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Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times and Other Papers
Chapter III - Old Church Life in the Parish of Kingussie


THE earlier records of the parish of Kingussie and Insh would appear to have been unfortunately burnt. The existing records date back to the induction of the Rev. William Blair as minister of the parish in September 1724. There is an unfortunate gap from 25th June 1732 to 15th June 1746, in regard to which there is an explanatory memorandum inserted to the effect “that, through the frequent changes of session clerks, many confusions, defects, and disorders have happened in the minutes. The minutes in John Macpherson’s time, who died at Aberdeen, are lost, and also the minutes in time of Mr John Grant, schoolmaster and session clerk.” The glimpses which the kirk-session records furnish of the religious and social state of the Highlands during the last century are such as may, after all, tend to make the sighs for the so-called “ good old times ” less deep, and render us somewhat more contented with the times in which we now live. One of the most striking features of these records is the burning zeal which animated the ministers and elders of the time in ferreting out and chronicling the most minute particulars bearing upon the wanderings of the erring sheep of the Kingussie fold. In numerous instances several closely written pages are devoted to the narration of a single case of discipline. Many of the details recorded are such as would not certainly be regarded in the present day as tending to edification, and only such gleanings are given as are of general interest in the way of illustrating the manners and customs prevailing among the Highland people down, in the case of some parishes, to the third or fourth decade of the present century.

It would appear that there were black sheep calling for ecclesiastical discipline in those days even among the “ministers’ men.” At the session meeting on 21st March 1725 “John Macdonald in Kingussie” was appointed to make “public satisfaction” for drinking a whole Sabbath-night till ten o’clock next morning, and “caballing” with other men and “some women” in the minister’s house, “the minister being that day in the parish of Insh.” Apparently the too-trustful minister had in his temporary absence left all his belongings under John’s charge; and the “caballers,” it is recorded, not only consumed all the aqua vitae in the minister’s house “at ye time,” but also “four pints aqua vitie carried out of William Fraser’s house.” John maintained that “they had but three chapins aqua vitae,” and boldly defended “the innocency of their meeting by their not being drunk, as he alleges.” Proving anything but obsequious to the appointment of the session, John, as “the ringleader of the cabal,” was solemnly referred to the Presbytery of the bounds for contumacy. The Presbytery in turn remitted him back to the session “to satisfie according to their appointment, otherwise be charged before the Comissary, and be punished in his Person and Goods in case of not satisfying for his prophanation of the Lord’s day, and insnaring oyrs foresaid to ye same sin.” The crestfallen John had perforce no escape for it in the end but humbly to stand before the congregation and be “severly rebuked for his wickedness.”

Here is a singular enactment by the Kingussie session anent “Pennie Weddings,” which were prevalent in Badenoch down to within living memory:—

“April 4th, 1725.—The Session enacts that no coupple be matrimonially contracted within the united parishes of Kingussie and Insh till they give in into the hands of the Session-Clerk 3 lbs. Scots, or a white plaid, or any other like pennieworth, worth 3 lbs. Scots, as pledge that they should not have pennie weddings, otherwise to forfite their pledges if they resile.”

A few months later it is recorded that “Malcolm Bain in Milntown of Kingussie” was delated and rebuked for a “manifest breach of the Lord’s day by selling shoes on that day to some who came to his house.” Under date 31st May 1726 there is an entry to the effect that the session had “debursed to Alex. Glass Mertin, Kingussie,” 22s. Scots for tobacco, which he gave to millers for gathering meal to the orphan at their milns, and this by command of the minister.” The next extract is instructive as indicating the starving process to which the Revenue authorities of the time resorted in the way of recovering “debts of excise ” : —

11 May 29th, 1726.—The case of Lachlan Roy in Ruthven being represented to the Session, they find he is an object of charity, and for present at Inverness in prison for his Debt of Excise in a starving condition, having nothing to support him for his present relief. Therefore appoint twenty sh. Scots be sent him— which was done accordingly.”

The prison discipline to which the poverty-stricken Lachlan was so callously subjected in the Highland capital appears to have not only transformed the unfortunate man himself into an abandoned and hardened criminal, but to have grievously affected his marital belongings. Some months later it is recorded that the session “understand that Lachlan Roy in Ruthven, his wife, and daughter have been banished out of Ruthven upon account of yr abominable practices, such as thieving and whoring, and yt they are gone out of the parish.”

In July 1726 we come upon the first of numerous similar entries, exhibiting a deplorable picture of the pollution with which Badenoch was impregnated by the establishment of the barracks at Ruthven, built by the Government of the day a few years after the Rising of 1715, on the site of the old castle of the Comyns. It may be of interest to mention in passing, that in the immediate neighbourhood of the barracks stood the village of Ruthven, which for many years previously was distinguished as possessing the only school of importance from “Speymouth to Lorn.” Here in 1736 was born James Macpherson, the celebrated translator of Ossian’s poems, where for some years, after finishing his studies at King’s College, Aberdeen, he filled the honourable position of parochial schoolmaster. The site of the old village is now indicated by the farmhouse of the same name. The Kingussie session could not, apparently, see their way to extirpate the rowdy Lowland garrison bodily; but they did not hesitate, as the following extract shows, to adopt the most summary measures to have the abandoned and disreputable followers of the alien redcoats banished out of the district:—

11 July 10th, 1726.—The Session, understanding yt yr are a great many stragglers and vagabonds come into this parish without testimonials, as also a great many dissolute and unmarried women from different parts of the kingdom, commonly follow the soldiers at the barracks of Ruthven, and are sheltered in some houses in the parish, where they and the soldiers have frequent meetings, and very often upon the Lord’s Day, to the great scandal of religion and prophanation of ye Sabbath : Therefore, the Session think it necessary to apply to the civil judge that all such as shelter such women and vagabonds shall be condignly punished and fined in twenty pounds Scots to ties quoties, and this to be intimated from the pulpit.”

A week later the decreet of the bailie is referred to as follows :—

“July 11th, 1726.—This day it is informed yt the Session had applied to the Baillie in pursuance of a former resolution anent vagabonds and strangers coming into the parish without testimonials, and that the Baillie hath passed a Decreet of ten pounds Scots, toties quoties, against all person or persons that shall harbour such vagabonds for three nights successively, which act was this day intimated from the pulpit, that none pretend ignorance.”

Here is one of many similar entries of “grievous scandals” and “breach of Sabbath”:—

“July 9th, 1727.—The Session do find the following account to be true and genuine—namely, that upon the eleventh of June, being the Lord’s day, it happened that Alister Roy in Croft’s sheep had run into Donald Ban in Dell of Killiehuntly’s corn; and Donald Ban’s wife hastening to take ynr away in order to house ym, Alister Roy’s wife and daughter came and took them away by force, qrupon the said Marjorie craved a pledge, qch was refused, and then she went and took away a door as pledge brevi matin: then Alister Roy’s wife and daughter took hold of her and pulled and tore ye linnens off her head, and gave her several scandalous names, upon qch Donald Ban came out and attacked the said Alister, and had some blows with hands and feet, hinc inde.”

In a subsequent minute we find a “John M‘Lawrence and James Robertson in Brae-Ruthven” delated for being both drunk on the Lord’s day. On their way home after attending divine service it is recorded that they “ did struggle with one anoyr, and had blows hinc inde, and were grappling when the said John Macpherson came upon ym, who separated them. It is also to be observed yt said John M'Lawrence had creels carrying on his back on the Lord’s day. The session do find that these persons have been guilty of drunkenness and breach of Sabbath, appoint that both parties stand before the congregation next Lord’s day, and be severely rebuked for the said scandal.”

Tradition has it that in many of our Highland churches, down in some instances even to the third or fourth decade of the present century, the bones of the dead were, as a rule, so thickly strewn on the earthen floors as to be frequently kicked about by the feet of the worshippers. The following extract tends to confirm this tradition, and gives, it is believed, a fair indication of the lamentable state at the time of a large number of the church buildings throughout the Highlands :—

“November 10th, 1727.—The Session considering that the commons in this Parish, with beggars and others out of the Parish, do commonly burie within the Church of Kingussie so that the floor of the Church is oppressed with dead bodies, and of late unripe bodies have been raised out of their graves to give place to others for want of room, qch frequently occasions an intolerable and unwholesome smell in the Congregation, and may have very bad effects on the people while attending Divine worship : The Session do refer the consideration yrof to the Pbty., entreating they may put a stop to such a bad practice.”

Here is an extract indicating to some extent what was expected of the “men of repute, credite, and honesty” in past times as ecclesiastical detectives:—

“March 3d, 1728.—This day met in Session Donald M'Pherson in Tomford, William Gollonach in Farletter, and Donald Clerk in, men of repute, credite, and honesty, who were required to undertake the Office of Elders in this Parish, which they submitted to, and the Minr. had informed them of the particular duties of their function both in discovering and discourageing the works of Darkness to the outmost of their power, as they should be answerable to God.”

The fiddling propensities of the Badenoch people of the time appear to have been altogether irrepressible, and to have for a lengthened period sorely exercised the reforming zeal of the Kingussie session. Here is one of numerous entries of what the session term their “heathenish practices” at Leickwakes:—

"March 10th, 1728.—This day were called John Campbell in Kinvonigag; John M'Edward in Knockichican; and Donald M'Alvea in Killiehuntly, and only compeared John M'Edward, who confessed that he had a fiddler in his house at the Leickwake of a dead person, but said he did not think it a sin, it being so long a custome in this country. The Session finding that it is not easie to rout out so prevailing a custome, do agree that for the more effectual discouraging such a heathenish practice the minister represent from the pulpit how undecent and unbecoming to the designs of ye Christian Religion such an abuse is; they also appoint that the Civil Judge be applied to for suppressing the same.”

The result of the application to the civil judge is recorded a few days later as follows :—

“March 24th, 1728.—This day the minister read from the pulpit an Act of the Court enacting and ordaining that all fiddlers playing at any Leickwakes in time coming shall pay to James Gordon, Procurator-Fiscal of Court, five pounds Scots for each contravention, and each person who calls or entertains them in their families shall pay to the said James Gordon twenty pounds Scots for each contravention, and the said James Gordon is hereby empowered to seize any fiddler so playing at Leickwakes, and to secure ym until they pay their fines and find caution they shall not play at Leickwakes in time coming.”

The watchful session appear to have been fully alive to the possible danger of allowing unaccredited interlopers to settle in the parish. In one of their minutes an “Angus M'Intire, now in Coirarnisdel ”—even although a “Mac,” and presumably a Highlander—is peremptorily summoned to appear before them to “give an account of himself as a stranger come into the parish without a testimonial.” In the next extract we have an enactment directed against matrimonial contracts on the Saturdays :—

“December 6th, 1728.—The Session finding that it is a common practice for people to contract, in order to matrimony, upon the Saturdays, by which they frequently sit up in change-houses and incroach upon the Lord’s Day, the Session do enact yt none shall be contracted upon the Saturdays within this parish in time comeing, and that this may be intimated from the pulpit that none pretend ignorance.”

In the following year it is recorded that “Mary Kennedy in Benchar, while being reproved for her sin, uttered several foolish and impertinent expressions.” Mary appears to have been a regular Jezebel, and we are told that she “gave such great offence” that she was there and then bodily “seized” by the redoubtable kirk-officer, brought before the session, and sentenced “ to stand in sackloth next Lord’s Day and be rebuked.”

In the same year we come upon an entry indicating the extent to which the Kingussie session had anticipated the famous Forbes MacKenzie by at least a century and a half:—

“January 6th, 1729.—Kenneth Macpherson, in Balnespick, compearing, was examined anent his entertaining severals in his house upon the Lord’s Day, and found he was guilty of the forsaid abuse, and likewise yt it has been a prevailing custome in the Parish for people to assemble together in Taverns, especially after divine service, to remain till late at night. The Session, for preventing such an abuse, do enact yt all change-keepers within the Parish be henceforth discharged from giving to any person yt may frequent yr houses on the day forsaid above a chapine a piece, as they shall be answerable.”

With all the zeal of the session, what strikes one as remarkable is that if the delinquents confined themselves to the moderate (?) allowance of “a chapine a piece” on the “Sabbath,” they might apparently, without any fear of being subjected to the punishment of standing in the “publick place of repentance,” indulge to their heart’s content in the most liberal potations of “aqua vitie” on any other day of the week.

We have next the judgment of the session anent what is termed the “ scandalous abuse of gathering nuts upon the Sabbath ”

“August 24th, 1729.—The Minister understanding that it is a common practice in this Parish with severals, especially with children and servants, to Prophane the Lord’s day by frequenting the woods and gathering nuts upon the Sabbath, made public intimation from the Pulpit, that if any person or persons, young or old, should be found guilty of said scandalous abuse, that they should be insisted against for breach of Sabbath and punished accordingly, and that the Heads of families would be made lyable for the transgressions of their children and servants in these cases.”

In the following extract we have the case of a mother, of whom “two things” were required by the session as regards her fiddler son:—

“October 22d, 1729.—Alexr. M'Intosh, Fiddler in Milntown of Delnafeart, being call’d, his mother compeared for him and told he could not be prst, but assured the Session she would oblige him to satisfie yr demands and be obedient to discipline, upon which the Session required two things of her : first, that her son should stand before the Congregation to be rebuked first sermon day; 2dly, that she should bind herself, under the failzie of Forty pds. Scots, he should not play at Lycwakes in time coming, to both qch she did bind and oblige herself before the Session.”

Here is the case of two worthies falling “a-scolding” on the Lord’s Day, with an apparent ferocity not excelled even in the memorable battle of the Kilkenny cats, and all “about eating of corn ” :—

"May 31st, 1730.—This day there was delated to the Session a scandal yt broke forth last Lord’s Day after divine service betwixt Alexander Keannich in Ivnockichien and James Glass, Turner in Knockichalich, in Killihuntly, showing that the said Alexander Keannich was travelling with an armsfull of peats, and, meeting with said Glass, they fell a-scolding about eating of corn, and yrafter did beat and bruise one anoyr until they were separated by the neighbours—viz., Donald Fraser, Angus Kennedy, and Finlay Ferguson, weaver, all in Knockichalich or yrabouts.”

The session, finding that this was “a notorious breach of the Lord’s Day, very much to be testified against, appointed the delinquents to stand before the congregation and be rebuked.”

Here is the case of a jealous husband tempted, as he owned, “by Satan,” making his uneasy wife, Elspet, “swear upon a knife” :—

“June 2d, 1730.—This day compeared John Stewart in Farlettor, and Elspet Kennedy, his wife, who were confronted, and the said John being interrogate, 1 mo, If he entertained any jealousie of his wife with Duncan Gordon in Farlettor, owned he did; 2d, being asked what grounds and presumptions he had to do so, answered that sometime in March last a stirk in the town being amissing, he observed the said Duncan and his wife separate from the company in search of that Beast—that then Satan, he owned, had tempted him to entertain a jealousie ; 3d, being asked if he put her to an oath of purgation, owned he drew a knife and obliged her to swear, as she would answer to God in the Great Day, that she would never have any offspring or succession, if she did not tell the truth, and that he had done this three or four times, and once upon a Lord’s Day; 4th, being asked if his wife complied with the said oath, both he and she owned she did. She being asked what made her leave her own house, answered yt he was daily so uneasy to her that she was obliged to leave him, and declared that she would never return until she got satisfaction for the scandal that was raised upon her. The Session considering that this is an affair of an intricate nature, refer to the Presbytery for advice.”

We have next a batch of four sadly misguided Highlanders dealt with by the session “for fishing upon a Sabbath evening” :—

“October 7th, 1730.—This day Thomas and Murdow Macpherson and John Shaw, in Invereshie, being summoned and called, compeared, and being interrogate anent their guilt in prophaning the Lord’s Day by fishing as was delated, they owned that they fished upon a Sabbath evening upon the water of Feshie at Dugarie. Compeared also John Macpherson, boatman at Insh, who owned himself guilty of art and part in buying the said fish yt night, all of ym being rebuked and removed. The Session considered the whole affair, and appointed ym to compeare before the congregation here Sabbath come a fortnight, and be sharply rebuked for ye said transgression.”

In the next extract we have the case of a husband and wife delated for a “ customary practice of bakeing bread upon the Lord’s Day ” :—

“October 18th, 1730.—This day Annie Macpherson, spouse to Donald Fraser in Knockachalich, formerly delated, being summoned and called, compeared with her husband, and owned only that she did bake a little bannock for an herd, who was to go off early next morning.”

Annie’s ingenious plea that it was “only a little bannock for an herd” led the session, it is recorded, to let off the culprit with a “You must never do it again, Annie,” in the shape of “a sharpe sessional rebuke with certification.”

From the following entry it is evident there must have been a considerable number of bad halfpennies in circulation in the Highlands at the time, but apparently the “bawbees,” bad as they were, were considered by the contributors good enough for the church-box:—

“December 24th, 1730.—There is found in the box Two pounds and eleven sh. Scot. over and above what is marked, qch makes twentie-seven lbs. and eighteen sh. Scots, in the Treasr’s. hands, of quch there is of bad halfpennies thirteen pounds seven sh. Scots., wereof there are twelve sh. st. given at ninepence per pound weight, which amounts to two sh. three pence st. of good money.”

Here is the record of the dealing of the session with parties travelling on a Lord’s Day “ with a great many horse ” :—

“November 21st, 1731.—This day Wm. M‘Lean and Donald M'Pherson in Farlotter, John M'Pherson in Toliva, and Wm. Shaw in Knockanbeg, formerly delated, being called, compeared, and being asked if they and some oyrs in the parish of Insh did travel on a Lord’s day with a great many horse loadned with meal, confessing guilt, they were sharply rebuked, and such of them as were masters of families were ordained to stand before the congregation, and servants were dismissed with a sharpe rebuke before the Session, with certification.”

Extracts bearing upon “Sabbath” profanation might be almost indefinitely multiplied. I pass to some of another kind. Under an Act of the Scots Parliament in 1600 all persons were required to partake of the sacrament of the Supper once in the year under the following penalties—viz., “An earl, 1000; a lord, 1000 merks; a baron, 300 merks; a yeoman, 40; and a burgess as the Council shall modify.” “It was remarked,” says Dean Stanley, “in the eleventh century that one deeply rooted feeling of the ancient Scottish Church, as represented by the Culdees, was the awful reverence for the Sacrament, growing to such a pitch that, from mere terror of the ordinance, it had ceased to be celebrated even at the great festival of Easter. Such a sentiment, so overleaping itself, has perhaps never been equalled again, except in the Scotland of the nineteenth century. Those who know the influence of the ‘Men’ in the Highlands tell us that the same extravagant awe, causing an absolute repulsion from the sacred rite, is still to be found there. Old greyheaded patriarchs are to be seen tottering with fear out of the church when the sacramental day comes round; many refusing to be baptised, many more abstaining from the Eucharist altogether; and at the time when the Veto Act was discussed, it was found incompatible with any regard to the rights of the parishioners to leave the election in the hands of the communicants, because in the extreme north (where the ‘Men’ prevailed), out of a congregation of several thousands, the communicants, from motives of excessive reverence, did not exceed a hundred.”

Here is an extract from the Kingussie records giving an indication of the intermittent character of the administration of the Sacrament in the early part of the eighteenth century :—

"May 9th, 1731.—The Minr. represented to the Session the lamentable State this Parish has been in for many years past, in regard to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper has not of a long time been administered among ym, and that the beginning of the good work would be of great use in ye land for advancing Christian knowledge and practice, and yrfore advised with ym what season might be most proper for celebrating the same. They all unanimously joined in the matter, and advised that the Minr. as soon as possible might intimate the said design to the Congregation from the Pulpit.”

Passing over a period of about seventeen years, we come to the case of an exceptionally wild Highlander asking a spade from his neighbours, and the terrible language and dire results which followed their refusal of that much-prized implement:—

“June 2nd, 1748.—This day was laid before the Session a complaint and petition from Jean Cameron, spouse to Duncan Macnicol in Ruthven, against Peter M'Konnich, alias Macdonald, in Ruthven, and Janet Mackenzie, his spouse, setting forth that upon the 2nd day of May last the said Peter came to the com-plainer’s house asking a spade, which he did not get. He then said that if he had her husband behind a hedge he would stamp upon his belly, and reproached her publicly in the following words : D n you for a B h ! your Fayr was hanged, and d n me if I will deny it; and as he was passing through the streets said d n his soul if he should deny what he had said, and that the said Janet his wife uttered the words in the streets of Ruthven, that the said Jean Cameron’s father and uncle were both hanged for theft, and beseeching the Session to take these scandalous reflections under their consideration; and that the guilty persons may be censured and brought to condign punishment. The Session having reasoned thereupon, agreed that such abusive language defaming and scandalizing the memory of the dead, and entailing infamy upon their posterity, is in itself injurious and unchristian, and to be discouraged in human society, and if proven relevant to infer church censure.”

Several closely written pages of the session records are taken up with the depositions of the witnesses. Here is the session judgment:—

“The Session having summed up the evidence, do find that . . . both Peter Macdonald and his wife Janet ought to be subjected to the censure of the church —the rather that yre were this day laid before the Session sufficient testimonials the complainer’s father liv’d and dy’d under the reputation of an honest man— wherefore the Session unanimously agree that the said Peter and his wife Janet shall stand before the congregation at Kingussie next Lord’s Day in the publick place of repentance, and be sharply rebuked for their offence and for terror to others; and the Session do petition the Judge Ordinary here present to cause secure their persons in prison until they find caution to fulfill and obtemper this sentence, as also until they secure the peace by a Bond of Lawburrows.”

The session had, it will be seen, taken the precaution to have the Bailie, or Judge Ordinary, present with them on the occasion, and it is satisfactory to find that the wild and foul-mouthed Peter and his fitly-mated Janet were there and then subjected to the “condign punishment” they so justly deserved. The sentence of “James Stewart,” the Bailie of the time, is appended in the records to the session judgment, and runs as follows :—

“The Baillie ordains the persons of the said Peter M'Donald and his wife Janet to be imprisoned within the Tolbooth of Ruthven untill they find caution conform to the above sentence.”

In the same month (June 1748) half a page of the Kingussie records is devoted to recording “that John Macpherson of Knappach, barrack-master, represented this day to the session yt. Ld. George Sackville, as he pass’d with his regiment through this country, was pleased in his goodness to put in his hands a half-guinea, quch he desired him give the poor in this parish.” The disposal of the precious half-guinea— notwithstanding the clear unambiguous instructions of the donor— appears to have sorely exercised the wits of the session. After the most serious deliberation, they appointed “a half-crown thereof to be given to Donald MTherson, now in Claigean, as a great object of charity,” and with the most charming naivete it is added that they appointed “ the remainder to be employed in building the bridge of Goynack”!

Apparently the Kingussie session regarded the apostolic injunction to “be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” as of very limited application. Judging from results, it is to be feared that in some parts of the Highlands, even in the present day, the visits of angels of either sex, except of the soi-disant and notoriety-loving type of Mrs Gordon Baillie, “are few and far between.” In the old turbulent times in Badenoch the prospect of angels’ visits appears to have been considered so very remote that the canny session felt constrained to restrict to a single night the time within which a “stranger” could be developed into such a visitor, and the efficacy of the visit exemplified. So distrustful was the session of importations from other quarters that any “stranger” coming into the district without sufficient credentials was bracketed with the wandering “vagabond.” Here is the stringent prohibition directed against either the one or the other being entertained in the parish “two nights on end ”

“June 18th, 1749.—The Session considering that there are several strangers and vagabonds who come into this parish without certificates and are sheltered therein, the Session agree to apply to the Judge Ordinary if the persons of all such will be apprehended and incarcerated, and that such as entertain one or more of them two nights on end shall be fined in 20s. sterling.”

Here are the very moderate dues fixed by the session for digging the graves of every “person” come of age and of every “child”; “the gentlemen,” it will be observed, being “left to their own discration ” :—

"June 23rd, 1749.—The Kirk-Session considering that it would be extremely convenient for the parish the Kirk Officer should be employed in digging the graves, and do appoint him to do yt service to any that shall employ him, and yt he shall have a sixpence for every person come to age and fourpence for every child, and the gentlemen shall be left to their own discration ; and the Session appoint their Clerk to give him a crown out of their boxt for buying tools.”

We come next upon the records of a singular payment made by the session :—

“December 9th, 1750.—Petition John M'Intosh, Court Officer at Ruthven, craving that the Kirk-Session may allow him payment for his trouble and pains at the Session Desire in apprehending the person of Christian Guthrie, and incarcerating and retaining her in the Tolbooth of Ruthven for the space of 21 days, by which he is entitled to prison wages. The Session appointed 3 sh. and 6d. str. to be given him, and that the Minister pay him out of the funds in his hands.”

In February of the following year we have the complaint of a grievously afflicted “Jean Macpherson,” mated to a more than ordinarily boozy and wicked tailor body, who made a “football” of his own infant:—

“February 10th, 1751. — Compeared Jean Macpherson, spouse to John Mdntire, taylor in Ruthven, complaining on her said husband, that he is a habitual drunkard, frequenting change-houses, spending his effects, ruining his family, beating the complainer, and selling his back cloaths and bed cloaths for liquor, and that, when he comes home drunk, he tosses his own infant like a football, and threatens to take away her own life; she therefore begged the Session that they would put a stop to the progress of his wicked life, and secure the safety of the complainer and her child, and that they would discharge all the change-keepers in the parish from giving him liquor.”

The deliverance of the session in the case of the unfortunate “Jean” would surely satisfy even Sir Wilfrid Lawson and the most ardent temperance reformers of the present day:—

“The Session, considering this complaint, and being persuaded of the verity of the facts, do agree to petition the Judge Ordinary to interpose his authority that no change-keepers or sellers of liquor votsoever shall gift or sell liquor of any kind, either ale or aquavitie, to the said John, under the failzie of twenty shillings str., the one-half of which to be applied for the support of the complainer and her child, and that this act, when obtained, shall be intimated from the pulpit.”

Here is the deliverance of the Kingussie session anent a most odious Act of Parliament passed “when George the Third was King,” for the purpose of “raising the wind” to replenish the National Exchequer, then so much impoverished by the American War of Independence and the repeated fightings with the French :—

"October 1 st, 1783.—The Session proceeded to consider what measures were necessary to be adopted in relation to a late Act of Parliament imposing a duty of threepence upon the register of every birth, baptism, marriage, and burial, which Act commences of this date; and whereas they have received no instructions against the same, they resolved to empower their Session-clerk, in terms of a clause in the said Act, to uplift the duties from and after this date, to retain the same in his hands to acct. till such time as a proper licence may be obtained.”

Well, indeed—when even “burials” were thus taxed—might a rhymster of the day exclaim,—

“Taxed to the bone thy loving subjects see;
But still supposed when dead from taxes free:
Now to complete, great George, thy glorious reign,
Excised to death, we’re then excised again.”

In our next extract, we have the session craving a warrant to incarcerate “the body” of a refractory delinquent refusing any security for maintaining his children :—

"February 24th, 1786. — Angus Falconer in Inverughlais having failed to compear tho’ twice summoned, and refusing to give any satisfaction to the Church, or any security for maintaining his children, a petition was ordered to be drawn up, to be presented in the name of the Session to one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, craving warrant to incarcerate the body of the said Angus Falconer until such time he shall grant security in terms of law.”

In the following extract we have an indication of a reprehensible practice, quite prevalent even down to within a recent period, of the profanation of our churchyards in the Highlands:—

“July 2d, 1786.—The Session then proceeded to consider the state of the Churchyard and other Burying places within the Parish, which of late have been profaned by the pasturing of cattle on them, and other ways. And in regard John Machardy, Tacksman of Kingussie, was in the daily practice of keeping his cattle in the Churchyard, they resolved to apply to the Sheriff for an interdict against him.”

We have next a resolution of the session indicating that in Badenoch at least—the land of the “Sons of the Parson”—the people were not quite so priest-ridden as Mr Buckle would have us believe was the case throughout Scotland at the time:—

“September 3d, 1787.—Session proceeded to consider the usual practice of marrying without proclamations; and in regard that the Laws of the Church require that every person should be three times regularly proclaimed in Church previous to their being married,

“Resolved that the Law shall be rigidly adhered to where Session are not fully satisfied that no objections can be lodged against parties.

“Resolved that where all the proclamations are dispensed with, the parties shall pay three shillings sterling to the poor over and above the usual Dues.

“Resolved that where two proclamations are dispensed with they shall pay two shillings, and where one proclamation one shilling for the same purpose.

“Resolved that every Gentleman on his marriage shall, in place of the New Hat formerly given to the Clergyman, pay one guinea to the Poor of the Parish.”

The resolution thus adopted, so cruelly depriving — without the slightest compensation—the parsons of Kingussie of not a few “new hats” in the course of their ministry, has, remarkably enough, been brought home to the people of Badenoch only within the last year or two. “O ye Sons of the Parson,” is the pathetic exclamation in a recent very graphic sketch of Kingussie from the facile pen of a reverend sympathising “Son of Adam” in the Scottish metropolis, “was it your unfilial minds which devised a scheme of partial disendowment?” Unfortunately, in this respect at least, the “Sons of the Parson” still form a majority of the Kingussie session. Let them, however, continue, in the interests of “the poor of the parish,” to act as “unfilially” as they may, the matter has now, it is understood, excited the commiseration of generous-hearted friends in the south to such an extent as will, it is confidently anticipated, elicit the warm commendation of the General Assembly, and lead to a fund being raised, to be termed “The Kingussie Hat Fund,” for the purpose of supplying the present genial and popular parson, at stated intervals, with a serviceable hat of the most approved orthodox LL.D. fashion, during the remainder of his ministry.


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