GLIMPSES of LOCAL HISTORY from the RECORDS.
By Mr C.T. McInnes
To many of us at one time or another in our various degrees of ignorance it must have been a matter of perplexity – not that it worried us over much – as to how historians compiled those wonderful histories that some of us read or had to read, with enjoyment and pleasure or otherwise Perhaps like myself you contented yourself with the supposition that some one with a wearisome and fiendish desire to trip us up with a long list of dates of battles and events of varying importance conceived the plan long ago of having them printed so that schoolmasters set us to the task of committing them to memory, with unfortunate results if we filled to do so.
And, of course, to our simple minds the first history book having been printed long, long ago, it was an easy step to conclude that other and later historians just copied his stories. This solution of the problem was not so very far wrong, especially with the less modern histories: the same old soiled pack of cards were used time and again with a little re-shuffling. So far as the narratives were written by contemporaries they were and are to a certain extent valuable, but the modern method is to verify the facts, so far as possible from official records, and only when these fail are the early chronicles compared and sifted, bearing in mind that then as now it is seldom that one person can give an unprejudiced or unbiased account of the events of his time.
But we are not concerned let us be thankful – with the writing of a history, not even a parish history, rather are we to content ourselves happily with a few glimpses of local history from the Records. It would be well first of all, however to inform ourselves somewhat about those Records.
One of the finest buildings in Edinburgh stands opposite the General Post Office in Princes Street. It is known as the Register House. For its design and architectural features the famous architects, the brothers Adam, were responsible. Their work is easily recognisable, a fine classical and imposing style, strong yet not cumbersome, lightened by deft touches of delicate and pleasing ornamentation – the famous festoons for with which we are all familiar in the Adam mantel-pieces. This building which was completed (so far as funds would then permit) about 1787, it is rather ironical to notice was financed from the money which was obtained from the sale of the estates of those unfortunates who were on the losing side in the risings of 15 and 45 and whose very records are in the building! Here in their home, primarily built for their safe keeping are our national records.
These consist of the Registers of our Scottish Parliament, the Privy Council records, Registers of the Great and the Privy Seal, the records of the Court of Session and Justiciary Court, the records of many Baron, Regality and Baillie Courts, Scottish military and naval records, Treasury and Exchequer Registers, Royal Household Accounts, Accounts of the Masters of Work, Treaties and State papers, Property Registers, certain pre-reformation and post-reformation Church Records, and an infinite variety of others.
Not always have our records bad the comfortable quarters they enjoy today, albeit much yet remains to be done to make them accessible and preserve them from decay. In early times the National Records were housed in Edinburgh Castle, and it was from there when the succession to the Scottish Crown was in dispute in 1291 that most were removed to Berwick at the instigation of the King of England as arbiter. As in the case of the ultimate decision which was humiliating to Scotland, so also as regards the Records, for instead of being returned to their stronghold they drifted to the Tower of London. There they remained for many a long day. Of their subsequent fate we shall hear in a moment. In the meantime our records were again accumulating, but history was to repeat itself, for in Cromwell’s time the Records at his approach were hurriedly transported from Edinburgh Castle to Stirling Castle, but this manoeuvre was of little avail, and on the surrender of Stirling Castle in August 1651, these records also were taken to the Tower of London. In 1657, when it became evident that the administration of the country could not proceed without the records, order was given for the return of certain of them to Edinburgh Castle, and this was safely carried out; but in 1660 royal mandate was issued for the return of the remainder and by far the greater part, the result was tragic in the extreme.
The Cargo had been loaded on a frigate called The Eagle. The Thames had scarcely been left behind when a storm arose; the frigate hove to in Yarmouth Roads, and there part of the cargo was transhipped to a merchantman, The Elizabeth of Burntisland. The vessels sailed independently, and the frigate arrived safely, but The Elizabeth sank off the Northumbrian coast with its precious, burden.
The tale of disaster is still incomplete. Misfortune, like an evil fate, pursued for centuries our national muniments. Many records have been destroyed by fire, injuries have been inflicted by the ‘greedy tooth’ of time, and the apathy and neglect of those responsible for their safety have added to calamity. Besides, the defective and make-shift character of the repositories in which the records were placed from time to time aggravated the process of destruction. After the Restoration in 1660 they were removed from the Castle of Edinburgh to the vaults, damp and imperfectly lighted below the Parliament House, Edinburgh. Here they remained in a state of neglect for more than a century, when they were transferred to their present home in the Register House in 1789.
In view of the many vicissitudes and losses thus briefly reviewed, it is matter both of surprise and congratulation that so much material has survived. If many of the oldest and for historical purposes, more valuable records have perished, and others exhibit irreparable gaps, much remains that is indispensable to the historian, the genealogist, and general searcher alike as to the land, the language and the people. Let us look around then, among those battered relies of an old regime to see if we can get for the time being perhaps not a full view of the pictures they could portray but at least glimpses of some interesting and entertaining sidelights with as much display of local colour as possible.
The first scene that presents itself is rich in the mystic depths of early ecclesiastical colourings. I n an Agreement between the Bishop of Dunkeld, with the consent of his Dean and Chapter, and the Abbot of Cambuskenneth, with the consent of his monks, dated nearly 700 years ago the church of Kinclavin and benefices in Perthshire should be exchanged for a money payment of 6 marks yearly and that Lecroth church in which hitherto Cambuskenneth had no right and which belonged to Dunkeld should with all care and burden, with lands teinds and offerings belong in perpetuity to Cambuskenneth, subject to the right of Dunkeld to present a suitable chaplain from time to time and reserving to Dunkeld the Bishop’s rents as in times bygone. This was no doubt a convenient arrangement. If the interests of the parishioners which were said to be the concern of the parties to the agreement were no better served, it is clear that the proximity was a distinct advantage in the collection of revenues. But like many agreements it did not work out, it would seem, as intended. Although in fairness let it be said that it is a long time after before we find cause for complaint.
On the 13th of February 1395 the Abbot of Cambuskenneth prepares a protest to the Pope. He states that on the 17th of January of that year the Bishop of Dunkeld personally visited with a retinue of 56 horsemen the church of Lecro, and notwithstanding that they were entertained at the expense of the monastery he ordered the whole fruits – the revenues, teinds, etc. – in the hands of the laity of whatsoever kind as well as overdue now and in future to be ingathered by collectors appointed by him, no one being paid from the same except the necessary expenses for the service of the church, and to account to him for the remainder under pain of excommunication. The Bishop also suspended the chaplain from serving in the church. He also required that a manse should be provided beside the church for a resident chaplain. Lecro, the Abbot states, has no manse and never had one designed, nor has he or his monastery any land for giving off for a manse. He appeals to the Pope against what he describes vehemently as oppression, and beseeches his intervention.
What has given rise to all the bother? Had Cambuskenneth failed to pay the Bishop’s rents whatever these amounted to in terms of the old agreement of 1260? No, I am afraid this is not the root of the matter, for you will remember Dunkeld was to pay 6 marks yearly to Cambuskenneth from the revenues of Kinclavin, and that could easily have been withheld. Rather, I think Cambuskenneth had been neglecting Lecropt, and Dunkeld had still a warm side to their old offspring. It my have been considered by Cambuskenneth that there was no need for a residence beside the Church for a chaplain who would doubtless be much happier in company with his jovial brethren within the portals of Cambuskenneth and who could jog along on his mare to Lecropt as occasion required. Maybe the Bishop was right. Perhaps the chaplain only came to Lecropt when he felt inclined, and the Bishop judged the time had come to have a resident chaplain. It was a visitation in more senses than ore on Cambuskenneth, and perhaps we should sympathise with the Abbot in his remark that he had to entertain such a cavalcade with results so harmful to himself and his Abbey.
Our next picture, at least so much of it as we can see, is not dressed in the same sombre hues; the colours are somewhat boisterous in the foreground and shaded off with a dignified background.
Some time prior to 1488, probably about a year before, William brother of the Laird of Keir, Moris Drummond, William Broustare, Malcum of Drummond, John of Forsith and John of Drummond, betook themselves to the farm of Lekraw possessed by James Simsoun, and there in no uncertain manner ‘spulzeit’ as the record says, his lands and goods. This did not simply mean lifting a few cattle and odds and ends. Not at all. It was no mean foray. Everything that the raiders could lay their hands on was taken away and nothing was too heavy to carry off. The plunder included 10 oxen, 13ky, 4 young nolt (black cattle), 18 sheep, a horse and a mare, saddles, girths, bridles, a pair of down coddis (pillows), worsted, wool, wool combs, axes, plough irons, pots, pans, a pair of shears, a pair of woman’s knyffis (scissors), spades, hukes, a chair, tongs, a dozen horse schone, various kinds of gowns, and pieces of cloth, and if that were not enough 2 ‘sarkis’ ane callit ‘cutsy (or cutty). Literally they had taken his very sark, not off his back I hope! But he had the law on them, and after proof before a Justice Court held at Stirling, he was granted a decree by the Lords of Council at Edinburgh on the 3rd of February 1489 for the return of the property or the value thereof as detailed in the decree.
To follow this unhappy affair, let us look upon a more pleasing and peaceful scene.
While James IV (1488-1513) was profuse in his offerings generally, there were certain shrines, which he never passed unremembered, when he happened to be in their neighbourhood. One of these was St. Mawarrock’s of Lecropt. We find this entry in the Lord High Treasurer’s Accounts:
1497, April 19 – “Giffin the Kingis offerand in sanct Mawarrokis 14s.”
1497, May 19 – “Giffin be the Kingis command to the priest of Sanct Mawarrokis 15s.6d.”
The King was resident in Stirling Castle at this time. Similar entries appear on the 12th April 1502, and the 24th April 1504. And again, when proceeding on his way to a hunting expedition in the Menteith and Balquidder district, he had time to attend Mass in Lecropt, thus:
1506, Aug 26 – “To the Kingis offerand on the bred in the Kyrk of Lekraw 2s.”
Once more on the 3rd of July 1507 he visits Lecropt and his treasurer notes the amount of the offering at 14s.
A sketch of somewhat serious import at the time for the characters delineated but now affording us some mild amusement follows. (The families concerned – at least the Wrights and his wife, a Linton of Pendreich, were substantial lairds in the district – a kind of gentry of the time.)
Before the bailie of the Regality Court of Dunblane on the 12th of June 1667, a complaint was made by William Ker, beltmaker in Dunblane, against James Wrycht of Drumdroules, Elizabeth Lintoune, his spouse, and James and Robert, their sons. William Ker states that they entered his house the day before in a turbulent manner and struck his wife Magdalen Graham and Agnes Ker, his servant, and also abused them with their tongues. After a preliminary skirmish as to the admissibility of Ker’s witnesses on the ground that they were related to him and also took part in the row, and these objections having been dismissed, Ker’s witnesses deponed that Elizabeth Lintoune laid violent hands on Magdalen Graham, drew her through the house and did ’ryve her waistcoat’; that James Wrycht, younger, struck at her; and that the others abused her with their tongues. It was also alleged that James Wrycht, elder, was heard to command his two sons James and Robert to go into the complainer’s house and take forth said Robert’s kist and bedclothes; that accordingly they went, and being interrupted Robert took hold of Magdalen by the throat and ‘did ding her almost to the ground’ and that he likewise dealt with Agnes Ker the servant. The verdict went against James Wrycht, elder, he was fined £10 Scots and to lie in the Tolbooth until payment.
But look at the background and what do we see? On 19th June 1667, James Wrycht of Drumdroules and his two sons, evidently smarting under the fine, bring an accusation against William Ker to whom his son Robert had been apprenticed. Ker, it is alleged, had on the 5th of the month threatened the apprentice lad with a knife, threatened ‘to put ‘his fuit upon his neck’; and had taken the lad by the hair of the head and threw him ‘most pitifully to the ground striking him repeatedly so that he had become ‘lame of his arme’; and abused the said prentice with many base expressions such as ‘the hangman would draw doun his feet,’ Ker’s wife (Magdalane Graham) and the servant (Agnes Ker) apparently wreaked their ill-will on the lad by ‘ryving his hair’ and ‘beating him to the ground!’ Magdalen Graham had also struck James Wrycht, the apprentice’s brother ‘on the mouth to the effusion of his blood’ The bailie fines William Ker £5 Scots for ‘beating the said Robert his prentice,’ and another £5 for ‘his said spous hitting the said James Wrycht, younger, on the mouth.’ Thus by judicious touches we find a balance. Can anyone imagine a better display of judicial sense. We can see the judge with a twinkle in his eye – the bailie of the Regality Court – dealing out justice first on the one hand and then on the other, no doubt with satisfaction to both sides, until it dawned on them that each side had lost £10 in fines that went to the Baron of the Regality (Sir John Chisholm of Cromlix) the bailie’s employer. No wonder the bailie looked pleased. And, of course, the disputants would be further chagrined when they had to pay their respective lawyers.
Some of the features of a landscape are discernible in the next canvas, showing as it does stretches of our countryside, but there is not that peacefulness which one associates with a rural scene. In the foreground we see the changehouse at the Bridge over the Allan with the innkeeper not in that jovial mood of ‘Mine Host’; he is John Mitchell, son of Robert Mitchell at the Burn of Cames (near Doune). Not far distant is Inverallan; the laird – William Row (a descendant of the famous reformer, John Row, of Row, who was associated with Knox) is in the picture too in rather a disturbed condition. Drumdruills, where Row’s sister Marion resides with her husband, Archibald Wright, (one of the Loss family) is faintly visible. But for some obscure reason we should never have had a glimpse at all at what in normal circumstances would portray, as we shall gather, a country laird meeting his tenants and farm servants at the local change-house, collecting their rents and paying wages. That there was more happening and that murder was almost committed provides us with an exciting record that we should not otherwise have found.
In 1691 William Row of Innerallan had occasion to make a serious complaint to the Privy Council. After a preamble respecting the iniquity of combinations of men for the murder of grievous bodily harm to their enemies, he goes on to say that, nevertheless, ‘it is of verity’ that William Edmonstoun servitor (apprentice) to Charles Row, W.S. (in Edinburgh, who was a brother of Innerallan) and Alexander Stewart, son of William Stewart of Craigtoun, and John Mitchell (the innkeeper) shaking off all fear of God …… and having conceived a deadly feud against him they did enter a devilish combination to waylay and murder him, and that, after many meetings, they did at last upon the 21st of April 1691 come from Doune, lurking in the highway where they were informed he (Row) was to pass from Dunblane to his own lands of Innerallan; enquiring at all persons they saw upon the way if they knew which way he was to pass that day: and he having by the providence of God past another way and thereby escaped their cruel and bloody hands, came to the house of John Mitchell at the Bridge of Allan.
There (presumably the Innerallan Inn) in a quiet and peaceable manner he was counting and reckoning with some of his tenants when Alexander Stewart and John Mitchell entered, the first having “a sword, a durk and a targe” and the other “a sword, a pistol and a durk.” And albeit he did treat them with all imaginable civility yet they did begin to use many disdainful expressions to him. William Edmondstoun thereafter having come in joined in the quarrel. Row being all alone and having no arms but his ordinary walking sword “did rise up in a peaceable manner of design to have retired and gone home,” but Edmondstoun ”in a most insolent manner” desired Row to fight him, but Row ignoring him went out, whereupon Stewart and Edmondstoun followed and drew their swords.
Row in defence as he says drew his sword against that “cruel and barbarous assassination.” Mitchell also joined in; he “did cock and snap his pistol against Row’s back, and the pistol having missed, Mitchell struck Row over the head with the butt several times, whereby he was dangerously wounded in the head “to the great effusion of his blood and hazard of his life.”
In the meantime, the other two continued striking Row, and had murdered him if he had not defended himself until some woman came and took hold of them whereby he escaped.
Immediately before the assault Row states that his attackers “did with their drawn swords fight and chase away such of Row’s tenants and men servants as were present, so that no proof might be gotten against them for their intended villainy and cruelty.” As a further aggravation of the crime Row narrates that “within 3 or 4 days thereafter the attackers with other 7 or 8 godless and graceless persons, viz., Buchanan, younger of Lenie, George, John and Alexander Jack and one Lauder, all from Doune, and Henry Stirling, late ensign in Lord Blantyre’s regiment, all armed with guns, swords, pistols, etc., came marching in a hostile manner towards the lands of Innerallan, openly declaring all the way as they came along with execrable oaths that their design and resolution was to burn and destroy Row’s tenants’ houses to ashes and to kill and murder him, but he hurried to Stirling and upon application to the Governor of the Castle, a party of His Majesty’s forces were sent out to dissipate and chase them away. Row complains that they still threaten him and vow that “the town of Edinburgh should not protect him.” He asks therefore that they should be severely punished, as an example and to the terror of others.
But there was another side to the story. Edmondstoun also lodged a complaint and claimed that he was the aggrieved. Let us hear what he says. Like Row he also paves the way for his narrative, but necessarily from his own point of view. Breaking of the public peace, using outrageous and injurious expressions, drawing swords, beating, wounding and abusing the lieges, especially when done by persons upon their own ground and to persons who made it their duty to pay their kind respects to them; that is how Edmondstoun puts it, and he proceeds, yet it is of verity that he with others when he was on his way from Edinburgh to Alloa out of the kindness he his master (Charles Row, W.S., brother of Innerallan) and his relations endeavoured to pay a kindly visit to Row of Innerallan and getting notice that he was at the house of Archibald Wright of Drumdroulls (Row’s brother-in-law) and having missed him there, met with him by chance on their return at a change-house near the Bridge of Allan, where they after representing their design of visiting him were kindly received by him and having entertained discourse a long time together they drank some ale in very good friendship: the reckoning was paid and Row was so kindly treated that he was convoyed to the door by Alexander Stewart (son of Craigtoun), bur Row having fallen in such passion he used most harsh expressions and opprobrious words against Edmondstoun, such as villain, rascal, and knave, and others, and being entreated by Stewart not to use such words against a man behind his back he still persisted and the clamour and noise caused the people there to crowd about, whereupon Edmondstoun came out to see what was the matter, and being informed, asked Row for an explanation, to which he answered that his quarrel was with Stewart. Row then drew his sword and Mitchell having also appeared he was struck twice over the head by Row. Mitchell and Stewart thereupon drew their swords in defence, but Mitchell had his sword taken from him by the country people. Still Row continued to attack and wounded Mitchell in the hand, which so provoked Mitchell that in defending himself with his pistol he struck Row slightly on the head in warding off his sword, whereby Row was a little bruised. Edmondstoun says he having endeavoured to persuade Row, as being his master’s brother, to put up his sword, so ungrateful was Row and insensible of the kindness, that he drew the sword through his hand and wounded him also; and even to this hour Row “does threaten and menace him to shoot him through the head wherever he find him.” Edmondstoun therefore asks for the punishment of Row.
The matter is referred to a Committee of the Council; evidence is heard, and the result is that Edmondstoun and Mitchell are found guilty of riot, fined 500 merks, and ordered to find caution to keep the peace. Row is not fined, but he is also ordered to find caution to the sum of 3,000 merks to keep the peace.
Whether the potency of the ale at the change-house was the soul cause of the trouble I doubt very much. We would like to learn of the other ingredients that went to the composition of this rowdy scene in such otherwise peaceful surroundings. In spite of diligent search the irritants have not been discovered. Let us hope they will some day.
Here is a little sketch showing some very practical touches and the more worthy characteristics of bygone times.
On the 5th of June 1695, the then minister of Lecropt (John Logan) was translated to St. Ninians parish, so that there was a vacancy in Lecropt, which was not filled until 29th April 1697. What supply there was in the interval and how it was paid for, if there was any, we cannot tell, but we find in the Privy Council Records that the heritors who were responsible for the stipend had evidently a year’s stipend in hand; but they were honest men and desired that it should be used in the interests of the parish. To this end they asked permission of the Privy Council as they bound to do by Statute. The heritors stated that the sum could not be better bestowed than upon the following pious uses within the parish, viz., repairing the manse, office-houses, kirk and kirkyard, “until which be done the kirk cannot be conveniently planted for want of a suitable habitation to the minister”; as also “the young ones of the parish are much neglected of their instruction and learning for want of a convenient schoolhouse”; as also “the bridge over the water of Allan which is not only the common passage for the greatest part of the parish to the church, but lies on the highway from Stirling to the north, is now so ruined and decayed that it will require a considerable sum for due reparation thereof.” The Privy Council allowed the vacant stipend to be so used: the manse was to be re-conditioned, a school-house built, and the bridge repaired. James Campbell of Lecropt was appointed factor to gather the stipend from the heritors and see it applied.
The Petition mentions that the bridge is “the common passage for the greatest part of the parish to the church.” Several interpretations may be put on this expression. One thing is certain the greater part of the parish was not on this side of the bridge: the meaning is probably that the nucleus of our village was taking shape on this side of the bridge in the parish of Logie, but Lecropt kirk was more convenient than Logie.
How all the expense of these various undertakings was to be met from a year’s stipend, however passes our comprehension. The stipend, we know, was in 1627 about £110 and then described as “a very mean provision.” History repeats itself today as regards the bridge in a sense; assuredly not as regards cost!
A final vignette before we cease our perambulation of this gallery of local views.
On the 9th of February 1772 John Haldane and Margaret Kinross had born to them in their farm of Overtown, which was near Netherton, a son whom they had baptised by the name of Robert. He grew up to be a studious lad, and burned the midnight oil, but not without purpose. In 1807 he became professor of mathematics at St. Andrews; in 1815 the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on him there; and on the 21st of July 1820, he was elected Principal of St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews. He was a worthy son of worthy parents, and the family name Haldane in our locality has always been associated with good works. His promotion of the interests of St. Andrews University is well-known. The only defect in his character was that he was a bachelor, but whether on account of this or not, he had a sense of humour, and, of course, like all professors, his moments of abstraction. Two stories associated with him will serve to illustrate these qualities.
His old maid-servant was in the habit of serving a glass of port to him in his study every afternoon. On one of those occasions in a state of preoccupation he drank his red ink in mistake for the port. In great excitement he called on the maid and asked what he should do. “Do,” she said, “I don’t know sir, unless you should eat the blot-sheet!”
The other story concerns the Principal’s dislike of dissenters. He was rebuking a St. Andrews character for wife-beating. While the man was anxious to explain that there was great provocation, the Principal would let him get no further with his excuse before he always reminded him on no account should he lift hands to a woman. At last the man had an opportunity to say that his wife had attended service with the dissenters. This changed the Principal’s outlook. He then remarked, “Oh well John, temper judgement with mercy!”
And now we must cease, and return to our various workaday tasks, hoping that some day leisure will be vouchsafed to some one with historic and artistic ability to present these and many other local pictures in a fuller and more adequate setting.
BRIDGE OF ALLAN NATIVE HONOURED (Newspaper article dated 21st June 1956) LLD. FOR CURATOR OF HISTORIC RECORDS. Mr Charles Thorpe McInnes Curator of Historical Records in the Scottish Record Office, had the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws conferred on him at the Commemoration Day ceremony in Glasgow University yesterday. The following is a brief summary of the tribute paid to him at the ceremony. “His deplorable modesty has too long disguised from even the learned public the immense services he has rendered to historical research in our country. There has hardly for years been a register of breves or a calendar of Scottish State papers which has appeared without some brief tribute to the part he has played in their preparation. May this degree advise Scotland that his monument is secure in that tradition of scholarship which he has preserved through a period when it seemed as if the end of an independent Scottish depository of our historical archives was almost in sight." A Bridge of Allan man, Mr McInnes served his apprenticeship in law with Messrs Wardlaw & Morrison, solicitors and his fellow townsmen will regard the distinction now conferred as being thoroughly well deserved.