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Annals of Dunfermline
A.D. 1801 - 1901 - Part 5

1817.—MIDMILL LIGHTED BY GAS.—Midmill, three miles south-west of Dunfermline, was lighted by gas in January, 1817. (See An. Dunf. date 1815 ; MS. Note.)


MEETING OF THE DUNFERMLINE RADICALS.—A great Radical meeting was " held on the steps of the Antiburgher-brae green in Feb. (about 800 Radicals in attendance)." (MS. Note.) "Some of the valiant men made wild speeches, which were met with acclamation." (MSS.)


CHAPEL KIRK.—Rev. George Bell Brand was inducted minister of the Chapel Kirk, Dunfermline, on 27th March, 1817, as successor to Rev. D. Murray, who demitted his charge on 27th November, 1816. (Parish Record.)


VIEW OF THE MONASTERY OF DUNFERMLINE.—The annexed copperplate View of the Monastery from the north-west, was this year published by H. Paton, carver and gilder, Edinburgh. It will be seen that the view is a pretty accurate one. The lower parts of the view do not now correspond. During the " general levelling and removing process" in 1823, the small arch below the large window, commonly called "the De'ils Hole," was removed; so were also the adjacent byre on the left, the wall, the gate, and part of another wall seen on the extreme left. The ground was here levelled, and a new wall running from the foundation part of the tower to a point nearly opposite the west entrance to the church, and from there to the Kirk Stile (at the north gate). The view is an impression from the original copperplate, which was gifted to the writer by Mr. Paton.


THE AULD KIRK.—The Rev, Peter Chalmers, A.M., was inducted Minister of the Second Charge of Abbey Church of Dunfermline, on the 18th July, 1817, as successor to the Rev, John Fernie, who died on the 2nd of November, 1816. (Chal. Hist. Dunf. vol. i. p. 416 ; see also An. Dunf. date April 11th, 1869.)


ADAM LOW, Esq., of Fordel, died in his residence at the top of the Crosswynd, on 19th Sept., 1817, aged eighty-four years, He was Provost of Dunfermline during the years 1787 and 1788.  In his later years he became celebrated as a bone-setter. A large painting of him hangs in tlie Council Chamber, done by public subscription, and has on a tablet at foot the following inscription:—


" A Testimony By a number of Gentlemen in the town and neighbourhood, of the high sense which they entertain of the disinterested and eminently successful manner in which Adam Low, of Fordel, Esquire, formerly Provost of this Borough has for a long period of years devoted himself to the relief of afflicted humanity, by reducing dislocations."


The portrait, on canvas, is by Raeburn, and measures 5 feet 10 inches, by 4 feet 10 inches ; posture, sitting.


PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE,—Major David Wilson, of Dunfermline, re-elected Provost. (Burgh. Records, Sept., 1817.)


DUNFERMLINE TOKENS.—The last sets of the series of Dunfermline Tokens appear to have been "struck off" about 1817; of these, we have two lying before us; they are copper ones, having round their circumferences, respectively, in raised capital letters, as follows—




                                GROCERIES, &C.  1817."


Between the years 1796 and 1817, a great many tokens were struck by Dunfermline tradesmen in copper, pewter, and lead, but there are none now in existence, so far as we know, excepting these two. Laurence Miller, about 1806, struck half-penny tokens, and shortly afterwards on his becoming bankrupt, his half-pennies stuck in the




market, when a great cry out was made about Laurie Millers ill bawbees. (MS. Note.)


OLD GRAMMER SCHOOL.—Several notanda inform us that the Old Grammar School, built in 1625, was removed in the summer of 1817. (See An. Dunf. date 1625, &c.) This old School, not long after it was built, was found to be inconvenient, and rather too small, and was often subjected to alterations between 1680 and 1790, by altering positions of windows, fire-places, partitions, &c. (Old MSS.; also Burgh Records.)


GRAMMER SCHOOL FINISHED AND OPENED.—In 1817, the New Grammar School, sometimes called the High School, the foundation of which was laid in March, 1816, was finished and opened in the autumn of 1817.  (See Annals of Dunfermline, date 1916.)  We shall here reproduce an old printed notice of the school, dated 1817, which embraces in little space a very excellent account of the structure :—


" The New High School of Dunfermline, recently completed and opened, is an oblong substantial edifice, and a great ornament to the Burgh. It is about 68 feet long, 28 feet in breadth, and 38 feet in height, outside measure; at the back, or north side, there rises an uncovered circular tower, about 70 feet in height, which serves both for a stair-case to the master's residence, and for a look-out observatory, from the summit of which a fine view of the town and surrounding country is to be obtained. The school-rooms are on each side of the main door in the middle of the building; the middle portion of the building projects a little from the main wall of the front, and ends in a peaked triangle. The lower windows, which are oblong, are set in a kind of slightly sunk recess, arched at top; the top windows in the master's dwelling are also oblong. Above the main door there are three spaces for oblong windows; the two side ones are narrow; the centre one, which, twice as broad as the others at the sides, is filled up, and a clock-dial is fixed in its centre, being intended for a clock. Above the clock-dial there is a triangular tympanum, in the centre of which there is a stone with the Burgh arms cut in relief on it. The Burgh Arms stone rests upon an oblong base-stone, which has cut on it, also in relief, the following modern inscription:—







Which is, "favour me, O my God. 1625." And—"Rebuilt (or Reconstructed) 1816.  D. Wilson, Provost." (See An. .Dunf, date 1625.}


On the top of the tympanum, there is a neat little sort of hollow turret for the school-bell. On the side walls of the new school, the old sculptured stones that adorned the previous old school, have, very laudably, got a place, which will preserve them as relics of former days. (See also An. Dunf. date 1625. It may be added here, that the Grammar School stands about the middle of Queen Ann Street, north side of the street, at the high elevation of 353 feet above the level of medium high-water mark at Limekilns.


1818.—-DISCOVERY OF KING ROBERT THE BRUCE'S REMAINS.. —The Bruce's remains were accidentally discovery in the Choir of the Old Abbey, on February 17th, 1818. We give the following details of this interesting event from our MS. Notes :—


  During the progress of clearing away the rubbish and levelling the area of the Psalter Churchyard (the site of the ancient Choir), preparatory to the erection of a new church on the site, the workmen, on the 17th of February, 1818, came accidentally on a vault, near the east end, where formerly the Great, or High Altar had stood. The vault was roughly put together, and of soft freestone. In length it was found to be 7 feet 6 inches, and in breadth 2 feet 4 1/2 inches. The cover consisted of two slab-stones of unequal size, and attached to them by lead fastenings were several large iron rings, which had served as handles for the purpose of lowering it. Some of these rings were in a state of utter decay and some were quick detached from the cover. On removing the cover, another vault or built space was found, composed of the same kind of stone, but a little less in its dimensions, being only 7 feet in length, and 22 1/2 inches in breadth. The outer vault was oblong and curved at the east end, the bottom of which was well paved with large slab-stones but near the middle of it there was an open space or fracture nearly 2 inches in breadth.


  In this inner vault or space lay the skeleton of a large body, about six feet long, encased or wrapt up in thin sheet-lead.  The lead consisted of two thin coats, each about the tenth of an inch in thickness; the upper coat of lead was much more wasted than the under coating or wrapping ; the under lead-wrapping was nearly entire, excepting at the breast, knees, and feet, where it was much decayed, exhibiting part of the skeleton in a state of high preservation ; the lead-covering had sunk a little into the abdomen, and was there much depressed. In this inner vault were found several fragments of fine linen interwoven with gold (the toile d'or, or cloth of gold, used as a shroud for the body). Fragments of wood, in a very decayed state, were found all round the skeleton, and appeared to have been the remains of the costly wooden coffin which, had encased his body; they were of oak, and attached to one or two of the pieces were large iron nails with broad heads, while one or two were found lying free, and below the skeleton. After this, the first inspection, the grave-vault was closed, and a careful watch kept over the vault by nightly detachments of the constables of the burgh.


  The Barons of the Exchequer were immediately informed of the interesting discovery. In their reply, they ordered the authorities in Dunfermline to place three rows of large flat stones over the vault to protect it from depredadations or intrusive curiosity, and to get these fastened together by iron bars, till the intentions of the Barons "as to further procedure for a more thorough investigation were determined on." (See Annals of Dunf. date Nov. 5, 1819, for second investigation, ceremonies, and re-interment.)


  The discovery of the remains of King Robert the Bruce at Dunfermline  soon spread over the whole country, newspapers, magazines, and fly-sheets gave full notices of the immortal hero-king, and for months it was the all-absorbing talk—King Robert the Bruce, his exploits, Bannockburn, his death, and interment in 1329 , and this his discovery, after a lapse of 489 years, was the theme of conversation.


LAYING THE FOUNDATION-STONE OF THE NEW ABBEY CHURCH, Tuesday, 10th March, 1818:—The ceremony of laying the foundation-stone of the New Abbey Church took place on Tuesday, 10th March, 1818. The following particulars of the procession and ceremony are taken from Mercer 's Hist. Dunf. pp. 99-106 :—


  A numerous meeting, consisting of many of the most respectable heritors of the parish, the Magistrates and Town-Council of the burgh, the members of the Presbytery, and other gentlemen of the town and neighbourhood interested in the building, assembled in the Town-house, from which they set out, accompanied by the brethren of St John's and Union Lodges, in Masonic procession, at a quarter from three o'clock afternoon.


  The brethren of the Lodge of St. John walked in front, preceded by a band of music playing the Masons' Anthem. Then followed two men of Masonic order, bearing the helmet and the sword of the renowned King Robert the Bruce, the present property of the Earl of Elgin, and which his Lordship kindly allowed to accompany the procession, (The sight of these memorable insignia of ancient times, by recalling to the recollection of the admiring spectators the most illustrious events in Scottish history, had the most happy effects on the occurrences of the day.) Immediately after these two walked the architect and the contractors of the new church, one of whom carried the bottle designed to be deposited in the foundation-stone. These were succeeded by the Right Honourable the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, dressed in uniform, and decorated by the star and crescent, accompanied by Provost Wilson. Afterwards followed, in regular succession, the two beadles of the parish, one of whom carried a Bible; the Rev. Allan M'Lean and the Rev, Peter Chalmers, the collegiate ministers of the parish, in their gowns and bands; Lord Bruce, Sir Charles Halkett, Bart., Mr. Hunt of Pittencrieff, and other heritors, the Magistrates of the burgh, the members of the Presbytery, the Kirk-Session of Dunfermline, the Town Council, together with many gentlemen of the town and neighbourhood.          


  On the procession arriving at the site of the intended structure, distinguished, according to its historical repute, as the depository of the remains of no less than nine Scottish sovereigns, one of whom was the celebrated King Robert the Bruce, Lord Elgin, as preses of the meeting of heritors, then deposited in the foundation-stone a bottle, enclosed in lead, in which were inserted four rolls of parchment. One of these rolls had written on it a list of the heritors having a valued rent of £100 and upwards. The second contained a list of the Magistrates and Town Council of Dunfermline, the third a list of the members of Presbytery; and the fourth a description relative to the building. There were deposited besides the bottle of parchments, the London Courier, the Morning Chronicle, the Edinburgh Evening Courant, and several of the current coins of the realm. His Lordship then poured upon the bottle, according to custom, corn, wine, and oil, uttering the usual Masonic benediction. On the stone being laid, with the accompanying forms of Masonry, the Rev. Allan M'Lean, as first minister of the parish, delivered a most appropriate and highly impressive prayer, after which the band played the Masons' Anthem.


  Lord Elgin then ascended an elevated piece of ground, and, supported by the Rev. Messrs. M'Lean. and Chalmers, addressed the audience, consisting of, according to the nearest computation, 8000 or 10,000 people, in a most eloquent and masterly speech, delivered with an animation and enthusiasm of which it is impossible to give any adequate description, but the effects of which were most visible in the alternate deep silence and plaudits of the listening crowd.


  His Lordship commenced by alluding to the unexpected manner in which he had been called to do the honours of the day, and with passing a high and well-merited eulogium on the dedicatory prayer of Mr. M'Lean, after which he rehearsed some of the leading circumstances which led to the erection of the edifice. On adverting to the manner in which the ruinous state of the Abbey was occasioned, partly, as he remarked, by the brutal revenge of an English soldiery, and partly by the mistaken though well-meant devastations of the Reformers, he drew a most striking and beautiful contrast between the tumultuous and destructive effects of the military and religious conflicts of former days and the peacefulness and happiness which characterize the exertions of nations at the present period, almost all the sovereigns of Europe being, as he said, at this moment engaged in no other contest than that which had for its object the palm of pre-eminence in the diffusion of glad tidings of peace and good-will to the children of men. This latter idea he most happily enforced by an allusion to the circumstance of the Rev. Dr. Henderson, a native of Dunfermline, having no later than the Friday preceding been employed in detailing to a numerous assemblage of his townsmen, in a most interesting narrative, the progress and success of the Bible societies in the north of Europe. His Lordship then noticed a very striking and fortunate coincidence which had occurred that day, namely, that in the foundation-stone of the building just laid was deposited a London newspaper, which arrived by that very day's post, announcing a recommendation by Government to the two Houses of Parliament, for taking into consideration the request of the Prince Regent for increasing the number of churches throughout the British kingdom. " And," said his Lordship, with great animation, " it is worthy of particular remark, that a speech emanating from the Throne at the commencement of the Nineteenth Century, on the occasion of the opening of Parliament (that great announcement of the political situation and wants of the country), contained nothing, positively nothing in the shape of novelty, or even of ordinary interest, but a request to the Lords and Commons of the two Houses of Parliament to augment to the inhabitants of these realms the accommodation for religious worship ; and it is matter," as he further observed, " of high exultation to us to think that within these two days we have had the gratification, to learn that our present operation, undertaken under the most favouring and congenial train of events, has been distinguished by the most encouraging and animated sentiments of good-will and approbation on the part of the Government of the country."


  But now came the most interesting and affecting part of his Lordship's speech. "Think, my friends," said he, "on the venerableness and the sacredness of the spot on which you now stand. Within the precincts of the ground on which you tread, and which is destined to be the site of our proposed church, are deposited the remains of many of our Scottish sovereigns and other illustrious personages; and only a few weeks have elapsed since the remains of a hero, whose deeds make every Scotsman proud of the land of his birth, and which, after a lapse of near five hundred years, were found in a state of almost entire preservation, were fortunately discovered, I mean," (uttering the words with great emphasis) "KING ROBERT THE BRUCE.'' His Lordship was here interrupted by three loud cheers from the assembled crowd. "But," continued he, with uncommon enthusiasm, "look at that helmet which was worn, and that sword which was wielded, and successfully too, by this celebrated character, for the very purpose of restoring and securing the independence of Scotland, and say if your hearts are not warmed by the proud recollection." (Here his Lordship introduced, with happy effect, the first stanza of the admired patriotic song of " Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," &c., and the crowd reciprocated the impression by another peal of loud and reiterated huzzas!) His Lordship, now borne away by the train of delightful remembrances suggested to his mind, and observing that every heart of his numerous auditory beat responsive to the feelings of his own, proceeded to say,—" I have not done, my friends; this same illustrious personage, under a religious sentiment natural to the times, however strange and even unjustifiable it may appear to us, with our superior Christian education, entrusted to his most endeared friend, with his dying breath, a commission to carry his heart to the Holy Land; but a wise providence willed it otherwise. The messenger in the faithful endeavour to fulfil his commission was stopped in his progress, and slain in a military engagement; but this precious relic was secured from hostile violence, and safely restored to its native land; and, my friends, may Scotland never see the day when it can be doubted that we have the heart of Robert the Bruce amongst us!" The crowd once more demonstrated their joy and patriotic pride at these grateful recollections by the most cheering plaudits. The band played, with excellent effect, "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled." David Wilson, Esq., Provost of the town, made a short but suitable reply to the address of Lord Elgin.


  The procession returned by the same route, but in reverse order, to the Town-house, the band playing as they went the "Masons' Anthem." On reaching the door of the Town-house the procession paused; and by his Lordship's particular desire, the helmet and sword of Robert the Bruce  were elevated in the air, and the band again struck up "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," the people standing uncovered, and seemingly melted into one general feeling of patriotic enthusiasm. The day was fortunately most favourable, and although the crowd was immense, and the pressure great, no accident occurred." (Mercer's Hist. Dunf, pp. 99-106; Chal. Hist. Dunf, vol. i, pp. 133, I53, 534, 538, &c.; also Report of the King's Remembrancer Relative to the Tomb of King Robert the Bruce, the Church, &c. Published at Edinburgh, 1821.)


The following inscription is copied from the parchment roll referring to the new building, &c. There is also a copy framed and glazed in the Session House of the Abbey Church :—




Parish Church of Dunfermline,

Now to be rebuilt at the joint expense of the



On part of the Site of the


Founded in the Eleventh Century by

MALCOM III. (Canmore) King of Scotland ;

And afterwards destroyed

Partly by the English, under the Reign of

EDWARD I. in 1303, and

Partly at the Reformation, in 1560;


This 10th day of March, in the Year of our Lord, 1818,


In the 58th Year of the Reign of GEORGE, III,

King of Great Britain and Ireland,

By the Right Honourable


In presence of a numerous meeting of

Heritors and Magistrates and Town Council

of the Burgh ;

DAVID WILSON, Esq., being Provost;


being Collegiate Ministers of the Parish,

Containing a Population of 13,000 Souls :

WILLIAM BURN, Esq., Architect; and


Contractors and Builders,

The Expense, by Estimate, of the Building,



  It may here be noted, to satisfy the curiosity of future generations, that the foundation-stone, containing the articles just mentioned, lies in the north foundation of the small door-way or entrance into the Session-house below the great eastern window. (Note from Mr. John Bonnar, one of the Building Contractors.)


LITERATURE.—" Sermons on Important Subjects. By the Rev. John Fernic, lately one of the ministers of Dunfermiine. Printed and sold by John Miller, Dunfermiine, l0th August, 1818." This is an 8vo vol. of 387 pages, and contains twenty-two sermons.  The work has been long out of print.


"THE TOWER-HILL ENCAMPMENT" SOCIETY instituted March 1818, became dormant in 1826, It was resuscitated by Sir Arthur Halket, in March, 1862.


"THE ABBEY ROYAL ARCH" SOCIETY was instituted in March, 1818.


PROVOST OF DUNFERMLINE.—Major David Wilson, of Dunfermline was re-elected Provost, Sept., 1818. (Burgh Records.)


LITERATURE.—" Two Shorter Catechisms, mutually connected, to which are added, The Gospel Catechism, and other Hymns for Children. Published by John Miller, printer Dunfermline 1818." This is a 16mo work of 120 pages. The principal part: of it is a reprint of the Shorter Catechism of the Rev. John Brown of Haddington.

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