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

Researches into the History of Tain
Chapter 1 - The Earlier History

IN compliance with the suggestion of one or two friends, I have undertaken to put together a few jottings on a subject which they have deemed likely to interest the people of Tain,—the old history of our parish and burgh. Seeing no reason why my fellow-townsmen should be ashamed of this local sentiment, I am not unwilling to show that I largely share in it. A feeling of special attachment to that spot of earth which is the place of our birth, the home of our childhood, the scene of our tenderest and most hallowed memories, is what no man surely need blush to own. It cannot with justice be called an undignified or petty affection. If at times it may be found conjoined with what is undignified, when men of narrow minds or of very limited information exaggerate the importance of their own town and of its little community, in comparison with every other place in the wide world, yet in itself it is neither a contemptible nor necessarily a narrow feeling. In kind, if not in largeness of object, it is the very same with that patriotism or love of country which most men would deem it an insult to be supposed to want; and it is just the man who loves his native town, who feels an intelligent interest in its history, and who is ready to do what in him lies to promote its welfare, that is most likely to show himself a true lover of his native land, and, should occasion call for it, to sacrifice his selfish interests for the public good. Even to this we may apply the maxim of our divine Lord, that "he who is faithful in that which is least, will be faithful also in much;" and we may safely aver that the man who is destitute of proper feelings towards his own little town, and who neglects his duty towards it, is not very likely to prove himself a sincere patriot, worthy to be intrusted with the larger interests of his country. I am not ashamed, therefore, to avow it as one of my principal objects in this lecture to foster in our minds—not a narrow, but—an intelligent affection for the place in which God has cast our lot; and for this purpose to ask you to look back with me into the past, to see whether that will disclose anything more interesting regarding our town, than is to be seen by merely walking from day to day through the mud or dust of its streets. The extant memorials indeed of our local history are sadly few and fragmentary. It is only here and there that the cloud of oblivion, which conceals the centuries of the past, parts for a moment to allow some broken rays of light to struggle dimly through, enabling us to catch but occasional glimpses of the. Tain of former days; but some of those glimpses are to my mind very suggestive, occasionally possessing an interest that, unless partiality misleads me, is more than local, and that makes it matter of regret that they are so few and so far between. Their scantiness and incompleteness, are such indeed as to provoke rather than gratify curiosity; yet there is enough to enable us without shame, perhaps even with some degree of pride, to avow ourselves citizens of the ancient and by no means undistinguished little burgh of Tam. Nor will these our inquiries into her past history be useless, if they excite a livelier interest in her future welfare; and if, prompting a warrantable ambition in her behalf, and a desire to see her exert an influence for good wherever her sons and daughters may go in after life, they stimulate persons of public spirit among us to devise means for promoting her material, intellectual, moral, and religious improvement.

Let me try, then, to piece together as I best can— or, if the fragmentary nature of the materials will hardly permit this, at least to string loosely together on an historical thread—such noticeable facts as I am acquainted with regarding our burgh and parish in the days of old. Beginning, as we must, in the dim morning twilight of Scottish history, our first data are necessarily mingled with speculation and conjecture. But this is incident to the commencement of all histories; and I can only promise, while picking up even obscure references to this place wherever I can find them, to do my best to discriminate truth from fiction.

The town of Tain can be shown, with a considerable approach to historical certainty, to have existed now for a period of at least 800 years; and its first beginnings may have been a good deal earlier. It requires an effort both of reason and imagination 'to, realize those days of old. We seem, when we endeavour to do so, to be peering into a world of shadows; instead of looking on our own very world, shone upon by our own sun, and peopled with living men and women of the same flesh and blood with ourselves. Nevertheless let us try to form a conception of the past. And to give vivacity to that conception, you will perhaps indulge me for a little, if I ask you to accompany me in fancy to those distant times, across the breadth of a millennium, for the purpose of conjecturing the probable appearance of the scene around us, ere our town began to be built Suppose yourselves standing where you now are; but let imagination surround you with the circumstances of that ancient time by picturing the view as it would present itself if this house and all the buildings on every side of you were by some magician's wand swept wholly away, leaving you, under the sunshine of one of those ancient days, with luxuriant nature alone. What do you behold? Above you the ancient hill, for which we have now no distinctive name, but which our forefathers called Bengarrick, sloping gradually upwards as it still does, but then under its native covering of heather, whin, greensward, and wood, not yet disturbed by the farmer's plough or the woodman's axe. At your feet, looking downwards, you see that the gentle slope of the hill is not continued, as it possibly was in some old geologic era, to the very shore, but passes, by a sudden change, into a much steeper bank, that extends itself far eastwards and westwards, so as with long curved arms to embrace the lower plain of the Blar-leath, Links, and Fendom between it and the sea. This terrace-bank is not quite uniform: you can observe that on both sides of the place where you now stand, on your right hand and on your left, it has been deeply and widely cut in, grooved and scooped away by two winter burns, whose .channels mark off this intermediate portion of the bank into a separate bluff or promontory (if we may venture so to call it) formed to be the acropolis of the future burgh of Tam. The younger portion of my audience will hardly be able to conceive so well as the older, in whose youth fewer changes had taken place, what must have been the original sweetness and beauty of the spot, before these channels had been either bridged, levelled, built over, or in any way defaced by man; while tall forest-trees yet rose from their verdant sides; while the face also of the bank was as yet clothed with trees and shrubs, not only between the burns but beyond them, eastwards and westwards as far as the eye could reach, on to and past the lovely brass of the Little Wood on the one hand, and the lower brass that on the other overhung the shrubby ranges of the Blar-leath.

But now look seawards. Many here are old enough to have observed, and the venerable survivors of a still older generation are even better aware of the fact, that the plain on which our town looks down has suffered great changes within the memory of man. The tide which daily ebbs and flows upon our shores is annually washing away the sandy banks against which it beats, so that a considerable breadth of land has been entirely removed. This process has taken place, more or less rapidly, along the whole coast from the Morrich-mör to the Plaids, and then on this side the river along the Links and the seaward banks of the Blar-leath. Some here will distinctly remember when the Links in particular extended seawards many feet beyond their present line, and when a pretty high sandy hill, now no more, formed the eastern boundary of the Blar-leath. A number of small green islets were at low water seen within the water-mark, which have wholly disappeared. A process of wasting, or, as geologists call it, denudation, is beyond all question going on. By what cause this is produced I must not at present stop to speculate; but one thing is evident, that if it shall continue unchecked for a sufficiently long period of time, it must at length carry away the whole lands of the Blar-leath, Links, and Fendom, leaving to view at ebb-tide nothing but a wide reach of yellow sand, to be overflowed twice a-day by the blue sea, that will then beat at the base, perhaps high up the sides, of the long clayey bank on which we stand. So we are compelled to reason in looking forwards. But with the additional light of tradition we can reason with even greater certainty in the opposite direction—namely, that if the process of encroachment which we have witnessed from childhood, and which our fathers tell us they too have witnessed from their childhood, had already begun and was going on in the days of our grandfathers, of our great-grandfathers, and of still older generations, then the land must have once extended very far indeed beyond its present boundary out towards the middle of the Firth. It is an interesting question, how far. On the supposition that the encroachment of the sea has been taking place for a thousand years, and on the additional supposition (which, however, I consider to be a more doubtful one) that during the whole of that period it has done SO at the rapid rate which our older inhabitants tell us they have observed, then it becomes a matter of simple arithmetical calculation that at the date when this town was founded, the plain below must have extended a mile, two miles, or even farther, towards—perhaps quite on to—the river-channel of the Firth. I am informed that a similar process of encroachment has been going on also on the opposite coast of Sutherland. Now, there is a curious tradition still extant among natives of the Fendom (it would be worth while ascertaining whether it is likewise current about Dornoch) that long ago the Firth was so limited in breadth by the land on both sides, that at one place—was it at the Gizzen Briggs?—it could be, and sometimes actually was, bridged at low water by a plank thrown across; or, according to a more picturesque form of the same tradition, that a man, mounting into the branches of an overhanging tree on the Ross-shire bank, was able to hand over a parcel, tied to the end of a long stick, to a person who had waded out from the opposite shore to receive it. Without committing ourselves to the implicit belief of this tradition, the very fact of its existence is remarkable; and I, for one, with the wondrous facts and deductions of geology before me, am by no means disposed to dismiss it as an utter incredibility. Even on the supposition that it originated in the imagination of some inhabitant of the Fendom, who was shrewd enough to speculate on the phenomena which he witnessed, and whose guess was,, in the course of trans- mission from mouth to mouth, invested with the form of a testimony from previous generations; yet the circumstance that the inference or guess was thus accepted by the neighbourhood as a fact proves at the very least that it was fact-like, and that in those olden days the Firth must have been sufficiently narrow, and the process of encroachment sufficiently evident to the eyes of men, to make the idea a natural one that it had once been a mere river that could be spanned by a bridge or tree—so natural that when it had suggested itself to an ingenious mind, it was easily received into the belief of plain unspeculative men.

The extensive plain which thus stretched out far seawards, as well as eastwards and westwards, was, I think, also greener, more fertile, and better wooded than it is now. Within the memory of even recent tradition, confirmed by legal documents, there were cultivated farms and pasture-lands in the neighbourhood of the dreary Morrich-mör, which have been since in part swept away by the sea, and in part overblown by the drifting sand (tradition says in a single night), and converted into that dismal reach of barren downs on which no eye loves to dwell. Where the tide is now advancing over treeless farms, the stems of some great oaks have within the memory of many of us been exposed and disinterred. This fact, indeed, might be explained without supposing them to have grown upon the spot; but I have been assured on respectable authority that, even so late as the days of our great-grandfathers, one of these oaks was still rooted in the deep soil below the sand, and sprouted and bore leaves from year to year above the flowing tide that washed its trunk; so that there is some reason to think that the now monotonous plain was in old ancestral days covered by a noble forest.

Thus, on the whole, there is little difficulty in conceiving that both the site of the town and the immediately surrounding neighbourhood were pleasant and attractive. Even still, though our old trees have fallen everywhere around us by the feller's axe; and though the sea has robbed us of many an acre that once stretched in greenness along the shore; and though the hand of cultivation, not always controlled by good taste, has despoiled our wooded brass of their crown of beauty; and though the sea-sand, following hard upon the steps of man, has converted most of the low plain into an and waste;—even still, the blue Firth, with the noble background of the hills of Sutherland, is beautiful exceedingly; and the site of our town itself, looking up to it from the plain below, is picturesquely sweet. At that time I do not wonder that it attracted the corner's eye, nor that he pitched on this particular spot—this terrace-brow between the wooded burns—to be the site of a strong castle of defence, or of a central court of law, or of a conspicuous church, whichever it may have suited his purpose first to build.

But by whom was our town founded? The oldest race that within historic times has been settled in Scotland was the Celtic, of whom there were at least three separate families, speaking kindred but not identical languages—namely, the Kymric or Welsh, who, in Scotland, chiefly occupied Clydesdale and the south-west; the Pictish, who inhabited the fertile districts along the east coast, including Easter Ross;. and the Gaelic, who, originally immigrating from Ireland, had spread themselves over the Western Islands and the Highlands strictly so called, and pouring down upon these eastern plains, where the. more civilised and less martial Picts lived quietly employed in the tillage of their little farms, carried on against them a constant war of plunder, dispossession, and extermination. But Picts and Gaels alike were, from an early date, exposed to the assaults of a common foe, not braver, but sturdier and more persevering than either. These were invaders from beyond the German Ocean, men of the Gothic or Teutonic race, chiefly Saxons from Germany and Norsemen from Scandinavia. It was principally the latter who invaded this North of Scotland, and with whom, therefore, we have now to do. From the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, if not even earlier, down sometimes even to the twelfth and thirteenth, these Norsemen used to come, all unexpectedly, in their ships or boats, and, landing on our shores, succeeded almost everywhere in overpowering the old Pictish inhabitants of the coast, either driving them back into the hills, or forcing them to yield up a share of their most fertile lands. Between their Norse and Gaelic spoilers, it fared ill with the quiet industrious Picts, who lost, not .only their possessions, but their distinctive language and nationality. We need not suppose that they were -altogether exterminated; doubtless their blood mingles largely in our veins; but they became blended with their more numerous or more energetic assailants, so as to cease to be a distinct people. The Gothic and Celtic races, long after the Picts and Pictish language had lost their separate existence, continued their struggle through several centuries, in some parts of Scotland one race prevailing, in other parts the other, until at length our land was separated into two portions speaking different languages—the Lowland Scotch and the Highland Gaelic. In some districts, however, of which Easter Ross is one, neither of the two races seems to have at any time completely prevailed; both lived, and mingled, and fought, and intermarried here: so that we have had two totally distinct languages among us from time immemorial,— the Celtic, in the successive forms of Pictish and of Gaelic; and the Teutonic, in the successive forms of Norse—perhaps Saxon also—modified Scotch, and now English.

Now to which of all these races does Tain owe its- origin? We cannot learn much from the name Tam,. or Thayne, the origin of which is very uncertain. It does not appear to be Gaelic: possibly then it may be Pictish. The opinion has indeed been advanced, but remains to be verified, that it is Norse—a corruption of Thing or Ting, the same word which we find appearing also in the first syllable of Dingwall, and which in the Norse language signifies a court of law. The name, as thus interpreted, would be very characteristic of the Gothic and Germanic races, who have ever been distinguished by their respect for law; and who, wherever they settled, even in those rude and bloody times when the rights of their Celtic victims. were very little regarded by them, invariably established courts of law for the dispensation of public justice among themselves; to which courts they gave the name of Things or Tings. Such a court, originally marked off by a circle of standing stones, we may suppose them to have constituted on the conspicuous site of this very house where we are this evening assembled: it would through Easter Ross be known to us the Thing or Ping, and possibly by corruption might come to be called Tam. The establishment of such a Scandinavian court or Ping here may have taken place as early as the ninth century of our era, or about one thousand years ago.

But although the Norsemen may have been the first who constituted Tain as a seat of law, yet there is some reason to think that there had been a village or hamlet, if not on the same spot, yet in the immediate neighbourhood, at a still earlier time. There is an old tradition that the town was once situated in the Fendom. Perhaps we must not interpret this too strictly, but content ourselves with assuming that some part of the Fendom [That part, I am Inclined to think, on the Fendom side of our river, which was called Invereathie, most of which is now covered by the sea at every tide. This name suggests the Idea that our "river" was once called Eathie (as a burn near Cromarty Is to this day).] was dotted pretty thickly over with small farm-houses, so as to form a village, before the town proper was founded on its present site. There is a circumstance that goes to confirm the tradition. Among a good many names of localities in this parish, as well as throughout Easter Ross, which are neither Gaelic, English, nor Norse, but probably Pictish, there is one in the Fendom, close by what was Invereathie, that is peculiarly significant and suggestive—Pit-hogarty. This you all know is not English, and many of you know is not Gaelic. But if Pit was, as is probable, the old Pictish equivalent of the modem Gaelic Baile, [Fit, one of the most characteristic words yet ascertained of the lost Pictish tongue, occurs In the names of several farms in Easter Rosa. Those names are for the most part as unintelligible to Gaelic as to English ears; but In using some of them the Gaelic people translate pit into Mite, while they make no attempt either to translate or understand the rest of the word. The position of pit, always at the beginning and not at the end of such names, confirms, on grammatical grounds, the now received opinion as to the Celtic affinities of the language spoken by the Pictish race. There Is no proof that that race called themse2oes Picts; yet the curious fact that the Romans, Welsh, Anglo-Saxons, and Norsemen concurred in calling them Picti, Ffichti, Pcohta, Pehtar, Pets, &c., leads me to conjecture that there was in their language some very common and characteristic word, sounding so, which struck the ears of foreign Invaders. I venture the further conjecture that it was the word pit or piht, the word so constantly used in the names of their residences, and that from it foreigners naturally called the people themselves Felitar, that is,] and denoted a farm-house or farm-town; Pithogarty, translated into the kindred though not identieal Gaelic, means probably Baile an t-sagairt, Priest's- town, or perhaps, plurally, Bails nam Bagart or Baileshagart, Priests'-town; that is, what we now call the manse and glebe, the minister's abode. This is indeed a slight indication, which those who are not accustomed to etymological and topographical investigations will hardly appreciate: still, so far as it goes, it is an indication, which, along with others drawn from the early history of Christianity in Scotland, leads us to the important conclusion that in the times of the Picts, while their language had not yet been absorbed into its sister Gaelic—that is, at least as early as the ninth or tenth centuries of the Christian era, before Romish corruption had quite overlaid the more primitive Culdee creed and worship—the light of Christianity already shone in Easter Ross; and that, in the now comparatively desolate Fendom, there was in those days a resident priest or minister, and, of course, a. Christian population to whom he ministered. I confess I like the thought thus suggested, that the Christian appeared along with the civil element from the first traceable beginning of our town's existence, even as it has since gone on with it hand in hand.

But of the particular history of Tam, or of Easter Ross, in or before that period, we have not only no record, but not even a local tradition. In truth, this district is rather singular in its destitution of such remains of that early time; more so than the Western Highlands, which have both their Ossianic traditions and their Christian Culdee literature; and more so than Caithness and the Orkneys, of which the general history has on one side at least been preserved in the Norse Sagas. This I am inclined to attribute not merely to the fact that Norseman, Pict, and Gael were during those dismal centuries contending here for life and death—for the same was true in those other districts also—but especially to the fact that in this neighbourhood no one of the races absolutely prevailed. Hence, I think, it came to pass that neither Pictish, Gaelic, nor Norse history or tradition proved strong enough to outlive, as in many other parts of Scotland one or other did outlive, that chaotic period of bloodshed and social revolution; and that it is only in the eleventh century that the history of Tain can be said to commence, when the Norse domination in this quarter having come to an end, and the province of Moray and Ross, to which it belonged, having been conclusively annexed to the kingdom of Scotland, it received from King Malcolm Canmore its constitution as a free Scottish town.

It is for us an interesting fact that the historical commencement of our town's existence thus coincides in time with what is considered one of the grand epochs of Scottish history—the origin of the modern kingdom of all Scotland through the union of the Highlands and Lowlands under one sovereign, the celebrated Malcolm; as that again was contemporaneous with one of the most important epochs in the history of England—the conquest of that country by the Norman William. And these coincidences are all the more interesting, that they seem not to be accidental, but to be connected by the closest ties of cause and effect. For it was, in the first place, the cruelty of the Norman conquerors of England that drove northwards multitudes of the Anglo-Saxon families to fill the southern counties of Scotland, introducing there a considerable amount of Saxon civilisation, and Saxonizing the previously Gaelic court; and it seems, in the next place, to have been in a great measure through the additional strength brought by those refugees to Malcolm, that he was able, after the defeat and death of his rival, the famous Macbeth, to pursue his advantage by coming northwards with an army to this province (of which Macbeth, before his usurpation of the kingdom, had been hereditary Maor-mor or Earl), so as to put down all opposition within it, and definitely to add it to his dominions; and then, finally, we can understand how it would be that when in the province, adopting various political expedients for establishing his authority, he among other acts granted a constitution of civil and commercial freedom to the town of Tain.

It is not difficult, I think, to conjecture some of his motives for this step. In those troubled times, towns like this could hardly grow up by the spontaneous development of trade without external protection and aid. In the unsettled state of society, not to speak of the hostility of races, the quiet trader was afraid to show any tokens of increasing wealth, was often afraid even to have any: for if he remained at home, he was exposed to the predatory raids of savage hordes; or if he travelled about with his merchandise according to primitive custom, he was liable to be murdered or plundered by the way; so that he would in many cases be fain to purchase personal safety, and exemption from robbery, by payment to the neighbouring chiefs of whatever portion of his gains they might, under the name of tolls or black-mail, choose to exact. This was an evil state of things, not for the trader alone, but for all who wished to deal with him. It would therefore be a real boon to the whole country for many miles around that a stronger and impartial power should interpose to constitute a free town in a convenient locality. The King may have had special reasons for selecting Tain for this purpose. On Malcolm's side, fighting with him against Macbeth, had been the head of one of the oldest and most distinguished families in the north of Scotland, Munro of Foulis. These Munroes seem, from their beginning, to have cultivated the closest connection with Tain and Easter Ross, rather than with Dingwall, which lay, indeed, geographically nearer to their residence, but which was under the influence of their feudal enemies; so that, down even to comparatively recent times, they continued to acquire additional land on every side round this town, until it came to lie nearly in the centre of their scattered estates; even as on the other hand Tain has been reciprocally influenced in the most important respects during the whole course of its history, by its connection with these Munroes. I think it, therefore, possible that the men of Easter Ross may have gone, under Munro's leadership, to battle in Malcolm's behalf against Macbeth; and that, by way of reward to them, as well as with a political object of his own, the victorious king granted a constitution of freedom to our town. He would thus confirm the authority of the local court; would make the inhabitants, within a circuit or girth of several miles, free from feudal authority—from all authority, in tact, but that which sprang from the Crown, and would assure to them the liberty of buying and selling, wherever they pleased, on the sole condition of paying the usual taxes to the king, thereby conferring a benefit which was manifestly fitted tc confirm the attachment of the people of Easter Rosa to his cause, and to strengthen his power in the whole north. Being himself in the province, he not improbably visited the spot, saw the somewhat striking situation of the village, the Ting, and in all likelihood also the Church, which he found already here; and both on that account, and because of its position on the coast, between the fertile plains of Easter Ross on the one hand, and the wild Highlands of Kincardine and Sutherland on the other, pitched upon it as suitable for his purpose.

But there was another reason why Malcolm should take notice of this place. Tain has, from the earliest date to which we can trace its privileges, been not only an immunity and municipality, but what was called a girth. Now, that was a significant appellation in ancient days, indicating the possession of important privileges based on religious motives. It meant a territory that, by favour of some particular saint, enjoyed the right of sanctuary; that is to say, a right claimed for it by the Church, and conceded to it by public opinion and practice, of receiving fugitives, and of protecting them, as long as they remained within the privileged bounds, from all violence, and even (unless in some excepted cases) from the arm of the law. Our burgh owed this distinction to its connection with a once very celebrated saint, who, there is reason to think, died a few years after the accession of Malcolm Canmore to the Scottish throne. I formerly used to receive without question, and indeed adopted in printed statements, the common opinion which placed his death nearly two centuries later, in the reign of Alexander III., although I was very sensible of the difficulty of reconciling that date with the earliest history of our town, which it rendered an inextricable puzzle; but now that, through a discovery made (strange to say) in Ireland, a holy and eminent Scottish man of the very same name has been ascertained to have died in Malcolm's reign, I am constrained, provisionally at least, to adopt the opinion of the Irish scholar to whom the discovery is due, that the two men are but one, and giving full weight to what I feel the almost irresistible historical reasons for rejecting altogether the previously received date, I conclude the earlier date to be the true one.

It was, let me now therefore assume, about eight centuries and a half ago—that is, not far on either hand from the year of our Lord 1000—that there was to be seen, on a sandy hill below our town, where the ivy-clad ruins of the old chapel at present stand, a dwelling-house, in which was born a child who was destined in after years to become very famous. Duthach or Dubhthach was his name. [The sound Indicated by this cumbrous Gaelic orthography seems t have been uttered variously even by Gaelic tongues—Duvhaeh (Dufach), or Dithach (Du'ach); and by others has been corrupted into the strangely divergent forms of (In Latin) Ducbaslus and Duthacus, and, In English, of Duffy, Don, Duffus; Ducho, Duchow; Dutho, Duthow, Duthac, Duthus: the last of these (though a purely mistaken use of the possessive case Dutho's as a nominative) being now the commonest English, as Duffy Is the present Irish, and Du'ach the present Gaelic pronunciation.] The legends say that his parents were of high rank and of great piety, so that they placed their son for instruction in divine things under the best masters they could find; and that the boy showed such tokens of pre-eminent piety in early youth, that God even then wrought miracles in his behalf. The curious story is told, that when he had been sent on one occasion by his master to a smithy to obtain some fire, the smith took up a quantity of live coals with his tongs, and in Satanic mockery placed them in the lap of the pious boy; who meekly bearing the insult, carried home the burning fuel without injury to his clothes or to himself much for a specimen of the legends. But a comparison of the simpler biographical statements that accompany these Scottish legends with the plain facts recorded in Irish annals, makes it appear that in early life he crossed the channel to pursue his studies in Ireland. He was induced to do so, we must suppose, by the high reputation which that country for some previous centuries had borne for its religious light and learning under the comparatively scriptural system of Patrick, and which it still bore even so late as the eleventh century, ere that system had been buried under the mummeries of superstition, or the legends of the breviaries substituted for the Word of God in the education of its priests. He there acquainted himself with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and obtained such an accurate knowledge of their laws and precepts, and such a reputation for piety, that he subsequently became the chief confessor of Ireland and Scotland—not, I think, hearer of the confessions of men, but the chief confessor of Christ, perhaps the chief preacher of the Gospel, wherever the Gaelic language was spoken. There is no trustworthy evidence to bear out the later attribution to him of the rank of Bishop of Ross; neither need we credit the legends of his alleged miracles; but he continued through life to bear the reputation of being "a very godly and learned man;" and he finally rested from his labours at Armagh, on the 8th day of March, 1065. His last words, says a legendary narrative, which may here have caught up a true tradition, were these:-

Que est expectatio meal nonne Dominus?—"What wait I for now, but for Thee, O Lord!" There is no distinct evidence to inform us whether Tam, his native place, was also the scene of his ordinary ministrations. This is not impossible. But it is also possible that he had no fixed residence; that his ministry was an itinerant one, extending over large portions of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland; so that, when he died, the only place which could show a special claim to possess his earthly remains was his native town of Tam. Hither, accordingly (when two centuries of superstition had gathered a halo of more questionable sanctity around his name), his remains were "translated" on the 19th day of June, in or about the year 1253. This date is given with such apparent precision, though by. a comparatively late and legendary writer, that it may have been originally derived from authentic records: at all events there seems to be no reason to question its correctness; and it serves to explain how, by a very natural mistake, the recorded date of the saint's "translation," or second solemn burial, may have come to be regarded as the date nearly of his death, and so how his death came to be transposed from its proper place by two whole centuries. Thus, at least, we obtain a consistent narrative, and the mystery both of St Duthach's life and of our town's history is thoroughly explained.

It is to us a very interesting narrative. In the first place, it brings out into the light of day the existence, character, and doings of a man with whose name we have been familiar from childhood, and yet of whom we knew so litt1'e that we could think of him but as a shadowy myth. It gives us some solid reasons for thinking, that if he was not what later legends made him, he was something greater and better—better than a worker of miracles, and greater than a lordly bishop; that he was a true man of God, and a witness for Christ; perhaps that he was the Gaelic evangelist of his age—(shall I say it?) the Gaelic Whitfield, or the John Macdonald, of the eleventh century; a man of whom we need not scruple also to believe that his prayers had really power with God, and whose special requests may have obtained such evident answers from above, that it was natural for an admiring people, not given to draw distinctions, to ascribe to him the gifts of miracles and prophecy. I have sometimes indulged the fancy that we have still among us, in the familiar name of one of our localities, a memorial of the saintly reputation which he bore even in early youth, while he yet resided in his parental home; that even then his devoted piety and his manifest communion with heaven, caused it to be said that angels had been seen encamping round the place of his abode; so that the awe-stricken people gave to the spot where the vision was supposed to have appeared, the name which from time immemorial it has borne in both our languages, of Unocnan-aingeal, the Angels' Hill. [This name appears In our oldest local records, and was In common use until, in 1863, railway operations cut right through the hill. Fortunately the necessity of erecting a bridge at the spot has preserved the memory of the exact locality. It is noteworthy that a hillock In the far-famed Iona bears the very same name, given It (tradition says) In commemoration of an Interview which St Columba had with a company of heavenly visitants on his arrival in that Island.]

We can now, then, understand the origin both of- the Gaelic name of our town—the only Gaelic one it is known to have ever borne—and of its peculiar ecclesiastical character. Malcolm was for some years. of his reign contemporary with Duthach, and when in this province, may very possibly have met with the venerated man, and been aided by his counsel and prayers. At all events, as it cannot have been many years after the saint's death that Tain was constituted as a free municipality, it was natural that. the Gaelic-speaking king (Malcolm is said to have been the last of the kings who usually spoke Gaelic> should give it, in honour of the famous man who had had his origin within it, the Gaelic name of BaileDhuthaid or Duthach's-town. It is intelligible, also, that for the same reason (as well as perhaps in deference to his pious but somewhat superstitious. queen, Margaret, by whose advice he was not only founding churches but introducing Papal customs and authority into Scotland) he procured for it the special "protection of the Apostolic See," and the consecration of its whole territory, marked by four girth-crosses,. into a place of asylum or sanctuary. [The fact, however, that a copious fountain of pure water situated on, or nearly on, the girth boundary in the heights of the parish.—(the same fountain which has now been utilised for a supply of water to the town)— has from time immemorial borne the name of St David's well, suggests the inquiry whether the donation and consecration of some at least of the lands was not due rather to Malcolm's son, David—that "ash' saunt. to the Crown."]

Of such a right of sanctuary there is no need in the present day; and if it existed now, it could do almost nothing but evil. It would tend to convert our town and parish into a receptacle of thieves and dishonest debtors, of vagabonds and criminals of every kind, seeking to shelter themselves from the pursuit of law. But in those lawless times, when might was often held to constitute right—when the sword of justice was grasped in a hand often too feeble to wield it with effect against the strong oppressor—when the oppressed cried out, and even the long arms of the king often failed to reach far enough for his defence— it was well that there was another power, weaker and yet stronger, to which the injured or the timid could appeal with frequent success. Almost the only effectual motive that could be brought to bear on rude and violent men who feared no earthly foe, was that of religion, or of superstition; those who did not fear the king, might have some fear of God,—if not a truly religious, yet a superstitious fear of Him, and of the Church which claimed to wield His power. A guilty conscience, also, turned even brave men into cowards in places which were supposed to possess peculiar holiness; so that only a few exceptionally reckless men dared to follow the victims of their oppression within the limits of a consecrated girth. The union, therefore, of the sacred with the civil element in the constitution of our town must, in such times as those, have greatly enhanced the benefit conferred by King Malcolm and his successors, both on it and on the surrounding district.

I have dwelt rather long on these investigations into the origin of our burgh and its privileges; but they are evidently of primary importance, and furnish the necessary key to the understanding of what we know of its history for several subsequent centuries.

We can easily imagine that the combined advantages which have been mentioned would operate in the following centuries to give it importance and prosperity. As the market-town and centre of trade for a large district, as a seat of magisterial authority and law, as a place of considerable ecclesiastical importance, a resort of pilgrims, and a sanctuary of refuge for the distressed, it would not only obtain a permanent population of its own, but would besides attract many visitors from the surrounding neighbourhood. Persons who wanted either to sell or to buy; those who had suffered wrongs for which they desired legal redress; those who wished to transact legal business with each other, or to execute any legal deeds; nay, even feudal enemies, jealous of one another, who wished to confer on neutral ground and under the protection of the Church's sanctity; found what they wanted here. Thus to some extent, within its own limited sphere, the town would offer to the landed gentry around, and to their families, the sort of social attraction that, in our days of centralisation and rapid travelling, draws them to the great cities of the south. Nor would the tendency to resort to the town be diminished, but rather increased, as, through growing civilisation and the softening down of hostilities, the country gradually passed into a less disturbed state. Men could with greater security come to it so as to avail themselves of its advantages; and yet there continued for a long time to be disturbances and oppressions enough to make those advantages welcome and important. For the country was not wholly rid either of Norse invasions, of Highland raids, or of terrible domestic oppressors, for several centuries. Even so late as the fourteenth century, there was a notorious brigand chief in this neighbourhood (the grandson, it was said, of a Norwegian invader of royal rank), who made himself a name of terror as the Rob Roy of the north. He was called Paul MacTyre. An old chronicle quaintly describes him as "a very takand man;" takand, that is to say, not in the sense of being attractive, but in the sense of taking away by force men's goods and cattle and, lands; so that he made himself master of the most of Sutherland, and of Kincardine in Rosa- shire. So powerful did he become, that the family of Balnagown appear to have been fain to give him a daughter of their house in marriage, and, along with her, a legal grant of the lands in Kincardine which he had already seized, probably in order thus to preserve their remaining property, and to secure exemption from his hostile raids. From his Highland fastuessea it appears to have been his wont to lead down his armed followers upon the plains for plunder. The people of Caithness, accordingly, were obliged to purchase his forbearance by an annual tribute of black-mail; and if we may reason from the name of a spot on the Fendom shores, known as Paul MacTyre's Hill, which, until swept away by the sea in the course of last century, used to form one of the stated halting- places in the magistrates' periodical perambulation of the marches of this burgh, it would seem that our own neighbourhood was not unfavoured with his questionable visits. Situated just at the limits of the girth, the hill I have mentioned may possibly have been the site of one of his encampments and the limit of his spoliations; within which, across the sacred line, even he perhaps durst not venture to carry war. There was, indeed, in those days, a powerful Earl of Ross (sometimes resident at Delny in our neighbourhood, and occasionally perhaps even in this town, [Farquhar, commonly called first Earl of Ross, died in Tayne in 1251.—(Chronicle of the Earls of Ross.)] though generally in his castle at Dingwall), who possessed power and authority in the north only second to the king's, and to whom the oppressed might possibly appeal; but the Earls of Ross seem to have been themselves sometimes the chief oppressors. You doubtless remember the well-known story told of one <f them, and which is true at all events of some Ross- shire chief, who, when a woman whom he had injured threatened to go to complain to the king, nailed horseshoes under the soles of her feet, in order, as he told her, that she might be better able to perform the ,journey. So that, to the extent to which men stood in awe of the sanctity of St Duthach's girth and shrine, in which the people of the town could defend, and the influence of the Church vindicate that sanctity, it must have been a welcome shelter for the trembling fugitive.

Let me illustrate these remarks by narrating briefly three notable instances in which our town was resorted to as a sanctuary of refuge—the only instances, in fact, of which the record has come down to us out of the many which must have occurred during the five centuries of the existence of this privilege.
In the days of King Robert Bruce, the restorer of Scottish independence, and in the year 1306 or 1307, when his fortunes were at their lowest ebb, and he was obliged to conceal himself in a small island ofF the coast of Ireland, his queen and daughter betook themselves for s,afety to the Castle of Kildrummy in Aberdeenshire; but, dreading to be besieged there by the forces of Edward I. of England, they fled with the ladies of their Court, and with attendant knights and squires, to the sanctuary of St Duthach in Tam: unhappily to no purpose; for the locally powerful Earl of Ross, who was on the English side, unscrupulously violated the sanctuary by seizing the fugitives and surrendering them into the hands of Edward. The lamentable issue I may give in the words of the old Scottish poet:-

No honourable deed this to tell of. Let us only hope, that as we know the powerful Earl of Ross was by no means always on friendly terms with our townspeople, nor generally on the same side of politics with them, this act of violence and sacrilege was committed by him, not in accordance with, but against their will. [The names of many officials In the north who swore fealty to Edward are preserved in English records: I have not seen mention made of any one connected with Tam. Munro of Foulis fought under Bruce at Bannockburn; so did the Earl of Roes himself, who had, era then, been reconciled to Bruce.]

We must leap over more than a hundred years to the next recorded incident, which, if less celebrated in the history of our country, was more important in relation to our local interests. In or about the year 1427, in the reign of James I. of Scotland, Mowat, the Laird of Freawick in Caithness, with some followers, was defeated in a hostile encounter by Thomas M'Neil of Creich—a barbarous chief, who seems to have held some of the same lands in Sutherland and Ross that had in the previous century been held by Paul MacTyre, and to have been also a follower of that notorious brigand's steps. Mowat and his companions fled for refuge into St Duthach's chapel at Tam; whither, however, they were pursued by M'Neil, who slew the poor fugitives and set fire to the chapel— actually burning it over the heads of the still living men, if our local tradition speaks true. The double outrage on God and man was not allowed to pass unavenged. James, the poet-king, had at this time undertaken the arduous and dangerous task, to which he subsequently fell a martyr, of repressing and punishing the cruel oppressions with which the chiefs and nobles had filled Scotland during many years, and which, during his long minority and captivity in England, had come to the most fearful height. After having administered stern justice in the south, he came, about a year after the burning of our chapel, to hold a Justice-ayre at Inverness, with the like purpose. Forty robber chiefs were arrested by his order and brought before him there; some of these were executed immediately, others a little later. Of these last, Thomas M'Neil appears to have been one. The chief agent in effecting his apprehension was his own. brother Neil, whom the King, for this service, invested with the deceased rebel's lands. We do not like the brother's act; yet it was a striking instance of retributive providence, as against the man who had violated the most sacred feelings both of humanity and of religion. [Sir Thomas Gordon's "History of the Family of Sutherland "Oilginea Parochiales."]

The remaining case is of a different kind. William Lord Crichton, a man of high influence in the reign of James III., was accused of treasonable correspondence with England. Fearing for his life, he in 1483 took refuge within the girth of Tam, residing in the vicar's house. He was followed by a macor, who, in the presence of William Johnstone, a bailie of Tam, and of Thomas Reid, a bailie of Cromarty, summoned him to appear in Parliament, at Edinburgh, to answer for his treason—summoned him, but did not, because I presume he durst not, even in the King's name, lay hands on him to bring him prisoner to Edinburgh; for the fugitive was protected by the sanctity of the girth. He did not obey the summons of Parliament; and was accordingly next year subjected for non-appearance to a sentence of outlawry and forfeiture of his estates. But his life was safe. He seems to have continued to reside several years in Tam; he subsequently went to Inverness to meet the King, and was partially reconciled to him; but apparently he died in poverty.

Each of the three instances which I have mentioned of the employment of our town as a place of refuge was of public interest and importance; though two of them, at least, are far from being such eases as we would have selected, had we a choice, in illustration of the ordinary beneficent working of the institution. But we must be satisfied with• those which have been handed down to us. The great dramatist has said that "the evils which men do live after them—the good is oft interred with their bones;" and so, indeed, it happens, that history far seldomer notices the many quiet deeds of usefulness, either of men or of communities, that take place from year to year, than it does the rarer outbreaks of horrid crime.

The loss of the chapel was not the only nor chief one that our town sustained on the second of those occasions. A comparison of circumstances makes it highly probable that in that disaster the most ancient charters of Tain were consumed—probably because the chapel had been selected as the safest repository for such important documents, so that along with it they perished. We are told expressly in a charter of renewal of privileges granted to the burgh more than a hundred years afterwards by King James VI., that the ancient charters and infeftments of the burgh had been burnt "by certain barbarous rebel subjects of Ireland "—which may probably mean rebel subjects of the race that had immigrated from Ireland, and that spoke the Irish or Erse language—a sufficiently correct description of M'Neil and his followers. The loss to our town must have been, in those days, a very great one; and it was followed very soon by attempted invasions of her rights; as it has led, at different times, to an interested questioning of the high antiquity of her municipal claims; indeed, she has suffered very recently, and suffers still, from the same cause. It was found necessary very soon to attempt to remedy the loss. Twelve years after its occurrence —namely, in the year 1439—there was summoned to meet at Thayne, under the seal of Alexander, Earl of Ross (at that time the King's Justiciary for all Scotland north of the Forth), a jury of the highest names in Inverness, Ross, and Sutherland, to hold an inquisition into the rights and privileges of the town. The jury, in a document of which an ancient notarial copy is still extant, declared it as their finding, after careful investigation, that the town of Tain was under the special protection of the Apostolic See, and that it had been founded by Malcolm Canmore, and confirmed by King David Bruce, Robert IL, and Robert III. in all the rights of a free trading town—which rights the document summarily enumerates. It was not merely the violence of the age, but apparently also, and chiefly, the jealousy of rival trading towns that had rendered this inquisition necessary, and that determined the points to which the jury's attention was specially called, as well as their omission to notice other burghal rights which no one probably had attempted to invade. Curiously enough, some of the free towns had begun to interpret their charters as conferring on them not merely the liberty but the monopoly of trade, and that not only within their own proper bounds, but within the wide district that they thought should depend on them. It appears that the burgesses of Inverness, considering their town to be the capital of the North, asserted something like an exclusive right of trade even in Easter Ross; and they made a curious attempt to enforce this pretension so late as the year 1458, in the reign of James II. of Scotland, when the alderman, bailies, and community of Inverness, complained to John, Earl of Ross, that certain inhabitants of Tain and other northern parts of their freedom of Inverness, were interfering with their trade by buying and selling, shipping and unshipping goods. The Earl (who not only, as we have seen, at that time exercised supreme jurisdiction in the north under the King, but who sometimes did so in defiance of the King, and who, if he was then meditating the treasonable practices that subsequently cost him his earldom, may have had his own reasons. for wishing to please his "neighbours of Inverness" at the expense of a less important town) addressed a threatening letter to his bailie of Tam, commanding him to give all facilities to any burgesses of Inverness. who should come to Tam, to use the King's authority for the "inhalding"—that is, for preventing the exportation—of merchandise and goods. This strange attempt was all the stranger that it was made in defiance or forgetfulness of the inquisition into the privileges of our town which had been made only nineteen years before by authority of this earl's own father; and we maybe pretty sure that the merchants of Tain did not submit quietly to the demands of the men of Inverness, nor fail to produce and plead the above-mentioned inquest and its result. I suspect, however, that the people of Tam, in their dealings. with their own neighbours, were just as much disposed to exaggerate their privileges as the Invernesalans themselves; that they, too, claimed and sometimes enforced the right—at least in Easter Ross—of preventing the sale of goods except in Tain or by Tam-men. I do not suppose that this was a serious hardship to almost anybody; for it was really SG difficult, if not so unsafe, in those early times, for persons not armed with authority, to carry on commerce outside the circuit of privileged towns, that they probably seldom thought of attempting it; and it was, moreover, so important for the whole country that the towns should flourish and be strong, that the benefits of the system greatly outweighed its attendant evils. Yet, such a state of things could not continue for ever; and the people of towns like this must now submit to general competition, and depend for the success they may achieve on their own superiority in the open arena of commercial enterprise.

Of the original building of the old chapel of St Dutbaeh, which perished in the disaster of 1427, and whose walls have stood roofless and weatherbeaten for upwards of four centuries, we have no record. I do not suppose it was ever a parish church: had it been so it would almost certainly, in accordance with a medieaval superstition (not yet obsolete) have stood due east and west, and been furnished with a window looking eastwards; neither of which is the case. It would, moreover, almost certainly, in accordance with another superstition of those times, have had the surrounding ground consecrated for burial;--which we know also was not the case; for it is only within the last two generations that burials have begun to take place beside it, in consequence of the crowded state of the churchyard within the town, which had, from time immemorial, been the only place of interment in the parish. The chapel was apparently a mere oratory or place of prayer, with accommodation, it would seem, also, for a resident hermit. The simple, if not rude, style of its architecture seems consistent with almost any date: only, as the earliest recorded tradition informs us that it stands on the site of St Duthach's birthplace, we can hardly suppose it to have been built earlier than the year 1065, when he died; while, on the other hand, it is very improbable that its erection can have taken place later than the time of the translation of his bones, in the thirteenth century. With reference to the fine old church of St Duthach within the ancient churchyard, the approximate date of its erection is matter of record; for old chronicles declare it to have been built by William, Earl of Ross (who died in 1371), aided, doubtless, by the contributions of the many votaries who came from every part of Scotland to the saint's shrine. But this, as the same chronicles declare, was a rebuilding. There bad, therefore, been a still older parish church, either on the same site, or near it. It has been thought by some that the remains of that oldest church of all still exist in a remarkable ancient enclosed burial-place (or "chapel" so-called), within the churchyard, the style of the oldest part of which indicates both high antiquity and architectural taste. How old it is, we cannot say: it may have reached back to the very first introduction of Christianity into this northern district, and been of Culdee origin; for the accumulation of human dust within it, and in the churchyard around it, speaks of a very high antiquity indeed. It was in this most ancient chapel or church, probably, that Duthach himself worshipped as a boy and young man; in it, he may have officiated occasionally in mature life; and to it, perhaps, his bones were finally translated. [If at any future time the deeply covered foundations of this chapel should be exposed, It will be interesting to search for ancient remains— possibly Inscriptions—which might turn conjecture Into certainty.]

It is difficult for us now to realize the feelings which, in mediaeval ages, used to gather crowds of worshippers to the shrine of a famous saint; what extraordinary homage was rendered to his sacred relics; what miracles of healing were believed to be performed by means of them; what power was attributed to prayers offered up beside them; and what merit and efficacy to pilgrimages made to the hallowed place. The name of Duthach had become somehow peculiarly celebrated in Scotland; so that relics of him were preserved, and even chapels erected in hi honour, in various places, such as Edinburgh, Dunfermline, and Aberdeen: but his native town of Tam, and especially three most sacred spots within its girth —namely, the chapel erected on the site "quhair he was borne," the chapel "within the kirk-yard," where, probably, his remains were laid, and, lastly, the handsome church erected in honour of him in the 14th century, were especially reverenced. Those who could not personally come contented themselves with sending costly gifts; but others crowded from every part of the land. The remoteness of the locality did not hinder this, perhaps rather promoted it; for the dangers and hardships attendant on the long journey—sometimes performed barefoot, or in ways still more painful—were supposed to enhance the merit and efficacy of the penitential act. Those who were afflicted with bodily diseases came seeking to be cured; for it was currently said that many had been restored through the virtue of St Duthach's bones. His very shirt was preserved in the sanctuary: marvellous powers were ascribed to it, and the Earl of Ross wore it for protection when he went to war. [The English found St Duthach's shirt on the person of that Earl of Ross who was slain at the battle of Halidon Hill, and courteously restored it to Thin. But though it was thus restored, one would suppose it muse have been with its reputation as a life-preserver considerably damaged.] Men, too, whose consciences made them uneasy, but who had no wish to renounce their sins—in whose hearts there was neither true repentance nor yet faith in the all-cleansing blood of Christ—were glad to have a humanly-devised road to salvation by pilgrimage. Not but that they might be sometimes told by the better class of their priests, that faith and repentance were necessary in order to- their obtaining the forgiveness of their sins. Not, also, but that there were some weary and heavy-laden souls among those trooping crowds, broken and contrite in heart, who came seeking rest for their wounded consciences, but who were by God's grace preserved from finding it in the relies or prayers of a saint—from finding it until they found it in the blood of Him to whom that saint, could he have spoken to them from the unseen world, would have bid them go. But it is, not of such cases as these that the memory has come down to us, but of a few to which the accident of rank has given an interest of a more external kind.

For it was not the common people alone who performed pilgrimages to St Duthach's, and who offered gifts to his church, but the nobles and the kings of Scotland themselves. It is, for example, not an uninteresting fact that we have a record of a costly offering made to the church of St Duthach at Tain in the oldest will known to be extant of any Scotchman—narnely, in that of Sir James. Douglas of Dalkeith, dated 30th September, 1390 (the year, it may be remarked, of the death of Robert II. and of the accession of Robert III.—two of the Scottish kings who were benefactors to this town). Sir James's legacy consisted of his "robes of cloth of gold and silk, and his furred robes"

It is not improbable that many of our Scottish kings performed pilgrimages to St Duthach's shrine. In fact, the royal journeys to these northern parts were, in the days of the independent Scottish monarchy, so frequent on other accounts, and St Duthach's name was so famous, that it is possible that most of them may have visited the place where his remains were honoured. Perhaps, for example, Alexander III. Aid so. t That James III. visited Tain is in the highest degree probable: it is certain that on his marriage tour he travelled, with his young Queen (Margaret of Denmark), at least as far north as Inverness, where he remained long enough to make excursions all round, if so inclined; and we know that soon thereafter he procured from the Bishop of Ross and the Pope at Rome an ecclesiastical constitution of St Duthach's church to be what was called a college, himself liberally endowing its numerous officials out of the lands of the crown. Those officials were, a provost, five canons (all of these regular priests), two deacons or sub-deacons, a sacrist with an assistant-clerk, and three singing boys. This constitution was established in 1487. It was a goodly array, certainly, of ecclesiastical officials, in a parish which had previously possessed a rector (perhaps nonresident) and a perpetual vicar, as well as a chaplain and hermit of the chapel; at least we must have thought it so unless we had reason to know that these officials often were not separate persons, and that several offices were at times vested in the person of a single man.

After the death of James III. an annual sum was paid out of the royal treasury, doubtless by order of his son and successor, James IV., to the chaplain of St Duthach, for the purpose of saying masses in behalf of the deceased monarch's soul. The tragic story of James III.'s fate,—first, of his defeat by an army nominally headed by his own youthful son, and then of his barbarous murder by one of the pursuers. in the house where he had taken refuge,—is well known; as is also the life-long penance to which the son subjected himself after his accession to the throne, by wearing an iron chain, to which he added a link each successive year, round his body, in order partly to disavow complicity in his father's murder, but partly also to appease his conscience, which did perhaps charge him with culpable acquiescence in the rebellion which had led to it. It was doubtless in part for the same reason that he performed frequent penitential pilgrimages both to the shrine of St Ninian at Whitehorn, in Galloway, and to that of the famous saint of Ross-shire; though he was far from being free from other sins that troubled his conscience, and contributed to multiply these superstitious acts. The gallant monarch appears to have visited St Duthach's regularly every year, perhaps without the omission of one, during at least twenty successive years—from 1493 to 1513. These facts have been made known to us chiefly from the recorded entries of the king's personal expenses in the books of his treasurer, which are so curious that I cannot deny myself the gratification of quoting them almost entire from the paper of the zealous scholar to whose antiquarian researches I owe my first acquaintance with them. [See a paper read In February, 1846, to the Antiquarian Society of Edinburgh, by David Laing, LL.D., of the Signet Library. See also Preface to the first published volume of the Lord High Treasurer's Accounts, by Thomas Dickson, Esq., to whom I am Indebted for the knowledge of probably the first visit paid by James IV. to Thin. This was In 1493, or three years earlier than the earliest of the visits ascertained by Dr Laing. I take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the important help I have received from Mr Dickson In my researches, and the unvarying courtesy with which that help has been rendered.]

A.D. 1495-6 (during Lent). Clothes were furnished to the
King when he passed to St Dutho's againe Pascke.
1496, April. Clothes furnished to the King when he passed to St Dutho's agane Whitsunday.
1496, July 1. Item to the King quhile he raid to Sanct Duthowis, £10.
Item to Henry Fowlis for a relik he maid to the King to offer to Sanct Duthow, £2 14s.

Three visits, it thus appears, in a single year, and all within three months! This is something so remarkable, that it necessitates the supposition that the King had an extraordinary motive for such excessive devotion.

1496-7, March 16. The King rode from Brechin on a pilgrimage to St Duthois, in Ross. On that occasion 18s. were paid to the ferryaris of 8'pey, of Ardrossier, and of Cromarty. At Tain he lodged with the vicar.

1497, Oct. 10. The King again visited St Duthow's, when lie. 6d. was paid in passing to the ferryar of Dee, and 18s. to the piparis of Aberdeen.

The treasurer's accounts for the next three years, says Dr Laing, are not preserved; but in 1501, November. James IV. was in Ross-shire. On the 12th of that month 14s. was paid for the freight of a boat from Inverness to the Chanonry with the King; and next day 5s. was given "to the Hermit of Sanct Duchois Chapell."

1503, Oct 2. A message was sent to bring Sanct Duchois reique from Edinburgh, and to meet the King at Perth. Having set out for the North, he was at Aberdeen on the 6th, crossed the Spey on the 7th, was at Elgin on the 8th, at Beauly on the 9th, Tay, on the 11th, when 2s. 2d. was paid for schoeing of the King's horse.

1504, Oct. 22. We find the King at Tayne whilst the Queen was at Dunfermline, where she was detained "by pestilence." There was paid "to the man in Tayne that boris Sanct Duthois bell, 3s." Next day the King made an offering of 14s. "in Sanct Duchois chapel], quhair he was borne; [What brought the King to Darnaway? "He had," says Innes, In the Spalding Club edition of the "Fainille of Innes," "settled his early love, the Lady Jean Kennedy, at Darnaway, and given their son a grant of the great earldom; and afterwards, when riding on pilgrimage to St Duthac of Tam, he would turn aside to visit the banks of the Flndhorn.'] also "in Sanct Duchois chapell, in the kirk-yard of Tayne," "in Sanct Duchois kirk," and "at the stok of Sanct Duchois town."

On this occasion the King amused himself on his journey northwards in no very penitential mood. For on the 19th of the month there was paid to "the ma4innis of Forres that dansit to the king, 9s.; to the madinnis that dansit at Elgin siclyke, 9s. 6d.; and to the madinnis that, dansit at Darnaway, 14s.;" and the next day, we find him completing his pilgrimage to Tam. Truly characteristic this of superstitious worship! Sometimes, however, his conscience appears to have made his pilgrimage somewhat liker a penitential journey. Bishop Leslie, says Dr Laing, thus describes one of the King's visits to the shrine, apparently under the year 1507. "The hail realm of Scotland was in sic quietness that the King raid him allane with great diligence on ane day from Striveling to Perth, and Aberdeen to Elgin, in post, quhair he reposit him on ane hard burd ane certain space of the nycht, in Mr Thomas Leslie's hous, the parson of Kingussie, and in the morn raid to Sanct Duthois, in Rosse, to the masse, the last day of August, but returnit again to Striveling to tournay, accompanyit with the nobilitie of these cuntries."

On this occasion the treasurer's book tells us that there was paid

To the King himself in his puras, quhen he rade alane to the North, £26.

"Queen Margaret," adds Dr Laing, "appears for the first time to have visited the North of Scotland in 1511."

In December of that year there was paid to ain pardonar with Sanct Duthous Crouss, 2s."

1512, Aug. 27. Item deliverit to the King's grace ane relict of Sanct Dutho's, set in silver, waijed 86 unce 8 grot wecht, price of the unce 8s. Summa £27 17s. 3d. Item for making of the samyn, £5 4s.

The next and last entry possesses a melancholy interest. In the year 1513, the King secluded himself for eight days in a monastery at Stirling, without seeing any person, and meditated a pilgrimage to the Holy Land—" such a haud," says an annalist, "had superstition gottin ouer him." What he did accomplish, however, was one visit more to St Duthach's shrine.

1513, Aug. 4. Item for three bonets to the King the tyme he past to Sanct Duchois, 36s. Aug. 8. Item to the King's grace when he past to Sanct Duchois, £66.

One month later, on the 9th of September, 1513, the gallant monarch was killed on the fatal field of Flodden. We can hardly wonder that his many pilgrimages, excited remark, even in that superstitious Sage; nor that the English, in a poem of exultation ever their victory of Flodden field, taunted the Scots with their devotion to "St Triman [Ringan or Ninian] .of Quhytehorn, and DoIFIN, THEIR DEMIGOD OF Ross."

At least one royal visit more is supposed to have been paid to St Duthach's shrine. The Popish advisers of King James V., wishing to put him out of the way of being influenced in behalf of his young relative Patrick Hamilton, the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation, instigated him, we are told, perform a pilgrimage to St Duthach's at Tam. There is no record, however, of the actual performance of the journey. But it has been generally presumed that it took place. The footpath leading across a peat- bog in the upper part of the parish, which is familiarly known to all of us as "the King's Causey," and the narrow winding lane leading therefrom into the town, which we dignify with the name of King Street, are- the only local memorials which we have preserved of the royal visits. The uniform local tradition says, that the "Causey" was constructed by the people of the town expressly for the king,—for which of the kings I know not,—on their learning that he was on his way to St Duthach's barefoot.

Thus the last of the royal visits was connected with the great religious revolution which put an end to those vain pilgrimages for ever. It was in the reign of James V. that the light of the Reformation dawned on Scotland. That most blessed of all religious movements since the first propagation of Christianity soon made its influence felt in Ross-shire. As our town was in such constant communication, and especially religious communication, with the south, the new doctrine must have been early heard of, perhaps. early taught here. Patrick Hamilton was, if not the resident, at least the titular abbot of the monastery of Fearn, which was in the immediate neighbourhood, and in the closest connection with Tam: and his martyrdom can have hardly failed to excite interest, and to stir up inquiry in this quarter into the religious opinions for which he died. Here, too, as in other parts of Scotland, there appears to have been enough of religious corruption and moral depravation among the dignitaries of the Church to revolt the consciences of the people, and so prepare their minds for a reformation. Some of the neighbouring potent chiefs—and especially the head of that family of Munro of Foulis, whose community both of political and religious feeling with this town is traceable in its effects throughout most of her history—seem to have early taken a decided stand on the Protestant side. And not only he; but Nicholas Ross, the Provost of the Collegiate Church of Tam, though a man who in his own domestic life had manifested the demoralising influence of the Popish system, was present in the Parliament of 1560 as Abbot of Fearn (which office he held in commen dam along with his Provostship) and both voted for the suppression of Popery. Surrounded by so many favourable influences, the people of Tain became such decided Protestants, that their zeal procured the notice and approbation of the "good regent" Murray, who, in acknowledgment of it, bestowed on them the gift of a finely carved oaken pulpit for their church. Would that we still possessed this relic of our forefathers' zeal,—by far the most honourable relic, in my estimation, that our town contained, but which a lamentable negligence has, within the memory of the present and immediately preceding generations, suffered to be broken, and its ornamentation carried away piecemeal by wanton hands! Few places were able to boast of so honourable a memorial. [I leave the foregoing sentences as they were penned and first printed. But Regent Murray's pulpit has now been restored to its original beauty; for the frame-work had happily escaped destruction, and portions of the ornamentation have been recovered from private collections, and have not only been fitted Into theirp]aces, but have given the clue to the completion of the original design.] Indeed, I always look back with peculiar gratification on the zeal of our forefathers which it commemorated: for the Reformation was not for their material interests, but put an end for ever to the halo of fictitious sacredness with which St Duthach's shrine had invested their town; 80 that its privilege of sanctuary fell into desuetude, pilgrimages ceased, the crowds no longer flocked to it, noblemen and kings visited it no more. I cannot but think there must have been a real work of God in this parish, a true religious reformation and revival, to stir up our forefathers to that public zeal against the very superstitions by which they made their worldly gain.

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