H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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feudal king. The " Red Tod"
(fox), or the " King of the Commons," as James Y. was familiarly
called, showed honesty and firmness of purpose, but little
political sagacity ; while his disguises, amours, and train of
jugglers and buffoons bespoke the crowned Bohemian. A\ ell
might Lyndsay exclaim, "Woe to the land that has owre
young a king ! " The boy-king had need of a wise head.
Should he elect for union with England and a Reformed
Church, or stand by the Romish priesthood, backed by France '
The latter course alone seemed compatible with national and
ecclesiastical independence. Beaton and the French policy pre-
vailed. The king tailed to keep tryst with his uncle at York, and
at the head of a gay cavalcade he rode out from the Abbey
Port of St. Andrews (1538) to meet his French bride, Mary
of Guise. St. Andrews, Guise, Beaton these were ominous
figures on that stream of destiny that was to carry the king
to an early grave.

The death of the king in Falkland Palace (1542) brought
two factions into strong rivalry the Douglases, or English
party, and the Hamiltons, or French party. The rough wooing


(>Vl,//;.</l Xtltil'lHll I'l'llfllit l:ll



of the Princess Mary greatly damaged the English faction
and the cause of reform. It was conducted by Hertford with
ruthless savagery. Three successive expeditions 1544, 45, 47
tell their tale of woe. The Tudor Government would seem
to have regarded their Northern neighbours as outside the pale
of humanity. The policy which dictated such barbarism
failed. The confused turmoil of intrigue that centres round the
names and policies of Arran, Angus, and Beaton strengthened
the hands of the Barons and paved the way for the league
known as the " Lords of the Congregation." These speedily
swept away the old Church, and thus effected the great

The three minorities of James V. (1513-28), Mary (1542-
61), and James VI. (1568-84), following in quick succession,
would have sorely tried a much more powerful monarchy than
that of Scotland, which in respect of its Privy Council, Parlia-
ment, and revenues, was of the well-known feudal type. Of more
importance in its bearing on
social life is the administra-
tion of justice. The Chan-
cellor, always a Churchman,
was the king's legal adviser
and chief minister. Two
great lords acted as his
justiciars, with subordinate
local assessors. The Hanse
or League of the Burghs
played an important part in
connection with the Justice
Ayres or Circuit Courts,
forming as it did a sort of
burgher parliament to regu-
late trade and assist in
causes appealed to the
chamberlain as Chancellor
of the Exchequer. It still
exists as the Convention of Royal Burghs. Hereditary sheriff-
doms were also established, and these continued till 1748.
The abbots, too, followed by the barons, had courts for their
burghs of barony, with the right of " pit and gallows " (p. 194),

Photo: W. Xpooner d- Co., Struiid, W.I'.

(Ilinnptnii Cmn-t 1'iilm-e )

THE .v/<;ir FORCES.


and a baron-bailie to see execution done on the law-breakers
according to the rough medieval code. But no man was
to be hanged for less than the price of two sheep. In
England one was enough to secure this penalty. All
this left its mark for centuries in such popular phrases as
"The thief s hole," and " Jeddart justice." The gallowleas,
gallowhills, and gallowgates tell yet of the poor victim trudging
to his doom, with arms caught behind by a stick, and finally

being flung from the ladder by the
deemster or lokman into eternity. Here
the rough populace learned the force
of the phrases so characteristic of the
manners of the time widdie-fou (hang-
dog), thraw (twist) in a widdie (green
withe used as a halter), girn (grin) in
a widdie, gape in a gallows, rax (stretch)
at the raip.

James Y. erected the Court of
Session (1532) as a College of Justice
on the model of the Parliament of
Paris, acting on the advice of David
Beaton, who had been educated in
France. Here the clerical was for long
the preponderating element. The Court
sat thrice yearly, in places where the
king determined. Juries were selected,
without challenge, by the president.

The Consistory Courts dealt with tithes, church dues and
fines ; and from the nature of the case were extremely un-
popular. Henryson, schoolmaster and notary of ] hmfermline,
gives a vivid picture of the procedure. In a dream Esop ap-
pears to him in the attire of a notary brief in hand, quill
behind the ear, inkhorn and pretty gilt peniiar hanging from
the gown, and silk bag at belt. The sheriff buys a forfeit at
the king's hand, and with a cursed assize (jury) about him
indicts poor John Up-o-land. The crownar or tipstaff, porteous
(indictment) in hand, goes before the Ayre, but for a bude
(bribe) scrapes out John and writes Will or Wat. " Quakand
for cauld," the poor victim " kest up his ee into hevinnis
sicht," exclaiming, " Lord God, quhy sleipis tlm so lang ? "


(Ashmokan Museum,



Dunbar's "Tidings from the Session" is a scathing satire put
into the mouth of " a muirlandis man, lately lichted aff his
mare," after a visit to Edinburgh in quest of justice. Lyndsay
is still more outspoken. The interlude of the " Poor Man " in

Photo: Scott <t Sons, Edinburgh.
(Scottish National Portrait t'iallenj.)

the " Satire of the Three Estaits " (p. 147) is intensely realistic.
Living on a poor croft in the Lothians, he had lent his gossip
his mare to fetch coals from Tranent, but she was drowned in
the old workings. The owner applied to the Consistory, but
got only adjournments from day to day for the various stages
of citandumli,bellandum, and so forth. But he "could never


ane word yet H ixlcrxttmd 'em. Many placks had to go in
fees, and at last the rooks cried for sentence silver. But," he
concludes, " I gat never my gude grey mare again."
The An unfortunate necessity made the Church political. It

was regarded by the Beatons as the best support of the crown
against the barons. Meanwhile two powerful forces were over-
looked wide social discontent, and a strong reforming wave
from England. Lutheran books and English Bibles Avere
smuggled over the Border with the connivance of Henry VIII.
and his coadjutor, Arran. In Lyndsay's satire, " Verity " is put
into the stocks for having an English Testament. Not till 1525,
when the Lutheran movement Vas virtually over in German}-,
do we hear of merchants bringing these heretical books over
sea. Shortly afterwards (1528) Patrick Hamilton was burnt at
the stake. Reading the Scriptures was made lawful in 1543,
but was bitterly opposed by the clergy, many of whom were
very ignorant. Some of the country clergy, Buchanan tells,
thought the New Testament a work lately written by Luther.
A bishop, trying a reforming vicar, thanked God that he had
never known either the Old or the New Testament. The
author of the " Complaint of Scotland," himself a cleric, intro-
duces in his " Vision " Spirituality " sittand in ane chair, ane
beuk in his hand, the claspis fast lokkit with rust." Preaching
was the privilege of the friars, and even this duty they dis-
charged only at Easter. The country districts were starved to
keep up the monks and prelates, who stuck to their vested
interests. Lyndsay says that at Doom, when Christ wiU say,
" Come, ye blessed," the monks will not be able to forget their
usual cry, Nos sumus exempti ! The vicar's pension for parish
work was always grudged, or even withheld with the bishop's
consent. He was regarded merely as the steward to gather in
the tithes, Pasch (Easter) presents, funeral and baptismal dues.
Cosmo Innes says : " Of the many disputes between convents
and rural vicars there is not one that turns on the cure of
souls." Lyndsay contemptuously sums up the service :

" And meikl Latyne ho did mmmnill,
I heard iiaethiiig but hummill bumrnill.''

The Abbot, in Lyndsay's " Satire," sends his sons to
Paris and carefully provides for his daughters. No wonder


penitents made a joke of the sackcloth gown and the kneeling
in church, candle in hand ; or of the vicar's cursing for petty
theft. "Will he not," think the people, "give us a letter of
cursing for a plack, to last a year, and curse all that look
over our dike ? That keepeth our cow better than a sleeping
boy who will have three shillings a year, a sark, and a pair
of shoon."

Husbandry, oldest and most conservative of industries, The
ever enters most thoroughly into the every-day life of the Economy,
people. It owed everything to the monks. In favoured spots
of the Lothians, or where silvery Tweed sparkles by Melrose
and Kelso, they brightened their cloisters with the scent of
flowers and fruit, or the murmur of bees. In the deep holms
by the river marge the corn ripened for the mill beside the
brimming dam ; the sheep and kine browsed amid the timber
and unities of the upland birchen-glades ; while, higher still,
the peateries and turbaries (coal-pits and quarries of these
times) lay hid in the brown desolation of the moors. Their
vassals or natives lived, in the turf and wattle huts that
formed the grange or homestead, under the eye of a lay-brother
as bailiff. Near by was the toon or hamlet of the cottars,
next in the social scale ; and beyond these were dotted over the
vale the clachans of the kindly tenants. They farmed on a
co-operative system known as the run-rig, 1 general down to
the middle of the eighteenth century, and still surviving in
the outer isles. Each husband kept two oxen, and six of
them united to work the common plough. The arable land
was allocated afresh, at intervals of three years, in narrow
serpentine ridges (rigs) among the joint-tenants, who were
bound, under the eye of the baron-bailie, to keep good
neighbourhood, which meant fair-dealing in labour and the
stocking of the outfield, or common upland pasture. The
lesser barons imitated the monks, and had their mains,
corresponding to the granges, and still a common name for
a farm. Beyond these lay the crofting townships of their
kindly rentallers. Thus under the great barons there grew
up that large class of freeholders by knight-service, who
became the bonnet or cock lairds of a later age. In the
Highlands they were the tacksmen or chieftains, and usually

[* Compare the view of the common field, Vol. II., p. 135.]


cadets of the baronial house. They paid three marks yearly
for each plowgate as inn ill or money-rent a word that has
entirely given place to the ft-rmc (farm) or rent in kind,
also known as l-nin, the cm* of the Ancien Regime in France.


These lairds had also their 'iialirr* and husbandmen for
labour in feudal services. .More rarely the barons granted

J Cj

feus or perpetual ground-rents to foster under the wing
of the castle, townships as rivals to the royal burghs.
Feudal Services or customs were exigible from all tenants in

services, the shape of farm labour. For cnrmji^, or the carrying of
kain (corn) to the ports, and storing peats, they had to
furnish pack-horses. For short distances slypes or sleds
were used, the wheel-less carts still seen in the Highlands.
These services had originated at a time when the peasant
was without capital and a mere tenant-at-will. In this way
both the landlords and the clergy kept a hold on the poor
commonis, not only in life, but when death appeared in
the family. Thus the vicar claimed the " upmaist claithis,"
or bit of clothing as corse-present, either for funeral ex-
penses or burial service. At the same time were also up-
lifted the kirk-cow, by the vicar, and by the laird, the best
horse, styled here-yed or heriot, and latterly caape or gift.
Originally the heriot was a war-gift (here-geat), in return
for arms granted to the vassal for use in Avar, but it
became ultimately a fixed tax exigible on every plow-gang.
A statute of 1017 prohibited the exaction, but it was not
formally commuted till 1703. Lyndsay pathetically exposes
the hardship of these exactions.

Peasant Henryson, native of a typical LoAvland district, and brought

up under the shadow of the rich abbey and palace of Dun-
fermline, has depicted peasant life in a style worthy of the
author of that earliest and most delightful of pastorals,
" Robene and Makyne " (Vol. II, p. 700). With fine feeling for
rural charms he brings before us the sights and sounds
of spring-time. He shows us the peasant sowing, the harrows
hopping in the sower's trace, or in early morn his gadman
and he yoking his steers u'i' Bcni'diclte ! While he holds
fast by the single upright stilt of the clumsy wooden mass,
his mate, as caller or driver, shouts, " HOAV, haik, up-on-
hicht ! Hald dracht, my dowis," in which AVC hear him



calling to the first pair of steady steers by name, guiding
his doves now to make the share take less earth or again
depress it. Then he goads the lazy with the gad-wand,
but as most are young the plough oft leaves the furrow
(deli-rat, as the Romans said), "so that the Husband waxes
wroth, shouts, casts great stones, and even the patill " a


stick used to clear the share, the " murderin' pattle " that
Burns was loth to throw at his favourite Mouse.

The chief grain was oats, sown year after year on the same Crops.
ground till it yielded but two returns. On the infield near
the homestead bere (big or barley) was sown. But there was
little manure, as the stock roamed everywhere under the
herd's charge when corn was growing, from which they were


hunted oft' by the numerous dog's whose very names we know
from Henry son. Very little wheat was grown till the presmr
century. Nor were beans and pease common. Both sowing
and reaping were late. Hemyson, walking in June, sees the
seeds growing high enough to hide the hares, and hears the
quails rm //</./?</. Only enough corn was sown to supply the
hamlet and the ferine-rents. The floods, which Gawin Douglas
so graphically describes, made the fertile hollows useless save
for coarse hay. Weeds abounded, notably the youl (wild
chrysanthemum), a great source of annoyance to the baron-
bailie. The wasteful Celtic custom of reaping only the ears
and leaving the straw was too common. Ayala, the Spanish
Ambassador, visiting Scotland in lolO, saw the straw standing
so high after harvest as to reach his girdle. Green crnps
were unknown, yet Henryson surprises us by speaking of " a
widderit neip" (withered turnip), a root which played no part
in farming till two centuries later. It may have occasionally
found a place in the monks' gardens. The sole pot-herb was
lang-kale (colewort).
condition Ayala has described the times of prosperity. His country-
men, in Flanders, report an improving trade. He himself is
much struck with the large exports of stockfish, wool, and
hides. Corn is said to be very good, but the husbandry bad.
Less credible are the vast flocks of sheep, the populous towns
and villages, and the stone houses with doors, glass windoAvs
chimneys, and furnishings, such as one sees on the Continent.
Native contemporary sources present a gloomier picture, specially
the "Complaint of Scotland " (1548). Hertford's raids have
left the author deeply despondent. His keen sympathy Avith
the cause of labour is Avorthy of the best Socialist type. The
peasant thinks that death is all that can be added to his
persecutions. The laird's men come in hundreds and turn him
out of the holding he has improved, to make room for a
favourite. Or his rent or services are so heightened that he
cannot get a living. The teinds are higher than the fertility
of the soil justifies, and the vicar removes them at harvest,
though Avife and children should stance. " The Avorst AA r olves,"
says Henryson, " are lords that have lands * a loan from God
and set them to maillaris (middlemen, tax men): then they
harass the tenant ere half the term be gone to make his re-


move or pay the grass a in (fine on renewal of lease) over
again." Lyndsay's : ' Satire " is equally strong. Its proposals
for social reform have all the dignity and force of a Com-
missioner's Report. Henry Charteris, his edito* (1568), laments
that they yielded no result. These agrarian abuses, the real
motive force of the Reformation, so increased that by the
middle of the century the author of the " Complaint " exclaims
" As to juggis justice that rengis presently in our country, God
may send a better when He pleases."

Edinburgh has always been a city unique in situation as
in history. Dunbar graphically depicts the aspect of the one Capl1
crowded and unsavoury street crowning the central ridge St.
Giles's Kirk darkened by hucksters' booths, the causeway and
kennels tilled with the litter of fish, flesh, and herb markets.
Of the buro-ess-houses nothing now remains, for Hertford

O <-'

exposed the city to a three-days' burning. The nobles had
not yet begun to reside here. The square tower of a gloomy
fortalice, room rising above room from dungeon to bartizan,
sufficed them. Charles II., after a brief stay in one of these,
reported that he had been lodging in a crane's nest. An Act Home Life.
of 1504 recommended the nobles to surround their houses
with parks and trees, but the modern residential mansion was
not to be for a century yet. Little furniture encumbered
the rush-strewn floors. The walls were painted, as Dunbar
describes in his " Dream," or hung like those of Lyndsay's
Squire Meldrum, who, when he went to repose,

" Fand his chalmer weill arrayit
With dornik [damask] work on board displayit."

When arras became common, this painting was confined to the
ceilings, as in the hall of Falkland Palace. Carpets were rich
hangings for gala use. When Queen Margaret visited Aber-
deen in 1511, the magistrates ordered the people to " furnys
graith the stairs (outer) of the forgait (main street) with arras
work, as efferis " (is becoming). In daily use was the buist, or
napery chest, the cupboard or open cabinet for cups and goblets,
the boyne or boivie for liquor, the bossie or meat-trencher, the
maicu or bread-basket. The kitchen had its dresser and its
long settle or bink, and on the wall the 1m ik or rack for
plates (only pewter or wooden). In a corner stood the awmrie




for stores. The fire-logs were supported by andirons, and from
the i>i'unc/i or spit hung the joints. Besides the common hull
there were but two domestic rooms, the kitchen and the
private chamber. Sheets of hai-<lni or sacking, and blankets
of i ill ii</<' it or tartan stuff, were used by all but the few who
could afford what the Flemings imported. Water, light, and
lirut were dispensed on a limited scale. It is a pleasant sur-
prise to learn that the water-pipes introduced into Linlithgow
Palace in 1538 were discovered from recent excavations. Few

people could import long-candles

most used resinous fir-
spills, dug out of the
bogs, or tine oil-crusie <>r
primitive saucer-shaped
lamp. Wood and peat
formed the fuel, the
former in the shape of
broom and heather care-
full}' stacked even on
the High Street of Edin-
burgh. The monks of
Newbattle in the thir-
teenth century had


begun to work the "sul-
phurous stone that
burns," but it was not
much used except in
salt-making. Henryson's
"Town and Country Mouse" vividly contrasts the meals and
manners and the home life of a free burgess in Itorrvn-i*
ton 11, and a carlin living in " sillie scheiU with door nocht
high nor braid." While the latter's buttery has but water-
kale and beans and pease, the former's spence can furnish
amond-bread (pain d'amand) of fine flour baked with milk
and eggs. The dress of the better classes differed but
little from that of the English. Ayala considered it better,
especially the female head-dress or curcke, which he thought
the best in the world. Dunbar censures " the fardingales
on flanks fat as whales, and the long trains that sweep
the causey clean." Finery was not wanting, such as Dun-


(X"tifrnal Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, E<J!iiiinili.)





with apill renicis, probably



amber or lammer beads. The richest ornament was fur. It
was a staple export of great variety and much value, and
the peasant was a keen trapper. The mertrik or marten
was the most valuable fur. The fox, the farmer's pest, and
the wolf, his dreaded scourge, were trapped and speared as
vermin. The general dress was home-made, from the wool and
flax of the farm, prepared with the rock and distaff and whorl
of amber, and woven on the narrow primitive loom. Leather


(National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, Edinburgh.)

was largely used as clothing, and the tanner was an im-
portant craftsman. The shoemaker shared in the unpopularity
of the tailor and the miller. Dunbar says he was too foul
even for the fiend, who shouted, " Go, cleanse thee clean ! "
He used his teeth to soften the leather, " wi' ugly gums
gnawin'." His triumph was the huge jack-boots of the
knight, stiff and high as milk-pails. The masses went bare-
foot, or made their own shoes out of the raw hide. These
were similar to the rivlins of the Shetlanders and the
velsckoen (fell-shoes) of the Cape Boer. Loose hose hung
like a skirt down to the knees, and beneath the jacket of
leather was the wily-coat, which, not being seen, " slyly keeps
men warm."


In the Northern winter the poor peasant must have
been sore bestead. Without sown grasses and turnips there
The Poor, could have been little milk, and flesh would be rare, for
salt was scarce and dear. The thrifty might have a cheese
on the shelf and meal in the kist, but the mass would
have to be content Avith (Irtimniock (meal and water) and
water-kale. Douglas sketches, in low tones, the effects of
winter floods, frosts, and blasts : and Henryson depicts the
situation with more concentrated force. Every third year
came dearth, and plague close on its heels. Burghs were
merciless to yanyrel bodies, who were driven from hamlet
to hamlet, begging with pikestaff and wallet as they Avended
their way to the fair or the kirk-stile the legitimate beg-
ging places. Wild times were always adding to the bands
of broken men and sorners. Saddest of all was the lot of
the leper. For him was the spitol, and there he sat at
the gate with caup (basin) and clapper for the passing
alms, while not far off was the gibbet for the inmate Avho
strayed out of bounds. Henryson's Cresseid is condemned
to the life of a leper, and he paints the symptoms of the
disease bloodshot eyes, voice unpleasant and hoarse, lusty
face overspread Avith black spots and lumps.

Life Avas not all poverty and gloom. Such popular poetry
as "Peebles to the Play," " Robene and Makyne," "The
Popular Wife of Auchtermuchty," " The Wooing of Jenny and Jock,"
sports. show no lack of humour. Beltane, Yule, and the Robin Hood
processions of the craftschilder made singing, dancing, and
mimicry popular. For the peasant there Avas the long picnic
of the summer sheilings, such as Ave have described in the
" Complaint of Scotland," with all its Avealth of popular tale,
song, and dance. The nobles amused themselves Avith hawk-
ing. The king had, at one or tAvo of his castles, an enclosed
park with falknv deer, and these Avere ridden doAvn and
secured Avith dog and bolt. The chase which opens the
" Lady of the Lake " is pure romance, though the scene is
laid in James V.'s reign. A Highland chief mustered his serfs
for an occasional deer- drive, knoAvn in Gaelic as the tmchdl.
Cruives or wattled enclosures at the river mouth formed,
with spearing in the pools, the only fishing practised.
Lyndsay's abbot amused himself with caiche (rives), cards,



tables (draughts), and dice. James IV. played at Idles
(kayles, nine-pins) when at Glenluce. In Hemyson's fable
the Wolf calls to the Fox, " Lawrence, thou playis bellie-
blind." This child's game flourished along with the peerie
(peg-top) and palall (hop-scotch). The tee-toluol is used by
Dunbar to mark his own lack of preferment in comparison
with Up-o-land's Michell (eh pronounced as a guttural

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 35 of 68)