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


No sportsman of the present day could be more careful of his preserve than the Stewart was of this forest sanctuary; and, lest the deer should be disturbed in their retreat by any intruding stranger, roads lying in the low grounds, and away from their haunts, were marked out, by which alone the monks and their servants were allowed to travel. [9] The “roads of Arlaw, Conwaran, the Rass and Stokbryg, and the customary tracks of the husbandmen,” were the passes to which they were bound to confine themselves. No monk, however great his love of sport might be, was allowed to strike a deer, or fly a hawk, or slip a greyhound within the sacred territory thus marked off. They were permitted to go armed with swords, bows and arrows, and other necessary weapons of defence, and even to lead with them greyhounds and other dogs, but when they came within the preserved forest they must unstring their bows and lead their greyhounds in a leash. It is to be hoped that their own lands afforded them the pleasures of the chase which were denied to them elsewhere. On these lands the Stewart graciously gave them leave to hunt and hawk, and he also allowed them to fish in the streams of the forest, and in “the rivers of Kert Paisley and Kert Lochwinoc below the yare of Achindonan;” but he reserved to himself birds of game, hawk, and falcon. None of his ancestors had dealt so strictly with the Convent. His gifts are very unlike their noble benefactions and seem very paltry in comparison with them. He gave the monks, however, power to quarry stone for building, and limestone for burning within his Barony of Renfrew. He allowed them to dig coal for the use of the Monastery—its granges, smithies, and brew houses,—to make charcoal of dead wood, and take green wood for their house and their granges within the Barony, and the operations of agriculture and fishing, and dead wood for fuel without restriction. He gave them also a right of carriage for all these necessaries, whether in wains, or on horses, or on oxen, except through his manors, orchards, gardens, corn ground, and preserved forest. He permitted them, also, a right of watercourse for their mills from the water of the Espedair, both within and without his park of Blackhall, but only on condition of being allowed the use of their mills for his own corn at his own expense. [10]

The Stewart was probably more taken up with his duties as a politician than with those which he owed to the Church. He was prominent in all the intrigues, the plots and counterplots of that troubled time. Within a month after the death of the King he was appointed by the Estates of Scotland one of the guardians of the kingdom under the Lady Margaret, the nominal Queen, the infant daughter of Eric, King of Norway.
[11] He does not appear to have acted a loyal part towards his mistress, for his name appears among the signatures to the famous Turnberry bond, [12] which was drawn up by some of the most powerful barons of Scotland, who were anxious to support Robert Bruce's title to the crown. Probably they supposed the succession of the infant princess was not likely to take place, and sought to provide against that contingency by preparing in time for the elevation of their own friend. All ranks and classes in Scotland, however, were bent on the accomplishment of a project which seemed the most likely to afford a peaceful settlement of the distractions by which the country was already threatened. This was the marriage of the young Queen—the Maid of Norway—to the Prince of Wales, the son of King Edward I., who was beginning to take a very suspicious interest in the affairs of Scotland. The English King was strongly in favour of the marriage, and as the youthful pair were within the forbidden degrees, he procured a dispensation from the Pope in favour of the union. All the Estates of Scotland favoured his scheme—an assembly of the lords, barons, and dignified clergy, was held to take it into consideration, and among the latter we come on the name of the Abbot of Paisley, [13] or rather upon his title, for his christian name is not given. This assembly met at Brigham, a small village on the Tweed, near Roxburgh, in 1289, and was evidently composed of the chief men of the nation, both in Church and State. They agreed upon a letter to the King of England which stated that they were overjoyed to hear the good news now commonly spoken of, “that the Apostle had granted a dispensation for the marriage of Margaret, their dear lady and Queen, with Prince Edward,” and they assured him of their hearty concurrence. They also directed a letter to King Eric of Norway, urging him to send over the young Queen to Scotland, at the latest, before the Feast of All Saints, and intimating to him that if this were not done, they would be obliged to follow the best counsel which God would give them for the good of the kingdom. [14] The Stewart was the fourth to sign these letters. The Abbot was naturally of the same mind with his patron, and would return from Brigham to his brethren at Paisley full of hope that a time of peace and quiet was about to dawn upon Scotland.


[9] A Forest, in charter language, does not necessarily mean a wooded territory, but there is every reason to believe that the Stewart's Forest consisted of extensive woods of beech, and perhaps oak
[10] This charter of James the Stewart with its mention of granges, gardens, and orchards, indicates the great progress of agriculture under the monastic rule. It gives us the first notice of coal. The common fuel in the country was wood and peats, and what was called a “peatry” was of great value. The monks were probably the first workers of coal in Scotland. Eneas Sylvius, after wards Pope Pius II., tells us in an account of a visit he paid to Scotland in 1433, how he saw with wonder pieces of stones joyfully received as alms by the half-naked beggars who stood shivering at the church doors.— Stat. Ec. Scot., pp. 93, 44.
[11] Tytler, Vol. I., p. 24.
[12] Sept. 20, 1286. Documents Illustrative of the History of Scotland, Vol. I., p. 22.
[13] De Passelay.
[14] Burton, Vol. II., p. 122.