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Byways of Scottish Story
A Scottish Parish in the Eighteenth Century


I

FROM 1710 to 1764 is a period of which our knowledge of local history and manners in Scotland remains singularly scanty. Allan Ramsay in the beginning of the eighteenth century and Robert Burns at the end of it have both, in their songs and poems, left pictures of rural Scotland as they saw it. But of the period between, though its great events, the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745, are sufficiently well known, for detail of local and private life the popular mind takes its main, if not its only, impression from the pages of "Rob Roy." Circumstantial details in abundance are nevertheless available enough for the purposes of history, and when these shall have been grouped together by the future historian, the picture may be found to possess more interest than at present might be supposed. [Since this was written, in 1893, Mr. Grey Graham's book on " Scotland in the Eighteenth Century" has gathered such materials as are here suggested, and has thrown a brilliant light on the period in question.]

Readers will remember how, after parting from the bold Macgregor at Inversnaid, Francis Osbaldistone and Bailie Nicol Jarvie are rowed down Loch Lomond arid landed on its southern shore, whence they depart for the Bailie's native Saltmarket, wiser if less adventurous men. For the circumstances of this and other parts of his romantic tale, Scott was indebted to an occasional residence with his advocate friend, Hector Macdonald, who had married the heiress of Ross Priory, an old mansion still standing on this southern shore. [See "The Tale of a Quiet Strath," p. 130.] He carried away from the neighbourhood, it is said, several papers of antiquarian interest belonging to the local lairds, which have since been lost. The most valuable and fullest of colour and detail of all the local documents, however, appear to have escaped him. Among other ecclesiastical records, the minutes of the kirk session of the parish for the fifty-four years above named remain to the present day in the hands of the parish minister. Had the author of "Rob Roy" come upon these it is possible that more than one amusing and characteristic circumstance might have been added to delay the homeward flight of the worthy bailie. In their pages local life, manners, and sentiment, as well as personal character and opinion, are set forth with an intimacy of knowledge and an unconscious directness of statement unrivalled by the most realistic writing of modern times.

Among the cases of libel, for instance, which were tried with all formality before this petty ecclesiastical Court, one may be quoted as showing how late the superstitions of earlier centuries lingered in remote corners of the country. on 30th December, 1711, a petition was given in to the session by one John Anderson, in Boghead of Abel, on behalf of his mother, Margaret Anderson, in the following terms: "That whereas James Fisher, son of Andrew Fisher, deceast, and Katharine M'Farlane, living in Aibir, did in severall places, particularly in James Wilson, officer to the Laird of Killmaronoch, his house, expresse himself thus, that he was once fee'd [hired] in a widow's house where one night, after all were in bed, the widow brought in a man in black, with a hatt, whom he suspected to be the Devill, and earnestly desired him to fee with him, proferring him ane forty shilling peece in earnest, which he refused. And the said James Fisher being once my servant and I a widow, the country have uncharitably blamed me as the person guilty of that atrocious crime, whereof whosoever is guilty ought to be punished with the utmost rigour, by reason of which my credit is ruined, my life a burden to me, and my children visibly disgraced, though I am altogether innocent of that crime. May it therefore please your wisdom to take the premises to your consideration, and, seeing the foresaid James Fisher has expressed himself as you heard, cause him declare the truth fully in that matter, and to make such intimation thereof as may vindicate my innocence, restore my good name, and prevent my children's discredit. And your petitioner shall ever pray." The minutes proceed to relate that the presenter of the petition having been removed, the session "considered his supplication, and finding that it contains a lybell of slander against James Fisher, wright in Aiber, doe appoint their officer to summond the said James Fisher to appear before the session this day eight days in order to his being enquired upon the contents of the said supplication." Accordingly, at the next meeting of session, Tames Fisher, being duly "summoned and called, did compear," and had the petition read to him. He pleaded not guilty, however, and John Anderson, the presenter of the petition, was required to name witnesses to support his case. These the session's officer was ordered to summon to the next meeting, and their evidence occupies considerable space in the minutes. One specimen of it, however, may suffice. The accused, it should be stated, was first formally required to repeat his plea of not guilty, and was asked further whether he had anything to object against the witnesses. He made no objection, and the examination proceeded. "James Wilson, a married man, aged about twenty-seven years, being summoned to this dyet of the Session, and called, did compear, and being purged of malice and partiall counsell, and solemnly sworn, depons as follows : That he heard James Fisher, a litle after Hallowday last, say that he was fee'd in a house where, one night, when all others were in bed, lie awaking, saw a great fire, and the goodwife of the house sitting, and a black man sitting by her, whom he suspected to be the Devill, and the said Woman received a fortie shilling peece from that black man to fee the said James Fisher, to give in earnest, which he refused. But heard him not make mention of Margaret Anderson, or any Widow, or any particular person. And this is all he knows in the matter, and can wryte. Sic subscribitur, James Wilson." Other witnesses follow, with variations, but in the same tenor on the main points ; then comes the session's interloquitur, duly marked as such in the margin. "The Session, having removed John Anderson and James Fisher, and gone through and considered the depositions of the severall witnesses, doe find that James Fisher in all his discourse before the witnesses did name no Widow, nor any particular person, and that there is nothing in the depositions that did concern Margaret Andersone more than others of the paroch, but rather what tends to her vindication. And therefore appoint that either she adduce more witnesses against James Fisher to prove her Lybell, or else fall from the same. And seeing some of the country have taken occasion from James Fisher's discourse uncharitably to blame her, they appoint that she condescend on these persons who have done so, that they may be prosecute and punisht as slanderers of her. John Andersone being called in, this was signified unto him. James Fisher being called in, he was exorted to be more cautious of his words, lest thereby he might give offence to any."

As the case does not appear further, it may be supposed that Margaret Anderson found her character sufficiently vindicated by the proceedings already undertaken.

Several cases appear of persons who considered themselves slandered by the application of nicknames, and though at first sight the grievance may seem petty enough, it is impossible altogether to refuse sympathy to the people miscalled when it is remembered that the nicknaming was done at a time and in circumstances when epithets at all pat were apt to stick for life and even afterwards. Here are some of the dainty epithets applied to his friends and neighbours, according to evidence given before the session in 1719, by a certain "blind William Logan in Knockour." Lodowick Garner he called Shirpohat (perhaps "shrivelled creature"); James, brother of Lodowick, he favoured with the title of Cow's Snout; Bartholomew Garner was alluded to as Bartie-bemblets (simpleton); Bartholomew's wife, Agnes, was Nancie Meikle-thumb; Janet Blair, the Durling (something in tremulous movement); and Isobel M'Kean, Isobel Claiks (tattler or drab) ; while the daughter of the last-named, and one William M'Goun, were dubbed respectively Shapuck (tailor's clipping) and Muterpock (the bag for holding the miller's multure, or fee in kind). From these examples it will be seen that William Logan and some of his contemporaries possessed a somewhat biting, if not very rare and delicate, wit. The particular case in which the names occur was dragged to a considerable length in a vain endeavour to discover the original genius who first put the nicknames into circulation, but the session, referred always by each successive culprit to an earlier transgressor, finally in sheer weariness gave up the attempt.

A reference, early in the case, to "Katharine Garner's lightwake '' is interesting for the suggestion it affords regarding the funeral customs of the time.

Another type of slander case resembled very closely a modern trial for breach of promise of marriage, the only difference existing in the fact that the lady's claim, which was declared to be without foundation, was put forward as matter of libel. On 7th August, 1715, according to the chronicle, "it was reported that Isobell M`Aulay, now in the paroch of Buchanan, and of late servitrix to Jo. Garner in Markinsh, hath been at much pains to slander Ja. Garner, eldest son of the foresaid Jo. Garner, saying that she had a promise of marriage of him, that he and she had their meetings in the night time, that he was to give her twenty-five merks at Lambasse last, and had already given her money. The session, considering quhat a noise this hath made in the country, look upon themselves obliged to enquire into it." The offender was accordingly summoned to their next meeting. There she denied the charge of slander, but upon her being removed "it was represented by severall members of session that there were many could bear witness to her saying of the things over in the paroch; and considering that this was done quhen the foresaid Ja. Garner was upon the head of his marriage with Ballachmil's daughter in the paroch of Drymen, on a design to put a stop to the same, it was thought fitt to summond severall witnesses to prove the same against her, that so she may be punished as a slanderer unless she make good quhat was said by her." A long case follows, in the course of which appear several items of evidence of a character quite unique. The first witness, for example, Jonet M'Elhose, a married woman, residing in Meikle Finnerie, being solemnly sworn, etc., "depons that about four days agoe she heard Isobell M'Aulay say that Tames Garner came to her quhen he was about to buy his brydall cloaths, and craved her blessing, quhich she said she would never give, but said she would rather be content to see him straight" (i.e., in his coffin). The evidence of several other witnesses places the truth of the charge of slander beyond doubt. Thereupon the accused is again called to the table and asked formally, point by point, regarding the truth of her separate allegations, to all which queries it is recorded she answered not one word. Being inquired finally, however, if she had anything else to say, she startled the session with the sudden frank announcement that she could not free herself from the sin of too great an intimacy with her accuser. The new plea appears to have been a sort of parting shot into the enemy's camp, and there is no doubt it must have been inconvenient and disconcerting enough to a man on the eve of his marriage. Whether it was the mere groundless fabrication of a spiteful mind, or the last self-reckless effort of a discarded and jealous mistress, Isobel M'Aulay stood by her statement. As she averred that she was unable to produce proof of any kind, the sole remaining resource of the session was to confront the man and the woman. This was done a fortnight later, when, though both were adjured in the most solemn manner to make an ingenuous confession of the truth, the woman firmly adhered to her plea, while the man as sturdily averred himself innocent. Thus the case stands to the present day. Somewhat unjustly, it may be thought, Isobel M`Aulay was deemed liable to penance both as a slanderer and, upon her own confession, for the sin which would have made her slander just. Execution of the sentence, however, was delayed to see whether more light might not be shed upon the affair. More light never was forthcoming, and accordingly in February of the following year, her character in the meanwhile apparently not having improved, she was again summoned, and underwent rebuke and censure three times in the public place of repentance, until finally confessing her sin and contrition on her knees, she was granted absolution. It should perhaps be added that during the trial Isobel M'Aulay was found to be by general report a "notorious liar." On the other hand, it has to be considered that her statement involved considerable personal inconvenience, if not, in the eyes of that time, dishonour; while Garner's denial appears in the minutes to have been somewhat too insistent and aggressive for entire innocence.

An admirable standing order of this parish court ruled that each complainer regarding a libel should, before bringing forward his petition, deposit a sum of money, to be returned if he proved his case, but to be forfeited to the poor if he failed. The provision served a double purpose : it added something to the amount at disposal of the parish authorities, and it checked vexatious litigation. The latter result must have been a relief not only to the public, but to the session itself, which, it should be remembered, carried on the entire administration of the parish, civil as well as ecclesiastical, free of charge. The kirk session, however, does not appear to have been inclined to spare itself trouble. The marvel, indeed, is that men could be found willing, or even able, to devote so much time to parochial affairs as these records show them to have done. Time probably in the first half of the eighteenth century was not so valuable as it is now. There was in the air evidently, besides, a vigorous sense of public duty, and--no doubt a strong factor also-there was "the honour of the thing."

A matter of no little trouble, to say nothing of responsibility, was the keeping of the session's accounts. From the extant records of these a somewhat astonishing fact becomes evident. The kirk session was not only a court of law, an administrator of poor relief, and the spiritual guide of the parish ; it also carried on the business of a local bank. The whole administration of this stands plainly enough in the records, where the member of session appointed to be factor, or manager of money matters, has the statement of his accounts at more or less regular intervals fully set forth. From the accounts it appears that the session had no inconsiderable capital sum at its disposal, which it lent out in varying amounts upon bill or bond, and at a fair interest, or annual rent, as it was called, to approved individuals in the district; the meetings of session at which securities were discussed, credits decided upon, and accounts examined, resembling nothing so much as the weekly meetings of modern bank directors. Some curious light upon human nature and the proneness of the ordinary man to be short of cash is afforded by the excuses put forward by debtors for their delay, in payment either of principal or of annual rent. One peculiar feature of these accounts is that the regular yearly payment of annual rent was not evidently looked for. Interest was allowed to accumulate sometimes for seven and ten years, and not infrequently, when the session finally saw fit to inquire for its money, the debtor was found unable to meet the entire demand. The session, however, was apparently not disposed to be too grasping in its requisition of interest, and in frequent cases, such as when a debtor had suffered misfortune, or had died and left his family in straitened circumstances, particularly if there appeared to be an honourable effort made to meet liabilities, the kirk was content to receive back its capital sum with a moiety of annual rent. Thus on 25th March, 1725, the minutes contain an entry: "Received from Alexander Alexander of Nunrie, 31b. 18sh. Scots, in part payment of 121b. annual rent due by a former bond of 25 marks. The session, considering  his circumstances, give him down 61b. of the annual rent on condition he pay the remaining 21b. 2sh. at Lambis Fair, and they allow his bond to be given up." At the same time the session could be stern enough with less scrupulous defaulters.

Income was derived from a variety of sources. Most regular of these, naturally, were the collections taken every Sunday by the elders who went round the pews with wooden ladles. There were several more curious items, however. The hire of the session's mortcloth at funerals brought in a considerable sum, and the annual rent of capital lent out also made a fair amount. There were, further, the fines exacted in cases of discipline, and the deposits forfeited, as already mentioned, in unproven scandal cases, with an occasional "mortification" or legacy. But the most peculiar of all, perhaps, were the fines for marrying when proclamation of marriage had not been made three stated times from the pulpit, and sums forfeited by swains who, after having their marriage proclaimed, took another thought, and proceeded no further in the matter. Thus on 31st March, 1730, appears the minute, "Patrick Euing and James Rob their consignation crouns were forfit for having mokd the kirk by Proclamation without marriage. As also Walter Mitchels for marrying upon only twice Proclaiming, without advice of the session." In these particular cases, however, as in others, the session exercised its discretion, and reclaimed only a moiety of the fines.

No great sum, it would appear, was ever suffered to lie idle for long in the session's hands, all moneys not immediately distributed to the poor being forthwith lent out at interest. In this way was avoided the chance of serious loss by theft no unlikely occurrence in a parish so situated on the marauding Highland line. The probabilities of the case may be judged from the fact that some years earlier the proprietors of the district lying nearest to the loch shore, finding themselves losers by the land because of the frequency of their tenants' cattle losses, which the landlords had to make good, saw it to their advantage to feu the holdings to the occupants, thereby transferring the risk to these occupants themselves, and insuring the taking of bona fide precaution against theft.

One of the three scanty references to the Rebellion of 1715 which appear in these minutes refers to the security of the kirk's money. It occurs on 3rd August. As the leader of the insurrection, the Earl of Mar, only sailed for Scotland at the beginning of that month, the mention of the matter at so early a date in Kilmaronock would appear to show that the project was more matured and longer planned in the country than has generally been supposed. But whatever may have been the political facts of the case, the minute has an interest of its own. "The session," it runs, "being informed that there is a rebellion like to arise in this nation, doe think fitt that what money belongs to the poor, lying in the box and not yet distributed, be lodged in some private person's hand ; and having inspected the box they find that there is the summe of thertieone pound Scots of mortcloath money and poor's money, the quhich they doe lodge in the hand of Ja. Buchanan, quho promises to restore the same upon demand for the use of the poor."

The second reference to the rebellion of that year contained in these minutes occurs on 29th December. Upon that date it is stated, "There is nothing as yet done anent Ja. Garner and Isob. M`Aulay (the scandal case already referred to), because of the troubles of the tyme, the countrey being in a perpetuall stirr because of the rebellion in the North." Hostilities, indeed, had almost reached the kirk door of Kil-maronock, the Duke of Argyle having established an outpost garrison at the village of Drymen, less than two miles away, in order to check any attempted descent of the Highland Jacobites through the neighbouring Macgregor country, for Rob Roy, uncle of the young chief, and acting head of the clan Macgregor, was then at the height of his fame, and one of the most active lieutenants, if by no means the most trusted, in the camp of Mar. The red wave, however, came no further, and on 3rd June, 1716, the minutes contain their last notice of the affair-the royal proclamation of a day of thanksgiving "for the breaking of the late unnatrall rebellion," which was also apparently kept as a strict and sacred fast-day in the parish of Kilmaronock.

II

OF the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 only one notice occurs in the kirk session minutes of the parish of Kilmaronock. On 8th September of that year the record runs: "This day the minister and elders met, and the minister proposed to the session that through the threatening circumstances of the times they should set apart a day for Solemn Fasting and Prayer. To which the session agreed, and appointed Wensday nixt should be the day." There is a personal incident remembered in the neighbourhood, however, which connects the district by a realistic touch with the tragic circumstances of the time. Thomas Nairn, a farmer's son, then a lad of sixteen, had been sent by his father in January, 1746, with some cattle for sale at Falkirk Tryst, the great national market held annually on Stenhousemuir. Prince Charles Edward's Highland army was probably known to be in the neighbourhood, before Stirling; but the likelihood of obtaining a high price for his beasts, owing to the expected scarcity, may have induced the farmer to run the extra risk. The lad, at any rate, following the great drove road from the West High lands by Killearn and Fintry, which was then distinctly marked along the hills, had proceeded with his charge as far as Denny, when an unusual sound reached his ears. It was the thunder of the cannon at the battle of Falkirk, in which at that moment, amid a furious storm of wind and rain, the Highlanders were sweeping General Hawley's English troops, with his three regiments of dragoons and his contingent of Glasgow Volunteers, in a wild pell-mell of slaughter across the moor. The farmer's son, not, perhaps, understanding the risk he ran, or perhaps with a boy's spirit of adventure, nothing loth to be nearer what was afoot, held on his way. He had not gone far, however, when a strange experience met him. There came galloping along the road from the direction of Falkirk a horse, dragging its overthrown rider by its side. The lad, helped, perhaps, by his cattle, which obstructed the open ground, succeeded in stopping the terrified steed, when he discovered that its unfortunate master was an English officer who had been wounded by a musket shot, and was flying from the field. Owing to his wound he had lost command of his horse, and had been thrown from the saddle; but believing that the Highlanders, who could not keep prisoners, were giving no quarter, and aware that his only chance of safety lay in his horse, he had managed by a desperate effort to keep hold of the reins. He implored the farmer's lad to help him again to his seat that he might still have a chance for his life. This very willingly Nairn did, and with a couple of ropes tied him into his saddle, whereupon he went galloping off, swaying a good deal with the movement of the horse, but managing to retain his seat. Thomas Nairn lived to a great age, dying about 1830, and there must be those yet living who remember hearing him tell of the singular incident which had brought him into touch with the last of the Jacobite risings. One particular especially had fixed itself in his memory. The officer he had helped wore high Hessian boots coming above the knee, and while he was tying him into the saddle, just before the horse again started off, Nairn noticed that one of these boots was full of blood.

It was probably the father of the hero of this adventure who was in 1719 the chief mover in a petition which was presented to the kirk session of the parish regarding a somewhat curious and rather gruesome privilege. The family, in the person of one Bartholomew Nairn, had, early in the seventeenth century, come into the parish from the north with a Lord Dundonald, who at that time acquired a considerable estate in Kilmaronock. This Bartholomew, or his son, would appear to have combined piety with providence in quite unique fashion, his bequest to the parish presenting perhaps the closest approach on record to securing the enjoyment of this world's goods beyond the portals of the tomb. His device is appropriately set forth in the petition of his descendants. This at the hands of " Thomas Nairn in Liggat of Killmaronock, John Nairn in Bonhill, and Robert Nairn his brother, for themselves and the rest of the name of Nairn, Humbly Sheweth, That where the deceast Bartholomew Nairn in Liggat about the year 1660 Mortifyd to the parosh of Killmaronock a mortcloath, reserving to his successors and others of the name of Nairn the free use of the mortcloath of the said parish in all tyme coming without paying any dues therefore, and likewise appointing one of his name to be always one of the managers and overseers of the money arising from the said mortcloath," etc., etc., "we and the rest of our name possest the benefitt of this mortification since the first granting till few years by past." The petitioners pray that the session records be searched for the original paper relating to the gift, and that, if it be not found, an act confirming it be engrossed in the session's minutes, otherwise, it is urged, the matter is likely to fall into oblivion-a mishap which the petitioners hope will be prevented, "that others may be encouraged to the like pious deeds." The session, however, did not prove complaisant, displaying no undue zeal for the discovery of their forgotten liabilities. Without examining records or making any effort whatever, they on the spot unanimously declared that they were ignorant as to all particulars condescended on in the petition, averring that they knew nothing of the matter except by hearsay, and concluding rather ungraciously by throwing the entire burden of proof regarding both bequest and privilege upon the petitioners themselves. Nothing further on the subject appears in the minutes for five years. The family of Nairn, however, who, to judge from the amounts of loans with which they were entrusted by the session, were substantial people, did not forget their rights, and accordingly on 6th May, 1724, the Presbytery, which met then in Kilmaronock to ordain a new minister, were constrained, upon the representation of Robert Nairn, to pass an act acknowledging and confirming the right of "all persons of the name of Nairn, their wives and children, living and burying in the parish," the free use of the session's mortcloth. From this act of the Presbytery, overruling the earlier proceeding of the session, two facts of some interest are incidentally to be gathered. The sum originally bequeathed by Bartholomew Nairn for the purchase of a mortcloth was three hundred marks or merks (about £16 13s. 4d.), a very considerable amount in the seventeenth century. It is also stated that the original papers recording the bequest and privilege had been destroyed " in the late hership of Kilmaronock"-which "hership" or plundering referred without doubt to one of the frequent raids of Macgregors or Macfarlanes, to which the open waterway of Loch Lomond rendered the parish peculiarly liable. As the papers are stated in Thomas Nairn's petition to have been kept in the session's box at the kirk, their loss would seem to imply that the caterans of these times had small respect for the sacredness of places of worship.

As has been already stated, the kirk session were not only the spiritual rulers and bankers of the congregation, but also exercised the authority of civil magistrate in the district. If this fact needed proof two entries in these minutes would suffice for the purpose. On 20th November, 1720, the minister reported to the session that "on Thursday last he had received ane expresse from the Magistrats of Dumbartane, to be communicated to the neighbouring parishes, bearing that the Plague having raged a considerable tyme in Provence of France, to the cutting of of many thousands in Marseils, it's feared there is somewhat of the same broke up in the Isle of Man, and therfore that all care be taken that no boats be alowed to land, or to land any goods on the shoar, that come down Lochlomond, the quhich he had intimated to the congregation this day." This entry remains interesting not only as a formal acknowledgment by constituted authorities of the civil jurisdiction of the kirk session, but for its suggestion of what was doubtless a frequent occurrence, the use of Loch Lomond as a waterway for the introduction of contraband goods transferred across the narrow isthmus from Loch Long at Arrochar. In this way Haco and his Norsemen in the thirteenth century transferred their warships to sweep the inland shores, and his performance was probably neither the first nor the last of the kind.

The second entry containing proof of civil authority occurs in the following year. It appears in connection with a case of slander, or scandal, as it was then called. One Patrick M`Alpine had not only hurt the feelings and endangered the reputation, but probably come within measurable distance of risking the life of two neighbours, by spreading a report that they had killed and used for their own purposes a beast which did not belong to them. By the evidence of many witnesses the libel is proved against him, whereupon the case is referred to the Presbytery for judgment. A month later the minister reports that he has carried the whole evidence of the case to that superior Court, and that it, after due reading and consideration, has stated its conclusion. "The Presbytery, considering what a stubborn and contumacious person Patrick M`Alpine is, and that his character is so well known to the countrey, doe advise the session of Killmaronock to rebuke the said Patrick M`Alpine sessionally, and intimate the said Rebuke before the congregation; and upon his continuing to be contumacious that they apply the Civill Magistrate to make the sentence effectuall." M`Alpine did not disappoint the Presbytery's evident expectation, but proved contumacy by three times neglecting the session's summons to appear for rebuke, and accordingly, on 30th April, James and John Robb, the complainers in the case, are appointed " to apply My Lady Grizall Cochran (the feudal superior) to order her Baylie to make Patrick M`Alpine his compearance effectuall." Nothing further seems necessary to render it certain that the session's exercise of civil authority within certain limits was duly recognised and supported by the powers of the time.

The civil functions of the session, however, did not apparently stop even here. It does not seem to have been thought peculiar that they should extend to the upkeep of roads and bridges. On 11th March, 1730, for example, it was intimated to the session of Kilmaronock that the Presbytery had appointed a collection to be made from house to house throughout the bounds for the building of a bridge on the Carrochan Burn. Intimation of the fact was accordingly made from the pulpit on the following Sunday, and the minister and elders having assumed for the nonce the office of collectors of road money, each in his district, they raised before the end of the month the sum of £54 9s. 6d. Scots, which sum was "committed to the minister to be keept by him till the work of the bridge is begun, or the session give further orders about it."

Twice only in the pages of these minutes does any local secular authority make itself felt within the bounds of the session's influence. On 27th October, 1730, appears a statement in somewhat grudging terms that " the heritors of the parish have lately met and pass'd an Act among themselves that all, not being heritors within this parish, who are concern'd in graffs, or incline to have lairs secur'd to them in this church yeard should pay in to the kirk session a shilling for each graff or lair possest or claim'd by them, to be employ'd by direction of the heritors for repairing the church yeard dike." The session were directed to keep the account, and non-payers offered the simple, if not particularly ceremonious, alternative of losing their privilege of burial, having their lairs (with the contents) disposed of to others, "and their Graffston's, if they have any, •thrown out of the Church yeard." And again in 1742, after a long period of very irregular minutes and entire absence of factors' accounts, the heritors had apparently found it necessary to raise an action in the Court of Session to ensure reliable management of the poor's money. Upon this occasion the minister and elders found it expedient to come to terms, indeed almost to surrender at discretion. "Both parties," say the minutes, "being willing that the difference should be taken up, this accordingly was (lone upon the kirk session's making the following declaration." The declaration is of the nature of humble pie, containing complete acknowledgment of previous mismanagement, and assurance of dutiful endeavour in the future. There is also engrossed a copy of the heritors' letter agreeing, upon the strength of this assurance, to drop their process of suspension before the High Court, as well as their previous decree obtained before the county Justices of the Peace. With an irony which in the circumstances was perhaps not altogether unconscious, the heritors sign themselves the session's " most humble servants."

From these entries it will be seen that the kirk session, autocratic as its tone frequently appeared, was not an altogether irresponsible authority.

After all, however, it is detail of personal history rather than light upon public affairs which forms the deepest interest of these pages. Between the lines of the faded and formal entries can be read here and there a story of quiet tragedy, not the less suggestive and intense though little more than its outlines are indicated. One instance may be given.

The shortcomings of the session which led to the interference of the heritors above referred to are stated to have been caused partly by the infirmity of the minister, Mr. William Brown, and that infirmity is further stated to have been an increasing blindness. -No signs of this affliction seem to have been apparent when lie first arrived in the parish. He was then evidently a very young man, to judge from the opening minutes of his reign, written in a round school hand, and with schoolboy Latin, upon pages carefully ruled. The first lines, probably copied in advance in the sanctity of his private study, set stiffly forth how "At Kilmaronock, 1st Aprile, 1783, after sermon sederunt, Mr. William Brown, minister and moderator pro primo and constitute by prayer." The previous page has been cut out, a blot or a wrong beginning possibly having been made there. Perhaps his sister, who had come to keel) house for him, was looking over his shoulder as he wrote, and advised him to try a new page with ruled lines. Especially is the nervousness of the youthful pastor visible in the minute of the meeting at which for the first time in his regime it is reported that a young woman of the parish is in trouble, and will require to be summoned before the session for inquiry and discipline; and the entry of the following meeting, at which the inquiry tool, place, has apparently been scrolled and afterwards copied carefully into the book. It is quite in regular form, nevertheless, previous entries of the same kind of case having no doubt been anxiously conned more than once beforehand by the writer. Such excessive care, however, was not likely to last, and the writing as it goes on becomes more and more straggling on each succeeding page. Within a year or two the minutes become very irregular, with long lapses between them, the young minister probably beginning to find himself at ease in his new position, and growing heedless of what seemed the petty formality of recording routine. It is what must have happened in many a quiet parish where young 'men and inexperienced found themselves in the place of power. Inexperience when in a place of authority, however, is apt to have a rude awakening. On 25th March, 1737, another hand, one more full of character, takes up the writing of the minutes, and the sad reason for the change forthwith becomes obvious. The young housekeeper at the manse, the minister's sister, having loved not wisely but too well, is upon her trial before the session. The story is drawn from her, with hour and date, how in the latter end of February, a year before, her lover, a young farmer laird of the neighbourhood, "in the dead of the night, chaped at the forelaigh room window of the manse, which she opened to him." Many an hour of sorrow and fear she must have passed since then; but the worst was yet to come. The lover himself, one Peter Buchanan, being summoned and interrogated, stoutly denied the allegation against him. Being farder interrogate," says the minute, "if he ever was guilty with her, he answered `never more than a kiss."' The circumstantial evidence furnished leaves the impress that Peter Buchanan was in no small degree a poltroon. His denial seems to have been keenly felt by the young woman, who appears to have been a lass of some spirit. "`Sir,"' she is recorded to have said, "`you have injured me exceedingly, and your conscience cannot but know it. And now this is still worse,' meaning his refusing it. She furder added in the most solemn and affecting manner that if she was now to die and expair upon the place and answer immediately to the Great God, her child had no other father but lie." It is set down in the following paragraph that, in the usual way, "she was ordered to compear and be rebuked next Lord's Day before the congregation"; but the grey elders, touched probably as much by the manner of the unfortunate girl as by anything else, immediately change their order-with a view, no doubt, to have the matter shelved and save her further humiliation. "Considering this affair, and finding difficulties in it, they do refer it wholly to the presbyterie."

This, from the circumstances, remains perhaps the most dramatic of the cases of discipline, as they were called, which appear in these minutes. Such cases of discipline, however-and these, by the way, formed by far the most frequent business before the session - occasionally ended in somewhat romantic fashion. More than once the elders, on inquiring into the relationship of suspected persons, discovered the existence of an irregular marriage. Many causes conspired to make these irregular marriages common, and towards the middle of last century there is an almost continual record of couples appearing, either upon summons or of their own accord, acknowledging their irregular union, and being exhorted, and giving their promise, to adhere to one another.’ One of the chief causes for the frequency of these runaway matches was no doubt the strictness of the session’s requirements before it would allow a regular marriage to be celebrated. In January, 1722, for instance, Matthew M’Aulay, notwithstanding the fact that his intention of matrimony had been duly proclaimed before the congregation, was by session refused the benefit of marriage until his betrothed should produce a good and sufficient testimoniall from Ireland, from quhence she came, that she was an unmaried woman, and that she had the consent of her parents. Two months later, the required testimonial not being forthcoming, and the session’s decision being backed by the Presbytery, it is reported by the minister that they have run away and married disorderly. It is not, however, for nearly a year afterwards that anything further is recorded of them. When they do reappear it is set down that they duly before the session acknowledgd themselves guilty of disorderly mariage, by quhich they gave offence to the congregation." And forthwith the session appoint that they be rebukt publickly for this, and own that they are maried to one another, and are resolved to cleave to one another as man and wife." Such was the unromantic sequel of more than one Scotch marriage" ‘‘ in those days in the parish of K ilmaronock.

Whatever otherwise may have been the routine of life, these minutes make it abundantly evident that the good folk of even a quiet Scottish parish in the eighteenth century were by no means without occurrences enough to make existence interesting.


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