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A history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) online

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Hew alone, attacked him. However, Hew nearly cut off
young Auchendrane's hand, and was victor in the engagement.
The wisdom of the king now gave Lord Abercorn a commission to
apprehend ,old Auchendrane, who shipped Bannatyne, the witness to
the Dalr}'mple murder, off to Ireland. He then went boldly to his
trial, but failed under examination. James now ordered torture to
be applied to young Auchendrane, who, with extraordinary fortitude,
was silent. Public opinion, naturally, was now favourable to young
Auchendrane. After all, on the worst view, he had done nothing,
it was said, to harm "the person or estate of the king." He ought


to be released on heavy bail. But, though the Privy Council pled
for this, Dunfermline, backed by the king, was firm, and kept the
accused in prison by sheer use of the royal prerogative. The king
" may retain in ward any of his subjects, who in his conscience he
knows deserves the same."

Meanwhile Abercorn in Ireland caught Bannatyne, the witness
in the Dalrymple case, but, on a point of honour, let him go. But
Bannatyne knew that old Auchendrane had been trying to get him
murdered in Ireland, so he came in and confessed. Both Auchen-
dranes, confronted with Bannatyne, maintained their innocence. A
trial was now resolved on, and the general public maintained that
Bannatyne ought first to be tried alone. If convicted, and if he
confessed and clave to his confession on the scaffold, " that might put
them in some opinion of Auchendrane's guiltiness." For similar
exquisite reasons Mr Bruce, the famous preacher, wished James to
hang Henderson, the witness in the Gowrie case. But this logic
was faulty ; on the scaffold George Sprot maintained his confession
as to the Gowrie conspiracy, without converting a single sceptic.
On July 17, 161 1, the three "panels" were tried, convicted, and
executed. They were undeniably guilty, but, setting Bannatyne
aside, the evidence (the depositions are lost) was circumstantial, and
the long detention and torture of young Auchendrane, with some
informalities in the trial, increased public sympathy for these typical
old Scottish malefactors.

It is never easy to be certain as to the rights and wrongs in family
bickerings, like these discords among the Mures and Kennedys. No
doubt there was something to be said on both sides in a quarrel
which goes as far back as the roasting alive of the Commendator of
Crossraguel by an Earl of Cassilis, soon after the Reformation.*
The Earl had, before Colzean's murder, been on bad terms with his
brother, who was a friend of the murderer Auchendrane. In
September 1602, however, the noble brothers were reconciled on
the following basis : — The Earl was to give his kinsman and his
accomplices a yearly pension of 1200 marks, "good and thankful
payment," as soon as he takes Auchendrane's life, " beginning the
first payment immediately after their committing of the said deed.
. . . And hereto we oblige us, upon our honour." ^

These things were done in a region which, from the dawn of the
Reformation, had been peculiarly enlightened, having profited by

* See Appendix, " Gowrie and Restalrig."
VOL " 2 M


the ministrations of the martyr, George Wishart. The clergy, how-
ever, appear to have been on the side of Auchendrane. In February
1604 Lady Colzean, widow of Auchendrane's victim, "pursued
the Presbytery of Ayr for not observing the order kept by them-
selves and all other Presbyteries against notorious malefactors."
The Presbytery made an exception in favour of her husband's mur-
derers, " against whom they have neither used censures nor admoni-
tions, but refuses to do the same." The Council ordered the
Presbytery to excommunicate the murderers, a sensible outrage on
the freedom of the Kirk.^ This Lady Colzean had been the
divorced wife of Logan of Restalrig, the laird connected with the
Gowrie conspiracy : she did not find the west of Scotland a more
peaceful and friendly place than the east.

Among the most usual causes and consequences of feuds was the
destruction of the crops and the houghing of the cattle of persons
occupying lands to which other persons had, or pretended, a claim.
A laird or yeoman would collect his friends in arms, make a raid
on a neighbouring estate, injure the cattle, thrash out the corn, or
trample down the growing crops, and drag the women about by the
hair of the head, pistolling or stabbing all who made resistance.
Cases of this kind occur in scores. Home of Rentoun was mixed
up in the affairs of Logan of Restalrig, and appears to have been
one of those who acquired forged documents from Sprot, the Eye-
mouth notary, implicating Logan in the Gowrie affair. These were
to be used to terrorise Logan's executors after the laird's death in
1606. The children of Logan, though his heirs were forfeited in
1609, seem to have pretended some rights over "the tithe sheaves
and other tithes of Horndene," which, after the forfeiture of Logan's
heirs (1609), had been granted by the Crown to Alexander Home
of Rentoun, a cousin of the Earl of Dunbar.^ Consequently, in
August and September 1616, Alexander Logan, son of the late
Restalrig, " armed with sword and dagger, and two pistols on his
person, and a hagbut " (musket) " in his hand, went to the barnyard of
Horndene, violently caused a large quantity of corn to be threshed
which had been lawfully arrested by the plaintiff, and placed there
till the sums due to the plaintiff had been paid, and caused the said
corn to be carried by night to Norham, and other places in England,
to be disposed of there at his pleasure." Moreover, Alexander
Logan was backed by one of the Chirnsides, old allies of the wicked
laird, by a retainer of the Earl of Home (his uncle), and others, to


the number of forty. " All armed with swords, gauntlets, forks,
lances, etc., and carrying pistols and hagbuts, they went to the lands
of Horndene, and violently collected the teind sheaves thereof."
The plaintiff, Rentoun, sent William Lindsay (an official messenger),
and his own retainer, William Home, to execute a legal summons
against Alexander Logan, but he crossed the Tweed into England,
and sent back Chirnside and another to search for and slay William
Home. The defenders did not appear, and were ordered to enter
themselves at the prison of the Tolbooth. Probably they did not
accept this invitation, and the tradition of the Logan family is that
their ancestor settled in England till these affairs were forgotten.*

This typical instance of what was always going on may be interest-
ing as an example of hereditary lawlessness. Alexander Logan
chassa de race. But even preachers were not exempt from human
frailties. On the page of the " Register of the Privy Council," which
tells of the feats of Alexander Logan, we read that the Reverend
Mr Thomas Moir, minister of Morebattle, invaded the lands of Toft,
armed with a pitchfork, and attacked Andrew Ker and George Pott.
He wounded Pott in the face, and cast a cartload of corn into the
river. Ker was the son of Sir John Ker, and Mr Moir challenged
him to single combat, which Ker refused, " not through fear, but
through reverence of the law," and no doubt of the cloth. Mr Moir
then took to him other devils, worse than himself, including a
William Logan, to the number of twenty, all armed ; they went to
the barn of Cowbog, stole corn, and nearly killed Wattie Pott, who
attempted to resist them. This was the plaintiff's version, but Mr
Moir said that the case was the reverse, several persons, under
Andrew Ker, invaded hijn, threw him down, and jumped on him.
This was on September 3, 16 16, the day before Mr Moir's alleged
raid of Cowbog. The lords appear to have let both parties off, and
one gathers that there were faults on both sides. On the whole,
neither the preaching of the word nor the king's forty mounted
police had made Scotland a peaceable, orderly country. Violence
was the rule rather than the exception, to judge by the number of
cases recorded even in counties like Ayrshire, Berwick, and Rox-

The craftsmen, in towns, occasionally mutinied against the magis-
trates. In Stirling (16 16) the bailies described the craftsmen as
"seditious, restless busybodies, bound in a factious and mutinous
society." They usually held " indignation meetings " every Monday,


and set down acts and statutes of their own, tampering with the
lawful weight of bread, and banding together to refuse to pay the
stipends of the minister and the schoolmaster. Education and
religion they regarded as luxuries for which they declined to be
taxed. No decision of the Town Council was accepted by the
Monday meetings upon the hills ; a man was a man for a' that, and
why should he obey the bailies ? They actually proposed to carry
the king's standard at the wapinschaw instead of their own ; they
rioted in arms, opened the gaol and let loose the prisoners, and
generally proved that the democratic doctrines of the Scots are not
(as has been vainly alleged) an invention of Robert Burns.=^

In the matter of private morals the Kirk, where she was strong,
as in Fife, did her best. The Kirk-Session of St Andrews has
bequeathed to the ages a Register, edited by Dr Hay Fleming.
Hence we gather that some stubborn souls would persistently make
merry at Christmas, " keeping great Yules," as was the habit of the
truly unregenerate Laird of Restalrig. On Trinity Sunday, too, the
populace danced and piped, at least at Raderny. They were cut
off from baptism, and holy communion, and marriage till they
made satisfaction ; but marriage was a " benefit of the Kirk," which
too many parishioners were more than content to do without. They
were more easily tamed by being shut up in the kirk steeple, where
witches were often incarcerated. " Sins of uncleanness," says Dr
Hay Fleming, " were still fearfully prevalent." The unclean used to
be let off with a 40s. fine, but Mr Black (famous as the occasion
of the Edinburgh riot of 1596) was much more severe. The swain,
for his first offence, had to pay ;^4o (Scots) to the poor, " or eight
days." For the second, his fine was much increased, and his head
was shaved, rendering him "not one to be desired" by the sex.
For the third he was still more heavily fined, ducked thrice (the sea
being convenient), and banished. An offender against the seventh
commandment was pilloried, the students and populace, stern
moralists, pelted him with rotten eggs, and he was well ducked.
He had also to do penance at the kirk door, barefooted and in
sackcloth, and go to catechism, "till the Kirk be satisfied." During
the next three years only five adulterers offended, or were caught,
at all events. During Mr Black's last year there was not a single
case of lawless love "before the Session." But, by 1599, the
brethren found that "the syn of fornicatioun and huredom did
grytlie incres." Indeed, the staple of the Register is lawless affection


and Sabbath -breaking. Nobody was allowed to be seen out of
kirk " in tyme of sermone," and the thirsty had to walk to Leuchars
(three or four miles) and tipple there. The popular idea of a
holiday is to go and get drunk somewhere else. Mr Black, be it
observed, was rather an extreme disciplinarian, and publicly re-
marked that " a great part " of the ministers " was worthie to be
hangit." After his removal Calderwood said (about 1613) that he
himself saw more people skating, curling, and sliding, at all events
" amusing themselves on the ice," than in church on a Sunday. Dr
Hay Fleming shows that Calderwood must have been unfortunate.

In 1746 the Chevalier Johnstone found that the seed sown by
the exemplary Mr Black had borne fruits of righteousness. The
chevalier was escaping from Culloden, but could not induce any one
to let him hire a horse on Sunday. They say grace before they take
a pinch of snuff, he says, and he regards St Andrews as a great deal
worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, being a nest of sanctimonious
hypocrites. The chevalier was a Jacobite, and much depends upon
the point of view. According to Dr Hay Fleming, and we cannot
have a better guide, the Kirk- Sessions did not wait, in cases of
ungodly speaking, kissing and wrestling in the streets, cards and
dice, manslaughter, witchcraft, and so on, till a public slander arose.
Literally "from pitch and toss to manslaughter" the Sessions dealt
with all enormities. " Not only was it the duty of the elders and
deacons to report transgressions, but special steps were taken to
ferret out gross sins that they might be repressed." The elders
would seem to have been Peeping Toms.

Of witchcraft we have elsewhere spoken. The fear of witches
seems to have been a curious epidemic, raging now here, now there
for a time, and then abating. Geneva exceeded in witch-burning
before the Reformation, but the sixteenth and early seventeenth
centuries were the most furious in this absurdity. In Scotland we
hear very little of witch-burning before the Reformation, indeed,
before the time of Regent Murray. In England the Puritans
encouraged and Bancroft mocked at these practices, which were
much stimulated by the precept and example of James VI. As a
rule, charges of witchcraft rested on the belief in the evil eye, and
on the assertions of young people suffering from hysterical disorders.
But the witches probably believed in their own powers, and
practised folk-medicine aided by popular charms in rhyme, derived
from the old faith. They also worked by "sympathetic magic,"

550 LENT.

they told fortunes, dealt in curses, and, under torture, repeated, in
Germany as in Scotland, folk-tales about fairy-land and the Fairy
Queen, or about the devil. Hysterical diseases are still inexplicable
enough, the belief in the evil eye still flourishes, folk-medicine and
charms are still in use, isolated cases of second sight occur, and all
the elements of witchcraft live on in Scotland as in England. Only
the law, fortunately, has been altered, much to the regret of John
Wesley at the time. The old law applied to Bothwell (Francis
Stewart) was the occasion of his extraordinary career of rebellion ;
and it lent colour, or was intended to lend colour, to the charges
against the young Earl of Gowrie. He carried a written talisman
which came into the hands of that Lord Cromarty who was still alive
in 1 7 13. Similar talismans, found in an old house, have lately
been exhibited to the author. Belief in the efficacy of such things
was very common on the Continent as well as in Scotland, as
common as among the Greeks settled in Egypt, with their magical

While everj'thing joyous that could be called a rag of Popery was
put down, it is curious to find that the observance of Lent, as far as
abstinence from flesh is concerned, was enforced. This was not for
religious, but for supposed sanitary reasons. " Seeing that, in the
spring, all kinds of flesh decays and grows out of season, and that it
is convenient for the commonwealth that they be spared during that
time, to the end that they be more plenteous and cheaper during
the rest of the year," butchers and others were forbidden to slaughter
in Lent. This was a standing Order of Council, and was intended
not only for the benefit of the " bestial," but to encourage the fishing
trade. Perhaps Lent originally arose before Christianity, in the
opinion that meat is out of season in spring, and was merely adopted
and sanctified by the early Church, like many of her other feasts
and fasts. We have not observed that the preachers raised their
voices against Lent as a survival of Popery. That sanitary con-
ditions were not good may be inferred from the edicts against
keeping swine in the basements of houses in Edinburgh, and against
piling up dunghills and heaps of refuse in the streets. Dunbar, long
before, and Smollett long afterwards, satirised the abundant filthiness
of Edinburgh. When plague appeared, as it often did, infected
families in the capital were obliged to go and camp on the Burgh
Moor. " Every one," says a contemporary, " is become so detestable
to every other, and specially the poor in the sight of the rich, as if


they were not equal with them, touching their creation." In 1584
the plague appeared in Perth ; in May it reached Edinburgh ; the
king flying from it to what had been Cowrie's Castle of Dirleton,
near North Berwick, then possessed by that Arran (Captain James
Stewart) who was the instrument of the death and forfeiture of
Cowrie. All fled who could; some 1400 died, says the diarist,
Birrel. There is a blank in the St Andrews Register for nearly a
year, "all gude ordour ceasit in this citee." The evil was attributed
to the banishment of the Presbyterian leaders, with the Lords of the
Raid of Ruthven, and it ceased as soon as they returned, in
November 1585, at the raid of Stirling, Winter weather perhaps
depressed the plague germs, and Presbyterianism triumphant may
not have been the cause of the improvement. The returned nobles
rode through a town almost untenanted ; then Border ruffians
robbed the very pest houses, but were no whit the worse. Return-
ing from banishment with the Ruthven Lords, James Melville break-
fasted at Restalrig (Logan being a Cowrie man, and hospitable),
and entered Edinburgh. Riding in at the Water Cate, through the
High Street, and out at the West Port, " in all that way we saw not
three persons, so that I jniskenned Edinburgh, and almost forgot that
I had ever seen such a town." The survivors had fled to lonely
country places ; like Bessy Bell and Marion Cray in the ballad —

They biggit a bower on yon burjj-side,
And theikit it ower wi' rashes.

The absence of statistics makes it impossible to conjecture the
extent of the injury done by the plague or pest, by other epidemic
diseases, and by the perpetual murders and manslaughters, to the
population of the country. It was an age of large families ; the
losses of pest and war were soon recovered. Scotland had more
population than means of employing her children. They bore arms
for most of the European powers, the Continent was crowded with
our Dalgettys. Not content

"To fecht the foreign loons in their ain countrie,"

they also fought each other on alien shores. In the Cowrie
tragedy we find mention of a Captain Ruthven, who carried to
Lady Cowrie, from the Earl's hunting quarters in Atholl, the news
that he "was to come." Captain Ruthven is mentioned only on
this one occasion in the proceedings, but, on June 20, 1600, seven
weeks before the slaughter of the Ruthvens, we find that he had


been brawling abroad with his own countrymen. One William
Little described to the Privy Council a skirmish which he had viewed
at Dantzic, "the sun shining on a fair day." Two Scots, Greir and
Bain, were " playing at the cables " near the harbour, when Bain
gave the lie to Greir, and Greir "gave Bain a cuff." Captain
Ruthven took the side of Bain, and Captain Maxwell avowed him-
self the partisan of Greir, whom Bain stabbed from behind. Ruthven
declared that the stroke was fair (though that was not the opinion
of William Little), and he would " defend his opinion as a soldier."
Captain Maxwell thereon borrowed a sword from one Cunningham,
and approached Ruthven, saying " thou shalt have one." Ruthven
lunged thrice at Maxwell, and said, " Thou hast enough." Maxwell
answered, " Not so much as you think " ; the point, perhaps, had
merely grazed his ribs. Ruthven struck again, Maxwell riposted,
and Ruthven, who was wearing " mules," or thin shoes, fell. Max-
well made as if to strike him where he lay, when "a little Highland-
man," Duff, smote Maxwell from behind, crying to Ruthven, " Rise
up, master, for he has enough." This combat was at "the Douglas
Port," which seems to imply that there was a Scottish quarter in
Dantzic. The end was that a corporal, Wallace, came with a halbert
and protected Maxwell. The other witnesses were all burgesses of
Edinburgh, except Crawford, servant to a famous rich burgess named
Macmorran. Except Greir, nobody is said to have been killed, nor
do we find that any measures were taken against Ruthven, who
seems to have returned to Scotland, and appears, for a moment, in
connection with the Gowrie tragedy.^

The religious persecutions drove a Puritan, like Andrew Melville,
to Sedan, and many Catholics to the foreign universities. The
trading Scots formed communities of their own as far off as Poland,
keeping up their religion, and organising themselves under their
own bye-laws. They were not more popular in Poland than the
Jews. We hear little of wider range of adventure to " the Indies "
or America. Logan of Restalrig, after the Gowrie collapse, took a
share, with Lord Willoughby, in a ship that was to sail to " the
Indies," with the laird as skipper, but he never set out, and we do
not know how the venture fared : the death of Lord Willoughby
(1601) may have put an end to the project.'^ At home the prices
of articles of utility were regulated by the magistrates or the Privy
Council. Boots and shoes were declared to be far too dear, and
the price was lowered. The Lothian coal-owners held a meeting



and raised the price of coal ; the Council put it down again. The
exportation of coal was usually prohibited, but the king would grant
a privilege of exportation to a favourite. The bonnet-makers of
Edinburgh and the Canongate quarrelled over their respective rights,
but foreigners who could teach improvements in cloth-making were
entertained at the expense of the country. Foreigners, also, took
the lead in silver- and lead -mining. There was gold -mining in
Meggatdale, in the Glengaber Burn, which flows into Meggat Water
on the left hand. Gold is still found in that burn, but not in
remunerative quantities. The author has reason to believe that
gold is not the only mineral treasure of Glengaber. Hilderston,
in Linlithgowshire, was a centre of silver-mining, and Thomas
Foulis was busy with processes for converting lead ore into litharge,
white and red lead, and ceruse. He was a goldsmith, which
usually involved being a banker, in Edinburgh. The export of
eggs was denounced as "most unlawful and pernicious," and the
invention of curing red herring led to a good deal of litigation.
The sale of tobacco was prohibited, "a weed so infective as all
young and idle persons are in a manner bewitched therewith, the
taking whereof being a special motive to their often meetings in
taverns and alehouses" (May 22, 1616). But this prohibition
merely led to a monopoly granted to a Captain Murray.

As to coinage, fraudulent " hard heads " were a standing grievance.
Huntly offered James ^40,000 for the privilege of coining 10,000
stone of copper, but this kind of and amount of " Wood's half-
pence " was judged to be too colossal an experiment. Foreign gold
coin was decried and ordered to be brought into the mint (161 3).
Among foreign coins in circulation were " the auld Rose noble, the
Harry noble, the Portugal ducat, and the French Harry ducat " ; of
native coin we hear about " the queen's portrait with the naked
craig " (Mary Stuart in a low dress), and " his majestie's ducat with
the bair heade." The relative value of the money of the age to the
money of to-day is a topic too minute and difficult. Dr Masson
concludes that a sum of Scots money can be brought to the
contemporary English level if divided by twelve. The Earl of
Orkney, in prison, had an allowance of ;^4 Scots per diem ; in
England this would have been six shillings and eightpence. Logan
of Restalrig gave Sprot ;^i2 as an instalment of hush money.
That was ;£^\ English, and Logan said that it would buy two
"bolls" of corn.^ Dr Masson thinks that any sum then could


purchase at least four times as much in commodities as at present.
Huntly's rental, in money, was ;^3ooo Scots, equivalent, in purchas-
ing power, to ;!^iooo sterling at present on this calculation.^ His
"ferm victual" was about 4000 bolls, two bolls being, on Restalrig's
theory, worth £,\ English, and if the pound had four times the
present purchasing value, Huntly's rents in kind greatly exceeded
his rental in specie, while he got 3231 " kane hens," and vast
quantities of other produce. In 1602 he was able to build a
magnificent new house at Strathbogie.^*^

With all their comparative wealth in produce the nobles were
very poor in money, hence the facility with which they were bought
and bribed on every hand, and hence their greed for monopolies

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 57 of 60)