoned for six months in Newgate for refusing to take the Oxford oath. At this point his diary breaks off, and all that his editors seem to know further about him is, that he eventually returned to his native land, and was settled as minister of Culross. The greater part of his diary is a record of his religious experiences, and does not contain much that is valuable in a historical point of view. He, however, gives a very interesting description of the then condition of the Bass. He says that there was on the uppermost part of it “ a garden where herbs grow, with some cherry-trees, of the fruit of which I several times tasted.” Below that, he says, was a chapel; but as there was no chaplain, this was used as a storehouse for ammunition. Below this, again, were the fort and rooms for the soldiers and prisoners. On the upper part of the island there was as much grass, he says, as pastured about twenty sheep, and there he was allowed to take solitary walks. He mentions, too, the solan-geese, and the difficulty of landing on the Bass. Sometimes, he says, they endured great privations from the scarcity of provisions and water, their stores being all brought in boats from the mainland, though rain-water was collected in the clefts of the rocks. The soldiers did not treat the prisoners well, though apparently they did not practise such cruelties as were exercised at Dunnottar Castle. Fraser tells us that at the time of his marriage he was in debt; but in the latter part of his life he seems to have been a man of considerable means.

A break occurs in the session records from 1684 to 1693. In the latter year they are resumed, and kept continuously from thence down to the present day. A very decided change of tone is perceptible in the following extracts:—

“4 January 1693.

“John Yelton, in the west quarter, delated for beating of his wife and most unchristian carriages in his familie, ordered to be cited against the next session; and Grange M‘Gill1 ordered to speak to him.

“The session taking to consideration the sad and lamentable condition of the church and parish under their oversight, especiallie unfruitfulness under the Gospel and means of grace, contempt thereof and opposition thereunto, the ignorance, profanity, neglect of the worship of God in families, the abounding of drunkenness, lying, swearing, and especiallie of the increase of the sin of uncleanness, both fornication and adulterie, have, from their sense of their danger and dewtie, thought fit to humble themselves before God, and to deprecate His anger, and grace for help; and have appointed Thursday next week for observation of the said day, with praying and fasting and preaching, and the same to be intimat from pulpit next Lord’s Day”

If the above extract is to be taken au pied de la lettre, Culross must have been at that time in a dreadful state indeed. But there is a wonderful similarity in the language of all these jeremiads throughout the session records, and it is very questionable whether such strong and indiscriminate denunciations, which possess always a certain morbid attraction and interest, are ever productive of any real good.

“17 January 1693.

“The which day Baillie Adam gave in on paper a written account of the persons, both in burgh and landward, lyable for head and through stones, and for mortcloths respective, and further ordered that the persons lyable be ranked in their respective quarters; and the elders of each quarter, with Jamea Anderson, be ordered to speak to the persons owing, that they make payment and give in their due proportion to the church treasurer, and report made hereof against the next day/*

“Through-stones"and “head-stones” seem to have been prohibited in churchyards in those days, except on payment of fees, which, along with those arising from the loan of the mortcloth, formed no inconsiderable portion of the revenues of a kirk-session. When through or head stones were erected without permission, or payment of the customary dues, they were liable to be trundled summarily out of the churchyard, or thrown over the wall:—

“25 January 1693.

“John Yelton makes his permission, and promises amendment.”

“John Johnston, in Castlehill, delated for riotous feasting on the Lord’s Day afternoon in the time of afternoon sermon, cited, and appearing, denyes that there was anything of that, though urged with great seriousness to acknowledge his fault, but acknowledges that through mistake he was not at sermon; and was then rebuked for his absence from the ordinance, and exhorted to keep and wait on the ordinances better in time coming.”

A resolution is passed of this date—29th May 1693 — “that ten pounds Scots be ordered for mainteaning of a burse for this year, and to be given in to the Presbitrie at their next sitting.”

And on the following day: “The ten pounds ordeaned to be given in to the Presbitrie for maintenance of a burse, brought back again and delivered to the treasurer, was, with 5 more, ordered to be given to an hopfull young youth to be Laureat this yeare, called James Sands, to help him to his degrees.”

“Complaint being made of profanation of the Lord’s Day by both men and women and children, by their wandering and gading about in streets and fields: Warning thereof and publict admonition from the pulpit to be given next Lord’s Day; holding furth the end thereof, and charging them to keep within doores that day, and to be taken up with religious exercises both privat and publict.” '

The faith in charms seems deeply rooted in the popular mind, and is by no means eradicated even at the present day. The Church made great efforts to repress and punish such practices as a trafficking with the powers of darkness. Here is a record of a prosecution on this account:—

“29 June 1693.

“John Young, in the Valleyfield, delated for charming, summoned, called, and appearing, interrogated as to his charming, declared as follows—viz., that being some time ago called to cure a certain sick person, he used these words: ‘ Little thing hath wronged thee, nothing can mend thee but Father, Son, and Holie Ghost, all three, and our sweet Lady. In etemitie let never wax, but away to the waine, as the dew goes of yeard and stane. I seek help to this distressed person in thy name.’ He likewise acknowledged that he used the same words in curing of a woman in the Blaire, who was for years thereafter weell; and that by the same words he cured Robert Bruce in the Shyres miln,—and the disease these persons had, he said, was a splen, which he siemed to the session to understand as of a disease put upon them through envy and splen. And being interrogat if he used any gestures or postures whiles he was pronouncing these words, he could not deny but that first he rubbed his own hand upon a bare stone, and rubbed the breast, stroaking it 3 times, of the person affected, and siemed to say that he prescribed the use of some herbs to the patient The session did unanimously conclude him guilty of charming; whereupon being again called, the minister did endeavor to hold out the evill of his way, telling him that his cures were not effected without the help of the devill, and not only to forbear the same in tyme comming, but to mourn before God, and to seek mercie through Christ for using of the divelTs prescriptions, and that the witches and warlocks used God's words and made mention of the name of God and Christ in theire services; and he being removed, the session did think fit to advise with the presbetrie how to carrie with him.”

“28 August 1693.

"Complaint being made of several persons, whose children are baptized on the Lord’s Day, do in the afternoon profane the Sabbath by drinking together and talking of vain discourses : For preventing of which abuse in tymes to come, it is ordered that all persons having children to be baptized, when they come to the minister that they bring an elder in the quarter with them, who may give testimony of them; and that they be ingadged to keep no feasts on the Sabbath, or otherwayes to have their children baptized on the week dayes.”

“31 October 1693.

“A poor young man, weel reported of, called Mr Morton, the eldest son of the Laird of Cameron, sufficiently known, making his moan to the session, and being likewise lame, 40s. Scots ordered to be given him.”

"17 May 1694.

“The session, taking to consideration that several persons are contumacious and refuse to submit to the censure of the Church, or to acknowledge her authoritie, and being summoned, do not appear before them, have therefore enacted, that after privat admonition the minister declare their fault in face of the congregation, and declare them incapable of Church privileges, and cut them off from our communion, and warn the congregation to beware of, and to keep distance with them; and that pjayer both before and after shall be made to bring the sinner to repentance.”

The ministers who refused to conform to Presbytery at the Eevolution, and were in consequence deprived of their livings, continued in many cases to officiate in the neighbourhood, and gave great displeasure to the supporters of the new state of things. They received the designation of curates,—a term which carried with it a considerable degree of opprobrium, from the name having been originally given to those who filled the pulpits of the ejected ministers after the Restoration.

“17 July 1694.

“William Symrel appearing, produced a testificat of his marriage by a curat; he was asked who they were that testified of his being thrie tym proclaimed, but denyed to tell. He was told of his sin in leaving his own parosh church and marrying in such a disorderly way, and was ordained to come and speak with the minister, which he promised to do.”

“14 August 1694.

“The minister by the session is desired to move to the next ensuing presbitrie for their concurrence to settle Mr Geo. Maire expectant for present , as colleague and helper to him in the office of the ministrie in this place, and which was undertaken by the minister.”

Mr Mair’s settlement as minister of the second charge of Culross was not completed till 1698.

“21 August 1694.

"David Sands and Wm. Symrell to be dealt with by the minister and our elders, that they may be brought to some sense of their sin; and the curat who baptized their children to be inquired after, and complained of to the presbitrie in whose bounds he shall be found to reside, that he may be proceeded against.”

“5 Septr. 1694.

"Mr Bruce in Kinkairn, married, and come to years, intending to follow his book, and himself not able to prosecute his studies, being poore—in respect of his unblame-able life, and to encourage such designs, ordered a rix-dollar to be given him. He was formerlie several tymes supplied by the session.”

Mr Alexander Young, the incumbent of the second charge of Culross, who was deposed at the Revolution, seems to have remained in the neighbourhood and performed various ecclesiastical functions, in defiance of the authorities. His services appear to have been very convenient for those who were lying under Church censure:—

“13 June 1695.

“Ordered that Mr Young's manifold disorders, especiallie in baptising scandalous persons, and endeavouring to draw away others after him, and hardning of wicked men in their errors and alienation to the way of God, and being a receptacle for all to flie to that wold shunn the censure of the Church, to be represented to presbitrie.”

The session and Lord Kincardine (son and successor of Alexander, second Earl) have a dispute in reference to the appointment of a beadle, and the inconvenient proximity to the church of some trees, between it and his lordship’s residence of Culross Abbey, immediately adjoining:—

“13 Avgust 1695.

"My Lord Kincaim to be spoken to by the minister not to countenance Thomas Rowan in his unwarrantable intruding of himself to make graves, not onlie without but con-trarie to the session’s order, with certification that he will be proceeded against by the session in case he, the said Rowan, continue in such disorderlie practises; as likewaies, in respect that certain trees was planted neare the kirk, and in rain did drop thereon and thereby skaith the church, that his lordship wold either transplant the said trees to some other place, or cause cut them down; and the minister to report against next session my lord’s answer,” &c.

“3 Septr. 1695.

“The minister intrusted to speak to my Lord Kinkaim, did report my lord’s answer as follows: * That he was not willing to incroach upon the session’s due, but only desired the session that for a time Rowan, till he was settled, might be suffered to make the graves till New Tears mess or Candlemess; but that he could not condescend to remove the trees out of the place they were in/ The session, not willing to be heard with my lord, and for peace sake, did resolve till the said tyme to conive with Rowan’s making of the graves, and to speak no further of the trees.”

Mr Young’s illicit ministrations are again discussed:

“2 December 1695.

"Mr Young, late incumbent heere, complaind of for preaching and baptizing publicklie, and alienating the hearts of poore simple people from the Gospell, and taking divisive courses, in contempt of all authoritie; referred to the presbitrie.”

“4 February 1696.

“James Blaw, supplicating for a testimonial to beg out of the paroshin, in respect he said he could not get a livelihood here, was refused, but committed him to the charitie of good people in the paroshin, and especially to his friends and relations.”

The following entry gives a curious idea of the condition of churches in those days, when pigeons were allowed to have their nests in the inside roof of the church, and probably fly about during the service:—

“5 May 1696.

“The which day Bagownie desiring that, his open seat, being mcommodat through dows’ dung and stones falling upon these in the seat, it might have a covering; the session, finding the same inconvenient and prejudiciall to all behind him, which are a great manie, did for his convenience grant him that they should, out of the church treasurie, stop these places where the pigeons were wont to build, and whence he was discommoded.

“Those that did not keep the church and profane the Sabbath, to be the next day admonished from the pulpit to walk more christianlie, otherwaies their names to be read publictlie.”

“22 Jun169&

“The session, considering the great straits that the poor weie in through the hard year, did see it fit to distribute another quarter to them before August; and the minister representing the sad condition of severall godlie honest persons, both in the town and in Edinburgh, known to several of the elders present, there was five pounds sterlin given to the minister to distribute as he saw fit.”

The closing years of the seventeenth century, like those of the eighteenth, were marked by a succession of bad harvests, and great consequent distress.

On 22d June 1696 a resignation of his charge as minister of Culross was given in by James Fraser of Brea; but notwithstanding this step, he seems to have continued to officiate for a little while subsequent.

“2 Febr. 1687.

"John M‘Kie, a carrier, having lost an horse, the means of his livelihood, and representing his case for relieff to the session, they appointed, in consideration that he was a ver-tuous frugall person, that a collection publict should be made for him, and intimat next Sabath day.”

“4 May 1697.

“Complaint being made of severall profaning of the Sabbath by repairing to a well in time of sermon; ordered that the samin be spoken of from the pulpit the next day, the evill of it holden forth, and the guiltie warned to forbear, and to wait on the ordinance, under pain of censure.”

A contribution is ordered through the parish on behalf of the church clock:—

“29 June 1697.

“The knock takin down and sent to a knock-maker in Airth, who hath condescended to help it, and put another hand to it on the south side of the steeple, and amounting to a considerable sum; it was ordered that this be intimated the next Lord's Day to all in the paroshin, and a contribution voluntar for that effect to be required, and creditable be most persons to go to the particular houses and take and collect what everie one shall be pleased to give; and in respect of the unseasonableness of this tyme of year, it being a bare tyme wherein little money is going, that the persons contributes do give what they like presently, and what farther they wold give at Michaelmas and Martinmas, which shall be noted each man his parte.”

“7 Beer. 1697.

“Mr Thomas Mophet, schoolmaster, gave in a complaint to the session against Jo. Allen, George Halliday, Robt. Baid, James Baid, Jo. Drysdale, Alexr. Drysdale, Alexr. Rowan, did violentlie break into the Quire, and that they did violentlie abuse the scholars and beat them, and have broken the dore of the Quire: The session ordered that the masters and parents of the said boyes should be warned to the session, and give an account of the said scandalous riot; and recommended to the magistrats to take in the premises course as they should judge convenient.”

As already observed, the so-called Quire was situated at the east end of the church, in the position occupied by the chancel in English parish churches. Being railed off from the body of the church, it had been assigned to the scholars, who in those days attended church every Sunday tinder the supervision of their master.

A thanksgiving is ordered for the Peace of Rys-wick and a sufficient harvest. The Church guards with great jealousy its doctrine of spiritual independence, and proclaims the thanksgiving as ordered by her own authority, though it had been already promulgated by command of the Privy Council. The Scottish Church has always resisted strenuously the theory of the Sovereign being the Head of the Church ; and to this day the Royal Commissioner to the General Assembly is supposed to sit there under called them in, they were sharply rebuked, and cited apud acta to appear before the congregation the next Sabbath, in the ordinary place, to receave a more public rebuke therefor.”

“28 February 1699.

“According to the Act of the last session, the millers of the Shyres mill, Thomas Philip, David Philip, and Patrick Jack, were rebuked on the Sabbath, before the congregation after forenoon's service.”

“20 March 1699.

“It is appoynted that a letter be written to Brae shewing the earnest desire of the sessione and people for his return,, and Baillie Adam ordered to write it ”

There is some obscurity about the proceedings of Mr Fraser of Brea and his relations to Culross. He resigns his charge on 22d June 1696 :—

“Taking to consideration the great charge of this parish and kirk of Culross, and my great inabilitie to do that dewtie to them a minister owes to his flock, partlie through my age, partlie through my manie avocations and diversions, and constraned passing some tyme in the north, and in Edinburgh and other places, and multitude of persona coming to me for advise and other waies, so that I cannot get that dewtie performed to the parish that were needful and I myself very desirous of: Wherefore, and for other grievances and discouragements, and that the place may be the better supplied, I do demit my office and charge of the ministrie in this place, hereby giving those concerned full leave to move to the Presbetrie to get the kirk declared vacant, and to proceed to the calling of another minister to this place, and to settle him here dewlie.”

The session refuses to accept Mr Frasers resignation, which, however, is given in and registered. He continued to act as minister of Culross with Mr John Blair, who had recently been appointed as his helper temporarily till a colleague or second minister could be legally established in the parish. From the Revolution, when Mr Fraser was appointed—on the deposition of Mr Wright and Mr Young—up to 1698, when Mr Mair was elected, as already detailed, to the ministry of the second charge, the latter remained vacant, and its revenues seem to have been drawn by Mr Fraser, as minister of the first.

Of this date—18th September 1698—we find “an account of seven pounds Scots given in, distributed to the randie beggars.” [This generally means strolling or vagabond beggars, but on this occasion the expression is probably to be understood as denoting stranger or casual poor. The distress through the country from scarcity was then so great, that multitudes would be wandering from place to place in quest of food, and the ordinary disfavour attaching to “ gan-grel bodies ” and u randie beggars ” would be for a while in abeyance.]

Mr Fraser had from time to time been sent on missions to the north of Scotland to look after the condition of the Church there; and in 1696 he received a call from Inverness, to which he might probably have ultimately acceded, but before a settlement could be effected he died at Edinburgh on September 1699, in his sixty-first year. He was twice married, and by his first marriage left one daughter—Jean—who married Hugh Rose of Kil-ravock. The first charge of Culross remained vacant from Mr Fraser’s death till 1708, when Mr James Cuthbert was appointed. Meantime the whole duty of the parish seems to have been done by Mr Mair.

It would appear that various payments had been made to the deposed Episcopal incumbents, Mr Wright and Mr Young. The former of these died at Edinburgh in 1721; and we are informed that his wife was Katherine Edmonstone—a daughter, probably, of the minister of that name. Mr Young and his family, as we have seen, had made several applications to the kirk-session for assistance, and his wife latterly had rather churlishly been refused, on the ground of her not attending the ordinances of the Church. Doubtless these “ curates,” continuing to reside and occasionally officiate in the parish, occasioned a great deal of trouble; whilst many of their old hearers attended their ministrations in preference to the parish church, and received from them the ordinance of baptism for their children. It is probable that they were much less stringent than their Presbyterian rivals in matters of discipline.

Various cases of Sabbath desecration are thus recorded:—

“2 May 1699.

“Robert Dalgleish, younger, being cited, and compearing, was sharply rebuked for his insolent carriage when reprehended by the minister for standing on the Parlie hill with others after sermon; and upon his confession and promise of amendment, was dismissed.”

“6 June 1699.

“Elspet Liddel, being dted for staying at home in time of divine service upon the Lord’s Day, and being called upon, compeared, and was convict of her guilt, having no other pretence but that her dore wanted a lock, which obliged some of them always to stay at home one of the dyets, whereupon she was not only admonished, but also sharply rebuked, her excuse being rejected, and she certified that if she should be found in the like again, she should be convened before the congregation.”

“2 August 1699.

"Elspet Iiddel, delated for buying of harring fro John Belfrage, and selling again upon the Sabbath day, both he and she are ordered to be cited against the next session, together with Christ. Paton, a witness, and any other witness that may be found.”

“8 August 1699.

“Elspet Iiddel compearing, seemed to be convinced of her fault in selling of harron on the Sabbath day; and upon her promise of amendment, was dismissed”

“15 August 1699.

“Gilbert Young, a boy, being cited for breaking of yeards on the Sabbath, compeared, and was dealt with and sharply rebuked for sundry faults, which he could not denay, and was referred to the civil magistrates for causing whip him. His mother compeared, and denayed any accession thereto, which could not be proven; so she was only dealt with to be at pains for her childe's correction and instruction,” &c.

“9 April 1700.

“Ordered to be cited to the next session, Wm. Watsone, for staying at home ordinarly on the Sabbath, and contempt of Gospel ordinances, together with Agnes Horn, Marion Craich, and Jannet Ronnald for the like fault, particularly last Sabbath. The minister appointed to intimate the next Lords* Day, that whosoever, getting charity from the session, does not observe the ordinances, and shall not from henceforth amend, shall have their name put out of the poors-roll, and shall receive no allowance that way, either weekly or quarterly.”

“7 May 1700.

“Report being made of some children and youths going on Sabbath morning to a well in Castlehill meadow, and profaning the Sabbath by ane unsuiteable carriage, it is ordered that ther shall be a general reproof hereof from the pulpit on the next Sabbath, with certification that if ther be not amendment therein, there shall be a procedure against them by Church censures, and that the parents shall be made answerable for their children, and masters for their servants; and the like with respect to any other such abuse by gathering together in crowds, bearing of water, or the like.”

This resorting of young men and maidens to a well in the “ merry month of May,” taken in connection with a similar reproof administered three years previously at the same season, seems to indicate some festivity or May game which had come down from the old Roman Catholic times. Th<* dressing and decorating of wells in commemoratior. of the patron saint who was supposed to preside over them, survives still as a popular pastime in some places in England. The well above referred to seems to be that known as “ Axns Well,” near Dunimarle.

Here is a gift of a peculiar kind to the session:—

“9 July 1700.

“The moderator reported that my Lord Blairhall sent him a decreet, by which he fyned in his Barron Court Rot. Clerk, in Bargatie, in thretie pounds Scots, that the same might be given by him to the session for the use of the poor; for which the session desired him in their name to give thanks to my lord.”

The Lord Blairhall here referred to was the Hon. Dougal Stewart, brother of James, first Earl of Bute, who had married Mary Bruce, the heiress of Blairhall, and in virtue of his right thereby acquired, assumed a title from the estate on being raised to the rank of a Lord of Session. The property was sold by his grandson.

A double charge of Sabbath-breaking and slander is here recorded:—

“20 August 1700.

“Elizabeth Donald having been charged with breach of Sabbath, and using a nickname against one, was cited, and appearing, was rebuked for anything therof could be made appear; and having confessed her fault and promised amendment, and to go and crave pardon of the woman she had nicknamed, was dismissed, with ane exhortation to pray, and walk more warily.”

A “Forbes Mackenzie” Act of the ecclesiastical authorities in 1702 follows:—

“Upon the occasion of the former complaints anent the unseasonable and unseemly drinking of some in taverns, and the taverners their selling ale to them, the session thought meet to enact, and hereby do enact, that whosoever shall be found without a clear and manifest necessity to be drinking in taverns, or to be selling ale to persons in their houses after 10 of the clock at night on Saturday, or on any time of the Sabbath, shall be proceeded against with the censures; and this to be intimat from the pulpit the first Lord’s Day after the forenoon sermon.”

The Presbytery and kirk-session take in hand the restraining of excesses at marriages, “ whether penny brydals or free ” :—

“29 Feb. 1704.

“Anent the Act of the Presbyterie, insert here the last session day, in reference to pennie weddings, and for rendering the same the more effectual within this parish, the session agrees and resolves—1st, That no elder of this session shall countenance any such wedding as is there prohibited, or pipeing and danceing, especially promiscuously, at any wedding whatsomever, under the pain of suspension from their eldership for the first fault, and more high censures afterwards in case of continuance therein, or being more frequently guilty thereof. 2d, That every elder of the session shall be obliged to delate whatever transgressions of the said Act within their respective quarters, and for that end to* use suitable means for his information there-anent, under the pain of sharp censure. 3d, That every person to be married shall, before his or her publick proclamation in order thereto, be obliged to give up their names before at least two or three members of the session, whereof one is to be a magistrate, and either consign or pawn or pledge, as the said magistrate shall think fitt to appoint, which is allways understood to be a suitable one, or else have a cautioner to engage, under the pain of a competent penalty in case of transgression of the said Act; which pawn or penalty, in the said case of transgression, is to be for-faulted by the said persons for the use of the poor. 4th, That by and attour this, the person or persons guilty shall be sharply prosecuted with Church censures.”

The chalices or sacramental cups belonging to Culross are lent to Saline, to be used at an approaching Communion:—

“1 August 1704.

“The session allows the giving in loan their four Communion cups to Saline, upon sufficient security given for their restoration, with some small recompence for the use of the poor, which security was given by one of their most responsal elders.”

The four silver cups above mentioned are still the property of Culross church. Two of them, as the inscription beans, “were provided out of the session funds; ” and the other two were presented by Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine.

In further reference to the above occasion, we find of same date:—

“The minister recommended it to the elders present to be taking notice of and visiting their several quarters, and particularly to be doing what they can that way this week, and to be enquiring anent who have thoughts of communicating at Saline the next Sabbath, and stirring up every one seriously to what they see to be their duty, who all promised compliance therewith.”

The extract here quoted affords evidence of the practice of communicating in other parishes besides that to which the individuals belonged. It becomes intelligible in this way how the Communion might sometimes cease for years to be celebrated in a particular church, and yet the ordinance be enjoyed by the inhabitants of the parish. Here is another entry to the same effect:—

“8 Augutt 1707.

“This dyet was mostly spent in distributing tokens to persons who are to communicate next Sabbath at Torrie-bum.”

The number of communicants actually belonging to the church of Culross was, in May 1706, 252, as stated in a list at commencement of session-book. This is about the same number as at the present day. But an entry of 8th August 1708 gives some important information as to stranger communicants.

It states, in reference to the Communion celebrated at Culross on that day—“ The number of communicants would have been about six hundred, whereof near to 300 of this parish, and the rest out of 19 or 20 different parochs.”

It may be as well that I should say something here of those Sacramental occasions which formed in bygone days so peculiar a phase of Scottish country life. At one time they may have been characterised by great fervour and earnestness of devotion; but latterly they degenerated into very unseemly scenes, such as Bums has depicted so graphically in his “Holy Fair.” They came, indeed, to be regarded as a sort of Sunday outings or picnics, and were, as far as many of the attenders were concerned, no more religious or spiritual in their character than an ordinary wake or fair. The story is often repeated in this part of the country, and seems to be quite authentic, that on the occasion of servants engaging themselves with a new master or mistress, it was quite common for them to stipulate that they should have leave granted them to attend either Torrybum Fair or Camock Sacrament.

Both of these parishes march, in Scottish phrase, with Culross; and to this day Torrybum Fair, with its horse-races and its other attractions, has by no means yet lost its celebrity. But the Sacramental occasion at Camock—or, as it used to be rather irreverently termed, “ Camock Fair ”—has long been only a reminiscence of the past. I have already referred to John Row as the probable originator of the reputation which the Camock Communions in after-days enjoyed—though at one time they were far eclipsed, in point of numbers attending them, by Culross. The ministers of Camock—and more especially the last incumbent—under whose auspices these assemblies were held, used to consider their credit involved in collecting on such occasions the most popular preachers in the district.

As the parish church would have been far too amall to accommodate all the persons who flocked hither from different parts of the country, the sacred edifice itself was reserved for the partakers of the Holy Communion, which was administered in a succession of services or tables, numbering frequently as many as five or six, and each protracted to a considerable length. The multitude, or 01 iroWoi, consisting both of communicants and non-communicants, were assembled in the open air, either in the churchyard or in some open space adjoining; and there a succession of religious services ox preachings was conducted in turn by various ministers, who delivered their discourses from a species of covered pulpit—or tent, as it was generally called. The audience behaved for the most part in a sufficiently decorous manner as long as they were present at the services; but they might withdraw themselves whenever they pleased, and, as Bums says, “ gie the jars and barrels a lift that day.” And the after-scenes in the public-houses and streets, as also on the roads in home-going, were frequently extremely unseemly. The “wabster lads” from Dunfermline, as well as the “tag-rag and bobtail” from all quarters, resorted to Camock for a day’s amusement; and the Communion occasion there was a great annual scandal. The suppression of these discreditable scenes was at last effected by the Rev. William Gilston, on his appointment to the ministry of the parish in 1827. On his representation the heritors readily concurred with him in the abolition of the tent or open-air services at the celebration of the Sacrament. The occasion, in consequence, lost its attractions for holiday-seekers, and a great and lasting improvement was the result. It was not at first, however, as might have been expected, generally appreciated; and perhaps the greatest testimony to its reality was borne by a Camock matron, who expressed herself on the subject thus: “New folks mak new fashions. There’s my freend Mrs -” (naming the landlady of the public-house) “used to tak often five pounds at the time o’ the Sacrament, and I dinna believe that yesterday she got half-a-croon! ”

Camock was one of the last places in this district where the old fashion of the tent-preaching was kept up on the occasion of the celebration of the Sacrament by ministers of the Established Church. It was maintained for a while longer by one or two of the Dissenting communities, more especially by the Secession church at Inverkeithing; but they, too, were ere long forced to acquiesce in the necessity of its abandonment. Viewed merely in a conservative point of view as a relic of the past, there can be no doubt of these gatherings having been often, with their surroundings, very interesting. At Camock the tent was erected in the picturesque little valley below the village bridge, where the ground slopes down from the church to Camock Bum, and the audience reclined or seated themselves on the grassy banks. Mr Gilston, the worthy clergyman above mentioned, who has recently departed at an advanced age, informed me, that during his youth he was once present at a Sacramental occasion of the Cameronians held on the bank of the Water of Urr in Galloway. The whole service, including the Communion rites, was conducted in the open air. But the prolixity then practised was so great, that though the service had begun at ten o’clock, it was half-past two in the afternoon before the officiating minister had finished the ceremony of “fencing the tables,” preparatory to the celebration of the Communion. On this occasion, indeed, it was simultaneous, the circumstance of its taking place in the open air obviating the necessity of a succession of services. These were protracted sometimes in the churches to an incredible length. And as there was always an evening sermon after all the services were concluded, it occasionally happened that the Sunday itself was not sufficient for the accomplishment of all the celebration. A relative informs me that she has conversed with an aged woman who remembered being detained in the Abbey Church of Dunfermline till one o'clock on Monday morning, at a Sacramental occasion during the ministry of Ralph Erskine. She disclaimed, however, having experienced any sensation of weariness in listening to Mr Erskine discourse on the “Attributes,” which was long after remembered in Dunfermline as the “kail-pat sermon,” from the circumstance of the delay on that eventful evening having spoilt the Sabbath-night’s supper.


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