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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of James VI. 1603 - 1625 Part E

Feb 6
This day saw the extraordinary sight of Scottish earl, cousin-german to the king, led out to a scaffold in the High Street of Edinburgh, and there beheaded. The sufferer was Patrick Earl of Orkney, whose father was a natural son of King James V. Forty years earlier, this man would have stood his ground against the law: now, it was too strong for him, and he fell before it.

Earl Patrick appears to have been a man of grand and ambitious views, and his dream of life was to make himself a sort of independent prince in the remote group of islands where lay his estate. The sketch given of his style of living there by a contemporary writer is striking: ‘He had a princely and royal revenue; and indeed behavit himself with sic sovereignty, and, gif I thirst say the plain verity, rather tyrannically, by the shadow of Danish laws, different and more rigorous nor [than] the municipal or criminal laws of the rest of Scotland; whereby no man of rent or purse might enjoy his property in Orkney, without his special favour, and the same dear bought. . .. Fitchit and forgit faults was so devisit against many of them, that they were compellit by imprisonment and small rewaird to resign their heritable titles to him; and gif he had a stieve purse and no rent, then was some crime devisit against him, whereby he was compellit [to give up] either half or hail thereof, gif not life and all beside. And his pomp was so great there [in Kirkwall], as he never went from his castle to the kirk, nor abroad otherwise, without the convoy of fifty musketeers and other gentlemen of convoy and guard. And sicike, before dinner and supper, there were three trumpeters that soundit still till the meat of the first service was set at table, and sidike at the second service; and consequently, after the grace. He had. also his ships directit to the sea, to intercept pirates, and collect tribute of uncouth [foreign] fishers, that came yearly to these seas. Whereby he made sic collection of great guns and other weapons for weir [war] as no house, palace, nor castle, yea all in Scotland were not furnished with the like.’

The doings of this insular potentate at length attracted the attention of the law, and he was summoned in 1610 to answer for various acts of the nature of a usurpation of the royal authority during the preceding twenty years. It appears from this summons, that he made laws of his own, and prosecuted divers gentlemen for disobeying them. He had forced some of these persons into a Bond of Manrent, obliging themselves to maintain his cause against whatsoever persons, and that they should never know of any ‘skaith’ threatening him but they would reveal it within twenty-four hours. He had imprisoned sundry persons in irons and stocks sundry days and weeks, and compelled many of the poorer class ‘to work for him all manner of work and labour by sea and land, in rowing and sailing his ships and boats, working in the stane quarry . . . . loading his boats with stane and lime...bigging his park dykes, and all other sorts of servile and painful labour, without either meat, drink, or hire.’ While forbidding the people generally to sell any of the produce of their lands without his licence, he imposed on them grievous taxations. In short, he had acted the baronial tyrant in the extremest form of the character.

The earl was now a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle, and there could have been no difficulty in convicting and punishing him. The king, however, felt mercifully towards his cousin; and after several briefer postponements, the case was hung up, and the earl conveyed, for the safer custody of his person, to Dumbarton Castle. It is believed that King James was even willing to have come to a compromise with the culprit, granting him the lucrative keepership of some one of the royal palaces, on condition of his renouncing all claim to Orkney. The earl refused to temporise, and continued to entertain the secret resolution to regain, if possible, his island sovereignty, and there set all law at defiance.

He had a natural son, Robert, a fitting instrument for his designs. Under his instructions, this youth proceeded to Orkney in 1614, and there assembling a company, took possession of the castle of Kirkwall, at the same time fortifying the church and steeple. Voluntarily or by compulsion, a great number of the islanders signed a bond, engaging to support him; and it was soon understood that Orkney was in rebellion against the crown. The Privy Council met to consider what should be done. The Earl of Caithness was now in Edinburgh, attempting to obtain remission for offences of his own, one of which consisted in his waging war in the preceding year against the Earl of Sutherland. It readily occurred to his wily mind, that, for a culprit like himself; nothing could be so good as to offer to help the government to punish the crimes of others. It was, moreover, rather a pleasure than a duty to carry war into Orkney. His offered services were accepted, and he quickly sailed with a strong military party for Kirkwall. He found the fortress strong, the country people generally in favour of the rebels, and great deficiency of provision for his troops. He nevertheless beleaguered the castle for about a month, during which time some damage was done by ordnance on both sides. At length, by adroit dealing with one Patrick Halcro, the chief associate of Robert Stuart, he brought about a surrender of the house and all it contained (September 29, 1614), with a condition for the saving of Halcro’s life, but for no favour to any other.

Robert Stuart was brought to trial in Edinburgh, and condemned to death. He was a youth of only twenty-two, ‘of a tall stature and comely countenance;’ and it is to be remembered in his favour, that he withstood all the persuasions of the Earl of Caithness to give up Kirkwall Castle, foreseeing that he should be tortured into revealing his father’s guilt; he only surrendered on finding that Halcro was going to betray him. He died penitent, with five of his company.

The doom of the earl, the prime mover of the rebellion, followed. He ‘took the sentence impatiently.’ An attempt was made to excite the king to spare the royal blood, but without effect. ‘The ministers, finding him so ignorant that he could scarce rehearse the Lord’s Prayer, entreated the Council to delay his execution some few days, till he were better informed, and received the Lord’s Supper. So he communicate on the Lord’s day, the 5th of February, and was beheaded at the market-cross of Edinburgh upon Monday the 6th of February; when Sir Robert Ker, the Earl of Rochester, was decourted. The king laid the blame of his death upon him [Rochester], but late, as his custom was, when matters was past remedy.’— Cal. G. H. S. Pit.

An entry in the session record of Perth, under September 1632, forms a curious and striking pendant to the history of this unfortunate branch of the Stuart family. ‘Disbursed at the command of the ministers to ane young man called Stewart, son to umwhile the Earl of Orkney, seven shillings.’

Feb 28
This day, John Ogilvie, a Jesuit, was hanged in Glasgow, being the first priest who had suffered in that way in Scotland since the execution of the Archbishop of St Andrews at Stirling in 1571. [Catholic historians note the martyrdom of one of their faith, which took place amidst the more immediate tumults of the Reformation. His name was Black, and he is described as a Dominican monk of Aberdeen, respectable both for piety and learning. Being taken to Edinburgh to dispute with Willox and other apostles of the Reformation, the populace cut short the argument by stoning him to death on the streets, January 7, 1562.—Dempster, D. Camerarius.]

Ogilvie was a Scotsman of good family, who had lived for twenty-one years in a Jesuit college at Gratz. He came to Scotland in the autumn of 1613, and spent some time amongst the Catholics in the north, then went to London, and finally came back to Scotland in June 1614. For three months he lived skulkingly in Glasgow, occasionally performing mass, but was at length apprehended in October, along with thirteen or fourteen persons who had been present at those ceremonies. The latter were thrown into Dumbarton Castle, and only liberated on payment of large fines. Ogilvie himself was subjected to examination and trial. The only account he would give of himself was that he came to Scotland at the command of his superiors, ‘to save souls.’ To induce further confession, he was put on low diet and kept from sleep for several nights in succession; and being thus made ‘light in the head,’ he ‘began to discover certain particulars, but, howsoon he was permitted to take any rest, he denied all, and was as obstinate in denying as at first.’

The king, who was tolerant of the religion of the papists, as apart from their anarchical doctrines regarding papal supremacy, told his Council to let Ogilvie go unharmed into banishment, if he was but a Jesuit who had said mass, and only to deal severely with him if he had been a practiser of sedition, or refused to take the oath of allegiance. They soon found from his answers to certain questions that he was a bold and decided adherent of the doctrines of his order, holding that the pope was superior to the king, and might excommunicate him, and not clearly denying that the subjects might thus be absolved from their allegiance to their sovereign, and even slay him. He denied that he had been guilty of any real crime, saying that acts of parliament were but the dicta of partial men. The king’s authority came from predecessors who had acknowledged the supremacy of the pope: ‘if he will be to me as his predecessors were to mine, I will acknowledge him,’ not otherwise. In declining the king’s authority in such matters, he did no more than the best of the Presbyterian clergy did—a course in which they would persevere if they were wise. ‘I have done no offence,’ said he, ‘neither will I beg mercy. If I were even now forth of the kingdom, I should return. If all the hairs in my head were priests, they should all come into the kingdom.’

The one chance which Ogilvie had in the tolerant spirit of the king was thus closed. The zealous Presbyterians had of course nothing to say in arrest of judgment. According to their historian, the bishops felt it to be necessary that they should do something decided against the papists ‘for honesty's sake ‘—that is, some unmistakably sound and good thing on the right side, such as the hanging of a Jesuit clearly was—lest they should appear more inclined to persecute the ministers of the true, than those of a false religion. Accordingly, John Spottiswoode, archbishop of Glasgow, was all along the most conspicuous man in the prosecution of the unfortunate Jesuit. The trial took place in the Town-hall of Glasgow, before a commission composed of the magistrates and a number of noblemen, and condemnation was followed in three hours by execution.

‘He continued a while upon his knees at prayer, with a cold devotion; and when the hour of execution approached, his hands being tied by the executioner, his spirits were perceived much to fail him. In going towards the scaffold, the throng of people was great, and he seemed much amazed; and when he was up, Master Robert Scott and Mr William Struthers, ministers, very gravely and Christianly exhorted him to a humble acknowledgment of his offence, and if anything troubled his mind, to disburden his conscience. In matters of religion, they said, they would not then enter, but prayed him to resolve and settle his mind, and seek mercy and grace from God through Jesus Christ, in whom only salvation is to be found. Ogilvie answered that "he was prepared and resolved." Once he said that he died for religion, but uttered this so weakly as scarce to be heard by them that stood by on the scaffold. Then addressing himself to execution, he kneeled at the ladder-foot, and prayed. Master Robert Scott, in that while, declaring to the people, that his suffering was not for any matter of religion, but for heinous treason against his majesty, which he prayed God to forgive him. Ogilvie, hearing this, said: "He doeth me wrong." One called John Abercrombie, a man of little wit, replied: "No matter, John, the more wrongs the better." This man was seen to attend him carefully, and was ever heard asking of Ogilvie some token before his death; for which, and other business he made with him, he was put off the scaffold.

‘Ogilvie, ending his prayer, arose to go up the ladder; but strength and courage, to the admiration of those who had seen him before, did quite forsake him. He trembled and shaked, saying he would fall, and could hardly be helped up on the top of the ladder. He kissed the hangman, and said: "Maria, Mater gratiae, ora pro me; Omnes Angeli, orate pro me; Omnes Sancti, Sanetaeque, orate pro me!" but with so low a voice that they which stood at the ladder-foot had some difficulty to hear him.

‘The executioner willed him to commend his soul to God, pronouncing these words unto him: "Say, John, Lord have mercy on me, Lord receive my soul!" which he did, with such feebleness of voice, that scarce could he be heard. Then he was turned off, and hung till he was dead.'

This hanging would of course have procured some popularity for the king and bishops, if it had proceeded from the right motive. But the people saw that no gratitude was really due. ‘Some,’ says Calderwood, ‘interpreted this execution to have proceeded rather of a care to bless the king’s government, than of any sincere hatred of the popish religion. Some [alleged] that it was done to be a terror to the sincerer sort of the ministry, not to decline the king’s authority in ony cause whatever.’

There was believed to be at this time an unusual number of Jesuits and seminary priests in Scotland, ‘pressing by all means possible to subvert the true religion.’ The kirk launched a fast at them, and ordered a general celebration of the holie communion’ for discovery of all recusants. In Aberdeen, the elders subsequently reported three men and two women as having been absent on this occasion. Such persons were proceeded against, so as to force them, if possible, into conformity, in which case each person was expected to come forward publicly, and declare, ‘for the peace of my own conscience,’ I do, ‘by my own free choice and voluntary consent, renounce all the errors and superstitions of popery,’ and profess, ‘in the true simplicity of my heart,’ that ‘I shall own and maintain all the doctrines of the true Reformed Protestant Religion, and shall adhere to the whole worship and discipline thereof to my life’s end.’ In the present case, four persons remained recusant, and actually were excommunicated in the ensuing January; thus, in fact, losing all privileges as subjects of the realm.

On the 14th of August, three citizens of Edinburgh, named Sinclair, Wilkie, and Cruikshanks, all men in respectable circumstances, were tried for the crime of entertaining in their houses three Jesuits or trafficking priests, including the unfortunate John Ogilvie. Sinclair confessed to having reset Mr James Moffat in the preceding October, but said he did it ‘only upon simplicity.’ The three men were condemned to be executed as traitors; and, as if to shew the certainty of their doom, a special order from the king was read in court for proceeding to both sentence and execution. The zealous multitude were accordingly in full hope of the punishment being inflicted; but there was no earnestness in the government in these proceedings. Let Calderwood tell the remainder of the tale. ‘The day following [the trial], betwixt four and five in the afternoon, they were brought furth with their hands bound, to the scaffold set up beside the cross and a gallows in it, according to the custom of execution. While a great multitude of people were going to see the execution, there was a warrant presented to the magistrates of Edinburgh to stay the execution. So they were turned back again to their wards. The people thought this form of dealing rather mockery than punishment.’

The sentence was commuted by the king’s order to banishment from Edinburgh for Cruikshanks, and for the other two to banishment from the king’s dominions, both during his royal pleasure.— Pit. Cal.

A little trait of the domestic circumstances of Catholics of rank at this time is worthy of notice. The Earl of Errol, as a recusant papist, was only enabled to remain in his country on condition that he should not pass beyond a small circle around his own castle in Aberdeenshire. Being embarrassed by debt, and troubled by his creditors, he found himself constrained to take some legal steps ‘for the provision of his mony young children, and settling of some good course for the estate of his house.’ It was necessary that he should be allowed to break temporarily through the obligation under which he lay to live within a certain space round his house. He therefore got a formal licence (November 9, 1615), ‘to repair to Edinburgh, and there to remain in some lodging, not kything ony way in daylight upon the heich street, for ten days after the 20th of November.’—P. C. R.

On the Saturday before Pasch Sunday, ‘ane extraordinar riot’ took place in the usually quiet little burgh of Burntisland. The gentleman who acted as chamberlain of the queen in the management of her dotarial estate of Dunfermline, was called upon, in the course of his duty, to send ‘precepts of warning to remove’ to Burntisland, ‘according to common order.’ No immediate steps of a strong character were meditated; it was merely a form of law. The inhabitants, led, as afterwards appeared, by their pastor, Mr William Watson, conceived a violent anger at the proceeding, and determined to give it an active resistance. When the officer and his witness came to the cross for the execution of his office, he was assailed by ‘a multitude of women, above ane hundred, of the bangster Amazon kind ‘—so states the grave chancellor, Earl of Dunfermline—and ‘midst uncourteously dung [driven] off his feet, and his witness with him, they all hurt and bloodit, all his letters and precepts reft frae him, riven and cast away, and sae staned and chased out of the town.’ The magistrates are alleged to have looked on without interference; nay, ‘the bailie’s awn wife’ was ‘the principal leader of this tumultuary army of Amazons;’ so that there was no room to doubt that the male inhabitants were the instigators of the riot.

Some sharp measures were taken for the punishment of the rioters, and the chancellor besought the king to send off Mr Watson to some quieter part of the country, and ordain Burntisland ‘to be provided with some minister of mair calm port, to rule and circumsede sic het humours as may be in that people.’—M. S. P.

Accordingly, on the 14th of December, the Council decreed that Mr William Watson should ‘transport himself out of the burgh of Burntisland’ before the 10th of January next, and thereafter ‘on nae wise repair to the said burgh, [nor] within aucht miles of the same, and on nae wise entertein ony intelligence with the inhabitants of Burntisland in ony matter concerning the government of that town.’—P. C. R. The king sent a warrant from Newmarket for this being carried into effect.

Apr 26
‘Amang the mony abuses whilk the iniquity of the time and private respect of filthy lucre and gain has produced within the commonwealth ‘—thus gravely commences an act of the Privy Council—’ there is of late discoverit a most unlawful and pernicious tred of transporting of eggs furth of the kingdom.’ ‘Certain avaritious and godless persons, void of modesty and discretion, preferring their awn private commodity to the commonweal, has gone and goes athort the country and buys the haill eggs that they can get, barrels the same, and transports them at their pleasure.’ As an unavoidable consequence, ‘there has been a great scarcity of eggs this while bygane,’ and any that are to be had have ‘risen to such extraordinar and heich prices as are not to be sufferit in a weel-governit commonwealth.’ ‘Moreover,’ proceeds this sage document, ‘if this unlawful tred be sufferit to be of ony langer continuance, it will fall out that in a very short time there will no eggs nor poultry be funden within the country.’

The Council was therefore prompted to order letters to be directed to all merchants and owners of vessels, forbidding them to carry eggs out of the country, on pain of heavy fines and such further punishment as the Council might see fit to decree.—P. C. R.

May 30
John Brand, student of philosophy, son of a former minister of Holyrood parish, was tried for the murder of a young man named William King, by stabbing him with a knife ‘upon St Leonard’s Craigs, beside the park-dyke.’ He was sentenced to be beheaded at the Cross.—Pit.

1615, July
‘About this time certain bare and idle gentlemen lay in wait upon passengers by the ways about Edinburgh, and in parts of East Lothian, and would needs have money from them. The common people called them Whilliwha’s.’—Cal.

Francis Hay, son of the late George Hay of Ardletham, and cousin-german to the Earl of Errol, was on terms of the most friendly intimacy with Adam Gordon, brother of Gordon of Gight. One day, when living familiarly together, a quarrel took place between them, followed by a single combat, in which Adam Gordon had the advantage, taking Hay’s sword from him, but instantly restoring it. Hay not being able to digest the affront, challenged Gordon some time after to renew the fight. Gordon, if we can believe a historian of the same name, ‘desired him to forbeir, seeing there was enough done already for any quarrel that was amongst them. Whereupon Francis came to Adam’s dwelling-place on horseback, with a pair of pistols at his girdle, and finds Adam walking about the fields, with his sword about him. Francis flies from his horse, and desires Adam to do him reason. So they go to it. Then again it was Adam his good hap to overcome Francis, and grants him his life; but as Adam was returning home, Francis, disdaining to be thus twice overthrown, shoots Adam behind his back with a pistol, and slays him.’

Gordon of Gight, resolved to revenge his brother’s death, came to the house of William Hay of Logyruif, and there, without any warrant, seized Francis Hay, whom he immediately brought along to Aberdeen, and imprisoned in his own lodging, called the Bonnie Wif'e’s Inn, in the Gallowgate, where he kept him for forty-eight hours, excluding all his friends from seeing him. The sheriff-depute of Aberdeen was also a Gordon, and, of course, felt as a clansman regarding the late transaction. He therefore consented to preside at an irregular trial, to which Hay was forthwith subjected. At this trial, no one was allowed to appear for the alleged culprit. An advocate, who offered to come and act as his counsel, was told that if he did so, he should scarcely be down stairs till twenty whingers were put into him. Francis, in short, was condemned to lose his head, and next morning was actually led out to a solitary place, and there butchered by the swords of his enemies. In this wild way did the passions of men work themselves out in the north of Scotland, at the time when Bacon and Grotius were writing, when Drummond sang and Napier geometrised.

The Earl of Errol now came into the field, grievously offended because his relative had undergone law without his being consulted. The Gordons were summoned to answer for the irregularity of their proceedings at Edinburgh. This, again, drew forth their chief, the Marquis of Huntly, both to defend his own sheriffship, and to maintain his kinsmen. ‘Huntly and Errol did appear at Edinburgh, with all their friends on either side; so that the whole kingdom was divided in two factions, ready to fall together by the ears.’ The king himself now interfered, with a request that all proceedings should be suspended till he should come to Scotland. Accordingly, upwards of a year after, on his visiting his native kingdom, he brought the parties together, and persuaded them to be reconciled to each other, dismissing the offenders with only nominal punishments. ‘So was this controversy settled and taken away; yet it was not quite extinguished till 1627, that Viscount Melgum, the Marquis of Huntly’s third son, married Hay, the Earl of Errol’s daughter.’—Pit. G. H. S.

Adam French of Thornydykes, ‘ane young bairn scarce past fourteen years of age,’ was attending school at Haddington, under the guardianship of Sir John Home of North Berwick, ‘donator to the gift of his ward and marriage,’ when a plot was laid for making that gift of non-effect by his maternal uncle, William Home of Hardiesmill, in connection with John Cranston of Moriston and Sir Patrick Chirnside of East Nisbet. Under divers pretences, the boy was inveigled away from the house where he resided, and taken to Rimmelton Law in the Merse, the house of John Cranston, whence he was next removed to East Nisbet, and introduced to a daughter of the laird, who was destined to become his wife. A proclamation of bans being made in hasty style, the young pair were straightway carried to Berwick, and there married.

At the urgency of Sir John Home, the three persons concerned in the abduction, together with one Moffat, a servant, were tried before the supreme court (November 8, 1616), on the charge of ravishing and taking away Adam French. It was shewn in defence, that Adam, being fully fourteen years of age, was competent to contract marriage of his own freewill—the marriage was regular—he himself was satisfied with what bad been done, and was ready to declare that he considered the accused parties as his friends. There was much discussion between the king’s advocate and the counsel of the accused on points of law; and, finally, the case was remitted to the sheriff of Berwickshire, the parties giving surety that they would not, in the meantime, fall foul of each other.—Pit.

Just about this time, an heiress of the same age as Adam French was the victim of similar selfishness on the part of her friends. A narrative laid before the Privy Council represented Helen Graham, daughter of the deceased Sir John Graham of Knockdolian, as having been left by her father in the hands of persons in whom he had confidence, and with ‘a reasonable provision.’ Now that she was approaching her majority, being ‘about the hinder end of the fourteen year of her age,’ ‘there has fallen out some contestation betwixt them and others of her friends anent the keeping of her person, and she has been coupit fra hand to hand betwixt them, and twice exhibite before the lords of the secret council.’ In this contestation, ‘there is no regard had by ony of them to her will, but all of them, seeking their awn advantage, do what in them lies to procure her wrack and undoing.’ At her last exhibition before the Council, she had been committed to the care of John Muirhead of Brydonhill, who, being no relation to her, had no just pretension to the care of her person nor to the management of her estate. It was now apparent that John had ‘made merchandise of her,’ for, ‘against all modesty and good conscience,’ he had agreed and colluded with James Muirhead of Lawhope ‘for bestowing her in marriage upon Arthur Muirhead, his bastard son, who has no means, moyen, nor provision whatsoever;’ and she had been carried to the house of this James Muirhead, and thence by Arthur ‘transported agaitward toward the realm of England, there to have causit some priest marry her upon him.’ To all appearance, this project would have been accomplished, but for the interference of certain justices by the way. The complainer had, however, been carried back to John Muirhead’s house, and was now ‘deteinit as a prisoner by him, secludit and debarrit fra access, conference, and advice with ony person who professes her guid will.’ She demanded to be restored to liberty, and to have the free choice of her own curators; ‘for gif she be deteinit under the power of thir persons, who, without ony affection to herself, do only reipect her estate and geir, she will be miserably undone and wracked.’

John Muirhead appeared in answer to a summons, and succeeded in freeing himself from blame regarding Helen Graham’s abduction; while Arthur Muirhead was denounced rebel for non-appearance. John, who is described as ‘ane gentleman of ane honest and upright disposition,’ professed to be animated by the best wishes towards Helen, being ‘mindit, with the advice of the Earl of Montrose, her chief, and others her friends, to provide and foresee the best occasion for her weal.’ The lords appointed that Helen should remain with him till she should choose curators; and they at the same time indicated a few gentlemen, including John Muirhead, whom they thought suitable for the trust.

A few years earlier (June 1612), Mistress Isobel Montgomery, daughter of the deceased Robert Master of Eglintoun, was represented as being kept in durance by Hugh Lord Loudon and Mistress Margaret Montgomery, sister of Isobel, while they endeavoured to compel her to make ‘such disposition to the lands, guids, and geir appertaining to her, as to them sall seem expedient.’ The accused parties, being summoned to appear and bring Isobel before the lords, answered that the complainer was too sickly to travel; to test which allegation, a medical man was despatched to her residence, charged with the duty of reporting on her condition before a certain day.—P. C. R.

Dec 15
The Privy Council recommended to the charity of the public the case of Andrew Robertson, John Cowie, John Dauling, James Pratt, and some others, formerly mariners of Leith, who, being lately on the coast of Barbary, had fought a bloody skirmish with the merciless Turks, by whom they were led into captivity, and presented for sale in Algiers. James Fraser, a resident in Algiers, had been moved with pity to redeem these poor men by an advance of £140, which they undertook to repay at a certain time. They, however, being in such poverty as to be unable to reimburse Fraser, were now throwing themselves upon the compassion of the public. On the recommendation of the Privy Council, there were collections made for them in churches.

Captivity among the Moors of Northern Africa was no uncommon fate with Scottish mariners of that age. In 1625, there was a church collection ‘for the relief of some folks of Queensferry and Kinghorn, deteinit under slavery by the Turks at Sallee.’ ln 1618, John Harrison sent to King James an account of his unsuccessful attempts to obtain the liberation of certain British subjects detained under Muley Sidan, Emperor of Morocco. Muley seems to have been inaccessible to all pleadings but those which came in the form of money.’ A collection was made, August 1621, in all the parish churches in Scotland, and amounted to a large sum, ‘for the relief of the Scots prisoners in Tunis and Algiers.’—Bal.

1616, Jan 27
‘About five afternoon, there was a great fiery star, in the form of a dragon with a tail, running through the firmament, and in the running giving great light and spouting fire, which continued a pretty space before it vanished. Others describe it thus: that the night being fair and frosty, there arose a great fiery light in the south-west, after the setting of the sun, and ran to the north-east, having at the end thereof, as it were, the shape of the moon; and when it vanished out of sight, there were two great cracks heard, as if they had been thunder-claps. There followed a great calmness and frost for eight or ten days; but the month following was bitter and stormy weather.’—Cal.

Feb 20
This day three men were tried for an extraordinary and most atrocious crime.

Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig (ancestor of the Dukes of Queensberry) had become possessed of the lands of Howpaslot in Roxburghshire, much to the chagrin of the widow of a former proprietor. On a certain day in April 1615, Lady Howpaslot, as she was called, along with her friend, Jean Scott of Satchells, had a meeting at the Cross of Hawick with a man called George Scott, a cordiner of that town, commonly called Marion’s Geordie; when a course of conduct was resolved upon for the purpose of defeating the design of Drumlanrig to stock or plenish the lands. The interest of the cordiner in this object does not appear; neither does that of three other men, who entered into an agreement to assist him in his plan—namely, Walter and Ingram Scott, and another Scott described by his nickname of the Suckler. A few days after the Hawick meeting, George Scott, accompanied by William Scott of Satchels, ‘mussalit’ (disguised), proceeded under cloud of night to Elrig-burn-foot, where the Suckler joined them. Then all three went forward to Birnie Cleuch, where they met Walter and Ingram Scott, ‘having plaids and blue bonnets.’ Here, however, the Suckler deserted the party. The other men passed on to a cleuch or hollow on the lands of Howpaslot, where a flock of sheep were lying at rest. There they fell upon the poor animals with swords, ‘bendit staffs,’ and other weapons, killing about forty outright, and leaving twenty more wounded and mutilated on the ground.

On the day noted in the margin, George, Walter, and Ingram Scott, and John Scott the Suckler, were tried for this horrible crime, when the last being accepted as a witness for the crown, the other three were condemned to death. The Suckler suffered for sheep-stealing next year.—Pit.

June 4
The numberless feuds standing between gentlemen-neighbours throughout the country, were usually dealt with in one simple way. The parties were summoned to appear personally before the Council, and give assurances for keeping the peace towards each other for a certain time. When the time had nearly expired, the parties were again charged to appear and give renewal of the assurances. Thus things went on from one period to another, while any hatred remained between the parties. At the date noted, Harie Wood of Bonnytoun and Francis Ogilvy of Newgrange were summoned to appear and renew the former standing assurances; and meanwhile the Council ordered them ‘to observe our sovereign lord’s peace, and to keep good rule and quietness in the country, and that they nor nane of them invade or pursue the another, for whatsomever deed, cause, or occasion, otherwise nor by order of law, and inflict ather of them, under the pain of three thousand merks.’ It is evident, from the Record of the Privy Council, that sanguinary quarrels amongst the upper classes, though not lessened in number, were not in general carried to such ferocious extremes as formerly. In April of this year, we find an aged statesman congratulating the king on the great improvement which he noted in the social state of Scotland. The person alluded to is Sir Robert Melville, the friend and servant of Mary, and who had been a grown man at the time of Pinkie field. Now advanced to near the ninetieth year of his age, this venerable person had lately been created a peer under the title of Lord Melville. He thus writes to the king: ‘All the said years [namely, in his younger days], we was destitute of the true religion, our country being full of barbarity, deadly feids, and oppressions. Since the time your majesty took the management of the affairs of your princely dominions in your awn hand, all your hieness’s countries has been peaceable and quiet; and specially this country, where the true religion flourishes, and justice [is] sae weel ministrat by your election of faithful officiars, as I may be bauld to affirm that no country is in ate mair happy estate, and has better occasion to be thankful to God and faithful to your majesty.’

1616, June 11
Stephen Atkinson, an Englishman, heretofore noticed as concerned in various ruining adventures, was this day licensed by the Privy Council to search for gold, and ‘the Saxeer, the Calumeer, and the Salyneer stanes,’ in Crawford Muir, on the condition of his bringing all the gold to be coined at the Scottish mint, and giving a tenth of the product to the king.

It is not likely that much, if anything at all, was done by Atkinson in consequence, as in 1621 another similar licence to one Dr Hendlie speaks of the Crawford gold-field as having been lying for some years neglected.

June 13
A book called God and the King, ‘shewing that his sacred majesty being immediately under God within his dominions, doth rightly and lawfully claim whatsoever is required by the aith of allegiance,’ was now proclaimed as a book of instruction for youth in schools and universities, ‘whereby, in their tender years, the truth of that doctrine may be bred and settled in them, and they thereby may be the better armed and prepared to withstand any persuasion that in their riper years may be offered and usit towards them for corrupting of them in their duty and allegiance.’—P. C. R.

June 30
This day, being Sunday, Sir Robert Crichton of Cluny went to attend morning-service at St Cuthbert’s Kirk, near Edinburgh, and had sat there a considerable time quietly, when he observed a boy belonging to the Earl of Tullibardine come to the door and look in. As the earl had before this time ‘sought both his land and life,’ he judged the boy to be a spy, and apprehended that some evil was designed to him. He therefore rose to go out, hoping peaceably to convey himself beyond the earl’s reach; but no sooner had he done so, than three men of the king’s guard—all, be it remarked, bearing the name of Murray, being that of the earl—rose from a seat behind, and shewed a warrant for taking him. By their own confession, they had come to church for the purpose of lying in wait to take Sir Robert, though intending not to meddle with him till the end of the service. They now told him that they were willing to wait for him till the dismissal of the people, keeping him meanwhile in a chamber adjoining to the church, whereas if he went forth by himself he might get skaith, as there were several of the earl’s ‘folk’ in the kirkyard. Sir Robert, however, disdained to submit to this ignominious treatment; so he and his son, drawing their swords, prepared to offer resistance. Of course, a tumult took place in the church, ‘to the scandal of religion, and the great grief of the haill parochiners and others convenit at the sermon.’

The three guardsmen were ordered, for this offensive affair, to appear in the place of repentance in the church, and crave forgiveness of God and the people, while Sir Robert was committed to ward in the Tolbooth.—P. C. R.

A few years later (December 18, 1623), we find the Council issuing a strict order against the using of captions in churches.

Mr Peter Blackburn, bishop of Aberdeen, departed this life, after he had lain a long time little better than benumbed. He was little of a zealot on the Episcopal side, and studying to please the Presbyterians, made himself ungracious to both parties. Calderwood alleges, ‘He was more mindful of a purse and 500 merks in it, which he kept in his bosom, than anything else.’

July 11
Commissioners from a number of the burghs met to deliberate on a proposal of the king for working up, within the country, the whole wool produced in it, ‘in stuffs, plaids, and kerseys.’ They expressed themselves as content that the exportation of wool should be prohibited, in order that a trial should be made; but they could undertake no burden in the matter ‘anent the home-bringing of strangers,’ or for assurance that his majesty’s ends would be attained. A prohibition for the exporting of wool was soon after issued.—P. C. R.

A few months after the above date, we find a curious reference to wool in the Privy Council Record. The document states, that ‘in some remote and uncivil places of this kingdom’ an old and barbarous custom was still kept up of plucking the wool from sheep instead of clipping it. The king, hearing of the practice, wrote a letter to his Council, denouncing it as one not to be suffered; telling them it had already been reformed in Ireland, under penalty of a groat on every sheep so used, and was ‘far less to be endured in you.’ The Council immediately (March 17, 1617) passed an act in the same tenor, and further stating that many sheep died in consequence of this cruel treatment—concluding with a threat of severe fines on such as should hereafter continue the practice.—P. C. B.

It is remarkable that in the Faröe Islands there is, to this day, no other way of taking the wool from sheep than that which was then only kept up in remote parts of Scotland.

July 19
John Faa, James Faa, his son, Moses Baillie, and Helen Brown, were tried as Egyptians lingering in the country, contrary to a statute which had banished their tribe forth of the realm on pain of death. In respect no caution could be found by them to assure their leaving the country, they were sentenced to be hanged on the Burgh-moor. It is not known that this sentence was carried into execution; but neither is there anything known to make such severity unlikely.

In 1624, six Faas, and two other men of the gipsy tribe, were tried for the same offence of not voluntarily transporting themselves, and these men were executed. A number of their women and children were mercifully allowed to go free, on condition that they should immediately depart from the kingdom.—Pit.

Sep 16
‘. . . .
there arose such a swelling in the sea at Leith, that the like was not seen before for a hundred years. The water came in with violence beside the bulwark, in a place called the Timber Hoff [Howf], where the timber lay, and carried some of the timber and many lasts of herrings lying there, to the sea; brake in sundry low houses and cellars, and filled them with water. The like flowing was in Dunbar, Musselburgh, and other parts of the seacoast. The people took this extraordinary tide to be a forewarning of some evil to come.’— Cal.

The Chronicle of Perth notes for this year ‘great poverty of towns and great dearth;’ probably a consequence of the stormy spring and adust summer of the preceding year.

Preparations began to be made for the reception and entertainment of the king, who was expected to visit the country next year. Considerable repairs and improvements were made upon the palaces of Holyrood and Falkland. A proclamation was made that ‘beasts be fed in every place, that there might be abundance of flesh when the king came to the country.’ The Privy Council issued orders for the inhabitants to prepare clean lodgings for the king’s friends and attendants, and took order to have the streets purified.

The chancellor’s circular to the burghs ordering them to arrange with their butchers for the furnishing of ‘fed beef’ against his majesty’s ‘here-coming,’ met an amusing response in the case of one little town—Wester Anstruther—which would appear to have been most unworthily endowed with burgal privileges. ‘Our toun,’ says this response, ‘is ane very mean toun, yea of all the burghts of this realm the meanest; nather is there ane fiesher in our toun, nor any other person that is accustomit with feeding of beef, we being all seafaring men and fishers.’ Nevertheless, the two bailies inform his lordship that they had ‘dealt with some honest men of our neighbours to feed beef, and has enjoinit them to have in readiness the number of four fed nolt against the time of his majesty’s here-coming; whilk may be lookit for in our toun.’ Easter Anstruther, which has always been a better sort of town, was equally unacquainted with ‘that trade of the feeding of beef;’ but the bailie, nevertheless, had ‘taken such order that there sall be in readiness to that diet twelve oxen of the best we can get for money.’ The response of Dysart was a frank promise to have in readiness ‘ten or twelve sufficient and weel-fed beefs upon competent and reasonable prices, and sall feed and keep them sae lang as we may possibly get sufficient food for them, according to the season, not doubting of your lordship’s satisfaction in case of our losses.’ —An. Scot.

One of the most notable preparations was the fitting up of a chapel-royal at Holyrood—not in the Abbey-Church, which then served as the parish kirk of the Canongate, but in a private room in the palace. An organ of the value of £400 was sent down from London to aid in the service. There were also timber statues of the twelve apostles and four evangelists, well carved and gilt, for the decoration of the chapel; but ‘the people murmured, fearing great alterations in religion, whereupon the bishops dissuaded the king from setting them up in the chapel.’—Cal.

We have a curious trait of the feeling of the people about the refitting of the chapel at Holyrood in certain entries found at this time in the Privy Council Record. In July, an agreement had been made with Nicolas Stone, of London, for repairing the chapel; and next month the Council became engaged in an altercation with James Paton, George Coline, and others, slaters in St Andrews, who, doubtless under religious scruples, refused to undertake any conditions of service at the said work, though promised good and thankful payment for their labours. Application had consequently been made to the provost of St Andrews, requesting that he would command these his citizens to do the work proposed to them; but he made answer in a style worthy of the name he bore—John Knox—‘disdainfully alleging that it was not the custom of the country to press ony man to work;’ ‘wherethrough his majesty’s warks are hinderit, and by their [evil example] others may take occasion to leave his majesty’s service.’ The Privy Council ordered letters to be sent to the parties, charging them to appear and answer for their conduct; and when the day came, and they failed to make their appearance, they were put to the horn as rebels.—P. C. R.

An act of Privy Council against beggars, March 5, 1616, describes Edinburgh as infested with them—’ strang and idle vagabonds‘—‘having their resets in some parts of the Cowgate, the Canongate, Potterrow, West Port, Pleasance, [and] Leith Wynd, where they ordinarily convene every night, and pass their time in all kind of riot and filthy lechery, to the offence and displeasure of God.’ By day, they are said to present themselves in great companies on the principal streets. Numbers of them ‘lie all day on the causey of the Canongate, and with shameful exclamations and crying, not only extorts almous, but by their other misbehaviour fashes and wearies as weel his majesty’s nobility and councillors, as others his majesty’s subjects repairing to this burgh; sae that hardly ony man of whatsomever quality can walk upon the streets, nor yet stand and confer upon the streets, nor under stairs, but they are impeshit by numbers of beggars.’ The Council therefore ordered the magistrates of Edinburgh and Canongate to get these wretched people expelled from their respective bounds, and suffer them no longer to seek alms on the streets. In like manner, they commanded that ‘the Laird of Innerleith and his bailies cause their streets and vennels to be kept free of beggars;' as also, that ‘Mr Patrick Bannatyne and Mr Umphra Bleenseillis remove the haill beggars out of their houses at the foot of Leith Wynd, and suffer nane to have residence, beild, or reset there.’ All this under threat of pecunial fines.

In anticipation of the king’s visit, it now became necessary to repeat the above orders, because ‘it is like enough that when his majesty comes to this country next summer, they will follow his court, to the great discredit and disgrace of the country.’

Nothing less, perhaps, than the strong language used by the Privy Council could make us fully aware of what we are spared of unpleasant sights and rencontres by a good poor-law. In those days, the wretched and the insane went freely about the highways and thoroughfares, a constant source of annoyance, disgust, and even terror. Only we of our day who saw Ireland before 1840 can form any idea of what the country was in this respect in the seventeenth century.

Dec 10
The Privy Council this day ordained that there should be a school in every parish in the kingdom, for the advancement of the true religion, and the training of children ‘in civility, godliness, knowledge, and learning.’ The school was in each case to be established, and a fit person appointed to teach the same, upon the expenses of the parishioners, at the sight and advice of the bishop of the diocese. Another act on the same day ordained regular catechising of children, and their being brought before the bishop for confirmation, under considerable penalties.

The above order for the plantation of schools was not vigorously carried out, and in 1626, King Charles I. is found making an effort to remedy the defect.

1617, Feb
‘The new market-cross of Edinburgh was founded by the community of the said town, and within three months after was completed.’ ‘Also at this time there was great preparations making for the coming of King James into Scotland, baith in all his majesty’s palaces, castles, and abbeys, and especially in his castle of Edinburgh, whereof the new fore wark, with the great hall thereof; and many other rooms therein, was biggit to his majesty’s great expenses by Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank, knight, his majesty’s treasurer-depute.’—Jo. Hist.

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