Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Christian charity has its limits

A baby boy was abandoned in the town of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire on Christmas Eve 1721.


His parents are unknown and his name is not recorded.

The local Kirk Session provided for the orphan as he grew up. They followed the general arrangements for poor relief laid down by a 1579 Act of the Scottish Parliament which made allowance for children who were “exposed” (abandoned) within the boundaries of a rural parish.

The shame of unmarried motherhood, as well as the economic difficulties of supporting a child in the 18th century, meant that many illegitimate children were, like this boy, left to be brought up by “the parish”.


But Christian charity has its limits. In May 1728, the Rev William Watt and the Kirk Session were asked to decide on what should be done with the boy who was now six and a half years old.

In a judgement that seems inordinately harsh to modern sensibilities, they decided that since the boy was old enough to beg for his food they need no longer pay for his upkeep, other than a small sum to be paid to a local woman to look out for him.

The hand-written note in the parish records says the meeting ended with prayer.

Source-Scottish Executive


The Session considering that the orphan is now in such case as that he can seek his meat in the town, and the neighbouring places, agree that they will no more pay for him as hitherto they have done, but that he shall goe a begging. Only they will give some small sum to Elspet Grig to encourage her to notice of him, and for washing his cloaths; as also they agree to give him cloaths before ye (the) next winter. And its recommended to minister to intimate this to Elspet Grig.

Session Closed with prayer.

Source-Scottish Executive

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