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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter XIX. The Burgh Records from 1715 to 1735


I NOW present my reader with a succession of extracts which possess a more than usual interest from their bearing reference to the rebellion of 1715, and showing how that event was agitating men’s minds in a little Scottish burgh at that period. It will be remembered that the Jacobite cause had some partisans in Culross:—

“26 July 1715.

"The council being credibly informed that the Pretender designes to invade Brittaine, and that he should have taken sail the 18 instant; and understanding that the neighbouring burghs and other places about are keeping guaird and putting themselves in the best posture of defence they can: Therefore they think it expedient, and ordain a guaird to be keiped every night as long as the council thinks convenient, consisting of eighteen men and two commanding officers, and to begin this night; each man is to parade himself this night with a firelock and a sword and ammunitione. Accordingly the council hes named this night’s guaird, whom they ordained to be warned by the officer to meet in the tolbooth against nine o’clock at night at beating the drum, and to continue upon the guard till five o’clock in the morning, one of the baillies coming to see the guard dismounted ; and that under the penalty of twenty shilling Scots, and empowers the guard to poynd the failiers therefore. But ordains the guaird to behave themselves wisely, and not to be guilty of any abuse whatsoever, under the penalty of twenty shilling Scots for each fault. And farder, the council ordain the haill fencible men betwixt the age of 60 and 16 within this burgh to meet on the Sand Haven the morrow at two o’clock in the afternoon, with their best armour, under the pain of twenty shilling Scots; and ordains intimation hereof to be made by touck of drum the morrow morning against eight o’clock, and ordains the baillies by turns to name the guaird.

“As also the councill hereby discharge the boatmen to take any strangers over the water or bring them to this syd without acquainting the magistrates and procuring their liberty thereto, and that under the penalty of five pounds Scots.”

"27 August 1715.

"The councill being credibly informed that the Pretender’s standart is set up about the Brae of Mar as the standart of King James the Eight, and that it is their duty to put themselves and the town in the best posture of defence they can, think it proper and necessar that fifty pund weight of powder or thereby, with lead conform, be sent for; and ordaine the three baillies to buy the same for the behoof of the town, and to sell it out in parcels to such of the inhabitants as shall be pleased to buy the same, at the rate it is bought.”

In the autumn of 1715 there was good cause for the alarm expressed in a minute of the Culross town council. The Jacobite army, under the command of the Earl of Mar, was descending through Perthshire on the Lowlands. After the lapse of little more than a fortnight, on 13th November, it was encountered on the Sheriffmuir by the Government troops, under the Duke of Argyll, and, if not defeated, received at least a serious check. Sheriffmuir is on the north slope of the Ochils, a few miles from Dunblane, and, as the crow flies, not twenty miles from Culross. The “ Sherramuir,” as the engagement was popularly termed, was long remembered in Scotland, and gave rise to the proverbial expression, “ There was mair lost at Sherramuir,” with the addition sometimes (as a fling at the Highlanders), “ whaur a Hielandman lost his faither and his mither, and a gude grey mare that was worth them baith! ” Burns makes the “Grannie” in “Halloween” thus refer to the battle:—

“Ae hairst afore the Sherramoor,
I mind’t as weel’a yestreen,
I was a gilpey then, I’m sure
 I wasna past fifteen.”

He also, in the same poem, speaks of the year 1715 as “ Mar’s year,” from the circumstance of the rebellion having been mainly conducted by the Earl of Mar.

A Jacobite burgess is thus called to account:—

“12 December 1716.

“The council having convened, Robert Dalgleish, younger, flesher, burges of this burgh, for going to Perth and corresponding with the rebells; who being present, acknowledged judicially that he went to Perth with Mrs Muirheid, and stayed there some days, and helped to kill an ox for Harr’s use, and conversed with some of the rebells in Perth. And the vote being stated what punishment shall be inflicted upon him, it carryed by plurality of votes that he continue in prison ay and while he find sufficient caution, that he shall answear as law will for the fault confessed, under the penalty of one hundred pound Scots, and that he shall not be guilty of the like in time coming.”

The tacksman of the ferry from Culross to Borrow-stounness, on whose trade an embargo had been laid during the rebellion, applies for an abatement of rent:—

“17 September 1716.

“The said day there being a representation given in to the council for William Drysdale, tacksman of the watter money for the year 1715, representing that the boats were stoped by the Government the time of the rebellion, to his great loss, and that he has given in more to the town than he got; which being considered by the council, and that he has payed ten merks thereof, they quite him the ballance, being four pounds six shilling and eight pennies, and discharge him of the water monie for the said year.”

We have now heard the last of the rebellion of 1715 as far as the town of Culross is concerned; but before quitting the subject, I should like to say something of a member of the Preston family who took a leading part in the troubles of this period. This Was the celebrated General George Preston, younger son of Sir George Preston, first baronet of Valleyfield, and uncle of the Sir George Preston whom we shall soon find exercising a princely act of generosity towards the town of Culross. Prior to the Revolution he had entered the service of the States - General of Holland, and had accompanied William of Orange to England. He served in all the wars of William III. and Queen Anne, and was severely wounded at the battle of Ramillies, several bullets lodging in his body which could never afterwards be extracted. In 1706 he became colonel of the Cameronian regiment, and in 1715, the year of the rebellion, had intrusted to him the command of the Castle of Edinburgh, which he held with great firmness and gallantry. When the Jacobites gained a partial possession of the town, he threatened to fire on it from the Castle, and had thereupon a message conveyed to him that if he did so the family mansion of Valleyfield would be burnt by the Pretender’s army. He held his ground resolutely, and for several years after the suppression of the rebellion acted as commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland. When a second insurrection on behalf of the Stewarts took place in 1745, and the young Pretender Charles Edward was advancing towards Edinburgh, General Preston, though now an aged veteran of upwards of fourscore, hastened to the Castle, which he held with unflinching bravery against the rebel force during the whole time that they occupied the capital. My reader may remember Colonel Talbot discussing in ‘Waverley’ the future movements of the Pretender’s army, and intimating his belief that the possibility of his old commander General Preston surrendering the Castle under any circumstances, and the building itself sinking into the North Loch, were equally likely . contingencies. The old General died at Valleyfield in 1748, in his eighty-ninth year. He retrieved the fortunes of the Preston family, and increased considerably the value of the estate by purchasing and incorporating with Valleyfield the two farms of Overton and Muirside in the north of the parish. He also purchased from the Blairhall family the New MiIIb of Culross, which, from their situation, form so naturally a part of the Valleyfield estate that it seems scarcely possible at the present day to conceive of their having once constituted an appanage of Blairhall. The rights of thirlage claimed by the lord of these mills over the burgh of Culross had been strenuously but unsuccessfully resisted by the latter. Then it had endeavoured to better itself by taking the mills in feu from the proprietor of Blairhall—a step which ultimately involved Culross in the greatest trouble, and indeed was one leading cause of her financial derangements. Lastly, she would fain have got rid of the incubus by resigning the feu into the superior’s hands; but this he refused to accept. The town thus remained, down to recent times, thirled to the New Mills,—that is to say, the burgesses were not only bound to carry thither to be ground all grain produced within the burgh, but had also to pay an impost on all grain brought into the burgh—the invecta et illata, as it was termed—and this, whether it was in the form of grain, of meal or flour, or of malt. In ancient phraseology, “ whatever tholed fire or water ” was subject to thirlage. The claim took its origin in the circumstance of the mill having been built by the feudal superior or baron for behoof of his vassals, who were thus held bound in return to give him or his tacksman the benefit of their custom. The words thirl and thirlage are simply other forms of thrall and thraldom.

About this period the burgh of Culross had been involved in a vexatious lawsuit with Colonel Erskine of Camock, who, as purchaser of the Kincardine estates, claimed right to the coal lying beneath the town moor. After a good deal of money had been spent in defending its rights, the victory remained with the burgh—though it proved but a profitless one, as a still farther expenditure was incurred in an unsuccessful attempt to ascertain the existence of the minerals and let them out on lease. Meantime, whilst they are striving with the Black Colonel, they elect the White Colonel as their commissioner to the General Convention of Burghs. The minute to this effect is dated 17th June 1717, and describes the White Colonel as “ fair Collonell John Erskine,” the same individual who is afterwards spoken of as a son of Sir John Erskine of Alva.

The following application to the town council has some interest:—

“5 Novr. 1717.

“The council considering that there is a letter from Mr Alexr. Bruce direct to the magistrates and council, wherein he desyres that when any vacancies falls in Lord Bruce hospital, they may recommend to him, who is now manager of the said hospitell, such burgesses as are deuly qualified in the terms of the mortification. And the council ordains Baillie Robertson to return him thanks, and that it shall be observed; and ordains the letter to be keepit”

The hospital referred to in the above minute was that founded at Culross in 1637, by Thomas Bruce, first Earl of Elgin, who states in the narrative of the deed of foundation, that he is carrying out the intentions of his predecessors—his father Lord Einloss, and his own brother Lord Edward Bruce. He announces that he has erected a hospital at the east end of Culross for the reception of twelve poor persons, inhabitants of the town—six men and six women—who are to reside in the building, and be maintained there out of the revenues of certain lands which he has destined or mortified for this purpose, lying partly near the Kirk of Rosyth, partly in the neighbourhood of the Nethertown at the town of Dunfermline. They must all be respectable persons, and free of any infectious disease or troublesome complaint. The government of the hospital, as well as its patronage, is reserved exclusively to himself and his representatives, who are, moreover, to have the power of presenting, on the occasion of a vacancy, persons who do not belong to the parish of Culross. The building thus erected by the first Lord Elgin was situated at the foot of the Abbey orchard, on the slope above the high road, a little to the east of the Newgate. It appears to have been regularly tenanted by a succession of occupants who were maintained there out of the revenues provided for them, and occasionally drew on themselves the animadversion of the ecclesiastical authorities for various misdemeanours, such as drunkenness or neglect of religious ordinances. Mr Alexander Bruce, mentioned above, seems to have been the son of the Earl of Kincardine, and must have been appointed manager of the charity by his kinsman the Earl of Elgin, who was then living abroad at Brussels, where he died at an advanced age in 1741.

About 120 years ago the original building erected by the first Lord Elgin became ruinous, and probably also there was a desire on the part of the occupants of Culross Abbey to have such an institution removed to a greater distance from their lawns and pleasure-grounds. An agreement—or, as it is called in Scotch law, an excambion—was entered into between Mr Charles Cochrane’s trustees, as proprietors of the Abbey, on the one hand, and Charles, Earl of Elgin and Kincardine (the two titles having been united in him), as hereditary patron of Lord Bruce’s hospital, on the other. In virtue of this arrangement, the original hospital, with its ground, was made over in 1761 to Mr Cochrane’s trustees, or rather to the beneficiary, Lord Dundonald, who conveyed to Lord Elgin in return a new building which he had recently erected considerably to the east of the former hospital, and almost at the eastern extremity of the burgh territory on the lands of St Mungos. This was to form the hospital in future; the beneficiaries were to reside there, as formerly in their old abode; and the whole institution was to be governed in accordance with the regulations laid down in the original deed of foundation.

For a number of years Lord Bruce’s hospital was maintained on its new site; but about half a century ago the grandfather of the present Lord Elgin, the celebrated transporter to this country of the Elgin Marbles, conceived that the clause in the original deed allowing his family to nominate to the vacancies in the hospital persons not belonging to the parish, gave him the right of removing entirely from Culross the benefits of the institution, and bestowing them on the workmen and other inhabitants of the village of Charlestown employed in the lime-works on his lordship’s estate of Broomhall. It is not my province here to discuss the legality of the transference. Suffice it to say, it was accomplished, and, as far as I have been able to learn, without any opposition at the time on the part of the Culross authorities. One or two old people, the last Culross pensionaries appointed, were allowed to end their days in the hospital, the building of which, however, was suffered to fall into utter ruin; and I can recollect myself as a child being much impressed with its miserable aspect as then tenanted by one old woman. On her death the last vestiges of human occupancy disappeared; every fragment of woodwork, including roof, doors, and windows, was stripped and carried off, by people, it is said, living in the neighbourhood; and the weird-like, ghoul-haunted - looking edifice—with its walls, outer and inner, indeed entire—a ghastly skeleton, remains still, opposite the fishing cottage between Low Valleyfield and Culross: and were it not that the belief in ghosts and Bpectres has now become almost extinct, the old walls would certainly ere now have furnished many a tale of terror for the winter’s fireside. Old Alloway Kirk itself could not have furnished, in its general surroundings, a more likely or more suitable spot for a diabolical revel.

The Culross youths had been in the practice, it would seem, of making raids on gardens to procure the means of dressing the Cross with flowers on the marches day. The council, on 18th May 1718, issue a prohibitory edict, threatening that if any more complaints of the kind be made, “they will discharge busking the Cross and Tron hereafter.”

Baillie Hunter having been appointed by the town council their commissioner for .representing the burgh at the General Assembly of the Church, reports his proceedings:—

“26 May 1718.

“The said day Baillie Hunter reports he went to Edinburgh the sixteen instant, and returned Friday last the twenty-third instant, and attended the Assembly during that time, and that he was obleidged to give in a crown with his commission, which, with a crown for horse-hyre and sixteen shillings sterling for his charges eight days, extends to twenty-six shillings sterling; the council ordains the treasurer to pay the same.”

Five shillings for horse - hire to and from Edinburgh, with two shillings a-day for maintenance, is a moderate charge indeed. A day’s board at an Edinburgh hotel would cost now more than kept the worthy Baillie for eight days.

Orders are issued at the same time for celebrating King George’s birthday, and also for providing some civic requirements, coupled with a proper regard to economy:—

“The said day it is ordained that the hail council meet upon Wednesday next (being the King’s birthday), betwixt six and seven at night, in order to solemnize the said day, and that they meet in the tolbooth, and that the haill inhabitants put out bonefires or candles.

“The council ordain James Robertson, taylor, to turn the officers' coats, and to furnish what necessars they want; and ordain the pyper to get a new rid coat, and allows the drummer to get als many new tews as will serve the drum”

A Mecd-Mob at Culross.

“2 April 172a

“The said day Baillie James Adam and Baillie Law represented that there happened a mob at Valleyfield Pans lately, anent some meall that was carrying out of the town, and that they sent through a proclamation the forenoon before against the same, and that they themselves went in person and saw the same safely out of the town’s liberty, and that they are summoned to Perth to witness what they did hear and see of the matter. The council considering the affair, find they were acting as baillies, and exerted themselves as became; therefore they enact and ordain the treasurer pay their necessar charges.”

“12 April 1720.

“The clerk reports that he went to Edinburgh Wednesday last, and returned Saturdays night, and got the town’s decreet of declarator Act and commission, with letters of diligence, against Colonel Erskine anent the muir and coall, &c.; and that the accompt of the expenses thereof, with his own charges of horse-hyres, extends to one hundred and six pounds eighteen shillings and four pennies Scots, which the council orders the treasurer to pay to the clerk, who has instantly produced and delivered the decreet, &a, until the eztracter’s receipt therof, which amounts to ninety-six pound 13s. 4d. Scots, the rest of the above some [sum] being for his horse-hyres, fraughts, and charges.”

The town has gained so far, though at some cost, its plea with the Black Colonel, regarding the property of the moor and underlying minerals. The town-clerk receives for travelling expenses and four days’ maintenance 10, 5s. Scots, or 17s. Id. sterling, which certainly cannot be deemed an extravagant outlay. In a subsequent entry he is ordered to receive 12s. 8d. Scots, or one shilling and two-thirds of a penny sterling, for the hire of a horse to Dunfermline and back to attend a meeting of the Presbytery.-

The burning of sea-ware for the manufacture of kelp had at this time come to be extensively practised about Culross, and many complaints in consequence arose. We shall soon hear of a grand fracas in connection with this matter, in which the Black Colonel plays a prominent part:—

"19 July 1720.

“The council, taking to their consideration that there was a memorial given in to the magistrates compleaning of the burning ware, to the prejudice of those who have burrow aikers and yairds, and to the health of the inhabitants, and several other prejudices mentioned in the memoriale, and that the said memoriale was by the magistrates referred to the council, they discharge the cutting and burning of ware within the liberties of the town, until those who design to practise that procure the consent of the major pairt of the heritors and possessors of burrow aikers; and when that is done, the council will consider in what terms and under what restrictions to tolerate the burning wair.”

The first of June 1721 is a red-letter day in the burgh records. It seems, therefore, proper to extract its proceedings in extenso:—

“Culross, the first day of June 1721.—Sederunt: James Adam, David Law, and John Buchanan, Baillies; James Nesmith, Dean of Gild; David Belfrage, treasurer; Laurance Johnston, Robert Spittle, William Cumming, Archibald White, John Donaldson, William Milln, George Drysdale, and William Drysdale, trades councillor; and William Murgan. Baillie Buchanan, preset.

“The said day the Honourable Sir George Preston of Valeyfield, Baronet, compeared personally in council and represented that the good will and kindness he bears towards the good town of Culross had induced him to enquire into the circumstances therof; and finding the burgh to be considerable in debt, did instantly of his own proper motive most generously and freely, in presence of the council, give to David Belfrage, presentlie treasurer, 2000 merks Scots towards freeing and easing the town of a pairt of their debt. Whereupon the whole magistrates and council returned the said Sir George Preston thair most humble and dutyfull thanks and good wishes; and in commemoration of his generosity, ordained thir presents to be recorded in their registers as a lasting remembrance of such a considerable free gift conferred on the burgh. Sic subtur., Jo. Buchanan.”

Sir George Preston must have made his appearance in the council chamber of Culross like a deus ex machind to relieve the burgh from its hopeless state of financial entanglement. It was really a princely donation in its way, and must be credited with the best and purest motives — at least there is not a shadow of evidence to the contrary. Sir George seems to have become the possessor of a considerable fortune, which enabled him to relieve the burgh of Culross of its difficulties and close up the old wound which had been rankling in the breasts of the burgesses towards his family ever since the time when his father and brother, by procuring the erection of Valleyfield into a burgh of barony, had interfered so seriously with the privileges of the older community, and more especially with the girdlemaking monopoly.

The then treasurer of Culross, it is seen, was David Belfrage, described in the stent-roll for the west quarter of the town as “ David Belfrage, Treasr., merchant.” The name is certainly a corruption of “ Beveridge,” which is also found occasionally in the burgh records of Culross as “ Beverage ” and “ Bever-adge,” there being also a garden described as “ Beverage’s yeard.” I am not aware, however, of any forebear of my own having belonged to Culross. The origin of the name is to be found in “Beverege,” the name of an island in the Severn, referred to by the monkish chronicler Florence of Worcester as a retreat of the Danes during a revolt of the English. The word signifies “ Beaver Island,” and is derived from the Anglo-Saxon befer, or beofer, a beaver, and ig or ige, an island. A cognate name is “ Beverley,” the Beaver holm or meadow.

The amount of Sir George’s gift was 2000 merks Scots, or 111, 2s. 2d. sterling. The council are not content with having his generosity recorded in the burgh minute-book, but resolve on something grander and more enduring. Evidently they had not the same idea of the immortality of their minute-book as Horace had of his poems when he wrote—

“Exegi monumentum are perennius."

The Culross dignitaries thought the ces, or perhaps I should rather say the aurum, a more enduring register than paper or parchment. They ordain as follows:—

“The said day the council ordain a broad to be made, and erected in the council house, mentioning that the Honourable Sir George Preston gave the town the foreaaid 2000 merks, to be a lasting memorial of his goodness to the town; and that the inscription be in gold letters.”

In February 1724 the incorporation of girdlemak-ers apply for assistance to the town council in prosecuting an action against a recreant member of the craft, and receive a donation of 12, 12s. Scots towards this object. The whole subject of the Culross girdles and girdlesmiths is discussed in another chapter.

The council resolve to have a trial made as to the existence of coal-seams in the moor of Culross, and Laurence Johnston is appointed the chief manager or superintendent of these operations. A great deal of money was spent in the search, which would have been better expended in reclaiming and cultivating the surface of the moor.

On 21st September 1725, Laurence Johnston is chosen dean of guild, and on 29th September 1727 becomes second bailie. It appears, from an account presented in June 1728 for repairing the pier of Culross, that the wages of a mason were then a merk Scots, or Is. ljd. sterling per day. A “barrowman” or labourer received 6s. Scots, or 6d. sterling, per day.

Here are some interesting particulars of regulations for. providing the lieges with post-horses :—

“2 November 1728.

“The councill, considering that both the inhabitants of the burgh and the leidges are incommoded and losers by there not being ane establisht postmaster in the burgh for providing the leidges in hired horses: For preventing whereof the council appoint all persons within the burgh who keep horses for hiring, that they give in a list of their horses to serve the leidges for hiring, and that the same list he attested by the magistrates and given to the postmaster, who is authorized to oblidge the hirers so listed to furnish the leidges with a horse by turns when necessity requires; and for effectuating the premises the council appoint Bobert Ferguson to be postmaster during the council’s pleasure, and that the hirers enlist themselves upon Thursday next, being the day for rouping the common good.”

In 1729 a negotiation is entered into with a Mr Stephen Teems for a lease to him of the burgh coal; and on the 14th March a head court or curia capi-talis of the burgesses is summoned, at which “ the haill community present give it as their best advice that the magistrates and town council sett the coal to the best advantage they can.” No satisfactory arrangement, however, seems ever to have been accomplished.

The Black Colonel causes a tremendous disturbance on account of the burning of sea-ware:—

“30 July 1729.

“John Ballingall compeared before the council and acquainted them that yesternight, about ten, Colonel Erskine, Peter Reid, Patrick Niccoll, William Buchan, and James M'Kairtan, his servants, came in a maisterfull and riotous manner, and extinguished the ware-kilns that were burning, and threw out and scattered the ashes that were burnt, by which all the kelp that could have been made of the said kilns is entirely lost, to his great loss and prejudice. . . .

“The council, considering the affair of the sea-ware, unanimously agree that John Balingall, and the workpeople employed by him, continue to cut and burn the said sea-ware till legally interpelled.

“Also, the council unanimously recommend to the procu-rator-fiscall to prosecute these who were guilty of the ryot yesternight anent the extinguishing the ware-kilns, &c.

“The council appoint the thesaurer to pay Robert Dal-gleish three pounds Scots1 for his pains and expence in going to Edinburgh express with a letter to Mr Boswell anent Colonel Erskine’s suspension anent the sea-ware, being three days and three nights.”

So much for the history of the famous kelp onslaught, headed by Black Colonel Erskine of Car-nock, as detailed in the burgh minute-books of Culross. Many will be disposed, no doubt, to regard the whole affair as little more dignified than the JPohmo-Middinici between Ladies Scotstarvet and 158. sterling.

Newbams, immortalised by Drummond’s macaronics. But, seriously speaking, it seems to have been a very wanton and high-handed proceeding on the part of the choleric old gentleman, who certainly had no right to take the law into his own hands, even though the smoke of the kelp-kilns went down his throat, offended his nose, and aggravated his asthmatic tendencies. There is no reason to doubt that the account of the affair presented in the above day’s entry is in every respect substantially correct. It may now not be uninteresting to my reader to peruse the following account either of this or another fracas, as detailed in Sir H. Moncreiff Wellwood’s ‘ Life of Dr Erskine,’ the Black Colonel’s grandson, who himself took a prominent part in the affair. Sir Henry assures us that he received the account of the occurrence from one who was intimately acquainted with all the parties concerned:—

“During the last ten or twelve years of Lieutenant-Colonel Erskine’a life, he was occasionally afflicted with asthma, which he endured with considerable impatience. He had an attack of this kind when the magistrates of Culross, where he resided, were burning kelp on the shore immediately below his residence. Imagining that his complaint was irritated by the smoke of the kelp, he sent peremptory orders to put out the fires, to which the magistrates were not disposed to submit. Too much provoked to consider either their rights or his own, he resolved to extinguish the fires with his own hand. Unable to walk, he mounted his horse, and made his grandson (the subject of this narrative, who was then at his house, a youth about the age of fourteen) march before him along the steep descent of the street of Culross, with his grandfather’s sword drawn, in his hand a circumstance which, to those who were afterwards acquainted with the venerable figure of Dr Erskine, must present a very singular picture.

“The magistrates, not willing to acquiesce in the Colonel’s encroachment on their privileges, assembled their retainers, and fairly took him and his grandson prisoners. His passion had soon sufficiently subsided to enable him to address the magistrates in the following terms: ‘ This is all nonsense, gentlemen, and we are all in the wrong. Come along to the inn, and we shall all dine together and forget this folly/ They accompanied him without hesitation. He treated them with the best dinner which the inn afforded, and the afternoon was spent in perfect good-humour and cordiality.”

One cannot help suspecting that the scene described by Sir H. Moncreiff Wellwood had taken place after the riot detailed in the minute-book on 30th July 1729. Very likely John Ballingall, encouraged by the judgment of the magistrates, pursued quietly his burning of sea-ware and manufacture of kelp. The Colonel became provoked, and, regardless of law and reason, set out again on a “ colonelling” expedition, like Sir Hudibras, to extinguish the cause of his disquiet. It is evident that the burgh minutes do not record the same event as that detailed by Dr Erskine’s biographer, inasmuch as in the former case the hostile purpose was accomplished; in the latter it was prevented. There is no reason for doubting the substantial correctness of either account. Yet in that given by Sir H. Moncreiff Wellwood we may note one or two inaccuracies. It is perfectly certain that at the time indicated Colonel Erskine was not residing in Culross Abbey, although he had been originally infeft in it, seeing that Lady Mary Cochrane had managed successfully, in opposition to him, to assert her right to the family mansion and surrounding acres, which for nearly a century afterwards continued to be possessed by her family. The Colonel was obliged to content himself with the other so-called “ Palace or Great Lodging ” in the Sand Haven, which had also belonged to the Earls of Kincardine, and in which he himself had been infeft without opposition, as the purchaser of their estate. Though I cannot establish by direct evidence that this was his habitation during the period of his connection with Culross, yet the voice of persistent tradition has assigned this dwelling as his residence, and named it after him, “The Colonel’s Close.” It is situated on the level ground at a short distance from the sea; and therefore it is quite impossible that Colonel Erskine could have descended on horseback the steep street of Culross, as he must have done had he lived in the Abbey or in some quarter of the upper part of the town. But if, as seems probable, the burning of the kelp took place on the shore opposite the Playfield between Culross and Duni-marle, the distance might still be too much for a crippled old man to accomplish on foot; and he might well, therefore, make the journey on horseback. We must make allowance, also, for some rhetorical embellishment. Curiously enough, no further notice is taken in the minute-book of the dispute between the Colonel and the Culross magistrates. Consequently we may receive the circumstances detailed in Dr Erakine’s Life with some degree of confidence, as presenting a true account of the final settlement of the quarrel.

On a loose slip of paper in the minute-book is the following curious entry:—

“Head Court of the Burgh of Culross, holden at the Boar Stone, 18th May 1730, by Laurence Johnston and James Robertson, baillies.

“The head court roll being called, such as were present gave suit and presence. Some were excused for lawfull reasones, and those who gave no reasonable excuse their names are as follows—viz. [follows a list of names].

Then follows, on the same fragment of paper, a minute of a head court held at Culross 1st October 1730. At the end of the list of absents is the following.

“The baillies fines each of the above absents in twenty shillings Scots, according to the proclamation.

“John Rolland.”

This slip of paper is evidently of the same age as the dates which it bears. It is clear, both from this and another scrap in the minute-book, that attendance at the head courts of the burgh—whether at the Borestone or the tolbooth—was no formality or fiction, but was rigidly expected from the burgesses under the pain of fine and imprisonment.

The Borestone is a stone on the very limit of the burgh moor at its western extremity, near the spot where the kennels of Tulliallan Castle now stand. It was always the goal of the municipal expedition on the marches day; and the inhabitants of the neighbouring town of Kincardine used regularly on that occasion to indulge in the practical joke of visiting the Borestone before the Culross cavalcade arrived, and depositing thereon a quantity of leeks. For some reason or other not explained, but probably from the circumstance that Culross was renowned for its leeks and other garden-produce, the epithet of a “ Culross Leek ” was an old local taunt applied to any one belonging to the burgh. The word “ borestone ” denotes the “ boundary stone,” and is still used in this sense in the New Forest in Hampshire, where it is called a “ bowerstone,” as we are informed by Mr Wise in his ‘ History and Scenery of the New Forest.’ This meeting of the Culross community at the Borestone is an example of those open-air assemblies which in ancient times were held in special localities set apart for the purpose, for the enactment and promulgation of laws. An instance of it still exists in the custom observed in the Isle of Man, where all laws passed by the Parliament of the island are promulgated to the lieges at the Tynwald Hill; and another remained till the middle of last century, in the holding of the Stannary Parlia-liaments on the summit of Crockem Tor, Devonshire, where the deputies, seated on granite blocks, discussed, amid the mists and drizzle of Dartmoor, the laws and regulations for the working of the tin-mines.

In July 1730 an Act of the General Convention of Royal Burghs is received by the town council of Culross, and ordered to be recorded. It is rather an interesting document, being essentially a denunciation of smuggling—or, as it is therein expressed, “the clandestine importation and open and excessive consumption of brandy within Scotland.” It states “that great sums of money are yearly exported for purchasing this unnecessary commodity, which, being run without payment of duty, is sold cheaper than spirits distilled in Scotland can be afforded for, and is therefore universally used, to the total discouragement of the distillery at home, and to the lessening the price of the grain of this country, which, were it manufactured and used in spirits, might fully supply the room of brandy and all other foreign spirits, and save so great an expense of money to the nation.” The Scottish burghs are accordingly earnestly recommended to do all in their power to remedy this state of matters, and report to the Committee of the Convention what measures they shall have devised for this purpose, and the success that may have attended their efforts in the way of repression.

The evil thus complained of had developed itself largely since the union of the kingdoms, in consequence of the imposition, on foreign liquors and commodities, of duties which hitherto had been comparatively unknown in Scotland. There was also a strong spirit of opposition to every legislative measure proceeding from England. All this, combined with a general laxity of supervision on the part of the authorities, had produced an immense amount of smuggling traffic between Scotland and the Continent, and more especially with the Low Countries. The line of small burghs extending along the northern shore of the Firth of Forth from Culross to Crail, were particularly notorious for their addiction to the contraband trade, and stood in no little need of the admonition issued by the General Convention of Burghs. Men of the greatest outward respectability did not scruple to participate in this trade in smuggled, or, as they were termed, “run” goods; and the surveillance exercised by Government seems never to have been of a very thorough or effectual kind. As a business carried on methodically and on an extensive scale, smuggling has long become, with some occasional exceptions, wholly extinct.

A panic regarding mad dogs having arisen, the Culrosa magistrates issue the following sweeping and peremptory

“Act anent Killing Dogs.

"23 February 1733.

“The said day,*it being represented that there has been some wood1 dogs going through the town, and that it is a great danger to suffer any dogs within the town to live, the council by plurality of votes appoint, enact, and ordain the hftill dogs and bicks within the town to be put to death, and that against the morrow at two of the clock in the afternoon, under the penalty of ten shillings sterling in case of none-performance against the time foresaid, and that by and attour performance, and that to be done by the persons themselves or their order.”

Whether or not this order was rigidly carried out, there is no evidence to show.

The town having failed in its negotiations for letting the coal in the burgh territory, it was resolved about this time to have a trial and search instituted to ascertain the presence of that commodity in the common moor of Culross. Contributions towards this object were solicited from the different corporations, and a great deal of money seems to have been pro-fitlessly expended. No commensurate success, however, was achieved. A few years subsequently extensive grants of the moor were made in feu to the Dundonald family, in which the property of the minerals was included. As regards those within the burgh territory proper, it was ultimately taken in lease by the Earl of Dundonald, who covenanted to pay therefor the yearly rent of five pounds sterling —which, however, was only to be exigible when he should have actually commenced to work the minerals. This right, after remaining for nearly a hundred years in abeyance, was recently claimed by his lordship’s grandson—the late Earl of Dundonald—and the claim admitted by the burgh of Culross. No actual working has, however, yet taken place.

On 6th November 1733 a letter was received by the magistrates and town council from Mr Colville of Ochiltree, heritable bailie of the regality of Culross, who now urged his right of criminal jurisdiction over the burgh. He deprecates any wish to quarrel with the latter or its rulers, but refers to an alleged decision of the Court of Session in 1663 on this question, in favour of an ancestor of his—a Lord Colville of Ochiltree—and proposes that the matter in dispute he referred to the arbitration of two lawyers. The Culross town council resolve to take the opinion of Mr Boswell, advocate, on the subject—and till that is obtained, defer sending any reply to Mr Colville.

The writer of this letter, Mr Robert Colville, or, as he was generally termed, Mr Robert Ayton Colville of Craigflower, was the son of Sir John Ayton, who had married a sister of Robert, third and last Lord Colville of Ochiltree. This Lord Colville dying without issue, the representation of the family, as regarded inheritance, devolved on the son of his sister, Lady Ayton, who assumed the name of Colville ; but the baronage could only be taken up by males, and no one has ever succeeded in making good his claim to it up to the present day. Robert Ayton Colville married Janet Wedderbum, a daughter of Sir Peter Wedderbum of Gosford; and at a subsequent period there was another intermarriage of the representatives of the Colville and Wedderbum families, from which the present Mr Colville of Craigflower is descended. The heritable jurisdiction of the regality of Culross, which had belonged to the Lords Colville of Ochiltree, became vested in Mr Robert Colville as their representative; and he now sought to enforce his claims on the burgh, which, as we have already seen, had been already made—and not altogether unsuccessfully—by his predecessors. On the present occasion the magistrates endeavoured to temporise, and despatched a conciliatory answer to Mr Colville’s letter, in which, without absolutely repudiating his claim, they deprecate the proceedings of his bailies in attempting to hold regality courts within the limits of the burgh. The dispute never seems to have been formally adjusted, and all necessity for a settlement was obviated a few years afterwards by the Act of 1748, which abolished heritable jurisdictions.

In the following minute of 27th December 1733 we have a reference to an extraordinarily high tide at Culross. I am strongly inclined to think it must be the same event which I have heard a lady, now deceased, speak of as having been related to her by her mother (who died nearly twenty years ago at the age of ninety); and she, again, had heard it from her mother. The -only special circumstance that I remember about the story is, that the people in Culross were wading knee-deep in water:—

“It being represented by the baillies that there being considerable breatches made by the late extraordinar tyd and storm upon the long peer, highway at the playfield, and upon the wall opposite to Mr Sheddon's yeard dyck which defends the High Street from the storm, and that the repairing therof could not admit delay: Therefor they have ordered to mend these breatches in pairt, and that the repair is still going on. The council approve of the baillies conduct in the said matter, and authorizes the baillies to proceed to do what’s absolutely necessar for preventing fardar breatches.”

Some members of council are taken to task for remissness in attendance at church:—

“23 April 1734

“The council, considering that a great pairt of the council do not frequent and keip the council seat on the Lord’s Day, to the dishonour of the town: Therefore they ratify all former Acts theranent, and of new enact that the haill council (except such as have been baillies and' the present Dean of Gild) keep and frequent the said seat each Lord’s Day they come to kirk, under the penalty of six shilling Scots for each transgression, with their best equipage, and particularly hats; and that they have the same equipage when they attend the council”

On 23d June 1735 there occurs the following melancholy account of • profitless expenditure in searching for coal:—

“The council appointed last council day for auditing the accounts anent the tryle of the coal report. That they met and revised the said accounts, and found the charge extends to one hundred and fifty-two pound eight shilling and ten-pennies Scots money, and the discharge to one hundred and fifty-one pound fourteen shilling money foresaid; but remark that there are three articles of the discharge—one for five pound eleven shilling, one other for twelve shilling, and the third for twenty pound thirteen shilling—for which there is no voucher. Secondly, that there is twenty-six pound ten shilling sixpennies of said discharge expended upon a new tryle after the tryle on the old sink was given over. Thirdly, that the haill materials are rouped and sold and included in the charge, except the winless roape and three cutt of deals, which are a part of the discharge. The council appoint the managers to attend the next council day and to answer the remarks.”

With the above the series of extracts from the burgh records of Culross may terminate. From this date downwards the entries are absolutely devoid of interest for the general reader.


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