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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter VII. The Kirk-Session Records from 1640 to 1646.

IN the following ordinances for the celebration of the Communion at Culross, we find the first intimation of an order which is frequently repeated afterwards on similar occasions—that all intending participators in the rite should be at harmony with one another and make up their quarrels. This was doubtless a very desirable consummation, but it may well be questioned whether such enforced reconciliations could be productive of much benefit.

“8 March 1640

“This day it was proponed to the session that the tyme of celebrating the Communion that is used to be keipit in this congregation wes aproching, therfor that the session would think of the first dyett, who all agreitt that it seemed the fittest time would be that Sonday come a fifteen dayes —viz., the 22 of March for the first day, and the 29 day for the second day, and so was appointed. Lykwise it was desyred that if the eldership knew of any discords, that they would stryve to reconcile them, otherwise to acquaint the session therewith, that all may come in love to that blessed sacrament.”

“28 March 1640

“Likewise it is declared by the elders that they have reconciled the most part of those that are at variance, onlie David Lyells differed with Harie Barie and Hew Mitchell, two voises in Bordie to be tome away. Therfor the saids parties being warned are called, and declare they willinglie will be reconciled, on condition that ther Act for keeping them so for the time to come. Therfor they do inact themselves hinc inde, that if they sail be foond to slander other, in that caice they shall make their repentance and crave other pardon, and give 10 ad pios usus.”

On 25th June 1640, a minute is entered of another election of elders, with the districts of which they are respectively to take charge. As in the list of 1632, several of the names have been subsequently deleted. The number has been increased from thirty to thirty-six.

The Scottish army had now crossed the Border, and routed the King’s forces at Newbum. Doubtless there were many applications in consequence like the following:—

“18 Dec. 1640.

“James Millar his wife gave in a supplication for some help, because her goodman was in the campe; and it was thought miet for the present to give her twenty-four shillings."

Presbytery is now triumphant, and proceeds to suppress the festival days of Prelacy, more especially Christmas:—

“22 December 1640.

"An Act was produced from the Presbytrie against keeping of festival days, and especially Yule Day, and was ordained to be registrat in this our session-book, and to be read publicly before the wholl congregation, that none pretend ignorance.”

tenth day of Decr. 1640 yean.

"The Presbetrie, considering the great abuses in tyme past in keeping of festivall dayes, and especially the keeping of Yule Day, by feasting, cessation fra ordinar work in labour, and the spending of the day in riotous playing and ydle living, quhilkes abuses are contrair to our Covenant and Acts of Generali Assembly—ordaines all persons the said Yule Day to leave off their feasting and playing, and goe to their ordinar work, under all highest censure of the Kirk, and that the elders of every congregation shall give good example to the rest of the congregation in obeying the said Act by themselves and their families, and that every minister of the said Presbytrie notifie the same to their sessiones the next session day, and therafter the Sabbath following to be intimat and red publicly, to the end that none pretend ignorance. Extracted furth of the Presbetrie books of Dunfermling be Patrick Kingome, clerk to the same.”

After reading the above, one can certainly scarcely be surprised that Presbytery should so often have been regarded as a most dreary and repulsive form of Christianity. But the dread of the Old Lady of Babylon was great—and justly so—in those days, when the tendencies of the leading ecclesiastics at Court lay so much in the direction of a return to the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. Every practice, however harmless or even beneficial in itself, if enjoined by Rome, and not expressly ordered by the Holy Scriptures, was regarded as unwarranted and dangerous by the Presbyterians, who considered the safest course was to deviate as far as possible from the pathways of the ancient faith. And considering that their Church courts were essentially popular in their constitution, and comprised a large and influential lay element, we must believe that their proceedings were generally sanctioned by public opinion, and were by no means the mere outcome of clerical dogmatism and spiritual tyranny.

The appointment of a helper or colleague to the minister had been mooted for some time. A minute in the session-book, dated 9th May 1641, is the earliest intimation of proceedings having actually commenced to accomplish that purpose. The result was the establishment of a double or collegiate charge in Culross; but, as we shall see, this was not effected till some years afterwards.

According to old ecclesiastical ideas, it was deemed imperative on all to attend their own parish church, however inconveniently distant they might be from it, or however near to their residence might be the church of another parish. In the case of Communions certainly, when several churches were vacant, to swell the number of clergymen officiating in the place where the Sacrament was celebrated, it was not merely regarded as permissible, but a duty, for the inhabitants of different parishes to attend on that occasion. But in general, “ vaiging ” from one’s own parish church to another was nearly as serious an offence as not attending church at all. The following entries record this and other irregularities on Sunday, the "bitter” observance of which, as some would term it, is now beginning to be enforced with great rigour:— .

"4 July 1641.

"The sessione, considering the great abuse of peoples resorting to nighbour kirks and leaving of their own parish kirk, therefor thought miet to mak this Act following: That whosoever shall resort to other kirks about, and leave their owne parish kirk, shall be delated and punished as absents.”

“8 Augt. 1641.

"Archibald Coalyer and Robert Smith called, accusit for cutting of wands on the Sabbath-day, confessed their fault, and made their repentance according to the order; and because that oftene they were found in this fault, ane Act was made for them and the wholl craft, that whosoever shall be found after or before sermon on Sabboth-day in the fault, shall be punished as transgressors of the Sabbath-day.

“Ane Act was made for those who stand in the kirkyard or parlyhill discoursing and talking when God’s Word is reading in the kirk, shall be delated to the session and punished accordingly—to pay 6 sh. This Act to be intimat the next Sabbath, which was done.”

“23 November 1641.

“William Makeane delated be the searchers for drinking with a fiddler on the Sabboth-day in tyme of afternoon sermon, and to be warned against the next day.”

“30 November 1641.

“William Makeane callit, accused for profaning the Lord's Day in drinking in tyme of service with a fiddler; confessed his fault, and to pay 6 sh.”

14th Dec. 1641. — Of this date a discharge is recorded in the session-books in favour of Thomas

Brace of Blairhall, son and heir to Robert Bruce of Blairhall, for the sum of a thousand merks, mortified by the latter as a provision for a second minister or helper, and now paid by the former to the kirk-session of Culross. The money was bequeathed by Robert Bruce in his will, dated October 1639.

Mr Duncan, the minister of Culross, espouses zealously the new order of things, which under his auspices develops itself vigorously in Culross:—

“3 April 1642.

“The minister asked the elders what diligence they had used anent the trying who wes negligent in the dewtie of family exercise so often recommended to them, and a particular course to be taken for urging the samiae.”

“Johne Gib, accused of dinging his wyf on the Sabboth-day in his drunkenness, confessed his fault; ordained to mak his repentance publicly before the pulpit, and to stand betwixt the second and third bell bareheaded at the kirk-door, and to pay 12 sh.—paid. Satisfied, and withal enacted himself, if ever he be found hireafter to straike his wyf, in that caise he shall sit at the cross with the branks, and to stand barefooted at the kirk door and pay a dollar.”

The branks was the bridle for scolds. It was fastened by a clasp at the back of the head, and the bit was provided with a little rowel like that of a spur, which, being placed on the tongue, effectually prevented the least motion on the part of that unruly member. A pair of branks hangs up in one of the vaults of the old castle of Fordel, near Inverkeithing.

“10 April 1642.

“John Fiddes, elder, callit, accused for breaking of the Saboth; confessed his fault, and ordiened to pay 12 sh.

“Andrew Duthie, callit, accused for not keeping the Saboth; confessed his fault sincerly, and promised amendment.

“Thomas Sands, callit, accused for bargning in buying and selling of a horse with Robert Ronnald; confessed his fault, and to pay 12 sh., and enacted himself under the pane of a double punishment if ever he be found in the lyk fault.

“Robert Ronnald, callit; confessed the. samyne to be of truth, and to pay 6 sh., and because he knew not what commandment he had broken, wes ordined within twentie days to rehears the commandments, otherways to be layable to the censure of the sessione.”

George Bruce of Camock, who had succeeded to his father’s lands and coal and salt works in this parish, proposes to build a mausoleum, and also an aisle, as an addition to the church. His name is still to be read over the door leading to the latter, with the date 1642.

“Act for Fisching of Croces.

“8 May 1642.

“The sessione, considering the great abuse and prophana-tion of the Saboth by fisching of crois in the west part, thought miet to mak an Act as followeth: That if any be found on the Saboth-day fisching or attending the crois at any tyme ather befor or after sermone, shall pay tolies quotiea 12 sh., and to be intimat the next Saboth,—which wes done.”

The “crois” or “cruive” fishing was chiefly practised on the coast of that part of Culross parish which was afterwards disjoined from it and annexed to Tulliallan. A particular account of it and of the Sabbath desecration in connection therewith will be found in the chapter on the Kirk-session Records of the latter parish.

“22 May 1642.

"The kirk officer’s wyf of Torribum callit, accused for selling of aill on the Saboth-day; confessed her fault, and promised amendment.

“David Don callit, accused for making a brydel supper in time of afternoon service; confessed his fault, and to pay 13 sh.”

A tolerably effectual course is taken for checking some of the Sunday loiterers in the churchyard or on the Parlyhill:—

“To be intimat the next Saboth, that if any of the poor be found in the kirkyaird, parlyhill, or one the streit before or after sermon, or in tyme of sermon, to be delated to the sessione, and their names presently to be steaped out of the roll, and so to be debarred from that benefit.”

Beside cruive-fishing, another great form of Sabbath desecration in Culross and Tulliallan was in keeping the fires in the salt-works burning after a certain hour on Sunday morning—or, as it was expressed, “ not having the pan drawn in time.” The attention of the kirk-session is frequently directed to this:—

“19 Jun 1642.

“Hendrie Wannane callit, accused for having his panne not drawene at ten hours on Sunday last; confessed his fault, and ordined to pay in penaltie 24 sh.”

Here is a contemptible offender:—

“26 June 1642.

“Robert Davidson, accused for fisching of other men's crowes in his drunkennes on the Lord’s Day, confessed his fault; ordinet to mak his repentance publicly, and to pay 24 sh. Satisfied.”

The people in the west part of Culross—that is to say, about Kincardine—seem to have been frequently before the session, and thus occasioned the church officer many a long trudge to summon them:—

“3 July 1642.

“James Huttone, kirk officer, explained that every day he was trubled warning of these people of the vest part of the parish, and never got any consideration for his paines be the sessione; therfor ordined that he should reseave 2 sh. of ther penaltie toties quoties as he should be warning of the west of the parish.”

The following applicant for aid was probably, with her family, a fugitive, in consequence of the Irish massacre:—

“10 July 1642.

“Isobel Knesone, a distressed woman from Yrland, borne within this toune, gauve in a bill desyring some helpe to convey hir to England, with her husband and bairns, where shee may find her calling—to reseave 4 dollars.”

“13 Augutt.

“Johne Stephenson, accused for vaiging from the kirk on the Lord’s Day, confessed his fault, and payed 24 sh.”

“James Craich, accused for having his daughter carrying bread from Culros to Kincame on the Saboth-day, promised amendment, and not to be found in the lyk hirafter, God •willing.”

The sacramental occasion is over, and discipline is now to be exercised against those absent from or debarred from partaking of the rite:—

“21 Septr. 1642.

“Callit John Smith, accused for absenting himself from the Communion, confessed his fault; ordiened to stand the next Lord’s Day at the kirk door betwixt the 2 and 3 bell, bearfooted and bearheaded, and thereafter to mak his repentance publicklie.

“The persons following, because of ther ignorance, wer debared—to wit, Johne Stephansone, Bess Cooper, Margt. New, and Bessy Benny—under the pain of the highest censure, and to pay ther hail year’s fie, if they were not able against Martinmas next to rehearse the Lord’s Prayer, Belief, and Ten Commandments, and to answer the ordinary Catechism.”

Legal officers have no immunity from kirk-session jurisdiction:—

“25 Septr. 1642.

“Robert Hendrie, messenger, accused for charging1 of people on the Lord’s Day, wes exhorted to amend, and inacted as followeth, that if he be found guiltie of the said fault hier-after, shall be punished as a breaker of the Lord’s Day.”

The kirk-session seem disposed to obey in the letter, if not in the spirit, the apostolic injunction,

Citing by legal process to pay a sum of money or perform some act “ Look not every man on his own things, but eveiy man also on the things of others ” :—

“30 October 1642.

“To remember the minister to wreat to the ministers of the other syd1 anent the saltpanes, which wer seene going ordinarily one the Saboth-day."

Parents are obliged to see that their sons are, at the proper age, set to some honest calling:—

“20 December 1642.

“Thomas Patone and William Huttone accused for keeping ther sonnes (being now come to perfect years for a calling) idle and vaigeing through the toune, promised to tak a course for putting them to some honest calling shortly.”

In February 1643, there were in Culross nineteen elders for the land, and seventeen for the town— in all, thirty-six—conform to list in session-book. Among those for the town are “ George Bruce, Provost,” builder of the “yle” above referred to; and “Edward Bruce,”—the latter being, doubtless, the former’s eldest son, afterwards Earl of Kincardine.

An alarm is raised as to the prevalence of sorcery and witchcraft; and from the entry quoted below, it would appear that the ecclesiastical authorities thought it necessary to provide accommodation in the church steeple for the anticipated overflow of prisoners on these charges from the tolbooth. The place of confinement was doubtless the large apartment on the first floor of the steeple, below the clockroom, where the bell-ropes are suspended. Though weird-looking and dreary enough, it can scarcely be denominated a chamber of little ease, as it is sufficiently spacious and lofty. A view of the Forth and the Lothian shore can be obtained by scrambling up to the small window on the south side; and through a hole in the groined arch supporting the floor, the entrance - porch beneath to the church, with the worshippers passing through it, might be contemplated every Sunday, amid the jangle of the bells overhead. The mark of a witch’s foot is still pointed out on the turret-stair leading to this apartment, and is reported to have been made by one of these unfortunate women. In the course of the summer of this year, we shall find the session very busy with the witches—though, as far as appears, both from their records and those of the town council, no capital convictions ensue. It is not till after the Restoration that we hear of any witches being actually put to death; and these have both sentence and execution passed upon them in Edinburgh, to which they have been removed from Culross :—

“5 March 1643.

“Ordenis Catherine Rowane to be brought from the tol-buth to the stiple that roume might be mead for otheris delated as guiltie of sorcerie and witchcraft.”

In further reference to this subject of witches, the following passage may be quoted from Spalding’s ‘ History of the Troubles in Scotland and England,’ 1624-1645

“1643.—About this time many witches are taken in Anstruther, Dysert, Culros, Sanctandrois, and sundrie uther pairtis in the cost syde of Fyf. They maid strange confessions, and war brynt to the death.”

“16 Apryll 1643.

"Janet Young, for swearing, cursing, and selling eall to beggers, delated to be warned against the next day.”

“23 Apryll 1643.

“James Chattow his goodmother and wyf. delated for vaiging from the kirk at the second bell, to be warned.”

"1 October 1643.

“William Paton and Robert Henderson accused for drinking on Saturday at night, and undertaking to drink a pynt at a drink, and to drink others to the door—denyed; bot the elders proved the samyne to be of truth, therefore ^ordained to make their repentance, and pay 20 sh.—payed.”

It should be remembered, in connection with the above, that the “ pynt ” was the Scotch pint, containing more than two imperial quarts.

“John Ronald, accused for profaning the Lord’s Day by carrying a burden from Kincardine to Culross, confessed his fault, promised amendment, and to pay, according to the Act, 12 sh.

It seems not a little curious that in the Culross kirk-session records of 1643 there is no reference to one of the most famous incidents of the year—the framing and subscription of The Solemn League and Covenant, which was destined to occupy a more important position in history and with posterity than either the National Covenant of 1638 or the older one subscribed by the Reformers. This world-renowned document was drawn up and presented to the General Assembly of the Church and Convention of Estates at Edinburgh, on 17th August 1643. Having received their approbation, it was forwarded to England, where it received the sanction of Parliament and the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and was finally approved at Edinburgh on 11th and 12th October. Its objects were in many respects identical with those in the National Covenant; but it took a firmer standpoint, as well as a wider range, inasmuch as it comprised the whole three kingdoms. In its own phraseology, the subscribers swear “that we shall sincerely, really, and constantly, through the grace of God, endeavour, in our severall places and callings, the preservation of the Reformed religion in the Church of Scotland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, against our common enemies; the reformation of religion in the kingdomes of England and Ireland, in doctrine, discipline, and government, according to the Word of God and the example of the beBt Reformed Churches; and shall endeavour to bring the Churches of God in the three kingdomes to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, Confession of Faith, form of Church government, Directory for Worship, and catechising.”

The Solemn League and Covenant was ordained by the General Assembly and Convention of Estates “to be, with all religious solemnities, sworn and subscribed by all his Majesties subjects of this kingdom: and that under the pain, to such as still postpone or refuse, to be esteemed and punished as enemies to religion, his Majesties honour, and peace of thir kingdoms; and to have their goods and rents confiscate for the use of the publick, and that they shall not bruik nor enjoy any benefite, place, nor office within this kingdome. And also ordains all sheriffs, stuarts, and others his Majesties magistrates to burgh and land, and committees in the severall shires, to be assisting to ministers and presbyteries in procuring reall obedience hereunto; and that with all diligence they make report to the Committee of Estates of the names of all such persons as shall postpone or refuse, to the effect course may be taken with them as aforesaid.”

Considering all this impartially, it must be admitted that the high-handed and tyrannical measures pursued after the Restoration, when the Episcopalians had again gained the upper hand, could scarcely be regarded as altogether unaccountable and without excuse. In order that a general subscription to the document might take place, it was ordered that it should be “ forthwith printed, and that the printed copies, bound with some clean sheets of paper, be sent unto the ministery; and that every minister upon the first Lord’s Day after the same shall come to his hands, read and explain it, and by exhortations prepare the people to the swearing and subscribing thereof solemnly the Lord’s Day next immediately following.” The copy of the Solemn League and Covenant sent as above directed to Culross in common with other parishes, and subscribed by the parishioners, both in 1643 and subsequently in 1648, has been preserved. There are adhibited to it 217 genuine signatures (including those of the minister, Mr Duncan, and almost all the heritors), and 490 subscribed by Robert Forrett and James Kennewie, as notaries, on behalf of those unable to write—making a total of 707, which, after making all allowances, would certainly demonstrate the existence of a much larger population in Culross parish in those days than now prevails. I shall have occasion to notice the renewal of the Solemn League and Covenant by the Culross people in 1648, of which a full account is preserved in the session-book, though there is such a strange omission as to the first subscription in 1643.

The next entry that comes before us is the following, recording the delinquency of certain colliers, who, notwithstanding the injunctions of the Church, had been spending a jovial Christmas, and abstaining from their ordinary work:—

“7 Jany. 1644.

“The colyears of the Valy field, Thomas TVatchman, Thomas Penman, Alexr. Eeid, Wm. Coustone, Thomas Maine, Robert Symson, and Thomas Younger, were accused for keeping of Yule Day, in feasting and drinking and abstaining from their ordinarie work; confessed their fault, and made their repentance according to the order, and payed every one of them 20 sh., and enacted with their own consent that if ever they should be found guiltie of the like herafter, to pay in penaltie ilk one of them 10 lb., and mak their repentance in publick.”

“30 March 1644.

“Thomas Tealyer, accused for travelling on the Lord’s Day with his work - lomes, confessed he came from Kincardine on Sunday last, at six in the morning, and promised never to do the lyk hirafter.”

The following presents a very curious account of a prosecution against a “ charmer ” or “ witch-man.” The faith in the powers of these personages to alleviate and heal the ailments of men and beasts continued long deeply rooted, and is scarcely extinct even at the present day:—

“9 June 1644.

“Andro Clerk and his wyf, for seeking their daughter’s helth from Adam Donaldson, which they confessed, ordined to mak thir repentance in publick.”

“23 June 1644.

“Adam Donaldson, cited, accused for charming of kine and horse—denyed; the reporters of it—to wit, David Sandis of Birkenhead, Johne Bird, and Johne Sands—to be heard the next day.”

“30 June 1644.

“The witnesses concerning Adam Donaldson his business, were examined; and imprimis, John Bird deponed that Adam Donaldson said to him he coft a cow at a tyme in Dumblane Fair, and brought hir home to his hous, but she could give no milk; and purposing to tak her back to the. place where she came from, by the way he met with a woman who asked him where he was going. He answered as before. The woman said, * Good man, ye need not be so hastie; tak hir back agane, and put a piece of rantle-tree [Another name for the rowan or mountain-ash, which was supposed to possess great efficacy in warding off the malevolent designs of witches. The old rhyme is—

“ Rantle-tree and red thread Puts the witches to their speed.'*]

under her taille, and say thrice on your knees, Lord Jesus, send me milk/—which he did accordingly, and the cow gave milk in abundance, more than ever before or since: and farther, he confessed that ever since to this tyme he had rantle-tree under his kines tell [tail].

"John Bowey deponed the samene,

“John Henderson, examined anent the premiss, deponed that he baid him, when he was to buy a cow, lead hir home himself, milk her himself, and drink the milk himself, and all the divels in hell should not have power over hir; and if he wer to buy a horse, the first south-running water he came to, light of with the horses hinder feete in the water, and tak up a handfull of sand out of the water, and three severall tymes straik the horse back from his forret to his shoulders, and then to his taile, and all evill spirits should not have power to wrong his horse in knee nor thigh.”

We hear nothing more of this case. Perhaps it was handed over to the civil authorities either in the burgh or regality court. Of the former of these the records of this period have unfortunately been lost, and I have never been able to procure any information as to the proceedings of the latter.

A terrible visitant was now on his way to Culross. The year 1645 is memorable as that in which the Plague made its last appearance in Scotland, and, like its congener the Great Plague of London, its ravages on the occasion of its farewell visit were more terrible than at any previous period. The kirk-session of Culross takes the alarm, and issues the following edict to prevent the importation of the malady:—

“1 July 1645.

“The session taking to consideration the great danger of infection of the plaige now spreading round about this parioch, have ordained that none, toune nor land, presume to receive any strangers, especially from suspect places, under the paine of present upclosing, and a pecuniall some to be exacted from them, and to have no benefit of kirk or market.”

The threat of “ upclosing ” points to the practice, common in those days when any one was attacked by the plague, of shutting up the house where he lay, that neither persons nor things might be allowed to issue therefrom so as to spread infection. Probably also, as in the case of the Jewish leper, it was customary to imprison within his own house any one suspected of being infected, till the possibility of being so were over.

The pestilence was now close at hand, and the autumn and winter of 1645 were to be marked with mourning, lamentation, and woe. The following entry from the kirk-session book of Camock, in the hand of its minister, the celebrated John Row, shows the state of matters in the district adjoining Culross:—

“21 Sept. 1645.—Also because the plague of the pestilence was spreading bothe in Dunfermlyne and Culrose, and in Torriburne, and other partes neir us, we cannot keipe our kirk door with two or three elders, that no stranger mycht cum to us, except thay wer the better knowen; and openlie dischargit strangeris to cum to us till we suld see quhat helpe the Lord wald send.”

Very many died in the town of Dunfermline at. this time, and also, as we are informed, in and around Culross. To prevent overcrowding in the churchyards, many persons were buried in the fields and remote places, as is still testified by the existence of through stanes marking their place of sepulture. One of these is still to be seen in Tulliallan Forest, and is more particularly described in the chapter on the girdlesmiths. And a wide tradition still prevails that the great blue boulder-stone in the little harbour of Culross, opposite the centre of the town, covers or hes contiguous to the place where many of the victims of the plague of 1645 were buried. Bones and fragments of coffins are still occasionally disinterred at this spot by the action of the tides, and are found there at their ebbing. From the 10th of August 1645 to the 7th of January 1646 inclusive, the session-book of Culross is wholly devoid of entries; and on a wide vacant space in the page appears in large letters an announcement which explains too well the fatal reason—


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