Rev James Wallace is responsible for an important text in my research, important because of its antiquity, being published in 1684. However interesting his book might be, he doesn’t include personal information in it, which is a shame as a rather interesting incident befell him in 1681. It was published posthumously by his son, who republished it again shortly afterwards with his own additions. Find the book on Archive.org here.

Edward Rhind was a weaver in Kirkwall who had committed a ‘grievous’ fault, for which he was under discpline in November/December 1724. He was called upon to do some public penance but this didn’t give him any joy. Instead, he told the Bishop that he would rather “he would be hanged or shot before he would submit to such indignity.”.

He had threatened to take Elizabeth Elphinstone by the throat if she didn’t give him a lit pipe filled with tobacco from her shop. The fact that this happened at 10 o’clock in the evening makes me wonder if he had perhaps had too much ale.

Here I quote word for word the event as described in JB Craven (1893, p97):

On the 12th December, a very sad occurrence took place in Kirkwall.  Edward Rynd, a weaver, “assaulted Mr James Wallace, minister of Kirkwall, in his dwelling-house, for his lyfe, had he not been hindered by the neighbours thereabout, and was that night placed within the Tolbooth at ye command of Bailie David Moncrieff, for the which deed the said Edward is to be banished from the country, besides further punishment, for so heinous a cryme.” 

Other records give fuller particulars: “Betwixt the eleventh and twelt hour in the night, … ye knockith at the said Mr James his yeat [gate], with a Lie in your mouth, saying ye ware sent with word from the Provost to him.  Entering the hall, you called desperatlie – Where was Mr James Wallace, ye would have him, and when answered by his bedfellow what ye would doe with him at so an unseasonable tyme of the night, your answer was, he intended to give Wallace a fall, for ther was but one hangeing for all; whereupon ye was instantly seized upon by David Moncrief, ane of the present Balyies of Kirkwall, and several other honest men, before whom ye have vented yourself in these words, saying, if ye be careing me to the tolbuith, I will be hanged, but it is all one, for I knew it long since myself, that hangeing will by my hinderend; and no sooner being entered the tolbuith, but yee swore most horrid and grives oaths, that ye wold pull the broad syde out of the tolbuith before the break of day, whereupon the said Bailie, for the better securing and saftie of our good and godlie Pastour, and al other his Majestie’s good leidges,” secured him further.

It appears that Rynd had been under church discipline for the grossest indecency, on which occasion he told Bishop Mackenzie that he would be “hanged or shot” before he would perform his penance.  He had also threatened “ane civil and descreit gentlewoman, Elizabeth Elphinstone, at ten o’clock in the night, compelling her, through fear, to go to her chop “and give him “tobacco and pypes, saying to her that if shee wold not Cutt his tobaco and Light his pyp” he would take her by the throat.  It was evidently time for Edward to be disposed of elsewhere.

Image by Momentmal from Pixabay

The fortunes (and existence) of the St Magnus Cathedral manse deserves a whole chapter to itself another day, being moved about Kirkwall, Wallace was given a stipend of £24 per year in lieu of rent; £24 per year is worth roughly £4,000 today.  

So, Rhind attacks Wallace, threatening to kill him. I imagine there was much shrieking, as Wallace’s neighbours almost immediately came to his rescue. Unless it happened outside or right inside the door, a substantial stone-built dwelling doesn’t transmit sound outside too well (unless you have a ghost as I do, who turns up the volume of your hifi to the max). Rhind is apprehended and arrested and after a night in the Kirkwall Tollbooth, he is sentenced to banishment.  This means he is utterly cut off from his home, his family and any friends and will have a hard time making ends meet in a new county. 

Maybe Rhind will turn up again.