Another month older – wiser? Who can say? As we prepare for a long hard winter ahead, this month at the Gateway there’s loads to reflect on, perhaps even something to learn from.
We have J.M.Barrie’s address ‘This Entrancing Life’ which he delivered on becoming Chancellor of Edinburgh University in 1930. All but forgotten of course, but he has some really interesting and important things to say about education and society. Juxtapose that with the final part of Leatham’s ‘The Most Important thing in the world’ which reminds us that Capitalism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and there are more important things than money, and you won’t have wasted the time it’s taken you to read both pieces. To continue your free (in all senses) education on Gateway you might delve into the history of the Peasant’s Revolt and, perhaps a bit more locally, the history of Turriff. Beyond that, the Orraman comes to some conclusions in the ongoing battle for Scots culture. What more could you want?
This month in 2017 we’ve had party conferences and really seen how the media can turn and twist any and everything round to the way they want. While the mainstream media bay for her blood, calling her weak and predicting her demise, here at the Gateway if we are to make predictions it is that Theresa May is going nowhere any time soon. As Orraman suggests, we need to watch out not for bread and circuses but for adult colouring books. A prime minister coughing through a speech is not, I repeat NOT more important than the events going on in Catalonia folks. The internet, that purported great democratiser, has become, via social media, more than anything a soma for the masses. Be afraid, be very afraid. In the virtual world you are your data and for most practical purposes nothing more. So perhaps step away from the smart phone apps, stop posting selfies and pictures of cats and use the technology for something sensible instead of as yet another distraction from using your brain. Just a gentle wee piece of advice.
Forget bread and circuses… we have adult colouring books.
It’s time to stop playing with our colouring books and start joining the dots folks.
If I may, I would like to suggest that we get the cultural leaders we deserve. We have acquiesced to the notion of a representative democracy in cultural matters and our leaders tell us what is and isn’t culture and what is or isn’t ‘good’ or ‘quality’ or of ‘value.’ And we buy it. Which is actually all they want from us – compliant consumers in an aspirational society which fundamentally favours those at the top of the heap.
Education is a case in point. I question why it is that our much vaunted education system is only ‘free’ to the undergraduate level. Beyond that it’s pay to play. Why is this? This is a practical exercise in joining the dots, folks. Could it be that we only want people to be educated to a certain level? Beyond that, education is an elitist privilege, and guess what, these same people are the ones who speak with authority on culture. They tell us what it is, what it means and we go along with them. By contrast in Cuba, free tertiary education goes as far as the individual wants and is capable of.
Are we frightened of having an ‘overskilled’ workforce? Can you have an overskilled society? Surely both in the hard and the soft subject areas (what a nasty terminology) people who are fulfilling their potential will be able on the one hand to innovate and create in science, technology and the like and on the other to innovate and create in our society which, in case you hadn’t looked up from your colouring book lately, is somewhat failing to deliver for ‘real’ people. Imagine a society where people whose minds have been honed to the highest level in philosophy, psychology, literature and the like are able to utilise the skills they learn from reading, thinking, writing about the world we live in and how we might make it a better place to live in for more people.
We all too often mistake confidence for competence. This is perhaps an inevitable result of a very broken, very divided, very hierarchical society.
So, our leaders (and there are many of them) are keen to keep us in our place. They don’t make it easy for us ‘wee voices’ to contribute, to comment or to participate except on their own terms. If we are lucky we can experience tokenism, but they spit us out as soon as we’ve served our purposes. They make the rules, they don’t want us to join the dots, they just want us to colour between the lines. But we don’t do ourselves any favours. I’ve lost count of the number of times and ways I’ve given this basic argument and suggested that we ‘rise up’ against this tyranny. The answer? Cannae be arsed? What’s the point? The point, friends, is that until we reclaim our culture there is no way we will regain our independence. And I’m afraid I’m coming to the conclusion that we don’t deserve it.
What’s started all this? I came across this 'invitation'....
The Scottish Government is seeking to appoint a new Chair to lead Creative Scotland in the delivery of the ambitions set out in its 10 Year Plan to the benefit of the arts and culture in Scotland.
Can you help put creativity at the heart of Scottish society?
Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works, studies or visits here. The organisation distributes funding from the Scottish Government and the National Lottery with an annual budget of around £80m and a staff team of more than 100 people.
The Scottish Government is seeking to appoint a new Chair to lead Creative Scotland in the delivery of the ambitions set out in its 10 Year Plan to the benefit of the arts and culture and to the people of Scotland as a whole. The current chair, Ben Thomson, took over on an interim basis following the death the previous incumbent, Richard Findlay.
We are seeking to appoint a dynamic and adaptive leader with proven experience at senior level, who will lead the Board and work effectively with the Chief Executive, Janet Archer, her leadership team and her team of dedicated, committed and experienced staff.
The Chair will help steer the strategic direction of the organisation, overseeing its effective governance, financial accountability and its delivery of value as a public body, in line with Scottish Government and Ministerial priorities. The successful candidate must be a highly effective collaborator, influencer and communicator, positively representing Creative Scotland in public and in the media. Importantly, he or she must have passion for, and understanding of, creativity and the value it delivers to all our lives culturally, socially and economically.
This is a high profile position in Scottish public life and one where there is an opportunity to make a significant and positive difference to Scotland’s creative life, society and economy. As such, we encourage applications from individuals who feel they have the knowledge, experience, energy and dynamism to successfully fulfil the demands of the role.
You must be able to demonstrate the following personal qualities, skills and experience:
Passion for, and knowledge and understanding of, the arts, screen and creative industries in a Scottish context.
The capacity to work effectively across sectors, beyond the boundaries of arts, screen and creative industries.
Managing performance and governance.
Leading the Board and organisation.
The selection panel welcomes applications from people with experience in the arts, screen or creative industries.
I feel like calling that ‘you’ll have had your mince.’ Like beauty, I suggest that many of these ‘criteria’ are in the eyes of the beholder. Personal experience suggests that you either favour the policy or the creativity. And I know which will be ‘privileged’ in this respect. The only thing left for us to do (apart from going back to our colouring books) is the start a book on who the runners and riders are and which of them will get the job. Will this be another imperialist appointment? Do we have any Scots who are ‘up to’ this job or even any who are ‘up for’ this job? And if not, why not? We certainly don’t have any who can organise a cultural consultation that stretches beyond ‘the usual suspects’ even with the might of social media at their command. But do we hold them to account? Aye, right.
October 25th 1930
The Entrancing Life
I was uplifted – how could it be otherwise? – when I found that my Alma Mater wanted me to come back for another course. But now that the lightnings are upon me I am riven with misgivings. What have I dared. Oh, why left I the eyry of a solitary to go wandering in the great unquiet places. This college of renown – for wherever I find myself today I feel that I am in the old College ; these walls dissolve, it is more like Masson’s lecture room, Campbell-Fraser raises his beard again, I hear Blackie singing – what has my old College been about in remembering me, she who was once so noted for her choice of pilots? All I can say to you in my defence is, yours the wite for having me.
My anxious desire is to follow, very humbly as needs must, in the ways of my illustrious predecessor Lord Balfour. That word has a tang to it that is sweet to the Scottish ear. I once had an argument, across the waters that lie between us and Samoa, with Robert Louis Stevenson about which was the finest-sounding Scottish name. He voted for one who was a kinsman of his, Ramsay Traquair. But I thought, and still think, that Balfour is better. How like our great Chancellor to have the name as well as all the rest. I first saw him here, I mean in the old College, in my student days. He was addressing one of the University Societies on Philosophical Doubt; I cannot now recall with certainly which society, but it was the one I tried to become a member of, and they would not have me. However, I did contrive an entry that night, and the abiding memory is the dazzling presence of him, his charm; though, as Dr. Johnson never said, is there any Scotsman without charm? Lord Balfour’s charm has been talked of by some as if it was the man himself; but oh no, it was only his seductive introduction to us, playing around him, perhaps to guard against our ever getting nearer to ‘the man himself.’ It still played around him when he faced the blasts in his country’s cause. It loved the great adventure. Did you ever notice how much ground he covered with his easy stride? It was so also with the stride of his mind. So many offices did he adorn. I was once speaking to him about some past event, and he said, ‘Yes, I remember that – I was Prime Minister at the time – or was I? – at any rate, I was something of that kind.’
So light apparently his knapsack. I have seen him, towards the end, writing the memoirs of his early days that have just been published. It was in one of the loveliest of English gardens, and he was reclining, under a great tulip tree, on a long chair, swallows sailing round, jotting it down as if the life and times of Arthur Balfour were only another swallow flight. As for myself, I vowed, as the alarming day of the august ceremony drew near, to model my installation address on his: and on sitting down to read it, I found he had never made on. Instead, I see him today smiling charmingly at my predicament.
The University is not now as it was when I matriculated. Even on that day the old College, which perhaps never wore an alluring beam of welcome on her face, seemed so formidable that a famous Edinburgh divine, Dr. Alexander Whyte, had to accompany me to her awful portals and thrust me in. For some time I hoped he would do this every day. I learn from the University of Edinburgh Journal, itself a notable growth, that since ten years after they got rid of me (they did not put it in that way) seventeen new chairs have been added. Many vast academic departments have arisen. The methods of lecturing, of examinations, have been overhauled. This magnificent Hall has sprung up, and all the avenues leading to graduation in it have been made appropriately stiffer and steeper. Unions and Hostels such as, alas, were not in my time, now give Edinburgh students that social atmosphere which seemed in the old days to be the one thing lacking; the absence of them maimed some of us for life. The number of students has increased by over a thousand. Perhaps greatest change of all, Women – yes. ‘Female forms whose gestures beam with mind.’ What a glory to our land has this University been since the first acorn, when one man – but what a man – Principal Rollock, did all its work single-handed near by the site of the Kirk of Field. No wonder that we in gratitude have erected a monument to him and called a chair after him. Or have we? I learn now, for history sleepeth not, that the Kirk of Field is famous for a marital rumbling close by, in which the aim of a husband was to blow up Mary Queen of Scots. That is the new theory. A more fitting one for us would be that some fearful Scot, himself on fire for a degree, made that explosion to clear the ground for a University.
Whoever was responsible, a Queen or a Prince, or Andrew Souter M.A., a fire was lit that will last even longer than the controversy. Since that small beginning, Edinburgh of a daughter, the University has risen nobly to the grapple; she has searched the world for the best everywhere, to incorporate it in her own. How parochial if she had done otherwise. And now so much has been accomplished that one may ask what remains to do. It is easier to cry ‘onward’ than to say whither. We might go onward till we got clean out of Scotland. Many of our students are from across the Border, they come from every civilised land; and it is our proudest compliment, for it means that they think they get something here which is not to be got elsewhere. They are all welcome so long as we can contain them, and so long as they are satisfied that what is best for us is also best for them. But our universities must remain what our forebears conceived with such great travail, men of our smiddies and the plough, the loom and the bothies, as well as scholars, they must remain, first and foremost something to supply the needs of the genius of the Scottish people.
Those needs are that every child born into this country shall as far as possible have an equal chance. The words ‘as far as possible’ tarnish the splendid hope, and they were not in the original dream. Some day we may be able to cast them out. It is by Education, though not merely in the smaller commoner meaning of the word, that the chance is to be got. Since the war various nations have wakened to its being the one way out; they know its value so well that perhaps the only safe boast left to us is that we knew it first. They seem, however, to be setting about the work with ultimate objects that are not ours. Their student from his earliest age is being brought up to absorb the ideas of his political rulers. That is the all of his education, not merely in his academic studies but in all his social life, all his mind, all his relaxations; they are in control from his birth, and he is to emerge into citizenship with rigid convictions which it is trusted will last his lifetime. The systems vary in different lands, but that seems to be their trend, and I tell you they are being carried out with thoroughness. Nothing can depart more from the Scottish idea, which I take to be to educate our men and women primarily not for their country’s good but for their own, not so much to teach them what to think as how to think, not preparing them to give as little trouble as possible in the future but sending them into it in the hope that they will give trouble. There is a small group of the Intelligensia very much afraid of any such creed, because its members are so despondent about their fellow-creatures. They are not little minds, they contain some of the finest brains in the country, but they are as gloomy as if this were their moulting season. They think their land may endure a little longer if they new generations are plied with soporifics. All they ask of us, especially of youth, is a little all-round despair. No more talk about hitching your waggon to that star. Few of us have waggons and there are no stars.
How do you like it, you new graduates? Are those the resilient notions you are carrying away with you in your wallets? Is it Lochaber no more for you? I don’t believe it. The flavour cannot have gone out of the peat. The haggis can still charge uphill. I’ll tell you a secret. Have you an unwonted delicious feeling on the tops of your heads at this moment, as if an angel’s wing had brushed them half an hour or so ago? It did – I speak from memory; and it carried with it a message from your University; ‘All hopelessness abandon, ye who have entered here.’ She trusts your wallets contain, as her parting gift to you ‘those instruments with which high spirits call the future from its cradle.’
She hopes that you are also graduating in the Virtues, in which, being an old hand at granting academic honours she knows better than to expect more than a pass degree. It is quite possible that your time here has done you not good but harm. If it has made you vain, for instance, of your accomplishments, too solemnly serious about their magnitude. I have seen Lord Haldane sitting with his head in his hands because he knew so little. Mr. Einstein has a merry face; he looks at us almost mischievously, and no wonder. Has your learning taught you that Envy is the most corroding of vices and also the greatest power in any land? Are you a little more temperate in mind? Have you more charity? Do you follow a little better, say about as much as the rest of us, the dictates of kindness and truth? You may be very clever, destined for the laurel, and have smiled at the unfortunates who fought for bursaries or to pass in, failed, and had to give up their dear ambitions; but if their failures taught them those lessons, they may have found for themselves a better education than yours.
You may discover in the end that your life is not unlike a play in three acts with the second act omitted. In the neatly constructed play of the stage each act moves smoothly to the next, they explain each other; but it may not be so with yours, it is not so with many of us. In less time than I hope you now think possible, for I would have you gay on your graduation morning, you will be far advanced in the final act. There has been a second, your longest one, but how little record you have probably kept of it. All you know may just be that this man or woman you have become is not what you set out to be in the days of the Firth of Forth. That may not even damp you much, if prosperity has made you gross to some old aspirations. You may not know how or when the thief came in the night, nor that it was you who opened the door to him. But something bad got into you in the middle act, and lay very still in you till it was your familiar. Slowly, furtively it pushed, never stopped pushing slowly, for it never tires, until it had you out and took your place. You may sometimes roam round the earthly tenement that once contained you, trying to get back. Perhaps you will get back. That sometimes happens. We may hope, however, that by the grace of God what entered was something good. All I can assure you is that in the second act, now about to begin, something will get in which is either to make or to destroy you. It has got in already if an uphill road dismays you. Would you care to know my guess at what is the entrancing life? It sums up most of what I have been trying to say today for your guidance. Carlyle held that genius was an infinite capacity for taking pains. I don’t know about genius, but the entrancing life, I think, must be an infinite love of taking pains. You try it.
One word more. The ‘Great War’ has not ended. Don’t think that you have had the luck to miss it. It is for each one of you the war that goes on within ourselves for self-mastery. Those robes you wear today are your Khaki for that war. Your graduation day is your first stripe. Go out and fight. Don’t come back dishonoured as in many ways I do.
Are we not all conscious, fitfully, of a white light that hovers for a moment before our lives? It comes back for us from time to time to the very gasp of our days. Come back for us – to take us where? So quickly fades, as if unequal to its undertaking, like an escaped part of ourselves. Are stars souls? The inaccessible star. If any one of ours has reached his star, it was our Lister. The inaccessible friendly star. If we could follow the white light.
How I have been preaching. It is not usual to me. It is against the ‘stomach of my sense,’ I feel that it has gone to my head. I look around for others to preach to. My eyes fall on the honorary graduates. I refrain with difficulty. For the present it is goodbye. I wish I was a little less unworthy of this gown. I will do my best.
How a Parish was lost to the Parishioners
A LOCAL EXAMPLE OF A NATIONAL ROBBERY.
Summary of a Lecture on "The Lands of Turriff in History," delivered by MR. JAMES LEATHAM in the Picture House, Turriff: The first edition, reprinted from the Turriff Circular, is now exhausted, and the interest in the subject being enhanced by recent political developments, we reprint the address, and in doing so pass the pages through The Gateway, in which they had not previously appeared
MR. LEATHAM said his subject had been suggested by the paper on "Teind" read to the Mutual Improvement Association by their esteemed Town Clerk, Mr. Stewart, an estimable man and an impartial public official. Mr. Stewart discussed the matter from the point of view of the lawyer, the landed proprietor, and the farmer, but he (the speaker) would like to discuss it from the point of view of the public interest.
Mr. Stewart had gone back as far as the reign of David First for the origin of the institution of teinds in Scotland. But they in Turriff had to go even further back than that for the first endowment of the Church locally. Turriff, like the lady in the song, had "a lang pedigree." The original name of Turriff was "Turbruad," meaning in the Gaelic (according to one interpretaion) the broad headland or mound. Turbruad and its church figured in the "Book of Deir," one of the oldest Scottish books in existence. It was a book kept and added to by the brethren of the early Celtic monastery of Deir, founded by Columba, with his associates Drostane and Congan, some time between 565 and 597. That was six hundred years before David's time, David dying in 1153. In that record there is mention of a grant of land to the monastery by Gartnait the Mormaer of Buchan, being witnessed by "Domongart, ferleighin of Turbruad," the ferleighin, or man of learning, being a high officer in monasteries. So that Turriff must have been a considerable settlement even in Celtic times, or it would not have had a ferleighin.
In this ancient book there is a reference to Turbruad as the seat, in 1132, of a Celtic monastery dedicated to St. Congan, and by 1214 Marjory Countess of Buchan gave the revenues of the lands of Turriff—that is, the revenues of the lands belonging to the Church of Turriff—to the Abbey of St. Thomas, of Arbroath. She could give only the revenues. She could not give the lands themselves, because under the feudal system she was only the holder of the lands, not their absolute owner who could dispose of them as her personal property. This Marjory inherited from the Celtic Mormaers, and her grant was confirmed by King William the Lion and by Adam, the Bishop of Aberdeen. Aberdeen city was a favourite place of residence of the Scottish kings, William the Lion having a palace where Carmelite Street now ran from the Green to the railway station.
Alexander Comyn, the son of Marjory, when he became Earl of Buchan, founded a hospital at Turriff for "a master, six chaplains, and thirteen poor husbandmen of Buchan," giving it in 1273 the lands of Knockikuly, wherever these where. This hospital was re-endowed by Robert the Bruce with the lands of Petty in Fyvie in 1328, the charter being granted at Kinkel' in perpetuation of the memory of his brother Sir Nigel Bruce, who had been hanged and drawn by order of the English king, Edward the Hammer.
With six chaplains and a master, it might be supposed the thirteen poor husbandmen were well provided with ghostly counsellors ; but the six chaplains did much more than preach. Every monastery or hospital was a school and an almshouse as well as a church. The wayfarer could and did go to the monastery, and in the refectory he could procure supper, and he would receive as a matter of course a night's lodging, including bed and water to wash his feet, which the tired pedestrians of those days would find not wholly unwelcome.
The master and chaplains would have the provision of all those comforts.
Then the clergy of those days were the doctors as well. Some of the "chaplains," also, would have the management of the land at Petty, not as mere keepers of accounts, but as actual supervisors of the work. The monks were very good landlords as well as very good farmers. The many "granges" throughout the country were simply old monastic granaries. In the gardens attached to these old houses they would often find that apple trees would have a platform of stones beneath them to keep the roots from striking down into the cold till.
The Celtic Monastery of Turriff, with its ferleighin, or man of learning, doubtless had a school or a scriptorium in addition to its church—perhaps both a school and a scriptorium. The scriptorium was the writing-room, where books were written and illuminated by the monks, there being no printed books then.
The Lands Involved.
He did not know the extent of the lands which belonged to the church of Turriff in those days—the church as distinct from the hospital—but it was fair to infer that they included all the lands that subsequently passed through various hands to the owners in the neighbourhood. They would come to that presently.
The Church of Turriff was thirled to the Church of Arbroath it was made a prebend of the Cathedral of St. Old Aberdeen, "its revenues being then assigned to prebendary," as Pratt says; and he adds: "The charters of Turriff show that the feus were held of the incumbents, as immediate lawful superiors, up till the Revolution, when Episcopacy was abolished, and lands held of churchmen were appointed to be held of the King."
What became of the hospital and its lands historians do not tell us. He would like to see son of the old title deeds! It was conjectured that the hospital, stood about the sites now known as Castlehill and Castlegreens, and that its ruins may simply have got the name of "the castle."
Episcopacy was the established religion for a time, and there was record of a grant by Andrew Hay, the rector of Turriff, of "seven roods of land to the chaplain and master of the grammar school in 1546." The Earls of Erroll had now got a footing as landlords in the neighbourhood, and they found them not only "consenting" to this grant of seven roods of land, but they also found at another date Mr. Andrew Skene, prebendary of Turriff, making over the customs of the markets to the Erroll family on condition of their paying £100 Scots as salary to the schoolmaster. As the pound Scots was of the value of twenty pence sterling only, this salary was only £8 6/8, though of course money was much more valuable then than now.
What a Monastery Was and Did.
So that the church was then, by its possession of lands, in a position to give to the community many benefits which it did not give now. Through the teinds it took rather than gave now. The monastery and the hospital of Turriff were hotels, schools, the home of the surgeons, and the centre of what poor relief there was, as well as churches. The alienation of their lands meant in time a school rate, a poor rate, and the teinds. Sir Walter Scott, High Tory and High Churchman as he was, had stated that at the Reformation one half of the land of Scotland belonged to the church. And it was the most valuable land. The monastic estates were regions of peace and improvement and civilization when the abodes of the nobles were dens of lawless violence, where, as at Frendraught near by, the laird positively burned down a portion of his own house with his guests in it, so that he might get rid of neighbours whom he hated.
How the Transfer Was Made.
John Knox had unfolded to the Regent Moray a hold and just scheme whereby education and the relief of the poor might be handsomely provided for out of the confiscated monastery lands, as well as providing for the new Presbyterian ministers. "It is a pious imagining !" said Moray, and one could imagine the tone of his voice and the expression of his face as he said it. He had quite other views as to the disposal of the lands.
They had seen that the lands of Turriff belonged to the Church of Turriff and were used for public purposes during many centuries, and they had also seen that the Earls of Erroll had got a footing in the neighbourhood as proprietors so early, at latest, as 1546. That was 13 years before the Reformation was formally begun by the rioting of the rabble at Perth in 1559; but the new opinions had long been making such progress that in 1545 Norman Leslie and his followers had stabbed Cardinal Beaton, the head of Church and State both, and had hung him over the battlements of his own castle at St. Andrews.
The monastic system had been breaking up for years, and the heads of the Church had been selling out, as the landlords were selling now, because they saw that the end of the system was at hand. He (the speaker) had no doubt but that the Errols became the superiors of Turriff in the same way as other noblemen had acquired possession of church lands elsewhere.
Let them turn for a moment to the account of the movement in general. The historian Tytler, afterwards Lord Woodhouselee, wrote of this period (1561) that--
Notwithstanding the full establishment of the Reformation, the Protestant ministers were in a state of extreme poverty, and dependent upon the precarious assistance of their flocks.
There was no word of teinds there! Tytler continued--
The revenues of the Church were divided between the nobles who had appropriated them and the Romish prelates who still retained part of their ancient wealth.
The lands of Turriff were vested in a prelate—the Abbot of Arbroath ; but Arbroath was then a long way off, and there was nothing to prevent the Earl of Erroll from coming in as one of the trustees, or " commendators " as they were called, who got control, extensively, of the Church lands at that time. It was possible that Lord Erroll bought some of the lands of Turriff then, but hardly likely, as they would see. Tytler continues--
On the meeting of the General Assembly the ministers determined to use their strenuous efforts to procure some support out of the ecclesiastical revenues ; yet the attempt was resisted by many of the barons who had been zealous supporters of the Reformation, but loved its plunder better than its principles.
Yea, verily, continued the speaker. The Reformation was carried, both in Scotland and in England, much more from love of plunder than love of piety. Tytler said
After some consultation, however, an act was passed ordaining the annual revenues of the whole benefices in the realm to be calculated, and out of this gross sum the Catholic clergy consented to give a third to the queen, being permitted to retain two-thirds for themselves. This third [that is, the first third] was to be applied to the maintenance of preachers, the endowment of schools, and the increase of the revenue of the crown.
But please note what follows--
Before this proposal was made, the funds of the Church, prefiasay immerse, had been greatly dilapidated. On the overthrow of Popery, the bishops and other dignified clergy had entered into transactions with their friends or kinsmen by which large portions of ecclesiastical property fell into private hands ; in some cases sales had been made by the ancient incumbents ; . . . the crown, too, had appointed laymen to be factors or administrators of bishoprics and livings : so that by these various methods the property of the Church was so much diffused and curtailed, that the third of all the money collected fell far below the sum necessary to give an adequate support to the clergy. There was much fraud also practised in making up the returns. . . . It was asserted that the only effect of the change was to secure a large share for the lay proprietors of church lands.
He (the speaker) ventured to say that the mode of the transference of the church lands in general was the mode by which the lands of Turriff in particular came into the hands of the Earls of Erroll. It was a considerable property. It included the Delgaty estate and castle, which were sold by the fourteenth Earl of Erroll for £20,000 in 1763. Delgaty would be part of the lands of Turriff as granted by the Countess Marjory to the Church of Turriff. So that that £20,000 worth was part of the property of the burgh of Turriff. All that the Earls of Erroll had given them was their family motto "Serva jugum" (Preserve the yoke). This motto, which figured along with the Cross of Turriff as the town's arms, was an anachronism regarded as the motto of a town. The proper Erroll arms consisted of two very heraldic husbandmen with their ox-yokes. The yoke figured there because the founders of the Erroll family were a father and two sons who were ploughing on the day of the Battle of Luncarty, and, finding the Scots fighting men flying from the Danes, with their ox-yokes they beat them back through a pass in the hills, with the result that the Danes thought it was a new army and lost heart and were defeated.
It was a very creditable origin; but the property the Errolls had acquired in various ways had done them little good. They had long since had to part with their original estate in Perthshire, as well as their property in Buchan. Turriff was a burgh of barony as early as 1512, so that it did not need to flourish to the world a mongrel motto partly borrowed from the Erroll cognisance, and wholly devoid of sense. A plough, an ellwand, and a treacle-can, with the motto, "By merchandise we flourish," would be a more appropriate coat-of-arms for Turriff. End of the Erroll Connection.
To finish the story of the Erroll connection, it ended in 1762, "the magnificence displayed by the fifteenth earl in conducting the affianced bride of George III., Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg, to England, involving an expenditure that compelled him to dispose of his Turriff properties, which," says Pratt, "then passed into the hands of the Earls of Fife. In 1889 the superiority of the feus of the town and lands of Turriff were sold by the Duke of Fife to Messrs. Francis George, solicitor, Banff, and Alex. George, solicitor, Macduff (brothers). In 1899 Mr. John Hutcheon of Gask purchased from the Messrs. George the Market Hill, with a small field adjoining (extending in all to eleven acres), and presented it to the town as a recreation park; it is now known as the Hutcheon Park."
The speaker dealt at some length with the appropriation of the Abbey lands of Deer by the Earl Marischal of the period. He pointed out that there was much scandal about it at the time, the Countess dreaming that she saw the monks "pyking" down the foundations of Dunnottar Castle with their penknives, and presently she saw the ruins of the castle heaped in the sea. She wept and remonstrated with the Earl, and he, to quiet her fears and silence scandal, founded Marischal College, putting over the gateway the scornful motto "They haf said, quhat say they, lat them say." The houses were now ruins nevertheless—both Dunnottar and Inrtigie castles. The Fergusons of Pitfour, who still later got possession of the Abbey lands, now let their own house to American millionaires, and the Earls of Erroll had to do the same with Slains Castle. [The castle itself has now been pulled down.] There was an old English saying that what was got over the Devil's back was lost under his belly.
When the Labour party came into power the right of the public to the lands of which it had been deprived would again be enforced; and the question of title, of original title, could not be barred in the court of equity by any Statute of Limitations. ‘Lapse of time’ said Mr Leatham, ‘does not make wrong right. You may multiply 0 by any number of millions but you will never make it 1. The original acquisition was a usurpation, and there need be no qualms of conscience about the nation resuming its right.’ The nation would not treat the present holders as their predecessors treated the public – with the open contempt of the Marischal motto. The chances, indeed, were that the consideration would be only too indulgent and liberal to the expropriated. The men of Britain had defended Britain from many a foreign invader or would-be invader, and while the danger was present they were promised that Britain would be made a home fit for heroes to live in. Now they were told to emigrate and leave the idle rich and the profiteers in possession. Some would go, but enough would remain to enforce, sooner or later, the long-delayed reckoning.
I do not know how you have felt during these years, but I have repeatedly turned over in my mind the question "Is there any place I can emigrate to where the population is not composed of fools and bullies?" Disgusted with his country, Fletcher of Saltoun emigrated to Holland when the Scottish Parliament sold Scotland to England. Disgusted with England, Professor Goldwin Smith some years ago emigrated to Canada.
I have thought of Holland sometimes of late years; but even there, in the home of William the Silent, the people have been showing the presence of Dutch cheese in the head by the fuss they have made about a chit of a girl bearing the absurd name of Wilhelmina. Canada again is the most hypocritically "loyal " of all our colonies, and was not ashamed to send a contingent to take part in this blackguardly war; Germany puts up with Kaiser Wilhelm and his prosecutions for lese majeste; France has had its Dreyfus case; Russia has excommunicated Tolstoy, and still consents to do without a Constitution; Italy, Austria, Spain, the Balkan States are all equally hopeless. Switzerland keeps itself fairly unspotted among the family of nations; and if one could make watches or knew about Alpine climbing and the keeping of goats, Switzerland might be worth taking into consideration. How to get away from the fools, that is the question one asks oneself; and the best answer seems to be to wait at home and try to ameliorate them, refusing to desert the field and leave the blockheads in possession of it.
That is one's duty, and although duty is sometimes a hard taskmaster, there has been much to console and hearten the friends of peace and progress during even the blackest hours of Britain's degradation. The prolonged and gallant stand made by those Dutch farmers in South Africa, and their surrender at last only upon terms, are a reproach to those who would weary in much easier well-doing. The very existence of a large minority of pro Boers openly professing their sympathy with their country's enemies was an absolutely new and unprecedented thing. It is true that during the American War we had politicians like Pitt and Burke and Robert Burns declaring their sympathy with the rebel colonists; that during the Crimean War John Bright opposed it; that, as already stated, we had Gladstone protesting against our warlike policy in '76-'78 ; and that our Egyptian War was received with protests in more than one quarter at home. John Bright resigned from the Gladstone Cabinet in protest, and Mr Seymour Keay's pamphlet, "Spoiling the Egyptains: A Tale of Shame," attracted considerable notice at the time and for some time afterwards. But never before have noblemen, party leaders, and a considerable section of the press, including several of the important daily newspapers, been opposed to a war waged by their own country while that war was in progress. The pro-Boer has run great risks and in many cases has suffered, loss and injury; but he has refused to outrage his own conscience and the Eternal Verities by approving a war, wicked, unnecessary, and inexpedient, as all war is, merely because it was waged by his own countrymen and kinsmen.
Nineveh was destroyed for want of ten good men; but in these late days almost any town in Britain would have escaped Nineveh's fate if courage and integrity under difficult and trying conditions had been sufficient. Isaiah held that Israel would be saved by a faithful remnant, and as Israel was not saved, we are left to infer that the remnant was not to be found. Israel had no "traitors." Her citizens were all loyal. And so Israel went down the wind. But a faithful remnant, and a considerable remnant at that, was all along to be found in our cities during the thirty months of war, and Britain may not only escape the fate of Israel, but by virtue of that remnant-the little leaven that leaveneth the whole lump-may well go on to brighter and juster conditions, when those who refused to bow the knee to the Baal of miscalled patriotism-that "last refuge of a scoundrel," as Johnson called it-will have their reward.
But in spite of Tory Government and Liberal weakness and faintness of heart, in spite of cant and khaki, in spite of loyal rejoicings over the advent of another Charles Second, in spite of the fustian gush about Imperialism, and the rapid emigration to new and poor countries of men and women who are badly wanted at home, one branch of the national life has shown quiet and steady progress through the years. I refer to the silent, irresistible, beneficent spread of Collectivism.
Need I tell a tale that has already been so often told? The tale, I mean, of how conspicuously public enterprise has beaten and continues to beat private enterprise! From the municipal history of every corporation in Britain I could give facts and figures showing how there is no useful function performed by the capitalist which the community in its organised capacity cannot perform infinitely better for itself. I could tell you of how you yourselves paid, under private enterprise, a water rate of 14 pence in the £ for an insufficient supply of "diluted sewage," but of how today, under corporation control, you get an abundant supply of pure and soft water from Loch Katrine for a water rate of 6d in the £, (A voice- Fivepence. The lecturer-Yes, fivepence and a penny.) I could tell you of how the gas consumers in Glasgow paid to the gas company 4s 7d per 1000 cubic feet, the gas stokers slaving 12 hours a-day on the two-shift plan, the consumers paying meter rents, and the shareholders bagging fat dividends ; whereas to-day under corporate management the price is, or was lately, 2s 2d as against 4s 7d, the stokers work eight hours a-day on the three-shift plan, the meter rents have been abolished, and the corporation makes an annual profit ranging between fifty and sixty thousand pounds, which goes into the public exchequer and comes back to the people in the form of relief from taxation.
I could tell you of how Glasgow municipalised its tramcar service, sweeping off its streets the old unsightly trucks, run by the private company, on which men slaved a minimum day of 14 hours; of how the corporation halved the fares all over the system, reduced the men's hours to ten a-day, increased their wages, and supplied them with uniforms ; of how they abolished advertisements from the sides and ends of the cars-those announcements of Pears' Soap, Colman's Starch, Reckitt's Blue, Nixey's Black Lead, and Eno's Fruit Salt which made it so difficult to pick out the nameboard indicating the destination of the car; and finally of how the first eleven months' working showed a profit of £24,000, upon which every year since then has shown a steady and, in the aggregate, enormous improvement. I could tell you of the seven Corporation Lodging-Houses with their £4000 profit, and of the Municipal Tele phones with their £13,000 profit for nine months' working. In all of these concerns which can be compared with private enterprise the results show a striking improvement under collective control as compared with private management. The producer is better as producer-he has higher wages for less work ; the consumer is better as consumer-he has better service at less cost; and the ratepayer is better as ratepayer since the profits made in these public departments came back to him in public improvements or in relief from taxation.
Now, the believers in the Co-operative Commonwealth maintain that if the public can supply itself thus advantageously with gas and water, there is no reason why it should not supply itself with coal and milk. As matter of fact, Bradford has just decided to provide itself with a municipal coal store. The motion adopted on this head was moved by a member of the Independent Labour Party, who pointed out that the coal burned in the Mayor's Parlour of the Townhouse cost 11s to 14s per ton, whereas the current price outside was 2ls. . If a corporation can run trams and tele phones it can manage the baking of bread, the building and letting of houses, cab-hiring, the slaughter of cattle and the sale of butcher meat-so long as we continue to eat dead animals ; in short, the State, the Municipalities, and the Parish Councils could carry on any and every species of business worth while. By putting an end to the warfare of competition, which wastes more wealth in a year than lethal strife wastes in a century, we should become richer to a degree which is at present incalculable.
By becoming gradually and steadily the sole landlords and the only capitalists the Municipalities and the State could make an end of rent, interest, and profit. All the idle hands and heads would in the course of a few generations be forced to turn to work. By the closing of unnecessary shops and offices enormous body of clerks and shop assistants would be set free for useful and really necessary work-the making of things instead of the mere selling of them or the writing about the sales. With distance practically annihilated, the population might be scattered over the countryside, men travelling three or thirty miles to and from work daily. If we continue to have towns and cities as places of residence they will be garden towns and cities, with wide streets, plenty of open spaces, and palatial buildings. They will be as different as possible from the present congeries of stone and brick boxes, with slate lids, which passes for a city. And the insides of the houses will be as much improved as the outsides. Instead of the present collections of gimcrack and veneer furniture, of dusty bulrushes and peacocks' feathers stuck in vases on the mantelpiece, china dogs, wax apples in glass cases, with antimacassars on the seats, and plush-covered brackets and framed calendars on the walls, the interiors of the future will be roomy and comfortable, and genuine art, both in furniture and decorations, will be the rule, since there will no longer be any motive to produce shoddy or jerry work, and the people will have the wherewithal to buy genuine products.
Our capitalistic system has enormously increased the output of mere commodities; but much of our production is rubbish, made to sell at a profit rather than to use and enjoy. For the rest, our capitalistic system has produced that joke the millionaire. That is all. The workman is pretty much where he was. The difference even between 15s and 50s of a weekly wage is a bagatelle in comparison with the increase of our wealth-producing power. The workman got a subsistence wage a century ago, and if his wage is doubled, and its purchasing power has also greatly increased since then, it is but a subsistence wage still. Yet the increase in productive power is any thing from two to twenty fold or more. In Professor Leone Levi's "Work and Pay " we read that "Seventy years ago, with the old-fashioned handloom, one weaver could produce six yards, narrow width, per day. With the steam-power loom to-day at Accrington a weaver attending to four looms can produce 160 yards every day-that is, the amount of labour is 1/27th now of what it was 70 years ago."
This is more or less typical of the improvement in production which has been going on all round ; but what all this has chiefly meant has been the creation of fortunes for the possessors of the machinery. Clearly the moral, then, is let the whole people get possession of the machinery. The conquest of the means of labour, which are the means of life-that is, in brief, the specific method by which the Hope of the Ages, the most important thing in the world, is to be realised.
The community in its organised capacity has simply to carry on the process it has already begun-extending its sphere of control and administration steadily, gradually, without confiscation, without violence done to vested interests, without dislocation of industry, commerce, or social life. The Revolution is even now in progress.
The pharisees were told that the Kingdom of God cometh not .with observation ; but the coming of the Co-operative Commonwealth may be observed by many tokens, and to the latter-day inquirer we may indeed say "Lo here and lo there " for the beginnings of it.
II. - THE MORAL OF THE REVOLT.
The Peasants’ Revolt was a tragedy, not alone because William Grindecobbe, John Ball, and Wat Tyler, with 1500 others (fifteen thousand according to Holinshed), lost their lives for the part they took in it, but because, with no political principle behind the rising, it could not succeed.
The time was not ripe for a successful revolt. Parliamentary Government had not taken its place as the register of the popular will (such as it is) nor as the controller of the national life. The Commons had just (1377) successfully asserted, as against John of Gaunt, the right to hold ministers responsible to Parliament for misgovernment of the country; and the barons had forever lost any little claim they ever possessed to be regarded as the maintainers of liberty. But the power of Parliament was still so limited, was still so much overshadowed by the power of the Crown and Executive, that the revolting peasants could hardly, in the existing low state of enlightenment, be expected to put their trust in political power as a means of achieving their economic ends. Had their leaders been at all familiar with the political life and methods of Greece and Rome, where the Government was not always and necessarily the King’s Government, they might have realised that, with a free Parliament and local self-government, they could shape their own civic destiny. But the art of printing had not yet arrived to make the experience of past ages and other countries a matter of common knowledge, as it is now at last becoming. And so while the priestly inspirers of the revolt were Christian Communists they had no political arangements to suggest whereby their Communism could be secured and administered. Socialism has its political system fairly well elaborated; but Socialism and Communism are not, as is sometimes roughly represented, one and the same system. Communism would mean every man according to his needs - cut and come again without money and without price; Socialism means every man according to his deeds, as measured in the due and proper reward of his labour, whether the reward be represented in minted coins or printed notes.
Demands of the Rebels.
The rebels had, indeed, specific proposals to make. They demanded: (1) the total abolition of serfdom, (2) the reduction of the rent of arable land to fourpence an acre, (3) full freedom to buy and sell like other men in fair or mart, and (4) a general pardon; but they took no constitutional measures to ensure that they should have these things as the permanent legal fruits of successful revolt. The rebels were content to take the word of the king that their claims should be granted, forgetting that, even at that time, the king had not the power to alter the law and dispose of the property of his subjects without the confirmation of Parliament. When, seventy years later (in 145o) John Cade, at the head of the Kentishmen, defeated the royal troops at Sevenoaks and had London at his mercy, he hesitated to accept similiar pledges on the ground that they had not the force of law, he showed political genius; but his associates, who had learned nothing by the bitter experience of their forefathers, rapidly melted away from him, not caring to wait for the necessary confirmation, and his life paid the forfeit of his own courage and the popular ignorance and disloyalty.
From the confessions of some of Tyler’s associates, it appears that he at least had in contemplation a scheme of military administration, by which each county was to have been placed under the governorship of a soldier, resembling in his office the major-generals who ruled the country under Cromwell. This would almost certainly have been a worse arrangement, leading to greater social evils, than those against which the peasants rebelled.
Professor Thorold Rogers, a splendid guide in matters of economic fact over his particular area, finds that all the ends of the revolutionists of 1381 were compassed, ‘and that speedily. The English labourer,’ says he, ‘for a century or more became virtually free and consequently prosperous.’ But freedom and prosperity do not necessarily go together. The birds of the air are proverbially free; but they often starve; and in London every week coroners’ juries have to return verdicts which show that a similar fate may overtake a free human being in the greatest city of the world in the twentieth century.
Years of relatively great prosperity did undoubtedly follow, as they had, in fact, preceded, the revolt of the peasants. The Black Death had so reduced the number of labourers that for two hundred years thereafter they were able to command higher wages, judged by their purchasing power, than they have ever enjoyed since. But this they did by force of social circumstances rather than as a result of their rebellion. The period of prosperity had set in before the revolt - the high price of labour was indeed provocative of the landlordial measures that led to the revolt - and the risings under Tyler and Cade were both so easily suppressed, owing to the ready credence given by their followers to any promise of redress, that the possessing classes had no reason to stand in serious dread of popular discontent. One result of a popular revolt, even when unbacked by fruitful ideas, is that the memory of it stands as a deterrent to the worst extremes of oppression. Yet how little this may count for in practical life is shown by the undoubted fact that the first half of the nineteenth century represents the most miserable phase through which labour has passed in the history of Britain.
A Communistic Rising.
The point is that the active spirits in the Peasants’ revolt had communistic ends in view. Those who look behind the superficial and supercilious narratives of such chroniclers as Froissart will find that the rising was primarily due to the preaching of the ‘poor priests’ sent out by Wycliffe. The favourite motto of the insurgents was:
When Adam dalve and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?
And as to Wycliffe, the inspirer of the revolt, there can be no manner of doubt as to the communistic character of his views. Professor Poole, discussing Wycliffe’s treatise On Civil Lordship, says:
Wycliffe’s doctrine of community is one of the most express points in his system. . . . Civil society, he maintained, originated in sin, in the lust of acquisition; and civil lordship is only so far good as it is correlated with natural lordship; in other words, with the lordship based on the law of the Gospel. Civil rulers are only justified in so far as they recognise the duty of ‘service’ - that is, of their corresponding obligations towards their subjects. Still, the ideal remains, that no man should hold separate property, and that all things should be had in common. .
The Church, Wycliffe urged, with Ockham, should hold no Property; endowments were a hindrance to its proper work. It should be limited to its strictly spiritual province.
There were two Popes at the time; the Church all over was even more grossly corrupt and materialistic than usual; and Wycliffe, at war with the Papacy, boldly applies his principles. The Holy See, he argues (De Civili Domini -. ‘Of Civil Lordship’ - i. 17), should revert to its primitive position of an exclusively spiritual power;
for to rule temporal possassions after a civil manner, to conquer kingdoms and exact tributes, appertain to earthly lordship, not to the Pope; so that if he pass by and set aside the office of spiritual rule, and entangle himself in those other concerns, his work is not only superfluous, but also contrary to Holy Scripture.
It was to expound and apply such general principles as these that Wycliffe sent out his ‘poor priests’ (otherwise russet priests, from the hue of their frocks of undyed black wool).
Influence of the Bible.
In respect of his Communism, then, John Ball was not singular in his time or among his fellow-preachers. These men had just made the acquaintance of Holy Writ in Wycliffe’s Bible. They were at once impressed with the communistic doctrines and practice of the early Christians. They read with approval, as Thorold Rogers says, of
the brave times when there was no king in Israel, when every man did that which was right in his own eyes, and sat under his own vine and his own fig-tree, none daring to make him afraid. They read how God, through his prophet, had warned Israel of the evils which would come to them when a king should rule over them, and how speedily this was verified in the conduct of the young Rehoboam, with his depraved and foolish counsellors, of how woe had been predicted to the people over whom a child should rule. The God of Israel had bade His people be husbandmen, and not mounted knights and men-at-arms. But most of all, the preacher would dwell on his own prototype, on the man of God, the wise prophet who denounced kings and princes and high priests, and, by God’s commission, made them like a potter’s vessel in the day of His wrath, or on those bold judges who were zealous even to slaying. For with this book, so old, yet so new, the peasant preacher - we are told that many learnt to read when they were old that they might tell the Bible story - could stir up the souls of these clowns with the true narrative of another people, and would be sure that his way to their hearts and their confidence would be, as it always has been with the leaders of a religious revival, by entirely sympathising with their wrongs, their sufferings, and their hopes. And when they told him that the lords had determined to drag them back to their old serfdom, the preacher could discourse to them of the natural equality of man, of the fact that all - kings, lords, and priests - live by the fruits of the earth and the labour of the husbandman, and that it would be better for them to die with arms in their hands than to be thrust back, without an effort on their part, into the shameful slavery from which they had been delivered. And as their eyes kindled, and they grasped their staves, he could tell them to keep their ears open for the news of their deliverance; that, on the password being given, they were at once to be to the appointed place, where a great work could be done for God’s people by his appointed servant.
Example and Warning.
Far be it from us to say that these fourteenth-century Englishmen fought and died in vain. If they erred in their political unwisdom, at least it was right to protest and rebel against injustice gross and palpable. They could not know that they must needs fail. The possibilities of error have, apparently, to be exhausted. Humanity does not progress by rule and right reason, but as the outcome of many compromises with the tyranny of existing circumstances - vested interests, deficient knowledge, hoary use-and-wont, and mere prejudice and smoke of opinion. Rational public spirit, the capacity to give and to do in the interests of the common weal, is built up and sustained by all tradition of heroism and self-sacrifice that has come down to us. The Tree of Liberty and Right is not kept in growth without nurture from the blood of martyrs. Our blood runs cooler in our veins to-day than it did in those of the tiler of Dartford and the noble miller of St. Albans, and to withstand even the petty tyrannies and abuses of our time, and hand over an enhanced heritage of public benefit to those who are to come after us, we need to recall the example of those who fought the good fight in circumstances of greater danger and less encouragement than we do. Every age has its own public problems to solve, its own civic rights to maintain, its own common privileges to gain. Looking around us to-day, we can apply to ourselves the words put into the mouth of John Ball by a great artist who lived in the fourteenth almost as much as he lived in the nineteenth century:-
Yea, forsooth, once again I saw as of old the great treading down the little, and the strong bearing down the weak, and cruel men fearing not, and kind men daring not, and wise men caring not; and the saints in heaven forbearing and yet bidding me not to forbear; forsooth, I knew once more that he who doeth well in fellowship, and because of fellowship, shall not fail though he seem to fail to-day, but in days hereafter shall he and his work yet be alive, and men be holpen by them to strive again and yet again.
The ‘Commons’ To-day.
The ‘commons’ have now the power to redress their own disabilities. That power has been won not without suffering on the part of those who in diverse ways withstood tyranny in days gone by. That it has been lightly come by, so far as the present generations are concerned, may explain why it is so lightly valued by them - so lightly valued that one half of them do not record their votes in elections, while those who do vote use their suffrages to return to power the classes with whom their ancestors contended in deadly strife. If the men of 1381 did not demand representative rights they at least showed ‘in one wild hour how much the wretched dare,’ and helped to make it possible for us of a later generation to secure our privileges without resort to the last extreme. It may be that the ‘true commons,’ having now the power of governance, will at length learn how to use it in the best interests, not only of the greatest number, but in the ultimate highest interests of all.
The deaths of Tyler and Ball killed the fourteenth-century revolt. Democracy to-day has ideas, definite purposes, the overwhelming preponderance of political power; and, while leadership matters, and matters greatly, leaders may come and go, but the cause of the people will go marching on.
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