A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland
The following is from A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland by Martin Martin:
Courts of Judicatory & Church Discipline
AT the first plantation of these isles, all matters were managed by the sole authority of the heads of tribes, called in the Irish, Thiarna, which was the same with Tyrannus, and now it signifies lord or chief; there being no standard of equity or justice, but what flowed from them. And when their numbers increased, they erected courts called Mode, and in the English, Baron-Courts.
The proprietor has the nomination of the members of this court; he himself is president of it, and in his absence his bailiff: the minister of the parish is always a member of it. There are no attorneys to plead the cause of either party, for both men and women represent their respective causes; and there is always a speedy decision, if the parties have their witnesses present, etc.
There is a peremptory sentence passed in court for ready payment, and if the party against whom judgment is given prove refractory, the other may send the common officer, who has power to distrain, and at the same time to exact a fine of £20 Scots, for the use of the proprietor, and about two marks for himself.
The heads of tribes had their offensive and defensive leagues, called bonds of mandrate, and manrent in the Lowlands; by which each party was obliged to assist one another upon all extraordinary emergencies. And though the differences between those chieftains involved several confederates in a civil war, yet they obliged themselves by the bond mentioned above to continue steadfast in their duty to their sovereign.
When the proprietor gives a farm to his tenant whether for one or more years, it is customary to give the tenant a stick of wood, and some straw in his hand: this is immediately returned by the tenant again to this master, and then both parties are as much obliged to perform their respective conditions as if they had signed a lease or any other deed.
EVERY parish in the Western Isles has a church-judicature, called the consistory, or kirk-session, where the minister presides, and a competent number of laymen, called elders, meet with him. They take cognisance of scandals, censure faulty persons, and with that strictness, as to give an oath to those who are suspected of adultery or fornication; for which they are to be proceeded against according to the custom of the country. They meet after divine service; the chief heritor of the parish is present, to concur with them and enforce their Acts by his authority, which is irresistible within the bounds of his jurisdiction.
A Form of Prayer Used By Many of the Islanders At Sea after the Sails Are Hoisted
[This form is contained in the Irish liturgy composed by Mr. John Kerswell, afterwards Bishop of Argyll; printed in the year 1566, and dedicated to the Earl of Argyll. I have set down the original for the satisfaction of such readers as understand it.]
The Manner of Blessing the Ship When They Put To Sea