MarySmith’sPlace – Banned burials

Amberley Publishing has a blog on its website to which authors are invited to contribute posts connected to their published books. I wrote this post after Secret Dumfries was published and it was put up the other day. Although it’s not a Christmas-related post, I thought I’d share it for those interested in past burial rites and church history. When burials in churches were banned in Scotland.

 

One of my favourite parts of Secret Dumfries was a quote from Alf Truckell’s preface to the 1928 edition of McDowall’s History of Dumfries. He gave a colourful and somewhat startling account of events in the year 1607, taken from the town’s Privy Council records: ‘A man tries to strangle a boy with a garter and throws him in the Mill Dam in March: the King’s messenger comes through the town in May, to find the inhabitants dressed in green and armed for the May Play: a couple of Baillie’s sons take up the cry “a Lorebourne”, their fathers repeat it: shots are fired and horses wounded: the Messenger and his men flee: church burials have been outlawed some years before, a family break open the church door with tree-trunks and bury a dead relative within, whereupon another family hurry home, grab a corpse, and bury it, and a third family dig up an uncle and are about to bury him when the Law finally turns up…’

I was especially intrigued by the references to church burials and how determined people were to defy the law and bury their relatives within the church itself. I had no time to do further research into when and why burials inside churches became illegal.

I read the extract at the launch of Secret Dumfries and was delighted when someone emailed me a part of an article from a magazine which said The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland outlawed church burials, which it deemed idolatrous, in 1576. Anyone breaking the new rule could be suspended from the church until they repented publicly (did they have to remove the body?) and minsters who allowed the practice would also be suspended.

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St Mary’s Church (Secret Dumfries, Amberley Publishing) Photo credit: Keith Kirk Photographer

There were other good reasons for discontinuing the burial of bodies within the church. Before the Reformation wealthy and influential people such as the lairds (landed estate owners) were buried inside the church – sometimes beneath the family pew. This reduced the space available for the congregation. Also, bodies were not always interred very deeply and the smell of decomposition would have been unpleasant to say the least. Parishioners sometimes brought their dogs to church and dogs like nothing better than to dig up bones.

I almost included a paragraph in Secret Dumfries saying this practice of sometimes shallow interment inside churches gave rise to the expression ‘stinking rich’. I’m so glad my word count was at its limit and I didn’t because, according to the website https://www.phrases.org.uk, apparently the expression only came into use in the twentieth century.

The 1576 act was repeated in 1588, 1631 and in 1643, which is probably a good indication of people’s resistance to it. One rather extreme, and unpleasant, example occurred in 1607 in Durisdeer, near Dumfries. Adam Menzies, laird of Enoch had buried his young son in his family’s aisle of the kirk. Sir James Douglas, a staunch Presbyterian, of Drumlanrig had servants dig up the child’s body and rebury it in a shallow grave away from the church. Adam Menzies and his wife, who had just had another child, were understandably very upset. Despite being attacked by the minister, he reburied his son’s body in the kirk and appealed to the Privy Council. Although he was breaking the law regarding burials inside a church, the Privy Council took his side, allowing his child to remain in the family’s burial aisle.

As for the family who used tree trunks to break down the door in the Dumfries church and set off a chain reaction as quoted at the start of this article, I was very pleased to learn his identity. According to Maureen M. Meikle in her book, The Scottish People 1490-1625, it was a John Irving who wanted to bury his mother.

Secret Dumfries provides a fascinating glimpse into the lesser known aspects of the town’s history

Available here

 

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Why The Bloggers Bash Is Like Bathing In Chocolate

Find out why attending the Bloggers Bash is like bathing in chocolate (I think Geoff shoudl have added the word warm before chocolate) – and why you should book your ticket for an amazing day with bloggers from all over the world.

The Annual Bloggers Bash

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You see, if I thought about blogging I thought about business people – serous professional people – producing serous professional stuff to a tight focused serous audience. Like the website at my law firm to which I contributed well researched, detailed pieces of dullness.

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2018 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For The Dogs Trust By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs And Books

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The Christmas tree is up, but something is missing. There are no gifts under it, and I need your help to put that right.

#christmastree #christmas #charity #dogstrust

For this year’s Christmas charity appeal, I’m asking you again to help me raise some money for The Dogs Trust.

The Dogs Trust, formerly known as the National Canine Defence League, is an animal welfare charity and humane society in the United Kingdom which specialises in the well-being of dogs. Click here to go to their website.

Want to get involved? Here’s what you need to do.

  1. In the comments section of this post, leave the name of your blog and a link to it. This can be a link to your ‘about me’ page, a favourite blog post you’ve published, or the home page of your blog.
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Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations – The First Day of Christmas with guests Mary Smith, Jacquie Biggar and John W. Howell

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas party where guests will share their best ever Christmas presents ever…and there will be food, drink and of course music and to get you into the spirit of the season.. here are some choristers with particular appeal..

I tried to remember the first Christmas that I was aware of as a child. I must have got the general idea of the concept of presents quite young as at age seven when we moved to Malta I began the practice of putting a pillowcase on the end of my bed from around mid-October…. I think this ticked my mother off somewhat because she sat me down at the beginning of December and told me that Father Christmas did not exist and that from now on I would have my presents around the tree like my two sisters who were in their…

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MarySmith’sPlace – Meet Bandit

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Life has become very busy – something to do with Christmas, maybe? Despite the fact it happens at the same time every year I, as usual, have been caught out. Following the sunset poetry walk and creative writing workshop I’ve done a poetry reading and a book signing – and signed a contract for a new book: Dumfries A-Z.

Bloggers everywhere seem to be incredibly organised with lots of Christmas-themed posts appearing every day. I’m struggling to keep up with reading and commenting on them, let alone write some for my own blog. As for preparations for the big day – well, I have bought some Christmas cards and some stocking fillers and have a vague idea of what we’ll eat. Next year will be different. It will. It really will. I shall start preparations in January (not for the food, obviously)

In the meantime, I thought you might like to meet Bandit, the cat who owns me. She seven years old and a total diva. I adopted her when her first servant left the country – not because of the cat’s behaviour. He named her Bandit. We weren’t sure why until we discovered what a total robbing bandit she can be if food is left out.

 

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