« AnteriorContinuar »
"And now begins ane plague among them new,
Thus maun they pay great ferme or lay their stead."*9 From a Royal Rental Book of 1541 we learn what was considered a "model farm” at that date, and the description must equally apply to the reign of Mary, as both in England and Scotland there was little change in agricultural methods throughout the sixteenth century. From the tenant who held his land in feu-farm the following conditions were exacted. In proximity to his house he must have a large, well-furnished garden, thoroughly hedged in with hawthorn, sallows, alder, or aspen. Outside his garden, but on no account within it, he must sow a certain amount of hemp and lint. His principal crops, it is implied, were oats, barley, and wheat. For the production and maintenance of timber, there were the most precise specifications. If any woods existed on the land when the tenant entered on his occupancy, he was to see to it that these were carefully preserved and fostered. But he was not only to preserve trees, he must also propagate them. For every silver mark of land he paid he must every year plant three trees—ash, plane, or elm; for every chalder of wheat or barley, twenty trees; and for every chalder of oats ten."
In the case of another class of tenants, who are described as those “who have separate feus by themselves,” it was prescribed that they must have
* Must give up their holding.
an “honest mansion," containing a hall, chamber, pantry and kitchen. On a scale proportioned to their rentsuch tenants must also providesubstantiallybuilt offices—barn, byre, and dovecot. An orchard or garden, carefully fenced and surrounded by trees, was likewise indispensable. Wherever the nature of the soil permitted, meadows were to be cultivated, and in bogs or other moist ground, alders, hazels, and willows were to be planted. Rabbit-warrens, stanks and ponds for fish were to be desired whereever they could be “gudly had." 11
Secure in their tenancy, therefore, all that was wanting to farmers as a class was improved husbandry which would enable them to make the most of their land. But the day was as yet far off when improved methods of tillage in Scotland were to convert the very inferiority of her soil into a stimulus for enterprise and skill. According to John Major the Scottish farmers, however, were fonder of the sword than the plough. With horse and lance they were ready on every occasion to take up their lord's quarrel, though only, Major pointedly tells us, if they were on friendly terms with him. They despised all handicrafts and thought it a disgrace that their sons should learn
The proper training for those of their class was to take service in the house of a great lord where they would be taught how to use their weapons, and to live like their fathers before them. Accordingly, Major adds, it was the custom of the
Scottish farmer to let his servants look after his lands while he himself followed his favourite pursuits."
Beneath the class of farmers were the labourers, cottars, or bondi. The condition of these is vividly described by Sir David Lyndsay in the autobiographic sketch which he puts in the mouth of the Pauper in his “Satire of the Three Estates.” A mile from Tranent, in Lothian, Pauper had lived with his father, mother, wife, and children, all of whom were dependent on the labour of his own hands. A mare and three cows were the mainstay of the household. The mare, besides annually presenting them with a foal, further contributed to the family income by carrying coal and salt—the chief commodities of the neighbourhood. As Pauper tells his story, we are to infer that with these resources he contrived to make ends meet and live an honest life. But there came a series of misfortunes, which Lyndsay, with the licence of the satirist, represents as a typical case in the class to which Pauper belonged. On the death of the grandfather, in whose name the family croft was held, the laird claimed the mare as his "hyreild” and the vicar the best cow. Then came the death of the grandmother and the appropriation of the second cow by the vicar. Overwhelmed by these successive misfortunes, Pauper's wife also succumbed, and the third and last cow went the way of the rest. Shorn of all means of subsistence, Pauper
had but one course open to him—to take to the trade of beggar, in which, at least, he was well kept in countenance.
From more serious sources than the satire of Lyndsay we know that he has depicted the condition of a numerous class in his day. A horse and two or more cows and a field which he held on a precarious lease of two or three years — on these
possessions the cottar depended for the sole maintenance of himself and his household. But for misfortune and the rapacity of his superiors, his condition did not compare unfavourably with that of the agricultural labourer of a much later time. It was an intolerable grievance that for a certain number of days in the year he must give forced labour on his lord's domain when his own affairs required all his hands. But, as we learn from successive statutes, it was the burden of teind that he felt as the most iniquitous oppression. It was because Pauper failed to pay his teind that the vicar made so free with his cows. And there was still another grievance connected with teinds which Lyndsay does not specify. Before the poor cottar might bring in his sheaves, his landlord, lay or spiritual, had to secure his teinds before they were removed from the ground. But, as the landlord was often dilatory, the whole crop would be left exposed to all the chances of weather, with the result that much or most of it would be spoiled beyond recovery. Frequent Acts of Parliament were passed with the object of remedying this intolerable grievance, but, till long beyond Mary's reign, with no apparent result. "3
Such being the condition of the poorer tillers of the soil, it was in the nature of things that many of them should already begin to look with longing eyes to the towns where life appeared to be possible on so much easier terms. By the reign of Mary there had already begun that immigration from country to town which has proceeded with such increasing ratio since her day. But the towns in the time of Mary did not throw open their gates to all and sundry ; on the contrary, the indwellers in the towns formed a close society, the entrance to which was guarded by conditions which effectually kept outsiders at arm's length. What these barriers were, we shall afterwards see, but first let us try to realise what a Scottish town in the reign of Mary was like, and so pass to a description of its inhabitants, of the daily round of duty and pleasure they followed, of their aims and aspirations, and of the principles and regulations by which their society was bound together and directed to a common purpose.
Of the Scottish towns in the latter half of the sixteenth century it may be said that, with a growing tendency to development in new directions, they were still essentially mediæval, at once in their material conditions and in the spirit which animated their civic and social life. In the extraordinary