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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of Charles II.: 1673 - 1685 Part A


For several years, there was little to be observed regarding Scotland, but that the non-conformity of its people in several of the more populous provinces provoked an incessant show of severities on the part of the government. During this time, literature and science remained wholly uncultivated; no department of industry shewed any decided tendency to advance. The energies of the nation were arrested by a frightful contention, most degrading to the object for which men were contending, and than which nothing could have been more hostile to the spirit of religion simple and undefiled.

A preacher named James Mitchell had, in 1668, attempted the life of Archbishop Sharpe, and had actually inflicted a mortal wound upon the Bishop of Orkney. Being apprehended in 1674, he was confined for several years, and at length condemned and executed. The crime was not so odious among his party as to extinguish their sympathy; accordingly, this wretched man was looked upon by them as a kind of martyr. After this, the persecution for field-meetings became more than ever severe. A calculation has been made that, previously to 1678, seventeen thousand persons had suffered fining and imprisonment on this account. The government resolved to try the expedient of pressing the subscription of a bond renouncing conventicles; and to support them in their efforts, an army of ten thousand men was collected at Stirling, of whom the greater part were Highlanders. At the end of January, this host was let loose upon the western counties, with instructions to enforce fines from all who would not take the bond. The resistance was passive, but universal. Only twenty out of two or three thousand householders in Lanarkshire could be prevailed upon to abandon a mode of worship which possessed so many charms. They preferred to see themselves spoiled of a great share of their worldly goods. Even the nobles, and other conspicuous persons, who lay most open to state persecution, generally refused the bond. The Council was deeply mortified at the passiveness of the people, for they had expected a rebellion, which would have justified them in severer measures. After a month, finding the attempt ineffectual, Lauderdale was obliged to order the army away. The Highland Host, as it was called, left a deep impression upon the memory of those who experienced its oppressions. It is not alleged that the mountaineers shed much blood, but they freely helped themselves to whatever movable articles they took a fancy for. As they returned to the north, the whole country seemed to be removing its household furniture from one district to another. Ayrshire alone suffered losses to the amount of £12,000 sterling, which, in those days, was a very large sum.

A deep spirit of resentment against the Council, and especially the prelatic part of it, was the natural result of all these occurrences. The worst passions of human nature mingled themselves with the purest and noblest aspirations; and men appealed, in language of bitterness, from the iniquity of their earthly rulers to the justice of God. The wisest and best natures were perverted by feelings which had become morbid by extreme excitement. On the 3d of May 1679, while the public mind was in this condition, a small party of Fife gentlemen went out with the deliberate intention of assassinating the sheriff at a chase. Disappointed in that object, they had not dispersed when a greater victim fell in their way. As they were riding over Magus Moor, near St Andrews, Archbishop Sharpe happened to pass. The opportunity appeared to their minds as a dispensation of Providence. They commanded him to come out of the coach, apparently that his daughter, who was with him, might not suffer from their shot. The archbishop tremblingly obeyed; he flung himself upon his knees, offered them mercy, forgiveness, everything, so that they would spare his life. The leader sternly reminded him of the deadly injuries he had inflicted upon the church and its martyrs. A volley of shot was poured upon his suppliant figure, and finally the unhappy prelate was hewed down with their swords, crying for mercy with his latest breath. They left his daughter lamenting over his body, which was afterwards found to bear such marks of their barbarity as could scarcely be credited.

The assassination of Sharpe produced a great alarm among the remaining members of the government, each of whom knew how much he had done to provoke the same fate. In another respect, it was perhaps a matter of rejoicing to these men, as it afforded them an excuse for increasing that severity on which alone they depended as a means of maintaining the state. The Presbyterians never by any formal act expressed approval of the deed; indeed, many of them must have felt that it was an affair of the worst omen to their party. Neither, however, did they ever express themselves as offended by the violence of their brethren; and even half a century after the event, their historians are more anxious to shew that the archbishop deserved his fate, than to apologise for the barbarity of his murderers.

The blame of the murder has been the more plausibly thrown upon the whole party, that it was immediately followed by an insurrection. On the 29th of May, which was the king’s birthday, a party of about eighty deliberately marched into the town of Rutherglen, three miles from Glasgow, where they publicly burnt all the acts of parliament against Presbytery. They afterwards extinguished the bonfires, in order to mark their disapprobation of all holidays of human institution, and concluded by fixing upon the Cross a declaration of their sentiments respecting the late proceedings of the government. Having done this, they retired to a mountainous part of the country between Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, where there was to be a grand conventicle on the ensuing Sunday. The government looked upon this proceeding as an act of rebellion, and despatched a military party after the offenders, consisting of three troops of newly levied dragoons, under the command of Captain Graham of Claverhouse, a man of remarkable. energy of character, who had recently entered the king’s service in Scotland. On Sunday, Graham came up with the insurgents, at a place near Loudoun Hill, where they were assembled at devotion. They were about forty horse and two hundred foot, under the command of a gentleman named Hamilton, but without the least discipline or acquaintance with military affairs. Graham fired a volley, which they eluded in a great measure by falling upon their faces. He then tried to charge them through a morass, behind which they were placed, but in doing so threw his men into confusion, and exposed himself to the assault of the enemy. They took instant advantage of his distress, attacked the dragoons sword in hand, and soon compelled them to retire. Graham had his horse shot under him, and about twenty of his men were slain, while only one of the insurgents had fallen. A minister and some country-people whom he had brought along with him as prisoners were rescued by the victors.

The broken dragoons retreated to Glasgow, which was then garrisoned by about eight hundred troops. The insurgents, flushed with their success, and thinking it safer to go on than to draw back, marched next morning to that city with considerably increased forces. The troops barricaded the streets, so that the country-people could make little impression upon them, while they were greatly exposed in their turn. Eight were slain in this needless encounter; the rest retreated in rather low spirits to Hamilton, where they formed a kind of camp.

Their numbers were here augmented in a short time to about five thousand, chiefly peasants and farmers of Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and Galloway, but comprising also a few gentlemen of property, though none of any note. Hamilton continued to exercise a nominal command, though rather from his having been the leading man at the commencement, than from any idea of his fitness for the situation. All of them had arms, and many of them horses; but there was neither discipline, nor any attempt to impose it. The whole insurrection proceeded upon mere impulse. The unfortunate people acted, it would appear, simply from the pressure of immediate circumstances, glad to protect themselves, for a while, even at the risk of utter destruction, against an oppression they could no longer endure.

The Privy Council collected all its disposable forces at Edinburgh, and requested instructions from the court. It was speedily determined that the Duke of Monmouth should be sent down to take command of the army. This was the eldest natural son of the king; a youth of amiable character, anxious for popularity, and intimately connected with the English nonconformists, whom he expected to favour him in his views upon the succession. The duke arrived in Edinburgh on the 19th of June, and led forward the army to meet the insurgents. He marched very slowly, in order, as was supposed, to afford them an opportunity of dispersing; but they shewed no disposition to avail themselves of his kindness. They had spent the three weeks during which they had existed as an army, not in training themselves to arms, or arranging themselves into proper divisions, but in disputing about the spiritual objects for which they were in arms. One great cause of division was the Indulgence, which some were for condemning, and others for overlooking; they were also greatly divided as to the propriety of acknowledging their allegiance to the king. In these abstractions they lost all view of practical measures. They called such things ‘trusting in the arm of flesh,’ for which, of course, they could adduce an abundance of condemnatory texts.

On Sunday, the 22d of June, Monmouth had advanced to Bothwell, a village about a mile distant from the insurgent camp. The river Clyde ran between the two armies, and was only to be crossed by Bothwell Bridge, a long narrow pass, highly capable of defence. The non-conformists, who lay upon the ground beyond the bridge, were still, at this late moment, holding high disputes, and there was even a proposal for remodelling the army, and appointing new officers. The moderate party sent two gentlemen in disguise—Mr David Hume and the Laird of Kaitloch—to present a supplication to the duke, in which it was proposed to disperse, on the condition that their grievances should be redressed. But Monmouth was unable, from his instructions, to treat with them unless they should have first laid down their arms. He charged the two deputies with a message to that effect, threatening if they did not throw themselves upon his mercy within half an hour, that he should advance with his army. When these gentlemen returned, they found the army on the point of falling to pieces through dissension. In truth, many must have now been only seeking for occasion to withdraw themselves from an adventure which they saw to be ruinous. The most zealous and clamorous were the first to retire. The rest remained, unable either to take advantage of the duke’s proposal, or to prepare for giving him battle. At the time he had specified, he advanced his troops to the brink of the river, and sent a large party to force the passage of the bridge. That point was stoutly defended, for nearly an hour, by some men from Galloway and Stirlingshire, under Hackstoun of Rathillet. At length, when their ammunition ran short, they sent back to the main body for a supply, which was denied. They were of course obliged to retire, and leave a free passage to the royal troops. When the horse soon after rode off from the field, the foot, left defenceless, could not stand an instant against the charge of the enemy. Excepting twelve hundred, who laid down their arms, the whole body took to flight, without having made the least effort at resistance. About three hundred were cut down in the pursuit.

The prisoners were brought in a body to Edinburgh, and confined, like sheep in a fold, within the gloomy precincts of the Greyfriars’ Church-yard, where, for four months, they had no seat or couch but the bare ground, and no covering but the sky. Two clergymen, Kid and King, were executed. Of the rest, all were set at liberty who would own the insurrection to have been rebellion, and the slaughter of the archbishop murder, and promise never more to take up arms against the government. Those who refused were sent to the Plantations; a mode of disposing prisoners which had been introduced by Cromwell.

Under all the severities of this reign, the spirit of English liberty was still kept alive. The king having been long married without any children, his brother, the Duke of York, was heir-presumptive. But this prince, besides various natural faults of character, had unfitted himself for governing a Protestant people by becoming an avowed convert to the Catholic faith. An attempt was made in the House of Commons to pass an act for excluding him from the succession; it was read a second time by a majority of 207 against 128; and the king only evaded the question by proroguing the parliament. The duke, seeing himself so unpopular in England, resolved to make friends, if possible, in Scotland; so that, in the event of any resistance to his succession in the former country, he might bring up an army of Scotch to his assistance. He therefore paid a visit to Edinburgh in October 1679, and revived the long dormant court of Holyroodhouse. As the persecution had been in a great measure a local affair, it operated little against his present views. The gentry, except in the western district, were chiefly Cavaliers; in the Highlands, altogether so. Among a people remote from a court, the mere presence of royalty—its slightest acts of condescension—are sure to communicate a favourable impression, although, perhaps, accompanied by but little merit or virtue in the royal person. We are not therefore to be surprised that the duke somewhat strengthened himself in Scotland on this occasion. He returned at the end of February 1680 to London.

The excitement of the time now gave rise to a new and more fanatical sect, who renounced their allegiance, and issued anathemas not only against their persecutors, but against the great mass of their brethren, who had submitted to the government. A minister named Cargill and his associate, Cameron, with about twenty armed men, appeared at Sanquhar on the 22d of June, and there affixed upon the market-cross a declaration, in which they disavowed all obedience to the king, and protested against the succession of the Duke of York. Cameron was soon after killed, with some of his friends, at Airdsrnoss, and Hackstoun of Rathillet was seized and executed. Cargill, so far from being deterred, held a large conventicle at Torwood, where he formally delivered over the king, his brother, and ministers, to Satan, after the usual forms of excommunication. He was soon after taken prisoner and hanged. The whole proceedings of this sect were seriously injurious to the great body of Presbyterians; as the government, wilfully overlooking remonstrances to the contrary, held all that was done as criminating the whole body, and took occasion from that to exercise greater severities.

In October 1680, the Duke of York was again obliged, by the patriotic party in England, to take up his residence at Holyroodhouse. A bill for excluding him from the throne was now actually passed by the House of Commons, but was lost in the House of Lords by thirty-three against thirty. On Christmas Day, the spirit of the Scottish people against a Catholic successor was manifested by the students of the Edinburgh University, who, notwithstanding every effort to prevent them, publicly burnt the pope in effigy. A parliament, the first for nine years, sat down in July 1681, the duke acting as commissioner. A test oath was here framed, to be taken by all persons in public trusts, as an assurance of their loyalty; but it turned out to be such a jumble of contradictory obligations, that many persons, including eighty of the established clergy, refused to take it. The Earl of Argyle, son to the late marquis, and a faithful friend to the Protestant religion, would only receive it with an explanation, which was held to be an act of treason, and he was accordingly tried and condemned to death. The real object of this prosecution was to destroy a powerful Highland chief, who might be disposed to use his influence against the succession of the Duke of York. His lordship contrived to escape to Holland.

In the latter part of this year, the party left by Cargill and Cameron formed themselves into a secret society, and on the 12th of January 1682, published at Lanark a declaration of adherence to the transactions at Sanquhar, which they affected to consider as the work of a convention of estates. This, of course, only provoked new severities.

In March 1682, the Duke of York returned to England, in order to hold a conference with the king. Coming back in May for his family, his vessel was wrecked on a sandbank near Yarmouth, when a hundred and fifty persons perished, including some of the first quality. After spending about a week in Edinburgh, he returned to England.

The ancient Presbyterian spirit was now reduced so low, or so many of the clergy of that kind were destroyed and imprisoned, that there was not a single individual who preached in defiance of the king’s supremacy. The united societies, as the more unsubmissive termed themselves, were obliged to send a youth named Renwick to Groningen, in Belgium, in order to study divinity and receive ordination, as they could not in any other way obtain a preacher. A general disposition to emigration began to arise; and some gentlemen proposed to sell their property, and become settlers in the new colony of Carolina. While engaged at London in making the proper arrangements, they came in contact with the patriots of the House of Commons, who, defeated in the Exclusion Bill, were concerting measures for bringing about a change of government. Common desperation made them friends; and a correspondence was opened with the Earl of Argyle in Holland, for an invasion from that quarter, in connection with an insurrection in England. Some subordinate members of the conspiracy plotted the assassination of the king; and, being discovered, the whole affair was brought to light. Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney suffered death. Baillie of Jerviswood was sent to Scotland, and there, under the most iniquitous circumstances, consigned to the executioner. It was now hardly possible, by any course of conduct, to gain assurance of not being prosecuted. Masters were held liable for servants; landlords for their tenants; fathers for their wives and children; and to have the least intercourse with a proscribed person was the same as to be actually guilty. The soldiery were now permitted by an act of parliament to execute the laws without trial. If any one, therefore, refused to answer certain questions, or gave rise to suspicion by running away, he was shot. Numbers thus perished in the fields and on the highways. In short, the reign of Charles II. terminated, February 6, 1685, amidst a scene of oppression, bloodshed, and spoil, such as was never before witnessed in the country, even in the most barbarous times.

1673, June
Died Sir Robert Murray of Craigie, Justice-clerk, and an eminent councillor; memorable above all as one of a small group of learned and thoughtful men who, in 1662, founded the Royal Society, of which illustrious body Sir Robert was the first president, and for a time ‘the life and soul.’ For the last six years of his life, he bore a leading part in the government of Scotland. Not a Whig had been fined, tortured, or banished. not a commission against ‘the horrid crime of witchcraft’ had been issued; but the act was sanctioned by this gentleman, ‘the most universally beloved and esteemed by men of all sides and sorts, of any man I have ever known in my whole life,’ and who ‘knew the history of nature beyond any man I ever yet knew;’ who ‘had a most diffused love to all mankind, and delighted in every occasion of doing good;’ and who ‘had a superiority of genius and comprehension to most men.’ —Burnet. Sir Robert’s father was a younger son of a distinguished Perthshire family, Murray of Abercairney. He himself had been the friend of Charles I. and of Richelieu, and latterly he was a favourite of Charles II. When the daughter of Sir Robert was married in London to Lord Yester, eldest son of the Earl of Tweeddale, ‘the king himself led the bride uncovered to church.’ —Kir.

To find two such amiable men as the Earl of Tweeddale and Sir Robert Murray taking part for many years in the severe measures against the Scottish Presbyterians—though, it must be admitted, with the effect of infusing a certain mildness—and to find day after day the bloody edicts of the Privy Council sanctioned by not only their names, but by those of the Duke of Hamilton and the Earl of Argyle, the latter of whom was to die the death of a martyred patriot, while the former was to preside in the convention which settled the Stuarts’ forfeited crown on William and Mary, certainly presents a striking view of the mixed nature of human tendencies. As regards, too, the philosophical character of the founder of the Royal Society, it can never be forgotten that one of his contributions to the Transactions of that sage body was an account of the development of barnacles into sea-birds—a most noted example of the power of preconceived notions to blind the perceptions of even a faithful and intelligent observer. His testimony on this subject was thus presented in the Philosophical Transactions:

‘Being in the isle of East [Uist], I saw lying upon the shore a cut of a large fir-tree, of about 24 foot diameter, and nine or ten foot long; which had lain so long out of the water that it was very dry; and most of the shells that formerly covered it were worn or rubbed off. Only on the parts that lay next the ground there still hung multitudes of little shells, having within them little birds perfectly shaped, supposed to be barnacles. These shells hang at the tree by a neck longer than the shell, of a kind of filmy substance, round and hollow, and creased, not unlike the windpipe of a chicken, spreading out broadest where it is fastened to the tree, from which it seems to draw and convey the matter, which serves for the growth and vegetation of the shell and the little bird within it. This bird, in every shell that I opened, as well the least as the biggest, I found so curiously and completely formed, that there appeared nothing wanting as to the external parts, for making up a perfect sea-fowl; every little part appearing so distinctly, that the whole looked like a large bird seen through a concave or diminishing glass, colour and features being everywhere so clear and neat. The little bill like that of a goose, the eyes marked, the head, neck, breast, wing, tail, and feet formed; the feathers everywhere perfectly shaped and blackish coloured; and the feet like those of other water-fowl, to my best remembrance. All being dead and dry, I did not look after the inward parts of them. But having nipped off and broken a great many of them, I carried about twenty or twenty-four away with me….Nor did I ever see any of the little birds alive, nor met with anybody that did. Only, some credible persons have assured me they have seen some as big as their fist.’

After all, it must be acknowledged there is something very perplexing about these cirripeds, and calculated to excuse the mistake which so long existed regarding them, since it was not till about 1844, that naturalists could determine whether they belonged to the articulate or the molluscan division of the animal kingdom. It is scarcely necessary to remark that they are now concluded to be articulates, of the crustacean class. Even Cuvier had placed them under the molluscs, though regarding them as intermediate between these and the articulata. As to the eyes spoken of by Sir Robert Murray, it may be observed that the barnacle has latterly been found to have visual organs in an early period of its existence, and to lose them when at full growth. When Mr Thomson of Cork, about 1830, described the actual characters of the animal, many naturalists for a long time refused to believe in his statements.

A sumptuary law was passed in the parliament in 1672, ‘discharging the wearing of silver lace and silk stuffs, upon a design to encourage the making of fine stuffs within the kingdom, and to repress the excessive use of these commodies."

July 8
An effort was made to carry this law into force. On information, from Alexander Milne, collector of his majesty’s customs in Edinburgh, the Council had up before them Sir John Colquhoun of Luss, who, in breach of a late act of parliament forbidding the lieges to wear clothes ornamented with ‘silk-lace, gimp-lace, or any other lace or embroidering or silk,’ had appeared, during the bypast month, wearing ‘a black justicat, whereupon there was black silk or gimp-lace.’ Sir John was condemned, in terms of the act of parliament, to pay a fine of five hundred merks, ‘one half to his majesty’s cash-keeper for his majesty’s use, and the other half to Alexander Milne.’—P. C. R.

Nearly about the same time, Manna Kinloch, wife of James Charteris, writer, was arraigned before the Privy Council for wearing fine apparel contrary to the same sumptuary act, but was discharged for lack of proof. Two legal questions arose in connection with this case. The first was: If a woman be convicted and punished for such an offence, ought her husband to be liable to make good the fine, or should she alone be punished by imprisonment? Obviously, if the husband be made liable, ‘many wives, to affront their husbands, or otherwise be avenged on them, would break the law of purpose.’ The second point was: How shall the offence, in most instances, be proved, if the evidence of women be rejected—as it seems to have then been in all except certain special cases—for it must often be that none but women have an opportunity of observing the offence ?—Foun.

The summer of this year was exceedingly wet, and the harvest thereby much endangered.—Law.

Most probably, the carriages proposed to be set up in 1610 by Henry Anderson the Pomeranian, to run between Edinburgh and Leith with a charge of two shillings Scots for each person,’ were either not realised or quickly withdrawn, for nothing more is heard of them, and we find in 1702 one Robert Miller getting an exclusive privilege of putting coaches on that brief but important route, implying of course that no other such conveyances then existed. Street-carriages, which had been set up in London in the reign of Charles I., did not come into use in Scotland till after the Restoration. On the occasion of the unfortunate duel in 1667 between William Douglas of Whittingham and Sir John Home of Eccles,’ we hear of the parties going to the ground in a hackney-coach. Six years later, regular arrangements were made by the Edinburgh magistrates for a system of street-carriages, and the number then in service appears to have been twenty. It was ordered that they should be numbered 1, 2, 3, &c., with a view to ready reference in case of any complaint from a passenger, and that they should have a fixed place on the High Street between the heads of Niddry’s and Blackfriars’ Wynds. The fare to Leith for two or three persons in summer was to be 1s. sterling, or for four persons, 1s. 4d.; the fare to the Abbey, 9d., and as much back again.’

It is pretty certain that this system of street-carriages maintained its ground, as in A Short Account of Scotland, written by an Englishman in 1688, the author tells us that, while there were no stage-coaches in Scotland, ‘there are a few hackneys at Edinburgh, which they may hire into the country on urgent occasions.’ It is to be remarked, however, that Edinburgh, being all packed within a space of a mile in length by half a mile in breadth, upon irregular ground, and with very few streets fit for the passage of wheeled vehicles, was a discouraging field for this kind of conveyance. Sedans maintained a preference over coaches till the extension of the city in the reign of George III. Arnot tells us that while there were, in 1778, only nine hackney-carriages in our city, there were a hundred and eighty-eight public chairs, besides about fifty kept by private families.’

Sep 5
During several by-past years, licences had been given in frequent succession to vessels, to carry off idle, vagrant, and criminal people to the plantations in Virginia and elsewhere. One ship engaged in this kidnapping service, and which bore the hypocritical appellative of
The Ewe and Lamb, seems to have been particularly active. We now find complaints made that ‘the master and merchants of the ship called the Hercules, bound for the plantations, have apprehended some free persons and put them aboard the said ship, upon pretext that they are vagabonds, or given their consent thereto.’ The Lords therefore commissioned two of their number to go aboard and inquire, and to liberate any persons improperly detained.—P. C. R.

Oct 11
That indispensable conveniency of modem times, the coffee-house—which had taken its rise in London during the Commonwealthmade its way into Scotland during the ensuing reign. The first time we hear of it north of the Tweed is when Colonel Walter Whiteford—are we to suppose some reduced soldier of the Scottish army of 1651?—was, on application, allowed by the magistrates of Glasgow to set up a house in that city ‘for making, selling, and topping of coffee.’—M. of G.

Under the date noted, the Privy Council Record tells us a note-worthy tale of an Edinburgh coffee-house.

‘In Thomas Robertson his new land near to the Parliament House,’ one James Row kept a coffee-house, probably the first such establishment known in Edinburgh. On Sunday the 28th of October 1677, he so far risked the wrath of his neighbours the Privy Councillors, as to have an unlawful preacher holding forth in his house during the time of ordinary service in the churches. Robert Johnston, town-major, who had authority from the Privy Council to see after such matters, came to the place with some of his myrmidons, and found the ‘turnpike’ or common stair filled with people, the overflowing of the congregation. Making his way to the ordinary door of Row’s house, and demanding admission, he was kept there for some time, during which he heard a great noise of furniture and of people within. On being admitted, he found that the minister and his auditors had been smuggled out by ‘a laigh or privat entry.’ Johnston then returned to the street, and was walking quietly at the Cross, when Row came up and ‘did upbraid, threaten, and abuse him for coming to his house, and told him that he durst not for his hanging come to his house again and do the like, or, if he came that gait, he should not win so weel away.’ Thus he railed at the town-major all the way ‘from the Cross Well to the Stane Shop, shouting and crying so loud as the people gathered in multitudes,’ though, seeing what sort of affair it was, they soon dispersed. Afterwards, Row went to the magistrates and told them ‘he could not get God worshipped in his own house for that officious fellow the town-major, thereby insinuating that the due execution of his majesty’s laws did prejudge the worship of God.’

Row was fined in five hundred merks, and obliged to ask Johnston’s pardon; and immediately after, his coffee-house was ordered to be shut up.—P. C. R.

People were already accustomed to go to coffee-houses in order to learn the news of the day. In 1680, there was an order of the Privy Council that ‘the gazettes and news-letters read in coffee-houses, be first presented to the Bishop of Edinburgh, or any other privy councillor, that they may consider them and thereby false and seditious news and slanders may be prevented.’—Foun. And not long after—namely, in January 1681—by order of the Privy Council, the magistrates of Edinburgh called all the masters of coffee-houses before them, and obliged them to come under a bond for five thousand merks to suffer no newspapers to be read in their houses but such as were approved of by the officers of state.’

Dec 11
Mr Robert Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, petitioned the Privy Council for liberty to print a translation, executed by himself of the last hundred of the Psalms into the Irish tongue. The matter was referred to the approbation of the Earl of Argyle, and conferences were appointed about it, to take place at Inverary.

Mr Kirk’s translation of the Psalms into Gaelic was an important contribution to the means for establishing Protestant Christian worship in the Highlands. On account of the proficiency which he thus shewed himself to possess in the Gaelic language,. he was sent for to London, to superintend the printing of the Irish translation of the Bible, prepared under the direction of Bishop Bedel, and published in 1685. He died in 1692, and was buried in the church-yard of Aberfoyle, under a stone bearing this inscription: ‘Robertus Kirk, A.M. Linguæ Hiberniæ Lumen.’

‘To suppress the impudent and growing atheism of this age; Mr Kirk printed in 1691 a small treatise, ‘An Essay on the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and for the most part) Invisible People, heretofoir going under the Name of Elves, Faunes, and Fairies. .. . as they are described by those having the Second Sight, &c.,’ which certainly forms a curious illustration of the quasi orthodox beliefs of a Highland minister of the seventeenth century. He describes the fairies as possessed of ‘light and changeable bodies of the nature of a condensed cloud; and living in little hillocks, where they are ‘sometimes heard to bake bread, strike hammers, and do such like services.’ Forced to shift their residences once a quarter, they are liable to be seen by second-sighted men on their travels at four seasons of the year; but are also often ‘seen to eat at funerals and banquets.’ At such festive meetings, each mortal guest is sometimes observed to have a double of himself ‘perfectly resembling him in all points,’ being one of these subterranean spirits. The ‘reflex-man’ or ‘co-walker’ haunts the original as his shadow, ‘whether to guard him from the secret assaults of some of its own folks, or only as ane apertful ape to counterfeit all his actions.’ ‘Being invited and earnestly required, these companions make themselves known and familiar to men; otherwise, being in a different state and element, they neither can nor will easily converse with them.’

Mr Kirk informs us that these spiritual people live in fair well-lighted houses, where all the usual affairs of human life go on in an immaterial fashion. ‘Women are yet alive who tell that they were taken away to nurse fairy children,’ an image of themselves being left in their place. ‘When the child is weaned, the nurse dies, or is conveyed back, or gets it to her choice to stay there.’ One woman thus carried away returned after two years, was taken in by her husband, and had some children afterwards. In speech and apparel, the fairy folk resemble those under whose country they live; they ‘wear plaids and variegated garments in the Highlands, and suanochs in Ireland.’ Second-sighted men can invoke them at pleasure, but in general do not relish the sight of them, on account of the hideous spectacles they present, and their sullen and dismal looks. ‘They [the spirits] are said to have many pleasant toyish books,’ producing in them fits of corybantic jollity, ‘as if ravished by a new spirit entering them.’ Other books they have of abstruse science, but no Bibles.

Men of the second-sight do not necessarily discover strange things when requested; only by fits and starts, ‘as if inspired with some genius at that instant, which before did lurk in or about them.’ Mr Kirk knew one whose neighbours often observed him disappear at a certain place, and some time after reappear at another, a hostile encounter with the spiritual people being the cause of his disappearance. These seers know what will happen to their friends, by means of the spirits with whom they have intercourse.

The people are said by Mr Kirk to believe that the souls of their ancestors dwell in the fairy hills, of which one was placed conveniently to each church-yard. He relates that, about the year 1676, ‘when there was some scarcity of grain, two women living at a distance from each other dreamed about a treasure hid in a certain fairy hillock. ‘The appearance of a treasure was first represented to the fancy, and then an audible voice named the place where it was to their waking senses. Whereupon both rose, and meeting accidentally at the place, discovered their design; and jointly digging, found a vessel as large as a Scottish peck, full of small pieces of good money, of ancient coin; which halving between them, they sold for dish-fulls of meal to the country people.’

Dr Grahame, the modem pastor of Aberfoyle, gives us the traditionary account of the cessation of Mr Kirk’s life, in high keeping with the style of the mystic world which he endeavoured to expound. It is stated that, as Mr Kirk was one evening walking in his night-gown upon one of the fairy mounts above described in the vicinity of his manse, he sunk down in what seemed to be a fit of apoplexy, which the unenlightened took for death, while the more understanding knew it to be a swoon produced by the supernatural influence of the people whose precincts he had violated. After the ceremony of a seeming funeral, the form of Mr Kirk appeared to a relation, and commanded him to go to Graham of Duchray, who was the cousin of both, and tell him: ‘I am not dead, but a captive in Fairyland, and only one chance remains for my liberation. At the baptism of my posthumous child, I will appear in the room, when, if Duchray shall throw over my head the knife or durk which he holds in his hand, I may be restored to society; but if this opportunity is neglected, I am lost for ever.’ Duchray was apprised of what was to be done. The ceremony took place, and the apparition of Mr Kirk was seen while they were seated at table; but Duchray, in his astonishment, failed to perform the ceremony enjoined; consequently, Mr Kirk was left to ‘drie his weird’ in Fairyland.

Dec 22
The death of the Rev. John Burnet, minister of Kilbride, is noted as arising from an extraordinary cause, though the immediate disease was jaundice. He ‘had a son lately dead before him, and seeing his son dissected, and the physicians finding fault with his noble [vital] parts, [the father] presently apprehends a faultiness in his own, which apprehension stuck with him even to his death, which physicians took to be the cause of his sickness; so strong is the power of apprehension.’—Law.

Died this year, by a fall from a horse, at Tangier in Morocco, John Earl of Middleton, governor of that establishment. Of a family of the minor gentry in Kincardineshire, he had entered life as a pikeman in Hepburn’s regiment in France, but soon was called to take part in the civil wars of his own country, serving first the English parliament and Scottish Estates, and afterwards proving an active and vigorous partisan of the king. His preferment after the Restoration as commissioner to the Scottish parliament, and his magnificent but drunken administration, with all the ills that flowed from it, are part of our national history. He is said by a contemporary to have been a man of ‘heroic aspect,’ of ‘manly eloquence,’ ‘happier in his wit than in his friends;’ of ‘natural courage and generosity;’ ‘more pitied in his fall than envied in his prosperity.’ Though disgraced, the king could not entirely desert one who had risked and done so much for him in his worst days; so he appointed him governor of Tangier—a civil kind of banishment, in which, we see, he died.

It is scarcely wonderful that a man who went through such changes of fortune and so many strange adventures—taken prisoner at both Preston and Worcester, and escaping on both occasions from captivity—should have been the subject of some of the mystical speculations of his age. Aubrey relates: ‘Sir William Dugdale informed me that Major-general Middleton (since Lord) went into the Highlands of Scotland, to endeavour to make a party for King Charles the First. An old gentleman that was second-sighted, came and told him that his endeavour was good, but he would be unsuccessful, and, moreover, that they would put the king to death, and that several other attempts would be made, but all in vain: his son would come in, but not reign, but at last be restored? A second tale is told by Law and Wodrow, and repeated by Aubrey, with slight variations, but to the following general purport: Being in the army of the Duke of Hamilton in 1648, he had for his comrade there a certain Laird of Balbegno, who seems to have been the neighbour of his family in Kincardineshire. A few days before an expected battle, Middleton and Balbegno had a conversation about the risks they should run in fight, and agreed that, if one should die, leaving the other in life, he should return, if possible, and give the survivor some account of the other world. Balbegno fell in the battle. Middleton thought no more of the promise of his deceased friend, till some time after, when a prisoner in the Tower of London, and in some fear for his life, he one night was sitting alone in a room, ‘under three locks,’ and with two sentinels outside the door. Chancing to read a little in the Bible, he had no sooner closed the volume than, looking towards the door, he saw a human figure standing there in the shadow of his bed. ‘He called out: "Who is there?" The apparition answered: "Balbegno." "That cannot be," said Middleton, "for I saw him buried after he was slain in battle!" "Oh, Middleton," said Balbegno, "do you not mind the promise I made to you when at such a place, such a night, on the Border?" and with that came forward and took him by the hand.’ Middleton, in narrating the circumstances, declared that Balbegno’s hand ‘was hot and soft, just as it used to be, and he in his ordinary likeness.’ Instead of giving him any intelligence regarding the dead, the spirit told him he should make his escape in three days—he should in time be a great man—but let him beware of his end! When Balbegno had delivered this message, he, according to Aubrey, gave a frisk, and said:

‘Givanni, Givanni, ‘tis very strange
In the world to see so sudden a change!’

and then vanished. In three days, accordingly, Middleton escaped in his wife’s clothes. He did afterwards become a great man, and his end was tragical, for, ‘upon a certain time, he proving a young horse, was cast off by him, and ‘in the fall hurt himself exceedingly, so that he sickcns and dies of it.’Law.

1674, Jan
At this time commenced a stormy period which was long memorable in Scotland. It opened with a tempest of east wind, which strewed the coasts of Northumberland and Berwickshire with wrecks. During February, the rough weather continued; and at length, on the 20th of the month, a heavy fall of snow, accompanied by vehement frost, set in, which lasted for thirteen days. This was afterwards remembered by the name of the Thirteen Drifty Days. There was no decided improvement of the weather till the 29th of March. ‘All fresh waters was frozen as if in the midst of winter; all ploughing and delving of the ground was marred till the aforesaid day; much loss of sheep by the snow, and of whole families in the moor country and highlands; much loss of cows everywhere, also of wild beasts, as doe and roe.’—Law. This storm seems to have fallen with greatest severity upon the Southern Highlands. It is stated in the council books of Peebles, that ‘the most part of the country lost the most part of their sheep and many of their nolt, and many all their sheep. It was universal, and many people were almost starved for want of fuel for fire?

James Hogg has given a traditionary account of the calamity. ‘It is said that for thirteen days and nights, the snow-drift never once abated: the ground was covered with frozen snow when it commenced, and during all that time the sheep never broke their fast. The cold was intense to a degree never before remembered; and about the fifth and sixth days of the storm, the young sheep began to fall into a sleepy and torpid state, and all that were affected in the evening died over-night. The intensity of the frost wind often cut them off when in that state quite instantaneously. About the ninth and tenth days, the shepherds began to build up huge semicircular walls of their dead, in order to afford some shelter for the remainder of the living; but they availed but little, for about the same time they were frequently seen tearing at one another’s wool with their teeth. When the storm abated on the fourteenth day from its commencement, there was, on many a high-lying farm, not a living sheep to be, seen. Large mis-shapen walls of dead, surrounding a small prostrate flock, likewise all dead, and frozen stiff in their lairs, was all that remained to cheer the forlorn shepherd and his master; and though on low-lying farms, where the snow was not so hard before, numbers of sheep weathered the storm, yet their constitutions received such a shock that the greater part of them perished afterwards, and the final consequence was, that about nine-tenths of all the sheep in the south of Scotland were destroyed.

‘In the extensive pastoral district of Eskdale Moor, which maintains upwards of 20,000 sheep, it is said none were left alive but forty young wedders on one farm, and five old ewes on another. The farm of Phaup remained without a stock and without a tenant for twenty years subsequent to the storm. At length, one very honest and liberal-minded man ventured to take a lease of it, at the annual rent of a gray coat and a pair of hose. It is now rented at £500. An extensive glen in Tweedsmuir, belonging to Sir James Montgomery, became a common at that time to which any man drove his flocks that pleased, and it continued so for nearly a century. On one of Sir Patrick Scott of Thirlestane’s farms, that keeps upwards of 900 sheep, they all died save ,one black ewe, from which the farmer had high hopes of preserving a breed; but some unlucky dogs, that were all laid idle for want of sheep to run at, fell upon this poor solitary remnant of a good stock, and chased her into the lake, where she was drowned.’

The Thirteen Drjfty Days are the means of bringing the ill-fated Duke of Monmouth before us in an extraordinary relation of circumstances. He and his duchess, in December 1675, obtained a licence to import 4800 nolt of a year old, and 200 horses, ‘to be employed in stocking their waste lands in the south part of this kingdom,’ the bringing in of live-stock from Ireland being then forbidden by act of parliament. Walter Scott of Minto, sheriff-depute of Roxburghshire, became caution that the licence should not be exceeded. But 120 of the oxen were proved to have been above a year old; and the Council, accordingly (August 3, 1676), fined Scott in £200 sterling.—P. C. R.

Feb 19
Agnes Johnston, of Airth in Stirlingshire, an unmarried woman about fifty years of age, was tried in Edinburgh for the murder of an infant named Lamb, her own grand-niece. Living with the parents of the deceased, she took an opportunity, when there was nobody in the house but herself and the child, to take the infant out of its cradle, lay it in a bed, and cut its throat. The confession of the wretched woman bore that, for some time before she committed the deed, she felt a spirit within her that did draw her neck together, and which frequently tempted her to make away with herself. Once she actually did attempt to drown herself in a well at Clackmannan; but she cried to a woman near by, who helped her out. She had never told any one of her temptations, nor had she power to tell; but, her fits being thought fictitious by her relatives, and they having consequently threatened to turn her out of their house, she had in revenge resolved to destroy their child. Agnes, who would now be regarded as a person under hallucinations, expiated her sad act two days after in the Grassmarket.

Feb
Law, in noting the death of an eminent physician at this time, mentions the death, some time before, of another, Dr Purves, from an extreme cold, and because he ‘could not be kept in heat,’ ‘God letting us see that all means applied for our health without his blessing them, are ineffectual.’ Another writer of this age adverts to a Mr Dalgliesh, ‘curate’ of Parton, who ‘was so chilly, that he wore twenty fold of cloth on him all the year, and furs on his head day and night."

Mar 4
An act of grace towards the Presbyterians, passed at this time with the hope of conciliating them, had the effect of encouraging that disposition to private religious meetings, or conventicles, which for some years had given the government so much trouble. ‘From that day Scotland broke loose with conventicles of all sorts, in houses, fields, and vacant churches…. In Merse, Teviotdale, the Borders, Annandale, Nithsdale, Clydesdale, Lothian, Stirlingshire, Perthshire, Lennox, Fife, they fixed so many posts in the fields, mosses, muirs, and mountains, where multitudes gathered almost every Sabbath,’ until the time of Bothwell Bridge. ‘At these meetings, many a soul was converted to Christ, but far more turned from the bishops to profess themselves Presbyterians. The parish churches of the curates [that is, the regular parish clergy] came to be like pest-houses; few went to any of them, none to some, so the doors were kept locked. The discourse up and down Scotland was the quality and success of last Sabbath’s conventicle, who the preachers were, what the number of the people was, what the affections of the people; how sometimes the soldiers assaulted them, and sometimes killed some of them; sometimes the soldiers were beaten, and some of them killed.’

There appears to have been a band of about forty ministers who set the government at defiance in this manner, most of them young and active men. In the large towns, house conventicles prevailed; but in the country, ‘the people had a sort of affectation to the fields above houses.’ There came to be a regularity in these affairs; when the people in a rural district wished to have a conventicle minister, they sent to town to engage one. Danger made the congregations come armed. ‘Not many gentlemen of estates durst come, but many ladies, gentlewomen and commons, came in good multitudes. Wonderful conversions followed upon the sermons. People discovered their own secret scandals. Sometimes people of age bemoaned their want of baptism, and received it at these occasions. Sometimes a curate would come, and after the first sermon, stand up and profess his repentance, and afterwards would consecrate himself to that work by a solemn field-preaching. So the work of the gospel advanced in Scotland for several years.’—Kir.

June 4
A strange scene was presented in the Parliament Close in a Edinburgh. As the members of the Council approached their house of meeting, they found fifteen ladies prepared to present a petition, ‘desiring that a gospel ministry might be presented for the starving congregations of Scotland.’ There were present amongst them the widows of Mr Robert Blair and Mr John Neave, noted as entirely ‘faithful’ clergymen during the troubles; Lady Crimond, a daughter of Johnston of Warriston; a sister-in-law of the Laird of Dundas and a sister of the Earl of Melville; the rest being generally the wives of Edinburgh citizens. Seeing it was dangerous for men to appear in the form of remonstrants, these ladies had volunteered to undertake the duty. The singularity of the occasion had brought together a crowd, which filled the close, and which is said to have comprised a large proportion of the fair sex. The press was so great and so tumultuous around the councillors, that they could scarcely make their way to the council-house. As the chancellor descended from his coach, Archbishop Sharpe went close behind him, fearing bodily harm. It is alleged by Sir George Mackenzie that a design for doing some serious injury to the primate was entered into on this occasion, and that the ladies were to ‘set upon him’ when a certain member of the corps should raise her hand as a signal; but this would need confirmation. He was saluted with reproaches and cries of Judas! and Traitor! but the only approach to personal violence was a slap on the neck from one of the sisterhood, who at the same time took leave to tell him that that (meaning the neck) should yet pay for it ere all was done! One of the ladies, presenting her petition to the chancellor, he received it with a courteous salute, and listened to her with an inclined head till he got to the door of the council-chamber. Lord Stair tossed his copy to the ground, whereupon the fair petitioner reminded him he had not acted in that manner with the famous Remonstrance of 1651, which he helped to pen.

The Council took this matter in high dudgeon. They resented the personal disrespect of the scene in the Parliament Close, and they denounced the matter of the petition as tending to stir up hatred against his majesty’s government. For one thing, it ‘most falsely and scandalously bears that they [the supplicants] had long been deprived of the inestimable blessing of the public worship and ordinances of God, whereas it is notour that his majesty’s subjects do enjoy [those blessings] in great purity and peace, [there being] ane orderly ministry authorised and countenanced and established by law.’ In short, it was a seditious libel, calling for sharp punishment. Two of the ladies being brought before the Council, refused to take an oath or give evidence; the rest failed to appear on citation. The whole were put to the horn as rebels, and three suffered a short confinement.—Kir. P. C. R.


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