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A History of the County of Renfrew from the Earliest Times
Chapter XII.—Royal Visits

Some royal visits to the county have already been noticed. They were mostly to the head burgh of Renfrew. About the middle of the fifteenth century the castle there fell out of favour as a royal residence. In 1464, the royal gardens and orchards were let to Lord Lyle, and in the reign of James III., Lord Ross of Hawkhead was appointed hereditary Governor of the Castle. James IV. paid a long series of visits to the county, but not to the head burgh.

Early in the fourth quarter of the fifteenth century, his younger brother, the Duke of Ross, afterwards Archbishop of St. Andrews, was residing in the monastery of Paisley under the tutorial care of James Shaw, the Abbot, his governor. James IV.’s first visit to Paisley appears to have been paid in the month of May, 1489. At anyrate, on the fifteenth of that month he was residing in the Abbey of Paisley.

For the Abbot, his presence just then was exceedingly opportune. Under the fostering care of the monks Paisley had gradually become the largest and most flourishing town in the county. Quite recently a feud had broken out between the Abbot’s men in Paisley and the King’s men in the neighbouring royal burgh. The origin of the feud is not clear ; but the men of Paisley, taking the law into their own hands, after the fashion of the times, had marched to Renfrew under cover of night and committed considerable depredations there. For this they were tried at the Justice Ayre at Renfrew and heavily fined. The Abbot seized the opportunity afforded by the King’s visit to plead for his men, and pled so successfully, that the King granted them a remission of the fines, and protection against any further actions arising out of the raid that might be brought against them.

The Abbot, who was the brother of Shaw of Sauchie, the Governor of Stirling Castle, who, at the critical moment had gone over from the side of James III. and joined his rebellious nobles, carrying with him the Prince, had just received two other valuable tokens of the King’s favour. One was a charter confirming the monastery of Paisley in all its rights, privileges, and property, while the other was a charter for the erection of the town of Paisley into a free burgh of barony. The burgh was not erected, or rather, the charter was not given effect to until June 2, 1490 ; but at the time of the King’s visit, the Abbot was busy making the necessary arrangements.

Within little more than two months the King was on his way back to the county. Already, on April 8, about a month before he paid his first visit, Bute pursuivant and Nisbet macer had been sent with letters to Lord Lyle’s Castle of Duchal and to the Castle of Dumbarton, the keeping of which had been entrusted to the Earl of Lennox and his eldest son, Mathew Stewart. A week later, Rothesay herald and Montrose pursuivant carried other, letters to Dumbarton. Lord Lyle was Chief Justiciar, and to him and to the Earl of Lennox had been entrusted the keeping of Renfrewshire, the Lennox, and the Lower ward of Clydesdale, till the King should come of age. For some time they had been intriguing with Lord Forbes, who had recently displayed the bloody shirt of James III. at Aberdeen, and was afterwards joined by the Earl Marischal and the Master of Huntly. Both Lyle and Lennox had been well rewarded in the distribution of honours on the accession of the young King, but, having quickly garrisoned Duchal Castle and the Dumbarton stronghold, together with Lennox’s own castle of Crookston, they were now bidding defiance to the Government.

Meantime, as the summons to surrender served upon them in April had been disregarded, the King had been making preparations to take the field against them ; and it was probably in connection with these preparations that his visit to Paisley on May 15 was made. On the 18th he was in Stirling. Parliament met in Edinburgh on June 26, and on the second day of its sitting a decree of forfeiture was passed, in their absence, against Lord Lyle, the Earl of Lennox, his son Mathew Stewart, and their abettors.3 It was further determined, that for the recovering of the castles held by the rebels in the west, the King should pass in person to Duchal and Crookston, to be there on July 19, accompanied by all the barons, gentlemen, and freeholders south of the Forth, and that on the day of the King’s arrival at Glasgow, the Chancellor should proceed with the men of Argyll, Lennox, Menteith, and Strathearn “ from Tay west ” to besiege the Castle of Dumbarton.

The King arrived in Glasgow on the 18th, whence he at once despatched messengers to Edinburgh “ to haist the gunnis west.” The gunners “ cartit Mons,” the great bombard, from the Castle of Edinburgh towards Dumbarton, and the great gun known as “ Duchal ” to Renfrewshire. At the time the transport of heavy artillery was a slow process. Men “ that kist the gayt ” had to go before, and the sheriffs of the districts through which the guns passed, had to provide oxen to draw them. At Paisley, the King obtained a body of labourers with spades and mattocks, and then proceeded to invest Duchal. The siege did not last beyond a few days. About the 28th of the month the King left Duchal for Linlithgow, to meet the Spanish Ambassador-, and on August 4 the artillery was at Kirkintilloch on its way home, Duchal and Crookston having surrendered.

Dumbarton still held out. The siege made no progress; and the besieged making a bold sally, dislodged their assailants, and by setting fire to the town, compelled them to raise the siege and withdraw to Dun-glass. Lennox then took the field with a force of two thousand men for the purpose of obtaining reinforcements. The King summoned the lords of the west and south-west to meet him at Glasgow, and was there himself on the 22nd and again on the 28th of October and during the early days of November, engaged apparently iu making arrangements in connection with the siege. Three boats conveyed “ the gun callit Duchal fra Archil to Dunglass,” and from time to time the King was present with the besieging force. On November 10 he was in Glasgow on his way to Linlithgow. On the 23rd he returned to Dumbarton and finally left it on December 13, the place having surrendered two or three days before. During these frequent visits to Glasgow and Dumbarton the King does not appear to have entered Renfrewshire, his journeys having apparently been made on the north side of the Clyde.

Parliament met in the Tolbooth at Edinburgh, on February 3. On the third day of its meeting,4 the Earl of Lennox, his eldest son Mathew Stewart Master of Lennox, and Lord Lyle boldly appeared before it in presence of the King. They declared that the summons served upon them for their compearance on June 27 preceding was informal, and that the diet had not been adjourned according to custom ; they demanded, therefore, that the sentence of forfeiture and death then pronounced upon them should be annulled.

Nothing shows more clearly the pitiful condition into which the country had fallen and the powerlessness of the King than the treatment which these three noblemen, who had been in arms against the Crown, then received. Their demand was granted, and the King, on the same day, issued a precept5 to the Clerk Register, commanding him to “ tak furth in the said process of forfaltour of the bukis of Parliament, and to distroy the samyn proces in sic-wise, that it be never sene in tyme tocum.” A remission was further given with the consent of the Estates, on February 12, to the Master of Lennox and three of his brothers, with a hundred and twenty-nine others, for being art and part in the treasonable holding of Dumbarton Castle against the King and in the burning of the town. Three days later, a full pardon was extended to all on the south side of the Water of Forth who had taken part with Lord Lyle.

After the surrender of the castles of Duchal and Crookston, the King does not appear to have visited the county again until December 23 in the following year (1490), when he was probably returning from Whithorn. At anyrate, on December 5 he was at Lochmaben, and at the date mentioned he was in the Abbey at Paisley.

His arrival in Paisley was again exceedingly opportune. The feud between the royal burgh of Renfrew and Paisley, now a burgh of barony and regality, had broken out afresh. When Abbot George Shaw issued his Charter of Erection in the month of June preceding, the people of Paisley had at once begun to erect their Market Cross. But the work had not proceeded far when the men of Renfrew, moved probably by jealousy, stole into Paisley “ under silence of nicht,” threw down the building, and destroyed the stones and “ hewin work ” that were being prepared for the “ Croce.” On the arrival of the King, the Abbot laid a complaint before him, upon which the King issued a letter to the Earl of Lennox and his son, Mathew Lord Darnley, directing them to make proclamation of the privileges he had granted to the town of Paisley at the Market Cross of Renfrew, and at “ all uthir places nedefull,” and to search for and punish any who were convicted of having taken part in the outrage.

On this occasion the King’s intervention was apparently without effect. There is no record of the apprehension of any of the midnight marauders. Nor were the men of Renfrew by any means overawed.

Within twelve months after the issue of the King’s letter, the custumars and officers of the royal burgh, acting under the authority of its bailies, appeared in Paisley on the market day and poinded a quantity of goods for the King’s customs. But before they could get off with their spoils, the bailies of the Abbot appeared upon the scene and forcibly seized the goods poinded, so that the officials from the royal burgh were obliged to return empty handed. Upon this the bailies of Renfrew raised an action before the Lords Auditors against the bailies of Paisley, charging them with defrauding the King of his customs, and usurping the privileges of their burgh, and taking the poinded goods from their “ custumars and officiaris.” After some delay the case was decided in favour of the bailies of Paisley, the Lords Auditors holding that they had done no fraud, neither usurped upon the privileges of the burgh of Renfrew, because the “ said toun and landis of Pastlay are creat in fre barony and regalitie as wes previt be a charter under King Ptobert’s grete sele of the date precedand the infeftment maid to the said toun of Ranfrew, and also becaus the said toun of Ranfrew is prevlegiit bot [only] of the landis within the burgh and the barony of Ranfrew.” Nine days after this finding was delivered, on June 22, 1493, it was confirmed by the King under the Greal Seal. The affair, however, was not yet ended. In the following year Abbot George Shaw raised an action against the bailies and community of Renfrew for the wrongous taking and intermitting with the customs of the regality of Paisley, and the detention and withholding of them from the Abbot and convent of Paisley for the past hundred years, also for the costs of the recent action, for the damage done to the Market Cross at Paisley, for unlawfully fishing in the water and lands of Bernis in Dumbartonshire, and for the destruction of a house belonging to the monastery at Arkleston.3 Whether this case was persevered in is unknown. There is no record of it beyond the summons. The amount of money involved was very considerable, and the probability is that a compromise, which served to put an end to the feud between the two towns, was arranged and agreed to.

While these legal proceedings were going on, the King was in the county again. In the month of November, 1491, he set out on a pilgrimage to the shrine of S. Ninian at Whithorn, and on his return passed through Ayr, and reached Paisley on the 21st of the month, when he was reconciled to the Church for the part he had taken in the death of his father. According to the Treasurers’ Accounts, he then gave to the masons who were employed upon the buildings at the Abbey, the sum of ten shillings,4 probably “ to the drink,” as at Whithorn.

His next visit to the shire was on February 22, 1497-8, when he rode from Glasgow to Duchal, where his mistress, Marion Boyd, daughter of Archibald Boyd of Bonshaw, was then residing. The Treasurer, “ be the Kingis command,” then gave eighteen shillings “to the noris that fosterit Marioun Boydis barne and fourteen to a harper.”

James was then on his way to visit the Western Isles. He was met at Ayr by Lord Kennedy, and set sail on March 8. He returned by way of Ayr to Duchal, where, on March 16, having now completed “his perfyte aige of twenty-five yeiris,” he executed his formal revocation of all grants made by him during his minority. The notary who attended him was given four shillings, and the nurse and harper thirteen shillings and fourpence each.

During the following month the King was probably in the shire on two occasions. On April 2 he was at Dumbarton, on his way to Whithorn, and on the evening of the same day he was at Ayr. On the fourth of the month, again, he was back at Ayr, and either that night or on the following day was at Dumbarton, on his way to Stirling, where he was on April 9. Both in going to Whithorn and when returning, it is not unlikely that he crossed the Clyde at the ferry a little above Langbank, in the parish of Erskine.

After spending Eastertide at Stirling, he paid a visit to Dunbar, and returned by Restalrig to Linlithgow. In the beginning of May he was again at Dunbar, and on the fifth of the same month he set out for Dumbarton, on his way to Kintyre, when he crossed over into Renfrewshire and took ship at Newark, now Port-Glasgow. He was at Loch Kilkerane on the 16th, and, if the evidence of charters may be trusted, he was in the county again on his way back to the Loch on June 18, for on that day he granted a charter on board ship at Greenock—in navi apud Grenok—when about to sail to Loch Kilkerane, where he remained some days.

The Treasurers’ Accounts from May, 1498, to February, 1500-1, are lost, and their guidance as to the King’s movements during that period fails us. But, according to the Register of the Great Seal, he was in Ayr on March 24, 1499, and at Dumbarton on April 2. The probability is, therefore, that he was in the county at least once during that year.

The next visit of the King to the county, of which there is any record, occurred in August, 1502. He was then on his way to Whithorn, on one of his numerous pilgrimages. On the 11th of that month he was in Paisley, when he caused twenty shillings to be given to the priests. He had come from Glasgow, and went on to Ayr, where he remained till the 16th of the month. On the eighteenth he was at Whithorn, from whence he returned by Muirkirk and Glasgow.6 About December 10 in the same year he was in Glasgow to meet Sir Thomas Darcy, the English envoy, but does not appear to have come further west. In April, 1503, he set out on another pilgrimage to Whithorn, but neither when going nor when returning did he pass through Renfrewshire.

He was at Whithorn again in May. On the seventeenth and eighteenth of the month he was at Ayr on his return, and then travelled to Paisley and on to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Of his stay in Paisley we have the following record:—

“Item, the xx day of Maij, in Paslay, to twa preistis, be the Kingis command, ... ... ... xxviijs.

Item, to the masonis and werkmen in Paslay, of drink-silver, ... ... ... ... ... xiiijs.

Item, the xxj day of Maij, to ane man brocht ane fed ox fra Lady Levingstoun, be the Kingis command, xiiijs.

Item, be the Kingis command, to ane man brocht lxx hurd pennyis to the King to see, ... ... ixs.”

Abbot Robert Shaw was at the time apparently occupied in completing the work begun at the Abbey by his predecessor and uncle, Abbot George Shaw. Treasure trove in the shape of silver and copper coins was frequently brought to the King for his inspection. The occurrence of these “ finds ” may be easily accounted for by the character of the times.

The next time the King was in Renfrewshire he was accompanied by the Queen. In June, 1504, he was holding a Justice Ayre Court at Dumfries, and on the twenty-fifth of the month, accompanied by the Queen, he went on to Whithorn. On the twenty-ninth they were at Ayr on their way back, and on the last day of the month they were in Paisley. Lord Semple’s harper performed before them, and was paid fourteen shillings for his trouble. On their way to Glasgow on the following morning, the King and Queen looked in upon Lord Ross at Hawkhead, when the King gave “ to the masonis of Halkhed in drinksilver xiiijs,” where building was evidently going on as in Paisley. According to the Treasurers’ Accounts, it cost four shillings and twopence to “ turse ” (i.e., convey) the King’s coffers from Ayr to Paisley, and about the same to convey them from Paisley to Linlithgow, as a charge “ for girs to the Kingis chamir in Edinburgh ” is reckoned in the five and fivepence for the “ item.”

In the beginning of June, 1505, the Court was at Dumbarton. On the seventh of the month the King paid a flying visit to Paisley, when he directed twenty shillings to be given to the priests of the town. On the tenth he was back in Dumbarton, where the Court remained till the fifteenth, when it removed to Ayr for a couple of days, and then returned to Stirling by way of Auchinleck and Craigbernard.” In the following month the King passed from Dumbarton to Whithorn. On his way he visited Lord Semple at Eliotstoun, probably for the purpose of inspecting the Collegiate Church,8 which had just been built by John Lord Semple, in the parish of Lochwinnoch. Fourteen shillings were given as His Majesty’s offering to it. From Whithorn the King went to Edinburgh by way of Peebles.

Next year “ the leaves were hardly green when the indefatigable monarch was again off on one of his southern pilgrimages.” Going by Glasgow, he called at Hawkhead, where he gave thirteen shillings to the masons as drink-silver, and then went on to Paisley, where, on April 26, he gave the same number of shillings to the masons at work there. From Paisley he went by Ayr and Glenluce to Whithorn, where, on May 1, he gave eighteen shillings to an English pilgrim “ that Sanct Ninian kythit miracle for.” Returning by Wigton, Dumfries and Peebles, he was in Edinburgh by the twelfth of the month.

In the month of August of the same year (1506) the King was off again to Whithorn. He was at Glasgow on the fifth of the month, at Ayr on the sixth, and at Whithorn on the ninth,6 but whether he passed through Renfrewshire, though he probably did, is not said. On the return journey he came by Ayr and thence to Inchinnan, where six French crowns, worth 4 4s. Scots, were given to the wrights, masons and workmen who were engaged in altering or rebuilding the old manor house, known as the Place, then in the possession of Mathew Stewart Lord Darnley, second Earl of Lennox. From Inchinnan the King was rowed down and across the Clyde to Dumbarton.

On February 21, 1507, the Queen gave birth to a son, “ quhairof,” says Leslie, “ albeit the King was exceeding blyth, yit because that sickness put his wyfe in perrel, grevet him sa sair, that he would not be comforted ; nouther of man wald receive ony consolatione. Quhairfor al hope of her helth putting in God only, referring al to His gudnes, for her he passis a pilgrime, on fute to S. Ninians of Galloway, for devotioune.” He started on March 11 or 12, but neither in going nor in returning did he pass through Renfrewshire. But in the month of July following, when the Queen had recovered, both their Majesties, when on their way to Whithorn to give thanks, passed through Renfrewshire. They reached Paisley from Edinburgh on the ninth, when the sum of three pounds was given to Schir Andro Makbrek, the King’s almoner, “to dispone.” From Whithorn they returned as they went by Ayr, a stop being made on the way at Maybole. After Ayr the route followed was the same as on a previous occasion, viz., to Inchinnan, and down and across the Clyde to Dumbarton, and thence to Paisley and Glasgow. They were at Paisley on the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth, and at Glasgow on the twenty-seventh. To the boatmen that rowed the King from Inchinnan to Dumbarton ten shillings were given. Before leaving Paisley for Glasgow, the King was presented by Abbot Robert Shaw with a couple of horses.

These frequent vists of royalty must have occasioned no small stir in the county. When the Court rested at the Abbey of Paisley or at the Place of Inchinnan there would be considerable gaiety. Before his marriage the King was in the habit of travelling lightly and rapidly. Afterwards, when accompanied by the Queen, his movements were more stately and at a slower pace, in consequence of the Queen’s numerous impedimenta.

On most of the occasions on which the King passed through the county he was either making a pilgrimage to the famous shrine of S. Ninian in Galloway, or returning from one. On some occasions, however, he was on business. But whether on business or devotion, during his numerous journeys he usually contrived to combine with the one and the other a considerable amount of amusement. He was a keen sportsman, and as a rule his falcons and hounds either preceded or accompanied him. In Renfrewshire he would find abundant sport in the forests of Paisley and Fereneze, in the wood of Stanely, and along the moors or muirs, as the high lands in the neighbourhood of Kilmacolm were called ; and his evenings in the Abbey of Paisley or in the Place of Inchinnan, if they were occupied as they were elsewhere, as they most likely were, would be filled in with card-playing, chess or backgammon. Elsewhere they were often spent in listening to clareschaws or performers on the Irish harp, to fiddlers, pipers, singers, lutars, tabourers or drummers, or to the jests of “ Sande fwle,” or to Currey, who after 1495 was the Court fool. Sometimes the amusements of the evening were varied by watching the performances of players, gysaris or mummers, dancers, spelaris or rope-dancers, and many were the payments made for them out of the funds of the Lord High Treasurer. In March, 1500, twenty-eight shillings were given at Stirling to a blind lutar, and thirty-six to “Jacob lutar to lows his lute that lay in wed” (i.e., in pawn). At Montrose, in October of the same year, fourteen shillings were given to a “ brokin backit ” or hunchbacked “ fithelar.” Among singers the “ crukit vicar ” of Dumfries was an especial favourite with the King, and on several occasions entertained him. To “ the madinis of Forres that dancit to the King” nine shillings were given. At Elgin the same or another set of “ madinis ” danced before His Majesty. There are references also to certain “ Moor lasses,” who were probably full-blooded negresses, and in all likelihood dancers, like the “ madinis ” of Forres or Elgin and Darnaway. It is not unlikely that they were the same that attracted the attention of Dunbar and inspired his poem “ Of ane Blackmoir.” There is nothing to show, however, that when he was at Paisley or Inchinnan the King was entertained either by “fithelaris,” “lutaris,” “gysaris,” “spelaris,” dancing “ madinis,” or by—

“My ladye with the mekle lippis,
That landed furth of the last schippia.”

The only indication we have of the way in which he was amused in the evening, during any of his visits to Renfrewshire, are the gratuities given to John Haislet, Lord Semple’s harper, and to the harper at Duchal.

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