The Black Book 6



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.

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Meal Mob in Bervie

The parties indicted for mobbing and rioting were, John Gabriel, Janet Snypes, John Walker, Janet Stephen, Elizabeth Ritchie, Hercules Duncan's wife, and Elizabeth Croll, all residing in Bervie; Jean Allan, Ann Creggie, Janet Allan, Margaret Jamie, Mary Jamie, Martha Colvin, and Christian Blews, all residing in Gourdon; Ann Taylor, Mains of Hallgreen; Margaret Duncan, Haughs of Benholm; Elizabeth Murray, Margaret Simpson, David Croll, Alexander Mearns, and David Jamie, all residing in Johnshaven.

This riot would seem to have commenced in consequence of there not having been a sufficient supply of meal in the Burgh and neighbourhood for the wants of the people; or rather, that they were under the impression that it was withheld them. John Norrie, weaver in Bervie, stated that there was no meal to be got in the Burgh and as his business demanded all his time through the day, he was obliged to travel through the country, during night, to procure meal for himself and family. He was persuaded Robert Napier, merchant in Bervie, could have supplied him, had he been willing, but who refused to do so, although he informed him of his distress; to which Napier replied, that he had contracted for one hundred bolls of meal more than he could get to buy in the country. Robert Dickie, wright in Bervie, said that he was equally distressed for want of meal, and that Napier had refused to supply him. James Stephen, weaver in Bervie, stated that about the beginning of March and end of April, this year, there was no meal to be bought in Bervie, for two or three weeks. That he applied to Robert Napier for meal, who said he had none; but whether he had or had not he (Stephen) could not tell. That meal, before the time of the strait, was sold in Bervie at six pound Scots the boll, and the first supply after that was eight pence halfpenny the peck. That, on Napier refusing to supply him with meal, he went to mill of Picarry, and there got to buy, as a great favour, a single peck of bear meal. But the same night, there was sent him, from the same place, a firlot of oatmeal, for which he paid half-a-crown. Margaret Creggie, spouse to James Gowan, in Johnshaven, stated that she had four children, besides her husband and herself, and the scarcity was so great that she was obliged to buy potatoes for their support, as no meal could be got. That, before the mob, she had applied to Napier for meal, but he refused to give her any. 

In this unfortunate state of matters, the people of Bervie and neighbourhood, on learning that Mr Napier had freighted a sloop belonging to Alexander Law, in Johnshaven, for the purpose of taking a cargo of meal to Borrowstoness, resolved to prevent its embarkation; and intimated to Law, that they would burn the vessel if meal was attempted to be put on board of her. The sloop however entered the water-mouth of Bervie on  a Saturday, and on the Monday morning following, she was violently taken possession of by some women from Gourdon, Johnshaven, and Bervie. On observing two carts loaded with meal coming towards the sloop, they ran off to join another party which were throwing stones at the horses and drivers, and also at Mr Napier, who accompanied the carts. Having succeeded in preventing the meal from reaching the vessel, the mob went and demanded from Law the keys of the hatches, which he delivered to Jean Allan, one of the panels. The vessel remained in the possession of the mob during the night; and on Tuesday, about mid-day, she was ballasted from the beach, and Law ordered to depart with her as soon as possible, which he immediately did as he said "he would have done any thing to have been in safety." 

E Ritchie and E Croll were acquitted; John Gabriel, four months, Jante Snypes and Jean Allan, three months imprisonment in Tolbooth of Stonehaven, and thereafter banished the county for life; Margaret Duncan, Mary Jamie, and Janet Allan, two months imprisonment in Tolbooth of Stonehaven, and to find security for their good behaviour for two years, under the penalty of three hundred merks Scots; David Croll and David Jamie one month's imprisonment in Tolbooth of Stonehaven; Ann Creggie, Ann Taylor, Martha Colvin, and Christian Blews, fourteen days imprisonment in the Tolbooth of Stonehaven, and thereafter to remain therein until they shall find caution, under the penalty of three hundred merks Scots, for their good behaviour for two years; and , because of particular circumstances, Margaret Jamie and Simpson to be incarcarated in the Tolbooth of Stonehaven, only until they find sufficient caution for their good behaviour for two years.

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