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Popular Superstitions - The Virtues Of The Lee-stone

( Originally Published 1884 )

That curious piece of antiquity, called the Lee-penny, is a stone of a dark red colour and triangular shape, and its size about half an inch each side. It is set in a piece of silver coin, which, though much defaced, by some letters still remaining is supposed to be a shilling of Edward I., the cross being very plain, as it is on his shillings. It has been, by tradition, in the Lee family since the year 1320 odds ; that is, a little after the death of King Robert Bruce, who having ordered his heart to be carried to the Holy Land, there to be buried, one of the noble family of Douglass was sent with it, and, it is said, got the crowned heart in his arms from that circumstance ; but the person who carried the heart was Simon Locard of Lee, who just about this time borrowed a large sum of money from Sir William de Lendsay, prior of Air, for which he granted a bond of annuity of ten pounds of silver, during the life of the said Sir William de Lendsay, out of his lands of Lee and Cartland. The original bond, dated 1323, and witnessed by the principal nobility of the country, is still remaining among the family papers.

As this was a great sum in those days, it is thought it was borrowed for that expedition ; and, from his being the person who carried the royal heart, he changed his name to Lockheart, as it is sometimes spelled, or Lockhart, and got a heart within a lock for part of his arms, with the motto, Carda serata panda. This Simon Lockhart having taken a Saracen prince, or chief; prisoner, his wife came to ransom him, and, on counting out the money or jewels, this stone fell out of her purse, which she hastily snatched up, which Simon Lockhart observing, insisted to have it, else he would not give up his prisoner. Upon this the lady gave it him, and told him its many virtues, viz., that it cured all diseases in cattle, and the bite of a mad dog both in man and beasts. It is used by dipping the stone in water, which is given to the diseased cattle to drink ; and the person who has been bit, and the wound, or part infected, is washed with the water. There are no words used in the dipping of the stone, nor any money taken by the servants without incurring the owner's displeasure. Many are the cures said to be performed by it, and people come from all parts of Scotland, and even as far up in England as Yorkshire, to get the water in which the stone is dipped, to give their cattle, when ill of the murrain especially, and black-leg. A great many years ago, a complaint was made to the ecclesiastical courts against the Laird of Lee, then Sir James Lockhart, for using witch-craft : a copy of their act is hereto annexed. There is no date; but, both by the orthography, and the complainers being called Goodman of Raplock (a title then given to the smaller Lairds), and also by Sir James being the name of the Laird of Lee, it must at least be above an hundred years ago. It is said, when the plague was last at New-castle, the inhabitants sent for the Lee-penny, and gave a bond for a large sum in trust for the loan; and that they thought it did so much good, that they offered to pay the money, and keep the Lee-penny, but the gentleman would not part with it. A copy of this bond is very well attested to have been among the family papers, but sup-posed to have been spoiled, along with many more valuable ones, about fifty years ago, by rain getting into the charter-room, during a long minority, and no family residing at Lee.

The most remarkable cure performed upon any person, was that of a Lady Baird, of Sauchtonhall, near Edinburgh, who, having been bit by a mad dog, was come the length of a hydrophobia; upon which, having sent to beg the Lee-penny might be sent to her house, she used it for some weeks, drinking and bathing in the water it was dipped in, and was quite recovered. This happened above eighty years ago, but it is very well attested, having been told by the Lady of the then Laird of Lee, and who died within these thirty years. She also told that her husband, Mr. Lockhart, and she, were entertained at Sauchtonhall, by Sir Baird and his lady, for several days, in the most sumptuous manner, on account of the lady's recovery, and in gratitude for the loan of the Lee-penny, so long as it was never allowed to be carried away from the house of Lee.

N.B. It was tried by a lapidary, and found to be a stone; but of what kind he could not tell.

COPY OF AN ACT OF THE SYNOD AND ASSEMBLY. "Apud Glasgow, the 25 Octobr. "Synod. Sess. 2.

"Quhilk dye, amongest the referries of the brethern of the ministrie of Lanerk, it was propondit to the Synode, that Gawen Hammiltonne of Raplocke had preferit an complaint before them against Sir James Lockart of Lie, anent the superstitious vsing of an stene set in selver for the curing of diseased cattell, qlk, the said Gawen affirmit, coud not be lawfully vsed, and that they had differit to give ony decisionne therein, till the advice of the Assemblie might be had concerning the same. The Assemblie having inquirit of the maner of vsing thereof, and particularlie vnderstoode, by examinationne of the said Laird of Lie, and otherwise, that the custome is onlie to cast the stene in sume water, and give the diseasit cattil thereof to drink, and qt the sam is dene wtout vsing onie words, such as charmers and sorcerers vse in their unlawfull practisess; and considering that in nature they are mony thinges seen to work strange effects, grof no humane witt can give a reason, it having pleasit God to give vnto stones and herbes special virtues for the healing of mony infirmities in man and beast advises the bretheren to surcease thir proces, as q'rin they perceive no ground of offence ; and admonishes the said Laird of Lie, in the vsing of the said stone, to tak heed that it be vsit heirafter wt the least scandal that possiblie may bie. Extract out of the books of the Assemblie helden at Glasgow, and subscribed be thair clerk, at thair comand.


" Clerk to the Assemblie at Glasgow."

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