“Lost” Peden’s Chest?: A Covenanter’s Relic in Brisbane #History
Peden’s Chest, a relic of the Scottish Covenanter, Alexander “Prophet” Peden who died in 1686, was last recorded in Brisbane, Australia, in 1928. It may be lost to history, but does it no longer exist? Can it be found in Brisbane, or elsewhere?
According to the Brisbane Courier in 1928, Peden’s Chest was in the possession of Mr. G. H. Preston, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane…
“Peden’s Chest in Brisbane
A Memorial of the Scottish Covenanters
… The relic to which we have now to refer has escaped both fire and flood, though it has been in Brisbane since 1870. It is not one of those treasures of intrinsic worth, like a chair of old bog oak in the same house. There is no polishing or carving about its stout, rough timbers, except on its lid this legend: “XNDRS PEDEN” (i.e., Xndrs Peden). It is an old Scotch chest, or kist, as it was familiarly called in rural Scotland, being the property of Mr. G. H. Preston [probably George Henry Preston d.1959 Brisbane, son of Margaret Alexander. See comments below], of Gregory-terrace.”
Gregory Terrace, Spring Hill, Brisbane, 1954, by Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd, held by John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland and licensed for reuse
“The chest conforms to the usual size and shape of these boxes, but the dove-tailing is of large pin-type used by the joiners of olden days. The lock is intact, being of a quaint type long out of date. Hand-made iron bands reinforced the corners, and some of these remain. Inside there is a small compartment at the top of the left-hand corner, common feature of such kists, and meant to contain any trinkets or valuables, the box itself being chiefly used for the storage of clothes. Unfortunately, in order to make the chest pack compactly for the long sea journey, the iron handles at each end had been removed, and the over-lapping lid cut back at the ends flush with the body of the trunk for the same reason.
The Story of the Chest
The story of this chest is an interesting one, and goes back to the early days of Robert Burns. As will be remembered, the poet frequently corresponded with John Richmond, writer of Mauchline, whose granddaughter, Miss Jane Alexander, died in Brisbane in 1919, at the age of 92. Her mother was Janet Richmond, the only daughter of the Mauchline lawyer, and of William Alexander. John Richmond’s clientele was composed of the rich and poor of the neighbourhood, and manuscripts remain to show his legal transactions with lairds like Gavin Hamilton and others. In one particular instance the fee was a peculiar one. The writer had transacted some legal business for a farmer’s wife in the parish of Sorn, in Ayrshire, and this good woman, having little “worldly gear,” gratefully offered Mr. Richmond, by way of recompense, this “kist” which belonged to the “Prophet Peden,” one of the worthis of the Covenanting period, called in Scotland “the days of the persecution.” Mr. Richmond accepted the gift in the spirit in which it was given, and handed it down to his descendants as the authentic memorial of a remarkable man.
Alexander Peden was one of the most picturesquee figures of “the killing-times” in Scottish history …
It is a far cry from Brisbane to Sorn, but this chest of Alexander Peden’s, some 250 years old, is a memorial of the old battle for freedom from Stewart tyranny that toughened the fibre of the Scottish race.” (Brisbane Courier, Saturday 21 January, 1928.)
Can you help Scottish history out? Does anyone know where Peden’s Chest is? Or who Mr. G. H. Preston was? Or which house he lived in at Gregory Terrace, Brisbane, in 1928?
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