Mar 292018
 

This is the second post about music and dance in Scotland. Here, we look at some examples of Scottish songs, as well as eminent musicians, especially musical families, and people with a love of music.

Scottish songs

In the Statistical Accounts you can discover lyrics and references to particular Scottish songs. Actual people, events and settings are within their narrative, making them distinctly Scottish. Scenes of Scottish songs include the farm of Cowden Knows, about a mile outside of Banff, “justly celebrated for its rural beauty” and supposedly “the scene of the plaintive Scots ballad” The New way of the Broom of Cowden Knows (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 328), as well as the Yarrow Water in Yarrow, County of Selkirk, which is the location of many songs, including The Sang of the Outlaw Murray, The Dowie Dens of Yarrow (also known as The Braes of Yarrow) and Yarrow Vale. (NSA, Vol. III, 1845, p. 37)

Title page for the book 'Four Excellent Songs..., published by E. Johnstone in 1820.

Four excellent songs … by E. Johnstone, printer. Published 1820. Found on the Internet Archive.

People are also the subject of songs. One example is The Lass of Patie’s Mill who resided in the parish of Keithhall, County of Aberdeen. “Her father was proprietor of Patie’s mill, in Keithhall; of Tullikearie, in Fintray; and Standing Stones, in the parish of Dyce. From her beauty, or fortune, or from both causes, she had many admirers; and she was an only child. One Sangster, laird of Boddom, in New Machar parish, wished to carry her off, but was discovered by his dog, and very roughly handled by her father, who was called black John Anderson. In revenge, he wrote an ill-natured song, of which her great grandson remembers these words:

Ye’ll tell the gowk that gets her,
He gets but my auld sheen.

She was twice married; first, to a namesake of her own, who came from the south country, and is said to have composed the Song, to her praise, that is so generally admired, and partakes much of the music, which, at that time, abounded between the Tay and the Tweed.” (OSA, Vol. II, 1792, p. 542)

You can hear a recording of the song The Lass o Patie’s Mill on Tobar an Dualchais.

Another example is the song Fair Helen. “She was a daughter of the family of Kirkconnell, and fell a victim to the jealousy of a lover. Being courted by two young gentlemen at the same time, the one of whom thinking himself slighted, vowed to sacrifice the other to his resentment, when he again discovered him in her company. An opportunity soon presented itself, when the faithful pair, walking along the romantic banks of the Kirtle, were discovered from the opposite banks by the assassin. Helen perceiving him lurking among the bushes, and dreading the fatal resolution, rushed to her lover’s bosom, to rescue him from the danger; and thus receiving the wound intended for another, sunk and expired in her favorite’s arms. He immediately revenged her death, and flew the murderer. The inconsolable Adam Fleeming, now sinking under the pressure of grief, went abroad and served the banners of Spain, against the infidels. The impression, however, was too strong to be obliterated. The image of woe attended him thither; and the pleasing remembrance of the tender scenes that were past, with the melancholy reflection, that they could never return, harassed his soul, and deprived his mind of repose. He soon returned, and stretching himself on her grave, expired, and was buried by her side.” He was said to have written the song whilst he was in Spain. The lyrics can be found in the parish report of Kirkpatrick-Fleming, County of Dumfries (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 274) There is also a recording of the song Fair Helen of Kirkconnel on Tobar an Dualchias.

Events such as battles, have also been immortalized in song. In the report given by the Chapel of Garioch, County of Aberdeen, there is a description of the Battle of Harlaw. “From the ferocity with which this battle was contested, and the dismal spectacle of civil war exhibited to the country, it appears to have made a deep impression on the national mind. It fixed itself on the music and the poetry of Scotland. A march called the Battle of Harlaw continued to be a popular air, down to the time of Drummond of Hawthornden; and a spirited ballad on the same event is still repeated in our own age, describing the meeting of the armies and the death of the chiefs in no ignoble strain.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 568) In Wamphray, County of Dumfries, “songs are still sung descriptive of the barbarous deeds and bloody feuds of some former age, of which this parish was the scene.” (OSA, Vol. XII, 1794, p. 606) One man named Mackay from Thurso, was an Adjutant to the Thurso Volunteers and “and as a specimen of his poetical abilities, the copy of a song, which he composed on that corps” can be found in the report of Thurso, County of Caithness. (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 532)

Other songs that you can find out about in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland include The Souters o’ Selkirk (OSA, Vol. II, 1792, p. 436), Logie o’ Buchan (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 812) and Gin I Were Where the Gadie Rins (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 1020).

Image taken from the book 'Scottish Songs - in two volumes' (1794), showing people dancing and a man playing a violin.

Title page of the book ‘Scottish Songs – in Two Volumes’, 1794. By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons.

Eminent musicians

Inhabitants of certain parishes became very accomplished musicians. In Towie, County of Aberdeen, “vocal and instrumental music, particularly the violin, form the most prominent amusements of the people in the winter evenings, and it is believed that few parishes in Scotland can boast of so many good Strathspey players, who are also temperate in their habits, and industriously employed in their other vocations.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p.418) A strathspey is a type of dance tune which has 4 beats to a bar. Examples include Auld Lang Syne and Coming through the Rye. It also refers to the dance performed to it. (In the last post we looked at some particular Scottish songs.) Whereas, in the County of Caithness, “the violin, and Highland bag-pipe, are the only musical instruments, played on by professional men in Thurso. The Highland reels are played particularly well, on both these instruments, in Caithness; but the proper flow bag-pipe tunes and marches, are not given in that perfection here, with seems almost peculiar to the West Highland pipers.” (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 531)

Specific eminent musical families are also mentioned in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, including the MacCrimmons, who were the hereditary pipers of the MacLeods. “Certain it is that, what rarely happens, high musical talent as well as high moral principle and personal bravery, descended from father to son during many generations in the family of the MacCrimmons. They became so celebrated that pupils were sent to them from all quarters of the Highlands, and one of the best certificates that a piper could possess was his having studied under the MacCrimmons.” As reported by the parish of Duirinish, County of Inverness, “finding the number of pupils daily increasing, they at length opened a regular, school or college for pipe music on the farm of Boreraig, opposite to Dunvegan Castle, but separated from it by Loch Follart… Macleod endowed this school by granting the farm of Boreraig to it, and it is no longer ago than seventy years since the endowment was withdrawn.” Find out for what reason at NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 339.

Kilmuir was also famous for its pipers, the most notable of which were the MacArthurs. “When the proprietors resided in the parish, a free grant of the lands of Peingowen, a hamlet in the place, was given to the MacArthurs, in the same manner as Boreraig was given by the MacLeods of Dunvegan, to the MacCrimmons. Peingowen, like Boreraig, was a sort of musical college, to which pupils were sent by various chieftains, to acquire a correct knowledge of piobaireachd. A little green hill in close vicinity to Piengowen, called Cnoc-phail, was the general rendezvous of the MacArthurs and their pupils. To the top of this eminence, they almost daily resorted, and practised their tunes. The MacArthurs vied with the MacCrimmons of Dunvegan, the MacGregors of Fortingall, the Mackays of Gairloch, the Rankins of Coll, and the MachIntyres of Rannoch, who were all renowned performers in their day.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 285)

It is not all just bagpipes and violins. Stevenston, county of Ayrshire, was well-known for the manufacture of trumps, also known as the Jew’s harp at Piperheugh. “The pipers and harpers, like their woodland village, have passed away; but they seem to have bequeathed the mantle of song, to their posterity, for the inhabitants of Stevenston are still distinguished for their musical propensities, as an instrumental band, and glee club, and, what is better, the excellent singing of the congregation in church, amply testify.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 453)

A photograph of Iain Lom's memorial at Cille Choirille kirkyard.

Iain Lom’s memorial at Cille Choirille kirkyard. James Yardley [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

In the parish report of Kilmonivaig, County of Inverness, you can read about the fascinating Iain Lom who was considered “a poetical genius of a very high order. His songs translated into English would exhibit a striking picture of the period in which be lived.” He wrote songs about many events which he and his contemporaries experienced, such as the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645, the Treaty of Union in 1707 and the Battle of Killiecrankie, “which he describes in a song, composed on the occasion, in such a manner as an eye-witness alone could describe it.” He was believed to have held the office of Gaelic Poet Laureate to King Charles II, an office which, is believed, died with himself. It is very interesting to learn how influential his songs were to the Scots. “[His] songs more powerfully influenced the minds of his countrymen than all the legislation which was at that time employed for that purpose. Children were taught to lisp them. They were sung in the family circle on long winter evenings, and at weddings, lykewakes, raffles, fairs, and in every company. They attributed to the Stewarts and their adherents the most exalted virtues; and the opponents of that family they represented as incarnate fields.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 509)

Other prominent Scots who were music enthusiasts are:

It is through the devotion and dedication of Scotland’s people that their music has become so distinctive and longstanding. Scotland’s songs chart the history of its people and events and so are central to the country’s identity. It is wonderful to be able to discover traditional songs and their origins, and, in so doing, helping to ensure that Scotland’s music and its meaning is not lost.

In our next post on Scotland’s dance and music we will explore musical education, music in a religious context (including weddings and funerals) and changes in attitudes to music.

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Mar 222018
 

If someone was to say to you “music and dance in Scotland” you would automatically think of bagpipes and ceilidh dances. But, looking at the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, you would discover a wider world of music and dance. It is very much central to Scottish traditions, from social gatherings through to religious settings, and even in work. It plays an important role in the lives of people, no matter what class or age. The country and its people are embodied and given life through song. There are also some surprising revelations, with many parishes reporting an actual loss in the taste for music!

In the first of three posts on music and dance in Scotland, we look at music in social settings, musical traditions and music while working.

Music in social settings

Music, along with sport, provided light relief after a long hard day or week of work, especially in the winter. In Dryfesdale, County of Dumfries, “the principal diversion or amusement is curling on the ice in the winter, when sometimes scores of people assemble on the waters, and in the most keen, yet friendly manner, engage against one another, and usually conclude the game and day with a good dinner, drink, and songs.” (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 432)

The principle amusements in Durness, County of Sutherland, were playing ball and shinty on the sands of Balnakiel. “The whole population turns out on old Christmas and new-year’s day, and even old men of seventy are to be seen mingling in the crowd, remaining till night puts an end to the contest. Indeed, the inhabitant, of this parish have always been noted for the enthusiasm with which they engaged in these sports. To keep up the tone of action, they retire in the evening, and mingle in the dance to the music of the bagpipe, regardless of the bruises and scars of the contest.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 96)

Most farmhouses and all cottages in Dornock, County of Dumfries, were constructed using mud or clay. “The manner of erecting them is singular… Some [people] fall to the working the clay or mud, by mixing it with straw; others carry the materials; and 4 or 6 of the most experienced hands, build and take care of the walls. The walls of the house are finished in a few hours; after which, they retire to a good dinner and plenty of drink which is provided for them, where they have music and a dance, with which, and other marks of festivity, they conclude the evening. This is called a daubing; and in this manner they make a frolic of what would otherwise be a very dirty and disagreeable job.” (OSA, Vol. II, 1792, p. 22)

Music also played an important part in festivals. One example is that of the annual St Columba’s Day fair at Largs, County of Ayrshire, which was held on the second Tuesday of June. “The whole week is a kind of jubilee to the inhabitants, and a scene of diversion to others. Such a vast multitude cannot be accommodated with beds; and the Highlanders, in particular, do not seem to think such accommodation necessary. They spend the whole night in rustic sports, carousing and dancing on the green to the sound of the bagpipe. Every one who chooses is allowed to join in this, which forms their principal amusement. The candidates for the dance are generally so numerous, that it is kept up without intermission during the whole time of the fair.” (OSA, Vol. XVII, 1796, p. 519)

A print showing people dancing in the ballroom at Eglinton Castle, North Ayrshire, Scotland. 1840.

The Ballroom at Eglinton Castle, 1840. By Hodgson (The Eglinton Tournament) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Some parishes set up assembly rooms wherever they could, such as Tiree and Coll, County of Argyle. “They frequently entertain themselves by composing and singing songs, by repeating Fingalian and other tales, by dancing assemblies at different farms by turns. In this qualification they are remarkably neat.” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794 p. 414) Others had a specific assembly room where people would dance, such as Edinburgh. “In 1763, there was one dancing assembly room; the profits of which went to the support of the Charity-Workhouse. Minutes were danced by each set, previous to the country dances. Strict regularity with respect to dress and decorum, and great dignity of manners were observed.”  (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 618)

In fact, there were many dances organized for charitable purposes. In Strathdon, County of Aberdeen, subscription dances were “set on foot for the relief of some case of poverty or incidental distress in the neighbourhood; and thus, at the individual cost of a few pence, a considerable sum is realized for a needy neighbour. Another charitable practice prevails. When an extraordinary case of helpless distress occurs, the young men in the locality assemble together, and, often accompanied with music, go from house to house, where they receive a donation in kind or money. In this way a considerable supply is speedily raised in behalf of the object of their charitable exertions.” (NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 549) A similar practice was carried out in Kirkmichael, County of Dumfries, where “a friend is sent to as many of their neighbours as they think needful, to invite them to what they call a drinking… The guests convene at the time appointed, and, after collecting a
shilling a piece, and sometimes more, they divert themselves for about a couple of hours, with music and dancing”. This sometimes resulted in 5, 6, or 7 pounds being raised for the needy person or family. (OSA, Vol. I, 1791, p. 59)

In Liberton, County of Edinburgh, there were carter’s plays. “The carters have friendly societies for the purpose of supporting each other in old age or during ill-health, and with the view partly of securing a day’s recreation, and partly of recruiting their numbers and funds, they have an annual procession. Every man decorates his cart-horse with flowers and ribbons, and a regular procession is made, accompanied by a band of music, through this and some of the neighbouring parishes. To crown all, there is an uncouth uproarious race with cart-horses on the public road, which draws forth a crowd of Edinburgh idlers, and all ends in a dinner, for which a fixed sum is paid.” (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 12)

Musical traditions

It is easy to see how such musical pastimes became traditions. There are some wondrous customs involving music and dance described in the parish reports. One such tradition was the holding of an annual festival in Perth, County of Perth, during which the Saint Obert’s Play was performed. On the 10th December, people “attired themselves in disguise dresses, and passed through the city piping and dancing, and striking drums, and carrying in their hands burning torches. One of the actors was clad in a particular kind of coat, which they designated the Devil’s Coat, and another rode upon a horse, having on its feet men’s shoes. There is no account extant of its minute particulars, but, from the manner in which the kirk session and the corporation officials dealt with the performers, it appears to have been idolatrous, profane, and immoral in its tendency.” So much so that action was taken by the Kirk Session against such pastimes, especially the Saint Obert’s play. (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 80)

In the Peebles parish report there is a very interesting description of the Beltane Festival, which is held every year on the 1st May. It mentions a poem by King James I “entitled Peebles to
the Play, in which he represents a great annual festival of music, diversions, and feasting, that had long been in use to be held at Peebles, attended by multitudes from the Forth and the Forest, in their best apparel.” (OSA, Vol. XII, 1794, p. 14) This poem can be found in The Miscellany of Popular Scottish Poems.

However, some traditions had fallen by the wayside even by the time the Statistical Accounts of Scotland were written. Formerly, in Lady, County of Orkney, “it was customary for companies of men, on new year’s morning, to go to the houses of the rich, and awake the family, by singing the New Year’s song, in full chorus. When the song was concluded, the family entertained the musicians with ale and bread, and gave them a smoked goose or a piece of beef.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 142)

Other festivals that formerly took place was the Trades Race fair that was held every June in Beith, County of Ayrshire, “in which the trades assembled and went in procession through the town with music and flags. On the day after the Trades Race, the merchants of the town used to meet and walk in procession, and afterwards dine together” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 592) and the Maiden Feast which was held at the end of harvest time in Longforgan, County of Perth, the maiden referring to the last handful of corn reaped in the field. “One of the finest girls in the field was dressed up in ribbands, and brought home in triumph, with the music of fiddles or bagpipes. A good dinner was given to the whole band, and the evening spent in joviality and dancing, while the fortunate lass who took the maiden was the Queen of the feast.” This custom was later replaced with each shearer being given 6d. and a loaf of bread, although “some farmers, when all their corns are brought in, give their servants a dinner, and a jovial evening, by way of Harvest-home.” (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 550)

In the Statistical Accounts of Scotland there are also some very unusual anecdotes involving music, including:

  • the story of an unfortunate piper in a cave somewhere in Kilmalie, County of Inverness, whose music could be heard 10 miles away. The tune that he played was “”Oh! that I had three hands I two for the bagpipe, and one for the sword” signifying that he had been attacked by subterranean foes.” (OSA, Vol. VIII, 1793, p. 421)
  • a young man in Lundie and Fowlis, County of Forfar, who, one day, played a tune on the shepherd’s pipe. “Hearing his music distinctly repeated three times over, he got up in great terror, averring that the Devil was certainly in the place; that he had never before engaged with Satan, and he was determined he never would again; whereupon he broke his pipe in pieces, and could never afterwards be prevailed upon to play any more.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 282)

In the parish of Leuchars, County of Fife, it was reported that the fiddle was played to ease the suffering of people affected with St Vitus’ Dance (another name for Sydenham’s chorea). “It was not
regular music that gave relief, but the striking of certain strings, which the person under agitation, desired should be struck again. The effect was astonishing; the person affected, became quiet, sat down, and in a little, asked to be put to bed, but still called for the person to play, till the feelings that produced the agitation were abated.” (OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796, p. 606)

Music as you work

Music was not only found in social settings. There are some mentions of people, especially fishermen, using the power of song and music to get them through their work. In Prestonpans, County of Haddington, it was reported that, at a particular time of year, fishing for oysters forms the principal occupation of a number of seafaring men. “Long before dawn, in the bleakest season of the year, their dredging song may be heard afar off, and, except when the wind is very turbulent, their music, which is not disagreeable, appears to be an accompaniment of labours that are by no means unsuccessful.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 312)

painting of fishermen with their haul of fish

Silver Darlings, Unknown Artist. North Ayrshire Heritage Council. [Re-used through Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence]

In the parish of Latheron, County of Caithness, fishermen “engage in worship after shooting their nets. On these occasions a portion of a psalm is sung, followed with prayer, and the effect is represented as truly solemn and heart-stirring, as the melodious strains of the Gaelic music, carried along the surface of the waters, (several being similarly engaged), spread throughout the whole fleet.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 102) (We will look specifically at music and religion in our next post.)

Music may also improve the end product! Rutherglen, County of Lanark, “has long been famous for sour cakes. As the baking is wholly performed by the hand a great deal of noise is the consequence. The beats, however, are not irregular, nor destitute of an agreeable harmony, especially when they are accompanied with vocal music, which is frequently the case.” (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 384) It would be very interesting to see and hear the process, as well as taste the results.

The power of music

Looking at the references to music and dance in the Statistical Accounts you can see how much it pervaded every aspect of life from work to play. Music and dance may have changed in many ways since these parish reports, but the one constant is that they have the power to bring joy, to heal and to allow people to express themselves.

In the next post on Scotland’s dance and music we will look at examples of Scottish ballads found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland and eminent musicians, especially musical families.

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Feb 192018
 

This is the second post looking at the influence of Scotland on the world. This time we are focusing on trade between Scotland and other countries, as well as Scots traveling and working abroad.

Trade

Scotland, at the time of the Statistical Accounts, was very much a sea-faring nation, with many ports situated not just around the country’s coastline, but also inland on its river banks. These included: Campbelton, Kirkcaldy, Port Glasgow, Grangemouth, Alloa, Inveresk, Leith, Prestonpans and Banff, with many of these no longer operating. It was primarily through these porst that goods were imported and exported in Scotland.

Many of the parish reports contain excellent records of its ports, containing information on the type and number of ships stationed there, what was imported and exported and other activities based there, for example the carrying of passengers on steamboats. Very detailed tables are given for Port Glasgow, County of Renfrew (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 67), Inveresk, County of Edinburgh (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 293) and Stromness, County of Orkney (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 447).

At Campbelton, in the County of Argyle:

“There are thirty-three registered sloops and schooners belonging to this place, employed in the coasting trade, besides a number of fishing-boats. There is also a ship of 515 tons register, the property of Messrs Nathaniel MacNair and Company, employed in carrying timber from Canada. In 1840, five ships, and in 1842, two ships from foreign parts landed cargoes at Campbelton. In 1842, there were 646 vessels with cargoes inwards, and 365 with cargoes outwards, and, besides these, two steam-boats belonging to the port ply regularly between Glasgow and Campbelton with goods and passengers. The principal imports are barley, yeast, coals, timber, iron, and general merchandise, and the exports are whisky, malt, draff, black cattle, sheep, and horses, potatoes, turnips, beans, butter cheese, and fish. The quantity of barley and bear imported in 1842 was 41,735 quarters, 5 bushels.” (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 464)

At Kirkcaldy, in the County of Fife:

“Two vessels are engaged in whale-fishing; the rest in trading to North and South America, the Mediterranean, France, the Baltic, and occasionally beyond the Cape of Good Hope. The foreign ships which usually trade to this port are Norwegian, Danish, Hanseatic, Hanoverian, Prussian. On an average of years there have been 92 vessels from foreign parts. The principal articles of import are flax and timber; of export, coals and linen yarns.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 756)

A painting called 'The Ship 'Castor' and Other Vessels in a Choppy Sea' by Thomas Luny. Dated 1802.

The Ship ‘Castor’ and Other Vessels in a Choppy Sea. Thomas Luny, 1802. Thomas Luny [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Scottish exports included:

“The manufacture of golf balls has long been carried on here, to a considerable extent. Above 10,000 are made annually. A good workman can make from 50 to 60 a-week. Nearly one-half of the product is required for the use of the cultivators of the amusement in St Andrews. A market for the remainder is found in other places. Some have been sent as far as Calcutta and Madras.” (NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 476)

Imports included:

Changes in Trade

Even during the time of the Statistical Accounts, great changes were taking place in trade, both within Scotland itself and in other countries. For example, in the parish of Borrowstowness, County of Linlithgow, it was reported that:

“Between 1750 and 1780, Bo’ness was one of the most thriving towns on the east coast, and ranked as the third port in Scotland. But since the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal, and especially since the erection of Grangemouth into a separate port, the commerce of this place has decreased, and at present it is in a very languishing condition.” (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 138)

In the parish report for Perth, County of Perth:

“During a great part of the eighteenth century, trade was carried on to a considerable extent between the port of Perth and the principal ports, not only of Britain, but of Russia, Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain, and Italy. This foreign intercourse, however, has, particularly of late years, been very much diminished. Various causes have operated in producing the decline, such as a total change in the description of the manufactures of the place; a successfully pushed competition on the part of other ports which are free from the inconvenience of river navigation; the establishment of extensive general agencies, through which our merchants now obtain the products of other countries. But the most powerful of all causes has been the natural obstructions to navigation which have arisen in our river itself.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 101)

The American War of Independence also had an effect on trade, especially that between Glasgow and North America. (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 499)

Scottish Strengths Abroad

In our last post, we referred to the hardships endured by whole families, who then decided to emigrate for the chance of a better life. The lack of opportunities was also keenly felt by young Scots. In the parish of Kilbride, County of Bute, as in many other places in Scotland, there were “increased habits of industry in the rising generation, who, instead of following the old practice of loitering half idle at home, go to trades or service in the low county, or engage as sailors in merchant ships.” (NSA, Vol. V, 1845, p. 26).

In the parish of Ronaldshay and Burray, County of Orkney, it was noted that:

“The passion of the young men for a sea faring life nothing can exceed, except their aversion to a military one. Four or five young men have this winter voluntarily entered on board his Majesty’s navy. Every year several young men go to Greenland or Iceland fishing, to Hudson’s Bay, or on board some merchant ship: All of them prove to be excellent sailors. And it is believed, that they are more industrious abroad than at home. In no country are the people more tenacious of their old customs than here.” (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 311)

Along with it’s great seafaring capabilities, Scotland has always had a very strong fishing tradition. An excellent account of fisheries and the trading of fish can be found in the report for Thurso, County of Caithness. (OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p. 522) and the report for Boindie, County of Banff. (NSA, Vol. XIII, 1845, p. 236) It is, therefore, no surprise that some decided to work with the Iceland or Greenland fishermen, “with whom they only continue for 3 or 4 months”, but, according to the report of Kirkwall, County of Orkney “when they return, the money which they have earned, instead of furnishing the means of industry, is almost always spent in idleness, and often in dissipation.” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 551)

Despite the seafaring nature of  the Scots, not all wanted a life on the open seas. In the parish of Drumblade, County of Aberdeen, the decrease in inhabitants was attributed to “young men, such as masons, shoemakers, wrights, slaters, etc. going abroad to improve themselves in their respective crafts; and to the enlisting of some in the army, particularly in the artillery”. (OSA, Vol. IV, 1792, p. 53)

Fencibles

There are several mentions of the Highland Fencible Corps in the Statistical Accounts. Fencibles were British regiments raised to fight in numerous wars abroad during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the parish of Stromness, County of Orkney, 200 Fencibles were raised (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 444), while in the parish of Golspie, County of Sutherland, a regiment was raised and sent into service in the space of just 4 weeks! (OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 231) Even Rev. Dugal Campbell, the writer of the report for the parish of Kilfinichen and Kilviceuen, County of Argle, enlisted in a Highland Fencible Corp (“the late West Fencible regiment, raised by the Duke of Argyll”). (OSA, Vol. XIV, 1795, p. 210)

In the report for Rosskeen, County of Ross and Cromarty, there is a wonderful story about Mr George Macintosh and his role in not just raising a Fencible regiment in Glasgow, but also commanding (with respect) a regiment based abroad – the Canadian Fencibles!

“When war recommenced in 1803, it was mainly through his exertions that the Glasgow Highland Volunteer Regiment was raised and organized; and when, about this time, the regiment of Canadian Fencibles, then stationed in Glasgow, evinced symptoms of mutiny Mr Macintosh, at the desire of General Wemyss, then commanding the district, hastened to their quarters, and addressed the soldiers in their native tongue; – the effect was electrical.”

With such authority, the troubled host he swayed,

(NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 269)

The Hudson’s Bay Company

As mentioned above, a large number of young Scottish men, especially those from Orkney, went to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company, which, since 1670, had an exclusive charter to trade at Hudson Bay. Back in 1795, the Company had three ships which carried over “provisions, guns, powder, shot, hatchets, cloths, etc. to be exchanged with the Indians for beaver, and other furs. These vessels usually arrive at the harbour of Stromness about the first of June, where they stop for two or three weeks to take aboard men for their settlements. They engage usually from 60 to 100 men, natives of this country, to go to these settlements, every year… The Company’s ships usually return to the harbour of Stromness about November, to land those men who choose to return home.” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 442)

An image of a Hudsnn's Bay Company settlement, 1848.

An image from page 7 of “Hudson’s Bay, or, Every-day life in the wilds of North America, during six years’ residence in the territories of the honourable Hudson’s bay company”. By Robert M. Ballantyne. (1848). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

As reported by the parish of Orphir, in the County of Orkney:

“It was long the practice of many of the young men to go to Hudson’s Bay as labourers and mechanics, as carpenters, blacksmiths and brick-layers. Few have gone in later times, though the wages have been raised. A labourer receives L. 16 a-year annually, for the first three years, with maintenance, while employed at the factories. A mechanic. L. 25 a-year. The engagement is now for five years, and at the end of three years everyone is advanced according to his merit. The great object was to save as much as might render his future days at home, easy and comfortable.” (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 25)

In the report Section on the county of Orkney from volume 15 in account 2 there is a table showing the sums received in Orkney in 1833, from farm-produce, manufactures, fisheries, etc. This includes the sum of about L. 1500 that the Hudson’s Bay Company paid annually for the men employed in Hudson’s Bay. (NSA, Vol. XV, 1845, p. 215) When you compare this sum with other figures in the table you can get a sense of the men’s value at that time.

The writer of the report from the parish of Orphir, Rev. Mr Liddell, was very scathing about those who went into the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company, as well as the company itself. (OSA, Vol. XIX, 1797, p. 406) However, he then goes on to praise that same company who had just agreed to increase wages, writing:

“At the same time it must be acknowledged, for the honour of the Hudson’s Bay Company, that no men ever acted with more integrity, or fulfilled their agreements more honestly, than those gentlemen have uniformly done; and further, upon a representation from the present incumbent of this parish, they have been pleased to augment the wages to L. 10; by which means above L. 1000 Sterling per annum is added to the income of Orkney.”

As well as looking at the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, you can find out what it was actually like to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company by reading Robert M. Ballantyne’s fascinating account, from which the above image is taken.

The East India Company

Another large and well-known company that should be mentioned is the East India Company, which at first focused on trade, but then went on to build an empire in India. Many Scots were employed by the company in various roles, including those in the military, medical and civil service departments, spending several years of service in India before returning home to Scotland. Such people included Brigadier-General Alexander Walker of Bowland (NSA, Vol. I, 1845, p. 415), Alexander Macleod, Esq and his son; natives of the parish of Harris, County of Inverness (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 365) and David Scott, Esq. of Dunninald, along with his nephew David Scott, Esq. “to whose memory a monument has been erected by the Supreme Government in India”. (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p. 250)

Eminent Scots Abroad

In the Statistical Accounts, there are also many mentions of Scots well-known outside of Scotland. One fascinating story is that of the celebrated botanist and traveler Mr David Douglas who was born in Scone, County of Perth. He firstly worked as an apprentice gardener before becoming a botanical collector. Between 1823 and 1827 he traveled throughout America, Canada and South America, collecting plants and seeds. “After remaining two years in London, he again sailed for Columbia in the autumn of 1829. Here he continued his favourite pursuit. Afterwards he visited the Sandwich Islands; and when his return was expected, intelligence was received of his death in very shocking circumstances…” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 1068)

An image of David Douglas, Scottish botanist and North America's first mountaineer (1799 – 1834).

David Douglas, Scottish botanist and North America’s first mountaineer (1799 – 1834). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Other fascinating people to search for in the Statistical Accounts include:

  • James Francis Edward, who entered into military service abroad (including Spain and Russia) and whose great qualities outshone his bad ones – leading him to become a Field Marshal for the King of Prussia. (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 152)
  • Archie Armstrong who, after having been a sheep-stealer, “had the honour of being appointed jester to James I. of England”, but was later dismissed for being obnoxious. (OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 244)
  • Dr John Hutton, a one-time sheep-herder, who studied medicine in Edinburgh, and later saved the life of Mary, Princess of Orange. (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 30)

___________________________

In reading The Statistical Accounts, it is clear that to see that Scotland was not an insular country. It’s interwoven links with other countries and cultures are varied and fascinating.  Their influences can still be felt within Scotland and beyond. This post just gives you a taster of what you can discover in the Statistical Accounts. We hope that it will encourage you to explore it for yourself. You never know where the journey will take you!

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Feb 062018
 

The ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Statistical Accounts of Scotland are a record of what life was like in the parishes throughout Scotland, but reading through them you can see that it is not a country in isolation. During the 18th and 19th centuries Scotland had a wider place in the world, whether it was through emigration, travel or trade. The Scots and their way of life diffused into other parts of the world, most notably North America and Canada. Interaction through trade with other counties, such as India and England, is particularly emblematic of the influence nations had on each other, with the sharing of not just goods and services, but also ideas and experience.

In the first of two blog posts looking at the influence of Scotland in the world, we focus on Scottish emigration, its reasons and effects.

Emigration

In both Statistical Accounts there are many references to working-class Scots, often whole families, moving to other countries. The most common destination was North America and Upper Canada, though some did also emigrate to Australia and New Zealand.

A Scottish poster advertising emigration to New Zealand from 1839.

Scottish Poster Advertising Emigration to New Zealand. By New Zealand Colony’s Office, Glasgow, 1839. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Emigration seemed to be most extensive in the 1820s through to the 1840s. In the parish of Dingwall, County of Ross and Cromarty,

“The increase since 1821… is considerably less than it would have been, owing to the extent to which emigration has been carried on during the last few years;-the average number of persons who have left this parish for the Canadas, during that period, being not much below twenty, annually. A considerable number also of young men leave this parish yearly, in quest of employment in the south.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 222)

and in Ardnamurchan, County of Argyle:

“Families, numbering, 124 individual members, emigrated to America in 1790 and 1791. Since then, individuals and single families have been constantly emigrating to the low country or the colonies. In 1837 and 1838 not less than twenty families left Ardnamurchan and Sunart chiefly for Australia. About five years ago, thirteen families, amounting to about 70 individuals, emigrated to Canada. In 1837 and 1838, families, amounting to about 100 individuals, sailed for Australia.”  (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p. 148-149)

The reasons for emigration

By far the biggest reason for such a high level of Scottish emigration is the Highland Clearances, which took place in the Scottish Highlands during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In The Statistical Accounts there is specific mention of changes in agricultural practices (the Scottish Agricultural Revolution), overpopulation (which caused increased burden on an already undeveloped infrastructure), and landlords debts (which resulted in their demand for higher rents).

In Tiree and Coll, County of Argyle, “Thirty-six men, women, and children, emigrated from Coll to America in 1792. None hitherto has emigrated from Tiree, though some talk of doing so. Their crops failed in 1790 and 1791, which, together with the low prices of kelp and cattle, has much reduced them. They must soon go somewhere for relief, unless manufactures be introduced to employ them.” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 416)

In the first half of the nineteenth century, landowners, such as Sir W.D. Stewart in the district of Little Dunkeld, County of Perth, were now converting their small farms into large ones. “The consequence is, that many of the small tenants are turned out of their possessions, to shift for themselves and families the best way they can. Some of them have sought farms in other parishes, and some have emigrated to Canada, never again expecting to return to the land of their nativity, and of their early associations.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 1011)

It seems that even inhabitants in districts not affected by this change in farming, such as Moneydie in the County of Perth, were still emigrating, probably knowing that it was only a matter of time before the changes would reach their parish, or they just felt that their life would be better somewhere else.

“In Logiealmond, where the system of large farms has not yet been adopted, and where the population is large in proportion to the soil, any decrease that has taken place has been in consequence of emigration. – Within the last eight years, upwards of 100 persons have emigrated to Canada from Logiealmond alone.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 202)

Faed, Thomas; The Last of the Clan; Glasgow Museums; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-last-of-the-clan-83914

Thomas Faed: The Last of the Clan, 1865. Glasgow Museums.

A particularly insightful assessment on emigration at the end of the eighteenth century (including thoughts on how “to put a stop to the present rage for emigration”) can be found in the parish report for North Uist, County of Inverness (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 317-320).

“The sense of grievances, whether real or imaginary; the fear of having the fruits of their industry called for by their landlords, many of whom think they have a right to the earnings of the tenants, except what barely supports life; the want of employment for such as have no lands to cultivate; the encouragements held out to them by their friends, who are already settled in that country, of living in a state of much greater affluence with less labour; and the facility of procuring a property for a small sum of money, the produce of which they can call their own, and from which their removal does not depend on the will of capricious masters. These are the principal motives that determine people now to emigrate to America, without at all attending to the difficulties and discouragements in their way…”

Such difficulties were very apparent in 1834 when thousands of emigrants fell victim to cholera soon after landing in Canada, as reported by the parish of Bedrule, County of Roxburgh (NSA, Vol. III, 1845, p. 296-297). Other dangers included the sea crossing itself, traveling many miles from the shore to reach the settlements, buying necessities anew and the possibly disagreeable effects of the new climate on their health (OSA, Vol. XIII, 1794, p. 317-320)

Role of Scottish Land-Owners

It is very interesting to read in The Statistical Accounts about the role Scottish landlords had on the emigration of the poor and working classes. Some actively helped their tenants to emigrate, such as Lord MacDonald in the parish of Portree, County of Inverness, “expended large sums of money in conveying the poor people, on his property (tenants or not tenants) to North America” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 231). Others tried to prevent it, such as Mr. Dale, a landowner in Lanark, who offered employment, housing and schooling to families who were trying to emigrate to America but were caught up in a storm (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 40). He also showed some ingenuity by letting people living in Argyleshire and the isles know that they could come and work for him (which many did)! It is very likely that acts like these were not completely borne out of concern for the Scottish working class, but also showed an evident desire towards self-advancement.

It was not only the land-owners who helped people emigrate. In the parish of Whitsome and Hilton, County of Berwick, L.8  out of its L. 115, 19s total of poor and parochial funds (year ending at Martinmas 1833) was spent on enabling a pauper to emigrate to Canada! (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 179)

Effect of Emigration on Scotland

The depopulation of Scotland was of particular concern to many. The Rev. Mr. James Robertson, Minister of the parish of Callander, County of Perth, called emigration a”national evil” that “must be stopped, either by legal restraints, or by sound policy”.

“When we have battles to fight in any future wars, our hardy peasantry, who are the strength of a country, may be gone and we shall have none to recruit our armies, except a band of mercenaries from abroad, (who may turn their swords against ourselves), and effeminate manufactures, or defenseless sheep and shepherds dogs.” (OSA, Vol. XI, 1794, p. 626)

Other negative aspects of emigration in Scotland are mentioned in the parish report for Elgin, County of Elgin, including the increase in manufacturing (which causes ill health), loss of sheep farmers and even acts as a deterrent to marriage! (OSA, Vol. V, 1793, p. 20)

As the Reverend Mr Roderick Macrae, Missionary Minister in the parish of Applecross, wrote in the report for Lochbroom Parish, County of Ross and Cromarty:

“It has been said, however, that these people who are dispossessed of their farms, can live much more comfortably in the manufacturing employment, than ever they could do before.
But would they not be still more happy, if manufactures were introduced among themselves*? And is it not a matter of importance to the nation to encourage population in the High-
lands, as well as in other parts of the kingdom?” (*There was a LINT MANUFACTURING STATION established here, some time ago…) (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, p. 471)

Influence of emigration

  • Religion

A large area of influence which Sottish emigration had on countries abroad was in the realm of religion. It was considered very important for emigrants to practice the right religion correctly. The Rev. James Russell, a minister at the Presbytery of Lochcarron, Parish of Gairloch in the County of Ross and Cromarty, wrote in September 1836:

“The population is by much too dense for the means of support which they enjoy. A Government grant to convey one-third of the people to Upper Canada would be most desirable; and, in order to promote the moral and religious improvement of the people, two missionaries, and from six to eight schools, on a proper footing, are absolutely necessary and loudly called for.” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 99)

In Weem, County of Perth, a Bible Society had been established and great satisfaction arose “that many of our emigrated countrymen are now in possession of Bibles purchased here, several of them in the back-woods of Canada, and a few on the shores of Australia.” (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 714)

There is also mention in the report for Kincardine, County of Ross and Cromarty, of a “Gaelic and English congregation at Dundas in Upper Canada (now Aldborough, presbytery of Toronto;)” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 431).

Emigration also had an effect on religion at home. As many of Scotland’s best laborers re-located from the North Highlands to America, many Glasgow manufacturers encouraged hard-working Roman Catholics to work for them, promising them security in the exercise of their religion. (NSA, Vol. VI, 1845, p. 194)

  • Surveys and diffusion of information

Another big area of influence was on the surveying of Canada and the way of life of its inhabitants. The Scot Robert Fleming Gourlay (1778-1863) first emigrated to Canada in 1817 and, while there, compiled two volumes of the Statistical Account of Upper Canada, using the Statistical Accounts of Scotland model developed by Sir John Sinclair. (Both Volume 1 and Volume 2 can be found on the Internet Archive.) Even though there are deficiencies, it is considered “easily the best compendium of information about Upper Canada for his period. Though Gourlay made no attempt to analyze them, the 57 township reports he printed present an unrivaled picture of provincial social and economic life”. (Dictionary of Canadian Biography) Gourlay’s story is fascinating and is well worth reading.

Engraved, illustrated title-pages of the Statistical Account of Upper Canada, Volume 2, 1822.

The Statistical Account of Upper Canada : compiled with a view to a grand system of emigration, Vol. 2, 1822. Found on the Internet Archive.

Another Scot who surveyed and reported on Canada was Roderick Mackenzie (c.1761-1844) who emigrated to Canada in 1784 to work in the fur trade. He wrote the Survey of North West Canada, which was issued as a printed circular to the Indian traders in the North West Company from Montreal on 21 April 1806. This and the subsequent responses by the other traders, can be found on the scholarly research website In Pursuit of Adventure: The Fur Trade in Canada and the North West Company. He took direct influence from Sir John Sinclair, having seen the strong similarities between the accounts given by the Parish clergy and those that might be obtained from the traders of the seven Indian tribes.

Interestingly, in the Statistical Accounts there is also mention of a Mr. Calder in the parish report of Whitsome and Hilton, County of Berwick, who was the “author of a very neat account of the Five Nations of Canada” (OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795, p. 355). The Five Nations of Canada refers to the Iroquois, a historically powerful northeast Native American confederacy, pre-1722.

As well as surveying, Scots played a part in making information easily available. Libraries were set up in Canada, among other countries, through Samuel Brown, Esq.’s initiative of itinerating (or traveling) libraries, which began in 1817 and whose headquarters was at Haddington. This involved collections of books (divisions) being “stationed in the towns and villages of the county for two years, when they are removed and exchanged.”

“In 1831 and 1834, I received from a few friends of the plan about L.400, to promote the introduction of libraries into certain specified districts, and I have since sent to various parts of Scotland, England, Ireland, Jamaica, Canada, South Africa, St Petersburgh, ninety divisions containing 4500 volumes. They were furnished at cost prices, and to same districts at half the cost price, and those sent to Ireland still lower. They were placed under the superintendence of gentlemen or ladies in the different districts.” (OSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 17)

For further information take a look at the book Some Account of Itinerating Libraries and Their Founder by Samuel Brown which is available on the Internet Archive.

In the next blog post on the influence of Scotland on the world, we will focus on trade with other counties and Scots working abroad.

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Nov 222017
 

We’re always interested to hear how you use the Statistical Accounts. Family historians are one of the key groups who make use of our service so we were delighted to see Jane Harris recently publish a blog on using the Statistical Accounts for family history research. Jane has kindly agreed that we republish her post – we hope it’s useful for those of you researching your Scottish roots! 

portrait shot of Jane

Jane Harris

Jane specialises in Scottish genealogy and family history. A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and the Scottish Genealogy Network, Jane provides both family history research and tutoring so you can do research yourself. Her particular interests include the Stirling area, where she lives, and Orkney, where she was born and grew up. Jane described her experience with the Statistical Accounts for us:

A row of books with rather dull dust jackets; a couple of interesting quotes in a lecture or course book. That sums up my knowledge of the Statistical Accounts from my student days. When I started seriously researching my own family history many years later that view changed rapidly. Checking the earlier censuses, I was fascinated by the number of distinctively Highland surnames in my father’s home parish of Walls, Orkney. The Old Statistical Account provided an explanation: that a large number of people had come from “Strathnaven”, having been cleared to make way for sheep, so early victims of the clearances. I was hooked.

The Statistical Accounts are now one of my standard sources for client research in the late eighteenth to mid nineteenth centuries, both for general background and also for specific information on churches, migration, occupations and so on. 

Now for Jane’s original blog, with some great pointers…

 

S is for Statistical Accounts of Scotland 

Keep reading! They are far more than numbers. The Statistical Accounts are two fascinating sets of reports on each Scottish parish in the 1790s and the 1830s/40s.  They cover economic and social activities as well as natural resources.

What, when, who, how? 

Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster sent out 171 queries to the ministers of each of the 938 parishes in Scotland in the 1790s. Their responses form the Old Statistical Account (OSA). In 1832, because of all the changes that had taken place in Scotland, a new survey was agreed. The responses are collectively known as the New Statistical Account (NSA). Find out more about the background.

 How are the Statistical Accounts useful for family history? 

  • Context for our ancestors’ lives.

“The prejudices, entertained by the inhabitants of this parish, against inoculation [sic] were, for a long time, invincible. But the better sort, setting the example, the rest gradually followed… In one season 460 were inoculated, of whom only 3 died” (Kilmalie, Invernesshire, Old Statistical Account, p409). Mortality by age group statistics (Glasgow, Old Statistical Account p508).

 

  • Information on churches other than the established Church of Scotland.

“There is in St Ninians a Relief meeting-house… there is another meeting-house in Ba-burn connected with the United Secession” (St Ninians, Stirlingshire, New Statistical Account p336).

 

  • The state of the parish registers: “the fourth is a mere ragged fragment” (Wick, Caithness, New Statistical Account p137). May explain why you can’t find a baptism:
Excerpt from the New Statistical Account for Wick, Caithness, Vol XV, 1845, p137.

Excerpt from the New Statistical Account for Wick, Caithness, Vol XV, 1845, p137.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Names of landowners, which could lead you to estate records.

For example, see Menteith, Perthshire, New Statistical Account p1108.

 

  • Local history generally, development of industries, migration and so on.

“What accounts for this [population] increase of 71 is the settlement of a colony of Highlanders, who had been forced to emigrate from Strathnaven [sic], where their farms had been converted into sheep pasture” (Walls, Orkney, Old Statistical Account p313).

 

  • The minister’s view on his parishioners.

This snip from the Dalziel, Lanarkshire, (Motherwell area) New Statistical Account is particularly rich:

Excerpt from the New Statistical Account for Dalziel, Vol VI, 1845, p454.

Excerpt from the New Statistical Account for Dalziel, Vol VI, 1845, p454.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In summary 

Topography, geology, botany, agriculture, weather, population statistics, diseases, the state of the church and manse, manufactures, occupations (for example see table from Inverness’ Old Statistical Account below), wages, prisons, schools, language, history, antiquities, communications – and much more. Each account as individual as the minister who wrote it. You can find them all on the Statistical Accounts of Scotland website.

Table of occupations from the Old Statistical Account for Inverness, Vol IX, 1793, p622.

Table of occupations from the Old Statistical Account for Inverness, Vol IX, 1793, p622.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Jane for letting us share her thoughts. You can find Jane’s blog here:

http://www.janealogy.co.uk/blog/

Follow Jane on Twitter @janenharris

 

Let us know your story 

Could you share your Statistical Accounts experience with us? What have you found that’s been particularly helpful in your local or family history research? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below or email us, edina@ed.ac.uk.

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Dec 142016
 

This is the last in a series of blog posts about some of the functionality you may have come across (or may not have yet discovered!) in the new Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online. Here we concentrate on the new My statacc feature.

We have now introduced functionality to enable more personalisation when using the service. If you are a subscriber you can now save, annotate and tag  individual pages, whole sections, illustrations and maps. You can use the star button to save. The label icon allows you tag items with one or two words of your choice, so that you can find them easily when you next visit  (just type your words into the box), and the post-it note to write longer annotations which are stored alongside the item.  If you are planning to coming back to a particular page, image or section, you can store information about why it is interesting, how it relates to your research or how you might want to use it.

These new features are designed to allow you to easily find and review content of particular interest to you. Tags and annotations are stored against your profile, and will remain there until you delete them. Just sign in and click on the My statacc red button on the top right of the page to find everything you have saved.

A screen-shot of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland showing personalistion features and the transcript functionality.

A page of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland showing personalisation features and the transcript. Screen-shot captured on Thursday 1st December 2016.

You can tag, annotate and save both sections and individual pages. Individual pages can be printed out and whole sections of the Statistical Accounts can now be downloaded as PDFs. You can even share what you have found on social media by clicking on the sharing icon and follow the links. Using these features is so easy – just click on the relevant icon and away you go!

We are particularly pleased to be able to offer such personalisation, which will help you to get the most out of your searching and browsing of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online. Please let us know what you think.

More information on all the features mentioned above, as well as others, can be found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Help Pages and the How to get the most out of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online page. If you have any comments or queries please contact the EDINA Help Desk (edina@ed.ac.uk).

 

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Dec 132016
 

This is the second in a series of blog posts about some of the functionality you may have come across (or may not have yet discovered!) in the new Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online. Here we concentrate on the images and maps, as well as the transcripts found on the website.

Images and maps

The new service contains a number of illustrations and maps published with the original accounts. Your search may result in a box containing the thumbnail views of related images or maps. As a subscriber you would be able click on these to view them (in a gallery view) in a much higher resolution than before. You are also able to zoom in and out, which is fantastic to be able to do! All other relevant images are on the left-hand side of the gallery view, making it easy to scroll and browse related illustrations and maps.

There are a number of interactive maps available in the service, which we are able to feature courtesy of the National Library of Scotland. One example is the map of Scotland on the homepage, where you can click on the map to open out a larger version, and as the mouse cursor moves over the map you will see the names of counties highlighted. There are also interactive maps available on the county pages, showing each of the parishes clearly within the county and allowing you to click through to more information on the parish.

A screen-shot of an interactive map for the southern part of Northern Part of Ross and Cromarty Shires, taken from the Statistical Accounts of Scotland.

The interactive map for the southern part of Northern Part of Ross and Cromarty Shires. Screen-shot taken from the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online on Thursday 1st December 2016.

Transcriptions

Another greatly improved feature is that of the transcripts, which are available for most pages in the Statistical Accounts. The reading quality of the transcription has been improved through rendering the text in html, making it an even more useful to aid understanding when reading the Statistical Accounts.

We hope that these new features mean you get even more out of the wonderful wealth of information found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. More information on all the features mentioned above, as well as others, can be found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Help Pages and the How to get the most out of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online page. If you have any comments or queries please contact the EDINA Help Desk (edina@ed.ac.uk).

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Dec 022016
 

As you may have already noticed, the Statistical Accounts of Scotland service now has a new look as well as new and improved features. We hope you have been exploring them since the new service was launched at the beginning of November. This is the first in a series of blog posts about some of the functionality you may have come across or may not have yet discovered! Here we concentrate on the search and structure of the new website.

Improved search

We have aimed to allow searching in the same way as you would use an internet search engine. The service will look not only for direct matches but also for possible variations and related terms.

Search features include:

  • The ability to limit your search to the old statistical accounts or new statistical accounts by adding either OSA or NSA to your search terms, e.g. OSA schools. It is also possible to limit your search still further by stating the actual volume and even the specific page, e.g. OSA vol5 pg27.
  • The ability to search by geographical area, by using one of the eight cardinal compass points in your search term, i.e. N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW.
  • A subject search which allows you to search for pages which are discussing a particular topic but which may not mention the exact word. The system looks at the words you type into the search box and tries to deduce any subjects you might be interested in or you can include the subjects directly. The full list of subjects can be found on the How to get the most out of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online page. This functionality is a little experimental at the moment, so it would be great to get any feedback on this feature.
  • The ability to search the related resources, with access to these available from the main search results page. Please note that related resources, such as digitised versions of Sinclair’s Specimens of Statistical Accounts (1793) and Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland (1825-1826) and related surveys such as the Stow Census, are only available to subscribers.
  • Associated words which is another experimental feature that may present words that frequently appear in proximity to your search terms. If your search term returns a box of associated word you can click on these words to explore terms related to those you are interested in.
A screen-shot of a search results page form teh Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online

Search results page showing a number of features of the new service. Screen-shot captured from the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online on Wednesday 30th November 2016.

County and Parish Pages

We also wanted to make it easier to search for material that is related to specific places, and tried to do this by bringing together information on each parish or county on one dedicated page. These can be navigated to using the maps, as well as the search box. These pages present all the content we have that is related to that county or parish, alongside a county or parish map and a brief description, extracted from the text. From here, you can view the map in high resolution, navigate to the county page if you are on a parish page, or navigate to one of the accounts or resources related to the parish if you are on a parish page.

We hope that the improved functionality and re-design of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland will both allow you to find the relevant information quickly and to explore other related information easily. Try the new features and discover more about Scotland’s counties and parishes.

More information on all the features mentioned above, as well as others, can be found in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Help Pages and the How to get the most out of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online page. If you have any comments or queries please contact the EDINA Help Desk (edina@ed.ac.uk).

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Oct 312016
 

In our last post we revealed some of the Halloween customs detailed in the Statistical Accounts, including some spooky ghost stories.  Although superstitious beliefs seem to have been receding during the late Eighteenth Century, there are nevertheless many accounts of another devilish figure in the accounts: the witch. Such stories give us a real insight into what people in the eighteenth century and earlier believed in and how they dealt with alleged witches.

In Tongland, County of Kircudbright, the lower classes “firmly believed in ghosts, hobgoblins, fairies, elves, witches and wizards. There ghosts and spirits often appeared to them at night. They used many charms and incantations to preserve themselves, their cattle and houses, from the malevolence of witches, wizards, and evil spirits, and believed in the beneficial effects of these charms.” (OSA, Vol. IX, 1793, p. 328)

Several places are mentioned in the Statistical Accounts where witches were burnt. These include: near the Old Castle of Langholm in the County of Dumfries, where some of the witches here acted as midwives and had the power to transfer labour pains from the mother to the father! (NSA, Vol. IV, 1845, p.421); a hill in the parish of Mordington, County of Berwick, called Witch’s Know (OSA, Vol. XV, 1795, p. 187); another Witch’s Know in Gask, County of Perth (NSA, Vol. X, 1845, p. 282); and an upright granite stone located in the parish of New Monkland, County of Lanark, “where it is said, in former times, they burned those imaginary criminals, called witches” (OSA, Vol. VII, 1793, p. 280).

A watercolour 'The Three Witches of Macbeth' by John Downman.

The Three Witches of Macbeth, 1824. John Downman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Spott in the County of Haddington was renowned as a habitation for witches (NSA, Vol. II, 1845 – p.227).  In October 1705, “many witches were burnt on the top of Spott Loan” and indeed it is generally believed that the last witch who was executed in Scotland was burnt at Spott; a stone commemorative of the event, marking the place of execution, is to be seen a little way to the cast of the manse. It was also here in Spott, in 1698, where the trial of Marion Lillie, otherwise known as the Rigwoody Witch, took place (OSA, Vol. V, 1793 – p 454).

Indeed, you can find a number of accounts of trials for witchcraft in the Statistical Accounts. The most complete report of a trial is that of the Trial of William Coke and Alison Dick for Witchcraft on September 17th 1633, which is found in the accounts for Kirkaldy, County of Fife, OSA, Vol. XVIII, 1796 – p.656 to 662.

Other witches are mentioned too, such as  the Bargarran Witches who were seven men and women accused of bewitching a young woman in the parish of Erskine, County of Renfrew (NSA, Vol. VII, 1845, p.507 to 508 and p.122). Other renowned witches are Lillias Adie who, in 1704, was accused of witchcraft and “afterwards died in the jail of Dunfermline, and was buried within the flood-mark between the villages of Torryburn and Torrie” (Torryburn, County of Fife, NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 732) and Gorm Shuil, or blue-eyed, a famous witch from Laggan in the County of Inverness “who was such an adept in her profession that she could transform herself and others into hares, and crows, raise hurricanes from any quarter of the compass she pleased, and perform other wonderful exploits, too tedious to mention” (NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 426).

There is a really interesting piece by Sir John Sinclair on the Castle of Dunsinnan or Dunsinane and the probability that William Shakespeare had collected here its traditions on Macbeth to use it in his celebrated play! (Collace, County of Perth, OSA, Vol. XX, 1798, p.242)

Witches also had a hand in the formation of the Castle of Dumbarton! It seems that Kilpatrick, a village in Dumbartonshire, both derives its name from, and gave birth to, the celebrated saint of Ireland, Patrick. The Devil was so incensed at Patrick’s sanctity and success in preaching the gospel that he:

sent a band of witches against him; that the weird-sisters fell upon him so furiously, that he was forced to seek safety by flight; that finding a little boat near the mouth of the Clyde, he went into it and set off for Ireland; that they seeing it impossible to pursue him, for it seems they were not of that class of witches who can skim along the waters in an egg shell, or ride through the air on a broom stick, tore a huge piece of a rock from a neighbouring hill, and hurled it, with deadly purpose, after him; but that, missing their aim, the ponderous mass fell harmless, and afterwards, with a little addition from art, formed the Castle of Dumbarton.

(Kilpatrick-New, County of Dumbarton, OSA, Vol. VII, 1793 – p. 99)

An engraving of Dumbarton Castle by William Miller.

Dumbarton Castle (Rawlinson 518) engraving by William Miller after Turner. Created 1 January 1836. [William Miller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

So how were suspected witches actually dealt with? In 1563 the Scottish Witchcraft Act was passed which made both the practice of witchcraft and consulting with witches capital offences. There were many more witch prosecutions in Scotland (an estimated 4,000 to 6,000) than in England at this time. Most trials took place in secular courts and later taken over by kirk sessions, with the majority being held in the Scottish Lowlands. During 1596-97, there was an active inquiry in the County of Aberdeen when several Commissioners from the region were appointed by his Majesty “to tackle and apprehend witches, sorceraris, consultaris, and traffiquaris with witches”. (Leochel, County of Aberdeen, NSA, Vol. XII, 1845, p. 1123)

In Forfar there was “a witch-pricker called John Ford who was sent for to prick witches, and was admitted as a burgess, on the same day with Lord Kinghorn. The bridle which was placed in the mouths of the witches condemned to be burned, and with which they were fastened to the stake, is preserved in the burgh.” Also, the field in which the witches suffered is pointed out to strangers as a curiosity (OSA, Vol. VI, 1793, p. 524). Those people charged with witchcraft were brought to trial in Forfar by a special commission appointed by the Crown in 1661. Interestingly, ‘the records of these trials were preserved and contained many curious statements; but it has recently been amissing.’ (NSA, Vol. XI, 1845, p.695)

In Gladsmuir, County of Haddington, (NSA, Vol. II, 1845, p. 188) “the Lord Commissioner and Lords of the Articles, after bearing the petition, granted a commission for putting to death such of the above persons as were found guilty of witchcraft by confession, and for trying the others, which, if we may credit tradition, was put into execution”.

In the parish of Torryburn it is even reported that the first Presbyterian minister after the Revolution “Mr Logan’s great hobby appears to have been the prosecution of witches” and on April 4, 1709, Helen Kay was rebuked before the congregation for having said that the minister “was daft,” when she ” heard him speak against the witches”! (Torryburn, County of Fife, NSA, Vol. IX, 1845, p. 732)

It is actually frightening to think that people from judges to the parish elite had the power to put to death those accused of witchcraft based on such questionable evidence as witch-pricking and confessions forced under duress (torture and sleep deprivation). Thankfully, by the seventeenth century there was a growing scepticism of witchcraft and by the time Scotland became part of the Commonwealth with England and Ireland in 1652 there was a marked decline in witch trials and prosecutions. It is both a fascinating and troubled period of Scotland’s history, and the traces of this time that are to be found in the Statistical Accounts are well worth exploring.

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Oct 282016
 

Halloween is approaching and the nights are drawing in. So this is the perfect time to discover some spooky stories and supernatural superstitions reported in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland. There certainly are plenty!

Celebrating Halloween

Even though Halloween is widely believed to be more of an American tradition, there is a long tradition of celebrating All Hallows Eve in Scotland, and there are mentions of Halloween in both Statistical Accounts. One example is that of the parish of Logierait, County of Perth, (OSA, Vol. V, 1793 – p84) where the evening of the 31st October was marked by a special fire ceremony:

Heath, broom, and dressings of flax, are tied upon a pole: This faggot is then kindled; one takes it upon his shoulders, and running, bears it round the village; a crowd attend: When the first faggot is burnt out, a second is bound to the pole, and kindled in the same manner as before. Numbers of these blazing faggots are often carried about together, and when the night happens to be dark, they form a splendid illumination.

In the parish of Cullen, County of Banff, Halloween celebrations were sporty and involved the young people of the community and surrounding districts playing games, such as football, running, throwing the hammer and playing bowls (NSA, Vol. XIII, 1845 – p.331). Unfortunately, bowls, which was played by rolling or throwing a cannon ball, was later forbidden by magistrates as one year a man was accidentally killed by the ball! By 1845 the parishioners kept to playing golf, shinty, football and target shooting.

However, not everyone amused themselves with games and pagan ceremonies for Halloween. In the parishes of Broughton, Glenholm, and Kilbucho in Peebles, people observed Halloween with “a kind of religious scrupulosity”. (NSA, Vol. III, 1845 – p.89)

Ghosts

There are some amazing ghost stories in the Statistical Accounts. In one of my favourites, funeral mourners battle it out to ensure that their deceased loved one is not burdened with ghostly duties:

In one division of this county, where it was believed that the ghost of the person last buried kept the gate of the church-yard ’till relieved by the’ next victim of death, a singular scene occurred when two burials were to take place in one church yard on the same day. Both parties staggered forward as fast as possible to consign their respective friend in the first place to the dust. If they met at the gate, the dead were thrown down, ’till the living decided by blows whose ghost should be condemned to porter it.

(Appendix for Monquhitter, County of Aberdeen, OSA, Vol. XXI, 1799, p. 144)

In another, an unfaithful lover asks for help to posthumously fulfil a vow:

About the middle of the last century, a man was buried in the island. For several nights after, the dead man disturbed the whole neighbourhood in Glenco, calling in a most dolorous strain, on a certain individual, to come and to relieve him. The man at last set off for the island, in the dead hour of night, and having arrived at the grave, found the dead man with his head and neck fairly above the ground: “What is your business with me,” says the Glenco man “and why are you disturbing the neighbourhood with your untimely lamentations after this fashion?” “I have not,” says the dead man, “rest night or day since I lay here, nor shall I as long as this head is on my body; I shall give you the reason. In younger days I swore most solemnly, that I would marry a certain woman, and that I never would forsake her, as long as this head remained on my body. At this time I had hold of a button, and the moment we parted, I separated the head of the button from the neck, thinking that then all was right. I now find my mistake. You must therefore, cut off my head.” The other, fetching a stroke, cut off the head close to the surface of the ground; and then the dead man dragged the rest of the body back to the grave, leaving the head to shift for itself. This story is as firmly believed in Glenco this day, by some people, as any truth of holy writ.

(Laggan, County of Inverness, NSA, Vol. XIV, 1845, p. 427)

You could not make up better stories! Obviously, there are many more mentions of, ghosts and all other kinds of supernatural happenings which you could search for in the Statistical Accounts.  It’s interesting to note that in both the Old and New Statistical Accounts such stories were reported with a sceptical tone as the folk tales of previous generations or as outmoded superstitions: perhaps this illustrates a growing faith in Enlightenment rationality, but it is equally likely that the Christian ministers who compiled the accounts simply refused to accept that their parishioners continued to hold ‘heathen’ beliefs. In any case, these fantastical stories and superstitions have been handed down from generation to generation, and the accounts themselves continue this process. They are part of the history of Scotland and so it is wonderful that these stories have not been lost.

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