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The Scots in Germany

Scottish Pilgrims at Breslau (ca. 1470)

Among the documents marked "Criminal Akten" in the Town-Library of Breslau, there is a folio-sheet, apparently dating from the end of the XVth Century, which contains the confessions of various Scotsmen in a trial that they had to undergo on the charge of unlawful vagabondage, etc. The writer, a rather illiterate clerk it would seem, says inter alia:

"Item Lorentz Gren (Green) from Scotland, from Edenburgh thirty miles off Dondy (Dundee) has come from Rome and has had no shoes, and has been ill for three quarters of a year. Now he has found countrymen here and a [friend] at Brünn has advised him to move to this place and to buy pepper, worm-seed, white ginger for to take it in brandy with a spoon. He left Scotland 111 days before Michaelmas and has vowed a pilgrimage to Rome when at sea in distress, and his father’s brother has written to from him Dantzke, that he should come to him."

"Item Thomas Sneider (?), also a Scot from Dondy one mile out of a village called Boyschry (?) has left his country on All-Souls’-Day and has long been ill and vowed a pilgrimage to Rome and has been to Rome on Palm Sunday and has come here on the evening before Whitsuntide. . . . He wishes to go to Dantzke and thence towards Scotland."

"Item Thomas Gybiscihen (Gibson) from Dondy, the town, a sailor, and has vowed a pilgrimage to St James (di Compostella) and fell ill on the journey, and has been begging and came here on account of strife . . . hence to Dantzke that he might return to Scotland."

"Item Valterius of Dessen (Dess in Aberdeen), and has not been to Scotland for three years, has been at Dantzke, at Rome, at Meissen and had been a pedlar and wants to go thence to Dantzke."

"Item Reichart (Richard) of Wick, Kathnes (Caithness) in Scotland, has been serving a gentleman called the Dyspan and afterwards four years in the service of the Queen of Hungary."

"Item Hans Robartez (Roberts) from a village called Stewen (?) and left Scotland about Michaelmas and has vowed a pilgrimage to Rome during an illness and has now been at Rome and has been begging on the way and has been at Meininge, hence to Dantzke, from Dantzke to Scotland."

"Item Andrea Heynersson (Henderson) from Edenburgh, is a tailor and left Scotland eleven years ago and was at Rome during Lent, went there for the sake of adventure and his trade, and has been begging his bread and when he got a penny, he stuck to it."

"Item Simon of Dessart (Dysart) is a linen-weaver and has been working at Swebissen (Schwiebus) with one Peter Wolf and comes from Leipzig and has been working in the sea-ports at Lupke (Lübeck), Hamburgk, and has also been begging for a crust of bread; if he got a penny, he stuck to it."

The same is reported of Alexander Kar from Haringthun (Haddington). At the close mention is made of:

Bartholomes Deyse (?) from Lyth (Leith) in Scotland, has been at Rome and at St James and has been begging and did vow a pilgrimage during an illness, a fever."

LETTER OF JAMES VI (Febr. 22, 1625).

James R. Right trustie and right well beloved Councillour, right trustie and right well beloved cosins and connsillouris. We greete you well. Whereas the grite number of young boyes uncapable of service and destitute of meanis of liveing yearlie transported out of that our kingdome to the East seas and speciallie to the town of Dantzik and there manie tymes miserablie in grite numbers dyeing in the streets have given quite scandall to the people of those countreyis and laid one foull imputation on that our kingdome, to the grite hinderance and detriment of those our subjects of the better, who traffique in the saidis countreyis: it is our pleasoure that by oppin proclainatioun yee cause prohibite all maisters of shippis to transport anie youthes of either sex to the said easterne countreyis bot such as either salbe sent for by thair friendis dwelling there or then sall carrie with thame sufficient meanis of meantenance at least for ane yeare under the payne of fyfe hundreth markis monie of that our kingdome toties quoties they sail offend in that kind.

NEWMARKET, 22nd day of Feb. 1625.


Gabriel Maxwell, Dani.rkin, to Sir John Maxwell of Follock.
31st August

Richt honoriabile, after my very humill dewtie remembrit, pleas now wilt that I am in good helth, presit bie God, wising daylie from my hert the lyk of yow, and all youris. Pus your worship, wit that I hef receivit my bor brief, quherin I thaink your hounor most humilie for the good fafour and painis ye hell takine concerning my bor brifl; pus your hounor, caus on of your servandis resew Ire the birar, Johne Alcoirne, one haime in takin off lowe. I prey your hounor to hold mie excusit off the wirth of it, for off a trouth at this occatione I can hell nothing that I can ofir in one takine off lowe to your hounor, becauis off the wins (wan); and now, presit bie God, wie hell this wiek pice for sertantie: it is proclamit hir in the toune off Danniskeine and the King being in the toune in the myne tyme. Not troubling your hounor fairder, bot commiting yow and all your afairis to the protectione of the Almychtie God, I rest, your most humillie cussing to be commandit,

G. M.’

Francis Craw to his family.


After wishing the love and peace of God the Almighty to be with you and all my dear friends, I heartily salute you accounting it a great mercy that I have the occasion to show that I am in good health, wishing the like with you and all friends. Dear Brother I took shipping at Aberdeen the 29th of June and landed safely here at Dansick the I ith day of August. We had exceeding good weather. I was not sick at all, bot the first day I did vomit a little after which I had my stomach better than ever I had at land and so remaining still here at Dansigk. Few or none of the men stood in need of prentices, bot I engagded with one William Abernethy from Aberdeen in Gordoven within 20 or 30 miles of Queensbrige (Kdnigsberg). He came not here himself bot a friend of his ane Gilbert Ramsay coming here from Queenbrig he desired him to find him a boy; so William Bissat to whom I was recommended by Mr Andrew’s friends at Aberdeen told him that I could not serve six or seven yeares as a boy bot if he would take me for four yeares I should accept. So Mr Ramsay told he had commission for five yeares and being a very honest man and a of Mr Bissat I have referred the writing of

mine indentor till he and my maister meet, he promised to me to do as much upon my favour as upon his, so I cannot give you an exact account of it bot the longest will be five yeares and with the next occasion I shall give you a full account. But I expect a letter from you with the first occasion from Leith which I hope you will not be forgettfull to doe. You shall direct it to my servitor Will. Abernethy in Gordonen to be left at William Frippold in Dansigk; you may show William Quhite that his brother is ded. I have not yet heard of Mrs Wilkinson’s brother, I take very well with this countrey and have my health as well as ever I had, blessed be God. So presenting my love and respect to you my dear mother, brothers and sisters and to all my dear friends in Scotland

your loving and dear brother


DANSIGK, 12th Aug. 1671—according to the Scotch Almonaks here in Dansigk they reckon ten dayes before us so that this day is the 22nd with them.

My cosin Patrick Lauder got a maister in Poiland in a town called Warso with one Hog (1) whose brother came with us from Aberdeen with whom I sent up my aunt’s letter to my cosine, he is bound bot for three yeares at the people where he quartered. John Cormack went to Polland, you may show Mrs Fleming her nephew has got a maister. I gave her letter to William Frizell with whom he quartered. Remember me kindly to all friends at Aberdeen and to all Mr Cockburns family, to my dear friends at Gordon and to all friends in general.

(Addr.) For Mr Patrick Craw  of Broughhead [Ruch head]

to be left at Mr Andrew Burns of Waristoun who lives in Aberdeen a little above Mr Wrights house on the south side of the gate.


I have received ane letter from you with ane from my dear unkle the 23d Sept. 74 being the first I received from you, partly glad to hear of your welfare with the rest of all my dear friends, likewise grieved to hear of my dear mothers sickness; I pray God he would preserve her, you and all friends from all evill inconveniences both of body and soul; likewise being grieved to hear of my dear aunts death, bot inwardly rejoycing whereas I hope she is enjoying the everlasting joy and happiness in heaven, to which I pray God would accept of me, and you all whensoever he may be pleased to call any of us out of this world. Dear brother I likewise received another letter from you 2d of June 1675 being the fourth that you had written to me, wherein you refer all affaires to the bearer my old sworn brother Alex. Home. It grieves me that I have not yet heard neither more or less of him . . . . in this country, to the which I should never have advised him. It is a great wrong parents doeth to their childring to keep them beside them till they come almost to mans yeares so that then they are ashamed to serve for boys especially in this countrey, where all must learn two or three several! languages which it is hard for any come to age to attain to, likewise to serve five or six yeares, the recompense being bot about 20 or 30 dollars with ane suit of new clothes, the trading degenerating, the contreys daily impoverishing by reason of the long continued wars in every place, likewise you show me that you with my friends have thought fitt to send over my brother David this summer, wherefor now I pray God would bless him with all spirituall blessings and mercies, wishing he may be more fortunate than I have been. Dear brother, my advice should rather have been to have put him to any tradesman, having once attained to the knowledge of any trade can be always able anywhere to earn his bread, as for to serve here, nowadays few there are that comes to any fortune, the proof of which I have already given. Many before my coming here having served ten or twelve yeares re-mains in ane poor condition, ‘severalls becomming souldiers, so that for my own part although I have now served out I know not what hand to turn me to, having no stock to begin withall. To come home and visitt you being in as poor a condition as I came from thence would be a shame, for throughout this whole countrey of Sprussia there is bot slight service to be had except it be in Dansigk or Queensbrig where I was not fortunate to get service and for to have passed to Polland being disswaded by many (although the farr richer countrey) because of their great travellings and alwayes being in hazard of their lives, being almost savage people for the most part papistes, so for the present contenting myselfe with a little rather than have been in continuall jeopardy, so hopping you will accept of these imperfect lines in good part, written in haste with this bearer Mr Chiesley (?) who came over here one harvest with ane Hamilton as I suppose out of the west countrey who has here ane unkle serving in the wars under the Duke of Brandenburg, he is come to great preferment being the last 2 yeares in the wars against the Frenches (?); his lady lives not far from this toun a Dutch woman (i.e. German) and Lutherian, his nephew remains with her till his unkles home comming. I never had the occasion to come into discourse with Mr Chieslle till a little before his departure, who did tell me he was acquainted with Mr Burnett and had been several! times at his house in Waristoun, so hopping you will not be forgettfull to write to me with all occasions, recommending my love and best respects to you my dear mother, brothers and sisters and to all good friends wishing the love and peace of God Alimightie to be with you all I remain your loving brother


To be left at Robt. Hamiltons, merchant in Edinburgh at the head of the lukkin booths.

MEMEL, June 23, 1675.



I received a letter from you the bypast year which was written 22nd August 76. I wrott to you several! times the last yeare bot as yet I have not gotten a line from you, which grieves me not a little. I have gotten three letters from my brother David, one the last yeare in which he showed me he was in good health bat there was a great pest thereabouts in the countrey. I have written to him severall times, he would gladly hear from you. I hope you doe write to me and also to him with every occasion, although they seldom come to our hands. My brother David is not with Mr Inglis in Warso as he informed me, bat with a Nicolay Gordon, dwelling in Vingroba not far from Warso of which I informed you last yeare. So if you doe write to him, direct it to him serving to the aforesaid man. He is bound to serve him six yeares. I am sorry that he is at such a distance from me and also that ever he should have come over to these countreyes, for he could have learned any honest trade perfectly in six yeares time, which had been far better than to serve here five or six years in which time they get little knowledge of merchandizing. Prentises for the most part in all these countreyes are honestly entertained in meat and cloaths bot when their times run out they must serve for a very little fie (!) with which they can scarcely uphold themselves in decent cloths and other necessaries. I have the by bypast week ingagded with my maister, again to serve him till this time 12 months for the value of Ioo pound Scotch. I would have gladly visited you, my dear mother and all other good friends this year, bot seeing I have ingagded for another year I hope God willing to visit you next year, for ought I know if I remain in life and health; dear brother, let me know of your condition and if my dear mother be in life and health with my loving sisters and how all other good friends are, the certaintie of which would be exceeding comfortable and refreshing to me to know. I have as yet heard nothing of my dear comrade Allex Home which grieves me exceedingly. I have bot no letter from my tinkle bot that which I got with yours four yeares ago as he was in Scotland. I have got no letter from you that was dated the last or this year. Let me know with the first occasion how the[e] amber beads are bought in Scotland whither they be bought by the pound weight or by string wayes and whither great or small be in greatest esteem, and whither yellow or reddish be bought. If you find no acquaintance to write to me this year, I entreat you forget not to write to me the next spring when you write homeQ). I entreat you to try and if you can find a sure occasion to send your letter to the town of Johnstone to one James Barclay whose son lives a long time in Queensbridge and with whom I was acquainted, or you can send your letter to the town of Dundee to one John Fairweather, a skipper, who comes every year to Queensbridge. He is for the present here and has brought letters to all the Scotsmen hereabouts who are for the most part from there or thereabout. I send this to you with him, inclosed in my comrades letter, one Robt Rollo who serves here in this town, who writes to the aforesaid Barclay desiring him to send the same to you which I hope he will doe if it come safely to his hand. I entreat you again to send your letter for me to him who would assuredly send them to me with the Dundee ships, for they are the first Scotch ships that comes every year to this countrey. Let me know if you have heard of my brother William since he past for Holland and if he be alive and in what town of Holland he is in. Here comes several Holland ships to this town every year so I could have written to him, if I knew where he was. Let me know what my cousin Lauder trades with. Show me also if you or Reston (?) knows where Allex. Home may be, and also how it is with all our good friends, the presbyterians, for I have heard they have been exceedingly persecuted. Now I wish the good God to bless you, my dear mother and sisters with all spirituall and temporall blessings. Thus recommending my love and altec-don to you, my dear and loving mother and sisters and all other good friends. Longing exceedingly to hear of all your welfare.

I rest your loving brother


MEMELL, 20th July 1678.



Having the occasion of this bearer, Mr Skeen, I lett you know that I am in good health wishing the like to you and all yours. He told me some years ago, being in this countrey that he did see you as he came through Aitoun (?) and that ye was very kind to him, and have written to you also with another friend more particularly and showed you that I did receive your letter with one from my sister Margaret, which was very acceptable to me, especially to hear that the Lord has blest you both with the bonds of matrimony. I wish you both again much joy and happiness. Dear brother, I showed you also that I would gladly have visited you this summer bot I was ingagded again with my maister for one year before I gott your letter, bot God willing the next year I intend to visit you if it please the Lord to preserve me in life and health. I would have written to you also with our next neighbour one Peter Morisone hot I was not at home as he past. I was in Memell at the Markitt. I would have written often to you this year for there hath been many Scotch ships here this year, bot I have travelled this whole summer, by reason my maister has been very sicke. I am also to pass for Tilsit within two weeks where we will keep markitt the matter of three weekes. Brother, my desire to you is, if it be in your power, to help me with a little stock, the matter of too dollars of money or moneys worth which you could send over with Alexander Home if he come over the next year to this countrey or with some other sure occasion, if ye cannot advance it, labour to get so much or more from some good friends upon interest. I could bring with me some little partie of lintt or other commodities that sells best in Scotland, whereof I hope you will inform me, so that if I arrive safely, I should restore the same, so that I might bot winn my expenses. Thus recommending you to the protection of almighty God I rest presenting my love and service to your help and bedfellow though unacquainted, to all my sisters and there beloved, to Alex. Home and his beloved and to all other friends.

I remain your loving brother


QUEENSBRIDGE, 4th Sept. 1681.


Patrick Gordon, the Scottish "factor" at Danzig during the reign of James VI, prosecuted at the instigation of the King a certain Stercovius, a Pole, who after a visit to Scotland had published a libel against the Scottish nation, ostensibly because the inhabitants of some Scotch towns had laughed at the Polish national costume in which he paraded the streets. He was put to death, incredible as it may appear, in 1611. Under this date we read in the Chronicle of Rastenburg, a small town in Poland: "John Stercovius circulates a libel against the whole Scottish nation; on account of which he was executed by the sword after a public recantation." King James was not satisfied with this. We read in the same chronicle, under the date 15th of February 1612, that, at the request of His Majesty the King of Great Britain, an order was issued, to send all copies of the libel still extant to the magistrates, well wrapped up and sealed, and punishment was threatened in case of disobedience.

There was a long epilogue to this sad story in settling the question, who was to pay for the expense incurred by Gordon in this prosecution. The Scotch inhabitants of Danzig were first thought of, but finally the costs were divided between the chief boroughs of Scotland.

Gordon himself was accused afterwards for neglecting his duties as consul.

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