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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of James VI. 1591 - 1603 Part D

Her son, Thomas Lees, was accused of having aided her in her evil deeds, and being ‘ane common witch and sorcerer,’ and his trial (February 23) brings out some curious points. He was accused of having been one of a large company of witches and sorcerers who had gone to the Market and Fish Crosses of Aberdeen at midnight of the previous Halloween (All Saints’ Eve), ‘under the guiding and conduct of the devil . . . . playing before you on his kind of instruments.’ The company were all transformed, some as hares, some as cats, some in other likenesses, and all danced about the two crosses and the meal-market a long space of time, Thomas being the leader of the ring. One Catherine Mitchell being somewhat laggard, he beat her to make her go faster; a fact to which Catherine herself now bore witness. A woman with whom Thomas had been too intimate also testified to his having offered to take her to Murrayland and marry her, telling her that by the way, at the foot of a particular mountain, he could raise a spirit able to provide them with all necessaries. This poor fellow was also condemned to the flames. The husband and daughters of Janet Wishart—the latter of whom are taxed as well known to be ‘quick gangand devils ‘—narrowly escaped with banishment from the city.

Helen Fraser, who was tried in April, was accused of many witchcrafts of common kinds, and of some less common. For instance, she had translated a sickness from a man’s horse to his cow, and, worse than that, the affection of Andrew Tullideff from his wife to a woman called Margaret Neilson, ‘and sae michtily bewitchit him, that he could never be reconceillit with his wife, or remove his affection frae the said harlot.’ Another man, Robert Merchant by name, who had been married happily to Christian White for two years, being taken to sow corn for a widow named Isobel Bruce, at the Murihill of Foveran, where Helen Fraser was then living, ‘fand his affection violently and extraordinarily drawn away from the said Christian to the said Isobel, ane great luve being betwixt him and the said Christian always theretofore, and nae break of luve or discord falling out or intervening upon either of their parts: whilk thing the country supposit to be brought about by the unlawful travelling of the said Helen ‘—and was further testified by Robert himself. Helen was likewise convicted, and of course burnt.

Isobel Cockie took from cows the power of giving healthful milk, making them give a poisonous stuff instead. She also prevented good milk from ‘yirning.’ Horses had fallen dead under her touch. Men against whom she had pronounced evil words took deadly sicknesses in consequence, or suffered a decay in their worldly means. Her house being ruinous, the proprietor, Alexander Anderson, had come in her absence, and was proceeding to mend the roof, when she came home, and finding he had uncovered her pantry, where her valuables lay, she said: ‘I shall gar thee forthink it, that thou hast tirrit my house, I being frae hame,’ and glowrit up at him. Immediately Alexander’s speech went from him, and he retired to bed sick, and could get no rest or sleep. Under the threats of his son, she was induced to come and charm this sickness away from him, and ‘gave him droggis, that his speech came to him again.' By the confession of the recently burnt Thomas Lees, Isobel Cockie had been second to himself in the infernal dance at the Fish Cross, ‘and because the devil playit not so melodiously and weel as thou cravit, thou took his instrument out of his mouth, then took him on the chafts therewith, and playit thyself thereon to the haill company.’ Isobel was likewise condemned.

It would be tedious to enter into the long series of trials which extended over this year in and near Aberdeen; but a few particulars are worth giving. The case of Andrew Man, an aged person, formerly of Tarbrugh, in the parish of Rathven, involves a more imaginative style of warlockry than is common. According to his own confessions—that is to say, the hallucinations which he described—the devil came sixty years ago to his mother’s house, in the form of a woman, called the Queen of Elfen, and was delivered of a bairn; at which time, he being a boy, bringing in water, was promised by this distinguished stranger ‘that thou should know all things; and should help and cure all sorts of sickness, except stand-deid, and that thou should be weel enterteinit, but wald seek thy meat ere thou de’ed, as Thomas Rhymer did.’ Thirty-two years before, he had begun a guilty intercourse with this Queen of Elfen, at whose first coming, ‘she caused ane of thy cattle die upon ane hillock called the Elf-hillock, but promised to do him good thereafter.’ Andrew, according to his own account, could ‘cure the falling-sickness, the bairn-bed, and all other sorts of sickness that ever fell to man or beast, except the stand-deid, by baptising them, reabling them in the auld corunschbald, and striking of the gudis on the face, with ane fowl in thy hand, and by saying thir words: "Gif thou will live, live; and gif thou will die, die!" with sundry other orisons, sic as of Sanct John and the three silly brethren, whilk thou can say when thou please, and by giving of black wool and salt as a remeid for all diseases and for causing a man prosper and that his blude should never be drawn.’ He had cured several persons by his enchantments, one mode being to put the patient nine times through a hasp of unwatered yarn, and then a cat as many times backward through the same hasp, the effect of which was to translate the sickness from the patient to the cat.

The devil, whom Andrew called Christsonday, and believed to be an angel, was raised by the word Benedicite, and laid again by taking a dog under his armpit, casting the same in the devil’s mouth, and speaking the word Maikpeblis. ‘Thc Queen of Elfen has a grip of all the craft, but Christsonday is the guidman, and has all power under God, and thou kens sundry deid men in their company, and the king that died at Flodden and Thomas Rhymer is there.’

‘Upon Rood-day in harvest, in this present year, whilk fell on a Wednesday, thou saw Christsonday come out of the snaw in likeness of a staig [young male horse], and the Queen of Elfen was there, and others with her, riding upon white hackneys.’ ‘The elves have shapes and claithes like men, and will have fair covered tables, and they are but shadows, but are starker [stronger] nor men, and they have playing and dancing when they please; the queen is very pleasand, and will, be auld and young when she pleases; she makes any king whom she pleases. The elves will make thee appear to be in a fair chalmer, and yet thou will find thyself in a moss on the morn. They will appear to have candles, and licht, and swords, whilk will be nothing else but dead grass and straes.’ Andrew denied his guilt, but was nevertheless convicted, and doubtless burnt.

In the dittay against Marjory Mutch, it was alleged that, having an ill-will against William Smith in Tarserhill, she came to his plough and bewitched the oxen, so that ‘they instantly ran all wood [mad], brak the pleuch, twa thereof ran over the hills to Deer, and other twa thereof up Ithan side, whilk could never be tane nor apprehendit again.’ This woman was said to have destroyed much cattle, laid sickness on many persons, and attended all the witch conventions of the district. In token of her being a witch, there was a spot under her left ear, into which a gentleman had thrust a pin without producing any pain.

Margaret Clark, being sent for by the wife of Nicol Ross, when she was in childbed, ‘cast the haill dolours, sickness, and pains whilk she should have susteinit, upon Andrew Harper, wha, during all the time of her travelling, was exceedingly and marvellously troubled, in ane fury and madness as it were, and could not be balden; and how soon the said gentlewoman was delivered, the pains departed frae the said Andrew.’

It is alleged of Violet Leys, that, her husband, a mariner, being discharged from William Finlay’s ship, she and her late mother bewitched the said ship, ‘that, since thy husband was put forth of the same, she never made one good voyage, but either the master or merchants at some times through tempest of weather, were forced to cast overboard the greatest part of their lading, or then to perish, men, ship, and geir.’ Several of the other culprits are accused of raising and calming the wind at pleasure.

It appears that at this time twenty-two unfortunate men and women, chiefly the latter, suffered in Aberdeen and its neighbourhood. Such a tremendous sacrifice to superstition would in itself be worthy of special notice here; but it becomes the more so from a probability which appears that Shakspeare must have been acquainted with the details of these trials. it will be found that the chief of his company, Lawrence Fletcher, was in Aberdeen with a party of comedians in October 1601. That Shakspeare was of the party is not certain; but there is no fact to militate against the probability that he was. Mr Charles Knight has shewn that in these trials there occur many things which strongly recall passages in the witch-scenes of Macbeth—as if those scenes had been written by one who had thoroughly studied the dittays against Janet Wishart and her associates. Nearly all of those women—and it is very much a special feature of this group of cases—had laid heavy disease ‘on those whom they held at ill-will, causing them to suffer fearful pains, and their strength to decay.

‘He shall live a man forbid:
Weary seven nights nine times nine,
He shall dwindle, peak, and pine.’

Such are the dread words of the Macbeth hags. We see that the Aberdeen witches had power over the winds; so had those of Macbeth Banquo says to the weird sisters:

‘If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow, and which will not,
Speak then to me?

This, it must be acknowledged, is wonderfully like a suggestion to the imagination from such a fact as that of Janet Wishart’s vaticinations among the growing corn. The witch-dance at the Fish Cross is much like those under the guidance of Hecate; and Wishart’s dealing with the malefactor’s corpse at the gallows on the Links, might well furnish a hint for the incantations over the caldron.

‘Grease that ‘s sweaten
From the murderer’s gibbet, throw
Into the flame.’

And perhaps even the humble cantrip of Marjory Mutch with William Smith’s oxen, might suggest the fine passage descriptive of the conduct of Duncan’s horses at his death; when they

‘Turned wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,
Contending ‘gainst obedience, as they would
Make war with mankind.’

‘If it be not,’ says Mr Knight, in concluding this curious speculation, ‘to inquire too curiously, may we not trace one of the most striking passages in Othello to the humble source of an Aberdeen superstition?

"That handkerchief

Did an Egyptian to my mother give;
She was a charmer, and could almost read
The thoughts of people: she told her, while she kept it,
‘Twould make her amiable, and subdue my father
Entirely to her love."

In the information against Isobell Straquhan, it is alleged that "the said Isobell came to Elspet Mutrey in Wodheid, she being a widow, and asked of her if she had a penny to lend her, and the said Elspet gave her the penny; and the said Isobell took the penny, and bowit [bent] it, and took a clout and a piece red wax, and sewed the clout with a thread, the wax and the penny being within the clout, and gave it to the said Elspet Mutrey, commanding her to use the said clout to hang about her craig [neck], and when she saw the man she loved best, take the clout, with the penny and wax, and stroke her face with it, and she so doing, should attain in to the marriage of that man whom she loved."

The "clout" sewed "with a thread" wants, indeed, the poetical colouring of the "handkerchief" of Othello; but still

"There ‘s magic in the web of it?’

More curious in the effects produced is another example of the "prophetic fury" of the "sibyl" Isobell Straquhan. She could not only produce love, but remove hatred: Walter Ronaldson had used to strike his wife, who took consultation with Scudder (alias Straquhan), and ‘she did take pieces of paper, and sew them thick with thread of divers colours, and did put them in the barn amongst the corn, and from henceforth the said Walter did never strike his wife, neither yet once found fault with her, whatsoever she did. He was subdued "entirely to her love."

1597, Mar 11
The duellium seems to have been particularly in vogue at this time. ‘There chanced a single combat betwixt James Hepburn of Moreham and one Birnie, a skinner in Edinburgh [at St Leonard’s Craigs]. They were both slain [and buried the morning after]. The occasion and quarrel was not thought to be great nor yet necessary. Hepburn alleged and maintained that there was seven sacraments; Birnie would have but two, or else he would fight. The other was content with great protestations that he would defend his belief with the sword; and so, with great earnestness, they yoked, and thus the question was decided.’—P.

There was a traditionary tale in Edinburgh, which Sir Walter Scott had heard in his youth, and which he narrated to the author of this work in 1824, to the effect that, a gentleman having been foully murdered by a man of formidable repute as a swordsman, his widow brought forward two sons in succession to challenge the murderer to mortal combat, and when these had fallen, did not scruple even to send a third, her youngest and favourite, to avenge the slaughter of the rest; thus imitating, as Sir Walter remarked, the conduct of Don Arias Gonzalo, in sending his three sons in succession to meet Don Diego Ordonez, when the latter challenged the people of Zamora for sheltering the traitor Vellido—as related in the Chronicle of the Cid.’ The two first youths, like the sons of Don Diego, ‘died like good men in their duty;’ but the third slew the murderer. The last fight, said Sir Walter, took place on Cramond Island in the Firth of Forth, and since then there has been no such combat permitted. Apparently the basis of this story is as follows:

James Carmichael, second son of the Laird of Carmichael, had killed Stephen Bruntfield, captain of Tantallon, in a duel at St Leonard’s Craigs, 22d December 1596. Adam Bruntfleld, brother of the deceased, ‘allegit that James Carmichael had slain his brother by treason, having promisit to meet him hand to hand, and had brought others with him to his slaughter, and therefore was a traitor. The other stood to his denial, and they baith seyit [tried] their moyen [influence] at his majesty’s hands for ane license to fecht, whilk with great difficulty was granted by his grace.’ They met on Barnbougle Sands or Links,’ in the presence of a great multitude, and with the Duke of Lennox, the Laird of Buccleuch, Sir James Sandilands, and Lord Sinclair, to act as judges. ‘The one was clothed in blue taffeta, the other in red sattin.’ Carmichael, who was ‘as able a like man as was living,’ seemed at first to have great advantage over Adam Bruntfield, who was ‘but ane young man, and of mean stature;’ and at the first encounter he struck Adam on the loin. To the surprise of all, however, Bruntfield ‘strikes him in the craig [neck], and syne loups aboon him, and gives him sundry straiks with his dagger, and sae slays him. Adam Bruntfield is convoyit to Edinburgh with great triumph as ane victorious captain; and the other borne in deid.’—Bir. Pa. And. C. K. Sc.

This spring, there was ‘sic increase of sawing, that the like has not been heard of before. Ane man of Libberton, callit Douglas, had, of ten pecks of beir sawn thirty-one thrave, and every threif had ane boll of beir and ane

Apr 20
‘At this time, one Sir James Mac Oniel [Mac Connel], alias Sorley Buie, a great man in Ireland, being here for the time to complain of our chief islesmen, was knighted, and went with his train and dependers to visit the Castle and provision therein, and gave great and noble rewards to the keepers.’—Pa. And. ‘The 7th of May, he went homeward, and for honour of his bonalley the cannons shot out of the Castle of Edinburgh.’—Bir. ‘This Sir James was ane man of Scottis bluid, albeit his lands lies in Ireland. He was ane braw man of person and behaviour, but had not the Scots tongue, nor nae language but Erse [Irish].’
—C. K. Sc.

June 6
There was a proclamation ‘that no man take upon hand to give out money any dearer nor ten for the hundred [ten per cent. interest], or victual according thereto, under the pain of confiscation of their goods, and punishing of their bodies as usurers.’—Bir.

June 10
Died Hugh Rose of Kilravock, at an advanced age. A descendant describes him as ’ane excellent person.’ ‘He found the fortune [of the family] low, and under great burden, which he not only defrayed, leaving it free to his son, but also acquired the whole lands now holden of the Bishop of Moray. He had seventeen sisters and daughters, all whose portions, mediately or immediately, he paid, though their very portions were a considerable debt. He lived in a very divided factious time, there falling out then great revolutions in church and state; religion changed from popery to protestant, and the queen laid aside, living in exile; yet such was his even, ingenious, prudential carriage, that he wanted not respect from the most eminent of all parties. He had troubles from neighbours, which he prudently carried, and yet knew how discreetly to resent them, as appears, that a debate being betwixt him and two neighbours, he subscribed: "Hucheon Rose of Kilravock, ane honest man, ill guided betwixt them both." This was
ridentem dicere verum.

‘He was a man that could make good use of his troubles, as appears by his answer to King James, who, being in Kilravock in his progress to the north (in the year 1589, as I suppose), inquired how he could live amongst such ill turbulent neighbours; [he] made this reply: "That they were the best neighbours he could have, for they made him thrice a day go to God upon his knees, when perhaps otherwise he would not have gone once." And at the same time, as I have learned many years ago from old persons, the king was pleased to honour him with the name of Father, and desiring he might be covered.

‘As to his person, I have had it from such as knew him, that he was of a tall, and of a square well-compact body, but not corpulent. He was of a venerable grave aspect; his beard white and long in his old age. He died full of days, not so much of sickness as nature being worn out. The night before his death, he went forth to his orchard, and there supped upon a little broth, and then going to his bed, died the next morning, without trouble, muttering these words in Latin at his expiring: "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum."

June 26
This was a day of great joy to the friends of the reformed faith, for the Earls of Huntly and Errol had at length been wrought upon to make profession of the true religion, and so be relaxed from the pains of excommunication. Though the pressing nature of the motive was obvious, no dread of insincerity seems ever to have entered the minds of the honest zealots who left these lords no other course for their preservation. The affair took place in the kirk of Aberdeen, and was in several respects noticeable. The evening before, the Earl of Huntly shook hands in token of reconciliation with Lord Forbes and young Irvine of Drum, and signed the articles of the established religion, swearing not to decline therefrom. On the Sunday, which was observed as a fast, on account of the importance of this conversion, the two nobles appeared in the marriage desk or pew in the Old Kirk, where was ‘sic a confluence of noblemen, barons, gentlemen, and common people, as that the like was never seen in that kirk.’

To pursue the narrative of an eye-witness: ‘The bishop preached, and made a godly and excellent sermon. The sermon being concluded, the earls rises furth of their desk, comes in before the pulpit, make ane open confession of their defection and apostasy, affirms the religion presently confessed to be the only true religion, renounces all papistry, &c., and of new swears never to decline again, but to defend the samen to their life’s end. The Earl of Huntly confessed his offence, first to God, next to his majesty, to the kirk and country, for the slaughter of the Earl of Moray. And sae the bishop pronounces openly their sentence of absolution frae the sentence of excommunication. The earls are then received by the hail ministry, being in number twelve or thirteen persons, wha, during all the time of the sermon, sat at the table in the mids’ of the kirk, and with them the provost, bailies, and maist part of the council. And after the earls were received by the ministry, then Patrick Murray, commissioner for his majesty, received them in his hieness’ name; next the provost, bailies, and council. And sae they were received to the bosom of the kirk. At the samen time, the Laird of Gight, before the pulpit, sat down on his knees, and askit God, his majesty, and the kirk pardon and forgiveness for the receipt of the Earl of Bothwell, for the whilk he was excommunicate; and he was absolved frae the excommunication. This being done, the twa earls, with mony mae gentlemen and barons, all the ministry, communicate together at the table of the Lord.’....

Next day, the Market Cross was solemnly hung with tapestry, and in a small house close by a band of musicians was placed. Four score of the young men of the town, in their best habiliments, with hagbuts, took their station around. There also were placed the magistrates and council, with six maskers. On a table set out in the street were wine, glasses, and sweetmeats. The earls’ pacification was then formally proclaimed by Marchmont herald. ‘The twa earls sat at the Cross in chairs, with his majesty’s commissioner and the ministry. The wand of peace delivered to them by Patrick Murray, he receives them in his majesty’s name; next the ministry embraces them, and then the provost, bailies, and magistrates. Hagbuts sounded, that day nor dur could not be heard; wine drunk in abundance; glasses broken; sirfootfeats casten abroad on the causey, gather whaso please! After this the earls and their kin passes to the Tolbooth, with the haill ministry; all are made burgesses of this town, the ministry with the rest. At even, naething but waughting.’

Of course, all was a forced hypocrisy on the part of the two lords, merely to avoid the legal consequences of their excommunication. Most curious it would be to know if there were no misgivings on the subject among the clergy: certainly none appear. Huntly, as might have been expected, quickly relapsed to his popish professions, and was again excommunicated in 1606. Nevertheless, he was some years later accepted once more as a Protestant, and restored to his civil rights.

A deputation of ministers went this summer through the provinces of Aberdeen, Moray, and Ross, to complete as far as possible the planting of them with ministers. The chief of the Clan Mackintosh surprised the deputation by the zeal and cordiality he shewed towards the object. He met them at Inverness, exhibited a plan for settling ministers in his country, and subscribed it in their presence. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘it may be thought I am liberal because nae minister will venture to come amang us. Get me men and sey [try] me. I will find sufficient caution in St Johnston, Dundee, or Aberdeen, for safety of their persons, obedience to their doctrine and discipline, and guid payment of their stipend.’—Ja. Mel. We have seen enough of the leading men of this age in Scotland not to be too much surprised on learning that this was the same Highland chief who had sent out his clan on a wild ravaging expedition in 1592, when the hospitable old baron of Brackla was one of their victims, and who is summed up in the Historie of King James the Sext, as ‘a man unconstant, false, and double-minded, by the report of all men.’

The Lanarkshire lead-mines, under the care of Thomas Foulis, goldsmith in Edinburgh, and Bewis Bulmer, an Englishman, whom Thomas had assumed as partner, were now beginning to be a source of profit. The lead was transported on the backs of horses to sundry parts of the realm, but the greater part of it to Leith, where it was disposed of for exportation. Just, however, as all the mining difficulties had been overcome, the enterprisers found troubles of a different kind. The broken men of the Borders had heard of this valuable metal passing along the uplands of Clydesdale, and it seemed to them not too hazardous an adventure to cross the hills, and make a dash at such a booty. We therefore now hear of the carriers of the lead, servants of Thomas Foulis, being occasionally beset on their way, and robbed by the borderers of ‘horses, armour, clothing, and their hail carriage.’ Nearer neighbours, too, respectable men, burgesses of Lanark and Glasgow, were accused of lawlessly helping themselves to the lead and lead ore, won from the mines in Crawford Muir, not scrupling for this purpose to seize it in its passage to Leith, and dispose of it for their own benefit. Nay, these persons, it was said, had appropriated two horse-load of rye and white bread on its way to the mines, and within six miles of them, thus seriously hindering the progress of the work itself.

The Council issued a threatening proclamation against the first class of spoliators. As the latter set represented themselves as having lawfully purchased the lead in question, an order was issued that they should return or pay for it to Thomas Foulis.—P. C. R.

Owing to the fame of Andrew Melville, the university of St Andrews was this year attended by a considerable number of foreign youth, Poles, Danes, Belgians, and Frenchmen: ‘whilk crabbit the king mickle,’ Andrew being no favourite of his.— Ja. Mel.

‘Much about this time, there was a great number of witches tried to be in Scotland, as the like was never heard tell of in this realm, specially in Athole, both of men and women. There was in May at ane convention upon a hill in Athole, to the number of twenty-three hundred, and the devil amongst them. A great witch of Balwery told all this, and said she knew them all well enough, and what mark the devil had given severally to every one of them. There was many of them tried by swimming in the water, by binding of their two thumbs and their great toes together, for, being thus casten in the water, they floated ay aboon.’—Pa. And.

This ‘great witch of Balwery’ was one Margaret Aiken, who, being tortured on suspicion, not only confessed her guilt, but, for the saving of her own life, informed upon others, stating that they had a secret mark in their eyes, by which she could at once tell that they were witches. For three or four months, she was carried about the country detecting witches. At Glasgow, owing to the credulity of the minister John Cowper, several old women suffered in consequence of her accusations. In time it was found that she was a deceiver; for the same persons whom one day she declared to be guilty, she would next day, when they appeared before her in different clothes, affirm to be innocent. ‘At her trial, she affirmed all to be false that she had confessed, either of herself or others, and persisted in this till her death; which made many forthink their too great forwardness that way, and moved the king to recall the commissions given out against such persons.’—Spot

In November we find the presbytery of Glasgow taking notice of ‘divers persons wha traduces and slanders the ministry of the city, as the authors of putting to death the persons lately execute for witchcraft;’ and it ordains that any person hereafter uttering this slander ‘shall be put in the branks at the judges’ will.’

As a natural consequence of the deceptions of Margaret Aiken, there was now in some quarters an apprehension that, in the late proceedings against witches throughout the provinces, some injustice had been done. Some had complained ‘that grit danger may ensue to honest and famous persons, gif commissions grantit to particular men beiring particulars [that is, having auger] again’ them, sail stand and be authorised.’ The king professed to see the reality of this danger, and although it was his purpose to persevere in his efforts to extirpate that ‘maist odious and abominable crime,' the Council (August 12) revoked all the lately granted commissions, certifying to such as hereafter ‘proceeds to the execution of persons to the deid, or melling with their guids or geir, that the same sall be repute slauchter upon forethocht, felony, and spulyie.’

At this time the enthusiastic section of the church was in a state of discouragement; otherwise the king might not have been able to concede to the representations made to him against witch-commissions. It is too remarkable to be overlooked, that the heat of persecution against these unfortunates was generally in some proportion to the influence of the more zealous clergy, either through their direct agency or through the fear for their reproaches in others.

July 23
‘Between eight and nine in the morning, there was an earthquake which made all the north parts of Scotland to tremble; Kintail, Ross, Cromarty, Mar, Breadalbane, &c. A man in St Johnston [Perth] laying compts with his compters, the compts lap off the buird; the man’s thighs trembled; one leg went up, and another down.’—Cal.

This earthquake happening at the time when King James ‘interrupted Mr Robert Wallace and undid the ministry of St Andrews,’ James Melville likens it to that which God sent to punish Uzziah, king of Judah, for usurping the priestly office— which rent the Temple of Jerusalem, and caused a beam to hurt the king in the face, the beginning of a leprosy with which he was afflicted. He adds what he calls a Dix-huitaine on the subject, concluding in the following strain:

‘King James the Saxt, this year thou fast aspires
O’er Christ his kirk to compass thy desires.
Oh, weigh this wee!, aud here exemple tak;
Lest Christ, wha this year shook thy north-wast parts,
And with eclipsed sun amazed the hearts
For kings to come thee just exemple mak.’

Aug 6
‘The pest began in Leith’ (Bir.), and soon ‘infected sundry parts about Edinburgh, so that many fled out of the town.’—Cal. It raged during this year in England, 17,890 persons being carried off in London alone. A fast was held in Edinburgh on account of this visit of the pestilence, from the 7th of August till the end of harvest, when it ceased. Notwithstanding the scarcity of food from October 1595 down almost to this time the mortality in Scotland does not appear to have been great—a result probably owing in the main part to the abundant harvest of the present year.

Aug 27
‘Ane trouble betwixt certain servants of the Drummonds and Oliver Young, then one of the bailies of Perth, within the Hie Gait [High Street] of the said burgh; when the greatest number of the pursuers leapt the town’s walls, and so few number of them as escapit came to the Tolbooth. The agreement was made in the South Inch, the 1st of September thereafter.’—Chron.

Nov 3
‘The Earl of Cassillis marries Dame Jean Fleming, wha was wife to the last chancellor [Lord Thirlstane], ane very unmeet match, for she was past bairns-bearing, and he was ane young man not past twenty-three years or thereby, and his lands unheired. The king and court mockit the same marriage, and made sonnets in their contempt; and specially his majesty took his pastime of that sport.’-.—C. K. Sc.

Nov 7
‘.... it pleased God to tak the Laird of Bargeny in his mercy; wha was the nobillest man that ever was in that country [Carrick] in his time. He was endued with mony guid virtues. First he fearit God, and was fra the beginning on the right side of religion. He was wise and courteous, and therewith stout and passing kind; and sic ane noble spender in outings with the best-halden house at hame that ever was in the land. He was never behind with na party, and keepit himself ever to the fore with his living. He had ever in his household twenty-four gallant gentlemen, double-horsit, and gallantly clad; with sic ane repair to his house, that it was ane wonder where the same was gotten that he spendit.’ - Ken.

While so much lawless violence prevailed throughout the country at large, it was not to be expected that the Borders should be quiet. In truth, the greatest disorders prevailed in that district, particularly in the west, where certain broken clans—Armstrong, Johnstons, Bells, Batisons, Carlyles, and Irvings—lived in a great measure by robbing and oppressing their neighbours. Occasionally, too, they would make predatory incursions into England, and thereby endanger the peace existing between the two realms. The king was at length roused to make a vigorous effort for the repression of this system of violence. He came at the beginning of this month to Dumfries, ‘of resolution not to return therefra till that turn was effectuate, as indeed his majesty did meikle to it.'
—Moy. In the course of four weeks, which he spent in the town, ‘he hangit fourteen or fifteen limmers and notorious thieves.’ From every branch of the guilty clans, he took one or two of the principal men, ‘as pledges that the haul stouths and reifs committed by them, or any of their particular branch, should be redressed, and that they and all theirs should abstene from sic insolency in time coming, under pain of hanging.’

For the reception of such persons in general, there was a pledge-chalmer—a sort of honourable jail, we presume—in Dumfries. On this occasion, however, the pledges, thirty-six in number, were distributed over his majesty’s houses, where it was ordained they should each pay 13s. 4d. weekly for their maintenance.

The arrangement for the Court of Redress at Dumfries was in characteristic terms. It was to be composed of ‘aucht special honest gentlemen of the country, least suspect, maist neutral and indifferent, and the best inclined to justice,’ with ‘twa or three of his majesty’s council appointit to be present with them.’—P.C.R.

Lord Ochiltree, whom the king appointed as warden of the west Border, ‘remainit five or six months at Dumfries, halding courts of redress, and pacifying the country. He hangit and slew three score, with the more notable thieves . . . . and kept the country in great quietness and guid order all this time.’—Moy.

There is a small silver toy at Dumfries, in the form of a fusee or musket, which King James is represented as having gifted to the Seven Incorporated Trades in 1598, that it might be the prize of an annual shooting-match. ‘The siller gun,’ as it is called, has till recent times accordingly been carried by the trades in procession to a shooting-field near the town, whence the victor used to bring it home stuck in his hat. Most probably, it was while spending this month in Dumfries, and not during 1598 (when be certainly did not visit the town), that he conferred this mark of his favour.

Dec 7
A homicide committed at this time brings out a remarkable illustration of the exclusive rule of master over man which then prevailed. On the first day of the sitting of parliament, Archibald Jardine, servitor and master-stabler to the Earl of Angus, was slain negligently by Andrew Stalker, goldsmith, at Niddry’s Wynd head. The said Andrew was apprehendit and put in prison. The young men of the town being all in arms, as they use to be in the time of the parliament, they came to his majesty, and desirit grace for the young man wha had done ane reckless deed. The kings majesty desirit them to go to my Lord of Angus, the man’s master, and satisfy and pacify his wrath, and he should be contentit to grant his ljft. James Williamson, being captain to the young men, came to my Lord of Angus, offered him their manreid to be ready to serve him gif he had to do: upon the whilk, he grantit them his life, and sae the said Andrew was releasit out of prison upon the said day at even.’—Bir.

1598, Jan 16
‘Thomas Foulis conceivit sickness.’—Bir. One who knew nothing more of Thomas Foulis than what Birrel tells, might be surprised to find the simple fact of his becoming sick entered in this pointed way by the old diarist. As we have already had Thomas several times under our attention, and know him for a great goldsmith, banker, and speculator in mines, we can imagine his indisposition as a public fact of that degree of consequence that a diarist might well think worth chronicling. The truth is, King James had gone deeply into debt towards Thomas for goldsmith work and ready money advanced; his creditors were now pressing him, and he had nothing wherewith to satisfy them. The unhappy man consequently fell into a ‘phrensie.’ It would appear from one chronicler as if the king had not acted humanely towards his creditor under these circumstances. It is alleged that Thomas’s offices were taken from him, and he was obliged to surrender a certain jewel of note, called the H, which he had in pledge from the king’ for the sum of twelve thousand pounds. But all this is scarcely in harmony with the fact that, in June next, one of the doings of a convention parliament was to arrange ‘that the debt awand by his majesty to Thomas Fouls be payit in six years, namely, thirty thousand merks every year.’—Bir. Thomas was at the same time made master of the cunyie-house (mint).

It appears on the 28th May 1601, that the king owed ‘nine score thousand punds money’ to Thomas Foulis, goldsmith, Robert Jowsie, merchant-burgess of Edinburgh, and Thomas Acheson, master-cunyier, who were in consequence subject to infinite complaints from their creditors. His majesty professed guid affection and desire to the payment thereof,’ and arranged that it should be discharged in the course of eleven years by a preferable power over the receipts of the royal rents. ‘His majesty als promittis to give to Thomas, his wife and bairns, during their lifetime successive after others, ane yearly pension of ane thousand punds money.’—P. C. R.

In December 1602, a piteous complaint was made before the Privy Council by Andrew Lockhart, regarding the hardship he underwent as a creditor of Thomas Foulis and Robert Jowsie, through the effect of a supersedere they had obtained for their debts. He speaks of having been, ‘with his wife and aucht bairns,’ reduced to misery, through the non-payment of what these men owed him, ‘he being ane aigit gentleman, and a brother of ane honourable house.’ The Council could not interfere, but engaged that when the present supersedere run out, which it would do erelong, no other should be granted.—P. C. R.

Feb 8
The impunity of numberless murders and other atrocious crimes in this reign is not more remarkable than the. severity occasionally exhibited in comparatively trifling cases. For making a false writ in a matter of three hundred merks, five citizens of Edinburgh were condemned to death. Such, likewise, was the issue of the trial of John Moscrop, writer in Edinburgh, for giving himself out as a notary, and subscribing divers papers as such, he not being one. The six men appear to have all been tried on one day, and the end of the affair is chronicled by Birrel: ‘John Windieyetts, John Moscrop, Alexander Lowrie, John Halliday, and Captain James Lowrie [were] all hangit at the Cross of Edinburgh for counterfeiting false writs; whilk was great pity to see.’—Bir.

Feb 16
It was now five years since the tragic death of the Earl of Moray, and yet his corpse lay unburied. So also did that of the late Lord Maxwell, killed in a conflict with the Johnstons, in December 1593.

Stigmatising this as an abuse that ‘of late has croppin in,’ and in order to prevent the example from being followed, the king and Council issued an order to the respective relatives of the two noblemen, that they have the bodies buried in their ordinary places of sepulture within twenty days, under pain of rebellion.—P.C.R.

Feb 25
On this day, being Saturday, occurred an eclipse of the sun, total at Edinburgh, and probably so throughout the country generally. No event entirely similar had occurred within the memory of living people in Scotland, and the impression which it was naturally calculated to produce in an age when such things were regarded as prodigies, was aggravated by the critical state in which the favourite Presbyterian institutions were then believed to be placed. Men regarded it as the omen of a dark period for the Kirk of Scotland.

‘Betwixt nine and ten forenoon,’ says Calderwood, ‘began a fearful eclipse, which continued about two hours. The whole face of the sun seemed to be covered and darkened about half a quarter of an hour, in such measure that none could see to read a book. The stars appeared in the firmament. Sea, land, and air was still, and stricken dead as it were. The ravens and fowls flocking together mourned exceedingly in their kind. Great multitudes of paddocks [frogs] ran together, making an uncouth and hideous noise; men and women were astonished, as if the day of judgment had been coming. Some women swooned. The streets of Edinburgh were full of cries. Some men ran off the streets to the kirk to pray.’

‘In the session-house or college of justice, no letter nor book could be read nor looked upon for the space of an hour for darkness, and yet in the north-east there appeared two stars. After this, the space of eight days fair weather [which] ensued, was admirable. But the day after, yea Friday and Saturday, there fell out the greatest rain that might be, in such a manner that neither plough nor harrow could gang a long time after.’— Pa. And.

‘I knew,’ says James Melville, ‘out of ephemeridis and almanack, the day and hour of it. . . . also, by natural philosophy, the causes. I set myself to mark the proceedings of it in a basin of water mixed with ink, thinking the matter but common. But yet, when it came to the extremity of darkness, and I myself losit au the sun, I was strucken with such fear and astonishment, that I had no refuge but to prostrate [myself] on my knees, and commend myself to God, and cry for mercy.’

‘The like fearful darkness was never seen in this land, so far as we can read in our histories, or understand from tradition. The wise and godliest thought it very prodigious, so that from pulpit and by writ, admonitions were given to the ministers, that the changeable and glittering show of the world go not in betwixt them and Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, and remove the clear light of the gospel from the kirk.’—Cal.

A Presbyterian diarist is careful to tell us the ‘notable effects of this eclipse’ in the year following; namely, the death of those famous ‘lights of the Kirk of Scotland, Mr Thomas Buchanan, Mr Robert Rollock, David Ferguson, &c.’—Ja. Mel.

1598, Mar
'.....the Duke of Holstein, the queen’s brother, came through England to Edinburgh, and was conveyed the first night to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where he was received and welcomed very gladly by her majesty, and used every way like a prince. His majesty hasted to Edinburgh to meet with the duke, and at his coming saluted and entertained him . . . . as appertained to his rank. The duke made a progress from Holyroodhouse to the other side of the Forth, the first night to Ravensheugh, Lord Sinclair’s house, and from thence to Balcomie, Pittenweem, Anstruther, St Andrews, Dundee, Foulis, Stirling, and Linlithgow, and returned again to Edinburgh. He was honourably received and banqueted all the way. His majesty gave him banquets in Holyroodhouse and Stirling sundry times, and entertained him with pastime, and all other things to his great liking and contentment; likewise be was very largely complimented by their majesties.’ That is, they gave him large presents.—Moy. R.

May 2. ‘The Duke of Holstein got ane banquet in Macmoran’s lodging, given by the town of Edinburgh. The king’s majesty and the queen being both there, there was great solemnity and merriness at the said banquet.’—Bir.

June 3. ‘The Duke of Holstein took his leave of the king and queen, and shipped at Leith, having got great propines [gifts]; to wit, a thousand five-pound pieces, a thousand crowns, with a hat and a string valued at twelve thousand pounds, besides other rich chains and jewels.’- Pa. And. ‘To his bonalley, sixty shot of ordnance shot off the bulwark of Leith.’—Bir.

Fynes Moryson, gentleman, who had. travelled in most of the countries of Europe, being at Berwick, felt an earnest desire, before returning southwards, to see the king of Scots’ court. He therefore entered Scotland, and in one day rode to Edinburgh; after which he proceeded to Falkland, and designed to visit St Andrews and Stirling, but was prevented by unexpected business, which recalled him to England. He tells us little that is remarkable about the localities he visited, but makes some general observations regarding travelling in Scotland, which are not devoid of interest.

‘In Scotland,’ he says, ‘a horse may be hired for two shillings the first day, and eightpence the day till he be brought home; and the horse-letters used to send a footman to bring back the horse. They have no such inns as be in England; but in all places some houses are known where passengers may have meat and lodging; but they have no bushes or signs hung out, and for the horses, they are commonly set up in stables in some out-lane, not in the same house where the passenger lies. And if any man be acquainted with a townsman, he will go freely to his house, for most of them will entertain a stranger for his money. A horseman shall pay for oats and straw (for hay is rare in those parts) some eightpence day and night; and he shall pay no less in summer for grass, whereof they have no great store. Himself at a common table shall pay about sixpence for his supper or dinner, and shall have his bed free; and if he will eat alone in his chamber, he may have meat at a reasonable rate. Some twenty or thirty years ago, the first use of coaches came into Scotland; yea, were they rare even at Edinburgh. At this day, since the kingdoms of England and Scotland were united, many Scots have been promoted by the king’s favour both in dignity and estate, and the use of coaches became more frequent, yet nothing so common as in England. But the use of horse-litters hath been very ancient in Scotland, as in England, for sickly men and women of quality.’

He tells that the Scotch eat much colewort and cabbage, and little fresh meat. ‘Myself,’ he says, ‘was at a knight’s house, who had many servants to attend him, that brought in his meat with their heads covered with blue caps, the table being more than half furnished with great platters of porridge, each having a little piece of sodden meat And when the table was served, the servants did sit down with us; but the upper mess [those sitting above the salt-vat], instead of porridge, had a pullet with some prunes in the broth. And I observed no art of cookery or furniture of household stuff, but rather rude neglect of both, though myself and companion, sent from the governor of Berwick about Border affairs, were entertained after their best manner. They vulgarly eat hearth-cakes of oats [girdles for toasting the cakes over a fire were subsequently invented at Culross], but in cities have also wheaten bread, which for the most part was bought by courtiers, gentlemen, and the best sort of citizens. They drink pure wines, not with sugar, as the English; yet at feasts they put comfits in the wine, after the French manner; but they had not our vintners’ fraud, to mix the wines....

‘Their bedsteads were then like cupboards in the wall, with doors to be opened and shut at pleasure; so we climbed up to our beds. They used but one sheet, open at the sides and top, but close at the feet, and so doubled [still practised, and a comfortable custom it is].... When passengers go to bed, their custom was to present them with a sleeping-cup of wine at parting.’

‘The husbandmen, the servants, and almost all in the country, did wear coarse cloth made at home, of gray or sky colour [hodden gray], and flat blue caps very broad. The merchants in cities were attired in English or French cloth, of pale colour or mingled black and blue. The gentlemen did wear English cloth, or silk, or light stuffs, little or nothing adorned with silk lace, mach less with lace of silver or gold, and all followed at this time the French fashion, especially in court. Gentlewomen married did wear close upper bodies, after the German manner, with large whalebone sleeves, after the French manner, short cloaks like the Germans, French hoods, and large falling bands round their necks. The unmarried of all sorts did go bareheaded, and wear short cloaks, with most close linen sleeves on their arms, like the virgins of Germany. The inferior sort of citizens’ wives, and the women of the country, did wear cloaks made of a coarse stuff of two or three colours in chequer-work, vulgarly called plodan.’

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