Murrays in Tweedsmuir
Application for Readmission to the Church
by James MURRAY, Wester Hearthstanes
In 1765, James MURRAY, tenant of Wester Hearthstanes, was in trouble with the Church for his conduct with Helen CALDERWOOD. That deed resulted in the birth of twin daughters. To atone for that behavior, James was required to sit on a stool of repentance, in front of the congregation, for three Sabbath days.
Any repeat offender was required by the Church to sit on the stool, three times in front on the congregation, while dressed only in sack cloth (burlap). Burlap was apparently where James drew the line, as in 1791, the 52 year old James was in trouble again. This time, 27 years old and fair, Janet AIKENHEAD was expectant by the unwavering bachelor. James rejected the resulting punishment and was therefore cast out of the congregation.
James remained detached from the Church for nearly three years, until falling ill and needing the privileges Church membership afforded for life's last voyage. James MURRAY's application for readmission, preserved in the National Archives of Scotland as reference CH2/613/7, follows below.
"Hearthstane, 10 April 1794
The Session of Tweedsmuir met here by appointment of the Rev Mr. GARDNER, Moderator; Thomas TWEEDIE, Esq. of Oliver; William HOPE, tenant in Hawkshaw; and Alexander WELSH in Tweedhopefoot; Elders and being constituted by prayer, Mr. GARDNER produced a letter of date 5th April last, written by James MURRAY, tenant here, addressed to the Moderator which being read the tenor follows:
Hearthstane, 5 April 1794
This with concern that I have occasion to trouble you with this application, this well known to the neighbourhood and now wears deep in my own mind that I have long lagger under scandal and thereby have been deprived of the valuable privileges of the Church.
My making a public appearance before the congregation for reproof on a stool of repentance before a congregation would be such a burden as I could not support especially now that I am reduced to a weak state of body.
I have to request of you as particular favour to take an early opportunity of calling a meeting of your Session all of whom know and regret my situation and that you and they may be pleased to deliberate upon my case and I hope you will find it expedient to compromise the affair by fining me in any reasonable sum and giving me a rebuke before the Session and restoring me to the communion of the church which would afford me great consolation and I hope and promise through the Grace of God to be more circumspect in my future conduct.
Rev. Sir, I am your most obedient servant,
The Moderator asked if the letter then read was written and subscribed by the said James MURRAY to which he answered in the affirmative and having expressed many signs of repentance, sorrow, and contrition for his sin of fornication with Janet AIKENHEAD and every other sin of the like nature which although so vile and thereby cannot be a subject for excussion before any Ecclesiastic court, the last excepted, yet he feels in remorse and sorrow for offences against God and the well regulated Laws of Society and submitted to the Session to impose a fine and restored him to the privileges of church communion.
The Session having seriously considered the case were unanimously of opinion that in regard of the bodily indisposition of the said James Murray and his earnest request of being readmitted to Church privileges, to dispense with public appearance in this singular instance and they imposed a fine of two guineas to be immediately paid and distributed not only to the poor on the present list, but likewise to be divided amongst some widows and people of the parish in strained circumstances.
The Moderator gave a very suitable rebuke, represented the sin of uncleanness with its antecedent concomitant and consequent evils showed the necessity of unfeigned repentance and amendment and thereafter absolved him from the scandal and received him back to the communion and privileges of the Church.
The Session closed with prayer suitable to the occasion."
James MURRAY, tenant in Wester Hearthstanes, died 01 August 1794.