(our ancestors were only human, after all)
It is the Summer of 1727 and rural Roxburgh is a-buzz with sanctimonious and spiteful gossip. Our distant ancestor, James Hewat, has just suffered a humiliating trial by his kirk session peers and a spectacular fall from grace..........
The kirk session, which devoted most of its time to delivering moral justice to the wayward and assistance to the `deserving' poor, rarely attacked one of its `number'; indeed, this case appears to have been unique in Roxburgh during the period 1704-1746. James Hewat was clearly not the only farmer in the area expanding his land holdings at the expense of others, but as an elder of the church - a position he had held since at least 1704, he was expected to be wise, virtuous, God-fearing AND without blame or suspicion. As farming competence, rather than tradition or kin associations, was becoming increasingly important in securing leases during this period, it is probably safe to assume that James was a skilled and industrious farmer. The session, however, condemns his dishonesty as well as his selfishness, and there are overtones of arrogance or indifference in his reported responses to their allegations.
There is no evidence amongst subsequent minutes that James "contest his fault before the session" or apologized. The fact that he does not appear on a Communicants' list again until June 1731, suggests, perhaps, that he did neither. Although he had recovered sufficient respectability to receive the Sacrament again by then, the scandal may have lingered on in communal memory. That James' son, Richard, had all the requisite qualities for eldership was never recognized by the Roxburgh congregation. Richard was nominated an elder in Makerston, where he settled c1748, in August 1750. His glorious tombstone epitaph in Roxburgh churchyard - "an honest and industrious man and a sincere and devout Christian" - seems, in the light of this scandal, both ironic and defiant.
James Hewat, whatever his failings, may have sought only to raise himself and his descendants above humble, peasant origins. As you read his story, do not judge, but seek to understand .........
Minutes: 1722-1746; 1753-1760; Accounts: 1722-1780
p.38 HEUIT BUSSINESS
Roxburgh, June 3 1727
After prayer sederunt Mr. John Pollock Moder[ator], Alexander Hog, John Weir, Andrew Blackie, Andrew Wilsone, James Heuit & Andrew Robsone, Elders & Andrew Leadhouse Sess[ion] Cl[er]k William Clark, Robert Mather & William Hope absent.
This day the Minister signified that the occassion of their meeting was because James Heuit on[e] of the number was cursed by some as himself said because he had taken William Dun & Robert Lumsdine Land and that he to wit the Minister had heard him call'd a villin & a knave & as he was inform'd it was the whole talke of the people in the Church yard betwixt sermons the Last Lords day & then it was publickly said that he ought neither to be an Elder nor officer and the Session was verie much refflected upon for suffering him to gather the poors money & he thought it was fitt for the Session to see what ground there was for all this and what they ought to do in such a case.
James Heuit being called up & told all these things it was further represented into him that Janet Wyllie a widow and Mother in Law to William Dun complain'd that this is twice that James Heuit hase disperst her Bairnes and so straitned her in her circumstances by puting them out of a condition to help her by taking their malings from them when he had but on[e] bairne com'd to manhood & had enough to give him.
William Dun Complaines that James Heuit on[e] of our Elders hase taken from the Chamberlane his half Land when he had two Lands & a half in his own, And thus he with the other James Heuit who hase taken the other Land from him hase disperst his family with his old mother in Law & Good sister & her Children Notwithstanding that he offered sufficient Caution & others who offered Caution though not so good were taken & he in better circumstances than those for whom they were taken all which he thinks was cruilty in James Heuit.
Robert Lumsdine Complaines that James Heuit on[e] of our Elders hase taken from the Chamberlane his half Land after he had dung'd it & was just going to gett the profit of it, so that now he hase but on[e] Land to maintaine his small family & this he did Notwithstanding he had payed his rent als well as any in the Barrony & offered sufficient Caution for his rent & he complaines that he took this half Land from him & Left him but on[e] Land though he himself had two Lands & a half before & so his family must be disperst. He complaines further that James Heuit wairned him a way from his other Land though he knew that he had payed his (p.39) rent. And thinks it had been but justice & neighbourly in him to have put out his name seeing he knew it was so. viz. that he had payed his rent or than told the Chamberlane that he might not have wairned him a way or at Lest to have told himself that his name was in the List of those to be wairned a way that he might have gone down to the Chamberlane to gett it out or than known the reason why he was to be wairned a way but he fears James Heuit knew the reason too well to all which James Heuit answered that the Chamberlane forced him to do it.
The Minister himself complained that James Heuit upon the fifteen day of may Last said to him in the Church yard that William Rae tenant in Dalcove was going to take William Dun & Robert Lumsdine Land when he had taken two half Lands of them himself at the same time that he told him that. And so he told him an untruth. And considering that he had made a Lie in the same bussieness before for which he gave satisfaction to the session he was greatly stumbled at him.
This bussieness is reffered till the meeting of the privie censures.
Roxburgh June 19 1727
This day the Minister desired all the Elders to be putt at the Kirk to Morrow for privie censures & for parting the poors money.
Roxburgh June 20 1727
After prayer sederunt Mr. John Pollock moder[ator], Alexander Hog, John Weir, James Heuit, William Clark, Robert Mather, Andrew Wilsone, Andrew Robsone & William Hope, Elders & Andrew Leadhouse Sess[ion] Cl[er]k.
The Elders being removed on[e] by on[e] as also the Clerk & beddells & the ordinare questions being purposed they were approven except James Heuit whose cause now is just in dependence & Exhorted to Live Suiteable to the station wherein god had plac'd them.
(p.40) The Minister offering to bestow the ten Shilings he spent in procuring the Mortcloath for the making a Dyall providing they would add Eleven Shilings to it out of the Mortcloath money which would procure a handsome Dyall to be Sett upon the Church they unannimusly went into it & it was ordered to be made with all convenient speed.
Heuits bussieness being reffered till this day is determined
James Heuit bussieness being reffered till this day the last days minuts with respect unto him being read article by article all that he answered was as followes, first as to Janet Wyllie Complaint he answered nothing, 2dly as to William Dun Complaint all that he answered to it was to that article of his complaint: viz. that he offered sufficient Cautionry that he did not offer his Cautionry in time. As to Robert Lumsdine Complaint he answered that he refused his half Land & that the Chamberlane told him that he would not gett it without Cautionry.
James Heuit being removed & the Session considering the representation made to be all true fact and James Heuit himself hase nothing to say to the contrare and the answers of James Heuit not satisfying the session William Dun & Robert Lumsdine having offered sufficient & timous Cautionry though they had not been sufficient of themselves and James Heuit having two Lands and a half with the officer-ship already & few to maintaine therewith. They thought there was Litle tendemess or pity & compassion in James Heuit towards the complainers & that he acted unneighbourly & unjustly towards them. And considering that he was rebuked before by the Session for Lying in a bussiness of the same nature & againe guilty of the same, they came unanimussly to the following resolution: viz. aither that he should be depossed from the office of an Elder or that he should be rebuked & the same intimate to the Congregation or Lastly that he should be allowed to Lay down his office & officiat therein no more. And if upon intimation here of he offered to Lay down his Charge to accept of the same and being called in this was intimate unto him & he Laid down his office & his demission was accepted by the Session, and he exhorted to be Circumspect in his Life as becomes a Christian.
(p.41) Roxburgh Sept 17 1727
After prayer sederunt Mr. John Pollock moder[ator], Alexander Hog, Andrew Wilsone, Andrew Blackie, John Weir, William Clark & Andrew Robsone, Elders & Andrew Leadhouse Sess[ion] Cl[er]k.
Broune allowed to be admitted to the table of the Lord
William Broune in Trowes having never been att the Lords Table was allowed to be admitted to the table of the Lord att Makerstone sabbath next.
Testificat granted this day in favours of Andrew Hall.
Min[iste]r proposing to the Session anent Heuits being admitted to Lords table
The Minister proposing to the Session what shall be done with James Heuit in Nether Roxburgh if he should apply for a token seeing he made such great Lies in that bussiness when he was in the Session they answered that if he confest his fault before the Session & was sorrie for that sin he should have a token & if not he should have none.
anent - with reference to
bairne - child
beddell (beadle) - church official whose duties included the ringing of the church bells
caution(ry) - security (usually a sum of money)
chamberlane - land steward - responsible for managing an estate, collecting rents etc.
demission - resignation
dyall - inscription
dyet - meeting
good (guid) sister - sister-in-law
kirk - church
land - probably a `husbandland' - traditionally 26 Scots acres (about 33 English acres)
maling - land for which rent is paid
moderator - chairman of a church body - in this case, the Minister
mortcloth - cloth used to cover a coffin
sederunt - meeting: minutes listing those present
testificate - testimonial brought by one moving into a new parish from his/her former parish
timous - timely
token - a small piece of stamped metal used as a pass to the Communion service
warn away - notify that lease will end
Alexander Hog (1676-c1741), an elder of the church from 1718 until his death, was Barbara, wife of Richard Hewat's, father. Her brother, Robert Hog (1705-1781), was one of Roxburgh's best-loved ministers.