Page images

To readers who care about contrasting times past with times present, Paisley Abbey has an interest apart from even its own old chronicles. It is not only one among the few ecclesiastical foundations spared from pre-Reformation times, but it presents the still rarer distinction of preserving some measure of its seemliness amid all the noise, activity, and change incident to that modern commerce by which it is so closely hemmed in and overshadowed. With most other old abbeys this is not the case. Lincluden, Dundrennan, and New Abbey, in the south, are only so many charming ruins in their still wooded solitudes; Crossraguel, a former dependency of Paisley, is as undisturbed by trade as when Abbot Allan was roasted “quick” by Gilbert, the wicked Earl of Cassilis. A transept gable at Kilwinning, the masonic glory of Hugh de Morville—the honoured mother of a wide-spread family-still represents, amid quiet graves, the crafts concerned in the rearing of that temple where

No workman steel, no ponderous axes rung,
Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprung.

Cambuskenneth still Alings its lone shadow across the quiet links of Forth; the mouldering cloisters of Tironensian Lindores may still be seen on the edge of the majestic Tay looking out from her own sequestered hamlet of Newburgh across to the sylvan quietness of Errol; Dryburgh and Melrose, Kelso and Jedburgh, all exist more or less amid the pastoral surroundings in which they were first planted. With Paisley Abbey all is changed-nothing but contrasts between what was and is. The once rippling and silvery Cart now a sluggish and pestilent drain; the trim gardens of the monks, the richly-laden fruit trees, the waving grain and rich pasture land, the browsing cattle and frisking lambs, have all been edged out of the scene by such modern conditions of life as made their existence impossible. At Paisley Station any railway passenger may take in at a glance from the train the most important elements in the past and present forces of social life. On one side the ruined Abbey, rich with the memory of portly abbots, and still fragrant in imagination with the good cheer of the

refectory; on the other a typical illustration of the triumphs of modern sciencean iron shipbuilding yard full of noise and bustle, and requiring ingenious appliances in the way of machinery, none the less that room is scarce and the situation unfavourable. Closer still to the traveller there is (1880) on one side of the bridge a prison, rendered partly necessary by the want, misery, and temptation which may be presumed to exist low down on the other side. When the last School Board fight was at its keenest the poor and weary denizens at this point on the Cart might have been seen basking with their bairns in that late spring sunshine, visiting them as bountifully as when abbots bore sway, and enjoyed as gratefully as when there was no prison to control their liberty or school board to vex their ignorance. The Abbey fabric itself presents much of the contrast we are indicating between the past and present. The zeal of the Reformers spared the nave, still used on Sundays, but the choir and transept, the library and scriptorium, the abbot's house and the guests' chamber, were all so far destroyed as only to be useful in reminding the student of days when churches could be filled without “Revivals," and no part of the graceful fabric be considered useless or unnecessary in the service :

[ocr errors]

Behold a stately fane, by pious builders
Raised of old, for worship of Jehovah;
Within its long, withdrawing aisles
Attendant monks in slow procession go,
Chanting praise of Him who died upon the Cross.
On sestal days the people crowd its sacred courts,
And join in that triumphant hymn of Praise
To “God the Father," and to “Christ the King of Glory,"
Which still swells the heart of gladdened worshippers,
And sends them home renewed in vigour for their daily lise.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

With a minuteness not likely to be thought tedious by any connected with Paisley, the enthusiasm of ex-Provost Brown in the cause of his old “Pedagogue" incited him to draw up a history of the Burgh Grammar School, not more remarkable for accuracy of detail than profusion of illustration and order in arrangement. From the old charter of foundation to a record so ephemeral as a

[ocr errors]

prize list; from a portrait of King James to a portrait of the janitor, not omitting the author; from a statement of old endowments to speeches by new subscribers -all have been gathered into a volume certain to be treasured by many as a memorial of days when they “were boys together," and useful to others at the same time as a book of reference on all matters relating to the school. Nor is it the least praise due Mr. Brown to mention that, while the teachers are introduced to the reader primarily, of course, in connection with their work, he also takes frequent occasion to notice their private or social accomplishments, so that old pupils may renew acquaintance with a master and not be quite overwhelmed by that severe dignity naturally associated with a real rector in office like Peddie, or Hunter, or Brunton. Of James Peddie, an English school pupil so distinguished as “Christopher North ” describes his jubilee dinner as only a fitting reward to a man as blameless as he was useful, and whose whole life had been devoted to the training of youth in habits of decorum and rectitude. Most others also appear to have shown the utmost consideration for their pupils, or, like Goldsmith's teacher, “if severe in aught, the love they bore to learning was in fault.” Paisley Grammar School, to which the larger portion of Mr. Brown's volume is devoted, was founded by King James VI., in 1576, the tenth year of his reign and the tenth of his birth, this being probably due to the mediation of the Rev. Patrick Adamson, first Reformed minister of the Abbey Parish, but at the date of the grant acting as chaplain to the Regent Morton. The deed provides for the government of the school by the magistrates and councillors of the burgh, and for its erection and support grants to their successors for ever, the altarages of St. Mirren and Columba, of St. Ninian, of St. Mary the Virgin, St. Nicholas, St. Peter, St. Catherine, and St. Anne, the chapel of St. Roque or St. Rollox, and seven roods of ground adjacent, with the pittances of money, obit silver, and commons formerly possessed and lifted by the monks of Paisley monastery, as appears from a stone still preserved but removed from time to time as the building was changed. The first fabric was erected in 1586, and the site Mr. Brown concludes, after some hesitation, was on the south side of the Old

School Wynd, then a vennel or passage leading to the Barnyard, where there was a port, and to Oakshaw, on the site of the Chapel of St. Nicholas. There appears to have been two class-rooms, one used for the Grammar School proper, the other as a singing or “sang school.” The patronage, although formally vested in the council, appear to have been practically exercised at a very early period by the Church. In 1604 the magistrates remitted a candidate for the office of master to the minister of the burgh and Presbytery of Paisley, for the purpose of making trial of his doctrines and ability to teach. In 1626 another was appointed after being found qualified by the Presbytery; and in 1689 a William Stewart, who had become the subject of Church discipline, was apparently dismissed by the council at the instance of the Presbytery.

The magistrates, however, appear to have been active enough in doing what was then judged wise to keep up the reputation of the school. In 1647, when John Tannahill was to be appointed, if found qualified, for his further encouragement the council conclude that all men children shall go to the Grammar School, that all woman schools be discharged from receiving boys under pain of censure, and that no woman whatever keep a school from All-Hallowday next but such as upon their petition might be allowed by the council. This resolution was proclaimed over the burgh next year by “de tuck of drum.” Formal visitations would seem to have commenced in 1646, when the council appointed the school to be visited once a month by the bailies and ministers. One instance of undue severity occurs in the records this year, and may have something to do with the " visitation." In June of that year “ Doctor" Lawson was to be absolutely discharged, that "he strike nane of the scholars within the school of Paisley hereafter, and that he shall take no such authority on him; and if he do in the future contrary, the first bairn he strikes it is concluded that he be removed from the school." It is to be feared the warning was useless, as dismissal followed within a few months. In immediate connection with his subjects, and extremely interesting besides on their own account, are the extracts gleaned by Mr. Brown from the records of his own and other burghs, especially

[ocr errors]

in so far as these throw light on the two great calamities of war and pestilence. In December, 1645, the bailies and council of Glasgow, “taking to their consideration the lamentable estate and condition of the poor people within the town of Paisley, and of the hard straits they are brought to by God's visitation of the plague of pestilence lying upon them now for this long time, for this present supply they have condescended to bestow upon them twenty bolls of meal." During the January following John Park, mealman, Causeyside, for falsely asserting that the bailies of Paisley had acted unfairly in dividing this meal among the rich and not among the poor, was fined three dollars and laid six hours in the stocks. Leprous persons could only be abroad two days of the week for two hours at a time, “and not to go into any house, but to have clappers to call the people out, under pain of punishment.” At the close of 1650, when Cromwell's troops were marching on the burgh, “the council appoint that the shire's arms that are in the Tolbooth shall this night be transferred thereof, and carried to come convenient place where the same may be hidden from the enemy. The Royalist defeat at Worcester appears to have led to an entire abolition of local courts. In April, 1652, the council agreed, “because there may not be a head court holden, in respect that the English by their declaration have discharged all courts, it is concluded that upon Thursday next, the penult of this instant, which should be the head court day, the bailies and council shall meet in James Alexander's, bailie, his heich hall, and there shall elect a new treasurer for the affairs of the town, and shall create any burgesses that shall happen to be, and receive resignation if any be, and book those having right into common lands.” As became a body of patrons who as far back as 1620 had subscribed to encourage "a pleasant Invention or Play," the council in 1702 made a grant of twenty pounds Scots towards expenses incurred by the scholars in acting “Bellum Gramaticale," and the then “Doctor" was allowed seven pounds two shillings Scots (1os. 6d.) to buy a new hat with, “ towards his farther encouragement, for pains in attending to the school by and attoure his salary.” Other town schools undertaken with a view of completing

« PreviousContinue »