Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Celtic Relics - The Kingoldrum and Guthrie Bells

   This post concentrates on those evocative but elusive ancient items associated with the ancient church in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere, hand bells.  Previous posts have mentioned several of these which were located in Angus.  St Medan's Bell was associated with Lintrathen and Airlie and there are records of its hereditary keeper, who resigned it to the Ogilvy family, in the 15th century.  Tragically, it was mistaken for scrap metal in a local sale in the 19th century and destroyed.  The Lindsay family owned St Fillan's Bell, though its hereditary keepers were the Durays of Durayhill, dempsters of the Laird of Edzell.  Sadly, this bell has also been lost.  Francis Eeles described the two forms of early bells from the Celtic tradition.  The first type was formed from a sheet of iron bent into a quadrangular shape, with rivets up one or two sides, coasted with bronze or copper, with a handle on the top.  A later type was more regularly bell-shaped, made by a complete casting.  Around 20 early quadrangular bells made of iron or bronze have been survived in Scotland, and around twice as many from Ireland, and the consensus among scholars is that they were brought into north and eastern Pictish territories by the family of Iona.

   Hand-bells were the only type known during the early medieval period as the technology necessary for casting free hanging bells such as were later used in church towers etc. was not known.  Hand-bells, whatever their precise use, were rung by striking, rather than being made with clappers.

The Kingoldrum Bell

Detail of crucifixion from sculptured stone at Kingoldrum.

      The church and lands of Kingoldrum, north-west of Kirriemuir, were one of the early royal grants to Arbroath Abbey  in the early 12th century and seems to have been an established power centre as there are fragments of sculptured stones there (though there are no records of the site in earlier records). While the kirk of the parish  (which is no longer in use) was built in 1840 it sits roughly on the same site as its medieval predecessor, on a prominent mound and within a large, circular graveyard, which may indicate a very early date, though to my knowledge there has been no archaeological investigation to confirm this.  Like Airlie, Kingoldrum was dedicated to St Medan, who had an attested early cult locally, and there was a well (now lost) dedicated to this cleric nearby.  Gaelic seemed to flourish alongside Scots for a long period in this locality.

 In 1843 an old scellach or bell, made of sheet metal, was found here.  A bronze chalice and glass bowl were recovered beside it. Warden reports that:

A curious bronze cross and chain were found in a stone cist near the Church.  These and the bell were presented to the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries by the Rev. Mr Haldane, the minister of the parish, but the chalice and bowl have disappeared.  In another cist was a skeleton doubled up, with a rude bronze armlet on one of its wrists.

   The Kingoldrum Bell is now housed in the National Museums of Scotland (NMAS KA3).  Incidentally, the Rev. James Ogilvy Haldane was minister of the parish from 1836 and died in 1891. The enthusiastic minister also donated other finds from his parish to the Museum of Antiquities:  an axe and urn (in 1880 and 1887 respectively), fragments of sculptured stones and metal relics (1867), and, most significantly, a beautiful carved stone ball in 1884, further enhancing the rich archaeology of the area.  His father, William Haldane, had been minister of Kingoldrum before him.

Ball of conglomerate (3" diameter) found in Kingoldrum by the Rev. Halldane.

   Daniel Wilson reports the finding as follows:

This ancient bell was dug up in 1843, and contained, in addition to its detached tongue, a bronze chalice, and a glass bowl - the latter imperfect.  the bell is of the usual square form, made of sheet iron, which appears to have been coated with bronze, though little of this now remains.  It measures 8 by 7 inches at the mouth and 9½ inches high, exclusive of the handle.  Unfortunately the value of the discovery was not appreciated, and both the chalice and the bowl, it is feared, are now lost.

     In Scotland in Early Christian Times, Anderson adds the following, lamenting the loss of the other unique items found:

A curious cross-shaped ornament or mounting, decorated with enamel and a portion of a bronze chain of S-shaped links, dug up near the place where the bell was found, and three sculptured stones from the same site, are also in the Museum.  It is impossible to determine with certainty what the two articles, which are described as a chalice of bronze and a bowl or goblet of glass, may have been.  We can only regret their loss, all the more to be deplored that nothing answering to this description has ever been found in connection with any other remains of the Christian period.  No chalice of the early church exists in Scotland. [The  metal finds mentioned here were donated by Haldane in 1867.]
Kingoldrum finds, illustrated in Scotland in Early Christian Times.


The Guthrie Castle Bell

   The ancient bell which was kept (for centuries, one assumes) at Guthrie Castle is now in the National Museums of Scotland (NMAS 1922: 40). It is interesting that we have another example here in a church relic in the hands of a secular landowning family, which means that the sacred object was intimately connected with the hold a particular kindred had over the land they owned. Unlike Kingoldrum, there does not seem to be much evidence that Guthrie was an important focal point of secular or ecclesiastic power in the Pictish era or immediately afterwards.  The Guthries, like the Ogilvys, were a family whose name originated in Angus. However, although they held Guthrie itself and various other local estates, they did not become enobled or play such a prominent part in national events like either the Ogilvys or the Lindsays.
  The Guthrie Bell is one of only two enshrined bells which have survived in Scotland.  (The other was from Kirkmichael-Glassary and is also now in Edinburgh.)  Eeles confirms this bell is of the earlier type, described above, and must have been both early in date and associated with an important early saint, from the 8th century or earlier.  His unsupported claim that the bell and shrine must have originated in either the west or the north of Scotland can certainly be challenged. 

   The bell itself is made from iron and stands 8 and a half inches high.  Its shrine completely covers it  and is made up from four plates richly decorated by ornaments.  There are indications that the shrine has been renovated several times. There is an inscription on the shrine which reads Johannes dlexandri me fieri feisit, and made have been made in the 15th or 16th century reconstructions.  Francis Eeles summarises his thoughts on the history of the two objects:

The bell itself is probably the relic of some important saint whose
fame came down till late in the mediaeval period. It may well date from
before the ninth century.
It was probably enshrined early in the twelfth century, to which
period the figure of our Lord crucified and the small apostle, probably
St John, belong.
In the fourteenth century the silver plate with its embossed decoration
was made and the crucifix and attendant figures were remounted upon it.
Late in the fifteenth century or early in the sixteenth, John the son
of Alexander made a second reconstruction, changing the position of
some of the figures and adding others.
In the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries the loss of some figures may
have occasioned a further re-arrangement of the rest in the manner
in which they now exist, including the refixing of the inscription plate
upside down.

The Guthrie Bell shrine, based on illustration in Anderson's Scotland in Early Christian Times.

Selected Works and Sites Consulted

Anderson, Joseph, Scotland in Early Christian Times, The Rhind Letters in Archaeology, 1879 (Edinburgh, 1881).

Bourke, Cormac, 'The Hand-bells of the early Scottish Church,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 113 (1983), 464-8.

Catalogue of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (revised edition, Edinburgh, 1892).

Eeles, Francis C.,  'The Guthrie Bell and its Shrine,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 60 (1926), 409-20.

Laing, Lloyd, Late Celtic Britain and Ireland, c. 400-1200 AD (London, 1975).

Warden, Alexander, Angus or Forfarshire, volume 4 (Dundee, 1884).

Wilson, Daniel, 'Primitive Scottish Bells,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, colume 1 (1851-54), 18-23.

Silver plate attached to front face of the Guthrie Bell.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Angria the Pirate - Dundonian Scourge of the Indian Ocean?

On the face of it,  regarded phonetically, Angria seems a good name for a historical pirate and the name is associated with a particular seafarer in the Indian Ocean of the 18th century who successfully defied the might of the English East India Company for nearly four decades.  The original behind the character was Kanhoji Angre (otherwise Conajee Angria), who was certainly a native of the Indian sub-continent.  He was admiral of the Konkan navy on the western side of India and died undefeated in 1729.  What are we to make of then in the claims in various sources that a British naval commander encountered Angria the Pirate in this region in the year 1750 and found out - astonishingly - that the apparently Asian seaman had an incredibly detailed knowledge of his home town.

   According to the account in Dundee Delineated (1822), in the year 1750, a certain Captain Crichton of Dundee was 'captured by Angria, the famous East India Pirate' and the following strange conversation between the two men took place:
Angria. - Where do you originally come from?
Crichton. - From Dundee, in Scotland.
Angria. - Ay! ay! from Dundee!!! Then pray, where does the Cross of Dundee stand?
Crichton. - Near the west end of the large square, opposite the new Town-house.
Angria. - How many steps are in it?
Crichton. - Six steps, and all go round about it.
Angria. - Quite right.  Where stands Monk's holm?
Crichton. - On the south side of the Nethergate, and east from the Hospital, opposite to   Girzie Gourlay's stable.
Angria. - Right again.  Where stands the Machlin Tower?
Crichton. - Just at the west end of the broad of the Murraygate, on the north side, where  they have lately erected a public Well, - to be called the Dog Well, from Archibald Doig, a merchant, who has been at the expense of erecting a dog on the top of it, cut out of a solid stone.
Angria. - I am much obliged to you for this information, being news to me.  But, pray, where stands St Pauls?
Crichton. - On the south side of the Murraygate, immediately opposite the Machlin Tower.
Angria. - Do you know St Roche?
Crichton. - Yes.  We call it Semmirookie.  At the east end of the Cowgate, on the north side, near the Den burn.

     Upon which Angria answered. - Well, Captain Crichton, because we are townsmen, I give you your liberty and your ship in a present.


   Before looking at the background of this extraordinary story, it's as well saying that the truth or otherwise of this legend has entirely eluded me so far.  Following the death of Kanhoji in June 1729, the dynasty was inherited by his eldest son Sukhoji who ruled until his death in 1733.  The Angrian territories were later divided between other brothers and half-brothers, which was the situation still when Captain Crichton encountered his Scottish 'Angria' in 1750.  

   The story of the encounter between Crichton and Angria, whether fictitious or not, was repeated in various printed sources in the 19th century, such as Charles Rogers' Traits and Stories of the Scottish People, and even made it into the footnotes of the Dundee poet Joseph Lee's Tales O' Our Town in 1910.  nearer to the time of Dundee Delineated was James Edward Alexander's work Travels from India to England (1827), which reports:

We passed the island of Severndroog, of Golden Rock, the strong hold of the famous pirate Angria, who (which is not generally known) was a native of Dundee, in Scotland.  He was originally the admiral of the Mahratta fleet, and afterwards cruised on his own account.  He and his descendants were the terror of this coast for many years, and caused it to bear the appellation of "the Pirate  Coast".
    The truth behind the matter eludes me.  Strangely, and probably coincidentally, Charlotte Bronte's juvenile adventure tales set in a fictional land called Angria, features a character named 'Sir John Martin Dundee'.  

   Did a Dundonian really serve with the successors of Angria and possibly even adopt his family name.  Like the origins of that other Dundonian pirate Captain Kidd, the truth is out there somewhere, but buried as covertly as an old sea dog's treasure chest.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Lady of Three Castles: Marion Ogilvy

   Marion Ogilvy, a daughter of the noble house of that name in Angus, lived a long life and was associated with the three houses mentioned in the title of this post (and is said to haunt several of them).  She is otherwise principally known as being the common law wife of Cardinal David Beaton and the mother of his children, but she is otherwise little known in her own right.  There does not even seem to be a surviving portrait of Marion, though images survive of Beaton.

   Marion's father was Sir James Ogilvy of Lintrathen who was made Lord Ogilvy of Airlie in 1491, just before being sent as an ambassador to Denmark by King James IV.  Around this time he married his fourth wife, Janet, likely the daughter of Robert, second Lord Lyle, a Refrewshire landholder.  Marion and her full sister Janet probably grew up at Airlie Castle and Marion at least must have had faint memories of her father, who likely died in 1504.  One of nine children, her half-brother John became second Lord Ogilvy and was nearly four decades older than her.  The later head of the family and a close contemporary was John, fourth Lord Ogilvy, her great-nephew.

View of Melgund Castle from Jervise's Memorials of Angus and the Mearns

    Marion would have been a vital and well-known personality in the area as she remained in Angus throughout most of the course of her life, unlike many other noblewomen who were obliged to marry husbands far away. She built up a considerable portfolio of properties in Angus during her lifetime and strongly defended her rights to rents and ownership of land in the courts when necessary.  In matters of property, the historian Margaret Sanderson points out, she was 'incorrigibly litigious, a habit she may have learned from her mother' (Mary Stewart's People, Edinburgh, 1987, p. 7).  Among the Ogilvy family papers there is a surviving document by Marion, signed Mary Ougylvy, dated at Airlie on 6th August 1525, where she describes herself as 'ye dochter executrix and intromittour of Jean Lyle Ladie Ogyluy my modyr'.

   David Beaton was a Fife man, but when he became appointed Abbot of Arbroath in 1524 the area may not have been entirely unfamiliar to him.  His branch of the Beatons in fact originated in Angus.  If he had not known Marion before, he must have encountered her between this date (when he recently returned from Europe) and Feb 1526 when there is a record of her being with Beaton in Edinburgh.  By this time Marion was over thirty and possibly beyond standard marriageable age.Whether the couple married or not is not known, but the church was of course more of a profession than a calling to the future cardinal and it was common for administrators like him to have families and children and defer their full acceptance of religious ordination.  He and Marion mostly lived in Angus, where there is widespread traditions about him, mainly attached to castles he is supposed to have inhabited (see below).  Marion Ogilvy's main home in the 1520s and 1530s was Ethie Castle, near Arbroath, which she seems to have held in life-rent (granted to her on 22nd May 1528).  Among her land holdings nearby was the Kirktoun of St Vigeans.  

   Beaton acquired the lands of Melgund in 1542 and a castle was built there.  Marion, styled Lady Melgund, received a tack of the thirds of Melgund in 1575.  When she died in that year one of her sons, David Betoun of Melgund, became one of her executors. (He married Margaret, daughter of Lord Lindsay of the Byres.)

   In revenge for the death of the Protestant preacher George Wishart, the Cardinal of Scotland was killed by insurgents at St Andrews Castle in May 1546.  Marion was apparently at St Andrews when the Cardinal was assassinated; John Knox states that she just escaped the castle by the privy postern before the attackers entered the building.  She returned to Melgund after his death but did not long remain unattached.  She appears in records in June 1549 as 'Marion Ogilvy, the Lady of Melgund, the relict of the umquhill William Douglas'. It is probably that he died at the Battle of Pinkie on 10th September 1547. Also in 1549 there is an odd hint of trouble when, on 26th November 1549, she was charged with 'interlymning the Queen's Grace letters' and was obliged to give surety.  But this trouble seems to have passed and she lived peacefully thereafter. The Lady of Melgund died in mid 1575.  An Ogilvy to the end, she was buried according to the wishes of her will 'in the Ile of the Paroch Kirk of Kennell quhair my predecessouris lyis'.  There is no sure record of the cause of Marion's death, though there is an untrustworthy tradition that it was not natural.  The writer Elliot O'Donnell wrote (in Rooms of Mystery, London, 1931, p. 22):

Her vested in mystery, there being no very sure foundation for the rumour, though it persisted, that she had met with foul play, after being kept in an underground chamber, the approach to which was through a secret subterranean passage.

David Beaton

   Marion and David had  eight children.  One son, Alexander, gained the Angus estate of Baikie from the disinherited Lyons, but lost it when the Glamis family were restored to their rights in 1543.  The eldest daughter of the couple was Margaret, who married David Lindsay, the future 10th Earl of Crawford, in some magnificence at Finavon Castle, bringing with her a huge tocher of 4000 merks.  Despite the glorious celebration the marriage was not a success and the estranged Margaret later went to live with her mother at Melgund Castle.  Another daughter, Agnes, married locally.  Her husband, John Ochterlony, owned the estate of Kelly, near Arbroath.  Her second husband was the Aberdeenshire laird George Gordon of Gight  (through their issue she is an ancestress of the poet Byron).  Elizabeth Beaton meanwhile married Alexander Lindsay of Vayne in Angus.  Other children of Ogilvy and Beaton included the brothers George (who possibly died in childhood), James, and John.

The Many Castles of Marion and the Cardinal?

The castles detailed below have various levels of connection with Marion Ogilvy and Cardinal Beaton, though they are interesting for their own histories.  Marion herself likely only inhabited the castles of Airlie, Ethie and Farnell, but the other houses here have some connection with either her or Beaton, albeit some are spurious.

Balfour Castle

      Balfour Castle in the parish of Kingoldrum was the home of a branch of the Ogilvys.  All that survives of it is a single circular tower, 6 storeys high, attached to which is a mid 19th century farmhouse.  Some surviving walls were torn down to make way for this modern building. The roof of the tower has been severed at a slant with a sloping roof and may have been several stories higher, though whether this was done at a remote date or in more recent times is disputed.   The Dorward family gave the lands here to the Abbey of Arbroath in the 13th century, and following the Ogilvys the Fotheringhams later owned the property.  Jervise (Memorials of Angus and Mearns, I, p. 21) states that it was in the hands of the Ogilvys from at least 1478 and that a likely builder of the stronghold was Walter Ogilvy, third son of Lord Ogilvy, brother of Marion Ogilvy.

Balfour Castle


   Claypotts is a wonderfully complete Z-plan castle now encompassed within the eastern suburbs of Dundee.  Dating from the mid 16th century it was built by the Strachan family, then passed through the hands of different branches of the Grahams.  Following the forfeiture of the Claverhouse Grahams the building passed to the Marquis of Douglas and was given to the state in the 1920s.  Despite its relatively well-preserved condition, Claypotts' charm has not endeared itself to every observer.  The venerable historian Alexander Warden sniffily comments, 'We are at quite a loss to understand how such a building of contracted extent could have supplied the wants of a landed family' (Angus or Forfarshire, volume 4, 139).   More pertinent to the subject of this piece, it is said that the castle is particularly haunted at Halloween, was once the home of a Brownie, and more particularly is the home of a White Lady who appears once a year, waving a handkerchief from an upper window every 29th May.  Was this Marion Ogilvy, as local tradition insisted?  According to A. H. Millar:

The story was that Cardinal Beaton built Claypotts for his beloved, and that from the upper window she could signal across the Tay to St Andrews Bay, to warn her priestly lover that she was longing for his return.  And on the 29th of May, 1546, she had waved her spotted kerchief in vain from the window of Claypotts, for her lover was then lying stark, cold, and still in the courtyard of St Andrews Castle, ruthlessly slain by some of those who had been his dearest friends... And thus every year...the White Lady of Claypotts endures her weary vigil...It is useless to assert that David Beaton never had anything to do with Claypotts... (Haunted Dundee, 1923, 117).

   Churlish to add, I suppose, that Claypotts Castle was not even built at that date.

Claypotts Castle


   Colliston Castle survives entire and is in private hands.  Like Farnell, it is in the hinterland of Arbroath Abbey and was under the ownership of that institution. Built on a similar Z-plan like Claypotts, the building features a 'priest hole', suggesting Catholic ownership in the 17th century. The castle dates from the 16th century there is a tradition that it was built by Cardinal Beaton, but the facts are uncertain.  The estate was bestowed upon the Guthries by Beaton (probably following his daughter's marriage into the family) and the castle and lands passed through several families before coming into the hands of the Stuarts during the early 20th century.  A notable later owner was Gordon Stuart, who died in 2017 aged 91, a remarkable linguist who spoke 28 languages.

Colliston Castle


   Another fine house which has survived as a living castle is Ethie, which had been extensively remodelled from the 16th to the 19th centuries and has been sold in its recent history. Possibly originating in the 14th century, the castle was the property of the monks of Arbroath  and therefore came into the hands of Beaton.  At the Reformation there was a rumour that the monks hid their church vessels, plates and vestments in the walls of the building.  After a period of ownership by the Maxwells it was in the ownership of the Carnegie Earls of Northesk from 1565 to 1928.  It has latterly operated as a hotel.

   The ghosts in the castle include an anonymous Grey lady and Cardinal and Chancellor Beaton himself.  He is experienced as a noisy resonance near what used to be his own chamber, draging his gouty leg along the passageways apparently. A third ghost (now laid) was that of a young child which child could be heard crying at night. Some people thought they heard  a wheeled toy being pulled across the floor in one particular room in the castle. Eventually, a small skeleton was uncovered and, beside it, the remains of a toy wooden cart. The pathetic remains were buried and this ghost of was no longer heard at Ethie.

Ethie Castle


   Farnell Castle near Brechin was said to have been in a ruinous condition in 1570 (in a report made to Lord Ogilvy).  It also later came into the hands of a branch of the Carnegie family (in 1623) and in the mid 19th century was restored to some extent and used as a home or hospital for former workers on the family estate, or 'allotted as a free dwelling to some infirm or indigent people', as the New Statistical Account reported. The building may be the successor of a very early structure and the site became the home of the bishops of Brechin. Its ecclesiastical associations perhaps explain why it does not feature much in any tumultuous episodes in the history of Angus.  More recent use has seen the castle used as a school and tea-room on occasions and it was recently offered for residential rent.  Some sources state that Beaton owned the castle, but details are hard to come by.

Farnell Castle


   Judging my her self-styled title of Lady of Melgund, this was Marion's favourite, or at least most frequented habitation in the latter part of her life.  The estate of North Melgund (Aberlemno parish) had been in the inheritance of the Annand family, and Janet Annand married the Cardinal's older brother James in the 1520s.  Following the death of his brother, David Beaton purchased the lands. Melgund remained in the Beaton family until the 1630s, when it was acquired by the Marquis of Huntly.  Later the last Gordon owners of the castle all mysteriously vanished one evening, leaving an uneaten meal on the tale and Melgund itself like a land-bound Mary Celeste.  The castle's beginnings are also said to be uncanny.  During the latter part of the 20th century the castle was fully restored and is now again inhabited.

Melgund Castle


   The ruins of Vayne Castle stand on the north bank of the Noran Water and have several things in common with some of the buildings above:  it was a stronghold of the Carnegies (Southesk branch) and had little actual connection with either David Beaton or his common law wife. The Lindsay family may have had an interest in the estate before them.  Now a ruin, the castle was plundered over the course of time for building materials by local farmers, one of whom used gunpowder to gain his stone work.  Buried treasure is allegedly another feature of its story.  Jervise in Land of the Lindsays (p. 202) says:

a deep dungeon is said to be below, into which the family, before taking their final departure, threw all their treasure of money and plate! This chamber has been often sought for, and only one person is believed ever to have found it.  When about to descend in search of the valuables, however, he was forcibly thrust from the mouth of the yawning gulf by an uncouth monster in the shape of a horned ox, who departed in a blaze of fire through a big hold in the wall (still pointed out!) and, before the terrified treasure-seeker could recover himself, the chasm which he had sought so hard to discover, was again shut from his view!
   Concerning the supposed connection with the cardinal, Alexander Warden writes (in Angus or Forfarshire, III, p. 274):

Tradition points to Cardinal Beaton as the builder of Vayne Castle, but
this is not the case, and he does not appear ever to have had any connection
with it. It also points to a deep pool in a dark cavern in the river, near the
Castle, called Tammy's Hole or Cradle, as the spot where one of his sons fell
over the precipice and was drowned. A boy of the name may have been
drowned in the pool, and the name originated from the event, but he was no
son of the Cardinal and his fair friend.
   The story may possibly have its origins in the circumstance of Beaton and Marion Ogilvy's daughter marrying Alexander Lindsay of Vayne.  Whether the tale relates to one of their children is unknown.

Vayne Castle

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Peter Goldman and The Desolation of Dundee

Death in Dundee:  A Different Plague

    Peter Goldman, a 17th century citizen of Dundee, is hardly well known among Dundonians today, though he should be for two reasons:  the prominence of his own life and achievements and the unique record he left of the burgh ravaged by pestilence.  Peter's brother  John died in 1607, carried off not by the bubonic plague which was raging at the time, but the equally deadly typhus.  Dr Buist of Dundee translated Peter Goldman's Latin poem about the event, in the early 20th century, giving a vivid description of the effect on his beloved brother, as well as many other Dundonians.  The work was published in Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum (2 volumes, 1637), a collection of Latin poetry by Scots which also contains a description by Hercules Rollock about the plague in Edinburgh in 1585.  Here is a totally unique record of a stark moment in time,  Goldman's first description of the effect of epidemic on Dundee:

                   A plague, by fault of air or sprung from earth,
                   Lay on the walls to which Tay gives its name.
                   Here for two years the loathsome thing ran wild,
                   Wasting the homes, scanting the town of folk:
                   Promiscuous funerals crowded, old and young:
                   All round were grief and signs of horrid death.
                   Youth breathed its soul before the parent's eye,
                   And at Life's threshold childhood laid its life.
                   Medicine gave way beneath the weight of ill;
                   Apollo-taught Kinloch could only sit
                   And pray the Fates bring the better time.
                   Vain, flame to purge the house, water the frame;
                   Vain to use wine against disease's bane;
                   Vain to drum prayers upon unhearing air,
                   Contagion spread still more on spreading more.
                   Now Ramsay died, now just and ever true
                   Lovell and Lindsay fell, whose care was aye
                   To make the people's weal their highest law.
                   Now tombs ran short, the cemet'ry o'erflowed;
                   Handbell unrung, the funeral order failed
                   To keep the customed way's sad company.
                   One way alone seemed counsel in despair,
                   Abandoning home to flee the baleful air:
                   Dwellers were few, rare guardian at the gate,
                   Thistles were found at crosses once foot-smoothed
                   And thorny burdocks mid in paved streets.
                   A piteous crowd, staking in neighbouring fields,
                   Fixed roofs or peltclad fled the painful shower.
                   Some villas sought or widespread neighbour towns,
                   And John of ours fled to Winton's castled tower;
                   But weird of pressing ill and future grief
                   Its door gaped blue with gold all bordered round
                   And, wound itself, foreshowed wound to its lord.
                   What profits man to leave his sweet abode;
                   Fate follows faster than the wind or cloud.
                   Spots stain his breast, the giddy senses slip,
                   His mind grows weak, the face all red with heat.
                   Quick came his wife, delight of life unstayed
                   By prayer or friend or her protesting kin;
                   Embracing still the racked frame of her spouse,
                   She, raising eyes, cried 'Fate will try in vain
                   To take me from my love.  With him I'll die;
                   Without him I'ld not live; Nor fire nor flood,
                   Nor tyrant Jove shall part us now.' 

Grave in the Howff.

Peter Goldman the Poet, Scholar, Doctor

   Peter Goldman's name and reputation remained fairly buoyant locally at least until the end of the 17th century. He is mentioned along with Boethius (Hector Boece) and fellow medicine man David Kinloch (c. 1559-1617), who also appears in Goldman's own poetry, in the Latin account of the county of Angus published in 1678 by the Rev Robert Edward of Murroes:

That Dundee is a favourite to the muses is sufficiently attested by the three following witnesses, BOETIUS, the most famous historian of his country, Dr KINLOCH, a celebrated physican to James VI...And Dr GOLDMAN, who in the above mentioned choir of poets, very skilfully performs the part of Melpomene.
   Melpomene became the Muse of Tragedy in ancient Greek tradition.  Peter Goldman survived until early 1628, but there are few surviving works by him which have survived:  the welcome to the king, the six poems in Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum and the 'Lachrymae'.

   There are a few facts known about the Dundonian Peter Goldman.  He was the youngest of seven sons of a merchant named James Goldman, whose epitaph in 1605 designates Peter, alone of his offspring, as Mr, signifying that he had graduated.  Peter was born in 1587 and entered St Salvador's College, St Andrews, on 26 January 1601.  On 7 December 1609 he went to Leiden University (the first Scot to study medicine there) and graduated as a doctor on 26 July 1610. One wonders whether he went abroad partly to escape the pestilence in his native country. Following his studies in Europe, William Poole next traces Goldman in Oxford in 1613, where he participated in the full intellectual life of the time and notably supported his own Hebrew teacher,  a Jew who was imprisoned after deciding against his promised conversion to Christainity.  Following a spell in Paris, he returned to Scotland. Poetry was a pastime for him and he wrote Latin verse celebrating the visit of the king to Dundee in 1617.  A snippet of his life was found by R. C. Buist buried in the Compt Buik of David Wedderburn, under 7 November 1621:

Lent Doctor Goldman 4 buikis Iliades Homeri ane uther Greik buik.

   In his later years in Dundee, Peter described his circumstances in a letter to a friend:  'not so rich that I might dissipate myself in luxury; nor so poor that I must beg off others'.  There are allusions to wine and drinking in his correspondence and one late letter was composed 'at the wine-house'.  Maybe it was in north Fife that he ended his lonely days, for he complains about not going out because of the lack of intellectual company in the locality, which was peopled mainly by 'hucksters and fishermen'.

   During his final decade he was closely involved with fellow Fife resident Sir John Scot of Scotstarvit (1585-1670), the major force behind the publication of the Scottish Latin compilation, giving him advice and assistance with his own poetry included in the collection.

The Goldman Brothers' Tragedy and Origin of the Family

 Four of the Goldman brothers perished within eight years of their father:  John, of course, died of the pest (1607); Patrick was drowned in the sea off Batavia (Holland) during a storm; Robert fell from his horse and was fatally wounded by his sword; William died at 43 of apoplexy.  The latter was a prominent figure within the town and apparently a great benefactor, as his brother describes him as 'the beloved of the common people, and the guardian of the welfare of Dundee'.  Peter wrote in his poem that no part of him can be happy until the sea gives up its dead.

Monogram from James Goldman's tomb in Dundee Howff.

   Of these brothers, Robert is recorded as Collector of the Crafts in Dundee, 1601-3, and a member of the Glover Trade.  William Goldman became a councillor in the burgh in 1590 and a bailie in 1606.  In his will he left the town's hospital 800 merks.

Monogram from John Goldman's tombstone in Dundee Howff.

   These family tragedies are recorded by another poem Peter wrote for inclusion in the Delitatiae Poetarum Scotorum, a tribute to his suffering mother titled Margaretae Iacchae matris suae super tristi et immatura morte quatuor filiorum Lachrymae, 'The tears of Margaret Jack, his mother, over the sad and immature deaths of her four sons.'  In the midst of her sorrow, Margaret was comforted by Dundee's three pastors:  David Lindsay, James Wedderburn, and James Robertson.  The poem concludes with a thanks that another son, Charles Goldman, still survived - 'the greatest care, the hope of my affliction, and the solace of his mother'. He was Boxmaster of the Weaver Incorporation of Dundee in 1624.  Of the two sisters, Mary married James Wedderburn.   

   The origins of the family are not certain: an early spelling of the surname is Goldmann and it is reckoned that the family originated in Flanders.  William Poole states:  'Goldman is not a Scottish surname.  Its sudden appearance in the records in Dundee in the 1560s bespeaks immigration, and the immediate success of the mercantile Goldmans in mercantile Dundee suggests that they had come from a similar trading town across the North Sea.'  They may have been Jewish Poles or Silesians from Gdansk.  Another suggestion, remarked on by the Nine Trades of Dundee website is that it is a corruption of 'Guildman', a kind of corruption brought about via the family's trading connections with Europe.  The family did have a hand in negotiating the free port in Zealand (Camphier) on behalf of the Scots.  William Goldman was chosen as commissioner representing Dundee at the Convention of Royal Burghs and he was sent in that role to Campvere in order to 're-establish the Stapill of the natioun of the said toun' along with David Aitkenheid of Edinburgh.

   James Goldman became a burgess of Dundee on 15 April 1562 and it is recorded that he owned several properties in the burgh (including to the south of Argyllsgait).  Across the Tay, John Goldman also owned part of the north Fife lands of Sandfurd or St Fort, plus Sandill, near present day Newport.

   Inscriptions in the Howff

   According to Millar, the family tombs of the Goldmans in the Howff were in the second recess to the north of the principal western gate.  In the 19th century the following fragmentary inscription could still be made out there:

                                     Family . . . . Goldman . . . . Laird . . . . 
                                 W.G. . . . . I. G. . . . . R.G. . . . . 
                                        Revised in 1797 by WILLIAM GOLDMAN LAIRD . . . .

   The initials may possibly refer to the three brothers of Peter Goldman commemorated in his poem.  On the flat stones (numbers 66 and 67) beside the recess, is the following inscription:

  Here lyis iohn goldman, mairechand, and elisabeth Traill his spous, quha both depairtit in september 1607, of his age 34, hirs 29.

   There was an elder John Goldman, uncle to the former, whose monument reads:

   Here lyis ane honest aged father called JOHN GOLDMAN Merchand and Bvrges in Dundie quha depairtit this present lyf ye 3 of Apryle, 1nno 1605, of aige 74.  And Christiane Man his spovs quha depairtit this lyf ye 8 of September, anno 1603, of aige 36.                                                          Death is lyf to ye faithful.

    Also in the Howff is the monument of another James Goldman, possibly the youngest son of  James (Buist states that there were seven brothers in total).

   Heir lyis ane honest man namit JAMES GOLDMAN, Merchant Bvrges of Dundie, who decessit in September 1632, of the aige of 42.  This is done be MARGARET OGILVY, his spovs, for his memorie.

   Another reading, given in translation from the Latin by W. H. Smith in the 19th century, reads:

   Here lies an honourable man, formerly citizen and.....................of the city of Dundee, William Goldman of St Fort, who died in the 44th year of his age, on the first of the nones of April, in the year from the parturition [accouchemont or lying in]of the Virgin 1613.  Remember to die.

   Millar again gives another reading of a stone, which he believes relates to Robert and William Goldman, though the passage of time again made the inscription doubtful:

          Here lyis....rt ....idm ... ane ... fein .... 26 May of his age ....                    My soyle praises God.  My soyle praises God.                           Death is lyfe to the Godlie.                                                                      M  LI  Z                                                               D      G                                                                        I F                    Thy glasse runnes.  Mynne is runne.                                              1617

   Between the initials I and Z is the  escutcheon bearing the arms of the Yeaman (Zeaman) family.  Millar also traced some later Goldmans, though there was uncertainty around what relations some of them were to the original family.  These included William Goldman of Sandfurd, Fife, recorded in 1648-9, Rev James Goldman, son of Alexander Goldman (1652), grandson of John Goldman (1623).  This minister was still active around 1731 and had two sisters, but no traceable descendants.  Andrew Jervise noted that, in his time, 'the Goldmans have long since passed away, and even their name has become extinct in the district, the last of them, a female, having died many years ago, so reduced in circumstances as to be dependent on the charity of a neighbouring kirk-session'.

Selected Sources

Buist, R. C., 'Peter Goldman's Description of the Desolation of Dundee,' The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3453 (March 12, 1927), p. 478.

Jervise, Andrew, Memorials of Angus and Mearns (revised edition, 2 volumes, Edinburgh, 1885), pp. 271-2.

Millar, A. H., Roll of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee,1513-1886 (Dundee, 1887), pp. 35-39. 

Poole, William, 'Peter Goldman:  A Dundee Poet and Physician in the Republic of Letters,' in Neo-Latin Literature and Literary Culture in Early Modern Scotland (Leiden, 2016), pp. 100-125.

Smith, W. H., A History of Dundee (Dundee, 1873, reprinted 1973), p. 153.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Gold in the Glens? Don't Get Your Hopes Up!

Some time ago I stated, not entirely seriously, that there was an infestation of elephants in Glen Esk.  Okay, that was a little far fetched:  there are no evident pachyderms in the glen, but is there gold in (them thar) hills?  It is a matter of dispute about whether or no there are any valuable metal deposits in the Angus glens.  The English antiquarian and topographer William Camden (1551-1623), mentions the activity of mining in the county, or rather it occurs in later editions of his descriptive work Britannia: 'Near the Castle of Innermarkie, there are Lead-mines; and they find great plentie of Iron-ore near the wood of Dalboge.'

   The iron mine at Dalbog, according to the Rev. James Headrick of Dunnichen, was in operation in the early 18th century, but he says that the smelting house erected there later was long abandoned by his time (1813).

William Camden by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (Public Domain,

   If in doubt about the existence of any tradition about Angus (and especially then northern part of Angus), then it is always worth turning to the dependable Andrew Jervise.  There was various entries in his Land of the Lindsays, such as his passing observation on the River Tarf: 'Tarf is quite a mountain stream...and it is believed , from the frequency of the floods, that much, if not all, the precious metal, for which it is said to have been so famous at one time, has been swept away.' (1853 edn., p. 96).  A more complete description of the possible mineral riches in Glen Esk is contained in the second edition (p.99):

Both Sir David [Lindsay] and his brother, Lord Menmuir, were anxious to ascertain the extent of these mineral treasures, and entered so eagerly upon the work, that miners were brought from Germany and other places with the view of working them.  Smelting-houses were erected in various parts of the district, and the work was carried on with much spirit by a German of the pugilistic name of  [Bernard] Fechtenburg...This happened in 1593-4, and it would appear that the work had been remunerative, for on the 12th of October 1602, Sir David let to Hans Ziegler and his companions "all and sundry the mines of gold, silver, quicksilver, copper, tin, and lead, and all other minerals (except iron and marmor) within all the bounds of the barony of Edzell and Glenesk" for the space of twenty-five years, for which they were "thankfully to pay and deliver the fifth part of all and sundry the saide metals of gold, silver, etc., whilk the said Hans and his partners shall happen to dig, holk, work, and win out of the said mines."  From that period down to the close of the seventeenth century the mines were steadily wrought with at least partial success, some portions being found after the lead was extracted, and the metal properly refined, to yield a sixty-fourth part of silver.

   Lord Menmuir had high hopes that the German experts would also uncover alabaster rocks to produce lime, and a large sum of money was expended on speculation and building furnaces.  The German, was highly commended by Menmuir in his letter of 9th March 1593-4 to Sir David:

He can mak charcoal of peats, and will desire na other fuel, either to burn lime or melt copper.  He is perfyt in kenning of ground, and discovering of metals.  He...will learn Andrew Daw and all your folks...He will promise to tarry a year with you, providing he be thankfully payit of three pounds, twelve shillings in the ouk [week]...
   The Lindsay family however did not earn any fortune from the prospecting.  As the author of Lives of the Lindsays wryly comments:  'I cannot say how these speculations turned out, but papers and plans without end relating to them survive in the family repositories.  I suspect, the trees planted by Sir David and Lord Menmuir were more profitable to their descendants than the fruits they sought for under the earth.' 

   The Rev Robert Edwards of Murroes gave further detail about mining in his 'Description of of Angus' in 1678:

As to the metals contained in the bowels of this county, it is affirmed that different kinds of them are to be found in the valley of North Esk.  The great-grandfather of the present proprietor of Edzell [Sir David Lindsay] discovered a mine of iron at the wood of Dalbog, and built a smelting-housing for preparing the metal.  This gentleman's grandson [John Lindsay of Edzell] found some lead ore, near Innermark, which he refined.  The son of this latter [David Lindsay, the penultimate laird] found a very rich mine of lead on the banks of the Mark, about a mile up the valley from the castle of Innermark.  In a mountain of hard rock, where eighteen miners are digging deeper every day, they have come to a large vein of ore, which, when the lead is extracted and properly refined, yields a sixty-fourth part of silver. The vein seems to be inexhaustible. 

   The Rev. Headrick says that there was a lead mines wrought at Gilfianan in Lochlee after the forfeiture of the estates after the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715.  Another was worked at Ardoch, near Millden, on  the Esk.  The former he equates with Edward's account of the mine in the vicinity in 1678.

  Returning to Jervise, he adds (revised edition, p. 99) that mining fell into abeyance in the time of the last Lindsay Laird of Edzell and no further exploration was made until 1728, when the South Sea Company tried to find silver in the mine at Craig Soales:

but the overseer of the work being bribed, as the common tradition runs, the speculation was abandoned as unremunerative, and neither gold, silver, nor mineral of any other sort, save lime, has since been tried for.  According to some accounts, silver is also to be found near the castle of Invermark; and the still more precious metal of gold is said to abound in the Tarf, particularly at Gracie's Linn...where it is reported to have been so plentiful at one time , that a lucky lad, in passing the ford, gathered and filled his pockets with it!

   Remains of the silver and lead workings can still be located on Craig Soales, but the entrance of the mine is now hard to find because it has been disguised by fallen debris.  There are the traces of sixteen surface quarry pits here.  There has been little modern interest in the mine here, until an article by W. Lauder Lindsay raised speculation about the presence of valuable minerals in northern Angus.  He quotes Jervise, but seems to base the possibility of gold in Glen Esk on the basis on minor finds in neighbouring Perthshire, plus the tradition that General Wade found gold while surveying in Glenshee.

   Nineteenth century maps indicate additional possible mines in the following places:  Glen Clova (gold/silver?), Dalbrack near Tarfside (copper), Glamis (lead), and Glen Mark (lead), but there has been no bonanza as yet.  Those discovering valuable deposits are more likely than not to have been disappointed about its value over the centuries.  Thus, Headrick states about the lead in Glamis:  'About thirty years ago, some pieces of lead ore were discovered in the bank of a rivulet near Glammis.  Upon digging into the rock, more was found.  But the quantity being inconsiderable, the trial was abandoned.' (General View of the Agriculture of Angus, p. 43.)

   So, gold there may be in Glen Esk, but good luck finding it!

Some Sources

Camden, William, Britannia (2nd edition, 2 vols., London, 1722).

Headrick, Rev. James, General View of the Agriculture of Angus, or Forfarshire (Edinburgh, 1813).

Jervise, Andrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays (1st edn., Edinburgh, 1853; 2nd. edn., 1883.).

Lauder Lindsay, W., 'On The Gold Fields of Forfarshire,' Transactions of the Edinburgh Geological Society, (1874, 27).

Lindsay, A. W. C. (Lord Lindsay), Lives of the Lindsays (1st vol., London, 1849).

Scotland's Places, Ordnance Survey Name Books

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Sir John Kirk and the Resonance of Slavery

Angus Slave Ownership - A Sampler

Slavery as a tangible fact is not something one would particularly associate with Angus, more than any other part of the British Isles, though the county of course had its connections with that trade. Interesting and little-known material about the decent and doubtless God-fearing lairds who quietly owned slaves far away, back in the day, can be unearthed through web sites like Legacies of British Slave Ownership, and though it may seem churlish to name and shame those associated with that business after all these years (people who in themselves doubtless led complex and rich lives), it can still be instructive as an eye-opener.

   Among the interesting data is that concerning former slave owners who claimed compensation from the British government when slavery in the British Empire was abolished and they were financially disadvantaged. A cursory search through the records reveals the follows Angus folk as former slave owners:  David Langlands of Balkemmock, Tealing, Alexander Erskine of Balhall, David Lyon of Balintore Castle, George Ogilvie of Langley Park, James Alexander Pierson of The Guynd, Thomas Renny Strachan of Seaton House, St VigeansMary Russell of Bellevue Cottage, David McEwan and James Gray of Dundee, the 7th Earl of Airlie.

Slave Memorial, island of Zanzibar, Tanzania.

   There is more information surrounding the Cruickshank family, who lived at Keithock House, Stracathro House and Langley ParkAlexander Cruickshank of Keithock was born in 1800 and married his cousin, Mary Cruickshank of Langley Park (formerly Egilsjohn or - colloquially - Edzell's John).  In the middle of the 19th century Alexander unsuccessfully attempted to claim compensation for the loss of slaves owned on the Langley Park estate on the island of St Vincent.  The whole family's fortunes were inextricably linked with slavery.  Patrick jointly owned the estates of Richmond, Greenhill and Mirton in St Vincent with his brother James who was compensated £23,000 by the government following slavery abolition in 1833. The St Vincent estates had more than 800 slaves.  Originally from Wartle in Aberdeenshire, the money to buy the Egilsjohn estate in Angus came from a fortune made in the Caribbean; its name was even changed to commemorate the St Vincent estate name of Langley.  The Angus estates of Stracathro and Keithock followed.  But we are told (Baronage of Angus and Mearns, p. 64) that Alexander Cruickshank's 'affairs eventually got embarrassed - and he returned to Demerara, where he shortly afterwards made his demise, leaving a son and daughter.'

   Emigration to the colonies was by no means a passport of quick riches to those who went there with slender means to begin with.  John Landlands, son of a tenant farmer from Haughs of Finavon, went to Jamaica in 1749 and found that his promised employment did not exist, though he was helped to secure another post at the vividly named Treadways Maggoty estate.  In time he acquired his own coffee plantation, complete with valuable slaves.  On his death he provided for his mistress/housekeeper and his natural son born to her, but the estate of Roseberry was burdened by debt and had to be disposed of by his cousin back home in Angus.

   There was less known commercial speculation in the slave trade in Angus ports than in other places, though there are records held in Montrose Museum of a business deal from 1751 concerning the ship Potomack, whose master Thomas Gibson struck a deal with merchants Thomas Douglas and Co to travel with cargo to Holland and thence to west Africa and there pick up slaves for the North American market. Researchers reckon that some 31 Montrose vessels were engaged in human slave trafficking, though records survive for only four ships (the other three being the Success, the Delight, and the St George).

   One Montrose family of the 18th century who went on to great things financially were the Coutts family, ancestors of the private banking dynasty which migrated to London later and dealt with the fortunes of royals and the nobility.  John Coutts (born 1643) was Lord Provost of the Angus burgh five times between 1677 and 1688 (having been made a councillor in 1661).  the family were involved in the Virginia tobacco trade and doubtless incidentally involved to some extent in slave ownership.  John's third son Thomas went to London and was one of the promoters of the 'Company of Scotland, trading to Africa and the Indies', better known as the company who initiated the doomed Darien Scheme.  A grandson of the first John Coutts was another John (son of Patrick), among those in the family who left Montrose for business opportunities further south.

John Kirk - Doctor! Botanist! Knight! Our Man in Zanzibar!

   There were few places as strange to the intrepid foreigner in the mid 19th century as Zanzibar, even in an age when the whole continent of Africa held a jewel-like fascination for Europeans.  The island was just off the continental coast but was truly a place apart.  It had in effect been colonised and annexed before any Western interest in the place by an Arab dynasty from the north. The ruler of Oman, Seyyid Said, made the African island his capital in 1838 and brilliantly maintained his power through diplomacy with the British East India Company and a cannily managed business acumen.  The Arab management of African slaves more than matched the newer European-sponsored slave trade operating in west Africa.  Throughout Seyyid Said's rule it continued unabated and Zanzibar was its unashamed fulcrum, dispatching human cargo and attendant misery across the Indian Ocean.  Alastair Hazell states that the mid-19th century population of the island was possibly 100,000, or which around half were slaves.  Said had personally transformed his new centre of operations 'from a mere backwater, a slave market with a fort, to the largest and most prosperous trading city of the western Indian Ocean'.

   Gold, ivory and gum copal were other products which flowed out of the continent via the island, but it was the process of the oldest institution on Zanzibar, the slave market outside the Customs House, which was the most outstanding element of that market place to outsiders; here described by the English traveller Sir Richard Burton.  It was a place, he said:

where millions of dollars annually change hands under the foulest of sheds, a long, low mat-roof, supported by two dozen tree-stems... It is conspicuous as the centre of circulation, the heart from and to which twin streams of blacks are ever ebbing and flowing, whilst the beach and waters opposite it are crowded with shore boats.

   The slave market was in the centre of town and here every year many thousands of bagham, untrained slaves, were tethered and publicly auctioned.  In the mid-1850s, Hazell tells us, able-bodied young men could be bought for $4-$12 - 'about the prince of a donkey'.  Girls and women were sold for sex, passed on many times  via different owner/abusers.  A premium was paid for 'exotics' from India or fair haired unfortunates from as far afield as the Caucasus.

                  The Boy from Barry

 Step up John Kirk.  The latest biographer of John Kirk - Alastair Hazell - makes the fundamental mistake of stating that Kirk was born in Barry, in Fife!  This is a shame because his book, The Last Slave Market, is a well-researched account of this important figure who did much personally to end the intolerable anomaly of Zanzibar's slaving in a time when many cynically turned a blind eye to it. John was the third of his name in succession, following his grandfather (a baker) and father, who was born in St Andrews in 1795 (which perhaps explains Hazell's error).  The Rev. Kirk was appointed minister of Barry in June 1824 and transferred to nearby Arbirlot in 1837.  In the religious turmoil of the times he joined the Free Church and was minister of the Free Church in Barry from 1843 until his death in 1858.  The minister was 'a man of cultivated mind, of a deportment becoming his high calling, and of a conversation that savoured of the things of Christ'.  His wife was Christian Guthrie, daughter of the Rev. Alexander Carnegie, minister of Inverkeilor.

John Kirk as a young doctor.

   The youngest  John was he second of four children, born  19 December 1832  and must have inherited much of his iron-clad morality from his parents. The only other sibling who seems to have attained any prominence was his elder brother, Alexander Carnegie Kirk, born in 1830.  He became a noted naval engineer, but unlike John did not take part in any kind of public life, dying in Glasgow in 1892.

The explorer's eldest brother.

Early Career and Into Africa

   Kirk qualified as a doctor and went on to serve in the Crimea War in 1855.  (His interest in botany was  evident in Edinburgh, where he studied in the faculty of arts at first before switching to medicine.)  Learning Turkish, he travelled widely in the Middle East, mainly pursuing botanical interests. His most significant appointment was that of a naturalist accompanying the famous David Livingstone on an expedition to east Africa in 1858.  This second expedition of Livingstone's, exploring the Zambesi region, did not go entirely smoothly.  Livingstone was no great communicator and preferred either his own company or that of native Africans.  His brother Charles was also part of the party and was a more petty character than David, arguing with colleagues and dismissing some of them.  Kirk generally got on tolerably well with Livingstone - both were doctors and of course Scots - and also accepted his plans and decisions even when these looked ill-judged and even foolhardy.  But Livingstone, driven by instinct and his own demons, was at times looked upon as a madman by his younger colleague.  On 18 April 1874 he was one of the pall-bearers who carried Livingstone's coffin into a funeral ceremony in Westminster Abbey.  (This was despite the fact that Livingstone's chief mythologiser, Henry Morton Stanley, tried his damnedest to blacken's Kirk's name on the false basis that the doctor had not done all he could to assist the great man in his last expedition.)

   John Kirk returned to Britain in 1863, but three years later he was back in a different part of Africa, appointed as a medical officer in Zanzibar.  He soon became Assistant Consul and then Resident.  He had been appointed Consul in 1873, succeeding Henry Adrian Churchill, who had been actively working towards the abolition of the slave market on the island.  Churchill's health broke down to such an extent that Kirk advised him to return to the U.K. in 1870.

   The final defeat of the slave trade in the island was accomplished by Kirk's astonishing guile and nerve. While the years in which he served primarily as a doctor in the consulate were quiet and he took no active part in public life or against slavery, there was one incident which marked him out as a risk taker.  This was in 1866 when he joined in the successful attempt to smuggle the sultan's sister out of the territory.  Seyidda Salme had become pregnant by a German and was at risk of death if she had remained in Zanzibar.  For much of the time, Kirk pursued his own interests in Africa, collecting information about botany, trade, slavery, in an even handed and non-judgemental fashion.  More of a pragmatist than the strange visionary Livinstone, he was caught between the rock and hard place of the British government and the East India Company, which often had differing ideas about slavery and much else.  In 1873 he was put in an invidious position of receiving two contradictory instructions from London.  The first ordered him in no uncertain terms to give the Sultan the ultimatum that he should close the slave market and cease all trade in slaves, or else the British government would blockade the island.  The second order warned Kirk that no blockade was to be enforced, for fear that it would drive the territory to crave the protection of the French.  Kirk only showed the first communication to the Sultan, with the result that Barghash caved in within two weeks and the slave market was closed forever.

   Despite the best efforts of Kirk and his successors, slavery actually surreptitiously survived the closure of Zanzibar's public slave market. Special Commissioner Donald Mackenzie visited the island and its neighbour Pemba in the last decade of the 19th century and found that slavery was still flourishing in the agricultural estates:

In Zanzibar a good many people had been telling me how happy and
contented the Slaves were in the hands of the Arabs; in fact, they would
not desire their freedom. At Chaki Chaki I walked into a tumble-down
old prison. Here I found a number of prisoners, male and female,
heavily chained and fettered. I thought surely these men and women
must be dreadful criminals, or murderers, or they must have committed
similar crimes and are now awaiting their doom. I inquired of them all
why they were there. The only real criminal was one who had stolen a
little rice from his master. All the others I found were wearing those
ponderous chains and fetters because they had attempted to run away
from their cruel masters and gain their freedom— a very eloquent commentary on the happiness of the Slaves!

The British Consulate, Zanzibar.

Kirk's Later Years and Legacy

Kirk returned to Britain finally in 1886, settling in Kent. His awards included the K.C.M.G., G.C.M.G., K.C.B., plus the Patron's Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society. The welfare of Africa still concerned him and in 1889-90 he attended the Brussels Africa Conference as British Plenipotentiary.    In later years John Kirk grew progressively blind but he maintained his interest in the natural world. He died at the age of 89 and was buried in St Nicholas's Churchyard in Sevenoaks.  Among the tributes paid to him was one by Frederick Lugard, Governor General of Nigeria:  'For Kirk I had a deep affection which I know was reciprocated.  He was to me the ideal of a wise and sympathetic administrator on whom I endeavoured to model my own actions and to whose inexhaustible fund of knowledge I constantly appealed.'

   Substantial records survive concerning Kirk, including the journals he kept on the expedition with Livingstone,  Apart from that there are his contributions and discoveries in zoology, biology, a substantial corpus of photographs(over 250).  He maintained close connection with Kew Gardens until his death.  The Kirk Papers have been secured for the future in the National Library of Scotland.  As far as I know, there is no memorial to Sir John Kirk at Barry, but if not,  there definitely should be.
 Sultan of Zanzibar, Sayyid Sir Barghash bin Sa'id (ruled 1870-1888).

Selected Sources

John Langlands: An Aberlemno Slave Owner

C. F. H., 'Obituary:  'Sir John Kirk,' Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygeine, volume 15, issue 5-6 (15 December 1921), p. 202.

Hazell, Alastair, The Last Slave Market:  Dr John Kirk and the Struggle to End the African Slave Trade (London, 2011).

Low, James L., Notes On The Coutts Family (Montrose, 1892).

MacGregor Peter, David, The Baronage of Angus and Mearns (Edinburgh, 1856).

Mackenzie, Donald, A Report on Slavery and the Slave Trade in Zanzibar, Pemba, and the Mainland Protectorates of East Africa (London, 1895).

McBain, J. M., Eminent Arbroathians (Arbroath, 1897).

Scott, Hew, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae (volume 5, new edition, Edinburgh, 1925).

Wild, H., 'Sir John Kirk,' Kirkia, volume 1 (1960-61), pp. 5-10.