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THE TOWN OF INVERNESS COVENANTING WITH
[BY CHARLES FRASER-MACKINTOSH OF DRUMMOND.]
THE present public clocks in Inverness do not always keep good time, and the same inconvenience came to such a height two hundred and three years ago, that the Magistrates found it necessary to enter into a formal contract on the subject. The document is endorsed, “Condescendence betwixt the Magistrates of Inverness and James Kennedie, Knock Keeper, 1682." In Slezer's view of Inverness, the then steeple is shown looking very small in comparison, as it doubtless was, with the church steeple. Inverness has been famed for the purity of its English since the time of Cromwell, yet here we find the words “knock” and “knockkeeper" applied to clocks and clock-keepers, though these words are not only purely Scottish, but almost provincial. The document is a very curious one, showing the formality with which the transaction was entered into. It would seem no person fitted for the office could be had in Inverness, unless Kennedy had been specially sent to Aberdeen to learn the business. It will be noticed that a dial was to be put upon the steeple. Of old, every house, particularly if a garden were attached, had its dial—a pleasant object. The ordinary class was composed of free-stone, with the buyer's initials and date engrossed. Other dials were beautiful and elaborate, one of the most noted in the neighbourhood of Inverness being that of the Frasers of Fairfield, which now or lately stood on a part of what was once Fairfield land. Follows the deed referred to :—
“At Inverness, the fifteenth day of February, one thousand six hundred and eighty-two years. It is agreed, and finally ended, betwixt the parties following, to wit:—The Magistrates and Treasurer of the said burgh, under subscribing on the one part, and James Kennedye, knockmaker, indweller for the present at Aberdeen, on the other part, in manner subsequent. That is to say, the said James Kennedie faithfully binds and obliges him to waitt and attend on the Town's Knock of this burgh, and to keep the same in good and right order, both night and day, as becometh ame knock, or horologue, to be, and that he shall not suffer or permit the said knock to go wrong, either in striking of the hours, or in the right ordering of the hand without. And that he shall not absent himself nor withdraw so far or long therefrom, wherethrow it may be suffered to go wrong in the least degree. And sicklyke, that he shall amend any break thereof when it shall happen (in the burgh charges), so oft as the said knock requires the same. And that for all the days, years, and space of five years next. And immediately following his entry to the said service and attendance, which is hereby declared to be, and begin at the term of Whitsunday next to come, in this present year sixteen hundred and eighty-two years, from thenceforth, the said knock to be faithfully and carefully attended on, in manner above expressed. Sicklike the said James Kennedie binds and obliges him to put up ane sufficient sun-dyell within this burgh on the steeple thereof when required thereto by the said Magistrates, or their successors in office, upon the proper charges and expenses of the said burgh. For which service and attendance during the said space the said Magistrates binds and obliges them and their successors in office to pay and deliver to the said James Kennedie his heirs, executors, or assignees, in name of yearly salary for his said service the sum of ane hundred pounds Scots money yearly, and ilk year during the space above written, at two terms in the year, Whitsunday and Martinmas, by two equal portions, beginning the first term's payment thereof at Martinmas next to come, for the half-year immediately preceding, and so forth yearly and termly thereafter during the foresaid space of five years for all other wages or salary he can ask or crave for the said attendance. And, further, the party failer binds and obliges them and their foresaid's hinc inde to other to pay and deliver to the party performer, or willing to obtemper and perform their part of the premises the sum of fifty merks Scots money by and attour the performance thereof. And the said failure is to be yearly for the space above written. And, further, it is hereby provided that the said James Kennedie shall be free of all public impositions, stents, and taxations, during the foresaid space of his attendance within this burgh. And consents these presents be registered in the Books of Council and Session, or any other competent or ordinary register, to have the strength of ane decreet interponed thereto, that all execution necessary pass thereon upon ten days' charge only, constituting their Procurators, &c. In witness whereof they have subscribed these presents, written by David Cuthbert, writer there, at Inverness, day, year, and place foresaid, before these witnesses, David Fouller, late Bailie of Inverness; John Houstoun, merchant there; John Glen, goldsmith there; and the said David Cuthbert, and Alexander Dunbar, younger, merchant there. (Signed), A. Dunbar, Provost; F. Fraser, Bailie, James Stewart, Bailie, George Cuming, Thessaurer, James Kenedy. Signed, Da. Fouller, witnes; A. Dunbar, witnes; Jo. Houstoun, witnes; John Glen, witnes; D. Cuthbert, witnes.”
CELTIC MYTHOLOGY AND RELIGION.
Inverness: A. & W. MACKENZIE, 1885.
THIS work is mainly a reprint of a series of papers which appeared in the columns of this magazine during 1883-4. The interest which Mr. Macbain's treatment of the subject excited during the serial publication has fully justified him in issuing the series, with some additions, in book form; and, doubtless, many readers will be pleased to have the opportunity of obtaining the work in a complete and handy shape. The science of Comparative Mythology, itself the offspring of the science of language, is an intellectual product of the 19th century. Previous to the issue of the epoch-making works of Grimm, the German philologist, it can hardly be said that mythology, as a system of fixed principles, however elementary, had any existence. There were four favourite theories in vogue previous to that time—the Scriptural, tracing all myths back to Hebrew records—the Historical, insisting on the former real existence on the earth of all the gods and herds in human shape —the Allegorical, where the sole use of myths was “to point a moral," if they would not, as often happened, “adorn a tale"—and the Physical, which attributed the origin of myths to the adoration of the forces and objects of nature. The new science has proceeded cautiously in seeking for light from all quarters; and, as a consequence of the greater stress laid by independent inquirers on different sources of information, several “schools” have arisen under the common designation of Comparative Mythology. The two leading contingents of the science are respectively headed by Mr. Max Müller, whose inferences are mostly drawn from the study of languages, and by Mr. E. B. Tylor, with his dashing lieutenant, Mr. Andrew Lang, whose inquiries are chiefly directed to savage customs and beliefs and the deciphering of ancient monuments. The myths of every known people have been more or less fully dealt with, thus placing at the disposal of the Comparative Mythologist a mass of material demanding very rare powers of discrimination and analysis to turn it to proper account. Mr. Macbain has prepared himself for the arduous task of interpreting and arranging the myths of the Celtic race, by an extensive study of the more important works on philology, mythology, and anthropology, which have appeared not only in English, but also in French and German. In a subject teeming, as it does, with such laborious detail, it is only by means of an enthusiasm, begotten by the pursuit of congenial studies, that any one could long sustain the burden of the task which the author set before him. Those who have perused the “Scoto-Celtic Studies" which Mr. Macbain contributed to the Transactions of the Inverness Gaelic Society last year, containing excursions in the allied fields of archaeology and philology, in which the minute accuracy of the scholar is associated with the generalising faculty of the man of science, will at once pronounce on the singular aptitude he has shown for the competent discussion of Celtic Mythology and Religion—a subject which, so far as its strict scientific treatment is concerned, has barely had its fringes touched by any previous British author. To follow others after a beaten track has been made, is easy enough; but where there are no pioneers to point the way, or only a few, as in this case of foreign origin and alien sympathies, it adds considerably to the difficulties of an undertaking which is intrinsically of a laborious character. One has to read only a few pages of the introduction to this work to find that Mr. Macbain has sworn allegiance to no master; he takes the measure of the two contending schools; and he refuses to be bound to resolve all Celtic myths either into a series of remarks about “the weather” (as Mr. Lang caustically characterises Max Müller's theories), or “to boil them down,” under anthropological directions, to such an extent as to take all the poetry out of them and reduce them to a prosaic pulp. But, while dismissing from his mind the prejudices which the avowed adoption of any particular hypothesis would involve, the author holds himself free to allow of the modifications of his conclusions by reference to facts established by the subsequently published investigations of others. His preface bears evidence of this, since he there announces his conversion to Mr. Lang's view of the priority, in certain cases, of the popular or fairy tale to the religious myth, or, in Mr. Macbain's own felicitous phrase, that the myth is sometimes merely a “sublimated " folk-tale. The French work of M. D'Arbois de Jubainville on the “Irish Mythological Cyde and the Celtic Mythology,” issued after the present work was in type, also receives marked recognition, and deservedly so, as the production of the most representative Celtic scholar of France and the Editor of the “Revue Celtique.” Under its former editorship (M. Gaidoz), a preliminary paper on Celtic Mythology, by Mr. Macbain, was noticed thus in its review columns, which it may not be out of place to reproduce, as showing the opinion of the author's competency held by one of the first European authorities on Celtic questions: “A brilliant study by Mr. Alex. Macbain on the Celtic Mythology, its principal characters, and the method it demands. Mr. Macbain follows Max Müller in establishing a distinction between Mythology and Folk-lore. We should have to make some reserves on this question; but this is not the place.” (“Revue Celtique,” April, 1885.) As stated in the preface, Mr. Macbain has since seen fit to abandon the distinction animadverted on by the French reviewer. The author's aim is fourfold. He brings his scholarship to bear on the elucidation of (a), the rich treasury of ideas stored in the traditions of the Celtic Race; (b), the comparative place held by Celtic beliefs in relation to the whole European religious cycle; (c), Druidism cleared from the mist and confusion in which its treatment by many previous writers had enveloped it; and (d), the Celtic Olympus, as shown by bringing to a focus the light bearing upon it from many scattered sources. To say that each of their subjects has been exhaustively treated would be at once seen to be at variance with the fact of the present work extending to little more than 100 pages; but the amount of information conveyed is in unusual disproportion to the extent of space covered, while this strict exclusion of diffuseness is not gained by want of attention to clearness of statement and abundance—but not over-abundance— of illustration. As a specimen of Mr. Macbain's concise, yet lucid, style of writing, in which one sentence frequently contains matter that might be readily expanded into pages without even a suggestion of 'padding,' take the following —“There is no incongruity in at once being philosophic and superstitious ; the human mind is very hospitable in its entertainment of quite opposite opinions,