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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of William III: 1695 - 1702 Part 2

1695, July 7
The Bank of England, projected by the noted William Paterson, amidst and by favour of the difficulties of the public exchequer during King William’s expensive continental wars, may he said to have commenced its actual banking operations on the first day of this year. Considerable attention was drawn to the subject in London, and the establishment of a similar public bank in both Ireland and Scotland became matter of speculation. There was in London an almost retired merchant named John Holland, who thought hereafter of spending his time chiefly in rural retirement. To him came one day a friend, a native of Scotland, who was inspired with a strong desire to see a bank established in his country. He desired that Mr Holland would think of it. ‘Why,’ said the latter, ‘I have nearly withdrawn from all such projects, and think only of how I may spend the remainder of my days in peace.’ ‘Think of it,’ said his Scottish friend, ‘and if you will enter into the scheme, I can assure you of having an act of our parliament for it on your own conditions.’

Mr Holland accordingly drew out a sketch of a plan for a bank in Scotland, which his friend, in a very few days thereafter, had transfused into a parliamentary bill of the Scottish form. He had also spoken, he said, to most of his countrymen of any mercantile importance in London to engage their favour for the scheme. Mr Holland was readily induced to lend his aid in further operations, and the project appears to have quickly come to a bearing, for, little more than six months from the opening of the Bank of England, the act for the Bank of Scotland had passed the native parliament.

In our country, as in England, exchanges and other monetary transactions, such as are now left to banking companies, had hitherto been solely in the hands of a few leading merchants; some such place as the back-shop of a draper in the High Street of Edinburgh, or an obscure counting-room in the Saltmarket of Glasgow, was all that we could shew as a bank before this period; aad the business transaeted, being proportioned to the narrow resources and puny industry of the country, was upon a scale miserably small. Yet there was now, as we have seen, an expansive tendency in Scotland, and the time seems to have arrived when at least a central establishment for the entire country might properly be tried in the capital.

While, unluckily, we do not know the name of’ the Scottish gentleman who propounded the scheme to Mr Holland, we are enabled, by the recital of the act, to ascertain who were the first patrons and nurses of the project generally, of merchants in London, besides the English name of Mr Holland, we find those of Mr James Foulis; Mr David Nairn, Mr Walter Stuart, Mr Hugh Frazer, Mr Thomas Coutts, and Mr Thomas Deans, who were all of them probably Scotsmen. Of Edinburgh merchants, there were Mr William Erskine, Sir John Swinton, Sir Robert Dickson, Mr George Clark, junior, and Mr John Watson. Glasgow was wholly unrepresented. These individuals were empowered by the act to receive subscriptions between the ensuing 1st of November and 1st of January. The whole scheme was modest, frugal, and prudential in a high degree. It was contemplated that the Bank of Scotland should start with a subscribed capital of £1,200,000 Scots—that is, £100,000 sterling, in shares of £1000 Scots each; two-thirds to be subscribed by individuals residing in Scotland, and one-third by individuals residing in England, no person to hold more than two shares. The company was to be under the rule of a governor, deputy-governor, and twenty-four directors, of the last of whom twelve should be English, these being ‘thought better acquainted with the nature and management of a bank than those of Scotland.’ As a further encouragement to English assistance, the act ordained that any person subscribing for a part of the stock, should be considered as ipso facto naturalised.

The subscription of the £66,666, 18s. 4d. allowed to Scotland began at the appointed time, the Marquis of Tweeddale, his majesty’s commissioner to parliament, and his son, Lord Yester, being the first who put down their names. The subscription of the remaining £33,333, 6s. 8d. was effected in London in one day, the chief adventurers being Scotsmen resident there. The heads of the concern in Edinburgh felt themselves sadly ignorant of the arrangements required for a public bank, and deemed it absolutely necessary that Mr Holland should come down to advise and superintend their proceedings. He very generously agreed to do so, reside for some time in Edinburgh, and return upon his own charges; while they, as liberally, took care, by a rich present to his wife, that he should be no loser by the journey. He relates that his proposals were all at first objected to and controverted by the Scotch managers, in consequence of their utter ignorance of banking, yet all in perfect good-humour, and manifestly from a pure desire to get at the expedients which were best; and all were ultimately agreed to. This occasioned a difficulty at starting, and to this was added no small amount of jealous opposition and distrust; nevertheless, Mr Holland remarks that, within two months, and even while the Bank of England was notoriously unable to pay its bills, those of the Scottish establishment had attained to a surprising degree of credit. It may here be remarked, that, ere long, by consent of the English proprietors, the whole twenty-four directors were elected from the Scottish shareholders, leaving thirteen English ones to act as trustees, to manage what affairs the company should have at London; and in time, when there were no longer so many as thirteen proprietors in England, even this arrangement was abandoned.

Several of the prominent Scottish shareholders were members of the African Company; but it appears that there was anything but a concert or good agreement between the two sets of projectors. Paterson regarded the Bank of Scotland as in some degree a rival to his scheme, and talked of the act appointing it as having been surreptitiously gained! While so sanguine about the African Company, he thought the bank unlikely to prove a good thing to those concerned in it, little foreseeing that it would flourish for centuries after the Indian Company had sunk in its first calamitous venture.

The Bank of Scotland set up in a floor in the Parliament Close, with a moderate band of officials, and ten thousand pounds sterling of paid-up capital. It had scarcely started, when the African Company added a banking business to its other concerns, meaning thus to overpower the project of Mr Holland. That gentleman was in Edinburgh at the time. He saw that the African Company was in the highest vogue with the public, while few took any notice of his modest establishment. As governor, he prudently counselled that they should make no attempt to enforce, the exclusive privilege which the statute had conferred upon them for twenty-one years, but to limit themselves to standing on their guard against that mighty Company, lest it should try to injure or ‘affront’ them by a run upon their cash. For this reason, by his advice, twenty thousand pounds of the capital was called up, in addition to the ten thousand lodged at first. The smallness of these sums is amusing to men who know what banking in Scotland now is; yet it appears that from the first the Bank of Scotland had five, ten, twenty, fifty, and hundred pound notes. After a little while, it was found that banking did not succeed with the African Company, chiefly .because they lent money in too large sums to their own shareholders, and the Bank of Scotland was then allowed to go on without any competition. The capital lately called up was then paid back, leaving the original sum of £10,000 alone in the hands of the bank.

The chief business of the bank at first was the lending of money on heritable bonds and other securities. The giving of bills of exchange - the great business of the private bankers—was, after deliberation at a general meeting of the ‘adventurers,’ tried, with a view to extending the usefulness of the concern as far as possible. In pursuance of the same object, and ‘for carrying the circulation of their notes through the greatest part of the kingdom,’ branch-offices were erected at Glasgow, Dundee, Montrose, and Aberdeen, ‘with cashiers and overseers at each place, for receiving and paying money, in the form of inland exchange, by notes and bills made for that purpose.’ But, after what appeared a fair trial, the directors ‘found that the exchange trade was not proper for a banking company.’ A bank they conceived to be ‘chiefly designed as a common repository of the nation’s cash—a ready fund for affording credit and loans, and for making receipts and payments of money easy by the company’s notes.’ To deal in exchange was ‘to interfere with the trade and business of private merchants.’ The Bank of Scotland found it ‘very troublesome, unsafe, and improper.’ One reason cited some years afterwards, by a person connected with the bank, was—’There is so much to be done in that business without doors, at all hours by day and night, with such variety of circumstances and conditions, as are inconsistent with the precise hours of a public office, and the rules and regulations of a well-governed company; and no company like the bank can be managed without fixing stated office-hours for business, and establishing rules and regulations which will never answer the management of the exchange trade.’ As for the branch-offices, the inland exchange contemplated there failed from another cause, strikingly significant of the small amount of commercial intercourse then existing between the capital and the provinces of. Scotland. The bank, we are told, found it impracticable to support the four sub-offices ‘but at an expense far exceeding the advantage and conveniency rising therefrom; for, though the company would willingly have been at some moderate charge to keep them up, if they could thereby have, effectuated an answerable circulation of bank notes about these places, for accommodating the lieges in their affairs, yet they found that those offices did contribute to neither of those ends; for the money that was once lodged at any of those places by the cashiers issuing bills payable at Edinburgh, could not be redrawn thence by bills from Edinburgh’—of course, because of there being so little owing in Edinburgh to persons residing in the provinces. So, after a considerable outlay in trying the branch-offices, the directors were obliged to give them up, and ‘bring back their money to Edinburgh by horse-carriage.’

The company’s business was thenceforward for many years ‘wholly restricted to lending money, which seems to be the only proper business of a bank, and all to be transacted at Edinburgh.’

July 17
The estates of Duncan Forbes of Culloden, in sundry parishes, near Inverness, having been much wasted in 1689 and 1690, both by the ravages of the king’s enemies and the necessary sustentation of his troops, he now gave in a petition shewing that his damages had in all amounted to the sum of £47,400, 6s. 8d. Scots. The parliament recommended his case to the gracious consideration of his majesty, and the result was a requital, not in money, but in the form of a perpetual privilege to the Laird of Culloden of distilling from the grain raised on his estate of Ferintosh, upon paying of only a small composition in lieu of excise.

The estate of Ferintosh consisted of about eighteen hundred arabic acres, and the produce of barley was so considerable that a very large quantity of whisky came to be produced within its bounds; Hugo Arnot says nearly as much as in all the rest of Scotland together—but Hugo, it must be admitted, is a remarkably unstatistical author. Whatever might be the exact truth, there was certainly a surprising quantity of usquebaugh issued forth from the domains of Forbes, insomuch that Ferintosh came to be that quasi synonym for whisky which ‘Kilbagie’ and ‘Glenlivet’ afterwards were in succession. The privilege of course yielded a large revenue to the family, and in time made ample compensation for all their patriotic sufferings past and potential. In 1784, when at length the government was inclined to purchase it back, there was such a demonstration made of its lucrativeness, that the capital sum of £21,500 assigned for it was thought to be but a poor equivalent.

The minister of Dingwall, in his account of the parish, written a few years after the abolition of the Ferintosh privilege, tells of a remarkable consequence of that measure. During the continuance of the privilege, quarrels and breaches of the peace were abundant among the inhabitants, yielding a good harvest of business to the procurators (i.e. solicitors) of Dingwall. When the privilege ceased, the people became more peaceable, and the prosperity of attorney jam in Dingwafl sustained a marked abatement.

1695, May 16
It was not so subscribing a world at the close of the seventeenth century as it is now; yet, poor as our country then was, she kept her heart open for important public objects, and for works in which faith and charity were concerned.

There was no bridge over the Clyde between Bothwell Bridge and Little-gill Bridge, a space of eighteen miles. At Lanark, there was a ferry-boat; but the river was frequently impassable, and there were repeated instances of the whole passengers being swept down and engulfed in the Stonebyres Linn. Arrangements were now made, chiefly by a collection at all the church-doors in the kingdom, for building ‘a sufficient stone bridge’ at the foot of the Inch of Clydeholm—this charitable measure being rendered necessary by the poverty to which the burgh of Lanark had been reduced by spoliation during the late reign, ‘by exactions, of fines, free quarters for soldiers, and the like.’

By order of parliament, a collection of money was made, in July 1695, in the parish churches of the kingdom, for the benefit of Andrew Watson, skipper, and eight mariners of his vessel, who, in a voyage from Port Glasgow to Madeira, on the 19th of November in the preceding year, in latitude 38 degrees, had been attacked by two Salee rovers, and by them carried as captives to Mamora, in Marocco. In their petition to parliament, they described themselves as resting in a slavery more cruel and barbarous than they could express, without the proper necessaries of life, and ‘above all, deprived of the precious gospel, which they to much slighted when they enjoyed it,’ with no prospect before them but to die in misery and torment, unless they have some speedy relief. The contributions were to be handed to John Spreul, merchant in Glasgow, he finding caution to apply them to their proper end.

Aug 15
‘Those of the Scots nation residing at Konigsberg, in Prussia,’ petitioned the Privy Council by their deputy, Mr Francis Hay, for assistance in building a kirk for their use, for which they had obtained a liberty from the Duke of Brandenburg. A collection at all the church-doors in the kingdom was ordained for this purpose; and it is surprising with what sympathy the poor commons of Scotland would enter on a movement of this kind,. We find that the little parish of Spott, in East Lothian, contributed nearly three pounds sterling towards the Konigsberg kirk.

At the ‘break of a storm ‘—by which is meant the melting of a great fall of snow—in November 1698, the southern streams were flooded, and the bridge of Ancrum was so broken and damaged that it could be no longer serviceable. This being the only bridge upon the water of Teviot, on an important line of communication between the north and south in the centre of the Borders, and there being no ferry-boat on the river but one seven miles further up, it was most desirable that it should be rebuilt; but the calculated expense was betwixt eight and nine thousand merks (from £450 to £500 sterling), and an act of Council offering a pontage to any one who would undertake this business altogether failed of its object. In these circumstances, the only alternative was a collection at all the church-doors in the kingdom, and permission to make such a levy was accordingly granted by the Privy Council.

The vicissitudes of witchcraft jurisprudence in Scotland are remarkable. While Presbyterianism of the puritanic type reigned uncontrolled between 1640 and 1651, witches were tortured to confession and savagely burnt, in vast numbers, the clergy not merely concurring, but taking a lead in the proceedings. During the Cromwell ascendency, English squeamishness greatly impeded justice in this department, to the no small dissatisfaction of the more zealous. On the Restoration, the liberated energies of the native powers fell furiously on, and got the land in a year or two pretty well cleared of those vexatious old women who had been allowed to accumulate during the past decade. From 1662 to the Revolution, prosecutions for witchcraft were comparatively rare, and, however cruel the government might be towards its own opponents, it must be acknowledged to have introduced and acted consistently upon rules to some extent enlightened and humane with regard to witches—namely, that there should be no torture to extort confession, and no conviction without fair probation. I am not sure if the opposite party would not have ascribed it mainly to the latitudinarianism of Episcopacy, that the whole history of witchcraft, throughout the two last Stuart reigns, betrayed an appearance as if the authorities were not themselves clear for such prosecutions, and, in dictating them, oniy made a concession to the popular demands.

For a few years after the Revolution, the subject rested in the quiescence which had fallen upon it some years before. But at length the General Assembly began to see how necessary it was to look after witches and charmers, and some salutary admonitions about these offenders were from time to time issued. The office of Lord Advocate, or public prosecutor, had now fallen into the hands of Sir James Steuart of Goodtrees, a person who shared in the highest convictions of the religious party at present in power, including reverence for the plain meaning of the text, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ The consequence was, that the reign of William III. became a new Witch Period in Scotland, and one involving many notable cases.

Aug 8
In August 1695, two married women, named M’Rorie and M’Quicken, residing respectively at the Mill-burn and Castlehill of Inverness, were in the Tolbooth of that northern burgh, under a suspicion of being witches; and the Privy Council, seeing the inconvenience of having them brought to an inquest in Edinburgh, issued a commission for their being tried on the spot by David Polson of Kinmilnes, sheriff-depute of Inverness; William Baillie, commissar there; Alexander Chishoim, ballie to Lord Lovat; Duncan Forbes of Culloden; —— Cuthbert of Castlehill; and —Duff, provost of Inverness, any three of them to be a quorum. The arrangements for the trial were all carefully specified in this commission; and. it was intimated in the end that, ‘in case the said judges shall find the said panels guilty of the said horrid crime laid to their charge,’ the commissioners should adjudge theta ‘to be burned or otherwise execute to death.’

In March 1696, a commission was issued in similar terms for the trial of ‘Janet Widdrow, in the parish of Kilmacolm, presently prisoner in the Tolbooth of Paisley, alleged guilty of the horrid crime of witchcraft.’ Two months later, the Lord Advocate applied to the Council for an extension of power to the commission against Janet Widdrow, as ‘it is now informed that the said Janet doth fyle and put out several others, and as there are some persons in these bounds against whom there are probable and pregnant grounds of suspicion.’ The request was complied with.

Some months later (December 3, 1696), we hear of some informalities in the process against Janet Widdrow and Isobel Coclirane, and the Lord Advocate was requested to report on the matter.

So much for the present; but let the reader see onward under February 1697, March 1, 1698, &c.

It is remarked by a Presbyterian historian of the popular class, that the time of the ‘Persecution’ was one of general abundance. God, he believed, did not choose to let his people suffer in more ways than one. But, not long after King William had brought days of religious security, the seasons began to be bad, and much physical suffering ensued. According to this historian, Alexander Peden foretold how it would be. ‘As long,’ said he, ‘as the lads are upon the hills, you will have bannocks o’er night; but if once you were beneath the bield of the brae, you will have clean teeth and many a black and pale face in Scotland.’

Nevertheless, the country was so much at its ease in the matter of food in July 1695, that the Estates then passed an act for encouraging the export of grain, allowing it to go out duty free, and ordaining that so it should be whenever wheat was at or under twelve pounds (Scots) the boll; bear, barley, and malt under eight; pease and oats, under six; provided these grains should be carried in Scottish ships.

By an act passed in 1672, it was forbidden to import meal from Ireland while the price in Scotland remained below a certain rate. And that this was a serious matter, is proved by an order of Council in April 1695, for staving the grain brought from Carrickfergus in two vessels, named the James and the Isobel, and for handing over the vessels themselves to Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, who had seized them on their way to a Scottish port. It never occurred to a legislator of those days that there was a kind of absurdity, as well as a glaring selfishness, in arranging for his own country receiving while it should not give.

As if to rebuke such policy, the very month after good food prospects had induced the Scottish Estates to permit of exportation, the crop was stricken in one night by an easterly fog, and ‘got little more good of the ground.’ The corn was both bad and dear. So early as November, this produced a disorder of the cholera type, accompanied by severe fevers: ‘all our old physicians had never seen the like, and could make no help.’ It was not in all cases the direct result of bad unwholesome victual, for several, who used old corn, or sent to Glasgow for Irish meal, were nevertheless smitten with the prevailing malady, ‘in a more violent and infectious manner than the poorest in the land.’

The price of victual having, in the western shires, ascended beyond the importation rate fixed in 1672, the Privy Council (December 13), ‘in consideration of the present scarcity in. those parts, and the distress ensuing upon it,’ gave allowance for the importation of meal, ‘but of no other grain,’ from Ireland, to ‘any port between the mouth of Annan and the head of Kintyre,’ between this date and the 1st of February exclusive.

A few days later, the Council took measures for fining certain baxters of Glasgow and others who had imported grain before the issue of the above licence.

On the 7th of February 1696, the Council extended the period during which Irish meal might be imported to the 15th of April, seeing that the price of the article in the western shires still continued above that set down in the act of 1672. On the 25th of February, the period was further extended to the 15th of May.

In June, the evil having become more serious, the whole ports of the kingdom were opened to foreign grain, while the usual denunciations were launched against persons keeping up victual in girnels and stacks. Now the summer was passing into autumn, and the weather was of such a character, or, as the Privy Council expressed it, the season was so ‘unnatural,’ ‘as doth sadly threaten the misgiving and blasting of the present crop, to the increase of that distress whereby the kingdom is already afflicted.’ For these reasons, at the request of the church, a fast was proclaimed for the 25th of August in churches south of the Tay, and on the 8th of September in ‘all the planted churches of the rest of this kingdom.’

Viewing the 'pinching straits and wants’ of the poor at this crisis, and the demands which these make upon Christian charity and compassion, the Council recommended that on the day of the fast, and the Lord’s Day thereafter, there should be a ‘cheerful and liberal contribution’ at the church-doors for the indigent, ‘as the best and most answerable expression of earnestness in the aforesaid duty.’ Another edict held out a bounty of one pound Scots for every boll of foreign victual imported.’

Some Englishmen having brought a parcel of corn to the market of Kelso, William Kerr of Chatto’s servants exacted from them a custom he had a right to from all victual there sold—this right being one of which his family had been ‘in immemorial possession.’ The Englishmen resisted the exaction with scorn and violence, and Chatto was obliged to appeal for protection of his right to the Privy Council. Such, however, was at that time the need for foreign grain, that the Council suspended Chatto’s right for the next three months.

July 30
Some gentlemen in Edinburgh received information from their correspondents in Aberdeenshire, that that county and the one next adjacent were nearly destitute of victual, and that if they be not speedily supplied, and victual transported [thither], a good part of that and the next county will undoubtedly starve.’ Already, within the last fortnight, several had died from want. In these circumstances, George Fergussoii, baillie of Old Meldrum, and Alexander Smith, writer in Edinburgh, proposed to purchase a thousand or twelve hundred bolls of corn and bear in the north of England, and have it carried by sea to Aberdeen, there to sell it at any rate the proper authorities might appoint above the cost and the expense of carriage, and the surplus to be used for any suitable public object, the proposers having no desire of profit for themselves, ‘but allenarly the keeping of the poor in the said shire from starving.’ They were anxious, however, to be protected from the risk of losing their outlay, in case the vessel should be taken by the French privateers, and they petitioned the Privy Council accordingly. Their wishes were recommended to the consideration of the Lords of the Treasury.

It was reported from Roxburghshire, on the 22d December 1696, that, in consequence of the ‘great frosts, excessive rains, and storms of snow,’ the corns in many places ‘are neither cut down nor led in, nor is the samen ripened nor fit for any use, albeit it were cut down and led in.’ The boll of meal was already at twenty-four pounds Scots, and bear, wheat, and rye at fourteen or fifteen pounds per boll. Already many poor people and honest householders were ‘reduced to pinching straits and want,’ and still more extreme scarcity was to be expected.

In these circumstances, the Lords of the Privy Council granted permission to Thomas Porteous, late provost, and. Robert Ainslie, late bailie in Jedburgh, to import victual from England without duty, overland. If any of the said victual should be imported by sea, it would be confiscated for the use of the poor, ‘unless it can be made appear that the victual imported by sea was bought and paid for by the product of this kingdom, and not by transporting money out of the kingdom for the same.’

Nov 22
The Feast of St Cecilia was celebrated in Edinburgh with a concert of vocal and instrumental music, shewing a more advanced state of the art than might have been expected. The scheme of the performances exhibits a series of pieces by Italian masters: as Corelli and Bassani, to be executed by first and second violins, flutes and hautbois, and basses; the opening piece giving seven first violins, five second violins, six flutes and two hautbois. There were thirty performers in all, nineteen of them gentlemen-amateurs, and eleven teachers of music. Among the former were Lord Colville, Sir John Pringle, Mr Seton of Pitmedden, Mr Falconer of Phesdo, Mr John (afterwards General) Middleton, Lord Elcho, and Mr John Corse, keeper of the Low Parliament House Records. Some of these gentlemen are described as having been skilled in music, and good players on the violin, harpsichord, flute, and hauthois. Among the professional men were Henry Crumbden, a German, ‘long the Orpheus in the music-school of Edinburgh;’ Matthew M’Gibbon, father of William M’Gibbon, noted for his sets of Scots airs with variations and basses; Adam Craig, a good orchestra-player on the violin; Daniel Thomson, one of the king’s trumpets; and William Thomson, a boy, son of the above, afterwards editor of a well-known collection (being the first) of Scots songs, with the music.

See under 1718 for further notices of the rise and progress of music in Scotland.

In this age, every person of any note who died became the subject of a metrical elegy, which was printed on a broadside, and cried through the streets. Allan Ramsay, a few years later, makes satiric allusion to the practice:

None of all the rhyming herd
Are more encouraged and revered,
By heavy souls to theirs allied,
Than such who tell who lately died.
No sooner is the spirit flown
From its clay cage to lands unknown,
Than some rash hackney gets his name,
And through the town laments the same.
An honest burgess cannot die,
But they must weep in elegy:
Even when the virtuous soul is soaring
Through middle air, he hears it roaring.

The poetry of these mortuary verses is usually as bad as the typography, and that is saying a great deal; yet now and then one falls in with a quaint couplet or two— as, for example, in the piece:


In gloomy shades of darksome night, where Phoebus hides his head,
I heard an echo cry aloud, that Umphrey Milne was dead.
My stupid senses rose aloft and wakened with a cry,
Let Pegasus, the Muses’ horse, go through the air and fly,
To tell the ends of all the earth that he has lost his breath—

* * * *

I will not name his parentage, his breeding, nor his birth;
But lie that runs may read his life—he was a man of worth.
He valued not this earth below, although he had it satis,
He loved to lay his stock above, and now he is

* * * *

Since none can well describe his worth that in this land doth dwell,
He’ll waken at the trumpet’s blow, and answer for himsell.

The street elegists got a capital subject in July 1700, when Lady Elcho died in youth and beauty, in consequence of her clothes catching fire. Of her it is said:

Were it the custom now to canonise,
We might her in the Aib of Saints comprise.
She either was as free from faults as they,
Or had she faults, the flame purged these away.

As to her ladyship’s surviving husband:

Only well-grounded hopes of her blest state
Can his excessive agonies abate,
And the two hopeful boys she left behind,
May mitigate the sorrows of his mind.

Dec 13
The dies and punches required for the new coinage now about to be issued, were the work of James Clarke, being the first time the work had ever been executed within the kingdom. James had done the whole business in less than a year, ‘which used to take no less than two or three years when executed in England, and cost the general and master of the Mint great attendance and much expenses;’ but as yet ‘he had not received one farthing for his work,’ although it had been agreed that he should have a half of his charges beforehand. The Privy Council, on his petition,
recommended the Treasury to pay him two hundred pounds sterling, being the sum agreed upon.

In Scotland, justice had at this time, as heretofore, a geographical character. It did not answer for a Highlander to be tried too near the lands of his feudal enemies. If, on the other hand, he was to be tried in Edinburgh, his accusers were likely to find the distance inconveniently great, and prefer letting him go free.

James Macpherson of Invernahaven was under citation to appear before the Lords of Justiciary at Inverness, on a charge of having despoiled John Grant of Conygass of certain oxen, sheep, and other goods in June or July 1689, ‘when Dundee was in the hills.’ The Laird of Grant being sheriff of Inverness, and other Grants engaged in the intended trial, Macpherson, though protesting his entire innocence, professed to have no hope of ‘impartial justice;’ yet he appeared at the citation, and was immediately committed close prisoner to the Tolbooth of Inverness, where he was denied the use of pen and ink, and the access of his friends, so that he ‘expected nothing but a summary execution.’

On his petition, the Privy Council ordained (December 10) that he should be liberated under caution, and allowed to undergo a trial before the Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh. He accordingly presented himself before the Lords on the last day of the year, and was committed to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. On the 28th of January, he petitioned for entire liberation, as Grant of Conygass failed to appear to urge the prosecution; and, with the concurrence of the Laird of Grant, a member of the Privy Council, this petition was complied with.

Not content with the proper Physic Garden assigned to him at the end of the North Loch, James Sutherland had, in February last, extended his operations to ‘the north yard of the Abbey where the great Dial stands, and ‘which is near to the Tennis Court.’ Under encouragement from the Lords of the Treasury, he had been active in levelling and dressing the ground. He ‘had there this summer a good crop of melons;’ he had ‘raised many other curious annuals, fine flowers, and other plants not ordinary in this country.’ He entertained no doubt of being able in a few years ‘to have things in as good order as they are about London,’ if supplied with such moderate means as were required to defray charges and make the needful improvements, ‘particularly reed-hedges to divide, shelter, and lay the ground lown and warm, and a greenhouse and a store to preserve oranges, lemons, myrtles, with other tender greens, and fine exotic plants in winter.’

Fifty pounds sterling had been assigned to Sutherland out of the vacant stipends of Tarbat and Fearn in :Ross-shire; but of this only about a half had been forthcoming, and he had expended of his own funds upwards of a thousand pounds Scots (£83, 13s. 4d. sterling). He entreated the Lords of the Privy Council to grant reimbursement and further encouragement, ‘without which the work must cease, and the petitioner suffer in reputation and interest, what he is doing being more for the honour of the nation, the ornament and use of his majesty’s palace, than his own private behoof.’

The Council recommended the matter to the Lords of the Treasury.

1696, Jan 14
Margaret Balfour, Lady Rollo, had brought her husband relief from a burden of forty thousand merks resting on his estate, being a debt owing to her father; and without this relief he could not have enjoyed the family property. She had, according to her own account, endeavoured to live with him as a dutiful and loving wife, and they had children grown up; yet he had been led into a base course of life with a female named Isobel Kininmont, and in October last he had deserted his family, and gone abroad. The lady now petitioned the Privy Council for ailment to herself and her six children. The estate, she said, being eight thousand merks per annum (£444, 8s. 10d), she conceived that four thousand was the least that could be modified for her behalf, along with the mansion of Duncrub, which had been assigned to her as her jointure-house.

The Lords of the Council ordained that Lord Rollo should be cited for a particular day, and that for the time past, and till that day, the tenants should pay her ladyship a thousand pounds Scots, she meanwhile enjoying the use of Duncrub House. Lord Rob, failing to appear on the day cited, was declared rebel, and the lady’s petition was at the same time complied with in its whole extent.

William Murray, tavern-keeper in the Canongate, was again a prisoner on account of an offensive news-letter. He had suffered close imprisonment for twenty-one weeks, till ‘his health is so far decayed, that, if he were any longer where he is, the recovery thereof will be absolutely desperate.’ his house having been shut up by the magistrates, his liquors and furniture were spoiled, and ‘his poor wife and family exposed to the greatest extremity and hazard of being starved for cold and hunger in this season of the year.’ He represented to the Privy Council that he was willing to be tried for any crime that could be laid to his charge. ‘Ane Englishman’s directing,’ however, ‘of ane news-letter to him was neither a crime nor any fault of his. In case there was anything unwarrantable in the letter, the postmaster was obliged in duty to have suppressed the same, after he had read and perused it.’ His having, on the contrary, delivered it, ‘after he had read and perused it,’ was ‘sufficient to put him in bond fide to believe that the letter might thereafter be made patent.’

Murray went on to say that ‘this summar usage of himself and his poor family, being far above the greatest severity that ever was inflicted by their Lordships or any sovereign court of the nation, must be conceived to be illegal, arbitrary, and unwarrantable, and contrair both to,. the claim of right and established laws and inviolable practice of the nation.’

The Council did so far grant grace to Murray as to order him out of jail, but to be banished from Lothian, with certification that, if found in those bounds after ten days, he should be taken off to the plantations.

Jan 16
The imbecile Laird of Drum was recently dead, and the lady who had intruded herself into the position of his wife—Marjory Forbes by name—professed a strong conviction that she would ere long become the mother of an heir to the estate. For this consummation, however, it was necessary that she should have fair-play, and this she was not likely to get. Alexander Irvine of Murtle, heir of tailzie to the estate in default of issue of the late laird, had equally strong convictions regarding the hopes which Lady Drum asserted herself to entertain. He deemed himself entitled to take immediate possession of the castle, while Marjory, on her part, was resolved to remain there till her expected accouchement. Here arose a fine case of contending views regarding a goodly succession, worthy to be worked out in the best style of the country and the time.

Marjory duly applied to the Privy Council with a representation of her circumstances, and of the savage dealings of Murtle. When her condition and hopes were first spoken of some months ago, ‘Alexander Irvine, pretended heir of tailzie to the estate of Drum’—so she designated him—’ used all methods in his power to occasion her abortion, particularly by such representations to the Privy Council as no woman of spirit, in her condition, could safely bear.’ When her husband died, and while his corpse lay in the house, Murtle ‘convocat a band of armed men to the number of twenty or thirty, with swords, guns, spears, fore-hammers, axes, and others, and under silence of night did barbarously assault the house of Drum, scaled the walls, broke up the gates and doors, teared off the locks, and so far possessed themselves of all the rooms, that the lady is confined in a most miserable condition in a remote, obscure, narrow corner, and no access allowed to her but at ane indecent and most inconvenient back-entry, not only in hazard of abortion, but under fear of being murdered by the said outrageous band of men, who carouse and roar night and day to her great disturbance.’

The lady petitioned that she should be left unmolested till it should appear in March next whether she was to bring forth an heir; and the Lords gave orders to that effect. Soon after, on hearing representations from both parties, four ladies—namely, the spouses of Alexander Walker and John Watson of Aberdeen, on Murtle’s part, and the wife of Count Leslie of Balquhain and the Lady Pitfoddels, on Lady Drum’s part—were appointed to reside with her ladyship till her delivery, Murtle meanwhile keeping away from the house.’

If I am to believe Mr Burke, Marjory proved to have been under a fond illusion, and as even a woman’s tenacity must sometimes give way, especially before decrees of law, I fear that Murtle would have her drummed out of that fine old Aberdeenshire château on the ensuing 1st of April.

Sir Robert Grierson of Lagg, the notable ‘persecutor,’ who had been not a little persecuted himself after the Revolution as a person dangerous to the new government, was now in trouble on a different score. He was accused of the crimes of ‘clipping of good money and coining of false money, and vending the samen when clipped and coined,’ inferring the forfeiture of life, land, and goods.

It appears that Sir Robert had let his house of Rockhill to a person named John Shochon, who represented himself as a gun-smith speculating in new modes of casting lead shot and stamping of cloth. A cloth-stamping work he had actually established at Rockhill, and he kept there also many engraving tools which he had occasion to use in the course of his business. But a suspicion of clipping and coining having arisen, a search was made in the house, and though no false or clipped coin was found, the king’s advocate deemed it proper to prosecute both Shochon and his landlord on the above charge.

June 22
The two cases were brought forward separately at the Court of Justiciary, and gave rise to protracted proceedings; but the result was, that Sir Robert and Shochon appeared to have been denounced by enemies who, from ignorance, were unable to understand the real character of their operations, and the prosecution broke down before any assize had been called.

Shochon was residing in Edinburgh in 1700, and then petitioned parliament for encouragement to a manufactory of arras, according to a new method invented by him, ‘the ground whereof is linen, and the pictures thereof woollen, of all sorts of curious colours, figures, and pictures.’

‘Lagg ‘—who had drowned religious women at stakes on the sands of Wigton—had the fortune to survive to a comparatively civiised age. He died in very advanced life, at Dumfries, about the close of 1733.

Apr 10
Some printed copies of certain ‘popish books ‘—namely, The Exposition of the True Doctrine of the Catholic Church in Matters of Controversy, An Answer to M. Dereden’s Funeral of the Mass, and The Question of Questions, which is, Who ought to be our Judges in all Differences in Religion?—having been seized upon in a private house in Edinburgh, and carried to the lodging of Sir Robert Chiesley, lord provost of the city, the Privy Council authorised Sir Robert ‘to cause burn the said books in the back-close of the town council by the hand of the common executioner, until they be consumed to ashes.’

Six months later, the Privy Council ordered a search of the booksellers’ shops in Edinburgh for books ‘atheistical, erroneous, profane, or vicious.’

We find the cause of this order in the fact, that John Fraser, book-keeper to Alexander Innes, factor, was before the Council on a charge from the Lord Advocate of having had the boldness, some day in the three preceding months, ‘to deny, impugn, argue, or reason against the being of a God;’ also he had denied the immortality of the soul, and the existence of a devil, and ridiculed the divine authority of the Scriptures, affirming they were only made to frighten folks and keep them in order.’

Fraser appeared to answer this charge, which he did by declaring himself of quite a contrary strain of opinions, as became the son of one who had suffered much for religion’s sake in the late reigns. He had only, on one particular evening, when in company with the simple couple with whom he lived, recounted the opinions he had seen stated in a book entitled Oracles of Reason, by Charles Blunt; not adverting to the likelihood of these persons misunderstanding the opinions as his own. He professed the greatest regret for what he had done, and for the scandal he had given to holy men, and threw himself upon their Lordships’ clemency; calling them to observe that, by the late act of parliament, the first such offence may be expiated by giving public satisfaction for removing the scandal.

The Lords found it sufficiently proven, that Fraser had argued against the being of a God, the persons of the Trinity, the immortality of the soul, and the authority of the Scriptures, and ordained him to remain a prisoner ‘until he make his application to the presbytery of Edinburgh, and give public satisfaction in sackcloth at the parish kirk where the said crime was committed.’ Having done his penance to the satisfaction of the presbytery, he was liberated on the 25th of February.

The Council at the same time ordered the booksellers of Edinburgh to give in exact catalogues of the books they had for sale in their shops, under certification that all they did not include should be confiscated for the public use.’

Apr 15
In the austerity of feeling which reigned through the Presbyterian Church on its re-establishment, there had been but little disposition to assume a clerical uniform, or any peculiar pulpit vestments. It is reported, that when the noble commissioner of one of the first General Assemblies was found fault with by the brethren for wearing a scarlet cloak, he told them he thought it as indecent for them to appear in gray cloaks and cravats. When Mr Calamy visited Scotland in 1709, he was surprised to find the clergy generally preaching in ‘neckcloths and coloured cloaks.’ We find at the date here marginally noted, that the synod of Dumfries was anxious to see a reform in these respects. ‘The synod ‘—so runs their record—’considering that it’s a thing very decent and suitable, so it hath been the practice of ministers in this kirk formerly, to wear black gowns in the pulpit, and for ordinary to make use of bands, do therefore, by their act, recommend it to all their brethren within their bounds to keep up that laudable custome, and to study gravitie in their apparel and deportment every manner of way.’

From a poem of this time, in which a Fife laird, returned from the grave, gives his sentiments on old and new manners, we learn that formerly

We had no garments in our land,
But what were spun by th’ goodwife’s hand,
No drap-de-berry, cloths of seal,
No stuffs ingrained in cochineal;
No plush, no tissue, cramosie,
No China, Turkey, taffety;
No proud Pyropus, paragon,
Or Chackarally there was none;
No figurata, water shamlet,
No Bishop sattin, or silk camblet;
No cloth of gold or beaver hats,

* * * *

No windy-flourished flying feathers,
No sweet, permusted shambo leathers, &c.

And things were on an equally plain and simple footing with the ladies; whereas now they invent a thousand toys and vanities—

As scarfs, shefroas, tuffs, and rings,
Fairdings, facings, and powderings,
Rebats, ribands, bands, and ruffs,
Lapbends, shagbands, cuffs, and muffs;
Folding o’erlays, pearling sprigs,
Atries, fardingales, periwigs;
Hats, hoods, wires, and also kells,
Washing balls and perfuming smells;
French gowns cut and double-banded,
Jet rings to make her pleasant-handed;
A fan, a feather, bracelets, gloves—
All new-come busks she dearly loves.

The spirit which dictated these lines was one which in those days forced its way into the legislation of the country. In September 1696, an overture was read before parliament ‘for ane constant fashion of clothes for men, and another for ane constant fashion of clothes for women.’ What came of this does not appear; but two years later, the parliament took under consideration an act for restraining expenses of apparel. There was a debate as to whether the prohibition of gold and silver on clothes should be extended to horse-furniture, and carried that it should. Some one put to the vote whether gold and silver lace manufactured within the kingdom might not be allowed, and the result was for the negative. It was a painful starving-time, and men seem to have felt that, while so many were wretched, it was impious for others to indulge in expensive vanities of attire. The act, passed on the 30th August 1698, discharged the wearing of ‘any clothes, stuffs ribbons, fringes, tracing, loops, agreements, buttons, made of silver or gold thread, wire, or philagram.’

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