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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter IV. The Burgh Records of Culross from 1588 to 1600

IT is not till towards the end of the sixteenth J- century that we come upon any certain or extended account of Culross and its district. But the transition from almost total darkness to the full blaze of noonday is both very sudden and complete. Of the state of matters in Roman Catholic times we can at best only form a conjecture, and summon up imagination to fill in the lights and shadows of the imperfect sketch which is supplied us from the meagre notes and references in old writings, or the local monuments, ecclesiastical and civil, which still subsist, of those long ages of obscurity. But scarcely has the ancient Church been overthrown, and the active and enterprising spirit of Protestantism gained the ascendancy in its room, than the results display themselves in a very decided and unmistakable advance in the commercial importance and prosperity of Culross. Sir George Bruce appears with his magician’s wand: a flourishing coal and salt trade is rapidly developed and established, the town increases both in size and reputation, and royalty having been gained over to lend its smiles and patronage, Culross, which had hitherto only enjoyed the privileges of a burgh of barony under the abbot and monks, now takes her place among privileged Scottish towns as a royal burgh, and in the largest county of the kingdom enjoys this pre-eminence as second, with no other rival of equal rank between her and the fair city of Perth.

As the sudden stride into commercial importance which Culross made shortly after the Reformation is mainly owing to the enterprising genius of Sir George Bruce, some account of him and his family seems desirable before proceeding further with the history of the place. He was the third son of Edward Bruce of Blairhall, who again was the second son (though some dubiety exists on this point) of Sir David Bruce of Clackmannan, fourth in descent from the Robert Bruce on whom King David II. bestowed in 1359 the castle and manor of Clackmannan, with many other lands in that county, and of whom in the charter or deed of gift he speaks as his relative or “ cousin.” Edward Bruce settled in Culross parish as laird of Blairhall about the middle of the sixteenth century—having acquired a portion at least of that estate from William Colville, then Commendator of Culross Abbey—and by his wife, Alison Reid of Aikenhead, became the father of three sons, the two younger of whom were destined to make a distinguished mark for themselves in the history of their country. With the eldest son, Robert, who succeeded his father in the paternal estate, and married Margaret Hamilton, a natural daughter of the famous and unfortunate Archbishop of St Andrews of that name, I have nothing at present to do, though I shall afterwards have occasion to refer to him and his descendants.

The second son of Edward Bruce of Blairhall was Edward Bruce, who studied law, became one of the commissaries (or judges in the ecclesiastical courts) of Edinburgh, and received also the appointment of commendator of the dissolved Cistercian Abbey of Kinloss in Morayshire. He was farther raised to the dignity of a Lord of Session in 1597, and having ingratiated himself with James VI., was sent with the Earl of Mar in 1600 to England, ostensibly to congratulate Queen Elizabeth on the suppression of the rebellion of the Earl of Essex, but in reality to initiate a correspondence with Secretary Cecil, so as to facilitate the succession of James to the English throne. In this mission he acquitted himself so well that he received in 1602 a peerage, under the title of Lord Bruce of Kinloss, the lands and baronies which belonged to the abbey of that name having been united into a temporal lordship in his favour; and he himself having accompanied King James into England on his accession, was made a Privy Councillor and Master of the Rolls. From the royal gifts bestowed on and the lucrative offices held by him, he seems to have amassed an immense fortune, and to have conceived the design of perpetuating his name and family by the erection in his native parish of Culross of a princely mansion. Living at the English Court, where the celebrated Inigo Jones, a native of Denmark, had established himself in the household of his countrywoman, Queen Anne, it was but natural that Lord Kinloss should avail himself of the services of the first architect of the day, in common with other English nobles and courtiers, whose mansions he designed and erected. For one of these, more especially—Sir Robert Cecil, afterwards Earl of Salisbury—Jones designed the splendid edifice at Hatfield, in Hertfordshire. I cannot aver positively, and indeed can produce no evidence, that the fine building of Culross Abbey, closely adjoining the ancient church and monastery of that name, owes its existence to the inspiration of the great Danish architect; but the style of its construction, so nearly resembling that of other erections by Inigo Jones, and so much in advance of anything that at the time could be produced by native Scottish artists, coupled with the circumstance of Lord Kinloss’s intimate connection with the English Court, induces me to maintain that in all probability its design is to be ascribed to the source I have indicated. It was commenced in 1608, two years before the demise of Lord Kinloss, and had evidently been originally intended to form a magnificent quadrangle, with towers at the four comers. Nothing more, however, was ever constructed than the south front and a small portion of the western side. It was completed in its present form by Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine, who in 1670 added a third storey. Further details regarding Culross Abbey and its surroundings will be found in another chapter.

By his wife, Magdalen, daughter of Alexander Clerk of Balbimie, Lord Kinloss had two sons, Edward and Thomas, the former of whom succeeded him as Edward, second Lord Bruce of Kinloss, and came shortly afterwards, in 1613, to an untimely end, in the memorable duel fought between him and Sir Edward Sackville, afterwards Earl of Dorset. His brother and successor, Thomas Bruce, Lord Kinloss, received from Charles 1., on the occasion of that monarch’s visit to Scotland in 1633, the patent of Earl of Elgin—a title which, more than a hundred years afterwards, became extinct in the direct line, on the death of his great-grandson Charles, and passed to the Earls of Kincardine, who incorporated it with their own.

I must now return to Sir George Bruce, younger brother of the first Lord Kinloss, and third son of Edward Bruce of Blairhall. What his original destination in life was, does not appear; but the bent of his genius evidently lay in a commercial direction, and in this he was eminently successful. He embarked in the coal and salt trades, carried on an extensive business in the working of coals and manufacture of salt within his native parish, exported large quantities of these articles, and erected numerous and extensive works, which rendered his name famous throughout the country. He is said to have been the first who introduced the method of draining coal-pits by machinery; and he was probably also the first who conceived and successfully carried out the daring project of sinking a coal-pit in the sea, and encasing the shaft in a circular wall or moat, which rose above the surface of the water. By one of these King James, after having been conveyed underground from the land, made his ascent in medias auras, to gaze, on reaching the summit, to his considerable trepidation, on the expanse of water by which he was surrounded. The profits of these collieries and salt-works enabled Sir George Bruce (who had the honour of knighthood conferred on him by the King) to acquire an immense estate, comprising a great part of the parish of Culross, and a great part of the adjoining parish of Camock, in Fife, from the latter of which he commonly takes his title of Sir George Bruce of Camock. He also owned extensive possessions in the parishes of Torrybum and Dunfermline. He had his residence in Culross, where the fine old houses in the Sand Haven still bear his initials. And his influence in the town was deservedly great, seeing that his enterprise had raised her to such a height of prosperity and reputation. He both exerted his interest with the King to procure her elevation to the rank of a royal burgh, and advanced a thousand pounds Scots (no inconsiderable sum for those days) towards defraying the fees and expenses connected with the granting of the charter. Altogether he must be regarded as one of the ablest men of his time,—though, unlike his brother, the astute diplomatist, Lord Kinloss, his reputation has been in a great measure merely local.

Sir George Bruce married Margaret, daughter of Archibald Primrose of Bumbrae, direct ancestor of the present Earl of Rosebery. By her he had three sons, George, Alexander, and Robert, among whom his immense estates were divided; but as Alexander died without issue, it is only with George and Robert that I am concerned. The former inherited his father’s estates in the parishes of Culross, Torrybum, and Camock, under the title of George Bruce of Camock; the latter those in the parish of Dunfermline, under the denomination of Robert Bruce of Broomhall.

George Brace of Camock (second of that designation) married Mary, daughter of Sir John Preston of Valleyfield, and had by her two sons, Edward and Alexander. The first of these was created Earl of Kincardine by Charles I., at Carisbrook Castle, in 1647. He died unmarried, and was succeeded in his title and estates by his brother Alexander, who married a Dutch lady, Veronica, daughter of Corneille Van Arsen, Lord of Sommelsdyck, in Holland, and had by her two sons and three daughters. Of these the eldest son, Charles, predeceased his father, and the second, Alexander, succeeded him as third Earl of Kincardine, but died in 1705 unmarried. Of the daughters, the eldest, Lady Mary, wife of William Cochrane of Ochiltree, maintained,' on the death of her brother Alexander, that in virtue of a resignation of the Kincardine peerage executed by him in her favour, a new patent authorising its transmission to heirs-female should pass on her behalf. This was, however, opposed by her kinsman, Sir Alexander Bruce of Broomhall, son of the above-mentioned Robert Bruce of Broomhall, and grandson of the great Sir George Bruce of Camock. He succeeded in making good his claim as heir-male, in opposition to that set up by Lady Mary, and thus took up the title as fourth Earl of Kincardine, in which he was succeeded in order by three sons and a grandson, whilst his great-grandson Charles inherited in addition the Elgin peerage, and the united titles were henceforth borne by the family. The present Earl of Elgin is a lineal descendant of Sir Alexander Bruce of Broomhall.

The large estates of Sir George Brace, which had passed successively to his son George Brace, and his two grandsons Edward and Alexander Brace, first and second Earls of Kincardine, became, under the last-named of these three successors, hopelessly embarrassed. Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine, is described as an honourable, upright man, who got into disfavour with the Government of the Restoration by his opposition to its tyrannical measures; but his business capabilities seemed to have been of no great order, and though both a scholar and man of ability, his temporal affairs were allowed to go to utter ruin. On his death in 1680, his son Alexander succeeded to his title and estates as third Earl; but it was only a heritage of debt and disorder, and he himself, a man of weak and almost fatuous character, was unable in any way to retrieve matters. A judicial sale took place, shortly after the Revolution, of the family estates, the greater part of which were purchased by the celebrated Colonel John Erskine, better known as the Black Colonel, a son of David, second Lord Cardross, and father of the distinguished lawyer John Erskine of Camock, author of the ‘ Institutes of the Law of Scotland.’ As regards, however, Culross Abbey and a small adjoining territory, Lady Mary Cochrane, eldest daughter of Alexander, second Earl, and Lady Veronica, succeeded, probably through her mother having been infeft in them in security of her marriage provisions, in establishing a right of ownership against Colonel Erskine, the judicial purchaser. Though thus disappointed, on her brother’s death, in succeeding to the Kincardine peerage, she yet contrived to retain for herself and husband, and transmit to their. descendants, the mansion and estate of Culross Abbey. Her son, Thomas Cochrane, who inherited them on the demise successively of his elder brothers Charles and James, succeeded also in 1758 to the earldom of Dundonald, which is still held by a lineal descendant. But the Culross estate was lost by his son Archibald, the ninth Earl of Dundonald, so distinguished by his scientific abilities, and the father of the famous Admiral Lord Dundonald, better known as Lord Cochrane, the hero of Basque Roads. It was sold again for behoof of creditors, and purchased by Sir Robert Preston of Valleyfield, who bequeathed it to the Broomhall family, the descendants of Robert Brace of Broomhall, younger son of the celebrated Sir George Bruce.

In commencing the history of Culross as exhibited by the burgh and kirk - session records, it seemed desirable to present the above genealogical details in the first instance, as belonging to families who were intimately connected with the place, and to whose members references are frequently made. With the aid of the accompanying running commentary on the extracts from the minutes, I trust that these preliminary statements will enable even a reader unconnected with Culross to understand thoroughly the extracts themselves, and thus gain some fresh and satisfactory information regarding the conditions of life in Scotland two or three centuries ago.

The way having been paved by Sir George Bruce for the erection of Culross into a royal burgh, the charter of constitution was finally granted by James VI. in 1588. It bears, as the main causes inducing his Majesty to so gracious a concession, that the town with its territory had devolved on the Crown by the general annexation of the temporality of Church lands; that its situation on an upper reach of the Forth being favourable for the purposes of trade and navigation, had been extensively utilised in the export of salt and coals; and that a considerable augmentation of the royal revenues might be expected from the duties leviable on these articles. The limits of the burgh territory are defined as being “ the lands of Valleyfield on the east, the lands called Wallis and Castlehill on the west, the lands called Blairhall and the common muir of the said burgh on the north, and the. sea on the south parts.”

The first volume of the burgh records of Culross is in a sadly dilapidated condition, wanting the boards, and having a portion at the end tom away. It is, however, complete from its commencement in 1588 to the year 1600, though the writing is both difficult to decipher and the ink much faded in many places. Much of it is taken up with the details of actions for debt before the bailie’s court—and these are in great measure of purely a technical nature, and wholly uninteresting. Names and references, however, frequently occur which are of considerable importance in throwing light on the history of the time as regards local matters. The volume commences with a succession of Acts for the regulation of the affairs of the burgh; but most of these being of a similar character to those of other Scottish corporations of the kind, can have no interest for the general reader. The .following may be quoted:—

“Act of Brewsters.

“Item, it ya statuit and ordinit that na brewster within this burch sail sell na deirar aill, fra the day end of this present, quhilk is the day of , the zeir of God Jawr. four scoir and zeiris, nor x pennies the pynt, under the panes of aught shillings for the first fault, the second deuplit, the third fault dealling of their aill and breking of their lumes.” [Utensils—same word as loom in its general and primary sense of a utensil or tool of any kind, from the Anglo-Saxon loma. Thus in old Scotch occur frequently such terms as wark-lumet, milk-lumct, brew-lumes, &c.]

In this Act we find a specimen of the rough-and-ready way in which our ancestors both sought to keep down prices to a certain level by legal enactments, and punished the infraction of these in a primitive and comprehensible fashion. We shall come on more instances as we proceed. It had this decided convenience, of both effectually punishing the offender, and relieving the poor by a dole of meat or drink without any tax on the public funds.

"Act of the Saboth-day.

“ And lykwyis that na taverner nor brewster sail within the hous nor outwith the samyne sell wyne nor aill nor any othair kynd of vivere1 upon the Saboth-dayes in tym of preching, under the panes of four shillingis for the first fault, for the second fault deuplit, and the third fault triplit, and the onlay to abound and surmont be iiiis. sa oft as the fault is committed; and the officiars oulklie2 everie ane of them to tak tryall and serche diligentlie for the contravenars gif ony beis of the samyne; and the officiars to have of everie person that they sail find contravenand the said acts xiid. of their unlay;3 and gif ony of the said officiates beis findin and apprehendit leaguing with the contravenars and declairs with the samyne, he to be punished as the beilleis and counsall sail think most expedient.”

The observance of the Sabbath in Scotland in Roman Catholic times seems to have been very lax —though Queen Margaret, the wife of Malcolm Can-more, in the end of the eleventh century is said to have introduced a much more seemly state of matters than had hitherto prevailed. But it is very doubtful whether the change was a lasting one; and in any case, the disturbed state of the country, with invasions and domestic dissensions, must have rendered it almost impossible to secure the day being kept with general regularity and decorum. Besides, the very spirit of the Roman Catholic religion has always been averse to the strict observance of the Sabbath, partly from the Church regarding it as a festival, partly also from the multitude of other fast-days and holidays, which, as solely sanctioned by herself and resting on her authority, she has commonly been more solicitous to uphold than the first day of the week, which claims a more exalted source than mere ecclesiastical ordinances. On this last ground it has always been strenuously upheld by Protestants, and more especially by the Presbyterian subdivision, who took up more decidedly than their brother reformers the position of the Holy Scriptures, as contained in the Old and New Testaments, being the only rule of life and doctrine, and of no other claim of authority being admissible. Whilst it is extremely questionable whether the original reformers, including Calvin and Knox, held such rigid and absolute views as to the observance of the Sabbath as the Puritan leaders in the following century, who maintained it to be equally binding on Christians with the requirements of the moral law, it is certain that the former regarded it as invested with a divine sanction. This, they conceived, the ancient Church had neglected to enforce, whilst they had laid on the people the sanctification of a host of other days for which the Scriptures furnished no warrant. In those countries, accordingly, which adopted the Reformation, we find, subsequent to that event, a general increase of Sabbath observance, combined with legislative interference for this end, though undoubtedly there were great differences in individual countries in point of stringency, which was nowhere carried to such a height as in Scotland, whose ecclesiastical polity, under the influence of John Knox, was closely modelled on that of Geneva. But the strict observance of the Sabbath, which is generally regarded as so characteristic of Scotland, was by no means established so rapidly and firmly there as the change from the old religion to the new was in other respects. Both ministers and magistrates, indeed, combined to put down all secular labour or public amusement on that day; but it was long before the populace could be got to acquiesce peaceably in these enactments, which, as we shall find, proved a constant source of revolt against and disobedience to authority down to the beginning of the last century. At the present day, when a general sense of propriety, independent of any legislative restriction, induces an almost total cessation on Sunday of ordinary labour, it seems somewhat extraordinary, in turning over the old burgh and kirk-session records, to find a constant mention of such breaches of the Sabbath as are comprised in different kinds of rural and domestic labour, in fishing, working at mills, salt-pans, and the like. At the same time, we find great severity in reference to acts, the idea of interfering with which would now only excite ridicule. The saying that extremes meet is well exemplified here, seeing that wherever any large or influential section of the community is marked by extreme austerity of life and manners or the reverse, there generally also exists alongside of it a party or set whose characteristics are of a directly opposite nature. Thus we find in the seventeenth century the profligacy of the nobles and courtiers contrasted with the unbending austerity of the Puritans, and the indifference and laxity of social life in the eighteenth qualified by the earnestness and extravagances of the Methodists.

“Item, it is statuit and ordinit, for avoiding of tumoris within this burch, that na man’s wyff nor douchter flyt with their neighbour, giffand sclandaris wordis in oppen speiking, to thair defaming, under the pane of the first fault ten shillings, the second fait xxs., and the third fault fourtie shillings. And gif ony servand or lass beis found flyting with ane othair, and defames their marrow 2 with sclandaris wordis, the samyne persone that defames their nychbour shall be put in the joggis, and remain therein during the beilleis will.”

The “joggis” or “ jougs” was an iron collar fixed in a wall or post, within which the delinquent’s neck was enclosed. We shall find frequent references to this punishment, which may be regarded as the Scottish form of the pillory, and was in constant use for petty offences. There still is one of these collars attached to the wall at the churchyard gate of Dud-dingston, near Edinburgh.

“It is statuit and ordanit be the beilleis and counsall of this burch, for avoiding of kairds,2 evil-conditionat and proud beggaris, resorting and hanting within the samyne, that na persone nor personis tak upon them to ressave within thair housis or famileis within this burch na kaird, vagabound, evil-conditionat and proud beggar, alsweill in ludging as drinking, under the panes of viiis. for the first fait, xvis. for the second, and so oft as they be found coulpable sa oft the penaltie to be doublit; except allanerlie to sell tham at the dore ane chopin of aill at the meist, without any forther dealling with them. And for trying thereof, the officers are appointed to that effect, and quherinevar thai fynd any person coupable hereof, to poynd tham without farther delay; and aucht shillings of siller amongst the several vnlays to be employed to the officer’s awin vses for his* diligence; and gif guid order beis keipit swa that the officers gett nathing, and thai doand their exact diligence nychtlie in trying where sic persones ressorts, frequentis, and hantis everie whar of thame, the wherof of their aboid, they sail have amongst them of the commowne goods ilk of them for their panes and travaill taken in trying of the premiss, xiiis. iiiid.3 And forder, gif ony person beis culpable of the premiss, and beis stubborn to do his dewtie, gif they dwell fra Jone. Blawis house west, George Bruce sail sertifie and sett the samyne forward; gif thai dwell between the said Jone. Blaws and the Abbay, Jone. Blaw sail sett forward and mantene the samyne; and gif thai dwell between Rot.

Bennett's and the eist end of the town, Rot Bennet sail report and sett forward the samyne.”

The above is about the earliest reference that can be found bearing on the topography of the town of Culross. The three individuals above named were probably the first appointed bailies of the royal burgh, which had just received its charter of erection. George Bruce had evidently not yet been knighted, but he was the chief man of the place, and took precedence as first bailie—the title of provost not having yet, nor apparently for some years afterwards, been assumed by the magistrate holding that rank.

“ 1588.

“ Curia capitalis burgi de Culros tenta in pretorio ejusdem decimo die mensis Octobris anno Domini miUesimo quin-gentesimo octuagesimo octavo, per Georginm Bruce, Joannem Blaw, Andream Gypsone, Robertum Bennet, ballivos ejusdem sectis vocatis curia legitime affirmata absentes in rotulis patentes.”

“Head court of the burgh of Culross, held in the Tol-booth of the same, the tenth day of the month of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and eighty-eight, by George Bruce, John Blaw, Andrew Gypsone, and Bobert Bennet, bailies of the same, parties being called and the court legally constituted—the names of those who are absent are entered on the lists.”

The head court differed from the ordinary court of the burgh in this, that it was supposed to comprise all the burgesses. These were expected to give attendance on such occasions; and their absence, unless a sufficient excuse were forthcoming, was punished by the infliction of a fine. I may observe here generally, that whilst in taking those extracts from the burgh records I have not deemed it necessary to insert ordinarily the whole of the preliminary heading of the minutes (stating the holding of the meeting and the names of the magistrates present), •it nevertheless seems desirable to do so in a few instances, so as to present a full specimen of the proceedings. And occasionally some interest attaches to the particular magistrates presiding. In these early years of the burgh history we almost always find George Bruce and John Blaw sitting as bailies:—

“Election of Members of Court.

“The quhilk day the beilleis, counsall, and haill commun-itie of this burch being assembled in the tolbuth, was creat beilleis George Bruce, Jone. Blaw, Andrew Gypsone, and Et. Bennet, Johon Eorret, town clerk, and Robert Forret, Jone. Rowane, Achilles Taillour, and Jone. Bennet, officiares, and Adam Caw, dempster. And thai and ilk ane of thame respective gaif their aythis of fidelitie that they suld vse the offices faythfullie and lealie till all persones but fine or favour.”

Very probably the above minute records the first election of magistrates after the erection of Culross into a royal burgh. The appointment of Adam Caw as “ dempster ” is almost the only instance in these records in which such an officer is named, though we find occasional references to the “ hangman,” with which in Scotland the term in question was generally synonymous. In the High Court of Justiciary the sentence of death passed by the judges in accordance with the finding of the jury used to be read out in Court by the “ doomster ” or “ dempster,” who himself was afterwards to carry it into execution. The term, however, in its primary signification, denoted the honourable office of a judge, and in this sense it still continues to be used in the Isle of Man.

In the same head court, held on 10th October 1588, we find the following measures passed:—


“Item, it is statuit and ordanit that all myddingis whatsoever, and all other kynd of materials, be tane aff the haill gaitts and passagis of this burch and sands hevin, and all other promineding places of the samyne, and that the haill gaittis, passagis, and places of promineding be clenyit of all muck, myddingis, stanes, or ony other kynd of materiall that may impethe or truble ony manner of way the passageis, hefane,and upon the gaitts and streitts of the samyne, and that within the space of ane fifteine dayes herof, under the panes of ane vnlay of fourtie schillingis vnlay to be payit to the touns guid be ilk person awneres of the myddingis, or otheris whatsoever, and the muck to be maid commowne to all that will tak away the samyne; and thereafter the samyne to be tane away oulklie, and in caiss thai feill, the officers to up-tak the said muck to their awin vss; and gif the officers faillie, thai sail pay ane vnlay of viiis., and the muck commowne to ony persone that will tak the samyne.”

Thus three hundred years ago do we find the Culross magistracy issuing stringent prohibitions against the formation of. dunghills or heaping up of filth on the streets; and yet, till within a comparatively recent period, as we shall repeatedly see, those orders, though constantly renewed, proved almost wholly inoperative. The public were unable to feel the propriety of keeping the neighbourhood of their doors clean, and “ couldna be fashed ” to bestir themselves in the matter or abandon their old ways. The “ sands hevin,” or Sands Haven, here referred to, is the wide space in front of the townhouse extending down to the sea-shore.

"Act anent the Purity of Aill.

“Item, it is statuit and ordanit be the beilleis and counsall of this burch, that na brewster within this burch tak upon thame to sell ony deirar aill efter the xxiii day of this instant nor viid. the pynt,4 and that the samyne be sufficient for the said pryce; and gif it sail happen ony person or persones within this burch to sell ony deirar aill fra this instant day forth nor viid. the pynt, the contravenar sail pay ane onlay of viiis. for the first fault, the second fault doublit, the third fault treblit, and dealling of their aill and breking of their lumes. And for to tak attendance that the said aill sail be maid sufficient and guid for the said pryce, the saidis beilleis and counsall hes chosen cunneris,5 for trying of the samyne, and also to try the gudnes, sufficientnes, and wecht of the breid that sail happen to be baikin within this burch, the persones undemitten, thay ar to say, Jone. Bardner, Alexr. Drysdaill, Alan Sands, David Bar, Archd. Ezat, James Christie, Robert Wilsone, Jone. Crystie, Thomas Ezat, David Makilroy, James Fergus, Matthew Cuk; and the saidis per-sonis, cunnars for saids respective, maid their ayths lealie to ministrat in the said office.”

From an entry dated 30th April 1589, it would appear that Sir George Bruce (then only “ George Bruce, burgess of Culross ”), in consideration of the sum of 1000 Scots advanced by him towards procuring the erection of the town into a royal burgh, received a grant from “the beilleis, counsall, and communitie ” of the same, of “ the haill maills, pro-fittis, and dewteis and entress qtsoever of all and hail the salt-pans lyand and adjacent at the sie-syd [sea-side], within the said burch of Culross and bounds of the samyne limitat in the charter therof, and that for the profit and zeirlie dewtie of the said sowme of ane thousand punds money foresaid, to be pos-sesst, uptaken, and intrometit all be the said George, and applyit to his awn use and commoditie ay and qll he be compleatlie payet of the said principall sowme.”

“12 Junt 1689.

“The quhilk day Jone. Sharpe and Bessie Hunter his spous are decemit to content and pay to Bessie Bar, the relict of umquhile Rot. Paterson, the sowme of xxvis. viiid. within terme of law, in respect the saids Jone. and Bessie grantit the samyne. Whairupon the said Bessie Bar tuk act of court.”

Many of the entries in this minute-book are of a similar character to the preceding—that is to say, are merely records of actions for the recovery of debts or money lent, and as such are generally wholly devoid of interest I have thought proper, however, to extract this one, from its being the first reference I have found to the celebrated Bessie Bar, who is to this day a household word in Culross in connection with the famous well which bears her name. We shall hear more both about her and her well as we proceed.

Here is an account of a trial and punishment for theft:—

“Curia burgi de Culross tenta in pretorio ejusdem ultimo die mensis Februarii 1590, per Georgium Bruce, Joan-nem Blaw, ballivos ejusdem sectis vocatis curia legitime affirmata [28 February 1590].

“The qlk day compeirit Jone. Colvile, son to Alexr. Com-endator of Culross, and presentit in jugement Jone. Baxter, bom in , and accusit him for breking of ane hous in Cuthrie,1 and stealling of siller [?] furth of the samyne; whilk the said Jone. could not deny, and therefore was put to ane assese underwritten:—


Adam Mastertoun.of Grange. David Makilroy, there.
Rot. Wilsone, in Culross. Jone. Brown, in Wais.
James Fergus, there. Jone Sharpe, in Culross.
Henrie Younger, there. James Kymmene, there.
Jone. R. Keddie, there. Ja. Findlay, there.
Walter Sands, there. Matthew Tailleour, there.
Jone. Bardner, there. Alexr. Clerk, there.

“The haill assise pronunceis, be the mouth of Adam Mas-tertoune, chanselar, that the said Jone. is giltie of pyking, and is culpable of that whereof he is accusit of be his awin confession, and therefore detains him in the juges will. The juges, in respect theroff, decemis and ordanis the said Jone. Baxter to be skurgit immediatlie through the toun of Culross, and therafter to be banished the bounds of the lordship and barony of Culross for evere; and gif evere he beis apprehendit or fund within the boundis of the samyne heirefter, his lug to be cuttit: quherupon the demp-star gaif doome, and the said Jone. was immediatlie after this, passing furth of court, skurgit through the said town of Culross, to the example of otheris.”

In a minute of the Town Council dated 20th March 1590, we find two decemitures in favour of Bessie Bar, for the prices of certain quantities of malt supplied by her to the women named respectively “ Jonet Edward” and “Jonet -, spous to Gilbert Young.” There occurs also, of the same date, an application by Thomas Halliday, feuar of the property held by Bessie Bar in liferent, to have the “ stane, tymber-wark, and thak thereof” inspected judicially, and “ that the said Bessie Bar shall find caution and securitie that the samyne suld be in all caissis als Bufficient and guid at the said Bessies deceiss as the samyne sail happen to be found the tyme of the sighting and comprising thereof.” In accordance with the prayer of this petition, a commission is granted to certain craftsmen to visit the premises; and their report, given in in the following month of April, is, that they find

“The said tenement of land, housis and byggins therof, with the pertinents, sufficient in the stane-wark therof, except ane litle on the bak syd therof, and that vis. viiid. money be-stowit and warat1 therupon will mak the samyne to be als sufficient as the rest. And fyndis the samyne sufficient in the haill tymber-wark theroff; and fyndis that the samyne is insufficient and unwatterthicht in the thak therof, becaus the samyne is decayit and neakit in mony places of the thak of the samyne; and fyndis that the haill dures and yettis theroff hes sufficient yettis and dures of tymber, and thre of thame hes lokis and keyis, and the inner yett has ane lok and ane key; and the window brodis therof are of unbound fyr-wark, and there ar in the haill windowis of the samyne nyne irine stancheons. And ordanis the said Thomas Halliday cast ane gutter in the bak syd of the said tenement of land, that the watter may frelie have passage fra the bak wall therof, for saiffing of the said bak wall, and for saiffing of the jestis therein fra rotting, be this their ordinance to be extendit in maist ample form/’

It would appear from the above account of Bessie Bar’s house that glass windows were as yet unknown in private houses in Culross.

“16 October 1593.

“The qlk day it is ordanit that the maill market be haldin at the Sand Hevin, and ane commoune market-place decreit is; and that the land fiesche-market be also haldin on the Sand Hevin, and ane other place decreit is.”

This is not a very clear or intelligible enactment; but the phrase, “ land fiesche-market,” or market for meat from the country, in contradistinction to that supplied by butchers within burgh, is deserving of notice. The term “ land market ” was generally used to denote the market for country merchants; and this is the true meaning of the Lawnmarket in Edinburgh, which is merely a corruption of “ land market.” In ancient Scottish phraseology, land and landward are constantly used to express the county and matters connected with it, in opposition to town. Thus in the ‘ Bride of Lammermoor ’ Caleb Balder-stone tells Dame Lightbody that he “ aye likit landward dainties, and landward lasses too.”

“The qlk day the counsall hes condudit that ane taxation be maid of xx lib., to be given to George Brace for the ancarage, mussell-scalp, kirk, kirkyard bell, stepill, Sande Hevin, and all thereto perteyning mentionat in the said George’s infeftment therof, to the effect that the commo-ditie therof in tymes Slimming may accrue to the town’s use.”

How Sir George became originally possessed of these does not appear; but the town evidently considered, and doubtless with justice, that its dignity was concerned in acquiring the sole and undivided ownership of such property. Among those rights which were yearly put up to auction by the burgh authorities, there are often mentioned in after-times the “ anchorage and mussel-scalp.” The last-named privilege seems ultimately to have become almost entirely valueless; and, as has happened on many other parts of our coasts, the mussel-beds, from a too lavish and wasteful use, have almost entirely disappeared.

“26 December 1593.

“The qlk day it was declarit to the beilleis that David Rowane, Wa Hunter, Alexr. Hunter, Andro , were foundin at even last, the xxiii days of this instant, mysusing this burch in ryoting throw the samyne as mad pepill at mydnight, and trubling, be their vnsemelie behaviour and incivilitie, the haill inhabitants of this burch. Thairfore thai ar ordanit to be forward to the next court”

“17 January 1593.

“The qlk day it was affirmit be James Tailleour, ane of the officers of this burch, that on Sonday last, the xiii. day of this instant, before none in tyme of preching, thair was ane number of landwart men drunkand and ressit in the hous, and war ilk ane with otheris; and therefore the said James is decemit in ane penaltie of viiis.; and becaus his fault is extraordiner, he being ane officer and man be of wha suld rather have given aneguid example till otheris, the rest of his punishment is remittit to the session and elders at their next convenand.”

"Act against Idle Stubdik Beggabs.

“22 April 1595.

“The qlk day it is statuit and ordanit be the beilleis, counsall, and communitie of this burch, and grantit be the minister, elders, and gentilmen of this parochin of Culross, and for prevynting and repressing of strange and sturdie beggars ressorting and frequenting thes bounds in greitt quantites and troupis, sic es men gawing in lyning clayths feinzeng thame to be mad, men gawand with pestolatts, Jadivart stavis, and swords, fenzeng thame to be banist men, cairdis, and all other kynd of idle vagabound stryngers, quhome be our lord’s lieges are hevilie ourlaid, whereby the almous given to thame the puir anes living within the parochin unable to wark and labor ar famysched and ar all to die for fault of sustentans; and seing the samyne is allowit of in our soverane lord’s parliaments be the thrie estaits of this cuntry, that nane sic vagabound idle persons be sufferit to travel in this country, bot that ilk persone remane, resort, and frequent within the parochine where they war born, that their inhabilitie may be the better knawine: Thairfor, in our S. L.’a name, in the name of the magistratts of this burch, minister, feldere, and gentilmen of this parochin, that all idle vagabound persons be banished thir bounds for ever, and that they be not ressavit nor uphaldin be ony person or persons dwelland within this parochin, ala weill toun as land, under the panes contenit in our sovraine lord’s acts; and charges and commands all puir, aged, and deabilitat persons living within this parochine qlk are not able to leifF bot be almous, that they compere vpon the zv. daye of Marche instant, and hev their names enrolled in the kirk-yaird at nyne hours before none, to ressave tokens of Who compeirs not the said day, hour, and place, they will not be ressavit in tyme coming.”

No revolution, however beneficial in the main, can be accomplished without producing some inconvenience ; and the truth of this was keenly experienced in regard to the sudden and overwhelming increase of beggars and sturdy vagrants that displayed itself in Britain as one of the consequences of the Reformation. Previous to that event, necessitous persons of all kinds were freely relieved at the numerous convents with which the country abounded, and where on certain days regular and liberal doles were distributed to all comers. However vicious in principle and debasing in its results such indiscriminate charity might be, it nevertheless relieved the. community at large of the necessity of grappling with the evils of mendicancy and pauperism. But the overthrow of the Roman Catholic faith—which, however much it might depart from the original purity of Christianity, at least always inculcated the relief of the poor as one of the cardinal virtues—and the destruction of the monasteries where this theory was carried so extensively into practice, introduced for the first time the problem of pauperism to be solved by magistrates and statesmen. It proved a knotty question for our ancestors, who endeavoured at first to meet it by rough-and-ready and sometimes by harsh and savage measures. And its solution remains a crux to the present day—the advance of civilisation and luxury, and the growth of large towns, seeming to multiply and intensify the evil, notwithstanding all the efforts both of enlightened statesmanship and unwearying Christian charity and exertion for its suppression. We shall frequently find the subject taken up both by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. It may not be an uninteresting remark, that when a locality has gained a traditional prestige for good or evil, it retains it often through a long succession of ages, however the circumstances of the community may be changed. Thus the village of Coldingham, which formerly owned a rich and stately priory, where hordes of mendicants used doubtless to be relieved, has attained a distinction in Scottish song in reference to the jolly beggars of “ Cowdigham Fair ”; and it is famous through all Berwickshire for the multitude of “ beggars’ rests,” or tramps’ lodging-houses, which it contains—these hostelries, it is said, moreover, being of different qualities and degrees, so as to suit all customers, from the genteel mendicant down to the vulgar tramp. Though things are not managed on so extensive a scale in Culross, there still cling to the place the traditions of its old Abbey, and it is still a favourite resort of and howff for beggars. Servabit odorem testa diu.

Here is the first order of council for the construction of Bessie Bar’s Well:—

“19 October 1598.

“It is ordanit that there be ane dyk biggit on the south part of Mr James Prymrois yaird, be eist the sand hevin, upon the toun’s expenais for inlargeing of the sand hevin, and ane commoune well to be biggit in the sand hevin; and gif one persone or personis clames ony rycht heiroff into the stanes and wair on the craggs besouth the toun, nane mar nor another alleging thai have ryht thereto be their land dueis forgane, the samyne sail tyne their freddome and libertie thai have of this burch for evere.”

There can be no question that the above “com* moune well to be biggit in the sand hevin ” is that now known as Bessie Bar’s Well—the Bandusia of Culross, and a veritable “jugis aquae fons,” such as might furnish a place five times the size with a copious supply of limpid and wholesome water. It is situated at the north-western extremity of the Sand Haven, and has been hewn out of the sandstone rock—through which it percolates—adjoining the tenement now known as the Colonel’s Close,—the older of the two houses which this comprises having been built by Sir George Bruce in the very year under notice. From the accounts that have come down to us, Bessie Bar’s house must have stood in the neighbourhood of this spot; and the steep narrow path which leads up at a little distance to the heights above, is still called “Bessie Bar’s Hagg.” Resting on sandstone cliffs, Culross is abundantly supplied with excellent water—there being, besides Bessie Bar’s, the so-called Locket Well, and Baby’s Well, all copious fountains, to say nothing of numerous private wells. In further reference to this subject, I may here briefly summarise what I have been able to ascertain regarding the worthy matron who has so permanently, and also probably on her own part so unexpectedly, immortalised herself in Culross. Bessie Bar was then a jolly widow, who dwelt in Culross in the latter part of the sixteenth century, and was alive at least in 1597. Her married name was Mrs Paterson; but in those days, and indeed for long afterwards in Scotland, a woman continued after marriage to retain in social usage her maiden name, and was more commonly designated thereby than by that of her husband. The custom, too, was favoured by the Scottish law, which, contrary to that of England, holds that a woman in marrying does not abandon her former name, but merely gains an additional designation, and may use either the one or the other at pleasure. Bessie Bar’s husband’s name was Robert Paterson, and they appear to have been married about 1577. At his death (date uncertain) he left her liferentrix of a good and substantial house in the Sand Haven of Culross—and here she appears to have carried on an extensive trade in malting. She was certainly a woman of considerable substance, as we find her rated in 1597 on the stent-roll of the burgesses in no less a sum than 3 Scots,—the majority of those taxed being rated at 1 Scots and under, whilst four, including Bessie Bar, are rated at 3, and only three at a higher amount—namely, John Blaw and David Makilroy each 4, and, magno irdervallo, the great Sir George Bruce at 10. Bessie Bar, therefore, is clearly entitled to be reckoned among the “upper ten” of Culross of her day; and being a woman of reputation and position, the new well, when built by the magistrates in the neighbourhood of her house, would naturally bear her name. The following anecdote may aptly close this part of my subject: Two Scotchwomen, it is said, encountered each other at a wayside spring in America. Both were weary and thirsty, and quaffed to their great satisfaction the cool and refreshing draught. “Grand water,” remarked the one wayfarer to the other, who replied, “ Ah! but it’s no sae gude as Bessie Bar,” —thus gratefully remembering in a far-off land the dear and genial fountain of her native Culross.1

The last that I shall present of the entries of this period is one referring to night musicians and revellers, who seem to have unwarrantably been disturbing the first slumbers of the burgesses:—

"11 October 1599.

“The qlk day, becaua of the great misorder vsit within this burch in the nyht be droken personis gawand throw

I regret to be obliged to state that, just as these sheets are passing through the press, the stem verdict of analytical science has ruthlessly demolished the feeling of complacent pride with which the people of Culross were wont to regard their wells. Arrangements are now in progress for a new water-supply from Glensherup in the Ochils. the toune with pypars or on y other instrument and trub-ling of the indwellars of this burch thereby, and vilipending and dispysing of the magistrates for reprehending the samyne, therefore it is statuit and ordanit there be na aill nor wyne sauld within this burch to na persone except to gentilmen or to gentilmen’s servants, under the panes of the penaltie of the price of ane boll malt; and gif ony pypar or menstraill sail happin to play throw this burch in the nyht, except with honest men, the doaris, alsweill the menstraillis as otheris that accompanies them, ilk ane of thame to be wardit therefore, and to pay ilk ane of thame v lib. respective toties quoties.”

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