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The Orkneys and Shetland; their past and present state online

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discussing the prospects of the coming haaf season. Suddenly
the different groups become silent, as the procession forms up
to follow the holy relics. Bishop William, who, although he has
already been bishop of the isles for half a century, is looking
forward with almost the ardour of youth to visiting Jorsalaheim,
and bathing in the sacred waters of the Jordan, stands, crozier
in hand, ready to head the procession. Near him are Bishop
Jon from Athole and Kol the architect. After them the good-
looking, fair-haired Rognvald, so impressed by the solemnity of
the occasion, that, for once, he refrains from rhyming ; close to
Rognvald, Harald, a large-framed, saturnine youth of twenty,
crafty and scheming like all his race. Now the holy shrine
containing the remains of the virgin Jarl issues forth from the
little church, borne shoulder high by the tonsured monks of
Hellisey, solemnly chanting —

" Magnus ex prosapia magna procreatus
Actu, vita, moribus, major est probatus ;
Prredis vacans juvenis pravorum instinctu,
Ut Paulus convertitur in vice procinctu,
Saulus ecce Paulus fit, prredo fit Patronus,
Persecutor factus est plebis Pastor bonus.
Vir Sanctus in Comitem, digne sublimatus,
Carmen per continues domat cruciatus.
Justus, pius, humilis, mitis, et modestus
Ille suis prsefuit exemplis honestus ;
Magnus inter creteros gratia Divina
Fulget plenus, veluti stella matutina.
Vir sanctus ad propria reversus, componit
Cum Hacone pertido, qui fraudem disponit ;
Expetit ecclesiam, qua fraude comperta,
Ut pararet hostiam se Chriito spe certa.
Ilostes turbat Comitis mora salutaris,
Ilostia dum refici exiiectat Altaris ;
Sanctum trahunt, . . . . ' templum irrumpentes,

^ Neale suggests this blank should be filled up with "Ecclesrc," i.e.
" of Egilsey."


Sacro plenum pabulo extrahunt amentes.
Haconis prsesentite Magnus pra;sentatur ;
Sitit agni sanguinem lupus fere satur ;
Protulit sententiam, ut morti tradatur ;
Et lictori traditur, ut hoc exequatur.
Favus stillans frangitur mellis dans dulcoreoi,
Mala qu£eque fugiunt cujus per odorem :
Surdi, muti, precious Magni reparantur ;
Claudis datur sanitas, leprosi mundantar.
Ferro vincti Martyris ope relaxantur,
Naufragantes nexibus mortis liberantur.
Mffistis fit iKtitia, asgris medicina,
Firma spes periculis, salus in ruina."

I/yvins front the Abe^-deen Breviary, qiioied by Neale.

(i 158) Six years have passed away, and we see the remains of
riming Rognvald himself being interred, not far from the shrine
of his sainted uncle, amidst the sincere grief, probably, of all
})resent, except Jarl Harald, who is inwardly rejoicing at the
l)loody murder of his illustrious relative, which has left him
with almost sovereign power from the Skarv of Unst to the
southernmost borders of what, in after days, is to become the
County of Sutherland.

(i 168) Another ten years have gone by, and the earthly pilgri-
mage of Bishop William, Avhich has long past the three score and
ten years of ordinary mortals, has come to an end, and his remains
too are laid in the building he had helped to build, there to
rest, till, by the almost incredible callousness of all concerned,
they were carted away, like those of a dead dog, in the year of
grace, 1855.

(1263) Nearly a century has slipped away, since William the
Old joined the majority, and his successors, William II., Bjarni
the Scald, Jorfreyrr, and Henry I., who is now bishop, have all,
in their devout superstitious manner, been adding to and beauti-
fying their cathedral church, which is now complete, or nearly
so, as planned by Kol ; except that cloisters, which at one time
appear to have been contemplated, on the south side of the
nave, have not been erected.

Magnus, the third of that name, is nov*' Earl of Orkney, and


lias just returned from Norway with his suzerain, King Hdkon,
whose fleet is lying in Elwick Bay, Shapinsay. Presently
King and Jarl accompanied by the steel-clad nobility of Norway,
are ferried over the String to Corness, thence to make their
way into Kirkwall, there to pay their orisons at the shrines
of the sainted Jarls Magnus and Rognvald, and to hear Bishoj)
Henry, who is to accompany them as chaplain-general, cele-
brate high mass and invoke the aid of the God of Battles for
the success of the expedition.

A few months have passed, and in the short gloomy days of
an Orcadian winter we see Hakon, sick, sad, and weary, slowly
riding in from Scapa to the bishop's palace. After a {q.\v days'
rest he rises to hear mass in the bishop's palace, and then
betakes himself to the shrine of St. Magnus, in the hope that
he who could cleanse the leper will restore him to health.
Not even St. Magnus is of any avail, and Hakon is released
from all care and anxiety at midnight on Saturday the 13th of
December, 1263. On the Sunday, we are told, the people
thronged in to see the remains of their monarch, lying in state
clad in the richest garments, with a garland round the head.

On the Monday the royal corpse is borne into the cathedral,
there to lie in state all that night. What a Rembrandtesque
scene it must have been, — the open grave near the shrine of St.
Magnus, the l)ier round which the royal chamberlains stand
holding lighted tapers, the nobles fully armed, the monks
and priests grouped round the sides and at the altar, all dimly
visible by the light of the tapers, and of torches, each held by a
steel-clad warrior ! Perfect silence reigns, only broken from time
to time by the prayers for the dead, or by the solemn chanting
of "Dies irae, dies ilia,'' or some other of those glorious Latin
hymns, the sonorous ring of which no translation can give us.
On the Tuesday the royal corpse is temporarily interred, to be
removed in the following March to Bergen in the very ship in
which the lU-fated monarch had sailed south to Largs.

(1540) Nearly three centuries have glided by, and again a
royal procession is seen in the streets of the now royal burgh.


James the Fifth, the King of the Commons, is staying with
Bishop Maxwell in the buildings on the west side of Victoria
Street, which, probably, were used as the episcopal palace, whilst
the palace proper was being re-built. From there we can see the
royal Gaberlunzie, surrounded by all his royal suite, — conspicuous
amongst whom may have been the "minion," Oliver Sinclair,
who two years later is to bring humiliation on his native land
harder to bear than Flodden, where at least, if defeated, the
Scottish Lion was not dishonoured, — proceeding in state to
the cathedral. Perhaps the eldest of Eupheme Elphinstone's
bastards is with his royal parent, gazing around him with childish
wonder on the scenes, he is in after life to become so familiar
with. The choir is now complete, but Bishop Reid, who is
shortly to succeed Bishop Maxwell, has yet to lengthen the

Not only did Bishop Reid interest himself about the
enlargement of his cathedral church, and the erection, or re-
building of the episcopal palace ; but he also, by a deed dated
the 28th of October, 1644, created a regular cathedral founda-
tion, which, up to that time, does not appear to have existed in
the case of St. Magnus.^ This consisted of seven dignitaries,
seven prebendaries, thirteen chaplains, a sacristan, and six
choristers. The dignitaries were (i) the provost or dean,
prebendary of Holy Trinity, and rector of South Ronaldsay
and Burra ; (2) the archdeacon, chaplain of St. Ola, with the
tithes of Birsay and Harray ; (3) the precentor, prebendary of
Orphir, Avith the tithes of Stenness ; (4) the chancellor,
prebendary of St. Mary in Sanday ; (5) the treasurer, rector of
St. Nicholas in Stronsay ; (6) the sub-dean, also the bishop's
butler, rector of Hoy and Walls ; (7) the sub-chanter, preben-
dary of St. Colme.

The prebendaries were (i) of St. Cross, in Sanday, who
attended to the bells, and saw that the floor was kept clean ;
(2) of St. Mary, in Evie, who attended to the roof and
windows ; (3) of St. Magnus, who acted as confessor to the

^ Neale's Ecdesiohgkal Notes, p. 106.


households of the chapter ; (4) of St. John ; (5) of St.
Laurence; (6) of St. Catherine; and (7) of St. Duthus. The
sacristan was also rector of the parish of St. Columba, in
Sanday, now known as Burness parish. Reid's foundation was
confirmed by a Bull, under the seal of David, Archbishop of
St. Andrew's, Cardinal and Papal Legate, bearing date the 30th
of June, 1545.^ As has been already mentioned, Raid, to-
gether with his brother commissioners, George Lesley, Earl of
Rothes, Gilbert Kennedy, Earl of Cassillis, Treasurer of
Scotland, and father-in-law of Earl Robert, and James, Lord
Fleming, Chancellor of Scotland, died at Dieppe, in the latter
part of the year 1558, when on their way home from attending
the marriage of Mary Stuart to Francis, the Dauphin of France,
poisoned, it was supposed, through Guisean treachery. No
tradition of their death and burial at Dieppe had survived
there in the year 1861, and it was owing to the researches of
Francisque Michel, the historian, when preparing for his work,
Les Ecossais en France et les Fran^ais en Ecosse, that a letter of
Chatellerault, addressed to the Dean of Dieppe, in which it
was stated, that the bishop had been buried in the chapel
dedicated to Saint Andrew, and generally known as the Scots
Chapel, of the Church of Saint James in that town, was
discovered. Dieppe, in the sixteenth century, was the port at
which, or from which, all Scottish merchants, trading in France,
landed or sailed ; and it was therefore in perfect accordance
with the spirit of the age that a chapel, dedicated to their
national saint, should be set apart in the principal church of
the town, at which Scottish mariners and merchants could pray
for deliverance from the dangers of the deep, or return their
grateful thanks for their escape, not only from the perils of the
sea, but also from capture by English privateers. It was not,
however, till the ist day of June, 1870, when the old pavement
of Saint Andrew's Chapel was being taken up for the purpose
of renewal, that five coflins were discovered placed side by
side, each containing an embalmed body in a perfect state of

^ Peterkiii's Rentals, Appendix, ji. 25.


integrity. There were no ornaments of any sort found in the
coffins, and it was solely from the before-mentioned letter, the
mode in which the bodies were placed, and the workmanship
of the coffins, that archaeological experts were led to believe
that the five coffins, contained the remains of Bishop Reid, his
three brother commissioners, and probably of some distin-
guished member of their suite. Some time in the spring of
1872 M. L'Abbe Cochet, inspector of historical monuments
for the Lower Seine, with the sanction of the Prefect, and the
authorisation of the Archbishop of the diocese, placed in St.
Andrew's Chapel an ornamental brass tablet, engraved by
Lecomte, of Rouen, and bearing the following inscription :—

" A la Memoire


Robert Reid,

Eveque d'Orkney (Orcades),

President du Parlement Ecossais.

Commissaire Depute de I'Ecosse

au Mariage de Marie Stuart.

Decede a Dieppe, en Septembre, 1558,

Inhume dans la Chappeile St. Andre,

dite des Ecossais.

Requiescat in pace."

Horribly superstitious, ignorant people, the French ! Fancy
taking so much trouble about the bones of a dead bishop !
Robert Reid was hardly cold in his French grave, before the
Reformation storm burst out in full force, and " the rascal
multitude " were wrecking the kirks of Perth, utterly destroy-
ing the church at Scone, in which the Scottish monarchs were
crowned, and in every possible way showing their hatred for
anything connected with "the Paip, that pagan full of pride."
Luckily, Kirkwall was sufficiently out of the world to escape
infection, and to this cause, probably, we owe the fact that
St. Magnus's has been spared to us, barbarously as it has been
treated, since the superstitious days of Robert Reid. If we
are to believe Baring Gould, ^ the relics of the saint were, at the

' '2>:i.x\w^Qov\0i'!, Lives of the Saitits, vol. iv. p. 213.


time of the Reformation, removed in case of accidents, part
to Aix la Chapelle, and part to the shrine of St. Vitus at
Prague. Neale,^ however, says that what are now at Prague
were translated there as far back as 1372. If Baring Gould is
right, the remains in pillar d cannot be those of the saint.
That they are so, is, however, compatible with Neale's version.
According to some old records, Robert the Bruce ordered, that
five pounds sterling should be paid yearly out of the customs
of Aberdeen to St. Magnus Kirk. Can any of the relics of the
saint have been borne before the Scottish army at Bannockburn,
as we know was the case with other relics ? We have seen
how Adam Bothwell at a distance from his diocese feued away
the property of the See, and the clergy on the spot were not
slow in following my lord bishop's example. Colville,''^ Parson of
Orphir, was even unblushing enough to " sett the teinds grit and
small to his wyff and bairnes, with the consent of the Bischope
and chapter " ; and William Mwdy,'"^ who was presented to the
parish of Walls and Flotta in 1585, " sett the personage teindis
in long takis to Adam Mudie, his son, with the consent of the
Bishop, Dean, and Chapter."

All the Orcadian ministers in the latter half of the sixteenth
century seem to have considered themselves, not merely life
tenants, but owners in almost fee simi)le, of their benefices, as
at the General Assembly held in 1597 — "It was reportit that
the Ministrie of Orknay had delapidat their benefices be
setting of tackis of the rent of the same."^

In 1580 the General Assembly declared the ofifice of bisho])
unlawful, and called upon all those who held it to resign, a
recommendation which, as Adam Bothwell was non-resident,
and had assigned his temporalities to Lord Robert Stewart,
cannot have affected the Orkneys very much ; though, at the
General Assembly held in 1598 at Dundee, the Ministers ^ of

1 Neale's Ecdesiological Notes, p. 84.
" Fasti, vol. V. p. 399. 3 Ji)id,tn, p. 403.

* Acts of General Assemblies, 1 560-1618, vol. iii. p. 948.
^ Fasti, vol. V. p. 590.


Caithness and the Orkneys voted for the proposition that it
was " necessary and expedient for the weale of the kirk that
the ministrie as the third estate of the realm in the name of
the kirk have a vote in Parliament," in plain English for the
restoration of episcopacy. Gilbert Body, minister of Holm
Saint Mary, who led the affirmatives, and, by a majority often,
carried the day, was for so voting styled by an opponent " a
drunken Orkney Asse."

Fifty-one years have passed away, since the King of the
Commons was present when high mass was being celebrated,
with all the pomp of the Romish ritual, in the most northern
cathedral in his dominions, and we see one of his many
natural children, Robert, Earl of Orkney, being interred with ^
such service as the rampant Calvinism of the day permits.

(1614) Nearly a quarter of a century after his father's death,
Earl Patrick, himself a prisoner at Dumbarton, despatches
his natural son Robert to stir up a revolt in those northern
regions he, Patrick, is never to see again. The insurrection
is quelled, and Robert Stewart, thanks to Halcro's treachery,
is a prisoner in the hands of the Earl of Caithness, who,
to satisfy the spite his family have entertained for everything
Orcadian since the bloody rout of Summerdale, is proceed-
ing to demolish the cathedral, till stopped by Bishop Law.
Some of the ruder work at the west end is supposed to have
been inserted to repair the mischief done by this vandal
descendant of the builder of Roslin Chapel.

(16 1 8) Bishop Law has been translated to Glasgow, and is
succeeded in the Orcadian See by George Graham, formerly
Bishop of Dunblane, and in this, the third year of his Orcadian
episcopate, the cathedral register commences,- the first entry in
which is " anent i-m/^/V, bairdis, slanderers," &c., who are to
"sit in the cockstuillis the space of four houris," &c. In 1620
we find from an entry, that the good people of Kirkwall used
the building as a timber-yard, having probably much the same
utilitarian feeling about it, as the Wick fish-curer, who, a year

^ See Appendix N, p. 619. - Feterkin's Rentals, appendix, p. 41.


or so ago is reported to have said to a companion, on seeing
the building for the first time, " Eh, Lowrie, what a .... of
a kirk; what a store for herring-barrels it would make." A
great number of the entries relate, as might be expected, to
" the bigging of seats," and the disputes that ensued thereon.
One in particular shows the toadyism both of Bishop Graham
and the Kirk-Session. James Baikie, of Tankerness, applies
in March, 163 1, for leave "to big a seate for his wife before
his owne seate," in the aisle in which Earl Robert had been
buried, and which, in consequence, was known as the Stewarts'
Aisle. Bishop and Session assent to the application, if it does
not interfere with the service of the church or the administra-
tion of the Communion. The seat appears to have been
"bigged," and was probably completed before May, when
Edward Stewart, of Burgh, applies to the Session, on behalf
of his brother, John Stewart, third son of Earl Robert, whom
Charles had on the 14th of the previous December created
Earl of Carrick, to have all seats in the aisle in question
belonging to any persons, who were not members of the
Stewart family, removed. My Lord Bishop not being present,
the matter is adjourned till he has considered the whole
business under its new aspect. The bishop, having taken the
question to avizandum, is evidently of opinion that it will be
as well not to offend his lordship of Carrick, and " the
remanent worthie name of Stewart," and accordingly, at a
meeting of the Kirk Session held on the nth of September,
he asks Baikie "Why was he not more carefull and foreseeing
to prevent the danger in tyme, and not to incur the indignation
of such noblemen as the Earl of Carrick and others of the
worthie name of Stewart pretending right and title to that yle ;
for it would come to his Majestie's eares how such persone did
sit there and trample upon his hienes' graund-uncle's bellie,
being his buriall place, as the said noble Erie had written
to my L. Bishop himself in a particular letter." Baikie express-
ing his willingness to remove the obnoxious seat, on being
repaid the expenses he had been put to, is told that, unless


he does so at once, the bishop himself will clear the aisle
and make what use he likes of the materials.

Verily Earls Robert and Patrick had established a healthy
funk in the Ocadian mind. In the following month (October,
163 1) Sir James Stewart, another son of Earl Robert, applies, on
behalf of his brother, to have another seat removed, and threatens
in case of refusal that it shall be forcibly removed without with
your leave or by your leave. The brethren having considered
the " inconveniences that may aryse upon the standing of that
seate, for keiping peace., quietness, and good ordour both in kirk
and coimirie" order the stumbHng-block to be removed "upon
Monanday next to cum, be ten hours in the day." In the
January following, Edward Stewart, of Brugh, applies for leave
" to big a seate for his wife or a friend, with a foot gang
before the same to his daughters to sit upon," in an empty
place " under the Stewart's loft," and is told that nothing can
be done in that aisle without the special consent of the Earl
of Carrick "had thairto be writt." Even in 1649, when Lord
Morton was the man they all fell down before, we find an
entry ordering a seat to be removed out of the Stewarts' aisle.

(1643) ^^y Lord Bishop has some years back renounced "all
Episcopal power and jurisdiction, with the whole corruptions
thereof," and retired into private life to save his pickings, and
we find the Session forbidding any "wyding in the water
openlie upon the Sabbath day ; and in case men and women,
lads and lasses, be found promiscuously wyding together after
a lascivious manner, either Sunday or week-day, whether
by day or by night, they shall be severallie censured and
condignly punished, for terrification of others, by making their
public repentance upon the qnhite stean., and paying 4oj-. in
pios usus, toties quoties, &c."

(December 17th, 1643) Although a certain Walter Stewart
had, as Commissioner from the Presbytery of Orkney, attended
that General Assembly at Glasgow, when the ministers of
Scotland worried their bishops, much in the same manner that
packs of hounds have been known to serve their huntsmen, it


was not till this date, that the Solemn League and Covenant was
sworn to and subscribed in Kirkwall. Probably the epidemic
had lost some of its virulence on its way to the far north.

Whether under an episcopal or presbyterian form of
church government, the members of the Session seem
equally to have dearly loved a lord, and, in 1649, we find
my Lord Morton applying to the Session for leave to up-
lift "some stones of marble in the floore of the kirk of
Kirkwall, commonly called St. Magnus Kirk," as he thought
they would be " very suitable " for the erection of " ane
tomb upon the corp of his umquhile father." By all means,
say the Session, providing the places from which the
marble is taken are filled up with ordinary hewn gravestones.
It was, of course, a matter of perfect indifference to them
whether the marble stones in question marked the resting-
places of jarl or bishop. A live dog was better than a dead
lion. Hardly a year or so has passed away, and the complai-
sant and accommodating ministers have been sent to the right-
about by the General Assembly, and the iron heel of the
Cromwellian despotism is making itself felt all over the length
and breadth of bonny Scotland, and, as they have done else-
where, so in the far north, his saints are amusing themselves
after their fashion. Bishop TuUoch's tomb, according to
Principal Gordon,^ was, for long after the Reformation, made
the special place at which money borrowed was used to be
repaid, and was generally held in veneration by the Orcadians.
Probably this veneration gave an extra zest to Barebones and
his friends, when, as Principal Gordon says, they robbed the
tomb " as a shred of the whore of Babylon.^' By the way
the Englishes, as the Cromwellian troops were called, were, for
long enough, nearly as useful as scape-goats in Kirkwall, as the
cat is in lodging-houses. Even at the present day, there are
good people, who would have you believe, that all the acts of
vandalism, committed some few years back, were done be the

^ Aixh. Scot. vol. i. p. 261.


(1664.) The Commonwealth has come to an end; the king
enjoys his own again ; and another change rounds has taken
■ place amongst the Orcadian clergy. Andrew Honeyman is
Bishop designate, but has not yet been consecrated ; and Douglas
of Spynie for over a year has been engaged, as Factor and Cham-
berlain to my Lord of Grandison, in stressing the Odallers of
Orkney and Shetland, and extirpating, so far as he can, what
still remains of Odal tenure. As can well be imagined, he is
probably anything but a popular character, and we are there-
fore not astonished when a street brawl ^ arises between William
Mudy, the younger, of Melsetter, George Sinclair of Gyre, and
Alexander Douglas, the younger, of Spynie. Sinclair and
Douglas are bound over to keep the peace by Patrick Blair of
Little Blair, then sheriff, but Mudy refuses to be bound, and on
the Saturday, assembling some eighteen'or twenty men, armed,
like Billee Taylor, with swords and pistols, " breake out and
ruffled all that day throw the streets," intending, no doubt, to
make it lively for Master Douglas if they had caught him.
On the Sunday, Mudy and his tail, armed as before, occupy
the cathedral, and prevent the entry of Douglas senior and
family through the south transept door. My lords of the
Privy Council are written to on the matter, but how it all ends
does not appear ; perhaps Bishop Honeyman, when he appeared
in his diocese, acted the peacemaker.

(1669.) A new volume of the cathedral register - commences
this year, and from a minute of the 27th of October we learn that
the Sacrament had only once been administered in the space

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