Saturday, September 25, 2021

Sabbath Breakers


Holy Bible Exodus 20: 8 – 11

Alexander Gunn (born 1820) tells how the Sabbath was managed at Badbea when he was a boy:

'We were most religiously trained. On Saturday night there was strict preparation for the Sabbath. Everything that could be done that night, was done, so as to leave nothing to do on the Sabbath but the real works of necessity and mercy. The water barrel was filled up to the brim. The peat neuk was replenished, and the peats for Sunday's use were broken, ready to be laid on the fire. The hearth was cleared of superfluous ashes, the floor swept clean, and everything tidied up. The very potatoes were washed and put in the pot, ready to be hung on the crook. The day began and ended with family worship - not only on Sundays, but on week days as well.’

The rest of the Sabbath day was spent at meetings, often at the house of John Badbea, or learning the catechism.

Alexander Gunn, Northern Ensign, 19 October 1880.

The Elders of the Kirk session expected strict obedience to the Sabbath rules and had authority to punish rule breakers by shaming them publicly in the Kirk and setting fines which were then distributed to the poor of the parish.  

Some examples of Sabbath breach from the Latheron Kirk Session records are: 

In 1739, Pgs 56 and 57. George Mouat was found guilty of ‘Hainous profanation of the Lord’s Day’ by scolding and struggling with Donald Gun for a plaid that he had taken as part payment for Gun’s cattle coming to Mouat’s father’s corn. George was also drunk. He was ordered to stand in sackcloth before the congregation the next Lord’s Day and was fined two pounds Scots. George Mouat didn’t turn up the next Lords Day and got into further trouble. 

Sackcloth gown. National Museum Of Scotland

In 1743, Pg 120. George Sinclair, younger, in Risgill, George Cormack in Clyth, Robert Finlayson in Occmuster, John Sutherland in Lybster, and John Cormack in Clyth were found guilty of Sabbath breach by drinking ale and whisky in the house of Alexander Forbes in Risgill. They acknowledged that they had been drinking from the time they came home from church till the night was far spent and then had a quarrel in which George Sinclair struck George Cormack and cut him. They were found guilty of grossly profaning the Lords Day, were fined and had to make satisfaction in sackcloth. 

In 1762, Pg 172. Brought before the Session were Angus McGrigor, Alex Mouat, William Sutherland and Donald McKenzie for carrying home a dead cow on the Sabbath day. The men acknowledged their crime. The session on hearing the man to whom the cow belonged judged them guilty of Sabbath breach ordered the same men, to stand one Lord’s day in sackcloth before the congregation. 

In 1762, Pg 188. George Winnis came before the Kirk session for Sabbath breach ‘who owns that he foolishly and because he could not get his supper took a sip or two of the Flask in his hand which the other servants brought to him but absolutely refuses his having wrought any to the other servants’. Another servant, James Campbell also came up and agreed that he had a little sip of the flask. He was punished and made to stand in sackcloth before the congregation, but Winnis persisted in denying that he did anything wrong. The session didn’t let it go and insisted on him satisfying the sentence. Latheron Kirk Session, Minutes 1734-1776

Oyster catcher nest

In 1831, Pg 61. One of the Elders mentioned that a breach of the Sabbath had lately taken place at Lybster by several young persons climbing in the rocks in search of birds’ nests. The officer was ordered to summon them to the next meeting of Session. They didn’t turn up so the Session decided to read their names to the congregation as ‘a censure of their sin and as a warning to others'.

Cliffs at Lybster

In 1841, Pg 159. David McKenzie alias Oag cited before the meeting of Session for sabbath profanation by idly sauntering on the highway and maliciously striking to the affusion of blood a boy in the service of Mr Robert Cruikshanks, all which he did confess to have done on Sabbath the 25th last. After deliberation the Session require him to stand up on the first Sabbath, before the congregation, then and there to be rebuked for his sins.


The Sabbath Breakers J C Dolman 1896