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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter XX. The Kirk-Session Records from 1715 to 1776


MR. CUTHBERT having died in the preceding month of October, a call is given to Mr Logan of Torrybum on 12th June 1716. He is said .to have been a man of considerable ability; but he is principally remembered for his zeal in the prosecution of witches, for which the above-named parish used to be so famous. He was a man of good family, being a brother of Logan of Logan in the west country, and he himself ultimately succeeded to the estate. He married the Hon. Mary Colville, sister of Robert, third and last Lord Colville of Ochiltree.

Mr Logan at first refused the call from Culross; but an appeal was taken to the Synod of Fife, and from thence to the General Assembly, which ordered him to be translated from Torrybum. He was accordingly admitted minister of the first charge of Culross on 17th July 1717; and as Mr Moore was translated to Stirling in February 1718, Mr Logan had for a time the entire control of the parish.

Here are some of the session cases during his moderatorship:—

“22 July 1718.

“Isobell Billeanie, spouse to John Paxton, complained of Isobell Micklejohn, spouse to John Dalgleish, flesher in Culross, saying she had called her witch, and bad her goe to the devil and come back again. This she did before John Gow and Adam Johnston, fleshers in Culross. The session appoint them to be summoned against next session.”

“29 July 1718.

“Bessie Thomson being called upon by the minister to be rebuked, did not rise up to be rebuked, but sat still.”

Bessie Thomson, like Bessie May in the old Scotch saying, “ kept her seat,” and disregarded Mr Logan’s summons. He was not, however, to be trifled with, and after summoning her once or twice ineffectually, he pronounced against her the sentence of lesser excommunication, by which she was debarred of all Church privileges. This step at last brought her to an acknowledgment of her delinquencies before the congregation.

“9 Sept. 1718.

“There was collected at the church door on Sabbath last, for the Protestants in Lithuania, according to the Act of the General Assembly, seventy-three pund and eleven shillings Scots.”

The following case would afford a splendid opportunity to Mr Logan for keeping in exercise the zeal which he had displayed so strenuously in Torryburn in prosecuting witches and other practisers of occult arts. It illustrates a strange phase of popular superstition, which ascribed the possession of supernatural powers to persons bereft of their bodily or mental faculties:—

“14 October 1718.

“John Harroer, tenant in Balgownie, came in before the session, and alleged that he was very much lesed by George Micklejohn, his neighbour, whose house was broken by thieves in the night time the last week. He had recourse to a dumbie upon Sabbath was eight days, who, refusing to answer them that day, they went to him upon the Munday, desiring him to make discovery who it was who broke his house and stole his goods. The dumbie, upon some communing with the said Micklejohn, blamed the said Harroer and his family, and wrote down the said John Harroer’s name as the thief; whereupon, without telling whom they suspected, or the grounds of their suspicion, applied to Balgownie, as a justice of the peace, for an order to search the neighbourhood. Balgownie gave them an order. They add that they hear the paper which the dumbie wrote is in Bal-gownie’s hands. Baillie Robertson says that the justices of the peace desire the session may take this affair to their consideration, as far as they may think proper for them. The session, hearing this order, the said George Micklejohn^ Jean Anderson his wife, with Andrew Anderson, shoemaker in Culross, to be cited against the next session.”

“27 October 1718.

“George Micklejohn, and Jean Anderson his spouse, compeared. He denyed that he went to the dumbie on the Sabbath-day, but confessed he consulted him on the Munday about the stealing of his goods. The session, considering the heinousness of this crime now confessed by the said Micklejohn, and the many evil consequences thereof, the aggravation of this his crime was held out to him, and he exhorted to repentance. The session appoint him to compear before the congregation and be rebuked on Sabbath come a fourteen days.”

“9 December 1718.

"Ordered for horse-hire to Dunfermline, eight shillings [Scots].”

The war regarding the seats still rages, and the lairds of Blairhall and Balgownie present a bill of suspension to the Court of Session to overturn the Acts of the kirk-session in regard to the allocation which they had made. The session resolve to give in answers to the bill, and order that Colonel Erskine, then in Edinburgh, be written to, to deliver these answers.

On 6th May 1719, Mr John Geddes was ordained minister of the second charge, which had been vacated the preceding year by the translation of Mr Moore to Stirling.

Another of those curious cases in reference to the offence of “ charming ” comes up on 20th October 1719. One may well be astonished at so much of the time of a kirk-session being taken up in investigating such trumpery matters as are here detailed. The first entry may be quoted in its entirety:—

“This day Charles Bid, tennent in Blankierie, and his wife, compeared before the session, complaining to the session that James Mathie in the Bauld had slandered his wife, in so far as he charged her with using charms, and said before witnesses that he could prove her guilty of the samen. This Charles Bid offers to prove against James Mathie, and desired that the said James Mathie might be summoned to compear before this session the next session day to answer to this charge; and he named Bobert Davidson in Kirkton, and John Gibson, son to James Gibson, in West Grange, David Finlayson in Brankston, and Archibald Strachan in the Hole, as witnesses to be cited to the next session to prove this charge against James Mathie: whereupon the session appoints the said James Mathie and the said witnesses to be cited against the next session.”

One of the witnesses adduced in this case

“Deponed that he heard James Mathie say that the said Janet Morison,1 while going to chum her milk, used to go about her house, that she might be the first foot, and when she gave any person a drink of milk, she always put salt in it; as also that he heard the said James Mathie say that the foresaid Janet Morison would not milk her kine in the same place where they calved, but in a certain place destined by her for that end.”

Mrs Eeid or Bid had evidently been a superstitious woman, who set great store by omens and imaginary influences,—a tendency which her neighbour, James Mathie, charitably misconstrued and confounded with the using of divination and magic arts. To be accused of “ charming ” is a charge that few women would resent; but to be so in the sense in which it is used in the present instance, would at that period have been tantamount to an accusation of witchcraft, or having communings with Satan. Mr Mathie at last admits that he had slandered Mrs Reid, and accordingly receives a severe rebuke. He seems to have been allowed to adduce witnesses to prove the practice on the part of Mrs Reid of divination and unhallowed rites; but their evidence is of such an uncertain and hearsay character, that even in the estimation of Mr Logan’s kirk-session it cannot be sustained, and the good wife of Blinkeerie escapes without any admonition in reference to her own conduct.

“16 Decr. 1719.

“Coll. Erskine desired that the guinea given by him on Sabbath last might be presently distributed to poor people, besides other two guineas he gave to be distributed among other persons.”

“5 Janry. 1720.

“The session being informed that Robert Holland’s boat should have crossed some Sabbath lately in time of sermon; they therefore appoint that Robert Holland, John Tulloch, and James Younger, his servants, be dted against the next session, to know what was their urgent reason.”

A quaint and not uninteresting statement of the regulations issued previous to a celebration of the Holy Communion is presented in a minute of kirk-session dated 7th August 1722. It appears from it that the services on Sunday commenced at a very early hour; and in addition to those in the chuTch, a tent was erected in the churchyard, where discourses were delivered to the general public. I have already given some account of these sacramental occasions in the olden time. It also appears from this minute that the expressions “the Black” and “ the White Colonel ” were no mere phrases of vulgar usage, but were employed alike on serious and on ordinary occasions as terms of the highest respect

Several entries in the early months of 1723 present a curious specimen of haggling on the part of the kirk-session in reference to a surgical case. A poor woman. Helen Aiton by name, is afflicted with a swelling on her leg, and as she has “ nothing to bestow upon doctors for curing the same,” the kirk-session “ appointed two of their number to speak to George Makarthur, chyrurgeon, thereanent; and if he would engage to cure it, to desire him to come to the next session and acquaint them what he would take for his pains.” In the meantime a collection in church is ordered to be made “ for curing Helen Aiton’s leg,” which, we are informed, “ was intimat ” and “ duly observed.” Makarthur undertakes to cure the limb " for a hundred merks, which the session refused to give, but promised him fifty shillings sterling, and two or three crowns more when the leg was perfectly cured, wherewith the said George was content, and accordingly the bargain was concluded.” After the lapse of six weeks he claims his guerdon, on the ground of having satisfactorily accomplished his task. This the session refuse to give till they are satisfied of the truth of his assertion, and they accordingly empower a committee to visit the patient and report. As the result of their inspection, these announce that a partial cure had been effected; but the cautious church officials are not yet satisfied, and withhold a portion of the remuneration till such time as the poor woman herself shall appear before them and declare herself perfectly cured. This she ultimately does, and the surgeon receives his fee.

Here is a curious entry regarding the kixk-session’s interposition on behalf of the girdlemakers monopoly:—

“9 April 1723.

“This day Alexr. Cowie having produced a testimonial giveu by the session to John Watson some time ago, and complaining that the testimonial was not full enough, and desiring that the session would make it more full and ample, the session in the meantime being informed by a paper given in by the incorporation of the girdlesmiths that the said John Watson is guilty of gross pexjury in making girdles in Kilmarnock or anywhere else out of the town, contrary to solemn oath whereby he engaged to the said corporation not to make girdles anywhere but in this place, they order his testimonial to be torn; and they desire the ministers to write to the Reverend Mr Wright, minister at Kilmarnock, where the said Watson now resides, and acquaint him with the case and carriage of the said Watson, and to desire of the said minister to give him no more encouragement than he deserves.”

“19 Jany. 1725.

“The people in the Valleyfield and about the east end of the town of Culross that had been guilty of gathering peats on the Lord’s Day being summoned and called, did compear. They confessed their sin, and promised amendment. They were severely rebuked for their breach of the Sabbath, exhorted to repent, and dismissed.”

The litigious and troublesome character of the Black Colonel appears in the following:—

“22 July 1729.

“The session, considering that Colonel Erskine has postponed and delayed his paying up the money contained in Sir George Bruce’s mortification, conform to the Lords of Session decreet, these three years bygone, notwithstanding of his frequent and repeated promises to settle that affair, and judging now that they cannot in duty delay it any longer, they therefore appoint their Thesaurares, in caice the Colonel do not settle that affair betwixt and dispensing of the Lord’s Supper, that they immediately thereafter cause put the diligence already raised in execution against him on their peril, as they will be answerable to the session; and that they acquaint the Colonel what they are appointed to do.”

“7 Octr. 1728.

“The session appointed the elders to collect for the harbour of St Andrews as soon as possible.”

Here is a singular certificate granted by the session:—

“24 Novr. 1730.

“William Young, son to James Young, indweller in Cul-ioss, having had his ear bit off by a horse some time ago, and the fact being notour to the whole place, came in and desired that this might be marked and attested in the session records, that he might have the benefit of an extract testifying that he had not lost his ear for any crime, but as aforesaid; and the session granted him his desire as just and reasonable, which is attested by

“Allan Logan, Minr. “John Geddes,Minr”

To lose one’s ears by cropping, or to have them nailed to the pillory, was not yet wholly in desuetude as a punishment. The remembrance of so cruel an infliction seems to be preserved in the saying, “ He’s no worth his lugs ”—that is, he’s not worth the trouble of making him lose his ears.

On 21st September 1731, “Hamet the Turk” appears, by his own admission to the session, as the seducer of Anna Robertson. Hamet’s nationality and religion seem to have been regarded as aggravations of Anna’s delinquency. He had been residing for some time in Culross, but in what capacity is not stated.

In the year 1733 a rather serious collision occurred between the kirk-session and the heritors of Culross. Mr Logan had declined much in health, and expectations were entertained that ere long the first charge might be vacant. A proposal by the session at this time to increase the number of elders was regarded by the heritors as part of a scheme to deprive them of their just weight in the election of a minister; and they accordingly, under the leadership of George Preston, younger of Valleyfield, present a protest against the contemplated increase in the eldership. The kirk-session issue a reply, and have clearly the best of the argument in the dispute with the heritors. How it was settled does not satisfactorily appear; but we find from the burgh records (May and June 1733), that at the request of Mr Logan himself an assistant and successor was appointed to him at this time in the person of Mr Alexander Webster, afterwards so famous as a leader in the Church, and the originator of the Scottish Ministers’ Widows’ Fund. The nomination is made by the magistrates and heritors, and the appointment seems altogether to have been a harmonious affair. Not a word is yet spoken of the rights of patrons. Mr Logan died shortly afterwards in the month of September in the same year; but there is no formal notice in the session-book of Mr Webster’s ordination.

The following extracts record the proceedings taken by the session against a drunken fellow who had disturbed the congregation at the tent-preaching in the churchyard on the Monday after the Sacrament:—

“29 July 1736.

“The session being informed that John Norrie, one of Balgownie’s labouring servants, upon Monday last, after the Sacrament, disturbed divine worship by riding among the people that were hearing sermon at the tent in the churchyard, and cursing, swearing, and blaspheming the name of God: Therefore they order their officer to summon him to the next session,”

“31 August 1736.

“John Nome being summoned and called, did not compear, but sent his excuse with the officer that he could not attend this day, they being very throng with the harvest: Therefore the session delayed this affair till the harvest be over.”

On 5th October 1736, John Norrie appears, and witnesses are examined. One of these, after detailing some particulars of the outrage, states—

“That he followed the said John Norrie towards James Anderson’s, where John Couston took him off the horse, together with William Anderson, John Nome’s neighbour; that the said John Norrie would have mounted the horse and returned again to the tent, but was hindered by John Masterton and William Anderson; and declares that he himself, at the desire of William Anderson, took the horse home, and that upon his return he met John Norrie at the chapel bam, where he received a snuff from him, and so they parted; and this is the whole he knows. The session delayed the further consideration of this affair until the next session.”

Ultimately Norrie appears before the congregation, and receives a public rebuke for his behaviour in the churchyard.

On 16th November 1736 the session send an intimation, through their officer, to an obstinate offender, named William Christie, that they had been ordered by the Presbytery “ to pronounce against him the highest sentence of excommunicationand that if he still continued obdurate, they would put this order in force. The higher excommunication involved, besides the deprivation of Church privileges, an enforced withdrawal on the part of the other parishioners from the society of the excommunicated person. To eat or drink, converse, or even pray with him, was regarded as a heinous offence, to be punished with the severest ecclesiastical censure.1 In this case the threat has its effect on William Christie, who at last makes his appearance before the session, and subsequently before the congregation, for three successive Sundays, to be rebuked.

Mr Webster receives a call to the Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh. The session express their regret at losing the benefits of his ministry, and give a reluctant consent to his translation.

Mr, or rather Dr Webster, was a man of no mean ability, and well deserved the somewhat lengthy manifesto which the Culross kirk-session thought fit to issue and put on record. As the minister of the Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh, and the leader for many years of the Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland, he probably exercised a greater influence than almost any other clergyman of his time, not excepting even his successor, the celebrated Dr Erskine, grandson of the Black Colonel. One special movement that he originated was the establishment of the Widows’ Fund of the Church of Scotland. He married, when at Culross, Miss Mary Erakine, daughter of Colonel John Erskine, generally known as the White Colonel, and brother of Sir Charles Erskine of Alva, Bart. Her mother was Euphemia Cochrane, daughter of William and Lady Mary Cochrane, and granddaughter of Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine. Her maternal aunt, Anne Cochrane, was the wife of Sir George Preston, fourth Baronet, and mother of Sir Charles and Sir Robert Preston, fifth and sixth Baronets of Valleyfield. A curious story is told of Dr Webster’s courtship. He had undertaken to plead with Miss Erskine on behalf of a friend, whose modesty did not permit him to urge his suit in person. Faithfully and earnestly did the Doctor perform this behest, but the effect was rather different from what he had anticipated. The lady, who had remained deaf to all his importunities on behalf of another, at last archly remarked, “You would come better speed, Sandy, if you would speak for yoursel’,” — a hint which he did not fail to take, and the two were shortly afterwards married. I know not whether it is in connection with them that an anecdote is told of a worthy Edinburgh clergyman of the last century who had espoused a lady of rank. He was remonstrating with his congregation on the impropriety of having much cooking or an abundant dinner on the Sabbath. To clench his argument, and demonstrate that he practised as he preached, he assured them, “ As for me and my honourable spouse, we just hae a skirl in the pan!”—that is to say, a chop or steak done in the frying-pan — something that “skirls” or screeches in the preparation.

According to Dr Alexander Carlyle’s account in his Autobiography, Dr Webster’s convivial powers were rather extraordinary. Such qualities were apparently not considered derogatory in those days, even for the leader of the Evangelical party in the Church. He died in 1784, at the age of seventy-six.

Two collections for Edinburgh charities are thus recorded:—

“15 March 1737.

“The collection for the Orphans’ Hospital at Edinburgh was made at the church door last Lord’s Day, according to the Synod’s appointment, which amounted to sixty-one pound thirteen shillings and eight pennies Scots, which the session appoints to be given to Mr Webster, and desired him to deliver the same to the moderator of the Presbytery, upon his granting a receipt thereof.”

"6 Septr. 1737.

“There was collected Sabbath last, for the Infirmary Hospital at Edinburgh, twelve pound 10 shillings 4 pence Scots money, which the session appointed to be given to Mr Geddes, that he may deliver the same to the moderator of the Presbytery.”

The Black Colonel was a very litigious man, and the respect in which one has hitherto been accustomed to hold him is considerably diminished when we find him contesting so long and frequently the claims made on him for payment of moneys connected with charities and the relief of the poor. It would seem, indeed, that his litigious spirit, like the ruling passion, was strong in death, as he is reported to have expressed himself thus in his last illness: “ I hae ten gude gangin’ cases in the Court of Session; and that idiot Jock, my son, will be settlin’ them a’ in a month after my death! ” John Erskine, the Colonel’s son, and so celebrated as an authority on Scots law, was a man of an amiable and peace-loving disposition, very different from his father.

“20 June 1738.

“The session being informed that several young men and boys—viz., Andrew Spittal, William Bray, James Young, George Younger, John Aiton, and Adam Paterson—had broken the Sabbath-day by sailing up and down in a boat after sermon, they appointed their officer to summon them to the next session.”

“4 July 1738.

“The young men and boys mentioned in the former minute having been summoned and called, did compear. They acknowledged they were sorrowful for their sin, and promised amendment They were rebuked, exhorted, and dismissed.”

A curious case is recorded regarding the two neglected sons of the laird of Castlehill, the property now known as Dunimarle. The Blaws of Castlehill were about the oldest family in the Culross district. They seem to have come originally from the Low Countries, to judge from their name, which is dearly the same as the Dutch blaauw, or blue—just as in English and other languages we find the surnames of Black, White, Gray, and Red or Reid, derived from the complexion or external appearance of an individual. As regards Blaw, moreover, we find it under the form of Blaeu, Blaeuw, and BUmw (Latinised into Ccesius, blue or azure), as the name of a celebrated family of Dutch publishers and authors, whose maps, and more especially the ‘ Atlas Major’ of John Blaeu, a magnificent geographical work of the seventeenth century, have rendered them famous throughout the world. It is quite possible that the Blaws of Culross belonged to the same stock, and had emigrated from Holland to Scotland, there being in those days a great connection between the countries. We find the Blaws, as lairds of Castlehill and the lands of West Kirk, repeatedly referred to in the earliest volume of the burgh records of Culross, which comprises the last years of the sixteenth century. A daughter of Blaw of Castlehill married Archibald Primrose, the first proprietor of that name who held the lands of Bum-brae, near Kincardine, which remained for upwards of 200 years in his family, till they were incorporated a few years ago with the Tulliallan estate by purchase from the Misses Primrose, the last descendants of the first laird. The great Sir George Bruce of Camock married the daughter of Archibald

Primrose and Margaret Blaw, and the blue blood of the Blaws thus flows in the veins of two distinguished families of the Scottish Peerage—those of the Earl of Elgin and the Earl of Rosebery. Lord Elgin is lineally descended from Sir George Bruce and Margaret Primrose; Lord Rosebery from Archibald Primrose and Margaret Blaw.

George Blaw of Castlehill, who as descendant of the original stock held the property in the early part of the eighteenth century, executed an entail of the estate in 1710. A relative of his (whether sister, daughter, or niece, I know not), named Christian Blaw, married Laurence Johnston, ancestor of the present Mr Johnston of Sands, and her brother settled as a surgeon in London. George Blaw had three sons—John, Daniel, and James. Of these John, as the eldest, inherited the estate, and married a daughter of Mr Dundas of Blair, but proved a very bad husband. A great moral deterioration, indeed, seems to have gradually been characterising the Blaw family, and their fortunes were now also rapidly beginning to decline. Let us hear the miserable disclosure in the kirk-session records:—

“17 July 1738.

“The session having under their serious consideration a complaint made to them by Jean Dewar, on the ground of Castlehill, bearing that there are two sons of John Blaw’s of Castlehill who ly in her house, and that they are altogether destitute of anything to live upon, and that they are a very heavy burden on the neighbourhood, and destitute of education, and that their father will not contribute nor give anything towards their maintenance and schooling, although he be in the full possession of his estate—they agree that a proper letter be wrote to Mr Alexr. Boswel, advocate, to draw a bill to the Lords of Session thereanent, and recommend to the magistrates to concur in signing the letter; and appoint Colonel Erskine and Clerk Halkerston to meet with Castlehill, and to acquaint him of the session’s intention, to the end he may prevent the ingiving the bill.”

"1 August 1738.

“Colonel Erskine and Clerk Halkerston, in consequence of the former minute of the date the 17th of July, report that they discoursed Castlehill in the terms of the former minute, and acquainted him with the session’s resolution thereon; and that he advanced he had maintained the children till January last, and the reason he gave for not continuing so to do was, that his whole rents were for the last year evicted by creditors; besides, that the Lords of Session had granted an aliment for his wife and children upon their friend's application, in virtue of which he conceived her bound to aliment them, and added that he had no money at the time to maintain them: upon which the Colonel offered to advance meal and other necessaries for their present subsistence, till such time as some course may be taken upon for their maintenance and education, a part of which the Colonel has already advanced, and given in to the hands of Jean Dewar for the ends foresaid, upon the faith of Castlehill’s promise that he should reimburse the Colonel; and in case, against the first of Novr. next, proper measures be not taken for their maintenance and education, the session will do what’s proper.”

The better side of the Black Coloners character comes out here. We hear no more about John Blaw or his family in the session minutes, but the worst part of his history is yet to come. He had extensive transactions in the way of fruit and farm produce with two individuals of the name of Cairns— father and son—and Blaw imagined, probably not without reason, that they had been defrauding him, and more especially had been helping themselves unduly to the apples in Castlehill orchard. One day, on the occasion of Clackmannan fair, the three met in a hostelry in that town, and a bitter altercation ensued. Young Cairns, it is said, avowed the robbery of the fruit, and held up in insulting effrontery an apple to Blaw’s face. The latter, thus goaded, drew a knife and wounded severely the young man. Old Cairns interposed to save his son, and in doing so, received a mortal wound from Blaw. The- son recovered, but the father died. John Blaw was tried, convicted, and hanged at Stirling. It is said that previous to his trial he made over the property of Castlehill to his brother Daniel, to avoid its forfeiture. The two sons, for neglecting whom he had been summoned before the kirk-session, seem before this to have gone abroad, where they died, leaving no trace. It was said that Daniel Blaw or some other of the relatives had made an arrangement by which John Blaw was cut down and resuscitated, after being apparently hanged. A “dummy” was then dressed up in his clothes, and deposited with some stones in a coffin, which was placed in a hearse, conveyed to Culross, and buried in the West Kirkyard. Blaw himself had meantime been conveyed to a safe concealment, from which, after a little while, he contrived to escape to Holland. There, it is said, he ultimately died.

Such ifl the story that is told, but it cannot be averred as a fact; and indeed I have been assured by an old man whose father remembered the occurrence perfectly, that John Blaw was certainly hanged and buried. It appears, however, that some such tale had reached the ears of his wife, who could not be persuaded in consequence that he was really dead. To satisfy her the grave was opened, and the buckles from Blaw’s shoes, in which with the rest of his clothes he had been buried, were taken out and brought to his widow. The shoes themselves were allowed to remain for a long time outside the grave in the burying-ground of the West Church. The execution took place in 1769, so that John Blaw must have been, at the time of perpetrating the murder, considerably advanced in life.

Besides the two sons already mentioned, who had disappeared, John Blaw had an only daughter, Jane or Jeanie Blaw, who succeeded him in the estate of Castlehill, and married Mr Peter Begbie, factor to Sir Robert Preston. She predeceased her husband, who, after her death, assumed a right of proprietorship over Castlehill, and might have long exercised it unchallenged, had he not managed to give mortal offence to Mr Dundas of Blair. The latter was in the habit of crossing over from Blair through one of the Castlehill fields, and Mr Begbie objected to his doing so. Mr Dundas was so incensed that he conveyed intelligence to Daniel Blaw, immediate younger brother to John Blaw, and uncle of Mrs Begbie, that his niece’s husband was wrongfully enjoying his inheritance. Daniel Blaw was then residing in Belfast, and he forthwith instituted legal proceedings, which compelled Begbie to surrender to him the property, which was inherited after his death by his daughter Mrs Burdon. The latter was succeeded in her turn by a daughter, who became the wife of a Captain Sinclair, and who, nearly half a century ago, sold Castlehill to Lady Keith of Tulliallan. Some years afterwards, Lady Keith disposed of Castlehill to Miss Erskine, sister of Sir John Erskine of Tony, whose death had rendered it necessary for her to remove to another residence. She made extensive additions to the house—comprising, among others, a lofty tower, with a fine gateway and a long rampart-wall—all of which have contributed to give the entourage a thoroughly baronial aspect. She, moreover, changed the name from Castlehill to Dunimarle—an appellation which the place is said to have had in ancient times, though it is only known by the former in all records subsequent to the Reformation. Both epithets have nearly the same meaning, though that of Dunimarle, which signifies in Gaelic “ the castle on the projecting rock by the sea,” expresses with much greater fulness and precision the nature of the locality. Traces of the foundations of the old castle are still to be seen on the summit of the lofty promontory which extends southwards from the mansion of Dunimarle, and terminates in a sandstone precipice, which forms a perilously projecting angle on the road by the seashore from Culross to Kincardine. It has been surmised that this castle belonged to the famous Mac-VOL. H. I duff, as Thane of Fife, a descendant of whom founded Culross Abbey in the beginning of the thirteenth century. It has even been alleged that it was the scene of the massacre of the wife and children, which the genius of Shakespeare has immortalised. But this is a very unlikely hypothesis, seeing that there is good reason to believe that the destruction of Macduff’s family took place at a stronghold of his in the east of Fife, at or near Wemyss Castle.

After settling at Dunimarle, Miss Erskine became the wife of Admiral Shairp, and bore thenceforth the title of Mrs Shairp-Erskine. Both are now dead. A short time before her own demise, she erected on the slope below her mansion a neat Episcopal chapel in the Early English style, which she endowed by her will, and of which she appointed the Rev. William Bruce the incumbent. She provided also that the house of Dunimarle, which this clergyman now occupies, and which contains a number of interesting and valuable works of art, should be open to the public at certain times, as a sort of local museum for Culross. Visitors are admitted to view these twice a-week during the summer months.

It only remains to say a few words regarding the Blaw family. After the execution of John Blaw, Castlehill was little inhabited by any of these, and was let to a series of tenants—Mr Begbie and his wife residing in the small house now occupied by the Dunimarle gardener, and which then bore the name of Castlehill Cottage. Mrs Sinclair, who sold the property to Lady Keith, left no issue, and the representation of the family then devolved on the descendants of James, the youngest brother of John Blaw. He had three sons—George, James, and William— and one daughter, Ellen. George died in England, without issue; and James, who was never married, was drowned in the English Channel. William married, and had an only son, Mr William Blaw, who now resides in Glasgow, and is the present representative of this ancient Culross family. Besides the proprietors of Castlehill, the name of Blaw was borne by several other families in Culross, all probably connected with them in greater or less propinquity. Not one person bearing the name now re: mains either in the town or district.

It seemed desirable at this point to introduce the above history, and I now return to the few extracts that still remain to be made from the kirk-session records.

“24 Septr. 1739.

“After prayer, there was given in to the session a discharge from Mr Alexander, collector, of the collections for Bobi and Villars, to Mr William Geddes, writer at Edinburgh, for eighteen pound Scots, which was collected here for the Protestants in these places, and sent to the said William Geddes, to the said Alexander, which discharge was given to the treasurer.”

Bobi and Villars are probably the same as Bob-bio and Villar-Bobbio, two Waldensian towns in Piedmont.

On 25th February 1740 a call is given to Mr Turner of Tulliallan to supply the vacancy in the first charge of Culross, but the translation was not accomplished.

On 7th September 1741 is the following entry:—

“Upon the 3d day of Septr. 1741, Mr Henry Hardie, preacher of the Gospel, was ordained minister in this parish by the Presbytery of Dunfermling.”

Mr Hardie, thus appointed to the first charge, proved a faithful and conscientious minister; but his career was prematurely cut short by a decline eleven years afterwards, at the age of thirty-six. He was the father of Dr Thomas Hardie, minister of Haddo’s Hole, and Professor, of Church History in the University of Edinburgh. A daughter, Janet, married Mr Liston, minister of Aberdour, and was mother of the Rev. Henry Liston of Ecclesmachan, who was the father of Robert Liston, the celebrated surgeon, and David Liston, late Professor of Hebrew in Edinburgh University.

The following entry exhibits the Culross kirk-session in a new light — that of encouragers of domestic industry, and promoters of a spirit of independence and self-help. The linen trade was at this time very active in Scotland (see Laing’s Lindores Abbey and its Burgh of Newburgh, p. 300):—

“6 Oetr. 1741.

“The session haa agreed to cause purchase an hundredweight of lint, in order to be distributed to such of the poor of the parish as are able to spin, and appoints the said poor to return the yearn to such as the session shall name. The session appoints John Robertson and James Blelok, kirk treasurers, to buy the lint out of the poors money, and to cause it to be prepared and given out in parcels, to pay for the spinning, and allow the treasurers a penny sterling for every spindle of yarn that shall be spun and returned to them.”

The two following entries record as many fast-days ordered on account of the successes of the Pretender. The first had been previous to, and the second after, the battle of Prestonpans:—

“3 Septr. 1746.

“Wednesday last was observed as a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, on account of the present rebellion in favour of a Popish Pretender, in obedience to the appointment of the Presbytery.”

“13 Norn. 1746.

“Wednesday last was observed as a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, on account of the unexpected success of the rebels, by appointment of the Presbytery.”

Between 4th November 1746 and the 23d, is interpolated the following entry: “The Rev. Mr John Geddes was removed by death on the tenth day of Novt. 1746.” The session named a committee of their number to meet with the heritors and town council to choose a successor to the vacant second charge; but this resolution was destined to be quite inept as regarded the retention of the right of election in their hands. Hitherto, apparently, the Black Colonel, who was legally patron of the first charge, had never exercised his right—being on principle, as a zealous Presbyterian of the Evangelical party, strongly opposed to the Act of Queen Anne, which restored patrons to the rights over benefices which they had enjoyed previous to the Revolution. Indeed in his case there would have been a special inconsistency in his so availing himself, seeing that in 1735 he made one of a deputation sent by the General Assembly to London to endeavour to procure a repeal of the obnoxious Act. But after his death, his son John Erskine of Camock, the celebrated lawyer, seems to have made over the patronage of the first charge to Charles Cochrane of Culross, elder brother of Thomas Cochrane, who succeeded in 1758 to the earldom of Dundonald. At all events, we find him in 1752 presenting to the living Dr John Erskine, son of the lawyer, and grandson of the Black Colonel.

The right on the part of Mr Cochrane to the patronage of the first charge could not well be disputed; but as regarded that of the second, which he also claimed, his title to it was not so clear. As the second charge had been created and endowed by the voluntary grants and contributions of the heritors and congregation, it seemed only in accordance with justice that they should hold the right of presentation. But the Court of Session had ruled, long before, that in the case of the formation of a second charge, unless the patronage had been expressly reserved at the time of its constitution, it accrued to the patron of the first charge. So also it was held in the present instance; and though Mr William Trotter, Mr Cochrane’s first nominee, was not appointed, the Court sustained Mr Cochrane’s claims not only to the patronage of the second charge, but likewise to the stipends that had accrued, or might accrue, during the vacancy. Mr James Stoddart was ordained to the cure by the ecclesiastical authorities in November 1748, and the judgment of the Court in 1751 in Mr Cochrane’s favour included not only the stipend which had fallen due prior to Mr Stoddart’s settlement, but likewise what might accrue afterwards up to the final adjustment of matters by the settlement of a presentee in accordance with the rights of the patron. Mr Cochrane died in September 1752, leaving certain individuals as his trustees. Mr Stoddart’s position subsequent to the decision of the Court of Session in the preceding year seems to have been a very peculiar one, as the ecclesiastical authorities regarded him as the duly appointed incumbent of the charge, whilst the civil court pronounced him to have no legal right. It appears, indeed, that the parishioners of Culross compensated Mr Stoddart for his services by a voluntary contribution. He availed himself of his anomalous position to plead it in excuse of his absence from the famous Assembly of 1752, which adjudicated on the Inverkeithing case, and deposed Mr Gillespie, the minister of Camock. At last, in June 1753, he resigned his charge, and accepted the same year a call from the parish of Kirkintilloch, which had been rendered vacant by the translation from thence of Dr Erskine to the first charge of Culross. Mr Robert Holland, son of John Rolland, maltster and bailie of Culross, was now presented by

Mr Cochrane’s trustees to the second charge, and ordained its minister on 18th July 1754.

By the death of Mr Hardie in 1752, the first charge became vacant, and a presentation to supply the vacancy was issued in August 1752 by Charles Cochrane, as already mentioned, in favour of Mr John Erskine, the Black Colonel’s grandson, and then minister of Kirkintilloch. He was ordained in the following month of February; and as he is, perhaps, the most distinguished man that was connected with the ministry of Culross, it may not be unadvisable to enter into some particulars regarding his history, for which I am indebted to his Life by the Rev. Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood, long celebrated as a leader of the Church.

Dr Erskine was the only child, by the first marriage, of John Erskine of Camock, son and successor of the Black Colonel, with Margaret Melville, daughter of the Hon. James Melville of Bargawie. He inherited all the estates which his grandfather had purchased of the possessions of the Kincardine family, with the exception of that of Tulliallan. This, along with the estate of Cardross in Menteith, which had been purchased by John Erskine at a judicial sale, was bequeathed by him to his son James, the eldest of the three which he had by his second marriage, with Miss Stirling of Kerr. Dr Erskine’s maternal grandfather was the second son of George, fourth Lord Melville, an eminent Presbyterian ; and his brother afterwards succeeded to the titles both of Leven and Melville. Dr Erskine was further connected with the family by the marriage of his paternal aunt, Miss Erskine, with Alexander, Earl of Leven and Melville. Having devoted himself to the ministry, he received his licence in 1743 from the Presbytery of Dunblane; and he preached his first sermon in Torrybum Church, of which he was afterwards patron. He had a call to Tulliallan, of which his father was patron, but declined, and was shortly afterwards presented to the Church of Kirkintilloch. From this, as already mentioned, he was transferred in 1753 to Culross.

The entries in the session-book are now becoming very devoid of any interest, and during the whole of Dr Erskine’s incumbency scarcely anything is recorded that merits being extracted. In 1758 he was translated to the New Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, on the same day that Dr Robertson was appointed to the Old Greyfriars, whither also Dr Erskine was transferred in 1767 as his colleague. It is well known that they both lived together in the greatest amity, a circumstance by no means of general occurrence in the case of collegiate charges, and in the present rendered still more surprising by the fact of their each heading separate parties in the Church — Dr Robertson being the leader of the Moderate, as Dr Erskine was of the Evangelical party.

Dr Erskine married in 1746 the Hon. Christian Mackay, third daughter, by his third wife, of George, third Lord Reay. He had a large family of nine sons and five daughters; but of these he was only survived by three daughters and one Bon, David, who inherited the estate of Camock. His eldest daughter, Mary, married Dr Charles Stuart of Duneam, great-grandson of the Governor of Stirling Castle in the reign of James II., a brother of the then Earl of Moray.

On Dr Erskine’s translation to Edinburgh, the vacancy in the first charge of Culross was supplied that same year, by the promotion to it from the second charge of the Rev. Robert Rolland. Mr Alexander Moodie, “ preacher of the Gospel in Edinburgh,” was then in 1759 presented by Charles Cochrane’s trustees, and ordained to the second charge in September of that year. He remained little over two years in Culross, and was, in December 1761, transferred to Riccarton, in Ayrshire. Here he attained a celebrity of a peculiar kind by his pugnacious disposition, and has been immortalised by Bums as one of the heroes in the “ Twa Herds, or the Holy Tulzie.” He is said to have been a man of rather a savage nature, though extremely fervid in his religious views; and he is said also to have had a turn for practical joking.

The second charge continued vacant for more than a year after the translation of Mr Moodie to Riccarton, and was filled up in May 1763 by the ordination of Mr William M'Leish.

Infanticide must have become fearfully common about this time, as we find engrossed in the session register the Act of William and Mary (19th July 1690), ordering that a woman who had been delivered of a child that was dead or missing, and could not show that she had informed any one previously of her situation, should be reputed the murderer of the child; and also a deliverance of the General Assembly, ordering this Act of Parliament to be read from the pulpit of every parish church.

In the latter half of the eighteenth century, and onward into the nineteenth, a peculiar phase of Scottish life develops itself in the proclivity for clandestine, or, as they were generally termed, half-mark marriages—so called, I presume, from the fee which used to be charged by the person or parson officiating. About the beginning of the present century a favourite 'half-mark chapel was that in Paul’s Work, Edinburgh, of which the Rev. Joseph Robertson was minister. This respectable individual earned for a long time a handsome living by marrying couples (at a charge something greater than half a mark) without requiring from them a certificate of a previous proclamation of banns. Such marriages were perfectly lawful, but subjected all who took part in them, including more especially the officiating clergyman, to heavy civil penalties. Such a Nemesis at length overtook Mr Robertson, who in 1807, after a trial before the High Court of Justiciary, was sentenced, on account of the irregular unions thus celebrated by him, to transportation for Beven years. Long after this, however, the Border marriages celebrated at Lamberton Toll, at Coldstream, and above all at Gretna Green, continued to be the opprobrium of our country.

Balfour continued in the second charge till 1843, when he joined the Free Church, and retired. He was succeeded, first by the Rev. Dr Laurie, and then by the Rev. Peter Logan, who resigned the charge in 1881, and was succeeded by the present incumbent, the Rev. A. S. Allan.


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