Lecropt and Larger Scotland
By R. T. YOUNG, M.A.
Bridge of Allan
(A Paper read to the Stirling Natural History and Archaeological Society 17th February, 1931)
STIRLINGLEARMONTH & SON
9 King Street.
When one stands in the old Kirkyard of Lecropt, (now hidden within the Keir policies) the words of Gray’s incomparable elegy rise spontaneously to mind:
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire,
Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.
Something of the same emotion is felt when the antiquary is brought into contact with old letters, old verses, old documents of some now obsolete and effete authority. As he touches the venerable, crumbling, time-stained parchments, as he tries to decipher through the faded ink sentiments that once thrilled hearts now long since dissolved in dust, or strains to hear the echo of the distant thunder of some ecclesiastical or civil court at which the hearers trembled (or were supposed to tremble), he himself, hurried on in the rush of modern times, cannot but “cast some longing lingering look behind” upon that past over which distance, if there was nothing else, has thrown the spell of its enchantment. Such a pleasure, at least, has been mine since Mr. Thorpe McInnes, Edinburgh, gave me the opportunity of examining some old papers concerning the affairs of the parish of Lecropt about a hundred and thirty years ago.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for us who, live in the hurry and bustle of the present age, when a man may be at John o’ Groats House one day and in London or Land’s End the next, to realise how before the epoch of modern transport facilities a country like Scotland was really a congeries of little separate communities, each more or less, complete in itself, in its self-government, its local interests, its isolation. The community might be a royal burgh like Stirling, or a Cathedral city like Dunblane, or a rural parish like Lecropt; but the great majority of the population had never known any communal life but their own. I think it is very likely that many of the inhabitants of Lecropt, at the time which we are going to recall, had never been in Stirling, and only a few who had civil or ecclesiastical interests ever set foot in the city of Dunblane (then little more than one narrow tortuous street). As for Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London, they were for the majority of those isolated, self-centred communities as distant and inaccessible as Calcutta or Pekin.
And what contributed to this isolation and this more or less willing acceptance of the small and parochial as the be-all and end-all of life, was the utter political stagnation of the country at the time of which I am speaking. Newspapers were few, and of these few almost none dared to deviate one hair’s-breadth from the narrow way of long established and impregnable Toryism embodied in Scotland in the person of Henry Dundas, the first Viscount Melville, who for at least thirty years ruled Scotland like a Mussolini.
And even when the first murmurings of the political revolution which was to upheave the old Scottish world were heard in the brave idealisms of men like Muir, or Palmer, or Margarot, they were stifled by the exulting growling maledictions of the terrible Robert Macqueen, Lord Justice Clerk Braxfield, as he jeeringly sent to transportation, or to death, men who had dared to breathe opinions which would now be regarded as the veriest political commonplaces.
Faint echoings of these doings and misdoings in Larger Scotland doubtless filtered into Lecropt by means of some well thumbed and tattered news-sheet that passed from hand to hand until it fell to pieces from sheer decay; or perhaps from some Stirling or Dunblane lawyer who had been in court and had seen or heard the dread of Braxfield. But the nation, or rather the little communities of which the nation was made up, barely stirred in their political sleep. The time of awakening was not yet. And by means of the news-sheet, or more often, and more likely by the stories of some gangrel body tramping his way through the parish, and stopping to refresh himself at the changehouse, which once stood in the vicinity of the old Lecropt church, echoes, and terrible echoes, would come from a wider world. The old wooden-legged sailor held the wondering rustics in awe when he told of Nelson and Trafalgar. The wonded warrior would tell by the winter fireside at Netherton, or Craigarnhall, or Mylsie Bank of the Peninsular Wars and Wellington and Waterloo.
It is, then, of such a little community, part of a wider world, and yet nestling in its secluded beauty away from that world, that these few papers that have recovered, speak.
The first of the documents stands apart from the others for two reasons, one being its date, 1794, nine years before the earliest of the others, and the second reason being its content. It is unlike the others in this, that, they are concerned with Lecropt alone: but this document was addressed not only to Lecropt Parish, but to every other parish in Scotland. It is, in fact, nothing less than “An Admonition of the General Assembly 1794 with Opinion of Solicitor General of same date respecting Profaning of the Lord’s Day.” Without giving the full text of this Admonition, I would like to direct your attention to one or two points which seem to arise on a first perusal of it. The Admonition is very vague in its wording, and is very far from condescending upon any specific instance of the sort of thing that is supposed to be comprehended in the term “Profanation of the Lord’s Day.” It is also extremely nervous and timid about committing the Assembly to the definite support of zealous presbyteries and sessions who, fortified, by the Solicitor General’s Opinion, might rashly rush into legal proceedings against profaners of the Lord’s Day. It is a little difficult to resist the impression that the ecclesiastical trumpet hero sounds with an uncertain voice, and this for the reason that in regard to this matter the venerable Assembly was literally a house divided against itself. The “Wild,” or “High Fliers,” as the most zealous and evangelical party, were concerned about lax Sabbath keeping: the Moderates, for many years led by Principal Robertson and typified by Jupiter Carlyle, of Inveresk, probably were not. We seem, to hear the voice of the High Fliers in the opening sentences of the Admonition:
“The General Assembly impressed with the warmest sense of gratitude to the Divine Author of our Faith for the appointment of that day which was made for man, and reflecting with much satisfaction on the advantages which the people of this country have derived from the devout observance of the Lord’s Day by which they have long been distinguished, do earnestly beseech and admonish all Ranks to resist by their example and their influence every violation of that day and every attempt to diminish the, veneration in which it is held.”
But in what follows we seem to feel the: restraining hand of the Robertson party (the great Principal himself had by this time passed away):
“it is particularly recommended to the inferior judicatories of the Church that no prosecution shall be raised at the instance of any minister or Kirk Session or of any person appointed by them, without the special advice and consent of the Presbytery of the bounds after the said Presbytery shall have deliberately considered the case.”
And then the Solicitor General lets the cool stream of legal reasoning play with devastating effect on all ill-considered enthusiasm when he briefly and coldly cites obsolete Acts of the old Scottish Parliament (the very dates, 1661, 1672, 1693, 1695, and 1701 seem to say “The whole of this excitement is born out of due time”). And when we consult these dead and buried ordinances what do we find? The things that gave concern to the righteous were “salmon fishing, going of Salt Pans, Milns, and Killes, hiring of shearers and using merchandise on that day.” Now we, cannot help thinking that wrong as these things may he on the Lord’s Day (though much might he said in support of the necessary “going” of Salt Pans and Lime Killes), it, was not such things as these that were in the mind of the General Assembly in 1794. How then are we to get at the actual state of affairs that called forth this Admonition?
Well, happily there are other sources of information, contemporary sources, available. When Professor Thomas Reid came in 1764 from Aberdeen to Glasgow, he gave this testimonial to the religiosity and presumably the Sabbatarianism of the Glasgow people: “Though their religion is of a gloomy and enthusiastic cast it makes them tame and sober. I have not heard of a house or a head broken, of a pocket picked or any flagrant crime since I came here. I have not heard any swearing in the streets, nor even seen a man drunk (excepting, inter nos, one professor) since I came.” (Quoted by Henry Grey Graham in his “Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century.”) The same writer, Grey Graham, says: “Up to 1760, the Sunday was a day of rigorous observance, of deep solemnity, when the streets were deserted save in multitudinous going to, and coming from the worship attendance was obligatory as a religious duty and a badge of respectability – even David Hume, the arch-infidel, ‘sitting under’ Principal Robertson in Greyfriars. By 1780 or 1790 (thus we collie to within four years of our Admonition of 1794) a great change had come over the religious habits of society, and the pews, which of old had been always sedately full, were deserted by men of fashion.
And Henry Mackenzie, the “Man of Feeling,” contrasting his later years with the, sabbatical observances of his boyhood, says: “I well remember the, reverential silence of the streets, the tip-toe kind of fear with which, when any accident prevented by attendance at church, I used to pass through them.” But he records that in his later years “the streets were noisy and gay, and the church was neglected by the gentry; when, unabashed and unrebuked, the barbers bore the wigs of their customers and came to shave them on the Lord’s Day; and gentlemen even dared to play cards on Sunday, to the subversion of all pious traditions and propriety.” (Quoted by Grey Graham.)
Here then, and not in the obsolete statutes of the 17th century cited by the legally minded Solicitor General, do we find the real reason of this
Admonition of 1794, which was doubtless fired at the innocent heads of the Lecropt people from the pulpit of the parish church. Innocent heads indeed What was the use of getting excited about barbers running about “unabashed and unrebuked,” when Lecropt parish was probably in the sad and almost wigless state so bemoaned by old Caxon in The Antiquary, where there wasn’t a wig left in the parish except the minister’s, and Mr. Oldbuck’s, and Sir Arthur Wardour’s. When we get a glimpse, as we shall later on, of the kind of books that the, parish library gave out to the young people, and which we presume were much in request, we shall see that the bare idea of cards being played even on a week day in Lecropt parish is too absurd. As for the enormity of shaving on Sunday, let us hope that the tired farmers, and ploughmen, and cowmen were guilty of that crime week by week. And before we leave this thrilling subject of Sunday shaving, let me refer – just to show how old customs and ideas die very hard indeed – to the fact that by chance in my reading long ago, I came upon a half humorous, half serious, reference, to this subject. In that charming book, “The Life of a Scottish Probationer,” by the late Rev. Dr. James, Brown of Paisley, we find Thomas Davidson, the probationer, ending up a letter to a friend (date 1859) thus: “And that reminds me, that it’s ‘late, late, late on a Saturday nicht,’ and that I have still to shave.” And so we find an echo of 1794 still lingering so late as 1859.
Before passing from this document of the Admonition of 1794, I would like to say something about two names which are adhibited as signatures to it, one that of a notable professor and Assembly official, the other that of a man already distinguished, and destined to become illustrious, in his own profession, that of the law. The Admonition is signed by one “And. Dalzel, Cl. Ch. Scot.”
This Andrew Dalzel was a remarkable man. The son of a carpenter at New Liston, in the parish of Kirkliston, Linlithgowshire, he early showed himself to be a “lad o’ pairts,” and very soon attracted the notice of the Rev. John Drysdale, D.D., minister of the parish of Kirkliston, who became a second father to him, and a life-long friend. On his father’s death, the boy was adopted by his uncle, Andrew Dalzel, minister of Stoneykirk in Wigtownshire. Dr. Drysdale of Kirkliston, however, did not lose sight of the boy, and after such schooling as he was able to obtain at Stoneykirk, the doctor saw to it that the young scholar matriculated at the University of Edinburgh. There young Dalzel in due course graduated Master of Arts, having apparently gained considerable distinction as a Greek scholar. Of course, the natural destination of such a youth in that age was the church, and he took the Divinity course. But it does not appear that he was ever licensed. In those days no one thought of sending a boy brought up in comparatively humble circumstances to a South of England or Continental boarding-school to complete his education, especially in the matter of manner and address. You remember how David Balfour in “Catriona” feels the want of society assurance when he is first introduced into the gay Edinburgh circle of fair ladies, and witty advocates, and rattling officers, and how after a little experience he reflects with satisfaction that he has acquired the necessary air in handling his coat skirts and his sword, and can now stand in a drawing-room as if the same belonged to him. But, in Dalzel’s, day there was a very good equivalent for a southern or continental finishing school. A young man who aimed at entering one of the professions, such as the church or the law, if he could command the necessary interest, found an entry into good society mid the best school of manners by becoming chaplain or more often tutor to the boys in the house of some nobleman or landed gentleman. Nor did he occupy the equivocal half footman position that fell to the lot of his equivalent in England, a contemptible position like that of Tom Tusher in Thackeray’s great novel. No, he was often honoured and respected, like Ralph Erskine, in the Culross household of the black Colonel Erskine, or like the prototype of Dominie Sampson. Young Dalzel had one recommendation in the reputation for scholarship, especially in Greek, and I think that the disposition of the lad, who was simple, kindly, and utterly without affectation, must have helped. But he had the powerful aid of Dr. Drysdale also, and through the doctor’s influence, with friends he was so fortunate as to receive an appointment as tutor in the noble family of Lauderdale. There he had, as pupils Lord Maitland (afterwards 8th Earl of Lauderdale), his brother Thomas, and Robert (afterwards Sir Robert) Liston, who became his, lifelong friend. There is little doubt that he speedily won and permanently retained the esteem, and affection of the Lauderdale family.
With his pupils he attended the lecture, in civil law by John Millar at Glasgow University: and he was enabled to see something of a wider world when he travelled with Lord Maitland to Paris, and subsequently resided with him for a term at one of the Oxford Colleges. It was therefore no mere rustic unsophisticated youth who about the year 1770 came to assist Dr. Adam in the High School of Edinburgh. At that time the professor of Greek in the University was past his best, and Greek scholarship was at rather a low ebb. Whether by Dr. Adam’s suggestion or not I do not know, but his young colleague Dalzel began to teach Greek at the High School with such marked success that attendance and attention in the regular University class suffered very markedly. Professor Hunter resented what he considered as a poaching upon his preserves, and enlisting the aid of Principal Robertson, strove to have Dalzel interdicted from teaching Greek. The protest, however, was of no avail. But an understanding seems to have been come to in accordance with which Hunter virtually retired on pension, and Dalzel was appointed joint professor, which really in the circumstances meant sole professor of Greek in the University. He was an immediate and brilliant and permanent success.
An accurate and profound scholar himself, an enthusiast for all learning, especially Grecian, he had a remarkable power over the youths who crowded the benches of his classroom: and though he read his lectures, as Lord Cockburn says, “in a slow, soft, formal voice,” yet the same, writer immediately adds – “he was a great favourite with all boys and with all good men.” Why such an artless, innocent, genial, retired scholarly soul should aspire to the public and bustling post of principal clerk to the General Assembly is a mystery, but he did. Or perhaps he was pushed forward by friends who knew him better than he knew himself. Lord Cockburn in his “Memorials” states that Dalzel “was clerk to the General Assembly and was long one of the curiosities of that strange place. He was too innocent for it.”
The circumstances of his election to that post, which have something of what almost might be called a comic clement connected with them, are worthy of a passing note. In 1788 occurred the death of the Rev. Dr. Drysdale, Dalzel’s friend and minister at Kirkliston. Drvsdale was principal clerk to the Assembly. Whether his friends “put him up” to it or not, Dalzel, a layman, became a candidate for the vacant post, though it was usually held by a clergyman. The other candidate no less a person than the famous Rev. Dr. Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk, so well known as “Jupiter” Carlyle. Thereupon commenced a veritable battle of the giants, for it must be remembered that after the end of that “auld sang,” the Scottish Parliament, the General Assembly was the great forensic arena of Scotland. All the, ornaments of bench, bar, pulpit, and politics took part in the debates there, and it was commonly said that there was better speaking to be heard in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland than in the House of Commons itself. Well, there armed themselves for the fray the magnificent Jupiter himself (described by Lord Cockburn as “the noblest looking old man I ever saw”), Principal Robertson, the historian, professor, churchman, leader of the Moderates, and the Solicitor General, Robert Blair of Avontoun. On the Dalzel side were Henry Erskine (the brilliant and versatile Dean of Faculty so often pitted against Blair in the Court of Session), Dr. Bryce of Johnstone, and the whole of the “Wild” or “High Flying” or “Evangelical” party.
The Dean of Faculty astutely established the preliminary proviso that the election was to he carried on “under the provision of a restrospective scrutiny of votes.” This proved to be a very far seeing move, which resulted ultimately in the complete rout of the formidable Robertson-Jupiter-Solicitor combination, though at first that combination seemed to have carried the day. So certain were they of victory that after the vote had apparently been favourable to Carlyle, that gentleman advanced to the table, took the oath of office, and thanked the Assembly for the confidence they had reposed in him. What followed must have been a bitter pill to a proud man. The Dean of Faculty demanded his scrutiny. A committee was appointed to carry out that scrutiny, the result of which proceeding was that Dalzel after all was found to have the plurality of votes.
Before the committee had formally reported to the Assembly, Carlyle came to know of their finding, and had the wisdom and dignity to retire, from the contest, which he did without further ado. And so, quiet, genial, comfortable, innocent Professor Dalzel became clerk to the General Assembly, and if you turn up Kay’s Portraits you may see his stout, natty, black-clad figure, looking particularly pleased with himself, and underneath the portrait is the legend. “The Successful Candidate.” This then is the Andrew Dalzel, Clerk to the General Assembly, whose name was doubtless read out by Mr. Kinross, the minister, when he made known the terms of the Admonition to the people in the Lecropt Kirk.
Dalzel has a further claim on the interest of the people of Stirling by reason of the fact that a generous testimonial of his was among the testifications which gave his first start in the teaching profession – as schoolmaster in Fossoway Parish – to Mr. Michael Burden. This was the beginning of a scholastic career, which led to Mr. Burden’s long association with the Stirling Grammar School, first as “doctor” or assistant and latterly as Rector, in which position he for man years fully kept up the reputation of the school to the high standard set by his immediate predecessors, Dr. Doig and Dr. Chrystal.
Attached to the Admonition is the opinion of the Solicitor General, Robert Blair of Avontoun, whose advice was sought in the absence of the Procurator of the Church through illness. Here again we have, a glimpse of a Larger Scotland through the little (so to speak) Lecropt window. Blair was the son of the Rev. Robert Blair, Minister of Athelstaneford, always mentioned as the author of a poem entitled “The Grave.” (This Blair is not to be confounded with the Rev. Hugh Blair, the popular preacher and lecturer on belles lettres.) Young Robert Blair received his early education at Haddington, where he had for a school companion one who was to be his lifelong friend and a commanding figure in Larger Scotland, namely, Henry Dundas of the great house of Arniston, son of one Lord President and brother of another, and himself to become the first Viscount Melville. After a more advanced schooling in the High School of Edinburgh, and the usual course in Edinburgh University, Blair was admitted as a member of the faculty of advocates in 1764. As he was a man of solid parts and good understanding, though not one of the eloquent orators of the bar, he soon acquired a good practice. His powers steadily developed, and as he approached his prime he came to be regarded as a man of profound legal erudition, combined with great dignity and common sense. Unlike Braxfield, who was deficient in general culture, Blair was well read in branches outside his profession, and had a good knowledge of Latin, Greek, French, and Italian. What must have helped to raise him in the general esteem was what someone well called “his noble indifference to office,” and indeed George the Third spoke of him half laughingly and half admiringly as “the man who would not go up.” It is true that in 1789 he was, by his friend Dundas, appointed as one of the advocates-depute, and in the same year became Solicitor General, an office which lie held till 1806, when the death of William Pitt the younger caused a brief change in the political supremacy of the Tory party: and so it is that he comes to give his opinion on the Sabbath question at the request of the General Assembly in 1794. But he steadily refused judicial preferment, which was more than once during his Solicitor Generalship pressed upon him by Dundas. Lord Cockburn, in his “Memorials,” speaks of Blair with an affection and respect bordering on veneration: and there can be no doubt, that, when at, last he allowed himself to be elevated to the bench, he became one of the greatest Lords President who ever adorned the Court of Session.
Mists of legal confusion, intentional and unintentional, cleared away before his quietly delivered but piercingly critical judgment. It is said that the restless and irrepressible John Clerk of Eldin, so brilliant, and commanding during his long career at the bar, so disappointing on the bench, was heard to mutter to himself, as Blair shattered some carefully built but ill-founded legal argument presented to him from the bar by Clerk himself, “Eh, man, God Almighty spared nae pains when he made your brains.” (See note to Craik’s “A Hundred Years of Scottish History.”) This was the man then of whom we get a glimpse in this little Lecropt paper: and it is interesting that there is a short note docketed on the back of the document, from whose hand I know not, but very faded and old – “N.B. Solicitor General Blair afterwards became President of the Court of Session.” Blair and Dundas, friends from boyhood and all through astrenuous and honourable manhood in Larger Scotland, “in death were not divided.” After a too brief Presidentship of less than three years, Blair died very suddenly in his house in George Square on May 20th 1811. Viscount Melville, whose Edinburgh house was next door to the President’s, came down from London for the funeral, but on the very day of his friend’s burial the great Viscount himself died in his George Square house. These striking events called forth, from whose pen I know not, a “Monody on the Death of the Rt. Hon- Henry, Viscount Melville, and the Rt. Hon. Robert Blair of Avontoun, Lord President of the College of Justice.” I have never seen that production, but, whatever its poetical merits or demerits, it would at least (if it still exists) be extraordinarily interesting.
The next paper which I ask you to study with me is a hand-written Census of the Parish of Lecropt in the year 1803. The first part of the document itself is written in a fine current hand, which was probably the hand of Henry Anderson, Schoolmaster and session clerk of Lecropt at that time. He resided in the Lecropt hamlet, and his own family is recorded under the place name “Lecropt,” “Henry Anderson, wife and Anne.” At this date (1803) Henry Anderson must have been an old or at least an elderly man, for he had been session clerk for thirty-nine years, and continued in office till his death in 1820, after fifty-six years’ service. It is recorded in the Lecropt session minutes that Henry Anderson, schoolmaster, acted as precentor in December 1755, and for some time thereafter. This may have been the father of the Henry Anderson of 1803. The first Henry Anderson was (according to the old session records) an elder in 1727. If that were so, he would be far too old to travel round the parish making a Census in 1803. So that if an Anderson had a hand in making up the 1803 census, it must have been Henry Anderson the younger. There was a third Henry Anderson, second son of the 1803 Henry, who was ordained minister of the parish of Tillicoultry in 1807. He came out at the Disruption, and died the Free Church minister of Tillicoultry in 1845. His son, again, the fourth Henry Anderson, was Free Church minister in Partick, Glasgow. He must have inherited his love of Lecropt from his father, the third Henry. The Rev. Peter McLaren was minister of Lecropt from 1820 till his death in 1843. Henry Anderson of Partick lived on to see the twentieth century, and “in 1901, at his own charge, renovated the Headstone and put an Iron Railing round the grave at Lecropt Church of the Rev. Peter McLaren,” his own and his father’s friend.
The 1803 Census for many reasons will repay careful study. The place names (still the local names of the present day) and the family names, some of local note – their descendants in an unbroken line being with us today – and some (one at least) to become notable in Larger Scotland, are full of intensest interest.
Knockhill, Biggins, Craigarnhall, Milsie Bank, Netherton, Steads, and many others are all identifiable and still in use. And a far lengthier record than is possible in the time and space at my disposal could be compiled from the family names.
For instance, under the place name “Lecropt,” i.e., the hamlet of Lecropt, there are the names of “Lilias Bowie alias Maclean” (the widow of one Daniel Mclean), “John, Anne, Janies, Margaret, Archd., Helen,” her children. I recently saw the photograph of one of these children, Helen, taken when she was a fine looking old lady of eighty-years of age. She died at Mineral Bank, Bridge of Allan, in the year 1881. In the old hidden Lecropt Kirkyard there is a stone which exemplifies the filial piety of another of those children, Archibald Maclean. It records that in 1823 he erected it to the memory of his father, Daniel, and his recently deceased widowed mother, Lilias Bowie. This Archibald’s brother married a Bridge of Allan lassie, Agnes Robb. The eldest of their children, John, married Lilias Selbie. One of their sons is my friend, Archibald Maclean of Helenslea, Bridge of Allan; and his two little sons, Archibald Maclean and Robert Sisterson. Maclean, now represent the fifth generation of the old family of the Lecropt Macleans recorded in the 1803 Census. This Census, as I have said, would require a whole book to itself if it were to be treated properly. The only thing possible, in this paper is to make a selection from it. I will take one name because it became known in Larger Scotland; and one name because the family history is so interesting and typical of the best that is in the Scottish nature, though that family was not known, so far as I am aware, beyond the bounds of the beautiful parish where they had their birth and lived their lives.
As to the first name, in the 1803 Census, under the place name Overton, there is the record “John Haldane and Mother, William, James, Betty, and Anne.” This widow Haldane (nee Margaret Kinross) was the relict of John Haldane, and was now evidently living with her children at Overton. Overton was a farm steading which has now disappeared, its site being marked by a plantation of trees. It is not far from the present Netherton steading. But the son of John Haldane and Margaret Kinross, whose history I am now to trace, had by this time grown up to manhood and had left the old home to make his way in the world. He was Robert Haldane, and he was born at Overton in the parish of Lecropt in 1772. The young Robert Haldane, born of the working farmer class, had good blood in his veins. There are one or two little lacunoe in the tracing of his connection with and descent frorn the Haldanes of Airthrey and Gleneagles, but Mr. Alex. Morrison, Town Clerk of Bridge of Allan, who is an authority on the subject, assures me that the connection and descent are almost without a doubt. Further evidence may yet come to light, which will make the whole matter clear. A branch of the Gleneagles Haldanes seems to have migrated over to the region of Lanrick or Menteith, and some of this branch finally settled in Lecropt Parish, where we find them at Overton, in the Lecropt Census of 1803. Mr. Morrison tells me that there, is an old tradition that Lewis Haldane, Robert Haldane’s brother, and James Haldane of Airthrey were the two most physically powerful men in the whole countryside, and he thinks that this is fairly good evidence of a family relationship. There is another piece of evidence pointing in the same direction. In the library of St Mary’s College, St Andrews, there is a picture of Principal Haldane (for this Lecropt boy became Principal Haldane). It bears a very striking resemblance to the late Lord Haldane of Cloan. When Lord Haldane was introduced to the Bouse, of Lords on his elevation to the peerage, Lord Rosebery with that felicity of phrase which was peculiarly his own, welcomed his new lordship’s “ample and genial presence.” If that was a true description of Lord Haldane, it might have been equally truly said of the Principal.
The picture, shows an ample, genial, kindly-looking old gentleman, who might easily he mistaken for his relative and descendant Lord Haldane of Cloan. In the old 1803 Census there is a note at the top to this effect: N.B. The families marked with a cypher are Seceders.” The cypher mark is opposite the record of the Haldane family of Overton. But Robert Haldane, though reared among the Seceders, was all through life a faithful member of the Church of Scotland, and came bravely to her help at the Disruption, as we shall see later on. I have been able to unearth, very little about Haldane’s boyhood, except that he was educated at Dunblane school uinder the able mastership of William Coldstream, the father of “M. Coldstream. Presbytery Clerk,” of whom we shall hear later. From the Dunblane school Haldane proceeded to the “University of Glasgow, where he did well, distinguishing himself especially in the study of Mathematics. On completing the University course he does not seem to have gone forward immediately to license as a probationer of the Church. Like Dalzel, ho was as yet but a clever country lad, and a year or two in a different social atmosphere would give him confidence and do him no harm. Like many another in his circumstances, he became a tutor, first in the family at Leddriegreen, Strathblane, and later in that of Colonel Charles Murray of Abercairney. In 1797 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Auchterarder, but after that there was a long interval of nine years before he got a charge of his own. When I recall the “ample and genial” old man of St Andrews, I like to think that the interval was long, because, the lad, though probably not yet ample in presence, was both ample and genial in mind, and the family liked him too much to part with him easily. Be that as it may, preferment at long last came his way and he was presented to the living of Drummelzier in Peebles-shire by John Graham, W.S., of Eskbank, in 1806. He had been barely a year in the parish when the mathematical chair in St Andrews became vacant, and he was elected to that professorship in 1807. He impressed himself not only on his students, but on the community at large, in the midst of whom the main work of his life was to be done. He seems to have been as much respected for his growing intellectual and administrative capabilities as liked for his genial and kindly nature. One is not surprised therefore to learn that, on the, death of Principal Hill in 1820, he was presented to the charge of the parish of St Andrews by the Crown. With this office was joined that of Principal of St Mary’s College, and the professorship of divinity there. It is on record that in these combined offices Haldane “exhibited conspicuous ability both as a theologian and an administrator.” Seven years later he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. For the next sixteen years, so far as I know, “he kept the noiseless tenour of his way.” “Earnest,” “affectionate,” and “evangelical’ are the terms applied to his pulpit ministrations and pastoral labours and to these qualities must be attributed the fact that few of his people left his congregation at the Disruption.
It is singular to think that Thomas Chalmers and Robert Haldane, both Professors in the University, both ripe theologians, both beloved in their own sphere, both deeply interested in the condition of the poor, and both to figure in the great Disruption scene, may often have rubbed shoulders together at St Andrews, for they were fellow-professors there from 1823 till 1828. It is noteworthy in this connection that Haldane’s one publication – in spite of a great and varied learning that gained him (among other honours) the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh – Haldane’s one publication was on a subject that at one time absorbed Chalmers’s whole soul and energy. It was a small work concerning the condition of the poor in St Andrews. It was published in 1841, but one wonders whether, in talk over a game of golf or during a walk on the sands, the great minister and deviser of that wonderful and successful plan of dealing with the poor in St John’s parish in Glasgow, got any hints from the “ample and genial” St Andrews Principal. That Haldane was kind to the poor as individuals is recorded in one of A.K.H.B.’s gossiping (but delightfully gossiping) books about his ministry in St Andrews. Boyd recalls a scene where an old woman well known in the parish had asked some aid of one of the ministers. The doceur was less than she expected, and looking after the retreating eleemosynary she was heard to mutter, “Aw, there’s an unco, differ between the likes o’ you and auld Principal Hadden.”
Time went on. The Ten Years’ Conflict ended in the great rending of the Church of Scotland. Four hundred and fifty ministers, headed byChalmers and Welsh, left the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and constituted the first Assembly of the Free Church in the Tanfield Hall. In her hour of distress, the stricken Church instinctively turned to one of “ample and genial presence” who sat watching the scene. It was Principal Haldane, ex-moderator of the Assembly, who was called to the Chair ad interim and who did much by his quiet confident strength and wisdom to steady the Church as yet reeling from the staggering blow. He was now a man of Seventy-one, and the leadership was bound to pass into younger hands. But he did his part at the crisis, and then I think he must have retired into the academic quiet of the old University by the grey eastern sea. Eleven more years of quiet and happy life remained to him.
There is no record of his having visited the scene of his boyhood’s years, but though St Andrews was even more difficult to get away from then than it is now, I think that in the long vacation the aged and honoured Principal would look up his friends at Overton and perhaps preach one of his “earnest, affectionate evangelical” sermons in the kirk of Lecropt, for his old friend, Mr. Peter Maclaren, the, minister there. But his time came at last and full of years and honour, Principal Robert Haldane passed away at St. Mary’s College at the age of eighty-two. The Lecropt boy, who played a worthy part in the life of Larger Scotland, lies buried within the sacred precincts of the venerable Cathedral of St. Andrews.
To turn now to another name in the Census, the name of a family whose honourable history, though not known beyond Lceropt and Bridge of Allan, is worthy of being rescued from oblivion., Many other names in this 1803 Census are equally worthy. I merely select this one as typical. Under the place name “Old Mill,” in the parish of Lecropt, are recorded the members of the family of Rutherford, namely, “David Rutherford Senr. and Junr. and Wife, Elizabeth, Mary, Susan, Margaret, Agnes.” Old Mill was the straggling hamlet of white-washed buildings and thatched cottages which lay on the right bank of the River Allan, on and about the present Inverallan Road which leads to the Keirfield Works. The old village, which I well remember, has now almost completely disappeared, and its place has been taken by neat stone rows of workmen’s houses and little detached villas. The hamlet of Old Mill was mostly but not entirely inhabited by workers in Keirfield. One of the most remarkable families there, a family that would have been remarkable anywhere, was that of the Rutherfords. Their history from generation to generation down to the present day reads like a romance. David Rutherford, the father, was a typical Scot of the very best type. A working man, he was for over fifty years works. manager at Keirfield under Messrs. Macvicar, then tenants under the lairds of Keir. Without the sternness and narrowness, he had all the depth of true religious feeling and conviction portrayed in Scott’s immortal creation, Douce, Davie Deans. He was literally one who, in the words of the metrical version of the first Psalm:
“placeth his delight
Upon God’s law and meditates
On His law day and night.”
After a day of toil, he found his rest and refreshment in the zest of intellectual pursuits. Possibly because it lay in the line of his business he became deeply interested in chemistry, and a competent chemist. No winter night could be dull and dreary at the fireside to a man who took the greatest pleasure in reading every book that came in his way, so that it is recorded of him by those who knew him well and passed on the tradition to people who are living to-day that “great indeed were his attainments in science and in literature,” (Morrison’s Makers of Bridge of Allan), and that “his knowledge of English literature” was “both extensive and accurate.” I can picture honest David reading Shakespeare with delight (I myself knew a working man who did that), or, in his later years (for he lived on till 1842 sitting far on into the night (like Davidson, the Scottish shepherd’s student son) enthralled by the great Wizard’s Waverley, or Guy Mannering, or Rob Roy. And even more wonderful to relate, this largely self taught man possessed “a working knowledge of the classics and took great pleasure in reading the Gospel in original Greek (Morrison.) But intellect finds its joy not only in absorption but in expression, and, like many another Scot, especially since Burns led the way, David Rutherford felt the breath of the “divine afflatus” and the impulse to put pen to paper.
It was quite in accordance with the sober religious spirit of the age that his work should be on themes connected with religion, and he spent many leisure hours for many years in making a new metrical version of the Psalms of David and in setting them to appropriate music. The, Rev. John Kinross and the Rev. John Muir were preaching to no mere unlettered somnolent rustic, when a man who was versed in English literature and “had a working knowledge of the classics” sat in the Church: for David was a member in full communion of Lecropt Kirk, and his signature, standing out clearly in the midst of the surrounding quavering penmanship, is to be seen adhibited to the call addressed in 1803 to the Rev. John Muir, the Laird of Keir’s presentee.
As a specimen of his gift in religious poesy, let me quote his version of a part of the first Psalm, which version, to say the least, compares not unfavourably with Rous’s.
Rous’s well-known lines are:-
“He shall be like a tree that grows
Near planted by a river,”
and so on. David Rutherford’s rendering is:
“As planted by a river’s bank
Fair flourishes a tree.
Of foliage ever green, and fruit
Brings forth abundantly;
So shall the righteous prosper: him
Jehovah thus shall bless
That every good design of his
Shall meet deserved success.”
When David Rutherford paid the last debt of nature in 1842, Mr. Macvicar said of him (and it is a noble tribute), “Take him all in all, his piety and integrity, his manner of life, purity, and cheerfulness of conversation, his Christian principles and practice, we shall not see his like again.” And we, nearly a century later, can only add our “Requiescat in pace.”
“From scenes” (and from characters) “like these Old Scotia’s grandeur springs.”
In the old Kirkyard of Lecropt (within the Keir Policies) there is a handsome stone bearing the inscription:
to the memory of John Stewart Rutherford
for twenty years surgeon at Bridge of Allan
who died on the 5th of June 1849,
aged 41 years.
Then follow pathetically the names of a little daughter and a little son: and at the foot of the stone:
This monument is erected by his Widow
and the disconsolate mother
of his children.
This John Stewart Rutherford was one of the sons of old David Rutherford, but his name is not in the 1803 Census, for he was not born till 1808. The sons of old David would seem to have been worthy of their father. Charles became the chemist of Bridge of Allan (perhaps his interest was created by watching his father’s experiments) and John became the doctor of the village and district. While he was diligent and conscientious in the work of his profession, he, like, his father, had intellectual interests far outwith the boundaries of that profession. He was a devoted Church member and an elder in the Lecropt Kirk Session. But, more than, that, he had his father’s love of literature and of literary expression. For he too, was a poet, following his father’s footsteps in taking the sacred volume for his groundwork and producing a metrical version of the Song of Solomon. The late Provost Drysdale, a genuine local antiquarian if ever there was one, and a man who, in his boyhood probably knew the younger Rutherford, has recorded of him that “Dr. Rutherford was a man of very refined taste and had great poetic fancy and wrote some fine local poems.”
Alas! The young doctor’s career was but a short one. The dreaded cholera visited Bridge of Allan in 1846. Rutherford was characteristically assiduous in his attention to the sufferers, but contracted the terrible, disease himself. He recovered indeed, but his health was so injured that he was never quite the same man again, and died three short years afterwards, in 1849, lamented by all who knew him. His young wife was not destined to spend all her days in widowhood. The adjoining stone chronicles another chapter in the Rutherford family history, for it records “Loving remembrance of Annie Isabella Fortune, wife of Robert Walker, widow of Dr. J. S. Rutherford. She deceased 8th March, Anno 1872.” So that she had twenty-three, years of life after her first husband’s death, and the wording of the inscription certainly suggests that she was well worthy of the affection of both her husbands, and well worthy to marry into such a family as that of the Rutherfords. At the foot of her stone there is a Latin inscription, in which pathos strangely mingles with the sound of the majestic Latin tongue. At the risk of appearing pedantic, I cannot refrain from quoting it in the, original:
“Oremus pro fidelibus defunctis
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine
Et lux perpetua luceat eis
Requiescat in pace. Amen.”
Which might perhaps by a very free translation, be rendered thus:
“Pray for the dead who kept the faith
Eternal rest, good Lord, bequeath
To the dear dust that, lies beneath,
And may the light of heaven’s own day
That knows no setting, cheer their way.”
There, is a William Baird (corn miller) and family mentioned in the 1803 Census under the heading “Bridge of Allan.” Young James Baird, the son of William Baird, the corn miller married Mary Rutherford, a daughter of old David Rutherford. Now Mary Rutherford had a sister who (I have evidence for it which, I cannot go into just now) was greatly beloved. Well, James Baird had a brother Adam, a young farmer (then or later tenant, of Drumdruills farm on the Glen, Road between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane). Adam evidently thought that he could not do better than follow James’s example and marry into the “weel respeckit” family of the Rutherfords. At any rate, he courted her, and’ when he “askit” her she didna say “No.” But beloved Susan also died comparatively young, leaving three little daughters, one of whom was called after her mother. Susan Rutherford Baird. James MacEwen of Sunnylaw farm took this daughter of the Rutherford-Baird race for his second wife. A marriage of their son in the next, generation carried on the good stock, and not long ago I had the pleasure of speaking with young Susan Rutherford, great-grand-daughter of Susan Rutherford, and great-great-grand-daughter of old David Rutherford of the Keirfield Works. “The good is oft interred with their bone,” says Shakespeare in speaking of men’s deeds. But not so always. The spirit of good old David Rutherford still lives, and what douce Davie Deans would have called “the promised and purchased blessing” has descended to children’s children.
There are many other families of the old 1803 Census whose history I would like to trace, but considerations of space and time forbid. I must now ask you to look at another paper, one, which tells of what must have been a most interesting and even exciting period in the quiet parish of Lecropt. Old Mr. Kinross, who had been minister since 1780, died in 1803. As far as I know, he was a good old man, and there was grief at his loss. But there must have been a growing excitement also on the all important question as to who should be his successor. Patronage was at that time, and for many years afterwards, the method of filling up vacancies in the parishes of the Church of Scotland; and though in not a few instances the difference of opinion between the laird who had the right of presentation and the people who felt that they ought to have a voice in the election of the man who was to “take charge of the oversight of their souls” (see Mr. Muir’s Call), though that difference of opinion had time and again led to strife and the growth of large dissenting communities, there seems in this ease to have been a harmonious combination of the two elective methods.
The Laird offered the living of Lecropt to the Rev. John Muir, a young probationer (here is the document entitled “Presentation: James Stirling of Keir Esquire to: Mr. John Muir to be: Minister of the parish of Lecropt: 21st of April 1803″), who was at that time acting as assistant in the parish of St. Ninians near Stirling, and the people chose the same man, and presented to him a numerously signed Gospel Call (the document entitled “Call to Mr. Muir: 23rd of June 1803″). That Call is engrossed in this Lecropt document, a beautiful parchment written upon in a clear legal-looking hand by Malcolm Coldstream, shoolmaster of Dunblane and Presbytery Clerk. I think it must have been in connection with this Call that the Lecropt Clensus of 1803 (which we have just been examining) was compiled. All the names of the “Heritors, Elders, and Heads of Families in the Parish” which are adhibited to the Call are to be found in the Census, and some of them are already familiar to us, as William Baird and David Rutherford. The name Haldane is not there however, for the Haldanes were Seceders, and Principal Haldane had by this time gone out into Larger ‘Scotland. The wording of the Call is somewhat quaint in parts:
“We the Heritors, Elders, and Heads of Families in the parish of Lecropt……taking into our serious consideration the present desolate situation of the said Parish, through the want of a Gospel Minister among us occasioned by the death of our late Worthy Pastor, Mr. John Kinross, and being abundantly satisfied with, and persuaded of the Piety, Prudence, and Literature and other good Ministerial Qualifications, of you, Mr. John Muir, Preacher of the Gospel at St. Ninians, and having heard you preach several times to our great satisfaction and edification, Do therefore most heartily invite and call you the said Mr. John. Muir to take the charge and oversight of our souls, and to come and labour amongst us in the Work of the Gospel, hereby promising to you, upon your so doing, all suitable subjection in the Lord.”
The Call then goes on to seek sustainment from the Presbytery of Dunblane, and “these Presents” (written by Malcolm Coldstream, Presbytery Clerk of Dunblane) are subscribed by the aforesaid Heritors, Elders, and Heads of Families. The Call was sustained and accepted, and there would be a great day in Lecropt Kirk and Parish when the Reverend John Muir was ordained and inducted, a day of mingled seriousness and a kind of sober geniality, the like of which is so vividly described by Sir Walter in “The Heart of Midlothian,” when he tells of the ordination of Reuben Butler to the pastoral charge of the parish of Knocktarlitie (though let us hope there was no gracious Duncan of Knockdunder to prolong the evenings diversions even to disastrous results). We have a brief official account of the same in the next paper which claims our attention (the document entitled “Extracted from the Records, of the Presbytery of Dunblane – upon this and the three preceding pages. By M. Coldstream , Presbytery Clerk”) to this effect:
“That the late Vacancy in the Parish of Lecropt was supplied this day, by the ordination of Mr. John Muir – a Bachelor, Is attested and signed, at Lecropt in presence of the Presbytery of Dunblane the first day of September One thousand eight hundred and three years by (sic. subscribitur) John Muir, Christr. Tait, Moderator, and M. Coldstream, P.C.”
As to “M. Coldstream,” who writes a remarkably bold and clerkly hand, I am informed that the office of schoolmaster in Dunblane, was held for a very long period by two Coldstreams, father and son. The schoolmaster’s office, though for a great part of the 18th century the emoluments were microscopic, was one of increasing dignity and consideration, in many cases approaching in that respect the status of the minister himself. This certainly seems to have been the case with the Coldstreams. One supposes that epitaphs and mural inscriptions must sometimes he taken with a grain of salt, but one cannot pore over the classical tribute to Gulielmus Coldstream, the father, which may be seen affixed to the interior of the west wall of the nave of Dunblane Cathedral, without feeling that the Dominie must have been no common man:
Apud Dunblanenses per XLIII Annos.
Ludimagistri fidelis ac periti,
and the rest of the inscription bears the ring of sincerity. The father died in 1787, so that our M. Coldstream had now been in office for sixteen years, and no doubt had been Presbytery Clerk for that period also, just as Henry Anderson was schoolmaster and Session Clerk, at Lecropt. It is interesting to recall that as old Mr. Coldstream entered upon office in the year 1744, he must have witnessed the passing of Prince Charlie and his wild looking Highlanders through Dunblane on his way to that brief triumph at Holyrood, so soon to be followed by the retreat from Derby and the hopeless disaster at Culloden – which carries us very far back indeed.
Young Mr. John Muir, who now began his seventeen years ministry in Lecropt, and who was to live to see his ministerial jubilee while incumbent of the parish of St. James in the city of Glasgow, was a man of some note. The young minister was born in Glasgow in the year 1778, so that at the time of his ordination at Lecropt he was twenty-five years of age. He took his M.A. at Glasgow University, which was a sign of considerable scholarship, in 1798. He was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1802, and his very short period of probation is an indication of his ministerial gifts. He is said to have held exceptional opinions about some of the books of the Old Testament – perhaps he was a forerunner of the Higher Critics – and he was noted for many eccentric sayings. The tradition is that he was a masterful man: and he had the reputation of being a powerful and acceptable preacher, as indeed is attested by the words of the Call above quoted – “having heard you preach several times to our great satisfaction and edification.” Mr. John Muir, Senr., of Ashfield, tells me that he once had in his possession a volume of Sermons by Mr. Muir (who in the year 1831 received the degree of D.D. from his old University of Glasgow). That volume is unfortunately not now traceable, and the only publication attributed to the minister in the Fasti of the Church of Scotland is one sermon entitled “The Glorious Things spoken of the Church, a Sermon, Edinburgh, 1847.”
The paper which we are now considering (Extracts from the Records of the Presbytery of Dunblane), and which commences with the official certificate of Mr. Muir’s ordination, is practically a record of the domestic history of the minister. No doubt the fact that he was a bachelor – a fact somewhat naively stated in the attestation of ordination, “Mr John Muir – a Bachelor,” excited some innocent fluttering in the young lady dovecots of Lecropt Parish. And, in due time, to be exact about three years after his ordination, the Bachelor became a Benedick, and plighted his troth to a young lady of the parish. In the 1803 -Census which we have already studied, there .occur, underneath the place name Cockhill, the names of “Malcom (so spelled) Macnab, and Alexander, Catherine and Marjory.”
In another Census of date 1819, a beautifully written and comprehensive document (here shew it) there is the name of “Mal. McNabb, Farmer,” and in the proper column is stated the number of years that he had been married, namely, forty. Cockhill would be the name of his farm (now the Moon Cottage, Hill of Row). The young minister in the course of his visitation fell in love with Miss Marjory, and the result is seen in the next which I shall quote, and which M. Coldstream probably copied out with a benevolent and well wishing smile on his clerkly countenance:
“That John Muir, minister of Lecropt was married to Marjory Macnab on the fifteenth day Of July last – is attested and signed – at Dunblane, this fifth day of August One thousand eight hundred and six years – in presence of the Presbytery of Dunblane by (sic subscribitur) John Muir, Patrick Murray, Modr., and M. Coldstream, P.C.”
Soon the patter of little feet and the laughter of little voices were to brighten the Lecropt Manse. The next five extracts in the paper presently under review record the births of five little girls, Janet, Mary, Marjory (called after her mother), Catherine (called after her aunt at Cockhill), and Anne (probably called after one of the Keir family). I shall only quote the extract referring to the eldest child Janet, as we shall meet with Janet again further on:
“That Mr. John Muir, minister of Lecropt, had a daughter born on the nineteenth day of June last named Janet – Is, attested and signed in the presence of the Presbytery of Dunblane – at Dunblane this fourth day of August One thousand eight hundred and seven years, by (sic subscribitur) John Muir, Robert Clason, Modr. P.T., M. Coldstream, P.C.”
But the next extract tells a different and a sadder tale. The dark shadow of death fell upon the manse, and the five little girls, the youngest barely six months old, were left motherless:
“That Marjory Macnab, Spouse to Mr. John Muir minister of Lecropt died on the fourteenth day of August last – is attested at Dunblane this first day of September One thousand eight hundred and twelve years – and signed in the Presence of the Presbytery of Dunblane by (sic subscribitur) John Muir, Patrick Murray, Modr., M. Coldstream.”
Let us turn from this sad record for a moment, to make a note about the Patrick Murray who signs this extract as Moderator of the Presbytery. In the old Kirkyard of Kilmadock, picturesquely situated upon a knoll in a corner between the Annat Burn and the Teith, there is a huge “tablestane” which records at great length the life history of the Rev Patrick Murray, D.D., minister of Kilmadock. This history brings him almost into touch with our own times, as many old people in Dunblane must remember his son-in-law, who was a son of the Rev. Robert Stirling, minister of Dunblane from 1790 till his death in 1817. Mr. Stirling’s son was Patrick Stirling, L.LD., writer in Dunblane, who married a daughter of Dr. Patrick Murray of Kilmadock, and was – if I am not mistaken – the senior partner in the legal firm of Stirling and Alexander, writers in Dunblane, now merged, I think, in another firm. If the journeyings of the Rambling Club affiliated to our Society have not yet led them to Kilmadock, that sweetly picturesque spot well deserves a visit from them. The ruins of the old Kirk, manifestly a pre-Reformation building are still extant; while near by in its quaint garden lies the old whitewashed manse of Kilmadock, still in occupation though it is no longer a manse. A pool in the Teith just in front of the Manse is still called The Minister’s Dub.
There is a short paper to be noticed in passing, in which one seems to hear the faint echo of a long past grief. It would be an easy thing to make a cheap sneer at the simple efforts of the “unlettered Muse” to be seen in the obituary columns of any provincial newspaper. As poetry they are generally unspeakably bad. As the genuine expression of love and grief they are to be looked upon with respect and reverent sympathy. Now here we have a paper, not an original, but copied out in the year 1834, twenty-two years after Mrs. Muir’s death, by one “W. Mackenzie.” Mr. Mackenzie has put this note, at the head of the paper: “The following lines were wrote by old. John Baird, A man well known in the religious circle around the neighbourhood of Stirling; it is meant by him as an Acrostick on the late Mrs. Muir of Lecropt, it was wrote by him some years ago – he is now in his 94th year, he gave it to me with orders to give it to some of her family, all I have done is to correct some of the spelling.”
If “old John Baird” know about the domestic happenings in Lecropt, I think it exceedingly likely that he was related to the Bairds of Bridge of Allan (whose history we have already studied). Now the Bairds were intimately connected by sympathy, propinquity, and marriage with the Rutherfords: and the Rutherford family, as we have seen, produced at least two poets, old David and his son, Dr. John Rutherford. It was in a modest way a poetic and literary circle, and it is quite likely that old John, fired at the age of seventy with the spirit of emulation and of sympathy with the minister and his five motherless little girls, gave genuine, expression to the feelings of his kind heart; and, perhaps too shy to offer the poetic tribute himself, deputed “W. Mackenzie,” “to give it to some of her family.” Every alternate line commences with an initial letter of the dead lady’s name (Old John spells it Magery). I suppose it is only an antiquary who would ever give the piece a thought, but to me it is deeply interesting because of its quaint earnestness and the suggestive note of a grim theology in the last line. Surely it will not be derogatory to the dignity of the Transactions of the Society if I rescue part at least of old John’s verses from oblivion. There is something of a glorious Easter resurrection spirit in the not wholly unpoetical lines.
“My soul is like the morning spring
I sweem, in heaven’s joy”
(W. Mackenzie apparently saw no orthographical inexactitude in “sweem”). And, there is a note as of the bird escaped “out of the fowler’s snare” in the two last lines.
“Beyond all spots and stains of sin
Or any fear of hell.”
On the back of the paper is written in an educated hand:
(Daughter of the Rev. Dr. Muir)
So I think we may take it that the artless tribute was received with due respect at least, and preserved among the family papers after Mr. Muir’s transference to Glasgow.
I must now return to the Extracts from the Dunblane Presbytery Records which reflect the joys and sorrows of the Lecropt manse. The next extract is very interesting, for it tells us that the poor little motherless girls got a new mother to take care of them.
“That Mr. John Muir Minister of Lecropt was married, to Elizabeth Balloch, on the seventeenth day of May last is attested and signed at Dunblane this twentieth day of July One thousand eight hundred and thirteen years – In the Presence of the Presbytery of Dunblane by (sic subscribitur) John Muir, William Macgregor Stirling, Modr., M. Coldstream, P.C.”
All I have been able to discover regarding this lady is that she came from Loch Couter, which I am told is “on the other side of Stirling Castle” (from Lecropt). It is possible that Mr. Muir had made her acquaintance during his year of assistantship at St. Ninians. She lived to survive him by twenty years, and bore him eleven children (four of them at the manse of Lecropt), so that his entire family numbered sixteen. Rut even in the first Mrs. Muir’s lifetime the manse must have been pretty crowded – it would certainly be very lively. It was perhaps this increase of the manse family, taken together with a scheme which had been maturing in the Laird of Keir’s mind, that led to the course of events narrated in the next paper (entitled “Extract anent Proposed Excambion of Lecropt Glebe, 1809 and 1810”), a series of events circling round what may be described as the great Excambion question. James Stirling of Keir, the then representative of an ancient and distinguished line, took pleasure I think (as his descendants have done) in improving the amenities of the naturally lovely policies of that estate: and seems to have thought, very rightly no doubt, that greater quiet and privacy within his grounds would be secured it the hamlet of Lecropt were removed to some other place. He is not personally to be blamed – but the blind matter-of-fact inartistic spirit of his age is to he blamed, if his scheme for the removal of the Manse and Globe to “another place” ultimately resulted in the removal of the old pre-Reformation Kirk of Lecropt. Alas! That part of the proceedings was only too successful.
The old church which had stood since the thirteenth century was utterly razed to the ground; not a trace of it remains. The school, cottages, manse, and glebe were removed, and the ground which they had occupied was enclosed within the policies of Keir. Nothing now remains but the old churchyard, with the form of the vanished church marked out by mournful yew trees, while the spot where the altar stood is marked by a stone pedestal surmounted by a wooden cross, with an inscription on it telling the age of the church and the date of the deed of woe, 1826 (Mr. Muir had left Lecropt by that time).
From the study of old maps, I have come to think that the old road to Doune lay pretty much along the line of the present main avenue to Keir House, and must have gone right through the little Lecropt hamlet and joined the present Hill of Row Road somewhere about the Biggins. The present main road between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane would not be in existence then. Dunblane was reached by the road which after crossing the bridge at Bridge of Allan ran up to Lawhead, roughly the site of the present railway station, and so on by the back of the present Lecropt manse. This road beyond the manse is still traceable for quite a long distance, a broad grass-covered track with a beautifully built wall on one side, sometimes on both sides of it. In what I have just related I have been anticipating a little, for the new manse (the present Lecropt manse) was not built until 1814, and the church was not removed nor the church built on its present site till the year 1826.
I must now ask you to look for a moment at the paper which details the steps which ultimately led to these results. The first item in the paper now to be considered is an extract from the Minutes of the Dunblane Presbytery, detailing how the matter of the proposed excambion came before them.
“At Dunblane, the 4th day of July 1809 years a Joint Petition from James,Stirling Esq., of Keir and Mr. Muir, Minr. of Lecropt was presented to the Presbytery by Mr. William Stirling Writer in Dunblane duly authorised for that purpose as also a letter from Mr. Muir addressed to the Modr. of the Presby. the tenor of which is as follows:- Unto the Rev. the Presby. of Dunblane the Petition of James Stirling, Esq. of Keir, and the Rev. John Muir Minr. of the Gospel at Lecropt, Humbly Sheweth that the present Glebe of Lecropt consisting of six acres three roods ten falls including the Brae together with one rood as the scite (sic) of the Manse Offices and Garden lies contiguous to the Lawn and Lands of the Estate of Keir in the natural possession of the Petitr. Mr. Stirling, and if an Excambion was made thereof with a part of his other lands of Knockhill it would be an accommodation to him without injuring the interest of Mr. Muir or his successors in the Glebe or rendering it more inconvenient for them but would tend greatly to the advantage of the Benefice -It is proposed that besides the lands to be given in exchange for the Globe there shall be added thereto as much as will be equal to the scite of the present Manse Offices and Garden so as the same may be exchanged and the Manse and Offices built thereon al the time it may be found necessary either to rebuild or to make repairs on the present Manse and Offices by Mr. Stirling and the other Heritors of the Parish of Lecropt, and if the proposed Excambion is gone into the Petitr. James Stirling Esq. binds him and his heirs to that effect and also to enclose in a sufficient manner the land which may be set apart.
The lands proposed to be given in exchange are part of the lands of Knockhill lying south-east of the entry to- the present steading of Knockhill as possessed by Archd. Galloch the present Tenant and on the south of the Turnpike Road leading to Stirling beginning at the south-east boundary thereof, keeping the flat land all the way north and west until there is as much taken off as will be equal in quantity to the contents of the present Glebe and the Scite of the Manse Offices and Garden but reserving to Mr. Stirling the timber at present growing on any part of the lands to be given in exchange with power to him and his Heirs to cut down and away take the same at any time he or they may see meet, without any compensation except surface damages, and the Petitioner James. Stirling Esq. also binds himself if the Excaxnbion is gone into to pay to the Minr. of Lecropt the full value thereof to be ascertained by skilful men mutually chosen, and likewise reserving the banks on the east and south of the same: the flat land being only to compose the exchange and if there shall he any difference in quality that the same shall be made up in quantity as the same shall be ascertained by such skilled and judicious, honest men as the Presby. may be pleased to appoint together with a professional Land Surveyor. But as the Excambion cannot he made without the sanction of the Rev. Presby. the present application is made.
May it therefore Please the Rev. Presby. to consider hereof, approve the Excambion proposed to be made between the Parties and appoint the same to be proceeded in with all convenient speed Mr. Stirling agreeing to enclose the land given in exchange where it may be wanting with proper fences to the satisfaction of Mr. Muir and the Revd. Presby. (Signed) James Stirling, John Muir.”
Mr. Muir’s letter is as follows:-
Lecropt Manse, 20th June 1809,
Rev.,Sir, I have seen a Petition by James Stirling Esq. of Keir respecting a Proposed Excambion of my present Glebe with lands belonging to him. I hereby declare my willingness to accede to the proposed Excambion, being fully satisfied that such Excambion will contribute to my comfort and be a benefit to the Benefice. I have therefore to request that the Presby. will with all convenient speed carry the Excombion into effect, according to the Rules observed in similar cases.
I am Revd. Sir,
Your most, obedt. Servt.
(Signed) John Muir
This was addressed to the Revd. the Modr. of the Presby. of Dunblane which Petition and Letter being considered by the Presby: “they did and hereby do agree and appoint to meet at Lecropt on Thursday the 20th day of this month in a Presbyterial Visitation for the effect aforesaid and appoint Mr. Muir to intimate the said meeting and design thereof in due time to the residing Heritors by an Edictal Citation from the Pulpit on Sabbath first the 9th inst. and to the non residing Heritors by letters and also to have Mr. Gilbert McEwan, a sworn Landmeasurer in Callander, for measuring off the grounds, and Mr. Ord, Blairdrummond, Mr. Mitchell, Balquharn, and Mr. Smith, Walstown, three honest judicious and disinterested Farmers to give their opinion upon oath as to the value and quality of the grounds so to be exchanged and for this purpose the Clerk is appointed to furnish Mr. Muir with an extract of the above Minute.”
Then the Presbytery duly meets in the Kirk of Lecropt for their announced Presbyterial Visitation. The reverend gentlemen doubtless came quietly jogging in on their ambling palfreys from Kincardine, Dunblane, Kilmadock, Logie, Tillicoultry, and other places, and when their steeds had been handed over to the Lecropt minister’s man and comfortably settled to their corn – to hold an equine Presbytery of their own in the manse stable – the worthy brethren assembled in the church and gave their minds to the business on hand. And here is the minute of the proceedings as extracted and given to Mr. Muir by M. Cloldstream, the Presbytery Clerk (Dominie Coldstream of Dunblane must have given his boys a holiday that day):
“At Lecropt the 20th day of July 1809 years the Presby. of Duablane being met and constituted agreeably to a Resolution entered into their minutes of 4th inst. After Prayer Sederunt Dr. Robertson. Modr., Messrs. Tait, Clason, Robt. Stirling, Murray, Wm.Stirling, Muir, Macfarlane, and Anderson Minrs. and Mr. Anderson, Elder. The Minute of last Meeting anent the Excambion of the Glebe of Lecropt being read it was reported that the edictal citation was duly made from the Pulpit as appointed and the Presby. being satisfied that letters bad been written to the non-residing Heritors of the design of this meeting, the Minister being called compeared and the Patron and Heritors being called compeared Mr. William Stirling writer in Dunblane formerly authorised by Mr. Stirling of Keir Patron and. principal Heritor of this Parish and Mr. Coldstream, Sheriff Substitute Dunblane as proxy for Sir James Campbell of Kilbryde Bart, one of the Horitors of this Parish – Compeared also agreeably to the appointment of last meeting Messrs. Ord, Mitchell, and Smith, all honest and judicious Farmers in the neighhourhood, and considered by the Presby. as properly qualified to judge in this cause – compeared also. Mr. Gilbert McEwan Land Measurer in Callander, all of whom were duly sworn to deal honestly and justly in this business.
Mr. Stirling, Writer, presented to the Presby. in name of Mr.Stirling of Keir a Petition which was read and its Tenor is as follows – 20th July 1809, Unto, the Revd. the Presby. of Dunblane The Petition of James Stirling, Esq. of Keir Humbly sheweth that in the application presented to the Revd. Presby. by the Petitr. upon the 4th inst. relative to the proposed Excambion of the Glebe of Lecropt with the Offices and Garden with certain parts of the Petitioner’s Lands of Knockhill it was omitted to state at what period the exchange if approved should take effect and as it was wished that the Exchange as to the Glebe should take effect at Martinmas next so as the Petitr. may then enter to the same and as to the Manse Offices and Garden when a new manse and offices may be built and declared by the Revd. Presby. to be sufficient for the reception of the Minr. of Lecropt and his family, it is requested that the Revd. Presby. will bind and oblige them that Mr. Muir. Minr. of Lecropt shall remove from the present Glebe at Martinmas next and from the Manse, Offices, and Garden at the time a new Manse and Offices shall be built and declared fit to receive Mr. Muir and his Family by the Presby. as aforesaid and that without any process of law Whatever.
May it therefore please the Revd. Presby. to bind and oblige them that Mr. Muir shall remove from the present Glebe at Martinmas and from the present Manse, Offices and Garden at the time a new Manse and Offices shall be built and declared by the Revd. Presby. fit to receive him and his Family and that without any warning or order of law of any kind whatever so as the Petr. may enter to the premises at these periods and enjoy the same at pleasure (Signed) William Stirling for the Petitioner.”
After which the Valuators and Land Measurer were appointed to repair to the lands mentioned in the foresaid Petitions and there to the best of their judgments to value, measure off, and set apart such portion of land in the farm of Knockhill as to them shall seem an equal compensation for the present Glebe of Lecropt including the Brae, together with the scite, of the Manse, Offices and Garden: and to assist them therein they appoint the Presby. officer to attend them, with a Spade or other Implement and to put in March stones or other proper Marks in the field at Knockhill to mark the portion given in Excambion and they appoint the said Valuators and Land Measurer to give in their report in writing to the said Presby. this afternoon.”
Well it would certainly seem that the three honest, judicious, and disinterested fa.rmers and tho sworn land measurer, not to speak of the Presbytery officer with his “Spade or other Implement,” would have their work cut out for if they were to carry out all these instructions and concoct a written report and hand it in by three o’clock the same afternoon, for that is the time at which the Presbytery appointed itself to meet again. One wonders about that interval. Would that the Lecropt papers at this stage had been a little more gossipy and less formal. It was July twentieth, the height of summer. Surely Mrs. Muir – Miss Marjory – Macnab that was would have Dr. Patrick Murray (all the way from Kilmadock) and worthy Mr. Anderson (from Tillicoultry manse -far on the other side) and the other brethren into the manse to partake of a bowl of broth and a roasted chucky, with potatoes and vegetables from the manse garden. And I am sure the minister would provide and the brethren would not refuse a modest rummer of toddy afterwards. And then I can see a portly minister or a tall thin one, quietly strolling through the garden afterwards smoking a postprandial digestive pipe, and jokingly telling Mr. Muir that it will he a long time before the new garden will produce gooseberries, and strawberries, and rasps, and red currants like those around him. And surely Mrs Muir, who would very likely have the help of Aunt Catherine from the old home at Cockhill for the day, would send out the manse quean or the bedral with broth, or cakes and cheese and ale for the “judicious and disinterested”‘ land markers. Be that as it may, time and tide and Dunblane Presbytery wait for no man. Clerk Coldstream’s dry and official record proceeds inexorably and classically:
“At Lecropt, the 20th day of July 1809 horwtertia postmeridiana (so it is written) the Valuators and Land Measurers who were appointed to inspect, value, and measure off the ground to be allowed by Mr. Stirling of Keir to the Minr. of Lecropt for the present Glebe, Brae, scite of Manse, Offices, and Garden, returned and gave in their Report as follows, viz:
At Lecropt the 20th day of July 1809 years we Peter Mitchell, Thomas Ord, and John Smith called by appointment of Presby. to inspect the Globe of Lecropt and land proposed to be exchanged therefor by James Stirling of Keir, Esq., Did inspect the same and valued the lands measured by Mr. McEwan and marked off by us equal to the Glebe. Mr. McEwan’s certificate will contain the boundaries and measurement of the lands so marked off (Signed) Peter Mitchell, Thomas Ord, John Smith.
At Lecropt the 20th day of July 1809 years, I Gilbert McEwan land surveyor in Callander do hereby certify and Report that after being sworn by the Revd. Dr. James Robertson, Modr. of the Presby. of Dunblane along with Mr. Peter Mitchell, Thomas Ord and John Smith the Valuators and Judges appointed by the Presby., I proceeded to the present Glebe. of Lecropt scite of the Manse, Offices and Garden all formerly measured by me, pointed out the same to the Valuators, viz:
The Glebe croft ground containing 6A 1r 14f 16e
Scite of Manse, Offices, and Garden 1r
Brae East of Kirkyard and Garden 1r35f20e
TOTAL = 7A10f
I also went with the said Valuators along those parts of the lands of Knockhill proposed to be exchanged for the foresaid; seven acres and ten falls of the present Glebe ground and upon their perambulating and inspecting the same they directed me to measure and set apart in their presence a space of seven acres three roods (or thereby) of the said Knockhill lands as the full equivalent of the foresaid seven acres and ten falls of the present Glebe ground scite of Manse Offices and Garden with East Brae. The same is seen accordingly in the sketch herewith produced as bounded by the green shade. All of Scotch measure (Signed) Gilbert MeEwan, dated 20th July 1809.”
“All which being duly considered by the Presby. they did and hereby Do approve of the above excambion quoad ultra Reserving to themselves the power of determining when it may be necessary to have a new Manse and Offices built upon the new Glebe and also to determine as to the Garden and Garden wall according to law. The Presby. adjourn the further consideration of this business until next ordinary meeting to which the Parties are summoned apud acta. Closed with prayer.”
At the next meeting, Sept 5th 1809, the Presby. approve of the excambion, “approves the same and consents that the said excambion shall be carried into execution with all convenient speed,” but still they are cautious. “A motion was made and unanianously agreed to that the Presby. having now received a Report from the Valuators and Land Measurer respecting the proposed Excambion of the Glebe of Lecropt together with a plan and measurement of the proposed Glebe, not withstanding that the said Plan does not exactly correspond with the Petition formerly given in by Keir and agreed to by the Mint. of Lecropt, yet, in respect that it is more agreeable to Keir and that it is agreed to by Mr. Muir the Presby. does after due deliberation, approve of the same and consents that the said Excambion shall be carried into execution with all convenient speed as soon as Mr. Stirling of Keir shall have come under satisfactory obligations to the Presby. to fulfil the following obligations, viz. to drain the wet ground in the new Glebe by Candlemas next – to enclose the Glebe sufficiently by Whitsunday next – to furnish a road by which access may be had conveniently to every part of it – to reserve to the Minr. free access to the water through the back brae as presently enjoyed” (NB.I think this means that if Keir enclosed the “scite”‘ ‘of the deserted Manse, the minister might have difficulty in getting his water supply from the source to which he had been long accustomed, namely, the well at the foot of the east Brae, which still exists and may be seen, and is still known as the Bishop’s Well.) “until a new manse is built – and then that the water shall be conveyed from the spring on the top of the bank as far west as the land permits – Mr. Stirling or his agent are required to express their consent to the above stipulations in writing against the next meeting of Presby. on the first Tuesday of October. And in respect that no new manse can be built on the present scite nor repairs given to the present Manse and Offices it is hereby declared that the Presby. hold James Stirling Esq. of Keir his heirs and successors as bound to the Presby. and the Minr. of Lecropt to see that the expenses incurred in building a new Manse and Offices and all other matters of expense shall be paid without any reference on the part of the Presby. to the other Heritors of the Parish.”
There is a bluntness and almost peremptoriness in this deliverance which, it is easy to understand, cannot have been very acceptable to Keir’s agent Mr. Stirling, the Dunblane writer, and we cannot help thinking that the agent would have a delicate task in placing it before his principal. The Laird would almost seem to have resented the implication that he or his agent required to be tied down to various obligations in so particulate a manner. And this idea certainly receives some support from the reply on behalf of Keir put in at the next meeting of Presbytery. The Laird seems disinclined to commit himself.
“At Dunblane, the 3rd day of October 1809 years, The minute of last meeting anent the proposed Excambion of the Glebe of Lecropt being read, Mr. Williarn Stirling Agent for Mr. Stirling of Keir stated that on account of Keir being a good deal from home and much indisposed and only lately returned, he would crave that the Presby. delay the further procedure in the Excambion until next meeting, which the Presby. agreed to accordingly..”
At next meeting on 12th Dec. 1809, a letter is put in by Keir’s agent on behalf of the Laird “containing Mr. Stirling of Keir’s sentiments respecting the minute of Presby. of 5th September last.”
Keir herein agrees to the conditions of excambion, as set down in the Presbytery’s minute of 5th September, and states that he has promised the minister to build the new manse during the summer of 1814. That seems a long time to wait, but the letter says that the minister expressed himself as “perfectly satisfied” with this arrangement. The Presbytery receive this letter with caution. They come to a finding that Mr. Stirling’s letter “agrees in general with the terms of the excambion,” but note that he does not agree to that part of the finding which binds him and his heirs to see that all expenses incurred in building the new manse shall be paid without any reference on the part of the Presbytery to the other Heritors of the Parish. (See supra.) They point out that he declares that he is not bound to build till summer 1814, and the Presbytery considering that his proposal might, if agreed to, involve them in a dispute with the heritors of Lecropt if repairs should be found necessary before that period, or if it should be found necessary before that time to have a new manse, they therefore declare their adherence to the concluding part of their minute of 5th of September:
“But in order that if Mr. Stirling of Keir shall declare his acquiescence in the terms of the said paragraph before the next meeting of Presbytery, they appoint the following brethren a committee for carrying into effect the proposed excambion, viz. Mr. Tait, Mr. Clason, Mr. Stirling, Dunblane, and Mr. Anderson, Mr. Tait, to be Convener, to whom a communication of acquiescence may he made, and the said Convener is hereby authorised to call a meeting of the said Committee, who are empowered to see, the Excambion carried into, effect wdth the least possible delay.” But as far as these extracts from the Presbytery Records convey one, the business of the excambion does not seem to have been satisfactorily concluded at this time. Mr. Stirling of Keir and the Presbytery were unable to come to a mutual understanding. The extracts from the minutes of the next Presbytery meeting seem to shelve the matter indefinitely.
“At Dunblane, the 13th day of February 1810 years, the minute of last meeting anent the proposed Excumbion of the Glebe of Lecropt being read – In respect that there is no communication from the Laird of Keir on the subject, the Presbytery consider the :business as fallen from.”
One thing is clear, namely, that the Presbytery were very cautious and tenacious of the rights of their brother, the minister of Lecropt, probably considering that they themselves or any of them might be in a similar position, anxious to be on good terms with their Laird, but determined for the sake of their families and their successors not to yield up any of their just rights.
The next Extract from the Presbytery Records is a paper entitled “Form of Process anent a New Manse.” It seems to indicate that the little rift between the Laird and the Presbytery hinted at in the final minute of 13th February 1810 (“that in respect that there is no communication from the Laird of Keir upon the subject, the Presbytery consider the business as fallen from”) – had widened into a definite disagreement between the Laird and the minister of Lecropt. For here in this next Presbytery extract we have the minister openly protesting against the Laird’s unwillingness to go on with the business of the excambion. It looks as if the Laird, from whatever reason, was now unable to bring himself to the point of building a new manse and offices “without any reference on the part of the Presbytery to the other Heritors of the Parish.” This it will be remembered (see supra) was the express, condition on which the Presbytery sanctioned the excambion. Here then in this paper now before us we have a hold action on the part of the minister (who, you will remember, is said to have been “a masterful man”). The extract is dated 8th January 1811, and is “A Protestation admitted at the instance of Mr. John Muir Minister of Lecrapt against James Stirling of Keir, Esquire, for not insisting the words ‘ insisting in’ are apparently used in the sense of ‘implementing ‘) for these eight meetings of Presbytery by past in his proposal” (note his proposal) “for an Excambion of the Glebe of Lecropt, whereby Mr. Muir is kept from making some improvements in his Glebe which it stands in immediate need of, and the proceedings of the Presbytery hitherto in that affair declared to be null and void.”
This is obscure. Does “declared to he null and void” refer to the decisive minute of the Presbytery (13th February,1810) declaring that having had no communication from Keir they “consider the business as fallen from?” Or does it mean that the Laird has declared the Presbytery’s proceedings to be null and void? But by what power or authority could he do that? However, let the extract further speak for itself. After the title “A Protestation” given above, the Presbytery Extract goes on as follows:
“A Petition from Mr. John Muir, Minister of Lecropt, was given in to the Presbytery, the tenor whereof follows . . . . which petition being read and considered, the Presbytery grant the prayer of the Petition and agree to meet at Lecropt in a Presbyterial Visitation for the purpose specified in the Petition on Thursday the…… day…….. next. Mr. Muir is appointed to intimate the said meeting and design thereof in due time to the residing Heritors by an Edictal Citation from the pulpit on Sabbath the and to the non-residing Heritors by letters, and also to have the necessary Tradesmen called to attend the said meeting. “
All the preliminaries herein demanded by Church Law having been duly carried out, the Presbyterial Visitation took place at Lecropt, of which the record is as follows:-
After the usual preamble as to the constitution of the court and the sederunt of ministers and elders, Mr. Muir intimated that he had issued the citations ordered by the Presbytery at the last meeting. The Heritors thereupon presented themselves, except one who appeared by proxy, “which proxy was read and sustained.” As the question before the Presbytery was mainly one of stone and lime, end not of excambion of land, instead of the “three honest, judicious, and disinterested farmers” and the sworn land measurer, we have two practical workmen (presumably master tradesmen) appearing.
“Mr. Muir then reported that in obedience to the order of the Presbytery at their last meeting to call the necessary, tradesmen to this, meeting, he had called Mr. Thomas Traquair, Wright in Stirling, and Mr. John Morison, Mason there: and the said Thomas Traquair and John Morison being called in, the Heritors were asked if they had any objection to them, or any other tradesmen to add to them. Then the said tradesmen wore informed by the Moderator of the occasion of their being called; and after having been judicially sworn to make a faithful report in the business to be commended to them, a Copy of the following queries was delivered to them to which they were desired to return answers in writing to the Presbytery. Query 1st & c. (here take it in). Which Report concerning the Manse, Offices and Garden wall at Lecropt being now before the Presbytery and considered by them, they were unanimously of opinion that a New Manse with suitable Offices and a Garden Wall ought to be built; and they hereby appoint Mr. Muir, Minister of Lecropt, to receive plans of a Manse and Offices, with specifications and an Estimate of the expense of building a garden wall six feet high of stone and lime at …….per rood, the thickness of the wall at bottom to be eighteen inches, and fifteen at the top, properly battened up in the building and well ridged over: and he is hereby appointed to lay the same before the Pregbytery. And further the Presbytery hereby declare that the scite of the said Manse and Offices is to be on any part of the present Glebe that may be chosen by Mr.Muir betwixt…… and next meeting of Presbytery. (Sgd.) Moderator.”
There are one or two remarks which may be made about the above Presbytery Minute. Firstly, it is drawn up with great ability, precision of diction, and comprehensiveness, and gives one a high idea of the business capacity of the draftsman. One wonders whether Mr. Coldstream, Sheriff Substitute at Dunblane (who appeared as proxy for Sir James Campbell of Kilbryde at the first meeting regarding the excambion business), drew it up or had a hand in it. Another notable point is the remarkable precision of directions for the building of the garden wall, the draftsman having evidently studied very carefully the report of Mr. John Morison, the mason, as witness the accurate specified measurements of the wall at foundation and at top, and the use of technical language such as the expressions “properly battened up” and “well ridged over.” And a third and very remarkable thing is that there is no reference to the wishes or “sentiments” of Mr. Stirling of Keir, no excambion, the business now in the opinion of the Presbytery “fallen from” is not mentioned. The delicate question whether, seeing that the former proceedings were “null and void” the Laird of Keir should build the manse without any reference on the part of the Presbytery to the other Heritors of the Parish (see Presbytery minute of 5th Sept 1809) or whether the other Heritors should bear their part of the expense, is left open, though it is referred to in an addendum to be presently noticed. And, boldest assertion of all, the new Manse is to be built on any “scite” on the old Glebe which Mr. Muir may choose.
It certainly seems the act of a “masterful” Mr. Muir, living at the Laird’s very door, to compose and send in that bold Protestation to the Presbytery. And it argues equal courage in the Presbytery to bid him get the new Manse built on ground of his own choice within the limits of his then Glebe. Unfortunately we know much more about one side of the question than of the other, that is to say we have pretty full Presbytery Records, but only incidental indications of the views of the Laird, and it is not here suggested that Mr. Stirling of Keir was not perfectly justified in the course he took. If there were for the time strained relations between the manse and the mansion house, there is a little Sidelight which I will refer to later on, which may be taken to indicate that the cloud of mutual irritation passed away, and mutual respect and good feeling resumed their amiable sway. But that the Presbytery was on its mettle on this occasion and really meant business seems clear from a painstaking and far-sighted note which the Clerk (prompted probably by some able and legally-minded minister) appends to the extract which he granted to Mr. Muir:
N.B. After the Presbytery had adopted a Sum, specified by Tradesmen whether for Repairs or re-building the following Form should be observed – “The Presbytery approve the same and therefore did and hereby Do decern and ordain the Heritors of the Parish of Lecropt to pay their proportion of the said sum of…………. according to their respective valuations, Humbly requesting the Right Honourable the Lords of Council and Session to interpone their authority hereto and grant Letters of Horning at the instance of the said Mr……….Minister of……………… against the said Heritors for payments of their proportions of the said assessment according to their respective valuations. Upon all which the said Mr. Muir took instruments in the Clerk’s hands and craved Extracts as accords.”
And there is just a suggestion of apprehension in an anxious little note that a different hand, (very likely Mr. Muir’s own) has inscribed on the edge of the paper:
“Memento. To enquire whether or not a Certified Copy of the several Valuations of the Heritors be required as the Collector’s Warrant for uplifting their assessments.”
And finally, to make all sure, Mr. Muir’s (?) side note adds:
“Also to learn from Mr. Dempster what dimensions his Manse, Offices, and Garden Wall are of.”
There was no Mr. Dempster of that period in any parish in the Presbytery of Dunblane. But at that time the Rev. John Dempster was minister of Denny. He had a connection with Bridge of Allan, and so was very likely known to Mr. Muir. and the members of the Presbytery of Dunblane. The connection is this: Mr. Dempster married Isabella, daughter of Daniel Carnie. Their daughter, a Carnie by the mother’s side, married the Rev. John Ferguson parish minister
of Monzievaird and Strowan. Mr. Ferguson came out at the Disruption in 1843, and in 1844 became first minister of the Free Church in Bridge of Allan, where he died in 1871. I remember his sons well; one was Daniel (after old Daniel
Carnie); another was Charles Carnie Ferguson. They lived in Coney Park, Bridge of Allan. Old Mr. Dempster of Denny also joined the Free Church, and on retiring from active work he settled at Bridge of Allan, where he died.
We must now pass from the papers regarding what was once the burning question of the excambion and the new manse and glebe. Suffice it to say that the excambion was ultimately effected, and that the present manse was built on the present glebe in the year 1814. Doubtless that was all to the good for all parties concerned. Yet how we wish that the change had stopped there and that the old church had been spared. Bat it was not to be. And it is at a consolation to know that in itself and its surroundings the present church, now 104 years old, is a thing of beauty.
The next paper to he considered has a fascination of its own for all who love learning. It is a thin, faded, fragile, double sheet of ordinary notepaper, containing a list of young people, twenty-eight in all, attending what is called the “Lecropt Monday Evening School, 15th April 1805” There is something pathetic in the contrast between 1805 and 1931. Today, education, full and abundant, is freely offered to the young people; but when the compulsory age is past, only the faithful minority continue the pursuit of knowledge. But here in this faded paper we find recorded the names of young people who, when facilities for learning were scanty, books scarce and expensive, obstacles many from early commencement of daily labour in field or factory, were willing to devote their scanty leisure to the task of self improvement. The document itself is tantalising in its reserve. It is written in the same hand as is found on the first part of the 1803 Census, probably the hand of Henry Anderson, the old schoolmaster and session clerk. The time of year is significant, April 15th when the nights were getting long and light – evening school would be impossible in winter-time what with bad roads or mere farm tracks and no light. Then there is no indication given of the age of the scholars, nor of the subjects of study, though these were probably reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, and singing. Some of the pupils I think must have been grown up young men and women who had never learned to read or write.
“But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of Time, did ne’er unroll.”
Others, strange to say, seem to have been children. There is another Census in these Lecropt Papers, of the year 1819, a beautifully penned and detailed document giving among many other particulars the date of the marriage of each householder. From this 1819 Census we can trace the age of one or two of the scholars on the evening school roll, names already familiar to us. To recall again the connection between the Baird and the Rutherford families, there is a James Baird found as a pupil in the Lecropt Monday Evening School of 1805. Now the 1819 Census informs us that James’s father was married in 1789. The 1803 Census, gives James as the third of the family. We may take it therefore that James was born about the year 1795-6, so that in 1805 he would be nine or ten years of age. It is difficult to believe that the son of a cornmiller would have had no schooling, but children were often sent to work at a very early age, and James may have been one of these. Or his schooling may have ended when he was nine years of age – many Scotch laddies of those days would not be lucky enough to get nearly as much.
So that surely we are not far wrong in thinking that James wished (or his father wished for him) to become a little more expert at arithmetic, because a young cornmiller would have to know how to keep accounts; or perhaps he had ambitions about a kirk or a school, and wished to get some knowledge of Latin and Greek. I wish I could have said that James’s brother, Adam, had been a pupil in the Monday Evening School, because then there might be found in this frail old paper (like an old maid trembling with pleasurable excitement over a young couple’s love affair) the beginnings of a pretty romance. For Susan Rutherford’s (already known to us) is another name on the Evening School Roll. Susan at that time must have been anything from seven to ten years old. No doubt her father, David Rutherford, would help to guide her young steps into the way of knowledge, but he would be anxious too that his boys and girls should get the advantage of the skill and learning of Dominie Anderson at Lecropt, so to the Evening School little Susan Rutherford went.
And as Jamie Baird was going too, he would perhaps be entrusted with the care of the wee lassie in the journey – a pretty long journey for little feet between Keirfield and Lecropt. And if he saw little Susan safely home afterwards, he would very likely have a talk with Mary Rutherford, Susan’s elder sister, looking out for the little scholar. And so an acquaintance, at first just a boy and girl affair, would begin between James and Mary. At any rate, Cupid smiled upon them, for about a score of years later they became man and wife. And Susan, it would seem, was a pupil of Cupid as well as of the Lecropt dominie, for in due time she married James’s brother, Adam Baird. But the great thing, and to me the pathetic thing, is the earnestness of the young people of the Evening School. If they had been working all day they would be tired poor things, yet to the school they went. Their names, and families, and dwelling places, can all
be traced in the Census of 1803; Archibald and Helen Maclean (just to take one or two with whom in the foregoing I have tried to make you familiar), Helen, the fine old lady who died at Mineral Bank, Bridge of Allan, so lately as 1881; and Marion Macnab, all the way from Hill of Row; the two Gailoch girls, Janet and Isabel, from Knockhill (great book lovers), part of whose father’s (or brother’s) land at Knockhill was to come under the excambion for the new glebe. After Janet’s name there is a hieroglyphic that might he 29. Was she twenty-nine years of age and yet willing to go to the evening school? In that case she could not have been the daughter of Archibald Galioch, for the 1819 Census tells us that Archibald was married in 1793. But she might have been his sister or even his wife. If she was twenty-nine years of age, all the more honour to her!
On the other half of the sheet of notepaper containing the roll of the Monday Evening School there is another list, very meagre indeed, yet telling a tale of its own. It is the “lending out” record of a school or church library. One cannot help admiring, yet being very sorry for, the young folk whose only opportunities from the school library were confined to such cheerful treatises as “Pictures of Human Life,” “Discourses to Young People,” “Early Piety,” and “Fuller’s Gift.” These are all the names on this meagre list and opposite are the names of the readers to whom the books we re lent. But it is sad to think of what these young people were missing by so little. The Waverley Novels were ere long to open up a new “land of pure delight” to young and old. In less than a generation to come the whole reading world was to be charmed by the irresistible comicality of Dickens, and by the equally irresistible if more sardonic humour of Thackeray, and by the genius for narrative exhibited by all three authors. But, as this little scrap of paper tells us, Jean Horn had to go away contented with “Pictures of Human Life,” and so had John McKillop. And Helen Maclean, whom we can now regard as an old friend, had to extract what intellectual and spiritual pabulum she could out of “Discourses to Young Person’s,” and poor Susan Rutherford, aged nine or so went away with “Fuller’s Gift” tucked under her arm. It sounds dismal. To take liberties with an oft quoted Latin tag, poor Susan might have said:
“I fear Fuller even when he offers gifts”
0h, if she had been able to go home that night with “The Heart of Midlothian,” or “The Pickwick Papers,” or “Pride and Prejudice.” But perhaps there were compensations. As I have already hinted, some happy love affairs may have first budded in the goings to and comings from the Monday Evening School. Nothing is more common in old kirkyards than to see a moss-grown stone half sunk in the ground with, say, a, rude J. D. cut in one corner and, perhaps, M. R. in the other, and a date between. The pensive antiquary, loitering in the sacred place, calls up the picture of the time when J. D. and M. R. were lad and lass, and perhaps went to a Monday Evening School like the Lecropt one. And the dreamer about things long past loves to think of the journey home, and is quite sure that her library book (“Discourses to Young Persons,” which the lad had shyly offered to carry for her) would be entirely forgotten, and superseded by the Discourses of J. D. to M. R. Followed further lovers’ meetings, then years of happy married life, and then the long, long sleep in the kirkyard grave. That’s the sort of story that many an old stone tells, and the like of it would surely be found here if this frail old paper were a little more communicative and were to tell something more of the history of the Lecropt Monday Evening School.
There remains only one more, document about which I would like to soy a word. It is not an original: it is only a copy, but I have every reason to believe that it is a true copy of the original. You will perhaps remember that in the earlier part of this retrospect I asked you to take special notice of the record of the birth of the Rev. John Muir’s first child, Janet Muir, in 1807. Well, this paper is a letter from Janet when she was a girl in her thirteenth year, in the year 1820. It is a sober little document, such as one might expect to be penned by a little girl who had been left motherless at the age of five, with four younger sisters to be a care (like Rebecca’s charge at Sunnybrook Farm) as she grew up and became able to help her second mother. A great change is about to take place in the circumstances of the Muir family. Mr. Muir has been presented to the newly-erected parish of St. James, Glasgow, by the Town Council of Glasgow. He has apparently signified his willingness to go: and it is evident from the letter that the Laird of Keir has been in communication with the minister in order to get the benefit of his advice and some idea of the mind of the parishioners – a little sidelight which pleasingly shows, I think, that any feeling of irritation between the Laird and the minister regarding the excambion had long since passed away. The letter is a very sober little production from a girl of twelve to her sister who is away from home. But there is a very lively bit of description in it too, as you, will see when you, hear about the Provosta nd Magistrates. The letter is as follows:
Lecropt, 2nd November 1820.
We expect to leave this place about the middle of December, and to see you here, at Lecropt, before that time. Keir has promised to make Mr. McLaren next Minister of Lecropt, which gives general satisfaction to the Parish. We had a deputation of fifteen gentlemen at Dunblane on the 24th of October from the Presbytery and Town Council of Glasgow, having the Provost at their head, all drawn in three coaches, with four horses and two postilions in red jackets to each. They met with the Presbytery of Dunblane amidst a multitude of the Town’s people, when the Presbytery agreed to meet again on the 28th of November to hear what the Minister and the Parish of Lecropt have to say to the proposed translation to Glasgow, and to determine whether they themselves shall agree to it or not.
Your affte. Sister,
(Sgd.) JANET MUIR
A very sedate little letter on the whole you will agree, but exceedingly clear and to the point. Yet there is not wanting a considerable liveliness, with the evidence of keen observational powers and enjoyment of an unusual scene, in her description of the gorgeous equipages of the Lord Provost and Magistrates of Glasgow, so gorgeous indeed as almost to suggest an Elijah-like translation to a celestial sphere rather than the transference of a minister from lovely Lecropt to a poor parish in the East End of smoky Glasgow.
Here, then, we come to the end of our study of these Lecropt records. I called this essay “Lecropt and Larger Scotland” because I wished to have the liberty, in tracing out the history of names which were known in a wider than parochial sphere, of giving these papers a setting as it were in a historic background, and so conveying to them a more living interest than mere dry-as-dust documents, detached from their original setting, could hope to possess. I trust I have not taken too great a liberty in this direction. If I have allowed imagination a little play, at least imaginary scenes and series of events have had facts behind them – facts from which such scenes can he reconstructed with some approach to probability. But in any case it will, I hope, be regarded as not unworthy of a serious Archaeological Society to have lingered awhile over these old papers, and like the goodman in R.L.S.’s beautiful “Lowdon, Sabbath Morn,”
Auld faces clear in fancy’s e’e
Belike to hear
Auld voices fa’in’ saft and slee
On fancy’s ear.”