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Chapter IX: The Interregnum—John Baliol, 1286-1292

“A storm shall roar this very hour
From Ross hills to Solway sea,”
“Ye lied, ye lied, ye warlock hoar,
For the sun shines sweet on fauld and lea.”
He put his hand on Erlie's head,
He showed him a rock beside the sea,
Where a King lay stiff beneath his steed,
And steel-dight nobles wiped their ee'.

ALEXANDER III. was killed at Kinghorn on 12th March, 1286, [1] At his death a deep gloom settled down upon Scotland, and one of the saddest chapters in Scottish history began. During his reign, says an old writer, “the Church flourished, its ministers were treated with reverence, vice was openly discouraged, cunning and treachery were trampled under foot, injury ceased, and the reign of virtue, truth, and justice was maintained throughout the land.” [2] All the accounts which we have of the time fully corroborate these words of Fordun, but nowhere do we get so true a conception of the changes which the death of the good King produced as in the words of the old Scotch poem, the oldest specimen of the kind which has come down to us :—

Quhen Alysander oure Kyng wes dede
That Scotland led in luive [3] and le [4]
Away wes sons of ale and brede
Of wyne and wax, of gamyn and gle.
Oure gold wes changyd into lede
Christ born into virgynyte,
Succour Scotland and remede
That stad [5] is in perplexyte. [6]

Doubtless the clergy, both secular and regular, could most truly make this prayer their own. For the succeeding years brought to them the deepest sorrow, and their records are, like the roll of the prophet, inscribed within and without with “mourning, lamentation, and woe.” The Abbey of Paisley shared in the hardships of the time. During the turbulence of these years there is scarcely a gift chronicled in the Chartulary, and the munificence towards the Church which marked the prosperous days of the country almost entirely ceased. The only exception is the confirmation by James the Stewart of the gifts of his ancestors, to which he adds a few of his own. Only one church,
[7] and no land save what was obtained by purchase or the loan of money, came into the possession of the Abbey between the death of Alexander and that of Robert I. Even in the gift of the Stewart in 1294 [8] there is a defining of rights, and marking of boundaries, and insertion of saving clauses, that is not found in connection with the lavish gifts of his ancestors. The charter of James the Stewart is a long one—lengthy because of the number of restrictions and reservations which are scattered through it. The boundaries of his parks and preserved forest are strictly defined, and heavy fines are to be imposed on the monks should any of their cattle be found trespassing. The part of the old forest of Fereneze still unencroached upon by the progress of agriculture comprehended a district of Neilston Parish, and a small part on the north of Paisley. Very carefully are the bounds of this sanctuary marked out, “as the Ruttanburn falls into Lauerane, and ascending by the Laueran to the Blakburn, and by the Blakburne ascending to a certain ditch between Lochleboksyd and the Wlplayss, and by that ditch going up to the Loch of Cochlebok, and by the said Loch westward to the marches of Caldwell, and by the marches of Caldwell northward, ascending by a certain ditch on the west of Carmelcolme between the Langesawe and Dungelesmore, and from that ditch across the moss to the head of the Haldpatryk, and descending that stream to the march of Stanley, and by the march of Stanley, descending between Stanley and the Cokplayss, to the Ruttanburn, and so by Ruttanburn to Laueran.” This district stretches along the breezy heights of Gleniffer, and, though more circumscribed than the former forest, afforded full liberty for the deer to roam in.

[1] Burton's Hist. of Scot., Vol. II., p. 43.
[2] Fordun by Goodall, Vol IL, Book X., Chap. xii
[3] Love.
[4] Tranquility.
[5] Placed.
[6] Wynton, Vol. I. p. 401.
[7] Largs, in 1313.
[8] Reg. de Pas., p. 92.