William Ross.

Aberdour and Inchcolme; being historical notices of the parish and monastery, in twelve lectures online

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Sacred Orders, a new Order arose, who occupied an inter-
mediate place between the monks, or regular clergy, and
the secular priests. These were at first called the Lord's
Brethren ; but at length they took the name of Canons.
They adopted, in part, the discipline and rnode of life of
monks. They dwelt together, ate at a common table, and
joined in united prayer at certain hours. They did not,
however, take vows upon them to abjure property, as the
monks did, and some of them performed ministerial func-
tions in certain churches. The corruption which seems to
be inseparable from such a mode of life, when men are
shut up in cloisters, and denied the social intercourse
which their nature demands, speedily sank the order of
Canons as low as the other orders of ecclesiastics in that


dark age. A great effort was made in the eleventh century
to reform them, and from that period dates the distinction
between canons regular and secular. The seculars lived
in the same house, and ate at the same table, but retained
the revenues and perquisites of their priestly office. The
regulars, on the other hand, renounced all private property,
and lived very much after the manner of monks. And as
the rule which Ivo, Bishop of Chartres, laid down for the
latter coincided, to a large extent, with that which St.
Augustine introduced among the clergy, the regular canons
were called by many, and loved to call themselves, canons-
regular of St. Augustine. Unnatural as the whole monastic
system undoubtedly was, setting aside, as it did, the natural
instincts of man, and traversing God's arrangement regard-
ing family life ; productive too, as it was, of great evils in
our own and other countries, it must still be admitted
that the Augustinian Order was comparatively free from
many of the abuses that degraded and disgraced the
others. It is a remarkable fact, alluded to by Professor
Lorimer in his Life of Patrick Hamilton, that while few of
the secular clergy embraced evangelical doctrines at the
period of the Reformation, and almost none of the Fran-
ciscans, the Cistercians, the Benedictines, or the Carmelites,
many of the Augustinian canons and Dominican friars
warmly espoused these doctrines. In this connection the
name of Thomas Forret, Vicar of Dollar, and one of the
Canons of Inchcolme, casts a halo of glory over our old
Monastery, as we shall by and by see more fully.

It is to be borne in mind, then, that the Canons of
Inchcolme were of this Order. It was introduced into
Scotland by Alexander the First The members of it were,
in the first instance, generally foreigners either Saxons or
French ; and they had, at one time, no fewer than twenty-
eight monasteries in our land.

It will be asked if we have any information regarding the
appearance presented by the buildings of the Monastery, in


its best days. We do not, of course, enter largely into
architectural details in a popular lecture. The Monastery
seems to have been famed for its lofty tower and its magni-
ficent church. The tower, which is still standing, is, in its
rigid simplicity, a very fine one ; and was intended to
attract the notice of tempest-tossed sailors to the hospitable
shores of the island. From what remains of the other
buildings of the Monastery the beautiful stone-roofed
octagonal chapter-house, the Abbot's house, the cloisters,
and the refectory, we can easily see that they were of
different ages, and of great extent. And their original
occupants must have anticipated, for them, a greater exemp-
tion from the ravages of time than falls to the lot of most
edifices. This we may conclude from a very curious in-
scription, which is said to have been placed over the door
of the church. It ran as follows :


These lines may be thus translated :

Still may these turrets lift their heads on high,
Nor e'er, as crumbling ruins, strew the ground,

Until an ant shall drink the ocean dry,

And a slow tortoise travel the world round.

If this wish is to be regarded as at all prophetic, the
walls of the old Abbey, such as they are, have still a con-
siderable period of existence before them. In the absence
of any authentic information, it might be rash to say how
far short of his journey's end the adventurous tortoise is.
He is, no doubt, taking matters uncommonly easy. But,
judging from the appearance of the Firth, and what one
occasionally hears of the great oceans of the globe, it is safe
to infer that the ant has still a good deal of hard work
before her.

Frequent mention is made, in the Pope's Bull, of the Bishop
of the diocese in which the Monastery was situate ; and


perhaps not many of my audience are aware unless, indeed
a sentence in an earlier lecture has made them acquainted
with the fact that not only the Abbey, but the churches of
Aberdour, Dalgety, Beath, and others belonging to it, were
in the diocese of Dunkeld. How places so far removed
from one another came to be thus associated is one of
those antiquarian puzzles which are more easily stated
than solved. Be this as it may, not only was the Monas-
tery within the diocese of Dunkeld ; but several of the
Bishops of that See lie buried in the church of the Abbey.
Richard de Praebenda, who died at Cramond in 1174, is
buried there. There, too, lies another Richard, who died
in 1210; and John de Leycester, who died in 1214; as
also Gilbert, who departed this life in 1233. Another of
the Bishops of Dunkeld, Richard of Inverkeithing, who,
before he was elevated to the See, was Chamberlain to the
King, and Lord Chancellor some time afterwards, was a
great benefactor of the Monastery ; and although his body
lies at Dunkeld, his heart was buried at the north wall of
the choir of the church of St. Colme's Inch, in 1272.

For some time after this, Inchcolme seems to have lost
favour as a burying-place for the Bishops of Dunkeld ; but,
in 1483, James Livingstoun, who was first Dean, and then
Bishop, of the See, and also Lord Chancellor, was buried
in the church of the Monastery.

But perhaps a notice of a single living Bishop of the
diocese would interest you more than the burial of many
in the old Abbey church. Permit me, then, to introduce
to you William Sinclair, Bishop of Dunkeld, of whom I
have already spoken as ' the Fechtin' Bishop.' The com-
plexion of a man's times has often a good deal to do with
the moulding of his character ; and our somewhat erratic
friend, William Sinclair, has this to urge, in extenuation of
his eccentricities, that, without being consulted in the
matter, he was cast upon the troublous times of Wallace
and Bruce. The Bishops of Dunkeld had, at that time, a


baronial residence in our neighbourhood, at Auchtertool.
This place came afterwards to be known as Hallyards ; and
under the still more modern name of Camilla so named,
by one of the Earls of Moray, in compliment to his Countess,
who was one of the Argyll Campbells its walls are now
crumbling to dust. William Sinclair was living there in
the year 1315, when a party of English, sent to invade
Scotland by sea, appeared in the Forth ; and, landing at
Donibristle, began to lay waste the country in our imme-
diate neighbourhood. The Sheriff of the county, aided,
according to Lord Hailes, by Duncan, Earl of Fife, and a
train of 500 men, attempted to oppose the English ; but,
intimidated by superior numbers, they beat a precipitate
retreat. When the Bishop heard the report of what had
happened, he hastily mounted his horse ; and, at the head
of sixty of his retainers, set out to the aid of his baffled
countrymen. Meeting the Sheriff and his band, who were
fleeing in great confusion, the Bishop asked him why he was
retreating in such a cowardly way. The Sheriff took refuge
under the assertion that the English were more numerous
and powerful than they. ' It would serve you right,' cried
the Bishop, ' if the King were to order the gilt spurs to be
hacked off your heels ! ' Then, throwing his Bishop's robe
away, he snatched a spear, and, putting spurs to his horse,
dashed on, crying, ' Follow me ! who loves Scotland,
follow me ! ' His countrymen rallied round him ; and,
pressing on in the direction of Donibristle, gained an easy
victory over the enemy ; ' of whom,' says an old chronicler,
' there fell more than 500 men, besides a great number who
rushed into a boat, and, overloading it, sank along with it.'
When this incident occurred Robert the Bruce was in
Ireland, fighting for his brother Edward's advancement to
the throne of that country. He soon heard, however, of
Sinclair's intrepidity, and exclaimed, ' He shall be my
bishop ! ' And, under the double appellation of ' the King's
Bishop' and ' the Fechtin' Bishop,' William Sinclair was long


remembered by his countrymen. Few will regard him as
the beau-ideal of a bishop ; but no one will deny him the
distinction of a patriot. I have some reason for thinking
that the large upright stone, which stands a little to the west
of the south gate leading to Fordell, has some monumental
connection with this fight.

I must now lay before you some notices of the brethren
by whom the Monastery was peopled through so many
centuries ; its Priors, and Abbots, and some of its more dis-
tinguished Canons. It will, however, I believe, be an
agreeable variety for you, before entering on that department
of our narrative, to hear of the mysterious powers belonging
to Abbots of Inchcolme, as poets have feigned them. A
legend used to be told at many a fireside in Fife, of the
supernatural way in which an Abbot of our old Monastery
restored one of Sir Alan Mortimer's daughters, who had the
misfortune to be carried off to the land of the Fairies.
This legend has been wedded to verse, by David Vedder,
and I shall, with your leave, read it to you, in order that
you may have the opportunity of comparing the Abbots of
fiction with those of fact. Vedder's lines are these :


The morning's e'e saw mirth and glee

I' the hoary feudal tower
Of bauld Sir Alan Mortimer,

The Lord of Aberdour.
But dool was there, and mickle care,

When the moon began to gleam ;
For Elf and Fay held jubilee

Beneath her siller beam.

Sir Alan's peerless daughter was

His darling frae infancie,
She bloomed, in her bower, a lily flower,

Beneath the light o' his e'e.


Her eyes were gems, her brow was bright,

Her tresses black as jet ;
And her thoughts as pure as the dews of even

On the virgin violet.

The woodbine and the jessamine

Their tendrils had entwined ;
A bower was formed, and Emma oft

At twilight there reclined.
She thought of her Knight in Palestine,

And sometimes she would sigh,
For love was a guest in her spotless breast,

In heavenly purity.

The setting sun had ceased to gild

St. Columb's holy tower,
And the vesper star began to glow,

Ere Emma left her bower.
And the fairy court had begun their sport

Upon the daisied lea ;
While the gossamer strings of their virginals rang

Wi' fairy melodic.

That night the King had convoked his court

Upon the enamelled green ;
To pick and wale, thro' his beauties a',

For a blumin' fairy queen :
An', ere ever he wist, he spied a form

That rivalled his beauties a'
'Twas Emma Sir Alan Mortimer's pride,

Coming hame to her father's ha'.

Quick as the vivid lightning gleams,

Amidst a thunder storm ;
As rapidly the elf assumed

Lord Bethune's manly form.
As flies the cushat to her mate,

To meet his embrace she flew ;
Like a feathered shaft frae a yeoman's bow,

She vanished frae human view.

The Abbey bell, on the sacred isle,

Had told the vesper's hour ;
No footsteps are heard no Emma appears,

Sir Alan rushed from his tower.


The warders they ha'e left their posts,

And ta'en them to the bent ;
The porters they ha'e left their yetts ;

The sleuth-hounds are on the scent.

The vassals a' ha'e left their cots,

And sought thro' bouke and wold ;
But the good sleuth-hounds they a' lay down

On the purple heath and yowled.
Sir Alan was aye the foremost man

In dingle, bouke, and briar ;
But, when he heard his sleuth-hounds yowl,

He tore his thin grey hair.

An' aye he cheered his vassals on,

Though his heart was like to break ;
But, when he saw his hounds lie down,

Fu' mournfully then he spake :
' Unearthlie sounds affright my hounds ;

Unearthlie sights they see ;
They quiver and shake, in the heather brake,

Like the leaves o' the aspen tree.

My blude has almost ceased to flow,

And my soul is chilled wi' fear ;
Lest the elfin or the demon race

Should ha'e stown my daughter dear.
Haste ! haste to the holy Abbot that dwells

On St. Columb's sacred shores ;
An' tell him a son o' the Holy Kirk

His ghostlie aid implores.

Bid him buckle sic spiritual armour on,

As is proof against glamourie ;
Lest the fiends o' night ha'e power to prevail

Against baith him and me.'
The rowers ha'e dashed across the sound

And knocked at the chapel door,
The Abbot was chanting his midnight hymn

SL Columb's shrine before.

His saintlike mien, his radiant e'en,

An' his tresses o' siller grey,
Might ha'e driven to flight the demon o' night,

But rood or rosarie.


The messenger dropt upon his knees,

And humbly thus he said
' My master, a faithfu' son o' the Kirk,

Implores your ghostlie aid ;

And ye're bidden to put sic armour on

As is proof against glamourie ;
Lest the fiends o' nicht ha'e power to prevail

Against baith him and thee. '
The Abbot leaped lightly into the boat,

And pushed her frae the strand,
An', pantin' for breath, 'tween life and death,

The vassals rowed to land.

The Abbot has grasped the baron's hand,

' Ha'e patience, my son,' said he,
' For I shall expel the fiends o' hell

Frae your castle and baronie.'
' Restore my daughter,' Sir Alan cries,

' To her father's fond embrace,
And the half o' my gold, this very night,

St. Columb's shrine shall grace.

Yes, if thou 'It restore my darling child,

That 's from me foully been riven,
The half o' my lands, ere morning's prime,

To thy Abbey shall be given.'
The Abbot replied, with priestly pride,

' Ha'e patience under your loss,
There never was fiend withstood me yet,

When I brandished the holy Cross.

Forego your fear, and be of good cheer,

I hereby pledge my word,
That by Mary's might, ere I sleep this night,

Your daughter shall be restored .'
The Abbot had made a pilgrimage

Barefoot to Palestine,
Had slept in the Holy Sepulchre,

And visions he had seen.

His girdle had been seven times laved

In Siloam's sacred stream ;
And holy St. Bride a crucifix hung

Around his neck in a dream ;


A bead was strung on his rosarie

That had cured three men bewitched ;
And a relic o' the real Cross

His pastoral staff enriched.

He carried a chalice in his hand,

Brimfu" o' water clear,
For his ain behoof that had oozed frae the roof

O' the Holy Sepulchre.
He sprinkled bauld Sir Alan's lands

Wi' draps o' the heavenly dew,
And the fiends o' nicht, wi' gruesome yell,

To their midnight darkness flew.

Anon he shook his rosarie,

And invoked St. Mary's name,
Until sweet Emma's voice was heard

Chantin' the virgin hymn ;
But when he brandished the holy Rood

And raised it to the sky,
Like a beam o' light she burst on their sight,

In vestal purity.

Such is the legend of Sir Alan Mortimer's daughter, her
theft by the fairies, and her restoration to her father's
embrace. And I am sure you will agree with me in
thinking that much credit was due to the Abbot of Inch-
colme for bringing matters to such a happy issue. There
is a peculiar charm in these old stories, which almost all
feel; and it would be unpardonable in us not to know
what is so interestingly connected, in a literary point of
view, with our immediate neighbourhood. Stories of this
kind, when draped in the graces of poetry, sometimes
exercise a spell of another kind. They frequently set
young ladies a-sighing after roods and rosaries and other
emblems of a faith which, once all but effete in our country,
has of late begun to lift up its head again. Such im-
pressible persons would no doubt be shocked were we to
tell them that, after dipping pretty deeply into writings of
this kind, we are hard-hearted enough to look on all this


sprinkling of holy water, and shaking of the rosary, and
brandishing of the cross, without anything at all akin to
that emotion. It affects us, no doubt ; but then, by some
law of association, we find ourselves immediately after-
wards thinking on the feats of the ' Wizard of the North ' !
It would, however, be unwise to put the Abbots of sober
fact in competition with such Abbots as poets have
feigned ; and so we shall relegate our account of the real
Abbots to another lecture.


The Monastery at first a priory, then an abbey The Augustinian Rule
The dress of the Canons Bricius and Walter, Priors, and their contem-
poraries Michael and Walter, Priors The unbearable excesses of
Prior William Excellent qualities of Prior Nigel Henry, the first
Abbot Quarrel about the mill of Aberdour Abbot Thomas, his reign
and resignation Abbot William, fight about the multures of Cullelo
An appeal to the Pope Abbot Bricius Raids and miracles Abbot
Walter Abbot John Dersy Abbot Laurence and his edifices Abbot
John The ' sitting down of the Cardinall ' Abbot Walter Bower-
Abbot Michael Patrick Graham, Archbishop of St. Andrews, a
prisoner in the Monastery Abbot Thomas Abbot John Richard
Abercromby, the last of the Abbots The martyr, Thomas Forret,
Vicar of Dollar Sir John Luttrell, Knight and Abbot

IN last lecture I gave a specimen of the Abbots of Inch-
colme, as poetry has feigned them ; in the present we must
pass from the Abbots of fiction to those of fact. Nothing
connected with the history of the Monastery, even when
dealt with in the homely and popular way in which we are
now looking at it, has given me more trouble than the con-
struction of a list of its Abbots. There is scarcely a printed
chartulary on which I could lay my hands, that I have not
examined with a view to its construction; and yet I am far
from supposing that my list is complete.

The first thing to be noticed, in dealing with the Abbots,
is the fact, which, so far as I am aware, is stated for the first
time in these lectures, that the Monastery of Inchcolme was,
at the time of its institution, and for a considerable time
afterwards, a Priory; and then settled down under the rule of
an Abbot. The difference between a Priory and an Abbey
is, in one point of view, not very great ; the head of the


Convent, in the case of a Priory, being called the Prior,
and the next in order the Sub-Prior : whereas, in an Abbey,
the head is called the Abbot, and the next in order the Prior.
In another point of view, however, the difference is im-
portant and instructive. The tendency of the Papal system,
both in regard to the secular clergy and the regular orders,
has ever been towards the concentration of power in the
hands of a superior. The Great Founder of the Christian
faith laid down this rule to His followers : ' One is your
Master, even Christ ; and all ye are brethren.' But the very
genius of the Papal system is to make some one the master
of those who, along with him, ought to be considered
brethren. When the divergence begins, he is only the
first among equals, but, by and by, he assumes fatherly in-
stead of brotherly functions, and ends by claiming those that
are of a lordly kind. Among the regulars the Prior now be-
comes Abbot ; and the Abbot, when it is possible, assumes
the rank of the lordly mitred Abbot. Among the seculars,
the Presbyter becomes Bishop, and the Bishop after a few
intermediate stages becomes Pope, only a father after
all, it may be said, but certainly a father of a lordly kind.

In my first investigations into the history of the Monastery,
there seemed to be inextricable confusion in the use of the
terms 'Prior' and 'Abbot.' A charter of the Abbey of
Dunfermline is quoted by Bishop Keith, in which the head
of the Convent is styled Bricius, Abbot of Inchcolme.
Then, for a considerable period, the principals of the Con-
vent are designated Priors ; and, later still, they appear as
Abbots again. Now what is the cause of all this confusion ?
What I wish I had discovered sooner : simply a mistake on
the part of Bishop Keith.

On referring to the Register of Dunfermline, I found
Bricius styled Prior, and not Abbot; and a careful review
of the whole facts of the case warrants the assertion, that
the Monastery, from the date of its institution down till
about the year 1233, was a Priory. Bricius, its first head,


as we have just seen, is styled Prior. In the year 1178,
the Bull of Pope Alexander the Third is addressed to
Walter, Prior of the Monastery, and his brethren. In this
Bull instructions are given as to the mode in which succeed-
ing Priors are to be appointed. And in connection with
the deposition of a Prior, which took place in the year 1224,
and of which I shall have to tell you something by and by,
Bower himself uses the words, 'There was not at that
time an Abbot in the Monastery.'

I have so often had occasion to speak of the brethren of
the Monastery as Augustinian Canons, and of the rules they
followed as the Augustinian Rule, that it may be well to
tell you at this stage what that rule was. It varied con-
siderably with the lapse of time ; but its substance is to be
found in the following regulations.

First. All private property had to be relinquished by
those applying for admission into an Augustinian monastery ;
and nothing could be taken away by any one who was com-
pelled to leave the Order. Anything in the shape of
property offered to any one of the brethren could only be
accepted with the approbation of the Prior. Punishment
was decreed for contumacy, and all faults and disagree-
ments were to be carried to the head of the convent, to
whom also was to be delivered any property that might come
into the hands of the canons.

Second. The Psalms to be sung, and nightly readings,
immediately after vespers, were prescribed. Labour was to
be engaged in by the members of the convent till about
noon, which was usually the dinner hour ; and from that
time till between two and three o'clock reading was to
occupy their time ; after which, work was again to be en-
gaged in till vespers, about four o'clock. When the brethren
had to go out on any business, two were to go together.
No canon was to eat or drink beyond the bounds of the
monastery. No idle talk or gossip was to be allowed : a
matter in regard to which it would be well for all to follow


the Augustinian Rule. And those who sat working were to
be silent, not so good a regulation this, if the brethren
had anything instructive, or even amusing, to say.

Third. Another rule of the Code was that the brethren
should live in the same house, and have their food and
clothing distributed by the Superior. Everything was to
be held in common. Consideration was to be shown for
the infirmity of others ; and no one was to hold his head
high because of difference of birth. All were to strive to
live in 'concord. Attention was to be given to Divine service
at the appointed hours. The churches under their care
were not to be put to any secular use. When engaged in
singing Psalms, the brethren were to revolve in their minds
what they were expressing, and they were to sing nothing
that was not enjoined. Fasting and abstinence were on
proper occasions to be observed. Those who did not fast
in the most rigid way were to take nothing after dinner,
except when sick. Reading was to be engaged in, by some
one of the brethren, during dinner. When better food than
was usually indulged in was given to the sick, the others
were not to be discontented ; and when those of delicate
constitution had better food and clothing bestowed on them,
the others were not to fret. The sick were to be treated
kindly when ill, but were to return to the ordinary mode ot
life when well again. The dress they wore was not to be
conspicuous. Nothing offensive or unbecoming in gait,
dress, or gesture was to be allowed. They were not

Online LibraryWilliam RossAberdour and Inchcolme; being historical notices of the parish and monastery, in twelve lectures → online text (page 7 of 35)