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Borrowstounness and District
Appendix I. The Parish of Carriden 200 years ago

(Being a lecture delivered in 1900 by the Rev. William Dundas, B.'D., Minister of the Parish, and reprinted here by his kind permission.)

1. Period covered: Earlier records amissing—2. Forgotten places: Miners, Seafarers, and Saltmakers: The Piers at Causewayfoot and Burnfoot—3. The old seats of population: Forgotten place-names: List of common surnames—4. Functions of Kirk Session: They restrict sale of drink, deal with overcrowding, and birch bad boys—5. Old Church at Carriden House described: Trouble over the Elders' seat—6. William Young the beadle receives various "rebukes"—7. Administration of Church Ordinances: Marriage banns, Baptism, and the Sacrament— 8. The Kirk Session and the Poor—9. Revenue from mortcloth dues: More help for the poor—10. The Old Parish School at Muirhouses: Deed of gift, 1636: The "pettie" schools: The Schoolmaster and "Doctor": Trouble with John Currie— 11. Kirk Session control of "pettie" schools: Visitation of schools and examination of scholars—12. Concern of Kirk Session for the religious condition of people: Regulations against "randie beggars": The need for "testificats"— 13. Illustrations of the variety of offences dealt with by Session—14. The "black stoole" of repentance: The procedure adopted here—15. Session deals strictly with those speaking lightly of it and the elders—16. James Kid of Burnfoot and his "proud, irreverent manner": Other quarrels of husbands and wives— 17. The many faults of Elspeth Sleigh: Her misdeeds denounced from pulpit : The Soldiers at Blackness and "debaucherie"—18. The "jougs": Two vagabond boys called the Pods: Methods of Elders to enforce church attendance—19. Strict observance of the Sabbath, Fast, and Thanksgiving Days.


There are no books—whether they deal with the story of the people in pure history or seek to depict their social life in the novel—that half so vividly paint for us the life of the common people as the old Kirk Session records in Scotland. The following therefore is an endeavour to give from these a picture of life in the Parish of Carriden two hundred years ago. This period has been chosen because it takes us back to the Revolution Settlement and its many changes, when the Kirk Session obtained almost sole power in everything concerning parish life, and we shall thus see not only how that power was used, but we shall also find a fulness and freshness about the proceedings which need not be looked for afterwards. Alas! the Kirk Session records before this date have disappeared-During the Covenanting times an Episcopalian minister was, of course, intruded into the parish. At the Revolution the "curate," as he was called, was speedily "rabbled out" by the parishioners, who, like the great mass of Scottish people, had never really adopted

Episcopacy. The curate—a Mr. Park—took the records with him when "rabbled" out of the manse. The Session made strenuous efforts to recover them. But Mrs. Park at least had powerful friends —notably Major Cornwall, then Laird of Bonhard; so although the session " ordained Duncan Allan and James Waldie to deal with Bonhard to persuade Mrs. Park to cause her husband deliver the church register, &c.," no effect was produced.


Great changes take place in two hundred years. Even the very face of the country alters. There are, of course, but hints of this in the records. But these hints leave a vivid impression. Where will you find "the sands of Bridgeness Point" or the Muir pointed to in Muiredge and Muirhouses. And there is no loch now at Lochend or elsewhere. One of the most familiar terms in the records is the " Waterside," a term now never employed, so great is the change. Again, there were then four principal means of employment—agriculture, coal mining, seafaring, and saltmaking. Agriculture occupied relatively much the same position it holds now, although the people of those days would have been less astonished at the apparition of the enemy of all mankind than at the sight of the modern "reaper and binder " at work. Coal mining was carried on at Kinglass, Bonhard, and Grange. But the miners were serfs, and women and their creels took the place of engines and hutches.

Bridgeness Harbour has taken the place of the piers at Causewayfoot (or Cuffabouts) and Burnfoot; and the Seamen's Loft is now at best but a name of the past, like the seamen who sat in it and formed, perhaps, the most important part of the inhabitants. We have now but two or three sailor parishioners, and none of those notable master mariners and owners who once had the parish as their home and made it more intimate with Holland than with Edinburgh. And the last of the salters has vanished with the saltpans in Grangepans. But salt-making hereabouts was in those days no small matter. An old parishioner informed us that a minister of Muiravonside told him that in his remembrance the site of the present manse and the lower glebe were nothing but "a rickle of dauners and a plane tree." Indeed, along no small part of the shore of the parish saltpans were then continually busy. There were the Grange Pans, the Bonhard Pans, erected and wrought in connection with Bonhard pits, and Carris Pans occupying continuously more than half the seaward limit of the parish.


There have been great changes, too, in the seats of population in the parish. A collection was to be made and collectors were appointed. Here are their districts—Binns Bounds, Bonhard and Northbank, Grange and Bridgeness, Kinglass, Muirhouses and Cuffabouts, Muiredge, and Little Carriden. Two collectors were

Old Church and Churchyard of Carriden.

appointed to each district, save Grange and Bridgeness, which had three, and Muirhouses and Cuffabouts, which had also three. Blackness was, of course, included in Binns Bounds. Kinglass was evidently the most populous part of the parish. Little Carriden—which lay opposite Muirhouses and embraced the upper part of the present glebe—and Muiredge have disappeared altogether. Then we have the now strange names of Ryehill, Doghillock, Kingsfield, Cotohonhill (Cowden-hill), where there was a fair on the 1st of May. It is of interest, too, in this" connection to compare surnames. It world take too long to give a complete list if it were available, as it must be remembered that only the names of the very good—the session and the witnesses—and the very bad—illdoers of various kinds—are mentioned. But take the following:—Bryce, Bisset, Barclay, Butcher, Bishop, Barrie, Cramb, Cathcart, Cockburn, Crookston, Cowie, Caldhouse, Carfin, Clunie, Casilis, Davie, Falconer, Frank, Graham, Gilchrist, Glass, Hart, Hutcheson, Hosie, Innes, Keir, Knight, Leask, Lamb, Lyall, Mathieson, Meikle john, M'Conochie, M'Rowan, Moutray, M'Lean, Mosie, M'Elfrish, Moodie, Pye, Paton, Piggins, Page, Richmond, Smeaton, Shade, Spittal, Tulloch, Umphray, Wood, Younger.


In practice if not in theory the position of the Kirk Session was at this time autocratic. It exercised all the functions of the various bodies which in our time carry on the local government of a parish. It did a good deal else besides. Like the Town Council, it dealt with money found. "Ordained William Young to have ane half-crown contended for betwixt him and the deceased James Ewing." Like the sanitary authority, it dealt with overcrowding. "Ordained David Cathcart to speak to Mount Lothian to build new houses to his coal grieves in Kinglass that some families might not lye together in a very little room like so many beasts." To a certain extent it dealt with the sale of drink. It shut up or restricted the sale of strong drink in public-houses on the Sabbath, while its members were in the habit of going round the parish and enforcing early closing on Saturday nights, "seeing that nothing was drunk after eight at night." Thus they were certainly more thorough than the present licensing authorities, and doubtless their methods were more effective than those now prevailing. In regard to even civil offences the session did birch bad boys, and it was continually dealing with offenders against civil law and handing them over to the magistrates for punishment.


The church then stood in the old churchyard in front of Carriden House. It had two "lofts," the seamen's and the colliers', "the Grange Isle" and the ordinary oblong floor space. The floor was of clay. It was unheated. It was not regularly seated. People applied for leave to put in a seat, and the session, if they saw fit, assigned them a certain portion of the floor space for that purpose.

"The indwellers in Thirlestane petitioning for a large seat in the west end of the church are permitted to put in one—that part being vacant."

The elders had a seat of their own next the pulpit; and, strange to say, that seat was looked upon as most desirable. It is possible that it was hidden from the minister's eye by the pulpit. One of the very first minutes tells that a lock was put on it. But that was not enough. Ere long a woman had to be reproved for "meddling with the elders' seat," and then there came a long dispute' regarding the seat with John Campbell—not in this matter alone—a sad stumbling-block in the session's path. Campbell took possession of the elders' seat, and after much debate the session appointed " James Wilson and the session clerk to go up to Linlithgow to Sebastian Henderson, procurator to-the Sheriff Court there, and to inform him in all points the right which the session has to that seat, which John Campbell wrongouslie and con-tentiouslie possesses; that the session built the same for the use of the-elders, and that the said Campbell has another seat in another part of the church which his predecessors built, and to order him in the session's name to represent the same before the Sheriff." Following this Campbell offered a compromise which was satisfactory to the procurator but not to the session. The matter had to go back to Court again. Ere it could be dealt with, however, the minister died, and there is no further record. Some of the seats at anyrate were movable, for we find that "David Cunningham is appointed to reprove William Young, beadle, for suffering people to go into the church and takeout seats."


It may be remarked that this is not the only reproof that William Young got. He was rebuked for tolling the bell for funerals without receiving the fee for so doing. He was also called into the session and "challenged of several things against him: First, that he made not the graves deep enough, to which he answered that he made them as deep as ordinary; secondly, that he should not break ground (make graves) on the Sabbath Day. Answered that he could not help that in respect that the ground did not stand. If a grave were opened the day before it would fall all in before the morrow, which put him to as much trouble as if he were to break the ground on the Sabbath. He was ordered by all means possible to help it and to see if it could be foreborne.''

Another of the beadle's offences was the ringing of the bell too soon on the examination (catechising) day.

The church does not seem to have been either wind or watertight on several occasions. "It was ordained that any of the elders that goe to Linlithgow to know what the sclatter means in not pursuing: the sclating of Carriden Kirk, being engaged by the heritors so to do a pretty while ago." And again the session "appoints the clerk to show Bonhard or his lady that the Earl of Buchan and his lady complained much of a window which is not glazed which doth much harm ; and desyre them to glaze it." And the session-house, "the minister's; Sabbath Day's retiring chamber," as it is quaintly termed, was very frequently in bad repair.


Notices of the administration of Church ordinances are often interesting And first as to baptism. It was "ordained John Anderson to employ some wright to make a seat opposite the beadle's seat so that they may hold up their children to be baptised." If no father could be found for a child, or if the father refused to present his child, then another man had to be found to present the child and engage to see it brought up at school.

Proclamation of the banns of marriage was then on three successive Sundays. On one occasion proclamation was stopped by a woman before completion. She was asked to give willingly to the poor for this breach of Church law. She refused, however, and was forthwith ordered to pay two rix dollars to the poor's box, "with certification that if she did not her goods would be poinded." If after the banns were fully published no marriage took place, the parties became guilty of "mocking the kirk," and were fined a rix dollar each. "James Allan reported his enquiries regarding the backgoing of the marriage betwixt James Duncan and Mary Smeale, told that each laid the wyte on the other. They were appointed to pay a rix dollar each for the use of the poor for mocking the kirk." By an Act of Session in July, 1695, marriage out of church was not solemnised unless a rix dollar was given for the poor, and this Act was renewed in February, 1704.

In those times the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was celebrated even less frequently than now. But this defect was made up for in some measure by the habit of receiving of all celebrations of the Sacraments in neighbouring parishes. And it was not only held that by baptism we become members of the Church, but also that all who had come to the years of discretion, were free from' scandal and lived a religious life, had a right to sit at the Lord's Table. Of their qualifications, however, the session were judges, and their warrant was the leaden token of admission to the Communion. "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper being to be celebrate at Mid-Calder, Sabbath next, appoint such who are known to be prayers and keepers of family worship to have testificats for receiving tokens there."

At the very beginning the session " ordained that none were to be buried between sermons, especially in the summer time." TVhile a little later it was ordained that the bell for lifting was not to be rung by the beadle within one hour before or half an hour after public service—the week-day service for exposition of Scripture.


The Kirk Session were the Parish Council of those days, and undertook the sole charge of the poor. They paid for the education of poor children at school; they gave the beadle payment for 1d

digging graves for the poor, and the wright payment for making their coffins. The beadle received six pence Scots (a halfpenny of our money) per grave, and the wright forty shillings Scots (three shillings and fourpence of our money) for six "mort coffins." A poor woman complained that she had no clothes to go to church in, and an elder was appointed to buy her a coat and jacket. Two sailors from the parish had been taken and made slaves to the Turks. The elders began a collection for their ransom, and appealed for fuller help to the Presbytery of Linlithgow. They took collections so that poor "lads o' pairts" from the parish might attend the University. They helped "broken," i.e., shipwrecked seamen—"Ordained James Wilson to give forty shillings to a poor Virginia man broken at sea, to help him to Newcastle." The session found a minister's widow in great destitution, and they gave her twelve shillings. They made a collection for the sufferers by the great fire at the Canongate Head, Edinburgh, and by the fire at Queensferry. They made a collection also for Kinkell Harbour.

The sums quoted are always in Scots money, in which £1 is equal to twenty pence sterling, one shilling to one penny sterling, and one penny one-twelfth of a penny sterling. There are thus £12 Scots in £1sterling.

How did the session provide even for the ordinary necessities of the poor, especially at a time when there was much poverty? They had the ordinary church collections, and if there was special need they had special collections. They relied also on the fees exacted for the performance of all duties of an ecclesiastical character. We are told that the baptisms in Mr. Park's time, under Episcopacy, were first 14s., afterwards 6s., now 18s; ^marriages 50s.—30s. for the poor, 14s. for the schoolmaster, and 7s. for the beadle. The session appoints now " the schoolmaster to have the marriages 40s., whereof 16s. might be given to the poor, 4s. to the doctor—assistant schoolmaster—6s. 8d. to the beadle, the rest he might keep to himself."

There were also payments for proclamation of banns, and various fines.


But the principal source of revenue from dues was, it would seem, dues charged for the use of the mortcloth. These dues were at first £3 for the mortcloth and 30s. for the little mortcloth. In 1693 materials for a new mortcloth were brought by one of the elders from Edinburgh, and £40 in all were spent on these and its making up. The session gave the use of the mortcloth without charge to those unable to pay. But two matters connected with the mortcloth produced •_nnch worry. The seamen got a mortcloth of their own. As a very serious diminution of their revenues would have taken place if it were used, the session remitted the matter to the Presbytery. The dispute went on, and we find it recorded that " James Hart, Duncan Allan, and James Wilson are to speak to their respective masters to see if they will join with the session in interposing their authority for war-randing the beadle not to open the kirkyard gate nor make a grave to any who shall have the seamen's mortcloth till they pay into the Eleemosynar (the keeper of the mortcloth) 20s. for the meikle and 10s. for the little mortcloth; as also the said elders to commnne with the seamen anent the same." A compromise seems to have been arranged, in all probability on these terms. The second matter remained a source of constant trouble. People who got the use of the mortcloth would not pay the dues. It was ordained that the keeper of the mortcloth give it to no one until he either receive payment or ample security. And finally the clerk was instructed to give a written order to Thomas Knox, constable, " for calling for money for the mortcloths from such as owes for the use of them." But even this was not enough, so the session fell back on the last resource of all creditors, and handed the dues over to a lawyer to collect.

Dues were also charged for the erection of headstones. These, too, got into arrear. But a more summary method regarding them could be and was taken. The people who had erected headstones were severally informed that " if they did not pay five merks at once their headstanes would be cast over the church dyke."

Before passing from the subject of the care of the poor, we notice one or two curious examples of the session's action in this respect. " It was ordained anent one William Hardie, a poor, sick man, the session orders a chopin of honey, with such materials as are prescribed by doctors to be put with it to be given to him," while they gave a woman " a rix dollar to help to pay the doctor for cutting off her finger." And they paid £3 to another doctor for endeavouring "to cure a woman with a distemper," i.e., insane.

The sum obtained from the collections, fines, dues (other than mortcloth dues), amounted from July, 1695, to July, 1696, to £561 12s.; while the amount spent on the poor in the same period was £533 17s. 2d., leaving a balance of £27 14s. 10d. For the mortcloth there was received during the same period £202 9s., and from this fund there was spent £44 18s., leaving a balance of £157 10s. 6d. The mortcloth fund accumulated, and was lent out at 5 per cent.


After the Church comes the School. The old Parish School stood on the vacant triangular bit of ground at the Muirhouses in the angle between the Linlithgow and Miller Pit roads. A copy of the deed of gift of this ground by Hamilton of Grange, in 1636, stil1. exists. Besides this school there were a number of "pettie" schools which were seemingly but rooms in the houses of the teachers. That the Kirk Session had great zeal for education, and that Iucy adopted the most thorough-going methods in order to secure the efficient instruction of the children of the parish is amply proved by the records. Over all schools they exercised the very strictest supervision, discharging all the functions of the School Board, save that they asked no yearly contributions from rates, and even to a certain extent taking the place of the Education Department. There was constant friction between the "pettie " schools and the parish school, and this friction must have been one of the session's trials. That there may be impartial judgment in this matter, it is well to remember that the parish schoolmaster was also the session clerk.

The parish schoolmaster was nominally appointed by the session and heritors—virtually by the session only. He was paid his salary by the heritors. This salary, however, required to be augmented by fees. To the schoolmaster an assistant, who was termed "the doctor in the school," was granted by the session, who paid for his services the salary of £24 Scots (£2 sterling), and assigned him a share of certain does. It is interesting to follow the story of one of those "doctors" under the Kirk Session—John Currie. Three years after his appointment it was ordained that "Duncan Allan and William Halliday intimate to the doctor of the school not to be found reading his own book in school when he ought to wait on the teaching of the children, which if he be found to do the session will take notice of it."

Apparently John Currie did not receive this monition in the spirit of meekness, for in September—the reproof had been administered in February—a minute reads—"It being complained by the schoolmaster that one John Currie, who was doctor to the public school, had deserted the said schoole and had gethered a schoole at Grangepans to the great prejudice of the public schoole, David Jamieson and Alexander Duncan are ordered to goe in the session's name and discharge him from keeping the said schoole, and to take the books from the children and to put them out of doors; and certifie the said Currie that, if he offer again to convene, the session will refer him to the magistrate." At the next meeting of session "Alexander Duncan and David Jamieson reported their diligence in obeying the session's appointment in discharging John Currie his keeping of schoole, and their putting forth the children; but that he had since convened his schoole, and said he would keep it whether the minister and session would or not. The session therefore referred it to the Laird of Bonhard, Baylie of the Regalitie of Borrowstounness, to take such cause with him as accords, which the said Laird of Bonhard did in every point to the satisfaction of the session." Good fortune, however, came to John Currie. He was offered the appointment to a school by the Kirk Session of Borrowstounness Parish. But he could not accept it, could not, indeed, it would appear, live in that parish till he got a certificate of good character from the Parish of Carriden. This gave the session their advantage, and they knew how to use it. "John Currie, compearing, and craving a testificat to Borrowstounness, was refused the samen till he gave it under his hand that he should receive no children from this Parish of Carriden to Borrowstounness, where he had a call to be a schoolmaster, and to get two of the representatives there as caution for him to the effect above mentioned."


The Kirk Session had thorough control over the pettie schools. They visited and examined them frequently. But these schools acted to the prejudice of the public school, in their opinion. For example, we are told that "One William Ross, at Blackness, was discharged from keeping schoole in prejudice of the public school." Then it was found that cnildren, though the elders deemed they should, would not leave the pettie schools and attend the public school. Elders were, for instance, appointed to "visit David Cathcart's schoole and write down the names of such as were able to come to the public schoole, and to testify to him that if he put not them away speedily the session would close his schoole altogether." David Cathcart was an elder, and he seems to have laid this matter so to heart that he no longer sat in session. The master of another of the pettie schools was offered the post of doctor in succession to Currie—partly in order that his own school at Bonhard might be shut by his acceptance. He would not accept, however, "and the session passed from their offer and ordained him to leave the parish."

Grangepans was specially guarded against pettie schools. One minute "appoints Robert Jamieson and James Wilson to goe discharge Sarah Small, in Grangepans, she not having the session's allowance conform to the order of Presbytery." In this case the session's action was amply upheld by future events. Sarah Small appears again in the record in quite another connection. "Sarah Small and Margaret Robertson, dilated for fighting and flyting, were ordered to be summoned against the next day." Next day "Margaret Robertson cited and compearing, denyed it, but told that Sarah Small strake her on the face, rave the toy off her head, and dang her to the ground, and did cast a dauner in at her door. Sarah Small, compearing, denyes all that Robertson said of her, and complains that the said Robertson called her a witch thief." Witnesses were called, who proved conclusively that each was guilty of what the other alleged against her, and even of more besides.

The session took care that the teachers of the pettie schools should at any rate know something about their duties. Here is an example of several cases of the kind that might be quoted—"John Hart and William Bryce to visit Jean Donaldson's school and take notice and tryall of her if she can teach the children by syllabling the words."

As we have said, the Kirk Session was the School Board of those old days. And no School Board now discharges its duties so thoroughly as did the Kirk Session of Carriden in the end of the seventeenth century. It frequently ordained certain of its number—never including the minister, however, for some reason we could not discover—to visit and examine the schools. These elders reported the results of their visits and examinations, and frequently commented very favourably on "the children's proficiency and the schoolmaster's diligence." They brought no unfavourable reports—at least, no such reports are recorded. The elders were the School Board officer themselves. A very common appointment was that all or some of them should go round the parish and press the parents to send their children to school. In cases in which this had no effect, parents were summoned before the session and rebuked, while a promise was. extracted that they "would have a care in future to send their children to school." When smart children were discovered, they had prizes assigned them for their encouragement in learning. At little cost, far too little cost, good educational work was done in Scotland of those old days, and she was then first of nations in the matter oi education. Though one of the elders and the schoolmaster had to make and mend the seats, that did not prevent children in the public school of Carriden getting such an education as enabled them to proceed straight to the University of Edinburgh.


In its control of the general affairs of the parish and its influence on the life of the people, the Kirk Session owed its power to its ecclesiastical position, to the favour for Presbyterianism, to the strong religious feeling that prevailed—a feeling that had been largely augmented by the persecutions of the Covenanting times. Besides, there was no other authority to do the work which greatly needed doing. The session was a compact body, of the people and constantly among the people; there were no Dissenters; and if there were any Episcopalians they had to be very quiet, while no Roman Catholic dared profess his faith.

The great concern of the session was the religious condition of the people. But we cannot separate religion from daily life and morality— the widespread ramifications of moral questions brought the Kirk Session as a Court, to which was committed the spiritual rule of the parish, into contact with every phase of the life of its people. And it was felt to have power even beyond that which belonged to it as a Court of the Church. If the Church of Scotland no longer made and unmade kings, its support was more a necessity to £he civil power than was the favour of the civil power to the Church.

We must remember the times were still most unsettled, and that although the great mass of the people were peaceable and orderly, there was a large roving population of evil habits and bad character.

The session were possessed by the idea that by all means the parish must be preserved from the presence, influence, and contamination of this most undesirable element. And, further, it was impossible for them to allow "randie beggars," as they termed them, to settle in the parish and become a burden on the liberality of its people, who were frequently taxed to the utmost to provide for their own poor.

It would seem from the numberless notices dealing with the matter that almost the greatest trouble the session had was the "resetting"—not for a night or a short time, but through the letting to them of rooms and houses—of these "undesirables." Doubtless there was considerable weight in the pecuniary benefits they must have received, and fear of the consequences of refusal, while the sympathy of the poor with the poor would have effect. Still, one cannot help wondering why many of the people persisted in sheltering these wanderers, especially as most lamentable misfortunes befel some of them through so doing, and the wrath of the Kirk Session was not a thing to be despised. Now the session summon a man for resetting randie beggars. Then they appeal to Sir Walter Seaton of Northbank to "extrude randie beggars" out of his houses. Judgment of extrusion was passed on one Margaret Falconer, who is termed not only a "randie beggar" but also "an intolerable fiery scold." But Margaret refused to vacate. The session appealed to the Laird of Bonhard; he was the resident magistrate and she tenanted one of his houses. Bonhard, however, though usually very ready to carry out the session's behests, gave in this case, for some reason or other, the ambiguous answer that "he would think about the extruding of Margaret Falconer." On another occasion, to give one more instance, Bonhard was asked to "extrude one Alexander Taylor out of the parish as being a person unworthy of any Christian society." Again, several elders were appointed to "speak to the resetters of those thieves at the Muiredge." And at last a general intimation was made that "no one was to set houses to such as could not maintain themselves and had not a testificat."

The "testificat" played a very important part indeed in parish life. No one was allowed to remain in the parish—if the session could help it—save he or she brought a testificat from the last parish lived in, stating that he or she had removed from it " free from all public scandal." Bonhard was an Episcopalian, and did not attend the Parish Church, but had a chaplain of his own. Powerful though he was, and greatly though the session were indebted to him, they at once demanded the production of Bonhard's chaplain's testificat. Bonhard's servants had also to produce testificats, as had those of Carriden House. "Two gentlemen lately come to the parish" were forthwith waited upon by the elders and asked for their testificats. If these were not forthcoming, those whose houses were occupied by persons not possessing them, or in whose service they were, were at once commanded to turn them out or dismiss them. This command was not always promptly obeyed. One woman told the session that "she would keep her woman servant from the north whether the session would or no." The session replied that a testificat must be produced or she herself would be dealt with. This was enough. Even when produced, testificats were not always approved. Either they were not free from ambiguity or the persons were not properly vouched for. On the other hand, when people leaving the parish sought testificats they were not always granted. To a woman who asked one the reply was given that it would not be granted " till she had first purged herself of that scandal of fighting with her neighbours." The desire to be rid of an undesirable parishioner was not so strong as the determination to enforce righteous punishment and to support general principles of government. Thus the power of the testificat was twofold. No one who had entered the parish could remain in it without producing one. No one intending to leave the parish dared depart without obtaining one. It is instructive to note that at one session meeting testificats were granted to parishioners going to Holland, Flanders, and Ireland. Inquisition, demand, and threats could not bring testificats from all nor secure the expulsion of all who could not produce them. When these means failed, the session drew up what is termed "a list of vagabonds and others not having testificats," and gave it to Bonhard that he might proceed according to civil law. But no more than the session was Bonhard successful. However, the session then agreed to "ask Bonhard to grant a general warrand to Thomas Knox, constable, for answering the minister and session in any business they may have to doe with at any time." This was granted. Thomas, in obedience to instructions, set about ordering all not having testificats out of the parish. On more than one occasion we find Thomas Knox asks and receives "something for his pains" from the session. Testificats were demanded from those who came from Bo'ness, and we are tempted to think that no love was lost on that parish when we read that the session appointed one of the elders "to goe and advise that woman who came from Borrowstounness to goe out of the parish."


The eyes of the session were everywhere, and, like a famous professor, what they did not know of parish life (and deal with, too) was not knowledge. A man was summoned "for falsifying a deed of write." And a man had to appear for "committing a ryot in the house of William Halliday," one of the elders. William Bryce was appointed "to challenge John Twell for not being more vigorous in obeying the Laird of Bonhard's commands and the session's orders." George Walker was told that "the session was much displeased he should keep a woman that scolds her neighbours and otherwise miscarries." A man was summoned for having produced "bad blood" between himself and a neighbour by taking that neighbour's house "over his head." Elspeth Waldie was reproved for "haunting a trooper's company," and William Robertson's sister for "singing profane songs on the Coal Hill." "William Halliday, dilating that he had been informed anent some that had been too late on Saturday night, is ordered to see who they were and report next day." Again, "John Waldie dilated Patrick M'Carter and John Miller for goeing through the towne of Bonhard on Mundayes night with drawn knives in their hands and saying they would defy all the towne." These men were then summoned. Miller compeared, M'Carter didn't, and was summoned a second time. Miller denied the charges against him. He was asked why he had a "naked knife." He answered "it was to cut his ain craigcloth, because he was like to be choked therewith by people that fell upon him." At another meeting M'Carter compeared and answered " that he stroke at them that were struggling with John Miller." He denied he was drunk, but confessed he drew a knife "because it behoved him to do so when others came out with grapes against him."

James White's wife is reproved "for playing at the cards and entertaining strangers too late on Saturday night." John Burnet and James Henderson, in Northbank, are reproved for their foolish jesting and offering to sell and buy the said Henderson's wife. And the session permitted no tyranny. "James Hart and James Allan are appointed to reprove JohnfMain and his wife for their too much severitie and insulting over the workmen of Grange Works." The session tendered its warmest thanks to William Waldie, factor to Bonhard, for whipping the miners for cursing and swearing. A woman was severely rebuked for calling her neighbour "a Cameronian jade"—a term of obloquy that tells its own tale of the bitterness of ecclesiastical disputes. David Callender was rebuked for his idleness in running away from his work. Again, " Elspeth Dick, in Grange, having presented a complaint before the session wherein she complains that James Henderson and others have, to her reproach and abuse of her good name, made some base rymes which they had in write, and that the coal grieves had the double thereof, and therefore craved that the session would take notice thereof and suppress the samen. The session recommend it to John Hardie and James Brown to reprove these persons and to call for such papers from them, and burn those papers, and withal to certifie them that if they be found to spread or sing such papers or reproachful songs of her or any else, they will be proceeded against by the session."

A report reached the session that a master had beaten his servant most severely, and that the man had died in the field shortly after. They set themselves to inquire into the matter at once. A boy stole clothes from a neighbour's house. He had to appear before the session and sustain a sharp rebuke, while he was threatened with much worse things should he offend again. And Elspeth Cumming was dilated "for going aboord from Grangepans to a ship with ale to the sojers her alone and staying with them some time." The matter was referred to the Baylie of Grangepansl to imprison her for some space.


If the offence reported upon—dilated, as it was styled—was slight, the session simply informed the delinquent if he did not amend "the session would take notice of him"—a threat terrible enough. The session, as a regular Court summoned by their officer, accused parties before them. If they deemed that the matter was not a grave scandal, and the party appeared and made a full confession, with profession of determination to amend, then it ended with a "sessional rebuke" and "a certification to carry himself warily for the future or he would have to suffer public rebuke." If the offence was really of a scandalous character, then a public rebuke was administered

It consisted in sitting on the "black stoole" of repentance before the congregation on three successive Sabbaths. Frequently, and more frequently as time went on, offenders did not appear when summoned. But, according to the form of process which is still the law of the Church and of the land, nothing could be done until they were summoned three times.

The form of process was therefore gone through, the session taking care when appointing the officer to make the third citation to appoint also two elders to give warning personally of the consequences of disobedience to the third summons. This third citation was seldom disobeyed, and when disregarded, the parties usually took the precaution of removing themselves from the parish.

When the form of process had been completed and there was still no compearance, the parties were straightway declared from the pulpit to be contumacious and disobedient, and were suspended from all Church privileges. But if they had not left the parish, the matter, as a rule, never ended there. Sometimes they were passed on to the Laird of Bonhard to be imprisoned or fined. In one place we read, "It was reported that the Laird of Bonhard, in obedience to the session's reference to him, had imprisoned William Crookston, who had now given all securitie to conform himself to the session's demands." And again we find that when a man was cited and did not compear, "the session referred it to the Baylie of Borrowstounness to cause his officer apprehend and secure him till he find caution to answer the session when called." Sometimes suspected parties would not confess. For them there was frequently a sharp remedy. Such a case occurred, and "it was referred to the Baylie of Borrowstounness to cast them into prison till they confessed their presumed adultery." From time to time a list of scandalous and disobedient persons was sent to the Justices of the Peace, that those who would not satisfy ecclesiastical demands might feel the force of the power temporal. And on one or two occasions the Justices wrote and asked the session for such a list. For instance, "A letter from the Clerk to the Justices of the Peace direct to the minister and session was read desiring that the session give up all the fornicators and other delinquents in the parish against Tuesday next." As an effect of these conjoined measures few remained long in the parish who had been declared scandalous and disobedient without humbly coming forward to crave the removal of their censure and to promise to sit obediently on the "black stoole."

We sometimes wonder if the behaviour of all those who thus sat in open confession was always to edification. Certainly it was not in a case reported to us and vouched for by an eye-witness in another Parish Church. In this church the session insisted that the penitent should put on a white sheet. The particular delinquent on this occasion, during one of the long prayers, to the great edification of the congregation, who were "standing glowering about them, as usual," adroitly slipped the sheet off her shoulders and placed it gently on those of one of the elders who was standing near with bowed head and shut eyes.


Let us look at the Kirk Session in all its plenitude of power as it is pictured in the language regarding itself. They were not in office after the Revolution six months before an elder dilated a woman for cursing the minister and session. "Whereupon she was ordained to sit upon the stoole and receave a public rebuke for these things the first Lord's Day, with a certification that if she did not sit thereupon she would be declared scandalous and disobedient. But she not sitting upon the stoole, was declared scandalous and disobedient, the whole session assenting." On another occasion an elder, in the course of his visitation, was stigmatised by a woman as "an auld doited." Not long after another woman was cited before the session for calling an elder "a slave and ane hypocrite rascal." Two elders were "ordained to go to Eupham Brown, spouse to John Wilson, coal hewer, and sharply rebuke her for her un-Christian expressions regarding William Halliday, and for opening her mouth against other elders, and show that if she be found in the like fault the session would proceed against her severely."

Here is a case of bold bearing before the session as a Court. William Hosie, cited and compearing, being asked why he should have taken in another man's wife to his house, he being alone, and that it was very scandalous, did irreverently and un-Christianly make answer, saying, "By his faith, he did no hurt or harm by keeping house with that woman for his servant." Being rebuked for his rash and irreverent carriage in swearing in face of the minister and session, answered again, "By his faith he did not evil; he behoved to keep a servant," adding that none within the parish could prove scandal upon him. He being put forth during the session's deliberations, it was concluded to refer him to the civil magistrate. And being called in, it was told him that he behoved "to be ane of a most wicked and flagitious practice, which was clearly evident by that his base and un-Christian bearing in the face of a reverent minister and session, which he ought to look upon as a Court of Christ." He was told he would be given up to the civil magistrate; hereupon he left the parish and he was referred to the Sheriff-Depute of Linlithgow. The following extract gives us a realistic picture of a woman of independent mind and unrestrained tongue:—"Isabel Anderson dilated for not frequenting the kirk and for scolding, and for saying she cared neither for minister nor session, and for saying the elders were lying in whoredom, and for bidding her neighbours—(the rest must be unmentioned)—was summoned against the next day."


The case of James Kid is so good a picture of life and of the session and its difficulties that we give it in full—"The session appoints William Bryce and James Brown to goe forthwith and reprove James Kid, at Burnfoot, for abusing his wife and svriking her, and to certifie to him that the session will not suffer any such base carriage in him or any other, but will give him up and over to the Justices of the Peace." At next meeting "the elders reported their speaking to James Kid, who took their reproof indifferently satisfying; promised to give obedience to the session; also promised for the future to carry more calmly upon condition that his wife do not at any time provoke him by contradicting him in such and such things as he warns her not to meddle with him therein." The session's dealings with Mr. Kid were not allowed to end there. Exactly a year after we find "James Kid cited and compearing, was told that the session had dealt very kindly with him in their forbearing him, whereas he had, after four or five times summoning, never compeared, but added to all others his miscarriages contumacie. To which he, in proud, irreverent manner, not discovering his head, answered that he had sent word he could not win. Was challenged why he strake and beat to the ground the church officer. Denyed he strake him to the ground, but said why was the kirk officer meddling with his ground which he had paid for. Was told that that ground was none of his. Answered, by his faith, it was his, and he would make it appear soe to be. Was challenged for frequent beating and abusing his wife. He stifHy denyed, but said she carryed like a beast to him, and put it to the session to prove it. Being urged to tell whether he strake her: answered the session must prove it; and again answered by his faith he would be wronged by none, for he was a credit to his name, and would quit the life before he would be wronged by any. The session dismisses him and refers him to the Baylie of Borrowstounness."

The quarrels of husbands and wives have been subjects of animadversion since the world began, and they crop up at almost every meeting. One woman is reported to " weep late and air, and that her husband shuts her out when he can get no peace with her din." Even the following is found—"Ordains John Anderson and George Muphray to reprove. John Robertson, elder, and his wife for their scolding and drunkenness."

Here is a one-act drama of married life, with all the stock characters which leaves nothing to be desired in the energy of its actors—

"Witnesses in regard to the fighting one with another of David Callender, his wife, mother-in-law, and others testified : That Callender's wife came to John Miller's door when he himself and his wife were in bed, desiring him for God's sake to come and help, for her husband would kill both her and her brother; and that when he and his wife, Elspeth Dick, rose and went with the said Callender's wife and had come to his mother-in-law's house, they saw the said Callender sitting and swearing, and that when the said Callender went forth, his own wife, his mother-in-law, and others took up stanes and did cast at him and fell in his hair, and Callender's wife did always bid, ' Kill the dog and rive him all in bitts,' and that his mother-in-law swore by her soul she would have amends on the dog to-morrow." These parties did not appear, and were referred to the magistrate.

We are afraid part at least of the following could be paralleled at the present day. Witnesses in another case declared "that John Fairney, being drunk, did fall asleep, but that one Katharine Paton, coming into his wife's house, would have him awakened to drink more. His wife offering to hinder the bringing in of any more drink, he swore he would have ale, and would drink with Paton. That he swore he would ding out his wife's harns, and that he took up a rung or cudgell and did beat his wife, and did strike her five or six times."

In another case a man confessed that "he did give his wife a buffet, but that if he did not do so he could have no life with her. He did regrate it, professed sorrow, and besought the minister and session to take some effectual means for her bettering."


Here is seemingly a hard case—

"Alexander Nimmo and Elspeth Sleigh, his wife, cited, the man only compearing. Interrogated how it came that he a man designing good should be found to disagree with his wife to the scandal and reproach of religion: Answered that he was very sorry that ever it should have been his sad lot to be so, which he asserted was far against his mind. But it was his sad misfortune to be yoked with a wife that crossed him daily in many ways, but particularly in these things—that she will not frequent ordinances either in coming to the kirk on the Sabbath or the examine on a week day, and that she is a great scold, a great curser and swearer by the name of God, and that she will not join with him in family exercise to worship God: that upon his reproving several her miscarriages and exhorting her to carry otherwayes, she arose in a furious manner as one distracted, and strake at him, and took him by the throat, and had almost choaked him; and he, in his own relief and defence, shutting her from him, she fell and bled a little, upon which she cried and clamoured more. He did earnestly beg and entreat that the session would take some effectual way, as in their wisdom they thought most convenient, whereby to bring her to carry in some ways more soberly."

It all ended with the denunciation of her misdeeds from the pulpit before the congregation.

The appearance of such faults as cursing and swearing are, like the "cursing of one Jean Hog," "frequent and ordinary." Once a man gave the ingenious excuse for a fall into this sin that at the time he " was almost brained by a fall in the coalpit." It would not be to edification to cite examples of the oaths employed, even although they were frequently both vigorous and graphic. And, of course, there are other sins that must be allowed to pass without notice, which are yet frequently enough in evidence. Drunkenness, too, would seem to have been very rife, and Sunday drinking is specially noted.

Soldiers were a sad trouble to the session in many ways. There was a garrison at Blackness and a camp at Balderston. Thus it came to pass that "James Anderson is ordered to complain to the Governors of Blackness and Balderston regarding the debaucherie in Jean Grant's house with the soldiers." Other elders were ordered to "rebuke the coalbearers for haunting the camp at Balderston as casting themselves in a fountain of filthiness." Also, " Some soldiers having been found drunk at or about the Murrays on Sabbath last, the session refers to William Halliday and Arthur Pollock to enquire who they were and where they got the drink."

The relations of neighbours with each other had frequently to be dealt with. It was the frequent endeavour of the session to have them "at peace and charity with each other." Two elders are appointed " to goe and cause William Ellis and James Savage's wife shake hands." Very frequently neighbours are summoned before the session for "fighting and fly ting "with each other. As, for example, it was reported that "Agnes Mitchell declared she would be Marion M'Cunn's death or she hers, while Marion had called Agnes a drunken jade"— and they were cited to appear. A woman was summoned for praying that her neighbour "might have a sad and cold armful of her husband."

Barbara M'Vey is summoned for calling a man " an ill-faured thief " and his wife a witch. She had been taking a lapful of dung out of this man's yard when his wife came out and stopped her procedure. Upon this the expressions complained of were employed. Barbara was referred to the Justices of the Peace.


For scolds like this woman there was a peculiar form of punishment, the "jougs" or scold's bridle, examples of which are still preserved, attached in some cases to the gates of the Parish Churches. In Carriden they were not the peculiar adornment of the fair sex alone, and a good supply must have been in existence judging by the following:—

"Appoints a recommendation to Walter and Alexander Moodie, coal grieves, and John Main, oversman to the works of Grange, that they put such of the workpeople or bearers under their charge whom they hear or know to be banners, cursers, swearers, or scolders, in the jougs, and cause them to stand therein such quantitie of time to the terror of others, their doing of which the minister and session will take as good service done to God and His Church." This recommendation was accepted and obeyed to the session's satisfaction.

"Hooligans" were found even in those days. But they met with a summary and effective method of treatment. "Appoints James Wilson and Archibald Nimmo to speak to Edward Hodge and John Craig, skippers, anent two vagabond boys called the Pods, because of their idleness in the place, refusing to work, although they might be employed about the coal-works, and for their lewd, cursed life and practice, and their giving a bad example to'the children of the place, to see if they will take them away over sea and let them goe to any who can make use of them."

The session had much to do in order to enforce the due observance of their religious duties by the people of the parish. There were two services in the church every Lord's Day. Then there were, besides, the weekly "Exercise"—a week-day exposition of Scripture, and the "Examine" or catechising, held in the various districts of the parish in turns. At all these the people, "not being let or hindered," were expected to attend. On one occasion a general catechising by the elders was ordered—" It was recommended to all the elders in their respective quarters to pose the people with these queries at the taking up of the names to the examine—(1) If they have a Bible; (2) If they read a part thereof each night; (3) If they have a catechism; (4) If they pray with their families; (5) Whether they keep their children at school; (6) Whether they have been examined formerly, and how oft; (7) If there be any wants testificats, to call for them."

The session set themselves to enforce attendance at the church and at the "Examine." Let us .point out some of their methods and give some examples of their action. First of all it was ordained that the elders go through now Blackness, then Northbank, then Grangepans on the following Lord's Day and note those who were unnecessarily absent from church. Following on this comes this appointment, 3rd March, 1696—" The session, from this time forth till summer be over, appoints the elder with his colleague who collects this Sabbath to goe through the several quarters of the parish, especially the Waterside, at the next Sabbath after the collection, and notice who may be absent from sermon needlesslie, or who are vaging in the fields or found tippling and drinking." On 26th March following Alexander Duncan reported that " he was through the parish on Sabbath last, and found nothing but closed doors." And again, not long afterwards, it was resolved that the elders should go through the parish now and then on Sabbath and see who were out of the kirk. About a year after there was a specific appointment to John Anderson and James Brown to go through the parish next Sabbath "to observe if they find any debaucherie and to see if they find any absent from church without sufficient ground." With regard to individual examples of "not keeping the kirk" or "not haunting the kirk." as it was indifferently styled, we have a man who was told that "if he came not next Sabbath he will be declared scandalous and disobedient," and another who is summoned for striking his wife and not keeping the kirk. Again, a man is summoned " for setting his house to a man who keeps not the kirk," while "Doghillock" was referred to the Sheriff "for his constant withdrawing from ordinances, his drinking, playing at cartes, mocking at religion and religious persons, a night vager, and others." But even when people attended church their behaviour evidently sometimes left something to be desired. For example, during sermon one day there was a regular fight in the kirk loft, in which there was reported afterwards "great effusion of blood."


Strict observance of the Sabbath, Fast, and Thanksgiving Days was enforced, and those who did not attend "the dyett" of examination in their district were summoned and rebuked. "Doghillock," a very great offender, yoked his cart on the Thanksgiving Day, and was referred to the Sheriff. John Humphray was ordained to speak to John Anderson "against this grievance for not giving kindling coals to the salters, so that they are forced to keep fire at the pans on the Lord's Day, notwithstanding (as they say) their master allows them." There are frequent rebukes for shearing and working on the Fast Day. Elders were appointed to speak to Walton about some of his family pulling lint on the Fast Day. Helen Annieson was summoned "for setting plants on the Fast Day." She said she did not know it was a sin, and also added that "if she had known it would have been offensive to the minister and session she would not have done it."

Offences against the keeping of the Sabbath are still more numerous than even those against the keeping of the Fast Day. "It was reported to the session that many of the men employed about the coal works of Grange were working all the day on Sabbath last, and that even the cart-horses were employed carting bricks and other materials to a fire engine, which had given universal offence, as it could not be construed a work of necessity, nor a work that could be finished in one day, or attended with any other loss than every man in a Christian congregation must sustain by not being allowed to oblige their servants and horses to work on the Lord's Day, and thereby loses their labour every seventh day of the week, and must against their will delay till Munday what they could wish to do on the Lord's Day. . . . The session, having considered the matter, agreed to summon these people to compear on Sabbath first after worship to hear what reasons they can give for what seems a contempt of the Christian laws both of God and of the country." This was in 1772.

Three women went aboard a ship lying off Grangepans on a Sunday to visit the sailors, and had to appear before the session and give "satisfaction" before the congregation. A man was "advised " by the session "not to sell drink on the Sabbath, excessively or otherwise," on pain of being reported to the Governor of Blackness. William Halliday was appointed to reprove a woman "for taking in her green kale to the pot on Sabbath." In connection with brewing, it was ordained that no one was to begin "masking" after 12 noon on Saturday. Isabel Herrick was forbidden to beg at the kirk style on Sabbath, and William Bryce was appointed to "tell John Tarbet, officer, to read what public papers he is appointed to read at the kirk style and not the kirk door." These, of course, do not strictly refer to breaches of the Sabbath, and are only mentioned in this connection. And it was agreed that "intimation be made that noe masters of families "(the phrase is both characteristic and suitable)" suffer their children or servants to vage either in time of divine service or before or after sermon." It was appointed that "any elder in his respective quarters should notice if they see any children playing or others vaging on the Sabbath day. James Hart and Robert Johnston are appointed to rebuke Henry Anderson for selling ale and milk on the Sabbath Day and for not keeping the kirk."

"It is recommended to John Anderson and William Halliday to take notice of those who after sermon gethers at the Braeheads and other places breaking the Sabbath, and to report." Robert Johnstone and John Waldie were appointed to "reprove people in the Muiredge who suffer their child to goe forth to play in companies on the Sabbath afternoon."

We have numerous examples which prove that the parish churches in many cases were at this time of very small size. Taking into account the fact that the Parish Church was the only place of worship, how did it accommodate all the people if these drastic methods were as successful as one would suppose they must have been? Or, after all, was there a great deal of non-churchgoing in spite of despotic authority and its'most rigorous employment?

We have striven to give some idea of the story told by the Kirk Session records of those far-off times. We must leave you to point yonr own moral, draw your own conclusions, and make your own criticisms. Be it remembered, however, in our reflections that the times were sadly out of joint and discipline greatly needed; and, above all, that the people who were nurtured under such a regime as that of the Scottish Kirk Session are the people who have made the name of Scotland great, and to no nation do Scottish people yield in love of liberty and freedom, explain the matter how we may.

Note.—In this lecture Mr. Dundas also dealt with the cases of Witchcraft and Superstition in the Parish revealed in the Records. These, however, have with his consent been incorporated in the text of the chapter on Witchcraft.

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