Life in Scotland Chapter V. -
Death and Funeral Practices
PROGNOSTICATIONS of death
were superstitiously entertained. When a tallow candle shod grease over the
edge in a semicircular form, it was held to betoken that the person to whom
it was turned was about to die. When after moving across a dead body, a cat
proceeded to the roof of a house, it was deemed an omen that the head of the
house was to be gathered to his fathers. The issue of an ailment was
determined by the invalid having drawn round him, the methyr, a girdle
formed by the interlacing of male and female garters.
When a sick person was
believed to be at the point of death, no occupant of his dwelling was
allowed to sleep. On the event of death, the house clock was stopped, and
the dial-plate concealed. When a body was enshrouded, the house mirrors were
covered, and a bell was placed under the head, and a small vessel with earth
and salt laid upon the breast. When the head of a family was removed, white
paint was scattered upon the door of his dwelling, the spots so formed being
held to denote the tears of the household.
In Hamlets and small towns,
death was announced by the church officer ringing at intervals a small bell.
When Captain Burt wrote (in 1740) a death was publicly announced in these
words:—"All brethren and sisters, I let you to wot, that there is a brother
departed this life, at the pleasure of Almighty God; they called him, &c., —
he lived at, &c." Funeral intimations were in like manner proclaimed.
By the General Assembly of
1638, funeral sermons were prohibited. Printed elegies were common at the
close of the seventeenth, and early in the eighteenth centuries. Humphrey
Milne, watchmaker at Edinburgh, who died in 1695, was thus commemorated.
I will not name his parentage,
his breeding, nor his birth
But he that runs may read his life—He was a man of worth.
He valued not this earth below, although it had been satis,
He loved to lay his stock above, and now he is beatus.
In July 1700, Lord Elcho was
deprived of his young and beautiful wife, consequent on her dress catching
fire. He was comforted by these lines:—
Only well-grounded hopes of
her blest state
Can his excessive agonies abate,
And the two hopeful boys she left behind,
May mitigate the sorrows of his mind.
Allan Ramsay held in contempt
those who traded upon mortuary rhymes. Respecting them he wrote thus:—
None of all the rhyming herd
Are more encouraged and revered.
By heavy souls to their's allied,
Than such who tell who lately died.
The latewake, a watching of
the body from the moment of departure till the hour of burial, was practised
till about a century ago. In the act oaf watching, all the neighbours, even
persons from a great distance, took part. As the vigil was continued day and
night, one party of watchers relieved the other. Silence was enjoined, but
liquor-drinking was unrestrained.
When the vigils were
protracted, the watchers prosecuted in silence a variety of games,
especially card-playing. Captain Burt supplies these particulars "After the
death of anyone, not in the lowest circumstances, the friends and
acquaintances of the deceased, assemble to keep the relations company the
first night; and they dance, as if it were at a wedding, till the next
morning, though all the time the corpse lies before them, in the same room.
If the deceased be a woman, the widower leads up the first dance; if a man,
the widow. But this Highland custom, I knew to my disturbance, within less
than a quarter of a mile of Edinburgh, before I had been among the
mountains. It was upon the death of a smith, next door to my lodgings, who
was a Highlander."
To avoid the cost of a
protracted latewake, the bodies of the poor were buried soon after death.
But it was deemed proper that the coffined bodies of the opulent should
remain at least a week uninterred, that vigil hospitalities might be largely
offered and enjoyed. The latewakes of persons of quality, were occasionally
protracted for two and three weeks.
Notable latewakes terminated
in a banquet on the evening which preceded the funeral. The festivities
closed by the funeral dance, with bagpipe music. Funeral dances were largely
shared by females. In October 1760, the death of George II. was celebrated
at Aberdeen by a mourning concert. The occasion is in the Aberdeen Journal
of the time thus described:-
"On Tuesday night last there
was a mourning concert at the Concert Hall, on account of his late Majesty's
death. There were upwards of one hundred ladies, all in deep mourning,
besides a great number of gentlemen. There were anthems sung, and the music
solemn and suitable to the occasion; and the whole performance was reckoned
by connoisseurs exquisitely good, and gave great satisfaction to the
Funerals were attended by a
degrading dissipation, in which persons of all ranks lamentably shared. When
at the funeral of an ordinary Husbandman, one o'clock was named as the hour
of "lifting," the funeral party began to assemble two hours previously. At
the gate opening to the farmyard one of the hinds waited with a supply of
whisky, which in a cup or bicker he offered to all comers. Each took a
draught in silence. Among those who passed were beggars of both sexes; these
assembled from all quarters in the farmbarn, where they tarried patiently
till the funeral party had been served. What remained of viands and liquor
fell to their share.
To funeral-guests as they
crossed the threshold was offered a second bicker of whisky; it was drunk
reverently. A third attendant waited in the guest chamber, and silently
placed in the hand of each who entered a cog of liquor. This was swallowed
along with a portion of shortbread. According to Burt, the tables of funeral
parties usually displayed pyramids of plumcake and sweetmeats, together with
pipes and tobacco. When the company had fully assembled, the parish minister
commenced a religious service, which continued about forty minutes. Then
were distributed copious refreshments. First were handed round portions of
oaten cake, cheese, and whisky. Next followed a service of whisky and
When the fifth glass of
liquor was consumed, the company prepared for the lifting, that is, for
starting with the body for the churchyard. Those who were intoxicated
At the funeral of William
Alexander, seaman, who died at Alloa in 1725, these items were incurred:
As a Scottish pint was equal
to two quarts of present measure, it appears that William Alexander's
friends had at his funeral imbibed one gallon of whisky, and ten gallons of
Referring to the funeral
customs of a, recent period, Dr R. H. Story remarks, "At funerals, four
rounds of whisky were considered due to wounded affection and departed
worth, and respect was shown to the dead by the intoxication of the living."
When persons of substance
were interred, those attending their funerals were entertained with viands
in curious variety. At the first service were offered meat and ale; at the
second, shortbread and whisky; at the third, seedcake and wine; at the
fourth, currant-bun and rum; at the last, sugar biscuits and brandy. During
the funeral banquet of Andrew Alexander, "malster" at Stirling, who died in
1729, were served shortbread, wine, and whisky. The costs were these:—
The aquavitae or whisky must
have filled forty and the wine upwards of forty bottles.
These mortuary festivities
were relished not only by the living, but the departed comforted their later
hours by contemplating their occurrence. Dean Ramsay relates that an aged
spinster lady in Strathspey, when she was on her deathbed, called to her
bedside her grand-nephew and heir, and affectionately charged him that as
much whisky was to be used at her funeral as had been drunk at her baptism.
Unaware as to the extent of the potations on the earlier occasion, the heir
allowed each one who attended the funeral to drink what he pleased. The
result was a contretemps which the aged gentlewoman could not have foreseen
without emotion. When the funeral party reached the churchyard, a distance
of ten miles from the place of starting, the sexton's enquiry of the chief
mourner, 'Captain, whaur's Miss Kitty?' aroused the company to the
recollection that in resting at an inn they had there left the body on a
dyke, and had started without it." In connection with the Lord President
Forbes a similar incident occurred. At his mother's funeral he entertained
his neighbours with such profuse hospitality, that he and his friends were
startled on reaching the churchyard by the discovery that the coffin had
been forgotten. At the funeral of the Hon. Alexander Fraser of Lovat in
1815, several persons overcome with liquor fell into the vault; and the
carousals which in 1817 attended the funeral of the Chisholm were
accompanied with some fatal incidents.
Funeral festivities have led
to strife, even to fatal conflicts. At a funeral procession at Meigle, in
1707, David Ogilvie of Clunie, quarrelling by the way with his neighbour,
Andrew Couper, younger of Lochblair, discharged a pistol at him, when he
fell from his horse mortally wounded. Ogilvie who was thoroughly inebriated,
was sheltered for some weeks by the writer's great-grandfather, who resided
in the district. Thereafter he found shelter in France.
At another funeral tragedy,
an ancestor of the writer was unhappily a chief offender. James Carnegie of
Finhaven, grandson of David, second Earl of Northesk, had been attending at
Forfar the funeral of a niece, a daughter of Carnegie of Lour. After the
funeral he adjourned to a tavern along with Lyon of Bridgeton and the Earl
of Strathmore. Carnegie and Lyon drank heavily, and the latter, who was of
an overbearing temper, began to upbraid the former with harsh and unbecoming
epithets. At length as they walked out, he pitched Carnegie into a ditch.
Mad with resentment Carnegie, who had hitherto been silent, plunged his
sword towards his assailant. Perceiving his purpose, Lord Strathmore pushed
Lyon aside, but unhappily received in his own body a fatal wound. On a
trial, Carnegie was acquitted.
Among persons of rank funeral
festivities were seriously expensive. The cost incurred in interring a baron
of Roslin, led to an Act of Parliament being passed in 1681 "restraining the
exorbitant expense of marriages, baptisms, and funerals." The Act restricts
the attendance at funerals to numbers proportioned to the rank of the
deceased ; it also "prohibits and discharges the using or carrying of any
branches, banners, and other honours at church, except only the eight
branches to be upon the pall, or upon the coffin where there is no pall." At
the funeral of a nobleman might only be present one hundred persons.
The enactment of 1681 seems
scarcely to have touched the evil which it was intended to overcome.
Extravagant expenditure at funerals continued, both in the Highlands and
Lowlands. The festivities at the burial of Lachlan Mackintosh of Mackintosh,
in December 1731, involved a cost which embarrassed the chief of clan
Mackintosh for a century. Sir William Hamilton, a Lord of Session by the
title of Lord Whitelaw, who died in 1704, was interred with a ceremonial
which cost £5189 Scots, being more than two years of his salary as a judge.
The bills were settled by his widow, but when she contracted a second
marriage she sought and obtained a decree, transferring the burden to the
heir. The funeral expenses of Hugh Campbell of Calder, in 1616, amounted to
£1647, 16s., 4d. This expenditure included a charge for whisky equal to
one-fourth of the amount.
Funeral rites varied. In the
seventeenth century, persons who had approved a high ritual were buried at
night by torch-light. In this manner were interred at Stirling, in 1636, the
remains of Sir Anthony Alexander, second son of Sir William Alexander, Earl
of Stirling. During the same century, were conducted, under direction of the
Lord Lyon, several funeral processions of imposing magnificence. Great state
attended the funeral of Walter first Earl of Buccleuch, in 1654. The funeral
party proceeded from Branxholm to Hawick, some on foot, others on horseback.
In front marched forty-six salies or hired mourners, with hoods and bearing
black staves. Preceded by a trumpeter, followed on horseback the landed
representatives of the clan Scott, bearing a vast banner displaying the arms
of the departed. A vast concourse followed. A description of the funeral
procession of Chancellor the Duke of Rothes, as performed on the 23rd August
1681, occupies six quarto pages of Hugo Arnot's "History of Edinburgh."
The funerals of Highland
chiefs were attended by thousands, the processions extending to between one
and two miles in length. At these processions were chanted, at intervals,
the coronach or lamentation. Poured forth by an hundred voices it
awakened the echoes, and as an expression of tragic grief was singularly
effective. At Highland funerals, the coronach was latterly superseded by the
pibroch. When a Lord Provost of Edinburgh died in office his remains were
conducted to the place of burial by an imposing procession, of which an
account was recorded in the civic register.
Under the persistent efforts
of the clergy, the people became at length aroused to the impropriety of
assuaging grief by intoxicants. For half a century the refreshments offered
to funeral parties have consisted chiefly in edibles. We have been favoured
with the account for refreshments incurred in October 1811, at the funeral
of Samuel Brown, farm-overseer at Ballochneil in Carrick, and maternal uncle
of the poet Burns. The principal item is "plain shortbread," of which were
used "four pecks, at seven shillings per peck."
Bell-ringing at funerals,
common in Roman Catholic times, was continued after the Reformation. Early
in the seventeenth century, the church officer of St Cuthbert's walked in
front of every funeral party, ringing a handbell; he received for this
service a small fee. Bell-ringing arrangements varied.
At Alloa the beadle's fee for
the funeral bell was thirteen shillings and fourpence. During the
seventeenth century, persons of quality at Airth in Stirlingshire were
expected to make liberal payments for the tolling of the parish bell when
their relatives were buried. To the Kirksession of that parish in March 1683
were paid £2, 18s. for the use of the bell at the funeral of "Lady Airth,"
and when the laird of Airth died in the July following, his executors
presented to the session a bell-fee of eight rix-dollars.
When in 1734 forty-two of the
principal parishioners of Tough parish, Aberdeenshire, purchased a new
church bell, they stipulated that at deaths in their families the bell be
rung once before the day of interment, that is, when the officer gets the
first notice of a contributor's death, and then upon the day of interment
from morning until the coffin be laid down in the ground, in the manner that
bells ought to be rung at funerals, and that by no other person than the
officer allenarlie. At Inverness were kept two sets of funeral bells, one
for the rich, the other for the poor. In the parish burial register the
words "big bells" are added to the funeral entries of persons of quality.
When a funeral procession
enters the, churchyard the beadle or sexton reverently spreads over the
coffin a funeral pall. This pall, or mortcloth, is a parochial investment
for behoof of the poor; hence its use, though left to discretion, is
attended with a compulsory fee. In Banffshire parishes, opulent families
were for the mortcloth expected to lay thirty shillings, and Husbandmen and
others eighteen shillings. Practically the tax was a fee upon internments.
At Stirling, in 1729, the mortcloth fee was £4. 10s. Scots; at Alloa, about
the same period, £3, 13s. 4d.
To primitive modes of burial
we referred in a former chapter. Mound interments preceded the Christian
age. The early ecclesiastics were buried in their churches, and when
interment within places of worship had ceased elsewhere, clergymen in the
isles desired that their remains might rest within the walls in which they
had breached. Mr Aulay Macaulay, minister of Harris, who died in 1736, had
his remains deposited within the parish church at the entrance passage. The
shell was placed at a small depth, and when some twenty years afterwards,
the church officer was repairing the earthen floor, the minister's skull was
found protruding from the surface.
The General Assembly of
October 1576 ruled that burials "should not be made in the kirk," those who
contravened the injunction being hell liable to excommunication. But a
practice which largely prevailed prior to the Reformation might not readily
be overcome. Accordingly, landowners and others long continued to insist on
intramural interment. Landowners were buried under their pews. From the
Records of the Presbytery of Lanark we, on this subject, glean some curious
particulars. Before the Presbytery appeared, on the 31st March 1625, John
Mure, laird of Ancistoun, who "confessit his fault both in taking the key of
the kirk doore of Symington frome the minister, as also in burying his
father within the samyn." Mure was dismissed with an admonition, on becoming
bound "to abstain from all kirk burial in tynie coming." Before the
Presbytery appeared, on the 28th March 1639, the laird of Shieldhill, who
acknowledged his offence "in burieing his wyffe in the kirk of Quothquan, by
forcibly entering the structure;" he was sentenced to publicly avow "his
fault" in presence of the congregation. A more flagrant offender was
reported to the Presbytery in September 1642. One of the brethren stated
that "John Bertram, younger, his ruling elder, did wyle the key of the kirk
from his kirk officer, under pretence of seeking something he had lost, and
did quietlie make a grave in the kirk, just foragainst the pulpitt, contrare
to the actes of the Generall Assemblie, and wold no wayes be stopped, nor
hindered by him to bury within the kirk." Bertram was summoned, but the
issue does not appear. A strict injunction against burying in places of
worship was issued by the General Assembly of 1643, and the practice all but
ceased. Yet, if we are to accept the testimony of Father Hay, the St Clairs,
barons of Roslin, were up to the year 1650 deposited in a vault of Roslin
Chapel, while each baron of the house was in death borne forth panoplied in
the armour he had used in life.
In the Isles, the mode of
sepulture was strangely primitive. In Orkney, Shetland, and the Hebrides,
bodies were buried clad in graveclothes, but uncoffined. The graves were in
depth only one or two feet. At Caithness, bodies were placed with the heads
northward; in the eastern lowlands the graves were uniformly fashioned, so
that the feet rested towards the east. In certain localities, a superstition
prevailed, that the body was in the grave only safe from evil influence if
prior to interment it was three several times carried round the church in
the direction of the sun. In 1641 the Presbytery of St Andrews specially
condemned this usage and prohibited its observance. On the 8th March 1648,
the same Presbytery resolved that "whereas there is a superstitious practice
of makeing graves upon the Lord's day, quhen it may be convenientlie
eschewed, the Presbyterie do appoint that no graves be made upon the Lord's
day, bot in case of urgent necessitie allowed by the minister and session."
At Cleish, in Kinross-shire,
a portion of rock situated about a quarter of a mile to the east of the
parish church is popularly known as "the lecture stone;" it was in
pre-Reformation times used at funerals as a rest for the coffin during the
performance of a religious ceremonial. At Orwell, in the same county, at the
west end of the old glebe is another "lecture stone" associated with the
same practice. The latter is referred to in a Kinross-shire sasine, dated
22nd March 1746.
In pro-Reformation tinges a
funeral mass of requiem was observed annually in commemoration of those of
the departed who had by endowment or otherwise provided for this service.
Survivors of the loved or notable also made provision for this annual
solemnity. On the eve of celebration-day was in the residence of survivors
observed the dergen, which consisted in the utterance of words of
The mass of requiem which
next day followed was held as efficacious in purifying the soul from the
stain of sin, and so advancing it in blessedness.
'Till a recent period the
bodies of unbaptized children were buried apart from the graves of the
baptized; in some parishes their remains were deposited under the eaves of
At Edinburgh, a. lonely
graveyard at St Leonard's Hill was apportioned to suicides. These were
ordinarily buried on the march between two counties, on mountain tops, and
at low-water mark on the sea beach.
Lowland funerals are attended
only by men, but in the uplands women clad in red cloaks are occasionally
present. Conformably with the Registration Act of 1854, the Death Registers,
prior to 1820, have been deposited in the General Registry Office, and it is
now provided that after the occurrence of a death, the nearest relative
present is bound to personally attend at the office of the registrar to
certify the event.
The earliest registers of
deaths are those of Aberdeen, which continence in 1560; Perth, beginning in
1561 and the Canongate, beginning in 1565. The Burial Registers of the
Canongate and Greyfriars' churchyards, Edinburgh, severally commence in 1612
and 1658. Death Registers in rural parishes generally begin in the
eighteenth century; they are usually defective. Members of the Associate
Church had a few burial-places of their own, and in connection with these
preserved special registers. Embittered feelings between the Established
Church and their dissenting brethren was surely at its Height, when the
session-clerk of Mauchline, writing in 1768, inserted in the register these
words, in capital letters: "Hugh Campbell, a Seceder, cut his own throat on
the 3rd of January''!
In the Death Register of the
Canongate, the assassination of David Rizzio is notified among the earlier
entries. The event is recorded thus: "Monsr. Singnor David ves shine in
Halyrudhous the ix day of Merche anno 1565.
In the Canongate register
Lord Darnley's murder is thus entered: "The Kyng's grace blawen vp with
butler in the Kirk of Feud the x of Februar 1566." The event is more
circumstantially chronicled in the Register of Aberdeen, but under a wrong
date. Thus: "The nynt day of Fabruar the zeir of God 1566 zeris, bendry
Stwartt lord Darly, Kyng of Scotland, quha maratt Marc Stwartt, queyne of
Scotland, doathar to Kyng James the fyft, was crwelly nwrdrvst Nader nyt. in
Edinburg in the Kowbeatt at the Kyrk of fydall, be Janes habewn, wyquhell
Erll of Boydwall, and odris his assisteris quhais deed God to revenge. So be
The slaughter of the Earl of
Murray is notified in various registers. Giving an inaccurate date, the
registrar at Perth writes:—" The xviii day of Januar anno LXIX years, eves
the regeant slay ne in Lythko at x houris afore nvyn." `The session-clerk of
Aberdeen records the event thus: "The twenty-thre day of Januar, the yeir of
God 1569 zyrs, James, erl of Murray, Lord Abernethie, regent to the Kyng and
realme of Scotland, was crwelly murderist and schoitt in the toun of Lythco,
be ane false traytoure, James Hamyltoun of bodyw at11liaucht, be the
cosspyrase and traissvn of his aun servant IV, ilyem Kyrcaldy, and Joline
Hamyltoun, bluely bischoip of Sanctandrois, quhois deid we pray God to
rewenge. So be itt."
With much particularity does
the Aberdeen registrar make record of the massacre of St Bartholomew, and
the murder of Admiral Coligny on the 24th August 1572. The latter event he
"prays God to rewenge."
From the parish records of
Kinghorn we learn that Mr John Moncreiff, minister of that parish, being
most zealous on behalf of the Covenant, induced many of his elders and
parishioners to join the standard of General Baillie prior to the battle of
Kilsyth. At that battle, fought on the 15th August 1645, the General was,
with great slaughter, defeated by the Marquis of Montrose, a result which
involved many families at Kinghorn in bereavement and consequent distress.
Many of the elders were among the slain. There was much bitter reflection,
for few of the bereaved understood the real nature of the controversy which
had made them desolate. On the 11th October, or about two months after the
battle, Janet Smith was arraigned before the Session for railling on one of
the bailies, calling him "muckle keited Carle," and "wishing or saying the
curse of God would come on him who had made so manie fatherless bairns in
the town be sending them to Kilsyth." And on the 4th November, Janet Moyes
was summoned for "cursing Patrick Boswell, as causing the death of her sonne
at Kilsyth." Some time thereafter, Margaret Wallace, whose husband was also
slain, was brought up for expressing a wish that "there was not a living
mall in all Kinghorne."
At the Restoration, those who
had suffered on behalf of the royal family were honoured and elevated. The
Marquis of Montrose was dead, but his remains were disinterred at the Burgh
Muir, and from thence conveyed to Edinburgh, whore, after remaining four
months in state in the Abbey Church of Holyrood, they were borne to St
Giles' Church, and there deposited with great pomp. In the Edinburgh
Register of Burials is the event thus chronicled
"11 May 1661. The Rt. Hon.
James Marquis of Montros, Erlle of Kincairdin, Lord Grahame and Mugdok, His
Majesties lait commissioner and Capitaine Generall for the kingdome of
Scotland, and kynt of most hon' order of the Gairter, was conveyit from the
kirk of Halyrudhous with great Honour and solemnitie to Sanct Gills kirk and
At a subsequent period, some
of those who had suffered in the cause of Presbytery and arbitrary
government, were in their remains similarly honoured. This is notified in
the Greyfriars Register by the following entry:—"Robert Garvock, Patrick
Forman, James Stewart, David Fernie, Alexander Russell, wes execute in the
Gallowlee for owning the truth, upon the 10 day of October 1681 years, and
tiler beads flit upon Bristo Port, taken doun and buried privatlie in
Louristone Yeards, now accidentlie dui up upon the 15 day of October 1726,
and buried decentlie upon the 19 day of the said month in the Greyfriere
Church yeard, close to the Martiers Tomb."
In the Greyfriars Register
the following entry records the death and burial of the learned Sir Robert
Sibbald:—"Sir Robert Sibbald of Kippo, Doctor of Medicine, aged eighty-two
years. Died 9th August 1722. Buried 12th, within Phesdo's ground, near to
the cast end thereof." According to the popular biographers, Sir Robert
Sibbald died about the year 1712."
Jane Baillie Welsh, the
accomplished wife of Thomas Carlyle, has been erroneously described as a
descendant of John Knox. She sprung from the Durnfriesshire family of Walsh
or Welsh which produced John Welsh, husband of Elizabeth, third and yungest
daighter of the great reformer Nicolas Welsh abbot of Tongland in 1488,
belonged to a family of whom two members, Dean Robert Welsh, vicar of Tynron,
and John Welsh, vicar of Dunscore, embraced the Protestant doctrines. John
Welsh, owner of the lands of Colliston and others in the parishes of
Dunscore and Holywood, was ancestor of John Welsh of Craigenputtock,
progenitor of Mrs Carlyle. This gentleman died in February 1772, and his
testament and inventory are recorded in the Commissariot Register of
Dumfriesshire. According to the inventory, his household effects were of the
total value of £27, Os. 2d. sterling, including the sum of £11, the
estimated value of his live stock, which consisted of thirty-four ewes and
lambs, thirteen "old yell sheep, ten hogs, a cow, and a stirk."
By entries in the Death
Registers do we discover some remarkable instances of longevity. In the
Register of Mauchline it is recorded that Margaret Paton died on the 15th
March 1807, aged 106 years, 7 months, and 10 days; and that John Mair,
"in-dweller in Mauchline," died on the 21st November 1807, at the age of
105. In the Crieff Baptismal Register, we learn that Isabel, daughter of
John Taylor in Greenhead, was baptized on the 5th May 1717; she died at
Edinburgh on the 23rd April 1818, at the age of 101. Ann Wallace, sister of
Robert Wallace of Kelly, MP., died in 1872; she was born in the Barony
parish on the 1st July 1770. Mrs Murray, nee Katherine Pell, died at Crail
on the 1st August 1862. While in the possession of perfect health she
sustained an accidental fall attended with a fracture, which proved fatal.
Mrs Murray was born in the parish of Kingsbarns on the 19th September 1761.
The parish of Dunnet in
Caithness is remarkable for the longevity of its inhabitants. George Cowper,
who was baptized on the 3rd March 1771, died on the 10th July 1872. Donald
Sutherland, a native of Eddrachillis, died at Trough in Dunnet, on the 8th
September 1876, aged 102; and there on the 5th May 1875, died James Jack at
the age of 101.
Mr James Ingram, minister of
the Free Church, Unst, died on the 3rd March 1879; he was born at
Logie-Colston, Aberdeenshire, on the 3rd April 1776. His father lived to the
age of 100, and his grandfather died in his 105th year. At Unst, on the 29th
August 1882, died at Colvidale, Anne Nisbet, who had two weeks before
reached her 102 birthday. At Brechin, on the 7th March 1883, died Mrs John
Alexander, pace Jean Wyllie; she was born on the farm of Beatson, near
Stewarton, on the 2nd September 1781.
From the register of the
united parishes of Glenorchay and Inishail we have the following: "August
24, 1790. Baptized William, son to John Macfarlane, piper. At the baptism of
the above child to John Macfarlane, piper, were present the father and
mother, the grandfather and grandmother, and the great-grandfather and
great-grandmother, the two last strong and vigorous, vx., John Morrison and
Anne Macdougall, in Edendorich."
In the Burial Registers of
Edinburgh, the mortality entries are yearly summarized. These annual
reckonings show that early in the eighteenth century, nearly two-thirds of
the population died in childhood, and that the deaths of adult females
doubled those of adult males. A diminution in the death-rate appears in
1741, when the interments include 276 males, 401 females, and 942 children.
This computation embraces both the city and the landward parish of St
Cuthberts. Accepting; the commonly received report that the inhabitants of
the place, in 1741, numbered 50,000, we discover that the mortality was at
the rate of 34 per 1000. The mean mortality of the city for the years
1869-1878, as derived from the Registrar-General's returns, is 24 per 1000,
showing a decrease in the death-rate since 1741 of 10 per 1000. It further
appears that while, in 1741, for every seven adults there died ten children,
four children for every seven adults is the present average.
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