"Tales From The Session Minutes"

1718 Fornication
James Drimmie a Pitgarvie lad
sharp een o' kirk hae cast you bad.
Frae sowing o' your oats sae wild
young Christian Forbes is noo wi child.

Poor Christian, sore rebuked by session
wha hope that she has learned her lesson
has cried out noo tae all an sundry
the child is yours through houghmagundy.


1707 This day received from Fordun an testimonial in favour of
James Drimmie and his wife Margt. Willock.

1718 Christian Forbes being legaly summoned, called, compared,
being asked if she was with child answered yes.
Being asked who was its father replyed that James Drimmie in Pitgarvie was its father.
The said James Drimmie being called on compared not,
therfore the officer was appointed to summon him to appear before the Session Sabbath next,
the said Christian Forbes having got a sessional rebuke was appointed to attend the session Sabbath next.
Christian Forbes being called compared and adhered to her former confession.
James Drimmie being legally summond called did compare and confessed the child was his
having had carnal......(text very difficult to read at this point) with the said Christian Forbes.
The session having exhorted them both to repentance,
appointed the said Christian Forbes to appear before the congregation sabbath next
and the said James Drimmie to appear sabbath come a fourthnight,
both of them promising to satisfy their penalty.
This day James Drimmie fornicator and Christian Forbes fornicator
appeared both of them before the congregation Pro Primo and were rebuked.
Dec 7 This day James Drimmie fornicator and Christian Forbes fornicatrix
appeared before the congregation both of them Pro Secundo.
Dec 14 This day James Drimmie fornicator appeared before the congregation
and was absolved and also payed his penalty.
Dec 14 This day Christian Forbes relapsed fornicator appeared before the congregation
Pro Secundo and was exhorted to repentance.
Dec 21 This day Christian Forbes payed her penalty.

In the Marykirk parish records for 1719,
we find that James Drimmie and Christian Forbes had a daughter baptised Mary
and in the same record James Drimmie and Christean Forbes were married in the year 1720.
In the year 1730 James Drimmie and Margaret Forbes
had a son named Alexander in Pitgarvie Marykirk.

The parish records are full of small scenarios like the above
for the success of the church was greatly assisted by the strength of its discipline
over the morals of its congregations and a whole variety of moral misdemeanours
were made statutory offences against the crown.
Adultery in 1563, fornication in 1567, sabbath breaking in 1579,
drunkenness in 1617 and so forth.
Most of the sexual offences were described as adultery or fornication.
The first was much the most serious, and offenders were heavily punished,
generally by being forced to stand dressed in sackcloth, bare headed and bare footed,
first at the kirk door and then on the public stool of repentance
in front of the congregation on every Sunday for six months,
or occasionally for several years, and sometimes by whipping and fining as well.
Few chose to resist, for by statutes of 1563 and 1581 anyone found guilty
of 'notour and manifest adultery' who refused to submit to ecclesiastical punishment
could be put to death by the civil sword.
Fornication was always a less serious matter, though the term
covered offences of differing character. 'Harlotrie' was the problem of the towns
whilst in the countryside and small burghs casual intercourse was more typical.
Misbehaviour of this nature usually went undetected even by the eagle eyed session
until a child was on the way : the church then busied itself discovering the father,
compelling a marriage if it could and finally punishing both partners
by several weeks penance 'in sacco'.
All varieties of fornication were punishable by fining
according to a statute of 1567 ratified on several occasions down to 1690.
In 1712 the Toleration Act 'expresly prohibited and discharged' civil magistrates
'to force or compel any person or persons' to answer kirk censures or summonses.
Inevitably the terrors of church discipline thereafter began to wane in the popular eye.

©Alan Mitchell Drummie Scotland 1985