Virtual Vault Rev James Wallace's Description of the Isles of Orkney, 1684 (MS)
Chapter 10

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Chapter 10th
of the Plantation of the
Christian faith in Orkney
& off the Bishops thereof

Nicephorus wreiteth that Simon Zeelotes after he had preached the Gospell in severall other kingdoms, cam att last ad occidentalem oceanum insulasq Britanicas (by which Orkney must be especially understood) and there preached the Gospell.  However, whatever truth may be in that, yet its certain ye the Christian faith wes greatlie promoved in this Countrey about the beginning of the fifth Centrie (Eugenius  the second being then k of Scotland) att which tyme Palladius ( being sent be Pope Celestin to Scotland, to purge that kingdon of the heresie of Paleigius that had infected itt) he instituted

Servanus ( called St Serff in the Kalendar                                                                         Bishop

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Bishop of Orkney, that he might instruct the inhabitants off these Iles in the faith off Christ, which polyd verg saies, he did verie carefullie.  He wes a man of eminent devotion & pietie, and master of the famous Kentigern whom he used to call Mongah (which in the norish tongue signifieth a dear friend) which afterward becam the name by which he wes usuallie called.  From him there hes been a continuall succession of Bishops in this Countrey, but by reason of the manie alterations that fell out in itt and the loss of Ancient Records, his successors for manie years are not known, yet in historie wee read of those that follow.

2 Johannes Optatuswes made Bishop of Orkney be Henrie Arch Bishop of York in tyme of king David as Polydorus Verg saith.

3 William Bishop of Orkney, who lived in the tyme of K. Robert the third.

4 [Capital W of William includes caricature of man’s head, smoking clay pipe]

William Tulloch who wes Bishop of this Countrey in the tyme of king James the Third.  Off him wee read that Anno 1468 he wes sent with severall other noble persons to Christiern l. of Denmark & Norway, to seek his daghter the Ladie Margaret in mariage to the said king James.  About Julie                                                      they

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they cam to Hafnen in Denmark qr king Christiern then remained and wer of him joyfullie received and weell heard concerning their suite ; insomuch that by the advice off his Councill he agreed in this sort, that the ladie Margaret should be given in mariage to king James, and that the Iles of Orkney & Zetland, should remain the posession off him and his successors kings of Scotland, till either the said christiern or his succesors in the name of Dourie, Should pey to king James or his successors the sown of fiftie thousand florens off the Rhene.  Upon this our Bishop and the other ambassadors return with the esoused Ladie to Scotland in november, and in the Abbey Church of Holyrood shee wes maried & crouned Queen.  Afterwards shee wes brought to bedd of a son, called James. (who afterwards succeeded to the croun) whereupon Christiern to Congratulate the happie birth of this young prince his grandchild, Released by a charter, underhis great Seall, all the right title and claime which he or the kings of Denmark might have to these Iles of Orkney & Zetland.  This Bishop builded at statlie monument for a Buriall place to himself in the Cathedrall Kirk (and which continued a great decorment to itt, till about the year 1660 when it wes pulled doun by the order of some Antiepiscopall and fanaticall zealots.  But whither he wes buried in itt or not, I cannot tell sieng Spotswood informs us that he wes translated from this to the Bishoprick of Murrey: Ane old monument tells that he continued five years Bishop of that Sea, and then dying wes buried in St Maries ile in ye Chanourie kirk there.                                                                            To

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5 To him succeeded Andrew bishop of Orkney who also lived in the reigne of King James the third:  And wes Bishop att that tyme when the Town of Kirkwall gott their erection into a Royall Burgh confirmed be ye said king Anno 1486.

6 After him wee read of Edward Stewart Bishop of Orkney, who lived in the reigne off king James the fourth.  Of him Boethius gives a noble testimonie.  He enlariged the Cathedrall kirk to ye east all above the Grees.

7 To him succeeded Thomas Bishop of Orkney, who founded, and mortified some thing for the mantenance of ye Quiristers in the Cathedrall kirk.

8 After him wes Robert Maxwell Bishop of Orkney.  he caused build the stalls that are in the Cathedrall kirk, which are curioslie engraven with the arms of severall of his predecessors and with other fancies.  Itt wes he that caused found and make these excellent Bells, that are in the steiple of the Cathedrall, which upon his cost and expenses, wer castne in the castsle of Edinburgh be Robert Borthwick in the year 1528, in the reigne of King James the fifth, as their inscription bears.  The next year 1529 may 18 the Earle of Caithnes & the Lord Sinclair,                                                                            cam

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cam with a great armie by se into Orkney to have taken possession off itt as off a Country to which they pretended some right, but the people off the Countrey, under the command of Sr James Sinclair (naturall son to William Sinclair the last Earle of Orkney of that sirname) encountred the  Earle with such Courage, att a place called Summerdale, that his armie wes whollie discomfited: the Earle himself with five hundred of his men being slain ; and the Lord Sinclair with all the residew taken prisoners.  Itt is said of Sr James Sinclair , that presuming on his merites and the good service he hed done the king by that engadgment, begged of king James the fifth then reigning, the Iles of Sanda & Eda, which he represented to him as being no other then holms onlie good for pasturage of sheep & other bestiall, and upon his request obtained them (which I conceive is the reason why Buchannan does not reckon anie of these either Sanda or Eda, among the Iles of Orkney, by being deceived with that opinion that they wer but Holms, qras they are among the most Condiserable Iles in this Countrey).  But the king being afterwards better informed, and that he had been cheated by Sr James threatned that his head should pey for itt whenever he cam to Orkney ; for fear of which (when he heard of the kings arrivall) he cast himself into the sea in a place called the Gloup off Linksnes and drouned himself.  The king comeing in person to this Countrey to setle the troubles & Comotions            that

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that wer in itt, wes noblie entertained by the Bishop all the tyme of his stay: and haveing

putt a guaird in the kings and Bishops Castles, (haveing first visited some of the west Iles) he returned to Edinburgh, takeing wt him some of the factious gentrie, whom he improsoned, some in the castle of Edinburgh, & some in dunbar.  Att which tyme also the Toun of Kirkwall gave such demonstrations of their affection & loyalitie to their king that some tyme after he ratified their erection into a Royall burgh by a new charter of Confirmation Ano 1536.

9 To him succeeded Robert Reid bishop of Orkney, a verie deserving person, of ane excellent witt and great experience.  He wes a great Builder, for he caused build a statlie Tour to the north end of the Bishops palace, where his picture engraven in ston is as yet remaining, sett in the wall.    He greatlie enlairged  the Cathedrall kirk, adding three pillars to the former fabrick and decoring the entrie with a magnificent porch.  He moreover built St Olas curch in Kirkwall, and a lairge closs of houses to be a Colledge, for the instructing of ye youth of this Countrey in Gramer and Philosophie.  Moreover, he made a new fundation off the chapter, enlairging the number of channons and prebends and other officers and setling Lairge and ample provisions upon them (as is sett doun in the former Chapter).  And indeed he did so manie and so great works of Pietie, as may serve to give a thousand lyes to that base character which                                       the

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the author of Knoxs historie gives of this good & great man.  In a book dedicated to him by Adam Senior, a Monk off ye Cistercian order, I find that he had a right to the Monasteries of Beaulie and kinloss (which last he enriched with ane excellent Bibliotheck, weel furnished with manie notable volums) butt whither he had these as Bishop of Orkney or onlie in Comendam, I am not able to determin.  He wes in great Credite with his Prince k. James the fifth whom he consulted in all his weightie affairs.  In his tyme he performed manie honorable ambassages to the credite and benefite of his Countrey.  Among the rest he wes one of those that accompanied our young Queen Marie when she wes sent into France to be maried to the Dolphin (afterwards Francis the second k. of france) tho both in his going and comeing he hed a bad luck for in his going the ship which he wes in (and which had in itt all the furnitur for the marriage which wes verie rich and costlie) perished on the coast of France neer into Bulloigne, the Bishop and the Earle of Rothess that wes with him hardlie escapeing by the Ship Boat.  And in his return from ye court of france, he died att deep the 14 of September Anno 1558 off whom Ant. Bardol a famous Poet gives us this remarkeable Epigramme.

Quid tentem angusto perstringere carmine laudes

quas nulla eloquy vis celebrare queat

Clarus es eloquio cęlo dignissimo Pręsul,

Antiqua generis nobilitate viges

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Comissumo gregem pascis, relevasa Jacentem,

Ac volut exoriens terris sol discutit, umbras,

Illustras radiys pectora cęca tuis

Hortaris tardos, objurgas corripis omnes,

in mala pręcipitos quos volus error agit.

Pauperibus tua tecta patent, tuo prompta voluntas,

atq bonis semper dextera larga tua est.

Memo lupos melius facris ab evelibus arcot

ne christi lanient diripiantque gregem.

In this Bishops tyme the English being in hostilitie with Scotland, sent a navie under the conduct of Sr John Clare admirall, to infest Orkney who coming to kirkwall, and intending to burn itt, wes by the valor of the Inhabitants with the help of a tempest that arose att that tyme, forced to hoose saile and return home wt shame.

10 The Reformation being sett on foott about this tyme, there succeeded to him Adam Bothwell Bishop of Orkney, the first reformed Bishop of this Countrey, and who continued long in this Bishoprick notwithstanding of the prejudice that the church then had at that order.  Off him Buchannan relates this passage, how that shortlie after Q. Marie wes maried to her first husband Henrie Lord Darnlie, she by the instigation of some ill disposed persons began to flight and vilipend [7] her husband who                                                                             being

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being of a noble and gallant spirite, not able to endure the flights that he mett with, removed from Court with ane intention to goe to his father to Lennox.  He went with a small retinew to pebles, and being there, itt hapned that such a great deall of snow fell from heaven that he wes not able to travell further ; and the palce being poor and unable to afford such victualls as wer fitt for a person of his qualitie and breeding, he wes like to starve, hed not Providence brought the Bishop of Orkney to that place, who knowing the penurie of the Cuntrey and difficultie off passage, hed brought alongwith him some wyne & other provision, qrby the king wes much refreshed & releeved.

The Bishop wes a man of great employment & action.  Itt wes he that maried the Earle off Bothwell Duke of Orkney, with the Queen in the palace of holyrood house.  To him queen Marie when she hed resigned her croun gave a procuration for the inaugurating the Prince her son who accordinglie on the c 29 of Julie Anno 1567 Crouned and anointed him in the curch of Stirling.  And in the year following , when the earle of Murrey Regent wes to goe into England anent the debate betuixt theking and his mother (who wes detained prisoner there) this Bishop wes one of these who by the estates of the kingdom wes Comissioned to attend the Regent and assist him in that debate.  And afterwards att the desyre of Q. elizabeth (Anno 1571) he with other noble persons wes sent into England for the Composing  of some differences betuixt the Realms. Itts Recorded of this Bishop yt he                                                                                 went

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went in Companie with William Kirkaldie of Grange when he wes sent to persew Bothwell Duke of Orkney that was playing the pirate about the Countrey.  He went with five ships weel manned, and came so suddenlie upon bothwell the had almost taken before he wes a war ; but being in light pinnace he escaped thoro the shoals.  But the Lyon in which the Bishop of Orkney wes, and which followed after, being a ship of a great burden, stuck fast upon a rock, so tha tthe men for saiftie off their lives wer constrained to betake themselves to their Cockboat whereupon the Bishop, being last in the ship, and seing the boat lousing, called to them to stay for him ; but they being alreadie sufficientlie leaden, wold not hear him.  And so seing no other remedie, he leapt into the Boat, haveing on him a Corslett of proof which wes thought to be a streange loup, especiallie not to have overturned the Boat.  And so be the mercie of God, they came all saife to land.  He made ane excheange of the Bishoprick off Orkney with Robert stewart naturall sone to king James the fifth for ye abbacie off holie rood house whereby itt cam to pass that his son afterwards wes made Lord holie rood house.

Robert Stewart being Earle of Orkney and also obtaining the Bishoprick of Orkney (as said is) by the excheange off the Abbacie of holie-rood-house (which he before possessed) he and his after him uplifted the rents off the Bishoprick, as their own hereditarie patrimonie.  The church of Orkney in the mean tyme (according to the custom then received in Scotland) being govern


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=ned by a superintendent, with Episcopall power to direct all church censures and ordain ministers.  This superintendent wes Master James Annan att yt tyme minister off the Churches of Sanda & Westra.

But Anno 1606 king James the sixt, by the Consent of his Parliament & Assemblie off the Church haveing restored the estate of Bishops in Scotland James Law wes made Bishop of Orkney.  And tho he wes for a tyme hindred from the temporalities off his Bishoprick by the power of Patrick Earle of Orkney, yet after his death, he enjoyed them peaceablie.  Considdering ye manie and great variances & mischeefs that had alwayes been betueen the former Bishops and Earles of Orkney, and their severall vassalls (because their severall lands lay mixed thoro other)  Therefor he made that famous transaction and contract with k James (off which I have alreadie given you ane account) whereby the Bishoprick is separated from the Earldom & the Bishop is made sole Judge with in his oun bounds.  He wes a person whom that great king did much respect & often imploy in severall Important maters.  Shortlie after his election to the Bishoprick he wes with some other prelates sent for be the king to Court, to advise with them anent ye Setling off the State of the Curch in this kingdom.  And ye nixt year wee find him presiding in the assemblie att Linlithgo qr itt wes ordered that the names off all the Papists within the kingdom should be writne doun that their number and forces being knoun, answerable


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remedies might be provyded.  He head a main hand in ye triall of these oppresions & treasonable acts, for which Patrick Earle of Orkney wes execute & forfeited after he had satt Bishop about nine year he wes translated from this sea to the Archbishoprick of Glasgow Ano 1615.

13  To him succeeded George Graham Bishop of Dunblane, who satt Bishop of Orkney 23 years.  And in the year 1638, att the assemblie of Glasgow, when the Bishops were ejected he wes forced to quite his Charge.  He wes a great Builder, and left behind him a flourishing progenie, who as yet live in great honor in his Countrey.

14  After Bishop Graham had renunced & been devested of the Bishoprick King Charles did promote & elect Robert Barron Doctor and professor of divinitie in the Marishall Colledge of Aberdeen to the Bishoprick ; But he hed by his wreitings & Disputations so incensed the Covenanters, that he wes forced to flie to Berwick where he died before his Consecration.

In the interval of Presbytrie the rents of the Bishoprick wer granted be parliament to the Citie of Edinburgh, who uplifted them be their factors and farmers will the year 1662.

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15 In which year Episcopacie being again by the wisedom & pietie of our king and parliament, restored, Thomas St Serff (who seems to have his name from Servanus the first Bishop of Orkney Comonlie called St Serff) formerlie Bishop of Galloway ( and the onlie old Bishop wes then alive) wes made Bishop of Orkney.  He lived about tuo year after his instalment ; And att his death left in testament four hundreth merks to be given to ye poor in Kirkwall.

16 To him Anno 1664 succeeded Andrew Honyman archdean of St Andrews: a godlie and learned prelate.  The author of the Seasonable Cace  & of the Refutation of Naphthali.  He repaired & sklaited the Church of Sandwick, and did manie other good works of charitie.  Anno 1669, being att Edinburgh, he wes hott thoro the arme be a wicked villain, which so weakened him that he lived not manie years after ; and to the great regrait off the whole Countrey, died in februar, Anno 1676.  In his tyme warrs being betuixt our king and the Hollanders, a holland Privateer cam & assaulted the Toun of Kirkwall shooting manie guns att itt, but by the mercifull providence of God non wes killed or hurt, tho by the guns from the Toun and Mount, the ship of the Enemie wes much damnified and hed severall of their men slain.

17 to him succeeded Murdoch Mckenzie Bishop of Murrey, translated from that sea to his Anno 1677.                                                                                                                              He

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He itt is that at present is governing this church.  A most worthie Bishop and greatlie beloved off all for his hospitalitie peaceablenes, pietie, brotherlieness and prudent government.  He hes our Charges repaired our Ladie kirk in Shapinsha which is sklaited, syled & hes a new quire added to itt so that now itt is one of the prettiest landward kirks in all this Countrey.  Tho he be about four scoire and         years of age yet such is his vigor & Judgment that wee houpe be ye mercie of God, he will live manie years yet, for the Comfort of the ministrie and people of this Countrey.

[7] Scottish National Dictionary: [adj - disparaging, abusive]


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