A Brief History of Flyposting: A Villainous and Blasphemous paper posted in #Edinburgh, 1680 #History #Scotland
A brief history of flyposting. When we ‘batter something out’ or something is ‘battered up’ it means doing it quickly and in haste. According to the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, one meaning of ‘batter’ refers to flyposting with paste, which began at some point in Scotland before 1640. The history of flyposting in Scotland stretches back nearly 400 years. Flyposting has always been a way of distributing news about events, politics and happenings to the people on the streets …
In 1680, government sources report the flyposting of possibly one of the most subversive documents produced in Scotland, the Torwood Excommunication at the Wallace Oak by Donald Cargill, the text of which delivered the leaders of the Scotland up to Satan. From what the report says, below, (printed?) copies of it were quickly torn down by the authorities. However, news of what it contained rapidly spread.
The report is useful in a number of ways. First, it provides us with a date for the Torwood Excommunication of 12 September, 1680, which until now has been obscure. Second, it gives us a date of 19 September, for Cargill’s seditious preaching at Falla Hills. Third, it mentions that Cargill initially forgot to excommunicate the Duke of Lauderdale, which suggests that the full list of those excommunicated was not thought through prior to the act.
The Torwood Excommunication was posted in at least two locations in the seventeenth-century city. One copy was found at the Weigh House at the top of the Lawnmarket, near to where a small, mini roundabout stands today. The Weigh House, or Butter Tron, had been built in 1660 to replace an earlier version of the building destroyed by Cromwell. The 1660 Weigh House was eventually demolished to widen the approach to the Castle for George IV’s visit in 1822. In 1680, the Lawnmarket, which ran down to Edinburgh Tolbooth, was at the heart of the burgh’s commercial life as the open public area in the centre of the city. As a location for flyposting the excommunication, it was perfect for quickly spreading word of it.
The other place where the excommunication was posted in Parliament Close, the centre of Scottish political power. Parliament Close, now known as Parliament Square, was a small oblong square surrounded by high tenements, shops and the old Parliament building. Today, the appearance of the square is very different from how it looked in 1680 due to the extensive remodelling of the facades of the law courts/old parliament after a great fire destroyed many of the tenements surrounding it in 1824. The controversial equestrian statue of Charles II, which sits in the square post dates the Torwood Excommunication by a few years.
From Thomas Murray to the Duke of Lauderdale.
‘Ed[inbu]r[gh], [Saturday] 18 Sept[embe[r], 1680.
May it please your Gr[ac]e.
here I send the copie of that villanous and Blasphemous paper, I mentioned in my last to ye Earle of Murray; ane double of it wes battered, upon the weighhouse, but wes torn in pieces, in pulling it of; the originall found in the Parlia[men]t closs I cause keepe, so that no double salbe given of it to anie alive, till I know your Gr[ace’s] thoughts about it, it is a copie of that treasonable and sacrilegious sentence pronu’nced last lords day [12 September] by Mr Donald Cargill in a numerous field conventicle at the Torwood, where manie were in armes; and your Gr[ace]: wes forgotten by him in the for[e]noon, but uncanonicallie he brought you up in the afternoon, and after ane scurrilous apologie for his ommission, he proceeded with his blunt thunder against you; this spirit of profannes, and blood hath here arrived to the height of Dementation and maddnes; and is ane verie angrie dispensation of gods judgement, upon that ungodlie and ungovernable tribe; I pray God, may convince them of their maddnes, and preserve us from their crueltie and violence. I beleeve this lyne may find your Gr[ac]e at the Bath, where I pray God, you may prosper in your health, that you may be preserved for manic happie years for the service of your King, and of the poor church, to ye comfort of
May it Please yo[u]r Gr[ac]e,
Your G[race’]s most humble and
Most faithfull servand,
Your Gr[ac] will see the learning of the curser while he calls S. Ambrose, Bishop of Lyons — I have nothing else to say by this post, that is new.’
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