Lindores Abbey and the Burgh of Newburgh
Their History and Annals by Alexander Laing
The following pages are the fruit of leisure
hours in the intervals of business. They have extended to a greater length
than I contemplated, and yet they do not embrace all that I originally
intended. 1'he more closely I studied our ancient records, the more I felt
that the early life of a community contains the seeds of its greatness or of
its decay, and that no mere narrative could convey half so vivid an
impression of the state of society in the past, as the contemporary records
of the words and deeds of the men and women who died and suffered at the
These considerations induced me to make lengthened extracts from local
records, which may prove dry and uninteresting to the cursory reader, but
are nevertheless the foundations of true history. These records bring to
light customs and modes of procedure, which filled a large place in the
public mind, and in the daily life, of the times to which they relate; but
which are now utterly unknown. I regret that in printing some of the
earliest of these extracts, I should have fallen into the error of using z
for y, and ye for the; these are now generally admitted to be corruptions of
the forms of the old letters 3 and )>, which are equivalent to y and th
The length to which these extracts have extended, has induced me to leave
out biographical sketches of men born in Newburgh, or connected with the
neighbourhood, who acquired distinction in their respective spheres;
narratives of adventures and escapes incident to a seafaring population, and
events illustrative of social life in bygone times. These sketches, if
health and leisure permit, may form the subject of a separate publication. I
much wish, also, that I could find leisure to prepare a history of
Abernethy; more especially as, in a hurriedly written lecture delivered some
years since, and afterwards published, I made some statements, which I would
In the preparation of the present volume I have received much kindness from
David Laing, Esq.,LL.D., of the Signet Library, in affording me information,
and in putting manuscripts, from his ample stores, at my disposal. I owe a
like acknowledgment to John Stuart, Esq., LL.D., for his uniform help and
encouragement. To Thomas Dickson, Esq., Curator of the Historical Department
of the Register House, for much and constant aid in collating manuscripts,
and furnishing information otherwise inaccessible. To Andrew Jervise, Esq.
of Brechin, for counsel and assistance, and for the sketches of Stob Cross,
and of the window of the ruined chapel at Ayton; engravings of which appear
among the illustrations of this volume. To all these gentlemen my warmest
thanks are due. My best thanks are also due to J. D. Marwick, Esq.,
Town-Clerk of Glasgow; Arthur Mitchell, Esq., M.D., Edinburgh; to Joseph
Anderson, Esq., of the Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh; to Thomas Boss,
Esq., Architect, Edinburgh, for the ground-plan and drawings of Lindores
Abbey; and to John Young, Esq., C.E., and Architect, Perth, for the
ground-plan and section of the Fort on Clachard Craig. I have also to
express my sincere thanks to the Magistrates and Town-Council of Newburgh,
and to the Ministers and Kirk-Sessions of the parishes of Newburgh and Abdie,
for the ready access they have afforded me to the records under their
charge. I beg also to express my obligations and thanks to the Bight
Beverend Dr Wordsworth, Bishop of St Andrews, for the elucidation of an
ancient ecclesiastical practice otherwise unexplained. To William Tullis,
Esq., Bothes, Markinch, for notices of the ancient topography of that
parish. To my aunt, Mrs Charlotte Anderson, for reminiscences of old
customs. To Mr John Cameron, schoolmaster of Abdie, for the etymology of
names of places in the neighbourhood ; though it is right to state, that he
is not answerable for all the derivations from Gaelic that have been given
in the following pages.
My especial thanks are due to George Wilson, Esq., S.S.C., Edinburgh, for
the ready access he has afforded me to the Mugdrum archives. To John Berry,
Esq. of Tayfield and Tnverdovat; Andrew Walker Buist, Esq. of Berryhill ;
and Major F. W. Balfour of Fernie, for putting their old charters and writs
at my service. To Sir Patrick Murray Threipland, Bart., for information
regarding the ancient possessions of the Earls of Newburgh. I beg also to
express my obligations to Thomas Barclay, Esq., Sheriff-Clerk of Fife;
Walter Malcolm, Esq., North Berwick ; and to William A. Taylor, Esq., Cupar-Fife.
To William Ballingall, Esq., Engraver, Edinburgh, for the use of the blocks
of the engravings of Abdie Old Church, and of the view from Cross Macduff;
and for the care and pains which he has bestowed on the engravings which
illustrate this volume. Also to William Proudfoot, Esq., Perth, for the
drawing of the moulding of the door-way in the nave of the Abbey Church ;
and to the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, for the use of
the electrotype of the carved stone ball and blocks of the engravings of the
Bos primigenius belonging to the Society.
The list of plants in the Appendix is perhaps more copious than it should
have been in a hook devoted to antiquities ; but I was specially desirous of
making it as full as possible, and of giving the exact habitats of the
plants growing in the neighbourhood, in the hope that the youth of both
sexes may he induced to study those beautiful creations of God, and partake
of the ever-increasing enjoyment which the study of any department of His
works never fails to afford. I have been enabled to supplement this list by
the kindness of John Sadler, Esq. of the Boyal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh,
in supplying me with a note of the plants gathered by Professor Balfour’s
class, on an excursion to Loch Lindores and Marie’s Craig, in 1873. I have
also to thank Charles Howie, Esq. of Largo, for additions to the list.
In conclusion, I have to express my obligations to James A. Smith, Esq.,
London, for researches made expressly in the British Museum, and for
assistance in compiling the Index appended. I tender my best thanks to him
and to all others who have assisted me from the beginning, without whose
ever-ready help this volume would have been much more imperfect than it is.
A lot of the information I
have, comes from that book and here’s a little more background info.
My family have owned Lindores Abbey, in Fife for a hundred years and to be
honest, whilst it is a lovely thing to own I didn’t know too much about its
history until about ten years ago someone pointed out to me that it was
recognised as “The Spiritual Home of Scotch Whisky”, this is because of a
sentence written (in Latin!) in the Exchequer roll of 1494, whereby it read;
“To Friar John Cor, VIII bolls of malt, wherewith to make Aqua Vitae for
King James IV”, this is the earliest written record of the production of the
“Water of Life” or “Whisky”.
So on the back of this and with a great deal of advice and help from people
within the industry I am on the cusp of putting in planning for a distillery
on the farm steading adjacent to the site. This is a £10m project and we are
very close to being fully funded and commencing with the project.
So on the whisky side of things there is all sorts of info/stories to tell.
Meanwhile on the other side of the road (literally) lie the
beautiful/peaceful remains of Lindores Abbey, which very few people even
know exists, partly due to its location and partly due to the fact that it’s
been privately owned for a hundred years and completely out of the public
eye. But the more I read the books we have on its history the more I realise
that there is so much more to Lindores than just whisky!
Many significant things have happened at Lindores, I’ll only list a few (But
possibly the most significant)
1. Founded in 1191 by David, Earl of Huntingdon on land given to him by King
William the Lion. The hero in Sir Walter Scott’s book “The Talisman” is
based on Earl David and he is believed by many to be the basis for the
character “Robin Hood”
2. On 21st January 1283 Price Alexander, son of Alexander III and heir to
the throne, died at Lindores. Only a few months earlier his marriage had
brought great joy to Scotland as it gave promise to the removal of the
possibility of a disputed succession. Therefor his death caused great sorrow
across Scotland and it is on record that he was filled with forebodings as
to the dangers to which Scotland would be exposed to by his death, and ‘Upon
the night before he died, he talked wildly about an approaching contest with
his Uncle (Edward I), and suddenly exclaimed ‘Before tomorrow’s sun rise,
the sun of Scotland will have set’.
The sequence of national events following on from this ‘omen’ are borne out
3. In 1291 King Edward I (Hammer of the Scots)came to Lindores Abbey to
accept the allegiance of the local nobility and it is recorded that Abbot
John of Lindores ‘Touched the Host, kissed the gospels, and swore upon the
high altar of Lindores’
4. In 1293 the “puppet king” john Baliol visited Lindores with his main
supporters, whilst trying to assert his authority over the land.
5. In 1296 Lindores had the questionable honour of a second visit from King
Edward, he was here after Baliol had capitulated the Crown in to his hands,
and as Edward travelled people of all classes were gathered (as at Lindores)
to swear allegiance to the Crown.
Then with Scotland’s relationship with England deteriorating, William
Wallace came to the fore, and his last victory was at the battle of
Blackearnside, in the forests around Lindores, where Wallace defeated the
Earl of Pembroke with the help of the locals of Newburgh and surrounding
area, after which he, and his men rested at Lindores, entering through the “Slype”,
which is the arch that still exists to this day.
6. Six months after Wallace’s death, in 1306, at the high altar of Lindores,
the three knights puissant; Sir Gilbert Hay of Errol, Sir Neil Campbell of
Lochaw and Sir Alexander Seton, swore ‘To defend King Robert Bruce and his
Crown to the last of their blood and fortunes’
7. Four months after Bannockburn on 6th November 1314, The Abbot of Lindores
appears in the parliament, summoned by King Robert the Bruce at
Cambuskenneth Abbey. He affixed his seal to the statute whereby; ‘All that
did not come into “The peace of King” and acknowledge him as their
Sovereign, would be held as traitors and their estates confiscated.
This was all directly brought about by the untimely death of Prince
Alexander in 1283, and the rest, as they say, is History!
As mentioned previously there are many more events historical or whisky
related that may (or may not) be of interest to your readers, the final
relevant story is that Lindores is the final resting place of David, the
ill-fated 1st Duke of Rothesay, heir to the Scottish throne (as is the
current Duke HRH Price Charles) who was buried at Lindores in 1401.
Later on this summer a team of archaeologists will be allowed to work in
Lindores, this will be the first for over 100 years and using modern
technology they will be carrying out an electronic survey to (amongst other
things) possibly locate the Dukes remains and possibly even try and
establish the true cause of his death, as it is still unsolved as to whether
his Uncle, the Duke of Albany had him poisoned, or starved to death at
nearby Falkland Palace.
Anyway, the distillery is obviously the commercial aspect of Lindores, but
it sits hand in hand with 800 years of history, which I’ve tried to condense
a wee bit!
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