19 February 2010

Kirk Session Excerpts, Isle of Coll, Scotland, Part III

Human nature will out. In a small community, it’s hard to hide anything from the neighbours!

Coll Kirk Session Minutes, 1733-1813, GB 234, CH2/70/1; National Archives of Scotland
7 June 1734
John McLachlan vc Ian vc Dhoil being asked if he would own the Child fathered upon him by Margaret McNeil vc Dhoil said he would not and said he was ready to depose that he had no guilt with her. But it being suggested by some of the members of session that Mary McEachan vcLachlan Ian was present to them lying in bed together and the young woman being put upon oath declared that this young man & the said Margaret and herself being Lodged in a ____ hutt She went to bed befor any of them. Soon thereafter this young man went to bed. And that some time after the Sd Margaret went to bed but she could not observe her lying with the Said John. Meanwhile the young man owns that he lay with this Margaret once & again for want of bedcloaths but Disowns guilt with her.

Angus McRory mhoir being required to declare what he heard this Margaret say in relation to this affair says that upon John McLachlan’s Challenging the Said Margaret for fathering her Child upon him, She said that he needed not think shame of owning her Child and that if he would own the Child she would give him no more Trouble.

However on any occasion one Nick Corair spouse to John McWilliam vc Rory having declared upon oath befor the Session that Early in the morning she Surprized the Sd John & Sd Margaret in bed together Stript to their Shirt No soul being in the Hutt but them. The Sd John confessed his guilt & owned the Child And Hector McLeane of Knock becoming baill for the Sd John’s submitting to discipline & paying fines and Lachlan McLeane of Toraston becoming baill for Sd Margaret submitting to censure & paying her fine The Child was Baptized.

“Fathered upon him” is an interesting turn of phrase, resonating in our liberated century as a moral judgment pre-weighted against the woman. What, I wonder, is the difference between submitting to discipline and submitting to censure? If there is a difference? At least the elders used the word “guilt” instead of “criminal connection” which appears at times.

Since the parish register does not begin until 1776, there is no way to confirm the name of the child or potential marriage(s) of the two parties. Notice that no place names (residence) are mentioned. A fast sweep of the 1776 Coll List of Inhabitants—in an admittedly forlorn hope—I thought I might catch a John McLachlan with or without a wife Margaret McNeil. If they were in their teens or twenties at the time of their indiscretion, they could be well-worn into their fifties or sixties by 1776. They might be widowed, or living in the home of a child with a different surname.

The lone John McLachlane of the List was at Sorisdale with wife Mary McLean; their three children included one under-age child (under seven years) and two servants. He does not seem an elderly man of the times. A Margaret McLachlane was at Arinagour with four children, two of them under-age. Even if she was a widow, she was probably much younger than a child-bearing maximum of mid- to late-forties.

This general situation illustrates how we can’t under-estimate the value of the Highland oral tradition of genealogical recitation ... if indeed we are lucky enough to discover such.


J. Mc. said...

Hi Brenda...You may have not have had any luck searching for John McLachlan in the list because the Kirk sessions have used his patronymic name of John son of Lachlan grandson of John great grandson of Dhoil (Donald). The list could show him as John McLean etc. Patronyms can be a great help if you know the family name, a curse if you don't. Regards John.

BDM said...

John, this is a great comment, thank you. You are so right and my face is red. It's clear that "surnames" here evolved in that 40-year gap after 1734. It's a subject I certainly don't know enough about. Your last sentence is very quote-able!