The Black Book 3



The Black Book of Kincardineshire....


Containing miscellaneous papers connected with the county the Black Book of Kincardineshire is a rare collection of accounts dating back to the 17th century which have never been surpassed. I want to concentrate here on the documented criminal trials within those pages. They are a wonderful source of names, places and events.

Are your ancestors among those described. Dare you look?....

February 1699  John Robertson, Scourger, and his wife, being imprisoned upon the suspicion of having beaten, and stricken umquhile James Walker in the Parish of Towie, upon Saturday the tenth of December, who died upon the morrow thereafter towards night: There being several witnesses examined by way of precognition, and proving but little to fix the guilt, and the Defenders denying the same, the Sheriff ordained them to be set at liberty. But in respect there be several things found in his house, for which they can give no proof from whom they had the same, as cabbage, kail, an axe, and some other things: And that they are of evil fame, and have not behaved honestly in this place, therefore upon the third of January, 1699, the Sheriff banished them this shire for ever: And upon the tenth of January, the said John Rovertson being attached in Stonehaven, apprehended, imprisoned, and examined, and confessing his wife did steal a hen from James Gray, at Kirk of Dunnottar, and gave it him to pluck, which he was doing when Alexander Glegg attached him; in respect of his faithful promise and engagements that neither he nor his wife should return to this shire again they were banished the shire upon the 14th January, 1699: And being afterwards apprehended, and having lain in prison ten days time, he was again banished the shire, and obliged himself never to return again under the pain of death: And the said John Robertson being apprehended within the town of Stonehaven, upon the 9th March, 1699, and having lain in prison till this day, he was ordered to be scourged from the Tolbooth stair to the first smiddy and there to be burnt on the shoulder with the thief's mark, and thereafter to be scourged through the town, and over the water, and banished the shire for ever, never to return again under pain of death without any mercy.

22 August 1699  James Elmsly, sometime in Clerach, thereafter in Hillhead of Muchals, now prisoner in the Tolbooth of Stonehaven, indicted and accused at the instance of James Thomson, Procurator-Fiscal of the Sheriff Court of Kincardineshire; charged, that on Saturday the 22nd of July last, under cloud and silence of night, he had gone to the fold of John McComby, in Nether Ruthvine in the Parish of Logiemarr and Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, and that he did then and there theftuously steal and away-take three milk cows, two whereof were black, another brown; of the which black cows one was an old cow, short tailed, white bellied, and long horned; the other of the said cows an old cow, about eight years old, jet black, long tailed, grey horned, up-headed; the said brown cow being of five years-old, short-green horned, having a bell in her forehead, white belly, one white flank, and a long tail. And that upon Sunday and Monday, the twenty-third and twenty-fourth days of July last, take the same to the Hillhead of Muchals, where he and his family did abide and stay: And that thereafter he did also upon Wednesday the twenty-sixth of July last, drive the said three cows to the Lands of Cowdine, within the said Sheriffdom of Kincardine, and there sold the said brown cow to James Begg, for twenty-five merks and a cheese, worth three shillings Scots, and got forty shillings of earnest with the said cheese, and that he was to have the rest of the said price within a few hours thereafter. And that afterwards he did drive the said two black cows, upon Thursday the twenty-seventh of July last, to Lammas fair, a mile above Fettercairn, where he did sell them for twenty pound Scots. And that after he had received the money, notice being given in the market that the said cows were stolen cows, he did run away, and being apprehended he pretended he bought the said cows upon the said twenty-fourth of July last, from Alexander Davidson, in Gardineside. And lastly, he the said James Elmsly was indicted and accused as a common and notorious thief, out-fang thief, in-fang thief, and thief by open voice and common fame, &c...

For so meikle as it is found by the assise, that the panel, James Elmsly, is repute a thief by open voice and common fame, in the first place; and in the next place, he is found to be art and part in the theft of the kyne libelled, conform to their verdict, under the hand of John Hunter, their chancellor. Therefore, the said Sheriff-Depute, by the mouth of John Fraser, dempster of court, decerns and adjudges the same James Elmsly, panel, to be taken to the Gallow-hill upon Friday next, the twenty-first instant, betwixt two and five hours in the afternoon, and there to be hanged on a gibbet till he be dead; and thereafter his body to be buried at the gibbet foot; and declares all his moveable goods and gear to be escheat, which is pronounced for doom, whereupon the Fiscal takes instruments.

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