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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of Queen Anne: 1702 - 1714 Part 2


1703, Sep 10
The steeple of the Tolbooth of Tain had lately fallen in the night, to the great hazard of the lives of the prisoners, and some considerable damage to the contiguous parish church. On the petition of the magistrates of this poor little burgh, the Privy Council ordained a collection to be made for the reconstruction of the building; and, meanwhile, creditors were enjoined to transport their prisoners to other jails.

Nearly about the same time, voluntary collections were ordained by the Privy Council, for erecting a bridge over the Dee at the Black Ford; for the construction of a harbour at Cromarty, ‘where a great quantity of the victual that comes to the south is loadened;’ and for making a harbour at Pennan, on the estate of William Baird of Auchmedden, in Aberdeenshire, where such a convenience was eminently required for the shelter of vessels, and where ‘there is Iikewise a millstone quarry belonging to the petitioner [Baird], from which the greatest part of the mills in the kingdom are served by sea.’

1703, Nov 11
Amidst the endless instances of misdirected zeal and talent which mark the time, there is a feeling of relief and gratification even in so small and commonplace a matter as an application to the Privy Council, which now occurs, from Mr William Forbes, advocate, for a copyright in a work he had prepared under the name of A Methodical Treatise of Bills of Exchange. The case is somewhat remarkable in itself, as an application by an author, such applications being generally from stationers and printers.

Dec
Usually, in our day, the opposing solicitors in a cause do not feel any wrath towards each other. It was different with two agents employed at this time in the Court of Session on different interests, one of them being Patrick Comrie, who acted in the capacity of ‘doer’ for the Laird of Lawers. To him, one day, as he lounged through the Outer House, came up James Leslie, a ‘writer,’ who entered into some conversation with him about Lawers’s business, and so provoked him, that he struck Leslie in the face, in the presence of many witnesses. Leslie appealed to the court, on the strength of an old statute which decreed death to any one guilty of violence in the presence of the Lords, and Comrie was apprehended. There then arose many curious and perplexing questions among the judges as to the various bearings of the case; but all were suddenly solved by Comrie obtaining a remission of his offence from the queen.

In this year was published the first intelligent topographical book regarding Scotland, being ‘A Description of the Western Isles, by M. Martin, Gentleman.’ It gives accurate information regarding the physical peculiarities of these islands, and their numberless relics of antiquity, besides many sensible hints as to means for improving the industry of the inhabitants. The author, who seems to have been a native of Skye, writes like a well-educated man for his age, and as one who had seen something of life in busier scenes than those supplied by his own country. He has also thought proper to give an ample account of many superstitious practices of the Hebrideans, and to devote a chapter to the alleged power of second-sight, which was then commonly attributed to special individuals throughout the whole of Celtic Scotland. All this he does in the same sober painstaking manner in which he tells of matters connected with the rural economy of the people, fully shewing that he himself reposed entire faith in the alleged phenomena. In the whole article, indeed, he scarcely introduces a single expression of a dogmatic character, either in the way of defending the belief or ridiculing it, but he very calmly furnishes answers, based on what he considered as facts, to sundry objections which had been taken against it. But for his book, we should have been much in the dark regarding a system which certainly made a great mark on the Highland mind in the seventeenth century, and was altogether as remarkable, perhaps, as the witch superstitions of the Lowlands dnring the same period.

He tells us—’ The second-sight is a singular faculty of seeing an otherwise invisible object, without any previous means used by the person that sees it, for that end. The vision makes such a lively impression upon the seers, that they neither see nor think of anything else, except the vision, as long as it continues, and then they appear pensive or jovial, according to the object which was represented to them.

‘At the sight of a vision, the eyelids of the person are erected, and the eyes continue staring until the object vanish. This is obvious to others who are by, when the persons happen to see a vision, and occurred more than once to my own observation, and to others who were with me.’

The seers were persons of both sexes and of all ages, 'generally illiterate, well-meaning people;’ not people who desired to make gain by their supposed faculty, or to attract notice to themselves— not drunkards or fools—but simple country people, who were rather more apt to feel uneasy in the possession of a gift so strange, than to use it for any selfish or uuworthy purpose. It really appears to have been generally regarded as an uncomfortable peculiarity; and there were many instances of the seers resorting to prayers and other religious observances in order to get quit of it.

The vision came upon the seer unpromonishedly, and in all imaginable circumstances. If early in the morning, which was not frequent, then the prediction was expected to be accomplished within a few hours; the later in the day, the accomplishment was expected at the greater distance of time. The things seen were often of an indifferent nature, as the arrival of a stranger; often of a character no less important than the death of individuals. If a woman was seen standing at a man’s left hand, it was a presage that she would be his wife, even though one of the parties might then be the mate of another. Sometimes several women would be seen standing in a row beside a man, in which case it was expected that the one nearest would be his first wife, and so on with the rest in their turns.

When the arrival of a stranger was predicted, his dress, stature, complexion, and general appearance would be described, although he might be previously unknown to the seer. If of the seer’s acquaintance, his name would be told, and the humour he was in would be described from the countenance he bore. ‘I have been seen thus myself,’ says Martin, ‘by seers of both sexes at some hundred miles’ distance; some that saw me in this manner, had never seen me personally, and it happened according to their visions, without any previous design of mine to go to those places, my coming there being purely accidental.’

It will be remembered that, when Dr Johnson and Boswell travelled through the Hebrides in 1773, the latter was told an instance of such prediction by the gentleman who was the subject of the story—namely, M’Quarrie, the Laird of Ulva. ‘He had gone to Edinburgh, and taken a man-servant along with him. An old woman who was in the house said one day: "M’Quarrie will be at home to-morrow, and will bring two gentlemen with him;' and she said she saw his servant return in red and green. He did come home next day. He had two gentlemen with him, and his servant had a new red and green livery, which M’Quarrie had bought for him at Edinburgh, upon a sudden thought, not having the least intention when he left home to put his servant in livery; so that the old woman could not have heard any previous meution of it. This, he assured us, was a true story.

Martin tells a story of the same character, but even more striking in its various features, The seer in this case was Archibald Macdonald, who lived in the isle of Skye about the time of the Revolution. One night before supper, at Knockowe, he told the family he had just then seen the strangest thing he ever saw in his life; to wit, a man with an ugly long cap, always shaking his head; but the strangest thing of all was a little harp he had, with only four strings, and two hart’s horns fixed in the front of it. ‘All that heard this odd vision fell a laughing at Archibald, telling him that he was dreaming, or had not his wits about him, since he pretended to see a thing that had no being, and was not so much as heard of in any part of the world.’ All this had no effect upon Archibald, ‘who told them that they must excuse him if he laughed at them after the accomplishment of the vision.’ Archibald returned to his own house, and within three or four days after, a man exactly answering to the description arrived at Knockowe. He was a poor man, who made himself a buffoon for bread, playing on a harp, which was ornamented with a pair of hart’s horns, and wearing a cap and bells, which he shook in playing. He was previously unknown at Knockowe, and was found to have been at the island of Barray, sixty miles oft at the time of the vision. This story was vouched by Mr Daniel Martin and all his family— relatives, we may presnme, of the author of the book now quoted.

Martin relates a story of a predicted visit of a singular kind to the island of Egg; and it is an instance more than usually entitled to notice, as he himself heard of it in the interval between the vision and its fulfilment. A seer in that island told his neighbours that he had frequently seen the appearance of a man in a red coat lined with blue, having on his head a strange kind of blue cap, with a very high cock on the forepart of it. The figure always appeared in the act of making rude advances to a young woman who lived in the hamlet, and he predicted that it would be the fate of this girl to be treated in a dishonourable way by some such stranger. The inhabitants considered the affair so extremely unlikely to be realised, that they treated the seer as a fool. Martin tells that he had the story related to him in Edinburgh, in September 1698, by Norman Macleod of Graban, who had just then come from the Isle of Skye, there being present at the time the Laird of Macleod, Mr Alexander Macleod, advocate, and some other persons. About a year and a half after, a few government war-vessels were sent into the Western Islands to reduce some of the people who had been out with Lord Dundee. Major Fergusson, who commanded a large military party on board, had no thought of touching at Egg, which is a very sequestered island, but some natives of that isle, being in Skye, encountered a party of his men, and one of the latter was slain. He consequently steered for Egg, to revenge himself on the natives. Among other outrages, the young woman above alluded to was carried on board the vessel, and disgracefully treated, thus completely verifying the vision.

An instance of the second-sight, which fell under the observation of the clever statesman Viscount Tarbat, is related by Martin as having been reported to him by Lord Tarbat himself. While travelling in Ross-shire, his lordship entered a house, and sat down on an arm-chair. One of his retinue, who possessed the faculty of a seer, spoke to some of the rest, wishing them to persuade his lordship to leave the house, ‘for,’ said he, ‘a great misfortune will attend somebody in it, and that within a few hours.’ This was told to Lord Tarbat, who did not regard it. The seer soon after renewed his entreaty with much earnestness, begging his master to remove out of that unhappy chair; but he was only snubbed as a fool. Lord Tarbat, at his own pleasure, renewed his journey, and had not been gone many hours when a trooper, riding upon ice, fell and broke his thigh, and being brought into that house, was laid in the arm-chair to have his wound dressed. Thus the vision was accomplished.

It was considered a rule in second-sight, that a vision seen by one seer was not necessarily visible to another in his company, unless the first touched his neighbour. There are, nevertheless, anecdotes of visions seen by more than one at a time, without any such ceremony. In one case, two persons, not accustomed to see visions, saw one together, after which, neither ever enjoyed the privilege again. They were two simple country men, travelling along a road about two miles to the north of Snizort church, in Skye. Suddenly they saw what appeared as a body of men coming from the north, as if bringing a corpse to Snizort to be buried. They advanced to the river, thinking to meet the funeral company at the ford, but when they got there, the visionary scene had vanished. On coming home, they told what they had seen to their neighbours. ‘About three weeks after, a corpse was brought along that road from another parish, from which few or none are brought to Snizort, except persons of distinction.’

A vision of a similar nature is described as occurring to one Daniel Stewart, an inbabitant of Hole, in the North Parish of St Mary’s, in the isle of Skye; and it was likewise the man’s only experience of the kind. One day, at noon, he saw five men riding northward; he ran down to the road to meet them; but when he got there, all had vanished. The vision was repeated next day, when he also heard the men speak. It was conclnded that the company he saw was that of Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, who was then at Armadale, forty miles distant.

The important place which matrimony occupies in social existence, makes it not surprising that the union of individuals in marriage was frequently the alleged subject of second-sight. As already mentioned, when a woman stood at a man’s left hand, she was expected to be his wife. It was also understood that, when a man was seen at a woman’s left hand, he was to be her future husband. Several persons, says Martin, ‘living in a certain family, told me that they had frequently seen two men standing at a young gentlewoman’s left hand, who was their master’s daughter. They told the men’s names, and as they were the young lady’s equals, it was not doubted that she would be married to one of them, and perhaps to the other, after the death of the first. Some time after, a third man appeared, and he seemed always to stand nearest to her of the three; but the seers did not know him, though they could describe him exactly. Within some months after, this man, who was last seen, did actually come to the house, and fulfilled the description given of him by those who never saw him but in a vision; and he married the woman shortly after. They live in the isle of Skye; both they and others confirmed the truth of this instance when I saw them.’

The Rev. Daniel Nicolson, minister of the parish of St Mary’s, in Skye, was a widower of forty-four, when a noted seer of his flock, the Archibald Macdonald already spoken of, gave out that he saw a well-dressed lady frequently standing at the minister’s right hand. He described her complexion, stature, and dress particularly, and said he had no doubt such a person would in time become the second Mrs Nicolson. The minister was rather angry at having this story told, and bade his people pay no attention to what ‘that foolish dreamer, Archibald Macdonald,’ had said, ‘for,’ said he, ‘it is twenty to one if ever I marry again.’ Archibald, nevertheless, persisted in his tale. While the matter stood in this position, it was related to Martin.

The minister afterwards attended a synod in Bute—met a Mrs Morison there—fell in love with her, and brought her home to Skye as his wife. It is affirmed that she was instantly and generally recognised as answering to the description of the lady in Archibald’s vision.

About 1652, Captain Alexander Fraser, commonly called the Tutor of Lovat, being guardian of his nephew, Lord Lovat, married Sybilla Mackenzie, sister of the Earl of Seaforth, and widow of John Macleod of Macleod. The Tutor, who had fought gallantly in the preceding year for King Charles II. at Worcester, was thought a very lucky man in this match, as the lady had a jointure of three hundred merks per annum. The marriage, however, is more remarkable on account of its having been seen many years before, during the lifetime of the lady’s first husband. We have the story told with all seriousness, though in very obscure typography, in a letter which Aubrey prints as having been sent to him by a ‘learned friend’ of his in the Highlands, about 1694.

Macleod and his wife, while residing, we are to understand, at their house of Dunvegan in Skye, on returning one day from an excursion or brief visit, went into their nursery to see their infant child. To pursue the narration: ‘On their coming in, the nurse falls a-weeping. They asked the cause, dreading the child was sick, or that the nurse was scarce of milk. The nurse replied the child was well, and she had abundance of milk. Yet she still wept. Being pressed to tell what ailed her, she at last said that Macleod would die, and the lady wonld shortly be married to another man. Being asked how she knew that event, she told them plainly, that, as they came into the room, she saw a man with a scarlet cloak and white hat betwixt them, giving the lady a kiss over the shoulder; and this was the cause of her weeping; all which,’ pursues the narrator, ‘came to pass. After Maeleod’s death [which happened in 1649], the Tutor of Lovat married the lady in the same dress in which the woman saw him.

The Bishop of Caithness, a short while before the Revolution, had five daughters, one of whom spoke grudgingly of the burden of the family housekeeping lying wholly upon her. A manservant in the house, who had the second-sight, told her that ere long she would be relieved from her task, as he saw a tall gentleman in black walking on the bishop’s right hand, and whom she was to marry. Before a quarter of a year had elapsed, the prediction was realised; and all the man’s vaticinations regarding the marriage-feast and company also proved true.

A curious class of cases, of importance for any theory on the subject, was that in which a visionary figure or spectre intervened for the production of the phenomena. A spirit in great vogue in the Highlands in old times—as, indeed, in the Lowlands also— was known by the name of Browny. From the accounts we have of him, it seems as if he were in a great measure identical with the drudging goblin of Milton, whose shadowy flail by night would thrash the corn

‘That ten day-labourers could not end.’

Among our Highlanders, he presented himself as a tall man.

The servants of Sir Norman Macleod of Bernera were one night assembled in the hall of the castle in that remote island, while their master was absent on business, without any intimation having been given of the time of his probable return. One of the party, who had the second-sight, saw Browny [John Brand, in his Description of Orkney and Zetland, 1703, says, with reference to the population of the latter group of islands: ‘Not above forty or fifty years ago, almost every family had a Browny, or evil spirit so called, which served them, to whom they gave a sacrifice for his service; as, when they churned their milk, they took a part thereof, and sprinkled every corner of the house with it for Browny’s use; likewise, when they brewed, they had a stone, which they called Brownies Stone, whereon there was a little hole, into which they poured some wort for a sacrifice to Browny. My informer, a minister in the country, told me that he had conversed with an old man, who, when young, used to brew, and sometimes read upon his Bible, to whom an old woman in the house said, that Browny was displeased with that book he read upon, which if he continued to do, they would get no more service of Browny. But he being better instructed from that book, which was Browny’s eyesore, and the object of his wrath, when he brewed he would not suffer any sacrifice to be given to Browny, whereupon the first and second brewings were spilt, and for no use; though the wort worked well, yet in a little time it left off working. and grow cold, ln the third browst or brewing he had ale very good, though he would not give any sacrifice to Browny, with whom they were no more troubled. I had also from the same source that a lady in Uist, now deceased, told him that when she first took up house, she refused to give a sacrifice to Browny; upon which the first and second brewings rnisgave, but the third was good, and Browny not being regarded nor rewarded, as formerly he had been, abandoned his wonted service. They also had stacks of corn called Browse p’s Stocks, which, though they wore not bound with straw-ropes, or any way fenced, as other use to be, yet the greatest storm of wind was not able to blow any straw off them. Now, I do not hear of any such appearances the devil makes in these isles, so great and stony are the blossings which attend a Gospel dispensation.’] come in several times and make a show of carrying an old woman from the fireside to the door; at last, he seemed to take her by neck and heels, and bundle her out of the house; at which the seer laughed so heartily, that his companions thought him mad. He told them they must remove, for the hall would be required that night for other company. They knew, of course, that he spoke in consequence of having had a vision; but they took it upon themselves to express a doubt that it could be so speedily accomplished. In so dark a night, and the approach to the island being so dangerous on account of the rocks, it was most unlikely that their master would arrive. In less than an hour, a man came in to warn them to get the hall ready for their master, who had just landed. Martin relates this story from Sir Norman Macleod’s own report.

The same Sir Norman Maclcod was one day playing with some of his friends at a game called the Tables (in Gaelic, palmermore, which requires three on a side, each throwing the dice by turns. A critical difficulty arising as to the placing of one of the table-men, seeing that the issue of the game obviously must depend upon it, the gentleman who was to play hesitated for a considerable time. At length, Sir Norman’s butler whispered a direction as to the best site for the man into his ear; he played in obedience to the suggestion, and won the game. Sir Norman, having heard the whisper, asked who had advised him so skilfully. He answered that it was the butler. ‘That is strange,’ quoth Sir Norman, ‘for the butler is unacquainted with the game.’ On inquiry, the man told that he had not spoken from any skill of his own. He had seen the spirit, Browny, reaching his arm over the player’s head, and touching with his finger the spot where the table-man was to be placed. ‘This,’ says Martin, ‘was told me by Sir Norman and others, who happened to be present at the time.’

Sir Norman Macleod relates another case in which his own knowledge comes in importantly for authentication. A gentleman in the Isle of Harris had always been ‘seen’ with an arrow in his thigh, and it was expected that he would not go out of the world without the prediction being fulfilled. Sir Norman heard the matter spoken of for many years before the death of the gentleman. At length the gentleman died, without any such occurrence taking place. Sir Norman was at his funeral, at St Clement’s kirk, in Harris. The custom of that island being to bury men of importance in a stone chest in the church, the body was brought on an open bier. A dispute took place among the friends at the church door as to who should enter first, and from words it came to blows. One who was armed with a bow and arrows, let fly amongst them, and after Sir Norman Maeleod had appeased the tumult, one of the arrows was found sticking in the dead man’s thigh.

Martin was informed by John Morison of Bragir, in Lewis, ‘a person of unquestionable sincerity and reputation,’ respecting a girl of twelve years old, living within a mile of his house, who was troubled with the frequent vision of a person exactly resembling herself, who seemed to be always employed just as she herself might be at the moment. At the suggestion of John Morison, prayers were put up in the family, in which he and the girl joined, entreating that God would be pleased to relieve her from this unpleasant visitation; and after that she saw her double no more. Another neighbour of John Morison was haunted by a spirit resembling himself, who never spoke to him within doors, but pestered him constantly out of doors with impertinent questions.

At the recommendation of a neighbour, the man threw a live coal in the face of the vision; in consequence of which, the spirit assailed him in the fields next day, and beat him so sorely, that he had to keep his bed for fourteen days. Martin adds: ‘Mr Morison, minister of the parish, and several of his friends, came to see the man, and joined in prayer that he might be freed from this trouble; but he was still haunted by that spirit a year after I left Lewis.’

Another case in which the spirit used personal violence, but of an impalpable kind, is related by Martin as happening at Knockowe, in Skye, and as reported to him by the family who were present when the circumstance occurred. A man-servant, who usually enjoyed perfect health, was one evening taken violently ill, fell back upon the floor, and then began to vomit. The family were much concerned, being totally at a loss to account for so sudden an attack; but in a short while the man recovered, and declared himself free of pain. A seer in the family explained the mystery. In a neighbouring village lived an ill-natured female, who had had some hopes of marriage from this man, but was likely to be disappointed. He had seen this Woman come in with a furious countenance, and fall a-scolding her lover in the most violent manner, till the man tumbled from his seat, albeit unconscious of the assault made upon him.

Several instances of second-sight are recorded in connection with historical occurrences. Sir John Harrington relates that, at an interview he had with King James in 1607, the conversation having turned upon Queen Mary, the king told him that her death had been seen in Scotland before it happened, ‘being', as he said, 'spoken of in secret by those whose power of sight presented to them a bloody head dancing in the air?’ He then,’ continues Harrington, 'did remark much on this gift!’ It is related in May’s History of England, that when the family of King James was leaving Scotland for England, an old hermit-like seer was brought before them, who took little notice of Prince Henry, but wept over Prince Charles—then three years old—lamenting to think of the misfortunes he was to undergo, and declaring he should be the most miserable of princes. A Scotch nobleman had a Highland seer brought to London, where he asked his judgment on the Duke of Buckingham, then at the height of his fortunes as the king’s favourite.

'Pish!’ said he, ‘he will come to nothing. I see a dagger in his breast!’ In time the duke, as is well known, was stabbed to the heart by Lieutenant Felton.

In one of the letters on second-sight, written to Mr Aubrey from Scotland about 1693—94, reference is made to the seer Archibald Macdonald, who has already been introduced in connection with instances occurring in Skye. According to this writer, who was a divinity student living in Strathspey, Inverness-shire, Archibald announced a prediction regarding the unfortunate Earl of Argyle. He mentioned it at Balloch Castle (now Castle-Grant), in the presence of the Laird of Grant, his lady, and several others, and also in the house of the narrator’s father. He said of Argyle, of whom few or none then knew where he was, that he would within two months come to the West Highlands, and raise a rebellious faction, which would be divided in itself, and disperse, while the earl would be taken and beheaded at Edinburgh, and his head set upon the Tolbooth, where his father’s head was before. All this proved strictly true.

Archibald Macdonald was a friend of Macdonald of Glencoe, and accompanied him in the expedition of Lord Dundee in 1689 for the maintenance of King James’s interest in the highlands. Mr Aubrey’s correspondent, who was then living in Strathspey, relates that Dundee’s irregular forces followed General Mackay’s party along Speyside till they came to Edinglassie, when he turned and marched up the valley. At the Milltown of Gartenbeg, the Macleans joined, but remained behind to plunder. G-lencoe, with Archibald in his company, came to drive them forward; and when this had been to some extent effected, the seer came np and said:

‘Glencoe, if you will take my advice, you will make off with yourself with all possible haste. Ere an hour come and go, you’ll he as hard put to it as ever you were in your life.’ Glencoc took the hint, and, within an hour, Mackay appeared at Cnlnakyle, in Abernetby, with a party of horse, and chased time Macleans up the Morskaith; in which chase Glencoe was involved, and was hard put to it, as had been foretold. It is added, that Archibald likewise foretold that Glencoe would be murdered in the nighttime in his own house, three months before it happened.

A well-vouched instance of the second-sight connected with a historical incident, is related by Drummond of Bohaidy, regarding the celebrated Highland paladin, Sir Ewen Cameron of Locheil, who died at the age of ninety in 1719. ‘Very early that morning [December 24, 1715] whereon the Chevalier de St. George landed at Peterhead, attended only by Allan Cameron, one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber Sir Ewen started, as it were, in a surprise, from his sleep, and called out so loud to his lady (who lay by him in another bed) that his king was landed—that his king was arrived—and that his son Allan was with him, that she awaked.’ She then received his orders to summon the clan, and make them drink the king’s (that is, the Chevalier’s) health—and they engaged in so heartily, that they spent in it all the next day.

‘His lady was so curious, that she noted down the words upon paper, with the date; which site a few days after found verified in fact, to her great surprise.’ Bohaldy remarks that this case fully approved itself to the whole clan Cameron, as they heard their chief speak of scarcely anything else all that day.’

Predictions of death formed a large class of cases of second-sight. The event was usually indicated by the subject of the vision appearing in a shroud, and the higher the vestment rose on the figure, the event was the nearer. ‘if it is not seen above the middle,’ says Martin, ‘death is not to be expected for the space of a year, and perhaps some months longer. When it is seen to ascend higher towards the head, death is concluded to be at hand within a few days, if not hours, as daily experience confirms. Examples of this kind were shewn me, when the person of whom the observation was made enjoyed Perfect health.’ He adds, that sometimes death was foretold of an individual by hearing a loud cry, as from him, out of doors. ‘Five women were sitting together in the same room, and all of them heard a loud cry passing by the window. They thought it plainly to be the voice of a maid who was one of the number. She blushed at the time, though not sensible of her so doing, contracted a fever next day, and died that week.’

In a pamphlet on the second-sight, written by Mr John Fraser, dean of the Isles, and minister of Tiree and Coil, is an instance of predicted death, which the author reports on his own knowledge, Having occasion to go to Tobermory, in Mull, to assist in some government investigations for the recovery of treasure in the vessel of the Spanish Armada known to have been there sunk, he was accompanied by a handsome servant-lad, besides other attendants. A woman came before he sailed, and, through the medium of a seaman, endeavoured to dissuade him from taking that youth, as he would never bring him back alive. The seaman declined to conimunicate her story to Mr Fraser. The company proceeded on their voyage, and met adverse weather; the boy fell sick, and died on the eleventh day. Mr Fraser, on his return, made a point of asking the woman how she had come to know that this lad, apparently so healthy, was near his death. She told Mr Fraser that she had seen the boy, as he walked about, sewed up in his winding-sheets from top to toe;’ this she always found to be speedily followed by the death of the person so seen.

Martin relates that a woman was accustomed for some time to see a female figure, with a shroud up to the waist, and a habit resembling her own; but as the face was turned away, she never could ascertain who it was. To satisfy her curiosity, she tried an experiment. She dressed herself with that part of her clothes behind which usually was before. The vision soon after presented itself with its face towards the seeress, who found it to be herself. She soon after died.

Although the second-sight had sunk so much in Martin's time, that, according to him, there was not one seer for ten that had been twenty years before, it continued to be so much in vogue down to the reign of George III., that a separate treatise on the subject, containing scores of cases, was published in 1763 by an educated man styling himself Titeophilus Insulanus, as a means of checking in some degree the materialising tendencies of the age, this author considering the gift as a proof of the immortality of the soul. When Dr Johnson, a few years later, visited the Highlands, he found the practice, so to speak, much declined, and the clergy almost all against it. Proofs could, nevertheless, be adduced that there are even now, in the remoter parts of the Highlands, occasional alleged instances of what is called second-sight, with a full popular belief in their reality.

1704, Jan 25
Charles, Earl of Hopetoun, set forth in a petition to the Privy Council, that in his minority, many years ago, his tutors had caused a windmill to be built at Leith for grinding and refining the ore from his lead-mines. In consequence of the unsettling of a particular bargain, the mill had been allowed to lie unused till now, when it required some repair in order to be fit for service.

One John Smith, who had set up a saw-mill in Leith, being the only man seen in this kind of work, had been called into employment by his lordship for the repair of the windmill; lint the wright— burgesses of Edinburgh interfered violently with the work, on the ground of their corporation privileges, ‘albeit it is sufficiently known that none of them have been bred to such work or have any skill therein.’ Indeed, some part of the original work done by them had now to be taken down, so ill was it done. It was obviously a public detriment that such a work should thus be brought to a stand-still. The Council, entering into the earl’s views, gave him a protection from the claims of the wright-burgesses.

Feb
It is notorious that the purity of the Court of Session continued down to this time to be subject to suspicion. It was generally understood that a judge favoured his friends and connections, and could be spoken to in behalf of a party in a suit. The time was not yet long past when each lord had a ‘Pate ‘—that is, a dependent member of the bar (sometimes called Peat), who, being largely fee’d by a party, could on that consideration influence his patron.

A curious case, illustrative of the character of the bench, was now in dependence. The heritors of the parish of Dalry raised an action for the realisation of a legacy of £3000, which had been left to them for the founding of a school by one Dr Johnston. The defender was John Joissy, surgeon, an executor of the testator, who resisted the payment of the money on certain pretexts. With the assistance of Alexander Gibson of Dune, a principal clerk of Session, Joissy gained favour with a portion of the judges, including the president. On the other hand, the heritors, under the patronage of the Earl of Galloway, secured as many on their side. A severe contest was therefore to be expected. According to a report of the case in the sederunthook of the parish, the Lord President managed to have it judged under circumstances favourable to Joissy. The court having ‘accidentally appointed a peremptor day about the beginning of February 1704 for reporting and deciding in tbe cause, both parties concluded that the parish would then gain it, since one of Mr Joissy’s lords came to be then absent. For as my Lord Anstrutber’s hour in the Outer House was betwixt nine and ten of the clock in the morning, so the Earl of Lauderdale, as Lord Ordinary in the Outer house, behoved to sit from ten to twelve in the forenoon: for by the 21st act of the fourth session of the first parliament of King William and Queen Mary, it‘s statuted expressly, that if the Lord Ordinary in the Outer Houses sit and vote in any cause in the Inner House after the chap of ten hours in the clock, he may be declined by either party in the cause from ever voting thereafter therintill: yet such was the Lord President’s management, that so soon as my Lord Anstruther returned from the Outer House at ten of the clock, and that my Lord Lauderdale was even desired by some of the lords to take his post in the Outer House in the terms of law yet his lordship was pleased after ten to sit and vote against the parish, the president at that juncture having put the cause to a vote.’

The heritors, by the advice of some of the lords in their interest, gave in a declinature of Lord Lauderdale, on the ground of the illegality of his sitting in the Inner House after ten o’clock; whereupon, next morning, the Lord President came into the court in a great rage, demanding that all those concerned in the declinature should be punished as criminals. The leading decliner, Mr Ferguson of Cairoch, escaped from town on horse. back, an hour before the macor came to summon him. The counsel, John Menzies of Cammo, and the agent, remained to do what they could to still the storm. According to the naïve terms of the report, ‘the speat was so high against the Parish and them all the time, that they behaved to employ all their friends, and solicit a very particular lord that morning before they went to the house; and my Lord President was so high upon ‘t, that when Cammo told him that my Lord Lauderdale, contrair to the act of parliament, sat after ten o’clock, his lordship unmannerly said to Cammo, as good a gentleman as himself, that it was a damned lie.’

Menzies, though a very eminent counsel, and the agent, found all their efforts end in an order for their going to jail, while a suitable punishment should be deliberated upon. After some discussion, a slight calm ensued, and they were liberated on condition of coming to the bar as malefactors, and there begging the Earl of Lauderdale’s pardon. The parish report states that no remedy could be obtained, for ‘the misery at that time was that the lords were in effect absolute, for they did as they pleased, and when any took courage to protest for remeid of law to the Scots parliament, they seldom or never got any redress there, all the lords being still present, by which the parliament was so overawed that not ane decreit among a hundred was reduced.’

It is strange to reflect, that among these judges were Lord Fountainhall and Lord Arniston, with several other men who had resisted tyrannous proceedings of the old government, to their own great suffering and loss. Wodrow promises of Halcraig, that, for his conduct regarding the test in 1684, his memory would be ‘savoury.’ The same author, speaking of the set in 1726 as dying out, says he wishes their places may be as well filled. ‘King William,’ he says, ‘brought in a good many substantial, honest country gentlemen, well affected to the government and church, and many of them really religious, though there might be some greater lawyers than some of them have been and are. But, being men of integrity and weight, they have acted a fair and honest part these thirty years, and keep the bench in great respect. May their successors be equally diligent and conscientious.' Of course, by fairness and honesty, Wodrow chiefly meant soundness in revolution politics, and steadfast adherence to the established church.

Another instance of the vigorous action of the Lords in the maintenance of their dignity occurred in December 1701. A gentleman, named Cannon of Headmark, having some litigation with the Viscount Stair and Sir James Dalrymple, his brother Alexander, an agent before the court, used some indiscreet expressions regarding the judges in a paper drawn up by him. Being called before the Lords, and having acknowledged the authorship of the papers, he was sent to prison for a month, ordered then to crave pardon of the court on his knees, and thereafter to be for ever debarred from carrying on business as an agent.

Some letters regarding a lawsuit of William Foulis of Wood-hall in 1735—37, which have been printed,’ shew that it was even then still customary to use influence with the Lords in favour of parties, and the female connections appear as taking a large share in the business. One sentence is sufficient to reveal the whole system. ‘By Lord St Clair’s advice, Mrs Kinloch is to wait on Lady Cairnie to-morrow, to cause her to ask the favour of Lady St Clair to solicit Lady Betty Elphinston and Lady Dun ‘—the former being the wife of Lord Coupar, and the latter of Lord Dun, two of the judges. Lord St Clair’s hint to Mrs Kinloch to get her friend to speak to his own wife—he thus keeping clear of the affair himself is a significant particular. Lord Dun, who wrote a moral volume, entitled Advices,’ and was distinguished for his piety, is spoken of by tradition as such a lawyer as might well be open to any force that was brought to bear upon him. The present Sir George Sinclair heard Mr Thomas Coutts relate that, when a difficult case came before the court, where Lord Dun acted alone as ‘ordinary,’ he was heard to say: ‘Eh, Lord, what am I to do? Eh, sirs, I wiss ye wad mak it up!

It will be surprising to many to learn that the idea of having ‘friends’ to a cause on the bench was not entirely extinct in a reign which people in middle life can well recollect. The amiable Charles Duke of Queensberry, who had been the patron of Gay, was also the friend of James Burnett of Monboddo, and had exacted a promise that Burnett should be the next person raised to the bench. ‘On Lord Milton’s death (1767), the duke waited on his majesty, and reminded him of his promise, which was at once admitted, and orders were immediately given to the secretary of state [Conway] to make out the royal letter. The lady of the secretary was nearly allied to the family of Hamilton, and being most naturally solicitous about the vote which Mr Burnett might give in the great cause of which he had taken so much charge as a counsel, she and the Duchess of Hamilton and Argyle were supposed to have induced their brother-in-law, Mr Secretary Conway, to withhold for many weeks the letter of appointment, and is even supposed to have represented Mr Burnett’s character in snch unfavourable colours to the Lord Chancellor Henley, that his lordship is reported to have jocosely declared, that if she could prove her allegations against that gentleman, instead of making him a judge, he would hang him. This delay gave rise to much idle conjecture and conversation in Edinburgh, and it was confidently reported that Mr Burnett’s appointment would not take place till after the decision of the Douglas cause. Irritated by these insinuations against his integrity, he wrote to the Duke of Queensberry, declaring that if his integrity as a judge could be questioned in this cause, he should positively refuse to be trusted with any other; and so highly did he resent the opposition made by the secretary to his promotion, that he took measures for canvassing his native county, in order to oppose in parliament a ministry who had so grossly affronted him. The Duke of Queensberry, equally indignant at the delay, requested an audience of his majesty, and tendered a surrender of his commission as justice-general of Scotland, if the royal promise was not fulfilled. In a few days the letter was despatched, and Lord Monboddo took his seat in the court.’

Feb 2
Under the excitement created by the news of a Jacobite plot, the zealous Presbyterians of Dumfriesshire rose to wreak out their long pent-up feelings against the Catholic gentry of their district. having fallen upon sundry houses, and pillaged them of popish books, images, &c., they marched in warlike manner to Dumfries, under the conduct of James Affleck of Adamghame and John M’Jore of Kirkland, and there made solemn ineremation of their spoil at the Cross.

A number of ‘popish vestments, trinkets, and other articles’ having been found about the same time in and about Edinburgh, the Privy Council (March 14) ordered such of them as were not intrinsically valuable to be burned next day at the Cross; but the chalice, patine, and other articles in silver and gold, to be melted down, and the proceeds given to the kirk-treasurer.

Notwithstanding this treatment, we find it reported in 1709, that ‘papists do openly and avowedly practise within the city of Edinburgh and suburbs.’ It was intimated at the same time, that there is ‘now also a profane and deluded crew of enthusiasts, set up in this place, who, under pretence to the spirit of prophecy, do utter most horrid blasphemies against the ever-glorious Trinity, such as ought not to be suffered in any Christian church or nation.’

Sir George Maxwell of Orchardton, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, having gone over to the Church of Rome, and the next heir, who was a Protestant, being empowered by the statute of 1700 to claim his estate, his uncle, Thomas Maxwell of Gelstoun, a man of seventy years of age, came forward on this adventure (June 1704), further demanding that the young baronet should be decerned to pay him six thousand merks as a year’s rent of his estate for employing George Maxwell of Munshes, a known papist, to be his factor, and five hundred more from Munshes himself for accepting the trust.

A petition presented by the worthy Protestant uncle to the Privy Council, makes us aware that George Maxwell of Munshes, ‘finding he would be reached for accepting the said factory, out of malice raised a lawburrows,’ in which Orehardton concurred, though out of the kingdom, against Gelstoun and his son, as a mere pretext for stopping proceedings; but he trusted the Lords would see through the trick, and defeat it by accepting the cautioners be offered for its suspension. The Council, doubtless duly indignant that a papist should so try to save his property, complied with Gelstoun’s petition.

Apr 12
A statute of the Sixth James, anno 1621—said to have been borrowed from one of Louis XIII. of France—had made it unlawful for any tavern-keeper to allow individuals to play in his house at cards and dice, or for any one to play at such games in a private house, unless where the master of the house was himself playing; likewise ordaining, that any sum above a hundred merks gained at horse-racing, or in less than twenty-four hours at other play, should be forfeited to the poor of the district. During the ensuing period of religious strictness, we hear little of gambling in Scotland, but when the spring was relaxed, it began to reappear with other vices of ease and prosperity. A case, reported in the lair-books under July 1688, makes us aware, as by a peep through a curtain, that gentlemen were accusstomed at that time to win and lose at play sums which appear large in comparison with incomes and means then general. It appears that Captain Straiton, who was well known afterwards as a busy Jacobite partisan, won from Sir Alexander Gilmour of Craigmillar, at cards, in one night, no less than six thousand merks, or £338, 6s. 8d. sterling. The captain first gained four thousand, for which he obtained a bond from Sir Alexander; then be gained two thousand more, and got a new bond for the whole. An effort was made to reduce the bond, but without success.

Francis Charteris, a cadet of an ancient and honourable family in Dumfriesshire, and who had served in Marlborough’s wars, was now figuring in Edinburgh as a member of the beau monde, with the reputation of being a highly successful gambler. There is a story told of him—but I cannot say with what truth—that, being at the Duke of Qucensberry’s one evening, and playing with the duchess, he was enabled, by means of a mirror, or more probably a couple of mirrors placed opposite each other, to see what cards she had in her hand, through which means he gained from her Grace no less a sum than three thousand pounds. It is added that the duke was provoked by this incident to get a bill passed through the parliament over which he presided, for prohibiting gambling beyond a certain moderate sum; but this must be a mistake, as no such act was then passed by the Scottish Estates; nor was any such statute necessary, while that of 1621 remained in force. We find, however, that the Town Council at this date issued an act of theirs, threatening vigorous action upon the statute of 1621, as concerned playing at cards and dice in public houses, as ‘the occasion of horrid cursing, quarrelling, tippling, loss of time, and neglect of necessary business—the constables to be diligent in detecting offenders, on pain of having to pay the fines themselves.’ Perhaps it was at the instigation of the duke that this step was taken.

From Fountainhall we learn that, about 1707, Sir Andrew Ramsay of Abbotshall lost 28,000 merks, to Sir Scipio Hill, at cards and dice, and granted a bond upon his estate for the amount. This being in contravention of the act of 1621, the kirk-treasurer put in his claim for all above 100 merks on behalf of the poor, but we do not learn with what success.


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