Monday, 4 April 2011

Sunday and a Spott of Rain.......

Innerwick Kirk.


Yesterday my Lovely G had some studying to do in preparation for a two day course for her work which she is at today and tomorrow. As she was going to be preoccupied with study for an hour or two I thought to take myself out for a while and leave her in peace and so I ended up pottering around a couple of local graveyards at Innerwick and Spott, two nearby villages.

 Innerwick lies a mile inland from the sea a few miles between here and Dunbar. It's a small village like ours and has some lovely old red sandstone houses that fit perfectly into the landscape with its red soil hereabouts. Although the land slopes quite gently up from the sea to the village, a lot of the small, older houses of the original village are set down in a dip and those who aren't seem to have to look past the village kirk sitting obstinately on its hummock in front of them to get a glance at the sea. The 'wick' ending of the name actually means 'village' and shows the influence of the southern tribes in the ancient history of this area.  It's unusual in Scotland to see this as these names have usually been replaced by northern or Celtic ones as they dominated the greater part of the local area for most of our history. Another village nearby is called Oldhamstock, which in effect means 'old village village', and also shows linguistic roots from changing southern tribal heritage over its history too. It emphasises the high level of impact the south has had in this fertile little corner of Scotland.  Our own village of Cockburnspath is believed to descend from Viking/Norse rootstock - 'Colbrand's Path' which shows yet another set of influences in the regions history.

It was just my luck that the bright and breezy morning had decided to turn into a cold showery afternoon in time for me walking into the kirkyard and it highlighted the exposed position of the kirk to me by spattering me and my camera very effectively with windblown raindrops. Shielding the camera from the weather I had a walk round despite this and took some photos in the gloomy light but I didn't stay too long before I headed back to the car with damp hair and a wet and wind-chaffed face that had been thoroughly chilled by the wind off the water. I looked at the clock and decided it was too soon to head back home as my arrival would only disturb G from her prep work, so I headed on down the road a couple of miles to the edge of Dunbar and turned inland again to the hamlet of Spott sitting tucked away below the hill which looms over it. By the time I arrived the rain had stopped and the sky had brightened a bit, but rain wasn't far away so I thought this too might have to be a fairly short visit as my fleece was still damp from the short walk round at Innerwick. I'd been forced to stay outside at Innerwick as for some reason the kirk was unexpectedly locked up on a Sunday afternoon which I thought both odd and under the circumstances, pretty unfortunate.


Gravestone - Innerwick

Spott is an old village, much older than Innerwick, probably as old as my own little village a few miles away up the coast and the kirk here is one that I've meant to visit for quite a while. It's a low roofed and dour looking wee building,  seemingly stuck fast to the ground as if to make sure it doesn't get blown away in our often fierce East Lothian winds. It's a much older kirk than Innerwick, which dates from the early to mid 1800's. Spott started probably as a chapel of rest for pilgrims on their way to Iona, across country and off the west coast of Scotland. There's a holy well used by pilgrims and dedicated to St John a few hundred yards away from the kirk. Spott was listed as part of Dunbar church when it was made collegiate in 1342 but it seems likely that Spott was in opeartion for some considerable time before that.

Spott Kirk - North Berwick Law in the distance behind.

Several of the early clerics at Spott were important in the Scottish church of the time; Andrew Ayton, Rector of Spott was Chancellor of the cathedral at Dunblane and Procurator of the Scottish Nation at University of Orleans in 1520; Robert Galbraith, Rector of Spott and one of the original Senators of the Courts Of Justice, High Court Judge and Court of Session was murdered in Edinburgh in 1544. The first protestant minister of Spott, John Kello was hanged in Edinburgh for the murder of his wife in October 1570. I bet that had the gossips going....

Not long after I got to Spott and started having a look around the kirkyard the rain started again, although not so bad as it had been - and the position of the kirk is less exposed too - so I decided to try the door to see if I could escape the worst of the weather.

These were hanging by the door.

Jougs {pronounced 'joogs'}

These were in common use in Scotland for many years in the bad old days when the kirk interfered in peoples lives much more than today. In the 17th and 18th centuries the kirk held its parishoners to very narrow  'Old Testament' style rules of behaviour and anyone who offended against them would be punished. Punishment could take the form of having to wear rough sack cloth and being made to sit in disgrace in front of the congregation for the duration of the services, which in those days could be for several hours at a time or they could be chained by the neck  to the entrance to the kirk using the 'jougs'. There were several types of these instruments in use over the years and several Scots kirks still have examples hanging outside the entrances as reminders of days when harsher treatment was the norm. Even after centuries of weathering this example of the jougs still reeked of humiliation, especially placed where it was by the door. Not much sign of God's forgiveness in that article. To have been pinned there and have your friends and neighbours have to almost squeeze past you to get inside would have been incredibly humiliating.


A variation of the Jougs was 'The Branks', a cage of iron bands that went over and around the head and had a piece - either flat or spiked with rowells - that fitted into the mouth and made speech impossible. To be 'brankit' was used as a punishment exclusively for women who were over zealous in scolding their husbands, argumentative in the community or outspoken against the establishment. They were also used in times of witches to prevent an accused witch from cursing or placing spells on those around her. The kirk records for Spott in 1705 starkly states "Many witches burnt at Spott Loan". I'll return to that topic in another post soon.

 The 'Jougs' hang at the Kirk door.
The last recorded use in the UK of 'Jougs' was in 1856.


On finding the door unlocked I moved inside out of the weather. Away from the rain I had a look around the inside of this austere little kirk which is still in use today.


Inside the tiny T shaped kirk - note the box pews

The pulpit is jacobean and there is a warning supplication to the congregation gilded across the top to keep their ears open and pay attention to the word of the Lord. The wee kirk had a warm feel to it, out of the rain as I was inside,  yet had a real 'puritan' feel too. It wasn't a place where you would sit comfortably for any great length of time and remember - some of those old time sermons would be two or three hours long. It made my bum feel numb just to think about being perched on those narrow seats,squashed in by my neighbours for hours on end. At least it was warm and dry out of the rain.

Weathered gravestones - Spott.

Outside again when the rain shower had gone I hunted without success for any sign of the place where the bodies dug up on the ground of the first battle of Dunbar in 1296 had been reburied on hallowed ground. As rain started to patter yet again I decided enough was enough and to turn and head for home. I'll come back again when the weather and the light is improved to take some more photos and try and find that burial spot. As I walked up to the gates of the kirkyard I passed the little cottage building once used by a watchman to prevent bodysnatching in the Burke and Hare era. The heavy iron gate closed behind me with a satifyingly long drawn out squeal of metal on metal and I walked away with a childishly big smile on my face.

That was loud enough to wake the dead......

Time for home and  coffee.

See you later.

Listening to












2 comments:

Nicky said...

Aha! Another fabulous graveyard! Looks like you had an enjoyable outing Alistair, in spite of the rain.

Alistair said...

Hi Nicky - Aye, I did. Soggy but enjoyable.

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