Sunday, 15 September 2019

King Crispin and Corpus Christi in Dundee and Montrose

A Confusion of Festivals?

This article end with a discussion of St Crispin's Lodges, part of a fraternity network which flourished for a while in the 19th century.  In Angus, there were lodges in both Montrose and Dundee (the latter had two lodges at one point).  The devotion to this saint was a feature of the Shoemaker or Cordiner trade, and in Dundee at least, prior to the Reformation, their allegiance was to the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ.  The Crispin link to Montrose is less clear, though I personally suspect the earlier local devotion to the Holy Rood was transformed at a later stage in history to St Crispin.

The Feast of St Crispin and St Crispianus - 25th October

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Dies Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Domini Iesu Christi) - Thursday after Trinity or the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day (usually May/June).

The Feast of the Cross - 14th September.

   The medieval and early modern cult of St Crispin in Scotland and elsewhere in Britain has been, possibly purposely,  confused with the earlier Catholic feast of Corpus Christi.  The feast was popularised in western Europe in Liege during the 13th century and became widespread during the next century.  Apparently the feast was known in Scotland in 1327, at the tail end of the reign of Robert I.  By the 15th century the festival involved, in northern England, processions and elaborate plays, which again spread into Scotland.  Another import (but via Flemish rather than English sources) was the feast of the Holy Blood, which was particularly popular in towns among the mercantile population.  The Holy Blood procession in Bruges claimed to have been imported there following the Second Crusade.  There was confusion, in Scotland as elsewhere, between Corpus Christi and the saints Crispin and Crispianus, though the latter two were honoured as associated saints.  In October 1506 and October 1507  James IV made an offering of forty shillings for 'bred' and 'lichts' for 'Saints Crisipine and Crispianes'.

  There were several festivals associated with the Holy Rood which became popular in Scotland and more widely in the British Isles.  September 15th was designated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, or Holy Rood Day.  The celebration was supposed to have been instituted to mark the recovery of the Cross by the emperor Heraclius in the year 629.  

   In our area, Montrose notably maintained a pilgrimage centre focused on the blood of Christ, which attracted significant numbers of pilgrims from the region on holy days.  Regarding the site of the church of the Holy Rood in the town, James Mackinlay quotes J. G. Low's The Church of Montrose as follows:

Occasional references are made to a chapel, named the 'Rood Chapel.'  Whether this chapel stood adjacent to the Parish Church, or was erected in that portion of the common links now covered by streets and houses, and extending between the foot of the School Wynd and the south end of the Pier Wynd, is now a matter of conjecture.  Certain it is, that in this district various places bore names indicative of the proximity of a building dedicated to the Holy Rood.  Between the points mentioned we find the 'Rood hill,' which from early times was crowned with  the 'Rood mill,' and which stood in the neighbourhood of Hill Street.  At the foot of Lady Balmain Street stood the 'Rede wallie,' or Rude well, for supplying the burghers with water before the introduction of water from Glenskaino.

    The same author also highlights the Rood Fair that was held in the burgh in May. Rood Day, incidentally, was an auspicious time to ask to supernatural intervention to prevent ill luck.George Black reports: 'In Angus, on the evening preceding Rood-day (May 3rd), a piece of a branch cut and peeled and bound round with red thread was placed over the byre-door, to avert the evil eye.'  

Early Records of Corpus Christi in Dundee


Unlike many of the other tightly knit trades in the burgh the Cordiners, or Shoemakers, did not have their own altar in the burgh kirk.  Their devotions centred initially on Corpus Christi, the Holy Blood, and this affiliation was transmuted over the course of time into St Crispin.    The crafts guilds were tightly knit bodies, whose sense of identity went beyond mere mutual economic self interest.  In may places and cases they lived and worked closed together.  So in Dundee we had the Cordiners and Tanners occupying the evocatively named Wooden Land in the Overgate.  

 A list from St Mary's Church in Dundee, apparently dated (but probably 16th century), itemises the paraphernalia needed for the procession in the burgh records of Dundee give some idea regarding the complexity and scope of the event and also how much religious iconography was incorporated into the procession:

sixte of crownis, six pair of angel reynis  [wings], three myteris, cristis cott [coat] of lethyr with the hoses and glufis, cristis hed, thirty one suerdis, thre lang corsis of tre [wood], sane thomas sper, a cors til sane blasis, sane johnis coit, a credil and thre barnis maid of clath, twentie hedis of hayr, the four evangellistis, sane kathernis wheil...sane androwis cros, a saw, a ax, a rassour, a gully [large] knyff, a worm [serpent] of tre, the haly lam of tre, sane barnaras castel, abraamis hat and heids of hayr
   This procession was enacted every year on the Thursday after the feast of Trinity.

   While the attitude of the reformed religion obviously frowned upon the veneration of saints and iconography, it seems that the cult of Corpus Christi was not transformed into the more acceptably secular King Crispin (or even the halfway St Crispin) overnight.  

Another Religious Cult Pageants in Dundee - St Osbert

Religious pageantry in Dundee is poorly evidenced compared with some other burghs unfortunately and the secular plays and revelries which took place in the Playfield on the western side of the ancient town will be considered in a following post.

   There is a fairly faint record of annual devotion to another saint who was patron of the Baxter or Baker profession.  This was the annual 'St Osbert's Pastime' which occurred in no less than five east coast burghs:  Dundee, St Andrews, Perth, Haddington, and Edinburgh.  The scant record of this devotion comes only from the minute books of the Perth kirk session, from 1577-8 when the Protestant authorities were outlawing such idolatry.  The record alludes to someone on horseback, a drummer, and another participant wearing 'the devil's coat', with stern admonitions against the mumming observed in the procession apparently.  A record from Dundee dated 16th August 1486, states that John Richardson, Deacon of the Baxter Craft of Dundee, and others, bought from Thomas Turnour of Sanct Johnstoun, a new mass book, which they offered to 'Sanct Towbart’s Altar', in the church of Dundee. In local records of the next century the saint's name had altered to Sanct Cobortt, an evident confusion with St Cuthbert.
   Osbert was a saint, and bishop of Dunblane (or Strathearn), who died in the year 1231.  Possibly coincidentally, he is known to have attended a church conference in Dundee in 1230.  Whether his link with the town began then or soon afterwards is not known, but it would be pleasant to think he was remembered locally after this visit.  I do not know the reason why he was specifically honoured by the Baxter profession.

The Later Dundee Procession of King Crispin

The Cordiners, or Shoe Makers, one of the Nine Trades of Dundee were the group particularly associated with the cult of Corpus Christi and linked with the procession of it in the town.  The 18th century oil painted frieze, 35 feet in length,  detailing the annual event was displayed on the wall of the guild's room within the Trade's Hall in Dundee.

   According to a letter (by someone signing themselves as R.) in the Dundee Courier on Tuesday 5th May 1874, the painting commemorated the St Crispin's Procession as held on 25th October 1787:

The painting was begun by Mr Methven, a house painter by profession. He was also an artist of considerable ability. Mr Methven died, leaving his picture incomplete, and it was finished by the late Henry Harwood. When the Clydesdale Banking Company purchased the Trades Hall property, they made considerable alterations on it, and the Crispin painting was cut from the walls, and deposited, I believe, in the art department of the High School. Is the painting of sufficient value or interest to claim a place in the Albert Institute? and would it be worth employing a competent person to examine and restore the painting?
   Happily the picture was saved and now resides in the city's McManus Gallery service. Alexander Methven's original work was begun in 1787 and the frieze was completed  by Harry Harwood around 1825.  The depiction of the procession shows the Earl Marshall on a black horse and the King's Champion in armour and on a white horse, then King Crispin, with four pages holding his royal train.  Then comes the Convenor and the Deacons of trades, then the Craftsmen, wearing satin coats and knee breeches.  While the procession is undoubtedly set in Dundee (with the Law, Auld Steeple and Tay protrayed in the background), as the scenery in the background shows, it seems that some of the costumes at least came from afar.  Another character in the procession appears to be the turbaned Auld Mahoun, the Saracen.  

  The Trades Hall incidentally was opened only a few years before the date of this procession and previously the representatives of the ancient trades all met in specific areas of the Howff graveyard in the town.  
   A. H. Millar states that there was no procession held in Dundee between 1787 and 1822, though this is not certain.  He quotes the Dundee Advertiser of 3rd October 1822, describing the revived procession which took place in the burgh the previous day:

The rarity of the procession attracted the curious and the idle, and the High Street was crowded to excess for upwards of two hours. From the want of previous arrangement to keep off the excessive crowd, the procession advanced with difficulty and labour hard, and only the equestrians, such as the Champion, the Earl Marshal, and a few other grandees were visible above the mass of heads.  As the procession moved up the Overgate, a pedlar contrived to perch his person upon a table in front of his shop.  But no sooner did His Mock Majesty appear than the table broke down, and the fall of the pedlar was construed into a profound reverence to Crispin.
 Despite Millar's statement that this was the last showing of the adherents of St Crispin on the streets of Dundee, they did appear in public through the following decades, such as at the opening of the Baxter Park and the marriage celebrations for the Prince of Wales in the 1860s.

St Crispin's Societies in Dundee and Montrose

In 1770 the Cordiners of Edinburgh had some of their processional robes dispatched to Dundee. 
Edinburgh's procession must have been grander than Dundee's or any other.  It was in Edinburgh too that the formal setting up of St Crispin's societies into masonic style lodges was formulated, possibly in the very early 19th century. 

   These trade societies had their own membership criteria and rituals and were constituted as local bodies which looked after the welfare of their members.  It seems likely that they were started during the mid or early 19th century, though they had ceased to be active by the end of the Victorian era. The Shoemaker trade link is evidence in other Scottish communities:  Kilmarnock, Stirling, Falkirk, Dalkeith, Dunfermline, Kelso. The records of the Shoemaker's Friendly Society (St Crispin's Lodge), Montrose, can be found in the Angus Archives. There are other records held in national archives in Edinburgh relating to the lodges in both Dundee and Montrose.

   The records surviving appear to be somewhat sporadic.  There is correspondence sent to Edinburgh St Crispin officials in 1862, referring to an old associate of the Montrose lodge who had been Sir Hugh for thirty years, which tells us something of the longevity of that branch and also that it had its own pageant performances.  But, according to Sandra Marwick:

A reading of the Montrose record for the 1860s gives the impression of a literary and convivial society more than one devoted to Crispianism. Early entries are given over to accounts of papers read by various members; an anecdote of a shoemaker in December 1866 and 'The Duties of Young Men to the Community' in the following month...Much space is given to discussions and descriptions of convivial evenings and St Crispin anniversaries involving decisions about having 'Braddies' [bridies] served for supper.

   Complementing these records, which suggest a rather humdrum sort of club, Marwick notes that the mystical rituals of initiation into the order only survive in handwritten records from Montrose Royal St Crispin Society and Dundee Lodge No. 19.  These relate to entry into the second order, the Knights of St Hugh.  There also exist documents relating to initiations into the third order, the Court of Masters, in Dundee and rules relating to the operation of this order in Montrose.  The mumbo-jumbo contains allusions to Celtic mythology as well as more recognisable 'mysticism' derived from freemasonry.
   The Dundee script of the initiation makes it all sound rather harmless and quaint, the last gasp of a tradition that died with the dawning of the twentieth century:

Crispianus:       Who comes?
Inside Guard:    Crispins upon tramp.
Crispanus:         From whence?
Inside Guard:    From the lodge of St Crispin.
Crispanus:         Whither bound?
Inside Guard:    To visit the shrine of the noble St Hugh.
Crispanus:         Indeed!  Dangerous a journey.
Inside Guard:    Yes. These hearts are sealed and protected by the sacred lance of St Crispin.
Crispanus:         Got a passport?
Inside Guard:    No, but I have one for them.
Crispanus:         Then give it to me!

Further Reading

Steve Boardman and Eila Willliamson, The Cult of Saints and the Virgin Mary in Medieval Scotland (Woodbridge, 2010).

George F. Black, 'Scottish Charms and Amulets,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 27 (1892-93), pp. 423-526.

Brian John Hayward, Folk Drama in Scotland, Phd. Thesis, Glasgow (1983).

Cosmo Innes, 'A Few Notices of Manner from the Older Council-Books of Dundee,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 2 (1855), pp. 347-9.

James Murray Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland, Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1910).

Sandra M. Marwick, Sons of Crispin: The St Crispin Lodges of Edinburgh and Scotland (Cambridge, 2014).

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

A. H. Millar, Haunted Dundee (Dundee, 1923).

Elizabeth P. D. Torrie, Medieval Dundee, A Town and its People, Abertay Historical Society Publication No. 20 (Dundee, 1990).

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Olden Days Death

Here's a couple of anecdotes about death and dying in the 'good' old days.  The first concerns a certain Johnny Baxter of Montrose, ordered by the doctor to give his wife a sup of whisky in her extremity.  The doctor called again a few hours later and questioned Johnny about whether he had actually administered the spirit to his spouse.

   'Weel, as fae's daith, doctor' he said.  'I got the whusky for her, but ye see, ye tellt me she couldna last till morning, and that naething would dae her ony guid, so I jist thocht it's a peety tae waste guid whusky, and so doctor -' he issued a mighty sigh '- I jist took the drappy mysel.'
   The doctor's face showed strong disgust, so Johnny added quickly to redeem himself, 'I gied her the hooch [whiff] of it.' [Scottish Life and Humour, p. 83.]

   The second story concerns a man attending the funeral of an Angus farmer's wife long, long ago. He was weeping fit to burst and had been in the same condition at two other funerals in the recent past.  One of the other mourners asked why he was so grievously affected:

   'John, man, what's wrang wi ye? I'm sure she wisnae ae drap's bluid tae ye.'
   'It's no that,' John replied tearfully.  'A'body's wives are deein but mine!'
   [Scottish Life and Character, p. 465.]

The Lyke Wake and Funeral Superstition

Did the distant generations of Scots have a unique attitude to death?  Maybe so.  One of the most interesting accounts of death and its customs in rural Angus concerns the parish of Kinnell.  The following extracts are from Glimpses of Men and Manners About the Muirside (pp. 178-180):

During the nights previous to the internment friends and neighbours took their turn, generally in pairs, to remain in the room where the corpse lay, provided with a candle, a Bible and a bottle of whisky. A tale is told of what really took place at a 'lyke wake' in this district many years ago.  The scene was a portion of an old castle, part of which had been patched up and turned into a farmhouse.  The aged mother of the farmer had died, and two elderly females were watching by her remains.  the corpse was laid out of an old-fashioned 'press bed,' having a shelf at the foot. The watchers, seated before the bed with a candle, etc., on a small round table, had fallen into a dose.  A well-filled bolster placed on the shelf at the foot of the bed, struck and upset the table, waking the good women from their slumbers, and they, thinking the deceased had come to life again, flew down the stairs in great alarm, gasping out 'She's risen!' 'she's risen!'
The hour at which a death occurred in a village the bellman was informed, and however late or dark the night he passed along the tinkling dead-bell to call attention to his intimation.  The bellman summoned all to the funeral, and for anyone to absent himself  was regarded as a discourtesy to the dead and an insult to the living.  It was only after the year 1700 that the presence of the minister was usual.  
There were many superstitions connected with funerals...if the funeral party walked to the place of burial in a straggling manner, it was regarded as an omen  that another death would soon occur under the same roof.

   Edwards also observed regarding the watch over the corpse (pp. 181-2):

From the moment of death until the departure of the funeral procession to the place of burial...the corpse was parties of friends and neighbours, who relieved each other.  Silence was observed, but this did not prevent the consumption of much ale and whisky.  Among the poorer classes the internment took place soon after death, in order to lessen the cost of watching, but the well-to-do deferred the funeral for about a week, and sometimes a fortnight, in order that the hospitality of the house might be more extensively offered and enjoyed.

The Parish Mort-Cloths

In centuries past, when there was no bier or coffin to contain the recently departed person, the body was wrapped in a parish mort-cloth, which covered it until it reached the place of burial.  Parishes often had several of these, a basic one and a grander one, for the poorer and more well-off parishoners. They were hired out for funerals and were a useful source of revenue for kirk sessions.  On 13th September 1702 it was recorded that Dun was hiring out its mort-cloth to those in the parish for £1 10 shillings and to outsiders for £2 10 shillings. Fees elsewhere were highly variable.  An old lady called Erskine, buried in Montrose in 1674, was charged £6 6 shillings 8d for use of the best morth-cloth.  The list of those who used the small and large mort-cloths in Dundee between 1655 and 1817 has been compiled by the Friends of Dundee City Archives.

   But sometimes charges for use of the mort-cloth were waived; for instance, in the case of the following in Auchterhouse in February 1694:

In regard Patrick Ogilvie hath borne the burden of David Edieman, his father-in-law, for some years bye gone, and that he was unable for work, therefore the session determined that he should pay nothing for the mortcloth at his burial, he being in a mean condition. [Annals of an Angus Parish, p. 143.]

   On 10th February 1724 the kirk session of Auchterhouse enacted:

(1)That there should only be a sixpence paid for the use of the second mort-cloth att children's burialls. (2) That all plaids upon corps (corpses)shall be discharged (forbidden) in time comeing, and that poor people who are not able to pay shall have the use of the second mort-cloth gratis, (3) That none without the parish bury here without our mort-cloth. 
   The Rev. Inglis notes that poorer people sometimes used plaids to wrap the remains of their loved ones in as they could not afford the mort-cloth fees.

   The minister and another man from Auchterhouse journeyed to Dundee on 2nd December 1716 to purchase two new cloths.  The cost of the better one, 'made with all furniture requisite', was the remarkable sum of £198 Scots, or £16 10s sterling.  The poorer one was 'English cloth, unmade, for the meaner sort', and cost £25 : 12s Scots, or £2, 2s,8d. sterling.  In 1646 the kirk-session of Brechin was obliged to buy another mort-cloth when their was stolen by English troopers.

   In earlier days a burial box was sometimes used, wherein the body in its winding sheet was transported to the grave, then deposited when the bottom of it was withdrawn.  In 1563 the General Assembly ordained

that a bier should be made in every country parish, to carry the dead corpse of the poor to the burial-place, and that those of the villages or houses next adjacent to the house where the dead corpse lieth, or a certain number out of every house, shall convey the dead corpse to the burial-place, and bury it six feet under the earth .

The mort-cloth, too, was used sometimes in later years to cover bodies which were contained in proper coffins.

   The Rev. Inglis relates how the fine velvet of a mort-cloth in the Carse of Gowrie was purloined by a Frenchman who had designs on it for another purpose:

When the French prisoners of war, in the early years of last century, were taken from the port of Dundee to Perth prison by road, they frequently were billeted in the Parish Church of Inchture. A French prisoner getting his eye on the beadle's best velvet mort-cloth managed to secure it, and got it under his arm ready to proceed with it to Perth. The beadle, however, missed it, pounced upon the culprit when he was on the march, and when he asked him what he meant to do with his mort-cloth, he said, 'It was just the very ting for velvet slippers.' [An Angus Parish in the Eighteenth Century, p. 81.]

Illustration of Auchterhouse House from cover of Annals of An Angus Parish

Some Sources

D. H. Edwards, Glimpses of Men and Manners About the Muirside (Brechin, 1920).
William Harvey, Scottish Life and Character in Anecdote and Story (Stirling, 1899).
Violet Jacob, The Lairds of Dun (London, 1931).
William Marshall, Historic Scenes in Forfarshire (Edinburgh, 1875).
Rev. W. Mason Inglis, An Angus Parish in the Eighteenth Century (Dundee, 1904).
Rev. W. Mason Inglis, Annals of An Angus Parish  (Dundee, 1888).
William Sinclair, Scottish Life and Humour (Haddington, 1898).

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Arbroath's Gallushun Play

Annual revels in the form of community plays, sometimes called Mummers' Plays, were once common in the British Isles.  In Scotland, however, they were very localised, with communities in the Borders and the west of Scotland being most conspicuous in having these annual ritual events. Lothian and Fife had them too, in lesser numbers.  Angus had hardly at all, except for Arbroath, which makes the record of James McBain in Arbroath Past and Present especially valuable.  

   Hogmanay revels of course continued into modern times (and other Angus Hogmanay rhymes will be considered in a separate article), but these plays were something exceptional and in most cases continued for many generations.  The play featuring Galoshan or Galoshin (there are many variants) and a host of stock characters acted out mock battles, death and resurrection, motifs which could be fairly ancient.  In some communities, interestingly, the plays were performed at Halloween instead of New Year.

   The only Galoshans event which continued without break (barring World War Two) into the present was at Biggar, though there have been recent revivals in various forms, with festivals throughout Scotland taking on the Galoshans name. Is there any 'deep' ritual meaning in the play?  That contention is highly debatable.  Apart from the fragmentary text contained in McBain's book there was a complete play version sent to The Scotsman in the following year by a man who stated it was given to him by an elderly relative who remembered it 'from Forfarshire' and the east of Scotland.  The relevant texts do not match, but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised as there was much fluidity in different versions.

The Arbroath Play

   Here is McBain's introduction about the event from Arbroath Past and Present (pp. 341-2):

The old Scotch method of celebrating Hallowe'en has been so graphically depicted by our national poet that no other hand need attempt to picture it, but the word recalls to our recollection the annual reproduction by our Arbroath youth of the old Scotch drama, yclept  [called] 'Gallshuns'.  The 'get- up' was simple enough.  All that was required of the actors was to blacken their faces and furnish themselves with wooden swords, and they were ready to go to their audience, for the audience did not come to them.  The play began by the hero Gallashuns fiercely and boastingly announcing his determination to withstand 'all comers'.
   The opening words of the play text are given, but unfortunately not a lot else as the author concentrates on a partial summary of the plot:

                                       Gallashuns! Gallashuns! Gallashuns is my name!
                                       With a sword and pistol by my side
                                       I hope to win the game!

But the others soon find a champion, who as fiercely confronts the braggard, exclaiming:

                                       The game, sir! the game, sir! is not into your power!
                                       I'll slash you and slay you in less than half an hour!

They fight desperately, till, amid derisive laughter, Gallshuns falls, sorely wounded.  Then enters the doctor:

                                       Here come I, Doctor Brown,
                                       The very best doctor in all the town,

who very soon cures the wounded warrior.
   We are unlikely to know when Arbroath's play was first performed or, indeed, when it ended and the exact text is also lost to us, barring the miraculous finding of a lost manuscript.  But the bits we have are certainly intriguing, coupled with other evidence gathered below.  Was the 'Angus' text performed somewhere else in the county?  We'll probably never know.


The Play in the Carse of Gowrie

   Did it originate in Angus though? Brian Hayward thought it reminiscent of the versions he had seen which came from the Stirling area.  It certainly differs somewhat from the fragmentary Arbroath version above, except for the 'Doctor Brown' lines.  However, it is worth looking a little further afield.  Hayward does not seem to have been aware that there was a record of the play being performed in the Carse of Gowrie, just west of the county of Angus.  (The only localised version he identified is one from Crieff, much further west.)  The Rev,. Philip (Songs and Sayings of Gowrie, pp. 48-49) acknowledges that the play is widespread and that there are different versions.  He speculates the central character - Galatian - is the legendary Calgacus who fought against the Roman Agricola at the Battle of Mons Graupius in the first century.

   Interesting too, that this version has as a character Judas, who spouts some pertinent place specific lines, which again do not tie in with the Arbroath or 'Angus' texts:

Here comes in Judas;
Judas is my name;
If ye put not siller in my bag,
for guidsake mind our wame !

When I gaed to the castle yett,
and tirled at the pin,
They keepit the keys o' the castle,
and wadna let me in.

I've been i' the east carse,
I've been i' the west carse,
I've been i' the Carse o' Gowrie,
Where the cluds rain a' day pease and beans,
And the farmers theek houses wi' needles and prins. Etc.

                The Angus Text

'The New Year Mummers' Tale of Golaschin'The Scotsman, 31 December 1888 (p. 5)

The correspondent who sent in the following Angus version of the New Year play wrote from Hamilton on 27 December 1888 and signed himself only as W.G.D.  Frustratingly, he does not localise the version anywhere particular in the county.  His letter begins with this information:

Sir, The following version of this ancient and curious play (of which, I believe, traces are found in most countries in Europe) I have taken down from the lips of an old lady relative, according as she remembers it to have been said, sung and acted in her younger days in Forfarshire and the eastern counties of Scotland. I do not know whether it has ever been printed in its present form, but it is worth preserving.  though the rhyme is somewhat halting, I give it in its original doggerel for as recited to me.     








Sources Consulted

Brian John Hayward, Folk Drama in Scotland,  Phd. Thesis, Glasgow (1983).

Sir William Duguid Geddes, 'The Burlesque of "Galatian."  The Guisards of Scotland,' Scottish Notes and Queries, 2 (1889), pp. 145-7.

James M. McBain, Arbroath Past and Present (Arbroath, 1887).

Rev. Adam Philip, Songs and Sayings of Gowrie (London and Edinburgh, 1901).

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Bairn Sangs - Children's Rhymes and Games

  It's a constantly repeated battle cry of those who do not realise that the world turns and changes that children don't play enough outside any more and that the old games and past-times were so much better than any electronic pollution which young people feed themselves these days.

   But we can leave the 'old days were better days' arguments aside and still have a look at bygone games, rhymes and other amusements without fear of drowning in self-satisfied nostalgia.  Many games and rhymes in Scotland were found in some form up and down the country.  Anyone wishing to dive into further study should immediately consult Robert Chamber's 19th century classic (and it is a classic) The Popular Rhymes of Scotland.


   The following recollection of Victorian games, now all long extinct, are detailed in Arbroath, Past and Present by James McBain (1887):

Kirk The Gussie

This was a ball and stick game, a little like miniature golf, except the 'ball' (probably a stone, had to find its way into a number of holes in its course, as well as reaching a final goal.


  A small stone was placed on a boulder and aimed at by the player who had to shout 'docker', and he score one point if he dislodged it. But, if he failed to say the word, his opponents broke in and said it and earned the point.

Kick, Bonnetie, Kick

The person who was 'it' guarded his bonnet, placed on the ground, and the others tried to grab it.  Anyone who got caught during the attempted snatch was the new 'it'.

Memories of the '45?

In the 19th century there was a regrettable habit of folklorists to ascribe ancient and significant meaning to the most mundane of children's games.  So, Ring-A-Roses, for instance, was said to be a distorted memory of the great plague.  Experts now think this is not the case.  But the following, again from Arbroath, possibly remembers the stationing of Hessian troops in the town, there to support the Hanoverian government during the Jacobite insurgency.

   This girls' game had two teams.  The first one addressed the other:

Have you any bread and wine,
Bread and wine, bread and wine?
Have you any bread and wine?
Can a teerie, arrie ma torry.

   The second team responds:

Yes, we have some bread and wine,
Bread and wine, bread and wine,
Yes, we have some bread and wine,
Cam a teerie, arrie ma torry.

   First Side - We shall have a glass of it, etc.
       Answer - One glass of it you shall not get, etc.
   First side - We are King George's loyal men.
                         Loyal men, loyal men;
                      We are King George's loyal men,
                         Cam a teerie, arrie ma torrie.

   Answer -   What care we for King George's men,
                         King George's men, King George's men;
                     What care we for King George's men;
                         Cam a teerie, arrie ma torrie.

     The game then ended in a mock scrummage or battle.

Old Forfar Rhymes

   Here's a simple old rhyme that one echoed through the black-and-white, long ago lanes of Forfar:

Mrs Greenie lost her peenie
On the Farfar washing greenie.

   The website Tobar an Dualchais, Kist O'Riches, is a repository of oral tradition and once of its contributors is Forfar lady Jean Rodger, whose 1976 remembrance of a rhyme concerning the  tripe shop-owner Mary Grubb can be heard on the website (the link is here).  Local girl's incorporated this local character into their skipping and counting games:

One, two, three and hop, Mary Grubbie's tripe shop!

   Mary, whose surname, extended as 'grubbie' was suitable to her appearance, was famous for her sayings, the most famous of which was, 'I wish I wis deid so I wid get peace to live.'

   Jean Rodger also recalled the ghost which haunted the South School at Forfar.  Never seen, it was obviously pathetically under nourished, for it issued the plaintive cry:

Pea soup, pea soup, I'm braking my hert for pea soup!

   (Jean's anecdote can be heard here)

A Tongue Twister

   We finish a little further north of Forfar with this tongue twister, in two versions:

The black backit pairtrick
Flew ower the Kirk o' Cortachy.

Twa pairtricks flew ower
the kirk o' Cortachy the nicht.

Previous Related Posts

Monday, 5 August 2019

Armour, Clocks and Weaponry

Is manufacturing a thing of the past in some parts of the country?  Sadly, the imminent closure of Michelin in Dundee is yet another severe blow to heavy industry in the city.  Smaller scale manufacturing has always been a factor in Dundee and Angus, as elsewhere, and this post looks at the production of guns, armour, plus timepieces.

The Moncur Family Armourers

   For several generations in the 15th century the Moncur (also spelled Muncur) family supplied what must have been exceptionally high quality armour to the top tier of society, including the monarchy.  Entries in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland record repeated payments to the family, over many years.  The first entry specifically naming the family appears to be in 1444 (in the reign of James II) and in the following year the entry mentions one Johanni de Moncure, who is also named in the same source ten years later.  In 1460, 1466 and 1471 Willelmo de Muncur is the recipient of payment for armour and in 1473 the family's named representative was another John, styled Johanni Muncur.

   The entries mentioning this clan of craftsmen continues right to the end of the century and it is apparent that the king then, James IV, esteemed their goods very highly.  The following records occur:

1495. - Item, gevin to Muncur of Dundee for leg splentis and a pare of arme splentis.....iiij li.
1496.-  Nov. 1st, Item, to a man to ryde to Dundee for to ger mak arm splentis to the King.....ij s.
          1496. - Nov. 19th, Item, to Moncur of Dundee, for a pare of splentis to the King.....xls. 
1497. - Nov. Item to Thome Foret to pass to Dundee to ger mak ane par of splentis to the King.....iis.
    It would be reasonable to ask where the Moncurs came from and where indeed in Dundee their master foundry and workshop was and what happened to them from the start of the 16th century onward, but most of these things are unknown.  It has been surmised that David, Earl of Huntingdon, who promoted Dundee as a burgh in the 12th century, instituted armoury along with many other trades in the town, but there is no definite proof of this.

   A later prominent Dundonian with the name was Alexander Hay Moncur(1830-1905), provost of the burgh from 1880 to 1883.  Moncur Crescent in the cit is named after him.

   According to the Lockit Book of the Hammermen Trade in Dundee, in the year 1587 there were 8 gunmakers in Dundee and 5 sword-slippers.  Between that year and 1650 there were 5 active armourers lists, along with 21 gunmakers and 10 sword-slippers. From 1651 to 1750 there were 2 armourers, 5 gunmakers, and 2 sword-slippers, after which these designations cease.

McKenzie, the Gunsmith of Dundee

   There appear to be very few identifiable surviving examples of weapons manufactured in Dundee.  Local historian A.H. Millar identified on example (published in 'Notice of a Steel Pistol with the Dundee Mark, and of the Armourers of Dundee,' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 22. 1887-7, pp. 276-80.  This was an 18th century pistol which was inscribed with the heraldic sign of Dundee, the pots and lilies.  This weapon also bears the name of its maker, David M'Kenzie, which allowed Millar to trace its origins.

   In the Council Minutes for 18th September 1712, the following entry appears:

The sd day anent ane Petition given in be David M'Kenzie, gunsmith, shewing that where he had payed ffiftie merks for his freedome to the town for his own life, and the Petitioner is content to dress the whole armes belonging to the town for the other half of his burgiship, and therefor craving that the Councill would give him a burgiss tickitt in common forme. Which Petition being considered by the Councill they granted the desire of the sd petition, and appoints the Clerk to give him a burgess tickitt according to the said Act.
                                            HENRIE GUTHRIE, Bailie.
   The record of the gunsmith being admitted as a burgess of the burgh also survives:

23rd Sep. 1712.—David M'Kenzie, Hammerman, was admitted Burgess and
Guild Brother for pay of fyfty merks to John Ballingall, late Treasurer, and
for dressing of the Tounes Armes conforme to ane Act of Council dated 18
Sept, instant.
   City records also record David's wife in the year 1725, named Elizabeth Marshall or M'Kenzie.  In April of that year she acquired property on the north side of 'the Fleukargait alias Nethergait,' beside the Church of St Mary of Dundee.The couple's daughter was Agnes M'Kenzie, who is noticed in 1743, at which time her father is signified in documents as deceased.

   The Hammermen Trade was one of the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee and its members included armourers, clockmakers and gunsmiths.  According the the official website of the guild (found here): 'In the 16th and 17th Century Dundee guns were famous all over Europe and were much sought after. A high proportion of the Trade between 1587 and 1620 were gunmakers with the Ramsay and Alison families featuring prominently.'

Dundee's  Steeple Clock


    Clock-making has had a long history in Dundee, judging from the records. One of the most intriguing, yet shadowy associations with the trade may have been David Ramsay, clockmaker to King James VI. He latterly operated in London and seems to have been a member of the family of that trade who were long active in Dundee. He will be fully considered in a future article.

    The main church in Dundee now has a conspicuous clock in its Old Steeple, but it was not built to house a clock originally.  However, the clock was still installed at an early date, at the end of the 14th century.  By 1540 it had become so decrepit and unreliable and the town council awarded a contract to the Edinburgh burgess William Purves to provide:

ane sufficient and substantious knok with all instruments of iron work necessary and pertaining thereto, justly ganging, to strike hour and half hour complete and justly, the twenty-four hours day and night, with three warnings to contain six score and ninestraiks (strokes), the first at four hours in the morning, the next at twelve hours at noon, and the third at nine hours at even upon the five bells of the steeple, for the sum of seven score and seventeen pounds, ten shillings; the weight to be four score of stanes or thereby, and gif it happens the knok to weigh ten stone more or less, what she weighs mair to be payed to William, and what she weighs less to be defaulted to him.

   The large 'knok' was duly built and installed on Plam Sunday in 1543, but there was a prolonged dispute over the cost.  Purves pursued legal action against the Dundee authorities which resulted in him being awarded £197 15s.  His clock only lasted for ten years, being destroyed by fire.  The next steeple clock was commissioned by another Edinburgh maker, David Kay.  The clock was apparently not as good as the previous model and frequently went wrong. The parish clerk, Sir James Kinloch, was given responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the clock, and when Sir James died in 1558  his brother William and his young son seems to have been granted the duties which included that they should:

cause the bells to be rung at times convenient and used, until his son be able and qualified to serve in the office. And the treasurer was instructed to deliver to William yearly, to be given to the keeper of the knok, ane stand of claiths.
   The Ramsay family (who we will deal with in the future) were responsible for the burgh clock from the 1580s until the middle of the 17th century, at which time there are notices of the clock again, at times, falling into disrepair, under the wardenship of Andrew Tailor.

The Illustrious Ivory Family

   In the burgh records of Dundee there is the following entry, dated 22nd September 1767:

Which day James Ivory, watchmaker in Dundee, was admitted burgess for having paid 50 merks Scots to James Dick, sometime treasurer, and having just now paid other 50 merks to Henry Geekie, present acting treasurer, in full of his freedom.

   James Ivory quickly gained prominence in Dundee, being adept at his trade and business.  He was actually born in Edinburgh in 1729 and worked as an apprentice in London, where he met and married his wife Jane Brown.  Towards the end of 1762 he moved to Dundee, and here his son, James, was born.  A second son, Thomas, followed his father's trade.  James senior was commissioned to craft and install a clock for the steeple of St Andrew's kirk in the Cowgate.  It is still in use today.  He served as a burgh councillor between the years 1768 and 1789.  His eldest son taught in the town's schools and was later knighted, following a successful career as a mathematician.  Thomas's son became a respected judge.  (Thomas died in 1825 and his father some time before 1795. Sir James Ivory lived from 1765 to 1842)

   The timepieces made by James in London are rarest and sold at high value, a testament to his skill and their high quality. Part of this is due, we are told, to his insistence in maintaining the high decorative skill of his profession at a time when others were allowing their products to decline significantly.  What prompted him to give up the lucrative trade in London and relocate to Scotland, I do not know.

The Mysterious Mr Cathro

   Another thing I do not know is the personal history of Mr Cathro who, in 1823, was amply rewarded by the Admiralty for devising a remarkable chronometer.  The following details are from  Glasgow Mechanics' Magazine, 1826, vol. ii., page 145:

The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having advertised a premium of 300 for the best chronometer which should be kept at Greenwich for one year, thirty-six were sent thither by the principal chronometer makers in London and were kept in 1823. It was announced that if any chronometer varied six seconds it could not obtain a prize. At the end of the year the second best chronometer, of which the variation was about five seconds, was made by Mr Cathro, a native of Dundee. Such perfection was never before attained, and it justly excited the astonishment of all astronomers and of the Board of Admiralty.

List of Watch and Clock Makers of Old Angus

Most of the information in the following list is derived from Old Scottish Clockmakers from 1453 to 1850 by John Smith (2nd edition, Edinburgh, 1921). The entries marked * were included in the Dundee Directory, 1853.  Further details of Dundonian clockmakers can be found in an article by the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee (here).

ADAMSON, CHARLES. High Street, Montrose, 1820-37.

ALISON, JOHN. High Street, Montrose, 1798-1822.

ALSTON, WILLIAM, 7 High Street, Dundee, 1853.*

AUSTEN, JOHN. Dundee, 1836.

BAIN, GEORGE. Upper Wynd, Brechin, 1837.

BALL, THOMAS. Dundee, 1819.

BARCLAY, DAVID. Montrose, about 1830.

BARCLAY, THOMAS. High Street, Montrose, 1811-22.


BISSET, WILLIAM. Dundee, 1781.

BROWN, GEORGE. West Port, Arbroath, 1834.

CAITHNESS, DAVID. Dundee, 1787.

CAMERON, JAMES. 85 Murraygate, Dundee, 1828-50. (or 88 Murraygate.*)

CARNEGIE,- . Arbroath, 1850.



CONSTABLE, WILLIAM. 7 High Street, Dundee, 1812-28.

CRAW, JAMES. High Street, Forfar, 1837.

CRIGHTON, JOHN. Dundee, 1795.

DAVIDSON, CHARLES. Forfar, 1798-1815.

DICKSON, CHARLES. Dundee, 1722.

DOUGLAS, JAMES. Dundee, 1794.

DRUMMOND, JOHN. Brechin, 1789.
Maker of the new clock in the Town Hall there.

FARQUHARSON, CHARLES. Dundee, 1733-42.

FARQUHARSON, ROBERT. 15 High Street, Dundee,
1847. (Possibly same man as R. W. Farquharson, 1 Castle Street, 1853.*)

FEREN, - . Reform Street, Dundee, 1843.


FOLEY, WILLIAM, 73 Overgate, Dundee.*

GILRUTH BROTHERS, 52 High St, Dundee.*

GORDON, ALEXANDER. Dundee, 1729.
Maker of the first clock in Brechin Town Hall.

KAY, DAVID. Dundee, 1553-76.

KELT, ALEX, 83 Princes St, Dundee.*

LEIGHTON, WALTER. Montrose, 1830.


LOW, THOMAS. 204 Overgate, Dundee, 1828.

LOW, THOMAS, 7 Overgate.*

LOWE, - . Arbroath, 1784.

LUNDIE, JOHN. High Street, Dundee, 1809-37. (Possibly same man, or his son, at 37 High St., Dundee in 1853.*)

MCKENZIE, JOHN, 37 High St., Dundee.*

MANSON, DAVID. Dundee, 1806.

MENZIES, ROBERT. Coupar Angus, 1801.

MICHIE, JAMES. High Street, Brechin, 1837.

MILLER, ALEXANDER. Montrose, 1798; died 26th
September 1808.

MILNE, ROBERT. 50 High Street, Montrose, 1837.

MYLNE, J. A. Montrose, 1740.

NEVAY, WILLIAM. Castle Street, Forfar, 1837.

NICOL, JOSEPH. Coupar Angus, 1801-37.

PETERS, DAVID. 84 High Street, Arbroath, 1837.


RATTRAY, JAMES, 44 High St., Dundee.*

REED, WILLIAM. Native of Montrose ; died at Whitehaven,

REID, THOMAS. Montrose, 1788.

RENNIE, ALEXANDER DAVID. 65 High Street, Arbroath,

RITCHIE, JOHN. Coupar Angus, 1847.

RITCHIE, SAMUEL. Forfar, 1800-37.

ROBB, WILLIAM. Montrose, 1776.

ROBERTSON, CHARLES. Coupar Angus, 1814-37.

ROBERTSON, GEORGE. Dundee, 1806.

ROBERTSON, JAMES. Dundee, 1785.

ROBERTSON, JAMES. High Street, Dundee, 1811-28.

ROSS, CHARLES. Broughty-Ferry, 1828.

ROUGH, DAVID. Hill Town, Dundee, 1820.

SALMON, COLIN. Dundee, 1811.

SCOTT, ANDREW. Dundee, 1776.

SCOTT, DAVID. 73 High Street, Dundee, 1850.(At 69 Wellgate in 1853*).

SCOTT, FREDERICK. 3 Overgate, Dundee, 1837.

SCOTT, WILLIAM. 69 Overgate, Dundee, 1820.

SMALL, THOMAS. Dundee, 1722.

SMITH, ALEXANDER. Dundee, 1718-42.

SMITH, A. P. Reform Street, Dundee, 1850.

SMITH, JAMES. Dundee, 1742.

SMITH, WILLIAM. Dundee, 1668.

SPEED, GEORGE. Dundee, 1749.

STEWART, FRANCIS. High Street, Brechin, 1837.

STRAITON, DAVID. Montrose, 1820-37.

STURROCK, JAMES, 32 Wellgate, Dundee.

WALKER, JAMES. High Street, Montrose, 1820-37.

WALLACE, ROBERT. Forfar, 1798.

WATSON, DAVID. Dundee, 1748.

WEBSTER, THOMAS. Dundee, 1689.

WEHRLE, D, 106 Murraygate, Dundee.*

WHYTOCK, PETER. Overgate, Dundee, 1844. (At 46 High Street and 183 Overgate in 1853.*)

WILD, F. J. Murraygate, Dundee, 1844. (At  36 Union Street in 1853.*)

WILLIAMSON, JAMES. Dundee, 1824.

YOUNG, ARCHIBALD. Murraygate, Dundee, 1828.

YOUNG, J. S.  76 High Street, Dundee.*

YOUNG, JAMES. Wellgate, Dundee, 1828. (Possibly same man at 28 Wellgate in 1853.*)

YOUNG, JOHN G. Murraygate, Dundee, 1850.

YOUNG, PATRICK. Forfar; died 18th January 1811.

YOUNG, THOMAS. Wellgate, Dundee, 1850.

YOUNG, WILLIAM. High Street, Dundee, 1805-43.