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Researches into the History of Tain



OUR Burgh has been unfortunate in the loss of charters, infeftments, and records; so that its great antiquity has been doubted, and its privileges questioned and assailed recently to its great injury. It may not be useless therefore to enumerate somewhat particularly the existing proofs of the antiquity of its. municipal and royal rights, beginning in the reign of James VI. and ascending in the inverse order of time.

1. King James VI. granted two charters of "Novodamus and Confirmation" to the burgh of Tam, both extant. The latter, in 1612, was given apparently for the purpose of specifying more exactly the property of the burgh; but I content myself with an appeal to the earlier (10th January, 1587), translating the important preamble at full length:-" James, &c. : We understanding that our burgh of Tayne, lying within our county of Ross and our sheriffdom of Innerness, was by our most noble ancestors of good memory erected and constituted from ancient time with all and each of the liberties, privileges, courts, markets, and other immunities appertaining to our free royal burghs; and that although the infeftments and charters of these things were by cettain savages and rebellious subjects of Ireland (as they are clearly evidenced to us) cruelly consumed by fire, as is contained in authentic testimonies produced before us, nevertheless the provost, bailies, councillors, burgesses, and inhabitants of the said burgh, have in times long past observed and retained their ancient liberty of our free burghs, being enrolled within the rolls of our free burghs, by observing on their part the conventions of our Parliaments, the general conventions of our Estates, the annual conventions of the free burghs of our kingdom, and by paying and sustaining along with the other burgesses of our burghs their share of taxations, and of burdens with the other burgesses of our kingdom: Therefore," &c. Then follow the clauses of renewal and confirmation of all the property, privileges, and power of the burgh and its magistrates, "to be used and exercised as if the infeftments of our said burgh had not been destroyed and burnt."

2. This explicit royal testimony to the immemorial ,standing of Pain as a royal burgh is legally enough. Yet, observing that in earlier documents it is generally styled a town or immunity, rather than burgh, we have sought for an explanation of this fact. We find it in two considerations:—first, that other places, undeniably holding the rank of burghs (e.g., Inverness), were also sometimes called merely tow-us, even in Acts of Parliament; and -second, that the distinguishing and outstanding character of Tam, as the ecclesiastical girth and town of St Duthach, under which it was so famous before the Reformation, overshadowed its less peculiar, but not therefore less real, character as a royal town or burgh. Nevertheless, we do find it occasionally designated, even in previous reigns, as a "burgh;" its bailies also are mentioned,—and both in private deeds and in-official documents its inhabitants are styled burgesses—e.g., in a decree of the Lords Auditors, in 1494, Stephen Raithsone is styled a burgess of Thane while in another decree, dated in the same year, mention is made of "the freedom of the burgh of Tain." There are no extant documents in which to look for much older documentary instances of this designation; for the whole charters of the town were burnt in 1427. But

3. The Inquisition of 1439, of which an ancient notarial copy is still extant in Inverness (probably the same that was lodged in answer to the Inverness men's omplaints against the people of Tam), testifies not only to the ecclesiastical sanctity of the town, but very explicitly to its privileges as a royal immunity, traced back through Robert III., Robert II., and David II. to its foundation by Malcolm Canmore—a testimony all the more important because of the presence in the jury (among the notables of the country) of several burgesses of Inverness, whom we cannot suppose to have been inclined to exaggerate, or to admit without good evidence, the high royal antiquity of a town of whose privileges they were jealous. Tain is not, indeed, in this document entitled a burgh, but an immunity, probably because its rights as an immunity were alone palpably threatened; but since its privileges as a burgh are attested in the charter of James VI. to have been granted by his ancestors—and that monarch mentions no charter at all except those which had been burnt in the reign of James I., in 1427—we are necessarily driven back to those burnt charters for the foundation and origin which we seek. And there is no reason whatever, and no manifest cause but historical scepticism, to lead any one to question the truth of the jury's declaration, that the royal privileges of the town, recorded in those lost charters, ascended to the famous Malcolm. For even if he was too illiterate, as some think, to have granted a written charter (though it is difficult to see what literature was requisite for that more than for founding the bishopric of Mortlach in these northern parts, as we know he did), there may, after the fashion of primitive times, have been a solemn and public unwritten act of royal constitution. But that such an act, whether written or unwritten, really took place (as the Inquisition of 1427 8tates), I not only see no reason to doubt, but its truth is confirmed by such facts as the following, viz. :-

4. In Acts of the Scottish Parliament in which the towns of Ross-shire are named—e.g., in one of James TV., in 1503, as also in another in 1509, which create Ross into a separate sheriffdom, and name Thane and Dingwall as the towns where the sheriff is to hold courts, Thane has precedence of Dingwall (just as, in other Acts, Inverness has of both); nor am I aware of any old Act of Parliament in which this order of precedence is reversed. But Dingwall dates its constitution as a royal burgh from Alexander U., in 1227; so that the royal constitution of Pain, as I infer, must have been still older. Even this brings us to a time considerably earlier than the earliest of the kings stated in the Inquisition to have confirmed the privileges of Tain, and to within a little more than a hundred years after the time of Malcolm Canmore, by whom it states the privileges to have been first granted.

Fifthly, and lastly, The facts brought out in this essay as to the contemporaneousness of Malcolm with the saint whose name our town bears in Gaelic, as to Malcolm's having come to this province for the purpose of establishing his own authority, and as to the part that had been taken by Munro of Foulis and his followers on Malcolm's side against Macbeth -all, taken together furnish, I think, such an easy and consistent historical explanation of the origines of this town, and so unite in pointing to Malcolm's time, as strongly to confirm the finding of the Inquisition.

On the following conjecture no stress is now laid; but it is thrown out for future inquiry, since, should it prove well founded, it would furnish a curious confirmation both of this Note and of Note II. In Torftnus's "History of the Orkneys," as also in the "Orkneyinga Saga," mention is made several times of a town or market-town (oppidvsn, emporium, kaupstadr) in Scotland, called Dufeyra or Dufeyras, which was more than once visited by the Norsemen in the first half of the twelfth century, on their way from Orkney to Atholl, but whose exact position their unintelligible and apparently contradictory geographical notices render it very difficult to determine. All that seems certain is, that it was on the southern shore of some sea between Caithness and Aberdeenshire. It has by some been supposed to be Banff, as situated at the mouth of the Deverorv; by others to be Burghead, in the parish of Duffus, in Moray. But as it is mentioned in apparent connection with Ekialsbakke (Oykebank, Strathoykle, the banks or valley of the river Oykle, and of the Dornoch Firth, between Ross and Sutherland), it may rather be Dufey-Ras, or Dufey-Ros; that is, Dubhthacb, Dutho, or Duffy of Ross—a frequent appellation, as we know, for Tain in ancient times. If so, this not only confirms Dr Roeves's date for St Dathach, but also shows the antiquity of Tam, as a town already belonging, in the first half of the twelfth century, to the kingdom of Scotland.



DR Reeves's quotation, in his edition of the "Life of St Columba," of the important statement from the Irish annals which seems to throw so much new light on the history of St Duthach and of St Duthach's town, is as follows,:—A.D. 1065. Albanach pracipuus confessarius Hibernia et Alban, in Ardmacha quievit—ix., "Dubhthach of Albin (Scotland), the chief confessor of Ireland and Albin, died in Armagh, in the year 1065." See also M'Lauchlan's "Early Ecclesiastical History of Scotland."

The inference that this Scottish Dubhthach of the eleventh century was the same with Duthach of Tam, is based not merely on the identity of the names (every one even slightly acquainted with Gaelic orthography, and with the dialectical varieties of pronunciation, sees that identity at a glance), but on the following additional considerations—viz., 1. On the improbability that there were two Scottish saints of that name in the middle ages, both famous throughout their native land, both having an intimate connection with Ireland and visiting it for religious purposes, and both characterized by the same distinctive appellation of confessor; 2. On the fact noted by Dr Reeves, that the Irish date is alone consistent with the circumstance mentioned even in the Scottish legends respecting Duthach of Tain, "that in early life, moved by 'divine grace, he crossed the channel to Ireland, and there learned most accurately the laws and precepts of the Old and New Testaments"—a circumstance, says Dr Reeves, which "would harmonise with Ireland's history in the eleventh century, and even until 1169, but which is hardly .consistent with the state of the country circ. 1220;" and 3. On the consideration that the Irish date alone is connistent with the early history of Tam: synchronising exactly with the date assigned to the privileges of our town in our oldest documents, it explains those peculiar privileges; and it accounts for the fact that the name Baile Dhuthaich, and it alone, has been given by the Gaelic population to our town from immemorial time.

But lest the opinion that used to place St Duthach in the thirteenth century should stand in the way, I observe regarding it, that that opinion is not only founded on very inadequate evidence, but involves self-contradiction, and is inconsistent with other historical facts.

In the first place, the authority for it is utterly inadequate. The only Scottish author who assigns an exact date for St Duthach, placing his death about 1253, is a man who wrote about 400 years later, Camerarius; while Leslie, who wrote in 1578, only says more generally that Duthach was the instructor of St Gilbert, who is known to have held high offices in the Church, as archdeacon of Moray and as bishop of Caithness, from 1203 to 1245. These two authorities are evidently far too late to be trustworthy, especially as there is not a shred of confirmatory evidence of any kind: for St Duthach's name is not found in any way connected with the history of the thirteenth century; neither does it occur in any contemporary record or charter or document whatsoever. This argument has more than negative force; for had a man of such celebrity held a high office in the Church in that century of charters and records, or even lived in it at all, it is hardly credible that this should have been so. Of his alleged pupil St Gilbert of Dornoch, there are many authentic records; even Robert, bishop of Ross, the assumed predecessor of Duthach, as )so his assumed successor, a second (1) Robert, we find in contemporary documents, besides a large number of the contemporary clergy of the two dioceses of Ross and Moray, including Brydin, vicar of Tam; but of the famous Duthach himself not a. trace! But, in the second place, it seems hardly possible to harmonise the authorities for the opinion, either with one another or with historical facts.. Camerarius tells us that St Duthach, who died, according to him, about 1253 (earlier rather than later), was the intimate and revered friend of King Alexander m., who used to receive the eucharist at his hands. But if so, the saint can hardly have died so early as 1253, for in that year Alexander was only eleven years of age. Yet, on the other hand, it is affirmed that St Gilbert, who was archdeacon of Moray so early as 1203, and who probably therefore was in holy orders considerably earlier, had been St Duthach's pupil—a statement not reconcilable with the former, except by assigning to Duthach a long episcopate, or at least public celebrity as a religious teacher, of upwards of fifty years, occupying at least the whole of the first half of the thirteenth century. But unfortunately for such a theory, contemporary evidence, as we have seen, proves that the name of the bishop of Ross in 1227—in the very middle of the period—was Robert; and that at that time the vicar of Tain was one Brydin: so that Duthach cannot at that date have been either the bishop of Ross or vicar of Tam. Thus between King Alexander, Bishop Robert, the Vicar Brydin, and Bishop Gilbert, St Duthach is tossed backwards and forwards in the thirteenth century, until it becomes hard to find room for him within it at all.

But if we simply identify Dubhthach with Duthach, as we have seen there are such strong positive reasons for doing, and at the same time retain Camerarius's date for St Duthach's translation (say 19th June, 1253), the origin of these unhistorical and contradictory statements is so easily explained that we need no longer trouble ourselves to reconcile them. It is easy to see how Camerarius (or his authority) would infer that the date of the saint's translation, for which he may have had documentary evidence, was also about the year of his death, which might therefore fall within the first years of the reign of Alexander; how he inferred, further, in forgetfulness of Alexander's extreme youth (and misled possibly by some tradition or record of that king's having in his three months' annual residence in the north come sometimes to St Duthach's shrine), that the saint had been the king's personal friend; while again, since St Duthach was thus made partially contemporary with Bishop Gilbert of Dornoch, and was, moreover, said to have performed a miracle at Dornoch, it was inferred by others that Gilbert must have sat at the holy man's feet (though consistency as to dates would rather make him to have Bat at St Gilbert's). So easily might the mythic history grow out of a single mistake.

But, though not in the thirteenth century, may he not have been Bishop of Ross, as both Leslie and Camerarius say—or at least a Bishop, as Tulloch and the Aberdeen Breviary indefinitely designate him? Not Bishop of Ross, if the Irish date is correct, for that bishopric was not founded until the twelfth century; besides that, an apparently complete series of the bishops of that diocese from its foundation can be made out from their own signatures, or from contemporary documents in which they are named—in which series no Duthach is found. Nor yet probably was he a prelatic bishop at all; for it does not appear that he is so designated in ordinary legal documents. He is generally styled simply "Confessor," without the "Bishop." So we find him designated, for example, in a legal document—a charter executed in his own town of Tain on the 16th May, 1486, earlier, therefore, than the earliest of those legendary writings—by Sir Thomas Monelaw, who is there designated perpetuus vcariiis villce on convfessoris beati Duthaci de Tayne. This must be assumed to be a specimen of the regular legal style, in the absence of any instances to the contrary; nor is there reason to regard the designation of bishop as more than a conjecture of the legendary writers, anxious to glorify the saint to the utmost by investing him with the highest ecclesiastical rank.

The title confessarim given to Dubhthach Albanach in the Irish annals, seems to be equivalent to confessor, by which Duthach is described in Scottish official documents. In the middle ages it was certainly used, like confessor, to denote sometimes one who hears confessions, sometimes one who makes confession. The expression "chief confessor of Ireland and Scotland," conjoined with Duthach's reputation as a pious man and learned teacher of Christianity, seems to me hardly to admit of any less important interpretation than that given to it in these researches.



BY a new interpretation of the Royal Treasurer's entry of October 22nd, 1504 (quoted at p. 47), it has been lately maintained that King James IV. was born in St Duthach's Chapel at Tain. The true interpretation of the Treasurer's words seems to me, as it seemed to the late learned and accurate Dr Laing, to be, that ST DIJTHACR was born on the site of the chapel afterwards built to commemorate the spot distinguished by that event And on more general grounds it seems highly improbable that, if the heir to the Scottish throne was born in the far North, when his royal father was in the South, engaged in State affairs, the singular circumstance should have escaped the notice of all historians. Besides, St Duthach's chapel had been many years in ruins at the time of James IV.'s birth ;—was he born in the open air, like a gipsy's child, and that in the month of March? It is recorded that intelligence of the birth of a beautiful boy, the heir to the throne, was brought to the king by a lady: natural enough; but if the event took place in Tam, were there no officials in the North to undertake the mission? or did they all allow themselves to be outstripped in speed by a woman? Let who will believe all these improbabilities.

In another part of this work will be found a woodcut of the ruins of "Sanct Duchois Chapel, quhair he was.



THE architecture of this Church, which is mostly in the decorated English Gothic style, is in accordance with the general character of churches of the fourteenth century, from which it dates. Its windows must always have constituted its chief beauty. During the eighteenth, and the early part of this nineteenth century, when architectural taste had fallen to the lowest point in Scotland, the building suffered mutilation after mutilation, and, being finally left uncared for, sustained every wanton injury at the hands of boys. But when attention was once fairly called to its condition, some of the inhabitants and natives of Tain began to feel the unseemliness of such a state of matters. This was not from any superstitious attribution of sanctity to the building—indeed, in far as it had been originally Romish, the feeling of evangelical Protestants was the opposite. Yet the traditions of several generations, and the personal recollections of some who had themselves worshipped in it, invested it with very hallowed associations - of a kind analogous to those which one connects with a beloved father's or mother's grave, which it would be felt unnatural to allow to be uncared for, and to be overgrown with noisome weeds. So it is remarkable that when once attention was called by the remarks of strangers to the discreditable condition of the old church and its precincts, the desire for its preservation and restoration, and the chief effective efforts for these ends, were due mainly to Presbyterian evangelical feeling; natives of the town, some of them resident in it, others living elsewhere, began to care for the place where they themselves, or their fathers, had listened to the pure Gospel of the grace of God, and had drunk in the words of eternal life. The first movement in this direction was made by the late Provost John Macleod, who took the practical step of collecting a sufficient sum to clear out the church and its precincts from the accumulated rubbish of years, and also to restore in the first instance the roof and buttresses of the building, so as to preserve it from further dilapidation. Thereafter the east window, which had suffered more barbarous treatment from adult tastelessness and boyish wantonness than any other part of the church, was restored, after the exact original plan, by Mr A. B. Macqueen Mackintosh, son of Dr Angus Mackintosh, the last and one of the most eminent of the ministers who had ministered within the Church; the other windows were similarly restored by other natives and residents of Tam; the floor was subsequently paved with flagstones; the Regent Murray's oaken pulpit was likewise restored and finally the restored windows were filled in with stained glass, beautifully designed and executed by the Messrs Ballantyne of Edinburgh (who have kindly enabled me to give the following technically accurate descriptions of them).

The east window is greatly admired for its lofty proportions and rich tracery. There are five main compartments above 15 feet in height, and these are filled with stained glass of elaborately foliated design, showing the pine, rose, lily, pomegranate, and apple, interwoven -with appropriate central Scriptural passages. The whole window glows with beautifully blended colour, wrought in rich mosaic manner. It shows to most advantage when seen in the morning by the light of an eastern sun. The traoery extends to 25 feet above the sill of the window, and is filled with the same rich glass surrounding a. centre-piece of the open Bible. Underneath is inscribed:-" In loving memory of Angus Mackintosh and his son Charles Calder Mackintosh, Ministers of Tain, 1797-1858 and upon gold mosaic, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." The window is the gift of Mr and Mrs Macqueen Mackintosh of Hardington.

II. The west window is of similarly lofty and graceful proportions; it is subdivided into four main compartments, with tracery above. The design of the stained glass is of an historical character, suggested by the donor, Mr George Macleod, by whom the stonework had been previously restored; and may best be described by the inscription of the window, as follows:-"his Church was first used for the Reformed Worship when the Scottish Parliament of 1560 adopted the Confession of Faith drawn up by John Knox and his associates—Robert More Munro, 17th Baron of Fowlis, and Nicholas Ross, Provost of Tain, and Abbot of Fearn, being the members present from Ross-shire. The building continued to be used as the Parish Church until 1815, and was afterwards left unprotected and ruinous for upwards of forty years, when its restoration by public subscription was undertaken and conducted until 1877' by John Macleod, Provost of Tam. In continuation of his efforts and to his memory this window has been placed by his son George Macleod. 1882." John Knox and the Reformers are seen confronting the nobles and prelates of the Scottish Parliament. The varied costumes, with characteristic heads, quaint interior, &c., form altogether a most effective and interesting historical work, in which the religious and civil, the national and local, are happily combined.

III. Next the south door is the window "Erected by Hugh Law Rose, Esq. of Tarlogie, and his relatives, 1877." There are three of the earlier scriptural subjects from the life of Christ—the Angels' Announcement to the Shepherds, the Nativity, and the Presentation. The donor of this window is a great-grandson of one of the ministers of Tain.

IV. In the centre of south side is the window restored by the late Sheriff Taylor, and filled in with stained glass by friends desirous to commemorate his public and private worth. There are four compartments, containing together the subject from Acts xiii. 12, representing Sergius Paulus earnestly listening to the discourse of Paul, the dawning light of Faith seen on his countenance. The window is thus inscribed—

To the honoured memory of Harry Munro Taylor, Sheriff Substitute of Ross, Cromarty, and Sutherland. Born at Tain, 2nd February, 1811; died at Tain, 9th December, 1876. He did justly, loved mercy, and walked humbly with )is God."

V. The remaining window upon the south side was restored by the late Kenneth Murray, Esq. of Geanies, Provost of Tam, and has been filled in with stained glass to his memory, and to that of other members of the Murray family intimately connected with Tam. The window is composed of three compartments arching into small trefoil and quatrefoil tracery. The design is historical, and shows King Malcolm Canmore with his devout Queen Margaret conferring Royal Charter on the ancient dignitaries and inhabitants of Tam; St Duthach (represented with book and pastoral staff, as in the Burgh Arms) being shown in the left compartment, near the King. The inscription is "In memory of William Murray of Westfield and Rosemount, Provost of Tam, died 1836; William Murray of Geanies, elder son, died 1837; George Murray of Rosemount, younger son, Provost of Tam, died 1848; William Hugh Murray of Geanies, grandson, Provost of Tam, died 1867; Kenneth Murray of Geanies, grandson, Provost of Tam, died 1876"

VI. Upon the north side of the Church are three separate small windows, one of which has been filled in with an illustration of the Parable of the Talents, and is inscribed—"Katherine and William Clark, born in Tain, died in Canada. Erected by their brothers Angus and James Clark, Toronto."

These restorations and adornments have all been executed on an understanding with the heritors of the parish—many of them, indeed, on the faith of an express resolution formally passed by the heritors—to the effect that the building should be devoted, in time coming, to monumental purposes, with the view of making it (I quota the expression used by the promoters of the object) "the Valhalla of Ross-shire." A brass tablet below the west window records this destination. Several private monuments had already existed within the Church, and a happy commencement of its employment for more public and truly historic monumental purposes has been made by the recent erection in it, by public subscription, of a double monument, in memory of Patrick Hamilton, the Martyr Abbot of Foam, and of Thomas Hog, the covenanting minister of Kiltearn, one of Tam's most honoured sons. It is placed just beneath the east window, and beautifully completes that end of the Church. The design is Gothic of the sixteenth century; the length is 16 feet, and the height 7½ feet. At the sides the pilasters are ornamented with Gothic panels; beside the pilasters are octagon columns with capitals of natural foliage. The top is finished with cusping in crochets. The base is hung into the wall, and is supported by three corbels. The design was furnished by Mr T. W. Small, architect, Edinburgh, and the work executed and the monument erected by Mr Robert Thomson, sculptor, Edinburgh. In the left panel, carved in a large white marble slab, is this following: -"Patrick Hamilton, the youthful Abbot of the Monastery of Fearn, near Tam: of noble extraction, and allied to Royalty, learned and full of faith, he was the first preacher of the Reformation in Scotland, and the first to seal its doctrine by a martyr's death, being burned at the stake in St Andrews, 28th February, 1528. 'His reek,' it was said, 'infected as many as it did blow upon.' His principles quickly spread over Scotland, their influence was felt in the neighbourhood of his Monastery, and was early and decidedly manifested within these walls, where this tablet is erected to his memory." In the right panel, on a similar slab, is the following :-" Thomas Hog, that great and almost apostolical servant of Christ, was born at Tam, A .D. 1628; became minister of Kiltearn in 1658; was ejected thence for loyalty to Christ's Crown and Covenant in 1662: wandering, intercommuned, imprisoned, exiled, he ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ—by his holy life and doctrine winning many souls for his Lord. In exile he won the friendship of King William III., then Prince of Orange, who consulted him on Scottish affairs. Restored to his parish in 1690, he died there in 1692. This tablet is erected to his memory within the walls where in youth he worshipped."

Altogether, St Duthus Church may be regarded as a most interesting and now very beautiful historical building.

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