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Reminiscences of Scottish Life & Character
Chapter 2 - Scottish Religious Feelings and Observances


PASSING from these remarks on the Scottish of a past day, I would treat the more extensive subject of RELIGIOUS FEELINGS and RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES generally with the caution and deference due to such a question, and I would distinctly premise that there is in my mind no intention of entering, in this volume, upon those great questions which, are connected with certain church movements amongst us, or with national peculiarities of faith and discipline. It is impossible, however, to overlook entirely the fact of a gradual relaxation, which has gone on for some years, of the sterner features of the Calvinistic school of theology——-at any rate, of keeping its theoretic peculiarities more in the background. What we have to notice in these pages are changes in the feelings with regard to religion and religious observances, which have appeared upon the exterior of society—the changes which belong to outward habits rather than to internal feelings. Of such changes many have taken place within my own experience. Scotland has ever borne the character of a moral and religious country; and the mass of the people are a more church-going race than the masses of English population. I am not at all prepared to say that in the middle and lower ranks of life our countrymen have undergone much change in regard to religious observances. But there can be no question that amongst the upper classes there are manifestations connected with religion now, which some years ago were not thought of. The attendance of men on public worship is of itself an example of the change we speak of. I am afraid that when Walter Scott described Monkbarns as being with difficulty "hounded out" to hear the sermons of good Mr Blattergowl, he wrote from a knowledge of the habits of church-going then generally prevalent among Scottish lairds. The late Bishop Sandford told me that when he first came to Edinburgh—I suppose fifty years ago—few gentlemen attended church—very few indeed were seen at the communion—so much so that it was a matter of conversation when a male communicant, not an aged man, was observed at the table for the first time. Sydney Smith, when preaching in Edinburgh some forty years ago, seeing how almost exclusively congregations were made up of ladies, took for his text the verse from the Psalms, "Oh that men would therefore praise the Lord!" and with that touch of the facetious which marked everything he did, laid the emphasis on the word "men." Looking round the congregation and saying, "Oh that men would therefore praise the Lord!" implying that he used the word, not to describe the human species generally, but the male individuals as distinguished from the female portion. In regard to attendance by young men, both at church and communion, a marked change has taken place in my own experience. In fact, there is an attention excited towards church subjects, which, thirty years ago, would have been hardly credited. Nor is it only in connection with churches and church services that these changes have been brought forth, but an interest has been raised on the subject from Bible societies, missionary associations at home and abroad, schools and reformatory institutions, most of which, as regard active operation, have grown up during fifty years.

Nor should I omit to mention, what I trust may be considered as a change belonging to religious feeling, viz., that conversation is now conducted without that accompaniment of those absurd and unmeaning oaths which were once considered an essential embellishment of polite discourse. I distinctly recollect an elderly gentleman, when describing the opinion of a refined and polished female upon a particular point, putting into her mouth an unmistakable round oath as the natural language in which people’s sentiments and opinions would be ordinarily conveyed. This is a change wrought in men’s feelings, which all must hail with great pleasure. Putting out of sight for a moment the sin of such a practice, and the bad influence it must have had upon all emotions of reverence for the name and attributes of the Divine Being, and the natural effect of profane swearing, to "harden a’ within," we might marvel at the utter folly and incongruity of making swearing accompany every expression of anger or surprise, or of using oaths as mere expletives in common discourse. A quaint anecdote, descriptive of such senseless ebullition, I have from a friend who mentioned the names of parties concerned: A late Duke of Athole had invited a well-known character, a writer of Perth, to come up and meet him at Dunkeld for the transaction of some business. The Duke mentioned the day and hour when he should receive the man of law, who accordingly came punctually at the appointed time and place. But the Duke had forgotten the appointment, and gone to the hill, from which he could not return for some hours. A Highlander present described the Perth writer’s indignation, and his mode of showing it by a most elaborate course of swearing. "But whom did he swear at?" was the inquiry made of the narrator, who replied, "Oh, he didna sweer at ony thing particular, but juist stude in ta middle of ta road and swoor at lairge." I have from a friend also an anecdote which shows how entirely at one period the practice of swearing had become familiar even to female ears when mixed up with the intercourse of social life. A sister had been speaking of her brother as much addicted to this habit: "Oor John sweers awfie’, and we try to correct him; but," she added in a candid and apologetic tone, "nae doubt it is a great set off to conversation." There was something of rather an admiring character in the description of an outbreak of swearing by a Deeside body. He had been before the meeting of Justices for some offence against the excise laws, and had been promised some assistance and countenance by my cousin, the laird of Finzean, who was unfortunately addicted to the practice in question. The poor fellow had not got off so well as he had expected, and on giving an account of what took place to a friend, he was asked, "But did not Finzean speak for you?" "Na," he replied, "he didna say muckle; but oh, he damned bonny!"

This is the place to notice a change which has taken place in regard to some questions of taste in the building and embellishing of Scottish places of worship. Some years back there was a great jealousy of ornament in connection with churches and church services, and, in fact, all such embellishments were considered as marks of a departure from the simplicity of old Scottish worship—they were distinctive of Episcopacy as opposed to the severer modes of Presbyterianism. The late Sir William Forbes used to give an account of a conversation, indicative of this feeling, which he had overheard between an Edinburgh inhabitant and his friend from the country.

They were passing St John’s, which had just been finished, and the countryman asked, "Whatna kirk was that?" "Oh," said the townsman, "that is an English chapel," meaning Episcopalian. "Ay," said his friend, "there’ll be a walth o’ images there." But, if unable to sympathise with architectural church ornament and embellishment, how much less could they sympathise with the performance of divine service, which included such musical accompaniments as intoning, chanting, and anthems! On the first introduction of Tractarianism into Scotland, the full choir service had been established in an Episcopal church, where a noble family had adopted those views, and carried them out regardless of expense. The lady who had been instrumental in getting up these musical services was very anxious that a favourite female servant of the family—a Presbyterian of the old school—should have an opportunity of hearing them; accordingly, she very kindly took her down to church in the carriage, and on returning asked her what she thought of the music, etc. "Ou, it’s verra bonny, verra bonny; but oh, my lady, it’s an awfu’ way of spending the Sabbath." The good woman could only look upon the whole thing as a musical performance. The organ was a great mark of distinction between Episcopalian and Presbyterian places of worship. I have heard of an old lady describing an Episcopalian clergyman, without any idea of disrespect, in these terms:—"Oh, he is a whistle-kirk minister." From an Australian correspondent I have an account of the difference between an Episcopal minister and a Presbyterian minister, as remarked by an old Scottish lady of his acquaintance. Being asked in what the difference was supposed to consist, after some consideration she replied, "Weel, ye see, the Presbyterian minister wears his sark under his coat, the Episcopal minister wears his sark aboon his coat." Of late years, however, a spirit of greater tolerance of such things has been growing up amongst us—a greater tolerance, I suspect, even of organs and liturgies. In fact, we may say a new era has begun in Scotland as to church architecture and church ornaments. The use of stained glass in churches—forming memorial windows for the departed, [Distinguished examples of these are to be found in the Old Greyfriars’ Church, Edinburgh, and in the Cathedral of Glasgow; to say nothing of the beautiful specimens in St John’sEpiscopal Church, Edinburgh.] a free use of crosses as architectural ornaments, and restoration of ancient edifices, indicate a revolution of feeling regarding this question. Beautiful and expensive churches are rising everywhere, in connection with various denominations. It is not long since the building or repairing a new church, or the repairing and adapting an old church, implied in Scotland simply a production of the greatest possible degree of ugliness and bad taste at the least possible expense, and certainly never included any notion of ornament in the details. Now, large sums are expended on places of worship, without reference to creed. First-rate architects are employed. Fine Gothic structures are produced. The rebuilding of the Greyfriars’ Church, the restoration of South Leith Church and of Glasgow Cathedral, the very bold experiment of adopting a style little known amongst us, the pure Lombard, in a church for Dr W. L. Alexander, on George IV. Bridge, Edinburgh; the really splendid Free Churches, St Mary’s, in Albany Street, and the Barclay Church, Bruntsfield, and many similar cases, mark the spirit of the times regarding the application of what is beautiful in art to the service of religion. One might hope that changes such as these in the feelings, tastes, and associations, would have a beneficial effect in bringing the worshippers themselves into a more genial spirit of forbearance with each other. A friend of mine used to tell a story of an honest builder’s views of church differences, which was very amusing, and quaintly professional. An English gentleman, who had arrived in a Scottish country town, was walking about to examine the various objects which presented themselves, and observed two rather handsome places of worship in course of erection nearly opposite to each other. He addressed a person, who happened to be the contractor for the chapels, and asked, "What was the difference between these two places of worship which were springing up so close to each other?"—meaning, of course, the difference of the theological tenets of the two congregations. The contractor, who thought only of architectural differences, innocently replied, "There may be a difference of sax feet in length, but there’s no aboon a few inches in the breadth." Would that all our religious differences could be brought within so narrow a compass!

The variety of churches in a certain county of Scotland once called forth a sly remark upon our national tendencies to religious division and theological disputation. An English gentleman sitting on the box, and observing the great number of places of worship in the aforesaid borough, remarked to the coachman that there must be a great deal of religious feeling in a town which produced so many houses of God. "Na," said the nun quietly, "it’s no’ religion, it’s Curliness," i.e., crabbedness, insinuating that acerbity of temper, as well as zeal, was occasionally the cause of congregations being multiplied.

It might be a curious question to consider how far motives founded on mere taste or sentiment may have operated in creating an interest towards religion, and in making it a more prominent and popular question than it was in the early portion of the present century. There are in this country two causes which have combined in producing these effects :—First: The great disruption which took place in the Church of Scotland no doubt called forth an attention to the subject which stirred up the public, and made religion at any rate a topic of deep interest for discussion and partisanship. Men’s minds were not allowed to remain in the torpid condition of a past generation. Second: The aesthetic movement in religion, which some years since was made in England, has, of course, had its influence in Scotland; and many who showed little concern about religion, whilst it was merely a question of doctrines, of precepts, and of worship, threw themselves keenly into the contest when it became associated with ceremonial, and music, and high art. New ecclesiastical associations have been presented to Scottish tastes and feelings. With some minds, attachment to the church is attachment to her Gregorian tones, jewelled chalices, lighted candles, embroidered altar-cloths, silver crosses, processions, copes, albs, and chasubles. But, from whatever cause it proceeds, a great change has taken place in the general interest excited towards ecclesiastical questions. Religion now has numerous associations with the ordinary current of human life. In times past it was kept more as a thing apart. There was a false delicacy which made people shrink from encountering appellations that were usually bestowed upon those, who made a more prominent religious profession than the world at large.

A great change has taken place in this respect with persons of all shades of religious opinions. With an increased attention to the externals of religion, we believe that in many points the heart has been more exercised also. Take, as an example, the practice of family prayer. Many excellent and pious households of the former generation would not venture upon the observance, I am afraid, because they were in dread of the sneer. There was a foolish application of the terms "Methodist," "saints," "over-righteous," where the practice was observed. It was to take up a rather decided position in the neighbourhood; and I can testify, that less than fifty years ago a family would have been marked and talked of for a usage of which now throughout the country the exception is rather the unusual circumstance. A little anecdote from recollections in my own family will furnish a good illustration of a state of feeling on this point now happily unknown. In a northern town of the east coast, where the earliest recollections of my life go back, there was usually a detachment of a regiment, who were kindly received and welcomed to the society, which in the winter months was very full and very gay. There was the usual measure of dining, dancing, supping, card-playing, and gossiping, which prevailed in country towns at the time. The officers were of course an object of much interest to the natives, and their habits were much discussed. A friend was staying in the family who partook a good deal of the Athenian temperament, viz., delight in hearing and telling some new thing. On one occasion she burst forth in great excitement with the intelligence that "Sir Nathaniel Duckinfield, the officer in command of the detachment, had family prayers every morning!" A very near and dear relative of mine, knowing the tendency of the lady to gossip, pulled her up with the exclamation: "How can you repeat such things, Miss Ogilvy? Nothing in the world but the ill-natured stories of Montrose!" The remark was made quite innocently, and unconsciously of the bitter satire it conveyed upon the feeling of the place. The "ill-nature" of these stories was true enough, because ill-nature was the motive of those who raised them; not because it is an ill-natured thing of itself to say of a family that they have household worship, but the ill-nature consisted in their intending to throw out a sneer and a sarcasm upon a subject where all such reflections are unbecoming and indecorous. It is one of the best proofs of change of habits and associations on this matter, that the anecdote, exquisite as it is for our purpose, will hardly be understood by many of our young friends, or, at least, happily has lost much of its force and pungency.

These remarks apply perhaps more especially to the state of religious feeling amongst the upper classes of society. Though I am not aware of so much change in the religious habits of the Scottish peasantry, still the elders have yielded much from the sternness of David Deans; and upon the whole view of the question there have been many and great changes in the Scottish people during the last sixty years. It could hardly be otherwise, when we consider the increased facilities of communication between the two countries— a facility which extends to the introduction of English books upon religious subjects. The most popular and engaging works connected with the Church of England. have now a free circulation in Scotland; and it is impossible that such productions as the "Christian Year," for example, and many others—whether for good or bad is not now the question—should not produce their effects upon minds trained in the strictest school of Calvinistic theology. I should be disposed to extend the boundaries of this division, and to include under "Religious Feelings and Religious Observances," many anecdotes which belong perhaps rather indirectly than directly to the subject. There is a very interesting reminiscence, and one of a sacred character also, which I think will come very suitably under this head. When I joined the Scottish Episcopal Church, nearly fifty years ago, it was quite customary for members of our communion to ask for the blessing of their Bishop, and to ask it especially on any remarkable event in their life, as marriage, loss of friends, leaving home, returning home, etc.; and it was the custom amongst the old Scottish Episcopalians to give the blessing in a peculiar form, which had become venerable from its traditionary application by our bishops. I have myself received it from my bishop, the late good Bishop Walker, and have heard him pronounce it on others. But whether the custom of asking the bishop’s blessing be past or not, the form I speak of has become a reminiscence, and I feel assured is not known even by some of our own bishops. I shall give it to my readers as I received it from the family of the late Bishop Walker of Edinburgh:-

"God Almighty bless thee with his Holy Spirit;
Guard thee in thy going out and coming in;
Keep thee ever in His faith and fear;
Free from Sin, and safe from Danger."

I have been much pleased with a remark of my friend, the Rev. W. Gillespie of the U.P. Church, Edinburgh, upon this subject. He writes to me as follows:—"I read with particular interest the paragraph on the subject of the Bishop’s Blessing, for certainly there seems to be in these days a general disbelief in the efficacy of blessings, and a neglect or disregard of the practice. If the spirit of God is in good men, as He certainly is, then who can doubt the value and the efficacy of the blessing which they bestow? I remember being blessed by a very venerable minister, John Dempster of Denny, while kneeling in his study, shortly before I left this country to go to China, and his prayer over me then was surely the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man. Its effect upon me then and ever since will never be forgotten."

I quite agree with Mr Gillespie on the point, and think it not a good sign either of our religious belief or religious feeling that such blessings should become really a. matter of reminiscence; for if we are taught to pray for one another, and, if we are taught that the "prayer of the righteous availeth much," surely we ought to bless one another, and surely the blessing of those who are venerable in the church from their position, their age, and their piety, may be expected to avail as an aid and incentive to piety in those who in God’s name are so blest. It has struck me that on a subject closely allied with religious feelings a great change has taken place in Scotland during a period of less than fifty years—I mean the attention paid to cemeteries as depositories of the mortal remains of those who have departed. In my early days I never recollect seeing any efforts made for the embellishment and adornment of our churchyards; if tolerably secured by fences, enough had been done. The English and Welsh practices of planting flowers, keeping the turf smooth and dressed over the graves of friends, were quite unknown. Indeed, I suspect such attention fifty years ago would have been thought by the sternest Presbyterians as somewhat savouring of superstition. The account given by Sir W. Scott, in "Guy Mannering," of an Edinburgh burial-place, was universally applicable to Scottish sepulchres. ["This was a square enclosure in the Greyfriars’ Churchyard, guarded on one side by a veteran angel without a nose, and having only one wing, who had the merit of having maintained his post for a century, while his comrade cherub, who had stood sentinel on the corresponding pedestal, lay a broken trunk, among the hemlock, burdock, and nettles, which grew in gigantic luxuriance around the walls of the mausoleum."] A very different state of matters has grown up within the last few years. Cemeteries and churchyards are now as carefully ornamented in Scotland as in England. Shrubs, flowers, smooth turf, and neatly-kept gravel walks, are a pleasing accompaniment to head-stones, crosses, and varied forms of monumental memorials, in free-stone, marble, and granite. Nay, more than these, not infrequently do we see an imitation of French sentiment, in wreaths of "everlasting" placed over graves as emblems of immortality; and in more than one of our Edinburgh cemeteries I have seen these enclosed in glass cases to preserve them from the effects of wind and rain.

In consequence of neglect, the unprotected state of churchyards was evident from the number of stories in circulation connected with the circumstance of timid and excited passengers going amongst the tombs of the village. The following, amongst others, has been communicated. The locale of the story is unknown, but it is told of a weaver who, after enjoying his potations, pursued his way home through the churchyard, his vision and walking somewhat impaired. As he proceeded he diverged from the path, and unexpectedly stumbled into a partially made grave. Stunned for a while, he lay in wonder at his descent, and after some time he got out, but he had not proceeded much farther when a similar calamity befell him. At this second fall, he was heard, in a tone of wonder and surprise, to utter the following exclamation, referring to what he considered the untenanted graves: "Ay! ir ye a’ up an’ awa’?"

The kindly feelings and interest of the pastoral relation always formed a very pleasing intercourse between minister and people. I have received from an anonymous correspondent an anecdote illustrative of this happy connection, for which he vouches as authentic:-

John Brown, Burgher minister at Whitburn (son of the commentator, and father of the late Rev. Dr John Brown of Edinburgh, and grandfather of the present accomplished M.D. of the same name, author of "Rab and his Friends," etc.), in the early part of the century was travelling on a small sheltie [A Shetland pony] to attend the summer sacrament at Haddington. Between Musselburgh and Tranent he overtook one of his own people. "What are ye daein’ here, Janet, and whaur ye gaun in this warm weather?" "‘Deed, sir," quo’ Janet, "I’m gaun to Haddington for the occasion, [The Lord's Supper] an’ expeck to hear ye preach this efternoon." "Very weel, Janet, but whaur ye gaun tae sleep?’ "I djnna ken, sir, but Providence is aye kind, an’ll provide a bed." On Mr Brown jogged, but kindly thought of his humble follower; accordingly, after service in the afternoon, before pronouncing the blessing, he said from the pulpit, "Whaur’s the auld wifie that followed me frae Whitburn?" "Here I’m, sir," uttered a shrill voice from a back seat. "Aweel," said Mr Brown, "I have fand ye a bed; ye’re to sleep wi’ Johnnie Fife’s lass."

There was at all times amongst the older Scottish peasantry a bold assertion of their religious opinions, and strong expression of their feelings. The spirit of the Covenanters lingered, amongst the aged people whom I remember, but which time has considerably softened down. We have some recent authentic instances of this readiness in Scotsmen to bear testimony to their principles:— A friend has informed me that the late Lord Rutherfurd often told with much interest of a rebuke which he received from a shepherd, near Bonaly, amongst the Pentlands. He had entered into conversation with him, and was complaining bitterly of the weather, which prevented him, enjoying his visit to the country, and said hastily and unguardedly, "What a d---d mist!" and then expressed his wonder how or for what purpose there should have been such a thing created as east wind. The shepherd, a tall, grim figure, turned sharp round upon him. "What ails ye at the mist, sir? It weets the sod, it slockens the yowes, and"—adding with much solemnity—"it’s God’s wull"; and turned away with lofty indignation. Lord Rutherfurd used to repeat this with much candour as a fine specimen of a rebuke from a sincere and simple mind.

There was something very striking in the homely, quaint, and severe expressions on religious subjects which marked the old-fashioned piety of persons shadowed forth in Sir Walter Scott’s Davie Deans. We may add to the rebuke of the shepherd of Bonaly of Lord Rutherfurd’s remark about the east wind, his answer to Lord Cockburn, the proprietor of Bonaly. He was sitting on the hillside with the shepherd, and observing the sheep reposing in the coldest situation, he observed to him, "John, if I were a sheep, I would lie on the other side of the hill." The shepherd answered, "Ay, my lord, but if ye had been a sheep ye would hae had mair sense."

Of such men as this shepherd were formed the elders—a class of men who were marked by strong features of character, and who, in former times, bore a distinguished part in all church matters.

The old Scottish elder was in fact quite as different a character from the modern elder, as the old Scottish minister was from the modern pastor. These good men were not disposed to hide their lights, and perhaps sometimes encroached a little upon the office of the minister. A clergyman had been remarking to one of his elders that he was unfortunately invited to two funerals on one day, and that they were fixed for the same hour. "Weel, sir," answered the elder, "if ye’ll tak’ the tane I’ll tak’ the tither."

Some of the elders were great humorists and originals in their way. An elder of the kirk at Muthill used to manifest his humour and originality by his mode of collecting the alms. As he went round with the ladle, he reminded such members of the congregation as seemed backward in their duty, by giving them a poke with the "brod," and making, in an audible whisper, such remarks as these—"Wife at the braid mailin, mind the puir"; "Lass wi’ the braw plaid, mind the puir," etc., a mode of collecting which marks rather a bygone state of things. But on no question was the old Scottish disciplinarian, whether elder or not, more sure to raise his testimony than on anything connected with a desecration of the Sabbath. In this spirit was the rebuke given to an eminent geologist, when visiting in the Highlands :—The professor was walking on the hills one Sunday morning, and partly from the effect of habit, and partly from not adverting to the very strict notions of Sabbath desecration entertained in Ross-shire, had his pocket hammer in hand, and was thoughtlessly breaking the specimens of minerals he picked up by the way. Under these circumstances, he was met by an old man steadily pursuing his way to his church. For some time the patriarch observed the movements of the geologist, and at length, going up to him, quietly said, "Sir, ye’re breaking something there forbye the stanes!"

The same feeling, under a more fastidious form, was exhibited to a traveller by a Scottish peasant :— An English artist travelling professionally through Scotland, had occasion to remain over Sunday in a small town in the north. To while away the time, he walked out a short way in the environs, where the picturesque ruin of a castle met his eye. He asked a countryman who was passing to be so good as tell him the name of the castle. The reply was somewhat startling: "It’s no’ the day to be speerin’ sic things!"

A manifestation of even still greater strictness on the subject of Sabbath desecration, I have received from a relative of the family in which it occurred. About fifty years ago the Hon. Mrs Stewart lived in Heriot Row, who had a cook, Jeannie by name, a paragon of excellence. One Sunday morning when her daughter (afterwards Lady Elton) went into the kitchen, she was surprised to find a new jack (recently ordered, and which was constructed on the principle of going constantly without winding up) wholly paralysed and useless. Miss Stewart naturally inquired what accident had happened to the new jack, as it had stopped. The mystery was soon solved by Jeannie indignantly exclaiming that "she was nae gaeing to hae the fule thing clocking and rinning about in her kitchen a’ the blessed Sabbath day."

There sometimes appears to have been in our countrymen an undue preponderance of zeal for Sabbath observance as compared with the importance attached to other religious duties, and especially as compared with the virtue of sobriety. The following dialogue between Mr Macnee of Glasgow, the celebrated artist, and an old Highland acquaintance whom he had met with unexpectedly, will illustrate the contrast between the severity of judgment passed upon treating the Sabbath with levity and the lighter censure attached to indulgence in whisky. Mr Macnee begins, "Donald, what brought you here?" "Ou, weel, sir, it was a baad place yon; they were baad folk—but they’re a God-fearin’ set o’ folk here!" "Well, Donald," said Mr M., "I’m glad to hear it." "Ou ay, sir, ‘deed are they; an’ I’ll gie ye an instance o’t. Last Sabbath, just as the kirk was skailin’, there was a drover chield frae Dumfries comin’ along the road whustlin’, an’ lookin’ as happy as if it was ta middle o’ ta week; wee!, sir, oor laads is a God-fearin’ set o’ laads, an’ they were just comin’ oot o’ the kirk—’od they yokit upon him, an’ a’most killed him!" Mr M., to whom their zeal seemed scarcely sufficiently well directed to merit his approbation, then asked Donald whether it had been drunkenness that induced the depravity of his former neighbours? "Weel, weel, sir," said Donald, with some hesitation, "may-be; I’ll no’ say but it micht." "Depend upon it," said Mr M., "it’s a bad thing whisky." "Wee!, weel, sir," replied Donald, "I’ll no’ say but it may"; adding in a very decided tone—" speeciallie baad whusky!"

I do not know any anecdote which illustrates in a more striking and natural manner the strong feeling which exists in the Scottish mind on this subject. At a certain time, the hares in the neighbourhood of a Scottish burgh had, from the inclemency of the season or from some other cause, become emboldened more than usual to approach the dwelling-places of men; so much so that on one Sunday morning a hare was seen skipping along the street as the people were going to church. An old man, spying puss in this unusual position, significantly remarked, "Ay, yon beast kens weel it is the Sabbath-day"; taking it for granted that no one in the place would be found audacious enough to hurt the animal on a Sunday.

Lady Macneil supplies an excellent pendant to Miss Stewart’s story about the jack going on the Sunday. Her henwife had got some Dorking fowls, and on Lady M. asking if they were laying many eggs, she replied with great earnestness, "Indeed my leddy, they lay every day, no’ excepting the blessed Sabbath."

There were, however, old persons at that time who were not quite so orthodox on the point of Sabbath observance; and of these a lady residing in Dumfries was known often to employ her wet Sundays in arranging her wardrobe. "Preserve us!" she said on one occasion, "anither gude Sunday! I dinna ken whan I’ll get thae drawers redd up."

In connection with the awful subject of death and all its concomitants, it has been often remarked that the older generation of Scottish people used to view the circumstances belonging to the decease of their nearest and dearest friends with a coolness which does not at first sight seem consistent with their deep and sincere religious impressions. Amongst the peasantry this was sometimes manifested in an extraordinary and startling manner. I do not believe that those persons had less affection for their friends than a corresponding class in England, but they had less awe of the Concomitants of death, and approached them with more familiarity. For example, I remember long ago at Fasque, my sister-in-law visiting a worthy and attached old couple, of whom the husband, Charles Duncan, who had been gardener at Fasque for above thirty years, was evidently dying. He was sitting on a common deal chair, and on my sister proposing to send down for his use an old arm-chair which she recollected was laid up in a garret, his wife exclaimed against such a needless trouble: "Hout, my leddy, what would he be duin’ wi’ an arm-chair? He’s just deein’ fast awa’." I have two anecdotes, illustrative of the same state of feeling, from a lady of ancient Scottish family accustomed to visit her poor dependants on the property, and to notice their ways. She was calling at a decent cottage, and found the occupant busy carefully ironing out some linens. The lady remarked, "Those are fine linens you have got there, Janet." "Troth, mem," was the reply, "they’re just the gudeman’s deed claes, and there are nane better i’ the parish." On another occasion, when visiting an excellent woman, to condole with her on the death of her nephew, with whom she had lived, and whose loss must have been severely felt by her, she remarked, "What a nice white cap you have got, Margaret." "Indeed, mem, ay, sae it is; for ye see the gude lad’s winding sheet was ower lang, and I cut aff as muckle as made twa bonny mutches" (caps).

There certainly was a quaint and familiar manner in which sacred and solemn subjects were referred to by the older Scottish race, who did not mean to be irreverent, but who no doubt appeared so to a more refined but not really a more religious generation.

It seems to me that this plainness of speech arose in part from the sincerity of their belief in all the circumstances of another condition of being. They spoke of things hereafter as positive certainties, and viewed things. invisible through the same medium as they viewed things present. The following is illustrative of such a state of mind, and I am assured of its perfect authenticity and literal correctness :—"Joe M’Pherson and his wife lived in Inverness. They had two sons, who helped their father in his trade of a smith. They were industrious and careful, but not successful. The old man had bought a house, leaving a large part of the price unpaid. It was the ambition of his life to pay off that debt, but it was too much for him, and he died in the struggle. His sons kept on the business with the old industry, and with better fortune. At last their old mother fell sick, and told her sons she was dying, as in truth she was. The elder son said to her ‘Mother, you’ll soon be with my father; no doubt you’ll have much to tell him; but dinna forget this mother, mind ye, tell him the house is freed. He’ll be glad to hear that.’"

A similar feeling is manifest in the following conversation, which, I am assured, is authentic :—At Hawick the people used to wear wooden clogs, which make a clanking noise on the pavement. A dying old woman had some friends by her bed-side, who said to her, "Wee!, Jenny, ye are gaun to heeven, an’ gin you should see oor folk, you can tell them that we’re a’ weel." To which Jenny replied, "Weel, gin I should see them I’se tell them, but you manna expect that I am to gang clank clanking through heevan looking for your folk."

But of all stories of this class, I think the following deathbed conversation between a Scottish husband and wife is about the richest specimen of a dry Scottish matter-of-fact view of a very serious question :— An old shoemaker in Glasgow was sitting by the bedside of his wife, who was dying. She took him by the hand. "Weel, John, we’re gawin to part. I hae been a gude wife to you, John." "Oh, just middling, just middling, Jenny," said John, not disposed to commit himself. "John," says she, "ye maun promise to bury me in the auld kirk-yard at Stra’von, beside my mither. I couldna rest in peace among unco folk, in the dirt and smoke o’ Glasgow." "Weel, weel, Jenny, my woman," said John soothingly, "we’ll just pit you in the Gorbals first, and gin ye dinna lie quiet, we’ll try you sine in Stra’von."

The same unimaginative and matter-of-fact view of things connected with the other world extended to a very youthful age, as in the case of a little boy who, when told of heaven, put the question, "An’ will faather be there?" His instructress answered, "of course, she hoped he would be there"; to which he sturdily at once replied, "Then I’ll no’ gang."

We might apply these remarks in some measure to the Scottish pulpit ministrations of an older school, in which a minuteness of detail and a quaintness of expression were quite common, but which could not now be tolerated. I have two specimens of such antiquated language, supplied by correspondents, and I am assured they are both genuine.

The first is from a St Andrews professor, who is stated to be a great authority in such narratives.

In one of our northern counties, a rural district had its harvest operations affected by continuous rains. The crops being much laid, wind was desired in order to restore them to a condition fit for the sickle. A minister, in his Sabbath services, expressed their want in prayer as follows :—" O Lord, we pray Thee to send us wind; no’ a rantin’ tantin’ tearin’ wind, but a noohin’ (noughin?) soughin’ winnin’ wind." More expressive words than these could not be found in any language.

The other story relates to a portion of the Presbyterian service on sacramental occasions, called "fencing the tables," i.e., prohibiting the approach of those who were unworthy to receive.

This fencing of the tables was performed in the following effective manner by an old divine, whose flock transgressed the third commandment, not in a gross and loose manner, but in its minor details:— "I debar all those who use such minced oaths as faith! troth! losh! gosh! and lovanendie!"

These men often showed a quiet vein of humour in their prayers, as in the case of the old minister of the Canongate, who always prayed, previous to the meeting of the General Assembly, that the Assembly might be so guided as "no’ to do ony harm."

A circumstance connected with Scottish church discipline has undergone a great change in my time— I mean the public censure from the pulpit, in the time of divine service, of offenders previously convicted before the minister and his kirk-session. This was performed by the guilty person standing up before the congregation on a raised platform, called the cutty stool, and receiving a rebuke. I never saw it done, but have heard in my part of the country of the discipline being enforced occasionally. Indeed, I recollect an instance where the rebuke was thus administered and received under circumstances of a touching character, and which made it partake of the moral sublime. The daughter of the minister had herself committed an offence against moral purity, such as usually called forth this church censure. The minister peremptorily refused to make her an exception to his ordinary practice. His child stood up in the congregation, and received, from her agonised father, a rebuke similar to that administered to other members of his congregation for a like offence. The spirit of the age became unfavourable in the practice. The rebuke on the cutty stool, like the penance in a white sheet in England, went out of use, and the circumstance is now a matter of "reminiscence." I have received some communications on the subject, which beat upon this point; and I subjoin the following remarks from a kind correspondent, a clergyman, to whom I am largely indebted, as indicating the great change which has taken place in this matter.

"Church discipline," he writes, "was much more vigorously enforced in olden time than it is now. A certain couple having been guilty of illicit intercourse, and also within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity, appeared before the Presbytery of Lanark, and made confession in sackcloth. They were ordered to return to their own session, and to stand at the kirk-door, barefoot and barelegged, from the second bell to the last, and thereafter in the public place of repentance; and, at direction of the session, thereafter to go through the whole kirks of the presbytery, and to satisfy them in like manner. If such penance were now enforced for like offences, I believe the registration books of many parishes in Scotland would become more creditable in certain particulars than they unfortunately are at the present time."

But there was a less formidable ecclesiastical censure occasionally given by the minister from the pulpit against lesser misdemeanours, which took place under his own eye, such as levity of conduct or sleeping in church. A most amusing specimen of such censure was once inflicted by the minister upon his own wife for an offence not in our day visited with so heavy a penalty. The clergyman had observed one of his flock asleep during his sermon. He paused, and called him to order. " Jeems Robson, ye are sleepin’; I insist on your wauking when God’s word is preached to ye." "Weel, sir, you may look at your ain seat, and ye'll see a sleeper forbye me," answered Jeems, pointing to the clergyman’s lady in the minister’s pew. "Then, Jeems," said the minister, "when ye see my wife asleep again, haud up your hand." By and by the arm was stretched out, and sure enough the fair lady was caught in the act. Her husband solemnly called upon her to stand up and receive the censure due to her offence. He thus addressed her: "Mrs B., a’body kens that when I got ye for my wife, I got nae beauty; yer frien’s ken that I got nae siller; and if I dinna get God’s grace, I shall hae a puir bargain indeed."

The quaint and original humour of the old Scottish minister came out occasionally in the more private services of his vocation as well as in church. As the whole service, whether for baptisms or marriages, is supplied by the clergyman officiating, there is more scope for scenes between the parties present than at similar ministrations by a prescribed form. Thus, a late minister of Caithness, when examining a member of his flock, who was a butcher, in reference to the baptism of his child, found him so deficient in what he considered the needful theological knowledge, that he said to him, "Ah, Sandy, I doubt ye’re no’ fit to haud up the bairn." Sandy, conceiving that reference was made not to spiritual but to physical incapacity, answered indignantly, "Hout, minister, I could haud him up an he were a twa-year-auld stirk." [Bullock] A late humorous old minister, near Peebles, who had strong feelings on the subject of matrimonial happiness, thus prefaced the ceremony by an address to the parties who came to him :—" My friends, marriage is a blessing to a few, a curse to many, and a great uncertainty to all. Do ye venture?" After a pause, he repeated with great emphasis," Do ye venture?" No objection being made to the venture, he then said, "Let’s proceed."

The old Scottish hearers were very particular on the subject of their minister’s preaching old sermons; and to repeat a discourse which they could recollect was always made a subject of animadversion by those who heard it. A beadle, who was a good deal of a wit in his way, gave a sly hit in his pretended defence of his minister on the question. As they were proceeding from church, the minister observed the beadle had been laughing as if he had triumphed over some of the parishioners with whom he had been in conversation. On asking the cause of this, he received for answer, "Dod, sir, they were saying ye had preached an auld sermon to-day, but I tackled them, for I tauld them it was no’ an auld sermon, for the minister had preached it no’ sax months syne."

I remember the minister of Banchory, Mr Gregory, availed himself of the feelings of his people on this subject for the purpose of accomplishing a particular object. During the building of the new church the service had to be performed in a schoolroom, which did not nearly hold the congregation. The object was to get part of the parish to attend in the morning, and part in the afternoon. Mr Gregory prevented those who had attended in the morning from returning in the afternoon by just giving them, as he said, "cauld kail het again."

It is somewhat remarkable, however, that notwithstanding this feeling in the matter of a repetition of old sermons, there was amongst a large class of Scottish preachers of a former day such a sameness of subject as really sometimes made it difficult to distinguish the discourse of one Sunday from amongst others. These were entirely doctrinal, and however they might commence, after the opening or introduction hearers were certain to find the preacher falling gradually into the old channel. The fall of man in Adam, his restoration in Christ, justification by faith, and the terms of the new covenant, formed the staple of each sermon, and without which it was not in fact reckoned complete as an orthodox exposition of Christian doctrine. Without omitting the essentials of Christian instruction, preachers now take a wider view of illustrating and explaining the gospel scheme of salvation and regeneration, without constant recurrence to the elemental and fundamental principles of the faith. From my friend, Dr Cook of Haddington, (who it is well known has a copious stock of old Scotch traditionary anecdotes), I have an admirable illustration of this state of things as regards pulpit instruction.

"Much of the preaching of the Scotch clergy," Dr Cook observes, "in the last century, was almost exclusively doctrinal—the fall: the nature, the extent, and the application of the remedy. In the hands of able men, no doubt, there might be much variety of exposition, but with weaker or indolent men preaching extempore, or without notes, it too often ended in a weekly repetition of what had been already said. An old elder of mine, whose recollection might reach back from sixty to seventy years, said to me one day, ‘Now-a-days, people make a work if a minister preach the same sermon over again in the course of two or three years. When I was a boy, we would have wondered if old Mr W had preached anything else than what we heard the Sunday before.’ My old friend used to tell of a clergyman who had held forth on the broken covenant till his people longed for a change. The elders waited on him to intimate their wish. They were examined on their knowledge of the subject, found deficient, rebuked, and dismissed, but after a little while they returned to the charge, and the minister gave in. Next Lord’s Day he read a large portion of the history of Joseph and his brethern, as the subject of a lecture. He paraphrased it, greatly, no doubt, to the detriment of the original, but much to the satisfaction of his people, for it was something new. He finished the paraphrase, ‘and now,’ says he, ‘my friends, we shall proceed to draw some lessons and inferences; and, first, you will observe that the sacks of Joseph’s brethern were ripit, and in them was found the cup; so your sacks will be ripit at the day of judgment, and the first thing found in them will be the broken covenant’; and having gained this advantage, the sermon went off into the usual strain, and embodied the usual heads of elementary dogmatic theology."

In connection with this topic, I have a communication from a correspondent, who remarks :—The story about the minister and his favourite theme, "the broken covenant," reminds me of one respecting another minister whose staple topics of discourse were "Justification, Adoption, and Sanctification." Into every sermon he preached, he managed, by hook or by crook, to force these three heads, in that his general method of handling every text was not so much expositio as impositio. He was preaching on these words: "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child?" and he soon brought the question into the usual formula by adding, Ephraim was a pleasant child— first, because he was a justified child; second, because he was an adopted child; and third, because he was a sanctified child.

It should be remembered, however, that the Scottish peasantry themselves—I mean those of the older school—delighted in expositions of doctrinal subjects, and in fact were extremely jealous of any minister who departed from their high standard of orthodox divinity, by selecting subjects which involved discussions of strictly moral or practical questions. It was condemned under the epithet of legal preaching; in other words, it was supposed to preach the law as independent of the gospel. A worthy old clergyman having, upon the occasion of a communion Monday, taken a text of such a character, was thus commented on by an ancient dame of the congregation, who was previously acquainted with his style of discourse: "If there’s an ill text in a’ the Bible, that creetur’s aye sure to tak’ it."

The great change—the great improvement, I would say—which has taken place during the last half century in the feelings and practical relations of religion with social life is, that it has become more diffused through all ranks and all characters. Before that period many good sort of people were afraid of making their religious views very prominent, and were always separated from those who did. Persons who made a profession at all beyond the low standard generally adopted in society were marked out as objects of fear or of distrust. The anecdote on page 57 regarding the practice of family prayer fully proves this. Now, religious people and religion itself are not kept aloof from the ordinary current of men’s thoughts and actions. There is no such marked line as used to be drawn round persons who make a decided profession of religion. Christian men and women have stepped over the line; and, without compromising their Christian principle, are not necessarily either morose, uncharitable, or exclusive. The effects of the old separation were injurious to men’s minds. Religion was with many associated with puritanism, with cant, and unfitness for the world. The difference is marked also in the style of sermons prevalent at the two periods. There were sermons of two descriptions, viz., sermons by "moderate" clergy, of a purely moral or practical character; and sermons purely doctrinal, from those who were known as "evangelical" ministers. Hence arose an impression, and not unnaturally, on many minds, that an almost exclusive reference to doctrinal subjects, and a dread of upholding the law, and of enforcing its more minute details, were not favourable to the cause of moral rectitude and practical holiness of life. This was hinted in a sly way by a young member of the kirk to his father, a minister of the severe and high Calvinistic school. Old Dr Lockhart of Glasgow was lamenting one day, in the presence of his son John, the fate of a man who had been found guilty of immoral practices, and the more so that he was one of his own elders. "Well, father," remarked his son, "you see what you’ve driven him to." In our best Scottish preaching at the present day no such distinction is visible.

The same feeling came forth with much point and humour on an occasion referred to in Carlyle’s Memoirs. In a company where John Home and David Hume were present, much wonder was expressed what could have induced a clerk belonging to Sir William Forbes’ bank to abscond, and embezzle £900. "I know what it was," said Home to the historian; "for when he was taken there was found in his pocket a volume of your philosophical works and Boston’s ‘Fourfold State’ "—a hit, first, at the infidel, whose principles would have undermined Christianity; and second, a hit at the Church, which he was compelled to leave on account of his having written the tragedy of Douglas.

I can myself recollect an obsolete ecclesiastical custom, and which was always practised in the church of Fettercairn during my boyish days, viz., that of the minister bowing to the heritors in succession who occupied the front gallery seats; and I am assured that this bowing from the pulpit to the principal heritor or heritors after the blessing had been pronounced was very common in rural parishes till about forty years ago, and perhaps till a still later period.. And when heritors chanced to be pretty equally matched, there was sometimes an unpleasant contest as to who was entitled to the precedence in having the first bow. A case of this kind once occurred in the parish of Lanark, which was carried so far as to be laid before the Presbytery; but they, not considering themselves "competent judges of the points of honour and precedency among gentlemen, and to prevent all inconveniency in these matters in the future, appointed the minister to forbear bowing to the lairds at all from the pulpit for the time to come"; and they also appointed four of their number "to wait upon the gentlemen, to deal with them, for bringing them to condescend to submit hereunto, for the success of the gospel and the peace of the parish."

In connection with this subject, we may mention a ready and complimentary reply once made by the late Reverend Dr Wightman of Kirkmahoe, on being rallied for his neglecting this usual act of courtesy one Sabbath in his own church. The heritor who was entitled to and always received this token of respect, was Mr Miller, proprietor of Dalswinton. One Sabbath the Dalswinton pew contained a bevy of ladies, but no gentleman, and the Doctor—perhaps because he was a bachelor and felt a delicacy in the circumstances—omitted the usual salaam in their direction. A few days after, meeting Miss Miller, who was widely famed for her beauty, and who afterwards became Countess of Mar, she rallied him, in presence of her companions, for not bowing to her from the pulpit on the previous Sunday, and requested an explanation; when the good Doctor immediately replied, "I beg your pardon, Miss Miller, but you surely know that angel-worship is not allowed in the Church of Scotland"; and lifting his hat, he made a low bow, and passed on.

Scottish congregations, in some parts of the country, contain an element in their composition quite unknown in English churches. In pastoral parts of the country, it was an established practice for each shepherd to bring his faithful collie dog—at least it was so some years ago. In a district of Sutherland, where the population is very scanty, the congregations are made up one-half of dogs, each human member having his canine companion. These dogs sit out the Gaelic services and sermon with commendable patience, till towards the end of the last psalm, when there is a universal stretching and yawning, and all are prepared to scamper out, barking in a most excited manner whenever the blessing is commenced. The congregation of one of these churches determined that the service should close in a more decorous manner, and steps were taken to attain this object. Accordingly, when a stranger clergyman was officiating, he found the people all sitting when he was about to pronounce the blessing. He hesitated, and paused, expecting them to rise, till an old shepherd, looking up to the pulpit, said, "Say awa’, sir; we’re a’ sittin’ to cheat the dowgs."

There must have been some curious specimens of Scottish humour brought out at the examinations or catechisings by ministers of the flock before the administrations of the communion. Thus, with reference to human nature before the fall, a man was asked, "What kind of man was Adam?" "Ou, just like ither fouk." The minister insisted on having a more special description of the first man, and pressed for more explanation. ‘" Weel," said the catechumen, "he was just like Joe Simson the horse-couper." "How so?" asked the minister. "Weel, naebody got onything by him, and mony lost."

A lad had come for examination previous to his receiving his first communion. The pastor, knowing that his young friend was not very profound in his theology, and not wishing to discourage him, or keep him from the table unless compelled to do so, began by asking what he thought a safe question, and what would give him confidence. So he took the Old Testament, and asked him, in reference to the Mosaic law, how many commandments there were. After a little thought, he put his answer in the modest form of a supposition, and replied, cautiously, "Aiblins [Perhaps] a hunner." The clergyman was vexed, and told him such ignorance was intolerable, that he could not proceed in examination, and that the youth must wait and learn more; so he went away. On returning home he met a friend on his way to the manse, and on learning that he too was going to the minister for examination, shrewdly asked him, "Weel, what will ye say noo if the minister speers hoo mony commandments there are?" "Say! why, I shall say ten to be sure." To which the other rejoined, with great triumph, "Ten! Try ye him wi’ ten! I tried him wi’ a hunner, and he wasna satisfeed." Another answer from a little girl was shrewd and reflective. The question was, "Why did the Israelites make a golden calf?" "They hadna as muckle siller as wad mak’ a coo."

A kind correspondent has sent me, from personal knowledge, an admirable pendant to stories of Scottish child acuteness and shrewd observation. A young lady friend of his, resident in a part of Ayrshire rather remote from any very satisfactory administration of the gospel, is in the habit of collecting the children of the neighbourhood on Sundays at the "big hoose," for religious instruction. On one occasion the. class had repeated the paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer, which contains these lines—

"Give us this day our daily bread,
And raiment fit provide."

There being no question as to what "daily bread" was, the teacher proceeded to ask: "What do you understand by "raiment fit,’ or as we might say, ‘fit raiment?" For a short time the class remained puzzled at the question; but at last one little girl sang out ‘stockings and shune." The child knew that "fit," was Scotch for feet, so her natural explanation of the phrase was equivalent to "feet raiment," or "stockings and shune," as she termed it.

On the point of changes in religious feelings there comes within the scope of these Reminiscences a character in Aberdeenshire, which has now gone out—I mean the popular and universally well-received Roman Catholic priest. Although we cannot say that Scotland is a more PROTESTANT nation than it was in past days, still religious differences, and strong prejudices, seem at the present time to draw a more decided line of separation between the priest and his Protestant countryman. As examples of what is past, I would refer to the case of a genial Romish bishop in Ross-shire. It is well known that private stills were prevalent in the Highlands fifty or sixty years ago, and no one thought there was any harm in them. This good bishop, whose name I forget, was (as I heard the late W. Mackenzie of Muirton assure a party at Dunrobin Castle) several years previously a famous hand at brewing a good glass of whisky, and that he distributed his mountain-dew with a liberal and impartial hand alike to Catholic and to Protestant friends. Of this class, I recollect, certainly forty-five years ago, Priest Gordon, a genuine Aberdonian, and a man beloved by all, rich and poor. He was a sort of chaplain to Menzies of Pitfodels, and visited in all the country families round Aberdeen. I remember once his being at Banchory Lodge, and thus apologising to my aunt for going out of the room :—"I beg your pardon, Mrs Forbes, for leaving you, but I maun just gae doun to the garden and say my bit wordies"—these "bit wordies" being in fact the portion of the Breviary which he was bound to recite. So easily and pleasantly were those matters then referred to.

The following, however, is a still richer illustration, and I am assured it is genuine :—"Towards the end of the last century, a worthy Roman Catholic clergyman, well known as ’Priest Matheson,’ and universally respected in the district, had charge of a Mission in Aberdeenshire, and for a long time made his journeys on a piebald pony, the priest and his ‘pyet shelty’ sharing an affectionate recognition wherever they came. On one occasion, however, he made his appearance on a steed of a different description, and passing near a Seceding meeting-house, he forgathered with the minister, who, after the usual kindly greetings, missing the familiar pony, said, ‘Ou, Priest! fat’s come o’ the auld Pyet?’ ‘He’s deid, minister.’ ‘Weel, he was an auld faithfu’ servant, and ye wad nae doot gie him the offices o’ the Church?’ ‘Na, minister,’ said his friend, not quite liking this allusion to his priestly offices, ‘I didna dee that, for ye see he turned Seceder afore he dee’d, an’ I buried him like a beast.’ He then rode quietly away. This worthy man, however, could, when occasion required, rebuke with seriousness as well as point. Always a welcome guest at the houses of both clergy and gentry, he is said on one occasion to have met with a laird whose hospitality he had thought it proper to decline, and on being asked the reason for the interruption of his visits, answered, ‘Ye ken, an’ I ken; but, laird, God kens!"

One question connected with religious feeling, and  the manifestation of religious feeling, has become a more settled point amongst us, since fifty years have expired. I mean the question of attendance by clergymen on theatrical representations. Dr Carlyle had been prosecuted before the General Assembly in 1757 for being present at the performance of the tragedy of Douglas, written by his friend John Home. He was acquitted, however, and writes thus on the subject in his Memoirs :— Although the clergy in Edinburgh and its neighbourhood had abstained from the theatre because it gave offence, yet the more remote clergymen, when occasionally in town, had almost universally attended the play-house. It is remarkabIe that in the year 1784, when the great actress Mrs Siddons first appeared in Edinburgh, during the sitting of the General Assembly, that court was obliged to fix all its important business for the alternate days when she did not act, as all the younger members, clergy as well as laity, took their stations in the theatre on those days by three in the afternoon."

Drs Robertson and Blair, although they cultivated the acquaintance of Mrs Siddons in private, were amongst those clergymen, referred to by Dr Carlyle, who abstained from attendance in the theatre; but Dr Carlyle states that they regretted not taking the opportunity of witnessing a display of her talent, and of giving their sanction to the theatre as a place of recreation. Dr Carlyle evidently considered it a narrow-minded intolerance and bigoted fanaticism that clergymen should be excluded from that amusement. At a period far later than 1784, the same opinion prevailed in some quarters. I recollect when such indulgence on the part of clergymen was treated with much leniency, especially for Episcopalian clergy. I do not mean to say that there was anything like a general feeling in favour of clerical theatrical attendance; but there can be no question of a feeling far less strict than what exists in our own time. As I have said, thirty-six years ago some clergymen went to the theatre; and a few years before that, when my brothers and I were passing through Edinburgh, in going backwards and forwards to school, at Durham, with our tutor, a licentiate of the Established Church of Scotland, and who afterwards attained considerable eminence in the Free Church, we certainly went with him to the theatre there, and at Durham very frequently. I feel quite assured, however, that no clergyman could expect to retain the respect of his people or of the public, to whom it was known that he frequently or habitually attended theatrical representations. It is so understood. I had opportunities of conversing with the late Mr Murray of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, and with Mr Charles Kean, on the subject. Both admitted the fact, and certainly if any men of the profession could have removed the feeling from the public mind, these were the men to have done it.

There is a phase of religious observances which has undergone a great change amongst us within fifty years—I mean the services and circumstances connected with the administration of the Holy Communion. When these occurred in a parish they were called "occasions," and the great interest excited by these sacramental solemnities may be gathered from "Peter’s Letters," "The Annals of the Parish," and Burns’ "Holy Fair." Such ceremonials are now conducted, I believe, just as the ordinary church services. Some years back they were considered a sort of preaching matches. Ministers vied with each other in order to bear away the bell in popularity, and hearers embraced the opportunity of exhibiting to one another their powers of criticism on what they heard and saw. In the parish of Urr in Galloway, on one sacramental occasion, some of the assistants invited were eminent ministers in Edinburgh; Dr Scot of St Michael’s, Dumfries, was the only local one who was asked, and he was, in his own sphere, very popular as a preacher. A brother clergyman, complimenting him upon the honour of being so invited, the old bald-headed divine modestly replied, "Gude bless you, man, what can I do? They are a’ han’ wailed [Carefully selected] this time; I need never show face among them." "Ye’re quite mista’en," was the soothing encouragement; "tak’ your Resurrection (a well-known sermon used for such occasions by him), an I’ll lay my lug ye’ll beat every clute o’ them." The Doctor did as suggested, and exerted himself to the utmost, and it appears he did not exert himself in vain. A batch of old women, on their way home after the conclusion of the services, were overheard discussing the merits of the several preachers who had that day addressed them from the tent. "Leeze me abune them a’," said one of the company, who had waxed warm in the discussion, "for yon auld clear-headed (bald) man, that said, ‘Raphael sings an’ Gabriel strikes his goolden harp, an’ a’ the angels clap their wings wi’ joy.’ O but it was gran’, it just put me in min’ o’ our geese at Dunjarg when they turn their nebs to the south an’ clap their wings when they see the rain’s comin’ after lang drooth."

There is a subject closely allied with the religious feelings of a people, and that is the subject of their superstitions. To enter upon that question, in a general view, especially in reference to the Highlands, would not be consistent with our present purpose, but I am induced to mention the existence of a singular superstition regarding swine which existed some years ago among the lower orders of the east coast of Fife. I can observe, in my own experience, a great change to have taken place amongst Scotch people generally on this subject. The old aversion to the "unclean animal" still lingers in the Highlands, but seems in the Lowland districts to have yielded to a sense of its thrift and usefulness. [I recollect an old Scottish gentleman, who shared this horror, asking very gravely, "Were not swine forbidden under the law and cursed under the gospel?"]. The account given by my correspondent of the Fife swinophobia is as follows:—

Among the many superstitious notions and customs prevalent among the lower orders of the fishing towns on the east coast of Fife, till very recently, that class entertained a great horror of swine, and even at the very mention of the word. If that animal crossed their path when about to set out on a sea voyage, they considered it so unlucky an omen that they would not venture off. A clergyman of one of these fishing villages having mentioned the superstition to a clerical friend, and finding that he was rather incredulous on the subject, in order to convince him told him he would allow him an opportunity of testing the truth of it by allowing him to preach for him the following day. It was arranged that his friend was to read the chapter relating to the herd of swine into which the evil spirits were cast. Accordingly, when the first verse was read, in which the unclean beast was mentioned, a slight commotion was observable among the audience, each one of them putting his or her hand on any near piece of iron—a nail on the seat or book-board, or to the nails on their shoes. At the repetition of the word again and again, more commotion was visible, and the words "cauld airn" (cold iron), the antidote to this baneful spell, were heard issuing from various corners of the church. And finally, on his coming over the hated word again, when the whole herd ran violently down the bank into the sea, the alarmed parishioners, irritated beyond bounds, rose and all left the church in a body.

It is some time now, however, since the Highlanders have begun to appreciate the thrift and comfort of swine-keeping and swine-killing. A Scottish minister had been persuaded by the laird to keep a pig, and the gudewife had been duly instructed in the mysteries of black puddings, pork chops, and pig’s head. "Oh!" said the minister, "nae doubt there’s a hantle o’ miscellawneous eating aboot a pig."

Amongst a people so deeply impressed with the great truths of religion, and so earnest in their religious profession, any persons whose principles were known to be of an infidel character would naturally be looked on with abhorrence and suspicion. There is a story traditionary in Edinburgh regarding David Flume, which illustrates this feeling in a very amusing manner, and which, I have heard it said, Hume himself often narrated. The philosopher had fallen from the path into the swamp at the back of the Castle, the existence of which I recollect hearing of from old persons forty years ago. He fairly stuck fast, and called to a woman who was passing, and begged her assistance. She passed on apparently without attending to the request; at his earnest entreaty, however, she came where he was, and asked him, "Are na ye Hume the Atheist?" "Well, well, no matter," said Hume; "Christian charity commands you to do good to every one." "Christian charity here, or Christian charity there," replied the woman, "I’ll do naething for you till ye turn a Christian yoursel’—ye maun repeat the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, or faith I’ll let ye grafel [Lie in a grovelling attitude] there as I fand ye." The historian, really afraid for his life, rehearsed the required formulas.

Notwithstanding the high character borne for so many years by our countrymen as a people, and as specially attentive to all religious observances, still there can be no doubt that there has sprung up amongst the inhabitants of our crowded cities, wynds, and closes, a class of persons quite unknown in the old Scottish times. It is a great difficulty to get them to attend divine worship at all, and their circumstances combine to break off all associations with public services. Their going to church becomes a matter of persuasion and of missionary labour.

A lady, who is most active in visiting the houses of these outcasts from the means of grace, gives me an amusing instance of self-complacency arising from performance of the duty. She was visiting in the West Port, not far from the church established by my illustrious friend the late Dr Chalmers. Having asked a poor woman if she ever attended there for divine service—"Ou ay," she replied; "there’s a man ca’d Chalmers preaches there, and I whiles gang in and hear him, just to encourage him, puir body!"

From the religious opinions of a people, the transition is natural to their political partialities. One great political change has passed over Scotland, which none now living can be said to have actually witnessed; but they remember those who were contemporaries of the anxious scenes of ‘45, and many of us have known determined and thorough Jacobites. The poetry of that political period still remains, but we hear only as pleasant songs those words and melodies which stirred the hearts and excited the deep enthusiasm of a past generation. Jacobite anecdotes also are fading from our knowledge. To many young persons they are unknown. Of those stories illustrative of Jacobite feelings and enthusiasm, many are of a character not fit for me to record. The good old ladies who were violent partisans of the Stuarts had little hesitation in referring without reserve to the future and eternal destiny of William of Orange. One anecdote which I had from a near relative of the family may be adduced in illustration of the powerful hold which the cause had upon the views and consciences of Jacobites.

A former Mr Stirling of Keir had favoured the Stuart cause, and had, in fact attended a muster of forces at the Brig of Turk previous to the ‘15. This symptom of a rising against the Government occasioned some uneasiness, and the authorities were very active in their endeavours to discover who were the leaders of the movement. Keir was suspected. The miller of Keir was brought forward as a witness, and swore positively that the laird was not present. Now, as it was well known that he was there, and that the miller knew it, a neighbour asked him privately, when he came out of the witness-box, how he could on oath assert such a falsehood. The miller replied, quite undaunted, and with a feeling of confidence in the righteousness of his cause approaching the sublime: "I would rather trust my soul in God’s mercy than Keir’s head into their hands."

A correspondent has sent me an account of a curious ebullition of Jacobite feeling and enthusiasm, now I suppose quite extinct. My correspondent received it himself from Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon, and he had entered it in a commonplace book when he heard it, in 1826.

"David Tulloch, tenant in Drumbenan, under the second and third Dukes of Gordon, had been ‘out’ in the ‘45—or the fufteen, or both—and was a great favourite of his respective landlords. One day, having attended the young Lady Susan Gordon (afterwards Duchess of Manchester) to the ‘Chapel’ at Huntly, David, perceiving that her ladyship had neither hassock nor carpet to protect her garments from the earthen floor, respectfully spread his plaid for the young lady to kneel upon, and the service proceeded; but when the prayer for the King and Royal Family was commenced, David, sans cérémonie, drew, or rather ‘twitched,’ the plaid from under the knees of the astonished young lady, exclaiming, not sotto voce, ‘The deil a ane shall pray for them on my plaid!’"

I have a still more pungent demonstration against praying for the king, which a friend in Aberdeen assures me he received from the son of the gentleman who heard the protest. In the Episcopal Chapel in Aberdeen, of which Primus John Skinner was incumbent, they commenced praying in the service for George III. immediately on the death of Prince Charles Edward. On the first Sunday of the prayer being used, this gentleman’s father, walking home with a friend whom he knew to be an old and determined Jacobite, said to him, "What do you think of that, Mr ?" The reply, was, "Indeed, the less we say aboot that prayer the better." But he was pushed for "further answer as to his own views and his own ideas on the matter," so he came out with the declaration, "Weel, then, I say this—they may pray the kenees [So pronounced in Aberdeen.] aff their breeks afore I join in that prayer."

The following is a characteristic Jacobite story. It must have happened shortly after 1745, when all manner of devices were fallen upon to display Jacobitism, without committing the safety of the Jacobite, such as having white knots on gowns; drinking, "The king, ye ken wha I mean"; uttering the toast "The king," with much apparent loyalty, and passing the glass over the water-jug, indicating the esoteric meaning of majesty beyond the sea, etc., etc.; and various toasts, which were most important matters in those times, and were often given as tests of loyalty, or the reverse, according to the company in which they were given. Miss Carnegy of Craigo, well-known and still remembered amongst the old Montrose ladies as an uncompromising Jacobite, had been vowing that she would drink King James and his son in a company of staunch Brunswickers, and being strongly dissuaded from any such foolish and dangerous attempt by some of her friends present, she answered them with a text of Scripture, "The tongue no man can tame—James Third and Aucht," and drank off her glass! [Implying that there was a James Third of England, Eighth of Scotland].


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