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.
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