2.6 Post-Reformation history of the Carmelites and other friars in Aberdeen

There is little evidence that the Carmelites ever acted as a community after the events of early 1560. As Copsey pointed out members of suppressed religious orders in Scotland after 1560 were given individual pensions (Copsey 1995, 107). John Patoun, previously of the Aberdeen Carmelite house, became a member of the reformed church (Copsey 1995, 107), whilst the ex-Provincial of the order, Friar Christeson, became associated with King's College in Old Aberdeen (Copsey 1995, 107). David Craig, however, moved to the continent where he continued to be involved with the Catholic faith (Copsey 1995, 108-9). Whilst later, on 4 January 1568 one 'Richert Gardine, sumtyme ane of the carmelitis of this burght…' was granted by the whole council, 'his ordinar buird daily amangis the maist honest men of this burght, and specialie of the counsell, in ordour, thair day about, ay and quhill thair prowyd wther wayis for him, and quhill these acts be dischargit' (Stuart 1844, 364-5). This clearly shows a disposition amongst the council to help this ex-Carmelite.

However, there is the case of the last prior of the Aberdeen house, John Fulford. There is one piece of very intriguing evidence from 1572. On 6 March of that year John, Lord Darcy, wrote to Lord Burghley, at the English court, that he had stopped a Scottish ship at Harwich. The ship contained a chest from London being sent to Scotland. In his letter Darcy listed the contents as mostly dagges, corselets, gloves and barrels of powder. He also wrote: 'And further I send your Lordship certain books and letters directed to Mr John Fulford, Provost of Aberdeen' (Boyd 1905, 151). Fulford was not Provost of Aberdeen but in fact was the last prior of the Aberdeen Carmelite friary. This certainly seems to suggest that he was having books delivered to him, the fact that the books were 'taken' by Darcy suggests that they were Catholic works. The connection with the Provost is interesting: this suggests that Fulford was living with the Provost at the time. If so then this would seem to point to the protection and friendship that the ex-friars were still receiving in Aberdeen. Perhaps it even suggests that the ex-prior was still ministering to the needs of elements of the community. Indeed when Fulford died, 20 May 1576, Walter Cullen, noted in his Diary, that 'Maister John Fulsurd, sumtyme ane quhitt freir in Aberden, and serwant to Thomas Menzis, prowest, departitt the xx day of May…' (Turreff 1859, 18). In this case it is of course undoubtedly significant that Fulford was connected with Thomas Menzies, who had represented Catholic interests as far as he was able on the Council in early 1560.

The remainder of the Carmelite community simply disappears from the historical record following the Reformation. However, friars elsewhere continued to appear in records: in Edinburgh a Friar Black was warded in the Tolbooth for 'sic crimes committit be him…' (Marwick 1882, 131). In Linlithgow in October 1559 a Carmelite friar witnessed a sasine whilst in 1560 the prior of the Linlithgow Carmelites confirmed a lease of two acres of land (Stones 1989, 54). This does not seem to have been the case in Aberdeen, except possibly with regard to the Trinitarians. The fate of the Trinitarians in early 1560 is murky: however Friar John Quhytcorse (Whitecourse) seems to have attempted to retain some role in terms of the disposal of land. Sasine was given to Gilbert Menzies on 24 September 1561 on the place of the Trinitarians in Aberdeen, following on a precept by Robert, Principal Superintendent of the Order with consent of Quhytcorse, administrator in Aberdeen (Anderson 1909, 98). It is again significant that a member of the Menzies family is involved here. Later, when on 29 September 1566 Patrick Menzies resigned the lands of Ferryhill in favour of his brother, Gilbert, the document was described as being 'in the hands of Friar John Quhitcorse, minister of the house of the Holy Trinity…' (Anderson 1909, 100). Curiously on 10 May 1567 Mary confirmed the earlier grant of the lands to Patrick (originally dated 23 May 1558), without mentioning any of the friars (Anderson 1909, 100). What happened at that date is unclear: on 13 October 1573 there was a further instrument of resignation by Patrick Menzies, again in Friar John's hands, of the lands of Ferryhill but this time to his brother William (Anderson 1909, 102). The next day, Friar John issued a charter to the same effect, but mentioning a reddendo. The reddendo was specified in a later charter, of the same substance, dated 21 July 1574, as £20 Scots to the minister of the Order of the Holy Trinity (Anderson 1909, 102). As late as 1607 there is evidence that the friars were continuing to exist and were officially recognised in Aberdeen. In 1607, 10s was paid from the Treasurer of Aberdeen to 'the minister of the trinitie freris of Aberdene, for the annuall addettit to him furth of the pott watter, the saids tua termes' (Stuart 1852, 134).

This would all seem to suggest that some elements of the Trinitarian order were still operating in Aberdeen, in association with the Menzies family. The fact that this happened until the 1570s, at which time Fulford was working for the Menzies as well, does seem to suggest that perhaps the strongly Catholic Menzies family was acting as some sort of focus for the ex-friars or of those attached to the old faith.

Finally, in the mid 1560s the Scottish government, under Mary Queen of Scots, ordered that all ecclesiastical revenues be surveyed. This was done in order to get a thorough understanding of them and then to split them into three parts: one part to go to the now redundant Catholic clergy; the second part to the new Protestant clergy and the final third to go to the crown. It is interesting to note that there were no returns for the Carmelite, Black or Grey Friars from Aberdeen in the Books of Assumption of Thirds and Benefices. Had the remaining 'community' of friars under the protection of local grandees simply 'decided' not to make returns? If this was so, it may strengthen the case put forward here. Moreover there does not seem to be any evidence that the Scottish crown pursued the friars in Aberdeen for failing to make a return (Kirk 1995, 418-421). Of this situation Kirk comments:

Of the three dozen friaries, rentals were forth coming from merely a few: the Dominican houses at St Andrews (with whose accounts were engrossed those of St Monance), Edinburgh, Elgin, Glasgow and Stirling; the Franciscan friary at Lanark; and the Carmelite house in Linlithgow' (Kirk 1995, lii).


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