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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of Queen Anne: 1702 - 1714 Part 7

1712, July
Dr Pitcairn, the prince of wits and physicians in his day, being an Episcopalian and a Jacobite, moreover a man of gay and con­vivial habits, did not stand in good repute among the severer of the Presbyterian clergy. Regarding many things connected with religion from a peculiar point of view, which was not theirs, he sometimes appeared to them, by the freedom of speech he assumed on such points, and by the cast of comicality which he gave them, to be little better than an unbeliever. Wodrow in his Renfrew­shire parish heard of him and his associates with serious concern. It was reported, he tells us, that ‘Dr Pitcairn and others do meet very regularly every Lord’s Day, and read the Scriptures, in order to lampoon and ridicule it. It‘s such wickedness that, though we had no outward evidences, might make us apprehensive of some heavy rod.’

The Rev. James Webster, one of the Edinburgh clergy of that day, was distinguished by the highest graces as an evangelical preacher. He had been a sufferer under the ante-Revolution government, and hated a Jacobite with a perfect hatred. To the Jacobites, on the other hand, his high Calvinism and general severity of style were a subject of continual sarcasm and epigram; and it is not unlikely that Pitcain had launched at him a few jokes which he did not feel over meekly. In a poem of Pitcaum’s, Ad Ademas, there is, indeed, a passage in which Mr Webster, as minister of the folbooth kirk, a part of St Giles’s, is certainly glanced at:

‘Protinus AEgidii triplicem te confer in aedem,
Tres ubi Cyclopes fanda nefanda boant.’

Perhaps this very remark gave rise to all that followed.

One day, in a company where the magistrates of Edinburgh were present, Mr Webster fell into conversation with Mr Robert Freebairn, the bookseller. The minister complained that, in his auctions, Freebairn sold wicked and prohibited books; in particular, he had lately sold a copy of Philostratus’s Ljfe of Apollonius Tyanmus, which deists and atheists were eager to purchase, because it set forth the doings of that impostor as on a level with the miracles of Jesus. It being insinuated that these auctions ministered to an infamous taste, Mr Freebairn asked Mr Webster to ‘condescend upon persons;’ whereupon the latter unguardedly said: ‘Such persons, for example, as Dr Pitcairn, who is known to be a professed deist. As a proof of what I say, at that very sale where you found so many eager to purchase the Life of Apollonius, when some one remarked that a copy of the Bible hung heavy in comparison on your hands, Pitcairn remarked: “No wonder, for, you know, Verbun Dei menet in aeternum,” which was a direct scoffing at the sacred volume.’

Pitcairn, having this conversation reported to him by Freebairn, took it with lamentable thin-skinnedness, and immediately raised an action against Webster before the sheriffs for defamation. Webster advocated the ease to the Lords, on the ground that the sheriffs were not the proper judges in such a matter; and, after a good deal of debating, the Lords, considering that the pursuer skewed too much keenness, while the defender appeared willing to give reasonable satisfaction, recommended the Lord-justice Clerk ‘to endeavour to settle the parties amicably;’ and so the affair seems to have ended.’

In the early part of this month, the Rev. Mr Wodrow made an excursion into Galloway, and noted on the way several charac­teristic circumstances. ‘I find,’ he says, ‘they have no great quantity of straw, and necessity has learned them to make thrift of fern or breckaus, which grow there very throng (close). They thatch their houses with them . . . . stript of the leaves . . . . and say it lasts six or eight years in their great storms.’ He adverts to the moat-hills near some of the parish churches, and great cairns of stones scattered over the moors. Of a loch near Partan, he says: ‘There seem to be tracks of roads into it upon all bands;’ a description reminding us of the glacial grooves and scratches seen on rocks dipping into several of the Scottish lakes. ‘I notice,’ he says, ‘all through the stewartry (of Kirkcudbright) the houses very little and low, and but a foot or two of them of stone, and the rest earth and thatch. I observe all the country moorish. I noticed the stones through many places of far more regular shapes than in this country (Renfrewshire). On the water of Ken they are generally spherical (boulders). Through much of the moorish road to Crogo, they are square and long. The strata that with us lie generally horizontally, there in many places lie vertical.’

The worthy martyrologist received from a Galloway minister, on this tour, an account of the witches who were rife in the parish of Balmaclellan immediately after the Revolution. ‘One of them he got discovered and very clear probation of persons that saw her in the shape of a hare; and when taken she started up in her own shape. When before the judge, he observed her inclinable to confess, when of a sudden, her eyes being fixed upon a particular part of the room, she sank down in the place. He lifted her up and challenged her, whether her master had not appeared in that place. She owned it was so, confessed, and was execute. All this process is in the records of the presbytery, of which I am promised ane abstract.”

Wodrow seems to have had a taste for geology, though the word did not then exist He thus wrote to Edward Lluyd, August 26, 1709: ‘My house (is) within a quarter of a mile of the Aldhouse Burn, where you and I were lithoscoping. My pastoral charge does not allow me that time I once had, to follow out these subterranean studies, but my inclination is just the same as when I saw you, or rather greater, and I take it to be one of the best diversions from more serious work, and in itself a great duty, to view and admire my Maker in his works, as well as his word. I have got together some stone of our fossils hereabout, from our marl, our limestone, &c.”

The Edinburgh Courant newspaper contains several notices of a flood which happened this day in the west of Scotland, generally admitted to be the greatest in memory. Wodrow, who calls it ‘the greatest for ane age,’ says it prevented all travelling for the time between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The lower parts of the western city were, as usual on such occasions, deep in water, to the ruin of much merchandise, and the imprisonment of (it is said) twelve hundred families in the upper parts of the houses. A boat sailed about in the Briggate. The house of Sir Donald Macdonald—a gentleman regarded with great jealousy in Glasgow on account of his unpopular religion—is described in one account as immersed to the depth of three fathoms; which is probably an exaggeration. But we may believe Wodrow when he tells us that ‘the water came up to the well in the Saltmarkct.’

Great anxiety was felt at Glasgow for the safety of the fine old bridge, which had its arches ‘filled to the bree.’ Vast quantities of country produce and of domestic articles of all descriptions were brought down on the surface of the Clyde and other rivers of the province involved by the flood. Several lives were lost. At Irvine and other parts of Ayrshire, as well as in Renfrewshire, bridges were carried away, and great general damage inflicted. ‘A man and a woman were lost upon the water of Kelvin, and if the Laird of Bardowic had not sent his boat from his loch, to the said water of Kelvin, there had been a great many more people lost therein.’

If we are to believe the observant minister of Eastwood, the whole air at this season seemed ‘infected.’ He notes the fre­quency of madness in dogs, and that, owing to various epidemics, as ‘the galloping fever,’ sore throat, and measles, scarce a third of the people of Glasgow were able to appear in church.

I am told,’ he adds, ‘the Blantyre Doctor did presage this evil harvest and the floods; and they talk, but whether true or false I know not, that there is to be another and greater flood, wherein the Clyde shall be three steps up the Tolbooth stair in Glasgow.’

1712, Dec
Mr Robert Monteath was at this time preparing his celebrated Theater of Mortality, a collection of the sepulchral inscriptions existing throughout Scotland. It had already cost him ‘eight years’ sore travel, and vast charges and expenses.’ He now advertised for assistance in his task, ‘desiring all persons who have any valuable epitaphs, Latin, prose or verse, English verse only, or any historical, chronological, or moral inscriptions,’ to send just and
authentic copies of them to him ‘at his house in the College Wynd, Edinburgh.’ He took that opportunity of stating his hope that ‘all generous persons will cheerfully sub­scribe his proposals in a matter so pious, pleasant, profitable, and national.’

1713, May 1
Died, Sir James Steuart, Lord Advocate for Scotland, aged about seventy-eight, greatly lamented by the Presbyterians, to whom he had ever been a steadfast friend. The General Assembly, in session at the time, came in a body to his funeral, which was the most numerously attended ever known in Edinburgh, the company reaching from the head of the close in which his lordship lived, in the Luckenbooths, to the Greyfriars’ Church­yard. For several years, bodily infirmity confined him to a chair; but his mind continued clear to the last. Sir James had shewn some unsteadiness to his principles in the reign of James II., but nevertheless was forced to fly his country, and he only returned along with King William, whose manifesto for Scotland he is understood to have written.

Great general learning, legal skill, and worldly policy, marked Sir James Steuart; but the most remarkable characteristic of the man, considering his position, was his deep piety. Wodrow, who speaks of him from personal knowledge, says: ‘His death was truly Christian, and a great instance of the reality of religion….He had a great value for religion and persons of piety. He was mighty in the Scriptures; perfectly master of  [them]; wonderful in prayer. That winter, 1706—7, when he was so long ill, he was in strange raptures in his prayers sometimes in his family. He used to speak much of his sense of the advantage of the prayers of the church, and in a very dangerous sickness he had about thirteen years ago, he alleged he found a sensible turn of his body in the time of Mr George Meldrum’s prayer for him. He never fell into any trouble but he gave up his name to be prayed for in all the churches of the city of Edinburgh. His temper was most sweet and easy, and very pleasant. He was a kind and fast friend, very compassionate and charitable.’

May 11
The Lord Drummond, eldest son of the exiled Earl of Perth, and his wife, Jean Gordon, daughter of the Duke of Gordon, had a son and heir born to them, the same who afterwards took a conspicuous part in the rebellion of 1745, which he did not long outlive. Politics, long adverse to the house of Drummond, smiled on the birth of this infant heir, for never since the Revolution did the Whig interest seem more depressed. Lord Drummond was encouraged by these circumstances to take a step which would have been dangerous a few years before. It is related as follows by Wodrow: ‘The baptism of my Lord Drummond’s son [was performed in October] at his own house by a popish bishop with great solemnity. The whole gentlemen and several noblemen about, were gathered together; and when the mass was said, there were very few of them went out. Several justices of peace and others were there. This is a fearful reproach upon the lenity of our government, to suffer such opeu insults from papists.’

Two months later, Wodrow notes: ‘The papists are turning very open at Edinburgh, and all over Scotland there is a terrible openness in the popish party.’ It is alleged in a popular con­temporary publication, that there were fully forty Catholic priests living with little effort at concealment in Scotland; some of them very successful in winning over ignorant people to their ‘damnable errors;’ while one Mr Bruce, a popish bishop, had his ordinary residence in Perthshire, where he had his gardens, cooks, and other domestic servants, and thither the priests and emissaries of inferior rank resorted for their directions and orders     Their peats and other fuel were regularly furnished them …..[they had] also their mass-house, to which their blind votaries resorted almost as publicly as the Protestants did to their parish churches.

Oct 20
Died Dr Archibald Pitcairn, a man in most respects so strongly contrasted with his recently deceased countryman, Sir James Steuart, as to impress very strongly the absurdity of trying to ascribe any particular line of character to a nation or any other large group of people. To nearly every idea associated with the word Scotsman, Pitcairn, like Burns and many other notable Caledonians, stands in direct antagonism: he was gay, impulsive, unworldly, full of wit and geniality, a dissenter from Calvinism, and a lover of the exiled house of Stuart. Conviviality shortened his life down to the same measure which a worn-out brain gave to Walter Scott—sixty-one years. But he parted with the world in great serenity and good-humour, studying to make his last year useful for the future by writing out some of his best pro­fessional observations, and penning cheerful verses to his friends on his death-bed. In these, to the refutation of vulgar calumnies, he failed not to express his trust in a future and brighter existence:

‘Animas morte carere cano:
Has ego, corporibus profugas, ad Sidera mitto,
Sideraque ingressis otia blanda dico.’

A few months before his death, Pitcairn had. completed a volume of his medical essays, to which he prefixed a page strongly signi­ficant of his political predilections: it contained the following words in large characters: ‘To GOD AND HIS PRINCE this Work is humbly Dedicated by Artichibald Pitcairn,’ with the date, ‘June 10, 1713,’ being the well-known birthday of the said prince—namely, the Chevalier St George. Where practical matters are concerned, one sees in this volume the acuteness and good sense which gave the author his professional eminence. In theoretical matters, we find the absurdities which may be said to have been inseparable from medical science before either physiology or organic chemistry was understood. The phenomena of digestion are described by Pitcairn as wholly physical and mechanical. It is also rather startling to find him patronising poultices of ovine and bovine excreta, and powders made of the human skull.

The volume was published posthumously, and in the friendly biography prefixed to it, we find a charming professional portrait— always ready to serve every one to the utmost of his power, and even at the risk of his own life—never sacrificing the health of his patients for any humour or caprice not concerned about fees went with greater cheerfulness to those from whom he could expect nothing but good-will, than to persons of the highest condition —often, where needful, left marks of his charity, as well as his art, with the sick. This virtue of charity was indeed quite his own in its manner, for he usually conducted it in such a way that those benefiting by it remained ignorant of his being their benefactor.’ It is also stated of him that he was of ‘a pleasant engaging humour; that life sat easy upon him in all circumstances; that he despised many, but hated none.

In a country journey, Pitcairn discovered the learning and genius of Thomas Ruddiman, and he succeeded in bringing this remarkable man into a position which enabled him to exercise his talents. Ruddiman afterwards repaid the favour by gathering the many clever Latin poems of his patron, which he gave to the world in 1727. They are chiefly complimentary to the famous men on the cavalier side, or directly expressive of his political feelings; but some are general, and include such happy turns of thought as make us regret their not being in English. One of the most noted of his pieces was a brief elegy on the death of Dundee, which was translated into English by Dryden; and it must be acknowledged as something for a Scottish writer of Latin verses in that age, to have had men like Dryden and Prior for translators.

One cannot but reflect with pleasure on such connections amongst men of genius as that bctween Pitcairn and Ruddiman; and the association of ideas leads us to another anecdote connected with Pitcairn and to a similar purport. When the learned physician acted as professor at Leyden, he had amongst his pupils two men of great eventual eminence, Herman Boerhaave and Richard Mead, both of whom entertained a high sense of the value of his instructions. A son of Pitcairn having forfeited his life by appearing in the rebellion of 1715, Mead, then in great favour in high places, went to Sir Robert Walpole to plead for the young man’s pardon. ‘If I have been able,’ he said, ‘to save your or any other man’s life, I owe the power to this young man’s father.’ The claim was too strong, and put in too antithetic terms, to be resisted.

My old friend Alexander Campbell, editor of Albyn’s Anthology, was intimately acquainted with a maiden daughter of Pitcairn, who lived till the closing decade of the eighteenth century. He spoke of having once asked her to accompany him to the theatre, to see Mrs Siddons, when the old lady said gaily: ‘Aih, na, laddie; I have not been at ony play-house since I gaed to ane in the Canongate wi’ papa, in the year ten.’

‘This month there was an incident at Glasgow which made a very great noise in the country. Mr Gray (one of the clergy) was visiting (his flock), and in some house meets with one Andrew Watson, a journeyman shoemaker, lately come into the town from Greenock.’ On inquiry, he learned that this man
did not attend his ministrations, and, asking the reason, he was told it was because he, the minister, had taken the oath of abjuration. He seemed a stiff, pragmatical fellow, and in the course of an altercation which ensued, he called Mr Gray perjured. A lay elder, accompanying Mr Gray, resented this expression of the shoemaker, and reported it to Bailie Bowman, who, sending for Watson, demanded if he called Mr Gray perjured. ‘Yes, and I will so call every one who takes the oath of abjuration.’ ‘Do you own Mr Gray as your minister?’ ‘I will own no one who took that oath.’ ‘Do you own the magistrates?’ ‘No, if they have taken that oath,’ Here was a rebel for the worthy magistrates and ministers of Glasgow to be cherishing in their community. It was not to be borne. Bailie Bowman clapped the man up in jail, till it should be determined what was to be his ultimate fate. After a day or two, the magistrates sent for him, and questioned him as he had been questioned before, when he not only gave the same answers, but subscribed a paper disowning both ministers and magistrates, on the ground of their having taken the aforesaid oath. ‘They kept him in prison ten or twelve days, but could make nothing of him. They offered to let him out if he would confess he had given offence to the magistrates; but that he would not do.’ There were some who cried out against this procedure as ‘persecution,’ and they took care that the man did not want for maintenance. The last we hear of the matter is, that the magistrates ‘resolve to banish him the town.’ ‘Wodrow, who relates this occurrence, soon after makes the observation, that ‘the Presbyterians are ill termed bigot and narrow-spirited:’ that character ‘does best agree to papists and prelatists.’

It was remarked that an unwholesome air prevailed at this time, causing many hasty deaths, and favouring small-pox, of which eighty children died within a little time in Eglesham parish. ‘I hear it observed’; says Wodrow, ‘that in the summer-time never was known such a quantity of flees (flies.)’

1714, Jan 10
Campbell of Lochnell having died about this day, his son, a Jacobite, kept the corpse unburied till the 28th, in order that the burial might be turned to account, or made use of, for political purposes. It was customary for the obsequies of a Highland chief or gentleman to be attended by a vast multitude of people, who usually received some entertainment on the occasion. It seems to have been understood that those who came to Lochnell’s funeral were making a masked demonstration in favour of the exiled Stuart. Those of the opposite inclination deemed it necessary to attend also, in order to be a check upon the Jacobites. Hence it came to pass, that the inhumation of Lochnell was attended by two thousand five hundred men, well armed and appointed, five hundred being of Lochnell’s own lands, commanded by the famous Rob Roy, carrying with them a pair of colours belonging to the Earl of Breadalbane, and accompanied by the screams of thirteen bagpipes. Such a subject for a picture !

Keeping in view the article under September 1690, regarding the marriage of Walter Scott of Kelso with Mary Campbell of Silvercraigs, we may read with additional interest a letter by that person, written from Glasgow to his wife in February 1714, giving an account of the peculiar arrangements regarding her father’s funeral:

‘Glasgow, Feb. 2, 1714.

‘My Dear—I left Edinr upon fryday the 29th ‘of the last. Dean of (Guild) Allane nor your sister either durst venture to travel! to Glasgow with (me), on account of the season, but said that Mr Bell, Lisis younge husband, was there, whom Dean of Guild Allane had trusted with any business that could bee done for him. I called at Lithkow and saw Lissie, who was very kinde, was at Kilsyth all that night, came to Glasgow the next day, beeing Saturday, at twelve of the clock, and at two of the clock that day went down to the chesting of your father. He was buried yesterday att four a clock afternoon, beeing Monday the first instant, very devoutlie and honourablie, for Blythswood had ordered all things proper and suitable to a nicety. All the gentlemen in the place, the magistrates, and the citiezens of best esteem and substance, accompanied the funerall in very good order. I carried his head, Blythswood on my right, and Alex. Bell, Lissies husband, on my left hand; other nerest relations and Sr James Campbell of Auchinbrook carried all the way. After the funerall, there was prepared in the large room of the Coffeehouse a very handsome and genteele treat, to which the Magistrates and Gentlemen and friends were invited. The treat consisted of confections, sweet breads, and bisket of divers sorts, very fine and well done, and wines. There were at it upwards of thirtie. Wee are this day to look to his papers in presence of Bailie Bowman and town-clark, wherof you shall have account of after this. I have sent a letter to Sir Robert Pollock just now, whose answer I will wait. I am like to stay five days after this here, and the time I may stay in Edir depends on my success from Sir Rot Pollock. In the mean time let Robie be making himself ready, for his master told Dean of Guild that be thought he would bee readie to saul about the middle of this instant. When I come to Edt I shall know whither it will be needfull to send for him before I come home myselfe or not I recommend you all to the protection of God, and am,

‘My dear, your


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