Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Domestic Annals of Scotland
Regency of Moray 1567 - 1570

MARY remained a prisoner in Lochleven Castle for ten months, while Moray, as Regent, maintained a good understanding with England, and did much to enforce internal peace and order. At length (May 1568), the unhappy Queen made her escape, and threw herself into the arms of the powerful family of Hamilton, who had continued unreconciled to the new government. They raised for her a considerable body of retainers, and for a few days she seemed to have a chance of recovering her authority; but her army was overthrown at Langside by the Regent, and she had then no resource but to pass into England, and ask refuge with Queen Elizabeth. By her she was received with a show of civility, but was in reality treated as a prisoner, and even subjected to the indignity of a kind of trial, where her brother Moray acted as her accuser. The proofs brought forward for her guilt were such as not to allow of any judgment being passed against her by Elizabeth, and it cannot be said that they have secured a decidedly unfavourable verdict from posterity. The series of circumstances is, no doubt, calculated to excite suspicion; yet they are not incompatible with the theory, that she was trained into them by others; and it must be admitted that one who had previously lived so blamelessly—rejecting the suit of Bothwell when they were both free persons— and who afterwards made so noble an appearance when adjudged to a cruel death for offences of which she was innocent, was not the kind of person likely to have assisted in murdering a husband, or to have deliberately united herself to one whom she believed to be his murderer.

Under a protestant Regent, with the friendship and aid of Elizabeth, whose interest it was to keep popery out of the whole island, Scotland might have enjoyed some years of tranquillity. Moray, whatever opinion may be entertained of his conduct towards his sister, proved a vigorous and just ruler, insomuch as to gain the title of the Good Regent; but he was early cut off in his course, victim to private revenge at Linlithgow (January 23, 1569-70).

1567, Oct
The long-enduring system of predatory warfare carried on by the borderers against England rendered them a lawless set at all times; but in the present state of the government, they were unusually troublesome. ‘In all this time,’ says the Diurnal of Occurrents, 'frae the queen's grace’ putting in captivity to this time, the
thieves of Liddesdale made great hership on the poor labourers of the ground, and that through wanting of justice; for the realm was sae divided in sundry factions and conspirations, that there was nae authority obeyed, nor nae justice execute.’ D.O.

Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington gives us a lively description of these men and their practices:

‘Of Liddesdale the common thieves
Sae pertly steals now and reaves,
That nane may keep
Horse, nolt, or sheep,
For their mischieves.

They plainly through the country rides,
I trow the meikle De’il them guids,

Where they onset,
Ay in their gait,
There is nae yett,
Nor door, them bides.

Thae thieves that steals and turses hame
Ilk ane of them has ane to-name,
Will of the Laws,
Hab of the Shaws;
To tmak bare wa’s,
They think nae shame.

They spulyie puir men of their packs,
They leave them nought on bed nor balks,
Baith hen and cock,
With reel and rock,
Laird’s Jock
All with
him taks.

They leave not spendle, spoon, nor spit,
Bed, bolster, blanket,
sark, nor sheet;
John of the Park
kist and ark;
For all sic wark
He is right meet.

He is weel-kenned, Jock of the Syde,
A greater thief did never ride.
He never tires
For to break byres;
O’er muir and
O’er guid ane guide....

Of stouth though now they come good speed,
That nother of God nor men has dread,
Yet or I die,
Some shall them see
Hing on a tree,
While they be dead.’

[f it was at this time, as is likely, that Sir Richard wrote these verses, he might well calculate on the vigour of the Regent while prophesying sad days for the Border men.

'.....there was ane proclamation [October 10], to meet the Regent in Peebles upon the 8 of November next, for the repressing of the thieves in Annandale and Eskdale; but my Lord Regent thinking they wald get advertisement, he prevented the day, and came over the water secretly, and lodged in Dalkeith; this upon the 19 day [October]; and upon the morrow he departed towards Hawick, where he came both secretly and suddenly, and there took thirty-four thieves, whom he partly caused hang and partly drown; five he let free upon caution; and upon the 2nd day of November, he brought other ten with him to Edinburgh, and there put them in irons.’---Bir.

We have some trace of these men in the Lord Treasurer’s accounts as inmates of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. On the 30th of November, thirty-two pounds are paid to Andro Lindsay, keeper of that prison, for the furnishing of meat and drink to Robert Elliot, alias Clement’s Hob, and Archy Elliot, called Archy Kene. On the same day, twenty-three pounds four shillings are disbursed for a month’s board in the same black hotel, for ‘Robert Elliot, called Mirk Hob; Gavin Elliot, called Gawin of Ramsiegill; Martin Elliot, called Martin of Heuchous; Robert Elliot, son to Elder Will; Robert Elliot, called the Vicar’s Rob; Robert Elliot, called Hob of Thorlieshope; Dandy Grosar, called Richardtoncleucht; and Robert Grosar, called Son to Cockston.’

In an act of the Privy Council, 6th November 1567, it is alleged that the thieves of Liddesdale, and other parts of the Scottish Border, have been in the habit, for some time past, of taking sundry persons prisoners, and giving them up upon ransom— exactly the conduct of the present banditti of the Apennines. It is also averred that many persons are content to pay ‘black-mail’ to these thieves, and sit under their protection, ‘permittand them to reif, herry, and oppress their neighbours in their sicht, without contradiction or stop.’ Such practices were now forbidden under severe penalties; and it was enjoined that ‘when ony companies of thieves or broken men comes ower the swires within the in-country,’ all dwelling in the bounds shall ‘incontinent cry on hie, raise the fray, and follow them, as weel in their in-passing as out-passing,’ in order to recover the property which may have been stolen.

Walter Scott of Harden, a famous Border chief, was this year married to Mary Scott of Dryhope, commonly called the Flower of Yarrow. The pair had six sons, from five of whom descended the families of Harden (which became extinct); Highchesters, now represented by Lord Polwarth, Raeburn (from which came Sir Walter Scott of Abbotsford), Wool, and Synton; and six daughters, all of whom were married to gentlemen of figure, and all had issue.

It is a curious consideration to the many descendants of Walter Scott of Harden, that his marriage-contract is signed by a notary, because none of the parties could write their names. The father-in-law, Scott of Dryhope, bound himself to find Harden in horse meat and man’s meat, at his own house, for a year and day; and five barons engaged that he should remove at the expiration of that period, without attempting to continue in possession by force.

Harden was a man of parts and sagacity, and living to about the year 1629, was popularly remembered for many a day thereafter under the name of ‘Auld Watt.’ One of his descendants relates the following anecdote of him :—‘His sixth son was slain at a fray, in a bunting-match, by Scott of Gilmanscleuch. His brothers flew to arms; but the old laird secured them in the dungeon of his tower, hurried to Edinburgh, stated the crime, and obtained a gift of the lands of the offenders from the crown. He returned to Harden with equal speed, released his sons, and shewed them the charter. "To horse, lads!" cried the savage warrior, "and let us take possession! The lands of Gilmanscleuch are well worth a dead son."'

Bessie Tailefeir, in the Canongate, Edinburgh, having slandered Bailie Thomas Hunter by saying ‘he had in his house ane false stoup [measure],’ which was found not to be true, she was sentenced to be brankit and set on the Cross for an hour.

The punishment of branking, which was a customary one for scolds, slanderers, and other offenders of a secondary class, consisted in having the head enclosed in an iron frame, from which projected a kind of spike, so as to enter the mouth and prevent speech.

The Branks

Nov 20
Charles Sandeman, cook, on being made a member of the guild of Edinburgh, came under an obligation that, from that time forth, ‘he sall not be seen upon the causey,’ like other cooks, carrying meat to sell in common houses, but cause his servants pass with the same; and ‘he sall hald his tavern on the Hie Gait . . . . and behave himself honestly in all time coming, under pain of escheat of his wines.’—E.
C. R.

Nov 24
‘. . . At 2 afternoon, the Laird of Airth and the Laird of Wemyss met upon the Hie Gait of Edinburgh; and they and their followers faught a very bluidy skirmish, where there was many hurt on both sides with shot of pistol.’—Bir. Apparently in consequence of this affair, there was, on the 27th, ‘a strait proclamation,’ discharging the wearing of culverins, dags, pistolets, or ‘sic other firewerks,’ with injunctions that any one contravening should be seized and subjected to summary trial, ‘as gif they had committit recent slauchters.’—P.
C. R.

This is the first of a series of street-fights by which the Hie Gait of Edinburgh was reddened during the reign of James VI, and which scarcely came to an end till his English reign was far advanced. It is worthy of note that sword and buckler were at this time the ordinary gear of gallant men in England—a comparatively harmless furnishing; but we see that small firearms were used in Scotland.

Dec 15
An act of parliament was passed to prevent horses being exported, being found that so many had lately been taken to Bordeaux and other places abroad, as to cause ‘great skaith’ by the raising of prices at home.

There has been a feeling of rivalry between Perth and Dundee from time immemorial, and it probably will never cease while both towns exist. At a parliament now held by the Regent Moray, the representatives of each burgh strove for the next place after Edinburgh in that equestrian procession which used to be called the Riding of the Estates. A tumult consequently arose upon the street, and it was with difficulty that this was stilled. Birrel relates how the Regent was ‘much troubled to compose those two turbulent towns of Perth and Dundee; and that ‘it was like to make a very great deal of business, had not the same been mediate for the present by some discreet men who dealt in the matter.’ Due investigation was afterwards made (January 9, 1567—8), that it might be ascertained ‘in whais default the said tumult happenit.’ It was found that ‘James Wedderburn and George Mitchell, burgesses of Dundee, and William Rysie, bearer of the handsenyie [ensign] thereof,’ were no wise culpable; and they were accordingly allowed to depart.

Dec 27
Alexander Blair younger of Balthayock, and George Drummond of Blair, gave surety before the Privy Council for Alexander Blair of Freirton, near Perth, ‘that Jonet Kincraigie, spouse to the said Alexander, sall be harmless and skaithless of him and all that he may let, in time coming, under the pain of five hundred merks; and als that he sail resave the said Jonet in house, and treat, sustene, and entertene her honestly as becomes ane honest man to do to his wife, in time coming;’ besides paying to her children by a former husband their ‘bairn’s part of geir.’—P. C. R.

Dec 31
‘Robert Jack, merchant and burgess of Dundee, was hangit and quarterit for false coin called Hardheads, whilk he had brought out of Flanders.’—Bir. ‘Fals lyons callit hardheades, plakis, balbeis, and other fals money,’ is the description given in another record, literatim.

The hardhead was originally a French coin, denominated in Guienne hardie, and identical with the liard. It was of debased copper, and usually of the value of three-halfpence Scotch; but further debasement was oftener than once resorted to by Scottish rulers as a means of raising a little revenue. Knox, in 1559, complains that ‘daily there were such numbers of lions (alias called hardheads) prented, that the baseness thereof made all tbings exceeding dear.’ So also the Regent Morton increased his unpopularity by diminishing the value of hardheads from three half-pence to a penny, and the plack-piece from fourpence to twopence.’

Robert Jack had probably made a sort of mercantile speculation in bringing in a debased foreign hardhead. The importance attached to his crime is indicated by the payment (January 28, 1567—8) of £33, 6s. 3d. to George Monro of Dalcartie, for ‘expenses made by him upon six horsemen and four footmen for the sure convoying of Robert Jack, being apprehended in Ross for false cunyie.’

1568, Jan 5
It may somewhat modify the views generally taken of the destruction of relics of the ancient religion under the Protestant governments succeeding the Reformation, that John Lockhart of Bar was denounced rebel at this time for conveying John Macbrair forth of the castle of Hamilton, and ‘for down-casting of images in the kirk of Ayr and other places.’

About the same time, the Regent learned that the lead upon the cathedrals of Aberdeen and Elgin was in the course of being piecemeal taken away. Thinking it as well that some public good should be obtained from this material, the Privy Council ordered (February 7, 1567—8) that the whole be taken down and sold for the support of the army now required to reduce the king’s rebels to obedience.

Jan 17
‘A play made by Robert Semple,’ was ‘played before the Lord Regent and diverse others of the nobility.’—Bir. There have been several conjectures as to this play and its author, with little satisfactory result. It was probably a very simple representation of some historical scene or transaction, such as we can imagine the life of the execrable Bothwell to have gratefully furnished before such a company. Semple appears to have been in such a rank of life as not to be above ordinary pecuniary rewards for his services, as on the 12th of February there is an entry in the treasurer’s books of £66, 18s. 4d. ‘to Robert Semple.’ He was a fruitful, but dull writer, being the author of The Regentis Trajedie, 1570; The Bishopis Lyfe and Testament, 1571; My
Lord Methvenis Trajedie, 1572; and ,The Siege of the Castle of Edinburgh, 1573: besides various poems preserved in the Bannatyne Manuscript.

Feb 24
Seeing that ‘in the spring of the year all kinds of flesh decays and grows out of season, and that it is convenient for the commonweal that they be sparit during that time, to the end that they may be mair plenteous and better cheap the rest of the year,’ the Privy Council forbade the use of flesh of any kind during ‘Lentern.’ Fleshers, hostelers, cooks, and taverners, were forbidden to slay any animals for use during that season hereafter, under pain of confiscation of their movable goods.—P. C. R. This order was kept up in the same terms for many years, a forced economy preserving a rule formerly based on a religious principle.

Mar 4
The Regent granted a licence to Cornelius De Vois, a Dutchman, for nineteen years, to search for gold and silver in any part of Scotland, ‘break the ground, mak sinks and pots therein, and to put labourers thereto,’ as he might think expedient, with assurance of full protection from the government, paying in requital for every hundred ounces of gold or silver which could be purified by washing, eight ounces, and for every hundred of the same which required the more expensive process of a purification by fire, four ounces—P.
C. R.

Stephen Atkinson, who speculated in the gold-mines of Scotland a generation later, gives us some account of Cornelius De Vois, whom he calls a German lapidary, and who, he says, had come to Scotland with recommendations from Queen Elizabeth. According to this somewhat foolish writer, ‘Cornelius went to view the said mountains in Clydesdale and Nydesdale, upon which mountains he got a small taste of small gold. This was a whetstone to sharpen his knife upon; and this natural gold tasted so sweet as the honeycomb in his mouth. And then he consulted with his friends at Edinburgh, and by his persuasions provoked them to adventure with him, shewing them at first the natural gold, which he called the temptable gold, or alluring gold. It was in sterns, and some like unto birds’ eyes and eggs: he compared it unto a woman’s eye, which entiseth her lover into her bosom.’ Cornelius was not inferior to his class in speculative extravagance. He found in his golden dreams a solution for the question regarding the poor. He saw Scotland aud England ‘both oppressed with poor people which beg from door to door for want of employment, and no man looketh to it.’ But all these people were to find good and profitable employment if his projects were adopted. We are not accustomed to consider our countrymen inferior in energy and enterprise to the Germans. Yet Cornelius stated, that if he had been able to shew in his own country such indications of mineral wealth as he had found in Scotland, ‘then the whole country would confederate, and not rest till young and old that were able be set to work thereat, and to discover this treasure-house from whence this gold descended; and the people, from ten years old till ten times ten years old, should work thereat: no charges whatsoever should be spared, till mountains and mosses were turned into valleys and dales, but this treasure-house should be discovered.’

It appears that Cornelius so far prevailed on the Scots to ‘confederate,’ that they raised a stock of £5000 Scots, equal to about £416 sterling, and worked the mines under royal privileges. According to Atkinson, this adventurer ‘had sixscore men at work in valleys and dales. He employed both lads and lasses, idle men and women, which before went a-begging. He profited by their work, and they lived well and contented.’ They sought for the valuable metal by washing the detritus in the bottoms of the valleys, receiving from their employer a mark sterling for every ounce they realised. So long after as 1619, one John Gibson survived in the village of Crawford to relate how he had gathered gold in these valleys in pieces ‘like birds’ eyes and birds’ eggs,’ the best being found, he said, in Glengaber Water, in Ettrick, which he sold for 6s. 8d. sterling per ounce to the Earl of Morton. Cornelius, within the space of thirty days, sent to the cunyie-house in Edinburgh as much as eight pound-weight of gold, a quantity which would now bring £450 sterling.

What ultimately came of Cornelius’s adventure does not appear. He vanishes notelessly from the field. We are told by Atkinson that the adventure was subsequently taken up by one Abraham Grey, a Dutchman heretofore resident in England, commonly called Greybeard, from his having a beard which reached to his girdle. He hired country-people at 4d. a day, to wash the detritus of the valleys around Wanlock-head for gold; and it is added, that enough was found to make ‘a very fair deep basin of natural gold,’ which was presented by the Regent Morton to the French king, filled with gold pieces, also the production of Scotland.

The same valleys were afterwards searched for gold by an Englishman named George Bowes, who also sunk shafts in the rock, but probably with limited success, as has hitherto been experienced in ninety-nine out of every hundred instances, according to Sir Roderick Murchison.

In consequence of an extremely dry summer, the yield of grain and herbage in 1567 was exceedingly defective. The ensuing winter being unusually severe, there was a sad failure of the means of supporting the domestic animals. A stone of hay came to be sold in Derbyshire at fivepence, which seems to have been regarded as a starvation price. There was a general mortality among the sheep and horses. In Scotland, the opening of 1568 was marked by scarcity and all its attendant evils. ‘There was,’ says a contemporary chronicler, ‘exceeding dearth of corns, in respect of the penury thereof in the land, and that beforehand a great quantity thereof was transported to other kingdoms: for remeed whereof inhibitions were made sae far out of season, that nae victual should be transported farth of the country under the pain of confiscation, even then when there was no more left either to satisfy the indigent people, or to plenish the ordinar mercats of the country as appertenit.’ - H. K. J.

During his short administration, the Regent Moray gave a large portion of his time and attention to the repression of lawless people. Justice was executed in no sparing manner. March 8, 1567—8, ‘the Regent went to Glasgow, and there held ane justiceaire, where there was execute about the number of twenty-eight persons for divers crimes.’ July 1568, he ‘rade to St Andrews, and causit drown a man cailit Alexander Macker and six more, for piracy.’ Sep. 13, ‘the Lord Regent rade to the fair to Jedburgh, to apprehend the thieves; but they being advertised of his coming, came not to the fair; sae he was frustrate of his intention, excepting three thieves whilk he took, and caused hang within the town there.’—Bir. April 1569, the Regent made a raid to the Border against the thieves, accompanied by a party of English. ‘But the thieves keepit themselves in sic manner, that the Regent gat nane thereof, nor did little other thing, except he brint and reft the places of Mangerton and Whithope, with divers other houses belonging to the said thieves.’—D. O.

In the same month, a number of the most considerable persons in the southern counties entered into a bond at Kelso, agreeing to be obedient subjects to the Regent Earl of Moray, and to do all in their power for the putting down of the thieves of Liddesdale, Ewesdale, Eskdale, and Annandale, especially those of the names Armstrong, Elliot, Nickson, Croser [Grozart?], Little, Bateson, Thomson, Irving, Bell, Johnston, Glendorting, Routledge, Henderson, and Scott; not resetting or intercommuning with them, their wives, bairns, tenants, and servants, or suffering any meat or drink to be carried to them, ‘where we may let;’ also, if, ‘in case of the resistance or pursuit of any of the said thieves, it sail happen to ony of them to be slain or brint, or ony of us and our friends to be harmit by them, we sall ever esteem the quarrel and deadly feid equal to us all, and sall never agree with the said thieves but together, with ane consent and advice.’

1568, July 13
Axel Wiffirt, servant of the king of Denmark, was licensed to levy 2000 men of war in Scotland, and to convey them away armed as culviriners on foot, ‘as they best can provide them,’ being to serve the Danish monarch in his wars.

July 15
‘Touran Murray, brother-german to the Laird of Tullibardine, was shot and slain out of the place of Anchtertyre, in Stratherne, by one Wood [Mad] Andrew Murray and his confederates, who kept the said place certain days, and slew some six persons more, yet made escape at that present.’—Bir.

Sep 8
‘Ane called James Dalgliesh, merchant, brought the pest in [to] Edinburgh.’—D.

According to custom in Edinburgh, when this dire visitor made his appearance, the families which proved to be infected were compelled to remove, with all their goods and furniture, out to the Burgh-moor, where they lodged in wretched huts hastily erected for their accommodation. They were allowed to be visited by their friends, in company with an officer, after eleven in the forenoon; any one going earlier was liable to be punished with death—as were those who concealed the pest in their houses. Their clothes were meanwhile purified by boiling in a large caldron erected in the open air, and their houses were ‘clengit’ by the proper officers. All these regulations were under the care of two citizens selected for the purpose, arid called Bailies of the Muir; for each of whom, as for the cleansers and bearers of the dead, a gown of gray was made, with a white St Andrew’s cross before and behind, to distinguish them from other people. Another arrangement of the day was, ‘that there be made twa close biers, with four feet, coloured over with black, and [ane] white cross with ane bell to be hung upon the side of the said bier, whilk sall mak warning to the people.’’

The public policy was directed rather to the preservation of the untainted, than to the recovery of the sick. In other words, selfishness ruled the day. The inhumanity towards the humbler classes was dreadful. Well might Maister Gilbert Skeyne, Doctour in Medicine, remark in his little tract on the pest, now printed in Edinburgh: ‘Every ane is become sae detestable to other (whilk is to be lamentit), and specially the puir in the sight of the rich, as gif they were not equal with them touching their creation, but rather without saul or spirit, as beasts degenerate fra mankind.’  This worthy mediciner tells us, indeed, that he was partly moved to publish his book by ‘seeand the puir in Christ inlaik [perish] without assistance of support in body, all men detestand aspection, speech, or communication with them.’

Dr Skeyne’s treatise, which consists of only forty-six very small pages, gives us an idea of the views of the learned of those days regarding the pest. He describes it as ‘ane feverable infection, maist cruel, and sundry ways strikand down mony in haste.’ It proceeds, in his opinion, from a corruption of the air, ‘whilk has strength and wickedness above all natural putrefaction,’ and which he traces immediately to the wrath of the just God at the sins of mankind. There are, however, inferior causes, as stagnant waters, corrupting animal matters and filth, the eating of unwholesome meat and decaying fruits, and the drinking of corrupt water. Extraordinary humidity in the atmophere is also dwelt upon as a powerful cause, especially when it follows in autumn after a hot summer. ‘Great dearth of victual, whereby men are constrained to eat evil and corrupt meats,’ he sets down as a cause much less notable. He does not forget to advert to the suspicious inter-meddling of comets and shooting-stars. ‘Nae pest,’ he says, ‘continually endures mair than three years;’ and he remarks how ‘we daily see the puir mair subject to sic calamity nor the potent.’

Dr Skeyne’s regimen for the pest regards both its prevention and its cure, and involves an immense variety of curious recipes and rules of treatment, expressed partly in Latin and partly in English. He ends by calling his readers to observe—’As there is diversity of time, country, age, and consuetude to be observit in time of ministration of ony medicine preservative or curative, even sae there is divers kinds of pest, whilk may be easily knawn and divided by weel-learnit physicians, whase counsel in time of sic danger of life is baith profitable and necessar, in respect that in this pestilential disease every ane is mair blind nor the moudiewort in sic things as concerns their awn health.’

There has been preserved a curious letter which Adam Bothwell, bishop of Orkney, addressed in this time of plague to his brother-in-law, Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston, regarding the dangers in which the latter was placed by the nearness of his house to the bivouac of the infected on the Burgh-moor.’ It opens with an allusion to Sir Archibald’s present position as a friend of Queen Mary in trouble with the Regent:

‘RICHT HONOURABLE SIR AND BROTHER—I heard, the day, the rigorous answer and refuse that ye gat, whereof I was not weel apayit. But always I pray you, as ye are set amids twa great inconvenients, travel to eschew them baith. The ane is maist evident—to wit, the remaining in your awn place where ye are; for by the number of sick folk that gaes out of the town, the muir is [li]able to be overspread; and it cannot be but, through the nearness of your place and the indigence of them that are put out, they sall continually repair about your room, and through their conversation infect some of your servants, whereby they sall precipitate yourself and your children in maist extreme danger. And as I see ye have foreseen the same for the young folk, whaise bluid is in maist peril to be infectit first, and therefore purposes to send them away to Menteith, where I wald wiss at God that ye war yourself, without offence of authority, or of your band, sae that your house get nae skaith. But yet, sir, there is ane mid way whilk ye suld not omit, whilk is to withdraw you frae that side of the town to some house upon the north side of the samen; whereof ye may have in borrowing, when ye sall have to do—to wit, the Gray Crook, Innerleith’s self, Wairdie, or sic other places as ye could choose within ane mile; whereinto I wald suppose ye wald be in less danger than in Merchanston. And close up your houses, your granges, your barns, and all, and suffer nae man come therein, while [till] it please God to put ane stay to this great plague; and in the meantime, make you to live upon your penny, or on sic thing as comes to yon out of Lennox or Menteith whilk gif ye do not, I see ye will ruin yourself; and howbeit I escape in this voyage, I will never look to see you again, whilk were some mair regret to me than I will expreme by writing. Always [I] beseeks you, as ye love your awn weal, the weal of your house, and us your friends that wald you weel, to tak sure order in this behalf; and, howbeit your evil favourers wald cast you away, yet ye tak better keep on yourself, and mak not them to rejoice, and us your friends to mourn baith at ance. Whilk God forbid, and for his goodness, preserve you and your posterity from sic skaith, and maintein you in [his] holy keeping for ever. Of Edinburgh, the 21st day of September 1568, by your brother at power,


The bishop speaks with unmistakable friendship for his brother-in-law; but what he says and what he does not say of the miserables of the Burgh-moor, tends much to confirm Dr Skeyne’s remarks on the absence of Christian kindness among the upper classes towards the afflicted poor on this occasion.

This pestilence, lasting till February, is said to have carried off 2500 persons in Edinburgh, which could not be much less than a tenth of the population. From the double cause of the pest and the absence of the Regent in England, there were ‘nae diets of Justiciary halden frae the hinderend of August to the second day of March.' Such of the inhabitants of the Canongate as were affected had to go out and live in huts on the Hill (by which is probably meant Salisbury Crags), and there stay till they were ‘clengit.’ A collection of money was made among the other inhabitants for their support.

The distresses of pestilence were preceded and attended by those of a famine, which suffered a great and sudden abatement in the month of August 1569, perhaps in consequence of favourable appearances in the crop then about to be gathered. At least, we are informed by the Diurnal of Occurrent:, that on that day, in the forenoon, ‘the boll of ait meal was sauld for 3l. 12s., the boll of wheat for 41. 10s., and the boll of beare for 3l.; but ere twa afternoon upon the same day, the boll of ait meal was sauld for 40s., 38s., and 36s., the boll of wheat for 50s., and the beare for 33s.'- D.D.

Little doubt is now entertained that the exanthematous disease called long ago the Pest, and now the Plague, and which has happily been unknown in the British Islands for two centuries, was the consequence of miasma arising from crowded and filthy living, acting on bodies predisposed by deficient aliment and other causes, and that at a certain stage it assumed a contagious character. It will be found throughout the present work that the malady generally, though not invariably, followed dearth and famine—a generalisation harmonising with the observations of Professor Alison as to the connection between destitution and typhus fever, and supporting the views of those who hold that it is for the interest of the community that all its members have a sufficiency of the necessaries of life. The pest was not the only epidemic which afflicted our ancestors in consequence of erroneous living and misery endured by great multitudes of people. There was one called the land-ill or wanie-ill, which seems to have been of the nature of cholera. In an early chronicle quoted below, is the following striking notice of this kind of malady in connection with famine as occurring in 1439 :—‘The samen time there was in Scotland a great dearth, for the boll of wheat was at 40s., and the boll of ait meal 30s.; and verily the dearth was sae great that there died a passing [number of] people for hunger. And als the land-ill, the wame-ill, was so violent, that there died mae that year than ever there died, owther in pestilence, or yet in ony other sickness in Scotland. And that samen year the pestilence came in Scotland, and began at Dumfries, and it was callit the Pestilence but Mercy, for there took it nane that ever recoverit, but they died within twenty-four hours.’

At the time when the pest broke out in Edinburgh, there lived in the city a young man of the middle class, bearing the name of George Bannatyne, who was somewhat addicted to the vain and unprofitable art of poesy. He was acquainted with the writings of his predecessors, Dunbar, Douglas, Henryson, Montgomery, Scott, and others, through the manuscripts to which alone they had as yet been committed. it was not then the custom to print literary productions unless for some reason external to their literary character, and these poems, therefore, were existing in the same peril of not being preserved to posterity as the works of Ennius in the days of  Augustus. In all probability, the greater part of them, if not nearly the whole, would have been lost, but for an accidental circumstance connected with the plague now raging.

George Bannatyne's Arms and Initials

In that terrible time, when hundreds were dying in the city, and apprehensions for their own safety engrossed every mind, the young man George Bannatyne passed into retirement, and for three months devoted himself to the task of transcribing the fugitive productions of the Scottish muse into a fair volume. His retreat is supposed to have been the old manor-house of Newtyie, near the village of Meigle in Strathmore, and nothing could be more likely, as this was the country-house of his father, who seems to have been a prosperous lawyer in Edinburgh. In the short space of time mentioned, George had copied in a good hand, from the mutilated and obscure manuscripts he possessed, three hundred and seventy-two poems, covering no less than eight hundred folio pages; a labour by which he has secured the eternal gratitude of his countrymen, and established for himself a fame granted to but few for their own compositions. The volume -  celebrated as the BANNATYNE MANUSCRIPT - still exists, under the greatest veneration, in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, after yielding from its ample stores the materials of Ramsay’s, Hailes’s, and other printed selections.’

Nov 18
In this time of dearth and pestilence, the council of the Canongate providently ordained that ‘the fourpenny loaf be weel baken and dried, gude and sufficient stuff, and keep the measures and paik of twenty-two ounces;’ ‘that nae browsters nor ony tapsters sell ony dearer ale nor 6d. the pint;’ and ‘that nae venters of wine buy nae new wine dearer than that they may sell the same commonly to all our sovereign’s lieges for 16d. the pint.’

They also ordained (January 10, 1568—9), that ‘nae manner of person inhabiter within this burgh, venters of wine, hosters, or tapsters of ale, nor others whatsomever, thole or permit ony maner of persons to drink, keep company at table in common taverners’ houses, upon Sunday, the time of preaching, under the pain of forty shillings, to be upta’en of the man and wife wha aucht the said taverners’ houses sae oft as they fails, but favour.’

It is evident from this injunction, that the keeping of public-houses open on Sundays, at times different from those during which there was public worship, was not then forbidden.

1569. Jan 10
In presence of the magistrates of the Canongate, Edinburgh, ‘William Heriot, younger, baxter, became, out of his awn free motive will, cautioner for George Heriot, that the said George sall remove furth of this burgh and freedom thereof, within the space of fifteen days next, and nae be fund thereintill, in case the said George associate not himself to the religion of Christ’s kirk, and satisfie the kirk in making of repentance, as effeirs.’—C. C. R

This was a part of the process of completing the Reformation.

'...the Regent made progress first to Stirling, where four priests of Dumblane were condemnit to the death, for saying of mess against the act of parliament; but he remittit their lives, and causit them to be bund to the mercat cross with their vestments and chalices in derision, where the people cast eggs and other villanie at their faces, by the space of ane hour; and thereafter their vestments and chalices were burnt to ashes. From that he passed to Sanctandrois, where a notable sorcerer called Nic Neville was condemnit to the death and brunt; and a Frenchman callit Paris, wha was ane of the devisers of the king’s death, was hangit in Sanctandrois, and with him William Stewart, Lyon King of Arms, for divers points of witchcraft and necromancy.’—H.
K. J.

Aug 16
The Diurnal of Occurrents relates the Regent’s proceedings against the powers of the other world in this journey in a style equally cool and laconic. ‘In my Lord Regent’s passing to the north, he causit burn certain witches in Sanctandrois, and in returning he causit burn ane other company of witches in Dundee.’

The Regent once more set out on an expedition against the Border thieves, attended by a hundred men of war. In the words of a poetical panegyrist

'...having established all thing in this sort,
To Liddesdale again he did resort.
Through Ewesdale, Esdale, and all the dales rade he,
And also lay three nichts in Cannobie,
Where nae prince lay thir hunder years before;
Nae thief durst stir, they did him fear so sore;
And that they should nae mair their theft allege,
Threescore and twelve he brought of them in pledge,
Syne warded them, whilk made the rest keep order,
Than might the
rash buss keep lye on the Border."

It is said that no former ruler had ever so thoroughly awed the Border men. On his return to Edinburgh in November, he distributed the hostages among certain barons of the realm.

This, however, was the last of Moray’s expeditions against the thieves. He was approaching the end of his career, doomed by party hatred in conjunction with private malice.

1570, Jan 23
‘The Earl of Moray, the Good Regent, was slain in Linlithgow by James Hamilton of Bothwell-haugh, who shot the said Regent with a gun out at ane window, and presently thereafter fled out at the back, and leapt on a very good horse, which the Hamiltons had ready waiting for him; and, being followed speedily, after that spur and wand had failed him, he drew forth his dagger, and struck his horse behind; whilk causit the horse to leap a very broad stank; by whilk means he escaped.’—Bir.

Return to Books Index


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus