Friday, 21 August 2020

The Last Public Execution - Andrew Low

I mentioned the unfortunate Andrew Low in a post about the later witches in Angus several years ago, due to his connection with a 'wise woman' named Lizzie Kinmont. (The post can be read here.) This piece adds more details about his story, although (as always), there is more yet to be discovered about his story.  
 Here's what I wrote then:

A public execution in 1785 incidentally involved witchcraft. The condemned man was a young thief named Andrew Low, who was hanged on Balmashanner Hill, Forfar. He was said to have been the last person executed for theft in Scotland. Andrew had once stolen a hen from Lizzie Kinmont of Brechin, unluckily for him a famous witch. Lizzie duly predicted that as many folk would see him die as there were feathers on her lamented hen - and of course it came true.

Balmashanner Hill

   Andrew Low was a wild youth whose behaviour was possibly decreed in part by his upbringing. His widowed mother was Babbie Wyllie and his father, Geordie Low,  was a carter went missing in a snowdrift between Forfar and Arbroath a month before he was born. Babbie, who lived in Jarron's Pend in Forfar solicited the aid of her two neighbours, Jamie Grant and Tam Broon, when her husband did not reappear in the morning. They found George not far from the town, with a broken neck in a ditch, his cart having veered off the road in the treacherous weather.

   Babbie, it is said, was a member of a prominent local family which included in its ranks a cousin named Mr Wyliie who was the Procurator Fiscal for Forfarshire. They felt that Babbie had married beneath her station. When Geordie died  Babbie was obliged to take any work she could find, including menial agricultural labour.

   His boisterous behaviour was marked from his earliest years, leading his hapless mother to remark: 'I ken he's royd [unruly], but he likes his mither, and, puir loon, he disna ha'e a faither. But maybe he'll be better when he's aulder.'  Minor misdemeanours were noted in his youngest years. These included tying pots and pans to the tails of dogs and cutting people's washing lines. Later, there happened the incident with Lizzie's chicken, while he stole and then wrung its neck and then sold to an alewife. She was reputed to have powers and predicted , 'There'll be as mony lookin' at his death as there were feathers on my bonny chuckie's body.'

   But Andrew drifted into a pattern of petty crime that led to his demise. Once, he had his friends went to Oathlaw on a Sunday and he stole half a crown from the collection plate. Babbie found the money that evening and returned it to the minister who did not press charges, though he warned the woman about her son's future. She and Andrew later relocated to the Lower Tenements in Brechin. Babbie died when her son was 12 and his behaviour degenerated. He is alleged to have been publicly whipped for minor crimes on repeated occasions. When he was around 20 he formed an attachment to a girl named Jessie Smart, but she could not alter his way of life.

  Around this time he burgled the house of a merchant, Andrew Lindsay, in Slateford and also a cobbler called John Bailie in Mainsbank, Kinnell. He purloined knives, scissors, tobacco, and shoe buckles, then went to Arbroath to sell them, staying at David Carrie's alehouse. Following a few days' drinking he went to Forfar and met up with associates at another alehouse, run by Robert Young, in Osnaburg Pend. The group attended the Mason Lodge Theatre in East High Street to see'Jack Sheppard' about a criminal. Their behaviour was so boisterous that some of the audience passed notice to the Procurator Fiscal who was also attending. The latter informed the burgh's officers to arrest Andrew on suspicion of housebreaking as news of the Slateford and Mainsbank crimes had come back to the town.

  As he was being taken to the tolbooth in the High Street his friends contived to free him and he escaped and hid on Montreathmont Moor for three days. He lived on oatmeal and turnips from a woodcutter's hut. But he was later captured and put in prison. On the 28th December 1784 Andrew was served with the Indictment and trial date was set for the 21st January. Charges against him included those brought by James Scott,  shoemaker, who said  that Andrew had sold him several objects which were produced and kept as evidence. A dyer called Thomas Whyte changed some money for Andrew and also bought a pistol from him. Alexander Williamson in Geghtyburn said the accused sold him numerous articles. Other witnesses included the men from Slateford and Kinnell.

  Judgement was given on 28th January 1785 by Sheriff Depute Patrick Chalmers of Aldbar:

The Sheriff-Depute having Considered the verdict of assize returned upon the twenty-first instant against the said Andrew Low the Pannel, whereby they unanimously find him guilty of the Crimes charged against him in the Indictment. Therefore the said Sheriff Decerns and adjudges the said Andrew Low to be carried back from the bar to the Tolbooth of Forfar, therein to remain until Saturday the nineteenth day of March next to come, and upon that day to be taken to the west end of the Hill of Forfar, the common place of execution, and there betwixt the hours of Twelve mid-day, and four in the afternoon, to be hanged by the neck on a gibbet until he be dead. Requiring hereby the Magistrates of Forfar to see this sentence carried into due and lawful execution, and ordains the said Andrew Low’s haill moveable goods and gear to be escheat and in brought to His Majesty’s use, which is pronounced for doom.

  On Saturday 19th March 1785 the authorities loaded 20 year old Andrew onto a cart which made its way to Balmashanner Hill in Forfar. On the journey, as was customary, the cart stopped at the Toll House on the Dundee Road and Andrew was given a parting glass of whisky. A huge crowd was waiting for him that day at Gallowshade. Gallowshade or Gallow Hill was on the west side of Balnashammer Hill. The place was said to have been grotesquely marked by nine mounds marking the graves of previously executed felons. That day the presiding minister was the Rev Bruce and the executioner was John Chapman of Aberdeen.

  Asked if he had any final words, Andrew said, 'I want to tell you lands. And fat I hae to say is just this, that I'm hangit innocent. No' that I've been a guid bairn a' my days, but the only thing that has troubled me, and aften I cudna get sleep for thinkin' o't, wis the stealing o' Lizzie Kinmont's clockin' hen.'  A laverock (lark) was singing sweetly above the cart on the final stages of its journey. Its singing stopped as he was hung. 

  Andrew Low was the last man in Scotland to have been executed publicly by sheriff's authority. According to David Black  in The History of Brechin (1867), there were some people in that town who firmly believed that Low should not have put to death. 'Low's fate was long a matter of conversation and regret in Brechin,' he says. 'But it was darkly insinuated that he had been led by cunning men to be participant in deeper crime than mere housebreaking and theft.'

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Prince Conall Corc and the Mighty Fortress on Turin Hill

  Turin Hill overlooks Rescobie Loch around 6 km north-east of Forfar. The summit is 250m above sea level, and the hill is marked by steep crags on the south. A place of some importance before history began, it is a place of obvious strategic importance, commanding a find view of the great broad valley of Strathmore below it. There are multiple archaeological remains from different periods crowded on the hillfort which have long been recognised, though there have never been full scale archaeological investigations here.

  The full richness of the multi period occupation on Turin will be summarised below, as will the rather intriguing associations it may have with an Irish prince named Conall Corc who may have been active in the early centuries AD.

Turin Hill. Photo by Richard Webb (CC License)

  In folklore terms, the kenspeckle nature of the hill, along with the fact that it was used for quarrying for a long period, gave rise to the once common Angus saying: 'Deil ride to Turin on ye for a lade o' sclates!' Despite this invocation of the unholy one, there does not seem to have ever been any association of this site with the supernatural or eerie. 

  There are two Iron Age forts on the summit of the hill and it seems to have been one of these which bore the alternative local name of Kemp's Castle (or possibly Camp Castle).  Rev Wright of Rescobie parish wrote, somewhat inaccurately about the fort on Turin Hill in the Old Statistical Account of the late 18th century:
Kemp or Camp Castle, on the top of Turin Hill, an ancient stronghold, consisted of
extensive contiguous buildings, with a circular citadel of 40 yards in diameter;
the situation being secured by an impregnable rock in front, and of difficult
access all round.
   The historian of Angus, Alexander Warden, described the stronghold in his account of Aberlemno parish:

The hills in the parish rise to a considerable altitude, Turin, the highest, being about 800 feet above the level of the sea, and 600 feet above the neighbouring lakes of Rescobie and Balgavies. Many stones, the ruins of an ancient stronghold, called Camp Castle, lie on the top of Turin Hill. The view from the summit is extensive, varied, beautiful, and grand. The boundary line between this parish and Rescobie passes along the summit of the hill.
   Turin is the diminutive of Tur, a castle, and signifies a little castle. It probably was so called to distinguish it from the royal castle, which stood in the vicinity of the hill, within which Donald Bane was confined by his nephew, King Edgar. The Lindsays are reputed to have taken the castle on the hill by force from the proprietor, supposed to have been named Kemp. [Angus or Forfarshire, vol. 2.]
   The rather feeble supposition that 'Kemp' was a man associated with the Lindsay family, who were prominent in the late medieval and early modern period as prominent regional landowners, does not suggest that there was ever any local tradition about the founding or occupation of the hillforts.

The Archaeology

   The earlier hillfort is a bivallate (double walled) enclosure measuring 247 by 122 m, while the secondary fort has a single wall and measures 152 by 39m. There are also traces of two or possibly three later, circular buildings, sometimes termed duns. It would be impossible to give a wholly accurate range of occupation dates, though it has been thought that the range runs right through from the Late Bronze Age into the Early Historic Period. Quarrying here may have began in the Middle Ages. The hill was surveyed in 1998 by the University of Edinburgh, but there has been no excavation on the site since that date.  The survey work confirmed at least three phases of occupation, with the circular enclosure homesteads likely belonging to the latter phases.  Additionally there were traces of hut circles and a large number of cup marked and cup and ring marked stones. This seems to suggest a site used in the Neolithic for ritual community activity; so much so that the hill has been compared to the important site at Kilmartin in Argyll.

   Turn Hill's fort has been compared also to the magnificent fort of the Brown Caterthun (visible from Turin), which stands 13 km to the north-east. More locally, some phases of occupation may be tied in with the hillfort on Finavon Hill, 2.3 km to the north-east. The latter was excavated by the very eminent archaeologist V. Gordon-Childe in the 1930s, and again three decades later,  and an estimate of its occupation ranged from the 7th century BC until the 5th or 4th centuries BC. It is worth mentioning possibly that Turin lies not far to the north of Dunnichen Hill, which seems to have been a local Pictish power centre from the 5th to the 7th centuries, signifying a continuity of authority in this small area by a local elite.

Conall Corc and the Pictish Dreamtime

   The circular homesteads on Turin have similarities with others in Perthshire and one authority has likened these to Irish structures and linked to an incursion of Gaelic speakers into the region between 500 and 800 AD. There is, remarkably, an ancient Irish tale which may be linked to the site which would suggest this is true and push back the Irish link to the earlier part of this date range, if not before it. I have fancifully called this the Pictish Dreamtime, though this is an unforgivably romantic description of the period just beyond the Pictish historical horizon. I summarised the tale of the possibly 4th century Corc in an earlier post (which can be fully read here  ). His story is contained in the Irish legend of  'The Finding of Cashel'.

   Conall Corc, from the Eoganáchta people, was the son of King Luigthech and Bolce Ben-bretnach (“the British woman”), which suggests there may have been even earlier contact between Munster and North Britain. Conall was later adopted by another ruler, his cousin Crimthann, but when he rejected the advances of Crimthann's wife he was sent in exile to the Picts in Britain.  In this foreign land, Conall almost perished in a blizzard, but he was saved by the bard of the local Pictish king. The bard also noticed a magical message written on Conall’s shield at the behest of his father. The message directed the king of Pictland to kill Corc. But the poet changed the words to request the king to give Corc every assistance he could and even give his daughter to the Irish immigrant, which is exactly what happened. Prince Corcc remained in Pictland until he had seven sons and an immense fortune. One of his sons  founded the Eoganacht kin-group of Circinn, and was possibly the ancestor of the Pictish king Angus mac Fergus.

   Several sources name Mongfinn’s son Cairbre, while the Book of the Hui Maine says the son was Main, but there were three other sons attributed to Corc and Mongfinn, all born in Alba. The full name of Feradach’s daughter was apparently Leamhain Mongfionn, and she had by Corc, Cairbre Cruithenechán of Circinn and Maine Leamhna. The latter was ancestor of the Mormaers of Lennox, around Loch Lomond.

   What has this to do with Turin?  Corc ended up apparently at the fortress of a Pictish leader named Feradach.  The stronghold was named Turin brighe na Righe.  The name may be coincidental, but it is still impressive. Corc married Mongfinn, daughter of the Pictish king, stayed ten years sojourn in Alba, and had three sons. In three manuscript versions of the descendents of Eber in the Psalter of Cashelone of these says that Cairbre Cruithinechan (“Pict Sprung”) was ancestor of the Eoganacht of Magh Circinn.


   Whether or not the tales hold water, they are nevertheless intriguing, and ultimately perhaps unprovable. I have provided Vernam Hull's full translation of one version of the tale of Corc below for anyone interested. The first part of the tale is mission, but the story is interesting all the same.

The Exile of Conall Corc

...Dublin and saw the ships going over the sea. He went with them eastwards over the sea and perceived the mountains of Scotland. They let him go onto the land. He went to a mountain in the west of Scotland. Much snow descended on him so that it reached his girdle. For five days he was without drink and without food until he cast himself down in a dying condition in a glen.
Gruibne the scholar, the poet of Feradach, king of Scotland, came, twelve horsemen strong, into the glen to seek his pigs. He beheld a lap of his mantle above the snow.

   "A dead man!" he said. He saw that his body was [still] warm. "Frost has done that to the man," said the poet. "Kindle a fire around him in order that his limbs will be able to rise."

   That was done so that he steamed. Suddenly he arose.

   "Steady, O warrior," Gruibne said. "Do not fear anything."

   Then, on beholding his countenance, Gruibne spoke as follows:"Welcome, O fair Conall Corc who took each land in the west beyond the region of the sea. Here, the ocean confused you so that sleep stretches you out. A host with silent troops of valor uttered a heavy cry for nine hours so that you were unable to find a word. Good [is] the meeting to which I am destined, [namely], that you came upon me [and] that you did not abide upon the surface of another land. [It was] a plan of sin that sword-ends were brought for your betrayal over the flatness of your body. ..of Lugaid mac Ailella. With honor he was honored. . . O mighty Corc about whom firebrands raise a cry,for fair Cashel protects you so that it will be over Femen that you will rule with fine feasting. Well will you suppress bad weather. In Munster-of the-great-hosts you will receive hostages so that you will be the lion of Loch Lein. Your fame will fill Ireland's vast plain and the race of Oengus above the surface of each land. The adze-heads will come over the sea's ocean with hooks of crooked staves." Actually the poet who had recited the poetic composition was one of the two captives whom Corc had protected from the Leinstermen. Then he put both his arms around him."It were indeed fitting for us," he said, "to welcome you. Who," said he, "saw to your advantage by means of the Ogham writing which is on your shield?" It was not good fortune that it indicated."

   "What is on it?" said Corc.

   "This is on it: If it be during the day that you might go to Feradach, your head is to be removed before it were evening. If it be in the night, your head is to be removed before it were morning. Not thus will it be."

   Afterwards, he bore him with him to his own house, and a hurdle [was] under him, and eight men [were] under the hurdle. On that day a month later, he went forthwith to speak with Feradach, and he left Corc outside. He related to him his whole story, namely, how he went to seek his pigs, and he said that he had intended to kill the man. When he saw the Ogham writing on the shield, he was loath to slay him, for this was on it: "A son of the king of Munster has come to you. If it be during the day that he might come, your daughter is to be given to him before evening. If it be in the night, she is to sleep with him before morning." 

   "The news is bad," said Feradach. "Anyone would indeed be sad that you have brought him alive."

   "Gruibne bound his equal weight in silver on Feradach and brought him in. That one offered him a great welcome. But the daughter was not given to him, for Feradach said that he would not grant his daughter to a hireling soldier . . . from abroad. This availed him hot, because the couple had intercourse with each other so that the woman became pregnant by him, and she was brought
down, and bore him a son. She did not admit that it was Corc's. They intended to burn her [and] the men of Scotland came for the burning. It was formerly a custom that any maiden who committed fornication without bethrothal was burnt. Hence, these hills are [named] Mag Breoa, that is Mag Breg. Then the men of Scotland besought a respite for the girl to the end of a year until her son
had assumed the form, voice or habit of the sept.

    At the end of a year they came to burn her. "I will not bring your son to you," said she.

   "You shall, however, bring him," said he, "into the presence of Feradach."

   When, then, she was about to be burned, she brought him before both of them.

   "O woman," said Feradach, "does the boy belong to Corc?"

   "He does," said the woman.

   "I will not take him from you," said Corc, "for he is a bastard until his grandfather gives him."

   "I do indeed give him to you," said Feradach. "The son is yours."

   "Now he will be accepted," said Corc.

   "Go forth, O woman," said Feradach, "and you shall have no luck."

   "She shall, however, not go," said Corc, "since she is not guilty."

   "She is, nevertheless, guilty," said Feradach.

   "But she is not guilty," said Corc. "To each son [belongs] his mother. On her son falls her misdeed, that is, on her womb."

   "Let the son, therefore, be expelled," said Feradach.

   "He shall indeed not be expelled," said Corc, "since that youth has not attained manhood. For the son will pay for her offence."

   "You have saved them both," said Feradach.

   "That will be fortunate," said Corc.

   "Well, O Corc,"said Feradach, "sleep with your wife. It is you whom we would have chosen for her, if we had had a choice."' I will pay her price to the men of Scotland."

   That was done. He remained in the east until she had born him three sons.

   "Well, O Corc," said Feradach, "take your sons and your wife with you to your country, for it is sad that they should be outside of their land. Take the load of three men of silver with you. Let thirty warriors accompany you."

   That was done. He came from the east, thirty warriors strong, until he reached Mag Femin. There, snow descended upon them so that it led them astray at Cnocc Graffand. His father was infirm.That brought them northwards into the north of Mag [Femin].

   On that day, the swineherd of Aed, the king of Muscraige, was tending his pigs. That night, he said to Aed: "I saw a wonder today," said he, "on these ridges in the north. I beheld a yew-bush on a stone, and I perceived a small oratory in front of it and a flagstone before it. Angels were in attendance going up and down from the flagstone."

   "Verily," said the druid of Aed," that will be the residence of the king of Munster forever, and he who shall first kindle a fire under that yew, from him shall descend the kingship of Munster."

   "Let us go to light it," said Aed.

   "Let us wait until morning," said the druid.

   [Thither] then came the aforesaid Corc in his wanderings.He kindled a fire for his wife and for his sons so that Aed found him on the following day by his fire with his sons about him. He recognized him then, and he gave him a great welcome, and he put his son in surety under his custody. When,
now, after the death of his father there was contention about the kingship of Munster, then Corc came. Thereupon, a residence was at once established by him in Cashel and before the end of a week, he was the undisputed king of the Munstermen.

   The surety of the Muscraige is the first surety that a king of Munster ever took, and, afterwards, they were freed, and a queen of theirs [was]in Cashel. Moreover, the swineherd who was found in Cashel, freedom was given to him and to his children by the king of Cashel, that is, without tribute and without exaction of king or steward. It is he, too, who raises the cry of kingship for the king of Cashel, and is given a blessing by the king, and straightway receives the garment of the king. Hence it is, then, that Corc's Cashel exists, and it is the progeny and the seed of Corc mac Lugthach that abides forever in Cashel from that time forth.

Sources Consulted

'Survey Work on Turin Hill, Angus,' Derek Alexander with Ian Ralston, Tayside  and Fife Archaeological Journal,  5 (1999), pp. 36-49.

The Picts, Benjamin Hudson (Chichester, 2014), pp. 67-68.

Men of the North, R. Cunliffe Shaw (Preston, 1973), pp. 200-1.

'The Exile of Conall Corc,' Vernam Hull, Proceedings of the Modern Language Association of America, 56, No. 4 (Dec., 1941), pp. 937-950.

Angus or Forfarshire, Alexander Warden (vol. 2, Dundee, 1881), p. 290.

Angus or Forfarshire, Alexander Warden (vol. 5, Dundee, 1885), pp. 100-1.

Monday, 29 June 2020

A Pictish Timeline in Angus

  This article provides a very basic summary of events in Angus during the 'Pictish centuries'. More details can be found in previous posts detailed at the bottom of this page. I leave out possible very early Irish settlement in Angus as this is not datable and will be covered in separate articles.


The Fifth Century

 I have posted several times before about the province of Circinn (which may have comprised Angus and the Mearns) and the supposition that Angus may be named after the powerful warlord Angus mac Fergus. Other rulers may have been based in our area, such as the 5th century king Nechtan Morbet, who possibly gave his name to Dunnichen. This piece merely summarises some other Pictish associations of the area, without providing a full overview of Angus in its context as a Pictish region.

The Sixth Century

The  mid 6th century represents the historical horizon for Pictland. The dominant leader was Brude mac Maelchon, whose main power base was certainly north of the Grampians and probably located near Inverness. Despite the fact that he is said to have authorised the settlement of St Columba in Iona, he and the saint had a combative encounter at his stronghold and he likely resisted the pressure to convert to Christianity, albeit some sources state that he did succumb to the new religion.

  We do not know for certain whether Brude ruled south of the mountains. He may have claimed over-lordship in the area. There is an intriguing entry in the Irish Annals of Tigernach under the year 752: 
The battle of Asreth in the land of Circen, between the Picts on both sides; and in it Brude, Maelchon's son fell.
    It has been suggested, probably correctly, that this notice is misplaced and that it should be under the year 584. There has been speculation that the powerful king of Dál Riata, Áedán mac Gabráin, launched an attack on southern Pictland towards the close of the 6th century in order to bolster the succession of his own son Gartnait as king of Picts. Gartnait may well have had a Pictish mother and been eligible for the crown, but if so the intrusion of these Scottish outsiders did not go unchallenged.

   The Annals of Tigernach  again tell us about a major event, which seems to have been a very bloody battle fought somewhere in the region of Strathmore:

The slaughter of the sons of Áedán, namely Bran and Domangart and Eochaid Find and Arthur, in the battle of Circhend; in which Áedán was conquered.
  This was a rare defeat for the Scottish king and may have taken place around the year 590.  The alliance of the brothers suggests that they were embarked on an enterprise to carve out territories for themselves in southern Pictland. It is possible that their defeat was more significant than has generally been supposed and that it prevented a large scale Scottish (that is Irish/Gaelic) takeover of the region.

The Seventh Century

     The Northumbrian English did have control over a large part of southern Pictland by the middle of the 7th century, though it is perhaps unlikely that they were able to occupy any large part of the territory. Their nominal border was the River Forth, though it seems that they were able to exact tribute from the Picts and may have installed compliant, puppet rulers over Pictish provinces.

   The ruler Brudei was a son of the British king of Dumbarton, Bili,  and had connections with the Scots also. The biographer of St Columba, Adomnán, was a particular friend of his. We can't recover all the details which led him to make war on the Northumbrian overlords, but it was a spectacular success, culminating with the Battle of Dunnichen in 685, otherwise known as Nechtansmere and Llyn Garan. I have written elsewhere about this decisive encounter and expressed the belief that it was indeed a battle which took place in Angus, rather than a suggestion that it took place at Dunnachton in northern Pictland. The latter suggestion is based on the historian Bede's assertion that the English king Ecgfrith and his army were lured between precipitous mountain passes and annihilated there. While Angus is not highly mountainous, I believe Bede's version was based on orally remembered and exaggerated survivors' tales.  Just like the battle mention a century before, this famous victory guaranteed the survival of Pictish independence and culture for several more centuries.


The Eighth Century

   As mentioned above, the common belief is that the county of Angus takes its name from king Angus mac Fergus, properly Onuist mac Urguist).  Angus died in the year 761. There has been speculation that Angus was Scottish in descent rather than Pictish and that his name implies that he was linked with one of the three tribes of Dál Riata. This tribe, the Cenél nÓengusa, had their main territory in the island of Islay. The name of the latter may have been transferred to the Isla, the river which separates Angus from Gowrie in Perthshire.

   Boundaries were sometimes regarded as sacred places and certainly liminal areas where the gap between the physical world and the Otherworld was very thin. Such seems to be the case here in Glen Isla.  In an Irish tract which  reproduced the 9th century Welsh Historia Brittonum we hear about the Wonders of Alba, which include:

a valley in Angus, in which shouting is heard every Monday night; Glen Ailbe is its name, and it is not known who makes the noise.

  The  Pictish king named Brude, Der-ile's son, is of interest here. Der-ile or Der-ili is an Irish name meaning 'daughter of the Isla' or 'daughter of Islay'. Brude's brother was Nechtan Der-ile. He evidently had a power base at Dunnichen and invited clerics from Northumbria to visit him there. Do we have faint evidence of a Pictish kindred based in Angus? Both brothers may have been involved in a civil war which raged through southern Pictland. There is mention too of a third brother, Kenneth or Cinaed, who was slaughtered in unknown circumstances in the year 713, along with the otherwise unknown 'son of Mathgernan'.

  Angus himself may have been militarily active in our area. The following notice, from the Annals of Tigernach, in the year 729, may refer to a skirmish which took place at Kinblethmont, not far north  of Arbroath:

The battle of Druimm-Derg- Blathung [took place] between Picts, namely Drust and Angus, the king of the Picts; and Drust was killed there, on the twelfth day of the month of August.

The Ninth Century

   According to one version of the foundation story of St Andrews, there was a royal site on the Angus coast, at 'Moneclatu, which is now called Monichi [Monikie]'  It was here that Pictish queen Findchaem (or Finchem) gave birth to a daughter named Mouren. The place has not been identified archaeologically and it does not seem there was a continuing royal site here which was used by rulers after the union of the Picts and Scots. To the west of here however is the parish of Monifieth, which was associated with the early church. There was a settlement of Culdees here and the land was gifted to them by the Celtic Earls of Angus.

   There is precious information about the Pictish twilight in our area, or whether the mormaers, or 'great stewards' who controlled the area on behalf of the Scottish king (and who gradually became earls), had Pictish as well as Gaelic blood. While there may have been some Irish infiltration into Pictland at an early date - perhaps in the 5th or 6th century - we can probably say that Gaelic did not become the primary language in Angus until the late 9th century. It only enjoyed a primacy of around three centuries before it started to retreat.

Some Previous Posts on the Picts

Illustrations in this article are from Kirriemuir Pictish stones in John Stuart's Sculptured Stones of Scotland (1856).

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Disappointed Love - A Dundee Tragedy


The following story is true, or allegedly true: the suicide of a young, spurned lady who took her own life in the pre-Victorian age in Dundee. Her death was the subject of a broadsheet printed and circulated in the town, which became so popular it was reprinted in Edinburgh. While the supposed missive from the doomed young woman, who took her life on 28th July, 1823, has all the styling of a lurid bit of fictional prose, we are assured it is real. If so, how did the the broadside publisher get hold of it, and what was the effect on the family?

  The young lady is said to have hanged herself in her own bedroom following her betrayed by this unnamed naval Captain. The reader is advised to decide for themselves whether it is a true story or not.

Dear Captain - if my exhausted spirits would support my trembling hand, whilst I write a few lines to ease a broken heart, it would be the last office I should require them to do. Then they may leave me; then may I find in the grave a retreat from the scorn of men. How is my gold become dim, and my most fine gold become dross.  I do not now command you by awful name of virtue, to accuse you of the basest ingratitude; ah no! the scene is entirely changed; you have robbed me - cruelly robbed me of the brightest gem in the female’s character, and I come as an humble supplicant;  Is this possible - am I awake, or do I dream? Ah! poor deluded girl, think not what you were, but what you are; how can I rest from calling to remembrance those days of innocence and peace, when, with a serene countenance and sincere heart I could look up to heaven , and beg that the God of purity would be my protector; but ah! how am I changed, how is my virtue faded, how doth conscience guilt fill my soul, while blushes cover my face; sad reflections on my present state hurry me to mediate on the future, which opens so tremendous a scene to my view, as to strike me back in doleful remembrance of the past.

                Now Whither shall I fly to find relief?
                What charitable hand will aid me now?
                What stay my failing steps, support my ruins,
                And heal my wounded hand with balmy comfort.

If I fly to my parents, who were once my comfort, they, bathed in tears, cry out, you have brought our grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, - If, to get one moment’s ease, I wander into the fields, every flower I see seems to say, We are pure. Thus is all nature armed against me. And on whose account do I seem to be forsaken by heaven and earth? - on your account, who strove to gain my affections, and become master of them; and now you triumph over me - laugh at me, for trusting to your honour, and putting confidence in your word!

             -O inconstant men!
              How will you promise! - how deceive!

O hypocrisy! how couldest thou wear so winning a form! Generosity where art thou fled? Honour, hast thou forsaken the human race? Look on my distress, O my God. Dispise me not, O my friends, Forgive me, my distressed parents; then may the cold grave receive me into its peaceful recesses, where my shame may be buried in eternal oblivion. Now, if your heart be not as hard as adamant, if your conscience is not seared with a hot iron, some past scenes must appear to your view. I do not now summon you to appear at His awful tribunal; I find you are still too near my heart; for all your cruelty to me, my return is - May you, in the hour of death find consolation from your God and Judge, you have denied to your                                                                                     AMELIA H.

   P.S.    With soothing wiles you won my easy heart,
             You sigh’d, you vow’d, but, ah! you feigned the smart:
             Sure of all fiends the blackest we can find,
             Are you ingrates, that stab our peace of mind.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

The Brownie o' Fern Den Revisited

   By way of a slight return, I am bringing another version of the classic Angus tale to you in this post. I last gave a version of this story in October 2015 (it can be read here). The version below is taken from Elizabeth Wilson Grierson's 1910 work The Scottish Fairy Book.

There have been many Brownies known in Scotland ; and stories have been written about the Brownie o’ Bodsbeck and the Brownie o’ Blednock, but about neither of them has a prettier story been told than that which I am going to tell you about the Brownie o’ Ferne-Den.

Now, Ferne-Den was a farmhouse, which got its name from the glen, or “den,” on the edge of which it stood, and through which anyone who wished to reach the dwelling had to pass.

And this glen was believed to be the abode of a Brownie, who never appeared to anyone in the daytime, but who, it was said, was sometimes seen at night, stealing about, like an ungainly shadow, from tree to tree, trying to keep from observation, and never, by any chance, harming anybody.

Indeed, like all Brownies that are properly treated and let alone, so far was he from harming anybody that he was always on the look-out to do a good turn to those who needed his assistance.' The farmer often said that he did not know what he would do without him; for if there was any work to be finished in a hurry at the farm—oorn to thrash, or winnow, or tie up into bags, turnips to cut, clothes to wash, a kirn to be kirned, a garden to be weeded—all that the farmer and his wife had to do was to leave the door of the barn, or the turnip shed, or the milk house open when they went to bed, and put down a bowl of new milk on the doorstep for the Brownie’s supper, and when they woke the next morning the bowl would be empty, and the job finished better than if it had been done by mortal hands.

In spite of all this, however, which might have proved to them how gentle and kindly the Creature really was, everyone about the place was afraid of him, and would rather go a couple of miles round about in the dark, when they were coming home from Kirk or Market, than pass through the glen, and run the risk of catching a glimpse of him.

I said that they were all afraid of him, but that was not true, for the farmer’s wife was so good and gentle that she was not afraid of anything on God’s earth, and when the Brownie’s supper had to be left outside, she always filled his bowl with the richest milk, and added a good spoonful of cream to it, for, said she, “He works so hard for us, and asks no wages, he well deserves the very best meal that we can give him.”

One night this gentle lady was taken very ill, and everyone was afraid that she was going to die. Of course, her husband was greatly distressed, and so were her servants, for she had been such a good Mistress to them that they loved her as if she had been their mother. But they were all young, and none of them knew very much about illness, and everyone agreed that it would be better to send off for an old woman who lived about seven miles away on the other side of the river, who was known to be a very skilful nurse.

But who was to go? That was the question. For it was black midnight, and the way to the old woman’s house lay straight through the glen. And whoever travelled that road ran the risk of meeting the dreaded Brownie.

The farmer would have gone only too willingly, but he dare not leave his wife alone; and the servants stood in groups about the kitchen, each one telling the other that he ought to go, yet no one offering to go themselves.

Little did they think that the cause of all their terror, a queer, wee, misshapen little man, all covered with hair, with a long beard, red-rimmed eyes, broad, flat feet, just like the feet of a paddock, and enormous long arms that touched the ground, even when he stood upright, was within a yard or two of them, listening to their talk, with an anxious face, behind the kitchen door.

For he had come up as usual, from his hiding-place in the glen, to see if there were any work for him to do, and to look for his bowl of milk. And he had seen, from the open door and lit-up windows, that there was something wrong inside the farmhouse, which at that hour was wont to be dark, and still, and silent; and he had crept into the entry to try and find out what the matter was.

When he gathered from the servants' talk that the Mistress, whom he loved so dearly, and who had been so kind to him, was ill, his heart sank within him; and when he heard that the silly servants were so taken np with their own fears that they dared not set out to fetch a nurse for her, his contempt and anger knew no bounds.

“Fools, idiots, dolts!" he muttered to himself, stamping his queer, misshapen feet on the floor. “They speak as if a body were ready to take a bite off them as soon as ever he met them. .If they only knew the bother it gives me to keep out of their road they wouldna be so silly. But, by my troth, if they go on like this, the bonnie lady will die amongst their fingers. So it strikes me that Brownie must e'en gang himself."

So saying, he reached up his hand, and took down a dark cloak which belonged to the farmer, which was hanging on a peg on the wall, and, throwing it over his head and shoulders, or as somewhat to hide his ungainly form, he hurried away to the stable, and saddled and bridled the fleetest-footed horse that stood there.

When the last buckle was fastened, he led it to the door, and scrambled on its back. “Now, if ever thou travelledst fleetly, travel fleetly now," he said; and it was as if the creature understood him, for it gave a little whinny and pricked up its ears; then it darted out into the darkness like an arrow from the bow.

In less time than the distance had ever been ridden in before, the Brownie drew rein at the old woman's cottage.

She was in bed, fast asleep; but he rapped sharply on the window, and when she rose and put her old face, framed in its white mutch, close to the pane to ask who was there, he bent forward and told her his errand.

“Thou must come with me, Goodwife, and that quickly,” he commanded, in his deep, harsh voice, “if the Lady of Ferne-Den's life is to be saved; for there is no one to nurse her up-bye at the farm there, save a lot of empty-headed servant wenches.”

“But how am I to get there? Have they sent a cart for me?” asked the old woman anxiously; for, as far as she could see, there was nothing at the door save a horse and its rider.

“No, they have sent no cart,” replied the Brownie, shortly. “So you must just climb up behind me on the saddle, and hang on tight to my waist, and I'll promise to land ye at Ferne-Den safe and sound.”

His voice was so masterful that the old woman dare not refuse to do as she was bid; besides, she had often ridden pillion-wise when she was a lassie, so she made haste to dress herself, and when she was ready she unlocked her door, and, mounting the louping-on stane that stood beside it, she was soon seated behind the dark-cloaked stranger, with her arms clasped tightly round him.

Not a word was spoken till they approached the dreaded glen, then the old woman felt her courage giving way. “Do ye think that there will be any chance of meeting the Brownie?” she asked timidly. “I would fain not run the risk, for folk say that he is an unchancy creature.”

Her companion gave a curious laugh. "Keep up your heart, and dinna talk havers," he said, "for I promise ye ye'll see naught uglier this night than the man whom ye ride behind."

"Oh, then, I'm fine and safe," replied the old woman, with a sigh of relief; "for although I havena' seen your face, I warrant that ye are[210] a true man, for the care you have taken of a poor old woman."

She relapsed into silence again till the glen was passed and the good horse had turned into the farmyard. Then the horseman slid to the ground, and, turning round, lifted her carefully down in his long, strong arms. As he did so the cloak slipped off him, revealing his short, broad body and his misshapen limbs.

"In a' the world, what kind o' man are ye?" she asked, peering into his face in the grey morning light, which was just dawning. "What makes your eyes so big? And what have ye done to your feet? They are more like paddock's webs than aught else."

The queer little man laughed again. "I've wandered many a mile in my time without a horse to help me, and I've heard it said that ower much walking makes the feet unshapely," he replied. "But waste no time in talking, good Dame. Go thy way into the house; and, hark'ee, if anyone asks thee who brought thee hither so quickly, tell them that there was a lack of men, so thou hadst e'en to be content to ride behind the BROWNIE O' FERNE-DEN."

Fern Kirk

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Forgotten Sons of Angus - The Amazing Dr Kinloch; Saved by A Black Cat!

  One of the most fascinating characters of the reign of James VI in Angus was Dr David Kinloch, a native of Dundee. Despite his prominence he receives little attention in standard works on Scottish medicine. He is given one sentence in John Comrie's History of Scottish Medicine (2 vols., 1932) and in David Hamilton's book The Healers, being afforded only the following scant notice:

Another physician who travelled dangerously was Dundee's David Kinloch (1559-1617), M. A. (St Andrews) M. D. (Paris), a writers in obstetrics and a poet.  When travelling in Spain he was seized by the Inquisition, but his execution was delayed by the illness of the Inquisitor.  Kinloch, the legend goes, sent a message (via a black cat) successfully offering his services and advice, and on the recovery of the Inquisitor, he was allowed to go free.

Kinloch's Background and Upbringing

   Kinloch descended from a family in Fife, taking their name from the barony of Kinloch, and his  mother was a Ramsay and his maternal  grandmother was a Lindsay, related to the Earls of Crawford, who were major landholders in Angus.  There are records of medical men named Kinloch (two Williams and a John) in Dundee preceding his time and Dr Buist  believed that these were from the same family, but was unsure of the exact relationship between them. Sir Alexander Kinloch of that Ilk succeeded to the barony in the 16th century. There is some uncertainty about the immediate ancestors of Dr Kinloch. His great-grandfather was probably James Kinloch, treasurer of Dundee. One writer states that Sir Alexander's s brother George had several sons, including David, a seaman of Dundee, father of the doctor.  The following is from The History of Old Dundee (p. 164):

His family had for some time occupied the position of substantial burgesses. William, [Dr Kinloch's] father, was employed by the Council on an important mission regarding the capture of an English ship in 1563, and he held possession in 1581 of 'the land lying on the north side of the windmill,' as also of  'the meadow lying on the north side of the burial place,' which had been part of the Gray Friars' lands, and continued to be called Kinloch's meadow long after it was acquired by the town.

  The writer of the above, Alexander Maxwell, believed that David Kinloch was the doctor's grandfather. Another source states that Dr Kinloch's father was named John. In 1567, there is record of a Thomas Kinloch in Dundee, master of a ship named The Primrose. It is likely the marine link continued in some branch of the family, since there is mention of a ship associated with Dundee named The Good Fortune in 1615. Whoever his father, David Kinloch was born in Dundee in 1559 and he attended St Andrews University in 1576, but he did not graduate.

Foreign Travel

   Like many other Scots, Kinloch went to Europe to finish his education. He seems to have studied in Montpellier and there is a  reference to the city of Rennes in Brittany in the brieve letter detailed below. Kinloch is said to have made connections with the French royal court.

The brieve letter or passport was granted to David Kinloch, on March 20th, 1596, bearing the signature of King James VI. It advises that Dr. Kinloch is going to reside for some years in Rennes and vouches for the fact that he is of noble blood, as is indicated by the coats of arms appended to the passport showing his descent and by a short detailed account of his genealogy. The Kinloch family are described as of moderate knightly rank. The arms show the coats of Kinloch (differenced for a third son), Ramsay, the Earls of Crawford, and the Hay family.

The Inquisition

There does not seem to be any early account of Dr Kinloch's misadventures in Europe. But the following account (from Roll of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee, Dundee, 1887, p. 93), gives a good summary:
During his second voyage it was his misfortune to fall into the hands of the Spanish Inquisition, by whom he was condemned to death as a heretic. The consistent tradition still current in the family relates that his execution was delayed for some time, and that when he inquired as to the cause of his protracted imprisonment, he was informed that it had been intended to make him one of the victims of an auto da fe, but that the illness of the Grand Inquisitor had prevented the accomplishment of this purpose. He then disclosed the fact that he was a practitioner of medicine. and discreetly suggested that it might be within his power to bring about the recovery of this high official. As the case was a desperate one, his suggestion was adopted, and, through the exercise of his skill, he was enabled to restore the patient to health. The grateful dignitary not only set KINLOCH at liberty, but also loaded him with marks of special favour, and procured for him one of the Orders reserved for nobles of the higher rank. The portrait of Dr KINLOCH, which is now at Logie House, shows him in his robes as a physician. bearing the decoration which he had thus gained by his ability.

   Kinloch seems to have been accused of Lutheran heresy by two Englishmen in Madrid. These men had known him in France, but Kinloch lodged a defence that he was a true Catholic, as was well known in that country. He further claimed that he had only assumed the guise of being a Protestant in France to further his pursuit of a Breton lady named Mademoiselle de Malot. The Inquisition records reveal that the doctor was submitted to torture, but they also give praise about his medical abilities and his pleasant personality.

   There is some mystery about what he was doing in Spain and he certainly must have been aware of the potential danger he was facing before he entered that country. It is possible that Kinloch was on a mission for King James VI. The king had appointed him Mediciner in 1597 and there is the suggestion that he had conducted missions abroad for the monarch. Was he is Spain to sound out the possibility of securing a marriage alliance with the Infanta and James's son Prince Charles? It is unlikely that we will ever know for certain. 

A depiction of the Inquisition in action in Portugal

Dr Kinloch evidently brought home from Spain a set of Inquisition thumbscrews which were kept as an heirloom by successive generations of the Kinloch family. (They were lent to an exhibition in Glasgow by descendant Major-General Kinloch.  See Palace of History, Catalogue of Exhibits, vol. 2 (Glasgow, 1911), p. 949.)

  Further details about the ordeal of Dr Kinloch were uncovered in Spanish archives in 1998 by Laura Adam and Adam Yagui-Beltran and an account of the findings published in The Innes Review.  Although Kinloch passed details of his abysmal treatment in Spain to his family and the true legend was passed down the generations, he left no full account of the depth of suffering which he endured there. Some measure of his suffering can perhaps be gleaned by having reference to his fellow Scot, William Lithgow, who was arrested in Malaga several decades after. He was nearly tortured to death by the Inquisition and was only saved by the ministrations of two slaves. Sentenced to death for being a heretic Calvanist, he was only saved by the intercession of the town's governor. He went back to Scotland, having lost the use of his left arm, and wrote a full account of his time under the Inquisition and journeys, The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painefull Peregrinations of Long Nineteene Years Travayles (1632).

Legend of the Black Cat

   While in prison, Dr Kinloch heard that the Grand Inquisitor had fallen ill and he resolved to pass a message to him by means of writing a message to the authorities, offering his medical services, and attaching it to the prison cat. This tale too may have been passed down through the Kinloch generations. It has all the hallmarks of a folk tale, but I can find no very early version of the story.  Her is a summary given by K. G. Lowe:

his life was only spared by his curing the Grand Inquisitor who had lain 'dying of a strange fever'. Apparently Kinloch hearing of the strange illness tied a message to the tail of a black cat with which he shared his daily ration and sent it through the bars of his cell, fortunately reaching the right quarter.

The Later Years: Honours,  Plague, Trouble with the Law

    Kinloch became a burgess of Dundee on 17th February, 1602, and settled in the burgh. Kinloch's wife Grissel was daughter of Hay of Gourdie and related to the Hays of Errol. They marries several years earlier, following Kinloch's return from Europe. The couple had two sons and a daughter. Their house stood on the west side of Couttie's Wynd, near the present Union Street in Dundee. (The house was apparently leased to a another physician, William Ferguson, when the doctor was abroad. His first wife, Eupham, was Dr Kinloch's sister.)

  A great 'pest' attacked the city of Dundee in 1607, which is likely to have been typhus rather than bubonic plague, though its effects were just as deadly. A great many inhabitants were carried away and Dr Kinloch's services would have been greatly in demand. Among those he attempted to save was the brother of eminent Dundonian Peter Goldman, who wrote a vivid description on the disease ravaged burgh.

   Dr Kinloch's land holding is described in Council Minutes: 'his foreland lay foreanent the wind mill' at Yeaman Shore. In 1610 the council took action against the family because of an alleged encroachment upon the public road. According to Alexander Maxwell:

He had already made an encroachment upon another man's right, by striking furth a window in a mutual gable without obtaining his leave, but was obliged to become bound 'to condemn and to close up the licht at sic time as it should please' his neighbour to raise his house higher.  [The History of Old Dundee, p. 163.]
   The couple apparently then engaged tradesmen to engage on surreptitious building work: 'under silence of nicht, to big ane pillar [or wall] of stone wark upon the common street and bounds thereof, betwix his tenement and the windmill'. At a meeting of the burgh council on 17th July, 1610, three masons stated, 'that before sunrising  at the command of Griseld Hay, the spouse of Dr David,' they illegally built a pillar of stone work adjacent to the common road. They were fined £5 and ordered to:

demolish the said pillar to the ground and restore the common gait on passage to the auld estate.

  However, the row escalated to the Privy Council.  Kinloch complained in 16th August that the Dundee baillies William Ferguson and Walter Rollok had cast down a 'prettie piller of stone werk' which he had erected on his own land 'for setting thairon of his banefire'. It is perhaps a measure of Kinloch's standing that the town authorities could not reproach him directly regarding his unauthorised building work but had to target his hapless builders. It's possible there may have been some earlier complications with Kinloch trying to remove Dr Ferguson from his house.

  A measure of Kinloch's kindliness is perhaps preserved in another record from the Privy Council, where he was indirectly involved in another incident in the year 1613. A man named James Baldovie complained that his ward had been abducted by a suitor called John Ramsay. But Margaret gave evidence of his own assent in the matter, stating that it was 'hir awne propir will and motive' that she left James and went directly to Dr Kinloch in Dundee, whom she described as her friend.  She stated firmly that she intended to marry John and the Privy Council found in her favour.  I would guess perhaps that the young lady was a relative of Dr Kinloch's family on his mother's side.

  David Kinloch purchased the lands of Aberbothrie Bardmony and Leitfie  in Perthshire from Patrick Lord Gray, which were confirmed by a charter of James VI in 1616. He also purchased the estate of Balmyle and changed its name to Kinloch. This became the main residence of the family for several centuries.The original house, near Meigle in Strathmore, was destroyed by fire. A replacement mansion was built in 1797, but passed from the hands of the Kinloch family. The building was latterly turned into a hotel.

Death and Memorial in The Howff

   It is likely that death came fairly suddenly to Kinloch and not after a long illness, for two months before his death on 10th September, 1617, he received permission to venture abroad.  He was laid to rest with great ceremony in Dundee's main burial ground, the Howff. The monument still exists, near the north-west gate, though the inscription was erased later. The inscription to Dr Kinloch eulogised him, in Latin, as 'a most honourable man, of famous learning, and in his life adorned with many singular virtues; a most skilful physician to the Kings of Great Britain and France, by whose patents and seals the antiquity of his Pedigree and Extract is clearly witnessed and proven...'

Kinnalochi proavos et aviate stemmata gentis
Clara interproceros haec monumenta probant
Magnus ab his cui surgit sed major ab arte
Major ab ingenio gloria parta venit

Gallant Kinloch, his famous ancient race
Appear by this erected in this place;
His honour great indeed; his art and skill
And famous name both side o' the pole do fill.

   The inscription was later removed and replaced by an inscription dedication to his descendant, Sir James Kinloch Nevay.

Kinloch the Poet

For many years, Kinloch's fame was supplemented by his reputation for great learning.  Dr Kinloch's two long poems on medical subjects De Hominis Procreatione and De Anatome are actually part of a longer whole, published in Paris in 1596, and reprinted in second volume of the Scottish Latin compilation Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum (Amsterdam, 1637). The poems particularly detail the development, anatomy and diseases of man. The book contains poems by his fellow Dundonians Peter Golman and Hercules Rollock.

Kinloch's Portrait

A painting of Dr Kinloch was completed in 1614 . It is unsigned, but was allegedly completed in Europe rather than Scotland, possibly in Madrid.  The canvas measures 42 x 32 inches. It now hangs in the Board Room of the Medical School at Ninewells Hospital and is the oldest painting in  Dundee University collection. A painted copy of this portrait also hangs in the main ward corridor of the hospital, kindly donated by a Kinloch descendent.  It was presented to the University of St Andrews by Mrs Lingard-Guthrie in the 1950's subject to the condition that it remained North of the Tay. She was descended from the Kinlochs on the distaff side. Her home, Carnoustie House, was a dower house of the Kinloch family. One branch of the family also occupied Logie House near Kirriemuir.

Dr Kinloch's Descendants

   Dr Kinloch and his wife had two sons and a daughter.  James inherited the main estate and John gained the estate of Gourdie, near Dundee. James's son, another David, was knighted by King James VII. The family maintained their association with Dundee, though the main branch had its base in eastern Perthshire.  The doctor's great grandson, Sir James Kinloch, married Elizabeth, sole daughter if John Nevay of Nevay in Angus.  This couple had twelve children. Doctor David's great-great-grandson was Sir James Kinloch Nevay who held Dundee for the Young Pretender during the Jacobite Rebellion,  from 7th September, 1745, until 14th January, 1746. A direct descendant was George Kinloch of Kinloch (1775-1833), a reformer and politician. A businessman with interests in Carnoustie and Dundee, he was elected Member of Parliament for Dundee a short time before his death. A statue of him was erected in Albert Square in Dundee in the 1870s and remains there, possibly on the ground which his ancestors had owned, known as Kinloch's Meadow.

   Further details of the later family can be consulted in Warden's Angus, or Forfarshire, volume 4, pp. 341-5.


Selected Sources

R. C. Buist, 'Dr David Kinloch (Kynalochus), 1559 - 1617,' The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, no. 3409 (May 1, 1926), p. 793.

R. C. Buist, 'Dundee Doctors in the Sixteenth Century,' Edinburgh Medical Journal (June, 1930), pp. 293-302, 357-366.

David Hamilton, The Healers, A History of Medicine in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1981).

Dr. J. Kinnear, 'Early Dundee Doctors,' Edinburgh Medical Journal (April 1953), pp. 169-83.

K. G. Lowe, 'Dr David Kinloch: Mediciner to His Majestie, James VI,' Scottish Medical Journal (1991), pp. 87-89.

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

Norman Moore, 'The Schola Salernitana: its history and the date of its introduction into the British Isles,' (Glasgow, 1908).

Our Meigle Book (Dundee, 1932).

James Paton (ed.), Scottish Life and History (Glasgow, 1902).

Tayside Medical History Museum Art Collection - The Kinloch Portrait

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

More Forgotten Sons and Daughters of Angus

Saturday, 2 May 2020

The Rollock Family in Dundee and Death in Edinburgh

  In a previous post I wrote about the intriguing Peter Goldman, doctor and scholar, who wrote a Latin poem - Description of the Desolation of Dundee - about the pestilence which affected Dundee in the early 17th century. (The full article can be found here.)  This seems like an opportune time to have a look again at the general subject of pestilence and pandemics which, of course, are nothing new.  One of the earliest Scottish artistic reactions to the sudden and terrifying appearance of pandemic was the great Robert Henryson's poem An Prayer for the Pest, which begins:

O eterne god, of power infinyt,
To quhois hie knawledge na thing is of obscure
That is, or was, or evir salbe, perfyt,
in to thy sicht, quhill that this warld indure;
Haif mercy of us, Indigent and peure;
Thow dois na wrang to puneiss our offens:
O Lord, that is to mankynd haill succure,
Preserve us fra this perrelus pestilens.

   As it was in Henryson's Dunfermline, so it was in Goldman's Dundee. In between these two poetic reactions to the pestilence there was Hercules Rollock, who experienced and  wrote about the plague in Edinburgh. Some of his poetry was included in the same 17th century compilation of neo Latin Scots verse which also included Goldman's poems, Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum (1637), though Rollock's descriptive verse De Peste Edinburgi, was written in 1585. The plague had arrived in Fife in 1584 and was spread to the capital by the following year. It ravaged through Edinburgh and indeed much of Scotland.

   Rollock's poem shows a bustling city inflicted by the plague through God's will as a result of their sinning. His keen observations on the effect of the plague on the populace include hastily departing from the town - 'the fleeing troop of powerful citizens' -, though many stalwart citizens remains to help. Those who fled, Rollock warned, would be found by God, who 'will hunt [them] down with a keen-witted search'. The city was quickly put on quarantine and people barred from entry. Meetings in public, ‘quhairby infectioun daylie aryses’, were also banned. Rollock gave graphic descriptions of corpses being disposed of in the dead of night and other details about the dread calamity which befell the capital.  But he ends the poem on a positive note, with the disease being cleared from the city.

Hercules' Dundee Origins

 Hercules Rollock was the newly installed principal of the High School in Edinburgh when the pestilence hit the burgh. According to William Steven, he was 'a man of genius and superior classical attainments'. He was born in Dundee around 1556, the eldest son of a burgess of Dundee named George Rollock (who died around 1569). Hercules matriculated at St Andrews University in 1564 and graduated in 1568. According to William Stevens, he was appointed a regent of Aberdeen University in 1562  (though this date may be incorrect) and afterwards went to England, but on the way there by sea was caught by pirates and robbed of his valuable books. He went to Europe and studied at Poitiers in France. When he returned to Scotland he based himself in Dundee again , and was operating as a notary public and also given an official role as commissary before the role was taken away and he migrated to Edinburgh and becoming master of the grammar schools there at the end of May 1584. There are notices of legal proceedings involving Rollock in the local burgh records of Dundee. Some of these involve his own family.  In 1580 he was ordered to deliver to Margaret Rollok, relict of James Lovell, chirurgian, in the name of the lawful barnis of the said James, £20. In 1567, Lovell and Hercules Rollok were both witnesses to a deed for George Rollok, who was Hercules' father, so that it is likely that James Lovell's wife was a sister of Hercules.  The Rollock family more generally will be considered later on.

Later view of Dundee from the south

Drama at the Grammar School

In 1595, Rollock was removed from his post at the school because it was claimed his pupils there were acting violently. There was a custom called Barring Out at some schools of the period, whereby bands of pupils armed  and barricaded themselves in school as a holiday approached in the hope of forcing the authorities to grant them extra holiday.  An incident of this kind happened in 1580 and the burgh leaders were obliged to step in and end it. On the 15th September 1595, violence broke out again at the school. A group of people had asked for a week's holiday, called a 'privilege', but when it was turned down some of these 'gentilmenis bairnis' swore revenge. When Rollock rocked up at the school next day, it was closed against him and he had to summon a magistrate.  Despite threats from inside, magistrate John Macmoran allowed his men to attack the entrance with a battering ram.  He was shot in the head by a pupil, one William Sinclair, son of the Chancellor of Caithness. The barricade ended and the boys were locked up for seven months before coming to trial.  Although the trial records are lost, it seems the juvenile culprits were all acquitted.  

   Rollock's days in charge were numbered.  A recently agreed increase in school fees was rescinded and he was charged with failing to maintain proper discipline.  He was sacked from his position and unsuccessfully sued for damages at the Court of Session.  He died in January 1599, having in the interval made a living by practising law.

The Rollock Family in Dundee

  One of the earliest noticies of the family in connection with Dundee is in the records of the Parliament of 1481. Among those attending was David Rollock from Dundee. Timothy Slonosky notes the prominence of various members of the Rollock family in Dundee during the 16th century, with representation on the various institutions within the burgh, but he admits that the relationship of the individuals is difficult to disentangle. Four members of the family served multiple terms as burgh councillors during the century. In the 1520s there were two people named Rollock represented. James Rollock and George Rollock are names included in a letter from king James V on 17th July, 1526, granting a charter to the Holy Blood altar in the kirk of Dundee.  The multiple family members serving as officials between 1550 and 1563 seem to have been descended from George Rollock, who was treasurer of the burgh between 1520 and 1523. Another George was born in 1498 and died in 1562. His son was also called George. This branch held lands in Dudhope and also 'Kynreiche'. 

  A David Rollock was kirkmaster of Dundee and, in 1531,  was involved in a dispute with William Silver over his claim to the parish clerkship of Dundee, a claim that pitted the Bishop of Brechin against the burgh. Another prominent family member was James Rollock, one of a number of prominent citizens who were brought to law for espousing the new reformed religion. A burgess of the burgh, he was 'condemned for certain heresies'. But, rather than face condemnation, the well off merchant fled to Holland and became a businessman at Campvere. His brother David took over some of his belongings in Dundee. James became an active part of the exiled Scottish business community in the Low Countries town and assumed the role of 'Portar of Camfeir'.

   In a previous post I mentioned the apparent feud between Gilbert Wedderburn, from a prominent Dundee family, and one branch of the Rollock kindred. In the 1540s Gilbert slew two members of the family and was obliged to flee the burgh and settle in Leith.

  Beyond Dundee, the family held some lands in Angus. On 21st May, 1582, James Rollock, heir of George of Duncrub, his father,was retoured in the corn mill of Cambiston, in the barony of Downie £6 13s 4d; and in the half lands of Chapeltown of Balgowie or Over Corstoun- 4 merks, on 27th January. The barony of Downie subsequently came into possession of the Maules of Panmure. At the end of the century Sir Walter Rollock, and his sons Andrew and Alexander, was in dispute with the Gardyne family over property in Angus. Robert Rollock was ordained minister of Murroes in 1618, and was deposed in 1639 for the maintenance of universalist doctrines, and for non-residence.

  Some of the family, while still distinguished citizens in the Dundee area, were involved in feuding and lawlessness.  On 27th march 1602, John and Robert Mudie had to pay as surety the sum of £1000 not to harm William Rollock of Balbeggie.  There was a further dispute three years later  when factions came to loggerhead about representation to the town council, demonstrating it was mainly a disagreement about mercantile revenues.  A claim was submitted to Commissioners of the Burghs but was rejected in July 1604.  Dundee's magistrates later complained to the Privy Council that William Rollock, Walter Rollock, Robert Fleschour, James Finlaysoun and associates were stirring up 'the common multitude be the pretence and cloak of reform' and had tried to get 'the crafts to shake off their obediance to the magistrates and prevailed on them to hold public meetings and subscribe bands against the magistrates'. The Privy Council ordered the offenders to be committed to 'free ward' in a number of towns. They were, however, released shortly afterwards and the agitators are said to have set up 'seditious mutyneis'.

   Records show a dispute in Dundee in October 1605, when Andrew Lamb, Commendator of Coupar, was commissioned to settle a dispute between James Wedderburn, son of the town clerk, and Robert Rollock.  The nature of the dispute was not recorded and nor were any of the principal parties found at fault.  However, a mariner named David Blyth had encouraged Rollock in his opposition to Wedderburn and:

Mr ANDRO found fault with him, and callit him ane evil neighbour, and said he suld accuse him as ane stayer of the peace of the town. DAVID answerit that he carit nocht for his challenge, he had been before the Privie Council of before, and he knew quhat a man Mr ANDRO wes; and that he [DAVID] wes as honest a man as Mr ANDRO, and that his father wes as honest as Mr ANDRO his father; and farder, say it that he knew Mr ANDRO would rail against him in the pulpit as Mr JAMES ROBERTSON did, but he cair'd nocht for it; and utherwayes misbehavit himself very irreverntly to Mr ANDRO.  
  Blyth was placed in ward and the main parties were bound over to keep the peace.

Some Sources

Bridging The Continental Divide. Full text of Rollock's poem and English translation.

Nine Trades of Dundee

Karen Jillings, 'Hercules Rollock and the Edinburgh Plague of 1585,' The Bottle Imp, Issue 15,

Steven J. Reid, 'Murder, Mayhem and the Muse in Jacobean Edinburgh: introducing Hercules Rollock (c. 1546-1599),'

Steven J. Reid, '"Quasi Sibyllae folia dispersa": the Anatomy of the Delititae Poetarum Scotorum (1637),' in Fresche fontanis : studies in the culture of medieval and early modern Scotland, ed.
Janet Hadley Williams; J Derrick McClure (Newcastle, 2013), pp. 397-414.

Timothy Slonosky, 'Civil Reformations: Religion In Dundee And Haddington C.1520-1565,'  Phd. thesis, University of Pennsylvania (2014).

William Steven, The History of the High School of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1849).