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Annals of Dunfermline
A.D. 1601 - 1701 - Part 2

  1612.—JOHN WEMYSS, of Pittencrieff, Excommunicated for the Slaughter of his Brother.—“1612, Apr. 22.—Jhone Wemymes, of Potincrieff, excommunicated for the Sauchter of his natural brother.  God touched his heart with repentance.  It was therefore statuted and ordained that the said Jhone sall present himself fyve several Sabbothes successive in the places of publict repentans within the Kirkes of Dunfermling, Kirkaldie, Dysert, Coupar, and St. Androis, his compeirans to be in linenis” (sackcloth).  Pittencrieff is adjacent to Dunfermline.  (Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. ii. p. 278.)

  QUEEN ANNE’S INFEFTMENT, &C.—The Scottish Parliament ratified “the morning gift” of James VI. to his Queen in 1593.  This year (1612) there was confirmed an infeftment by James VI. conveying the Lordship not only to the Queen, but also to “the heirs of his body by him.”  (See Fernie’s, Mercer’s, and Chal. Hist. Dunf.)

CHARACTER OF MR. ANDREW FOSTER, AND HIS MISDEEDS.—The Rev. Dr. M’Crie say that Andro Foster was “a person destitute both of gifts and grace.  Having been visited by Providence with sickness, he was, after his recovery, seized with great distress of mind.  He confessed that at the Assembly of Glasgow, in 1610, he had sold Christ, for a paltry sum of money [viz., fifty merks Scots], received from the Earl of Dunbar, the king’s Commissioner, as did some other ministers in that Assembly, to induce them to vote in favour of the King’s project for the establishment of prelacy.   He also confessed that, having a numerous family, and being very poor, he had, by means of a false key, at different times abstracted money from the Kirk box.  One Sabbath, the subject in his ordinary course of lecture being John xii. 6, he was seized with such horror when about to begin, that he ran out of the pulpit, expressing, among other things, an apprehension that the magistrates were coming to take him out to execution.  Being in this situation, he silenced himself, and requested Mr. Murray, for Christ;s sake, to take the charge of the congregation.  And yet, some time after this, having been reduced to beggary, Archbishop Spottiswood intruded him, in spite of the people, into the parish church of Collace, near Perth, where he died covered with debt and infamy.”  (Row’s Hist. Kirk. Scot.  For other particulars, vide Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. pp. 417-419.)

  A CROSS, OR CRUCIFIX, Painted on the Minister’s seat in the Church of Dunfermline.—Nr. Andrew Forster, minister of Dunfermline, “a weak-minded man,” and of strong “Popish tendencies,” appears to have employed a painter to paint on his seat in  Dunfermline church a cross, or crucifix, to the “great scandle of the communitie.”  As this is a curious affair, we give the copy of a legal document referring to it:--

“Diocesan Synod, at St. Andrews, April, 1612.”

  “Mr. Andro Froster (cancellarius).  Thair was presented ane letter from Mr. Andro Forrester, minister of Dunfermling, offering excuis for his absence, in respect of sickness; as also ane apologie of his dealing in the Scandall of the Crucifix, payntit vpon my Lord chancellor his dask in the said Kirk.  Quhairanent the scandal foirsaid being wakened, it was thoucht meitt that advys be taken thairin befoir any further be done in the Synode.  The mater, thairfoir, being ryplie in all the circumstances considered and pondered, was found to have giffen gryt ofenss to the haill country, and that the causer, as also the paynter of that idolatrous monument, and the minister foirsaid, have highlie offendet.  To remedie quhairof, power and commissioun was granted and committed, and be thir presentis ar granted and committed, to the brethren of the privie conferens of this Synode, and such of the exerceis of Dumfermling as ar of the Diocese, together with Mr. JhoneHall, Mr. Patrick Galloway, Mr. Robert Cornewall, Mr. Adam Bannatyne, Mr. Jhone Carmichael, Mr. William Scott, and Mr. David Meirnis, to convein with my lord archbishop, in the citie of St. Andrews, vpon the twelfth day of Maij nix to cum, with full and plane powar to tham to try and examine my lord chancellar in dealing and interest in the said matter, and to do quhat thei may for removing that offens, according to the word of God and lawes of this Kirk and Kingdom, premittendo de rato, &c.  To the quilk day and place my lord chancellar sal be requirit to be present; and for that effect, ane letter was ordaine to be directed from this SynodeSiclyk, it was statute that the craftisman foirsaid quho payntit the crucifix sal be charged to compeir, day and place above expremit, for ordour taking with him for his offens, as said is.  Also, the said Mr. Andro Froster, in respect that after the erectioun of the foirsaid monument of idolatrie, did nether mak advertisement to my lord archbishop, neither to the brethren of the exerceis, he being moderatour thairof, nor has done anything in publick quhilk might declaim his dislykiing of the ofirsaid fact; as also, being required peremtorelie to be present at the Synode, for purging himself befoir thame, “nochtwithstanding hes nocht compeiredThairfoir, is decernit to be suspenede from his ministrie, until he be repooned be my lord archbishop and commisounris above named.  And in the meantime it is appointed that the brethren of the exerceis of Dumfermling sall per vices, according to the catalogue, supplie his place vpon the Sabbath, and the failzier ferein according to his cours to be siclyk suspendetFinallie, Mr. Robert Roch, moderatour of the excerceis, is ordained to intimate this present decreitt to the said Mr. Andro.”

  The Lord Archbishop corresponded with the King on the subject.  The King, who was not altogether free of “Popish tendencies,” requests that no further notice should be taken of the affair, as will be seen by the next entry:--

Synode, Septr. 1612.

    “Chancellar,--My lord archbishop reported that, having acquainted the King’s majestie with the offens upon the paintrie of my lord chancellar his desk, in the Kirk of Dunfermling, had reported his hieness’ will that the Kirk insist no further in process against his lordship, seeing his majestie thought the offens sufficientlie removed.”  (Vide Minutes of the Synod of Fife; Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 417, &c.)

  QUEEN ANN’S LETTER TO HENRY WARDLAW, OF BALMULE, near Dunfermline.—This letter, which has been often printed, is still extant, and in possession of the Wardlaw family.  As it illustrates old usages, it is here reproduced:--

“To our Right Trustie Servant,
          Henry Wardlaw, of Balmule,
                 Chamberlain of our rents of Dunfermline.
                                                  “Anna Regina.

“Henry Wardlaw, of Balmule,

         “Having appointed the Lady Wintown younger to assist for us at the Christning of the Earl of Hume’s child, these are to require you to wait upon her at the time, and, according to our custom, to distribute in our name amongst the servants the sum of five hundred Merks Scots, and the same shall be thankfully allowed to your again in your accompts.   Given under our hand at Whitehall, the 28th of October, 1612.”

(Fernie’s History of Dunfermline., p. 105.)

THE EARL OF DUNFERMLINE Represents the King in the Scottish Parliament.—In the Parliament held at Edinburgh on 24th October, 1612, the King appointed Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline, to represent him, when “the obnoxious prelatic Acts of a former General Assembly were ratified by Act of Parliament.”  (Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 285.)

  PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Thomas Wardlaw was elected Provost of Dunfermline.  (Burgh Records.)

  1613.—THE “PAN-HOUSE.” At Limekilns, was built this year.  (Vide Hist. Dunf.; see also Annals Dunf. date 1581.)  This appears to be one of the earliest built Pan-houses on the shores of the Forth “for the making of salte.”

  THE EARL OF DUNFERMLINE and Pinkie House.—This ancient house belonged to the Abbots of Dunfermline.  In the year 1613, it was enlarged, decorated, and repaired by the Earl of Dunfermline for his residence.  He appears to have been proud of his worldly position; for, on the front of the house, now hidden by a portico, the is a Latin inscription which states that Lord Alexander Seton built this house—“Non ad animi, sed ad fortunaram et agelli modum 1613”—that is, “Not after the fashion of his mind, but after that of his fortune and estates, 1613.”  (Cham. Pict. Scot. vol. ii. p. 74, &c.)

  THE WHIRLBUT WARLOCK.—An old MS. of events, &c., in our possession, notes that Tam Simpson, the warlock, was “carrying on his prankis and deevilrie,” in his house at Whirlbut, at the period.  Whirlbut is at Spittle Brig.

  THOMAS WARDLAW, of Logie, Provost of Dunfermline. 

  1614.—LORD WALDEN ENTERTAINED AT DUNFERMLINE.—“Theophilus Howard, Lord Walden (afterwards Earl of Suffolk), in his pleasure-journey through Scotland, arrived in Edinburgh, from thence he proceeded to Dunfermline, accompanied by the Lord Chancellor, where he was entertained, with all kindness and respect, for some days, when he took his departure fo Culross.”  (Domest. An. Scot. vol. i. p. 454.)

  ELYMOSYNER OF ST. LEONARD’S HOSPITAL.—According to a writ, or deed, Thomas Walker, “laird of Rhodes,” near Dunfermline, was Almoner of St. Leonard’s Hospital and Chapel in 1614.

  THOMAS WARDLAW, of Logie, Provost of Dunfermline. 

  1615.—PITREAVIE.—It would appear, from an old manuscript in our possession, that Mr. Henry Wardlaw, of Balmule, the Queen’s Chamberlain, about this period, acquired the property of Pitreavie, three miles south-east from Dunfermline.

  DUNFERMLINE CHURCH with more than 2000 Communicants Enrolled.—A Colleague is Recommended.—The following is from a Synod minute:--“Synode at St. Androis, October, 1615—Dunfermeling.—Item, the Synode considering deeplie the largeness of the congregatioune of Dunfermlin, having more than two thousand communicantis, and weeknes and infirmitie of Mr.Andro Forster, minister, unable to bear the gryt ane burthane alane, thinkis it altogether neidful that ane other be joined with the said Mr. Andro, in this ministrie at the said kirk.   For procuring whairof, it is ordainit that my lord archbishop and Mr. Robt. Roch sall deall with my lord chancelleour, for his lordship’s furtherance heirto Lykas, the brethren of the exerceis thair sall deall with the parichinairs for thair concurransFinallie, willed my lord archbishop to provide ane qualedied man, and to plant him befoir the next Synode.”  (Vide “Minutes of the Synode of Fife,” date 1615.)

  MR. JOHN MORAY, or Murray, was admitted as one of the ministers of Dunfermline.  (See also An. Dunf. date 1622.)

  1616.—DUNFERMLINE CHURCH VISITED BY THE LORD ARCHBISHOP—Strife, Discontent, &c.—The following note is taken from “The Minutes of the Synod of Fife,” date 1616:--“It is reported that the Kirk of Dumferling has been visited by my lord archbishop, at the whilk the parishioners keeped by their strifes and discontent with their minister, whilk sinsque have burst forth.  In regard whairof the visitors have dealt earnestly for ane new visitation.  The Synod advised the brethren of the exerceise, to do in the visitation of that kirk, as may be maist for the glory of God and weill of that congregation.   And to report to the archbishop what they shall find, that he may do therein as he shall find meet.”

  MR. ANDRO FOSTER, or Forster, demitted his office as Minister of Dunfermline.  (Fernie’s Hist. Dunf. p. 34, &c.)

  MR. JOHN MORAY, or Murray, who had for a short time been colleague with Mr. Foster, but who had been silenced through contentions with him, &c., and had left the charge, now returned to it, Mr. Foster having demitted his office.  (Fernie’s Hist. Dunf. p. 34; Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. pp. 419, 420.)

  ROYAL BURYING VAULT, DUNFERMLINE.—This Royal Burying-house, situated between the three south-east buttresses of the “auld kirk,” was probably erected when the repairs on the Church were in progress, and intended for the Royal place of sepulture for the Royal Family—probably, when the infant Prince Robert was interred in 1602.  King James ascended the English throne the year after the death of the young Prince, and this burying-place thus became useless to them.  In the year 1616, Queen Anne gave a gift of the Vault to Henry Wardlaw, he Chamberlain, who inserted an oblong stone above its door, with the following inscription, in alto, cut on it:--


That is:--Anna, Queen of Great Britain, and Lady of the Lordship of Dunfermline, gave to Henry Wardlaw, of Pitreavie, Esquire, and to his posterity, this place of sepulture, 1616.  Above this inscription, in a triangular space cut on the stone, are the Wardlaw “arms” on a shield together with the initial letters. ”H.W.”  On the top of the stone, in an angular direction, are “MEMENTO MORI” (remember death); on the lower corners of the stone are the words, “ULTIMA DOMVS” (the last house); and, in the space immediately above, on each side are skulls and cross-bones.  (Fernie’s Hist. Dunf. p. 105; Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 120.)

  Note.—There is a translation of the inscription on this stone given at p., 120 of Chalmers’s History of Dunfermline, vol. i.  In it the writer has slightly altered it for the following reasons, viz., Henry Wardlaw, Queen’s Chamberlain, was not a knight; his son Henry was the first knight of the family.  This son was created a knight of Nova Scotia in 1631; therefore “Militi,” in such a case, may be rendered “Esquire.”  It will be observed that the Queen, in her letter of date 1612, has addressed it—“To aur Right Trustie Servant, Henry Wardlaw.”  If this stone was erected by his son, Sir Henry Wardlaw, it must have been after 1631.  In that case the date 1616, the date of the gift, has been given instead of that of its erection.

  1617.—THE OBIT REGISTER of Dunfermline, a small quarto, commences in 1617, and ends with the date 1657.  “It is distinctly and beautifully written.”  (Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 83.)

  KING JAMES VI. in Dunfermline.—The King visited Scotland this year, for the first time since his accession to the English crown in 1603.  “He was received with tumultuous joy” wherever he went.  In the progress of his journey, he visited Dunfermline in May, and again in June, where he remained for some days each time.  (Abridged Scot. Chron. p; 107, &c.)

  PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Thomas Wardlaw, of Logie, was elected Provost of Dunfermline in October.  (Burgh Records.)

  1618.—THE “ELIMOSYNER” OF ST. LEONARDS HOSPITAL, &C., granted a Writ of Infeftment of four acres of land, of which he was “the laird,” to William Mudy and his spouse Margaret Eddison, April, 1618.

  “O RARE BEN JONSON” in Dunfermline.—According to tradition, Ben Jonson visited Dunfermline in August, 1618.  The “Water Poet” and he were in Scotland at the same time, having both walked, within a month of each other, from London to Edinburgh on foot, both occupying about a month on the journey.

  TAYLOR, “THE WATER POET,” in Dunfermline.—On July 14, 1618, John Taylor, “The Water Poet,” left London on his “penniles pedestrian journey to Scotland.”  He arrived in Edinburgh on 13th August, where, and in Leith, he appears to have resided for about three weeks, indulging in eating, drinking, and table-talk.  Early in September he crossed from Leith to Burntisland, and from thence went on foot to Dunfermline.  “He dwells with special delight on a dinner at which he assisted here, given in his honour by Master John Gibb, groom of his Majesty’s Chamber.  Several gentlemen, both Scotch and English, assisted also at the banquet; and the Water Poet had to stand on the occasion “to his colours.”  (Vide The Water Poet’s “Penniless Pedestrian Journey,” North Brit. Adver. And Ladies’ Jour. Sept. 29, 1877.)

PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Thomas Wardlaw, of Logie, was re-elected Provost in October.  (Burgh Records.)

  1619.—PRINCE CHARLES (afterwards Charles I.), shortly after his mother’s death (Queen Anne), was infeft on the 19th of June in those parts of his mother’s Lordship of Dunfermline which had not been alienated.  (See also Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 254.)

  BURGH RECORDS.—The sixth of the MS. volumes of the Burgh Records of Dunfermline begins in May, 1619.  (Burgh Records.)

  PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Thomas Wardlaw, of Logie, was re-elected Provost.  (Burgh Records.)

  1620.—RUINOUS STATE of some parts of the Abbey Nave.—“Although the great repairs on the Abbey Nave appear to have been completed by Dominus Dunfermling in 1607, yet in 1620 the South or Royal Aisle showed symptoms of decay.  During this year an additional buttress on the south side of the Church (the middle one) was erected to further strengthen the south wall (the date 1620 is on this buttress, near the tip).  The west part, inside of the South Aisle, was also repaired in 1621, as shown by date 1621 on the roof at this part.”  (MS Note.)

  PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Thomas Wardlaw, of Logie, was re-elected Provost.  (Burgh Records.)

  1621.—REGALITY HOUSE, NETHERTOWN.—An old house, which until 1861, stood on the north side of East Netherton Street, was known as the Regality House.  It was a house of two storeys.  The ground apartment was vaulted.  It appears to have been built in 1621, as this date was on a stone over the door.  In the year 1833, the writer visited this house.  In the vaulted apartment, ground floor, there was an immense fire-place, into which was built a very large iron grate of fine make.  There was as “swing-piece” at one of its ends for holding a sand-glass for the use of the cook, and other appliances.  This fine old grate probably came from the Abbey or Palace.  The writer told the late Mr. Joseph Paton of it, who at once inspected it and purchased it for a trifle, and it was to be seen in his museum, Wooers’ Alley, Dunfermline, until his death in 1874.  Probably the name “Regality House” was given to it after 1790.  In this year, amongst rubbish in the garret of this house, there were found a great many MS. volumes of the Regality Court of Dunfermline, as also several old Charters and Abbey documents.  (See Annals, date 1792.)

  AULD KIRK.—The south wall and inside pillars were this year repaired.  The date 1621 is on the centre stone of the arched roof of the aisle, behind the pillar, south side. 

  THE LANDS OF HILL.—These lands, a mile south of Dunfermline, became the property of William Menteith, of Randieford, in 1621.  (Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 326.)

  HENRYSON’S FABLES.—The Fables of Henryson, “guid Scholemaister of Dunfermline, ”circa 1490, &c., were this year published by Andro Hart, Edinburgh.

  PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Thomas Wardlaw, of Logie.

  1622.—THE LANDS OF ABERCROMBIE, four miles S.W. of Dunfermline, were united to the parish of Torryburn.  They were at a very early period an appanage of Dunfermline Abbey.

  ALEXANDER SETON, Earl of Dunfermline, died at his residence, Pinkie House, Musselburgh, in June, 1622, and was buried in the family vault, in Dalgety Church, near Dunfermline.  The following inscription, on a metal plate, was on his coffin:--


That is, “Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline, and Chancellor of Scotland, died 16th July, 1622, aged 66 years.  (See An. Dunf. dates 1662 and 1820)

  CHARLES SETON, Earl of Dunfermline.—On the death of his father, Charles Seton, his eldest son, succeeded to the Earldom of Dunfermline.  (Crawford’s Douglas Peerage, Fyvie’s Charters, &c.)

  LITERATURE.—A poem on the late Earl of Dunfermline was published in Edinburgh this year, entitled—

T   E   A   R   E   S 

For the neuer sufficientlie be-
wailed death of the late right ho-
nourable and most worthie of
all honourable Titles.

A   L   E   X   A   N   D   E   R

Earle of Dumfermeling, Lord
Fyvie and Vrquhart,
late Lord-Chancellar of Scotland.   


E   D   I   N   B   V   R   G   H

Printed by the Heires of Andro Hart
ANNO DOM. 1622.

  This poem was republished in 1823, in eight quarto pages.  John Lyn, of Auldbar, is supposed to be the author.  He, in “bewailing strains,” highly eulogized the good Earl, and opens the poem thus—

Ah!must my weake and care-benummed hand
Paint out the sorrowes of this sorrowing Land;
How can my pen make others’ passions knowne,
Which, as they are, can not expresse mine owne;
This publike losse, which was a losse to great,
Some heauen-taught Muse were fetter to relate:
Yet whilst the Learned (who in silence sit)
Frame loftie Lynes to serue as signes of wit,
Sad care-crost Muse vnto the world proclaime,
With woefull notes this Lamentable Theame,
And sig so sadlie to each listning eare,
That euerie eye for tribute pay a teare.
Come euerie Age, Estate, and Sexe, come all,
Come and bewaile this statelie Cedar fall;
Come all wrong’d Orphanes, come bewaile your Syre,
Who did of late (but yet too soone) Expyre;
Come woefull wodowes, come you, weepe you fast,
Your Anchor and your hope, your help is past.” 

“Rich Burgers, you of whom hee once was chiefe,
With teares bewray vnto the world your grieffe;
You at the Barre who pleade your clients’ cause,
Mourne that ye want to Judge that Judged your Lawes;
Graue learned Judges, all burst foorth in mone
Your Light, you Lanterne, and your Guide is gone,” &c. 

And concludes as follows:--

“Now, being dead, this at our hands doth merite,
That as our bakes this badge of mourning bears,
VVee should to Griefe pay tribute with our teares.
But, ah! my Muse, breake of this our sad decay,
Let brauer wits this deepe taske vnder-goe,
To waile his want and manifest our woe.” 

  MR. JOHN MURRAY, Minister of Dunfermline, was deposed in 1622 for nonconformity to “the Five Articles of Perth.”  He died at Prestonpans in 1632.  (Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 415.)

  MR. HARRIE MAKGILL was this year admitted minister of Dunfermline, as successor to Mr. John Murray.  (Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 415, &c.)

  PITLIVER.—Mr. John Dempster, Advocate, Edinburgh, became (in 1622) proprietor of the lands and barony of Pitliver, three miles south-west from Dunfermline.  (Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 305.)

  PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Thomas Wardlaw, of Logie, was elected Provost.

  1623.—THE HILL-HOUSE FOUNDED.—The Hill-House, a stately mansion, about half a mile south of Broad Street, Netherton, was this year founded by William Monteith, of Randieford, who, in 1621, purchased the estate.  Round the top of the staircase bartizan, outside, in large open letters, are the following words in Latin:--


That is, “Except the Lord build the house.”  (Ps. cxxvii.I.)

  On a stone connecting two long chimney-stalks, within the bartizan, there are the following two inscriptions, cut in elegantly-formed Hebrew and Roman characters:--



Namely, “This is also vanity, and a great evil.”

  Over the dining-room windows are the effigies of two men—one cut on the stone over each window—supposed to be King David and King James VI.; the one sitting harp in hand, and the other—rather more than a half-length figure—in the costume of his time, with ruffs.  And on a stone panel between these windows there are, cut in relieve, the following Hebrew words:--

That is, “The Lord hath chosen them that fear him.”

  Underneath the first window of the staircase, at the main entrance fronting south—but not at present visible from the ground, by reason of a flat roof over the porch—is the date “1623,” with the following words, in Hebrew and Latin, cut on two small stone panels:--

That is, “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness.”  (Jeremiah xxii. 13.)

  This window has at its top the initials “W.M.,” surmounted by a fleur-de-lis.  These are evidently the initials of William Monteith, who acquired the lands of the “Hill” in 1621.  (Vide also Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 326.)

  ADAM BLACKWOOD, an eminent native of Dunfermline, died at Paris in 1623, aged 84.  He resided the greater part of his life in France.  He was a senator in the Parliament of Poictiers, and Professor of Law in the University of that city.  He was the author of several works; one of which, entitled “”Apologia pro Regibus,” published in 1588; went through two editions.  He was a “a rampant defender” of the unfortunate Queen Mary.

  PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Thomas Wardlaw, of Logie.

  1624.—FREE BURGESSES.—Two free burgesses “were maid” on the day before the great fire, viz., “24 die May, 1624—Johne Henrisone of fordell beward of Court and votting of ye haill nigtbor’s convenit wes entreid burgess and freeman of this burgh gratis, and maid the nytbors aith.”  Same day, “24 die May, 1624—George durie of Craigluscar lykwys entered burges and frieman of ye said bruth gratis, and maid ye nytbrs aith” (the burgess oath).  (Burgh Records, 24th May, 1624.)  The next meeting of the magistrates and Council of the burgh was on May 27th, two days after the great fire, and although the houses were still smouldering, no notice is taken of the calamity, neither is it afterwards alluded to in the Burgh Records.  This is so extraordinary that it would appear to have been designed.  (See Annals, date 27th May, 1624, and following page.)

  GREAT FIRE OF DUNFERMLINE, 25th May, 1624.—The Burgh Records of a great many towns in Scotland refer to this fire; but singular it is that there is not the slightest notice taken of the calamity in the Burgh Records of Dunfermline.  This fire was accidental, and was caused by some burning wadding or tow “from a fired gun” falling on the heather or thatched roof of a house near the Rotten Row, which was set on fire, and from thence it spread to other houses, until about three_fourths of the town was destroyed.  The 25th May, 1624, was Wappinshaw-day in Dunfermline, and, consequently a day for drill.  A bailie’s son was the culprit who fired the gun which caused the calamity.

  COMPLAINT TO THE PROVOST regarding a Malt Barn, Kiln, Coble, &c.—This is the first entry in the Burgh Records two days after the great fire, and it will be seen that no notice is taken of the smoking houses around.  Similar notices succeed, but nothing to indicate that a great fire had occurred:--

  “27th die May, 1624.—The qlk day qmperit Jane Phillan, and gave in ye qmplaint to the provst and baillies, purchest at ye instance of David Phillan against M. Thomas Wardlaw of LogieArchey Douglas and Janet phillan his spouse Berrand yt they wer lawf warnit to this day to heer and see thame declarit to have done wrang in not removing fra the malt barn, kiln cobell, corn barns yaird caill of land (for Keavle’s lot or portion) adjacent zrto and half aiker of land gontenit in ye precpt at ye last term of witsunday last bypast.”  (Burgh Records, 27th May, 1624.)

  Such is the first entry in these Records, two days after the fire, and is inserted here merely that it may be joined to the two entries in a previous page.  (24th May, 1624.)

  PUBLIC NOTICES, &C., REGARDING THE GREAT FIRE.—The following are the public notices regarding the Great Fire of Dunfermline:--

“The Lords of the Privy Council to King James VI.”

   “MOST SACRED SOUERANE,--Thair hes of lait fallin oute, within the burgh of Dunfermlyne vpoun the xxv day of Maij last, ane most lamentable and fearefull accident, by ane suddane and terrible fyre, whilk araise within the same, and continewed so violent ofr the space of foure houris, as no foirsight not strength of man wes able to resist it, sua that the poore inhabitantis who, with mutche stryveing and extreame hasaird of thair lyveis, opposed thame selffis agains the violence of the fyre, were constrained in the end to  yield to neccessitie, and to be spectatowris of this feareful visitatioun, wherein the whole body of the toun, whilk consisted of eleven scoir of tenementis, and fourteen scoir and sevin families, wes within the space foirsaid, brynt and consumed, with the whole plennessing of the houssis and the barnis about the towne, wherein thair wes fyve hundredth bollis of victual, sax yeiris of aige, is totalie ruined and undone, and the poore inhabitantis, who wer a companie of industruous and verteous people, and paynefullie and cairfullie labourit for thair leving, ar reducit to that extreame point of miserye, that nothing is left thame bot the cloathis vpoun thair backis, without a house or holde to repoise their languisheing bodyis in, as some of us, who has seene the desolatioun of this poore toune, can beare record.  We haif beene verie solist and cairfull for a supplie to this poore toune, and hes begun oure selffis to gif good example to otheris, and by oure letters we haif recommendit thame to the whole body of this estate:  And whereas this gentleman, your Majesties auld seruand, hes, at the earnest desire of the poore toune, undertane to represent unto your Majestie the desolate estate and conditioun thairof, they have petitioned ws that be him we wald gif notice vnto your Majestie of the treuthe of his mater, whilk, in a mater of this kynd, we could not weel deny.  In the meantyme, we shall haif a cair that the moneyis quhilkis salbe contributed for this earand salbe providently managed and rightlie distributit, according to the qualitie and necessitie of the pairtyes interested, and in every other thing whilk may procure the comforte and relaiff of that poore toun, no thing salbe inlaiking in ws whiche to oure charge and placeis apperteynis:  And so, with oure humble prayeris vnto God, recommending your Majestie, and all your royall and princelie advis, to the protectioun of the Almightie, we rest for ever.—Your Majesteis, most humble and obedient subjectis and seruitouris,

                                    George Hay,      Linlithgow.
                                    Ja. Glasgow      Melros
                                    Wigtoune          Glencairne
                                    A. Mar              Buccleuche

                        “Haliruidhous, 16 Junij 1624.

            To the King his most sacred and excellent


(Melrose Papers, vol. ii. p. 565, No. 329.)  A similar notice was sent “to the Prince his Highness” (Prince Charles), “because the towne is your Highnes owne.”

  It would appear from the foregoing document that some of the Lords of the Privy Council had visited Dunfermline shortly after the fire, to see the extent of the calamity, so that his Majesty and others might have trustworthy information on the subject.

  The following are a few interesting notices regarding the fire:--From Johnston’s unpublished (MS.) Hist. Scot. in the Advocated’ Library, Edinburgh:  “On Tuesday 25th day of May, At Dunfermline while a wappinshaw was going on, William Anderson, son til John Anderson, a bailff of the said town, and Charles Richeson, his servant, being shooting a shot with some of their friends in a certain place of the town, a little piece of the lunt flieth upon a thack-house, which easily kindled; the fire increased with the violence of the wind, and did flie from house to house, and sometimes wald flie over ane house without doing it any harm, but wald burn the next house, till the great admiration of all men.  So that this fire burnt so meikle of the town, that, excepted the Abbey and the Kirk thereof, the tenth part were not free of it.  This, by the judgement of all beholders, was thought til have been some divinity, or some witchcraft, rather nor this foresaid accidental fire.”  From this account it would appear that William Anderson, son of Bailie Anderson, and Charles Richeson were those who fired the unlucky shot, and that about nine-tenths of the houses in the town were on fire and destroyed.

  Calderwood in his History of the Kirk of Scotland gives the time and the continuance of the fire:--“Dunfermeline burnt upon the 25th May, (1624).  A young boy in Dunfermeline shooting a gunne, a little piece of the lunt (lint) flieth upon a thacke house, which easlie kindled, the fire increased with the violence of the wind, which was verie vehement.  The fire began at twelf houres, and burnt the whole toun.  Some few sclat houses excepted before foure afternoone; goods and gear within houses, malt and victuall in malt kills and barns were consumed with the fire.”  (Calderwood’s Hist. Kirk. Scot., vol. vii. p. 607.

  According to Calderwood, the fire began at twelve o’clock noon, and continued until four o’clock afternoon, a fierce storm of wind blowing all this while from the north-west.  The Chronicles of Perth notices this fire as follows:  “Thair we sane great fyre in Dunferling, that brunt almaist the haill toun in four houris space.  Thaireafter, upone thair supplication, voluntary contribution wes grantit thame throchout the kingdom.  Thair wes collectit (in Perth) above lxx. Merkis.”  Mur. Chron. Perth, vol. i. pp. 24, 25.  Balfour in his Annals of Scotlandnotes, that the toun of Dunermline consisted at this time of 220 houses, containing 287 families.

  The Aberdeen Records has the following minute on Dunfermline fire:--“Anno, 1624—Dunfermline, the town of , destroyed by accidental fire, 25th May, consumed 220 tenements, occupied by 287 families, their whole plenishing, with 500 bolls of grain in barns.  The town, containing 700communicants, and 320 children under six years of age, said to be completely ruined.  Voluntary contribution for their relief, ordered by the head court of Aberdeen, convened for the purpose; 1600 merks, collected by voluntary contribution as the town’s benevolence, paid to the commissioner appointed for receiving it, for which he granted a receipt.”  (Inventory of the Records of Aberdeen, vol. li. Pp. 123, 124, and 133; also Fernie’s History of Dunfermlin, p. 134, &c.)

  The following minute is extracted from the Burgh Records of Edinburgh, 16th July 1624:--“The quhilk day, Alexander Clerk, provost, Mungo Makcall, and Peter Somerville, baillies, &c., being convenit, for sua meikle as the collectors appointed for collecting and ingathering of the voluntary contribution appointed to be collectat through this burgh, for re-edificing of the said burgh of Dunfermeling, late brunt be sudden fyre, as at mair length is conteynit in the act of

counsall maid theranent, of the dait the second day of June last, is fund to extend to the soume of four thousand fyve hundredth pundis eicht shillingis seven pennyes [Scots]; thairfore, the provost, baillies, and counsall, ordainis the said collectors to pay the said somis to Mr. Robert Drimond of Woodcokdaill, and James Reid, zor. burges of dumfereling, appointet ressavers of the same.”  (Edin. Burgh Records; Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 571, &c.)

  From these notices it would appear that about nine-tenths of the town were destroyed during the brief space of four hours, on the disastrous 25th May, 1624.  The ravages of the fire appear to have been confined principally to the area of the town lying on the north side of High Street, viz., the Collier Row [Bruce Street]; the Rotten Row [West Queen Anne Street]; North Chapel Street; the Cross Wynd; all the north a part of the south side of the High Street; the upper part of New Row, and the north side of Maygate.  The houses on the south side of the High Street were only partially destroyed; the violent storm of wind at the time carried the flames and sparks in some places across the street, and thus set fire to and consumed many of them.  The under parts of the houses in the town were generally built of stone, the storey or storeys above were chiefly of timber, and three-fourths of them were thatched with straw, heather, and, in some instances, with “turf-sods,” which accounts for so many houses being destroyed in the short space of four hours. 

  The sketch………showing the locus of the fire and the direction of its “blasts of flame,’ is taken from an old plan in the writer’s possession.

  This plan shows the extent of Dunfermline in 1624.  The arrow-heads indicate the direction of the wind during the fire (north-west); the long dark streaks that of the smoke and flames driven by the violence of the wind over the town according to old traditional accounts.  Thus are exhibited the extent and direction of the Great Fire.

  The documents which have been quoted show that there were 320 children in the town under six years of age in 1624, or about one-fifth on the population; the town would then have about 1600 inhabitants; there were 220 tenements.   In these days dwellings were more crowded than now; at present about 6 souls are allowed to each house; in 1624 the number would be about 7 ¼  to a house; thus 220 x 7 = 1540 inhabitants.  They may be classified as follows:--Children under six years of age, 320, on the communicant’s roll, 700; not on communicant’s roll (in which number may be reckoned persons between the years of six and sixteen, and also those who had a scruple to become communicants, 580; total, 1600 souls in Dunfermline in 1624.

  TRADITION.—A curious but absurd tradition may be noticed here, viz,:--“A week or so before the Great Fire, “a regiment of rats” were seen making their way up the Rotten Row, the van being led by two rats leading a blind one by means of a straw between them!”  This dispersion of the animals, it is said, was taken as an instance of their sagacity and foresight as to the coming fire.  The narrow street used by the rats in their flight was afterwards named the “Rotten Row;” but this tradition comes to grief when it is recollected that the said street was called the Ratton Row or Rotten Row, as early as the year1487!  (See An. Dunf. date 1487.)  Rotten Row is derived from Ratton, viz., unwrought timber, the houses being erected wholly of rough undressed planks of timber; no stone used.  

  REBUILDING OF DUNFERMLINE—Garvock Wood, &c.—Some old MSS. Notify that those of the inhabitants whose “finances permitted them” began to rebuild and repair their houses immediately after the fire had ceased; while the great bulk of the people had to wait until the “unbringing of the public benevolence contributions;” and that; during the latter end of 1624, “the sound of the mallet, hammer, and saw, were heard in every quarter of the town,” there being “large flocks of tradesmen at work.”  At this calamitous period the burgesses of Dunfermline had a right to cut wood on the estate of Garvock, about a mile east of the town; and they made such good use of their rights, that they left the estate nearly denuded of its trees.  These they had sawn into planks, deals, &c., for rebuilding the second and third storeys of their houses, the ground apartments being in general built of stone.  The mansion-house of Garvock, which crowned Garvock, Hill, being thus shorn of much of its natural beauty, the proprietor, Mr. Wellwood, afterwards removed his residence to Pitliver, besides losing Garvock Wood.

  Towards the end of 1624, there are several minutes in the Burgh Records of parties, by the dozen, who had been summoned for paltry debts before the Burgh Court, for stanes, line, and driving.  One extract will suffice: “9 Dec., 1624—James henrison compeard for awing David Blair for work, and for stanes and lime, 4lib.”  He is ordered to pay the 4lib.  There is no entry in the Records of the large sums which the town must have received before Dec., 1624, or theleast hint how the moneys received were distributed.  “Had a liberal distribution been made, perhaps this ‘4lib’ of James Henrison’s to David Blair would not have been on the books.”


  “PUBLIC BENEVOLENCE” CONTRIBUTIONS.—The magistrates of Dunfermline, shortly after the fire, had sent out to every town and parish in Scotland petitions for “public benevolence” contributions, in which, as has been shown in the response of a few quoted, they got seasonable relief: Edinburgh sent £4500 8s. 7d. (Scots); Aberdeen, 1600 merks; Perth, 70 merks, &c.; and no doubt every town and parish contributed.  It is highly probable that a very considerable sum would come to Dunfermline for the relief of “the poor inhabitants,” but how much, there is nothing on record to show.  The King had been solicited for aid.  His bounty on the occasion is not known; but Prince Charles (afterwards King Charles I.) who was solicited for pecuniary aid, gave £500 Scots, “Dunfermling being his ain toun.”

  THE HOUSE IN EAST HIGH STREET with Date of the Fire on it.—After the town was rebuilt, a great many of the pious inhabitants place on the front walls of their houses, above doors and windows, stones having on them the date of the fire and mottoes taken form the Scriptures.  These “sermons in stones” have since then, in the

course of “improvements,” been nearly all removed or destroyed.  Only two remained in 1877; one in the High Street (east end, north side); the others on the house-top of Cross Wynd.  The house near the east of the High Street (north side), within a few yards of the side of the East Port, according to tradition, was the eastmost house in that direction which had been overtaken by the flames and only partially destroyed.  It would likely be looked upon by its proprietor as a “supernatural gift.”  Hence, “Praise God for all his gifts” was an appropriate motto for his memorial stone over the door.  The engraving on the preceding page is a representation of the stone.

  The stone, it will be seen, is a triangular one, having cut on it in alto relieve the day and the year of the fire, “1624, 25 Maii.”  Below are the initials, no doubt, of the proprietors and heir in 1624.


Is now all that appears sin connection with it.  It is probable, however, that the stone would originally rest o a “lintel stane,” which would have on it the concluding words of the motto, viz.:--


or perhaps “All Hys Gygtes.”  As the motto now stands, it gives out “an uncertain sound,” and appears to give the praise to the proprietor.  It will be remembered that a stone on Pittencrieff House had on it a similar motto.  (See An. Dunf. date 1610.)

  PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE—Thos. Wardlaw, of Logie, (Burgh Rec.)  According to another notice—Alexander Clerk, of Pittencrieff.

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