Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


South Leith Records 3

The Records of South Leith Parish Church from 2nd April 1613 to 22nd July 1615. It covers in detail the plans and repairs done to the Church at this period.

2nd April 1613 The Minister reports that John Thomson has promised to prepare for Communion and would communicate at the next Communion day.

John Heries then appeared before the Session and warned that should he strike his wife or found striking his wife he would be removed from the town never to return

(Editors note- The word used in the original text for strike is “ding”)

9th April 1613 The Session orders that no-one was to erect a seat within the Church without the express permission and licence of the Session. If not done then the Session would censor the parties involved, find them £10 and public repentance was to be made. This would include the builder as well.

(Editors note- The word used in the original text for a builder is a “Bigger”)

16th April 1613 The Session considering the zealous and Godly nature of the Session of Edinburgh about the Profaning of the Sabbath by such of the Congregations resorting to the Town. Has ordered that for every Sabbath in the month to come that eight of their number shall diligently before and after noon shall visit within the bounds of the Town every house especially houses that sells wine and beer and the names of anyone found prophaning the Sabbath their names will be taken and past onto the Edinburgh Session. The Session of Leith requests to the Kirk of Edinburgh that two of their number are included in their number for the better trial of transgressors for the space of one month.

(Editors note- People from Edinburgh were visiting Leith at the weekends to have fresh air from the stuffy and confined space of Old Edinburgh. This was because Edinburgh was still surrounded by the old Flodden Wall, buildings within the area went up and the closes and wynds narrowed, and the area within became disease ridden to be confirmed thirty-two years later in 1645 with the outbreak of the plague. Thus Leith became fashionable for walks and the Sea air.

However the Church of the time considered this as profaning the Sabbath and people could be arrested for taking a walk or even eating a radish on a Sunday. This attitude continued almost into the early years of the 19th century. In many Churches in Scotland can still be seen the Jougs (a cast Iron collar in which Sabbath breakers were put for twenty-four hours. The Scottish form of the English Stocks)

23rd April 1613 The Session pays eighty Marks to John Saunders for a pair of double Virginals for the music School and order that Leith is put on them

(Editors note The Church had two Schools a) The Grammar School which taught Latin and Greek and which the parents paid for and the Music School which as the names suggest taught music to be sung in Church and gave a very basic education which was free. However the Music School would in all likelihood been the earliest originating from the founding of the Preceptory of St Anthony in the 14th century.

The Virginal is a musical instrument of the harpsichord family and possible the earliest known member. The name coming from the Latin “virga” meaning “a rod”. This is the wooden shaft that rest on the ends of the keys and hold the plucking mechanism, They were very popular in the 16thand 17th century and usually beautifully inlaid.)

14th May 1613 The Session orders that the seat of Lady Pilrig should be given to her. However a door should be put on the seat and the Church Officer should keep the Keys. This will be her seat as long as the Session thinks it is right and expedient for her to have the seat.

(Editors note-Seats within the Church were at this time very rare and erected mainly by the rich. However they were built only on the express licence of the Session. Furthermore they were treated like heritable property to be past from father to son or to the next male heir. What is happening in this entry is that Lady Pilrig’s husband must have died and there was no obvious heir so lady Pilrig is using the Seat until an heir is found otherwise the claim for the seat in the Church could be contested in Court and there are many recorded instances of this happening. Pilrig House at this time belonged to the Moneypennys)

3rd September 1613 The Session was informed of the insolence taking place at Lylwaikes taking place lately and have ordered that whosever commits such behaviour in all time coming will be imprisoned and will have to pay a fine according to there ability to pay. This to be intimated by the minister from the Pulpit.

Then came Jane Portous who had been found to have committed insolence at a Lykwaik on the Sabbath day was ordered to come to Church before and after sermon before noon to confess her guilt and to ask God and the Congregation for forgiveness

(Editors note- The “Lykwaik” mentioned above was the watching of a corpse before burial. People would come to pay their last respects and a watch was made through the night. This was originally done to protect the soul of the dead person being taken by evil spirits and was the origins of the wake as done in the Catholic Tradition. However by this time people had forgotten the reasons for a wake and it had turned into an opportunity to get drunk. This is the “insolence” referred to in the entry.)

5th November 1613 To stop all the Neighbours to bring dogs into the Church. If done the dog is to be killed and the owners punished.

(Editors note- The reason for this is because up to this point and for almost three hundred years after the above date there was substantial farm land around Leith and farmers had been bringing their dogs to Church up to this date. As explained above there were few pews or seats and most people stood or brought a “cutty stool” the three legged type stool to sit on in Church and there was no floor to the Church, just a dirt floor. It stands to reason that allowing dogs into the building would have caused problems of dogs fouling the building and the smell must have been bad and the Church unhygienic because of this.

One observation I would make of the Kirk Records is some of the entries look strange or odd and sometimes downright cruel, but if the entries are understood properly in the context of their time, what is found is a good reason for the Session doing what they are doing, and not so very different from what would happen today.)

15th November 1613 The Session requests that all the Neighbours meet at the East end of the Church after the 9.00am Sermon to consider the churches response to the Presbytery about a second minister.

(Editors note-Due to the first Protestant minister David Lindsay being also a State Official under James VI a minister had to be appointed to stand in for him while he was away on State business or at Court. This stand in minister became in time “The minister of the second Charge” his stipend being paid by the Incorporations of Leith” The post being abolished in 1872 on the death of the last minister of the second Charge Henry Duff in 1872 .)

11th February 1614 The Session requests that the ministers and magistrates meet with the Master of Works about the Church.

(Editors note- This entry may be wrong as David Lindsay secundus was minister between 1613 and 1627. However between his appointment in 1613 until 1616 there wasn’t a minister of the second charge until Thomas Hog was appointed. So who the ministers were in 1614 is not clear. Certainly David Lindsay is one but has far as any other minister is concerned this has not been recorded.

Despite what many people think Church buildings do not remain the same throughout there history. When South Leith Parish Church started possibly in the 12th century it was a rectangular shaped building then by the 15th century the North and South Aisles would have been added and a Choir area and North and South Transepts. However by 1560 the Choir Area along with the Transepts would have been removed due to English Cannon fire during the Siege of Leith. The rectangular Tower at the crossing of the Church would have collapsed. The Church building which remained was a building with a Nave, North and South Aisles and no Tower or steeple. This produced a serous problem because nobody had clocks in their houses in the town and therefore no way of telling the time. The Church had a Clock in a small tower the top of which ran parallel to the roof but it wasn’t a proper Church steeple. This Clock is mentioned in the entry of 1594 and could have been one of the earliest in Scotland. From this meeting it was decided to erect a proper Church steeple which was to stand until 1674 when it was demolished and rebuilt by Robert Mylne the Kings Master Mason in Scotland and this one stood until 1836 when it was discovered to be twenty-four inches of the perpendicular. It was replaced by the current Church Tower in a Gothic Style in 1848 which was a popular style in the mid 19th century.)

25th February 1614 The Session orders James Chalmers to collect all the keys from the key holders of locked seats and to ensure that they are opened by the second bell on every preaching day.

(Editors note-This entry proves that South Leith had Box pews which can still be seen in some churches today. The pew itself had sides and a door and within the enclosed area was a table with seating. According to one story people eat their lunch during the sermon because they couldn’t be seen because of the high sides of the box. )

Ist April 1614 On this day the neighbours met to discuss the repairing of the Church and requested the Session to provide “Primo Quogue Tempore” the whole accounts for the repairs. Also how much of the Wine hadn’t been allocated to the repairs and to the furnishings in order that with Gods blessing the work may begin.

The Session orders that the book of repairs be shown including when certain repairs were to be done. Also that the whole of the Wine Silver will be allocated to the Work.

(Editors note- The Monks of the Preceptory of St Anthony were entitled to a Scots Quart of Wine out of every ton of Wine entering the Port of Leith and considering that Leith was the biggest importer of Wine outside of London. This amounted to a considerable amount of Wine going to the Preceptory hence the large vaults vaults under the Streets of Leith which in many cases still exist. After the Reformation this was transferred to South Leith Church not as wine but as a money equivalent and amounted to £4 Scots (or 33p in today’s money) on every ton of Wine imported into the Town. Which may not appear to be a lot, but at the time was a substantial amount of money. Eventually due to the difficulties in collecting this tax the Church gave its rights up altogether.)

15th April 1614 The Session orders that David Hamilton and Frances Waldy to test Patrick Suils wine and to obtain a barrel of the wine tested. Robert Fluiker and Thomas Watson to prepare the bread for the Communion and to serve at the Table. James Lookup and Patrick Suils to deliver the Wine. To help at the Communion (Six Elders are mentioned), for the collecting of the Tickets (six Elders are mentioned) and to stand at the Top Table Gilbert Lamb and John Matheison.

(Editors note-The first mention in the Kirk Records of Communion at South Leith Church was on the 25th September 1608. The above entry is the second mention of Communion and it would appear that Communion wasn’t celebrated very often in the Church at this time. One possible explanation for this would be that the Reformation in Scotland had in historic terms only happened and in fact taking Scotland as whole there were still more people in Scotland at this time who were Roman Catholics then Protestants. So the Protestants wanted to show that the Communion in the Protestant sense was in fact different from the Roman Catholic Mass. People could attend Mass on a daily basis in the Roman Catholic Church however the Protestant’s wanted to move away from this. Communion done on a more regular basis would have smacked of the Old Religion and wouldn’t have been tolerated in a Protestant Church.

The Church at the Reformation would have been brightly painted inside and would have had Chantry Chapels lining the walls dedicated to the Patron Saints of each of the Incorporations (Trade Guilds) of Leith. However at the Reformation they would have all been removed and the Church would have become a lot darker and lit only by torches and candles. It must also be remembered that the Church at the time had no floor and very few pews and so when a Communion was to be celebrated Trestle Tables were erected down the centre of the Church and separate Tables put up for the Ministers, Bailies and Magistrates. The Tables were then enclosed by a wooden fence driven into the earthen floor of the Church with an entrance and exist. People attending the Communion would enter by the West Door (now removed), have Communion and then leave by the North-East or South-East doors. The interesting thing is that Communion was not done in a day but could go on for two-three weeks depending on the numbers deciding to Communicate it was in fact a season.

This is also the first mention of Tickets in the Records and these are better known as “Church Tokens”. Before the Communion the Elders would go out to the whole Parish and they would interview everyone and they would ask. “Did they know the Lords Prayer? “, “What are the Ten Commandments?”, “Do you understand the Doctrines of the Church?”, “Have you an on going argument with your neighbour?” and so on and if you past this test you got your Church Token and so could take Communion. The oldest known Church Token date from 1676 because early Tokens were made from Lead and Lead reacts with Carbon Dioxide in the Air and Water to form Lead Carbonate which turns Lead white and all the details on the token are simply washed out. Also early Tokens being made of Lead were melted down to be used as musket balls. Tokens were used at South Leith until the 1870’s when Communion Cards were introduced. In the West Porch of South Leith Church in a glass case can be seen a Church Token stamp which is very rare.)

15th April 1614 The Session received a letter from Margaret Todd, the widow of James Hay, asking the Session to allow her son to attend School as his father had been a Town servant and had died in their service. The Session agrees to this and orders that a letter be sent to her to confirm this.

(Editors note-The Town Servant mentioned in the record may mean that James Hay was the Church Beadle or the Grave digger. The Beadle didn’t only have responsibilities within the Church but also handed out the badges that the Session had granted to licensed Beggars in the Town. The Church itself ran two Schools, The Grammar School, and the Music School and as there was a charge for the Grammar School it would appear from the entry that the Session is taking on responsibility to pay the boy’s fees at the Grammar School.)

6th May 1614 The Session orders the clearing of the space for the building of the steeple and the carrying out of the repair work and there would be a collection on Thursday and Friday to further this work.

(Editors note-This steeple stood until 1674 at which point it was rebuilt by Robert Mylne the Kings Master Mason. The replacement steeple was demolished in 1836 being “twenty-four inches” of the perpendicular.)

8th July With the advice of the neighbours the Session orders that the work on the steeple should stop until the next meeting in order that the work on the roof could start and be finished. So that both the roof of the Church and steeple can be covered in roof tiles.

13th July 1614 The Baillies delivered to the treasurer James Mathieson three hundred pounds of the Wine Tax which had been collected in 1613 to be used to pay for the repair work on the Church roof.

5th October 1614 The Session thought that as God’s judgement was at hand that there should be a fast to begin on Thursday and teaching would be given on the Thursday, Saturday afternoon and on Sunday The fast and humiliation in order for god to show pity and avert his anger

(Editors note-one interruption of his entry was that the Session expected the “End of the World”. Another that they were expecting a great calamity to befall the nation due to the corruption seen in the Court of James VI. It was in that year that James met Charles Villier’s the Kings favourite and the future Duke of Buckingham.)

29th September 1614 It is ordered by the consent of the Session that the cost of the repairing of the Church should be separated from the poor Silver, Penalties and the Wine Silver and legacies from the Ist of November last to pay for the money borrowed and all other affairs.

(Editors note-What seems to have happened here is that the Session and even the builders didn’t realise that the Church is built on an ancient beach and so the foundations would in all likelihood would have to be made deeper then expected, incurring extra costs, and so extra borrowing was needed to allow the work to proceed. This is what they are trying to pay off. Unfortunately they didn’t go deep enough and the Steeple had to be replaced in 1674 and even Robert Mylne’s steeple had to be taken down in 1836 due to the foundations not being deep enough and the tower subsiding by twenty-four inches off the perpendicular.)

29th December 1614 James Home and John Duff to serve at the Tables, Archibald Gibson and John Morton to attend at the Tables and these four are to collect for the poor and the repair work with David Thompson, John Stewart and Andrew Gray.

31st December 1614 On this day with the consent of the whole Session John Ochiltree was chosen as the Keeper and Collector of all fines, legacies and Impost of Wine according to the Act agreed to on the 29th September

5th January 1615 The Session orders in respect to the misbehaviour of those in Restalrig that whosoever who doesn’t attend Church on the Sabbath or as occasion demands on a weekday will be deprived of all the benefits of the Church and the Minister will intimate this from the pulpit.

(Editors note-This entry although at first appears to be dealing with non attendance of Church. Is in fact dealing with something more serious. The clue’s come in the use of the words “misbehaviour” and “will be deprived of all the benefits of the Church”. Although Sabbath breaking was taken very seriously by the Church it didn’t normally led to excommunication which “will be deprived of all the benefits of the Church” in point of fact means.. The types of offences that a person could be excommunicated for were serious offences like Murder, Treason, Adultery (after warnings) but in the main was used against Roman Catholics or people suspected of having Catholic sympathies, The misbehaviour mentioned here was probably the celebration of Mass in the Ruins of Restalrig Church (now St Margaret’s Church). The Church itself was the original Parish Church for Leith but was demolished in 1560 on the orders of the General Assembly as a “Symbol of Idolatry” because up to 1560 Restalrig Church was the pilgrimage centre for the Well and Chapel of St Triduana and was used by people with problems with their eyes. It is odd to think that despite the Church being demolished and the Aisle of St Triduana being partially demolished and filled with rubbish the actual Well of St Triduana was in used up to the 1840’s until it was removed to the Queen’s park however since the Reformation it had been rename St Margaret’s well. The appearance of the Well is identical but on a smaller scale to St Triduana’s Aisle at Restalrig. The Aisle was cleared out and repaired at the beginning of the 20th century and people can now visit it.)

The Session decrees that with the respect due to the reverence due to god’s word and sacraments. That proper behaviour should be observed at all times within the house of God. Therefore no-one should walk about in any part of the Church during the time of readings, singing, or the solemnising of Marriage or the administration of the sacraments and this is to be intimated from the pulpit by the minister.

(Editor Note-This entry throws an interesting light on the history of Leith. It would appear obvious that people don’t go walking about during a religious service or that proper decorum should be observed at all times. However the Church building was the only large stone built building in Leith at the time and it was the only place that large numbers of people could meet, discuss and transact business, or to talk to neighbours and friends. At this time the Church was the Community and the Community was the Church. It would appear from this entry that things were starting to get out of hand and people had to be remembered why they were really in Church for.)

12th January 1615 The Session orders in respect to the time that people should come to Church and that the minister will intimate it from the pulpit. That all should come in at the second bell. Furthermore all honest women and others should not sit at the back of the Church but in the body of the Church.

(Editors note-This has been repeated many times at South Leith over the years. However most people still to this day sit at the back of the Church.)

19h January 1615 Those who served at the tables (during communion) and those who were collectors of the Tickets before for the poor and repairing will serve again.

26th January 1615 For the poor Robert Flucker and Thomas Dickson. For the Reparing John Gourlay.

(Editors note-There were collections for the poor for Parish Relief which continued well into the 19th century. There were continuing collections for repair work to the Church building. The reason for this was due to the extensive damage done to the Church building in 1544 and again in 1560 during the Siege of Leith. Repairs would have been done over the years however what as being done in 1615 was very extensive and at the time expensive)

16th April 1615 The collectors chosen foe the voluntary contributions were as follows: For the Masters James Home, Alexander Davy; for the Traffickers Abraham Wauchope and James Liddel, for the Maltmen John Ballendene, William Logan, for the Craftsmen David Hamilton, Robert Flucker, for the Mealmen Henry Fraser he was chosen to go with the Maltmen. It was also agreed by everyone that it would be better if the minister David Lindsay would publicly intimated it to the whole congregation which he has promised to do on the next Sunday as to encourage the people to help in this Charitable and worthy cause.

(Editors note-The Masters were the Masters of Trinity House which was the Hospice for Seamen ran by the Incorporation of Mariners. Later Trinity House became the meeting place for the Incorporation. The Scots word for a merchant is a Trafficker)

17th April 1615 In the presence of the Session and the neighbour’s john Ochiltee presented his accounts and intromissions of the separated money from fines, legacies from the 29th December to the present time. His intromissions amount to three hundred and two pounds and eighteen shillings

Ist July 1615 The Sessions appoints the ministers with William Duff, Archibald Gibson and Patrick Glasford to approach the Council of Edinburgh for the first quarter of the Wine Tax in order to pay the workmen.

15th July 1615 The Session orders William Duff the treasurer to give eighty four pounds to the magistrates which in turn they would give to Andrew Henderson which was the tax of the Wine Silver for the slating of the Church building

22nd July 1615 William Duff the Treasurer was given a warrant from the Clerk to receive the annual of six thousand marks from the Good man of Coatfield at the present term of Whitsunday 1615 to wit three hundred marks and to welcome him in the name of the Session .

© South Leith Parish Church Kirk Session. Permission to use any material contained in any of the Session Records reproduced on this site must be obtained from the Minister and Session of South Leith.

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