Following on from the previous post:
We’ve already come across James Robb and Barbara Raeburn in the Old Parish Registers for Auchterless. In 1747 James Robb in Mains of Badenscoth had a son John baptised, with John Raeburn as a witness. In 1750 James married Barbara Raeburn, who was born in 1727, possibly the sister of John Raeburn and almost certainly the sister of Mary Raeburn, who married Alexander Robb (born 1714) in 1743. They were both daughters of Alexander Raeburn.
It’s likely that it’s the same James Robb, now at Scotackesfoord, who had a daughter Elspet baptised at Scotackesfoord in 1751, and another daughter Mary at Meiklebogs in 1753, when John Raeburn was again a witness. Thereafter we find James at Bruckhills, with other children being born there in 1755 (another Mary: his first child of that name had probably died in infancy), 1757 (William), 1759 (Grace) and 1761 (Elizabeth). The last definite record we have of James is in 1779, when he was a witness at the baptism of my 3 x great grandfather Charles, son of George Robb of Fisherford.
My current theory, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, is that Alexander, James, George and John Robb were brothers who grew up at Mains of Badenscoth, before marrying and setting up homes in other ‘farm touns’, such as Bruckhills, Newbigging, Logie Newton and Fisherford. If this is correct, then James and Barbara were my 4 x great uncle and great aunt.
James Robb and Barbara Raeburn appear in the Auchterless kirk session records in two different years: 1746 and 1750. N.B: the word ‘compeare’ means ‘to appear (in court)': much of the language used in the session minutes is legalistic and includes generous use of Latin terms. Note also that I have transcribed these passages to the best of my ability, expanding abbreviations and modernising some spellings. However, some words remain (for now) unreadable, and some I may have got wrong: this is a work in progress.
The minutes for 9th November 1746 include the following report:
Session met and constitute. Barbara Raeburn having before confessed herself guilty of fornication with James Rob in Badenscoth, they both compeared this day before the session and acknowleged their sin and scandal, and the said Barbara was allowed to enter the public profession of her repentance Sabbath next.
A week later, on 16th November, we read that ‘Barbara Raeburn and Al (exander?) Brince (?) appeared and were rebuked’ (presumably for separate offences). On the 30th November, the same two individuals again appeared before the session and this time were ‘absolved’.
On 9th December, it was James’ turn to appear and be rebuked, the same thing happening again a week later on the 15th. But on this last occasion, we also read the following:
Session met, compeared James Rob craving to be absolved next Sabbath, the session appointed him to be absolved accordingly and his penalty with Barbara Raeburn’s now paid in being 8 (?) £ was lodged in the box. Closed in prayer.
On 21st December ‘James Rob appeared 3tio [probably 'tertio' = third time] was rebuked and absolved.’
So a pattern begins to emerge, in which offenders confess to a misdemeanour, repent publicly of their offence, and are then required to subject themselves to a public rebuke on three occasions, and probably pay a penalty, before being absolved.
The date of this appearance before the kirk session fits with what we already know of James and Barbara. James’ son John would be born the following year – he was baptised on 10th March 1747 – so he was probably the fruit of this illicit union, which took place three or four years before the couple were married.
The second occasion on which James and Barbara were required to appear before the session was in April 1750. In the minutes for the 19th we read:
After forenoon’s sermon session met and constitute compeared James Rob and Barabra Raeburn and confessed their being guilty of antenuptial fornication, they were rebuked and seriously exhorted to repentance, and in regard that James Rob declared that he was obliged within the 10 days to go to the south country about his lawful affairs he earnestly desired to be absolved before his departure. The session appointed them to appear this afternoon for the first time. Session closed with prayer.
In the record for that same afternoon, we read that ‘James Rob and Barbara Raeburn appeared pro 1mo ['pro primo' = for the first time] and were rebuked.’ Then on 6th May: ‘James Rob and Barabra Raeburn appeared pro 2do ['pro secundo' = for the second time] and were absolved.’
But that’s not quite the end of the matter. In the minutes for 13th May, we read the following:
After sermon session met and constitute. The minister represented that James Rob and Barbara Raeburn’s pledges were yet in his hand, and James Rob compearing pleaded that at least a part of them might be restored. The session judged them little enough for their penalty and accordingly appointed them amounting to £6. o. o.d. ?? [word unclear] to be lodged in the box.
When we recall that James and Barbara were married in March 1750 – i.e. a month before this summons to appear before the session – our modern prejudices about the prurience and intolerance of the old Kirk will probably be confirmed. Here we see a couple being rebuked and fined for having sex before their wedding, even though they are now married. Some wedding present from the Kirk, we might say! As far as I can see, their next child, Elspet, would not be born for at least another year (in May or June 1751), so one wonders how the kirk elders knew what the couple had been getting up to?