Saturday 2 June 2012

I Didn't Call Him a Liar, Just an Untruthsayer!

Today, we have been looking through the Orphir Church records on behalf of a family history researcher. We didn't find the people we were looking for, but were reminded of how small some of supposed crimes brought to the church elders' attention were and how disproportionate the punishments.

The children of Thomas Inksetter of Buxa were twice hauled up in front of the Church committee for the sin of 'breach of Sabbath'. In May 1728, they were flouting the Lord's day 'in taking a sheep with their dog'; and in October 1732 they were spotted by some neighbours 'carrying a burden in time of Divine worship'.

That's right, not only were they seen CARRYING SOMETHING on the Sabbath, they were carrying it while the Church was in session. The investigation into this incident went on for several weeks, with both children being brought before the elders and either denying all or saying they were too sick to attend. (The classic get-out clause from P.E. lessons to Sabbath Breach chidings.)

At no point does anyone ask why the witnesses to their crime were not at church either...

Later on in the saga, the burden is sensationally  revealed to have been a quantity of butter 'stealth from David Louttit on the same day.'

Catherine Slatter was accused of 'uttering imprecations' against neighbour Elspeth Scott when quarrelling about a piece of grass; this charge was stoutly denied and both women were told to grow up ( or 'exhorted to peace and a better agreement'.)

Three women were charged with the 'sin of uncleanness', (fornication, that old chestnut) in the same Church session. One Margaret Inksetter was accused of carrying the child of a married man, one Margaret Garrioch was pregnant by her boss's son and one Marjory Gorie admitted that she had been 'in her naked bed' in the presence of one James Cloustone but that he had been fully clothed throughout and that there had been 'no carnal dealing.' She may have been lying though as she had his baby several months later.

Couples accused of ante-nuptial fornication could either sit in the 'Publick place of repentance', a sort of 18th century naughty chair, or pay a fine of £4 which, considering that a male domestic servant's yearly wage in the 1790s was not much over £5*, was a considerable price.

The best entry is Peter Garrioch's complaint against the 'abuse' he suffered from William Knarston. According to Peter, William called him 'a Knave and a Lyar before one witness.' William poo-pooed this telling of events, insisting that 'he only called him an untruth-sayer.'

This verbal trickery did not fool the Church elders and William was fined 40 shillings by the Civil magistrate.

* Kirkwall and St. Ola, Statistical Account of Scotland 1791-1799


  1. In our family tree researches, we came across ministers' comments, eg, a couple who married 'and not before time', and a baby's father who was 'believed to be in the Colonies' ...! Changed days.

  2. Yes, we come across a lot of prospective fathers who disappeared on boats to the New World never to return... the knaves!


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