There was a time in Primary School when, bored with just being an Aussie, I pretended to myself and sometimes to my classmates that I was Scottish. Well, I guess I am partly, being descended via my mother from Scottish people named Christison, voluntary boat-people from the latter 19th century. The tartan, by the way, actually came from Scotland via my Aunt Beth who visited there a number of times. It must be around 40 years old now but is still my main source of winter warmth! Highly efficient.
They’ve been around in Scotland for a while, the Christisons. On the right you can see a heap of them, including my great-great-grandfather, in the town of Brechin in Angus-shire in the 19th century.
And I recently discovered one – probably one of them – was deep in the Scottish Reformation.
…The poor, of course, only exchanged better for worse landlords, as they soon discovered. The “Zealous Brethren”—as a rule small lairds, probably, and burgesses—were the nucleus of the Revolution. When townsfolk and yeomen in sufficient number had joined them in arms, then nobles like Argyll, Lord James, Glencairn, Ruthven, and the rest, put themselves at the head of the movement, and won the prizes which had been offered to the “blind, crooked, widows, orphans, and all other poor.”
After Parliament was over, at the end of December 1558, the Archbishop of St. Andrews again summoned the preachers, Willock, Douglas, Harlaw, Methuen, and Friar John Christison to a “day of law” at St. Andrews, on February 2, 1559. (This is the statement of the “Historie.”) The brethren then “caused inform the Queen Mother that the said preachers would appear with such multitude of men professing their doctrine, as was never seen before in such like cases in this country,” and kept their promise. The system of overawing justice by such gatherings was usual, as we have already seen; Knox, Bothwell, Lethington, and the Lord James Stewart all profited by the practice on various occasions.
Mary of Guise, “fearing some uproar or sedition,” bade the bishops put off the summons, and, in fact, the preachers never were summoned, finally, for any offences prior to this date…
And earlier still:
Dabbling in family history of the Christisons — my mother’s lot. Sasine (Scots law) is the delivery of feudal property, typically land.
Country Code G[reat] B[ritain]
Rep. Code 234
Repository National Archives of Scotland
Ref. No GD198/55
Title Instrument of sasine following on precept from chancery, 26th May, (1490) following on GD198/54, reciting procuratory, 25th May, 1490, by
Alexander Setoune [Seaton] of Tulybody [Tullibody], sheriff of Strivelineshire [Stirling], in favour of John Davidsone [Davidson], one of serjeants of said sheriffdom.
Date 27th May, 1490
Description Notary: Dugald Cossour [Cossar], priest, St. Andrews diocese.
Attorney: Thomas Buchquhanane [Buchanan]. Witnesses: Robert Buchquhannane [Buchanan], Patrick Haldane, Thomas Cristisone [Christison], David Lyndesay [Lindsay], John Conysoune, Duncan Arrald [Arrol], MAURICE MAKADAME [McAdam], Patrick Malcomsoun [Malcolmson], Gilchrist Henrisone [Henderson].
Lately I have been reading quite a few Scottish things, beginning with Josephine Tey. More about her in the next post, except to say she was no fan of Scottish Nationalists. Here is her portrait of one from her novel The Singing Sands.
… They fished turn-about, in a fine male amity; Grant flicking his line with a lazy indifference, Pat with the incurable optimism of his kind. By noon they had drifted back to a point level with the little jetty, and they turned inshore to make tea on the primus in the little bothy. As Grant was paddling the last few yards he saw Pat’s eye fixed on something along the shore, and turned to see what occasioned such marked distaste. Having looked at the advancing figure with its shoggly body and inappropriate magnificence, he asked who that might be.
‘That’s Wee Archie,’ said Pat.
Wee Archie was wielding a shepherd’s crook that, as Tommy remarked later, no shepherd would be found dead with, and he was wearing a kilt that no Highlander would dream of being found alive in. The crook stood nearly two feet above his head; and the kilt hung down at the back from his non-existent hips like a draggled petticoat. But it was obvious that the wearer was conscious of no lack. The tartan of his sad little skirt screamed like a peacock, raucous and alien against the moor. His small dark eel’s head was crowned by a pale blue Balmoral with a diced band, the bonnet being pulled down sideways at such a dashing angle that the slack covered his right ear. On the upper side a large piece of vegetation sprouted from the crest on the band. The socks on the hairpin legs were a brilliant blue, and so hairy in texture that they gave the effect of some unfortunate growth. Round the meagre ankles the thongs of the brogues were cross-gartered with a verve that even Malvolio had never achieved.
‘What is he doing round here?’ Grant asked, fascinated.
‘He lives at the inn at Moymore.’
‘Oh. What does he do?’
‘He’s a revolutionary.’ …
“Josephine Tey” — Elizabeth Mackintosh – 1896-1952
You will find her books linked to the picture.
See also Elizabeth Mackintosh: woman of mystery who deserves to be rediscovered.
Last week, I went to Kevin Spacey’s Richard III at the Old Vic and came away marvelling, yet again, at the polemical and psychological brilliance of Shakespeare’s remorseless Tudor propaganda. The "bottled spider" is not just a deformed monster, an object of fear, but a strangely lovable monster, who excites our pity, too.
Afterwards, the conversation turned to the princes in the Tower. Did Richard really murder his nephews? The Daughter of Time was one of my adolescent favourites and so I referred, en passant, to Josephine Tey. Blank looks: no one had heard of this once-celebrated mystery writer from the 1940s and 50s.
That might be how Elizabeth Mackintosh, born in 1896 at Inverness, might have wished it. As well as "Josephine Tey", she also wrote as "Gordon Daviot", and seems to have been obsessively private. Even in death, she slipped away, unobserved, and in disguise. The Timesrecords the death of Gordon Daviot on 13 February 1952, two days before the state funeral of George VI, whose life, death and majesty had filled the newspapers that week.
Miss Mackintosh’s cremation in Streatham Vale was attended by only a handful of mourners, but they included Dame Edith Evans and John Gielgud, both friends.
So, whoever "Gordon Daviot" represented, it was someone rather unusual, a creative artist whom people cared about. Gielgud later wrote: "Her sudden death was a great surprise and shock to all her friends in London. I learned afterwards that she had known herself to be mortally ill for nearly a year, and had resolutely avoided seeing anyone she knew."
Apart from By The Banks of the Ness by Mairi A MacDonald, there’s almost nothing biographical in print about "Bessie" Mackintosh. She grew up in Scotland, one of three sisters, trained as a PE teacher and suffered, as many young women did, a mysterious and inconsolable bereavement during the Great War. When her mother died in 1926, she was called home to nurse her invalid father. Her writing, which began as an escape from domestic routine, first appeared in The English Review in the late 1920s…