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
Reign of James VI. 1603 - 1625 Part A

THE death of Elizabeth, March 24, 1603, opened the way for King James to the English throne. He left Scotland on the 5th of April, after taking a tender farewell of his Scottish subjects, and promising to revisit them once every three years. He did not allow one year to elapse without making an effort to accomplish a union between England and Scotland; but it ended in the comparatively narrow result of establishing that the postnati—that is, Scotsmen born after the king’s accession to the English crown—should be regarded as naturalised in both countries.

James, thoroughly believing that no puritan could be a loyal subject, continued to be anxious for the reduction of the Scottish Church under the royal supremacy and a hierarchy. The personal influence he acquired as king of England enabled him in some degree to accomplish this object, though all but wholly against the inclinations of the clergy and people.

The more zealous Presbyterian clergy had made up their minds, in a General Assembly now to be held at Aberdeen, to ‘call in question all the conclusions taken in former assemblies for the episcopal government.' The king, hearing of their design, caused his commissioner, Sir Alexander Straiton of Laurieston, to forbid the meeting. About twenty bold spirits, nevertheless, assembled (July 1605); and when Sir Alexander ordered them to dissolve, they did not obey till they had asserted their independence by appointing another day of meeting. When called soon after before the Privy Council, thirteen came in the king’s mercy; but eight stood out for the independence of their church, and were sent to various prisons.

Six of the recusant clergymen were tried at Linlithgow (January 1606) for high treason, and found guilty. After their condemnation, they were remanded to various prisons to await his majesty’s pleasure. (See November 6, 1606.)

At a parliament held in Perth (July 1606), under the king’s favourite minister, George Home, Earl of Dunbar, bishops were introduced, and the king’s prerogative confirmed in ample style. The Scottish statesmen and councillors were full of servility to the king. James caused several of the more zealous Presbyterian clergy, including the venerable but still energetic Andrew Melville, and his nephew James, to be brought to a conference in London, hoping to prevail upon them to cease their opposition; but it ended in the one being banished for an epigram, and the other being confined for life to the town of Berwick. In 1610, the king’s supremacy was acknowledged by the General Assembly, and consecrated bishops were settled in authority over dioceses. A court of High Commission, with immense power over clergy, schools, colleges, and people was also introduced. Regal influence, gold, cajolery, and a judicious deliberation, effected the appearance of an episcopal reformation, while the great bulk of the people endured with a silent protest what they could not resist.

At the same time, the new strength of the crown, as administered under the able chancellor, Seton, Earl of Dunfermline, and Thomas, Earl of Melrose (subsequently of Haddington), caused such an obedience to the laws throughout Scotland as had never before been known. The attempt at a plantation of the island of Lewis, with a view to the civilisation of the Hebrides, was renewed under these favouring circumstances, but altogether without success.

The king’s sole visit to his native kingdom took place in 1617, as to some extent detailed in the chronicle. His chief design was to advance the desired reformation of the national religion, by paving the way for an introduction of some of the English ceremonies. These were—kneeling at the eucharist, private administration of baptism to weak children, private administration of the communion to dying Christians, the confirmation of children, and the observance of Christmas and Easter. Protestant churches of most respectable character make no objection to these rites and forms; but among the Scottish people of that day they were viewed with great dislike. From a subservient General Assembly (1618), the Five Articles of Perth, as they were called, received a reluctant assent, and three years after they were confirmed by parliament.

While these struggles were going on between Presbyterianism and Episcopacy, the adherents of both systems cordially concurred in the persecution of the Catholics. Nobles and gentlemen of that persuasion were unblushingly called upon either to embrace Protestantism or submit to forfeiture of property and country. Priests were severely punished; one hanged. Shewing severity to the Papists was one of the principal means used by the king to conciliate the Presbyterians to his prelatic innovations.

Beyond inducing a few ministers to accept the mitre, and obtaining a hollow conformity from persons in authority, James made no progress in converting the Scotch to episcopacy, excepting in Aberdeenshire and some other northern provinces. The people refused to kneel at the communion, or have baptism and the eucharist administered in private. The holidays were disregarded. Withdrawing from the churches, the people began to meet in conventicles or in private houses for worship after their own manner. The established church sank into the character of ‘an institution.’

The English reign of James VI. was, nevertheless, in secular respects, a comparatively serene and happy time in Scotland. Peace blessed the land. For the first time, the law was everywhere enforced with tolerable vigour; some practical improvements were introduced. Even the Highlands began during this period to shew some approach to order.

James died March 27, 1625, in his fifty-ninth year, after a nominal reign over Scotland of little less than fifty-eight years.

Intelligence of the death of Elizabeth—the event took place at an early hour on the morning of. Thursday the 24th March—was brought to King James by Robert Carey, a young aspirant of the English court, who, making a rapid journey on horseback, reached Holyroodhouse on Saturday evening after the king had retired to rest. This was probably the most rapid transit from London to Edinburgh previous to the days of railways. The son of the governor of Berwick came next day and delivered the keys of that town to the Scottish monarch. On the ensuing Sunday, James appeared in his ordinary seat in St Giles’s Kirk, attended by a number of the English nobility; and after service, made an orison or harangue to the people, promising to defend the faith, and to ‘visit his people and guid subjects in Scotland every three years.’ On the 5th of April, ‘his majesty took journey to Berwick; at whilk time there was great lamentation and mourning amang the commons for the loss of the daily sight of their blessit prince. At this time, all the haill commons of Scotland that had rede or understanding were daily speaking and exponing of Thomas the Rhymer his prophecy, and of other prophecies whilk were prophecied in auld times; as namely it was prophecied in Henry the 8
days—HEMPE is begun, God give it long to last; Frae Hempe begun, England may tak rest. To make it that it may be understood, H for Henry, E for England, M for Mary, P for Philip, king of Spain, that marryit with Queen Mary, and E for worthy good Queen Elizabeth: sae it is come that England may tak rest; for there is no more England, but Great Britain. Siclike it was spoken in Scots—Ane French wife shall bear a son shall brook all Britain by the sea. For it is true that King James 6 his mother was ane French wife, in respect she was marryit to the Prince of France, wha was so stylit..... It was likewise writ in another prophecy:

[Post Jacobum, Jacobus Jacobum, Jacobus quoque quintus; At Sextus Jacobus regno regnabit utroque.] ‘—Bir.

Now-a-days, it would be ‘all the people that had not rede or understanding’ that would be speaking of prophecies in relation to public events. At that time, however, as has been stated before, metrical and other prophecies, commonly attributed to Thomas the Rhymer, a sage who lived at the end of the thirteenth century, were in great vogue. In this year, Robert Waldegrave printed a brochure containing a collection of these metrical predictions, ascribed to Merlin, Bede, Waldhave, Thomas Rymour, and others. In this volume may be found the prediction of Hemp; but in a different form, and the two others quoted by Birrel. The reader may turn back to January 1, 1561—2, for an account of Waldegrave’s book of prophecies, and some remarks on that special prediction regarding the son of the French wife, which was now called so particularly into notice.

May 28
‘The queen and prince came from Stirling [to Edinburgh]. There were sundry English ladies and gentlewomen come to give her the convoy.’ On the 30th, ‘her majesty and the prince came to St Giles Kirk, weel convoyit with coaches, herself and the prince in her awn coach, whilk came with her out of Denmark, and the English gentlewomen in the rest of the coaches. They heard ane guid sermon in the kirk, and thereafter rade hame to Halyroodhouse.’- Bir.

The pestilence, which had for some time been raging in England, is noted as now affecting the south of Scotland, and continuing till the ensuing February.—Chron.

July 21
James Reid, a noted sorcerer and charmer, was strangled and burnt on the Castle Hill of Edinburgh for his alleged practice of healing by the black art. ‘Whilk craft,’ says his dittay, ‘he learnt frae the devil, his master, in Binnie Craigs and Corstorphin Craigs, where he met with him and consulted with him to learn the said craft; wha gave him three pennies at ane time, and a piece creish out of his bag at ane other time; he having appeared to the said James diverse times, whiles in the likeness of a man, whiles in the likeness of a horse . . . . whilk likewise learned him to tak south-rinning water to cure the said diseases.’ It was alleged that James had cured Sarah Borthwick of a grievous ailment by ‘casting a certain quantity of wheat and salt about her bed.’ He bad tried to destroy the crops of David Libberton, a baker, by directing an enchanted piece of raw flesh to be put under his mill-door, and casting nine stones upon his lands. Nay, he had done what he could to destroy David himself, by making a picture of him in wax, and turning it before a fire. The authorities made short work of so grievous an offender by sending him direct from judgment to execution.’—Pit.

Oct 2
Campbell of Ardkinlas, set on by the Earl of Argyle, exerted himself to capture Macgregor of Glenstrae, who for some months had been under ban of the government on account of the slaughterous conflict of Glenfruin. He called Macgregor to a banquet in his house, which stands within a loch, and there made no scruple to lay hold of the unfortunate chieftain. Being immediately after put into a boat, under a guard of five men, to be conducted to the Earl of Argyle, Macgregor contrived to get his hands loose, struck down the guardsman nearest him, and leaping into the water, swam to land unharmed.

Some time after, the Earl of Argyle sent a message to Macgregor, desiring him to come and confer with him, under promise to let him go free if they should not come to an agreement. ‘Upon the whilk, the Laird Macgregor came to him, and at his coming was weel received by the earl, wha shew him that he was commanded by the king to bring him in, but he had no doubt but his majesty wald, at his request, pardon his offence, and he should with all diligence send twa gentlemen to England with him.... Upon the whilk fair promises, he was content, and came with the Earl of Argyle to Edinburgh’ (January 9, 1604), ‘with eighteen mae of his friends.’

The sad remainder of the transaction is narrated by the diarist Birrel, with a slight difference of statement as to the agreement on which the surrender bad taken place. Macgregor ‘was convoyit to Berwiek by the guard, conform to the earl’s promise; for he promised to put him out of Scots grund. Sae he keepit ane Hieland-man’s promise, in respect he sent the guard to convoy him out of Scots grund; but they were not directed ‘to part with him, but to fetch him back again. The 18 of January, he came at even again to Edinburgh, and upon the 20 day, he was hangit at the Cross, and eleven mae of his friends and name, upon ane gallows; himself being chief, he was hangit his awn height above the rest of his friends?

A confession of Macgregor has been printed by Mr Pitcairn. It might rather be called a justification, the whole blame being thrown upon Argyle, whose crafty policy it fully exposes. It is alleged that, after instigating Ardkinlas to take Macgregor, the earl endeavoured to induce Macgregor to undertake the murder of Ardkinlas, besides that of the Laird of Ardencaple. ‘I never granted thereto, through the whilk he did envy me greatumly’ [that is, bore me a great grudge]. His whole object, Macgregor says, was ‘to put down innocent men, to cause poor bairns and infants beg, and poor women to perish for hunger, when they are herried of their geir.’

Even in that barbarous age, when executions were lamentably frequent, the spectacle of twelve men hanging on one gallows, one of them a chieftain of ancient lineage, must have been an impressive one. ‘A young man, called James Hope, beholding the execution, fell down, and power was taken from half of his body. When he was carried to a house, he cried that one of the Highlandmen had shot him with an arrow. He died upon the Sabbath-day after.’—Cal.

The subsequent persecution of the Macgregors, persevered in by the government during many years, belongs to history. Its severity ‘obliged multitudes of them to abandon their habitations; and they retired to such places as they thought would afford them security and protection. The better sort made the best bargains they could with their enemies, and gave up their estates and possessions for small compositions. By these transmigrations, they came, in the end, to be scattered through all parts of the kingdom, where their posterity are still to be found under different names, and even many of them have lost the very memory of their original. . . . They are still pretty numerous in the Highlands.... many are found in other parts of the kingdom, who are possessed of opulent fortunes; and some of that race have since made a considerable figure, both in civil and military government, though covered under borrowed names.’—Memoir of Sir Ewen Cameron, by Drummond of Balhadies, about 1737.

Nov 20.
It was found at Aberdeen, that, great numbers of people resorting thither at Whitsunday and Martinmas ‘for their leesome affairs, some to receive in their debts, others to uplift and give out siller on profit,’ quarrels were extremely apt to fall out amongst them, on account of old ‘feids standing unreconcilit.’ Hence, it sometimes happened that this commercial city became a scene of wide-spread tumult, the strangers dividing into hostile parties and fighting with each other, in defiance of all that the magistrates could do to make them desist. Nay, ‘the magistrates and neighbours of this burgh, standing betwixt the said parties, for redding and staunching the said tumults, has been divers and sundry times in great danger and peril, and some of them hurt and woundit, not being of power to resist the said parties!

For these reasons, the town-council, at this date, passed a strict act for the preservation of the peace, but probably with very little immediate effect.

1604, Apr
‘Ane servant woman of Mr John Hall, minister, died in his awn house, alleged to be the pest, as God forbid: yet he and his house was clengit.’—Bir. The fear of pestilence, here so strikingly expressed, was too well founded. The disease spread in May, and increased in the heat of July. The people fled from the town, and we find that one William Kerr, a blacksmith, thought it a good opportunity for helping himself to property not his own, and was hanged in December for having opened the doors of several of the empty houses.—Bir.

June 15
‘The men of Black Ruthven and Huntingtower cuist turfs on our burgh moor at command of the comptroller, Sir David Murray, captain of his majesty’s guard, and our provost for the time, The town rase aught hundred men in arms, and put them off. Angus Cairdney died of the apoplexy there. No ma harm, but great appearance of skaith.’—Chron. Perth.

It is remarkable to find that Perth could then send out 800 armed men. This, however, was not the utmost strength of the Fair City; for in the ensuing month, when a parliament was held there, ‘the town mustered fourteen hundred men in arms and guid equipage.’—Chron. Perth.

Patrick, Earl of Orkney, paid a visit to the Earl of Sutherland at Dornoch, where he spent some time, ‘honourably enterteened with comedies, and all other sports and recreations that Earl John could make him.’—G. H. S.

James Melville notes in his Diary the appearance of a brilliant star which shone out this year ‘aboon Edinburgh, hard by the sun,’ in the middle of the day; ‘prognosticatiug, undoubtedly, strange alterations and changes in the world; namely, under our climate.’

This notice most probably refers to a star, of the same kind with that mentioned in 1572, and nearly as brilliant, which is described as having appeared in the east foot of Serpentarius, in October of this year.

Sep 10
‘The general master of the cunyie-house took shipping to London, for the defence of the Scotch cunyie before the Council of England. Wha defendit the same to the uttermost; and the wit and knawledge of the general was wondered at by the Englishmen. The said general and master came hame the 10 of December.’—Bir.

That the general master of the cunyie-house should have shewed so much wit and knowledge on this occasion, will not excite much surprise in the reader, when it is made known that he was Napier of Merchiston, father of the great philosopher.—Bal.

Dec 7
‘Ane hour before the sun rose, the moon shining clear two days before the change, in a calm and pleasant morning, there was at ane instant seen great inflammations of fire-flaughts in the eastern hemisphere, and suddenly thereafter there was heard ane crack, as of a great cannon, and sensibly marked a great globe or bullet, fiery coloured, with a mighty whistling noise, flying from the north-east to the south-west, whilk left behind it a blue train and draught in the air, most like ane serpent in mony faulds and linkit wimples; the head whereof breathing out flames and smoke, as it wald directly invade the moon, and swallow her up; but immediately the sun, rising fair and pleasant, abolished all. The crack was heard of all, within as without the house; and sic as were without at the time, or hastily ran out to see, did very sensibly see and mark the rest above rehearsed. Here was a subject for poets and prophets to play upon
‘—Ja. Mel.

1605, Jan 19
‘James Young, player at cards and dice, was slain in the kirk [St Giles] by ane boy of sixteen years of age, called Lawrence Man. This Lawrence was beheaded on the Castle Hill, the last day of Januar.’—Bir.

May 2
A curious case was considered by the Privy Council. James Blackadder of Tulliallan had been charged by Sir Michael Balfour of Burleigh, to address himself to Perth, and there buy from him and his factor John Jamieson three stands of horsemen’s arms, under pain of rebellion if he failed to do so before a particular day. James represented to the lords that long before Sir Michael had brought home these arms, he had provided himself otherwise with ‘twa good corslets of proof for his awn person, besides a number of jacks for his servants, with certain muskets, hagbuts, pikes, spears, and all other sort of arms sufficient for aucht persons,’ although not bound by his rent to provide arms for more than two. He wholly resisted the demand of Sir Michael, inferring an outlay of sixty pounds, on the ground that his estate did not extend beyond twenty-four chalders of victual, out of which he had diverse sums of interest to pay—inferring that he was not liable to have more than one stand of horsemen’s arms. The lords decreed that James was in the right, and that Sir Michael’s proceedings against him should cease.—P.
C. R.

June 17
‘Ane combat or tulyie [was] foughten at the Salt Tron of Edinburgh, betwixt the Laird of Ogle [Edzell], younger, and his complices, and the young Laird of Pitarrow, Wishart. The faught lasted frae 9 hours till 11 at night, twa hours. There were sundry hurt on both sides, and ane Guthrie slain, which was Pitarrow’s man, ane very pretty young man. The 18th, they were accusit before the Council, and wardit.’—Bir.

The Lairds of Edzell and Pitarrow were committed to ward, for not having confined their sons, as the chancellor had commanded. Edzell, foreseeing troubles to himself and his son from the death of Guthrie, sent a surgeon to examine the corpse, with a view to establishing that the young man had not died of the wounds he received in the tulyie, but had been ‘smoored in the throng.’

Edzell was in his way a remarkable man. Possessing a degree of taste uncommon in that age, he had built for himself at Edzell on the Esk in Forfarshire, a mansion of singular elegance, possessing in particular a screen-wall, ornamented with allegorical figures, the remains of which even at this day excite the surprise of the passing traveller. His latter days were clouded by the consequences of the violent passions of his eldest son, one of the principals in the above combat. We shall presently hear more of both him and his son.

A man called Alister Mac William Mor, a servant of Hugh Mackay of Far, happening to go into Caithness on some business, was there entrapped by emissaries of the Earl of Caithness, who bore him a grudge for his conduct in a former feud. The earl caused Alister to be beheaded before his eyes next day. The subsequeut proceedings are curious. Mackay prosecuted Lord Caithness before the Justiciary Court at Edinburgh; but the Marquis of Huntly brought them together at Elgin; and ‘the Earl of Caithness acknowledged his offence before the friends there present; whereupon they were finally agreed, and all past injuries were again forgiven by either party.’ Not a word of the general claim of justice on behalf of the public!—G. H. S.

At the end of this month, the pest broke out in Edinburgh, Leith, St Andrews, and other parts of the kingdom. Among the first houses infected in Edinburgh was that of the Chancellor Dunfermline. James Melville, looking to the recent proceedings of this statesman against the more zealous ministers, considered him as overtaken by ‘the penalty pronounced by Joshua upon the building up of Jericho. His eldest and only son died, and a young damosel his niece, so that he was compelled to dissolve his family, and go with his wife alone, as in hermitage, with great fear of the death of his daughter also, on whom the boils brake forth. This was marked and talked of by the people.’

The Fife adventurers who had been obliged to leave the Lewis in 1601 on a promise never to return, made a new attempt at this time to complete their unhappy undertaking. Attended with considerable forces, led partly by one William Mac Williams, chieftain of the Clan Gunn, they landed in the island, and ‘sent a message unto Tormod Macleod, shewing that if he would yield unto them, in name and behalf of the king [now a more formidable name than it had been], they should transport him safely to London, where his majesty then, was; and being arrived there, they would not only obtein his pardon, but also suffer him, without let or hindrance, to deal by his friends for his majesty’s favour, and for some means whereby he might live. Whereunto Tormod Macleod condescended, and would not adventure the hazard of his fortune against so great forces as he perceived ready there to assail him. This did Tormod Macleod against the opinion and advice of his brother, Niel Macleod, who stood out and would not yield.

‘So the adventurers sent Tormod Macleod to London, where he caused his majesty to be rightly informed of the case; how the Lewis was his just inheritance; how his majesty was sinistrously informed by the undertakers, who had abused his majesty in making him believe that the same was at his disposition, whereupon proceeded much unnecessary trouble and great bloodshed; and thereupon he humbly entreated his majesty to do him justice, and to restore him to his own. The adventurers, understanding that his majesty began to hearken to the complaint of Tormod Macleod, used all their credit at court to cross him. In end, they prevailed so far—some of them being the king’s domestic servants—that they procured him to be taken and sent home prisoner into Scotland, where he remained captive at Edinburgh, until the month of March 1615 years, that the king gave him liberty to pass into Holland, to Maurice, Prince of Orange, where Tormod ended his days.’—G. H. S.

Tormod being thus put out of the way, ‘the enterprise of the Lewis was again set on foot by Robert Lumsden of Airdrie and Sir George Hay of Netherliffe, to whom some of the first undertakers had made over their right. In August they took journey thither, and by the assistance of Mackay Mackenzie and Donald Gorm, forced the inhabitants to remove forth of the isle, and give surety not to return.

‘Airdrie and his copartners, thinking all made sure, returned south about Martinmas, leaving some companies to maintain their possession, which they made good all that winter, though now and then they were assaulted by the islesmen. In the spring, Airdrie went back, taking with him fresh provision, and fell to building and manuring the lands. But this continued not long; for, money failing, the workmen went away, and the companies diminishing daily, the islesmen made a new invasion about the end of harvest, and by continual incursions so outwearied the new possessors, as they gave over their enterprise, and were contented for a little sum of money to make away their rights to the Laird of Mackenzie [Mackenzie of Kintail]. This turned to the ruin of divers of the undertakers, who were exhausted in means before they took the enterprise in hand, and had not the power which was required in a business of that importance.’—Spot.

It will be found that there was a third attempt to plant the Lewis. See under 1609.

Mr Gilbert Brown, called Abbot of New Abbey, had for many years escaped the law while exercising his functions as a priest in the neighbourhood of Dumfries. The Presbyterian historians stigmatise him as ‘a famous excommunicat, forfaulted, perverting papist,’ who ‘kept in ignorance almost the haill south-west parts of Scotland,’ and was ‘continually occupied in practising against the religion.’ He was now taken prisoner by Lord Cranston, ‘not without peril from the country people, who rose to rescue him out of his hands.’ He was brought to Blackness, where, for a night, he was the fellow-prisoner of the recusant Presbyterian brethren. It is to be feared that community of misfortune did not bring the two parties into any greater harmony or charity with each other than they had hitherto been. When the government thus ‘took order’ with a papist priest, the only feeling of the zealous people on the other side was a jealous curiosity to see whether it was in earnest or not. The government, on its part, felt that it was on its good behaviour, and dreaded to be too lenient. Abbot Brown, being taken to Edinburgh Castle, was for some time entertained with an unpopular degree of mildness and liberality, his food being furnished at the king’s expense, and his friends being allowed to see him, while the Presbyterian captives were obliged to live at their own charges. Finally, the ‘excommunicat papist’ was allowed to quit the country with all his priestly furnishings, not without some suspicion of having been allowed to say mass in private before his departure.—Cal.

It is probable that this leniency was found to have been attended with the effect of exciting a troublesome degree of suspicion against the government, for another ‘priest, who had been a certain time in ward in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, was (September 27, 1607) brought down on the mercat-day to the Mercat Cross, with all his mess clothes upon him, wherewith he was taken, with his chalice in his hand. He stayed at the Cross from ten hours till twelve. Then all his mess clothes and chalice were burned in a fire beside the Cross, and himself carried back to ward.’—Cal.

Oct 3
The Privy Council, sitting at Perth, dealt with a complaint from Mr Alexander Ireland, minister of Kincleven, against Sir John Crichton of Innernytie, who has already been introduced to our notice as a professor of the ancient faith. It appeared that the minister had had to adopt measures of discipline with Sir John ‘for halding of profane plays on the Sabbath-day, resetting of seminary priests, and divers other offences condemned by the word of God.’ The knight, rebelling against an authority which he bore in no reverence, had resented the interference with his personal freedom by going with an armed party to Ireland’s house and committing sundry outrages, even to the beating of his wife, though she was not far from her confinement. Owing to an imperfection of the record, the end of the affair is unknown.—P.
C. H

Nov 5
On the evening of this day, when the Gunpowder Plot was to have taken effect, a high wind produced some effects in the north of Scotland, which seemed in harmony with that wild affair. ‘All the inner stone pillars of the north side of the cathedral church at Dornoch (lacking the roof before), were blown from the very roots and foundation, quite and clean over the outer walls of the church; which walls did remain nevertheless standing, to the great astonishment of all such as have seen the same. These great winds did even then prognosticate and foreshew some great treason to be at hand; and as the devil was busy then to trouble the air, so was he busy, by these his firebrands, to trouble the estate of Great Britain.’—G.
H. S.

The Privy Council issued sundry proclamations ‘anent the Poulder Treason,’ one for the apprehension of Percy, the prime conspirator. There was a general joy in Scotland at the detection of the plot. In Aberdeen, the people repaired to the church to give formal thanks for the deliverance of the royal family and nobility. Bonfires were lighted on the public ways, and the people went about for an afternoon, singing psalms of thankfulness. The magistrates and others had also a public banquet at the market-cross, where glasses were ‘drunk and cassen,’ in token of their rejoicing for the said merciful delivery.—Ab. C. K

1606, Jan 21
The Earl of Errol wrote from Perth to the king, promising, in compliance with a command just received, to be ‘careful to provide ane tercel to the hawk of Foulsheuch,’ and to be ‘answerable to your majesty for the same, in case the auld tercel be dead.’ Foulsheuch is a sea-cliff about four miles south of Stonehaven, 200 feet in height, where so lately as 1808 a family of hawks, of uncommonly large size, continued to build. James’s love of what old Gervase Markham calls the ‘most princely and serious delight’ of hawking, caused him to keep up a constant correspondence with friends in Scotland for the supply of the needful birds, and of this the earl’s letter is a specimen. His lordship goes on with laudable particularity: ‘Your majesty’s mongrel falcon, whilk I have, sould have been at your hieness lang or now [ere now], but that as my falconer was ready to tak his journey, she contracted ane disease, wherewith he thirst not adventure to travel her, in respect of the great frosts and storms. I will be answerable to your majesty that she has been in nae ways stressed, but as weel treated as any hawk could be. Naither shall your majesty suspect that I have reteinit her for my awn plesure, whilk I sall never compare in the greatest thing whatsoever with your majesty’s meanest contentment, nor am I able as yet, even at this present, to travel upon the fields for any game. Albeit, how soon it sall be possible that the hawk may in any sort be travellit, she sall be at your majesty with all diligence. She had the same sickness the last year, in this same season, and was not free of it till near March.’

So keenly interested was James respecting the tercel of Foulsheuch, that he had written to the Earl of Mar regarding it; and this nobleman replied on the same date with Lord Errol, assuring the king that he will see after it carefully. ‘I cannot as yet,’ he says, 'certify your majesty whether he be alive or not, but, within few days, I think, I sall go near to get the certainty that may be had of so oncertain a matter.’

There is extant a characteristic letter written by James at Perth in March 1597, to Fraser of Philorth, regarding a bird of sport. ‘Hearing that ye have ane gyre-falcon, whilk is esteemed the best hawk in all that country, and meetest for us that have sae guid liking of that pastime, we have therefore taken occasion effectuously to requeest and desire you, seeing hawks are but gjfting geir, and nae otherwise to be accounted betwix us and you, being sae well acquainted, that of courtesy ye will bestow on us that goshawk, and send her here to us with this bearer, our servant, whom we have on this errand directed to bring and carry her tenderly. Wherein, as he sall report our hearty and special thanks, sae sall ye find us ready to requite your courtesy and good-will with nae less pleasure in any the like gates [ways] as occasion sall present.’

May 29 and 30
The equinoctial gale of this year is described by a contemporary chronicler as of extreme violence. He says, with regard to the two days marginally noted: ‘The wind was so extraordinary tempestuous and violent, that it caused great shipwreck in Scotland, England, France, and the Netherlands. It blew trees by the roots, ruined whole villages, and caused the sea and many rivers so to overflow their wonted limits and bounds, that many people and chattels were drowned and perished.’—Bal.

An outbreak of touchiness on heraldic matters, which recently took place in Scotland, excited some surprise amongst English statesmen and others. It is certain, however, that wherever two nations are associated under one monarchy, the smaller usually manifests no small amount of jealousy regarding its national flag and every other thing which marks its distinction and may have been associated with the national history. The government of Sweden is at this day under constant anxiety regarding the rampant lion and battle-axe of the Norwegian flag, lest on any occasion due honour should not be paid to it, and feelings of international hostility be thereby engendered.

When the Scottish king added England and Ireland to his dominions, his native subjects manifested the utmost jealousy regarding their heraldic ensigns; and some troubles in consequence arose between them and their English neighbours, especially at sea. We find that at this time, ‘for composing of some difference between his subjects of North and South Britain travelling by seas, anent the bearing of their flags, and for avoiding all such contentions hereafter,’ the king issued a proclamation, ordaining ‘the ships of both nations to carry on their main-tops the flags of St Andrew and St George interlaced, and those of North Britain in their stern that of St Andrew, and those of South Britain that of St George.’-Bal.

May 17
In an early and rude state of society, bankruptcy is always looked on with harshness, and punished cruelly; and perhaps it is really then less excusable than it becomes when commerce is more advanced, and the returns of transactions can less certainly be calculated on. Even Venice in old times had its stone of shame for bankrupts. Well, then, might Edinburgh have one in 1606. At the date noted in the margin, the Privy Council ordered the magistrates of that city to erect ‘ane pillory of hewen stone near the Mercat Cross; upon the head thereof ane seat to be made, whereupon in time coming sall be set all dyvours,’ wha sall sit thereon ane mercat-day, from ten hours in the morning till ane hour after dinner.' The unfortunates were obliged to wear a yellow bonnet on these occasions, and for ever after—the livery of slavery in the middle ages, and of which we have a relic in the under-clothes of the Christ’s Hospital boys in London.

An act of the Lords of Session in 1688 is more particular regarding the indignities to be visited upon dyvours. It ‘ordains the magistrates of the burgh (where the debtor is incarcerated), before his liberation out of prison, to cause him take on, and wear upon his head, a bonnet, partly of a brown, and partly of a yellow colour, with uppermost hose, or stockings, on his legs, half-brown and half-yellow coloured, conform to a pattern delivered to the magistrates of Edinburgh, to be keeped in their Tolbooth; and that they cause take the dyvour to the Mercat Cross, betwixt ten and eleven o’clock in the fore noon, with the foresaid habit, where he is to sit upon the dyvour-stone, the space of ane hour, and then to be dismissed; and ordains the dyvour to wear the said habit in all time thereafter; and in case he be found either wanting or disguising the samen, he shall lose the benefit of his bonorum."

July 1
A parliament met at Perth, chiefly with a view to reinstating the bishops in those revenues which alone could make them efficient in their office. They themselves appeared for the first time during many years in a style calculated to impress the senses of the people. The king had taken care that they, as well as the nobility, should wear ceremonial dresses. In the ‘riding’ or equestrian procession to the parliament house, they took their place immediately after the earls, ‘all in silk and velvet foot-mantles, by pairs, two and two, and St Andrews, the great Metropolitan, alone by himself; and ane of the ministers of no small quality, named Arthur Futhie, with his cap at his knee, walkit at his stirrup along the street.’ ‘This was called the Red Parliament, whilk in old prophecies was talked many years ago sould be keepit in St Johnston, because all the noblemen and officers of estate came riding thereto and sat therein, with red gowns and hoods, after the manner of England, for ane new solemnity; whilk many did interpret a token of the red fire of God’s wrath to be kindled both upon kirk and country.’—Ja.

At this parliament appeared two western nobles between whose families there had long subsisted great enmity—namely, the Earls of Eglintoun and Glencairn. Notwithstanding the known anxiety of the king for an oblivion of all such ‘deidly feids,’ the two earls and their respective attendants came to a collision on the street. ‘It lasted fra seven till ten hours at night, with great skaith,’ one man of the Glencairn party being slain outright. It was not without great exertion on the part of the citizens that the tumult was quelled.

This feud; which was of early origin, acquired fresh stimulus from the murder of the Earl of Eglintoun by Cunningham of Robertland in 1586, the Earl of Glencairn, as head of the Cunninghams, being held as in some degree answerable for, and bound to protect, the actual assassin. The affair now involved the Lord Semple and other men of consequence in the west, and it took no small pains on the part of the king and his Scottish ministers to get it composed.

The reconciliation of the Earl of Glencairn with Lord Semple took place in a formal and public manner, at the command of the Privy Council, nearly three years afterwards (May 22, 1609). The scene of this important transaction was the Green of Glasgow. On the occasion, ‘for eschewing of all inconvenients of trouble whilk may happen (whilk God forbid!),the town-council arranged that the provost with one of the bailies and whole council should go to the place, attended by forty citizens in arms, while the other two bailies, each attended by sixty of the citizens with ‘lang weapons and swords,’ should ‘accompany and convoy the said noblemen, with their friends, in and out, in making their reconciliation.’—M. of G.

Glasgow—now a city of 400,000 inhabitants, and the scene of a marvellous concentration of the industrial energies of the nineteenth century—how curious to look in upon it in 1606! when it was only a small burgh and university town, containing perhaps 5000 inhabitants at the utmost, some of them merchants (that is, shopkeepers), others craftsmen—not such folk, however, as would now be found carrying on trade and the useful arts in a burgh of the same size, but men accustomed to the use of arms, and the exercise of the violent passions which call arms into use—not inspired with the independent political ideas of our time, but trained to look up to the great landlords of their neighbourhood as leaders to be in all things followed: in short, a small burgal community, retaining a strong tinge of the old feudal system.

July 5
The city was at this time the scene of ‘a very great trouble and commotion,’ arising from a change which had been made in the system of municipal election. The change seems to have been effected in legal and proper manner by Sir George Elphinstone, the provost; but it was odious to a neighbouring knight, Sir Matthew Stewart of Minto, whose ancient local influence it threatened to subvert. He accordingly wrought upon the ‘crafts’ of the burgh, till he induced them to believe that the new system was a gross tyranny to their order. They consequently held a meeting in the house of a citizen—an act unlawful, without the sanction of the magistrates—ostensibly to get up a petition, but in reality armed for action with swords, targes, and other abulyiements. Climbing up to the platform of the Market Cross, they proclaimed their remonstrance against the new arrangements, in the sight of the magistrates, who sat in their council-house close by. It was believed that the object of the insurgents was to provoke the magistrates to come out and interfere with their proceedings; which might have been made a pretence for involving them in a murderous quarrel. But ‘God furnished the magistrates with patience to abide all their indignities.’ They even so far deferred to the popular party, as to appoint a day when they might meet and argue out their differences.

According to the provost and magistrates, in a complaint which they sent to the Privy Council, this peaceful measure did not suit the views of Sir Matthew Stewart and his friends. Accordingly, ‘knawing that, upon the twenty-three day of the month, whilk was the day preceding the appointit time of meeting, Sir George was to go to the archery, they made choice of that time and occasion, to work their turn.’ Sir Walter Stewart, son of Sir Matthew, with John and Alexander Stewarts, ‘lay in wait for him and his company, wha were but five in number, without ony kind of armour, saufing their bows; and perceiving them, about seven hours at even, come up the Dry-gate, of purpose to have passed to the Castle butts, and there to have endit their game, and James Forrat, ane of Sir George’s company, going to his awn house with his bow disbendit in his hand, to have fetchit some Bute arrows; Sir Walter thought meet to mak the first onset upon him, and thereby to draw Sir George back.’ The assault upon Forrat having caused a great cry to arise, Sir George returned through the Castle port to learn what was the matter, when, meeting young Minto in the act of pursuing the unarmed man, he remonstrated first in gentle words, and then in language more emphatic, finally commanding him in the king’s name to desist and go borne. Hereupon a party of forty, all armed with steel bonnets, secrets, plait sleeves, ‘lang staffs,’ and other weapons, issued from the wynd-head, where they had been concealed, and, joining with young Minto, drove Sir George and his small party of friends back to the Castle port, where they were happily relieved from present danger. Being thus disappointed of their purpose, the rioters retired to the wynd-head, and presently sent off one of their number down the High Gait to rouse the other citizens. This man, James Braidwood, ran along crying, ‘Arm you! arm you! They are yokit!’ whereupon a great number of the seditious faction, including Sir Matthew Stewart of Minto himself, assembled in arms, and joining the other party at the wynd-head, came in full force, and in the most furious manner to the Castle, where, but for the interposition of the Earl of Wigton and two other privy-councilors, who were present, they would certainly have slain their provost. ‘Seeing they could not win towards Sir George with lang staffs and weapons, they despitefully cast stanes at him.’ Then, refusing to obey the commands of the privy-councilors to go peaceably home, ‘they past tumultuously down the gait to the Barras Yett, far beneath the Cross, and come up the gait again with three hundred persons, with drawn swords in their hands, some of the rascal multitude crying: "I sall have this buith, and thou sall have that buith!" and of new assailit the Castle port, with full purpose by force to have enterit within the same.’ It was alleged that, but for the courageous resistance of the three noble privy-councillors, they would have accomplished the destruction of Sir George Elphinstone on this occasion. As it was, they laid violent hands on three several magistrates who came to his help, altogether ‘committing manifest insolency and insurrection within the said city, to the great trouble and inquietation thereof, and ane evil example to others to do the like hereafter.’

Such was the Elphinstone story regarding this tumult. It was, however, met by a counter-complaint from young Minto, to the following effect. He was, he said, ‘coming down the Rotton Raw, in peaceable and quiet maner to his awn lodging, accompanit only with twa servants,’ when ‘he perceivit Sir George Elphinstone with nine or ten persons in his company, coming up the Dry Gait.’ Although he was in the straight way for his lodging, ‘yet in respect of some dryness between Sir George and him, he left that gait, and past ane other way, of purpose to have eschewit all occasion of trouble and unquietness betwixt them.’ Here, however, ‘James Forrat, ane of Sir George’s company, cast him directly in the complainer’s way, and pressit to have stayit his passage.’ When young Minto ‘soberly found fault with him,’ Forrat ‘immediately bendit his bow, and had not failed to have shot and slain him, were not ane in company with the complainer cuttit the bow-string.’ Whereupon, according to the recital, Sir George Elphinstone and his servants fell upon young Minto and his servants in the most violent manner with their swords, and would certainly have slain them, if they had not by God’s providence escaped.—P. C. R.

We learn from another source, that, after all, ‘the skaith was not great; only ane man callit Thomas Cloggy died, without ony wound, and sundry hurt with staves'

The government authorities must have felt puzzled by this local squabble, and hardly known how to apportion punishment amongst the parties. The Minto knights were ordered into ward in Dumbarton Castle, and Sir George Elphinstone in the castle of Glasgow, till his majesty’s pleasure should be known. The Privy Council afterwards absolved young Minto from the charge of being the aggressor in the conflict of the 23d July; but the two knights and their principal supporters were confined for some time in Linlithgow, on account of the general ‘insolency’ of which they had been guilty.

There is something affecting in the history of the families concerned in this tumult. A mural tablet in Glasgow cathedral commemorated the names of six or eight Stewarts of Minto in succession, ‘knights created under the banner,’ and men of great sway in the district. But when M'Ure wrote his History of Glasgow in 1736, the family was ‘mouldered so quite away, that the heir in our time was reduced to a state of penury little short of beggary.’ A memorandum of Paton, the antiquary, queried, ‘If true that the last of the family was a poor boy sent into Edinburgh barefooted with a letter to Stewart of Coltness, who [being] promising, was recommended to the Duke of Hamilton, got some education, and afterwards went abroad to Darien, where he died.’ Sir George Elphinstone, who had been the familiar servant and friend of King James, acquired a great estate at Glasgow, and after this time rose to be Lord Justice-clerk, nevertheless ‘died so poor, that his corpse was arrested by his creditors, and his friends buried him privately in his own chapel adjoining his house.’ His family went out in the second generation.

1606, Aug
While the attention of the people was absorbed by the matter of the bishops and their robes and renewed dignity, the consequences of the continual neglect of those natural conditions on which their physical health depended were about to be once more and most severely felt. The pest broke out and spread over the more populous districts with frightful rapidity. ‘It raged so extremely in all the corners of the kingdom, that neither burgh nor land in any part was free. The burghs of Ayr and Stirling were almost desolate; and all the judicatories of the land were deserted.’—Bal. It was not till the middle of winter that it sensibly declined.

The chancellor wrote to the king in October, that scarcely any part of the country was free of the scourge. ‘This calamity,’ he says, ‘hinders all meetings of Council, and all public functions for ministration of justice and maintenance of good rule and government, except sic as we tak at starts, with some few, at Edinburgh, or in sic other place for a day, to keep some countenance of order.’

The unconforming clergy now imprisoned at Blackness wrote a petition for mercy to the king (August 23), in which they describe the state of the country under its present affliction. They speak of ‘the destroying angel hewing down day and night continually, in sic a number in some of our congregations, that the like thereof has not been heard many years before.’ They add: ‘What is most lamentable, they live and die comfortless under the fearful judgment, filling the heaven and the earth with their sighs, sobs, and cries of their distressed souls, for being deprived not only of all outward comforts (whilk were great also), but also of all inward consolation, through the want of the ordinary means of their peace and life, to wit, the preaching of the word of our ministry.’

We have a remarkable trait of the treatment of the pest in outlying districts, in a bond granted on this occasion by some Aberdeenshire gentlemen to the burgh of Dundee for five hundred merks, as requital for their sending two professional clengers from their town to the valley of the Dee, that they might deal with an infection which had fallen forth in the house of Mr Thomas Burnet, minister of Strathauchan, and in the house of John Burnet of Slowy - two places divided by the river, but both on the line of the great road leading from the south to the north of Scotland. The country gentlemen, on hearing of the infection in their district, had been obliged to convene and devise measures for meeting the calamity.

Their first step was to send for two clenqers a hundred miles off to come with all speed, although at a high cost, which the gentlemen, as we see, were obliged to pay in behalf of themselves and neighbours.

Another trait of the public economy regarding this pestilence occurs in the record of the Privy Council. It was represented to that august body on the 2d of September, that ‘certain lodges’ had been ‘biggit by James Lawrieston and David and George Hamiltons, upon the common muir of Gogar, for the ease and relief of certain their tenants, infectit with the pest;’ but Thomas Majoribanks, portioner of Ratho, and other persons had cast down these lodges, apparently on the plea that the erecting of them was an intrusion on their property. The Council found that the muir was common property, and ordered the lodges to be rebuilt by those who had originally set them up, on the part of the muir nearest to their own grounds, ‘where they may have the best commodity of water,’ the other party being at the same time forbidden to interfere under heavy penalties.—P. C. R.

Return to Book 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