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Scottish Education - Schools and University
Chapter X - Second Period (1560 - 1696). Marischal College

As already mentioned the difficulty and delay in establishing the Nova Fundatio in King's College led to the founding of Marischal College in 1593. Its endowment consisted of all the property formerly belonging to the Grey, Black, and White Friars, together with lands of the Abbey of Deer and of the Knights Templar in Kincardine. The rules for management much resemble those for the new foundations of the three old universities, and the charter granted by James to Edinburgh. The staff was to consist of a Principal, three Regents, six bursars, a steward and cook. The Principal had professorial duties, the teaching of Scripture, Hebrew, Syriac, Physiology [Physiology 300 years ago probably meant Zoology, or Nature Knowledge, and what is now called Physics.], Anatomy, Geography, and History. The subjects to be taught by the Regents are specified, but present no features calling for detailed statement. We find however what was to be expected from the founder's favour for the Nova Fundatio, that the teachers are not to "shift about to new professorships" so that "the youths who ascend step by step may have a teacher worthy of their studies and talents." In this we see both the hand of Melville and the broader views of the Earl Marischal himself. This continued till 1642, when for no assigned reason 'regenting' was restored, as it had been the year before in King's College. Marischal College was to be residential for all except students (probably the majority) who were not bursars. For other students residence was optional, but they were subject to the same strict discipline on Sundays and week-days, at play and meal times, as the other members. The bursars had a distinctive dress and did certain menial services such as in old days were performed by sizars in Oxford and Cambridge. The curriculum covered four years and was on the whole post-Reformation in character, but Aristotle's Ethics still had a place. Latin or Greek was the language to be used, and the wearing of arms of any kind was forbidden. Examinations were to be held at entrance, graduation, and the beginning of each year. The Chancellor, Rector, and Dean of Faculty were to inspect the college in October, February, and June, and see that the members were free from "the darkness of Popery." Teachers were to be nominated by the Founder or his heirs, but to be examined by the Chancellor, Rector, Dean of Faculty, Principal of King's College and certain ministers. The Rector was to be elected by the 'nations' through their Procurators. In Marischal College the `nations' were Marenses, Buchanenses, Moravienses and Angusiani, representing the inhabitants of Mar, Buchan, and Moray respectively, and the Angusiani the inhabitants of the South and foreigners. The steward was to give a weekly account of his payments. The higher officials might be married, but no wife, daughter or maidservant was allowed to live in the College. Regents on being married were obliged to resign their office. The charter was sanctioned by the General Assembly in April 1593 and in July was ratified by parliament. Till near the middle of the 17th century the monastery of Greyfriars granted by the Town Council was with slight adaptations the only building used for academic purposes.

By the Earl's transferring to his College his own motto "Thay haif said. Quhat say thay? Lat thame say," we have an indication of his impatience with the delay of the King's College authorities in accepting the new foundation.

A year before the foundation of Marischal College Sir Alexander Fraser, probably by way of protest against the obstinacy of King's College in refusing to adopt the New Foundation, erected in Faithlie-the old name of Fraserburgh-a university to which James gave a grant of lands and the powers and privileges usually conferred on universities. Five years later parliament made a further grant of church lands [Act of Parliament, 1597, vol. iv. pp. 147-8.]. In 1605 it ceased to exist, but the building was probably used in 1647, when owing to the plague in Aberdeen King's College was temporarily transferred to Fraserburgh and Marischal College to Peterhead [It was only in comparatively recent times that the buildings in Fraserburgh disappeared, and the street in which they stood is still called College Bounds. Pratt's Buchan, 4th ed., pp. 271, 272.]

During the first twenty years of its existence Marischal College received contributions for bursaries and other college purposes from private persons, the most important of which was a bequest by Dr Liddell of lands from which were furnished bursaries, classical prizes, and the endowment of a chair of Mathematics.

Fresh bursaries came in during the next twelve years, and a chair of Divinity was founded, the first lecturer being William Forbes, one of the `Aberdeen doctors.' On being urgently pressed he accepted the Principalship also, but after a year's experience of the combined duties he demitted office, accepted ministerial duty in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and was in 1633 elected first Bishop of Edinburgh.

Forbes was a keen adherent of Episcopacy, and therefore variously estimated according as his critics were Presbyterian or Episcopal. Bishop Burnet calls him "a grave and eminent divine," while Row in his History speaks of him thus, " If Mr Forbes had left in legacy a confession of his faith, you would have seen a strange and miscellaneous farrago and hotch-potch of Popery, Arminianism, Lutheranism, and what not [Rait's Hist. of Univ. of Aberdeen, p. 271.]."

Between the appointment of Principal Dun in 1621 as a successor to William Forbes and I639 there are few incidents of educational interest. Several valuable bursaries were instituted. There were bequests of mathematical instruments and books, and the gift of a house for dormitories by the Town Council. In 1639 fire broke out at night and destroyed a considerable part of the college adjacent to Thomas Reid's library, which Gordon in his Scots Affairs says was "the best library that ever the north parts of Scotland saw." The fire was extinguished by the help of the crew of a vessel in the harbour. The College was rebuilt three years afterwards.

In 1640 all the Regents signed the Covenant except one, who, when questioned about his refusal, declared plainly that he was a Roman Catholic. The distinctly Protestant character of the College is evident from the regulation that "every student had to subscribe the Covenant before the Principal on entrance, before the Rector on matriculating, before the Dean of Faculty on graduation, and at least once a year [Bulloch's History of Aberdeen University, p. 94.]."

Within the next two years eight bursaries and a Hebrew lectureship were instituted. In connection with this lectureship the council ordains the Provost and Principal Dun to arrange with John Row, one of the town's ministers, and afterwards Principal of King's College, for a Hebrew lesson being given once a week. At the meeting in Edinburgh in 1647, at which all the universities were represented, Marischal College presented to the Commissioners a report of its courses of instruction very similar to that sent in by King's College. In both Aristotle occupies a prominent place [See Appendix for comparison of the courses in 1647 and 1690.].

Dun was succeeded in 1649 by Principal Moir, who along with the Regents appointed, of their own motion, a lecturer in Humanity, for whose remuneration they surrendered part of their salaries. Such self-sacrifice is as admirable as it is rare. Why such a lectureship was required does not appear. Possibly the Latin in daily use was deteriorating, and greater attainments in it were necessary to the intelligent apprehension of lectures delivered in that language. The arrangement was carried out for about twelve years, when it was discontinued and not resumed for a century and a half.

Neither the Commonwealth nor the Restoration produced important changes in the College. During the former several endowments were received, and, as already mentioned on p. 135, subscriptions "towards the building of a new public school in Marischal College," were contributed by Oxford, Cambridge and Eton. Immediately after the Restoration parliament passed an act confirming the Earl's charter, and giving anew to all the members the privileges and jurisdiction appertaining to any free college in the realm.

The terms of this Act of Confirmation and the specification of privileges and jurisdiction warrant the inference that the College had obtained distinctly University rank. For the next twenty years the administration of the college was uneventful. Even the troublous times of the Revolution left it practically unscathed.


Courses in Marischal College in 1647.

I. "Unto these of the first classe is taught Clenardus, Antesignanus his Grammar; for orations twa of Demosthenes, ane of Isocrates ; for poets, Phocyllides, and some portions of Homer, with the haill New Testament.

2. "Unto the second class a brieff compend of the Logickis, the text of Porphrie, and Aristotele's Organon, accurately explained; the haill questiones ordinarily disputed to the end of the demonstrationes.

3. "To the thrid the first twa bookis of Ethickis and the first fyve chapteris of the thrid, text and questiones, the first fyve books of acroamaticks, quaestiones de compositione continua, and some of the eight bookis.

4. "To the fourt, the bookis de caelo, de generatione, the meteors, de anima, Joannes a Sacro bosco on the spheare, with some geometry."

 Courses in Marischal College in 1690

1. The first year students "are instructed in Philologie, Hebrew, Greek and Latine, and the principles of Arithmetick ; and when they have made some progress in those languages, towards the middle of the year, they declaime and make public orationes befor the masters and students upon some commendable subject both in Greek and Latine."

2. Those of the second year "are instructed in Logick and the methods of reasoning, both conforme to the principle of old and new Philosophie, their severall penses and taskes are explained each morning by the master of this class, and are examined each night, and in the forenoone ther are constant repetitions of what hath been formerly taught and examined. When they are for some pairt of this year advanced in their Logick they doe then dispute publickly and do emitt theses and the disput is moderat by one of the professors. They are likeways instructed in the principles of Geometrie, and have their publick declamations each week for that year and in the close of the week are examined of ane sacred lessone, and upon Sabbath dayes after sermon do give ane account of God's Word preached unto them."

3. Those of the third year "are instructed in the Generall Physiologie and principles of Natural Philosophic conform to the old and new Philosophic. Ther is taught to them ane idea of all the hypotheses, both ancient and modern. After the periode and close of the philosophick course they are by their respective masters informed in the principles of Morality and, Aethicks."

4. The fourth year students "are instructed in the knowledge of Metaphysicks and Speciall Phisiologie, are informed how to explain all the particular phenomena of nature.. .are instructed in the principles of Astronomie...undergo ane tryall and examen of their proficiency in all the four years' courses befor the Principall and Masters, and therafter doe emitt public theses, which they defend in ane solemn maner in presence of all the Doctors, Professors, and learned men of the University. And therafter, after they have solemnly bound themselves by oath to the Protestant Religione, and to be gratefull to their Alma Mater, they doe, conforme to their severall qualifications, receive the degree of Masters of Arts."

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