Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Strathmore Past and Present
The Abbey of Cupar

In many rock-systems there are singular formations, called Drusic cavities. One of these stones would not excite the attention of an inexperienced man. He might observe the peculiarly flat rounded form ; but that would be all. To him it would be an ordinary stone, and nothing more. But to a geologist such a stone would be different. When found he would split it up with interest, for he knows from experience that the plain-looking stone is not solid, but hollow. With one stroke of the hammer he can lay open to view a marvellous sight: innumerable amethyst crystals gloriously shine before his entranced eye—a fairy-like transformation has passed over the plain stone. Many familiar things are similar to these Drusic cavities. The ordinary matter-of-fact man sees nothing in them; his attention is never attracted by them. But when the experienced and interested eye observes them, they appear very different indeed.

Throughout the town of Cupar are here and there to be seen in the walls of houses pieces of carved stones; at the south-west corner of the churchyard stands an archway, partly old, and partly repaired “within the memory of man;” and some old stone coffins and sepulchral monuments, some fragments of pillars and ornamental masonry, are within the church or churchyard. The casual visitor sees nothing in these. The ordinary passerby has no interest in them, though he has been told something about them. But to the antiquarian and historian these tell a different tale. Close inspection reveals to him, in the wall opposite to the church, a stone on which is engraved a shield bearing the royal lion of Scotland. The fragments of mouldings and pillars and archway are evidences of the workmanship of the early English and Decorated styles of architecture, which carry his mind back for centuries to some magnificent edifice of primeval glory, which once stood there. The place to him seems hallowed by accumulated associations. In imagination he rears a building of costly grandeur, and peoples it with living, earnest workers in mediaeval times. The Abbey of Cupar stood there seven centuries ago, and the cultured man, familiar with historic lore, carefully informed about the results of antiquarian research, and deeply observant of the style of the ruined Abbeys throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, can, from these fragments, create in imagination a stately Abbey, with its cloistered cells, which reveals to his mind the noble words of Milton :—

“But let my duo feet never fail
To walk the studious cloisters pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antic pillars, massy proof;
And storied windows, richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light;
There let the pealing organ blow
To the full-voiced choir below,
In service high and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstacies,
And bring all heaven before mine eyes.”

Though such relics tell us of the fact, there is no accurate evidence of the size or outward appearance of the Abbey.

A century ago a working mason in Cupar made plans of the edifice, including details of its construction. But these were pure creations of fancy; for, a century before that, Spottiswoode, a trustworthy local writer, states in his miscellanies that the Abbey was “nothing but rubbish.” The sad deficiency of authentic records regarding the Abbey of Cupar also prevents us from giving anything like a complete history of a place full of so much associated interest. Yet from the records before us we shall endeavour to give a correct, though necessarily fragmentary, account of the ancient building which once adorned the centre of Strathmore.

At the beginning of the twelfth century a wave of deep religious revival passed north over Great Britain. The effect of the work of St. Ninian and St. Columba had died away. Christianity had again mainly yielded to heathenism. The churches ceased to gather within their rude walls the willing worshippers. The lonely life of the anchorite seemed to be the ideal of the religious devotee. The desolate cell of St. Cuthbert on his uninhabited island, or the ocean-lashed cave of St. Regulus, implied a harder and more self-sacrificing life than did the wattled huts, where many assembled for common worship. In contrast with the assembled Christ-worshippers, there arose a body of God-worshippers, who in their solitary devotions considered themselves especially the people of God. But the comfortless caves of the first “ God-fearing ” anchorites through time grew into comfortable cottages, where (celibacy being unenforced) each Culdee dwelt separately with his wife and children. The temporalities of the Columban Church had been seized by laymen. Much spiritual error was mingled with the teaching of the times. Though what was outwardly called the Scottish Church had existed for two centuries, yet there was a deadness in its work. The clergy were secularised. For that age and that race the system had been in great degree a failure. Everything called for religious reform. And in God’s Providenee another organisation came. The monastic rule gathered together the dying embers of religious zeal, and sueeeeded where the secular rule had signally failed. From England the sainted Queen Margaret brought the much required reform. The country was divided into parishes ; Dioeesan Episcopacy was established; and the monastic orders were everywhere introduced. The whole eountry was aroused by the remarkable religious revival. Those who did not themselves assume the monkish garb eased their consciences by contributing to the endowment of a religious house. Kings as well as nobles gave large grants of money and lands for the building of costly edifiees for religious services. The people were stirred by the deep religious feeling. They regarded the monks with veneration and affection, and believed in the literal efficacy of their prayers. Spasmodic piety and timorous superstition combined to influence the donors minds; and soon throughout the land above a hundred Abbeys reared their heads in stately munificence.

Soon after the death of the saintly King David I., who commenced the grand work, the Abbey of Cupar was founded by King Malcolm IV., surnamed the Maiden. In 1104, even before the more famous Abbey of Arbroath was founded, did Cupar receive the royal charter for the religious edifice which was to have for centuries such an influence in the centre of Forfarshire. Very strangely, the Reverend Robert Edward in his “County of Angus,” written in 1G78, puts down the date erroneously as 1144, though lie mentions the Abbey as “de Heated to the blessed Virgin by Malcolm IV., King of Scotland.” Three centuries afterwards, Andrew Wyntoun, Superior of the Priory of Lochleven, in his “Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland,” thus accurately relates the fact:—

“A thousand a hundyre and sexty yliere
And fowre till thai till rekyne clere,
Malcolme Kyng of Scotland,
And pesybly in it rignand,
The elevynd yhere of his Crowne
Mad the fundatyowne
Of the Abbay of Culpyre in Angws
And dowyt it wyth hys almws.”

The origin of the name of Cupar is as uncertain as the correct way of spelling it. Jervise thinks it may be derived from the Gaelic Culbhar, “the bank, or end of a height or bank,” referring to its situation on the south of the high bank on the left side of the Isla. Mackay remarks that the “ name may have come from the Gaelic Gobhair, a sanctuary or place of monkish retirement.” Other learned etymologists do not consider the name Celtic. It has been suggested that as David, Malcolm, and William brought to the North traders from England who had originally come from the Continent, the name may be derived from the Flemish coper, meaning one who exchanges or barters articles. And this suggestion derives some support from the more modern forms of spelling the name, Coupar, Cowper, and Couper. From the Archives of Douai, a list has been found of religions houses in Great Britain that in the thirteenth century sent wool to Flanders, one of which is entered “Cupre.” Other forms of spelling in old documents are Culpar, Culpyr, Cupar, Kupre, Cuper, Cupir, Cupyr, and Cubre. This last form, according to one antiquarian, suggests a derivation in the Scotch coo-byre, pointing to the rich pasturage and the co\y houses studded here and there on it, which is surely very far-fetched.

It was, we think, in connection with the foundation of the Abbey that the name Cupar was given; it was not known before, at least there is no record of it. Is it not very probable that the name was given in honour of the famous Saint Cuthbert, monk of Melrose? Though St. Cuthbert lived in the seventh century, twenty-three churches were already consecrated to his name. One of his churches in Cornwall was called Cuberc, very near the spelling of Cubre, the early form of Cupar. King David had before his death founded Melrose Abbey, and given it to the Cistcrcian Monks;and Wyntoun tells us that the monks of the Abbey of Cupar were of the same order:—

“All lyk to Cystwys in habyt ;
We oys to call thame Mwnkis qwhyt.”

What would be more likely, then, than that Waltheve, Abbot of Melrose, the adviser of the good King Malcolm, should have advocated the erection of a religious edifice in honour of his own patron Saint in such an appropriate situation as the centre of the finest Strath in Scotland?

The first charters tell us that the Abbey was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and according to Wyntoun, the monks who first possessed it were Cistercians. These took a high place among the score of monkish sects, being very moderate in their religious views. The two great Orders were the Augustinians and the Benedictines, the followers of the rule of Saints Augustine and Benedict. The Cistercians were among the latter. They were all dressed in white, except the cowl and scapular, which were black. They were bound by the three rules of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Abbot over them was Fulc, whose name appears shortly after the foundation of the Abbey, as a witness to a charter of William the Lion, of the Church of Forgan, in Fife, to the Priory of St. Andrews.

Think a moment of the immense boon this foundation was to the people of Strathmore! It is only the utmost prejudice, founded on the utmost ignorance, which denies the good work done by these pure, energetic, and selfdevoted monks. A strong centre was needed there for the development of Christian truth. We know that for the success of any mission in a great heathen district, a strong centre, supported by earnest men, is still needed. And there was no place where human nature more urgently demanded the strength and comfort of the companionship of men with the same fixed religious purpose, than in the district to which King Malcolm brought, from a more cultured and sympathetic community, these earnest-hearted Cistercians. In the midst of semi-heathenism a Christian colony was formed. Rude natures softened under the benign influence. Round the precincts of the Abbey a zone of land, broken up from the morass and forest, soon yielded its due increase of golden grain. In the calm eventide, when the long grass waved in the western breeze, how awe-inspiring would the saintly Abbey appear to those conscientious workers, quietly musing on their day’s work and their soul’s weal! Tempests may rage beyond, but here was the “city of refuge.” Precarious though life was in that half savage age, the dread of turmoil and strife and uncertainty was banished by the sense of holy calm, which dwelt within the Abbey’s portals. Ignorant though the people were, even though nobles prided themselves on their ignorance, yet, within the cloisters of the Abbey, education was diligently cultivated: the midnight oil was burned for the acquisition of learning, as well as for the celebration of the rites of religion. It was the only school in Strathmore. Carefully and laboriously the monks wrote out copies of the Holy Scriptures, and but for this noble though arduous work of love and duty, the Bible might have been lost in the land. Within the Abbey walls were many devout and earnest hearts, training for future statesmen and judges on the Bench. It was the base of operations for aggressive Christianity.

As when, in a clear frosty night, we look steadily upon the crescent moon, we see the grey form of the darkened part, but cannot distinctly make out what it is; while, when carefully examining this unilluminated part with a powerful’ telescope, we see a few bright points, which show that there are mountain-peaks in the moon’s surface so lofty that they catch the sunlight; so in that early age of darkened Scotland, amid the general gloom of heathenism, here and there the Abbeys rose in their majesty to catch heaven’s holy light, to manifest the hearty life which still burned within the heart of the land; the careful eye detects such bright points, that it is able to fill up the picture, and gain a real insight into that period of our country’s history. Richly endowed by royal benefactors and wealthy nobles, the Abbey of Cupar was a centre for encouraging the cultivation of the neighbouring farms, which have long held a high place for grain and stock. These monks were the first to grant long leases of their land on easy terms to tenants. They encouraged peace; they were the friends of the poor and the helpless; their door was open to the outcast as well as to royalty; a magnetic solemnity dwelt within the portals. In the wide Strath, from great distances on the Sidlaws or the Northern hills, could be descried the tall pile, whose ancient pillars reared their heads to bear aloft its arched and ponderous roof, by its own weight made steadfast and immovable, looking tranquillity; and this sight would keep alive the spirit of religion, would make rough, hardy, martial breasts swell with holy joy at the happy prospect of living for ever where war would be no more: truly the Abbey of Cupar was “A fit abode, wherein appeared enshrined Their hopes of immortality.”

* * * * *

On a dull spring morning we have often observed a dense rain-cloud obscuring the brightness of the rising sun. We only knew that the sun was there behind the thick vapour-mantle by the faint streams of light that now and again appeared through some thinner, rarer portion, which only made the gloom more visible. But soon, we have sometimes noticed, as by some powerful hand, the veil was torn asunder, and the full blaze of the rising sun swept away the clouds, which hung darkening and saddening, to vivify the early blossom, to make all nature smile, and to enlighten and gladden all on which it shone. So before the twelfth century, a dark veil of error and superstition obscured the light of truth from the religious consciousness of the people of. Scotland. Now and again had faint gleams of the revelation of Divine truth appeared, as in Saints Columba, and Ninian, and Cuthbert; but these gleams in darkness, convincing men of the glorious light of truth, which was shining bright and pure behind the veil, only saddened them the more, and made their own superstitions appear the more obscure. But the time came when a strong religious revival began to clear away the mists of heathenism and religious ignorance, and to let the everlasting truth flash upon men’s minds, to vivify the seeds of truth which were sown in their consciences at their birth, to make the land embrace with gladness what till then was only an instinctive yearning in occasionally better moods, and to enlighten their darkened souls with the effulgence of the heavenly revelation.

Wordsworth thus expressively indicates the divine mission :—

“In the antique age of bow and spear,
And feudal rapine clothed with iron mail,
Came ministers of peace, intent to rear
The Mother Church in yon sequestered vale.”

The sudden outburst of religious feeling from kings to peasants soon took practical effect in the building and endowing of an hundred Abbeys and other religious houses throughout the land, one of the earliest being the Abbey of Cupar. Well did these Kings—David, Malcolm, and William—know the boon they were establishing for the Scottish people. No system could have so efficiently met the wants and intelligence of the people. The monks were the only scholars of the land, and in the Abbeys were trained in the useful and mechanical arts those youths who afterwards designed and created the most gorgeous piles which were an honour to the land. The trafficking interests began to make stead)’ and healthy progress ; roads and bridges—the precursors of civilization —became common; and at no period of the nation’s existence, down to the Union of the Parliaments, was it in amore prosperous condition than it was at the unfortunate death of Alexander III. It is only giving these kings their due and honourable place, to acknowledge frankly how much Scotland is now indebted to them, for their earnest and manly grappling with the intellectual and moral difficulties of their times, and through the mists of ages to recognise their honest endeavours to advance their country’s weal, as truly

“The great of old! the dead
But sceptred sovrans who still rule
Our spirits from their urns.’’

Malcolm IV. founded the Abbey of Cupar in the centre of a Roman camp, which had been formed by the army of Agricola in his seventh Expedition. From the vestiges of this camp, still visible, it appears to have been nearly a regular square of twenty-four acres. Here the half of Agricola's forces encamped, while the other remained at Campmuir, two miles south-west. Thus in the place where, eleven centuries before, Roman mythology was establishing itself, Malcolm marked the religious progress of the land by erecting and dedicating to God and Saint Mary a Christian house of prayer, and endowing it by Royal charter.

It is from the fragment of the abbreviated Register of the Abbey, now in the library of Panmure, that its early history is chiefly derived. In this are named two charters, both dated from Tresquere (Traquair), and witnessed, among others, by the Abbot of Kelso, the Bishop of Glasgow, the Chancellor of Scotland, and the Earl of Angus. By one of these deeds, Malcolm granted to the Abbey all his lands at Cupar (tota terra mea de Cupro); and by the other, certain leasements of all his forests in Scotland and fuel for the proper use of the monks. His successor, William the Lion, confirmed these grants by a charter issued at Roxbrughe (Roxburgh); and by several charters gave the monks valuable privileges. From Cherletone (Charleston) he gave fifty acres for an extended site for the Abbey, as well as the King’s chase and all the waste land belonging to it. From Perth he endowed the Abbey with the lands of Aberbothry and Kethet (Keithock), as they were possessed in the time of King David. From Edinburgh he granted the lands of Parthesin (Persie) and Kalathin (Cally) held by MackHolfle except that part on the south side of the water of Ferdil (Ardle) opposite to Clony (Cluny), which was retained for his own use. From Jedworth (Jedburgh) he gave the monks freedom from tollage, passage, markets, arid other customs, with power to buy and sell throughout the whole kingdom. In four charters, he liberated the monks from all secular exactions; gave them power to search for goods stolen from them; protected them from being distrained for debt; and enforced payment of all debts due to them, on pain of forfeiture. By a charter at Kinross ho granted to the Abbey two hundred acres of land in the district of Rettrefo (Rattray); and by a charter at Forfar the whole moor of Blair (Blairgowrie.)

The noble munificence of the King roused up his wealthier subjects to make handsome donations to the Abbey. And this is one of the blessed prerogatives of royalty. Let the sovereign heartily espouse a cause, by heading an appeal in support of it with a handsome sum of money, and the enthusiasm spreads, like fire in wood, kindling as it goes; soon the wealthy vie with each other in showing their loyalty in furthering the good work. The royal seal seems by a charm to stamp the character of the object, for no one then is heard to say (as is too often tho case with contributions for missionary objects now-a-days), when an appeal is made to the wealthy public for pecuniary help to families rendered destitute by some sudden calamity, or for a contribution to some noble object, in the sordid spirit of the typo of human selfishness, “To what purpose is this waste?”

William of Hay, cupbearer to King William the Lion, had signed as a witness to throe of the royal charters; and the royal munificence so influenced him that, after receiving from his sovereign the Manor of Errol, in the Carso of Gowrie, ho granted to the Abbey the lands of Ederpoles, and got the charter confirmed by tho king at Streuelyn (Stirling). It will be afterwards seen that, cither for extent or value, the gifts of the Hays of Errol were tho greatest that were made to the Abbey by any individual family. David, successor of his father, William of Hay, granted to the Abbey a net’s fishing on the river Thay (Tay) between Lorny (Lornie), one and a-half miles west of Errol (now part of Hill Farm), and the Hermitage, a place occupied by a hermit called Gillemichel, on whose death the monks were to have all his privileges and easements ; and this was confirmed by King William at Kinghorn. The entire lands in the Carse of Gowrie which David gave to his brother William for homage and service, were conferred by William on the Abbey. Richard of Hay granted a toft and acre of land in the town of Inchture; and Richard de la Battel, a tenant of the Hays, granted the land lying between Ederpoles and Inchmartvn.

Stephen of Blair gave the lands of Letcassy, and William of Ougelby (Ogilvie) the east half of the land which he held in Dunkeld; both charters being confirmed by King William. Alan, the second steward of Scotland, gave a toft in Renfrew and the right of a salmon net in the Clyde; Adam, son of Angus, an acre of land in Bal-gally; Ranulpf, the king’s chaplain, a tenement in the burgh of Forfar; Sir Hugh Abernethy, two acres of arable land in the “undflate” of Lur (Lour) near Forfar; John Gyffard of Polgaven, a right of way through his lands at Inchture; John of Gillebar, a stocked toft and bovate of land at Kinnaird; Thomas of Lundin, royal usher, one merk of silver annually from his land of Balelmeryre-math (Balmerino), on condition that his body be buried in a spot chosen by him at the door of the church in the Abbey ; Adam, Abbot of Forfar, his whole possessions, if he died without children (proles); Sir William of Montealt, a stone of wax, and four shillings annually out of his manor of Ferne in Forfarshire; and Malcolm, second Earl of Athole, timber for all time for the construction of the Abbey, and other easements through the whole woods of Athole.

Soon after his accession to the throne in 1214, Alexander II. became a generous benefactor of the Abbey, and thereby, like his father, stimulated the nobles to follow his example. At Stirling, he granted a charter conferring on the Abbey the lands of Glenylif (Glenisla), Belactyn, Frehqui (Freuchie), Cragneuithyn, Innereharia-dethi (Inverquharity), Fortuhy, and others, to he held in free forest; at Kinclaven, a charter empowering the monks to recover their fugitive serfs (nativi) at Glenisla; at Kelchow (Kelso), a charter compelling all, who are justly indebted, to pay the Abbot and Convent without delay; at Edinburgh, a charter bestowing the Church of Erolyn (Airlie); at Forfar, a charter allowing a right-of-way through the royal forest of Alyth to their lands at Glenisla ; at Traquair, a charter giving two hundred and fifty acres of land in the feu of Meikle Blair, in exchange for the common Muir of Blair granted by his predecessor; at Scone, a charter confirming two and a half poles of land in Perth, bought by the monks from William, son of Lean, with other titles of confirmation; also another at Seone, relieving the monks from a payment (annua waytinga) which they used to make to the royal falconers from the lands of Adbreth; and at Kinross, a charter bestowing ten pounds of silver, the rent due to him by the Abbot for land at Glenisla, of which ten merks yearly were to be given to two monks for celebrating Divine service in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity on the island in Forfar Loch, and the remainder for lights in the Abbey; also bestowing the common pasturage on the land of Tyrbeg for six cows and a horse. More in all likelihood King Alexander would have done; but, when yet a young man, ho took suddenly ill on his way to quell a rebellion in the West, and died in the beautiful island of Kerrera, which closes in the fine bay of Oban, the modern Scottish Brighton.

But what he did stimulated his subjects to follow his good example. Gilbert of Hay, eldest son of David, granted a common road through his estates, and confirmed the pasture and fishings of Ederpoles, with the standing, as well as the running, water of these lands, together with the mill. Nicholas, his son and successor, gave a bovate of land in the Carse of Gowrie. John de Hay of Adnachtan, granted one yare on the water of Tay and a toft (Galuraw) in the district of Adnachtan. Thomas of Hay granted a net s fishing in the river Tay. Roger, son of Banditus, granted a bovate of land in the Carse on the south side of Grangie (Grange). Philip of Vallognes, Lord of Panmure, granted a house, an acre of land, and a right to fishings in his part of Stinchende (East Haven). Cuming, son of Henry, third Earl of Athole, granted the privilege of his woods at Glenherty and Tolikyne. Sir William Olifard (Oliphant) granted the lands of Imatli, which was confirmed by his superior, Thomas, Earl of Athole. At Raith in Athole, Isabella, Dowager Countess of Athole, granted her lands of Mortholow (Murthly), which she had in her free gift as “lawful heir of Athole.” Sybald, son of Walter hosticir, of Lundyne, gave half-a-mcrk of silver annually. William of Montefixo (Mushet) granted the common pasture in his town of Kergille (Cargill). Allan, royal hostiar, gave two pieces of land in Lintrathen, viz., Clentolath and Balcasay. Gaufrid gave twenty shillings annually from Glendunock. Simon granted the land between Grange of Balbrogie and Migell (Meigle). Henry of Brechin bestowed the toft of Innerkey, which yielded annually two horse-halters and one girth. Sir Alexander of Abernethy granted the lands of Kincreich, in the barony of Lour, the mill and pertinents, right to tho mill multures, twenty loads of peats to be taken out of the Moss of Baltedy, and the advocation of the Kirk of Meathie Lour. Henry of Neuith gave two merks of silver.

The young King, Alexander IIL, who was crowned in his eighth year, did not directly endow the Abbey; but during his reign Michael of Meigle granted the Marsh of Meigle; Sir Duncan Sybald gave annually one stone of wax and four shillings, for light at the Mass of St. Mary; and the Countess Fernelith granted the lands of Cupar.

For several years after the unfortunate death of Alexander, the country was kept in a state of dreadful commotion by the civil broils in connection with the claims for the crown of Scotland, and the aggressive conduct of ' Edward I. of England; and when the English Sovereign had made Scotland for a time a province of England, in his universal course of spoliation and destruction, he ordered the furniture and silver of the Abbey of Cupar to be confiscated and sold. But by the glorious victory of Bannockburn in 1314, King Robert the Bruce restored tranquillity and freedom to his sorely harassed countrymen. At Arbroath King Robert granted a charter giving, by special favour, the privilege of fishing for and taking salmon, at times prohibited by statute, in tho Thay (Tay), Yleife (Isla), Arith, and North Esk.

During the reign of The Bruce, Sir John of Inchmartyn granted his lands of Murthly in Mar; Sir David Lindsay of Crawford granted the lands of Little Pert and Blair; Sir Gilbert Hay gave two acres of land, and the advocation of the church of Fossoway (the last grant of the generous house of Hay); Sir Adam of Glenbathlack granted the lands of Duntay and Drymys; Marjory, the Dowager Countess of Athole, granted the patronage of the Church and the Church lands of Alveth in Banffshire ; Sir John of Kinross in different charters granted the lands of Camboro, Dunay, and Elarge in Glenisla, two merks of silver annually from the lands of Achinlesk, with the right of way through all his lands; Nessus, the king’s physician, granted the land of Dunfolemthim, which had been conferred on him by David, Earl of Athole; Sir Robert of Montealt granted one stone of wax and four shillings annually; and Sir William of Fenton granted the lands of Adory (Auchindore) in the district of Rethy (Reedie) with free passage to the servants of the monks. According to the fragment of the Register of the Abbey, there are no more grants of any consequence; and after this date no reliable information concerning the grants to the Abbey can be obtained.

The exact value of the property of the Abbey at that early period cannot be found, but from the “Book of Assumptions,” prepared in 1561 by royal order, it is found that then the total rental was in money £1238; and in victual, wheat 7 chalders 12 bolls; bear, 75 chalders 10 bolls; meal, 73 chalders 4 bolls; oats, 25 chalders 4 bolls; and if the price paid for articles and the wages to labourers be considered, it would be as good as £8000 a year in our day. Besides, before the compiling of the return, Abbot Donald had given away the estates of Balgersho, Arthurstone, Keithock, Denhead, and Croonan, to his five sojis; so, had these been included, the income would have been very high indeed.

Being thus wealthy, the Abbey of Cupar was made the occasional residence of the King and Court; King Alexander II. in 1246 dated a charter from the Abbey, by which he granted a hundred shillings to the Abbey of Arbroath. From the Abbey also, in 1317, King Robert the Bruce granted a confirmation-charter to Sir John Grahame of the lands of Eskdale. In 1378 Robert II. made two visits to the Abbey, and enjoyed the hospitality of the monks. And in 1562 the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots visited the Abbey when on her well-known journey to quell the rebellion of the Earl of Huntly.

Sad is it to think that such a magnificent edifice should have been ruthlessly destroyed! Grieved is the just mind to know that money and lands, thus given so frankly and honestly, should have been inexorably confiscated and diverted from their proper and originally intended object. The donors left what to us appear sentimental conditions, that mass be said for the souls of the dead, and that their bodies be reverently buried within the precincts of the sacred place ; but yet, in those days the purpose was devout, and their intentions should have been respected. Such raids upon lands doted for religious purposes surely cannot be uniformly justified; but, alas, for the grasping nature of the human heart and the jealous character of the human mind, when such opportunities come within their reach! And when we tread the ground where once that noble Abbey reared its head into the heavens, we will bo excused for such reflections—we will not be condemned for our reverence for the hallowed associations:—

“We never tread upon them, but we set
Our foot upon sonic rev’rend history;
And questionless, here in this open court,
Which now lies naked to the injuries
Of stormy weather, some he interr’d,

Loved tho Church so well, and gave so largely to’t,
They thought it should have canopied their bones
Till doomsday: but all things have their end;
Abbeys and cities, which have diseases like to men,
Must have like death that we have.”

* * * * *

Some years ago we visited with a friend the ruins of the oldest Scottish Cathedral in the island of Iona. And what struck us most was the ill-designed and grotesque figures which were sculptured on the tops of the four massive pillars. One represented an angel weighing the good deeds of a man against the evil ones, while the spirit of evil is pressing down one of the scales with his claw. Another represents the temptation of Adam and Eve ; the apples hanging temptingly from a widespread tree, with the serpent s body coiled round the trunk, and its head facing Eves in the attitude of tempting her. These two rudely carved designs showed us that even in the earliest Christian times men of religious thought were endeavouring to grapple with the chief difficulties of our faith ; and, when unable to explain them, they simply represented them in symbol, as the Scriptures did in myths and allegory. Even then, those who introduced Christianity into Scotland, rejoiced in the fact that man was not originally depraved, but that righteousness is man’s true nature. They made this representation of the Temptation and the Fall and bias to sin, to show that the time was when man had not sinned. And as we studied those rude figures, surrounded by the honoured dust of many Scottish kings and early Christian martyrs, our mind most solemnly realised the great facts of man’s responsibility and immortality; and in some measure were our hearts stirred with the feeling, so memorably recorded by Dr. Johnson on his visit there:—"That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer amid the ruins of Iona.”

Such a feeling should possess us when we tread in imagination the sacred courts of the Abbey of Cupar in its earliest and palmiest days. For then purity, charity, devotion were the paramount traits in the character of the dwellers in the cloisters. Not then had luxury-fed grossness debased their minds and tarnished the brightness of their sacred office. Not then had the master passion in their breasts, like Aaron’s serpent, swallowed all the rest. And though we must lament the sordid worldliness which occasioned in Scotland, as else were in Christendom, the religious revolution of the Reformation, yet we must not blame the early monks. After three centuries of noble self-devotion to the good of men, the monks of Cupar fell from the high ideal of moral worth which they had so long rejoiced in; and when they did evil, they followed the universal law of individuals, communities, and nations; and went down and were swept away. But never let us forget that the abuse and degradation of a thing, which is in itself good, is not peculiar to any age or system; let us shut our eyes to the wickedness of those who called down John Knox’s anathemas upon them; and let us think of the Abbey of Cupar at its best, when it was an undoubted blessing to all around, and when it was laying those foundations of intellectual, moral, and social good which have had their lasting effect upon the inhabitants of Strathmore.

“From kirk and choir ebbed far away
The thought that gathered day by day;
And round the altars drew
A weak, unlettered crew.”

Established by the Royal Charter of Malcolm the Maiden in 1164, and richly endowed for many generations by kings and nobles, the Cistercian Abbey of Cupar took a high place among the Abbeys of the land. Dressed in white, except the blach cowl and scapular, the twenty monks who settled in tho North from Melrose must have had an imposing appearance in the eyes of those who were living the semi-savage life, “like a beast with lower pleasures, like a beast with lower pains.” Their poverty, chastity, and obedience must have had a powerful effect. Their time was carefully scheduled out for different duties. Seven times together they worshipped daily in the Abbey Church. Seven times together they daily met in the Chapterhouse for discipline. During their meals—strictly regulated, and frugally indulged in—one of their number by turns read aloud to the rest the Scriptures or pastoral counsels. The rest of the day was occupied with some useful work, such as copying manuscripts for the good of the people ; illuminating passages of Holy Writ with devotional cheerfulness; decorating the Monastery and ornamenting the buildings; practising gardening and engaging in agriculture. Under the supervision of the Abbot, the monks divided the labour, taking appointed duties by arrangement—carrying on the work with cooperation and hearty mutual effort.

To a great extent the Corporation was independent of the Bishops, acknowledging by permission of the Pope their subservience to the head of their Order alone—the Abbot of Citeaux in France. In social rank, the Abbot was next to the Bishop, and maintained due dignity and state. With two country seats, one at Cupar Grange (two miles north), and the other at Campsie (three miles south-west), he kept up a high position. The latter was the Abbot’s principal country seat, the former being generally occupied by the steward, who, managing the affairs of the Monastery, often in troublous times prepared there a retreat for his brethren.

The domestic affairs of the Abbey were seen to by the cellarer. This functionary originally held high rank, for one of them was raised to the office of Abbot. He generally got the name of “Lord Cellarer.” Next to him was the porter, who lived at the Abbey-gate and was the distributer of alms. The “ Cuningar ” looked after the game-covers and rabbit-warrens. The forester-general superintended the foresters in protecting the plantations, which were considered useful for providing shelter, beneficial for checking malaria, and beautifying for improving the appearance of the country. The superintendent of the fisheries had extensive work in looking after the various net fishings, and getting the salmon kippered. The gardener looked after the orchard, fruit, and vegetable gardens.

The Abbey workmen bore as family designations the names of their handicrafts, such as Wright, Mason, Slater, Millar, Smith ; and the gatekeeper for many generations had the same name, Porter. For the management of their secular business, a certain number of lay brethren, called converts, were admitted.

From what we will afterwards show in the details of some of the leases in the Rental Book of the Abbey, preserved in the General Register House, it will be seen that the monks were very careful and shrewd and far-seeing in their arrangements with their tenants. Their practical godliness—“diligence in business and service of God ”— is thus expressed by Wordsworth :—

“Who, with the ploughshare, clove the barren moors,
Ami to green meadows changed the swampy shores?
The thoughtful monks, intent their God to please,
For Christ’s dear sake, by human sympathies.”

They were the originators of leases, which have made Scoteli farming what it is, holding now the highest place in the world, if we consider the generally comparatively poor nature of the soil on which our farmers have to work. These leases were, according to circumstances, generally from seven to nineteen years. Rents were paid in produce, service, and to a small extent in money. Produce consisted of poultry, pigs, calves, lambs, meal, barley, oats, and straw; and, in some cases, butter. Service was exacted in casting and driving peats, harvesting, making nets and fishing-tackle. There was occasionally a strict clause, that any tenant, believed to be smitten with an infectious disease, had to remove from his farm till he was considered quite better. Interest in looking after the morals of their tenants may be seen in some leases, which require sobriety, temperance, and kindly intercourse with their neighbours. Decency of apparel was exacted from some tenants, the monks condemning “ragyt clathis,” and requiring that their tenants “sal be honest in thar cleyfching.” All the tenants had, when called, to defend the Abbey neighbourhood from wolves, robbers, and sturdy vagrants.

There were two classes of tenants—farmers and cottars —the former having not less than thirty-three acres of arable land, and the latter from one to twelve acres. The monks, considering wisely that vegetables were essential to keep the blood from becoming too heated by the constant use of oatmeal at all diets, ordered the cottars to have “green kail in their yards;” and this exemplary precaution is carefully attended to by all the ploughmen and country people still. Not long ago a young medical man, who began practice in a country district, one day, in conversation with the beadle, was remarking that the people were very healthy there. “Aye,” said the beadle, “ye’ll find that tae yer cost ere lang; the yaird’s (churchyard) dune very little for ’ears, for a’body, ye see, gangs in for big kailyards.”

The monks carefully proportioned the number of cottars to each farmer, thereby keeping down pauperism.

Tenants were required to take in a certain part of marsh, proportioned to their holdings. Pasture lands had to be regularly watered from adjoining streams. A system of rotation of crop was rigidly enacted in most cases; and very strict injunctions—under threats of severe penalties —were given to keep down the troublesome wild marigold in the fields. Speeifie regulations were made about the number of pigs to be kept by the tenants, and about their being watched from wandering into the woods and hunting grounds. The farmers were enjoined to plant ash trees, saughs, osiers, hedges, and broom; as these were admirably adapted for shelter, highly ornamental, and practically beneficial.

The Abbot instituted three grades of Court for the preservation of order and justice. The inferior was the Court of Burlaw, a self-elected jury of neighbours (like that still to be found in St.Ivilda), who met weekly to regulate ordinary matters. Next above it was the Baron-bailie Court, the official being generally appointed, with certain dues, for a succession of years, by the district Baron. Both of these Courts were subordinate to the Court of Regality, presided over by the Abbot himself, who, however, at times delegated his work to a deputy-bailie. This bailie-depute ultimately became hereditary, the last receiving £800 as compensation for quitting the office.

For cases of severe or continued illness the Abbey owned an hospital in Dundee, where proper medical treatment could be conveniently obtained.

The Abbot had the patronage and drew the rents (except a small portion allowed to the half-starved incumbents) of the Church of Alvah in Banffshire; the Churches of Airlie, Glenisla, and Mcathie (afterwards united to Inverarity and now suppressed), in Forfarshire; and the Churches of Bendochy and Fossoway in Perthshire.

It is not in our power to give anything like an accurate account of the successive Abbots of Cupar, owing to the very limited information which we have about them; nor would any detailed account of many be of any general interest. Major-General Allan has taken a very great deal of trouble to procure sufficient data for weaving together a historical account of them. We have read the whole of the notices; but out of the 120 pages we will only mention the prominent and useful facts.

According to a valuable little work, “Chronicon Anglo-Scoticum,” the first Abbot was Fulc, who, like several of his successors, was a Cistercian monk of the Abbey of Melrose; one of them, William, returning, after two years, to Melrose as its Abbot. William was a particularly pious man ; for at his death he was esteemed worthy of being buried near his sainted predecessor, Waltheof; and a strange story is told about this burial. While the grave was being made, some of the monks looked in and removed the cover of Waltheof s tomb; when, by the lighted taper — it being evening — they saw the body of the holy man as it lay uncorrupted, and clothed in garments apparently fresh and beautiful.

Several Abbots are mentioned as witnesses to royal charters. During Alexander’s incumbency, the Conventual Church of the Abbey was dedicated to Saint Mary in 1233; and a very protracted dispute took place between the monks, as Cistercians, and the Papal legate, about their non-adherence to his order, to cease from the celebration of Divine service during the existence of the Papal interdict.

Abbot Andrew was at the Convention assembled at Brigham, near Roxburgh, in 1289, which consented to the proposed marriage of their infant Queen Margaret, in her eighth year, with Prince Edward of England. Twice did he pay homage to Edward I.—first in the church of the Friars’ Preachers at Perth, and next at Berwick-on-Tweed. He built a chapel at the expense of the Abbey, in the island of Karuelay (now Kerrera, near Oban), and engaged three monks to celebrate divine service there in memory of King Alexander, for a certain sum of money, which the Abbey had received from the King. The earliest known seal of an Abbot of Cupar is one of the year 1292, now in the Chapter-House, Westminster; it is a small counter-seal, with the design of a hand vested issuing from the left side and holding a crozier between two fleurs-de-lis. Andrew appears to have been the only Superior of Cupar Abbey who was raised to the Episcopate ; for his high character and virtues he was made Bishop of Caithness. King Edward I. of England, in his general spoliation of Scotch Abbeys, in 129G, seized all the jewels and silver-plate of the Abbey of Cupar, to be broken up and made into new vessels for the Lady Elizabeth, his daughter, “against her passage to Holland," details of which are still extant in the Wardrobe Account in the British Museum. Abbot Alan was a member of King Edward’s Privy Council in Scotland; and sat in the Parliament of King Robert the Bruce. Dr. William Blair was an Abbot of learning, ability, and importance; and was appointed visitor of the Cistercian Order in Scotland. Abbot Thomas of Livingston was nominated Bishop of Dunkeld by the anti-pope Felix V., but, though consecrated, he never obtained possession of the see. By a Papal Bull from Pope Paul, in 1464, Abbot David Bane had the privilege of using the mitre and pontificals, and the right of consecrating churches and cemeteries. From an agreement signed in 1500, between the Convent and Andrew Liel, about the lands of Redgorton, it is seen that there were in all seventeen members of the Convent Chapter of Cupar, the second member taking the title “superior" Abbot John Schanwell, being appointed by Papal authority the Commissioner from the general Chapter of Citeaux, visited and reformed the Cistercian Monasteries in Scotland; when, on account of the sad neglect of discipline, he deposed the Abbots of Melrose, Dundrainan, and Sweetheart Abbey. Such a sweeping condemnation showed the terrible signs of decay in the beginning of the sixteenth century. Though during the preceding century three Universities had been founded, and a wonderful revival of learning was seen throughout the land; yet the Abbeys, seeing that thereby much of their work was not required, became effeminate by indolent luxury, and their members began to receive the popular names, derived from their over-fed and overindulged appearances, which too often attach to our modern idea of monk. Living instances were they of the fact, doubted too readily by money-enslaved and luxury-hunting mortals, that a man of the world can be found in the seclusion of monastic life. Man carries in his breast the source of his glory or his misery; of his rest or his dispeace. And more pointedly do such terrible examples show us the truth of the reflection of the Apostate Angel after he overthrew the harmony of the universe, thus fixed in poetic form by the immortal genius of Milton, who, believing in the freedom of the will, held that man was the creator of his own world :—

“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

* * * * *

The last and most noted of the Abbots of Cupar was Donald Campbell (152G-15G2), the fourth son of the Earl of Argyll. He was one of the twenty who composed the secret Council of the Regent Arran, and was for some time Lord Privy Seal to Queen Mary. King James the Fifth nominated him one of the senators of the College of Justice at Edinburgh. Already the reformed doctrines of Luther were finding their way among the Scotch laity, and the Abbot was suspected of leaning to them; for, when nominated Bishop of Brechin, the Pope would not confirm his appointment, and he never assumed the title. In 15G0 he attended the Parliament when the Reformation of religion received the first legal sanction. During his tenure of office three different Abbey seals were used. The principal seal, appended to a tack of the lands of Murthly, is of a rich design; within a Gothie niehe is a figure of the Virgin in a sitting posture, her right hand holding a brancli of lilies, her left supporting the infant Jesus, who stands on a seat beside her; below is an Abbot with a crozier kneeling at prayer, with a shield on either side, the one bearing the arms of Scotland, and the other the arms of the family of Hay, who contributed so much to the endowment of the Abbey. To his live sons he gave the fine estates of Balgersho, Arthurstone, Keithoek, Denhead, and Croonan, all in the neighbourhood of Cupar ;—for his lineal descendant, the late Lord Chancellor Campbell, asserts that he was married before he was made Abbot;—to James Ogilvy, heir of James, Lord Ogilvy of Airlie he gave the lands of Glontullacht and Auchindorye ; and to other relations similar grants from church lands.

From the Rental Book and Register of Tacks we find that the Abbots were exceedingly careful in their letting of the church lands. The first entry in 1443 is the tack of a croft of two acres and a house for five years, paying yearly three hens and finding two harvest men in autumn with usual service. Five years seems to have been for a long period the general extent of the lease; yet we have several instances of four years, seven years, and nine years. Some farms were taken by shareholders, in eighths or twelfths; the tack restricting (under pain of forfeiture), the holder of an eighth to the employment of three cottars, and the holder of a twelfth to two. The agreement contained the conditions that cottars without kailyards were to be at once ejected; that calves found in the blade-corn after the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and more than one pig found on each twelfth of the farm, were to be forfeited to the monastery ; and that at reaping-time any one, who introduced sheep into the corn before all had made a full leading in, had to pay a fine.

It was Abbot David who in 1462 introduced the most particular details into the leases. In one tack the tenants shall duly sow all the parks for two years together, according to ancient customs ; and after sowing they shall restore and fence the parks, satisfying the keeper of the fields of the monastery; at their own expense the tenants shall keep in proper order the principal barn’ of the grange and seed house; those remaining shall recompense those retiring for the houses, according to common law and custom in such matters; the tenants shall have the manure of the great stable and of the yard of the brew-house ; also the ashes of the bake-house and oven, and of the peats in the kitchen. Particular attention is to be directed to draining and recovering the marshes. In most of the 240 tacks, tenants are required to weed their lands carefully, and especially to destroy the wild marigold, taking a change of seed as often as possible. For keeping and governing the whole farm, where there are several tenants, an overseaman chosen by the Abbot shall see that “gud nyeht-buryt (neighbourhood or neighbourliness) be kepit.” Five land officers, with districts allotted, were empowered to see that the tenants fulfilled the conditions of their leases, to keep an account of the sheep belonging to the monastery fed on different lands, and of the rent in kind paid by the tenantry. He commenced the system of giving life-rents, which was almost universally carried out by Abbot Donald in his time; and, if the tenant thought that he would be better in another place, he should have the free consent of the Abbot, on condition that he gave in six months’ warning before the term of Whitsunday. In some eases a tenant had liberty to sub-let part of his farm. If one of the shareholding tenants left his land unlaboured, the others were to labour it and be paid compensation. The old custom of riding the marches is mentioned ; in one taek, the tenant of Auchindore shall “kep and defend our marches as thai war redyng at the last ridyng and deelaraeioun.” Security had to be found in many cases; and grassum was exacted in renewing tacks. Fines were levied on those who did not keep their lands clean according to the lease.

A curious grant was given by Abbot William in 1508 “ to Sir Alexander Turnbull, chaplain, of all and whole the chaplainry of the Chapel of the Aisle of St Margaret, Queen of Scots, near Forfar, for life, providing that ho shall make personal residence in the ministry of the said chapel, and rule in priestly manner accordingly to the rule of the sacred canons; that ho bo diligent and earnest in building and repairing the chapel and buildings thereof; and that he do not receive temporal lords or ladies or strangers of whatsoever kind or sex to stay there without leave asked and obtained by the Abbot, and that no women dwell there except those lawfully permitted; also that the said chaplain plant trees without and within, and construct stone dykes for the defence and preservation of the loch.” Contracts were made with the several tradesmen. In 1492 a mason was hired by the Abbot in presence of three monks, for five years, at five merks yearly and his dinner daily (half-a-gallon of convent ale, and five wheaten cakes with fish and flesh), with a stone of wool for his bounty; also free house and toft of 2| acres, with the Abbot’s old albs reaching to the ankles. In the same year a slater was hired for one year on similar terms, but if he should happen to fail at any time, for every day’s failure he had to work two days beyond the year. At the same wages two carpenters were hired for one year, taking an oath to be faithful both in skill and work. A smith was hired for a year for the common smithy-work of the Abbey at the same wages, receiving extra his daily quart of better beer. Apprentices were indentured for from six to nine years; they must not murmur at the common and usual service in victual and other things; their wages being from one to two merks during service. A contract was made in 1532 with an'Edinburgh plumber, “ane honourable man,” for his lifetime, that for £5 6s. 8d. Scots he shall uphold, mend and repair water-tight the Abbey, Kirk, choir, steeple, and all other leaden work within the Abbey, well and sufficiently, as he did at St. Andrews (he and his servants receiving board when engaged in work), and that he must come as often as required on eight days’ warning.

Above a hundred carefully drawn out leases are signed by Abbot Donald, most of them being for life, and even including the life of the eldest son, or next male heir. Feu-titles were completed by the Bailie-depute attending on tlio land and giving the feuar some earth or thateli to prove possession. The privilege of brewing ale and selling it with bread and wine was granted to a portion of the tenantry. Com mills driven by water power were in every district; and “thirlage” to the mill was enforced, being put in the leases as “doing debt to the mill,” which debt was the twenty-first sheaf of corn in the fields. Walk-mills for pressing and fulling cloth were established in several places; but there was no thirlage attached to them. On the death of a tenant of a farm, the best horse or ox was claimed by the Abbot. Muirland tenants had to keep hounds to hunt the fox and wolf, and to be ready to pass to the hunt when the Abbot or his bailies required them. Tenants, whose farms touched the Isla, had to provide a boat and fishing-tackle for the monks. All had to cut, dry and drive a certain quantity of peats to the Abbey; and all carriages had to be willingly attended to.

As the buildings were now much in need of repair, the Abbot exacted in life-leases a composition of from one to two hundred pounds Scots in cash, for the fabric of the Abbey. Due provision was very considerately made for aged tenants; to keep such from being paupers, those succeeding to their leases were bound to provide them in meat and clothes and other necessaries. Orphan children of deceased tenants were assisted by the Abbey funds and had guardians appointed for them. In some leases it was made a condition that cottars were not to be removed. The principal tenants were required to provide two armed horsemen for the service of the Queen and Abbot in time of war or civil broils.

Leases after 1544 had a heresy clause inserted, and ‘'give it happinnis, as God forbeit, at the said to hald ony oppinnionis of heresies and byde obstinatiie thairat, it sail be tinsall of the tak but [without] ony forder proces of law.” In one tack the exact heresy is mentioned (1550) :— “If they shall fall into the Lutheran madness (rabies) and heresy, or if they shall obstinately hold new opinions contrary to the constitutions of the Church the said feu shall revert to the Abbey.”

The records of the Abbey of Cupar contain more details about Scottish husbandry and rural affairs during the fifteenth and first half of the sixteenth centuries than any other to be found. Most chartularies of the Abbeys are chiefly valuable in connection with the history of landed property. But from these we can judge of the shrewd, practical interest which the Abbots of Cupar took in administering their estates and conducting their affairs; their fairness to their tenants; their reasonable, sympathetic co-operation with those who were, by manual labour, supporting them; their care in securing the proper training of workmen in their several professions ; their consideration for the farmers’ dependants ; their sense of responsibility in making the best use of the land for the common good; their encouragement of cleanliness, economy, and the spirit of honour, charity, and brotherly kindness in the household under them; and their honest endeavour to live religion as well as to 'preach it.

Whatever may have been the faults of the Abbots of Cupar, they cannot be considered as fit subjects for the bitter sarcasm which John Skelton, in 1550, expressed against most of the ecclesiastics of his time :—

“The laymen call them barrels
Full of gluttony And of hypocrisy,
That counterfeits and paints
As they were very saints,
For they will have no loss
Of a penny nor a cross
Of their predial lands
That cometh to their hands,
And as far as they dare set
All is fish that cometh to net.”

In 1553 Donald and the fifteen monks signed a solemn bond in which they all resolved, “ God being their guide, to lead a regular life, and to order their manners according to the reformers of the Cistercian Order; each of them to have sixteen ounces of wheaten bread, and a like quantity of oaten bread, two quarts of beer daily, besides an annual allowance of £13 Gs. 8d. Scots, for flesh, fish, butter, salt, and other spices; and figs, soap, and candles for the refectory, hall of grace, and infirmary; and an allowance of 53s. 4d. annually for clothing; the cellarer and bursar to give in a statement of accounts twice a-year, and any surplus revenue to be disposed of as they shall then see fit.” The monks of Cupar were of a purer and higher character than the average of the age, and came nearer to the training and tone of those thus described by Tennyson in Harold :—

“A life of prayer and fasting well may see
Deeper into the mysteries of Heaven.”

Yet to a great extent the simple arrangements of three centuries had over Scotland begun to show unmistakable signs of deep-seated corruption. The grand mediaeval organisation was losing its motive power and was helplessly decaying. True devotion was supplanted by grovelling worldliness. Seven hundred of the working churches were held by the Bishops and Abbots; the poor working vicars being almost as ignorant as the people to whom they preached. Benefices were sold at the Roman Court. The monks no longer had their hereditary right to cleat their Abbots, nor Cathedral Chapters their Bishops. The Sovereigns sold these offices for needy cash to men in most cases unworthy of them and unable to perform their required duties. The spiritual interests of the people were disregarded. Still did the monks of the Abbey preach, but all else was spiritually dead. The nobles were hankering after the wealth of the Abbeys. The celibate system—which had, when revered, unmistakeable advantages over the semi-starved, family-burdened, care-worn Protestant clergy of our day—was being abused, and was producing humiliating and disastrous results. The intolerance of the Roman Catholics to give due respect to the reformed doctrines which culminated in Luther, and the bitter obstinacy to reform the Church from within, could not fail to turn the tide against them. Tradition had greater weight than the written Word. Departed saints were honoured as unmistakeable mediators. Penances were enough to make men righteous.

Doubtless, Abbot Donald and his brethren in Cupar Abbey wept in secret over these abominations, and longed for the dawn of a better day ; for he, though appointed to the See of Brechin, was not inducted on account of the suspicion of his leanings to the reformed faith; and this in the face of the heresy clauses, which, by Papal Authority, he had to put into the leases of the Abbey tenants. But for his association (as Lord Privy Seal) with the Roman Catholic Queen Mary, whose fascinating powers made almost all ecclesiastics, who came into her presence, yield their better judgment rather than be on unfriendly terms with her, Abbot Donald of Cupar might have been one of the staunchest reformers. He tried in his own limited way to do what would have saved the Church, had it been universally adopted over Europe, to reform it from within. And it is to some extent a pity that so many noble minds abandoned the old Church, and did not persevere in their efforts for its revival. For with all the glorious results of Protestantism to the individual, it has not been a success in the world. The unity of the Church was sacrificed. Freedom of thought is a blessing which is dear to man, yet it was dearly bought; for it is no doubt the root principle of all the sects and schisms which must split up and weaken the Protestant Church. Intolerance is not confined to the Church before the Reformation. Heresy-hunting and hair-splitting of religious tenets have not yet died out in our enlightened age. And there is often felt the want of that authority, which at times would be very desirable, from the consensus of religious thought. Abbot Donald saw that, and regretted the want of energy and life in the Church around. Those who burned the martyrs had no sympathy from him. And among the members present at the Convention of Estates in Scotland, held in Edinburgh in August, 1560, assenting to the ratification of the new “Confession of Faith ” as the standard of religion in Scotland, and the annulling of all authority and jurisdiction within the realm of the “bischope of Rome callit the Paip,” and prohibition of saying or hearing “the messe under pain of death for the third infringement, was “Donald Abbot of Coupar.”

* * * * *

Some two thousand years ago there was in Athens a wonderful collection of broken fragments of most exquisitely-formed human statues, brought from all parts of the known world. One day a stranger entered the hall, where the artists were wrangling about which of the fragments boro the evidence of being a part of the ideal statue of man. He looked at them as no other man looked; and they were awed by his presence. And he said, “Sirs, why strive so among yourselves? Put these bits together, and you will find that they fit into each other.” They did so, and all the parts fitted in exactly ; but the head was a wanting. They were sorely saddened at this crowning loss. But the stranger, without a word, drew from beneath his cloak the head which had been so long lost, and crowned the statue. The perfect thing was now before them. The pure ideal was now before the Grecian artists’ eyes. In a similar way, men had been puzzled with the fragments of religion which they collected from the different nations of the world. From the fragments they wove several religions; they wrote and argued about them; but where was the man who could unite them all into one ideal of religion, yet living and practical in its bearings? All could be influenced by the great “Light of the world,” yet who could show men the embodiment of the ideal religion? At the Reformation, Luther, Calvin, Latimer, and Knox thought that they had realised it; and that thought carried them and their followers through much difficulty and danger. Yet the hold it took on them drove them to the same intolerance which they condemned in their adversaries. The demolition of all the finest ecclesiastical edifices in the kingdom cannot now be defended. In fanatical zeal they thought of extinguishing the Catholics by tearing down their "nests;” and not long were they in accomplishing the destruction. This is one of the unfortunate blots in the life of him whom Froude has pronounced to be the “grandest figure in the entire history of the British Reformation.”

The reformers then obtained the mastery of Scotland. The poor clay, which, a generation earlier, the haughty barons would have trodden into the. gutter, had been heated in the red-hot furnace of the new faith ; but their convictions were fixed by a very fierce intolerance. Yet they had to live. How were they to be provided with money ? Knox soon saw that something had to be done to keep the Protestant preaeliers from positive starvation. The nobles had seized upon many of the rich benefices of the Church, Accordingly, the Privy Council allowed the Catholics to retain two-thirds of their benefiees during their life-time, and appropriated the remaining third for the Reformed Church and the Crown. All the beneficed clergy and the Abbeys had to produce their rent-rolls to ascertain the true value of the livings. This seemed honourable by the Protestant nobles to the vanquished Catholic ecelesiasties. But the generosity was only skin deep. They had planned to take to themselves and the Crown the largest slice as the pensioned Catholies died. Knox saw through it and denounced it; but to no effect. And of the thirds of the benefices which were to be divided between the Reformed Establishment and the Crown, the Church received only about one third, i.e. one tenth of the endowments given absolutely over by the old Catholic nobles for the special purpose of religion. Queen Mary, accustomed with the extravagance of joyous France, acquired in this way a good deal of ready money to keep up her pageantry.

Leonard Lesley was appointed Commendator of Cupar in 15G2, to report upon the revenues of the Abbey, already mulcted to some extent by the “unjust steward” Abbot Donald, Lesley, becoming Protestant, was free to marry ; so the Abbot-Commendator for the first time had a wife and four children occupying the onee hallowed dwellings of the eelibate monks, What a contrast was this new home-life to the recreations of the celibate monks of old, thus described by Dr, Walter C. Smith in his "Raban: ”—

“And some would pore over vellum books,
And some would feather the sharp fish-hooks,
And some would see to the sheep and kine;
Some went hunting the red-deer stag,
Some would travel with beggar’s bag,
And some sat long by the old red wine.”

Lesley sat in Parliament in 1574; and in 1585 was a Commissioner for the settlement of the stipends of the Parish Kirks. It is interesting to notice that, in the Chamberlain’s Account, John Knox received part of his stipend as minister of Edinburgh from the “thirds” of the Abbey of Cupar, to the amount of £66 14s. 4d. At this time, the Chamberlain says that the Abbey buildings were very much out of repair. Once it was a commanding edifice, partly built in the early English or first-pointed style of architecture, characterised by the pointed arch, long, narrow, lancet - headed windows, clustered pillars and projecting buttresses; and afterwards completed in the second pointed or dscorated style, which gave full scope for the ornamental genius of the Cistercians, with its mullioned windows, flowing tracery enriched doorways, and elaborate mouldings. But in 1563 the chapel was so completely wrecked that, with a view to preserve the timber, its two doors and the undermost door of the steeple were built up; the roof slates were thrown together in the cloister ; iron framework was put into the shattered windows; and the stables, granaries, and storehouse, which the year before, under the name of the “quenes stables,” accommodated the royal stud, had now to be thoroughly put to rights.

This dilapidation is supposed to have been the result of the general demolition of the rabidly excited reformers throughout the country. When Queen Mary, on her journey North, to quell in person the rebellion of the Earl of Huntly, rested for several days at the Abbey, she despatched from it a letter to the Town Council of Edinburgh (contained in their Burgh Records), directing them to re-elect Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie, Provost of the city, “for oure will and mynde is that the same bo done.” .

But what a sight for Mary! The once noble building tottering, and allowed to totter—a ruin, spreading wide, and no cheek put on the progress of the ruin! To the young, deep-feeling and full-trusting Catholic, who made even the iron Knox quiver as an aspen by the spell of her unrivalled beauty, sueh a desolation must have been all-depressing! What? Can the benign Being, who gave to His children the revelation of His will in the sacred volume, be heartless enough to desert the Church of His well-beloved Son, by Himself inspired, because some have, Judas-like, betrayed the noble trust confided in them? Communism, rampant in its hideous, dragonlike visage, seems to threaten her throne when she beholds “the cross she loved so well thus desecrated; and her beauteous eountenanee blanches with a holy dread. She enters, however, the time-honoured and faith-consecrated yet dilapidated building; and with the devout interpretation of her life-training, the accumulated associations of the sacred worship, so purely offered for centuries there, raise her spirit from earth and its cares to the peace of heaven; transform her from the “uneasy head wearing the erown” to the simple child of God; and warm consolation—beyond the world’s ken—beams into her sore-wrung soul, when on her with realistic soothing power, reminding her of her beloved France—

“O’er the high altar a meek face shone,
A virgin-mother and baby-son,
Fashioned by art beyond the sea.”

In 1583 there was a decree before the Lords of Session, at the instance of Andrew Leslie, student (one of Leonard’s sons), “against the Commendator and the other feuars, for payment of ane pension of £50 out of the rents of the Abbaey of Cupar.” Another son, Alexander, by a Privy-Seal grant, received from the Abbey’s revenues “the monks’ portion of the deceast John Fago.” In 1593, Leonard, having failed to pay to John Abercromby, Edinburgh, “certaine monkis portionis,” was denounced a rebel for having remained under “proces of liorne attor the space of yeir and day,” and was deprived of his commendatorship, to which George Hallyburton was appointed, who held it till 1603, when Andrew Lamb, royal chaplain, succeeded. But Lamb was appointed Bishop of Brechin four years afterwards, and an Act of Parliament was passed dissolving the Abbacy and erecting it into a temporal lordship in favour of James Elphinstone, son of the secretary, Lord Balmerino, with the title of Lord Coupar. In this Act of Parliament, dated December 20th, 1607, King James VI., anxious to “suppress and extinguish the memories of the Abbacie,” gave a charter of all the lands to Baron Coupar, a weak man of a mean capacity, who went by the epigrammatic cognomen of “that howlit Cowper.”

In 1618, the spirituality of the benefice was under the Great Seal transferred to the Protestant minister, and a new kirk was erected, the patron being Lord Coupar. In tlie same charter the remaining Abbey-lands were erected into “ane haill and free lordship and barony called the lordship and barony of Coupar, and the Abbey Place of Coupar to be the principal messuage; to be holden of the Crown in fee and heritage, free lordship and barony, and free burgh of barony, forever.” Cupar gave for this the service of a baron in Parliament with 300 merks; and paid yearly to the minister 500 merks Scots, and to the ministers of the Churches of Airlie, Mathie, Glenisla, and Fossoquhy the yearly rents and Communion-elements’ allowance. Lord Coupar took the part of the Covenanters, and thereby excited the wrath of the Marquis of Montrose, who, in 1645, gave orders to 200 Irish soldiers to wreck and plunder the Abbey. In the assault, during Lord Coupar’s absence, the parish minister took the leadership of the defence, which he conducted very bravely, falling mortally wounded in his endeavour to repel the invaders. In 1G54 Lord Coupar was fined by Cromwell £3000 (afterwards reduced to £750); and increased was again fined £4800 for not conforming to Episcopacy. He died, without leaving children, in 1669; and, in terms of the entail, the title and estates devolved on his nephew, the third Lord Balmerino. The sixth Lord Balmerino took part in the rebellion of 1745, and was beheaded; and, along with the rest of his property, the Abbey lands were confiscated. These were held by the Barons of Exchequer for ten years, when they were sold to the seventh Earl of Moray, and nephew of the last Lord Balmerino. In course of time the Hon. Archibald Stuart, brother of the Ninth Earl of Moray, succeeded to them, and held them till 1832, when his eldest son, Francis Archibald Stuart, became possessor. This gentleman died in 1875, and the constabulary of the Abbey, extending to 145 acres, devolved by succession on his nephew, Edmund Archibald Stuart Cray, now the heir presumptive to the Earldom of Moray.

But, although the Lordship of Cupar Abbey has descended in this line, the office of Hereditary Bailie of the Regality of the Abbey had been previously vested in the Ogilvies of Airlie (as formerly mentioned), James, Lord Ogilvy, having been appointed in 1540. When, however, the hereditary jurisdictions were abolished in 1747, the Earl of Airlie received £800 in compensation for the loss of that office. The Ogilvies also bccame Hereditary Porters of tho Abbey, by charters still preserved in Cortachy Castle. Abbot John, about 1500, gave John Porter the office, with the use of a chamber near the gate, a monk’s portion from the cellar, a dwelling-house at Batechel, then inhabited by him, six acres of land free from all “garbal teinds,” grass for seven cows and two horses. This hereditary office was partly commuted in 1563, when the Monastery was secularised. In 1589 a contract was entered into between William Ogilvy of Easter Keilour and John Faryar, “principal porter of the utir yet of the Abbey of Cupar in Angus,” disposing of all his rights and allowances for the sum of £400 Scots. In 1609 Archibald Ogilvy sold these to James, Lord Ogilvy; the instrument of sasine mentioning that the privileges of the hereditary office included “ a small cell or chamber within the outer gate of the Abbey, and monk’s portion of food, now paid in the form of an annual pension of fifty-five merks; and of a mansion, with garden, in the town of Kethik, and six acres of land in the burgh of barony thereof.”

Gradually has the fine Abbey of Cupar been allowed to fall into ruins. For three centuries it stood in all its glory and dignity; then the original structure began to decay. The ruthless hands of the reformers terribly disfigured it, and demolished its finest parts. At the establishment of the temporal lordship all except the residence was left uncared for; even that was rudely destroyed by the anti-covenanting Irish soldiers; till, in 1682, it is described as “nothing but rubbish.” Thus two centuries ago we can imagine the informer, Ochterlony of Guynde, in looking on the ruins of the once majestic Abbey, saying, in the words elsewhere written about Netley Abbey :—

"I saw thee, Cupar, as the sun
Across the stern wave
Was sinking slow,
And a golden glow
To thy roofless towers he gave;
And the ivy sheen,
With its mantle of green
That wrapt thy walls around,
Shone lovely bright,
In that glorious light,
And I felt ’twas holy ground.
Then I thought of the ancient time,
The days of the monks of old,
When to matin and vesper and compline chime,
The loud Hosanna roll’d,
And thy courts, and ‘long-drawn aisles’ am on?,
Swell’d the full tide of sacred song.”

Now, alas! little remains to toll the once revered tale. Many years ago the ruins were made a quarry, out of which several houses and garden-walls were built. The Parish Church and Churchyard now occupy part of its site. Still hallowed, therefore, are the associations of the worshippers there ; and through the twilight of the autumnal years of the religious history of that spot, how sweet can yet be made to us the back-look on the youth-world of the Christian faith ! A few remains are still to be seen preserved in the church. These are three sarcophagi hewn out of single stones, found near the high altar. A large red sandstone tablet, bearing the rudely-incised effigy of a priest, tells of the death of a monk of Cupar in 1450. Another tablet, bearing a plain Calvary Cross, raised on steps, with the cup and wafer at the base, is the tombstone of Archibald Macvicar, who died in 1548. In the vestibule of the church is the mutilated stone figure of a warrior, represented in mail armour, corresponding in style to that of the effigies of the fifteenth century. There are also preserved two tablets or stone panels, resembling chimney-pieces, each representing three erect male figures cut in bold relief, presenting very curious features, both in costume and attitude. Among the Errol Papers is included the “Copy of the Tabill quhilk ves at Cowper of al the Erles of Errol, quhilk ves buryd in the Abbey Kirk thair,” from 1346 downwards.

Such then is as accurate an account, as can be well given in short notices, of the Abbey of Cupar. We have had to wade through a mass of matter to pick out what was authentic and interesting. But it is hoped that these notices have been instructive and entertaining to our readers, giving a present historical reality to the religious development of the dwellers in Strathmore, showing that “through the ages one increasing purpose” is running, beauty growing out of decay, and the thoughts of men widening with the process of the suns. Gone are these old monks who trod the sacred courts of the Abbey in the dark ages, gleams of light in the darkness all around ; but not gone is their work! To-day men are benefiting by their labours. The farms for miles around it show the character of the early tillage, and the care in producing from the soil only what common sense and the spirit of a commonwealth require—the greatest good to the greatest number of men. Even a hundred years ago, we read in the Statistical Account of Scotland of the high character of the people of the district, from their hereditary training. “They were sober, frugal, and industrious; hospitable and obliging to strangers, and charitable to the poor; in their dealings, open, unsuspecting, and sincere.” It was not from their high wages, but from strict economy and religious integrity, that this character could be sustained ; for we find that a ploughman’s wages were then £9 a year, a female servant’s £2 10s., a mason s wages 1s. 2d. a day, a tailor's 8d., a man's hire for the harvest 22s., a woman’s 15s. May that character for integrity and economy and charity long continue to prevail among the working-classes of our country! Long may they be in idly and meanly succumbing, after a mis-spent life, to the “Insurance Society” of Scotland's weakest act of Parliament— the Poor Law’s pittance I The monks of old taught st: let economy, dignified honest labour, and carried their religion into all their life’s duties. In the advance of thought and experience, we ought not to judge of them with too high airs of superiority, for they did their duty; and reap the fruit of their work. Every system has its day— national life has changing phases like individuals. Yet such a work as these monks inaugurated established a national personality which has still a commanding influence. May that influence be never weakened by our work! May we be grateful to the sovereigns and nobles who, in a semi-heathen age, saw before their times, and endowed the training places for future good to the nation, and to those early religious educators who unselfishly and judiciously moulded the nation’s mind!

Politically, morally, mentally, even spiritually at times there can be no rest for man. “Onwards” is the watch-word, “Excelsior” is the motto. The whole work has been moving, and continues to move, to that far-off Divine event, about which the Abbots of Cupar tried hard to teach those around them:—“the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World.” And woe betide those who stand in the way of the march of true progress!

‘‘For we are a stage too—not the end;
Others will come yet our work to mend,
And they too will wonder at our poor ways.
But 'tis God who guides the world’s affairs,
And over it rises by winding stairs,
Screwing its way to the bettor days.”

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus