Curiosities of Church Finance


By the Rev. R. Wilkins Rees.


“The plate for collections is inside the church, so that the whole congregation can give a guess at what you give. If it is something very stingy or very liberal, all Thrums knows of it within a few hours; indeed, this holds good of all the churches, especially, perhaps, of the Free one, which has been called the bawbee kirk, because so many half-pennies find their way into the plate. On Saturday nights the Thrums shops are besieged for coppers by housewives of all denominations, who would as soon think of dropping a threepenny bit into the plate as of giving nothing. Tammy Todd had a curious way of tipping his penny into the Auld Licht plate while still keeping his hand to his side. He did it much as a boy fires a marble, and there was quite a talk in the congregation the first time he missed. A devout plan was to carry your penny in your hand all the way to church, but to appear to take it out of your pocket on entering, and some plumped it down noisily like men paying their way. I believe old Snecky Hobart, who was a canty stock but obstinate, once dropped a penny into the plate and took out a half-penny as change; but the only untoward thing that happened to the plate was once when the lassie from the farm of Curly Bog capsized it in passing. Mr Dishart, who was always a ready man, introduced something into his sermon that day about women’s dress, which everyone hoped Christy Lundy, the lassie in question, would remember.”

This, from Mr J. M. Barrie’s “Auld Licht Idylls,” will ever be a classic passage on Scottish church finance, so far as it is represented by the collection. It is not, however, in such pages that the material for such an article as this must be sought, but rather in such fruitful fields as those afforded by, chiefly, the Kirk Session Records preserved in various parts of the country.

It has been pointed out, I think by Buckle in his “History of Civilisation in England,” in comparing Spain and Scotland in point of superstition and religious intolerance, that the latter country has denied to political what it has conceded to priestly government, and hence its superior material progress and prosperity. The general influence of the Kirk Session, especially as exemplified in its disciplinary powers, was unquestionably large and far-reaching, surpassing even that of magisterial authority. Hence we may find records of fines levied by and paid to the Kirk Session which we should have thought would have been solely within civil jurisdiction. The church revenue derived from fines must have been in some instances quite considerable, and as indicating their nature many entries derived from old church records are of peculiar interest and value. What the Church forbad was forbidden, and when her laws were broken or her wishes not complied with, the culprit had to pay the penalty. When the minister and the session anathematized it was generally discovered that it was not as with the Highland laird, who “did not swear at anybody in particular: he jist stood in tae middle o’ tae road and swore at lairge.” The anathemas were directed at a definite object, and of the luckless individual thus aimed at it could not be said, as in the “Ingoldsby Legends,” “Nobody seemed one penny the worse.”

The manner in which these fines were determined is sufficiently indicated by an extract from the Records of Session of Tyninghame, under date May 12, 1616:—“Maister Johne (the minister, by name John Lauder) heavilie compleinit yt ye last Lord’s Day the Sabbothe was prophanit be sundrie pepill, as he was informit, by yoking thair cairts about 10 or 11 houris at evene, and led wair fra the see, to ye dishonour of God and evill example of utheris. For redress heirof in tyme coming, it is ordainit be the said Maister Johne and elderis present, that quhaevir sall yok to leid wair on ye Sabbothe, befor ane hour efter midnight, or until 12 houris at even be past, sall make publik satisfaction in the kirk, and pay 20s. toties quoties; and also ordains publik intimation heirof to be maid.”

The following may be taken as supplying a commentary on this. It will, of course, be remembered that in the days here referred to Scots money was only one-twelfth part the value of what it is now:—“August 12 (1621).—The minister shew to the elderis that he had causit wairn Robert Skugall, servitor to James Neilsone, befor the session. Callit on, compeirit, and accusit of carying netis to the sea in ane cairt, be yoking hors efter the efternoone sermon, confessit the samin, bot did it, as he alledgit, with his maister his directions. James Neilsone, present, answerit yt he bade him not yoke ane cairt, bot cary the netis on ane horseback. Ordainis the said Robert to satisfie publicklie the nixt Lordis Day. Item: Thomas Airthe compleinit on ane man quha brocht salt from the Panis to this towne this day, befor sermon, to sell to qm presentlie the minister past; and George Shortus, the officer, with him, arrestit the salt, and put it in Rot. Quhyte his barn, that nain of it micht be sold that day. Takin fra him 12s. to the pure.” “August 26.—James Neilsone, accusit for comanding his man to pass to the sea with netis in ane cairt, the said James denyit he comandit him except only to carie them on horseback; to qm the minister answerit that the last day he confessit he bade him yok the cairt, qlk some of the elderis testifeit; the brethren present ordainit the said James to remove, to be censured, and ordainis him to sit down on his kneis befor the elderis and ask God forgiveness, and to pay twentie s. to the box, qlk bothe he did, and the session was qtentit.”

Other extracts from the same records are worthy of note in this connection. On September 25, 1631, Alex. Jackson was ordered to give to the box what he received for the herrings which he brought in on the Sabbath day. He affirmed that he got but thirty shillings, which was produced before the session and put into the box. On April 3, 1642, John Nicolson was accused for hauling some lines in the water one Sabbath day, but the minister and elders, seeing him penitent, and submitting himself humbly, alleging that he did not get four shillings’ worth of fish, ordered him to pay penalty, four shillings, and to make satisfaction on his knees before the session. The fishermen were, however, allowed to set their nets on Sunday, though not to haul them, as Dunbar records testify:—“8 September 1639, Sunday.—Gude order keipit be the seamen at the draife; no herring brocht in, nor nets hauled, but only nets set at efternoon.” “30 August 1635.—The session appoints some of the elders to go to the seaside at efternoon, to see that there be no mercat in herring; and the minister to be with them efter the efternoon, to see guid order keepit.”

Sabbath-breaking was, unquestionably, a fruitful source of church income. On December 26, 1619, it was shown to the minister that Robert Barrie, hind to the Lady Bass, had thus offended by carrying peat; and on February 4, 1621, the said Lady Bass had to pay 18s. for a servant who again broke the Sabbath. “Profanation of the Sabbath,” with its attendant fine, was again and again reported. Sometimes it was football on the links after the afternoon sermon, and drinking after the pastime, which had to be atoned for by a money payment, or again, it might be that “for not being in the kirk in time in the afternoon” the offender had to pay ten shillings, even though he might have “come to the kirk shortly after the third bell.” Occasionally, it would seem, the fines were imposed with drastic severity:—January 21 (1644).—“James Kirkwood gave to the session, to be put in the box, in name and behalf of George Hay, in Scougall, tasker to said James, 7s., because he came not with his companie tymeouslie to the kirk that Lord’s Day his wyffe was buryed, as he aucht to have done.... He said that the days were short, and they had few to carry hir corpes, and the pepill did not conveine so tymeouslie as he expectit, and this was the caus.”

Absence from worship caused many a shilling to fall into the coffers of the kirk. “Advertise them that they come to the kirk every Sabbath and that they that were convicted of absence, without lawful excuse, should pay six shillings every person, seeing they might now, the farthest of them, the days being long and the weather fair, come every day.” This was in 1619. What a significant entry is the following:—“October 14, 1621.—The minister exhortit the peple to repentance. George Shortus searchit the towne.” Or this:—“This day Alexander Davidson seairchit ye towne, and delatit some persons absent fra ye kirk in tyme of preiching.” Absentees were followed and fined with an almost relentless pertinacity. Elders were ordered by the minister to search the town and “to delate the absentees.” As soon as public worship began, the elder started on his quest, and the luckless delinquents were hunted in home and alehouse. A few days after, their names, with penalties attached, appeared in the session books. Sometimes no excuse was taken. An elder, even though he pleaded headache as reason for his absence, had to pay a fine; so had a deacon with like adequate excuse; each exaction tending to increase the income of the kirk.

But not only had Sabbath-day offences thus to be acknowledged. On January 2, 1625, Alex. Johnson, Patrick Wood, George Foster and Patrick Bassenden were called on and accused before the session “for troubling James Neilsone’s house, singing at the door, being drunk.” The two former had to pay, “ilk ane of them, 3 lib. for thair dronkenness, if they be able, and to seik the concurrence of the civile magistrat for payment thairof; and if they suld refuse, being unable, to speik the civile magistrat that they micht be utherwayis punishit.” And in the same year it was found necessary to intimate “out of the pulpitt, to absteine from drunkenes, utherwayis if any suld be fund giltie thairof suld be ordainit to pay thre punds.” On October 28, 1630, appeared an item of forty shillings, Alex. Jackson’s penalty for fighting, “sent down by my Lord of Haddington to the box, to be employed ad pios usus.” In 1659 the Kirk Session of Dunbar rebuked and fined in £20 Scots a woman who had sinned when Cromwell’s army was in the neighbourhood eight years before! Such a sin-penalty was, as far as possible, applied to a secular purpose, and the godly poor were not supposed to benefit therefrom. In 1620 James Neilson complained of his wife’s misbehaviour, and she was warned that should she disagree again she would be “inactit to pay 10 lib., toties quoties, and suld pay for this tyme also if she did disagree againe.” And in 1642 “John Bryson’s wife, in Scougall, is to be warned next day to the session for flyting with her husband, and abusing him by her unreverent speeches.” The penalty for such speeches was “20s. toties quoties.” Whether these ladies had private means, or the husbands had to endure the further hardship of providing the fine, history does not record. It should, however, be mentioned that cases sometimes occurred in which the fair sex were not to blame, as when a man was brought before the session for having assaulted his wife with a spade, and was fined a dollar, beside having to express his regret and to satisfy the session of his sincerity!

A few other curious sources of income may be mentioned. On May 29, 1625, it is reported in the Records of Session of Tyninghame that “John Jakson was not to proceid in mariadge wt Helen Bassenden, bot that the mariadge was given over, and thairfor qfiscats to the use of the pure, and uther pious uses, the 40s. qsigned be him, according to the order maid thairanent.” In the old Records of Innerwick, during 1608, it is stated that the minister having reported that the greatest part of the people were ignorant of the “Comands and very many of the Beliefs,” the session ordained that if such knowledge were not acquired within a given time, a penalty should be paid; also that no marriage shall be “maid or parteis proclaimit until baith the parteis also recite ye Lord’s Prayer, ye Belief, and ye Comands, or ells pay five libs. that they sall have them before the accomplishment of the mariage, qlk, if it be not done they sall forfeit.” And in 1620, when a man excused himself for not having come to the examination, because he was ignorant, he was “ordained to heir the Word diligentlie and attentivelie, and to keip the examination; and in caise of absence againe, he suld mak publik satisfaction, and pay one merk.”

The introduction of pews at the commencement of the eighteenth century was a means of obtaining additional revenue. As a return for the privilege of placing these seats in the previously open area of the kirk, “half-a-crown for the use of the poor,” was demanded as a rent, and it was further required “that the same be payd before the seats be set up.” The pew was also a source of indirect income, as when, in 1735, one John Porter was rebuked before the pulpit and heavily fined for pushing James Cobbam out of a seat in church, wringing his nose, and thumping him on the back. Bitter jealousy and anger were often occasioned by the pew, and hence free fights with accompanying fines not seldom occurred.

But the humours of the collection must not be altogether omitted. Burns, in giving his experience in “The Holy Fair,” has immortalised the elder (Black Bonnet—so called from a peculiarly shaped black hat worn by him) who stood by the plate as the people passed into the kirk—

“When by the plate we set our nose,
Weel heapit up wi’ ha’pence,
A greedy glower Black Bonnet throws,
And we maun draw our tippence.”

And R. L. Stevenson refers to these elders, “sentinels over the brazen heap,” when he says of a countryman whom he met out West—“He had a pursing of the mouth that might have been envied by our elders of the Kirk. He had just such a face as I have seen a dozen times behind the plate.” The elder, at any rate, magnified his office and closely watched each gift and giver. When a certain titled lady once made a profound and formal bow only, in passing, the elder followed her as she marched in state towards her seat, and in tones distinct enough to reach the whole congregation, said, “Gie us less o’ yer manners, my lady, and mair o’ yer siller.” When in later days one of the elders passed from pew to pew with outstretched ladle, he touched the people with it, and with unmistakable directness would say, “Wife, sittin’ next the wee lassie there, mind the puir,” or “Lass, wi’ the braw plaid, mind the puir.”

The obligations of the congregation in regard to the collection were also frequently enforced from the pulpit. Of “Wee Scotty o’ the Coogate Kirk” the following is related: “One Sunday, when there was a great noise o’ folk gaun into their seats, Scotty got up in the pu’pit and cried out, ‘Oh that I could hear the pennies birlin’ in the plate at the door wi’ half the noise ye mak’ wi’ yer cheepin’ shoon! Oh that Paul had been here wi’ a lang wooden ladle, for yer coppers are strangers in a far country, an’ as for yer silver an’ yer goold—let us pray!’” And of Dr Dabster, “an unco bitter body when there was a sma’ collection,” to whom, before the sermon began, the beadle used to hand a slip of paper with the amount collected, we are told that one day when the whole collection only reached two shillings and ninepence, he stopped suddenly in his discourse and said, with biting sarcasm, “It’s the land o’ Canawn ye’re thrang strivin’ after; the land o’ Canawn, eh? Twa an’ ninepence! Yes, ye’re sure to gang there! I think I see ye! Nae doot ye think yersel’s on the richt road for’t. Ask yer consciences an’ see what they’ll say. Ask them an’ see what they wull say. I’ll tell ye. Twa miserable shillin’s an’ ninepence is puir passage money for sic a lang journey. What! Twa an’ ninepence! As well micht a coo gang up a tree tail foremost, an’ whustle like a superannuated mavis as get to Canawn for that!” After this we cannot wonder at the old farmer’s advice to the young minister, “When ye get a kirk o’ yer ain, dinna expeck big collections. Ye see, I was for twal’ year an elder, and had to stand at the plate. I mind fine the first Sabbath after the Disruption, though our twa worthy ministers didna gang out, and the strange feelin’ about me as I took my place at the plate for the first time. It was at ane o’ the doors o’ St Andrew’s Parish Kirk, in Edinburgh. Noo, hoo muckle d’ye think I got that day?” “Oh, well, I know the church nicely,” was the answer—“seated for at least two thousand—you might get two pounds.” “Wad ye believ’t?” responded the elder, “I only got five bawbees, stannin’ i’ the dracht for twenty minutes, too! If I had only kent, I wad rather hae pit in the collection mysel’ an’ covered up the plate. Mind, dinna expeck big collections.”

The coins of other countries were strongly objected to. As far back as 1640, “The minister dischairget the people to give ill curreners,” or the treasurer writes, “Collect 8s. 4d., whereof much ill cureners.” And in the Records of Whitekirk, August 18, 1730, we find that “The minister and elders did receive from John Lermond, son to the deceased William Lermond, who was kirk-treasurer, the poor’s box; and the poor’s money therein was compted, and there was in the box of good current money, at the present rates, ane hundred and ten pounds of whit-money. In turners there was of current coin 15lb., 10s. 10d.; in Scots half merks, 12lb.; in doyts and ill copper money, 2lb., 4s. 2d.” This doyt (“not worth a doyt”) was “a Dutch coin of debased metal, and equivalent in value to the twelfth part of a penny only.” Its use in Scotland seems to have been confined solely to collection purposes. In Paul’s “Past and Present in Aberdeenshire” is mentioned a rebuke once given by a Mr Wilkie, a minister of the parish of Fetteresso, whose income was chiefly obtained from the kirk door collections. One Sunday morning he thus delivered himself: “When ye gang to Aberdeen to sell your butter, and your eggs, and your cheese, and get a bawbee that ye’re dootfu’ about, I’m tell’t that ye’ll gie’t a toss up atween ye’r finger an’ ye’r thoom, an’ say, ‘It’s nae muckle worth, but it’ll dae well eneuch for Wilkie.’” In the “Statistical Account of Scotland” the minister of Nairn expressively states that “the weekly collection at the church on Sundays amounted to about three shillings in good copper.”

This spurious money often accumulated. Sometimes a box of such coins was given to the minister “to see what he could mak’ of them” when in Edinburgh. “Sometimes,” we are told, “a man would turn up in a district with a horse and cart, making offers for the bad copper or pewter that had been laid aside. At other times it would be sent to an open market, and there sold to the highest bidder. In 1774 there were over seven stones’ weight of this truly ‘filthy lucre’ sold in the market-place of Keith, and its price was £2, 18s. 6d., less 4s. for carriage from Banff.... In order to counteract as far as possible the practice of putting spurious money into the plate, the various presbyteries under one synod used occasionally to combine and send as much as £100 sterling to the mint in London, and ask that the amount be exchanged for farthings, and returned with ‘the first sure messenger.’”

But the use of the farthing has not been confined to the collections of bygone days. The Rev. John Russell, in his comparatively recent book, “Three Years in Shetland,” thus writes of the collections in the parish of Whalsay: “The coin usually put into the ladle was a farthing. As the collections were exchanged at the shop for silver, and as it was at the shop where my hearers provided themselves with those farthings, I thought that if the Session hoarded up the farthings and so stopped the supply of them, we might get halfpence put into the ladle instead.” This ingenious plan was not, however, put into practice, for the minister was assured that for the popular farthing would be substituted no gift at all. As to that perennial favourite, the bawbee or halfpenny, nothing need be said.

A few words must be given to the box that held the money—an important piece of Scottish ecclesiastical furniture that was jealously guarded. “Given to George Cuming, smith in Peffersyd, 32 pence for mending the lock of the box, and causing it to open and steek,” is an entry under date, June 30, 1639. Innerwick looked well after the box:—“23 April 1609.—The quilk day ye sessioune ordains George Wallace to keip the key of the box.” But there are not a few entries in the Records of Dunbar which show that the box had been tampered with by the elder in charge; and for a considerable period one of the civil magistrates there took his place by the side of the elder at the plate on Sunday. The beadle also fell occasionally under suspicion, well merited at times, it is feared. In a certain Highland parish the money, after being counted, was placed in a box which was consigned to the care of the minister, who secreted it, with the key, in a part of the session-house press known only to himself and the beadle. Small sums were regularly extracted, and one Sunday when the minister discovered that the usual small amount had disappeared, he summoned the beadle. “David,” said he, “there’s something wrong here. Some one has been abstracting the church money from the box; and you know there is no one has access to it but you and myself.” Thinking he had the beadle thoroughly cornered, the minister fixed him with his eye and paused for an answer. But David dumfounded the minister by this cool proposal: “Weel, minister, if there’s a defeeshency, it’s for you and me to make it up atween us, an’ say naething about it!”

But if on the side of revenue we find much curious reading we find it none the less surely on the side of disbursements. When poor law and poor rate alike were unknown in Scotland the Church took care of the poor, and that, oftentimes, in most thorough and effective fashion. Even when other urgent claims asserted themselves the poor were by no means neglected. A proclamation of the Privy Council, August 29, 1693, decreed that one-half the sums collected at the church door was to be given to the poor as before, while the other half might be retained for the relief of other distress, or for any matters that might come under the consideration of each individual Kirk Session throughout the country. In the Kirk Session Records of Falkirk, under date July 1696, it is stated that “the number of the poor within the parish church does daily abound,” and the session recommends to the minister “to intimate to the congregation the next Lord’s Day that they would be pleased to consider ye present strait and be more charitable.” The response to such appeals may not always have been adequate, and in some records we find it stated again and again that “the raininess of the day” caused the collection to be so small that the treasurer, instead of transferring it to the box, handed it to the beadle.

The manner in which the poor were relieved is sufficiently indicated by the following selected passages from the Kirk Session Records of Tyninghame, which, for our purpose, may here be considered typical:—

“November 2, 1617.—Given to ane pure honest man, quha had ane sair hand, 6s.”

“May 23, 1619.—Given to ane pure man, lying sik in Patrik Jaksonis, being ane coupper in Tranent, 10s. His wyfe came befor ye session and earnestlie desyrit it, being in great necessitie.”

“August 26, 1621.—Given to ane pure man, being ane scollar, 6s.”

“January 26, 1623.—Collect 4s., given all to Thomas Harvie in Tyninghame, being ane ald honest man tailyeour.”

“September 18, 1625.—To ane pure young man, being ane minister’s son, 6s. 8d.”

“September 7, 1628.—Given to ane stranger, being ane Transelvanian, 18s. He was supportit be all the kirks of the presbiteries.”

“April 24, 1631.—Given to a man with a testimonial, robbed by pyratis, 9s.”

“December 3, 1637.—Given to ane poore woman at the Knowis, callit the Daft Lady, 5s.”

“September 5, 1641.—Given to ane poor scholar (being a minister’s dochter), 5 dollars.”

These extracts are also instructive:—“January 2, 1620.—Reportit that Andrew Law, being ane agit man grieve to ye Ladie Bass, was lying deidlie sik in ane hous. Ordainis to adverteis ane of the hostlairis to furnish him in drink and breid for a tyme, and out of ye box they suld gett payment, seing he was in great necessitie, being ane honest man. Ordainis also the Ladie to be adverteisit heirof.” “January 30.—The said day given to them that furnishit drink to Andrew Law, being in great necessitie, 14s. 4d.”

In the treasurers’ books of the time, entries frequently occur of sums paid to “twa hirpling women, sairly needing something out of the box,” or to “a lass wi’ a cruikit back-bane,” or to “a laddie wi’ black een and a white face.” Space will not permit any treatment of the interesting subject of badges for the poor.

One ludicrous incident in connection with a collection for the poor should be related. In Mr Sinclair’s “Scenes and Stories of the North of Scotland” we read of a Highland minister who, notwithstanding an imperfect knowledge of the tongue, dared to make some announcements in Gaelic. He intimated that “on the following Lord’s day there would be a collection for the poor of the congregation. But, alas, for him! he forgot how nearly alike in sound are the words ‘bochd,’ signifying poor, and ‘boc,’ which means a buck. The word he uttered was the latter instead of the former, so that he startled his audience by solemnly intimating a collection for the bucks of the congregation!”

It seems that among the many and diverse poor none needed help more sorely or frequently than the schoolmaster. A flood of light is thrown upon his condition by such extracts as these:—“February 1, 1618.—The session ordainis that Mr James Macqueine, schoolmaister, sal have of everie baptisme 40d., and for everie mariadge half ane merk—viz., for ye proclamation 40d. and of ye mariadge 40d.—for his better help.” “March 8.—Ordainis ye wemenis penalties that commits fornication to be given to Mr James Macqueine, schoolmaister.” “August 1, 1619.—Given to Maister James Macqueine, schoolmaister, 4s., seing thar was verie few bairnis at the school.” “August 29.—The qlk day given to Maister James Macqueine, schoolmaister, 24s., and 10s., being Cristen Stories penaltie, according to contract maid with him.” “September 26.—Given to Maister James Macqueine, 25s., in regaird of his povertie, and in respect he was to go hame to ye Northe; in respect, also, of his reading in the kirk.” “October 17.—The quilk day Mr James Macqueine, schoolmaister, desyrit earnestlie some support, that he micht pass to ye Northe, seing thair was few or na bairns at the schoole. The session heirwith advysit. Ordainis thre lib. to be given to him.”

“Maister James Macqueine’s” successor suffered still more acutely from the eternal lack of pence. “October 22, 1620.—Given to George Davidsone, scholmr., for reiding and singing in the kirk, at his request, 40s.” “November 19.—Lent to Mr George Davidsone, scholmr., out of the box, 18s.” “July 15, 1621.—The said day George Foster his penaltie given to George Davidsone, schoolmaister and reiddar, becaus of his povertie.” “September 16.—George Davidsone, schoolmaister, earnestlie desyrit somqt for his support out of the penalties, seing he had few bairnis in the school. Given to him 20s.” “October 7.—Given to George Davidson 20s. of Thomas Greivis penaltie, the uther twentie given befor in respect of his reiding and singing in the kirk, he being verie puir, having ane familie.” Soon the minister addresses plaintive appeals to the church in behalf of the said schoolmaster, and at last the climax comes. “December 1, 1622.—The minister earnestlie desyrit the elderis to have ane cair of George Davidsone, schoolmaister, now in great distress, being somqt distract in his witt, and desyrit that George Shortus, officer, wald cause some ane waik ilka nicht with him, and that the minister and he wald go from hous to hous for his support. The elderis promeisit to help, and to caus utheris to help.” “December 8.—The minister desyrit bothe the elderis themselfs to help George Davidsone, and to caus utheris, he being almost now weill againe, seing he wald go over to Fyff againe. They promeisit to do the same. Maister Johne (the minister) reportit that he hyrit ane man on his owin expenss to go to Fyff for his father and brother to come to him—viz., Patrick Watson—and that he gave him 20s., and that his father has now come.” “December 15.—The minister desyrit the elderis to help George Davidsone, being now well, praised be God! Given be the minister and elderis out of their purss, 45s.” The schoolmaster’s departure is, however, delayed, for in the following year, 1623, his name appears again. “March 9.—Given to George Davidson, 20 lib.” “November 23.—This day collect at the kirk doore, for George Davidsone, being to depairt, 50s. 8d.”

Assistance to cripples constituted a repeated charge on the church funds. “May 28, 1615.—Collect 4s., qlk was given to ane crepill.” “Mairch 31, 1616.—Given to the belman for carrying ane puir cripple man off the toune, 6 lib.” “June 21, 1618.—Given to Jhone Finla 3s. for carrying away ane crepill.” “February 11, 1638.—Given to Alexander Storie, wricht, for ane pair of stelts to Henrie Caning, crepill, 4s.” “September 23.—Four shillings given to carray away a crepill. We could get nane in the toune to carray away this crepill the morn, becaus of their business.”

Payments for medical help were also frequently made. “May 28, 1615.—Gathered at the kirk door to give ane physician—viz., George Adamson, in Dunbar—for curing Agnes Tailzeour, in Peffersyd, 40s., qrof 28s. given to the pottingar, and the rest to the said Agnes Tailzeour, dauchter to Marion Peacock, in Peffersyde.” “Januarii 3, 1641.—Given to Agnes Richisone (hir bairne being still vehementlie diseast, and hir husband at the camp), 20s. to buy cures.” “Januarii 7, 1644.—Ane merk to Elspethe Duns sonne, lyklie to be crepill. 20 shillings given to his mother, to be given to the man wha promeised to do diligence to cure the said; to be given for drogis.” “July 20, 1645.—Given to Robert Ewart, in Tyninghame, for curing James Brown, his leg, 3 lib. 4s. 4d.” All this links the church finance of the Scotland of that day with that of the early Christians, for in the Apologia of Justin Martyr and of Tertullus we read that the early Christians contributed or collected, on the first day of the week, money for widows, orphans, and others in distress, and particularly for the relatives of poor slaves condemned to work in the mines.

From the Kirk also was drawn much money that eventually found its way into the pockets of the sea-robbers of the Mediterranean. The collections made at the church door largely supplied the amounts necessary for effecting the ransom of those luckless sailors who fell into the clutches of the pirates. Hence we find:—“May 11, 1617.—Intimation maid to ye peple out of pulpite to provyde something againe ye nixt Sabbothe according to thair powar, for the relieving of Jhone Mure, in Dunbar, and some utheris, wha was takin be ye Turkis on the sea, and deteinit be them in prison, seing thair was ane collection to be maid throughout all ye kirks in the qtrie to this effect.” “May 18.—Collect at ye kirk doore for relief of them that wer takin be ye Turkis, 5 lib. 18s. 4d.; the speciallis, or richest of ye peple, being absent, quhas portionis were also to be socht fra them;” and “May 7, 1620.—Collect at the kirk doore for the Scottishmen lying in Algiers, taken by the Turkis, 3 lb. 17s. 4d.”

Again and again we find in the pages of the Kirk Session Records reflections of the history of the time. Thus on December 5, 1641, “Intimation maid of collect the nixt Lord’s day for ane pure honest woman, spous to umquhile James Freeman. He was slain in Ireland, and quarteret, as is allegit, for mainteining the Scottis Covenant.” On February 29, 1622, “Earnest exhortations maid to the pepill anent ye contributions to the Kirk of God in France. Collect this day efter the sermon threttie pund, 8s. 2d.;” and on March 3, “Qtribut this day at ye kirk door to the Kirk of France 3 punds, 11s. 10d.” On August 28, 1646, a collection was made in the parish church of Auchterhouse for the people of Cullen, who had suffered much from the burning of their town by the Marquis of Montrose on his march northward; and in 1746 the Falkirk beadle begged the Kirk Session to lend him five shillings because of harsh treatment he had endured at the hands of Prince Charlie’s soldiers on their retreat from England.

Among the miscellanea of church finance as concerning expenditure the following should, undoubtedly, have place. The stool of repentance—imposing and certainly not cheap—deserves some prominence. “Given to Andrew Stone, wricht, 22s., and 2s. to his man, for mending and repairing the stoole of repentance;” and “David Nimmo, wricht in Lintoun, compeirit, and desyrit payment for making and repairing the stoole for repentance. The minister and elders herewith advysit; deliverit to him, out of the box, aucht pounds, and sax shillings to his sonne, and twentie s. to James Paterson, mason,” are two suggestive items. Alexander Sherrie receives six shillings on April 19, 1635, “to buy poudder with to shett the dowes in the kirk, becaus they filet the seitts.” At Cullen Parish Church, in the session records for 1703, the treasurer writes:—“For a calf’s skinn to be a cover to ye Kirke bible, 7s. For dressing ye skinn bought to cover ye Kirke bible, and alm’d leither to fasten ye cover to ye brods, and for sowing thereof, 10s. For keepers to ye clasps, brass nails putting on ye stoods, and gluing loose leaves, 14s.” Dr Russell, writing in his “Reminiscences of Yarrow,” about his father’s pastorate in the Vale of Ettrick, says, “At the first Martinmas of my father’s incumbency, Robin (Robert Hogg, the father of the Ettrick Shepherd) came to him and said, ‘Sir, Mr Potts (the predecessor of Dr Russell’s father) used always to allow me five shillings of the collections in the kirk at this time, for gathering the bawbees, in order to buy a pair of shoon!’ But to his disappointment, my father replied that he could not take it on him to make this application of the public money.” The beadle, however, sometimes got the price of a pair of shoes; and in one book, in 1615, we have “Nota (a word scarcely ever used) That in all the gatherings for the poor there is the price of ane pint of ale, that collect which is set doun in the session-books, because of the pains which the clerk of the kirkmen taks in going thrice aboot the toune, and ance efternoon. This custom of giving sae mickle to the beadle has been ust of ald in this parish.”

In February, 1733, a certain Jean Hall, a pauper in the parish of Morebattle, dies, and on the 16th of the month James Robson, in Kirk Yetholm, receives £3, 14s. 3d. for “cheese, tobacco, and pipes” provided at the funeral. “The digging of the grave, the crying of deceased’s effects at the roup, and the ringing of the ‘passing-bell’ are all provided for by the treasurer, out of his continually replenishing and inexhaustible kirk-box.” At one time thirty shillings is given for a winding sheet for a “dead corpse” which came in on the sands of Aldhame, and, at another, twenty-five shillings is given for one for a man “quha came in Peffersand and was buryed the last week.” Sometimes twelve shillings is given to a man for reading and singing at the communion, and, occasionally, as much as twenty pounds is given to buy a horse, “seing he had ane horse deid latly, and fallen abak in meins;” or there is given out of the penalties to Alexander Sherrie, “for mending and translating the pulpitt, ane dollar.” (In the writer’s article, “Witchcraft and the Kirk,” in the present volume, reference is made to expenditure occasioned by the imprisonment and execution of witches.)

Help is given to Dundee for a new harbour, to North Esk for a bridge, and to Glasgow because of a disastrous fire. Even “a collection for the Northern Infirmity” is mentioned, but this is an obvious reference to the Northern Infirmary.

One closing quotation must suffice:—“May 2.—The minister also shew to the elderis that the bishop, at the last Provinciall Assemblie, haldin at Edinburghe, the twentie of April 1619, ordainis everie minister to bring ye contribution for ye students of ye new colledge in Saint Androis, and everie minister to give it to ye moderator of the presbiterie quhair he dwellis, that it micht be sent to Saint Androis. The minister shew to ye elderis that ye kirk of Tyninghame was ordainit to pay thre lib. yerlie. The elderis wer unwilling to grant thairto. The minister shew them that everie kirk was appointit to pay, and that he wald give 20s. out of his awin purse to that effect, seing thair was little in the box, and many puir in the parishe. They grantit thairto, bot with some regraits.” “May 9.—The said day takin out of the box 34s., and 6s. of Jhone Walker’s penaltie; and Maister Jhone (the minister) gave 20s. out of his awin purse to make out thre lib. to be given for ye qtribution to ye studentis in the new colledge at St. Androis.” This is but one among many contributions made by the minister to fulfil obligations resting on the kirk.