A History of Balmerino Abbey - preface

The following attempt to elucidate the history of the Parish and Abbey of Balmerino had its origins in a Lecture on that subject which the Author delivered in the parochial School-House in the year 1863, embodying the result of enquiries which he had been making for some time previously. Having promised to comply with a desire expressed by many, that the lecture should be printed, he proceeded to make further researches, with the view, merely, of rendering it more complete before committing to the press. But so many new materials were thus eventually collected, that he resolved to alter this plan, and prepare a systematic work. This course seemed the more appropriate from the circumstance, that the ample materials available for the illustration of the history bit of the Abbey and Parish, contained in the Abbey Chartalary, and in the records of the Kirk-Session, Presbytery, and Synod, had not previously been turned to account in that way.

The Author’s aim has accordingly been to construct a work which should embrace whatever information of any interest he could gather concerning the Parish, from the earliest times of which any memorials exist down to a recent period, with such illustrative documents appended to it as could be contained within reasonable limits. With what success this design has been executed he must leave the reader to decide. He may state, however, that he has left unexplored no likely source of information which was accessible to him. He regrets that the difficulty of prosecuting such inquiries has so much retarded the completion of the work; but he ventures to hope that’s its greater comprehensiveness, as now issued, will be regarding as compensating for the delay which has occurred.

It is well known that, by publication, in recent years, of the registers and Chartularies of the ancient Scottish Bishoprics and Religious Houses, and of a great variety of Diaries, Family Documents, and National Records, many new materials have been provided for the illustration of the local, as well as of the general history of the country. These sources of information- from which there are few parishes whose history might not receive illustration – were generally not

accessible to the Authors of Statistical Accounts of Scotland. From this circumstance, as well as from the necessary restriction of their limits, these works, though valuable for the views which they present of the state of the several parishes at the periods of their publication, are, in most cases, very deficient in historical and distinct from statistical information. The time appears therefore to have come for the preparation of Parochial Histories, properly so called. The multiplication of such works would be attended with several advantages: intelligent interest in particular localities would be promoted amongst their inhabitants: the student of Scottish history would be enabled to form distinct conceptions of great national movements by observing their effects within the limited area of the district with which he may be most familiar: and the general history of the country – more especially in reference to social progress – would profit by the light thus made to converge upon it from many different quarters. It is almost unnecessary to say that in trasversing the extensive period of time, and in dealing with the considerable variety of subjects, which this book embraces, the Author has freely availed himself of the labours of previous explorers in the same fields; and he believes that no apology will be required for the insertion, on a work of this kind, of so many extracts from old Authors and Records, whose quaint and racy language is so much more interesting than would be any mere paraphrase or abridgement of it. It is necessary to explain that the title of Part III. Was chosen with reference to the prevailing character of its contents. The other matters than those strictly corresponding with the title have been occasionally introduced in that portion of the work, is due partly to the circumstance of their being found in the Records from which the notives of the ministers and ecclesiastical affairs of the Parish are drawn, and partly to the difficulty of arranging them in a separate section. It is necessary to state that the engraving of the Common Seal of the Abbey, which is inserted on this page (click here) is considerably reduced in size, the original being about two inches and three quarters in length, and one inch and three quarters in breadth. A brief account of the Abbey Chartulary, the substance of which is incorporated into the following pages, may not be out of place here. The existing MS, which is preserved in the Advocate’s Library is a small octave volume of twenty-six and a half leaves of parchment, containing sixty-nine documents in the Latin language. The writing is beautifully executed in the Old-English character, and probably belongs to the latter half of the fourteenth century. The Colophon, which is twice repeated on the fly-leaves on the volume, and is executed in a handwriting evidently more recent that the body of the MS, is as follows:- Liber Sancte Marie de Balmorinach. Qui eum alienaverit sit ipse alienatus a regno Dei. Scriptum est how per fratrem Laurencium predicti loci. Anno Domino M CCCC sexto X. Amen. The Chartulary was printed in 1841 for the Abbotsford Club, the “Book of Lindores” being included in the same volume. The Editor, the last Mr W.B.D.D.Turnball, has appended to the Balmerino Chartulary twelve documents referring to the Abbey, collected from other quarters. The contents of the Chartulary relate almost exclusively to the endowments and privileges of the Monastery, and throw little light on its internal economy. The Chartulary is evidently incomplete even in respect of the period, and the kind of transactions which it embraces, while its most recent date appears to be not later than the middle of the fourteenth century. The Editor in his introduction, has succeeded in making out a copious, though incomplete, list of the Regular Abbots and Commendators, to which several additions have been made in the present volume. It is to be regretted, however,

that Mr Turnbull’s pages are disfigured by his intense Romish bigotry, and hatred of the Scottish Deformation, as he styles the great ecclesiastical Revolution of the sixteenth century, and which he characterises as “one of the most atrocious events recorded in the history of the last thousand years.” The Author desires, in conclusion, to return his best thanks to many gentlemen who have kindly advised him in his inquiries. He has mentioned several of these elsewhere,* and will therefore not repeat their names here. Amongst others to whom he has been indebted, he may be permitted to record his special obligations to the late lamented Dr Joseph Robertson of the General Register House, Dr David Laing of the Signet Library, and Samuel Halket, Esq., of the Advocates’ Library, for their valuable counsel and assistance in his researches amongst the Collections under their charge; to Professor Lorimer, Lyon Clark, for heraldic information regarding many of the landed proprietors of the Parish; to Robert Dickson Esq, Surgeon, Carnoustie, who has not only furnished the Author with much information regarding the lands of Barry Parish – once the property of the Abbey – but has generously presented him with the requisite number of fac-similes of the Monk’s Signatures executed by himself in PhotoLithography, from a charter in his possession; and to Mr Frederick Johnston, M.A., a parishioner, whose pencil has supplied the spirited sketch of the Abbey Ruins, which has been engraved as the Frontispiece to this volume. BALMERINO MANSE; 20th November, 1867

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