Friday, 31 August 2018

School Days...The Happiest Days of Whose Life?

   It is a hardened fact that sometimes children don't love their teachers, no matter how lovable they are.  Just read the 'Bash Street Kinds' in the Beano.  But life was not always fair on the teacher either. Mostly known as the dominie in past centuries, life teaching recalcitrant children in the centuries after the Reformation was likely to be ill-paid and pressurised perhaps by constant scrutiny by the kirk session which appointed teachers and scrutinised their performance.

   The heritor and the minister imposed strict rules for the schoolmaster in each parish.  Among the rules recorded as given to new schoolmaster of Tannadice, Mr William Herald (formerly assistant teacher at Kirriemuir), at a meeting on 24th January 1824 were the following:

   Second:  No cockfighting to be permitted in the schoolroom, under any pretence, under the penalty of two pounds to the poor of the Parish, to be prosecuted for by the Kirk Treasurer;-
   Third:  That he shall assist the Minister of the Parish, or any other in teaching any Sabbath School, the latter may institute...

   The Presbytery of Forfar required that Mr Herald was able to teach English, book-keeping, practical mathematics, land surveying, plus Latin.

   Cock-fighting seems to have been sadly endemic in country schools nearly into the 19th century.  A man informs James Mylne, author of Rambles in Forfarshire (1875):

On the morning of Shrove Tuesday or Candlemas, old style, there was a grand cock fight! at almost every school in the country.  Each of the scholars came to the school with a cock under his arm; a circle was formed by the boys, the master standing in the group to see fair play, and if one of them refused to fight it was called a 'foogie,' and was claimed by the teacher.  If a contest took place, the victor was set aside, and the vanquished, if killed, likewise became the property of the master...Pair after pair were made to fight, and the victors of successive roundswere set aside and made to re-fight with each other until all were defeated or killed but two.  The remaining pair were hailed by the juveniles as heroes of the day, and the teacher at onece named one of them the 'king,' and suspended round his neck a small blue ribbon, to which was attached a bell, as a symbol of royalty.  The other he proclimed the 'prince'...The proprietors of the feathered conquerers gained only honour by their success, as they...had to contribute, for the king 5s, and the prince 2s d.  The sum was spent in purchasing sweetmeats...

   Sometimes a brawl would break out between the owner of a slain fowl and the owner of its winning opponent.  The fact that the teacher gained a meal out of the animal cruelty further darkens the shade of the custom.

Newbigging School and Schoolhouse

   In fact, many of these old country teachers were highly erudite, as exampled by lamented 17th century teacher at Monifieth, John Urquhart, whose own tombstone boasts his merits:

The monument of Mr John Urquhart, a most faithful teacher of the Parish of" Monifieth, which his most loving wife, Janet Morum, caused to be erected. He died I6th June, l664, in his 32nd year. Stop, Traveller! in this tomb, alas! lies gifted Urquhart, who swayed the sceptre of scholastic rule. To children no Orbilius was he, but like a loving nurse, he fed their infant minds with tender care. As offering to his manes, then, pour out a fervent prayer that from the tomb that covers him the fragrance of the Corycian crocus forth may breathe.
   Mr Urquhart was appointed to his post at a meeting on 6th February 1663, at which the payments due to him were detailed, drawn from the who parish:

  That euerie ploughe within the parishe should pay two markes zeirlie vnto him, the one
halfe yreof was to be given presentlie vnto him, the other halfe at the first of August nixt, & in all tymes coming at two termes in ye zeir Candlemas & Lambm'as, everie ploughe thirteenth shilling four pennies...
   Forty-seven ploughs of Monifieth contributed to his income, and his stipend was further bolstered by four marks yearly from the minister.  Parents contributed also, according to their means.  Gentlemen in the parish paid 30 shillings a quarter for each child; husbandmen paid 20 shillings (if they were able to); while other persons of good quality and mark were charged 24 shillings.  Those of 'meaner quality', or less able to pay, were charged 18 pence at the time of their weddings.  Strangers were also called to contribute, post mortem, if they wanted to be buried within the kird yard and there was also a levie paid at each baptism.

   At the same meeting it was agreed to erect a new schoolhouse, with a dwelling for the teacher, 'as neere the mids of the parishe as could be convenientlie vpon the charges of ye parishoners'. Parents were asked to supply school and master with peats and coal.  Sadly, Mr Urquhart did not live long enough to see many of these benefits.

   Some Angus burghs had schools which had a long and continuous history* Montrose Academy had its roots in a 16th century grammar school, with educational establishments being evident in the town as far back as 1329.  A new fee-paying school was erected in 1815.  Not long before this time a certain James Norval was one of the teachers at Montrose (teaching reading, grammar, geography).  Supposedly an adept at astronomy, he also turned his hand to drama and his play The Generous Chief: A Tragedy was produced in the Theatre Royal.  His play was printed in 1792 and was reviewed in the Annals of Literature in London, where it was said to be a play derived from the history of the Highlands:

There is much fighting, much love, and no little absurdity in the conduct of the whole.  A spark from Ossian occasionally animates the language, and sometimes renders the poverty of the other parts more conspicuious.  In short, it should never have strayed from Montrose, where the story would gain it favour, the Scotticisms never obscure the language, nor the absurdities disgust.
   For all his accomplishments, Mr Norval was not universally popular.  His teaching methods were criticised, not just in town, but by the poet Alexander Smart.  He apparently did not like change and penned a number of lessons attacking educational change in the Montrose Review, 1827-29.  He also seems to have been unpopular on a personal level, as evidenced by this rhyme, probably written by a pupil, which details his violent habits and brings in his dwelling place at the Cottage of Repose (opposite and east of the toll-house at the junction of the Hillside and Charlton), just in case anyone wanted to find him to seek revenge:

Cockie Norval of Montrose
Lives at the Cottage of Repose;
He whips his scholars every day,
But takes good care of the quarter’s pay.

* A further post will examine the general history of schools and the education system in Angus through the centuries.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Is Angus Part of "Ballad Land"?

   The ballad tradition in Scotland in one of the jewels in the national culture and flourised mostly in two areas, the borders and the north-east, which means in this context Aberdeenshire and Moray and Banff.  Any geographical definition of North-East Scotland usually excludes Angus, which sometimes (uneasily?) sits in geographical designations such as 'North East Central Scotland'.  There are relatively few ballads which can conclusively be proven to have Angus as their setting, which is not to say there were not songs and ballads ascribed to particular authors of the 19th century and before which passed from person to person and may have entered oral tradition to some extent.

   Considered here are certain ballads which may have Angus as a backdrop, though the claim can be contested.  At the end of the article I could not resist adding another variant of 'The Bonnie Hoose o Airlie', whose location of course is not in dispute.

Young Reiden

   The redoubtable Andrew Jervise states in Memorials of Angus and the Mearns (1861, vol I, pp. 85-8) that this ballad has been placed by some in the parish of Farnell.

At Red Den, on the west side of the parish...the spring called Reiden's Well is locally described as the scene of the tragedy of 'Young Reiden,' celebrated in the ballad of that name.  This idea, except in the third line of the opening stanza of the ballad as rehearsed by the old people of Farnell, is not borne out by the context, and it appears to have originated in the peculiarity of the name, and in the freak of some local rhymster, who (although he preserves 'Clyde water' and other associations of the older ballad) makes his version open prosily thus:—

Young Reiden was a gentleman,
A gentleman of fame ;
An' he 's awa' to East Fithie,
To see his comely dame.

Fithie had a castle, the remains of which form the back wall of a cottar house; and upon an adjoining knoll to the east, popular story avers that the 'lady fair' was burnt for themurder of young Reiden. The lands of Fithie gave surname to a family that held a respectable position in the county from about the middle of the thirteenth century until within these two hundred years. These lands also paid feu-duties to the Bishop of Brechin, and probably the De Fithies were vassals of the Bishops down to the year 1457, as at that time George Leslie, the first Earl of Rothes, had a grant of Easter Fithies, and this was confirmed by charter, under the Great Seal, to the third Earl in 1511. In little more than a century afterwards the property came intothe hands of Sir Robert Carnegie of Kinnaird. At one time

View towards Greenlaw, Farnell

Leezie Lindsay

   Like may traditional ballads, 'Leezie Lindsay' is frustratingly short of internal detail which would help the reader/hearer know who the characters are or where the scene of the narrative was set.  According to Robert Ford's Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland (1901), the main female character was known in the common tradition of the Mearns to be one of the Lindsay family's branch from Edzell in Angus.

Will ye gang wi me, Leezie Lindsay?
Will ye gang tae the Highlands wi' me?
Will ye gang wi me, Leezie Lindsay?
My bride and my darling tae be?

Tae gang tae the Highlands wi you, sir.
I dinna ken how that can be.
For I ken na the land that ye live in,
Nor ken I the lad I'm gae wi'.

O Leezie, lass, ye maun ken little
If sae be ye dinna ken me,
For my name is Lord Ronald McDonald,
A chieftain o' high degree.

She has kilted up her skirts o' green satin,
She has kilted them up to her knee,
And she's aff wi' Lord Ronald McDonald,
His bride and his darlin' tae be.

Sir James the Rose

   In a previous post (More On The Lindsays and the Families of Stirling and Auchterhouse Castle)
 I noted that the historian of Auchterhouse parish, Rev. James Inglis, tried his best to prove that the ballad called 'Sir James the Ross' has its setting locally.  According to him, the ballad relates of the deadly rivalry between Sir James Ross and Sir John Graeme, both suitors of Matilda, daughter of the Earl of Buchan.  It only remains to be added that no other written authorities (that I can find anyway) give any credence for stating that the story had its origins here.  There are few modern academics who seem to be attempting to discover the 'truth' or otherwise of the border and north-east ballads.  In the the Edwardian age) Fitzwilliam Elliot devoted much energy in this area in his work The Trustworthiness of Border Ballads (published in 190), but it was perhaps an impossible task.

The Bonnie Hoose o Airlie

   As I said above, I will finish with another version of 'The Bonnie Hoose o Airlie'.  No need here to go into the backstory of the ballad.  But an interesting aside is provided by Robert Bond's Vagabond Songs and Ballads of  Scotland (1901), which shines a light on the latter days of ballad performance in an urban setting:

Thirty and odd years ago there was a decrepit old man who used to haunt the Nethergate and Perth Road of Dundee who sang nothing else, and his rendition was so singularly absurd that he had many mock imitators among the younger generations thereaway, who knew the old vocalist only by the self-created name of  'Leddy Ogilby.' 

It fell upon a day, and a bonnie summer day,
When the aits grew green and the barley,
That there fell out a great dispute
Between Argyle and Airlie.

The Duke o' Montrose has written to Argyle
To come in the morning early;
And he's up and awa' by the back o' Dunkeld,
To plunder the bonnie House o' Airlie.
Lady Ogilvie look'd ower frae her high Castle wa'.
And O, but she sigh'd sairly,
When she saw Argyle wi' a hunder o' his men.
Come to plunder the bonnie House o' Airlie.
'Come down, come down, Lady Ogilvie,' he says,
'Come down, and kiss me fairly;
Or I swear by the sword that hangs in my hand,
I winna leave a stannin' stane in Airlie.
'I'm no come down to thee, proud Argyle,
Nor wad I kiss thee fairly;
I'll no come down thou fause, fause lord,
Tho' thou shouldna leave a stannin' stane in Airlie.
If my gude lord had been at hame,
As he's awa' wi' Charlie,
There durstna a Campbell in a' Argyle,
Set a fit upon the bonnie green o' Airlie.
'If my gude lord were here this nicht,
As he is wi' King Charlie,
The dearest blude o' a' thy kin,
Wad slocken the burnin' o' Airlie.
'O, I ha'e borne him seven bonnie sons.
The youngest ne'er saw his daddie,
And though I had as mony ower again,
I wad gi'e them a' to Prince Charlie.'
Argyle in a rage attacked the bonnie ha'.
And he's to the plundering fairly;
And tears tho' he saw, like dewdrops fa'.
In a lowe he set the bonnie House o' Airlie !
'What lowe is yon ?' quo' the gude Lochiel,
'That loups ower the hilltaps clearly ?'
'By the God of my kin !'" cried the young Ogilvie,
'It's my ain dear bonnie House o' Airlie !
'It's no the bonnie house, nor the lands a' reft.
That grieves my heart sae sairly;
But O, the winsome dame and the sweet babes I left.
They'll be smoor'd in the black reek o' Airlie.'
'Draw your dirks ! draw your dirks ! " cried the brave
'Unsheath your swords !' cried Charlie,
'And we'll kindle a lowe round the fause Argyle,
And licht it wi' a spark out o' Airlie.'

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Oh, no, minister! Humour in the Bygone Kirk?

   Forthcoming posts on this site will jot down shadier aspects of bygone life associated with religion, such as violence at the Reformation and afterwards, Protestant and Catholic martyrdom, and other dark morsels.  But to ease us all in gently, here are a few anecdotes of times when the Kirk was the centre of the universe, around which all else orbited. These snippets on the lighter side of religion come either from the Rev Dr Charles Rogers or Robert Chambers.  While some of the anecdotes are difficult to either find amusing or to make sense of (being from a vanished age), they do open the window on the past a chink.

John Kay caricature of a distracted congregation

Not that all the stories are entirely light hearted when you dig beneath them. Dr Rogers tells the tale of a local farmer hauled before the Presbytery of Brechin, to give evidence concerning the Rev. John Gillanders, minister of Fearn, who was accused of drunkenness. The lawyer who conducted the prosecution asked the witness if he had heard Mr. Gillanders acknowledge that he had been in the habit of drinking to excess.

   'I never heard him say that,' the farmer said carefully, then added, 'But I have often heard him say that he was not.'

   John Gillanders was born in Aberdeenshire in 1757.  After being a schoolmaster at Tannadice he was ordained on 7th June 1786.  He died unmarried in 1802, and no details have come my way to confirm or counteract the slander of alcoholism brought against him.

   Many ministers at the past had the provervial gift of the gab, loquaciousness being a requirement of the calling, so to speak.  In the late 18th century there were two particularly talkative ministers in charge of neighbouring parishes.  When they were both at any gathering they competed to see who could monopolise the conversation the best, at the expense of all others.  Once the two divines happened to be having breakfast together and one of them launched on an immense and unending story which went well beyond any of his previous storytelling exploits.  So engrossed was he is his own oratory that he overfilled the teapot and did not even notice when it overspilled, first onto the table and then down on to the floor.  When at last he paused in his monologue, announcing that he was near the end, his guest sourly remarked:

   'Aye, ye may stop noo - it's rinnin oot the door!'

   It was a common jibe against ministers that they spoke so much that they sometimes spoke nonsense, or at least got muddled in their speaking.  The Rev. Alexander Imlach of Murroes (born 1727) was one such imprecise speaker, but the sole surviving instance of his verbal muddledness is no mild as to be near insensible.  When he was preaching one day he loftily invoked an old saying and stated, 'O Lord, bless all ranks and degrees of persons, from the king on the dunghill to the beggar on the throne.'  Then he corrected himself:  I mean, from the beggar on the throne to the king on the dunghill!'

   But other times it was the congregation who got misled by the speeches of the preachers, either through their own failings or because the ministers were too high falluting in their speeches.  Until the time of the French Revolution it was a widespread tendency among the ministry to make constant mention of the Antichrist in their preaching, by which they meant the Pope of Rome.  Times change, even in the kirk, and soon a milder exhortation to pray for the altar and the throne.

   Some time after this change an old parishoner approached the Rev Mr M- of Montrose and asked him earnestly:

   'Sir, I hae something to speir at ye, but ye maunna tak it ill.'

   'Na,na,' assured the minister.  'I'll no tak it ill.'

   'Ou, dear me,' said the auld wife.  'Is yon Annie Christie deid, or is she better, that ye prayed sae lang aboot, for I ne'er hear ye speak aboot her noo?'

   the minister alluded to here may be the Rev James Mitchell (1763-1835), who was a tutor and  close friend to Walter Scott, who described their association:

He was a young man of excellent disposition and a laborious student. From him I learned writing and arithmetic. I repeated to him my French lessons, and studied with him my themes in the classics. I also acquired by disputing with him (for this he readily permitted) some knowledge of school - divinity andchurch history, and a great acquaintance n particular with the old books describing the early history of the Church of Scotland, the wars and sufferings of the Covenanters, and so forth. I, with a head on fire for chivalry, was a Cavalier, my friend was a Roundhead ; I was a Tory, and he was a Whig. I hated Presbyterians, and admired Montrose with his victorious Highlanders ; he liked the Presbyterian Ulysses, the dark and politic Argyle, so that we never wanted subjects of dispute...

   Mitchell left his charge at Montrose in 1805 because of local difficulties, chief of which was 'because he could not persuade the mariners of the guilt of setting sail of a Sabbath'.

   Long ago, a newly appointed minister in Angus was coached about the character of his parishoners by a knowing elder:

   'When you ca on John Ramage o the Hillfoot, sir, ye maun speak aboot anything except plooin and sawin.'

   Why was that, the minister asked?

   'John, ye see, sir,' replied the elder,' is sure tae notice your deficiency in thae matters; and if he should find oot that ye dinna ken aboot plooing an sawin, he'll no gie ye credit for kenning onything else.'

   A different tale type is represented by the following story.  Late one Saturday night an old and rather lame Angus minister asked a servant to fetch the pulpit bible from the kirk as he was anxious to consult it for something.  The servant as first declined, saying he was too afraid to venture alone through the dark kirk-yard alone.  A conversation ensued and a compromise was reached.  The minister would accompany him, but as he couldn't walk his man would have to give him a cuddy-back.  John grumbled and mumbled, but agreed to carry the minister and fetch the bible.  On the way back, with the minister on his shoulders and large bible beneath his arm, he was alarmed to hear a voice ask from beneath a tombstone:

   'Is he fat?'

   Believing that the lurking ghost or bogle was querying his mortal burden (possibly with the purpose of devouring him),he discarded the minister and yelled,

   'Tak him as he is!' and ran away.

    Somehow the minister struggled back to the manse first.  What he said to John is not recorded.  Next day it was explained that two sheep stealers were in the area.  While one of them kept watch behind a gravestone, the other was on the look out for a beast to steal.  The overheard remark was actually a comment from the first about the size of the sheep his comrade had got hold of!

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Lost Treasures of Angus - Patrick Paniter's Panels from Montrose

Patrick Paniter was a man of parts, professional cleric and collector of beneficies, courtier and political adviser to King James IV.  After service abroad, Paniter became rector of Fetteresso in the Mearns and Vicar of Kilmany in Fife.  He became Secretary to the king (James IV) and gained further, more important religious posts associated with Dunkeld and then Moray.  His first connection with Angus came when he was made rector of Tannadice, which does not of course mean that he even visited this place. 

   But Paniter definitely had close involvement with Montrose as he ordered the restoration of the derelict Hospital of St Mary in the burgh.  A royal charter dated 18 August 1512 tells us that Patrick Paniter rescued the hospital from the hands of powerful laymen, recovered its alienated lands, and also rebuilt the foundations its hall, chapel and other buildings.  According to R. L. Mackie, 'For this reason he was granted, as Preceptor of the Hospital, the power to recast its constitution, and the sole right of electing poor bedesmen, scholars, and chaplains.'

   Nothing now remains in Montrose of the ancient hospital buildings, but, remarkably, there are 18 panels - possibly from the dias of the hall of the hospital - which have survived are are now in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  They were integrated in an old property in Montrose and were saved when it was demolished around the year 1878.   The panels are mostly carved with floral patterns, but some carving intriguingly portray monks satirically shaped like foxes and pigs.  Some experts believe the work as a native Scot perhaps influenced by Flemish woodwork.  Along with a door the panels were discovered in the 19th century and are linked to Patrick by including his family's coat of arms.  It is known in fact that Patrick's family came from Newmanswells, near present Borrowfield, north of Montrose.  This local connection explains why the well connected cleric cared so much about this specific foundation in the burgh. There is a theory that the panels actually come from the local kirk, after it was demolished in the last years of the 18th century.  The first of the family recorded locally was one William Paneter, mentioned around 1350, while Andrew Panter was a burgess of Montrose.

   Patrick himself, who was born around 1470, luckily avoided the mass cull of Scots at the Battle of Flodden and died peacefully in 1519 in Paris.

Some Works Consulted

R. L. Mackie (ed.), The Letters of James the Fourth 1505-1513 (Edinburgh, 1953).

James S. Richardson, 'Oak Panels Presented to the Museum by the National Art Collections Fund,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 71 (1938-9), pp. 324-5.

John Warrack, Domestic Life in Scotland, 1488-1688 (London, 1920).

Previous Posts on the Lost Treasures of Angus

Saturday, 14 July 2018

The King's Cadger Road - A Fishy Tale

Forfar as a set of the perapetic Scottish court in the Middle Ages has definitely been under investigated.  Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret have a lingering remembrance in the area, in folklore, history and place-names, but otherwise there is relatively little known about royal associations here, and certainly their origins, partly because the castle (or castles, as there may have been two of them) was erased during the Wars of Independence.  One surprising survival about the logistics of the king's presence here is the memory - if not the actual physical survival - of the King's Cadger Road.  This route was recognised as the official pathway between the fishing village of Usan (Haven), south of Montrose and the king's residence at Forfar.

The approximate line of the Cadger's Path between Usan and the royal burgh of Forfar

   Quite when the King's Cadger Road was developed is unknown.  The author of the Old Roads of Scotland website points out that the Fyschergate mentioned in a charter of Arbroath Abbey is almost certainly identical to the King's Cadger Road.  The road stretched apparently from the market cross of Forfar to the coast.  The royal cadger would bring fish to the court each day it was in attendance and it was 'in breadth the width of a mill wand'.  This measure has been explained by the laborious process by which these round mil stones were transported before the advent of properly surfaced roads.  A  long piece of wood - the mill-wand - was put through the centre of the stone and used to roll it from the quarry to the actual mill. 

   The route passed through Montreathmont Moor and was marked by various subsiduary wayside names:  Cadger Slack, Cadger Burn, among them.  When the moor was divvied up between the adjacent estates in 1780 the laird of Usan asserted his right to the Cadger Road across the moorland, and received as his share an allocation of land in it equal to the superficial extent of the ancient road. According to David Adams:

Ainslie's map of Angus in 1794...may preserve the eastern part of the King's Cadger Road.  The most likely route seems to be from Usan in a straight line south of Dunninald as far as the A92 and then zig-zagging north of Upper Dysart, passing Gightyburn and Rossie Farm School to meet the track from craig and Ferryden tto Kinnell and then crossing Wuddy Law to pass north of Bolshan.  West of that the route is not traceable with any certainty...

   The residence of the cadger himself was called Strook Hill and stood just to the south-west of Usan.  The lands of the cadger were in the form of a strip, comprising 30 acres, reaching from the shore at Usan to the kirkyard of St Skeoch.

Reid summarises a legend which says that one of the king's cadgers was waylaid by the laird of Rossie, so he and his accomplice son were executed on the top of Kinnoull Hill:

It would appear they exhibited a natural reluctance to mouth the scaffold under the fatal tree.  The King himself attended the execution, and seeing their dilatoriness he called out to them 'Mount, boys!' to which circumstance is ascribed the derivation of the name of the farm of Mountboy, which lies on the south side of the Hill of Kinnoul, though Mon-bois (wooded moss) is the origin.
   There are various confusing named in the locality 'King's Seat' or 'Ginshot Hill' are applied to the artificial eminence locally said to be the place of the execution.  One source says that the 'crown of the hill' (possible meaning the artificial mound) was called Kinshie Hill.

   The family who supplied the sea fish to the king were named Tulloch and they held the lands of Bonnington or Bonnyton, through which the Cadger Road passes, under the tenure of supplying fish to the royal table. In 1399 the office of the keeper of the Moor of Monrommon was in the possession of this family.   The Tullochs' lands passed to the Wood family many centuries ago.  One of their number, John Wood, was created a baronet in 1666. There was a Castle of Bonnyton, though this has long since vanished also. 

   There is an old Scots saying which is probably not local to Angus (though it would be nice to think it was):

the king's errand may come in the cadger's gate (or the king will come in the cadger's road).

   The meaning is that even great events may come by unsuspected routes, or that great men may also have to walk humble paths at times. 


Some Works Consulted

Adams, David G., Usan, or Fishtown of Ullishaven (Brechin, 1989).
Carrie, John, Ancient Things in Angus (Arbroath, 1881).
Edwards, D. H., Around the Ancient City (Brechin, 1904).
Jervise, Andrew, Epitaphs and Inscriptions of the North-East of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1875).
Reid, Alan, The Royal Burgh of Forfar (Forfar, 1902).
Rxton Fraser, Rev. William, St Mary's of Old Montrose, or Parish or Maryton (Edinburgh, 1896).

Saturday, 16 June 2018

A Mixed Bag of Rhymes (Part Two)

As a modest celebration of this blog's 150th post, I give you a second selection of randomly gathered rhymes from around the county. (The previous post can be found here: A Mixed Bag of Rhymes).  One of the simplest rhymes in that first entry was a simple recitation of place-names in one part of north Angus, but there is music in the words and poignancy when one thinks that the places mentioned may no longer exist, or not as habitations, and the people who lived there are long vanished and forgotten:

Deuchar sits on Deuchar Hill,
looking doon on Birnie Mill,
the Whirrock an the Whoggle,
the Burnroot an Ogle,
Quiechstrath an Turnafachie,
Waterhaughs an Drumlieharrie.

which leads on nicely to another localised rhyme:

There's Blackha, Buckit Hill,
Lochtie an the Lint Mill,
Cowford, the Waulk Mill, 
The Millton an Balmadity,
The Bogie an Ba'quharn.

   Another northern Angus locality which has a rhyme attached to it is Ledbakie which, in the 19th century, was joined to the neighbouring farm of Blairno.  Its situation, at the foot of the imposing hill of Berrycairn, means that it is destitute of sunlight and gets hardly any light at all in winter time.  A local rhyme described it thus:

Nae wonder though the maidens of Ledbakie be dun
Atween Martinmas an’ Canlemas they never see the sun.

   According to the Rev. Henry Cruickshank, writing in 1899:

It is a drearie place even in summer...A story, probably untrue in actual traditionally given respecting the Cobbs of Ledbakie. In their evening worship they sang a Psalm, which, whether long or short, was gone through from beginning to end. A person passing by one night on the way to Nathro overheard the family singing as was their wont. When he returned next morning, they were engaged in the same pious exercise. He put forth a report that the Psalm was the 119th, and that they had been singing it the whole night.

   Alan Reid in The Royal Burgh of Forfar (1902) gives another localised rhyme, in this case featuring places and burns in the Tannadice area:

The Feerich and the Fogil,
The Burn root of Ogil,
Deuks-Dubs, Tirlywhangie,
Water o Saughs an Drumly Harry.

   Reid also gives another rhyme, from Forfar (which he thinks may be the work of mid-Victorian local poet Davie Herd), and here the focus is not lost and forgotten places, but the names of local characters:

The Steeple o Farfar's biggit on a knowe,
Gang and speir at Bailie Low;
Bailie Low's busy workin,
Gang and speir at Doctor Rankin;
Doctor Rankin's sellin sa,
Gang and speir at Doctor Law;
Dr Law's awa wi's wife,
Gang an speir at Bailie Fyfe;
Bailie Fyfe's awa wi's coo,
Gang and speir at Benjie Rew;
Benjie Rew's lickin Jock
Wi a muckle kail stock!

   Civil strife in 18th century Brechin occurred in the hurly-burly local political field of Brechin in the early 18th century, with fierce rivalry between competing and successive provosts.  The provost who took over the hot seat of provost in 1733 was David Doig of Cookston.  His father had been provost in 1715 and had the misfortune to be imprisoned by the Earl of Mar for being a staunch Hanoverian.  The second provost Doig was deposed by a previous incumbent, John Knox, in 1740, and it may have been fans of the latter who composed a scandalous epitaph about the second provost Doig when he died:

Provost Doig's deid - God be thankit;
Mony a better dog's deid, since he whelpit.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Punishment of Women - Flyters and Scolders

On the centenary of the granting of votes for women in the United Kingdom it is probably a good time to examined the treatment of women in the more remote past.  Fornication was one of the sins for which women were more blamed than men as a matter of course.  In the burgh records of Dundee one can almost taste the seething rage of the authorities when, in  October 1564, they wrote that:

'the women, quhilk are the principal occasions of fornication,' sometimes escape' unpunishit because they are with bairn the time of their apprehending,' devised an ingenious method both severe and safe for chastising delinquents, and enacted 'that the woman apprehendit, of quhat estate that ever she be, sail be brocht to the Merkat Croce openly, and there her hair sail be cuttit oft', and the samin naiht upon the cuck-stule, and [she shall besides] mak her public repentance in the kirk, and this for the first fault. And for the second fault, she sail be had to the Merkat Croce, her hair cuttit oft' and nailit up as said is, and her self carryit in ane cart throw all the pairts of the town, and twa shillings tane of her fee to pay the carter for his lawbours; and sail also forfeit the pain contenit in the auld acts.' The punishment awarded to the male offender, who, by the narrow reasoning of the time, was reckoned the least culpable, was administered with much laxity. During the two days of imprisonment, his companions appear to have had access to him, and there being no stint of food or drink, they would probably spend the time in carousing. Restrictions were, however, now imposed upon this, and it was decreed that the man 'sail remain forty-eight hours in the steeple upon bread and water, and nane to enter in the steeple to bear him company except the officer, under the pain of forty shillings, to be taken of ilk ane of them and distribute to the puir.' The man's friends were to be fined if they found their way in to him, which is a curious illustration of the system of prison discipline then observed. [Maxwell, History of Dundee, p. 83.]

   Again, in July 1580, it was:

'statute and ordained that gif it sail happen ony young woman to commit fornication, and efter she be conceivit with bairn sail be fund ganging with her bare hair as ane shameless [person], then incontinent she sail be had to the cuck-stule, and upon the skaffet thereof her hair sail be cut off, and there nailit, to the example of uthers.'  [Maxwell, History of Dundee, pp. 83-84.]

   In October 1580 the loose, scolding tongues of women were enacted against:

Gif it sail happen ony men's wyiffs or uther women to be heard openly in shameful flyting, reproaching, sclandering, cursing, banning, or making ony horrible imprecations or fearful blasphemies of the name of God betwix them and ony uther persons, then the offenders having money to pay sail stand in ward till they pay forty shillings to the reparation of the common warks, and also sail pass to the Market Croce, or to the place quhair they offendit their neighbours, and upon their knees ask forgiveness. And the person that hes na money to pay, sail be put in the cuckstule be the space of three hours in maist patent time of day, and theirefter satisfie the pairtie in manner foresaid.[Maxwell, History of Dundee, p. 233.]

   'Scolding' as a particularly female crime was targeted by church and burgh officials in all areas as a perennial menace to mankind.  In Arbroath in 1732 a woman was imprisoned for scolding two male neighbours, John Anderson and John Wilson.  Her husband and sister-in-law bailed her out on condition she led a more peaceable life thenceforth.

   Early the following year, also in Arbroath, there was a case of a woman offender sent by the kirk-session to the presbytery, who promptly sent her case back to the session:

The Session, considering that the said Agnes had appeared twelve times before the congregation without any visible signs of repentance, found also that she had been guilty four times of fornication, and had not give a true account of the father of her child, the person she had accused being exculpate by the Presbytery, and that more public appearances would tend to no edification, agreed to this sentence:  That she must lie under a scandal unabsolved, and remove out of town peremptorily at Whitsunday next [History of Arbroath, Hay, p. 241.]

   George Hay wonders that the woman had not received the usual punishment of being ordered to sit for twelve sabbaths before the congregation dressed in sackcloth.  But then again Agnes does not perhaps seem the type who would have countenanced such a sentence.


George Hay, The History of Arbroath to the Present Time (Arbroath, 1876).

Alexander Maxwell, The History of Old Dundee (Dundee, 1884).