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Researches into the History of Tain
Chapter 2 - The Later History


WITH the epoch of the Reformation, the old history of Tain, properly so called, comes to an end, and a wholly new era of her history begins—an era to which that great religious revolution affords a key as important as does her connection with St Duthach to that which we have already considered. The two periods have certain elements in common, and yet differ greatly. Common to both is a predominantly religious character, without which our town's history would have little either to interest strangers or to stir enthusiasm in her own children; there being hardly an event worthy of note, in either portion of it, that was not connected, directly or indirectly, with religion. The religion of the older period was, however, largely external and superstitious; that of the later was more spiritual and pure. The older history, fragmentary though our knowledge of it is, has an almost epical unity, and, therewith, a certain romantic as it does now, as a pretty little town. Its situation, and the grouping of its principal buildings into a. cluster in the centre, must even then have given it a picturesque appearance. The Church of St Duthus was there in its original beauty; there, I suppose, was also the old "steeple," not the same as that which now forms so striking a feature of the place, nor even occupying exactly the site of the present tower, but standing within the churchyard, being properly, indeed, the bell-tower of the church, though a detached building, and its style, we may presume, being in keeping with the church, and, therefore, at least as imposing as its more modern successor. A castle, the residence of the heritable or royal bailie, stood a little to the east, on what is still known as the Castle Brae. The old chapel, where St Duthach had been born, was to be seen below the town, roofless, but its walls in a less ruinous state than now.

As to its social condition, Tain was at that time a little capital to the whole country around; for men were attracted to it by secular and religious motives; combined. At least three times a year, crowds flocked to the great religious festivals held in St Duthus' Church; and as is still very commonly the case in Roman Catholic towns on the Continent, occasion was taken immediately after to hold fairs or markets in the churchyard (thus under the shadow of the Church's protection), and from the churchyard extending into the High Street of the town. To these fairs, country people carried the produce of their farms and their rude home-manufactures for sale, in callachi.e8little carts, with railed sides and solid wheels (such as some of us remember to have often seen loaded with peats from Edderton), in which likewise they carried home their purchases. Dealers came also from the far- south with all sorts of goods, and the fairs were in many ways so important and enjoyable that the neighbouring proprietors and their families liked to attend them: perhaps even the pilgrim kings may, when visiting St Duthus, have sometimes waited to be present at them.

The people of the town were doubtless very similar to what they are now; for the race is the same, and human nature does not change. There were the two languages as at present; only that Gaelic was then much more prevalent.

On these festive occasions there would be much hospitality, kindness, and fun; so liable, however, to be interrupted by brawls, that the Magistrates. always appointed a market-guard, under the command of a captain, to keep the peace. One such brawl is. recorded to have taken place in 1583, which had a fatal termination. Captain James Ross, "brother's, son to the Laird of Achlossin, and Patrick Yvat with him, were slain in the chalmer of Andrew Ross, in Tam, at 8 hours afore noon or thereby, by Nicolas Ross and Walter Ross, with their complices;" and it may give an idea of the state of public justice :at this time, when I mention that Nicolas Ross escaped the penal consequences of the homicide, not in virtue of a trial and acquittal, but of a Royal remission exempting him from trial; the remission being granted him ten years after the fact, probably for .a pecuniary payment; but also through family influence—for the deed of remission expressly designates him brother of the Laird of Invercarron. The shedding of human blood went for little in those days; and .only as a more spiritual religion gradually leavened .the population, did human life come to be estimated as above all money price.

The external religion of those times was doubtless imposing. St Duthus' Church, on festal occasions, would shine resplendent with gold and silver—both -of the vessels used in the ceremonies, and of the relic cases and other costly gifts of wealthy devotees. The priests would be seen moving about in gorgeous vestments, celebrating the mass for the supposed benefit of the souls of those who had endowed the Church, as well as for the worshippers present, and :a band of white-robed choristers sang matins and vespers daily for the same objects. We can imagine the influence which all this pretentious worship would have on many minds; but we also know how unsatisfactory it would be to those who were taught by the Spirit of God to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Of these latter, there would seem to have been at this time not a few; and to such the doctrine of Divine grace, through the blood of Christ, and by regeneration of the Holy Ghost,. as preached by the Reformers, would be as cold waters to a thirsty soul. The oaken pulpit, which was presented by the Good Regent Moray, the friend of John Knox, to the people of Tain, "for their zeal in the cause of the Reformation," and which, as now restored, adorns the .old church, is the standing monument of the religious feeling of our town at this important epoch.

I have already hinted at some of the influences that probably led to this state of feeling. The first was the martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton. The "reek" .of that martyrdom, wherever else it may have been carried, must have been quickly borne to his own Monastery of Fearn, and to Tain in its close neighbourhood. It can hardly have been an accidental .coincidence that within seventeen years, if not sooner, Nicolas Ross, Hamilton's second successor in the Abbacy of Fearn, and at the same time Provost of the Collegiate Church of St Duthach, openly professed the Reformed faith. We know too little of the private history of this man to be able to determine what was the measure of his religious influence—how far he led the Reforming movement here, or was himself led by it. His early life, like that of many Romish dignitaries of those days, had been by no means exemplary, as is proved by his application for Royal "letters of legitimation" in behalf of three illegitimate sons, when purchasing from Balnagown the estate of Easter and Wester Gany (Geanies), to settle upon them. But as, in addition to his early profession of Protestantism, we know that in the Parliament of 156() (in which, as Abbot of Fearn, he had a seat), he voted for the Reformation, we cannot doubt that his local influence also was now exerted in the same direction. Whether he himself preached, we do not know; but his authority, as the great man of the town and district, must have been great; and out of the revenues which had been his as Provost of St Duthus, the Protestant ministers of Tain were afterwards. supported. I am disposed, therefore, to assign him the honourable place of one of the effective promoters of the Reformation in the North.

The external change which took place in Tam through the Reformation must have been a very great one. The collegiate establishment of St Duthus was abolished; its splendid ceremonial ceased, the daily singing of its choir was no longer heard, nor were processions of its priests seen any more. Probably also the building was dismantled; and in various ways a. blank must have been made in the popular life. What was there to fill the blank? The Word of God; and this, to those who received it, was everything. A copy of the Bible, strongly bound in oak, was, says tradition, at this time chained to the reading-desk in the church, and read aloud daily by a reader specially appointed, at the hour when people came from the country to do business in the town. Occasionally there would be visits from George Munro, the Superintendent and Commissioner for the Plantation of Churches in the North, who is said to have been an able preacher and very pious man. The first regular minister of Tam (he had charge also of Edderton, Tarbat, and Nigg) was named Finlay Manson.

The leaven of spiritual truth which was now introduced among our ancestors had to work its way, of course, against many obstacles; and a proportion of the people—we cannot say, what proportion—doubtless clung long to their old beliefs and habits. It will not surprise us, therefore, to find remnants of the Romish worship and of its superstitious practices surviving in some quarters for a considerable time. The pilgrimages, for example, did not cease instantaneously—not, indeed, completely for two hundred years. I have it on good traditional authority that down even to the latter half of last century, persons were sometimes seen paying religious visits to the old ruined chapel below the town. Still grosser superstitions survived here and there, and perhaps in some minds gained even additional force. Persons, for example, who bad sought the healing of disease or other benefits from St Duthach's relics, now that they were deprived of these, were fain to fall back, if they had no higher faith, on witchcraft as their only resource. Witchcraft and charms were at this time much resorted to, the belief in, them having come down through the ages as a survival from old Paganism. The corrupted Christianity of the Middle Ages had neither destroyed, nor done much to weaken these superstitions; had, indeed, rather fostered the feelings on which they lived, by setting up what were virtually rival charms or fetiches of its own, in the guise of crosses, holy water, relics of the saints, priestly masses, and the like. The doctrine of the Reformation, by bringing men into conscious, direct relation with God—the one God of grace, providence, and nature—sapped the Pagan and the Romish superstitions at their foundation; but time was needed for this better influence to produce its full effect on men's daily life, for superstition often survives as a feeling and a practice after men have become ashamed to avow it as a belief. We know that it has by no means wholly died out even yet, and in those days it was prevalent in all ranks of society, in every part of Scotland and of Europe. We shall not wonder, therefore, to find that it existed in this town and neighbourhood. Curiously, there have been handed down to us the name, and even nickname, of a Tain witch of those days—her name, Marjory M'Alister—her nickname, Loskie Loutart; and the name of a Tain wizard, William M'Gillivray, and his. nickname, Dame. f Both the witch and the wizard were involved in a charge of magic and attempted murder by poisoning, said to have been practised by them at the instigation of Catharine Ross, Lady Foiilis, second wife of Robert Mor Munro, that first Protestant Baron of Foulis whom I have already mentioned as taking a prominent part in the Reformation, and as exercising a high influence in promoting it in Easter Ross. Marjory M'Alister was said to have made for this lady an image of clay, to be set up and shot at with elf arrows, the object being to cause the person whom the image represented (the lady's stepson, her husband's heir), to pine away and die. William M'Gillivray was sentenced to be burnt for having sold to the lady a "box of witchcraft," that is, of poison, for the same end. The woman M'Alister was not similarly dealt with; probably because a distinction was made between witchcraft that took the effective form of the administration of poison, and that which confined itself to the fanciful method of shooting at a clay image. A son, also, of the same distinguished family was said to have employed a witch to cure him of a fever, which she pretended to do by having him carried out in a blanket in a frosty night in January, and laid down in a new-made grave at the boundary between two baronies, thus to transfer his fever to a step-brother, who should die instead of him. Both the lady and the son were subjected to a form of trial before the High Court of Justiciary on these charges; but were acquitted, as was certain to be the case from the composition of the juries, who, in both trials, consisted mostly of clansmen of their own, Rosses and Munroes, many of these being burgesses of Tam. If, notwithstanding the acquittals so obtained, anyone still believes the accusations to have been founded in truth, he will only have an illustration of the frequently remarked fact that good and truly Christian men may be sorely tried by misconduct in their own families; for it is satisfactory to be able to say that no taint of suspicion ever fell on the good Baron himself, but that, on the 'contrary, the actors in the matter showed the utmost anxiety to prevent their dealings with witches from coming to his ears.

Tain had received the immunities of a free trading town from its founder, Malcolm Canmore. It seems to have had Magistrates called Bailies from a very early date; but I cannot find that there was any Provost of the Burgh, called by that title, before the Reformation. The oldest Bailie would be virtually Provost; but the title seems to have belonged exclusively to the ecclesiastical head of St Duthus, who was really invested with some civil rights, among which was that of receiving legal fines when inflicted on delinquents by the heritable Bailie in name of the King. The ecclesiastical Provost's civil rights probably ceased with the disestablishment of Popery; and we therefore find Provost Nicolas Ross, six years after the Reformation, entering into a singular contract with the heritable Bailie, Innes of The Plaids, by which the Bailie bound himself to hold courts, as formerly, whenever he should be required by the Provost so to do, and to pay over to the Provost two-thirds of all the fines that should be imposed. This was a curious agreement; the state of public justice which it indicates cannot have been satisfactory. By what process the title of Provost passed over to the chief civil magistrate, and when and how the local courts were placed on a more satisfactory basis, has not been ascertained. The oldest extant charter of the burgh, a charter of confirmation and novodamus, granted by King James VI. in the year 1587, pre-supposes the existence of all the regular burgh authorities, ratifying, but not creating, their powers.

We now approach a period when Tain was again to assume prominence in Scottish ecclesiastical affairs. Amongst the endowments of St Duthus' Church had been a number of chaplainries, so called; that is to say, of annuities presented to priests, who were bound in return to say masses for the souls of the donors. After the Reformation, these chaplainries were, in partial carrying out of Knox's enlightened scheme of education, usually granted as bursaries to young men, to enable them to study at the University. No better use for them could have been found. The application of one of them is specially interesting to us. The chaplainry of Newmore in St Duthus' Church was held for several years by a student named John Munro, nephew of that first Protestant Baron of Foulis of whom I have already spoken. This John Munro, before the end of the century, became minister of Tam. He was also called Sub-Dean of Ross; this title being probably an accompaniment of a mere civil right to the emoluments of an office that had once existed in the Romish Church, but was now abolished. He was no cypher in his ministry: in the faithful execution of it he came into collision with the King himself. When James VI. succeeded in the year 1603 to the throne of England, he formed a scheme to effect a complete union between his two Kingdoms and their two Churches. But he neither conceived this object aright, nor pursued it in a right way; for he attempted to force the Church of the smaller nation into conformity with that of the larger, and in order to this, set himself deliberately to oppress the consciences of her most devoted children. Lest the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland should thwart his scheme, he interdicted its meeting; thereby violating two principles at once— the religions principle of the Church's obligation and consequent right to meet in name of her Divine Head, whether in congregations or in General Assembly, for the performance of every duty which He has imposed on her; and the constitutional principle of the King's incompetency to forbid the meeting of a General Assembly which had been summoned in strict accordance with the laws of the kingdom, as ratified by himself. Doubtless these principles, in their practical application, involved difficulties which may have perplexed even honest and enlightened men, or may have made them think the time inopportune for the practical assertion of them: the more remarkable, therefore, was the decision and courage .of the few Presbyteries—that of Tain was one of them —which deputed representatives to the interdicted Assembly; and of the nineteen ministers—one of them the celebrated John Welsh (John Knox's son-in- law), of Ayr in the far South; another, John Munro, of Tain in the far North; who, in spite of the interdict and of tempestuous weather, actually met at Aberdeen, and constituted the Assembly in the name of Christ. John Munro was one of three who were put in nomination for the Moderatorship of this Assembly. The King, calling it a seditious Assembly, summoned its leading members to appear before his Privy Council to answer for their conduct. Of the seventeen who appeared, ten, in submission to the Council, declared themselves to be now persuaded that the Aberdeen Assembly was "altogether unlawful;" but the remaining seven—one of them "Mr John Munro Sub-Dean of Ross," confessed and maintained, in presence of the said Lords, that the said Assembly was "a verie lawful General Assembly." The Privy Council banished these seven faithful men to the wildest parts of Scotland - each to the farthest possible distance from his own parish. The minister of Tain was sentenced to be banished to Kintyre, the, remotest part of Argyleshire, and was meanwhile imprisoned in the Castle of Doune in Perthshire. From the prison he and a brother minister contrived to effect their escape. In visiting the Castle some years ago, with my interest all awake from my recollection of this history, I wondered greatly if it had been possible for them to escape from within those lofty and massive walls. The explanation is that the constable of the Castle. (whose sympathies must have 'been on their side) afforded them almost every liberty of holding intercourse with friends, both while confined in the Castle, and while being removed to their places of banishment; for which practical sympathy he himself was subsequently imprisoned. Mr John Munro, making his way home to Tam, resumed his regular ministrations among his people. But the stipend which had formerly been paid him through the Crown authorities was now withheld, and must have been made up to him, if made up at all, by the pure affection of his people. Thus matters continued for three or four years, during which the King succeeded in putting down all effectual resistance to his will in the Church of Scotland; and the General Assembly, while its most faithful men were silenced or absent, acquiesced in his proposals. But he could not brook the continued opposition, however powerless, even of a few ministers, and he directed his Scottish Privy Council to take steps to compel their submission. :The Council accordingly addressed the following letter to the Provost and Bailies of Tain:-

 

We can conceive the sensation which the arrival of this letter must have created in the town; but our precise information as to the course of these events ends here, there being no extant burgh, parochial, or presbytery records of the period. We only know further that, five years after this, John Munro died at Tain; but everything we do know of his character and history, as a man who had boldly resisted the King's invasion of the freedom of the Church, who, had stood bravely to his principles in the presence of the Privy Council when the majority of his brethren were succumbing, who had, moreover, resumed and continued his ministerial labours among his people without his former legal salary from the Crown,— everything assures us that such a man was not likely to have been terrified by the threat, or even by the experience, of imprisonment in his own town (where he would have the sympathies of all the best of his people) into a violation of his conscience, such as would be involved in submission, at the end, to the King's usurped authority in sacred things. We would fain indeed have more particular information of his latter days; but it is something to know of him that he, the minister of this small northern town, was one of the few who first lifted into prominence, and who maintained at the cost of personal suffering and loss, the true principles of religious freedom—principles which, after the death of these first witnesses, slept indeed for a generation, but then revived with a power that shook the throne of both the kingdoms.

The Magistrates of the town were busy at this very time in procuring a second charter from King James VI. for the more exact definition of their magisterial powers, and of the extent of the burgh lands.

About the year 1626 much interest was awakened in these northern parts in the great struggle of the Thirty Years' War in Germany, and two regiments were formed, one, under the command of Lord Reay, the chief of the Mackays, the other under Munro of Obsdale, to fight under Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, "the Lion of the North," for the liberties of the German Protestants, against their Imperial and Popish enemies. Though containing soldiers from all parts of Scotland, these regiments were chiefly 'composed of men from Easter Ross and Sutherland—that is to say, from the district of which Tain was the market town, and, in almost every sense, the capital; and there can be no doubt that many of our young townsmen were among the adventurers. It is not difficult to conceive that this close connection with the great Continental struggle would excite among our ancestors an interest intelligent as well as enthusiastic in the principles involved, and would help to prepare them for the approaching struggle for the like principles at home. We know, in fact, that a number of these soldiers of fortune returned from abroad with something better than honour—with religious life either first found or greatly strengthened through intercourse with fervent Christians in the army of Gustavus. I think it not an insignificant remark' that it was in this period, when men's minds were so influenced here, that there was born and brought up in this town a man, Thomas Hog, whom we shall meet hereafter as one of the best of the Covenanting worthies of Scotland, and certainly the most renowned of them in the North.

We pass over thirty years, crowded with important vents in the history of our country, to find our town, in the year 1650, in the very thick of the great national conflict. The celebrated Marquis of Montrose, once a Covenanter, had passed to the Royalist side, and had for some time devoted himself, with high courage and splendid military genius, to reduce Scotland to abject submission to the King. After various vicissitudes, he landed in Orkney with foreign troops in 1650, and having crossed to Caithness with these and also with troops obtained in Orkney, he marched into Sutherland by the Ord, and after resting at Kintradwell, Rhives, Pitfour, and Lairg, crossed the Shin and the Oykel to the Ross-shire side, and then marched down along the Kyle until he reached Carbisdale, near the south end of the present railway bridge. But while he halted for a few days at Carbisdale to await reinforcements from the Royalist clans, intelligence of his movements were carried to Edinburgh, and active preparations were .commenced there to send a strong army northwards against him. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Strahan hurried in advance with a small troop of horse to Tain. On arriving here, he was joined by about 500 foot, 300 .of these under the command of the Earl of Sutherland (who had thought it prudent, after garrisoning the principal places in his own county, to pass into Ross), the rest under Ross of Balnagown and Munro of Lumlair. At a council of war it was resolved that the Earl of' Sutherland should re-cross the firth, and throw himself into the enemy's rear, both to protect his own county and to prevent Montrose from being joined by men from the farther North; whilst Strahan himself and his five troops of horse, together with theMunroes and Rosses, under their respective leaders,, should march through Edderton, into Kincardine, on this side of the Firth, to intercept Montrose- before he could retire to the hills. On Saturday, the 27th of April, whilst Strahan's officers were deliberating whether to move immediately forward or wait till Monday, in order to avoid the necessity of fighting upon the Lord's Day, he received the intelligence of Montrose's advance from Strath Oykel to Carbisdale. Strahan immediately advanced unobserved to within a few miles of Montrose's encampment, hiding his. men amidst the broom, in order to conceal from Montrose's scouts the fewness of his forces. The great Montrose was thoroughly deceived; and, supposing the- few horsemen who were seen crossing the hill to be but the first of a large body of cavalry to follow, he fled to the north-west to avoid the expected attack, his foreign troops making for the wood, to which they were followed by the Munroes and Rosses, who out them down in great numbers. The tumuli which mark where they were buried may, to this day, be seen extending for two miles in that direction, and not many years ago dirks and other weapons, and even silver spoons, were found in turning up the ground. Two. hundred of Montrose's troops attempted to cross the Kyle, but, mistaking the ford, were drowned; while four hundred were taken prisoners. The conquerors offered thanks to God in the open field for the victory obtained, and returned to Tam, carrying the prisoners along with them. Montrose himself, after wandering about in disguise for a time in Sutherland, was captured by Macleod of Assynt, who kept him in his Castle of Ardvreok, whence he was removed to Skibo Castle, thence to Brahan, and thence to Edinburgh, where; as we all know, he was, ere long, ignominiously executed. We could have wished, in consideration of his heroism, however mistakenly directed, that his life could have been spared in consistency with the safety of his country. The mob. of Edinburgh alone must be held responsible for the circumstances of unfeeling insult that attended his execution. We have the gratification of remembering that on this occasion our ancestors—the men of Easter Ross—fought effectually on what was the side both of Scottish freedom and of religion.


As to the material condition of Easter Ross and Tain about this time, we have some curious details in -one of the few old books of Scottish travels—a book written by Franke, an English gentleman of Cromwell's army, who, in 1657 and '58, travelled from Carlisle by land to Inverness, and thence (apparently by sea) to Dunrobin. In returning, he seems to have crossed the Firth from Sutherland to Ross-shire, and describes what he saw on landing in this strange, affected style.* "Where are we now? On terra firma, where should we be? And this is the town of Tayn in Ross, that equaliseth Dornoch for beautiful buildings, and as -exemplary as any place for justice; that never use gibbet nor halter to hang a man, but sacks all their malefactors, and so swim them to their death." Drowning' was of old the common form of execution -of women in Scotland; but, curiously, Franke here says —perhaps mistaking the exact import of what he heard—that in Tain even men were so executed. In another place he launches out in high-flown praise of the abundance and cheapness of provisions in Ross— that is, Easter Ross). "So replenished," he says, "is Ross with fish, as no part of Scotland can boast of;" and after describing the abundance of other provisions, he concludes, "But what have I to do to discourse a country where eggs are sold for twenty-four a penny, and all other accommodations proportionable; nor ever expect to have it cheaper when we leave these plentiful borders of Ross." He records as a curious local belief regarding the soil of Ross (what many of us remember to have heard in youth regarding that of Sutherland), that it had the quality of expelling rats; and some others," he adds, as ignorant as themselves, transport the earth of Ross into most parts of Scotland persuading themselves that if they do but sprinkle it in the fields, it shall force that enormous vermin, the rat, to become an exile." With amusing seriousness, he reasons against the credibility of the belief, saying that, though he never saw a rat here, "as for mice, so great is their plenty that, were they a commodity, Scotland might boast of it; and," argues our philosophical traveller, like a Darwinian born before the time, "mice and rats are cousin-german, as everybody knows that knows anything, and for the most part keep house together; and what difference has happened amongst them here, as to make such a feud that the rats in Ross should relinquish their country, and give possession wholly to the mice, this is a mystery that I understand not" The puzzle was .not lessened by the traveller's finding a very different state of matters at Forres, which he declares "is famous for nothing except that infamous vermin, the rat, because so numerous in these parts .(of Moray) that a cat can scarcely get a living amongst them. Why," he supposes some one to ask, "don't they send and fetch of the earth from Ross!" and he answers, "That I know not; but this I know, that they snatched the moat off • our trenchers, and churmed the stockings and apparel of the soldiers. I have been told that these vermin politicians storm the town once or twice a-year, to the terrifying amazement of all the inhabitants: and that eats durst not be seen abroad."

From the turgid sentences of this pedantic traveller we turn to the burgh records of the period in search of some indubitable facts regarding the town. The oldest extant of these records begins in 1660, the year of the restoration of Charles II., and three years after Franke's visit. Unfortunately, it is much mutilated, in many places quite illegible, and the legible portion of it contains not much that is specially interesting. We learn from it that a burgess was regularly elected to represent the burgh in Parliament, that meetings of Town Council were regularly held for ordinary business, as were burgh courts, at which there was transacted a good deal of legal business—almost as much as there is now at ordinary sheriff courts. The Town Council made some attempts, as unwise as similar ones found in the history of other burghs, to regulate the market price of goods in the town. But we find one interference with free trade which had probably a wiser reason. This was the imposition by the Magistrates of a high tax on bent-grass turf—a tax so high that it was apparently meant to be prohibitory. One cannot help wishing that the tax had been imposed earlier and had proved more successful; for before the end of the century, if tradition speaks correctly, the downs of the Morrichmor had been so exposed by turf-cutting that the .storni of a single night drifted their sand over the Fendom, and destroyed the previously fertile farms belonging to the burgh and other proprietors of the locality.

It was a dismal and yet glorious period for Scotland that had opened with the Restoration—a period 'of more widespread and longer-continued oppression of conscience, but a period also of more numerous instances of heroic sacrifice of all things worldly and of life itself for conscience sake, than our land has ever -witnessed before or since. The old attempt was renewed to force the Church of Scotland into conformity with that of England, against the convictions of the people; :and, as is well known, 400 ministers were ejected from their parishes for refusing compliance. Mr Andrew Ross, the minister of Tam, was one of the ejected; but as he died very soon after, we know less of him than we do of three of his brother ministers within the Synod of Ross who were similarly treated, viz.—Mr Thomas Ross, minister of Kincardine, a remarkably pious man, who suffered imprisonment for years in the tolbooth of Tam, where he was frequently visited by persons from far and near desiring spiritual counsel :and help; Mr M'Killigan, of Alness, a similarly devoted man; and, most eminent of them all, Mr Thomas Hog, of Killearn. He, as I have already mentioned, was a native of this town. He was a man of the most fervent piety and deepest Christian experience, whose character was not only thoroughly consistent before men, but who, living very near to God, was proportionally blessed in his ministerial labours. When ejected from his parish, he wandered about preaching the Gospel with great success, especially in Morayshire. For an outed minister to do, this was then a high crime, and on complaint being made by some of the conforming ministers of the district where he preached, he was intercommuned that is to say, all men were prohibited, on pain of fine or other punishment, from receiving him into their houses, or furnishing him with the necessaries of life. He was several times imprisoned, and finally banished from Scotland. Holland was at that time the refuge for Scottish exiles; there he resided for several years, and so won the esteem of the Prince of Orange that he when expecting to be called to the British throne consulted him on Scottish affairs. At the Revolution Mr Hog was restored to his parish, to form, with a few surviving brethren, the nucleus of the restored Presbyterian and Evangelical Church of the Northern Highlands. Hardly, however, had he been resettled among his people when the Prince of Orange, who was now King William III. of Great Britain, urged his. removal to London as one of his private chaplains; but health and strength had by this time failed, and his spirit, which his friends had for some time seen to be "transported with the hope of glory," was called away into the presence of his Lord and Saviour before the summons of his earthly King could take effect. The reverence felt for him by his Christian friends found expression after his death in the title of "that great and almost apostolical servant of Christ," and even his most unscrupulous enemies, while diligently seeking to find something wherewith to blacken his memory, "could find no fault in him at all, except as touching the law of his God." It becomes the people of Tain to cherish his memory, as one of the best and greatest men whom this town, or Ross-shire, has produced.

We ask with interest, What were the feelings of the people of Tain duing the twenty-eight "black years of persecution under Charles II. and James VII. 7 We have only a few data for answering this question. The burgh records of the period are absolutely silent on the subject: but this very silence may be considered expressive; the apparent care that is taken to avoid all allusion to national events, suggesting the idea that the Town Councillors considered it dangerous to write down the thoughts that were in their hearts. We know that Mr Robert Rots was settled as the Episcopal incumbent in the year 1666, and continued in his office for thirty-four years. Yet, not only has his name absolutely perished out of the oral traditions of the district (in contrast with the Presbyterian ministers who followed him, whose names and even characters have all been affectionately handed down), but the burgh records during his incumbency are almost equally silent regarding him; the solitary mention of his name being on occasion of a complaint made by him to the Town Council in a dispute he had about peats with the proprietor of Tarlogie, on the merits of which dispute the Town Council gavp no opinion, but appointed a committee to try to settle it. Another negative indication of the state of feeling may be found in the following circumstance. Tain received a visit from the Bishop of Ross in the year 1665, and the Town Council presented him with the freedom of the burgh on the occasion. But the meeting of Council at which this was done consisted of a bare quorum, viz., the Provost (who was a neighbouring laird), and two Bailies; whereas, at the immediately preceding and immediately following meetings, there was a full attendance of the members —the marked contrast leading us to suspect that most of them had no desire to meet the Bishop, and that there was little heart in the compliment paid him. Indeed, when we read a letter which was written this very year by Archbishop Sharp to Lord Tarbat, urging, in a characteristically selfish and violent manner, the adoption of more stringent measures against the outed ministers of Ross-shire and their followers, we conclude that the Bishops and the Government did not obtain cordial support even from the proprietors of Ross-shire. Munro of Foulis and Ross of Balnagown both zealously assisted the outed ministers. In the parish of Tain also, one proprietor at least, M'Culloch of The Plaids, was fined for practical sympathy with them. The opposition offered here to the oppressive measures of the Government did not generally, however, take such an active form as in some parts of the South.

On the re-establishment of Presbyterianism at the Revolution, Mr Robert Ross, the Episcopal incumbent of Tam, professed his willingness to conform to the Presbyterian government of the Church; but the Presbytery of Ross did not trust him sufficiently to admit him to sit in Presbytery with them. He held his incumbency, however, until 1700, when he was charged by the Presbytery with "errors, gross scandal, and supine negligence," and on his refusal in the circumstances to plead before that court, was summarily deposed. The Magistrates at first joined in a petition to the Privy Council on his behalf, their motive being, probably, one of mere compassion; for when the case was reviewed by a special Commission of the General Assembly, and the Presbytery's sentence set aside in form as irregular, but confirmed in substance by the re-deposition of Mr Ross, the very same Magistrates took an active part in prosecuting a call to the young Presbyterian minister of Tarbat, Mr Hugh Munro, to be minister of Tain.

This Mr Munro seems to have been both a good and able man; and the Presbytery evidently attached importance to his translation to Tam, which took place in the year 1700, much to the displeasure of the people of Tarbat, who strenuously resisted the proceedings, taking occasion at the Presbytery to tax the Magistrates of Tain to their face with their recent support of the deposed curate. There is a curious tradition which affirms that the translation had to be carried out by downright physical force. A party from Tam, it is said, went out to Tarbat on the Sabbath day, and, actually taking the minister out of the pulpit, carried him in triumph to Tam, where they placed him in the Regent Moray's pulpit, to preach the sermon be was to have preached in Tarbat. I give the story as I have again and again heard it from intelligent persons.

Now that we have got into the eighteenth century, let me gather a few incidents of various kinds, that may afford us glimpses of Tain and its people. In the year 1703, the steeple of the tolbooth was blown down during a stormy night, "to the great hazard of the lives of the prisoners, and considerable damage to the contiguous church." On the petition of the Magistrates, pleading the poverty of the town, the Privy Council ordained a collection to be made throughout the country for the reconstruction of the building; ,creditors being enjoined meanwhile to transport their prisoners to other jails. The General Assembly accordingly appointed a Sabbath for the collection, and the people of Tain voluntarily assessed themselves for the same purpose. Whether the new tower, which forms one of the most distinguishing features of our town, is after the pattern of its predecessor, we know not. But it is remarkable that there is an old tower, called the Eschenheim Tower, at Frankfort in Germany, so very like it, that one of the two must apparently have been copied from the other.

I have already spoken of the long prevalent belief in witchcraft. For more than 200 years the belief in this superstition was productive of terrible misery to many suspected persons throughout Europe, generally poor old women, who were subjected to the most barbarous treatment, and finally burnt, on evidence that would be ridiculous in its insufficiency, were not the consequences to the wretched creatures so horrible. The Popish Church began these cruelties; and they were continued for a considerable time even in Protestant countries; though undoubtedly evangelical principles, thoroughly applied, would have relieved men of those unreasoning fears of the Evil One which prompted the cruelties. I am happyto be able to show how one evangelical Presbytery, that of Tam, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, dealt with accusations of witchcraft. In 1713, a man in Kincardine became possessed with the idea that a woman there frequently dragged him out of his bed, to hunt him with cats, dogs, and other wild creatures, while at the same time depriving him of the power of speech to make known his sufferings; and he employed three men to administer an oath of purgation to the woman, imprecating all the curses of the Bible upon herself if she used any practices or bore any malice against him. Other persons, who had lost cattle, or other property, laid these evils to the charge of neighbours whom they suspected of malice against them, and of witchcraft; and they forced all these suspected neighbours, by public citation given them on the Lord's Day, to meet together, and take a similar oath of purgation. The Presbytery declared this practice to be a horrid profanation of the Lord's most holy name, an acknowledgment of the Devil in afflictions which should be taken from the Lord's hand, and a cherishing of heathenish superstition ;and entreated all their people, in the fear of the Lord not only to refrain from such practices, but to bear testimony against them in their several stations. A man in Portmahomack was charged with having, by advice of a woman there, struck a stroke with an axe on the face of the couple-tree as soon as his father expired, in order to prevent the spreading of the disease in his family. The Presbytery simply advised the session publicly to rebuke the parties. During the reign of James VI., or even of Charles IL, the suspected persons would probably have been tortured into confessing themselves to be in league with Satan and then burnt.

As the people of Tain had shown themselves in the sixteenth century zealous for the Reformation; and in the seventeenth for the freedom of the Church and its government; so now in the eighteenth we find the local feeling decidedly in favour of the Revolution Settlement, and of the Orange and Hanoverian Governments. This feeling drew them into much friendly intercourse with the Protestant, Presbyterian heads of the two clans in the immediate neighbourhood, Ross of Balnagown, and Munro of Foulis, and with the still more powerful Earl of Sutherland. General Ross of Balnagown was chosen Provost of the burgh in the year 1716—Lord Provost he is always styled in the records; and the Magistrates placed his arms upon the steeple; and he, on his side, "complimented the town with 100 stand of arms." In 1715, the Town Council, considering the rumours of confusion like to happen throughout Britain in consequence of the efforts of the Pretender, ordered the whole inhabitants to take arms, and appointed a nightly guard of ten men and a captain to watch the town from eight o'clock at night to six in the morning. All men between 60 and 16 years of age were called to rendezvous on the Links, and next day in the High Street, that they might receive orders from the Magistrates, so as to have the town in a posture of defence against any who might attempt to enter it to proclaim the Pretender—" as has most traitorously and rebelliously been done," say the records. The Magistrates at the same time requested the favour of Mr Hugh Munro, minister, to be the bearer of a letter to the Earl of Sutherland, thanking his lordship for his kindly advertisement to the town of the danger, and to assure him of their loyalty. At the same time they despatched 50 sufficient fencible men, under command of Hugh Ross of Tollie, with the best clothes and arms and four days' provisions, to march at once to Alness in order to join Capt. Robert Munro of Foulis, in defence of the present Government; and they sent Captain Munro a loan of as many stands of arms as the town could spare from its own defence. I cannot find that these Tain men were called to engage in any dangerous service; but at least they showed their willingness.

After the suppression of the rebellion of 1715, a number of estates of Jacobite chiefs in the Highlands, being declared forfeited, were placed under commissioners authorised to collect the rents for the Government. As to some of these estates, and especially the immense territory of the Earl of Seaforth, from Brahan Castle to the island of Lews inclusive, the commissioners were for a long time entirely baffled. The Earl, on his banishment in 1715, had entrusted the management of the estates, no longer legally his, to a faithful retainer, Donald Murchison, ancestor of the celebrated geologist, Sir Roderick Murchison, and for ten years Murchison collected the rents from the tenants, and found moans of transmitting them to Lord Seaforth in France. Not until 1720 did the commissioners find two men bold enough to undertake the stewardship of this Seaforth property, as well as of those -of Grant of Glenmoriston and Chisholm of Strathglass. The two men both belonged to Tam—William Ross of Easter Fearn, ex-Provost of the burgh, and his brother, Robert Ross, one of the Bailies. These factors, on sending notice to the Seaforth tenants, received for answer that they should never get anything from them but leaden coin; and so it proved. The two Tain magistrates having set forth in person with 30 soldiers, and with some armed servants of their own, for Kintail, were met in the heights of Strathglass by Murchison with 350 armed men under his command. The ex-Provost, Easter - Fearn, received two wounds from the musquetry of his opponents; his son, Walter, was mortally wounded; and Bailie Robert Ross's son was also hurt by a bullet. The two youths were taken prisoners, and young Easter-Fearn died next. morning. The battle was fought bravely on both sides; but it ended with Easter-Fearn's giving up his. papers, and binding himself not to officiate in his stewardship any more, after which he gladly departed homewards with his companions, under an escort of Murchison's men to conduct them safely past a body of Camerons lurking in the rear. We need not withhold our sympathy from either side in this strugg1. we can sympathise with the Kintail men in their fidelity to their chief; while sympathising still more with the men of Easter Ross in their loyalty to the Protestant Government.

In the rebellion of 1745 under the Young Pretender, the burgh of Tain was subjected, say the records, to great distress and oppression for a time from a large body of the rebel army quartering therein, and making arbitrary demands for money under pain of military execution. The Magistrates were forced to make large payments; but nothing further of special interest seems to have taken place here at that time.

The political feeling of our burgh during last century being, from all these indications, sufficiently clear, we may ask—What was the religious feeling of the population? We might answer this question from tradition, which has handed down every possible proof that the atmosphere of the place has, for several generations at least preceding ours, been religious after a decidedly evangelical and Puritan type. The memories of our childhood have preserved the distinct tradition of the personal piety of each one of the ministers of Tain from the Revolution downwards,, with anecdotes illustrative of their individual dispositions, and of the popular esteem for them. Even the burgh records furnish historical evidence of this state of religious feeling. On the death of Mr Hugh Munro in 1744, the Magistrates exerted themselves to the utmost to procure a suitable successor to him in the- ministerial charge. They elected Mr Daniel Munro, minister of Auldearn, of whom "they heard a universal good character as a pious, godly, worthy man, which evidently appeared in his most excellent sermons preached in the town last Lord's Day," and they recommended to one another "to address all the legal elders, with the heads of families in the burgh and parish, so as, if possible, to have a call to him unanimous and harmonious, and if any of the burgher inhabitants will give opposition, the Council will look on the same as very unkind and undutiful, and calcuhtt allenarly to retard the settlement, as it is surmised there are base agents of . . .  to make a party for a candidate he is to get up, with a view perhaps to divide, and then to set a non-jurist meeting-house man in this parish, as he has done in his neighbourhood, agreeable enough to his own principles. The Magistrates and Council do therefore detest and declare against such principles and practices; and, to guard against the same, do instantly agree to call for the inhabitants to caution them against such intriguing, hurtful designs." They also resolved as a burgh to bear the whole expenses of the translation, so as to "forward a speedy, comfortable settlement, and to prevent the abounding of sin and wickedness in this place, which has already grown to too great a height." The whole minute is drawn up with such evident heart and soul as to produce the impression that the author of it was not merely a staunch Hanoverian and Presbyterian, but an earnest Christian man. At each successive vacancy during the century it is evident that patronage was here practically powerless; that the election was virtually in the hands of the Magistrates and people, who, however, used every effort to obtain the concurrence of the patron, in order to secure the legal standing of the minister; the result being that unbroken succession of true evangelical ministers which I have already mentioned. Many of us know for ourselves how highly privileged the parish was in the end of last century, and the earlier part of this, with the ministry of two men, father and son, in succession, Drs Angus and Charles Mackintosh, whose deep-toned piety, theological attainments, weight of character, and preaching power, made their influence be felt wherever they were- known, and made Tain a rallying place for all the eminent ministers and Christians of the North—a kind of religious centre, as in its earlier history, though after a very different fashion.

The traditions heard in boyhood have made us all very familiar with a sad event which took place early in last century. There is a sandhill in the Fendom with which is connected the tradition of a duel fought between two neighbouring proprietors–Ross of Shandwick and Ross of Achnaclaich, who are said to have quarrelled at the time of a market. Achnaclaich was killed, and Ross of Shandwick, escaping on horseback, expatriated himself in Sweden. Bloodshed, it would appear, was not so lightly thought of then by the judicial authorities as at the time of the previous homicide I have mentioned. The impression this event made on the popular mind is evidenced by the careful preservation and renewal, generation after generation, of the footprints of the combatants at the spot where they fought, and of the prints of the hoofs of the fugitive's horse on the moist ground as he galloped over what has ever since been known as "The Duel Hill." What man here does not remember the awe with which, as a boy, he looked on those deep-cut marks, while listening to the story of the duel and of the flight?

The accounts of the Burgh Treasurer (which are happily extant from about 1720) furnish us with some rather curious information. First, as to the town's income. In the year 1733, this was only £757 Scots, or £63 sterling. It was expended chiefly in salaries to a drummer, a schoolmaster and schoolmistress, a music teacher, a clockmaster, three town-officers, the town clerk, and the treasurer. The Magistrates felt this income, which was derived almost wholly from rents and from customs of goods brought into market, to be too small, complaining frequently of the poverty of the town. About three years after this occurs the first entry of some revenue received from the mussel -scalps, amounting to £48 Scots, that is, £4 sterling. The Magistrates evidently saw in this sum, small as it was, a good beginning; they ordered a new hat to Bailie Malcolm, "for his trouble in uplifting the scalp money," and they made special efforts to encourage the Moray fishermen to resort to this Firth for mussels. There is an entry of two bottles of wine drunk by the Council when "met to advise a method to induce the boats in the Moray Firth to come to the mussel scalps;" and another entry of "drink to the Moray fishers on their first coming." Whether the 'drink had much to do with the matter or not, the revc'nue from this source rapidly increased: I wish I could say that it was always wisely expended. The increase seems at first to have induced the Council to waste a good deal of money in "treats." For example, there was a "treat" to Captain Tilmore and his soldiers at the time of Alexander Scollar's execution, 'When six bottles of claret and six of ale were drunk; another to David Munro, the town's agent, at which nine bottles of claret were drunk; and there is an 'entry of a dozen sherry, twenty-two pints of ale, and two glasses—it is not said of what—drunk on occasion 'of a bonfire, by desire of Calrossie, on receipt of the news of the action of Dettingen; and so on. Those times were evidently not better than the present in so far as official drinking was concerned; and private townsmen followed the Magistrates' example. For instance, in July 1733, one John Macrae, who was Bettled in business here, took a strange way of showing his pride in a relative, Governor Macrae, a native of Greenock, who had pleasingly startled the kingdom some years before by a gallant defence which he had made with his ship, the Cassandra, against two strongly-armed pirate vessels near Madagascar. John Macrae, accompanied by the Magistrates of Tain and the principal burgesses, went to the Cross, and superintended the drinking of a hogshead of wine, to the healths of the King, Queen, and Royal family, and of Governor Macrae and "his fast friends." From thence the company repaired to the chief taverns in town, where they repeated the said toasts, and spent the evening with "music and entertainments suitable to the occasion."

In connection with this free use of intoxicating drink, which all tradition tells us was in those days far more prevalent among the respectable classes of society than it is now, I may refer to a Gaelic rhyme, which I used to hear in childhood, giving a list of several Tain persons, some of them with very ridiculous nicknames handed down in it to posterity as

 

that is, "foolish old bodies, ever drinking, and seeking more."

Several of the Treasurer's entries at this period are of a melancholy character, being expenses connected with executions. I have already quoted one; a second relates to the execution of John Don, in 1741; we find also, in 1762, a sum paid for erecting a new gibbet.

There is a touching tradition connected with this last execution, which was that of a poor servant girl condemned at the Inverness Circuit Court for child- murder. The popular pity seems to have been strongly moved in her behalf; and when it was observed that a pigeon flew round the gibbet during the time of the execution, and then lighted on her dead body, the opinion was confirmed that the sentence of death had been unjust. And so, adds the local saying, this was the last execution that ever took place on the Gallow-Hill of Tain.

As far back as we can distinctly trace, education seems to have been well attended to in this town. After the Reformation, as we have already seen, several chaplainries in St Duthus were conferred on students in the form of bursaries. Early in last century, we find the Magistrates anxiously employed in looking out for a competent burgh schoolmaster to fill the place of one who had retired in consequence of ill health. Still later, we find salaries paid to a schoolmaster, schoolmistress, and a music-teacher. Of the quality of the teaching given in the Grammar School in the latter half of last century, tradition distinctly speaks. Under a teacher of the name of Campbell, it was apparently very high; and from his school not a few boys were sent forth into the world with classical as well as other attainments that enabled them to shine, and to rise to honourable positions in life. Some of these pupils became afterwards chief promoters of a movement for raising the local education to a still higher point.

In the first year of this century, a meeting of gentlemen connected with the Northern Highlands was held in London, under the presidency of the Earl of Seaforth, to initiate a movement for the erection and endowment of a High School or Academy at Tam. The declared object was to provide "for the youth of the three northern counties a good education, founded on morality and religion, such as might be expected to produce the happiest fruits to themselves, their parents, and connections, and contribute ultimately to the improvement of the country which gave them birth, and to the general advantage of the kingdom." Tain was fixed on as the seat of the proposed Institution, because the position of the town, on the borders of Ross and Sutherland, adapted it happily to benefit a very large portion of the Highlands, while its quiet and retired situation exempted it from many temptations to which youth were exposed in large cities. The healthiness of thern locality, the populousness and fertility of the neighbourhood, and the cheapness of provisions were mentioned as additional recommendations. An influential committee, composed partly of noblemen and proprietors connected with the North, and partly of wealthy London merchants of northern extraction, was accordingly formed for the purpose, and they exerted themselves energetically to raise the necessary funds. Let me name one gentleman, Hugh Rose of Glastullich, himself a native of Tam (of which his father had been minister), and a pupil of its Grammar School, as the most energetic and successful promoter of the scheme. The Institution was opened with great eclat in the year 1813, and pupils of the upper and middle classes flocked to it at once, not only from the northern counties, but from other parts of Scotland, and some even from England and the colonies. It became a powerful means of raising the standard of education in the whole North; and it has, during the 70 years of its existence, sent forth a large number of young men to distinguish themselves in almost every walk of life, and of ladies to adorn and bless many homes.

We are now, then, fairly within the nineteenth century, and close upon our own times—too close to be able to proceed further with ease, for I must avoid even alluding to any persons now living. But I cannot con- elude without referring, however briefly, to events in which the political and religious feelings of the generation immediately preceding ours became manifest;- for to ignore these altogether would make the history awkwardly incomplete. With reference to the political feeling of Tain in the days of our own fathers, the earliest recollection of some of us is how conservative that feeling was—bow religiously they honoured the King and his Government, and with what dread and dislike they regarded those who were "given to change." But when the Reform agitation began—when the prevalent corruption in Parliamentary elections, and the absurdity of the system that gave electoral rights to rotten and even non-existent boroughs, were exposed, the popular conscience here declared itself for reform, and the general feeling in favour of it became decided. My oldest political recollection is the enthusiasm exhibited in the town on the novel occasion of the election of a reforming member for the county.

Some of us recollect equally well how conservative Tain, in our fathers' days, was in religious and ecclesiastical matters too; how deep was the general reverence for things sacred; and how strong the attachment to the National Church. And yet, juBt because of that veneration for what was most sapred, the popular feeling in the district had again and again dared to resist even the Church in such matters as the forced settlement of ministers who did not commend themselves to the conscience of the people. And we remember how, amid all the hereditary and habitual attachment to Church and State, when the minister of Tam, in 1843, felt himself forced by conscience to abandon the advantages of State Establishment that he might continue free to obey the will of Christ, the people of Tain followed him in an almost unbroken mass—our town in this still representing, as of old the general feeling of Easter Ross and of the Northern Highlands. On the first Sabbath on which the minister and people met for worship in separation from the State, there was witnessed a sight here which was seen, as far as I am aware, only in one other burgh in Scotland. The Magistrates of Tam (as if it were a little State by itself) walked in procession, preceded by their red-coated halbert-armed officers, to take their places of honour opposite the pulpit, in the Free Church, as they had been long wont to do in the Church Established. And this they continued to do, Sabbath after Sabbath, until a hint was received from Edinburgh that such an official proceeding was of questionable legality. Thereupon, the Magistrates discontinued the official, while continuing their personal, demonstration of ecclesiastical principle.


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