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Lindores Abbey and the Burgh of Newburgh
Their History and Annals by Alexander Laing (1876)


The following pages are the fruit of leisure hours in the intervals of business. They have extended to a greater length than I contemplated, and yet they do not embrace all that I originally intended. 1'he more closely I studied our ancient records, the more I felt that the early life of a community contains the seeds of its greatness or of its decay, and that no mere narrative could convey half so vivid an impression of the state of society in the past, as the contemporary records of the words and deeds of the men and women who died and suffered at the time.

These considerations induced me to make lengthened extracts from local records, which may prove dry and uninteresting to the cursory reader, but are nevertheless the foundations of true history. These records bring to light customs and modes of procedure, which filled a large place in the public mind, and in the daily life, of the times to which they relate; but which are now utterly unknown. I regret that in printing some of the earliest of these extracts, I should have fallen into the error of using z for y, and ye for the; these are now generally admitted to be corruptions of the forms of the old letters 3 and )>, which are equivalent to y and th respectively.

The length to which these extracts have extended, has induced me to leave out biographical sketches of men born in Newburgh, or connected with the neighbourhood, who acquired distinction in their respective spheres; narratives of adventures and escapes incident to a seafaring population, and events illustrative of social life in bygone times. These sketches, if health and leisure permit, may form the subject of a separate publication. I much wish, also, that I could find leisure to prepare a history of Abernethy; more especially as, in a hurriedly written lecture delivered some years since, and afterwards published, I made some statements, which I would now alter.

In the preparation of the present volume I have received much kindness from David Laing, Esq.,LL.D., of the Signet Library, in affording me information, and in putting manuscripts, from his ample stores, at my disposal. I owe a like acknowledgment to John Stuart, Esq., LL.D., for his uniform help and encouragement. To Thomas Dickson, Esq., Curator of the Historical Department of the Register House, for much and constant aid in collating manuscripts, and furnishing information otherwise inaccessible. To Andrew Jervise, Esq. of Brechin, for counsel and assistance, and for the sketches of Stob Cross, and of the window of the ruined chapel at Ayton; engravings of which appear among the illustrations of this volume. To all these gentlemen my warmest thanks are due. My best thanks are also due to J. D. Marwick, Esq., Town-Clerk of Glasgow; Arthur Mitchell, Esq., M.D., Edinburgh; to Joseph Anderson, Esq., of the Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh; to Thomas Boss, Esq., Architect, Edinburgh, for the ground-plan and drawings of Lindores Abbey; and to John Young, Esq., C.E., and Architect, Perth, for the ground-plan and section of the Fort on Clachard Craig. I have also to express my sincere thanks to the Magistrates and Town-Council of Newburgh, and to the Ministers and Kirk-Sessions of the parishes of Newburgh and Abdie, for the ready access they have afforded me to the records under their charge. I beg also to express my obligations and thanks to the Bight Beverend Dr Wordsworth, Bishop of St Andrews, for the elucidation of an ancient ecclesiastical practice otherwise unexplained. To William Tullis, Esq., Bothes, Markinch, for notices of the ancient topography of that parish. To my aunt, Mrs Charlotte Anderson, for reminiscences of old customs. To Mr John Cameron, schoolmaster of Abdie, for the etymology of names of places in the neighbourhood ; though it is right to state, that he is not answerable for all the derivations from Gaelic that have been given in the following pages.

My especial thanks are due to George Wilson, Esq., S.S.C., Edinburgh, for the ready access he has afforded me to the Mugdrum archives. To John Berry, Esq. of Tayfield and Tnverdovat; Andrew Walker Buist, Esq. of Berryhill ; and Major F. W. Balfour of Fernie, for putting their old charters and writs at my service. To Sir Patrick Murray Threipland, Bart., for information regarding the ancient possessions of the Earls of Newburgh. I beg also to express my obligations to Thomas Barclay, Esq., Sheriff-Clerk of Fife; Walter Malcolm, Esq., North Berwick ; and to William A. Taylor, Esq., Cupar-Fife. To William Ballingall, Esq., Engraver, Edinburgh, for the use of the blocks of the engravings of Abdie Old Church, and of the view from Cross Macduff; and for the care and pains which he has bestowed on the engravings which illustrate this volume. Also to William Proudfoot, Esq., Perth, for the drawing of the moulding of the door-way in the nave of the Abbey Church ; and to the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, for the use of the electrotype of the carved stone ball and blocks of the engravings of the Bos primigenius belonging to the Society.

The list of plants in the Appendix is perhaps more copious than it should have been in a hook devoted to antiquities ; but I was specially desirous of making it as full as possible, and of giving the exact habitats of the plants growing in the neighbourhood, in the hope that the youth of both sexes may he induced to study those beautiful creations of God, and partake of the ever-increasing enjoyment which the study of any department of His works never fails to afford. I have been enabled to supplement this list by the kindness of John Sadler, Esq. of the Boyal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, in supplying me with a note of the plants gathered by Professor Balfour’s class, on an excursion to Loch Lindores and Marie’s Craig, in 1873. I have also to thank Charles Howie, Esq. of Largo, for additions to the list.

In conclusion, I have to express my obligations to James A. Smith, Esq., London, for researches made expressly in the British Museum, and for assistance in compiling the Index appended. I tender my best thanks to him and to all others who have assisted me from the beginning, without whose ever-ready help this volume would have been much more imperfect than it is.

21st March 1876.

You can download this book in pdf format here

A lot of the information I have, comes from that book and here’s a little more background info.

My family have owned Lindores Abbey, in Fife for a hundred years and to be honest, whilst it is a lovely thing to own I didn’t know too much about its history until about ten years ago someone pointed out to me that it was recognised as “The Spiritual Home of Scotch Whisky”, this is because of a sentence written (in Latin!) in the Exchequer roll of 1494, whereby it read; “To Friar John Cor, VIII bolls of malt, wherewith to make Aqua Vitae for King James IV”, this is the earliest written record of the production of the “Water of Life” or “Whisky”.

So on the back of this and with a great deal of advice and help from people within the industry I am on the cusp of putting in planning for a distillery on the farm steading adjacent to the site. This is a 10m project and we are very close to being fully funded and commencing with the project.

So on the whisky side of things there is all sorts of info/stories to tell.

Meanwhile on the other side of the road (literally) lie the beautiful/peaceful remains of Lindores Abbey, which very few people even know exists, partly due to its location and partly due to the fact that it’s been privately owned for a hundred years and completely out of the public eye. But the more I read the books we have on its history the more I realise that there is so much more to Lindores than just whisky!

Many significant things have happened at Lindores, I’ll only list a few (But possibly the most significant)

1. Founded in 1191 by David, Earl of Huntingdon on land given to him by King William the Lion. The hero in Sir Walter Scott’s book “The Talisman” is based on Earl David and he is believed by many to be the basis for the character “Robin Hood”

2. On 21st January 1283 Price Alexander, son of Alexander III and heir to the throne, died at Lindores. Only a few months earlier his marriage had brought great joy to Scotland as it gave promise to the removal of the possibility of a disputed succession. Therefor his death caused great sorrow across Scotland and it is on record that he was filled with forebodings as to the dangers to which Scotland would be exposed to by his death, and ‘Upon the night before he died, he talked wildly about an approaching contest with his Uncle (Edward I), and suddenly exclaimed ‘Before tomorrow’s sun rise, the sun of Scotland will have set’.

The sequence of national events following on from this ‘omen’ are borne out at Lindores;

3. In 1291 King Edward I (Hammer of the Scots)came to Lindores Abbey to accept the allegiance of the local nobility and it is recorded that Abbot John of Lindores ‘Touched the Host, kissed the gospels, and swore upon the high altar of Lindores’

4. In 1293 the “puppet king” john Baliol visited Lindores with his main supporters, whilst trying to assert his authority over the land.

5. In 1296 Lindores had the questionable honour of a second visit from King Edward, he was here after Baliol had capitulated the Crown in to his hands, and as Edward travelled people of all classes were gathered (as at Lindores) to swear allegiance to the Crown.

Then with Scotland’s relationship with England deteriorating, William Wallace came to the fore, and his last victory was at the battle of Blackearnside, in the forests around Lindores, where Wallace defeated the Earl of Pembroke with the help of the locals of Newburgh and surrounding area, after which he, and his men rested at Lindores, entering through the “Slype”, which is the arch that still exists to this day.

6. Six months after Wallace’s death, in 1306, at the high altar of Lindores, the three knights puissant; Sir Gilbert Hay of Errol, Sir Neil Campbell of Lochaw and Sir Alexander Seton, swore ‘To defend King Robert Bruce and his Crown to the last of their blood and fortunes’

7. Four months after Bannockburn on 6th November 1314, The Abbot of Lindores appears in the parliament, summoned by King Robert the Bruce at Cambuskenneth Abbey. He affixed his seal to the statute whereby; ‘All that did not come into “The peace of King” and acknowledge him as their Sovereign, would be held as traitors and their estates confiscated.

This was all directly brought about by the untimely death of Prince Alexander in 1283, and the rest, as they say, is History!

As mentioned previously there are many more events historical or whisky related that may (or may not) be of interest to your readers, the final relevant story is that Lindores is the final resting place of David, the ill-fated 1st Duke of Rothesay, heir to the Scottish throne (as is the current Duke HRH Price Charles) who was buried at Lindores in 1401.

Later on this summer a team of archaeologists will be allowed to work in Lindores, this will be the first for over 100 years and using modern technology they will be carrying out an electronic survey to (amongst other things) possibly locate the Dukes remains and possibly even try and establish the true cause of his death, as it is still unsolved as to whether his Uncle, the Duke of Albany had him poisoned, or starved to death at nearby Falkland Palace.

Anyway, the distillery is obviously the commercial aspect of Lindores, but it sits hand in hand with 800 years of history, which I’ve tried to condense a wee bit!

Very kind regards

Drew McKenzie Smith

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