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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of Charles II.: 1673 - 1685 Part D

1680, Feb 26
In 1647, while the thoughts of men were engrossed by frightful civil broils, one quiet country gentleman, Sir Robert Bruce of Clackmannan, occupied himself in some measure with things of a practically useful nature. It was a most uncommon way of bestowing spare mental energy in those days, and perhaps was owing in a great degree to Sir Robert’s situation in the midst of the fine coal-field still worked so industriously under the skirts of the Ochils. He was then found beseeching the attention of the Committee of Estates—amidst military arrangements, payments of public creditors, punishments of malignants, sharpening of the weapons of persecution against dissidents of all kinds—to a mechanical invention of his own—’ ane water-work, never invented, heard, nor seen heretofore, for drying of all water-henchs [coal-mines] within the kingdom, how deep soever the sumptis and growth of the water-springs be within the samen, by the supplie of two men allenarly, going by pace, peise, or swey.' The laird, as usual, sought for his reward in an exclusive right to the use of this engine for nineteen years, which was granted.

What, if anything, came of this contrivance we do not learn. Most likely, it was never effectually tried, but fell asleep amongst the troubles of the time. Yet it would appear that the idea was somehow kept alive, for at the date noted in the margin, Peter Bruce made application to the Privy Council for their favour towards an engine for drawing water out of coal-pits and quarries, which promised to do more work with a couple of men than six horses could effect by any other machine now in use; also towards a cutting-mill ‘for ane easy way of cutting all sorts of great goads and bars of iron in small lengths, stanchells, or strings, whereby smiths and other artificers in iron will be able to make nails and other iron works at least £2 Scots cheaper of every hundredweight of iron.’ He had spent much on these projects, and more was yet required, wherefore he thought himself entitled to some public encouragement. The Privy Council granted him an exclusive privilege of making the proposed machines for thirteen years.—P.C.R.

A curious trait of the simplicity of Scotland in regard to some of the mechanical arts occurs in Fountainhall’s Decisions under 1679, where he tells of plumbers that ‘they cannot subsist in Scotland as a distinct trade, there being so little to do; only our curiosity is daily increasing.’

June 15
Great efforts were made during this reign for the building of bridges and repairing of roads, but generally with little good effect. As an example of the actual condition of a road near the capital of the country at this time, we find the first four miles of that from Edinburgh to London—namely, from the Clock-mill Bridge to Magdalen Bridge—are described as being in so ruinous a state, that passengers were in danger of their lives, ‘either by their coaches overturning, their horse falling, their carts breaking, their loads casting, and horse stumbling, the poor people with the burdens on their backs sorely grieved and discouraged:’ moreover, ‘strangers do often exclaim thereat.’ A toll of a halfpenny for a laden cart, and a sixth of a penny for a laden horse, was authorised in order to get this piece of road kept in repair.—P.
C. R.

In one week died Lady Kilbirnie and her husband of a pestilential fever. ‘The death of thir spouses was much lamented by all sorts of people. In the day of the sickening of the laird and lady, his dogs went into the dose, and an unco dog coming amongst them, they all set up a barking, with their faces up to heaven, howling, yelling, and youphing; and when the laird called to them, they would not come to him as in former times.’

The same author relates that, before the death of Colquhoun of Luss, ‘the dogs went up to a chamber in the night-time, and made a hideous lamentable-like noise, and tore down the curtains of the bed, there being none in it.’ At the sickening of Lord Ross, who died in May 1682, ‘his dogs came up the stair towards his chamber, howling lamentably; he caused shoot them all one after another.’

Nov ?
The Duke of York paying a visit to the Castle of Edinburgh, the huge cannon called MONS MEG was fired in his honour. The charge, which was done by an English cannoneer, had probably been too large, for it caused the piece to burst. This ‘some foolishly called a bad omen. The Scots resented it extremely, thinking the Englishman might of malice have done it purposely, they having no cannon in all England so big as she.’—Foun.

Mons Meg, with a breach in her side, still adorns the ancient battlements of Edinburgh Castle, ‘to the great admiration of people,’ being upwards of thirteen feet long, and of twenty inches bore; formed of longitudinal bars of iron, hooped with rings fused into one mass. It is an example of a colossal kind of artillery which the sovereigns of Europe had a craze for making in the middle and latter half of the fifteenth century—this specimen being probably prepared at the command of James II. of Scotland.

An elephant which had been bought for £2000 sterling, and brought to England for exhibition, was shewn in Scotland, being the first of the species ever seen in the country. It was a male, eleven years old, ‘a great beast, with a great body and a great head, small eyes and dull, lugs like two skats (?) lying close to its head; having a large trunk coming down from the nether end of the forehead, of length a yard and a half, in the undermost part small, with a nostril; by which trunk it breathed and drank, casting up its meat and drink in its mouth below it; having two large and long bones or teeth, of a yard length, coming from the upper jaw of it, and at the far end of it inclining one to another, by which it digs the earth for roots . . . . it was backed like a sow, the tail of it like a cow’s: the legs were big, like pillars or great posts, and broad feet with toes like round lumps of flesh. When it drinks it sucks up the water with its trunk, which holds a great deal of water, and then putting the low end in its mouth, by winding it in, it jaws in the water in its mouth, as from a great spout. It was taught to flourish the colours with the trunk of it, and to shoot a gun, and to bow the knees of it, and to make reverence with its big head. They also rode upon it. Let this great creature on earth and the whale at sea be compared with a midge or minnow, and behold what great wisdom and power is with the great God, the creator and preserver of both!

It appears that Alexander Deas and others farmed this elephant from its owners for several months at £400, in order to shew it through the country. They refused to pay in full, on the ground of several failures as to the terms of the contract, alleging, for instance, that the owners had not shewn all it might do— namely, its drinking, &c. It was replied, ‘it could not drink every time it was shewn.’ How the litigation ended does not appear.—Foun.

Dec 10
A great comet, which had been observed in Germany a month earlier, was first seen in Scotland this evening, ‘the night being clear and frosty; between five and seven at night, it set in the west, and was seen in the south-east in the morning of the following days.’ [It] had a great [tail] blazing frae the root of it, was pointed as it came from the star, and then spread itself; was of a broad and large ascent up to the heavens . . . . the stream of it all the night over is seen... . . . [It] had its recess from the west every night by degrees, as the moon has from the sun after her change, and being every night more elevate by degrees in its first after daylight was gone, then the stream of it mounted to our zenith, and beyond it, very wonderfully. No history ever made mention of the like comet...and [it] is certainly prodigious of great alterations and of great judgments on these lands and nations for our sins; for never was the Lord more provoked by a people [It] continued till the 16th or 17th day of January, growing smaller and smaller to its end.’—Law.

‘When Mr M’Ward, who was then a-dying, heard of it, he desired Mr Shields and other friends to carry him out, that he might see it. When he saw it, he blest the Lord that was now about to close his eyes, and was not to see the woful days that were coming upon Britain and Ireland, especially upon sinful Scotland.’—P. Walker.

Lord Fountainhall, in noting the appearance of a smaller comet for two weeks in August 1682, being the time when ‘semblances of joy’ were presented in Edinburgh for the accouchement of the Duchess of York of a danghter, adds: ‘I have seen a late French book, proving that comets prognosticate nothing that’s fatal or dangerous, but rather prosperous things; yet, at the time it shone, the Duke of Lauderdale, that great minister of state, died.’—Hist. Ob. This ‘yet’ is exceedingly amusing. He elsewhere states the opinions of those who believe in the ominousness of comets. According to them, ‘the effects’ do not always follow immediately: some indeed think a comet ‘takes as many years to operate, as it appears nights.’ He estimates the tail of the comet of 1680 at near [upwards of] 2000 miles in length, because it extends over 60 degrees, ‘and each degree is 60 miles!’ This learned judge, however, was himself of opinion that comets do not hold forth any prognostics of blood and desolation, further than by their natural effects in infecting the air, so as to occasion sterility, pestilential diseases, and famine.

Lord Fountainhall probably deemed 3000 miles a considerable length for a comet’s tail. How must he have been surprised to learn that it was in reality nearly as long as the distance of the earth from the sun, or not much short of a hundred millions of miles. Equally great must have been his wonder to learn (as appears from Enke’s recent calculations) that this illustrious stranger only comes to our part of space once in 8814 years!

During this month, the public mind was in a highly excited state, owing to the terrific appearance of the comet overhead, in connection with the presence of the Duke of York in Edinburgh, and the news of the struggles in parliament for his exclusion from the throne. One Gray, a merchant in Edinburgh, gave out that, as he and a country friend called Yule were looking at the comet, ‘he saw a fire descend from the Castle down the city of Edinburgh to the Abbey’ [the duke’s residence], while Yule heard a voice saying: ‘This is the sword of the Lord!’ A man in a soldier’s apparel came up to Sir George Monro at mid-day in the street, and bade him go down and tell the Duke of York, if he did not counsel his brother the king to extirpate the Papists, both he and the king were dead men. Sir George turned about to call witnesses to what the man had said, and when he looked again, the man had mysteriously vanished. To crown all, ‘a hypochondriac fellow’ came out to the street, and proclaimed openly that the Day of Judgment would take place next day, offering himself to be hanged if it should prove otherwise. He was clapped up in the Canongate Tolbooth; rather a prosaic fate for a prophet. The two first circumstances are clearly to be referred to the hallucination which is apt to be engendered on occasions of great public excitement.

Dec 23
The boys at the college in Edinburgh resolved to follow the example of the London apprentices in getting up a demonstration against the pope. What gave piquancy to the design was, that the Duke of York was now living in Edinburgh, under exile from London on account of his adherence to the Romish faith. They were very cunning and dexterous in making their arrangements, having first prepared their effigy of the pope, and then sent a small party with a portrait to the Castle Hill, in order to make the authorities think that they designed to have a procession from that place down the High Street to Holyrood Palace, where the duke lived. While this feint drew off the attention of the military, the youths brought out the true effigy to the High School Yard, and then marched with it up Blackfriars’ Wynd to the High Street. It was a rude statue of timber, with a painted face on the head, a gray periwig and triple crown; and in the hands a cross, a candle, and a piece of money. The figure was clothed in a calico gown, and sat in a chair. Having set it down on the street, they set fire to it, causing a quantity of powder within the body to explode and burst it all in pieces. Notwithstanding their expedition, they were attacked, while performing the ceremony, by the swords of the Earl of Linlithgow and a few other friends of the Duke of York; but they stood their ground, warning the assailants that they might hurt some they would not like to hurt. When all was over, they dispersed. Many regretted the act, as inhospitable towards the duke, and we may well believe, if General Dalyell had not been led with his troops on a false scent, he would have made the lads repent of their frolic. ‘For a further testimony and bravado, the school-boys, apprentices, and many other people, mounted blue ribbons, inscribed with, "No Pope—no Priest—no Bishop—no Atheist;" which, again, caused the loyal to hoist the rival legend, "I am no fanatic."

One George Redpath, tutor to a gentleman’s two sons, was brought before the Privy Council, and examined on the accusation of having drawn up a bond for the execution of this project. But after a few days’ detention, he was set at liberty ‘by the goodness of his royal highness, who was always too compassionate to that generation of vipers,’ says Sir William Paterson. This same Redpath lived to be an active Whig pamphleteer in London after the Revolution, and was the author of the Answer to the Scots Presbyterian Eloquence.

1681, Jan 11
The house of Priestfield, under the south front of Arthur’s Seat, was burnt this evening between seven and eight o’clock. Political circumstances gave importance to what would otherwise have been a trivial occurrence. Sir James Dick, the owner, was provost of Edinburgh, and a friend of the Duke of York. His having adopted energetic measures with some college youths concerned in the Christmas anti-papal demonstration, was supposed to have excited a spirit of retaliation in their companions; and hence a suspicion arose that the fire was designed and executed by them. The Privy Council were so far convinced of this being the case, that they shut up the college, and banished the pupils fifteen miles, unless they could give caution for their good-behaviour. Sir James’s house was rebuilt at the public expense, as it now exists in the possession of his descendant, Sir William Cunningham Keith Dick, Bart.

Jan 26
Six women were hanged in Edinburgh. Two of them, Janet Alison from Perth, and Marion Haney from Borrowstouuness, ‘were of Cameron’s faction, bigot and sworn enemies to the king and bishops,’ and, ‘for all the pains taken, would not once acknowledge the king to be their lawful prince, but called him a perjured bloody man.’ ‘Some thought the threatening to drown them privately in the North Loch, without giving them the credit of a public suffering, would have more effectually reclaimed them nor any arguments which were used; and the bringing them to a scaffold but disseminates the infection.’—Foun.

The other four women were hanged for murdering their own children, born out of wedlock. It would be hard to say which of the two cases reflects the most discredit upon the wisdom and humanity of the age.

On the ensuing 13th of April, another woman was hanged in the Grassmarket for murdering her child, declaring that she had committed the deed in order ‘to shun the ignominy of the church pillory.’ The frequency of such cases, and the declaration of this poor woman, attracted the attention of the Duke of York. He was surprised to hear of a custom used in no other Christian country, which ‘rather made scandals than buried them.’ The duke, we are told, ‘was displeased, and thought it would be a more efficacious restraint, if the civil magistrate should punish them, either by a pecuniary mulct, or a corporal punishment.’ Fountainhall, however, thought the practice justifiable, on the text, ‘They who sin openly should be rebuked openly,’ and from the penances imposed in the primitive church.

Feb 21
A company of distracted people was this day brought into Edinburgh, under the guardianship of a troop of dragoons. They were commonly known as the
Sweet Singers of Borrowstounness, from their noted habit of frequent chanting of psalms. The religious exasperations of the times, the execution of a Bo’ness man named Stewart, with two others, on the preceding 1st of December, and perhaps in addition to these causes, the terrors diffused by the comet, had now produced in that little town an epidemic mania of a type only too well known. These people felt as if all was wrong in church and state, and professed to deny all kinds of institutions, even the names of the days of the week; nay, the commonest social obligations, as that of working for one’s own bread. They protested against taxes, confessions, and covenants; disowned the king and his government; and called for vengeance on the murderers of the two late martyrs, Stewart and Potter, whose blood they carried on a handkerchief. They ran up and down the town in a furious manner, sometimes uttering prayers which consisted chiefly of curses invoked against individuals, more frequently singing psalms of lamentation (74th, 79th, 80th, 83d, and 137th) for the sins of the land. Such of the females as were married deserted their homes and husbands, and if the husband, in his endeavours to win his wife back to rationality, took hold of any part of her dress, she indignantly washed the place, as to remove an impurity. They followed a gigantic fellow, commonly called Muckle John Gibb, but who passed among them under the name of King Solomon, and at length, ‘leaving their homes and soft warm beds and covered tables,’ six-and-twenty of them went forth from their native town, notwithstanding the entreaties of weeping husbands, fathers, and children, calling on them to stay; ‘some women taking the sucking children in their arms to desert places, to be free of all snares and sins, and communion with all others, and mourn for their own sins, the land’s tyranny and defections, and there to be safe from the land’s utter ruin and desolation by judgments; some of them going to the Pentland Hills, with a resolution to sit there to see the smoke and utter ruin of the sinful, bloody city of Edinburgh. Immediately after they came to these desert places, they kept a day of fasting and confessing of their sins one to another; yea, some of them confessed sins which the world had not heard of, and so not called to confess them to men.’—Pat. Walker;

Even the Whig clergymen who had gone to the wilderness rather than own an uncovenanted king, were surprised at the more extreme feelings of the Sweet Singers. Walker tells how he was with the Rev. Mr Cargill at Darmead Muirs, when the Gibbites were ‘lying in the Deer Slunk, in the midst of a great flow-moss betwixt Clydesdale and Lothian about a mile distant’ Gibb and another man came armed, and held a conference with Mr Cargill in a barn, but it led to no good. After resting a while, the chief of the Sweet Singers rose in haste and went to the muir all night. ‘I well remember,’ says Walker, ‘it was a cold easterly wet fog.’ Cargill was shocked by the state of mind he had found them in. They were afterwards all taken by a troop of dragoons at the Woolhill Craigs, betwixt Lothian and Tweed-dale, a very desert place, and carried to Edinburgh, where the men were put into the Canongate Tolbooth, and the women into the Correction-house, where they were soundly scourged. After a little time, these poor people cooled down somewhat, and were one by one set at liberty. Walker says the most of them ultimately returned to their right mind, and he had had some edifying conversations with them since.

Mar 1
Articles used in clothing in Scotland had hitherto been almost wholly of home manufacture. As in Sweden to this day, the great bulk of the people spun their own wool and flax, each family for itself, and had the yarn woven into cloth by the village
webster. There were as yet but the merest attempts at a manufacture of cloths or hosen for general sale and use. We have seen a modest attempt made by certain foreigners in Edinburgh so early as 1609. It is stated that in the reign of Charles I., there were cloth-works on a small scale at Newrnills in Haddingtonshire, at Bonnington near Edinburgh, and at Ayr. That at Newmills was in a thriving condition till Dundee was stormed and sacked by Monk in 1651, when a store of its cloth was taken, and the troubles soon after closed the work. Latterly, it could scarcely be said there was any general manufacture of articles of attire except at Aberdeen. There one George Pyper had a number of country-people engaged in working stockings with the needles, paying them at the rate of five groats (equal to 1 2/3d. sterling) a pair for the making; and he raised the working to such a fineness in some instances, ‘that he hath given twenty shillings sterling and upward for the pair.' In this province there was also a manufacture of plaiden stuffs and fingrams, which was the more meritorious as the wool was mostly brought by sea-carriage from the southern parts of the kingdom. It is related that a Mr Barnes, ‘a substantious merchant in Edinburgh,’ thought he might make a saving by getting the same stuffs made in his own neighbourhood, and have an advantage over the Aberdeen merchants in sending out his cloth to the Dutch market. But, on trying an experiment with ‘ten sea-packs of plaiden, which might be worth £20,000,’ he found that he had scarcely produced his cloth at as low a rate as that at which the Aberdeen merchants sold theirs. The explanation, which he obtained from Mr Alexander Farquhar, a merchant in Aberdeen, might be worthy of Mr Babbage’s attention for a new edition of his Economy of Manufactures. It was, that the people who worked these cloths in the north ‘had not by far such entertainment as his [Mr Barnes’s] servants had—they oftener drank clear spring-water than ale.’ When Mr Barnes heard this, he gave up his manufacture. Of late years, even this frugally conducted manufacture, which had in some years brought a hundred thousand rix-dollars into the country, and greatly facilitated the payment of rents, was much decayed—the goods reduced to half their wonted prices, and yet not the half exported that was—and all from a cause also of much significance in the philosophy of business—namely, ‘deceitful mismanagement,’ leading of course to loss of confidence, and a consequent checking of orders.

The faculties for business which the Duke of York possessed in so respectable a degree, seem to have now begun to tell upon the country in which he found a refuge. While joining in the unhappy severities dictated by the Privy Council against the poor Whigs, he gave attention to the solid interests of the nation at large, and had consultations with such men of mercantile spirit as the country then possessed, with a view to the planting of cloth-factories similar to those which had long been realising good results in England. It was pointed out that the making of the better kinds of cloth within the country was becoming a matter of most serious concernment, because, owing to the great drain of money which was occasioned by the importation of such cloths from the south, ‘English money was not to be had under 6 or 7 per cent., scarce at any rate,’ and exchange between Edinburgh and London had risen against the former place as high as 12 or 15 per cent. ‘Our four-merk pieces,’ it was added, ‘the best coin of our kingdom, were almost wholly exported, and above £20,000 sterling in dollars left the country in the year 1680.’

The result of the duke’s patriotic deliberations was the passing of acts of Council in March and April, and the passing of an act of parliament in September 1681, for the encouragement of trade and manufactories. Through his personal exertions, a body of men, including Mr Robert Blackwood and several other merchants in Edinburgh, was induced to associate for the setting up of a new work at Newmills, the produce of which was to be disposed of by them under peculiar regulations. It was to be under the care of an enterprising Englishman named Sir James Stanfield, who for some time had been settled there. In August, six sheermen and a foreman having been brought down from England, this work commenced with two looms—soon increased to eight—soon after to twenty-five; and in 1683 it was still extending. ‘We began,’ says the pamphleteer formerly quoted, ‘to make the coarsest of white cloths first, wherein we continued till October 1682; then we turned part of our people to coarse mixed cloth, and so on gradually to finer, and now we are upon superfine cloths, and have brought the spinners and rest of the work-people that length, that we hope against May next to have superfine cloths as good as generally are made in England.’ There was also a manufacture of silk-stockings going on at Newmills. The whole work seems to have then been in a hopeful condition, albeit on the unsound footing of a monopoly, all English goods of the same kinds being prohibited under severe penalties.

The act was, indeed, too sweeping in its tendency, for it forbade the importing of a great number of stuffs—as silks, embroideries, gold lace, ribbons, silk fringes, cambrics, and damasks, which it was not in the power of any native manufacturer to supply, and which certain classes of the people were little inclined to dispense with. It was thought necessary by these means to save the money of the country. It led to a strange scene one day on the High Street of Edinburgh. George Fullerton, a merchant of that city, had committed a gross violation of the law, first in smuggling in some packs of English cloth, and afterwards, when they were seized by the authorities, repossessing himself of them by violence. The Privy Council ordered him to be declared fugitive, had the two ‘waiters’ of the West Port scourged for allowing the goods to be introduced, and ordained the cloth itself to be burnt at the Cross by the hand of the hangman. The common people beheld this last spectacle with feelings of their own, for they thought it might have been better to distribute the cloth among the poor: however, says Fountainhall in a whisper, it was only the worst bales that were burned: the best were ‘privily preserved.’

Absurd as all this procedure may appear, it precisely represents the existing policy of Sweden and some other continental countries in respect of British manufactures.

One natural result of the act very soon appears, in the magistrates of Edinburgh being called before the Privy Council at the suggestion of the Duke of York, and recommended to call up the merchants, in order to discharge them from ‘extortioning the lieges, by taking exorbitant prices for the merchandises now prohibited . . . . on the pretence that there no more of that kind to be imported within the kingdom.’

In February 1683, General Dalyell, finding ‘that he cannot be provided in this kingdom with as much cloth of one colour as will be clothes to the regiment of dragoons,’ obtained a licence from the Privy Council permitting the cloth-manufacturing company at Newmills ‘to import 2536 ells of stone-gray cloth from England, for clothing the said regiment of dragoons,’ they finding caution under £500 sterling to limit the importation strictly to that quantity. About a month later, the Council made a change in this order, to the effect that the general might appoint a person to import the cloth—not exceeding five shillings sterling the ell—instead of the Newmills company.

In May 1683, Captain John Graham of Claverhouse was permitted by the Privy Council, on petition, to import from England, for the use of his troops, 150 ells of red cloth, 40 ells of white cloth, and 550 dozen of buttons; giving security that no advantage should be taken of this licence to bring in any other cloth.

Of a small cloth-work in Leith it was declared (December 1683) that the partners engaged ‘are excellently skilled in their trade, and can dye and mix wool and cloth, and takes in wool from the merchant or other person, and does dye and mix it; and when they get in yarn, does weave and dress it, and deliver it in broadcloth; and has already made good broadcloth to many of the merchants of Edinburgh.’ ‘Seeing that this is so good a work,’ the Privy Council, on petition, extended to it the privileges proposed in the act for encouraging manufactures.—P. C. R.

Still the Council itself does not seem to have been a consistent patron of such native works. The dress of the infantry of the royal army having hitherto been of a plain kind, it was reported as necessary to have coats for them ’of such a dye as shall be thought fit to distinguish sojors from other skulking and vagrant persons, who have hitherto imitated the livery of the king’s sojors.’ The Newmills Cloth Manufacturing Company offered (August 28, 1684) from their own work, to furnish a suitable cloth ‘of what dye should be desired,’ and as cheaply and expeditiously as it could be had from England. They would shew ‘swatches’ [samples] within a fortnight, and give security for the fulfilment of their undertaking. But the lords decided to use English cloth.

Patrick Graham, ‘captain of his majesty’s company of foot within the town of Edinburgh’ (the Town Guard), was empowered (January 8, 1685) to import ‘three hundred ells of English cloth of a scarlet colour, with wrappings and other necessars’ for the clothing of his corps, this being ‘in regard the manufactories are not able to furnish his majesty’s forces with cloth and other necessars.’ Several other commanders of troops got similar licences. The Newmills Company looked on with outraged feelings, and presented a petition desiring that a stop might be put to the importation of English cloth for the soldiery, as the needful article could be furnished as cheaply and of as good quality from the native factory. In order that they might not be ‘utterly ruined and broke,’ they begged that a committee might be appointed to ascertain that such was the case; and a committee was accordingly appointed, but with no result that appears. Meanwhile, we find the Newmills copartnery trying to protect their monopoly against infractions by private parties.

It made an attack in April 1684 upon five merchants of Edinburgh who continued, in defiance of the law, to deal in English cloth. It was complained of against Robert Cunningham that ‘he sold a suit of clothes of English cloth to Daniel Lockhart; item, a suit to Boghall; item, a suit to Lord Forfar; item, a suit to William Lockhart; which clothes was made by William Cowan, tailor.’ He had likewise ‘sold ane coat of.... ells to the Laird of Blackadder, made by Hugh Galloway, tailor; to the Marquis of Athole, a suit, made by Lachian M’Pherson, tailor; item to Mr Thomas Chalmers, two ells and a half English cloth; item to the Bishop of the Isles, two ells and a half English cloth. . . . item, a suit to the Marquis of Montrose.’ It was alleged that he had imported and sold in all ‘five hundred ella of prohibite cloth, ane thousand ells of prohibite stuffs and serges, and two hundred pair of English worsted and silk stockings less or more.’ James Weir, Andrew Irving, William Fullerton, and Thomas Smith had all committed delinquencies of the same kind, the enumeration of which would only tire the reader; and all this notwithstanding they had been kindly invited by the Newmills Company to join their concern. What made the matter the more insufferable, a complaint made against them in August last had been graciously superseded in their behalf by royal proclamation; and they, as if to shew ‘their incorrigibleness and obstinacy,’ ‘slighting that so great mark of clemency,’ imported more during the few months since elapsed than they did for two whole years before, ‘in open contempt of his majesty’s laws, to the destruction of trade and commerce within the kingdom, to the cheating, abusing, and oppressing of his majesty’s lieges, and manifest endangering of the said manufactory and ruining of the persons therein concerned.’

The offenders, having been oft called before the Privy Council, and having failed to appear, were held as confessing their guilt, and accordingly decerned to deliver up the prohibited cloths and stockings to be burned, and at the same time to recompense his majesty’s cashkeeper for them ‘at twelve shillings sterling fur the ell of cloth, two shillings sterling for the ell of stuff and five pound sterling for ilk dozen of prohibite stockings.’—P. C. R.

While these strenuous measures were taken for preventing the free importation of English woollen cloth into Scotland, a petition came (December 2, 1684) from persons interested in the linen manufacture of Scotland, complaining of the usage which had lately been experienced by Scotsmen selling their linens in England. Hitherto there had been a free trade for Scotch linen-weavers in the south; and, as ten or twelve thousand persons were employed in such weaving, the results were important not merely to the workers, but to landlords, for the payment of their rents, and to the government, as each of a thousand or twelve hundred packs exported to England paid a custom of three pounds sterling. Latterly, however, the men selling Scotch linen in England had been taken up and whipped as malefactors, and many obliged to give bonds that they would discontinue their traffic.

The Council recommended the secretary of state to interpose with his majesty, that merchants and others might have liberty to sell linen in England as formerly; never once adverting to the fact that they had an act of parliament conceived in the same illiberal spirit towards English woollen manufactures.

Such were the early struggles of an important branch of industry in Scotland. It was not, after all, to be in this age that good woollen cloth was to be produced in our northern clime. A writer in 1697 says: ‘We have tried to make several things, and particularly hats and broadcloth, and yet we cannot make our ware so good as what we can have from abroad.’ He adds, however, as a ground of hope: ‘Those who would propagate any new manufacture must lay their account to labour under several disadvantages at first. When soap-manufactures were first set up in this kingdom, the soap was not so good as what we had from abroad by far. These at Glasgow gave it over, as a thing they could not accomplish; these at Leith continued to work, and now they have acquired so much knowledge in that art, that their soap is better than that we have brought from abroad.’

Mar 2
Three men, named Gogar, Miller, and Sangster, were hanged in the Grassmarket ‘for disowning the king’s authority, and adhering to Cargill’s covenant, declaration, and excommunication, and thinking it lawful to kill the king and his judges.’—Foun. It is to make the rulers of that day somewhat worse than they were, to suppose that they ordered these horrible executions in a purely unfeeling manner, and without any hesitation. It is stated by Fountainhall, a Whig, that the Duke of York sent the Earl of Roscommon to see these men on the scaffold, and try to bring them to such a point as would have allowed of their lives being spared. Had they but pronounced the words, ‘God save the king,’ they would not have been executed. But they refused life on such terms—the more surprising, as there was no want of Scripture texts to warrant them in praying for the reigning sovereign, even supposing him a monster of wickedness. ‘Daniel,’ remarks Fountainhall, ‘wishes Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, heathen kings, to live for ever.’ It would be curious to know what the accomplished Roscommon felt regarding these singular examples of Scottish religious pertinacity.

On the other hand, it is surprising that when the Duke of York went so far as to offer the poor men their lives on what appear such easy terms, he did not go a little further and see the absurdity of treating such tempers as treasonable. ‘It would have been better,’ says Fountainhall, ‘to have kept them in bonds as madmen, or to have employed physicians to use their skill upon them as on hypochondriac persons.’ One would have thought that the manifest and acknowledged maniacal condition of the Borrowstounness saints might have suggested the true theory as 168 to the obduracy of such men as Gogar, Miller and Sangster.

Mar 11
A process stood at law between Alexander Robertson, laird of Struan, and the Marquis of Athole, arising from a service of Struan as heir to an ancestor who lived two hundred and fifty years before; and amongst the points debated was an alleged superiority of the marquis over some lands held by Struan. These were both Highland chiefs of some importance, but, dwelling near the Lowland Border, might be considered as of those who were most likely to exhibit a tinge of Lowland habits. The marquis was indeed a political character of some figure, holding the office of Lord Privy Seal and a place in the Council.

The Highland laird of those days was acquainted with law, and had often enough occasion to resort to it; but there was an element in his nature which placed him more or less above law. Law-giver and law-executor in his own territory and over his own people, almost without control, it was difficult for him to accommodate himself to the idea of submitting to the formal, pedantic rules and awards of the Session or the Council. So much being premised, we must figure to ourselves the doughty Struan walking about in the Council-chamber on the day noted in the margin, not bearing his ordinary arms, pistol and durk, externally— for that was forbidden—but carrying them in his bosom under his clothes, and no doubt very wrathful at the arrogance of his proud neighbour, the marquis, in claiming any superiority over him.

His business being under consideration, he told the clerk that he was no vassal of the Marquis of Athole. One John Fleming, ‘servitor’ to the marquis—a kind of gentleman dependant— quietly contradicted him, saying that not only did his sasine of the lands of Tulloch clearly shew him as a vassal of the marquis, but there was a mutual contract between him and the marquis, obliging him to hold these lands in that manner, and on this a decreet had been obtained from the Court of Session. The blood of the chief of the Clan Donochy could not brook such an opposition. He broke out upon Fleming with passionate violence, calling him rascal, knave, and villain. He would see the Marquis of Athole hanged before he would be his vassal. And as for the Court of Session, he cared not a snuff for its decreet. Then thrusting his hand under the breast of his upper coat, ‘where his durk and pistol are secretly keeped,’ he said he knew not what held his hand from writing his case on Fleming’s skin.

This conduct was of course sure to turn to the injury of Struan himself. In a very few days, Fleming had him up by petition before the Privy Council, who, finding the charge proved, sentenced Struan to imprisonment during pleasure in the Tolbooth, to crave pardon first of the Council, and then of the Marquis of Athole, ‘on his knees,’ and to give Fleming security for the expenses (limited to £100 Scots) incurred by the action and by the interruption it had given him in his business.—P. C. R.

Apr 8
A case before the Privy Council reveals the treatment of the insane in this age. It was a complaint from Mr Alexander Burton against his brother John for putting him into Hopkirk the surgeon’s hands as a madman. It was alleged, on John Burton’s part, that Alexander was really melancholic and furious; so required restraint: also that he was misusing and dilapidating his fortune; hence a bill had been applied for to put his affairs under curators. Alexander answered that ‘he had only craved his annual rents, and to refuse him his own, and treat him as a fool, would raise pepper and passion in any man’s nose, and then they termed the acts fury.’ To settle the matter, the Duke of York, who was present, desired that the alleged fool might be permitted to speak; whereupon he delivered himself so extravagantly, that the Council found it only right that he should be put under restraint, and his affairs placed in charge of his brother. Fountainhall adds: ‘In Scotland, we, having no Bedlam, commit the better sort of mad people to the care and taming of chirurgeons, and the inferior to the scourge [or] the poor.’

May 5
M’Gill of Rankeillour gave in a petition to the Privy Council, craving permission for his son, Sir James M’Gill, to come to see him, as he was about to depart from this life. The son had about eight years before been so unfortunate as to kill Sir Robert Balfour of Denmill, and the king had granted him a remission, on the condition that, in order to prevent further bloodshed, he should never again be seen in Fife. The father, being eighty years of age, anxious to take farewell of his son, begged the Council to relax this condition for a few days. The Council doubted if they had power to grant the petition; but the Duke of York ‘affirming that he believed the king would not refuse this desire of an old dying gentleman, they granted it in thir terms, that he should go with a guard like a prisoner, and stay but twenty-four hours, and then depart out of Fife, where the friends of him that was killed live.’—Foun.

Sir Robert Balfour was the only surviving son and successor of Sir James Balfour of Denmill, the well-known antiquary. He fell in a duel with Sir James M’Gill, at a spot closely adjacent to the M’Duff Cross in the parish of Newburgh in Fife. A cairn of stones raised in commemoration of the sad event, and called Sir Robert’s Prap, was in existence a few years ago. This unfortunate gentleman must have fallen in the very morning of life, as he was born in 1652.

Encouraged by the liberality of the Council, Sir James M’Gill petitioned them anew in December for a removal of all restriction upon his remission, alleging that it was required on account of the decayed and infirm condition of his parents (he being their only son), and the ruin into which his affairs had fallen in consequence of his long exile. Against this petition, however, the friends of Sir Robert Balfour gave in answers, shewing how green such a family wound could then be kept for eight years. They urged that the slaughter of their kinsman, so far from being done as alleged by Sir James in self-defence, was in forethought felony, and it was only owing to an undeserved clemency on his majesty’s part that he had not been brought to condign punishment. The pretexts regarding his parents and estate were frivolous, when the nature of his offence was considered. ‘Though it is insinuate that the said Sir James desires only to live in the parish of Monimail, and not in the parish of Ebdie, where Sir Robert’s nearest relations are, this is a very silly pretence, for this is the very next parish, and Sir Robert’s nearest relations have their interests in this parish itself, and it may be easily considered that, if this be allowed, Sir Robert’s friends will be punished for Sir James’s crime, since they must, to shun his company, neither go to meetings of the shire, baptisms, nor marriages, burials or churches, nay, nor to see their friends nor neighbours, lest they should fall in inconveniences with him, which was the ground upon which the restriction was granted at first.’ To prove how unworthy Sir James was even of the favour extended to him in May last, it was set forth that on that occasion ‘he must ride insolently by the very gate of the gentleman whom he had murdered, with a great train of his friends, and in passing the road they did also very insolently boast and upbraid the poor people with whom they met.’ If this, it was added, ‘was done in the very first time, what may be expected when his confidence is increased by renewed favours, and when Denmill’s friends see that the only satisfaction they got (which was not to see him at all) is taken from them.’

The pleading of Denmill’s friends was too reasonable to be resisted, and M’Gill’s petition was refused.—P. C. R.

June 2
On a complaint from the master of the High School of Edinburgh to the Privy Council, two or three private teachers were imprisoned till they should give caution, not to teach Latin without a licence from the bishop, and even then to carry the boys no further than ‘the rudiments and vocables;’ after which it was thought they might be of sufficient strength to go to the High School. What disposed the Council to support the complaint was that there were several private teachers now in Edinburgh, who were ‘outed ministers,’ and accordingly were suspected of poisoning their pupils with disloyal principles.—P. C. R.

June 24
From March up to this date, there was a cold drought, which at length inspired so much dread of famine and consequent pestilence, that a fast was proclaimed throughout the kingdom ‘for deprecating God’s wrath and obtaining rain.’ The evil was generally regarded as an effect of the great comet of the past winter; ‘and certainly,’ says Fountainhall, ‘it may drain the moisture from the earth, and influence the weather; but there is a higher hand of Providence above all these signs, pointing out to us our luxury, abuse of plenty, and other crying sins.’ He adds: ‘God thought fit to prevent our applications and addresses, and on the 24th of June and following days, sent plentiful showers.’

July 26
Died this evening in his lodgings in Holyrood Palace, the Duke of Rothes, Chancellor of the kingdom, an able and magnificent man, who, by his licentious life, was believed to have set a bad example to the Scottish nobility of his day. The cumbrous grandeur of his funeral excited much attention. The body was carried from St Giles’s Church to Holyrood Chapel, amidst a procession of soldiery, state officials, personal retinue, noblemen and gentlemen mourners, and heraldic personages, which fills six quarto pages in Arnot’s History of Edinburgh. It was next day conducted in a hearse to Leith, thence conveyed across the Forth to Burntisland, and ‘the next day after, it was met by the gentlemen of Fife, of which his grace was high-sheriff, and by them accompanied to the family burying-place at Leslie, being laid in the grave with sound of trumpets, and the honours placed above the grave.’

Sep 1
Leather stamped and gilded—believed to be originally a Spanish fashion—was a favourite cover for the walls of rooms in the better class of houses in Scotland as well as in England. Some examples of the style still survive, and speak so strongly in its favour, that we might justly wonder at its going out of fashion. Hitherto such ornamental leather was introduced from abroad; but now Alexander Brand, merchant in Edinburgh, by a considerable outlay, had brought workmen and materials into the kingdom, and for the first time was about to set up a work, in which he expected to produce the article ‘at as easy rates as it could be imported.’ On a favourable report from ‘the Committee of Trade,’ the Privy Council gave Brand a privilege of exclusive manufacture for nineteen
years.—P. C. R.

Thomas Kennedy and John Trotter, merchants, were at the same time proposing to set up a manufacture of linen and woollen cloth stuffs and stockings in the place called Paul’s Work in Edinburgh, where, so long ago as 1609, there had been an attempt at a woollen work. And as an encouragement, the Council ordained them to have all the privileges offered to manufactories in Scotland by the twelfth act of the present parliament regarding manufactures.

Oct 1
The ‘whole settled revenue’ of the king in Scotland was this day leased to Bailie Baird, Charles Murray, and Robert Milne, for seven years, at £90,000 per annum, they advancing £16,000 to pay the army. It appears that the pensions then paid out of the Scottish exchequer amounted to
£25,000 a year. It is a curious consideration that at present the Times newspaper pays considerably more revenue than the whole taxation of Scotland in the latter part of the seventeenth century.

Oct 1
Colonel Gage, commander of a regiment in the service of the King of Spain, proposed to the Duke of York to take a few of the phanatiques now in custody into his regiment, and so relieve the authorities of all further charge of them. The duke caused six, named Forman, Garnock, Lapsley, Stewart, Paine, and Russell, ‘most of them young fellows,’ to be brought before the Council, with the design of sentencing them to be delivered to Colonel Gage. The men, however, ‘did so misbehave, in declining the king, duke, and Council, and speaking such notorious treason,’ that it was thought necessary to send them instead to the criminal court. There it was only too easy to prove the treasonable nature of their language. Forman had a knife, with a posy, ‘This is to cut the throat of tyrants.’ It appeared that Garnock had at the Council so railed at General Dalyell, calling him ‘a Muscovy beast who used to roast men,’ that the old soldier struck him with the pommel of his sword on the face till the blood sprung. One alone obtained mercy; the other five were doomed to death, Forman having the special sentence to lose his hand before hanging, on account of his knife.

Oct 10
These men all died ‘obdurately,’ as their enemies called it, ‘heroically,’ according to their friends, ‘reviling and condemning their judges and all who differed from them,’ says Fountainhall. Patrick Walker adds some curious particulars. ‘The never-to-be forgotten Mr James Renwick told me that he was witness to this public murder at the Gallow-lee, betwixt Leith and Edinburgh, where he saw the hangman hash and hag off their five heads, with Patrick Forman’s right hand. Their bodies were all buried at the gallow’s foot; their heads, with Patrick’s hand, were brought and put on five pikes on the Pleasance Port. Mr Renwick told me also, that it was the first public action that his hand was at, to convene friends and lift their murdered bodies, and carry them to the West Churchyard, and bury them there. Then they came about the city to the Nether-Bow Port, with a design to retake the heads, hands, and other parts of our martyrs down; but a woman, holding over a candle to let some people see the street, marred them. Then they took down these five heads and that hand, and the day being come, they went quickly up the Pleasance, and when they came to Lauriston yards, upon the south side of the city, they durst not venture, being so light, to go and bury their heads with their bodies, which they designed, it being present death if any of them had been found. Alexander Tweedie, a friend, being with them, who at that time was gardener in these yards, concluded to bury them in his yard, being in a box (wrapped in linen), where they lay forty-five years
‘ These relics were exhumed in 1726, with all manifestations of rejoicing.

The day after the five men had suffered at the Gallow-lee, the duke had other four called before the Council, with a view to their being sent away with Colonel Gage. ‘When they were brought in, they began in the very same strain with their neighbours who were hanged the day before; but the duke caused hastily remove them, that they might not also hang themselves with their own tongue.’ —Foun.

Nov 15
Amongst the gaieties of this day at Holyroodhouse, in celebration of the queen’s birthday, was ‘the acting a comedy called
Mithridates, King of Pontus, wherein Lady Anne, the duke’s daughter, and the ladies of honour, were the only actors.’ Fountainhall, who states this occurrence, only adds the remark: ‘Not only the canonists, both Protestant and Popish, but the very heathen Roman lawyers, declared all scenic and stage players infamous, and will scarce admit them to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.’ On this occasion, there was a prologue by the Earl of Roscommon, addressed specially to the duke, and conceived in a strain of extravagant flattery ludicrously in contrast with the feelings of a large body of the people:

‘When wealthy neighbours strove with us for power,
Let the sea tell how, in their fatal hour,
Swift as an eagle our victorious prince,
Great Britain’s genius, flew to her defence.
His name struck fear, his conduct won the day.
O happy islands, if you knew your bliss!
Strong by the sea’s protection, safe by his!
Express your gratitude the only way,
And humbly own a debt too vast to pay; &c.

Nov 24
The test being a puzzle and a bewilderment to some of the sagest statesmen of the day, it is not surprising that it should have somewhat confounded the magistrates of a simple Scotch burgh. At this date, there was a petition to the Privy Council from William Plenderleith, provost; John Hope, bailie; and John Givan, treasurer of Peebles, in name of the council of that burgh, setting forth that, ‘being desired to take the test, they were always willing;’ yet, ‘the town being very inconsiderable, and the petitioners
very illiterate and ignorant, and living in a remote place where they could get no person to inform them of the difference betwixt the act of parliament and the act of Council, and not having the act of parliament in all the country, nor yet the confession of faith, to which it related, the petitioners humbly desired a time to advise as concerning the test.’ At their late election, they had contented themselves with taking the Declaration, ‘thinking that the first of January was sufficient to take the test.’ But now, understanding what was required of them, they protested their eager willingness to take the test, ‘having always been very loyal,’ as they had shewn by their conduct on the occasion of the Bothwell Bridge rebellion, for which they had received the thanks of the Council. The Lords seem to have looked leniently on the omission of this innocent little municipality, and now accepted their signatures in good part.

The magistrates of Peebles were, not long after, involved in a trouble of a different complexion, in consequence of an unpopular movement for the letting of a piece of commonty near the walls of the town, which they had found to be ‘a pretext for incomers to the said burgh, and the poor people, to eat up their neighbours’ corn’ While they were engaged in their Tolbooth or court-house (March 1, 1682) in the administration of justice, a mob of irate burgesses, of whom thirty-seven are named, came to express their disapprobation of a late act of Council on that subject, and, if possible, frighten them from proceeding with it; ‘menacing the provost that if he did so, be should be sticked as Provost Dickison was.' The magistrates put two of their assailants in jail; but these were soon liberated by force. Then the magistrates got the two burgesses and five of their liberators clapped up in prison; but, behold, next day, taking a leaf out of the history of the troubles of 1637, a mob of women assembled namely, Marion Bennett, Marion Grieve, Margaret Wilson, Isobel Wilson, Isobel Robertson, Janet Ewmond, Isobel Ewmond and Helen Steel—the names of such heroines are worth preserving and ‘did in a tumultuous and irregular way take out of prison the persons of William Porteous, Andrew Halden [the original prisoners], Thomas Stoddart, Alexander Jonkieson, John Tweedie, Thomas King, James Waldie, and William Leggat, and went to the Cross of Peebles with them, and there drank their good healths as protectors of the liberties of the poor, and the confusion of the said magistrates and council, and took up with them stones to stone to death such as should oppose them; and thereafter, they being about three hundred persons, divided themselves in several companies, and every company convoyed home a prisoner, and drank their good health, to the great astonishment of all honest and well-meaning people.’

This affair being brought as a gross riot before the Privy Council, five of the men liberated, including the two who had first been in prison, were deprived of their burgess privileges, and commits to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh during pleasure, while the magistrates were enjoined to ‘convene before them the haill rest of the inhabitants that were accessory to the tumult and riot libelled, and to proceed against them therefor in fining, imprisonment or ryving their burgess-tickets, as they shall find cause.’

On the same day in which this case was judged, a petition was presented from the five ex-burgesses, representing themselves as ‘poor and ignorant persons,’ who had not meant any harm—as most of them valetudinary and unable to bear confinement in jail—and moreover, as required to be now engaged in the labours of the season; wherefore their liberation was craved. This was soon after acceded to, on their giving security to reappear if called upon, and that they would go and confess their fault, and crave pardon of the Peebles magistrates.- P. C. R.

Dec 22
As an example of the benevolence of the Privy Council of this
time, in cases where the reigning political prepossessions were not offended—we find, on the very same day with some strong proceedings against Presbyterian recusants, a representation from John Ridden; merchant in Edinburgh, setting forth some recent heavy losses of merchandise at sea, and certain obligations he was under in the way of cautionry, whereby be had been reduced for eleven months past to the sad condition of a prisoner in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, with ‘nothing left to maintain himself and three motherless children, unless that that the charitable supply of tender-hearted Christians doth support and help him.’ Though he had no claim on public benevolence beyond some sufferings long ago for the king at and before Worcester, the Council gave warrant to the Archbishop of St Andrews and the Bishop of Edinburgh for a voluntary contribution on Riddell’s behalf throughout these two dioceses, enjoining them to cause the ministers to ‘make due and lawful intimation thereof.’—P. C. R.

Poor as Scotland was universally reputed to be, foreign adventurers in search of fortune would occasionally resort to it. Peter Bruce or de Bruis was one of these—a native of Flanders, and a Catholic. We have already February 1680) seen him asking public favour for a water-pumping engine and an iron-cutting mill which he had invented. We hear of him in Fountainhall, about that time, as building a harbour at Cockenzie for the Earl of Winton, and having a long litigation about the payment. He seems to have been an active spirit. In December 1681, he succeeded in obtaining from the Privy Council a patent for the exclusive manufacture and sale of playing-cards, under the usual pretence that money would thus be retained within the country. Within a very few months, he had erected a work near Leith for this manufacture, and brought home from Holland and Flanders ‘expert masters’ for making the cards, and ‘carvers for making the patterns,’ all of whom he took bound to instruct native workmen. In a very short time, we find him at war with two merchants who were accustomed to import playing-cards, and not disposed to brook his, monopoly. Perhaps Peter was too vehement in his proceedings for the Scotch people among whom he cast his lot; perhaps they were unduly jealous of this keen-witted stranger. How it came we cannot tell; but before the work had been long erected, the tacksman of Canon-mills set upon it and did somewhat to demolish it, and, horrid to relate, threw Madame de Bruis into the dam, besides using opprobrious words; for which he was fined in £50, and imprisoned. Not long after, Peter gained a triumph over the two importers of cards, for they were ordered by the Council to compound with him at so much a pack before they could be allowed to sell them.’

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