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History of Moffat
Chapter II


Its Physical aspect—Moffat denominated at a remote period a "Toune "—Its inhabitants, and their Customs. —Necessities of the Scottish People during the Bruce period—Villas and Territories—Division of Lands, and privilege of Pasturage—its first Charter—its next.—Ecclesiastical Notes—Its Church prior to the Reformation—The Vicarlancis.

IT is impossible to procure sufficient evidence to give us a correct idea as to the size and condition of Moffat at this period. In imagination we wander six centuries back, and behold it in the beauty of its hamlet garb,

"A place of nestling green for poets made."

rendered still more lovely by its woody surroundings (now much diminished), which in future days were destined to give shelter alike to the marauder and the persecuted in the days of the Covenant. Certain it is that at this period Moffat had in and around it a small population, which, from the wording of sundry charters and deeds, we presume carried on various trades, which although existing to meet the necessities of its inhabitants, still evinced strong signs of animation—we niight say unusual activity, considering its size, as far as we can learn. One peculiar feature regarding this is, that at this date it is talked of as a "Toune." Whether this alludes to its size and external appearances of prosperity at the time, or is merely a mode of expression peculiar to the particular period, we know not, but to the latter we incline. The inhabitants did not as now apply themselves assiduously to work, to breed and preserve stock, but looked more to the brewing and selling of "yill," in the manufacture of which they appear to have been adepts; and of which a Superior of Moffat (James Johnstone of Corehead) at a later date makes mention, when in his Deposition anent Teinds he says, "that the Tennants take no care of stock, but of their brewing and yill selling." This is shown too by the various grants of tenements in Moffat, denoting that such trades were carried on, more especially the charter of Robert Bruce already referred to, wherein he speaks of "brewhouses and bakehouses." Before the period of Bruce the people of Scotland were compelled, owing to the daring acts of their neighbours, to evacuate their retired and peaceful homesteads, to give up those seclusions wherein their joys and sorrows had alike been fostered, and retire into hamlets and villages, rendering themselves less liable to those depredations which necessitated their removal. Chalmers states that they had thus to live, "rather than in farms, for their mutual security and comfort." While enumerating the public buildings, churches, &c., and places of manufacture they possessed, he says, "all of them had their malt-kills and their brewhouses; and even the hamlets had their brewhouses, which supplied their common beverage." These villages and the like were termed villas; hence we find Moffat in the Retonr frequently mentioned in this fashion, even at a much later date-1635, and snbsequently. Adjoining this was a considerable tract of land called a territory, which was under the supervision of the husbandmen and cottagers4 whose duty it was to cultivate it in their proportions and of the "territorio de Moffat" mention is made continually in the public registers of lands. To the husba.ndmen were allotted the somewhat arduous task of tending the cultivation of carucates, bovates, or oxgates, while the cotters were imposed with the more homely duty of renovating, when necessary, their tenements and toft,% The extent of the privilege of the inhabitants to pasturage on the common-lands (of which we speak elsewhere) was controlled by the amount of amble land they possessed within the territory.

The first charter which has any special reference to Moffat is one granted by Robert I. to "Adae Barbitonsorie of the lands of the toft in Moffat cum duabus boustis terre adjacentibus que quondam Wilhielmus dictus Inglis ad flrmam tenuit, de Domino Vallis Annandiae ave nostro." During this reign we find it seldom mentioned, and when so, in such an inadvertent manner as to render it impossible for us to put it into any form. We may however safely infer, from its comparatively insignificant aspect at present, that it made few and unimportant steps towards progression, that it retained its rustic beauty and calm, not yet destroyed by the bustling sounds of manufacture: and that it played a simple, yea, unnoticed part in the history of Scotland at this date. It was, however, destined to be associated with one or two stirring events—deeds that caused our country fearlessly to don the spotless garb of liberty, and wield the sceptre of protection over a true-hearted and a loyal people. Its next charter is in the reign of David II., when he grants to "Robert Lage, of the lands of Neatherholme, Altounayle, four oxgate of land in Moffat; and twa cottages, whilk was ane Wni. Wezage and John Plegnans forisfecit." These are not Burgh Charters, but are simply introduced in these pages to show when mention is first made of it, and by this means more easily find out the early incidents connected with the town, and trace its progress. Many lands are at this period transferred to various parties, but which having latterly become more intimately associated with the town, we refrain from taking notice of at present, reserving the information for a subsequent chapter.

The Church of Moffat was, by a grant of Robert do Bras, transferred to the Bishop of Glasgow in the year 1174, thus we find it with others recorded in 1187-89 - "Do ecclesiis do Moffet—de Kirkepatrick—de Dricufdale—de Hodelm-.--et de Castlemilk," followed by a similar passage written under the same date, all of which were confirmed by the grants of William the Lion, and likewise by several Popes of a subsequent period.* Prior to thefleformation the "reetoria de Moffat" was constituted one of the prebends of Glasgow, and corroborative evidence of this is found by its being taxed 5 in a ta.xatio of such prebends, which was instituted for the benefit of the Cathedral. about 1401.1' And again in Bagimont's Roil during the reign of.James V., the sum of 10, "being a tithe of the estimated value." William the cominendator of Cuiross was, on account of the death of one John Stewart, presented on the 25th of April, 1552, to the vacant prebend of the rectory of Moffat, the right of presentation being invested in the hands of the Queen, by the vacancy of the See: and we find the parish favoured or supplied with the counsel or ministrations of David Mayn, denominated "reidar," from 1567 to 1586, receiving for his services the sum of 21; when we procure evidence of the proper installation of proper ministers, to rule over the people in holy things4 Bishop Cameron ordained, immediately after the erection of his palace or castle, in close proximity to the Cathedral Church of Glasgow, that the thirty-two prebendaries, rectors, or parsons of the metropolitan church—the privilege of prebendaries being the right of electing the Bishop in the event of a vacancy (a right often disregarded by the Popes)—should build houses for a permanent residence in the city, close by him: and that they should procure curates for the accomplishment of their duties, within their several parishes. Hence we find the incumbent of Moffat mentioned of as residing in the Rottenrow, lapped in security and comforts enjoying the luxury of repose.1- But, as will be seen in chapter vi. of the present work, the reception the curate of Mo'at met with, was one of a nature by no means to be envied. We can imagine the procession, with all its glorious associations, which took place at the instigation of the Bishop upon the completion of this master-scheme—the erection of the prelate's palace, and the manors of the prebendaries adjacent. High in truth was the ceremony. Twelve persons bore in front his massive silver crozier, and eleven immense maces were held exultingly on high, while the performers of vocal and instrumental music, arrayed in gorgeous attire, indicative of something better than the choristers of the cathedral, perfectly performed To Deunz, and other appropriate sacred selections. Here, too, the rector of Moffat must of necessity participate in the pomp, and be present at the- celebration of mass. And so in truth he was! All the representatives of the various parishes within the See encouraged by their presence the alike novel and high festivity. Upon the transference of the church of Moffat to the Bishop, for ever after to be under his paternal superintendence and control—the Viccarlands are said to have been included in the grant, and up to the period of the .Leformation were recognised as having no special connection with the place; tradition having declared them part of the Bishopric of Glasgow. This is quite reconcileable, seeing thatthe Viecarlands were the church lands till long after the Reformation, when they became the property of a lesser branch of the Johnstone family, who are emphatically denominated the Johnstones of Viccarlands, though they held them from the then existing Superior. In fact, we find the Chartulary contains a passage which has a meaning synonymous to that in question, at least such could readily be deduced from it, even by a cursory observer.


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