The tale of a schoolboy

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1700, Jan
A case of a singular character was brought before the Court of Justiciary. In the preceding July, a boy named John Douglas, son of Douglas of Dornock, attending the school of Moffat, was chastised by his teacher, Mr Robert Carmichael, with such extreme severity that he died on the spot. The master is described in the indictment as beating and dragging the boy, and giving him three lashings without intermission, so that when ‘let down’ for the third time, he ‘could only weakly struggle along to his seat, and never spoke more, but breathed out his last, and was carried dying, if riot dead, out of the school.’ Carmichael fled, and kept out of sight for some weeks, but by the providence of God was discovered and seized.’


‘The Lords decerned the said Mr Robert to be taken from the Tolbooth of Edinburgh by the hangman under a sure guard to the middle of the Laudmarket, and there lashed by seven severe stripes; then to be carried down to the Cross, and there severely lashed by six sharp stripes; and then to be carried to the Fountain Well, to be severely lashed by five stripes; and then to be carried back by the hangman to the Tolbooth. Likeas, the Lords banish the said Mr Robert furth of this kingdom, never to return thereto under all highest pains.’


Robert Carmichael was perhaps only unfortunate in some constitutional weakness of his victim. An energetic use of the lash was the rule, not the exception, in the old school—nay, even down to times of which many living persons may well say, ‘quaeque miserrima vidi, et quorum pars magna fui.’ In the High School of Edinburgh about 1790, one of the masters (Nicol) occasionally had twelve dunces to whip at once, ranking them up in a row for the purpose. When all was ready, he would send a polite message to his colleague, Mr Cruikshank, ‘to come and hear his organ.’ Cruikshank having come, Mr Nicol would proceed to administer a rapid cursory flagellation along and up and down the row, producing a variety of notes from the patients, which, if he had been more of a scientific musician, he might have probably called a bravura. Mr Cruikshank was sure to take an early opportunity of inviting Mr Nicol to a similar treat.


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Rogues and vagabonds. Not all Douglases have been goody goodies - read about horse theives, and others.
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The Douglas Heart. A heart features on many Douglas family coats of arms, cests etc, including the one at the top of this page.

DNA for women. The scientists at Oxford Ancestors can trace ancient maternal ancestry by testing mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed down from mother to child and changes little over time. (There may be other suppliers)

DNA Lineage testing by DNA. A research project seeks volunteers to help prove Douglas connections

Research legends and myths.  Many families have cherished myths and stories about their immigration to America or other pivotal events and people. We show you how to determine which family legends are true or false.


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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024