Apr 172019
 
2019 is the 200th anniversary of the death of a number of contributors to the Old Statistical Accounts. This provides a perfect opportunity to discover those who wrote the actual parish reports at the end of the 18th century and so learn about the people behind this great resource.

Below is a guest blog post written by John Moore, an independent researcher, focusing on the writer of the parish report of Borthwick, County of Edinburgh (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 622-639), the Reverend John Clunie.

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This month sees the bi-centenary of the death of the Reverend John Clunie (1757-1819), minister of Borthwick from 1791 until his death and author of the parish entry in the Old Statistical Account. Clunie was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in December 1784 and was a schoolteacher in Markinch for a while. His first charge was at Ewes parish before he moved to Midlothian. He had a reputation as a fine singer and led his congregation as precentor in his church at a time before organ music accompanied services. He wrote a version of the Scots song ‘I lo’e na a laddie but ane’ and his reputation as a song-writer led to an acquaintance with Robert Burns, who described him as ‘a worthy little fellow of a clergyman’. During his time of office, Clunie served as Chaplain to the Eastern Regiment of the Midlothian Volunteer Infantry. He married Mary Oliphant, daughter of the minister of Bower in 1790 and his son, James, subsequently became commandant of Moreton Bay Penal Settlement in Australia between 1830 and 1835.

Published in 1794, his extensive description of Borthwick states that ‘the air is pure; the inhabitants in general are healthy, and subject to no particular local distempers.’ (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 623) He notes that the six leading proprietors, who would have been the parish heritors, owned nearly half of the property. In discussing agricultural improvement, Clunie mentions James Small of Ford, the best plough-maker in Scotland who produced up to 500 ploughs in a year and introduced a superior cast-iron version of this important farming tool. Like many other accounts, the author mentions ale-houses ‘which are by no means favourable either to the health or morals of the inhabitants.’ (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 627) Having been a teacher, Clunie also provides much detail about the parish education and the ‘sort of genteel starving’ faced by the local schoolmaster. (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 628) The Account estimated the parish population at 858.

A photograph of Borthwick Church

Borthwick Church

Borthwick Church stands in a dominating site close to Borthwick Castle, which Clunie describes in his account. The east part of the building is substantially medieval with a 12th century apse and the 15th century Arniston Aisle. Medieval fabric survives inside, notably the magnificent Borthwick tomb and pre-Reformation piscina. Clunie’s account relates that the old church suffered a serious fire in May 1775 and was rebuilt three years later. The church continues to serve Middleton, Borthwick and the surrounding area.

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We would like to thank John for this guest post. Look out for the next installment in May!

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Mar 212019
 

This is the last post in our series on crime and punishment in late 18th-early 19th century Scotland, this time focusing on prisons. In the Statistical Accounts there is a lot of fascinating, detailed information on prisons and bridewells (prisons for petty offenders). In some cases, there was simply a lock-up in a town-house, rather than a purpose-built building. Below, we will look at some specific prisons found throughout Scotland, first looking at the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and then towns. It is particularly interesting when we compare between the Old and New Statistical Accounts and see what changes there have been.

Prisons in Cities

Glasgow

By the 1780s, the population of Glasgow had greatly increased due to the expansion of manufacturing. It became clear that there was a “necessity of a bridewell, or workhouse, for the punishment and correction of lesser offences.” (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 513) So, in 1789, existing buildings were converted from granaries into a bridewell. “These have been gradually increased to the number of 64, where the prisoners are kept separate from one another, and employed in such labour as they can perform, under the management of a keeper, and under the inspection of a committee of council, who enquire into the keeper’s management, etc.” (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 514)

Even at this time it was felt very important that the prison was of an adequate standard. Town Councillors inspected the prison and reported their findings, including anything to be rectified or altered. The keeper also kept records of each prisoner, noting down the details of their sentence, the wages they received for their labour, and after expenses were subtracted, the surplus paid to the prisoner when they left the prison. For some, this amounted to L. 5 to L. 7. (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 514)

However, by the time of this parish report written in 1793, it was noted that “the growing manufactures and population of the city requiring more extensive accommodations, than the present bridewell can afford, the Magistrates and Council propose to erect a new one, more properly calculated for the ends proposed, and on such a plan, that additions can be made to 1, from time to time, as the circumstances of the city may require.”(OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 514) Yet again, by the time of the New Statistical Accounts of Scotland, “the gaol at the cross had become deficient in almost every requisite.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 214) At that point, it was serving not just the city, but also occasionally the counties of Lanark, Renfrew, and Dumbarton. On the 13th February 1807, “the magistrates and council resolved to erect a new gaol and public offices in a healthy situation adjoining the river, at the bottom of the public green. This building, which cost L. 34,800, contains, exclusively of the public offices, 122 apartments for prisoners.” To discover more about the prison’s facilities (which may surprise you!) take a look at the parish report for Glasgow. (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 214)

On the 8th May 1798, a new bridewell was opened in Duke Street, Glasgow, which again quickly became ill-equipped for such a fast-expanding city. (Can you see a pattern emerging?!) It was, therefore, extended further and was opened on Christmas Day 1824. “It combines all the advantages of modern improvement, security. seclusion, complete classification, and healthful accommodation.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 215)

In the Statistical Accounts, there are several examples of tables giving the number of prisoners and associated costs. Below is an example for the Glasgow bridewell, covering the commitments in 1834.

Males above 17 years of age, 313
Males below 17 years of age, 222
 =1035
Females above 17 years of age, 864
Females below 17 years of age, 68
 = 932
Total commitments, 1967
Remained on 2d of August 1833, 356
Prisoners in all, 2323
Liberated during the year, 2030
Remaining on 2d of August 1834, 293
The average number daily in the prison was 320; viz. males, 162; females, 158.
Abstract accounts for the year ended 2d of August 1834.
To repairs on the buildings, L. 156 10 0
Salaries and wages, 835 14 11
L. 992 4 11
By amount of prisoners’ labour, &c. L. 2182 6  2
To victual, bedding, cloaths, washing, medicine, coal, candle, furniture, machinery, utensils, stationery. &c. 1664 6 0
Cash paid prisoners for surplus earnings, 116 5 3
Surplus to be deducted from salaries and wages, 1780  11  3
401 14 11
Balance, being the cost of Bridewell for the year ended 2d August 1834, L. 590 10 0

(NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 216)

Edinburgh

All the way back in 1560 the old prison or Tolbooth was founded and stood immediately west of St Giles’ church. However, this was pulled down in 1817, the same year a new prison was opened on Calton Hill. There is a very detailed description of the Calton Hill prison in the parish report of Edinburgh, written in 1842:

“It is a very ornamental castellated structure in the Saxon style; and is 194 feet long by 40 feet in width. The interior is divided into six classes of cells; four for males, and two for females; with an airing ground attached to each. There are two stories of cells, one above the other. To each of these divisions of cells on the ground floor there is a day room with a fire-place; and an airing ground common to fill the cells of the division. Each cell is for the reception of one prisoner; and is 8 feet by 6. A wooden bed is fixed into the wall, and there is a grated window and air holes in the wall for full and free ventilation. There are in all fifty-eight cells.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 719)

An image of the new Bridewell, Salisbury Crags, and Arthur's Seat from Calton Hill, Edinburgh by Thomas H. Shepherd, dated 1829

The new Bridewell, Salisbury Crags, and Arthur’s Seat from Calton Hill, Edinburgh, 1829. Thomas H. Shepherd [Public domain].

The original Edinburgh bridewell was established about 1632 “for the reception of the vagrant poor and vicious characters strolling about the streets of the city.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 720) This, like that of Glasgow, became inadequate due to the increasing population, and so a new one was opened in 1796 on the south-side of Calton Hill. Here again there is a detailed description of its lay-out. It was clearly very different from the later Calton prison, as it was a 5-story semi-circular building, with 52 day cells and 129 separate bedrooms. This bridewell was later incorporated with the general prison in 1840. “Several suggested improvements carried into effect. Work was supplied to the prisoners and as great of degree of classification and separation of prisoners was made as the nature of the building would permit.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 720)

In the Appendix for Edinburgh, County of Edinburgh, a few key dates have been given. “In 1748-The first correction house for disorderly FEMALES was built, and it cost L. 198: 0: 4 1/2. N. B. This is the only one Edinburgh yet has. In 1791-Manners had been for some years so loose, and crimes so frequent, that the foundation of a large new house of Correction, or Bridewell, was laid on the 30th of November, which, on the lowest calculation, will cost L. 12,000; and this plan is on a reduced scale of what was at first thought absolutely necessary. In 1763-That is from June 1763 to June 1764, the expence of the Correction house amounted to L. 27: 16: 1 1/2. In 1791, and some years previous to it. The expence of the Correction house had risen to near L. 300,-ten times what it had been in the former period; and there is not room for containing the half of those that ought to be confined to hard labour.” (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 612)

Prisons in Towns

We have looked at the prison situation in the large cities. But, how about the situation in smaller towns? Below, we look at some examples throughout Scotland.

Kirkcaldy

As claimed in the parish report for Kirkcaldy, its jail is the best in Fife! “Under the New Prison Act, its management has been much improved. The prisoners are constantly employed, and great care is taken that proper attention be paid to their health, their diet, their education, and religious instruction. It is now a place more for the reformation than the punishment of prisoners.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 770)

Hawick

“The Jail, which forms a part of the town-house, and consists of a very small apartment, is neither properly secured, nor capable of being used without endangering the health of its inmates. For these reasons criminals are generally conveyed to the county town, a mode of procedure which is not only attended with considerable expense, but which, when taken in connection with a glaring deficiency of police, presents serious obstacles to the authorities in arresting the progress of crime and enforcing the authority of the laws. The number of convictions, inclusive of cases, brought not only before the magistrates and justices of peace, but before the Sheriff, and the circuit court at Jedburgh, amounted in 1838 to 58.” (NSA, Vol. III, 1845, p. 417)

Dumfries

“The Court-house is an elegant and commodious structure, wherein the circuit and sheriff-courts, the quarter session and the county meetings are held. Opposite to this stands a heavy-looking building, which was at first intended for a court-house, but is now converted into a Bridewell, the interior of which is arranged on the same plan with that of Edinburgh, but on so small a scale, that it is thought, from the facility with which the prisoners can hold intercourse with one another, to be very ill adapted for a place of confinement. Behind this, in a low damp yard, and surrounded by a high wall, is situated the county Jail, which, along with the Bridewell, was built in 1807. Previously to that period, the jail was in the centre of the town. A vaulted passage under the street, forms a communication between the prison-yard and the court-house. The debtors have the liberty of exercising themselves within the enclosed yard.” (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 14)

Photograph of Inverness Steeple and Tolbooth

Inverness Steeple and Tolbooth, 2008. [Photo credit: Dave Conner from Inverness, Scotland [CC BY 2.0]].

Inverness

As noted in the parish report for Aberdeen written in 1835, “the ancient jail of Inverness consisted only of a single damp dingy vault, in one of the arches of the stone bridge, and which (subsequently used as a mad-house) was only closed up about fifteen years ago. It was succeeded by another prison in Bridge Street, which, from the notices of it in the burgh’s records, must also have been a most unhealthy and disagreeable place of confinement. The present jail was erected in 1791, and cost L. 1800, the spire having cost about L.1600 more. ” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 34)  (In fact, the spire is the only part of the building left standing, as can be seen in the picture on the right.)

“Besides prisoners for debt, all those charged with crimes from the northern counties are sent here previous to their trial before the circuit.courts of Jisticiary, which sit at Inverness twice a-year. Although a great improvement at the time of its erection, this prison is now found to be too small and very inconvenient, there being no proper classification of delinquents, while there is no open court or yard for them to walk in, nor can any manual employment be required of them at present.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 34)

Porttree

In the parish of Porttree, County of Inverness, there was only one prison, where, in 1840, 16 offenders resided – “eleven for riotous conduct, four for housebreaking and theft, and one for forgery.” For some time in the past this prison was insecure, with instances of prisoners actually managing to escape! The bad conditions did not help matters. “Into the jail they are thrown without bed, without bedding, without fire, and with but a small allowance for their subsistence. “By the humanity, however, and charity of some benevolent persons in the neighbourhood, these privations have been partly alleviated, if not removed.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 234)

Cupar

In the parish report of Cupar, County of Fife, in 1796, the Reverend George Campbell wrote that “the prison of Cupar, which is the public jail, for the very populous and wealthy county of Fife, yields perhaps to none, in point of the meanness, the filth, and wretchedness of its accommodations… Apartments in one end of a town-house acted as a place to secure and punish those who have fallen foul of the law. “The apartment destined for debtors is tolerably decent, and well lighted. Very different is the state of the prison under it, known by the name of “the Iron-house,” in which persons suspected of theft, etc. are confined. This is a dark, damp, vaulted dungeon, composed entirely of stone, without a fire-place, or any the most wretched accommodation. It is impossible, indeed, by language, to exaggerate the horrors which here present themselves” (OSA, Vol. XVII, 1796, p. 142)

In many parishes there was a concern that when a prison was built in a neighbouring or nearby county that it would cause the displacement of criminals into their area. This was certainly the case in Cupar, with the parish report stating that in such a wealthy county as Fife, there should be better prisons. “It is to be hoped, however, that the period is now happily arrived, when the landholders of Scotland, having more humane sentiments and enlarged views, than those who went before them, will attend to the wretched state of the different county jails” and would contribute to the building of more modern prisons. (OSA, Vol. XVII, 1796, p. 143) “A measure of this kind will appear every day of more pressing necessity, when the Bridewell now building at Edinburgh shall be finished. If Fife takes no step to defend itself against the influx of pickpockets, swindlers, etc. which may naturally be expected, it will become the general receptacle of sturdy beggars and vagrants; and the rising industry of the county must be exposed to the depredations of the desperate and the profligate, from every quarter*.” (OSA, Vol. XVII, 1796, p. 144)

In 1844, the number of prisoners committed to Cupar Prison was 37. “Of these, 15 were for debt, and 22 for stealing, assault, and such crimes as commonly occur in a populous country.” However, according to the parish report, the prison needed improvements. “The accommodation that it affords is uniformly condemned as most unworthy of the town and county. The lodging is bad, and reckoned unhealthy,-there is no room for the classification of criminals,-there is no chapel or place of worship attached; and consequently, any attempt to reclaim or improve those that are once committed to it, becomes absolutely hopeless.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 18)

Dundee

Dundee was another parish which felt the effects of prisons being built elsewhere. “Since Bridewells, or penitentiary houses, have been established in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Dundee has been much more pestered than formerly, with vagrants and persons of doubtful character, and swindling and petty thefts are more frequent. This will probably produce a Bridewell in Dundee. An establishment of this kind is certainly necessary, and the common prisons, and present inflictions of justice, are by no means sufficient to supply its place. With respect to our prisons, though among the best in Scotland, they are destitute of any court or area where the prisoners may enjoy the open air. This, however, is at present, the less necessary, as the laws of the country are supposed inhumanely, to exclude debtors from the privilege of breathing the same air with others; and, it is but very seldom, that felons suffer long confinement, in the prisons of places not visited by the Circuit Courts of Justiciary.” (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 248)

Other Prisons

Here are some of the other prisons you can read about in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland: Linlithgow, County of Linlithgow; Montrose, County of Forfar; Falkirk, County of Stirling; Perth, County of Perth; Dingwall, County of Ross and Cromarty; Irvine, County of Ayrshire; Blairgowrie, County of Perth; Ayr, County of Ayrshire; Inverary, County of Argyle; Wick, County of Caithness; and Aberdeen, County of Aberdeen. This is by no means a definitive list!

Conclusion

The Statistical Accounts of Scotland provides a wealth of knowledge about prisons throughout Scotland, some very detailed and giving actual figures, for example Aberdeen, County of Aberdeen (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 83), Peebles (NSA, Vol. III, 1845, p. 182), Inverary, County of Argyle (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 42) and Wick, County of Caithness (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 175). You can discover when and where prisons and bridewells were built, descriptions of the buildings, living conditions, numbers of prisoners and crimes committed, work carried out by the prisoners and, for some of the larger prisons, even the costs of running them. Many parish ministers also wrote about the issues faced by the parishes and their prisons, especially the poor prison conditions and lack of cells. It may be a surprise to learn that many parish reports state how abominable prison conditions were, calling for more modern, larger prisons to be built to deal with the increased number of offenders.

Although this is the last post in our crime and punishment series, there are many other areas you could research, including crime statistics, policing, law courts and acts of law. This goes to show how comprehensive and enthralling a resource both the Old and New Statistical Accounts of Scotland are!

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Feb 202019
 

In our last two blog posts in our series on crime and punishment we have looked at levels, types, causes and prevention of crime. But, how exactly did parishes in late 18th – early 19th century Scotland, and even earlier, punish offenders? It wasn’t just a matter of throwing people into prison. As we have found out in the last post, some parishes did not even have a bridewell or prison. Also, what was the correlation between the type of crime and type of punishment? We will find out in this post.

Punishments

It is fascinating to discover some of the crimes and resulting punishments detailed in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. Examples include: in Leochel, County of Aberdeen, “breaking and destroying young trees in the churchyard of Lochell, [a fine of] one merk for each tree; letting cattle into mosses and breaking peats, 40S.; beating, bruising, blooding and wounding, L. 50;… putting fire to a neighbour’s door, and calling his wife and mother witches, L. 100… ” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 1125) and in Paisley, County of Renfrew,  “1606, May 18.-Three vagabonds are ordered to be “carted through the street and the cart;” with certification that if they return, they shall be “scourged and burnt,” ie. we presume, branded on the cheek;… 1622, June 13.-Two women accuse one another of mutual scolding and “cuffing;” the one is fined 40s. the other is banished the burgh, under certification of “scouraging,” and “the joggs” if she returned… 1642, 24 January.-“No houses to be let to persons excommunicated and none to entertain them in their houses, under a pain of ten punds… ” (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 182)

It was noted in the parish report of Glasgow, County of Lanark, that all the punishments given by the kirk session in Glasgow, whether it was “imprisoning or banishing serious delinquents, or sending them to the pillory, or requiring them to appear several Sabbath days in succession at the church-door in sackcloth, bare-headed and bare-footed, or ducking them in the Clyde,… no rank, however exalted, was spared, and that a special severity was exercised toward ministers and elders and office-bearers in the church when they offended. There was no favouritism.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 932)

Below we look more closely at punishments for particular crimes, many from times before the Statistical Accounts of Scotland.

  • Punishment for adulterers

On the 16th August 1587, a Kirk session in the parish of Glasgow, County of Lanark, “appointed harlots to be carted through the town, ducked in Clyde, and put in the jugs at the cross, on a market day. The punishment for adultery was to appear six Sabbaths on the cockstool at the pillar, bare-footed and, bare-legged, in sackcloth, then to be carted through the town, and ducked in Clyde from a pulley fixed on the bridge.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 110) You can also read here, in the parish report for Glasgow, County of Lanark, what the punishment was for “a man excommunicated for relapse in adultery”, which involved being “bare-footed, and bare-legged, in sackcloth, with a white wand in his hand”!

William Pyne: The Costume of Great Britain (1805) – The Pillory. [Picture via Wikimedia Commons.]

As mentioned in the appendix for Edinburgh, County of Edinburgh, “in 1763-The breach of the seventh commandment was punished by fine and church-censure. Any instance of conjugal infidelity in a woman would have banished her irretrievably from society, and her company would have been rejected even by men who paid any regard to their character. In 1783-Although the law punishing adultery with death was unrepealed, yet church-censure was disused, and separations and divorces were become frequent, and have since increased. Women, who had been rendered infamous by public divorce, had been, by some people of fashion, again received into society, notwithstanding the endeavours of our worthy Queen to check such a violation of morality, decency, the laws of the country, and the rights of the virtuous. This however, has not been recently attempted.” (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 611)

Punishment for witchcraft

There are several reports on witchcraft trials and punishments in the Statistical Accounts, a chapter of Scottish history which, by the late 18th-early 19th century, was seen as a disgrace. As noted in the parish report of Dalry, County of Ayrshire, “this parish was the scene of one of those revolting acts which disgrace the annals of Scotland, of condemning persons to the flames for the imputed crimes of sorcery and witch-craft. This case, which is allowed to be the most extraordinary on record, occurred in 1576. Elizabeth or Bessie Dunlop, spouse of Andrew Jack in Linn, was arraigned before the High Court of Justiciary, accused of sorcery, witchcraft, &c.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 217)

During the 1590s, “the crime of witchcraft was supposed to be prevalent in Aberdeen as well as in other parts of the kingdom, and many poor old women were sacrificed to appease the terrors which the belief in it was calculated to excite. Few of the individuals who were suspected were allowed to escape from the hands of their persecutors; several died in prison in consequence of the tortures inflicted on them, and, during the years 1596-97, no fewer than 22 were burnt at the Castlehill.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 21)

In Erskine, County of Renfrew, “these unhappy creatures, (who seem by their own confession to have borne no good character,) were brought to trial at Paisley in the year 1697, and after a solemn inquest, they were found guilty of the crime of witchcraft, and sentenced to be burnt alive, which sentence was carried into effect at the Gallow Green of Paisley on Thursday the 10th June 1697, in the following manner: They were first hanged for a few minutes, and then cut down and put into a fire prepared for them, into which a barrel of tar was put, in order to consume them more rapidly.” (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 507) For more information on the crime of witchcraft read our blog post “Wicked Witches“.

Punishment for other crimes

You can find many more examples of punishments for a number of different crimes in the Statistical Accounts. In Blantyre, County of Lanark, “any worker known to be guilty of irregularities of moral conduct is instantly discharged, and poaching game or salmon meets with the same punishment.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 324) In Nairn, County of Nairn, “unfortunately, however, this spring two lads were tried and condemned at Inverness for shop-breaking and theft. One of them was hanged. It is surely much to be wished that his fate may prove a warning to others, to avoid the like crimes. The other young man (brother to the lad who was executed), has been reprieved” (OSA, Vol. XII, 1794, p. 392)

There are also some particular, infamous crimes reported in the parish accounts, including that of Maggy Dickson in the parish report of Inveresk, County of Edinburgh. “No person has been convicted of a capital felony since the year 1728, when the famous Maggy Dickson was condemned and executed for child-murder in the Grass-market of Edinburgh, and was restored to life in a cart, on her way to Musselburgh to be buried. Her husband had been absent for a year, working in the keels at Newcastle, when Maggy fell with child, and to conceal her shame, was tempted to put it to death. She kept an ale-house in a neighbouing parish for many years after she came to life again, which was much resorted to from curiosity. But Margaret, in spite of her narrow escape, was not reformed, according to the account given by her contemporaries, but lived, and died again, in profligacy.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 34)

Many of the examples of punishments are actually from previous times of the Statistical Accounts, and, as for those for witchcraft, were by the time of the Statistical Accounts seen as barbaric. In the parish report for Campbelton, County of Argyle, it is noted that “five or six centuries seem to have made no change in manners, under the later Kings, or their successors, the Macdonalds; as we find the most barbarous punishments inflicted on criminals and prisoners of war such as putting out their eyes, and depriving them, of some other members.” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 542)

A photograph of Castle Campbell from the north east direction

Castle Campbell – general view form the north east. [Photo credit: Tom Parnell [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons]

A great story illustrating the kind of punishment being imposed in times gone by is that of Castle Campbell, also known as the Castle of Doom, situated in the parish of Dollar, County of Clackmannan. “Tradition, indeed, which wishes to inform us of every thing, reports, that it was so called from the following circumstance: A daughter of one of our Scotch Kings, who then resided at Dunfermline, happening to fall into disgrace for some improper behaviour, was, by way of punishment, sent and confined in this castle; and she, (not relishing her situation, which probably might be in some vault or other) said, that it was a gloomy prison to her. Hence, says tradition, it came to be called the Castle of Gloom.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 167) In fact, “while confined there, she gave names to certain places and streams adjoining the eastie, corresponding to the depressed state of her mind at the time. The place of her confinement she called Castle Gloom. The hill on the east of the castle she called Gloom hill, which name it still retains. to the two streamers which glide by on the east and west sides of the knoll on which the Castle is built, she gave the names of the burns of Care and Sorrow.” (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 76)

More evidence of such a punishment can be found at Fyvie Castle, County of Aberdeen.”The south wing has in front a tower called the Seton tower, with the arms of that family cut in freestone over the gate. The old iron door still remains, consisting of huge interlacing bars, fastened by immense iron bolts drawn out of the wall on either side; and in the centre of the arch above the door-way, a large aperture called the “murder hole,” speaks plainly of the warm reception which unbidden guests had in former times to expect.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 331)

Instruments of Punishment

As not all parishes, or even counties, had a bridewell or prison, instruments of punishment were being used, especially before the days of the Statistical Accounts. It had the added advantage of acting as a deterrent – making the punishment very public and, therefore, humiliating.

Jougs

Jougs are “an instrument of punishment or public ignominy consisting of a hinged iron collar attached by a chain to a wall or post and locked round the neck of the offender” as defined by the Scottish National Dictionary (1700-) found on the Dictionary of the Scots Language website. (Incidentally, this is a great resource to use if you come across words you don’t understand in the Statistical Accounts!)

In the parish report of Dunning, County of Perth, “there is no jail, but in lieu of it there is that old-fashioned instrument of punishment called the jougs.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 722) The jougs in Marykirk, County of Kincardine, were to be found “on the outside of the church, strongly fixed to the wall.” Interestingly, “these were never appropriated by the church, as instruments of punishment and disgrace; but were made use of, when the weekly market and annual fair flood, to confine, and punish those who had broken the peace, or used too much freedom with the property of others. The stocks were used for the feet, and the joggs for the neck of the offender, in which he was confined, at least, during the time of the fair.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 612)

A photograph of jougs attached to the wall of Duddingston Kirk.

Jougs at Duddingston Kirk. Kim Traynor [CC BY-SA 3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

In Yester, County of Haddington, the jougs were “fastened round neck of the culprit, and attached to an upright post, which still stands in the centre of the village, and is used for weighing goods at the fairs. Here the culprit stood in a sort of pillory, exposed to the taunts and missiles of the villagers.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 166)

Similarly, jougs were described in the parish report of Ratho, County of Edinburgh. “This collar was, it is supposed, in feudal times, put upon the necks of criminals, who were thus kept standing in a pillory as a punishment for petty delinquencies. It would not be necessary in such cases, we presume, to attach to the prisoner any label descriptive of his crime. In a small country village the crime and the cause, of punishment would in a very short time be sufficiently public. Possibly, however, for the benefit of the casual passenger, the plan of the Highland laird might be sometimes adopted, who adjudged an individual for stealing turnips to stand at the church-door with a large turnip fixed to his button-hole.* The jougs are now in the possession of James Craig, Esq. Ludgate Lodge, Ratho. * Since writing the above, we find that the jougs were originally attached to the church, and were used in cases of ecclesiastical discipline.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 92)

In the parish report for Monzie, County of Perth the jougs belonged “to the old church of Monzie, taken down in 1830” and was described as thus: “It was simply an iron collar, fastened to the outside of the wall, near one of the doors, by a chain. No person alive, it is believed, has seen this pillory put in requisition; nor is it known at what period it was first adopted for the reformation of offenders; but there can be no doubt, that an age which could sanction burning for witchcraft, would see frequent occasion for this milder punishment. It is now regarded as a relic of a barbarous age, and has been affixed to the wall of the present church merely to gratify the curiosity of antiquaries.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 270)

The jougs in Dunkeld, Country of Perth, were not, as per usual, attached to the the church but to the old cross. “The old cross was a round pillar, on which was four round balls, supporting a pyramidal top. It was of stone, and stood about 20 feet high. The pedestal was 12 feet square. On the pillar hung four iron jugs for punishing petty offenders. The cross was removed about forty years ago.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 979)

Branks

In the parish report of Langholm, County of Dumfries, you can find a description of branks. “This was an instrument of punishment kept by the chief magistrate, for restraining the tongue. The branks was in the form of a head-piece, that opens and incloses the head of the culprit,–while an iron, sharp as a chisel, enters the mouth and subdues the more dreadful weapon within. Dr Plot, the learned historian of Staffordshire, has given a minute description and figure of this instrument; and adds, that he looks upon it ” as much to be preferred to the ducking-stool, which not only endangers the health of the party, but also gives the tongue liberty ‘twixt every dip, to neither of which this is at all liable.” When husbands unfortunately happened to have scolding wives, they subjected the heads of the offenders to this instrument, and led them through the town exposed to the ridicule of the people”. (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 421)

Conclusion

As can be seen from reading this and the previous posts, the Statistical Accounts of Scotland contains a wealth of information on crime and punishment. Many parish reports describe the crimes and subsequent punishments from olden times, sometimes showing a sense of disgust at their barbarous, unjust nature. In some instances, there are even physical reminders, with there being instruments of punishment still in the parish. This all illustrates how changes are made continually and how, by looking back, you can discover how far we have come.

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Feb 062019
 

Guest blog post

Here is the second part of the guest post by Helen Barton and Neil Bruce, MLitt students at the University of the Highlands and Islands, who have carried out research on gender and family in the Highlands using the Statistical Accounts.

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In part one, we considered what the Old Statistical Accounts told us about Highland Childhoods, focusing on Health and Disease, and Family Structures. In part two, we look at the Domestic Economy and Education.

Domestic Economy

Rural and town children were commonly brought up in homes where domestic work, employment and child-rearing were being juggled by female adults across generations. Accounts allude to the precariousness of bringing-in income. In many cases, both parents needed to earn to achieve sufficient income to sustain the family. When an Avoch fishing crew drowned, widows received charitable aid, but social expectation was that even those with young infants would soon return to industrious work (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, pp. 634-5):

The distress of the widows having been thus mitigated, particularly until such of them had been left pregnant were delivered, and had nursed their infants, they have almost all now returned to the proper habits of industry, sufficient to support themselves and their families.

We can discern from the accounts typical levels of family income, and the cost of sustaining life, not just lifestyle. Families were experiencing increases in costs, noted to have doubled over four decades in Tarbat (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, pp. 431-2). In the far North Highlands, it was estimated to be in the region of £14 per year (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p.29).  Children frequently worked for wages or boarded as farm labourers to make ends meet. Married men received a higher wage than single people, and men generally received higher wages.  Income was gender, age and board-dependant. In Dingwall, there were limited wages for male labourers and families were highly dependent on supplementary income. This was usually from women spinning as “(T)here is no room for children to exert industry as there are no manufacturers.  The whole income of the family can therefore not exceed L9:16”’ (OSA, Vol. III, 1792, p.13). This example of working mothers is repeated throughout the region. It points to waged work being introduced, and again, the need for two adult incomes to sustain families.

Elsewhere in Scotland, children were widely employed in manufacturing. They were cheap to employ before reaching at 14 years when higher wages were paid (C.A. Whatley, ‘The Experience of Work’, in T. M. Devine & R. Mitchison (eds) People and Society in Scotland, Vol 1, 1760-1830 (Edinburgh, 1999), pp. 239-46). There are frequent references to Highland children’s priorities being to the family; in Rogart, children worked as “servants”, for their parents, (OSA, Vol. III, 1792, p. 566) and on Barra they worked seed-planting and harvesting instead of attending school (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 339). The contribution of children’s wages to the household was especially significant in areas where men were absent as women earned much less (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 288).

However, most parish accounts make little direct reference to employment for children. It may be that in some parishes, children did not ordinarily work. More likely it was simply widely accepted they contributed to the family economy as another pair of hands, whether ‘wage-earning’, as domestic workers, or in farm work.  It certainly seems common from the reports they were assumed to contribute to the overall household economy, though at what age is not always obvious.

Education

Initially there were no questions about schooling requested of parish ministers. A supplementary request to find out about “the state, organisation and size of the parish’s schools, number of scholars, subjects taught and how many went on to university” was made a year later (though sent out as Appendix C with a letter to clergy in 1791, the source quoted here is J. Sinclair, Specimens of Statistical Reports: Exhibiting the progress of political society, from the pastoral state, to that of luxury and refinement (London & Cornhill, 1793), p. XV).

As mentioned above, the economic value children contributed to the family unit meant education came second to work. their availability to attend school was determined by seasonal demands. Sir John himself subsequently assessed that “(T)he common people, in general, have little time for education.” (J. Sinclair, Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland: With a General View of the History of that Country, and Discussions on Some Important Branches of Political Economy (Edinburgh, 1831), p. 72). His statement was informed by the reports indicating poor school attendances, but did not note parental income levels, or the ease of access to schools.

While the local heritors (landowners) were legally required to ensure the provision of a school in each parish, in practice, that could depend on their residency or absence, willingness and ability to fund. It also depended on their preparedness for others, such as the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, to establish schools. The Scottish Society’s (SSPCK) Secretary, for example, identified “2 populous districts … where schools might be erected to great advantage”, were the proprietor to part-fund it (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 315). Parish and other schools could and did charge for children to be taught; the quarterly fees in Stornoway, for example, included English and writing 2/6d; arithmetic and English 3/-; Latin, writing and arithmetic 4/- (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 243).

The requirement was ‘a’ parish school – in Skye, the Outer Hebrides and Small Isles, a vast area of 2,000 square miles, and many inhabited islands, there were only 15 parishes, and unsurprisingly, the reports revealed the paucity of educational provision.  Rev. John Macleod summed up the challenges of school provision and uptake on Harris: “the people of this country are so detached from each other” and the terrain, distances and paucity of good roads, meant, “there is really no fixing on a station in which any public institution can be of universal benefit” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 380).

What Sir John also did not acknowledge were reports of parents in more remote places making their own arrangements to have their children schooled. Equally, the accounts do not detail the age of those who attended school, or for how long; there is no reference to informal educational opportunities. As the reporters were usually the Kirk minister, there is often little information on the schooling of Roman Catholic children. Prunier has noted that Roman Catholics were debarred from teaching (C. Prunier, ‘‘They must have their children educated some way’: the education of Catholics in eighteenth-century Scotland’, Innes Review, Vol. 60, no. 1 (2009), p. 37).

Attendance at school in the west and north Highlands and Islands meant learning in English, not Gaelic, though for most, Gaelic was still their native tongue. This introduced children to another language, and in Barray, “numbers … who attended the school … (spoke) … English tolerably well” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 341). In contrast on the east coast, in Rosemarkie, Avoch, and Wick, for example, few, if anyone spoke Gaelic (OSA, Vol. XI, 1794, p. 348; Vol. XV, 1795, p. 632; Vol. X, 1794, p. 32).

The reporting of schooling was non-gendered, with either the subjects, or the number taking them listed. At North Uist’s parish school, “ten in general read Latin; the rest study geography, book-keeping, arithmetic, writing, and reading English” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 315), and at Strath, reading, writing, arithmetic and Latin were taught (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 226). However, the reports do point to gendered-based opportunities for, and expectations on children – Sir John, himself argued, “society cannot be placed on an equal footing, unless the blessings of education are extended to both sexes”, though by that he obviously did not mean they both receive the same opportunities (J. Sinclair, Analysis of the Statistical Account, p. 126).

Sinclair himself penned the Thurso report and promoted the idea of an academy for boys once the Napoleonic Wars were over, lamenting there was no boarding school where girls could learn “needle-work, music and other subjects suited to the sex” (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798 p. 512). Elsewhere, girls were learning how to spin, for example, at SSPCK schools at Rowdill, and two spinning-schools in Barvas, jointly run with Mrs Mackenzie of Seaforth. At the latter, they were “taught gratis, have 10 pence for every spindle they spin, and to encourage them, they have their wheels at low rate; ” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p.269; Vol. XIX, 1797, pp.278–279). At Lochs, on Lewis, the minister opined that girls “secluded from the more cultivated part of society” could gain skills, industry and “real happiness” by learning to spin (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, pp. 278-279). In nearby Stornoway, two of the three SSPCK spinning schools were “laid aside for want of the requisite number of scholars”, the minister lamenting that previously “many poor girls have been rescued from habits of idleness and vice, and trained to industry and virtue” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, pp. 243-244).

Stornoway’s parish had a broader, more obviously male-orientated curriculum, geared to future employment opportunities included navigation and book-keeping, and mensuration, the study of measurements (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 243). The reports suggest only a few boys continued their education at university. Duirinish parish had four “students” at university in Aberdeen; North Uist’s parish school sent “one yearly to College”, and two, “who got the rudiments of their education” attended “University last winter” (OSA, Vol. IV, 1792, p. 133; OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 315).

Conclusion

there is much to be gleaned about what childhood meant for the many growing up in the later eighteenth century from the Far North and Outer Isles parishes accounts. Our examples do point to the limitations of the Accounts as the level of detail is inconsistent, anonymised and general, rather than specific.

We’ve only scratched the surface and there are other fruitful areas, for example:

  • the family economy;
  • inter-generational relationships;
  • what it was like to be one of the elite;
  • the extent of choice children had in their future.

And, perhaps, given that Sir John, set out to ascertain the “state of the country” in 1790, to “reveal the quantum of happiness in a population”, believing “every individual … shall have the means of enjoying as much real happiness as the imperfect condition of human nature will admit”, assessing how happy childhood was for the many (R. Mitchison, Sir John Sinclair, first baronet (1754 – 1835), Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 19th September 2017; J. Sinclair, Specimens of Statistical Reports, p. IX).

—oOo—

We would like to thank Helen and Neil for their fascinating guest blog post. We hope it inspires others to carry out their own research using the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. Indeed, if you would like to write a guest post on how you have used the Statistical Accounts in your study or work please let us know by emailing edina@ed.ac.uk!

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Jan 232019
 

Guest blog post

It is always wonderful to discover first-hand how people use the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. Two MLitt students of the University of the Highlands and Islands, Helen Barton and Neil Bruce, have carried out research on gender and family in the Highlands using the the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. They have written a blog post, divided into two parts, providing us with the results of their research. Below is part one, covering the themes of health and disease and family structures of children living in the Highlands.

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Last year as part of our Masters course, we considered ‘Gender and the Family’ in the Highlands. We were challenged to use the Statistical Accounts to research the experience of childhood. We know very little about children in the region in the pre-Clearance era, and what little we do know is about the offspring of the elite, “the formal education and socialisation of children where it yielded a written record is more easily understood” (S. Nenadic, Lairds and luxury: the Highland gentry in Eighteenth-century Scotland (Edinburgh, 2007), p. 43).

An historian focusing on lost English society, Peter Laslett found the “crowds and crowds of little children … who were a feature of any pre-industrial society” are often missing from the record. Margaret King broadened this point across Europe: “We know less about the course of childhood itself, the socialization of the young, and the lives of the poor, always a black hole” (P. Laslett, The World We Have Lost (London, 1971), pp. 109-110, quoted in H. Cunningham, ‘The Employment and Unemployment of Childhood in England c. 1680-1851’, Past & Present, No. 126 (1990), p. 115; M. L. King, ‘Concepts of Childhood: What We Know and Where We Might Go’, Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 60, no. 2 (2007), p. 388).

Sir John Sinclair included three questions relating to children:

  • The parish’s school population
  • Family sizes
  • The number of under-ten-year olds.

With this limited and “unwitting testimony” provided by the authors of the parish reports, the historian can glean an understanding of what children’s lives involved (A. Marwick, The Fundamentals of History, accessed 26th June 2018).

In our research we focused on the Outer Isles, Skye and the Far North, and the themes of

  • Health and Disease
  • Family Structures
  • Work
  • Education

We’ll cover the first two sections in this blog and the other two in part two.

Health and Disease

The reports frequently refer to children (and families) having a high risk of contracting and succumbing to disease. Surviving the first five to eight days was crucial in Lewis, where a “complaint called the five night sickness” “prevails over all the island” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 265, p. 281). The minister in Barvas thought “the nature of this uncommon disease … (was not) … yet fully comprehended by the most skilful upon this island” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 265). In Uig, it was described as epilepsy, where, other than two cases, all contracting it died; one survivor experienced severe fits, remaining “in a debilitated state”. Incomers had initial immunity, but even their new-born could contract it (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 281). Croup “proved very mortal, and swept away many children” (OSA, Vol. XVII, 1796, p. 279).

Smallpox had a “calamitous” effect, during an apparent epidemic, 38 children died within months; parents in Tarbat, Easter Ross, were “deaf” to the “legality and expediency” of inoculation (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, pp. 428-429). An epidemic in Harris in 1792 “carried off a number of the children”, most “inoculated by their parents, without medical assistance” (OSA, Vol. XX, 1794, p. 385).  In Strath on Skye, and on North Uist, inoculation had “now become so general” that “the poor people, to avoid expenses, inoculate their own children with surprising success” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1793, p. 224; Vol. XIII, 1794 p. 312). In Tongue, in Sutherland, within five years of inoculations being introduced, smallpox had been virtually eradicated (OSA, Vol. III, 1792, p. 524). Even were a doctor affordable, there were only three surgeons and no physicians listed between Skye, the Small Isles, and the Outer Hebrides, all three in the latter, two of whom were on Lewis (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 250; OSA, Vol XIX, 1797, p. 281; OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 613).

Common “distempers” included colds, coughs, erysipelas (a skin infection) and rheumatism (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 275; OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 308; OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 264). The most comprehensive list of diseases was on Small Isles, including ‘hooping’ cough, measles, catarrh, dropsy of the belly, and pleurisy (OSA, 1796, Vol. XVII, p. 279).

It is more difficult to understand from the reports who cared for children when they were ill, or the role children had caring for others, in a community and society where “constant manual labour produced early arthritis … old age came prematurely, without the possibility of retirement for most” (H. M. Dingwall, ‘Illness, Disease and Pain’, in E. Foyster (ed), History of Everyday Life in Scotland, 1600 to 1800 (Edinburgh, 2010), p. 114).  In rural Sweden, Linda Oja found that both parents had roles in caring for sick offspring (L. Oja, ‘Childcare and Gender in Sweden’, Gender History, Vol. 27, no. 1 (2015), p. 86).   Correlating the inter-relationship between diet, health, life expectancy and diseases requires deeper investigation.

Family Structures

The family and work for children of the Highlands and Islands was intertwined. As ordinary daily family life was not the focus of the Accounts’, any details have to be discerned from what they recorded about ‘industry’, wage costs and general passing comments about local living conditions and culture.

Where detailed population statistics were recorded, they demonstrate the average household size. A typical family was nuclear: two adults and four or five children, rising to between seven and 14 in the islands. In many areas, longevity was reported. Women bore children from their early twenties until as late as their fifties, grandmothers were suckling their own grandchildren in the Assynt area (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, pp. 207).

Marriage may have had romantic foundations, but for many was an economic partnership where both partners worked to achieve a living, either waged or unwaged. In Lewis, there was a pragmatic approach to widowhood; “grief … is an affliction little known among the lower class of people here; they remarry after ‘a few weeks, and some only a few days” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, pp. 261-2). Consequentially, children gained step-parents. This claim does seem extraordinary and further investigation through other sources would be beneficial. Nonetheless, the economic hardship of widowhood is well illustrated by his blunt statement.

Families were also on the move in large numbers. The Highlands and Islands were not immune to changes in agricultural systems taking place in the Lowlands and elsewhere. Sir John Sinclair himself was an enthusiastic encourager of new scientific methods. He enclosed his own Caithness estate, changing its management, and introducing new breeds of livestock, including large non-native sheep flocks (M. Bangor-Jones, ‘Sheep farming in Sutherland in the eighteenth century’, Agricultural Historical Review, Vol. 50, no. 2 (2002), pp. 181-202). Many people were displaced to new crofts and settlements on the coast.

The population was declining rapidly in Highland straths, but overall was generally-rising. Couples reportedly married younger than had previously been the trend locally. This was often by the age of twenty, apparently lower than the national average of 26/27 years old. In Halkirk, the report comments on ‘prudential considerations [being] sacrificed to the impulse of nature’ as young people no longer had to wait for an agricultural tenancy (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 23):

Before the period above mentioned, people did not enter early into the conjugal state. The impetus of nature was superseded by motives of interest and convenience. But now, vice versa, these prudential considerations are sacrificed to the impulse of nature which is allowed its full scope; and very young people stretch and extend their necks for the matrimonial noose, before they look about them or make any provisions for that state.

More research on the reasons for earlier marriages would be beneficial.

To be continued …

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Jan 092019
 

This is the second in our series of posts on crime and punishment in 18th-19th century Scotland. This time we are looking at what the parish reporters thought were the causes of crime, as well as what measures were being put in place help prevent crime. There are some very interesting opinions on both these subjects found in the Statistical Accounts.

Reasons for crime

  • Alcohol

It is not surprising to read that crime was mostly attributed to alcohol, or, more specifically, drunkenness! There are some very damning views shared in the parish reports. The Rev. Mr Thomas Martin wrote in the parish report for Langholm, County of Dumfries, “let the distilleries then, those contaminating fountains, from whence such poisonous streams issue, be, if not wholly, at least in a great measure, prohibited; annihilate unlicensed tippling-houses and dram-shops, those haunts of vice, those seminaries of wickedness, where the young of both sexes are early seduced from the paths of innocence and virtue, and from whence they may too often date their dreadful doom, when, instead of”running the fair career of life” with credit to themselves, and advantage to society, they are immolated on the altar of public justice.” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 605)

In Tinwald and Trailflat, County of Dumfries, it was reported that “there are at present 2 small dram-shops in the parish which we have the prospect of soon getting rid of. They have the worst possible effect upon the morals of the people: and there is scarcely a crime brought before a court that has not originated in, or been somehow connected with, one of these nests of iniquity.”  (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 50)

A 19th century wood engraving called 'A drunken brawl in a tavern with men shouting encouragement'

‘A drunken brawl in a tavern with men shouting encouragement’, 19th century wood engraving after A. Brouwer. [Wellcome Images, [CC BY 4.0 license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

In Stirling, County of Stirling, “there are 96 of these [inns, ale-houses, etc], of different degrees of respectability in the parish ; of which 91 are in the town, and 5 in the villages of Raploch and Abbey.” Two interesting points were also made here: that owners of houses received higher rents if their buildings became ale-houses and that “the number of charitable institutions on which so large a portion of the people have a claim” had a negative impact, as they trained “them to a species of pauperism”. (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 448).

The cheap cost of alcohol, as well as the number of ale-houses in existence, was believed to be a factor in the higher level of crime. In the parish of Orwell, County of Kinross, “in consequence of the low price of spirits within these last six or eight years, there have been more petty crime and drunkenness than was formerly known.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 66)

It is fascinating to read the parish report from Hutton and Corrie, County of Dumfries, which states that “in 1834, the House of Commons appointed a Select Committee of their number to take evidence on the vice of drunkenness. The witnesses ascribe a large proportion, much more than the half of the poverty, disease, and misery of the kingdom, to this vice. Nine-tenths of the crimes committed are considered by them as originating in drunkenness… The pecuniary loss to the nation from this vice, on viewing the subject in all its bearings, is estimated by the committee, in their report to the House of Commons, as little short of fifty millions per annum. ” (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 550)

  • Itinerant workers

In the parish of Corstorphine, County of Edinburgh, “the persons there employed are collected from all the manufacturing towns in England, Ireland, and Scotland. They are continually fluctuating; feel no degree of interest in the prosperity of the place; and act as if delivered from all the restraints of decency and decorum. In general, they manifest a total disregard to character, and indulge in every vice which opportunity enables them to perform” and is further noted that “the influence of their contagious example must spread” to others in the parish. (OSA, Vol. XIV, 1795, p. 461)

  • Lack of religious upbringing and instruction

In some corners, crime was also attributed to a lack of religious upbringing and instruction. As mentioned above, there was a report made to the House of Commons on drunkenness and its affect on crime. “In London, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Glasgow, and all the large towns through the kingdom, the Sabbath, instead of being set apart to the service of God, is made by hundreds of thousands a high festival of dissipation, rioting, and profligacy.” (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 550)

Govan, County of Lanark, was seen as a district “where there is no civil magistrate to enforce subordination, and to punish crimes, what can be expected, but that the children should have been neglected in their education; that many of the youth should be unacquainted with the principles of religion, and dissolute in their morals; and that licentious cabal should too often usurp the place of peaceable and sober deportment.” (OSA, Vol. XIV, 1795, p. 295) It was also noted that “if neighbouring justices were, at stated intervals, to hold regular courts in so large villages, they might essentially promote the best interests of their country. They would be a terror to evil doers, and a protection to all that do well.”

In the parish report for Ardrossan, County of Ayrshire, it was remarked that “we have certainly too many among us who have cast off all fear of God, and yield themselves up to the practice of wickedness in some of its most degrading forms, yet the people in general are sober and industrious, and distinguished for a regard to religion and its ordinances. Not only is the form of godliness kept up, but its power appears to be felt, by not a few among them maintaining a conversation becoming the gospel.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 199)

Crime prevention

So, according to the parishes throughout Scotland, how best could crimes be prevented? As the parish report of Langholm, County of Dumfries, mentions, “it is much more congenial to the feelings of every humane and benevolent magistrate to prevent crimes by all possible means, than to punish them… Remove the cause, and the effects in time will cease.” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 605) In the parish report of North Knapdale, County of Argyle, correcting criminal behaviour is preferable to punishment. “Such evil consequences can never be prevented without knowledge and education; and for this reason men, in power and authority, should pay particular attention to the subject.” (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 265)

In some quarters, punishments were considered too lenient. In the parish of Fetlar and North Yell, County of Shetland, “the punishments inflicted for such crime of theft, in particular, are so extremely mild, that they rather excite to the commission of the crime than deter from it.” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 285) In some parishes trouble-makers and criminals were simply expelled from that city, town or parish, instead of being punished! As pointed out in the parish report of Muirkirk, County of Ayrshire, “this is neither more nor less, than to punish the adjacent country for sins committed in the town, to lay it under contribution for the convenience of the city, and free the one of nuisances by sending them to the other.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 609) (Although in the parish of Killin, County of Perth, “the turbulent and irregular [were] expelled the country to which they were so much attached, that it was reckoned no small punishment by them.” (OSA, Vol. XVII, 1796, p. 384))

In Liberton, County of Edinburgh, it was felt that “nothing can remove the evil of assessments now, (which would be ten times greater, but for the efforts of the kirk-session,) but the subdivision of parishes, the diffusion of sound instruction and Christian principle amongst the people, and the removal of whisky-shops. Crime, drunkenness and poverty are always found together, and expending money upon the poor, except for the purpose of making them better, will as soon cure the evil as pouring oil upon a flame will quench it.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 27)

In the parish reports there is no lack of suggestions on how to deter crime and punish criminals.

  • Suggestions

– Restrictions on selling alcohol

A very interesting suggestion was made in the parish report for Callander, County of Perth in November 1837. ” Considerable improvement has taken place within these few years in the management of the police of the country; yet there are many crimes allowed to pass with impunity. Would it not tend much to diminish crime if there were fewer licenses granted for selling, spirits, and more attention paid to the character of the persons to whom licenses are given?” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 360) A similar observation is made in the report for the parish of Stirling, County of Stirling, where “granting of licenses, without sufficient inquiry as to the character of the applicant” is believed to be one of the reasons for crime. (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 448)

In the report made to the House of Commons on drunkenness and its affect on crime “a great many of the witnesses recommended the prohibition of distillation, as well as of the importation of spirits into the kingdom.” The report also stated that religious institutions had a big part to play in “rooting out drunkenness, now appearing in every part of the kingdom”. (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 550)

In Kennoway, County of Fife, “the grand remedy, if it could be applied, would be to lay a restriction on the improper use of ardent spirits. Drunkenness is certainly the prevailing vice amongst us ; and is the originator, or at least inciting cause, to almost every mischief. Imprisonment for violent assault under its influence has of late been in two instances inflicted.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 381)

– Law enforcement and confinement

In the parish of Gargunnock, County of Stirling, a problem with vagrants is reported. “They spend everything they receive at the first ale-house; and for the rest of the day they become a public nuisance. The constables are called, who see them out of the parish; but this does not operate as a punishment, while they are still at liberty. It would be of great advantage, if in every parish, there was some place of confinement for people of this description, to keep them in awe, when they might be inclined to disturb the peace of the town, or of the neighbourhood.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 114)

Painting by Frederick Walker entitled 'The Vagrants'.

Walker, Frederick; The Vagrants; 1868. Picture credit: Tate.

The parish of Carluke, County of Lanark, reports specific measures taken against vagrancy. “The inconvenience and loss by acts of theft, etc. which many sustain by encouraging the vagrant poor of
other parishes, we have endeavoured to prevent here, not only by making liberal provision for the poor of this parish, and restraining them from strolling, under the penalty of a forfeiture of their allowance; but also by following out strictly the rule of St. Paul, “If any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. iii. 10.) and the laws of our country with respect to idle vagrants.” (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 140)

Some parishes did not have any sort of, or very little, law enforcement in place.

Drymen, County of Stirling – “There is not a justice of peace, nor magistrate of any kind resident within the bounds of this parish neither is there a jail or lock-up house from the most westerly verge of the county onward to Stirling,–a distance of nearly fifty miles. The consequence is, that crime and misdemeanor frequently go unpunished, the arm of the law not being long enough nor strong enough to reach so far.” (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 114)

Stromness, County of Orkney – “There is no prison in Stromness. This greatly weakens the authority of the magistrates, and is unfavourable to the morals of this populous district. Were an efficient jail erected, it would intimidate the lawless, and be an effectual means of preventing crime, and the lesser delinquencies.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 38)

Thurso, County of Caithness – “at present the smallest misdemeanor cannot be punished by imprisonment, without sending the offender to the county jail of Wick, at the distance of 20 miles from Thurso, which necessarily occasions a heavy expense to the prosecutor, public or private, and, of course, is the cause of many offences passing with impunity, which would otherwise meet their due punishment.” (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 545)

Langholm, County of Dumfries – “Instead of banishing delinquents from a town or county for a limited time… would it not tend more to reclaim them from vice, to have a bridewell, upon a small scale, built at the united expense of the 5 parishes, where they could be confined at hard labour and solitary confinement, for a period proportioned to their crimes… The dread of solitary confinement, and the shame of being thus exposed in a district where they are known, would operate in many instances as a powerful preventive.” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 613)

Kilmaurs, County of Ayrshire – “Two bailies are chosen annually, but their influence is inconsiderable, having no constables to assist in the execution of their authority; the disorderly and riotous therefore laugh at their threatened punishments.” (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 370)

Employers and proprietors also had a role to play in deterring crime.

Kilfinichen and Kilviceuen, County of Argyle – “The Duke of Argyll, upon being informed of this complaint, gave orders to his chamberlain to intimate to his Grace’s tenants, and all the kelp manufacturers upon his estate, that whoever was found guilty of adulterating the kelp, would find no shelter upon his estate, and that they would be prosecuted and punished as far as the law would admit. This will have a good effect upon his Grace’s estate, and is worthy of imitation by the Highland proprietors of kelp shores.” (OSA, Vol. XIV, 1795, p. 182)

St Cyrus, County of Kincardine – “poaching for game has become much less common of late years, from the active measures employed by a game-association, instituted among the principal landed gentlemen of the county, for the punishment of this species of delinquency.”(NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 286)

  • Increased religious instruction/services – spiritual and moral improvement

In Langton, County of Berwick, there were parochial visitations when there was discussion about any issues affecting the congregation between the presbytery and the elders, and then the congregation itself. “It is impossible to conceive a system more fitted to promote the diligence and faithfulness of ministers, or the spiritual and moral improvement of parishes. Its effects, accordingly, were visible in a diminution of crime, and an increase of personal and family religion among the surrounding districts.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 244)

In Hamilton, County of Lanark, “much has been said of the happy influence of Sunday schools in other places. If there were people of wealth and influence heartily disposed to strengthen virtue, to encourage good behavior, and to discountenance vice and irregularity, by establishing that institution here, in order to rescue the children of dissolute parents, from the danger of bad habits, to instruct them in the principles of religion, and a course of sobriety and industry, it is probable, they might be the happy means of restoring and improving the morals of all the people in this populous district.” (OSA, Vol. II, 1792, p. 201)

An interesting observation is made in the parish report of Hawick, County of Roxburgh. “The cases of gross immorality which occurred during the course of about thirty years before the Revolution, and when Episcopacy was predominant, were about double the number that took place during the course of thirty years after it, and when Presbytery was restored, which may justify the conclusion, that the exercise of discipline according to the constitution of the Church of Scotland is of signal efficacy in restraining the excesses of profligacy and crime.” (NSA, Vol. III, 1845, p. 392)

  • Better street lighting

In Edinburgh, County of Edinburgh, “the frequent robberies and disorders in the town by night occasioned the town-council to order lanterns or bowets to be hung out in the streets and closes, by such persons and in such places as the magistrates should appoint,–to continue burning for the space of four hours, that is, from five o’clock in the evening till nine, which was deemed a proper time for people to retire to their houses.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 627)

Better street lighting was also identified as a form of crime deterrent in Dundee, County of Forfar. “In consequence of the rapid increase of the population of Dundee and surrounding district, and the ordinary provision of the law for preserving the public peace having become inadequate for the purpose, in 1824, the magistrates, with the concurrence of the inhabitants at large, applied to Parliament for an act to provide for the better paving, lighting, watching, and cleansing, the burgh, and for building and maintaining a Bridewell there… The police establishment has been of essential service to the inhabitants, with respect to the protection of their persons and property; although it cannot be denied that the streets are not much improved. The number of watchmen is too limited for the extent of the bounds, and the suburbs, which are generally haunts of the disorderly, are but poorly lighted.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 8)

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Conclusion

Writers of the parish reports had very clear opinions on the causes of crime and ways to tackle it. Alcohol and the resulting drunkenness was by far and away the most cited cause. It was deemed such a problem that, in 1834, the House of Commons appointed a Select Committee to investigate and report on ‘the vice of drunkenness’.  some also blamed the lack of religious upbringing and moral and spiritual standards. As pointed out in our last blog post, a number of parishes reported that their citizens as, in the main, law-abiding, using such words as honest, sober, industrious, religious and moral. With regards to crime prevention, many parishes reported that the criminal system needed improving, including the building of bridewells and prisons, and the increasing of law enforcement. Specific measures against the licensing to sell alcohol and the cheap pricing of alcohol were also suggested. All this information that we find in the Statistical Accounts provides us with a fascinating insight into crime and its causes at that particular time. It allows us to think about how the causes of crime and preventative measures have changed (or stayed the same!) since the late eighteenth – early nineteenth centuries.

In our next post we will be looking at different types of punishment handed out to criminals in eighteenth and nineteenth century Scotland and how this correlates to the types of crime committed.

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Nov 212018
 

This is the first post in an exciting new blog series focusing on crime and punishment in late 18th-early 19th century Scotland. During the next few weeks we will be looking at levels of crime and changes between the Old Statistical Accounts and New Statistical Accounts; types of crime committed, with specific examples; types of punishment; crime prevention (as well as lack of!); causes of crime; prisons; police and sheriffs; and the judicial system and courts. It has been really fascinating to research this topic, with lots of interesting and eye-opening information found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. We hope you really enjoy reading these posts.

Levels of crime

Some parish reports state that no, or very little, serious crime had been committed for many years in that parish. In Kilninian and Kilmore, County of Argyle, “it is very seldom that any gross, crimes are committed; and as an evidence of this, it may be mentioned, that although there is a lock-up-house or jail in Tobermory, yet none of the inhabitants of the parish have been confined there for the last four years, and, the upper flat of that jail is occupied by the school of industry before noticed.” (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 356) In Kennoway, County of Fife, “only one instance of suicide has occurred within the last 20 years, and not a person belonging to the parish has been punished for any crime or even been imprisoned, on any account whatever, during that period.” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 128) It is very interesting to note that suicide is mentioned in the same context as crime in several parish reports, which gives us an idea on how suicide was viewed by some at the time.

Several parish reports do give an example or two of ‘serious’ crimes carried out there. These include:

  • Criech, County of Sutherland – “Only one person has suffered for a capital crime within there 20 years; viz. for theft and house-breaking.” (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 373).
  • Kilfinichen and Kilviceuen, County of Argyle – “Such has been the general good behaviour of the inhabitants, that none have suffered capital punishment in the memory of any person living; nor has any been confined in jail for any crime that is remembered, except one man in summer 1793, who is supposed to be a fraudulent bankrupt.” (OSA, Vol. XIV, 1795, p. 211)
  • Banff, County of Banff – “During the last rebellion in Scotland, a poor fellow from the country, whose imprudent curiosity led him to mark, by notches on his staff, the number of British ships passing in the bay, was apprehended as a spy, and arranged by the King’s troops, without the formality of trial.” (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 378)

The low level, or lack of, crime was attributed to the good, honest disposition of the parish inhabitants. Examples include the parishes of Saddell and Skipness, County of Argyle (OSA, Vol. XII, 1794, p. 488), Rutherglen, County of Lanark (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 6) and Peebles, County of Peebles (OSA, Vol. XII, 1794, p. 6). Indeed, several reports state that the manners of inhabitants had improved over the last few years, so lowering crime levels. “The inhabitants of Bothkennar [County of Stirling] are distinguished for their sober and industrious habits, and live in the most friendly terms with each other. They are most attentive to the public ordinances of the Gospel; and their moral conduct has been such, that there is not an instance upon record of any individual having been arraigned or punished for any offence against the laws of his country.” (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 205) Here are some more examples:

Roxburgh, County of Roxburgh – “the general character of the people is intellectual, moral, and religious. In proof of this, it may be stated, that hardly anything of the nature of crime occurs, and the people are almost all in communion with the Established church or the Secession.” (NSA, Vol. III, 1845, p. 132)

Edzell, County of Forfar – “it is beyond a doubt, that the people are much improved since last century, both in morals and in manners. In the old records, there are instances of persons subjected to discipline for dragging nets on the Sabbath; and farmers, with their wives and servants, convened in parties for drinking, fighting, and scolding, on the Lord’s clay during divine worship. Such irregularities would now cause horror.” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 110)

Kemnay, County of Aberdeen – “the commission at least of heinous crimes is less frequent, and the propensity to low vices less general, than they were during the seventeenth and greater part of the eighteenth century, and also that a higher tone of morals now prevails.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 817)

Have a read of what crimes used to be committed in the parish of Kirkoswald, County of Ayrshire! (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 499) Even Scotland as a country was seen in some quarters to be a place with less crime and, therefore, less punishments handed out than previously! (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 16)

An image entitled 'Wilkes Riots' taken from page 271 of "The chronicles of crime, or The new Newgate calendar. Being a series of memoirs and anecdotes of notorious characters who have outraged the laws of Great Britain from the earliest period to the present time..."

Wilkes Riots. (Image from page 271 of “The chronicles of crime, or The new Newgate calendar. Being a series of memoirs and anecdotes of notorious characters who have outraged the laws of Great Britain from the earliest period to the present time…”, circa 1841.)

However, not every parish had exemplary parishioners. In the report for Portpatrick, County of Wigton, there is a very honest account given of its inhabitants! “The people are generally characterized by intellect naturally vigorous, but uncultivated. They are capable of being excited to very great violence of feeling: and vindictive feelings usually find with them a free and instant expression. But withal, they display more external courtesy towards one another, and more respectful manners in addressing their superiors, than may be observed in the more populous districts. In common with the other inhabitants of Galloway they are distinguished by a ready and ungrudging hospitality. Among the crimes ordinarily falling under the cognizance of the civil magistrates, assaults, rioting and fighting on the public streets, are much to be complained of, but are not so frequent as at one time, when it used to be said at Donaghadee, “I’ll not meddle with you just now; but stop till I get you at Portpatrick, where there is no law.” Petty thefts are prevalent. They are often attributed to the bands of tinkers who encamp on the common on their way to and from Ireland; but these undoubtedly deserve but a small share of the blame. The facilities afforded by the wild coast for plundering the goods cast ashore in shipwrecks, have always presented a strong temptation.” (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 147)

Of course, not all changes in crime levels have been positive. In the Appendix for Edinburgh, “in 1763 house-breaking and robbery were extremely rare. Many people thought it unnecessary to lock their doors at night. In 1783, 1784, 1785, 1786, and 1787 house-breaking, theft, and robbery, were astonishingly frequent; and many of these crimes were committed by boys, whose age prevented them from being objects of capital punishment. The culprits were uniformly apprehended in houses of bad fame, in which they were protected and encouraged in their depredations on the public. During the winter, 1787, many daring robberies and shop-breakings were committed, by means before unthought of; but the gang were discovered, by one of them becoming evidence against the rest, and the others suffered capital punishment.” (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 613) Street robbery and pick-pocketing was also on the increase.

In Glasgow, “great crimes were formerly very uncommon; but now robberies, housebreaking, swindling, pick-pockets, pilferers, and consequently executions are become more common.” (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 535) Interestingly, in the New Statistical Account for Glasgow we find the following excerpt on crime:

“Within the last twenty years, population of Glasgow has almost doubled; but crime, instead of merely doubling, has, as is proved from the records of the Court of Justiciary, increased nearly eight times.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 909)

One suggestion for the higher levels of crime in cities is given by the writer of the parish report for Inveresk, County of Edinburgh. “Large cities are the nurseries of crimes, as they furnish the means of privacy and concealment, as well as of temptation.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 33)

In the parish report of Duirinish, County of Inverness, there is a comparison made between the crime levels of the Highlands and that of the parishes in the south of Scotland. “The balance will still be found in favour of the Highlands. But it is too apparent, at the same time, that crime in this part of the country has been much on the increase for several years back. This is partly owing to the poverty of the people: but in a great degree to the kind of intercourse which they carry on with the Lowlands.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 347)

Types of crime

Here are some types of crime and specific examples of crimes found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland:

In Markinch, County of Fife, the kirk-session identified “the usual immoralities… which were then punished by fine and by rebuke in the face of the congregation.” Specific examples of crimes include “pursuing their ordinary avocations on the Sabbath, for absenting themselves from church and from the administration of ordinances, for slandering neighbours, for profane swearing, for drunkenness, and frequenting houses of public entertainment during the hours of Divine service.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 678)

The parish report of Leochel, County of Aberdeen, gives a fascinating list of offences and punishments, including “breaking and destroying young trees in the churchyard of Lochell” (one merk for each tree), “putting fire to a neighbour’s door and calling his wife and mother witches” (L. 100 fine) and “abusing the minister and calling him a liar, and saying in the church-yard that he would prove him a liar” (put in the stocks during the baillie’s pleasure). (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 1125).

Incidentally, the above image is taken from a book, published in 1841, entitled “The chronicles of crime, or The new Newgate calendar. Being a series of memoirs and anecdotes of notorious characters who have outraged the laws of Great Britain from the earliest period to the present time including a number of curious cases never before published. Embellished with fifty-two engravings, from original drawings by “Phiz” [pseud.]”, which can be found on the Internet Archive. It is a very fascinating read!

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Mentions of the crimes of smuggling, poaching and witchcraft are particularly noticeable in the Statistical Accounts, as we don’t hear, or rarely hear, of these in this country nowadays.

Smuggling

By the time of the New Statistical Accounts of Scotland, smuggling was very much on the wane in some parishes due to measures being taken against it. In Dunkeld, County of Perth, “smuggling prevailed extensively at one time in the district, but after the late Duke of Atholl got the Highland distilleries legalized, smuggling ceased. ” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 989)

However, in the parish of Glenshiel, County of Ross and Cromarty, smuggling “which was introduced about twenty years since, prevails, especially upon the estate of Letterfearn, to an extent that threatens to prove destructive to all habits of regular industry, injurious to the health, and ruinous to the morals of its victims; and is likely to continue to produce these distressing results, until the owners of the land choose to discountenance it.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 202) Neighbouring land owners had threatened to remove smugglers and this was enough to act as a deterrent. This illustrates how important active crime detection and prevention is. (These are topics we will focus on future blog posts.)

In Mordington, County of Berwick, “as this parish lies on the border between Scotland and England, the illicit traffic of smuggling Scotch whisky into England is carried on to a considerable extent at two public-houses on the turnpike-roads to Berwick-on-Tweed. Those who engage, however, in this unlawful employment, are persons of low character from Berwick, who buy the spirits at these two public-houses, and convey them secretly into England. A guard of excise officers, which is maintained by Government at considerable expense, traverses the roads, by which means the traffic has lately somewhat decreased, but it is still carried on to a considerable extent; and its demoralizing influence on those engaged in it, is lamentably apparent. No remedy, however, seems likely to avail, but an equalizing of the duties on spirits in the two countries.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 342) This is the same case in Hutton, County of Berwick (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 156)

Poaching

Several parishes report some instances of poaching, which, in the main, is waning. In Hutton, County of Berwick, “convictions for poaching game and salmon indeed sometimes occur, but these are by no means frequent” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 156). In Dunkeld, County of Perth, “poaching is rare; when committed it is generally by strangers.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 989) In Roxburgh, County of Roxburgh, “the temptation of poaching is very considerable, because of the abundance of game; and, in consequence, this offence has occasionally occurred.” (NSA, Vol. III, 1845, p. 132)

 

Photograph of a painting entitled 'Young Poachers' by James Hey Davies. Dated 1878-1888.

Davies, James Hey; Young Poachers; 1878–1888. Picture credit: Manchester Art Gallery.

Poaching was actually on the increase in Penicuik, County of Edinburgh. “The landed proprietors endeavour to protect their game, by employing keepers, while their tenantry are strictly prohibited from shooting; an unhappy arrangement, and one that signally defeats its own end. The tenantry have no interest in detecting the poacher, and the game-keepers are intimidated, and are consequently of little service. Some time since, one of these keepers was fired at and severely wounded by four poachers at eleven o’clock in the forenoon.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 41)

Witchcraft

During the late 16th and early 17th centuries “the belief of witchcraft prevailed, and trials and executions on account of it were frequent in all the kingdoms of Europe”, as stated in the parish report of Kirkcaldy, County of Fife. (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 57) In the Statistical Accounts of Scotland there are many mentions of witchcraft trials, including:

  • Dalry, County of Ayrshire, which “was the scene of one of those revolting acts which disgrace the annals of Scotland, of condemning persons to the flames for the imputed crimes of sorcery and witchcraft.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 217)
  • Aberdeen, where “many poor old women were sacrificed to appease the terrors which the belief in it was calculated to excite. Few of the individuals who were suspected were allowed to escape from the hands of their, persecutors; several died in prison in consequence of the tortures inflicted on them, and, during the years 1596-97, no fewer than 22 were burnt at the Castlehill.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 21)
  • Kirkcaldy, County of Fife, where a man and his wife “were burnt here in 1633, for the supposed crime of witchcraft.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 57)
  • Erskine, County of Renfrew, where “one of the last trials for witchcraft which happened in Scotland, had its origin… in 1696-7”. (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 74)

If you would like to read more about witchcraft in Scotland, read our post Wicked Witches.

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We end this post with a table showing the number of commitments, etc. for crime in the County of Berwick during the year 1834. This gives a fascinating snapshot of crimes committed and the resulting punishments given out at that time.

 

Crimes Persons remaining untried from preceding year Persons committed for trial Persons convicted Persons acquitted No. of persons tried and before what court Sentences of those committed
Robbery and assault         3 1 3 3    –      Justiciary 1 sent. death, 2 transportation for life.
Theft        — 5 3 3    –     By jury, without jury, and by       justices or other court Imprisonment for 3 months or less
Theft by housebreaking        — 2 1 1 2    –     Justiciary Transportation 14 years
Assault        — 15 14 14   –    6 by jury, 3 without jury, 5 by justices or other court Imprisonment for 3 months or less
Breaking windows        — 1 1 Without jury Do.
Rioting 1 1 Do. Do.
Vagrancy and breaking windows        — 2 2 Do. Do.
Vagrancy        — 2 2 2    –   Justices Do.
Contravening Act 9 Geo. IV. Sect. 69        — 2 2 1     –   Without jury Do.
Trespassing in search of game        — 1 1 1      –   Do. Do.
Contempt of court        — 1 1 1      –   Do. Do.

N.B. All persons in the table refer to males.

In the parish report of Paisley, County of Renfrew, you can find a table that shows “a view of the state and Progress of crimes, &c. as judged by the magistrates, from the period when the police establishment began down to 1818, and for the last five years. The melancholy progress of crime, particularly of late years, may be judged of from this table; a progress for which the rapid increase of population will not wholly account.” (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 189) There are a number of other tables giving crime figures in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, and we will look at some more of these in our future post on prisons.

In our next post in this series on crime and punishment we will look at reasons for crimes and crime prevention.

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Oct 182018
 

We continue with the theme of women in Scotland, this time focusing on poor women and what society did to help them, and women’s health.

Poor women

Many parishes reported a high number of poor women, especially older women or widows, who were unable, or even unwilling, to work.

Here are some figures given in the parish report for Campsie, County of Stirling:

No. of paupers on our list, 25
Of these there are females, 16
Males, 9
Above sixty years of age, 19
The average of the years of their receiving charity, 8
Of this number of paupers, there are no less than five facile in their mind, 5
The higher sum given is per month, 64
It would appear that it is only the hundredth part of the whole inhabitants who require public charity, of these twenty five paupers, eight are unmarried women.

(OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 364)

The lack of work available to women was a big factor in the high percentage of poor women. In Laurencekirk, County of Kincardine, “about one-fourth of the regular paupers are males, the others being chiefly aged women. The class of destitute women is rapidly increasing from the discontinuance of employments, by which females advancing in life were wont to earn some livelihood; yet such is the inevitable result of the extensive use of machinery.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 151) It was a very similar situation in Kings Kettle, County of Fife where “elder women and widows are generally employed in winding pirns; but for these there is a great want of employment since the lint-wheel failed them.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 109) and in Huntly, County of Aberdeen, where “employment in weaving worsted and in knitting stockings was got for many of the old women in the parish; but the former is entirely extinct, and the latter has also been withdrawn.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 1041)

Lack of employment sometimes meant women having to re-locate to try and find work, as reported in the parish report of Yetholm, County of Roxburgh.

“Single women unfit for farmers service, or an old widow with a daughter or two, most of them equally unfit, took refuge in these villages [of the parish], and earned their livelihood by spinning, perhaps someone of the family by hoeing turnips by the day, and hiring themselves in harvest; whilst the males hired themselves for herds, hinds, and farmers servants, and were in other parishes. This is not mere conjecture, for a great part of the paupers upon the list consist of such women, and I know of many more who still subsist by their own labour. Besides, some single women, or widows, after obtaining a settlement in other parishes, come to reside in these villages; because stout women, fit to be employed the whole season in every kind of out-work, are so scarce in proportion to the demand, that no farmer will let a cottage, but upon the condition of being furnished with a worker, for whom, even in the turnip-season, they pay 8 d. or 9 d. per day, without victuals.” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 612)

A painting called 'Little Beggar Girl and Woman Spinning' by the artist Giacomom Ceruti. Painted in the 1720s.

Little Beggar Girl and Woman Spinning, 1720s. Giacomo Ceruti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

It is very interesting to read the parish report of Ayr, County of Ayrshire, in which is noted its good provision for the poor, the resulting influx of poor women from neighbouring parishes and its negative affects. (OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 44)

The lack of employment was not the only reason given for the existence of poor women. In some cases, women were able to work, but chose to be beggars. In Auchindoir, County of Aberdeen, “there is no strolling beggar belonging to the parish; but we have great numbers of them from other parishes. Some of these, particularly the women, are young and healthy; and they are usually attended by several children of different ages, whom they train up to the same habits with themselves. If there be laws for remedying these and similar abuses, it is a pity they are not put in execution.” (OSA, Vol. XII, 1794, p. 500) In Glenshiel, County of Ross and Cromarty, “the swarm of sturdy beggars with which this country is infested is considered as no small disadvantage. They consist chiefly of stout able women, who, rather than engage in service are content to go about from house to house; but there is every reason to believe, the introduction of manufactures would effectually relieve the public of this burden.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 131)

It was pointed out in the parish report of Stirling, County of Stirling, that many women decided not to work rather than earn a pittance. “The low rate of female labour in Stirling, is another source of poverty. The utmost a woman can earn by spinning wool, is 3 d. a-day. With this they cannot maintain themselves, pay the rent of a house, and get other necessaries. Such small encouragement destroys industry. A female having so little prospect of advantage from her labour, is at no pains to be expert in it.” It then goes on to say that “the chief cause of the numerous poor in Stirling is the castle”! Find out why here: (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 291).

So how did society try to help these disadvantaged, destitute women? As mentioned in the parish report of Wiston and Roberton, County of Lanark, there were poor women who did indeed try to help themselves. “It is sometimes necessary to press aid on the necessitous, such is their modesty. Sometimes two widows, or single women, join in one cottage, to save house-rent and fuel; and many, even such as are advanced in life, support themselves by spinning flax, and working in harvest, and at other times. The rent of a cottage is about 12 s. a year.” (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 309)

However, these women still needed help from society. In the report for Caputh, County of Perth, it was suggested that a philanthropist consider improving the situation of poor women as “the very fact that, of the 39 paupers supported by the kirk-session, 32 are old women, is sufficient to shew that the weaker sex, do what they will, if depending upon their own efforts for subsistence, must anticipate old age with feelings of the most painful solicitude! This is a sight for pity to peruse,

Till she resemble faintly what she views,
Till sympathy contract a kindred pain,
Pierc’d with the woes “these females feel in vain.”

Cowper” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 670)

Here are some ways in which society came to the aid of poor women.

  • Creation of houses

In several parishes establishments were set up in which to house poor women, such as St Leonard’s Hospital and Pitreavie’s Hospital in Dunfermline, County of Fife, which took care of widows. (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 904) In Tinwald and Trailflat, County of Dumfries, “the Duke of Quensberry allows six free cottages to poor old women.” (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 50) and in Edinburgh, County of Edinburgh there was the House of Industry and Servants’ Home where “about 30 indigent females [were] received into this institution, where work is provided for them.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 738)

  • Societies set up to aid women

There are mentions of female societies in several parish reports, including that of Glasgow, County of Lanark (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 185), Aberdeen, County of Aberdeen, where the society derived its funds for the relief of aged and indigent females “from the subscriptions of its members, and occasional donations and bequests” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p62), Markinch, County of Fife, where “the principal ladies connected with the parish patronize it” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 687) and Stirling, County of Stirling (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 440).

In Dalkeith, County of Edinburgh, “various other societies have been formed for the relief of the poor. The Indigent Sick Society was formed in 1808; the Old Women’s Society in 1814: the Clothing Society, for supplying work to industrious poor women, in 1837.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 531)

In Kinross, County of Kinross, there was the Ladies’ Society, members of which “meet together monthly, when they distribute a certain quantity of oatmeal to each of those destitute women, whom they shall determine upon as the most suitable objects of relief. Their funds arise from a small subscription from each member of 5s. on her entrance; and of a penny a-week or 4s. 4d. a year; from occasional public collections; from the donations of individuals, &c. No small addition was made, two years ago, by the proceeds of a musical festival in Kinross mansion-house.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 23)

The effectiveness of these societies was not lost on the parish reporter for Dowally, County of Perth. “A Female Friendly Society should be established, on the same principle with the Cordiners and Weavers Society. Destitute women have always formed the most numerous lift of claimants on the public charitable funds. In 1755, when 14 persons were supplied weekly by the session, there were 10 women in the number; and there was no less a proportion than 40 women, out of 52 persons, supplied at an occasional distribution, in 1790.” (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 446)

  • Parochial Funds

Parishes collected funds in order to support the poor. In Keig, County of Aberdeen, “the average number of persons on the poor roll for the last six years has been 9, mostly infirm old women without near relations able to support them, besides whom others in similar circumstances have been occasionally assisted.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 956) In Denny, County of Stirling, “there are a number of house-keepers in indigent circumstances, who receive occasional supplies from the collections, made at the church-doors on Sunday.” (OSA, Vol. II, 1792, p 421)

Figures are provided in the report for Cleish, County of Kinross. ” The number of persons at present receiving parochial aid is 6, at 1s. per week, one at 2s., and two orphan children at 1s. each per week. There is also a woman receiving 2s. 6d. as a temporary assistance, in consequence of her not being able to prove the father of her illegitimate child. The funds for their support are, the church collections, L. 21, 6s. 10d.; interest of L. 265, L. 10, 12s.; and mortcloth dues, which, since the parish procured a hearse by subscription, are merely nominal: these, at an average of seven years, amount to L. 31, 18s. 10d.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 51)

It is particularly interesting to read how the parish of St Mungo, County of Dumfries, offered various methods of support to the poor, including provision of employment and the putting in place of regulations to ensure that an individual or family did not become a burden to the parish. “The means of support collected under the direction of the session are applied to the support of the distressed. The session have also been in the habit of at times giving work to poor women in place of money, paying a house rent on condition their relatives shall in all other respects provide for them; or maintaining a poor person’s family at school, to prevent their becoming a burden on the parish. But, unless driven to it by necessity, direct payment of money from the sessional funds, except to the diseased and aged, has always been avoided… Poor women are also by the trustees employed in gathering stones and filling carts on the roads, at a fixed rate.” To find out more about the regulations established by the session look at NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 216.

There is a great story found in the parish report of Gargunnock, County of Stirling. “An addition was made to the funds of the poor in 1784, by a very singular circumstance. Two old women, sisters, who lived in the village of Gargunnock, had for many years, every appearance of extreme indigence; though without making any application for assistance from the parish. One of them at last, applied to be received on the poor’s list; and as no doubt was entertained of her poverty, she received four shillings per month. ..”. Discover what happened next in OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 113.

Women’s health

In several parish reports a direct link between women’s employment and ill health was observed. This included both work involving sitting for long periods of time and being out in all weathers.

  • Leading a sedentary life

Here are some examples found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland of the negative effects to women of undertaking jobs such as weaving and spinning. These include a couple of very interesting comments on the effect on health of wasting saliva when wetting thread!

Elgin, County of Elgin – “the women lead sedentary lives in spinning, from which arise obstructions, etc. that often terminate fatally; and from the same causes, difficult labours are more common than formerly.” (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 17)

Nigg, County of Kincardine – “from the more sedentary life of women now, at knitting stockings, hysteric complaints are thought frequent.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 198)

Carmylie, County of Forfar – “This new employment [spinning flax] for young women cannot be so conducive to health, as the ordinary labours of female servants; and in the event of their becoming wives, forms no good training for their management of household affairs.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 371)

Engraving by F. Engleheart, 1838, after Sir D. Wilkie, called 'A bedridden sick young woman being examined by a doctor'

A bedridden sick young woman being examined by a doctor, acc. Engraving by F. Engleheart, 1838, after Sir D. Wilkie. [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kirkintilloch, County of Dumbarton – “Some, indeed, particularly the females, are not a little subjects to hysterics; a disease, the prevalence of which in this place, has, with some shew of probability, been attributed, partly to the dampness of our carthen floors, and partly, to the effects of spinning, for which, the women in this neighbourhood are deservedly famous*.

*The women, when engaged in spinning, especially in winter, sit by-the fire-side, and keeping, as their custom is, always the same station, the one side side is exposed to the chilling cold of the season, and the other is relaxed by the warm influence of the fire. Besides, in turning her lint-wheel, the person who spins, commonly employs but one foot, and uses chiefly the hand of the
same side, in making the thread. Thus the labour is very unequally divided, by which the health of the body must naturally be affected. Lastly, the waste of saliva in wetting the thread, must
deprive the stomach of a substance essential to its operations, whence, all the fatal consequences of crudities, and indigestion, may be expected.” (OSA, Vol. II, 1792, p. 282)

Forgan, County of Fife – “… the constant sitting at the wheel, and the immoderate waste of saliva, was by no means favourable to their health. Many of these people are employed in cutting down the corns in harvest. During this season they are uncommonly cheerful and healthy; but as this exercise in the field is an extreme entirely opposite to the sedentary life they generally lead through the rest of the year, disagreeable effects are sometimes felt after the harvest; however, the danger of this is not a little abated by their present manner of living during this season, which is upon oat bread and ale, which, when fresh and good, is a most wholesome diet.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 95)

Auchtermuchty, County of Fife – “Comsumptions are the most prevalent distemper, particularly among young women, which perhaps may be attributed to their staying at home, spinning at two-handed wheels, and not enjoying that comfortable diet, and moderate exercise, the result of being in service.” (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 339)

Dron, County of Perth – “Many young women, who used to go into service, find it more advantageous to stay at home and spin for the manufacturer, or to purchase lint and dispose of the yarn. By this mode of life, they feel themselves independent, and more at their own disposal, which is no doubt an additional motive for preferring it. But they overlook the ill consequence of their choice to health and vigour of constitution, which is more than a balance for all their advantages. Their sedentary life, and want of proper exercise ; their eager application and scanty provision, are all circumstances which conspire to enfeeble the constitution, produce nervous disorders, and bring on sexual infirmities, which render life uncomfortable, and hurry them into premature old age.” (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 476)

Riccarton, County of Ayrshire – “A great proportion of the females in the parish are employed in sewing and embroidering muslin… The employment, we believe, is very injurious to the general health of those employed, but especially to, their chest and eyes.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 612)

In the parish report of Avondale, County of Lanark, the effects of sedentary employment on the health of children was also commented on. “The great wages made by weaving, induces many parents to put their boys too early to that business, which stints their growth, occasions swellings about their legs, and hurts their morals, by rendering them too soon independent of their parents. The same temptation is presented to the girls by the flowering of muslin, which, by confining them too soon to a sedentary life, makes them pale and sickly, and is likely to subject them to nervous complaint all their lives.” (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 387)

  • Working on the land

Women also experienced health issues from undertaking agricultural work, i.e. hard labour, or generally being outside.

Tillicoultry, County of Clackmannan – “The dysentery was unknown here for many years. It has, however, appeared of late three different times, and carried off a good many persons, chiefly women. As this alarming malady always broke out in the end of harvest, some have been apt to imagine, that, if it was not caught by infection, it arose from the colds and damps to which the people were exposed in reaping, or to a frequent use of potatoes not brought to a proper state of maturity.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 202)

Old or West Monkland, County of Lanark – “Several young women of this parish have fallen into consumptions by sitting too long on the damp ground at tent preachings.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 380)

Edzell, County of Forfar – “The most prevailing complaints are, asthma amongst the men, and hysterical disorders amongst the women, rheumatism in both sexes. These may, in part, be caused, or nor a little heightened, by poor diet, hard labour, and sorry lodging.” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 102)

All this being said, it must be noted that several parish reports mention both men and women who have lived to a ripe old-age, in some cases over a hundred! Examples include the parishes of Northmaving, County of Shetland (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 73), Castletown, County of Roxburgh (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 64) and Crimond, County of Aberdeen (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 703).

In Halkirk, County of Caithness, even though the climate “often goes to extremes in the space of 24 hours; for it is not unusual to be visited here with all the coldness and rigours of winter, and the fervour and heat of a summer-day, in the space of 12 hours… There is no disease that can be called peculiar to it; neither are the distempers by which we are visited more frequent, or more fatal and violent, than in other countries, that are esteemed very healthy and salubrious.” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 12) In the Section on the county of Shetland from volume 15 in account 2 it was reported that “the women usually live to a greater age, and preserve their faculties better, than the men, it may be from having been less exposed to excessive and desultory labour.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 147)

Women and childbirth

Some parishes reported poor care for women giving birth as there were either no skilled midwives or no midwives at all. In Kiltearn, County of Ross and Cromarty, “another disadvantage which the poor women labour under here, which is, that they seldom have proper assistance when in child-bed, as there is no regularly bred midwife in the parish. This often proves of fatal consequence to women in that situation, which, of all others, require the most tender care, as well as skill.” (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 288)

Fossoway, County of Perth – “Though the two parishes taken together, form a large and populous district, there is not a physician, nor a surgeon, nor a midwife in either. Women in child-bed have, however, good assistance at no great distance; and they are, in general, very fortunate. Good medical aid is also to be had from all the neighbouring towns. It is also reasonable to acknowledge with gratitude, that the united parishes lie under peculiar obligations to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 453)

Jura, County of Argyle – “A great proportion of children die in infancy, and many of the mothers, though of a strong constitution, recover slowly in child-bed. Both these circumstances seem to be owing to unskillful treatment, for there is not a single bred midwife in the island.” (OSA, Vol. XII, 1794, p. 320)

Kilmorie, County of Bute – “The diseases here [include]… a great death of new-born infants, by the falling down of the jaws; and some women die in childbed, both which last two are attributed to the unskillfulness of midwives, who venture upon the practice from natural courage, without necessary and proper knowledge, there being none duly qualified in the island.” (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 166)

Incidentally, the fatal illness of new-borns, mentioned above, was also known as “the eight-day sickness’. It was reported in Kilbride, County of Bute, that “there is a disorder, no less fatal to children, which seems to be peculiar to this island, as it is seldom known any where else, called the eight-day sickness. Infants are seized with it the 8th day after birth, by the falling down of the jaw, attended with violent convulsions.” (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 579) Thankfully, in the New Statistical Accounts report for the same parish this disease “which a few generations ago was so fatal to infants and children, is now never heard of, having disappeared along with its cause,– unskillful treatment on the part of self-taught midwives.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 6)

Conclusion

It has been very interesting to find out both about the existence of poor women, its causes and what society did to help them, and about women’s health in 18th and 19th century Scotland. The parish reports are an important source of information not only of actual figures and descriptions of situations faced, but also opinions on causes and suggestions for solutions. This allows you to get an insight into how people thought and felt about what was going on around them. There are plenty more extracts you can find on these subjects in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. We welcome you to take a look and make comments on our blog posts or to our twitter account.

Watch out for other posts on women in the future, or revisit our past posts on such topics as the influence of Scotland on the world, music and dance, and Scotland’s languages!

 

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Sep 142018
 

In the last three of posts on women in Scotland we have discovered that women worked in many sectors, including manufacturing (spinning, weaving, needlework,etc), and the farming and fishing industries. In this post we look more generally at the impact society had on women and their work.

Multi-tasking!

In many instances, women had to work as well as look after the family – as they do now! In Northmaving, County of Shetland, “the women look after domestic concerns, bring up their children, cook the victuals, look after the cattle, spin, and knit stockings; they also assist, and are no less laborious then the men in manuring and labouring the grounds, reaping the harvest, and manufacturing their crop.” (OSA, Vol. XII, 1794, p. 358) They also undertook not just one type of work, but several, depending on the time of year and the wages they received. In Nigg, County of Kincardine, “the whole female part of the parish, when not occupied by these engagements [kelp production], or harvest, the most, and domestic affairs, work at knitting woolen stockings, the materials of which they generally receive from manufacturers in Aberdeen.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 207) In Clackmannan, County of Clackmannan, “during a considerable part of the year, some of the women in the parish continue to sew for the Glasgow manufacturers, but the earnings from this source are now most lamentably small. Most of the females to which the writer has been referring, derive the greater part of their annual subsistence from field-labour, the preparing of bark, &c.” (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 129)

No time for housework!

Although women had to multi-task, it was sometimes remarked in the parish reports that, due to women working, the state of the home suffered! Here is what was written in the parish report of Cross and Burness, County of Orkney:

“But there is a great want of neatness and cleanliness in the management of household matters, so that their condition has nothing of the tidy and comfortable appearance of what is now to be met with in houses of a like description in the south. And for any effectual improvement in this respect, there are two formidable barriers in the way, which are not likely soon to be overcome. The women have much work to do out of doors, a species of work, too, which peculiarly unfits them for neat management of house-hold concerns, such as cutting sea-weed for kelp, carrying up ware for manure on their backs, and spreading it on the land; and besides, the construction of their houses is very unfavourable, which are not only not plastered but not even built with lime, and seldom have any semblance of a chimney even upon the roof, while, for the sake of having each part of the house supplied with an equal share of heat, the fire-place is most commonly planted in the middle of the floor. The smoke consequently finds its way in every direction, and to keep either the walls or the utensils in a state of proper cleanliness, is next to impossible. Yet the present form of houses is much superior to what was possessed by the last generation; and this form may soon perhaps give way to another in a higher state of improvement.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 106)

A painting called 'A Cottage Interior' by Alfred A. Provis, dated 1869.

Provis, Alfred; A Cottage Interior, 1869. Picture credit: Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

In the parish report for Carmylie, County of Forfar, it was noted that weaving, the new type of employment for young women at that time, “forms no good training for their management of household affairs” in the event of them getting married. (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 371) It was an even worse situation for colliers families in Tranent, County of Haddington! “The injurious practice of women working in the pits as bearers (now happily on the decline with the married females), tends to render the houses of colliers most uncomfortable on their return from their labours, and to foster many evils which a neat cleanly home would go far to lessen.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 295). However, spinning, in particular, was considered a job which married women could do and still be able to run a household, as alluded to in the parish report for Moulin, County of Perth. (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 63)

The need for women (and children) to work

In several parishes it was noted that there were many more females than males residing there, mostly due to men working elsewhere, particularly in the army or navy. This obviously had an effect on who undertook the work in that parish. In Stenton, County of Haddington, “the disparity in the number of males and females probably arises from a number of young men leaving the parish in search of employment; and the young women remaining as outworkers, in which occupation a good many single women, householders, are employed, who receive 9d. every day they are called upon to work, with 600 yards of potatoes planted, coals driven, &c. for their yearly service.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 58) Whereas, in Rathven, County of Banff, the disparity between males and females residing there was attributed to losses sustained at sea and an influx of poor women from the Highlands, who wanted to live more comfortably. (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 417)

It was noted in the parish report of Nigg, County of Kincardine, that “during some later months of winter, the subsistence of the family has depended much on the work of the females. Since the commencement of the American and French war 1778, 24 men have been impressed or entered to serve their country in the fleet from the fisher families. In these late armaments, their fishing has been interrupted from fear of their young men being seized; and to procure 10 men, instead of one from each boat, who have been demanded from them, the crews have paid 106 L. 14 s. which exhausted the substance of some families, and hung long a debt on others.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 207)

In Aberdeen, County of Aberdeen, a very interesting observation and explanation was reported in the Old Statistical Accounts with regards to the employment of men and women. “Most of our manufactures, especially the bleaching and thread-making businesses, employ a much greater number of women than of men; and the great manufacture of the place, the knitting of stockings, is carried on almost entirely by females. Accordingly, while most of our women remain at home, many of our young men emigrate to other places, in quest of more lucrative employment than they can find in this part of the country… Besides, the temptations of cheap and commodious houses, of easy access to fuel, and to all the necessaries and comforts of life, from our vicinity to the port and market of Aberdeen, and of the high probability of finding employment from some of the many manufactures carried on in the neighbourhood, induce many old women, and many of the widows and daughters of farmers and tradesmen, to leave the country, and reside in this parish, while their sons have either settled as farmers in their native place, or gone abroad, or entered into the army or navy. If to these observations we add, that in all parishes, in which there are several large towns and villages, most families need more female than male servants, the majority of females in this parish, great as it is, will be sufficiently accounted for.” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 178)

The need to work also extended to children. In Nigg, County of Kincardine, “the male children of the land people, from 9 and 10 years old, often herd cattle in summer, and those of all attend school in winter. The female children learn still earlier to knit and to read.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 207) In fact, in most cases children worked in the same areas of employment as women. Examples include: the mining and farming industries; the weaving industry, in particular preparing the yarn for the loom (see our post on ‘Women in Scotland: Manufacturing‘ for more information) and in the mills (as mentioned in one of our earlier posts and in the parish report for Dundee, County of Forfar, where “more than one-half of those employed in the mills are boys and girls from ten to eighteen years of age; the remainder are partly men and partly women of all ages.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 26))

In many parish reports, the hard-work and fortitude of women and children, is clearly displayed. However, in some parishes, there was no work available for them. In Kiltearn, County of Ross and Cromarty, it was noted that “considering the great number of women in the parish, it would be desirable that some manufacture should be introduced to employ the females, and children of both sexes; for it is a hard case, when a labouring man is unable to work by age or sickness, that his family has no means of earning a subsistence, however unwilling to work.” (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 288)

Wages

All parish reports in both the Old and New Statistical Accounts of Scotland give the typical wages of workers. Of course, women were paid much less than men. In Houston and Killallan, County of Renfrew, “men servants from L. 7 to L. 10 a year, if they are good ploughmen; women-servants, from L. 1 : 10 : 0 or L. 2 the half year, and upwards.” (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 325)

There are plenty more examples of this, including:

Keig, County of Aberdeen – “The wages of farm-servants were, of men, from L.4, 10s. to L.6, 10s. or L.7; of women, from L.2 to L.3 per annum; of day labourers, 6d. with maintenance. Reapers were hired for the harvest, the men at L.2 and the women at L.1.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 957)

Dollar, County of Clackmannan – “The wages of men labourers are from 10 d. to 1 s. per day; in harvest, they receive 13 d. or 14 d. per day; and for cutting hay, 1 s. 6 d. The wages of women who work without doors, at hay-making, weeding potatoes, etc. are 6 d. per day; except in harvest, when they receive 10 d. per day: out of which wages, both men and women furnish their own provisions.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 164)

Auchtertool, County of Fife – “Men servants used to get 6 L. Sterling for the year; and women, 2 L. 10 s.: But a man servant, now, receives 8L.; and a woman 3 L., for the year.” (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 119)

Dundee, County of Forfar – “The following are the average wages at present paid at the mills, and generally in the linen manufacture in Dundee, viz. to flax-dressers from 10s. to 12s. weekly; girls and boys, 3s. to 6s.; women, 5s. to 8s.; weavers, 7s. to 10s.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 26)

Kingussie, County of Inverness – “A shilling per day is reckoned but very ordinary wages. Many receive 15 d. and 16 d. and some refuse to work under 18 d. The wages of women, however, is not in proportion; during harvest, and when employed at peats, they receive 8 d. a day, and at every other season of the year only 6 d.” (OSA, Vol. III, 1792, p. 39)

Painting showing two men, a woman and girl working in a field harvesting turnips.

Clausen, George; Winter Work, 1883-84. Picture credit:Tate.

The unfair nature of this disparity in wages was highlighted by the Rev. Mr. Joseph Taylor, who wrote in the parish report for Watten, County of Caithness:

“Women, qualified for tending cattle throughout the winter, driving the plough, and filling the dung cart in spring, had only about 8 s. Sterling, with just half the subsistence allowed the man. Why so little subsistence was and still is allowed to women, no good reason can be assigned. Established customs cannot always be accounted for, nor are they easily or suddenly overturned. This article of wages, however, has of late risen, and still continues to increase.” (OSA, Vol. XI, 1794, p. 274)

There are some very interesting descriptions and comments on wages in the Statistical Accounts. In Colinton, County of Edinburgh, it was reported that women and boys were paid the same amount of money (9d. per day) working in the fields and that “in the time of harvest and of lifting potatoes, their wages are regulated by the hiring market, which is held in Edinburgh every Monday morning during, the season.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 124)

Weavers in Cults, County of Fife, “while in winding the smaller bobbins for the wool… usually employ their wives or children. At this latter employment, if done for hire, from 2s. 6d. to 3s. may be made per week.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 573)

Another interesting comment, this time on the relationship between technology and wages, can be found in the parish report of Moulin, County of Perth:

“The consequence of yarn selling high is an immediate rise in the wages of women servants. Should the machines for spinning linen yarn come to be much and successfully used, so as to reduce the price of spinning, that effect will be severely felt in this country. Single women may, perhaps, find employment in some other branches of manufacture; but it does not appear in what other way married women, who must fit always at home with their children, can contribute any thing to the support of their families.” (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 63)

In St Vigeans, County of Forfar, the correlation between wages and skill, as well as conditions of employment, are highlighted:

“with respect to the wages of those employed in the factories here, though considerably lower than they have been, we should say, that, looking to age and the preponderance of females, they are perhaps the best paid class employed in the linen trade, with the exception of hacklers. Spinners, who are all girls of fifteen to about twenty-five years of age, earn from 5s. 4d. to 6s. 6d. per week; reelers, from 5s. to 6s.; and those in the preparing departments, from 3s. to 6s., according to the nature of the work assigned to each. The department requiring early and indispensable previous training is the spinning. It consists in expertness and facility in uniting broken threads, and which can only be efficiently acquired by the young. In the present improved state of machinery, the labour is by no means irksome; and hence it is that it is no uncommon thing, in passing through the spinning-flat of a well-conducted mill, to find many of the girls employed in reading. Spreaders, feeders, and reelers have a more laborious work to perform; but the persons employed in these capacities are, for the most part, full-grown women; and, generally speaking, they are allowed a longer time for meals and relaxation than the rest of the hands. The whole of the workers, men, women, and children are at liberty to leave their employment on giving four weeks; notice, in some cases even one week being held sufficient. Hacklers are paid at the rate of 2s. for every hundred weight of rough flax which they dress; and it is no unusual thing for a steady hand, with the assistance of an apprentice, whom he allows 3s. 6d. to 5s. 6d., to earn L. 1, 4s. per week. The average wages, however, of this class, including those who have no apprentices, does not perhaps exceed from 10s. to 12s. per week.*

* In the interview between the writing of this article, in January l842, and the correcting of the proof-sheet in October following, a farther reduction in wages has taken place of five to ten per cent.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 506)

In the parish report of Forfar, County of Forfar, a comparison is made between wages at that time and formerly. “About 60 years ago, a principal farm servant might have been had for 35 s. or 40 s. the half year, and a woman for 40 d. besides her harvest fee. Now many men servants receive L. 12 Sterling per annum, and few or none less than L. 7; and women servants have from L. 3 to L. 4 a year with a lippie of lint ground, or some equivalent called bounties. A man for the harvest demanded formerly half a guinea, now he asks from 30 s. to 40 s, and is sometimes intreated to take more. A female shearer formerly received from 8 s. to 10 s. now 20 s and upwards. Male servants in agriculture, besides their wages, get victuals, or two pecks of meal a-week in lieu thereof, with milk which they call sap. Cottars generally receives from L. 3 to L. 7 a year, with a house and garden, and maintenance of a cow throughout the year. On this scanty provision they live comfortably, and raise numerous families without burdening the public. A family of nine children has been reared by a labourer of this description without any public aid. The cottar eats at his master’s table, or has meal in lieu of this advantage. From 20 to 30 s a year are given to a boy, from 10 to 14 years of age, to tend the cattle or to drive the plough.” (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 532)

Conclusion

As can be gathered from above, the Statistical Accounts of Scotland contains a lot of information on wages, providing us with examples of differences between both jobs and those employed, whether it be men, women or children. It would be very interesting to make comparisons across parishes! The parish reports are also a great source of comment from the ministers who wrote them, illustrating people’s views on such things as the effect women working had on the community, and the discrepancy between men’s and women’s wages.

In our next post, we will continue to look at the effects society had on women in Scotland, including the existence of poor women and the establishment of female societies; women’s civil status; and women’s health.

 

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Aug 222018
 

We continue our series on women in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, with a particular focus on employment. The existence of women servants is not a surprise, but women miners may well be! We also look at some of the other jobs women undertook which have not already be mentioned.

Servants

In our previous post on women in Scotland, we mentioned the fact that it was hard to employ people as servants during the summer months because they earned more working on the land. However, there were still those who were not willing or able to work in agriculture. In Cross and Burness, County of Orkney, “women-servants receive from L. 2, 1Os. to L. 3 per annum ; but as they are much engaged at home in the plaiting of rye-straw for bonnets, they are unwilling to work in the field, and are generally employed, only in the care of cattle or as house-servants.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 100)

Conversely, farmers in Kinnell, County of Forfar, found it hard to employ women who were working in the weaving industry. “For the farmers, finding it difficult to induce women to leave the loom for the working of the green crop, have been constrained to bring workers from the northern counties. The engagement of these workers is generally for a certain period, at about 8d. or 9d. a day till harvest, when higher wages are necessarily given.” (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 404)

A painting called 'A Lady's Maid Soaping Linen', c.1765-82, by Henry Robert Morland.

Morland, Henry Robert; A Lady’s Maid Soaping Linen, c.1765-82. Picture credit: Tate.

Many women had to move away from their parishes to work as servants, such as those in Kirkinner, County of Wigton. “Many of the young women go out as servants to Edinburgh, but particularly to Glasgow and Paisley.” (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p. 17) In Walls and Sandness, County of Shetland, “many of the young women, in the character of servants, go to London, Edinburgh, Etc. in the Greenland ships.” (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 106)

As an aside, in Stornoway, County of Ross and Cromarty, there was a very interesting custom involving women servants! “The people of the town seldom have menservants engaged for the year; and it is a curious circumstance that, time out of remembrance, their maidservants were in the habit of drinking, every morning, a wine glass full of whisky, which their mistress gave them; this barbarous custom became so well established by length of time, that if the practice of it should happen to be neglected or forgotten in a family, even once, discontent and idleness throughout the day, on the part of the maid or maids, would be the sure consequence. However, since the stoppage of the distilleries took place, the people of the town found it necessary to unite in the resolution of abolishing the practice, by withholding the dear cordial from their female domestics, but not without the precaution of making a compensation to them in money for their grievous loss; and it is said, that even this is not satisfactory, and that, in some families, the dram is still given privately, to preserve peace and good order.” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 258)

Mining

Women of all ages, even during the time of the Old Statistical Accounts of Scotland, worked in the mines, carrying the coal up to the surface on their backs! This was particularly prevalent in Alloa, County of Clackmannan and Tranent, County of Haddington. “The depth of a bearing pit cannot well exceed 18 fathom, or 108 feet. There are traps, or stairs, down to these pits, with a hand rail to assist the women and children, who carry up the coals on their backs.” (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 615) The women were called “bearers”, who carried about 1 1/2 cwt. on their backs, and ascended the pit by a bad wooden stair. In the deeper pits, the coals were carried to the bottom of the shaft by women, and then raised in wooden tubs by means of a “gin” moved by horses.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 287) In Liberton, County of Edinburgh, “the stones from the mine or quarry were formerly carried to the bank-head by women with creels fastened on their backs, and when the works were in full operation, probably fifty women were thus employed.”  (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 19) As reported in Hamilton, County of Lanark, “at Quarter, the first bed worth working is the 10 feet or woman’s coal, so called because it was once wrought by females. This is a soft coal, which burns rapidly; and although called the 10 feet coal, is in reality from 7 to 14 feet in thickness.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 258)

For the actual numbers who worked in the colliery of Alloa in 1780 you can take a look here: OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 619. There are also figures given for those working at the coal mines in the parish of Dunfermline, County of Fife. (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 476) In Lasswade, County of Edinburgh, “there are from 90 to 100 colliers, (pickmen). Women are still employed as bearers below ground; their number may be from 130 to 150.” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 281)

In the later Alloa parish report, found in the New Statistical Accounts of Scotland, mining was equated to slavery. It was reported that the condition of colliers had, in the last thirty years, improved “since the women were relieved from the most disgraceful slavery of bearing the coals, and the workman from all charge of the coals, the instant they are weighed at the pit. From, the circumstance of the wives remaining at home to attend to the domestic economy, the houses are much more comfortable and better furnished than they formerly were, and the whole style of living has been improved.” (NSA, Vol. VIII, 1845, p. 33) It was felt that not having women working down the pits improved both the character and habits of the people. In the parish report of Tranent, County of Haddington, it was noted that “among a population of colliers, it cannot be expected that the habits of the people should be cleanly; and the injurious practice of women working in the pits as bearers, (now happily on the decline with the married females,) tends to render the houses of colliers most uncomfortable on their return from their labours, and to foster many evils which a neat cleanly home would go far to lessen.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 295)

Other jobs!

Here are some other jobs undertaken by women found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland.

  • Boot-binding

Linlithgow, County of Linlithgow – “Thirty women are also employed as women’s boot-binders, whose weekly wages average 4s. 6d.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 180)

  • Fuel manufacture

Rathven, County of Banff – “It is the province of the women to bait the lines; collect furze, heath, or the gleanings of the mosses, which, in surprising quantity, they carry home in their creels for fuel, to make the scanty stock of peats and turfs prepared in summer, last till the returning season.” (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 424)

Kirkinner, County of Wigton – “The day-light, during the winter, is spent by many of the women and children in gathering elding, as they call it, that is, sticks, furze, or broom, for fuel, and the evening in warming their shivering limbs before the scanty fire which this produces.” (OSA, Vol. IV, 1792, p. 147)

Appendix for Kincardine, County of Perth – “The women declare they can make more by working at the moss than at their wheel and such is their general attachment to that employment, that they have frequently been discovered working by moon-light.” (OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 175)

Snizort, County of Inverness – “The fuel is peats, which the women carry home in creels on their backs, from a very great distance.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 295)

Lismore and Appin, County of Argyle – “Peats are the only fuel in both parishes. The process of making them in Lismore is difficult beyond conception, as they are first tramped and wrought with men’s feet, and then formed by the women’s hands. There is a necessity for this; because the substance of which they are made contains no fibres to enable them to cohere or stick together. This tedious operation consumes much of the farmer’s time, which, in a grain country, might be employed to much better advantage; and affords serious cause of regret that the coal-duty is not taken off, or lessened, which would remove the everlasting bar to the success of the fishing villages, and to improvements in general over all the coasts of Scotland.” (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 490)

  • Varnishing wooden boxes

Old Cumnock, County of Ayrshire – “One set of artists make the boxes, another paint those beautiful designs that embellish the lids, while women and children are employed in varnishing and polishing them. The process of varnishing a single box takes from three to six weeks. Spirit varnish takes three weeks, and requires about thirty coats; while copal varnish, which is now mostly used, takes six weeks, and requires about fifteen coats to complete the process. When the process of varnishing is finished, the surface is polished with ground flint; and then the box is ready for the market.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 486)

  • Plaiting straw

Orphir, County of Orkney – “Almost all the young women have, for many years, been employed in winter in plaiting straw for bonnets.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 20)

Stromness, County of Orkney – “There are a few straw plait manufacturers, who employ a number of women in the town as well as in the country. This manufacture has been, for some time past, upon the decline; and, being at all times dependent upon the caprice of fashion, has lately afforded a scanty subsistence to the many young females who totally depend on it for their support. They are now allowed to plait in their own homes, which has been found more conducive to their health and morals, than doing so collectively, in the houses of the, manufacturers, which was the original custom. -There is a small rope manufactory, where ropes of various kinds are made, both for the shipping and for country, use. From the former Account, it appears there was a considerable quantity of linen and woolen cloth manufactured. This business has now wholly ceased here, being superseded by the perfect machinery now in use.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 32)

  • Salt sellers

Duddingston, County of Edinburgh – “Their labours afforded employment to above 40 carriers, all women, who retailed the salt in Edinburgh, and through the neighbouring districts.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 368)

  • Lace makers

Hamilton, County of Lanark – “The lace trade, established here about eight years ago by a house at Nottingham, which sent down a number of English women, who took up schools and taught the tambourers here the art, is now in a thriving state, and is contributing greatly to the happiness and comfort of the community.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 294) “From a census taken some months ago, and which seems to be accurate, there has been an increase [in population] of 309, which may be attributed to the introduction and flourishing condition of a lace-manufactory, which now employs a great many females.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 276)

  • Potato-starch makers

Spott, County of Haddington – “The only thing of this sort [manufactures] carried on in the parish, is a manufactory of potato-starch, or flour, on the farm of Easter Broomhouse. It employs six women for six months in the year. The flour is principally used by manufacturers of cloth; and sometimes by bakers and confections in large towns.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 230)

For a fascinating insight into the industries found in Scotland in the nineteenth century take a look at the book ‘The industries of Scotland; their rise, progress, and present condition‘ by David Bremner, published in 1869.

Conclusion

The last three blog posts illustrates just how important the role was for women in society. They worked in all sorts of sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, fishing, and even mining at one point. They supported themselves and helped support their families, showing resourcefulness, adaptability, and willingness to work hard.

We will continue this series on women in Scotland by looking more generally at the impact women’s work had on society, as well as the impact society had on women.

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