The Scots Household
A century of Scottish Domestic and Social Life
THE SCOTTISH CATHOLICS
The enmity shown to Episcopalians was intensified towards the Catholics. The hatred of popery that began in the most corrupt age of the Church, and was nurtured by the blood of the martyrs of the early Reformation, could at tunes reach frenzy, and was ineradicable as any mania. It was as deeply rooted as any creed or faith, and it still bears bitter fruit.
The antagonism was not confined to Presbyterianism. It was found, though less virulently, in the Episcopal Church, although sympathy might have been expected from those who also suffered for their faith, and who also cherished ancient ways of worship. "It made but little difference whether the Episcopals or the Presbyterians were uppermost, for though the Episcopals were of a milder disposition than the Presbyterians, yet the Catholics had found by bitter experience that whichever of the two parties was in power, they were always persecuted."
This may have been true in the seventeenth century; but in the eighteenth the "Episcopals" had little strength left for animosity, for their priests were sorely hampered in fulfilling their function, and their laity had to secure their chosen worship as they would a great treasure.
The penal laws against Catholics forbade the celebration of Mass. Priests were liable to arrest, banishment and, if they returned from exile, to death. One Jesuit Father, James Innes, who entered the Society at Tournay, came home to serve the Scottish Mission. He was captured, and in danger of being shot out of hand; but he was rescued by a nobleman, who, though an adversary, was just, and who insisted that he be properly tried. The priest was imprisoned, then banished; but he returned from banishment to serve the Mission. Again he was taken, driven forth, and again returned. The third sentence held the threat of death should he again set foot in Scotland; and he was compelled to submit, and retired, finally, to Douay.
There was a reward of 500 merks for the apprehension of any priest. The laity were hardly more fortunate. It was an offence to attend Mass, to disseminate Catholic literature, to harbour a priest, or make possible any gathering of the faithful: "If any Papists were found together in any private house, and if in that private house there should be found vestments, altar-cloths, pictures, or articles pertaining to Popish worship, the persons so apprehended should be reputed as sayers or hearers of Mass, and incur the penalties thereof."
No Catholic man's house was his castle, for a thorough search might
be made, and repeated at any time. "No priest could stay two nights in one place without imminent danger of being taken." The laity could not bequeath or inherit property; even their children were not left their own, for they could be taken from home to be educated as Protestants.
Penalties against Catholics ranged from the disastrous to the merely spiteful, as may be illustrated by the story of the gates of Traquair House, Innerleithen. The usual tradition is that those portals of finely wrought iron were closed after the defeat of Prince Charles, at Culloden, never to be opened again until a Stuart monarch should come riding up to demand admission to this loyal house. The story handed down in the family is that the Catholic Earl of Traquair in those penal times kept, against the law, a four-in-hand coach, which he used to drive down the avenue and out at the proud gates. Catholics might not keep more than one horse, of £5 value in England, £8 Scots in Scotland. In a friendly district the law might be evaded; but informers were plentiful in most parts of the country, and there was one near Traquair. The Earl was deprived of his equipage, and swore, in disdainful wrath, that he would never again use the great gates. So he had them closed, and used to go his way, in and out, by a side lane.
The Covenanting south-west was entirely and heartily anti-catholic. In the Highlands, both west and east, there were belts of Catholic country; but toleration was not encouraged. Maclean of Coll, being an elder of the Kirk, was reproved by the General Assembly for lack of zeal in harrying the papists. So, vowing amendment, he stood one Sunday at the crossroads, where one way led to the parish church, another to the chapel; and with his yellow stick knocked down all who chose to go stravaiging down the chapel road. From this temporarily effective argument Presbyterianism became known, in those parts, as the religion of the yellow stick.*
Another chief, the Laird of Boisdale, tried to force his people to renounce their faith, or at least to send their children to the Presbyterian parish school. They refused, against every threat and all manner of persecution. Neither for themselves nor their children would they deny one iota of the faith they held more dear than life.
The sufferings of the people included not only poverty, persecution, and continual fear; but deprivation for long periods of the solace of worship. They could not often "hear the blessed mutter of the Mass" and receive God in the Bread of Sacrament.
One report,f from a Jesuit priest, of the various schisms in Scotland ends cheerfully: "One good result of sects was that they fought so much between themselves that they had less time to persecute Catholics." But in such time as they had, they were very zealous. "The Catholics were never safe, never quiet, but ever in perpetual terror. . . . The consequences that followed were very alarming. Some Catholics renounced their faith altogether; others became cold or indifferent. . . . The persecution was of but short duration, but it was perhaps the most severe the Catholics ever felt, and both the missionaries and people trembled for the Catholic religion in Scotland."
Letters from the missionary priests to their superiors at Rome or Douay, or other houses of the Jesuits, tell the story:
"The Catholics live so mixed up with the heretics, and in such close quarters, that a cough will betray the hidden missionary, and I have been more than once on the very point of being apprehended from some such cause. That I have been able even once to leave my abode, and return without stumbling into danger, is owing to God's Providence, and the protection of the Angels. . . . The iniquity of the times is such, the influence and power of our enemies are so great, that it is hardly safe to admit even those who offer themselves lest the salvation of one should prove the ruin of many, and bring on a general calamity."
Priest and people must come to their Lord, like Nicodemus, by night: "Only under cover of darkness, and in the silent hours of the night, are we able to assemble a congregation, to visit the sick, and execute the other offices of our pastoral charge. . . . My principal labour is not converting heretics, but in getting Catholics to stand firm."
That they did so stand, not only against persecution but against despondency, against accidieto use the old, theological termwas made clear in another letter: "For the piety of these people, it is a joy to me ... to see the ardour of mind and soul with which they worship God."
People would walk more than ten miles to hear Mass. They never failed to summon the priest to comfort the sick and dying; and kept, as well as they could, the fasts and feasts of the Church, abstaining, as far as possible, from secular work on fast days: this last statement being not without humorous implications for the flippant critic of Highland ways.
There are glimpses of ordinary life in those missionary letters: "In the summer time we all live upon butter, cheese and milk. . . . Meat is rarely eaten." Eggs, however, were so plentiful that "on fasting days it is considered a penance to live on eggs."
The country itself was poor and barren: "steep and sterile, mountainous and rugged, and much hardship and inconvenience has to be put up with. The people are so poor that they keep their cattle in their own dwellings; we live as we can on butter, cheese, and milk, rarely get flesh, fish hardly ever. We usually get water, sometimes beer; wine
we never taste but at the altar. We lie on the ground, or on a little straw or heather."
Even such fare was to seem abundance in the Highlands when famine occurred in 1741. The poor folk used to bleed their cattle, mixing the blood with a little oatmeal, to give themselves sustenance. A good Catholic farmer, John Cook, provided food and shelter for many poor families, and found, next harvest-tide, that "he had as much meal remaining as he would have expected had he supported only his own family with it."
The priests shared to the full the hardships of the people. "My food was barley bread, my drink cold water, my bed the hard ground, or a little chaff or straw. A barn full of cracks and chinks was my bedroom and oratory," wrote one; and of nearly all it could be said: "Hunger, cold, nakedness and fatigue were their constant portion."
With it all, they must keep their wits about them. There must be a disguise of more than habit. They must have a reason for travelling in whatever region they happened to meet an inquiring zealot. "Now master, now servant, now musician, now painter, now brass-worker, now clock-maker, now physician"their calling and capacity must vary. The grace of God might be all in all; but versatility was a valuable gift. One priest found "that such skill as I had acquired in the medical art was most useful for the purpose I had in mind."
They had also, if their mission were in the Highlands, to learn the Gaelic; a feat of which they seem inclined to boast.
"I took charge of this district in 1701," wrote Fr. Hugh Strachan, "and was at that time entirely ignorant of my native language, which, however difficult it is to learn, Our Lord has enabled me to acquire so completely that now I am able to read, write, preach and catechise in the vernacular. I have composed a catechism of controversy in the Highland tongue." Another reported: "It cost me immense toil and much time to speak the extremely difficult language of this country, but by God's favour I am master of it now."
These priests had to contend with malice and calumnies: " Of the heretics, their calumnies, their railing and their persecution I need say little. They have told the ignorant people that I am a minister of hell. . . . More than once I have escaped judgment by flight, or by concealing myself in woods and caves, discharging the duties of my office only by night. Not only me, but my Catholic people they have annoyed often, and in wonderful ways. Some they have summoned before the courts, others they have plundered of their goods and turned out of their houses. But the bounty of God to these people is so great that two only have forsaken the Faith."
But they must have needed all their ghostly strength to keep themselves and their flock in good heart:" Several men and women who woe driven to the verge of madness or beyond it by the tricks and illusios of evil spirits I have set free by the prayers authorised by the Church"
There were scholars among the mssioners. Wodrow gives a brief but, as usual, vivid glimpse of one of :he most famous: " There is one. Father Innes, a priest, brother to Fa tier Innes of the Scots College at Paris, who has been at Edinburgh al this winter, and mostly in the Advocates' Library, when it's open, lioking at books and MSS. He is not engaged upon politics, as far as en be guessed; and is a monkish, bookish person who meddles with n<thing but literature. I met him at Edinburgh. He is upon a design to write an account of the first settlement of Christianity in Scotland . . . and pretends to show that Scotland was Christianised at first from Rome. . . . This Father Innes in a conversation with my informer, my Lord Grange, made an observation which I fear is too true. ... He said he did not know what to make of those who had separated fron the Catholic Church; as far as he could observe generally, they viere leaving the foundations of Christianity." But "he was glad to find his countrymen in Scotland not tainted in the great doctrine of th: Trinity, and sound."
A full account by Wodrow, or by Fither Innes, or by an onlooker, of a conversation between these two, so far apart in matters of faith and worship, so close akin in love of learning, and in sincerity, would have been a treasure. They would leave icrid details of controversy aside, no doubt, and talk of such bland and pleasant learning as both could appreciate and share. Wodrow obviously admired the bookish priest; and as a specimen of brotherliness in learning, and of honesty in admitting the faults of one's own side, this passage is unmatched in the Analecta. Wodrow was already troubled by the modern tendency to Deism, agnosticism and flippancy among the young. "At Edinburgh . . . it's exceeding common to mock at all religion and seriousness." If he did not agree with Father Innes that separation from the Church of Rome led to loss of faith, he did not condemn that assertion with anything like his usual pith.
He was, however, far from sympathy with Catholic piety. Some time after he wrote: "I was told that when Mr. Dickson was Professor at Edinburgh, and Mr. R. Leighton was Principal there, the Principal urged the Professor might either teach or at least recommend Thomas a Kempis to his students; and told him he reckoned it one of the best books that ever was writ, and next to the Inspired Writers. Mr. Dickson refused to do either, and among other reasons, from some Popish doctrines contained in it, he added that neither Christ's satisfaction nor the doctrine of grace, but self and merit run through it."
Father Thomas Innes* belonged to> an old Catholic family of the north-east; his father was James Innes of Drumgask, of whose six sons four entered the priesthood. Thomas was born in 1662, entered the Scots College in Paris in 1681, and was ordained priest in 1691, where his elder brother Lewis was Rector. He was Master of Arts of the University of Paris. In 1698 he returned home, on the Scottish Mission, and was parish priest of Inverav;n, Banffshire, for three years, then went back to the Scots College to be Prefect of Studies and Mission Agent. His next visit to Scotland was in 1724, as recorded by Wodrow. He lived till 1744, passing his fourscore years. The last mention of him, six years before his death, is a pleasant and scholarly one. Various charters and other papers relating to the Archdiocese of Glasgow and to the University had been taken, for safety, to the Scots College, by Archbishop Bethune or Beaton, at the Reformation. These had been carefully arranged by Father Lewis and Father Thomas Innes. When the acrimony of the first part of the century had somewhat spent itself, at least in the more civilised precincts of the University, the Senate of Glasgow wrote courteously to the Scots College:
"Reverend Gentlemen;It is a matter of no small regret to us of this University that we have been so long without any correspondence with our countrymen of your College in Paris." Contact had been renewed through the Rev. Fr. Drummond, and the University now begged the College to send them copies of these papers and charters. The ambassador sent with the letter was Robert Foulis, printer and publisher to the University, and founder of the noble Foulis Press. He and his brother were cordially received by the Rector and by Father Innes; and given the copies they desired. One wishes they had persuaded Fr. Innes to return again to Scotland, to visit the University of Glasgow; and to prepare a book for the Foulis Press. But brief as the narrative of the whole transaction is it shows, very pleasantly, the mutual courtesy of learned men, and the essential dignity and decency of scholarship.
But although we may wish for a fuller record of his personality, we have a lasting proof of Fr. Innes's capacity as scholar and historian, in his Civil and Ecclesiastical History of Scotland:
"The first view I had from the beginning of this undertaking was to collect what I could discover of the remains of the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland . . . that part having been very much neglected by our former writers, or sadly misrepresented by our new writers since the Reformation. But my finding that entirely impracticable without a thorough enquiry into and discussion of the civil state of the ancient inhabitants of these northern parts, gave rise to the Critical Essays. . . . Wherefore I could not but choose to join both parts together, and interweave them in the order of time, as much as it can be observed, that both together might make one thread of history . . . with this
farther advantage that each part will mutually give light one to another."
The History begins in a.d. 80, in Roman Scotland, and ends in 818. Perhaps its chief praise is that it is history; careful, scholarly, based upon research into all available sources; and not a mere garland of legends. Father Innes set a new standard for historians. To place his work in the science of history is, however, by no means to depreciate it as a work of literature. In any account of Scottish letters it must be given high rank. It has a clearness and vividness of style that make it still good reading; and not merely as an antiquarian piece of quaintness but as a memorial of past things that touches the presentas all good history should. It is not composed of legends; but does not despise those illustrations and adornments, which are to the learned pages what illuminated and decorated capitals are to a manuscript; he loves, for instance, to quote from Adamnan's Life of St. Columba: of his marvellous childhood, when the room where he lay was seen to be "illustrated with a bright splendour, flowing from a globe of fire that reposed above the child."
The threads of civil and ecclesiastical history are indeed interwoven; but that of religion is the stronger and brighter. He is an honest but not an impartial historian; and by lucid explanation makes excellent apology for the doctrines of Holy Church:
"By Episcopacy in general is understood the fullness of sacerdotal power which Christ having received from His Eternal Father communicated to His Apostles, appointing them his vicegerents, upon His withdrawing His visible appearance from the earth, to be by them transmitted to the bishops, their successors. . . . And thus He established Episcopacy or the episcopal order, the source of all the spiritual power which He left towards governing, propagating, and preserving the Church which is His spiritual kingdom upon earth." Of the worship and belief and teaching of the Columban Church he writes: "The principal part of their public prayer, or of divine service, was the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, or the solemnity of Mass. ... To show that they believed that the holy Eucharist was offered as a sacrifice or oblation, he calls Mass the mystical Sacrifice, the Mysteries of the sacred Oblation. And that they believed that the Body of Christ was rendered present in the sacred mysteries by the words of prayer of the consecration, appears by Adamnan's informing us, not only that the bishop or priest at Mass consecrated the holy mysteries of the Eucharist, that they consecrated the sacred oblation, but that by the consecration of the oblation at the altar the bishop's or priest's pronouncing, in the name of Christ, the words or prayer of consecration, and acting by His authority, made or produced the Body of Christ,' Christi Corpus ex more conficere.'"A "History of the Reformation, or a Defence of Catholic Doctrine against the Reformed Teaching," would have been invaluable, had it been granted Father Innes to continue his labours. His work remains secure among the treasures both of Scottish literature and of his Church.
That Church was to be served by rare and devoted sons and servants in her days of distress in Scotland. Three of her bishops at least may be chosen as representative, and as approaching or reaching the heroic in stature. The hierarchy was not yet restored; they must be known, not by the ancient diocesan titles of the country, but with those "in partibus infidelmm."
Bishop Nicholson, consecrated Bishop of Peristachium, Vicar-Apostolic in Scotland, suffered imprisonment, but when he began his long missionary journeys throughout Scotland, in 1701, he seemed to be guarded against enmity and peril; even in Galloway, where the people "were the most bigoted against Catholics," and where he must nearly always travel by night.
"It may appear something extraordinary that after all these visitations and journeys of the Bishop through Scotland, although the character and functions of a bishop, after so long an interruption, could not but strike Protestants on his first appearance, and become the subject of conversation, as many of them knew all about him, his functions and journeys, yet no information was ever lodged against him. . . . This was owing under God to his charity and goodness towards all, by which he gained the goodwill and affection even of Protestants."
One of the great difficulties was the lack of schools. Catholic schoolmasters were harried by the ministers, "as they saw how much these schools contributed to confirm the Catholic Faith in the Highlands, where the people, out of a certain instinct, or by some seeds of the Catholic religion which remained in their minds, were well disposed towards it." The priests did what they could. "Sometimes every missioner took two or three boys, and instructed them in his own house, quietly, without being observed; at other times they endeavoured to gain the goodwill of the Protestant schoolmasters, and gave them a trifle of money not to plague the Catholic children about religion. Then they appointed some discreet layman to watch over the behaviour and studies of the youths."
There was also the problem of education of young men for the priesthood. "They could not send them directly to France on account of the wars, and for fear of the Government; and they were obliged frequently to send them by way of Norway and Denmark." It was no easy matter; for parents could be impeached for sending their sons abroad, as for a crime; and "the captains of vessels were so terrified by the threats and clamours of the ministers that they absolutely refused
to give a passage to any youths they suspected were going to foreign colleges."
It was to lead before very long, before the hard years had ended, to the foundation of the first humble little seminary in Scotland, at Scalan.
When, in 1706, Bishop Nicholson found himself in the depths of difficulty and adversity, help came to him, through the consecration and appointment of a coadjutor: James Gordon, Bishop of Nicopolis, in partibus infidelium, joined him; "and never was there a happier meeting for mutual joy and satisfaction." As soon as possible, after his arrival in Scotland, Bishop Gordon set out on a visitation of the Western Highlands and Islands, during which he must endure many fatigues from bad roads and poor lodgings and frugal fare: "The country afforded nothing but milk and white meats for food, and whey and water for drink. The country people had some barley bread very ill-baked, and when this failed they used cheese in place of it. . . . The beds were made of heather, straw or grass; and when it rained there was not a dry spot in all their miserable huts. The Bishop bore all these inconveniences rather than carry with him better provisions and other necessaries, which might have any appearance of luxury."
Like Bishop Forbes in the other Kirk, Bishop Gordon used to have his sermons and instructions repeated in Gaelic by one of the priests. He went over to the islesto Rum and Uist, Barra and Eigggiving Confirmation, saying Mass, instructing and comforting the people. He was never safe, especially when anywhere near a garrison. And he incurred a fever that nearly proved fatal. But "he had the consolation to find that the number of the Catholics was much greater than he had imagined; and that the Protestants were well disposed to embrace our holy faith."
The Bishop did not overlook the need for schools. Any project must be a secret one; any place chosen, a hidden one. At the end of 1713 or beginning of 1714 a tiny school was opened on an island in Loch Morar, with Father George Innes in charge. One of the pupils was Hugh Macdonald, son of the Laird of Morar; afterwards to become Bishop, and Vicar-Apostolic of the Highland District when Scotland was divided, for ecclesiastical purposes, into the Lowland and the Highland districts. There was a brief spell of peace; even after the Rising of 1715, the Bishop "by prudence and caution still maintained his little seminary in the west, for the preparing apprentices for foreign shops." But the troubles of the times compelled it to be closed. At this time too the Mission suffered the loss of Bishop Nicholson, who died at Preshome, where seventeen years later another great priest and bishop, John Geddes, was to be bom.
If one door was closed another was soon opened. A new equally retired place was found for a seminary, at Scalan, in Glenlivet, Banff-
shire, where one of the fugitive priests after the Fifteen had already found refuge. It was little more than a hut or barn; but the work begun there was continued, through more than one bout of persecution, until better days came; the next move was to Aquhorties, in the Don valley; finally to Blairs College. Scalan was modelled, as far as possible, on the Continental seminaries; to which many of the students proceeded to complete their course. Those who made all their studies in Scotland, and there received ordination, were known as "heather priests."
Hugh Macdonald was priested in 1725, and six years later consecrated Bishop of Dia. He came to his vicariate in Scotland after a period of study in the Scots College, Paris; and had to flee to France after the Forty-five, and remain in exile until 1749. But Bishop Gordon had seen the end of his troubles before the black days of vengeance came; for he diedhappy in his deathin 1746.
Bishop Macdonald had the courage and candour to warn Prince Charles Edward against landing in Scotland, in the summer of 1745. The time was not ripe; the Prince had not been looked for until the following year. " His advice was little relished by the young adventurer, and the Bishop was little more consulted."
But when the Prince landed, and raised his Royal Standard, it was blessed by the Bishop, in Glenfinnan, with all the Catholics of Moidart gathered under their chiefs. After Culloden he was hidden, for a time, on the island on Loch Morar, with his brother, now the laird, and with Lord Lovat; who, it is said, having been long Catholic in heart, now desired the Bishop to receive him formally into the Church and hear his confession. He was prevented in this by the urgent necessity to escape. Speaking in an entirely flippant spirit, one can only say: "What the Bishop missed!"
Priests and bishops were often forced, for a while, to live in seclusion; but there is a story of one who chose a life more hidden than that of any fugitive. He was Alexander Grant, destined by Bishop Gordon for the episcopate; but his "Nolo episcopari" was expressed in more than words. Having been persuaded to set out for Rome, there to be consecrated, he disappeared, at one stage of the journey, and for years nothing was heard of him. It was feared, and then presumed, that he had been killed, or died suddenly. But long afterwards a Scots priest, travelling in the South of France, met a band of Trappist monks returning from their field labour; and in one of them recognised
After Bishop Gordon, the two prelates most closely associated with Scalan were Bishop Hay and Bishop Geddes, who were fellow-students, coadjutors, and almost lifelong friends. George Hay was born in 1729, the son of an Edinburgh lawyer of Jacobite, non-juring sympathies. One of his forebears had conformed at the Reformation, and become
Moderator of the Kirk! Young George was a medical student at Edinburgh University in 1745; he responded to the Prince's appeal for medical aid after Prestonpans (for Charles Edward, in his chivalrous youth, desired the utmost care to be shown to the wounded on both sides). Young Hay followed the army for the next four months, until he himself was stricken with illness. After Culloden he was taken prisoner, and sent to London.
As a non-combatant he was given a measure of freedom, on parole, and spent much of his time with a Catholic bookseller. When he was set free, and allowed to return to Scotland, he retired to the house of some kinsfolk, where he read Catholic books that nurtured the seed sown in London. In 1748 he was received into the Church by Fr. John Seton, S.J.
He resumed his medical studies, under Dr. John Rutherford (Sir Walter Scott's grandfather), who began the system of clinical lectures, and in 1749 qualified as a member of the Royal Medical Society, though by the penal laws against Catholics he was debarred from a diploma. For some time he kept a chemist's shop in Edinburgh; then found a post as ship's surgeon. Now came another crisis in his spiritual life: he met Bishop Challoner, one of the most learned and saintly of English prelates, translator of The Imitation of Christ, reviser and annotator of the Douai Version of the Bible. In talk with him, Hay discovered his own vocation. Leaving the ship at Marseilles, he proceeded to Rome, entered the Scots College there, and was, in 1758, ordained priest. His medical knowledge was not forgotten; but he vowed, then, never to accept fee for any medical or surgical aid he might give anyone.
Returning to Scotland, he was sent to Presholme, in the Enzie of Banff, and served the Scots Mission as priest until 1769, when he was consecrated Bishop of Daulis, in partibus infidelium, and Vicar-Apostolic of the Lowland District. His works include a trilogy: The Sincere Christian; The Devout Christian, and The Pious Christian; and a treatise on The Scripture Doctrine of Miracles.
Even after the Forty-five, life had its excitements. In 1777 the proposal to repeal the Penal Acts against Catholics caused, in London, the Gordon Riots, and in Scotland an outbreak of almost maniac hostility. " See the Papist, the black Papist! Shoot him, killhim!" was the mob-cry. In Edinburgh the chapel in Chalmers' Close was set on fire. The Bishop, arriving while this "wark o' God" went bonnily on, asked what it all meant:
"Eh, sir," said an old wife, not recognising him (for none of the clergy then dared wear priestly habit); "we are burning the Popish chapel, and we only wish we had the Bishop to throw into the fire."
When Bishop Geddes came over, as coadjutor, he was given charge
of the Lowland district; while Bishop Hay set out for the north. They met every year; and together they watched over the little seminary at Scalan, where each had his room, and where Bishop Geddes spent one period of his last, painful illness; he left it only to make his last journey to Aberdeen, where, in 1797, he died.
Two years later the seminary was moved to Aquhorties, and there Bishop Hay retired, living in a long, invalid seclusion. He loved the place, and the strength of his personality dwelt there, even when his mind had failed, even, it is said, long after his body had been laid to rest; for he has been seen, in our own time, by those in the house, though it is no longer in Catholic possession; sometimes he is on the stairs, sometimes in the garden, alone, or with two priests.
The curriculum at Scalan was austere, almost Trappist. The boys rose at six o'clock, bathed, winter and summer, in the River Crombie, and breakfasted on porridge. They had meat only twice or thrice a week; their common fare being vegetables, oatcake and sowens. One room served them as chapel, refectory and schoolroom. Among the scholars, in those early days, was a nephew of Bishop Geddes, Charles Gordon,* who became the beloved Priest Gordon, of St. Peter's, Aberdeen. But his story belongs to later, more tranquil days, when he carried his memories, traditions and associations into the life of a poor and devoted parish priest; linking up the Penal Times with the new age of Victorianism. Dean Ramsay has a pleasant remembrance of him, at a house where they were both guests, excusing himself to his hostess in order to go down to the garden and say his "bit wordies" otherwise, the offices in the Breviary.
For Episcopalians, relief and tolerance came gradually, almost imperceptibly, after the storm of persecution that followed the Forty-five. For the Catholics, the end of the century also brought reliefbut by no means imperceptibly.
The Penal Acts were repealed, but only after a fury of protest. Glasgow rivalled Edinburgh in Protestant zeal. An English merchant, Bagnall, who introduced the manufacture of Staffordshire pottery to Glasgow, gave a room in his house to be a chapel where Mass was celebrated. The house and adjoining warehouses were burned by the mob. And there was more than mob fury. There was organised protest. The General Assembly! of 1778 solemnly denounced the remission of the penal laws. It was not a unanimous finding; there were some wise and tolerant churchmen. Principal Robertson spoke in defence of the repeal, and was threatened, from various mob sources, with violence and even death, for his sympathy with the papists. His following was a small one. The minister, Dr. Gillies, who spoke
against the repeal had the great majority with him, maintaining that: "Though we have the utmost detestation of everything that wears the appearance of persecution for conscience sake, yet we cannot help thinking that the repeal of a law which self-preservation once rendered necessary for defending the reformed interest in these lands against the arts and violence of those whose intolerant principles oblige them to persecute all those who differ from them, is an object that demands the peculiar attention of this Church. . . . The present state of the Protestant interest among us doth loudly call upon us to be more upon our guard, and to exert ourselves with a greater vigour for its support and preservation, as there is too good reason to believe that the Popish missionaries have, of late, been unusually active and successful." Then, quoting from the Assembly's charge to their Commission, he declared: "The said Commissioners are appointed and empowered to keep a correspondence with the Committee for reformation of the Highlands and Islands, for suppressing Popery and superstition, and for promoting the knowledge of true religion, and carrying on a reformation in these parts . . . and if need be to apply to the government for a proper remedy and speedy redress." The yellow stick was brandished.
The Synod of Glasgow appointed a fast day in expiation of the national sin of attempting to tolerate fellow-Christians. Other synods spoke their part vigorously.
The Relief Church Synod, though they might "heartily detest the doctrine of persecution for conscience sake," were shaken to the core by the idea that freedom of worship might be granted to the papists. They held Catholicism to be "a religion fast spreading in our land, many of the principles of which are false and impious and incompatible with the natural, civil, and religious rights of mankind."
Fear was beginning to show even more plainly than hatred. Catholicism was now not only holding its members, but gaining converts. The Synod of Perth and Stirling expressed toleration of other kirks, "though dissenting from the Established Church," agreeing to their "worshipping God according to their lights." It is scarcely to be hoped that Episcopacy was included in this magnanimity; Romanism was certainly excluded: "Viewing the Popish religion in the same light in which it has been viewed in this Church since the Reformation, as in its principles and spirit subversive of every other system of faith and mode of worship, and also dangerous to the civil as well as religious liberty of mankind, they must disapprove of every measure which tends to promote the growth of so hurtful a superstition."
The Gordon Riots"that display," as it has been called, "of a dark diabolic fanaticism . . . which actually subsists in Great Britain perhaps beyond any country in the world"had their counterpart in
Scotland; though this country has no monopoly of fanaticism, nor is any faith without blame for a crime all the more hideous for being committed in God's Name. Reading the history of Holland, for many generations a second fatherland to Scots, one is appalled by the volume of sadistic cruelty gathered under the title of religion: first the evil of the Inquisition, when Spain, at the maniac zenith of her pride, ruled the Low Countries; then the incredible tyranny of Calvinism. But the Dutch nation, having won her freedom, began to learn tolerance, and in the eighteenth century this virtue was noted by Scots travellers.
In Scotland, this age of material progress and intellectual exhilaration, of a splendid culture that touched at points the peak of civilisation, was marred by two dark stains. Wit and learning flourished; the arts were honoured; there was an increasing grace of living. But these two terrible passions or lusts possessed the people: witch-hunting and religious fanaticism. The hunting-cry of "A witch! A witch!" was matched by that of " See the Papist, the black Papist!" It was more than a controversial bitterness. In the dark, flame-shot years immediately preceding and following the Reformation a gulf had opened between the two groups in Scotland. On both sides were leal and kindly Scots; but it seemed, at times, as if it were the very pit of hell that divided them, that the force of evil inspired and nourished their mutual hatred. The gulf is not yet filled in.
But time did bring a measure of relief and tolerance. The Catholics of this period were their own best defendants and apologists. Their constancy, humility and godliness pled for them. Bishop Hay's "Pastoral Letter," published in The Scots Magazine for February 1779, made a good impression; so, too, did the loyal address presented by his Catholic subjects to George III. This was followed by a petition to Parliament on their behalf brought by Edmund Burke. But full relief from the penal laws was not given until 1793. Even then, Catholics, though they might worship in peace, were still excluded from public offices and from teaching. But before that relief came the wheel had turned full circle. The sufferings of the early Reformers were atoned for by those of the innocent descendants of the persecuting papists.
By the end of the century Catholics in Scotland had three bishops: Hay, Cameron and Chisholm; forty priests, and some 30,000 members. Beyond them, in the Church Expectant, were ranks of bishops, priests and lay folk who, in poverty, homelessness and peril of their lives, had maintained the faith. Considering these Scots Catholics, one sees not the splendour of ritual and ceremonial in great cathedrals and abbeys, but the celebration, hurried and hidden, yet most reverent, of the Mass, said, it may be, in a barnaccording to one description, "a blanket serving as reredos to the hastily constructed altar, and another blanket
doing duty as a baldachin." We see no princes of the Church; but priests wandering in disguise, lying in a hut or a garret; like one, Father Gordon, who lay for some menths, after the Forty-five, in the house of a kinsman: "Saying mass to the neighbouring Catholics in the nighttime, and amusing himself with reading, of which he was very fond. Among other books hid for preservation which fell into his hands was an Italian grammar, from which he acquired a considerable knowledge of that language." There vas, too, the superior of Scalan, Father Duthie, who, being prepared for the coming of Cumberland's soldiers, dismissed the boys to their tomes, hid the sacred vessels, vestments, books and other treasures of the seminary; contrived to lie hidden himself, while the building was burned, and a search made for his person; and managed to keep an eye on the crop on the land owned by the seminary; and even, before another year was out, to build a new though very humble house.
Bishop Hay, 'if one can look beyond the barriers of time, goes riding still about the country, mounted on his old grey horse, the saddle-bag laden with his vestments for the Mass; in the hill-country, in the small old churches, there must be more than a congregation of living worshippers to kneel at the sacring-bell.
These three bishops who saw the end of the Penal Times lived, for a little time, in the nineteenth century, though not long enough to see the new advances their Church made. In the succeeding years the seminary was finally established at Blairs College; and the Religious returned to Scotland with the building of the Ursuline Convent in Edinburgh. Lord Cockburn wrote in his Journal, in 1835:
"Nothing has, of late, shocked some people in Edinburgh more and entertained others, than the reappearance of a Catholic nunnery with its small chambers, its chapel, and its Sisters of Charity. . . . The toleration of the Catholics by the people is one of the striking changes of these times. . . . The nunnery had arisen undisturbed by violence. But many of the wrights and masons, particularly the old ones, feel uneasy at touching it, and often explain that they are mere workmen."
It may be recalled that, in the eighteenth century, a stonemason in Glasgow, member of a Seceding congregation, was expelled from his communion for the "sin and scandal of bigging ane Episcopal kirk" (St. Andrew's-by-the-Green). The very stones of other kirks may be abhorred.
Though Scotland is not yet freed from the evil of religious animosity and persecution, that most blasphemous of all cruelties, the end of the eighteenth century saw the beginning of a new spirit of toleration; the faint glimmering of good will among those who, though they could not agree with one another, would consent each to gang his ain gait in peace.