Mortcloth Payments 1695 - 1835
Since there are no Burial Registers for Forgan Parish, the main documentary information about deaths and burials is that given by the Kirk Session records, principally in the form of ledger entries for the receipt of cash for the hire of the mortcloth. The mortcloth was a velvet funeral pall, bought and maintained by the Kirk Session and hired out for funerals. There were several different qualities of mortcloth, and a child's one.
Mortcloth money was added, along with the church collections, to the Session's funds which were used chiefly for the maintenance of the parochial poor. In the surviving Kirk Session records, from 1695 to 1835, the Session's Accounts are integrated with the Minutes. After that date, separate cash accounts must have been kept. These account books have not been located. The Heritors records have also provided a few minor references after 1845.
From 1696 to 1711, there are a few references to payments by the Session for coffins, gravedigging and help with burials. From 1711 until June 1834, the money received in mortcloth dues is recorded in the accounts. From 1824, receipts cover mortcloths and funerals and sometimes, from 1826, the hire of the new hearse. There is also a rough note (possibly the original) of mortcloth and funeral receipts from August 1833 to May 1835 at the end of the Marriage Register. There are duplicate entries of some payments because the records themselves contain some transcriptions and working notes.
The dates recorded are those of receipt of payment for hiring the cloth, not the date of the burial. (Comparison with headstone dates and other references within the volumes shows death dates to have been anything up to 2 or 3 weeks before the dates of payment.)
I have attempted to list all references to deaths, burials, mortcloths, receipts from the roup of deceased persons' goods, etc. Occasionally, the only indication of a death is the subsequent payment of money to a surviving spouse, or for the maintenance of orphans.
The scale of charges for mortcloth hire was not always adhered to - the poorer inhabitants were sometimes charged less, the rich gave more. 'Best', 'Second', 'Velvet', 'Child' etc. refer to the quality or size of Mortcloth hired.
Married women are usually referred to by their maiden names. Sometimes, Heritors and their families are referred to by their estate names: eg Flass younger; Lady St Fort.
Since these extracts are taken mainly from the Kirk Session's accounts, both receipts and payments are noted. Payments made by the Session are shown in (round brackets). Up to May 1769, the accounts are in £ Scots; thereafter in £ sterling. (The payment for Robert Kid's mortcloth is recorded as 4/6 sterling - equivalent to £2:14:0 Scots.)
The records are incomplete. There are obvious gaps, and, in particular, there are no records at all from March 1741 to March 1767. Errors and omissions occur because:
- the mortcloth dues were accounted for at irregular intervals - sometimes weekly or monthly, sometimes annually or half-yearly
- names are not always given - sometimes only a total amount of cash received is noted
- sometimes, payments were made from the mortcloth receipts by the person receiving the mortcloth money before accounting for it to the Kirk Session
- paupers were given the use of the mortcloth free and such use was not always recorded
- poor record keeping by the session clerk
The entries have been sorted into chronological order. Editorial additions to the transcripts are given in [square brackets].
The very earliest entry is taken from The diary of Mr. John Lamont of Newton. 1649-1671 published by the Maitland Club (Glasgow), 1830, available at the Internet Archive.
- Forgan parish Kirk Session Minutes: 1695-1700 and 1717-1723 (CH2/160/1); 1703-1741 (CH2/160/2); 1767-1852 (CH2/160/3).
The originals are held by the Special Collections Dept. of St. Andrews University Library, with digital copies at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh: Reproduced by permission.
- Forgan parish Marriage Register 1818-1855 (OPR 431/2)
The originals are held by the National Records of Scotland. They can be viewed at the ScotlandsPeople website.
Parish registers are Crown copyright, General Register Office for Scotland. Reproduced with the permission of the Controller of the HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.
- Forgan parish Heritors Minute Book (containing some minutes of the Parochial Board) 1845-1898 (HR388/1)
The originals are held by the National Records of Scotland. Reproduced by permission.
Information about this transcription is on the Methodology page. The data was originally published in my book Forgan Kirkyard Monumental Inscriptions and Mortcloth Records, 1997. This database includes some additions and corrections.
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