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History of the Burgh of Dumfries
Chapter XXI


DAWN OF THE REFORMATION IN GALLOWAY AND DUMFRIESSHIRE – GORDON OFAIRDS, ITS FIRST MISSIONARY – ONE OF HIS DISCIPLES, STEWART OF GARLIES AND DALSWINTON, INVITES THE GOSPELLER HARLOW TO DUMFRIES – HIS FIRST SERMON THERE, IN THE PAINTED HALL – CONSTERNATION OF THE PRIESTS – THE DEAN OF NITHSDALE ENDEAVOURS, WITHOUT EFFECT, TO GET HARLOW APPREHENDED BY THE MAGISTRATES – PROGRESS OF PROTESTANTISM IN THE COUNTY AND BURGH – REVIEW OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC ESTABLISHMENT: THE ABBEY OF HOLYWOOD, THE PRIORY OF CANONBY, FRIARS’ CARSE, LINCLUDEN COLLEGE, ST. MICHAEL’S CHURCH, THE GREYFRIARS’ MONASTERY, THE VICARAGE OF DUMFRIES, ST. CHRISTOPHER’S CHAPEL, NEWABBEY, THE KNIGHT TEMPLARS AND THEIR LANDS, THE KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN AND THEIR HOSPITALS.

TILL 1543, the date of Lord Robert Maxwell’s Act, no one throughout the kingdom could read an English or Scottish version of the Scriptures without series risk. Long before that year, however, the old wood of Airds, in Kirkcudbrightshire, was often rendered vocal by the Word of life, read, in the vulgar tongue, to a secret, sympathizing audience, by Alexander Gordon of Airds, a man of rare excellence, who may be fairly reckoned the pioneer of the Reformation in Galloway and Dumfriesshire. He was the third son of Sir Alexander Gordon of Auchenreach. Having gone across the Border on matters of business, he happened to fall in with some of Wickliffe’s followers; and, becoming attached to one of them, he engaged him to act as tutor in the family. Returning, thoroughly embued with Reformation principles, accompanied by a Wickliffite, and possessing a copy of Wickliffe’s Testament, he became forthwith a zealous missionary of Protestantism.

Gordon was of gigantic size and strength, and was the father of an immense family; and on these accounts, as well as from the pious supervision held by him over his household and numerous dependants, the epithet of “The Patriarch,” by which he was popularly known, was exceedingly appropriate. When, after the Regent Arran’s apostacy, the Beaton party got the upper hand, and enacted stringent laws for the observance of holidays, the stalwart Laird of Airds set them and their laws at defiance. According to one of these statutes, every beast of burden made to labour at such seasons was liable to forteiture. By way of practical protest against it, the Patriarch (who had a spice of humour in his composition) gave a large festive entertainment on Christmas Day; and, yoking ten strapping sons in a plough, he held it himself, whilst his youngest boy acted as “caller;” and thus, in the presence of his astonished friends, and not a few emissaries of the Church, he tilled a ridge of the land of Airds, daring either layman or shaveling to distrain his team. [Sir Andrew Agnew’s Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway, p. 154.]

His woodland congregations for studying the New Testament were held in a less open and defiant style. Among those who frequented them was Gordon’s near kinsman, Alexander Stewart, younger of Garlies, and lineal descendant of the patriotic Sir Thomas Stewart, whom Bruce rewarded with the barony of Dalswinton. Young Stewart spent some time in England as pledge for his father, the Laird of Garlies, one of the prisoners taken at Solway Moss; and, probably when there, adopted those religious views which the teachings of the Patriarch confirmed. The pupil soon emulated his master in the ardour with which he disseminated the doctrines of the Reformation. The estate of Dalswinton still belonged to the family: being thus territorially associated with Dumfries, he resolved to make that town the scene of his proselytizing labours. The inhabitants were by no means ignorant of, or unconcerned about, the great revolution that was going on in the ecclesiastical world. Some of the leading men had been induced, by the preaching of the Lollards in Kyle, a neighbouring district, to embrace Protestantism; the secret convert to its numbering, among others, several members of the Cunningham family, in accordance with the example set by their noble relative, the Earl of Glencairn. The Burgh was therefore, to some extent, ripe for Stewart’s evangelizing experiment. That it might have a greater chance of success, he invited William Harlow, a lay preacher belonging to Edinburgh (who had been forced to flee from that city by the priests), to visit Dumfries. Knox, writing many years afterwards, characterized him as “a simple man, whose condition, although it excel not, yet, for his whole and diligent plainness in doctrine, is he, to this day, worthy of praise, and remains a fruitful member within the Church of Scotland.” [History of the Reformation, p. 117.] Harlow accepted the invitation, and, humble tailor though he was, became the Burgh’s first Protestant missionary.

A document is in existence [Niem. Glasg. in Colleg. Scot., Paris, F. 159. See Keith’s History of the Affairs of Church and State in Scotland, vol. i., Appendix, p. 90.] which enables us to record the precise hour in which Harlow first denounced the mass as rank idolatry, proclaimed salvation through simple faith in the crucified Redeemer, and sounded the knell of Popery in one of its strongest citadels. This took place at early morning watch, “nine houris afore noon,” on the 23rd of October, 1558 – the light of the coming day symbolizing, is it were, the dawn of the pure faith which the speaker heralded. Harlow, passing to the manor-house of Garlies, began his mission there; and then, at three o’clock on the morning of the above day, “preached in the fore-hall of Robert Cunninghame, within the burgh of Dunfrese,” one of his hearers being his patron and coadjutor, Mr. Stewart. What unpardonable audacity! for a mere layman – a poor, vulgar maker of material garments – a heretic proscribed and vile – thus to lift up his testimony against “Holy Mother Church,” and speak of her penances, pilgrimages, and peculiar dogmas, as no better than “filthy rags!”

But the “pestilent rebel” was watched by indignant officials sacred and secular: the Dean of Nithsdale invoked the intervention of the civil authorities; and one Archibald Menzies, a legal emissary, with a good scent for heresy, and anxious for a job, hearing of what had occurred, “past incontinent to the presence of the said Alexander Stewart of Garlies, and the said Harlo, within the said burgh of Dunfrese, and required him of quhais authoritie, and quha gaif him commissioun to preach, he beand ane lait-man [layman], and the Quenis rebel, and excommunicate, and wes repelled furth of other partis for the said causis.”

The answer given was bold, and to the point: “I will avow him,” said Garlies, “and will maintain and defend him against you and all other kirkmen that will putt at him.” Whereupon the officer, through the agency of “David Makgee, notarius publicus,” protested by a written deed, “quhilk instrument,” we are told, “wes tain in the lodging place of the said laird of Garlies, before thir witnesses: Schir [This courtesy title of “Sir” was formerly prefixed to the name of all curates and such priests as had taken the academic degree of Bachelor of Arts. Justice Shallow, in the “Merry Wives of Windsor,” when addressing Hugh Evans, a churchman, says: “Sir Hugh, persuade me not, I will make a Star Chamber matter of it: if he were twenty Sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire, master parson.”] Patrick Wallace, curat of Dumfres; Schir Jhone Ireland, parson of Rewll [Ruthwell]; Schir Herbert Paterson, Schir Oles Wilson, chaplains; Robert Maxwell, Williame Maxwell, Herbert Maxwell, Jhone Frude, John Menzies, Mark Rewll, and utheris.”

With the view of obliterating the impression made by Harlow “Schir” Patrick Wallace preached a sermon in St. Michael’s “for the weill and instruction of his parishioners;” and then the pertinacious “Maister Archibald Menzies,” anxious to do his part in the matter effectually, “past to the presence of David Cumminghame and James Rig, baillies of the burgh of Dumfres,” and representing that Harlow had been put to the horn at the instance of the Queen’s Grace, “for sic enormities and contemptions” as he had committed in divers parts “against the privilege of Haly Kirk and Acts of Parliament,” he required them, in the sovereign’s name, to seize the offender, and “putt him in sure hald.” To their credit be it recorded, the magistrates said nay to the solicitation. One of them, it may be inferred from his name, was related to the owner of the hall in which Harlow preached – a noted historical hall, let us not forget to say – the very Painted Chamber in which the Sixth James was afterwards entertained; and whether it was that they decidedly favoured Protestantism, or simply wished to remain neutral, they declined to interfere, even when the man of law threatened them with pains and penalties, and “asked instruments,” which were “maid and ta’en in the parioch-kirk,” to that effect. Harlow, therefore, in spite of the enraged Dean of Nithsdale, his curate “Schir” Patrick, and the mortified “Maister” Menzies, and encouraged by the bountiful heir of Garlies, continued his services in Dumfries undisturbed, preparing the field for other labourers, who soon sprang up. [In the following spring, Harlow prosecuted his evangelizing labours in Perthshire, for which he was prosecuted by the Government, as the following extract from Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials (vol. i., p. 407) will show: - “May 10, 1559.- Frier John Christesoune and William Harlow denounced rebels, as fugitive, &c.; and their cautioners, John Erskine of Dune and Patrick Murray of Tibbermuir, were amerciated, for their not entering to underly the law for their usurping the authority of the Church, in taking at their own hands the ministry thereof, as above, within the burgh of Perth, and other places adjoining, within the shire of Perth.”]

In the catastrophe that ensued, down went the deaneries of Nithsdale and Annandale; the religious houses of the County, great and small, were suppressed; the ritual of Rome vanished from public view – the revolution which these words suggest being effected with little violence, and no bloodshed.

The oldest monastic establishment in Dumfriesshire was that of Holywood. The Abbey, which occupied the south-east corner of the present churchyard of that parish, was in the form of a cross, a spacious arch supporting its oaken roof. The upper part of the edifice was used as the parish church till 1779, when the remains were absorbed in the existing place of worship; and, hung up in it, the old Abbey bells (though consecrated more than seven hundred years ago), still ring in the dulcet peal the seasons of religious service. [The Statistical Account (p. 559) bears testimony to the excellent tone of these venerable bells, and states that an inscription on one of them gives as the date of consecration by John Wrick, the year 1154. The late incumbent of the parish, Dr. Kirkwood, who wrote the account in 1837, states that the charter seal of the Abbot, dated 1264, was at that time in his possession.] To the Abbey were attached many lands in Nithsdale and East Galloway, its monks enjoying a jurisdiction over the whole. Its rental in 1544 amounted to £700 Scots; nineteen chalders, fourteen bolls, and three firlots of meals. [Keith, vol. i., Appendix, p. 185.] At the Reformation its revenue was reduced to less that £400 Scots; and in 1587 the remains of the property was vested in the Crown. Thirty years afterwards, an Act of Parliament was passed annulling this arrangement as to the temporalities of the Abbey and its spiritual jurisdiction (extending over the parish churches of Holywood, Dunscore, Penpont, Tynron, and Kirkconnel, with their parsonages, vicarages, tithes, and glebes), in order that King James VI. might grant the whole to John Murray of Lochmaben as a free barony, to be called the barony of Holywood, for a nominal yearly rent of £20 Scots, he, moreover, engaging to pay the stipends, to uphold the churches, and supply “the Elements of breade and wyne for the celebratioun of the coummunione within” the same. [Acts of Scot. Parl., vol. iv., pp. 575-6.] Murray was a great favourite of the King, and had previously acquired from him the barony of Lochmaben, with other property in Dumfriesshire. Thomas Campbell, the last Abbot of Holywood, faithful to the fortunes of Queen Mary, furnished her with assistance after she had escaped from Lochleven Castle, for which he suffered forfeiture in 1568. [One of the greatest mathematicians of the middle ages, Joannes a Sacro Bosca, threw a lustre over this monastic establishment, he having been an inmate of it in her early years. “He was born,” says Dr. George Mackenzie, “in Nithsdale. Having finished the course of his studies, he entered into holy famous Monastery of Holywood, from whence he has his name of Joannes a Sacro Bosca. After he had staid for some years in this Monastery, he went over to Paris, where he was admitted a member of that University on the 5th of June, 1221. He was, in a few years, made Professor of Mathematics, which he taught for several years with great applause.” – Lives and Character of the Most Eminent Writers of the Scots Nation (Edin, 1708), vol. i., p. 167. The same author sums up his notice of Joannes by saying, “He is acknowledged by all not only to have been the most learned mathematician of his age, but the noble restorer of those sciences then sunk into desuetude; and his works have been ever since, and will still be, esteemed by all learned men; and some of the most eminent mathematicians of the last age, as Gemmas Frisius, Petrus Ramus, Elias Venetus, and Christophorus Clavius, have though their labour not ill bestowed in illustrating them with their commentaries.” (Vol. i., p. 168.) Joannes died in 1256.]

At a very early date, the parish church of Dunscore belonged to the Abbey of Holywood – gifted to the brethren, it is supposed, by Edgar, grandson of Dunegal, the Lord of Stranith. A portion of land in the parish was conferred by Edgar’s daughter, Affrica, on another fraternity, the Monks of Melrose, who in course of time claimed the church also. [Chartulary of Mesrose, Nos. 103-4-5.] The Abbot of Darcongal, resenting this assumption, appealed to William, Bishop of Glasgow, and received a decision in his favour; that prelate, when at Kirkmahoe in June, 1257, ruling that Melrose had no business with the church, and could only of right tithe its own lands in Dunscore. [Ibid, No. 107.] These lands, however, were at one period very extensive, and included the classical soil of Friars’ Carse, held, too, by a direct descendant of the renowned Sir Roger Kirkpatrick, and who took his title from the farm in Dunscore, long afterwards tenanted by Robert Burns. A commission given by Cardinal Antonius, dated at Rome on the 13th of September, 1465, confirmed a charter from the Monastery of Melrose to John Kirkpatrick of Allisland of the thirty-six-pound land of Dalgonar, including “Killieligs, Bessiewalls, Over and Nether Bairdwell, Dunpaterstoun, Over and Nether Laggan, Over and Nether Dunscoir, Ryddingins, Edgarstoune, Mulliganstound, Culroy, and Ferdin, together with the lands of Frairs kars.” This commission, addressed to certain dignitaries of the Scottish Church, proceeded on the curious narrative that Andrew the Abbot, and the brethren of Melrose, in augmentation of their rental, and for certain sums of money paid to them by the said John, had granted to him and his lawful heirs male, bearing the name of Kirkpatrick, whom failing, to his nearest heirs female, without division, the said lands to be holden in feu farm of the said Convent of Melrose, he paying “46 merks, 6 ½ lib. sterling,” or 110 ounces of pure silver, at least eleven pence fine, and doubling the same the first year of his entry thereto; the said John and his heirs becoming bound to entertain each year the abbot, convent, and company with their horses – once in summer during three days and three nights, and once in winter for the same space – in their dwelling of “Friars’ Kars,” furnishing them with meat and drink and all other necessaries. As Kirkpatrick’s landlords were proverbial for their jollity, the expense of these periodical visits would amount to a heavy rent in itself.

“The monks of Melrose made gude kale,
On Fridays when they fasted;
And wanted neither beef nor ale
As lang’s their neighbour’s lastit.”

But lest their bargain with him should seem a stingy one, they threw into it the bailiery of the thirty-six-pound land of Dalgonar, with all the privileges and profits thereof, including power to hold bailie courts; he paying for the office the nominal sum, annually, of one penny Scots. [No. 824, Ant. Soc., Edin.] For a while after the Reformation, the property in Dunscore that belonged to Melrose was still administered by the commendator of the Abbey, Michael Balfour by name – that officer having, in August, 1565, granted a charter to Thomas Kirkpatrick of Allisland and Friars’ Carse of a 24 s. 6d. land; also, the tack of the teinds or tithes in the Over part of the parish, the latter for twenty pounds Scots a year.

Next in importance, though not quite so ancient as the Abbey of Holywood, was the Priory of Canonby, in Eskdale, erected, as we have seen, by Turgot de Rosindale, and granted by him, with adjacent territory, to the monks of Jedburgh. [The revenue of Jedburgh Abbey, including the Priories of Canonby and Restennent, Angusshire, was £1274 10s. Scots, besides meal and bere. – Keith, p. 185.] In Bagimont’s Roll [A roll showing the value of all benefices, named after a Papal Legate who caused it to be made, that the revenue might yield its due amount of taxation to the Court of Rome.], Canonby was taxed £6 13s. 4d. Scots. Its prior sat in the great Parliament held at Brigham in March, 1290; and, together with his canons, swore fealty to Edward I. at Berwick, in August, 1296. In 1341, the brotherhood received from Edward III. a writ of protection; but that did not hinder them from being frequently harassed, and their possessions plundered, in the Border wars; and both the priory and church are said to have been demolished after the rout of the Scottish army at Solway Moss, in 1542. [Some vestiges of the convent are still (1836) to be seen at Halgreen, about half a mile to the east of the parish church. – Statistical Account, p. 490.] The establishment was vested in the King by the Annexation Act of 1587; and it and the Abbey of Jedburgh, with which it was associated, were, in 1606, granted by the Legislature to Alexander, Earl of Home, he obtaining as pertinents of the priory, the patronage, teinds, and tithes of the churches of Canonby and Wauchope. Eventually the priory, with its property, passed from the family of Home to that of Buccleuch. [Inquisit, Speciales, pp. 212, 242.]

We have already seen how Lincluden Abbey was converted into a collegiate church by Archibald, Earl of Douglas. Its revenue was much increased by the liberality of his son’s wife, Margaret, daughter of Robert III., who founded in it a chaplainry, and endowed it with the lands of Eastwood, Barsculie, Carberland, Dumnuch, and the domains of Southwick and Barns. [Caledonia, vol. iii., p. 308.] Many of the Provosts of the college, soaring beyond its sphere, held high positions in the State. Elese, the first Provost, was succeeded by Alexander Cairns, who became Chancellor to the Duke of Touraine; the next was John Cameron, a great favourite at Court, who died in 1446, previously to which the provostry devolved on John M’Gilhauck, rector at Partoun. The next name on the roll is that of Halyburton, whose arms, carved on the south wall of the church, bespeak his high rank. Winchester, who was made Bishop of Moray in 1436; Methven, who became a Secretary of State and a diplomatic agent; and Lindsay, who was Keeper of the Privy Seal and ambassador to England, come next in order: these in their turn being followed, says Chalmers, “by other respectable men who evinced by their acceptance, the importance, and perhaps the profit which were then annexed to the office of Provost of Lincluden.” [Caledonia, vol. iii., p. 308-9.]

At the period of the Reformation, this lucrative provostry was held by Robert Douglas, second son of Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig. He was appointed to it in September, 1547; and, on his death, after enjoying the benefice for more than fifty years, he was succeeded in it by his elder brother, James Douglas, who obtained, however, only a portion of the collegiate property, including “all and haill the Salmond fischeing in the water of Nethe.” [Acts of Scot. Parl., vol. iv., p. 570.] The major part was granted, in 1617, to Sir Robert Gordon of Lochinvar, and to Sir John Murray of Lochmaben, the lucky knight who, as groom of the royal bedchamber, had gained the love and favour of King James; they becoming bound to pay the feu mails to Douglas during his life, and afterwards to the Crown. How rich the College of Lincluden was, may be inferred from the enumeration of its estates in the Act conferring them in equal shares on Gordon and Murray. In that document they are designated as “all and haill the five-merk land of Little Dryburgh; the five-merk land of Ernecraig; the five-merk land of Chapmantoun; the five-merk land of Blankerne; the five-merk land of Ernmingzie; the five-merk land of Crocemichell; the five-merk land of Garrantoun; the two-and-a half-merk land of Blackpark; the fifteen-shilling land of Staikfurd [now Nithside]; the forty-shilling land of Newtoun; the one-merk land of Clunye and Skellingholme; the six-merk land of Terrauchtie; the six-merk land of Drumganis; the five-merk land of Troqueer; the one-merk land of Stotholme; the five-merk land of Nuneland; the five-merk land of Cruxstanis [Curristanes]; the six-merk land of Holme [now Goldielea]; the twenty-shilling land of Marieholme; and the four-merk land of Nuneholme:” [Acts of Scot. Parl., vol. iv., pp. 571-4.] these comprising some of the most fertile arable farms, meadows, and grazing grounds that are to be found in the vicinity of Dumfries.

By the slaughter of Comyn, the Greyfriars’ Monastery of the Burgh lost its previous high repute: it was believed to have been desecrated by the blood shed pronounced by Pope John on the perpetrator of the murderous deed; yet the provost and chapter continued to occupy it till the beginning of the sixteenth century. Charters to houses in its neighbourhood, given by them in 1497, are said to have been seen and read at a comparatively recent period. [Burnside’s MS. History.] After the Reformation, the magistrates and community of Dumfries obtained a grant, dated 23rd April, 1569, of the whole lands, possessions, and revenues of the Monastery. Many of the inhabitants of the town worshipped within its church, till, scared from it by Bruce’s outrage, they were led to frequent the undefiled sanctuary of St. Michael’s Werk – the old parish church, situated at the southern extremity of the Burgh. Soon the little edifice became overcrowded, and an addition was made to it: to defray the expense of which, every person admitted a burgess or freeman of Dumfries was required to pay five merks; and when a sufficient fund for the building was thus realized, the rest of the money was spent in purchasing wine and spice for performing, with congenial hilarity, the festival plays of Robin Hood and Little John – a custom that was kept up for a century afterwards. [Burnside’s MS. History.] By an Act of Parliament passed in 1555, the obligation to devote the burgess money to such purposes was discharged.

At a very early period, the Church establishment in Dumfries was intimately associated with the Abbey of Kelso. In the thirteenth century, the Abbot of that great house entered into an agreement with the Dean of Nithsdale, in virtue of which he received certain charters respecting the benefice, and gave to the Dean all the places of worship in the Burgh, on condition that that dignitary should pay twenty merks of silver yearly to the Abbey. [Chart. Kelso, No. 322.] A rectory, dependent on Kelso, was established with this sum, but served by a vicar, who was allowed for his maintenance only the tithes of a few acres attached to the vicarage – the tax on which was fixed at four pounds in Bagimont’s Roll. As already noticed, a tuneful churchman, who possessed a merry soul though physically deformed, held the office in 1504 – “the crukit Vicar of Dumfreise, that sang to the King in Lochmabane be the Kingis command.” The last vicar was Thomas Maxwell, who dying in 1602, the tithes and lands were inherited by his daughter, Elizabeth – their annual value being £10 6s. 8d.

The Greyfriars’ Monastery in the Vennel did not long outlive the last of its inmates. [The name of John Scot of Duns, usually termed Duns Scotua, is, according to Mackenzie, the learned author already quoted, closely associated with this religious house. He was born at the town of Dunse in 1274; and, “having learned his grammar, our historians say that two Franciscan Friars falling acquainted with him, and finding him to be a youth of wonderful parts, took him alongst with them to Dumfries, where they induced him to enter into their order.” (Vol. i., p. 215.) Spottiswoode gives a similar statement; but some English writers are of opinion that it was not at Dumfries, but Newcastle, where Scotus became a Franciscan Friar. He afterwards studied at Oxford, went to Paris in 1301, where, as president of the Theological College, he soon became the greatest scholastic luminary of his age, acquiring the title of “the Subtle Doctor,” on account of his marvellous powers of disputation, and drawing crowds of students to the University (thirty thousand it is said, but that must be an exaggeration) by the depth and brilliancy of his intellect. He died at Cologne in 1308, at the early age of forty-three.] When, about the middle of the sixteenth century, the Castle of Dumfries needed repair, materials for that purpose were quarried out of Devorgilla’s edifice. The church portion of it, however, seems to have been left untouched, as Arthur Johnston [Dr. Arthur Johnston belonged to a family long settled in Aberdeenshire. The first of them was Stiven de Johnston, who lived in the reign of David II., and is said to have been the eldest brother of the Laird of Johnstone in Annandale. Being addicted to learning, he withdrew from the troubles of his own district to Aberdeenshire, where he found congenial employment as Secretary to the Earl of Mar. By his marriage with Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir Andrew Garioch, he got the lands of Caskieben, &c., also those of Kinburn, which he called after his own name; and from him are descended all the Johnstones of the north. – Scottish Nation, vol. ii., p. 575.], the distinguished poet and physician, who died in 1641, wrote a sonnet in its praise. Viewing it with intense admiration on account of its close association with the deliverance of his country from a hateful despotism, he gave expression to the sentiment in a piece of elegant Latin verse, “In laudem Dumfriesii,” stating that in this town might be seen a building to which Diana’s temples and anything else that Greece deemed more worthy of honour must give place, for here the valiant Bruce smote the traitor Comyn; and closing with the glowing apostrophe: -

“Scotia! Dumfrisii reliquis altaria præfer,
Hic tibi libertas aurea parta fuit.

“O Scotland! Prefer the shrines of Dumfries to all others in the land,
because there golden liberty was born to thee.” [Appendix H.]

Part of the south wall of the Monastery, including two dilapidated arched windows, was still standing about sixty years ago in front of Comyn’s Court at the Port of the Vennel; but now no relic remains of a house which superstition looked upon as accursed, and patriotism viewed with worshipful reverence, except the huge fire-place of the refectory where the food of the friars was cooked, which once turned out dinners for a king, and which is now doing service in the kitchen of a tavern [The “Kicking Horse” public house, Friars’ Vennel.] – remaining a tough piece of masonry after passing through six centuries of smoke and flame. [An old house which, down till 1863, formed the west corner of Irish Street, had a fragment of the original gate built into its gable.]

Long after the desertion of the Greyfriars’ Church, the missal service was continued in Sir Christopher’s Chapel. Sir Richard Maitland states, in his account of the Seton family, that he had heard mass in the building, and that the latter was standing undecayed in 1552. In the course of a few subsequent years its doors would be closed and its endowment be secularized. For more than a century the little chapel, when falling into ruins, looked forlorn yet picturesque, till nearly all that remained of it was carried away for defensive purposes during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. It has been conjectured that the eminence on which it was built, and which was the scene of Seton’s judicial murder, was the Tyburn of the Burgh: a supposition which receives support from a discovery of numerous human remains when, in 1837, the foundation was excavated of the edifice that now crowns the “Crystal Mount” – St. Mary’s Church. On that occasion, upwards of seventy skulls were dug up. Were any of these deserted “domes of thought” tenanted by the doughty warrior who, by saving Bruce at Methven, saved his country, and proved his patriotism in the more terrible ordeal of the scaffold? Or wee they only “the chambers desolate” of ordinary malefactors, or miserable suicides – for it was long the custom to bury here, also, those who violated the canon against self-slaughter ? [In a paper by Mr. James Starke, on Sir Christopher’s Chapel, he says: “There is no reason to doubt but that the patriot Seton suffered at the common place of execution at that day . . . . It was the Tyburn of Dumfries, and here also, as tainted and polluted ground, all suicides were buried.” – Transactions of Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, vol. ii., p. 44.] The questions must remain unanswered. Undoubted relics of the sacred building by which Seton’s memory was enshrined were, however, picked up whilst the present church was being founded; and these have been tastefully set up within an enclosure on the south side of the church. They constituted part of the beautiful east window, noticed by us in a former chapter, and bear the following inscription: - “These stones, the relics of the ancient chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, erected by King Robert Bruce, in memory of Sir Christopher or Chrystal Seatoun, are here placed by Major James Adair, 1840.” [This inscription is erroneous. The chapel, as we have seen, was built by Lady Seton, and only endowed by her royal brother; and it was not dedicated to the Virgin, but, as the charter distinctly states, was “erected in honour of the Holy Rood.” Major Adair, who was a member of the kirk-session of St. Mary’s merits thanks for collecting and authenticating these relics of this interesting historical edifice.]

Newabbey, the greatest religious establishment, founded in the district by Devorgilla, was munificently endowed: the churches of Newabbey, Kirkpatrict-Durham, Crossmichael, Buittle, and Kirkcolm, belonging to it, together with the baronies of Lochkinderloch and Lochpatrict, and other landed property; all of which lapsed to the Crown in 1587, till, in 1624, the lands, valued at £212 10s. 10 ½ d. sterling, yearly, were erected into a temporal barony, in favour of Sir Robert Spottiswood. Afterwards, in Queen Anne’s reign, the barony was burdened with a mortification, payable from the lands of Drum, to support the second minister of Dumfries, amounting, with several decreets of locality, to £141 4s. 8 1/3 d. What remains of the building – a nave, with aisles, choir, and transepts, an aisle on the east side, and a central square tower, rising ninety-two feet high, over the intersection of the nave with the aisles – furnishes still a vivid idea of Sweetheart Abbey in the olden time.

In addition to the monastic brotherhoods already noticed, two orders of religious knights acquired a settlement in Dumfriesshire – the Templars or Red Friars, and the Knights of St. John. The former, instituted by Baldwin II., King of Jerusalem, took their name from a residence he gave to them near the Temple of that city; the founders of the latter were certain devout Neapolitan merchants, who, trading to the Holy Land, obtained leave to build a church and monastery in Jerusalem, for the reception of pilgrims, to which buildings were added, in 1104, a larger church, with an hospital for the sick, dedicated to St. John: hence the name of the order, and the designation of Knights Hospitallers, by which they are also well known. [When the Templars were formed into an order, the Abbé de Verlot, in his History of the Knights of St. John, states that “St. Bernard ordered them, instead of prayers and offices, to say, every day, a certain number of paternosters, which would make one imagine that those warriors, at that time, knew not how to read.” One of the statutes required that the knights should not eat flesh above three times a week. The holy abbot, with regard to their military service, declared that each Templar might have an esquire, or serving brother-at-arms, and three saddle horses; but he forbade all gilding and superfluous ornaments of their equipage. He ordered that their habits should be white; and, as a mark of their profession, Pope Eugene III. added afterwards a red cross placed over the heart.” (Vol. i., pp. 56-7.)

De Verlot records that the idea of making the monastic inmates of St. John’s Hospital into a military order, was first mooted by Raimond Dupuy, and characterizes it as “the most noble, and withal extraordinary design, that ever entered into the mind of a monk, tied down by his profession to the service of the poor and sick,” They were divided into three classes – 1. Gentlemen used to arms. 2. Priests and chaplains. 3. Men neither of noble families, nor ecclesiastics, who were termed frères servans (“serving brethren.”). The habit consisted of a black robe, with a pointed mantale of the same colour (called a manteau à bec), upon which was sewn a pointed cowl, and the left side of which displayed an eight-pointed cross of white linen. (Vol. i., pp. 43-4-5.)]

Portions of the property that belonged to the Templars in the County bore their name long after they fell into other hands at or before the date of Reformation. Thus we read in old records of the temple-lands of Ingleston in Glencairn; the temple-land in Durisdeer; the five-pound temple-land of Carnsalloch; the temple-land lying beside the Glen of Lag; the temple-lands of Dalgarno; the temple-lands, two in number, near Lochmaben; the temple-lands, also two, beside Lincluden College; the temple-land of Torthorwald; the temple-land of Carruthers, in the old parish so named; the temple-land of Muirfad, near Moffat; and there is a village, in the vicinity of Lochmaben, called Templand, built on ground that was once owned by this opulent fraternity. In the particular register of sasines kept at Dumfries, sasine was registered on the 16th of April, 1636, in favour of Adam Johnstone, brother of Archibald Johnstone of Elshieshields, in the temple-land of Reidhall; and the forty-shilling land called Templands, both in the stewartry of Annandale. The same register contains an entry of sasine, dated 21st May, 1636, in favour of John Johnstone of Vicarland, and Adam, his son, of the temple-land termed the Chapel of Kirkbride, in Kirkpatrick; and an instrument is recorded whereby the five-pound Carnsalloch temple-land, already mentioned, which belonged to William Maxwell of Carnsalloch, was conveyed to Adam Shortrig, eldest son of John Shortrig, the precept being dated at “The End of the Bridge,” [Or Bridge-end, the name borne by Maxwellton before it was erected into a burgh of barony.] 21st of December, 1619. At Becktoun, Dryfesdale, may still be seen the vestiges of a small religious house that belonged to the order, together with the Chapel-lands, by which it was endowed. [Inquisit Speciales, p. 291.]

The Hospitallers had not so much landed property in the Shire as their fellow knights, but they seem to have possessed a large number of foundations. One of their principal houses was a preceptory, at Kirkstyle, about ten miles from Dumfries, in the parish of Ruthwell, the ancient burial-ground of which exhibited, up till a recent period, several memorials of their presence, in the shape of sculptured stones, each containing an ornamented cross, having a sword on the right, a figure resembling the coulter and sock of a plough on the left; but no names of the knights “long gone to dust, and whose swords are rust,” over whom the stones were originally laid. [“These memorials of the dead,” says Dr. Henry Duncan, in his Account of the Parish of Ruthwell, written in 1834, “were found by the present incumbent [himself] lying in the parish burying-ground, whence he removed them; and they now form part of the wall of a summer house attached to the front wall which separates the garden from the churchyard.” In the same garden is placed the celebrated Runie Cross, for the preservation of which memorable monument of Anglo-Saxon times we are also indebted to Dr. Duncan.] One of their establishments stood rather more than a mile southeast of Dumfries, on an estate which bore, in consequence, the name of Spitalfield, till it was bought by the late Mr. John Brown, merchant, Liverpool, who called it Brownhill. On the opposite side of the Kelton Road lies Ladyfield, with its ancient orchard and well, which may have been a pendicle of the Hospital; and we are inclined to think that “Our Lady’s Chapel,” at which King James IV. paid his devotions when visiting Dumfries, was situated on Ladyfield. Above the town of Annan, on the west bank of the river, there was another hospital belonging to the knights of St. John; from which two adjacent hamlets, Howspital and Spitalridding, acquired their designation; and they had a second one in Annandale, at Trailtrow, the cure of which was granted by James IV. to Edward Maxwell, with the land revenues of the same, vacant by the decease of Sir Robert M’Gilhance, the last master of the Hospital. [Privy Seal Register, vol. iv., p. 211.] Their largest hospital in the County, however, grew up under the shadow of Sanquhar Castle, on the northern bank of the Nith. Many ages after all traces of it disappeared, the plough turned up numerous relics of its inmates, the mouldering memorials of a brotherhood who were men of note in their day, though they are now all but forgotten throughout the district – a fate which they share in common with their more distinguished fraters, the military monks of the Temple. [The masters of both orders in Dumfriesshire having submitted to Edward I. in 1296, were confirmed in their possessions by precepts addressed to the Sheriff by the King. – RYMER, pp. 724 – 5.]

Both orders fell into decay long before the Papal establishment, of which they formed a singular feature, ceased to flourish; and when abolished at the Reformation, they remaining property was secularized: Ross of Rosile obtaining a considerable share of it; Murray of Cockpool getting what belonged to the Hospitallers in the parish of Ruthwell; Lord Herries their house and lands at Trailtrow [Inquisit, Speciales, p. 291; and Caledonia, vol. iii., p. 154.]; while, as already mentioned, the Spitalfield of Dumfries was acquired before 1666 by the M’Brairs of Almagill.


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