Imágenes de páginas


teenth centuries they were worse than they had been in the Middle Ages. At the opening of the seven teenth century the public roads were so bad in France that Henry IV. found it necessary to expend 1,000,000 livres on their improvement. In the matter of easy communication, therefore, Scotland was not much behind its neighbours, and, indeed, the ill-conditioned traveller, who has already been quoted, seems to imply that the highways of Scotland did not compare unfavourably with those of England. "The highways in Scotland,” he says, “are tolerably good, which is the greatest comfort a traveller meets

a with among them ”46 (sic).

” 46 (sic). It should be noted, however, that it was in summer that this traveller paid his visit.

But an extract from the Privy Council, under the date 1621, when roads were certainly not in a worse condition than in the time of Mary, will bring before us what were then “ the accidents of the

The extract is from a petition of the inhabitants of the parish of Portmoak in Kinross-shire. “The passage at the Gullets,” the petition runs, “at the west end and mouth of (Loch)Leven, being a common and ordinary passage between St Johnstone (Perth) and Edinburgh, is now so worn and decayed that it is become unpassable for men or horses, so that merchants and travellers that way are ofttimes in danger of their lives and packs, and some have perished, and sundry horses and packs have been cast away, and, if some present course be not taken


in this summer for helping, mending, and repairing of the said passage, all travelling between St Johnstone and the Ferries will cease.”47 The petitioners proceed to say that they have no more interest in preserving the road in question than others of His Majesty's lieges, but, because the road happens to be at their door, they are best acquainted with its defects, and had judged it becoming to make a proposal to the Lords of Council. The proposal was one which was frequently made at the time; the petitioners undertook to repair the road on condition that they should be licensed to levy a toll of twopence from every pedestrian and fourpence from every horseman, during eight days before and eight days after the four annual fairs held at Perth. That the state of the road at Portmoak was not exceptional is abundantly proved by the exertions found necessary to render the highways passable on the occasion of the visits of James VI. in 1617 and of Charles I. in 1633.

What has been said of the construction and maintenance of roads equally applies to bridges. It was incumbent on the neighbouring proprietors to provide and maintain them where they were found to be necessary. The building of a bridge was even a more pious work than making a road; and though the religious order, known as the “ Brothers of the Bridge,” who did such excellent work in France, did not penetrate into Scotland, Scottish ecclesiastics did not neglect this side of their duties. It was to


bishops that Scotland owed its most notable bridges. To mention but a few of the best known: the bridge over the Clyde at Glasgow, described in the Privy Council Register as “ane of the most remarkable monuments within the kingdom ” ; 48 that over the Don at Aberdeen, “the brig o' Balgownie”; 19 that at Guardbridge in Fife, reckoned only inferior to the two just named, and that over the Tay at Perth, all were directly or indirectly due to the pious care of Scottish bishops.50 Even after the Reformation and indeed till the end of the eighteenth century the building and repairing of bridges was still regarded as a commendable act of public charity. For example, Mr Abraham of Crichton, provost of Dunglas, in his will made in 1565, left a hundred merks towards the repair of the bridge at Cramond, and a similar amount for the repair of the Magdalen Bridge at Musselburgh. But in spite of charity and the obligations of proprietors, bridges were in no better condition than the roads, as the frequent complaints to the Privy Council abundantly prove. By way of remedy the Council adopted the usual two measures, neither of which, however, had always the desired effect. They put the bridges in the hands of tacksmen, who, in return for a prescribed toll, undertook to keep them in good order ; or, in the case of specially important bridges, they authorised a general appeal to the country for contributions to maintain them.

As bridges were so few and often of such



doubtful solidity, ferries were proportionately numerous, and were the object of frequent legislation. At every ferry where horses had to cross it was obligatory that the boat should be provided with a “treyn bridge” (wooden gangway) for their safe and comfortable conveyance. At all the most frequented ferries the dues were rigidly fixed by statute: at Kinghorn the charge was two pennies for the man and six pennies for the horse; at Portincraig and Queensferry, one penny for the man and two pennies for the horse.52 As a class the ferrymen appear to have been among the most knavish in the community, and bore the same character in England as in Scotland. In the reign of Mary (1551) a terrible statute was directed against them which implies long accumulated wrath on the part of their victims. The Act begins in these expressive terms: "Forasmuch as the Queen's Grace, my Lord Governor (the Earl of Arran), and three Estates of Parliament, having respect to the great and heavy oppressions done to the lieges of this Realm and specially by ferrymen of Kinghorn, Queensferry, and Dundee in taking of their freight from them, and that the Queen's lieges, notwithstanding the weighty charges and expenses disbursed to such ferrymen, are not served as appertain to be done,” 53 and the Act proceeds to specify a new rate of fares, and to threaten the loss of life and goods against any ferryman who should overcharge his passengers.

Four years later the Estates had to insist on the enforcement of this statute 54-a proof that the ferrymen had

not yet wholly amended their ways.

Such being the condition of roads, bridges, and ferries the accommodation for travellers was not likely to be very luxurious. Yet from the fourteenth century the legislature did what it could to make comfortable provision for wayfarers. The following are some of the enactments by which it was sought to effect this object. All who sold bread and beer

. in burghs were enjoined to receive and supply the wants of travellers at the current prices (1357); in burghs and in thoroughfares hostelries were to be provided with accommodation for man and horse (1426, 1427); barons, magistrates, and others having the direction and rule of thoroughfares and hostelries were ordered to fix the prices of victuals, bread, ale, and other necessaries (1551). This last injunction must have been urgently called for, if, as we are informed, hostellers were in the habit of exacting double and triple the just price of the commodities which they supplied. In spite of legislation, however, neither in Mary's reign nor for long after were decent inns to be found in Scotland. Writing in 1598, an English writer, who travelled from Berwick to Stirling and also through Fife, declares that he “did never see nor hear that they (the Scots) have any public inns with signs hanging out.” In the same sentence, however, he

« AnteriorContinuar »