Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Maister Adam Colquhoun

Maister Adam Colquhoun died at his house in
Glasgow in February, 1542. He was described
as an "ordinary Scottish priest", though he was a
canon of Glasgow Cathedral and "persone of
Stobo". The Stobo Manse was at the top of the
The Glasgow chapter consisted of 32 canons or
prebendaries with Stobo amongst the most desirable
. The benefice brought in 2,000 merks a year.

A full description of his possessions survives, from
which we can form a tolerably clear picture of what
must have been a remarkable house. For Maister
Adam was not short of this world’s gear. The bed he
died on was richly carved, of wood and decorated
with gold. The mattress had 140 lbs of feather down;
sheets and pillows were of holland cloth, covered by
a pair of line fustian blankets. To ensure the parson’s
slumber, damask curtains "of divers hewis, fassit with
silk and knoppit with gold" surrounded the bed, a
covering of rich velvet, lined with fustian, stretched
across his person and was spread with a blue mantle.
Panels of arras work hung round the walls, designed
with foliage and flowers, varied with squirrels, monkeys
or little rabbits disappearing into their hurrows,
"portraiture of huntsman, hawk and hound", scriptural
scenes, or a secular romance. There were twelve varied
panels, low toned tapestries, a large chandelier with tall
white candles,an oak settle,a carved oak press,boxes of
wood and silver for storing valuables,a silver water pot,
sponge,rubber,combs, and the parson’s pet, a parrot.

There was an enormous quantity of jewellery, crosses,
rings and chains made from gold and sapphires, valued
at hundreds of pounds.There were no clerical vestments,
but the Parson of Stobo was distinguishable by his silk
clothes, damask shirts, sable furs, velvet shoes, golden
pins, buttons and a silver toothpick in a bag at his waist.

Holland cloths surrounded the altar. There were gold
and silver sacred vessels and a silver cushion for the
"mess buke", hand-penned in black and red Gothic
lettering, illuminated with rich colours and golden
foils. There was also a substantial library of holy
and secular books, similarly made.

There were 40 separate silver vessels, silver bottles,
silver carving knives and a fork, used for eating fruit.
The cupboard abounded in silver plate and the
kitchen, though fairly bare of furniture, was crammed
with utensils, pots, jars, bottles and plates; oven and
bakehouse paraphernalia; brewing requisites; a barn
of wheat, oats, “beir", pease and hay, eight carcasses
of salted beef, eight dozen salmon, forty bolls of meal,
eight dozen Loch Fyne herring, six stone of butter
, 22lbs of cheese and eight loads of coal. The stable
accoutrements were of silver, wood and velvet. He
had a fully carved suit of armour and swords. His
sport was archery. He had silken dog leads and
silver studded collars. Maister Adam also had a
striking clock.

Scotland was reputedly a poor country, though
Glasgow was seldom described as a poor city and
certainly not around Maister Adam’s time. No one
liked the climate and how the priest’s velvet boots
fared in Glasgow’s winters is not recorded. “The
sky is foul with frequent rain and clouds,"' wrote
Tacitus around AD8O, chronicling the life of his
father-in—law Julius Agricola, governor of Britain
. "The length of their days is beyond the measure
of our world . . . If clouds do not hinder they say
the sun’s brightness is seen all night, and nor sets
nor rises but passes across the sky". When the
French soldiers came over in 1385 to march
against the English, they asked, "What could have
brought us hither? We have never known till now
what was meant by poverty and hard living".

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