Robert Junkins' Story part 1
- Written by Ken Junkins
William Jonking and Elspet Maull
Lutheran ideas from Germany and the Low Countries began to infiltrate the Angus and Mearns area during the 1530s through North Sea trading links. Efforts to reform the old Roman Catholic Church led to a politico-religious clash between the church authorities and the lairds of Angus and the Mearns during the 1540s and 1550s. The Protestant lords led a revolt against French and papal domination during 1559-1560. The mass and the authority of the Pope in Scotland were abolished by the Reformation Parliament in 1560. The civil unrest following the introduction of a new Scottish Prayer Book in 1637 led to the abolition of Episcopacy in 1638. The religious wars that followed ended with the Cromwellian occupation of Scotland from 1651 to 1660. The Restoration of Charles II saw the re-establishment of Episcopacy in the Church of Scotland in 1661. Episcopacy was disestablished in July 1689 as the form of church government of the Church of Scotlandand was replaced by Presbyterianism.
Sometime prior to 1621, William Jonking and Elspet Maull attended a meeting of the Session of the Brechin Cathedral and indicated their intention to marry. They were expected to be able to repeat the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed and the Ten Commandments. On the three Sundays thereafter their names were proclaimed in church. Then, it was the duty of the Session Clerk, for a fee of twelve shillings, to enter their names in the "Session Book." It also was the Session Clerk's duty to keep record of marriages actually solemnized. Once the contract was made, William and Elspet needed to hold a wedding within forty days and in order to show good faith they had to find two witnesses who would deposit the sum of five pounds each with the Session.
All weddings had to be solemnized in the church and on fixed days, Tuesdays or Thursdays, between ten o'clock and two o'clock in the afternoon. If the wedding was arranged for any other day it would cost an additional twenty shillings to the Session. At times when there were several weddings at the church on the same day, there could be quite a disturbance. There was a superstition that luck attended the bride who first went out the church door, and the scramble of, "hurling her to the door," could be far from edifying, but if they did not stay until the Blessing was finished the civil magistrate was empowered to go to the house where the wedding dinner was being held and apprehend the bridegroom and bride and imprison them.
We have yet found no specific entry in the church records for the marriage of William and Elspet. However, they would not have been able to Christen their children were they not in good standing with the church.
On Monday, December 24, 1621, William Jonking and his wife Elspet took their new baby to the parish church in Brechin to have him baptized. The Reverend Alexander Bisset, minister of the Brechin Cathedral, Angus County, Scotland, performed the service. James Watt, Clerk to the Session, recorded the event in the first volume of the Brechin Cathedral Parochial Register, where he had been recording such events since his appointment as Clerk of Session in 1615. He wrote the following:
"december 24 1621
Wm Jonking Spous to elspit Maull had ane man bairne baptesit named robert witness robert kynndie and robert dempster."
Three years later, James Watt added this to the Parochial Register:
"25 febr 1624
William Jonking in carretston Spous to elspet maull had ane maid bairne baptesit called agnes, witness James dempster Walter Corbat."
The Register is now in safe keeping at the New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland.1
English parish registers as a general rule record baptisms rather than births. Although birth dates were entered during a brief period during the Commonwealth and, in certain northern dioceses in the later eighteenth-century, these were the exceptions rather the rule. In the sixteenth-century, the Anglican Church ordered parents to baptize soon after birth. For example, in the Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552, it was written that ‘The pastors and curates shall oft admonish the people that they defer not the Baptisme of Infants any longer than the Sunday, or other Holy day next after the child be borne, unless upon a great and reasonable cause declared to the Curate.’ Similarly, in the early seventeenth-century, William Gouge wrote that ‘it is not meet for Christians to defer the baptizing of their children beyond eight days.’
"carretston" or Careston is about four miles west of Brechin in Angus County, Scotland. It did not have its own parish church until about 1714.2 Before that time, the people of Careston went to the Brechin Cathedral to hear the preaching on Sundays and Tuesdays, brought their newborn to be baptized, and went there to be married. In 1851, Careston had a population of 218.
Careston is where Robert Junkins and his sister, Agnes, were born and as far as we know, spent the first years of their lives.
Early Years and School
Robert Jonking spent his first 29 years in Brechin. There is no record of either he or his sister marrying there. Because Robert signed his will with an "X", many have assumed he was illiterate but it is quite possible that he was, in fact, educated.
The grammar school of Brechin in the early 1600s offered both elementary and advanced instruction for boys. Instruction in Latin, both language and literature, was the major part, but instruction in religion also occupied an important part. The laws and constitution of Scotland required that all boys be brought up and instruction in the fear of God and good manners. In the 1560's the Scottish Parliament pronounced that it would not be good for either their bodies or their souls if God's word was not rooted in them.
The school day was inordinately long. Six o'clock in the morning to six in the evening with a two-hour break. At Brechin, the school year was divided into four quarters beginning on February 2 and divided at May 1, August 1, and November 1. All pupils had to pay seven to 13 shillings per quarter, depending on whether they lived in the town or outside the town. The school fees were regulated by the Town Council, but were paid directly to the schoolmaster. The sons of poor parents were not kept from enrolling at Brechin Grammar School, if their ability or ambition inspired them to seek learning. The Church directed that "care be taken for putting all the children of the parish who are capable of instruction to schools, and that such amongst them as are poor have their quarter payments paid by the Session out of the penalties." The boys of the Grammar School were obliged to attend both services in the Church on Sundays and to sit with the schoolmaster in the pews allotted to their use. As part of their training, the boys of the Grammar School were called upon to repeat a portion of the Catechism in the Church every Sunday.