A Romantic Adventure of Two Old Monifieth Communion Cups

This is the romantic story of two old Communion Cups belonging to St. Rules Parish Church Monifieth.

It historically begins in the year 1645. In that year according to the records,“Jean Auchterlonie, Lady Grange, did dedicat and mortifie, for the use of the Paroch of Monifuth, two large silver cups for the Sacrament of the Lord`s Supper, a tin bason for the same use, two tin stoups for the serving at the Lord`s Table, and cloths for the Communion Tables, and all are in the hands of James Durhame, Laird of Ardownie, to whom, the said James Durhame affirms, they had ben entrusted for safe keeping by his father William Durhame of Grange, and his mother, Jean Auchterlonie, Lady Grange, the mortifiers thereof”.

The tin bason and stoups were probably pewter. All trace of them has been lost; unless it may be that a pewter basin, that was recovered some years ago from the trustee of a former minister and had for generations been used as a Baptismal font, is the one referred to.

About the silver cups we have more authentic knowledge, because both of them are now in possession of the Church to which they were originally donated. One of them bears the date 1638; the other 1642.

The reason why they were not handed directly to the Kirk Session cannot be satisfatorily determined. Probably the delay was occasioned by personal matters affecting the Grange household; more probably the unsettled political and religious conditions of the period were responsible.

Th proprietorsof the Grange estate at Monifieth had always been closely identified with national affairs. The estate itself is a reminder of the close connection that existed long before this date with the Abbey of Arbroath. It was originally the Home Farm of the Monastery, where the tiend-shieves or tithes were collected and stored. Early in the fourteenth century this connection with Arbroath Abbey was severed; and in the year 1322 the Steward of the Abbey was succeeded in the occupancy of the Grange by Sir William Durham, who received from King Robert the Bruce, the lands of Grange as a reward for faithful services.

For nearly four hundred years the grange remained in the possession of the Durham family. In the sixteenth century Alexander Durham married a daughter of John Erskine of Dun, one of John Knox`s Superintendents of the Kirk after the Reformation; and their son, William Durham, became a prominent figure in the critical affairs of the Church and State during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. He was an active member of the Reforming Party, and was a member of the historic Assembly of 1565 that abolished the Mass.

It was the same Lady Grange who had attempted to frre the Marquis of Montrose, on 15th May 1650, following his capture at Assynt, and on his last journey to Edinburgh under escort by the Covenanting army, who presented the cups.

The first bears the inscription:


The inscription on the second cup is almost identical save for the spelling of one or two words. It reads:


The 1638 Cup is a plain shallow bowl, like a champagne glass, supported by a high baluster stem which rests on a circular foot chased on the border with flowers. Engraved on the outside of the bowl is a shield of arms, surmounted by a cherub`s head; a fesse charged with three mullets impaling a lion rampant within a bordure of eleven buckles. The arms are those of Durham impaling those of Auchterlonie. Above the arms are two labels containing the names of the donors and ,around the arms, the wording of the inscription quoted.

Three marks are stamped on the outside lip of the bowl; first, the initials IF, in a shaped shield-the mark of the maker, John Fraser; second, a castle standing for Edinburgh; and third, IS in monogram, indicating the mark of the Deacon of Silversmiths, John Scott. It is surmised that the maker had taken his models the bowl of a sixteenth or seventeenth century tazza and the tall baluster stem of an English wine-cup of jacobean or Carolean times. Communion cups of this kind are peculiar to Scotland;similar examples are to be found at Dalry, Ayrshire(1617), at Fintray, Aberdeenshire(1633), and Beith, Ayrshire(1631).

The 1642 Cup, it is presumed, was copied from the 1638 Cup. It is slightly larger, and instead of the plain flat flange at the bottom stem, it has an overhanging flange cut like leaves. The inscription( with slight orthographic variations as already indicated) and the shield of arms are similar. This cup is stamped with the mark of Dundee(the two handled vase with three lilies, which still forms part of the City coat of arms) and the initials RG–indicating that the maker was Robert Gairdyne, a well known silversmith of that town. His mark is to be found on the cover of the so called Queen Mary Cup at Perth; on a Communion Cup at Brechin (1648) and two Communion cups at Forgan, (1652)

The height of the 1638 Cup is seven and a half inches, diameter of bowl sixteen and eleven sixteenth inches. The height of the 1642 Cup is seven and eleven sixteenth inches diameter of bowl six and six thirteenth inches. In the Session records, 14th April 1679, the weight of the Cup is given as follows:”The one weighed seventeen ounces and two driops, the other sixteen ounces and one drop”. But both Cups have decreased in weight since then and now weigh approximately — 1638 Cup, fifteen and one half ounces; 1642 Cup, fourteen ounces Troy.

Acording to Dr Young it would appear that the Kirk Session had some difficulty with the Laird of Ardownie into whose custody, as we saw, the Cups were transferred in 1645, during the troublous times of the Civil War; and the matter was taken by the minister of the Diocesan Synod of St. Andrews, under the presidency of Archbishop Sharp. An extract from the minutes reads as follows.

St. Andrews, April 9th, 1673 See.2nd. Ante merid.

Mr John Barclay, minister of Monifieth, representd to the Lord Archbishop and Synod that Jean Auchterlonie, Lady Grange did mortifie and dedicate for use of the parish two large silver cups, two tin basons and two large tin stoups, and linen cloths for the comely administration of the Sacrament of the Supper, all which are now in the hands of James Durhame of Ardownie, and there is no writ to clear and instruct that they belong to the saidChurch in the minister`s hands, or in any other for him as the minister knows. The Lord Archbishop and Synod taking this into their consideration, did ordain Mr John Barclay, minister of Monifieth, to require James Durhame of Ardownie to give security to him and his successors at Monifieth for the forthcoming of these aforementioned gifts mortified so piously for the foresaid use in all time coming. The said Mr John Barclay is to give an account of his diligence herein to the Lord Archbishop at the next Synod.

This recommendation does not seem to have had much effect on the Laird of Ardownie, for during the period from 1st August 1673, to 14th August 1675, there are no less than four compearences before the Synod regarding the same business. In October 1675, circumstances having changed in the Parish, the matter is resumed as follows:

St Andrews, 6th October, 1675, Sess. 2, antemerid.

The minister of Monifieth being dead, the Lord Archbishop and Synod appoint that Mr William Rate, minister of Dundee, and Mr William Edward speak to the Laird of ARDOWNIE FOR SECURING THOSE THINGS MORTIFIED BY Lady Grange to the Kirk of Monifieth, and that they may be forthcoming for the end appointed by that lady.

These two deputies obeyed the injunctions of the Lord Archbishop and Synod, but with no more success than Mr Barclay. It was not until April 1677, when Mr John Dempster, Mr Barclay`s successor in Monifieth, began to interest himself in the matter that the Laird of Ardownie seems to have been more amenable. Mr Dempster was a man of strong character, as the Kirk Session records prove,and authority was given him by the Synod “to speak to the Laird of Ardownie, who had hitherto turned a deaf ear to the orders of the Synod, that he should be pursued before the civil judge”. To strenghten Mr Dempster`s hands “the Moderator of Dundee is appointed to join with the minister of Monifieth and to deal further with the Laird of Ardownie; and , if he shall refuse to give satisfaction, the minister is ordered to pursue him legally before the Commissary of St Andrews”.

After various negotiations during the year 1678, the following minute occurs in the Diocesan records: St Andrews, 2nd October, 1678. The minister of Monifieth produced a Bond of Security granted by the Laird of Ardownie for the things doted to the Kirk of Monifieth by the umquhile Lady Grange, with which the Lord Archbishop and Synod were satisfied; only this was to be added thereto that the Laird should not make any private use of these things; which being done, the minister is appointed to register the same in the Commissary books of St. Andrews.

On 5th February 1679, the Presbytery of Dundee “inquired by their Moderator whether the minister of Monifieth had obeyed the act of the Synod. He answered that he would satisfy the Presbytery and obey the act of the Synod”

That was in February; and on 9th April we find Mr Dempster declaring to the Presbytery that “the two silver cups were this day to be weighed at the minister`s sight, and he promised to give a more ample and full account against the next day”.

This promised account is not recorded in the Prebytery minutes; and there seems to have been some delay about the adjustment of the Bond of Security. On 23rd July 1679, we read “The minister of Monifieth was appointed to bring forward in the Presbytery the security granted by the Laird of Ardownie for the things belonging to the Church of Monifieth”. But it was not until 4th April, 1680, that this appointment was obeyed. On that date we read.”The minister of Monifieth reported to the Presbytery that in obedience to theSynod`s order he had registered the securities given by the Laird of Ardownie for the Communion Cups belonging to the Church of Monifieth bearing weight……………”.

The weight of the cups is left blank, and the Ardownie, particular volume of the Commissary books, in which the information might b registered has not been able to be traced. It is not at Register House in Edinburgh. It may be in Cupar. But that does not matter now, as the weight of the cups was found (as shown on previous page) in a Kirk Session minute dated 14th April , 1679.

There is , however, a remarkable story attaching to this particular volume of the kirk Session minutes. In the New Statistical Account (1843) Mr Samuel Miller mentions the loss of this volume, remarking at the same time that he had read, somewhere, that it was extant in1769. This volume contained minutes from 1678-1707; and what its adventures were in the hundred years between 1769 and 1870, when it turned up in America, it would be interesting to learn. By some chance, it had come into the possession of a gentleman in the Unitied States and he recognising it`s interest for the Parish of Monifieth, took some trouble to return it to Dr Young. Unfortunately, the name of the thoughtful benefactor has not been recorded.

This volume is in a good state of preservation. The writing is in the neat and careful style of the seventeenth century, and is from the pen of Mr Dempster, by whose efforts the laird of Ardownie was finally presuaded to restore the Cups. Dempster was the last of the “Episcopals” 1676-1708. And continued to hold office, even after the Revolution Settlement, in defiance of the Dundee Presbytery. He refused to acknowledge William as King, and regularly each year on the anniversry of Charles 11`s Restoration preached a sermon of thanksgiving. He was buried in the old Pre Reformation Church which was demolished in 1812 and replaced by the present building. The marble monument which marked his grave is still,preserved on the interior south wall of the present church.

The Kirk Session minute referring to the cups runs as follows”Church of Monifieth, 14th April, 1679: present the minister and elders. The silver cups mortified byJean Auchterlonie, sometimed Lady Grange, in obedience to an act of Synod were weighed. The one weighed seventeen ounces and two drops, the other sixteen ounces and one drop. Given to William Forrest six shillings for carrying them to Dundee.

That concludes the first part of the story of the two cups and one becomes conscious of a mild excitement as one tries to keep track of them through the musty pages of the Synod, Presbytery and Session Records. We are relieved when, at last,they restored to their rightful owners; and can hardly believe it possible that, after these early adventures, they should ever again be allowed to escape from the custody of the Kirk Session.

The impossible happened; and we learn with a shock of surprise that, early in the nineteenth century, they were lost once more to the Kirk Session. How it came about we can only conjecture, because there is no record of their alienation in the Kirk Session records. Where authentic information fails, local tradition takes up the tale; and the story goes that the Hon. William Maule afterwards Lord Panmure, anxious for some reason to possess the cups, approached the minister, Rev. William Johnston (1787-1829), with a proposal to exchange them for four new cups. The answer of Mr Johnston to this request has, somehow or another, been preserved verbatim, and reveals a fine courage which rather endears the old minister to us to-day. “To give you these cups,” he is reported to have said, “would be like allowing the vessels of the Lord`s House to grace Belshazzar`s feast”.

His assistant and successor, however, Rev. John Bisset, who was presented to the charge in 1816 by Mr Maule, seems to have had less scruples about the matter; and at some time during his incumbency the wish of Mr Maule was gratified: The ancient cups were handed over to him in exchange for four modern ones.

Why Mr Maule coveted them we cannot explain; but, according to rumour, he desired them for a noble friend who was interested in Church plate. This noble friend, we are further assured, was none other than the Duke of Sussex, sixth son of George 111. How the story originated, it is impossible to discover: But, as I shall be able to show immediately, it is entirely without foundation. The catalogue of the sale of the effects of the Duke of Sussex was carefully scrutinised for any trace of the missing cups, but without result. Nor were the cups included in the plate of the Earl of Dalhousie (Lord Panmure`s successor) when it was disposed of by Messrs Christie & Manson.

Wht then had become of the cups?. Dr Young did not know when he wrote his letter of 1886. But in the course of his enquiries, he discovered that one of the cups was in the possession of Rev.William Jackson, D.D., Rector of Exeter College, Oxford. The other cup, he subsequently learned, had passed into the hands of Messrs Lambert, Jewellers and Silvermiths, London, by whom it had been sold; but they refused to divulge the name of the purchaser:

This information, however, came to the knowledge of Dr Young, not long afterwards, in an unexpected way: Some ladies from Oxford who had relations in Monifieth happened to be visiting an exhibition in Grafton Galleries, Bond Street, when their attention was arrested by an item entitled “An Old Scottish Communion Cup.” They had seen the 1642 cup belonging to Dr Jackson, and immediately recognised this as the missing companion cup of 1638. Referring to the catalogue they found it had been lent by the Right Honourable the Earl of Rosebery.

At that time Lord Rosebery was Prime Minister; and in view of the fact his attention was occupied by affairs of great imortance, Dr Young “resolved to wait and take a favourable opportunity for bringing under his Lordship`s notice a matter so comparatively insignificant as the restoration of the long lost Communion Cup.”

When this favourable opportunity occured Dr Young duly approached his Lordship on the subject, but I can find no trace of the correspondence. But I gather a later correspondence which I had with Dr Jackson, that he and Lord Rosebery had entered into some kind of mutual pact that, at their deaths, the cups should be handed over to the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland. There the matter rests. Dr Young died in 1899, nothing more was done until 1921.

Meantime, the questionswas canvassed: How and when had the cups passed from the possession of the Panmure family into those hands they had quite legitimately come? Here again, in the absence of authentic information, rumour became busy. One story was a dishonest butler at Panmure House had sold the cups to a dealer in old silver in London from whom Lord Rosebery had accquired one. Another still clung to the Duke of Sussex legend and asserted that he had presented them to a lady friend who had ultimately disposed of them. But the true story, written down and authenticated by Mrs jackson, was delivered to me by Dr Jackson as follows:

Memorandum from Mrs jackson, 18 Bardwell Road, Oxford, as to the Monifieth Communion Cup of the year 1642:

This cup was given to me by my old friend, Miss Jane Hunter. I had known her for many years at St leonards-on-Sea where I lived with my father. Later in my life, I removed to London. In 1887 I married the Rev. Jackson , Rector of Exeter College, Oxford. Before this date Miss Hunter had moved to London and resided in Oxford Terrace, Hyde Park.

When I married Dr Jackson, Miss Hunter, who was very attached to me expressed her intention of giving me as a wedding present two silver cups which had come to her from her mother.I told her that I could not accept so valuable a gift as both Cups, but I would gratefully accept one of them in remembrence of her: and I advised her to sell the other for the benefit of the charities which she supported. She acted on my advice. When Dr Jackson saw the Cup that Miss Hunter had given me, he advised me to ask Miss Hunter to let me be the purchaser of the second Cup. But this Cup had already been sold through Miss Hunter`s lawyer. I did not know who was the purchaser.

A friend of ours in Oxford, who at the time was an active member of the Oxford Archealogical Society, to whom I showed our Cup, wrote to her friends in Scotland about it. Hence no doubt came the statement that this Cup was” found in the possession of the Rector of Exeter College”.

The fact that the other Cup was in the possession of the Earl of Rosebery did not become known till the time of the Stuart exhibition, to which Lord Rosebery had lent it.

In November, 1904, Lord Rosebery spent a night in the Rector`s house. He asked me to show him my Cup. Lord Rosebery also mentioned to me , had then no intention of letting the Cup he had purchased go out of his possession.

Miss Hunter told me that Lord Panmure had given the two Cups to her mother who then lived in Scotland. He gave new cups in exchange. There can be no doubt about the accuracy of these statements. As far as I know, Miss Hunter had no relations living in 1887. I never heard her mention any relative of hers accept her mother.

I trust that what I have said will prove that there is no doubt as to the manner in which the Cups came into the possession of Miss Hunter; nor about the reasons which she gave one to me and sold the other. This document disposes finally and rather prosaically all of the romantic legends about Royal Dukes and dishonest butlers. My only regret is that Mrs Jackson was not able to give us more information about Mrs Hunter who received the Cups from Lord Panmure. Was she the wife of Alexander Gibson Hunter, the Laird of Blackness, Dundee? We know from some published letters of Mr Hunter that he was a bosom friend of Lord Panmure. We know, also, that he became a partner with Archibald Constable, the Edinburgh Publisher in 1804; and that it was some unguarded statement of his thar offended the suspectibilities of Sir Walter Scott, and led to a rupture of the relationships between Scott and Constable. (A revealing article on Hunter appeared in “Blackwood`s magazine” for February 1927, under the title “Sir Walter Scot`s Bette Noire”)

It seems almost certain that Mrs Jackson`s friend was a daughter of the laird of Blackness. But it would have been satisfactory if the supposition could have been confirmed; because relationship between the two Forfarshire families would at once elucidate and explain the reason for Lord Panmure`s gift of the Cups to Mrs Hunter.

I have now only to tell how the Cups came back to Monifieth for, it is to be hoped, the last time.

I wrote to Lord Rosebery and Dr Jackson on the subject in 1921: In the course of his reply, Dr Jackson gives another version of the acquisition of the Cups by Lord Panmure, which seems to me both credible and creditable. “The pastor at Monifieth”, he write, “in the early part of the century, finding the Cups ill suited for use in the administration of the Holy Communion, asked Lord panmure, who was Patron of the living, to present the Parish with new Cups. “

Lord Panmure assented on the condition that the Old Cups should be given to him. He showed the Cups to Mrs Hunter, who greatly admired them, he presented them to her”. He concludes the letter by saying”My wife in her will has bequeathed her Cup to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. She is not likely to change her will in this respect. This Cup will therefore some day be open to the inspection of any parishoner of Monifieth, or any-one else who wishes to see so interesting a specimen of Scottish Communion Plate.”

Lord Rosebery did not reply. But in March 1922 the result of a reference to alienated Church property which appeared in the “Glasgow Herald”, I again wrote to his Lordship, The Rev. Thomas Burns, DD., in the course of an article on “Church Antiquities”, had expressed the view that “vessels belong to the parishioners to whom they have been donated; and it is in the power of a parishioner, even though he is not a member, of the Parish Church, to take action for their recovery if divorced from the custody of the Church”. (Glasgow Herald, 25th March, 1922.) I merely drew Lord Rosebery`s attention to this paragraph; and in reply, received the following brief note; “Lord Rosebery presents his compliments to Rev. Gordon Quig, and he begs to acknowledge the receipt of his letter. If the purport of that letter meant to threaten Lord Rosebery with legal proceedings, founded on an article in “Glasgow Herald”, he has nothing to say but will await the result of such action.

I at once replied, repudiating the idea that I had any thought or intention of taking any action in the matter, or using any threats; and the correspondence closed. Some eight months later, quite unexpectedly, and unaccountably; I received a registered parcel accompanied by the following note from his Lordship:

Dalmeny House, Nov. 16, 1922.

Reverend Sir, I send you herewith the chalice which was once in Monifieth. I do not deny thatbit is with a pang , as it has been a cherished possession of mine for many years. But I shall be happy in the pleasure that I hope it will give to your congregation. Yours sincerely R

Naturally, I was overjoyed; and did what I could by letters to “The Times”. “The Scotsman” etc., to acknowledge publicly Lord Rosebery`s generous action.

I also immediately wrote to Dr Jackson about the possibility of accquiring the companion Cup. In reply he wrote:

The action of the Earl of Rosebery was caused by my wife and myself to consider our position with regard to the Cup… I think that either you or your predecessor suggested that the Parish might make an offer to puchase our Cup. If an offer of this kind were put before us, I should advise my wife to consider it.

This, from my point of view, was eminently satisfactory. As a matter of fact, I had already offered to purchase the Cup, but the suggestion had been rejected. Now that correspondence was resumed with definite end in view, we were able before long to reach a provisional agreement as to the price of (seventy five pounds) and on the 6th December, 1922, I was in a position to announce acceptance by the Kirk Session and to remit the cheque.

The recovery of the second Cup created much jubilation in the congregation; and to enable as many of the members as possible to have a share in the restoration, the Kirk Session inaugurated a fund for contributions of a limited amount. In a few weeks money was fully subscribed, and we all thought the business concluded.

But there was still one more surprising developement in store which helpls round off the narrative in the best traditional style of an old romance or fairy tale.

On 12th December, I received from a Mrs MacDonald of London, explaining that she was the widow of Mr Arthur MacDonald, a grandson of the Lord Panmure, who had alienated the Cups. She had read about Lord Rosebery`s gift, and was sure that if her husband had been alive, he would have wished to restore the other Cup to the Church. “From today`s Sotsman”, she wrote “I see that your Kirk Session have already bought the second Cup from Dr Jackson; and, if you and they will kindly allow me to do so I will gladly send you a cheque for the amount paid, what ever it is, and restore the Cup to the Church in remembrence of my dear husband”.

This touching and magnanimous gesture from a representative of the Panmure family greatly impressed the congregation; and though the money was already subscribed and paid, it was unanimously agree to meet Mrs MacDonald`s wish, and to apply the congreational contributions to the purchase of a new Communion Table for the accommodation of the sacred vessels.

And so ended, in the most fitting fashion imaginable a long but intriguing story that seems to enhance the preciousness of what were already, by reason of their age and beauty two very precious memorials of the days of old.

Compiled by Rev. Gordon Quig, M.A., D.D., F.S.A. Scot.

4 responses to “A Romantic Adventure of Two Old Monifieth Communion Cups

  1. it’s very helpful for me searching on this site!

  2. What a fascinating story and a tremendous triumph of tenacity and research.
    I am full of admiration for your ability to bring this to the attention of the people of Monifieth and to the wider world.
    Absolutely brilliant and makes my family research really quite mundane by comparison.
    I look forward to visiting Monifieth next year as we again travel to the North Isles and will visit your Society.
    There are two questions which arise and that is “Where are the cups now?”. Is there any opportunity to see them?
    I would arrange my holidays around the possibility of seeing them if it was at all possible.

    Thanks again and best regards………..Jim Bell in Hinckley Leicestershire

  3. Heather Landry

    The Reverend Gordon Quig was my first cousin, twice removed on my father’s side. It was very cool to read this.
    I would like to add that the letters after his name, D.D., should actually be B.D. Bachelor of Divinity.
    Love this website!
    Heather (Reid) Landry,
    Madoc, Ontario, Canada

    • Heather Landry

      Is there any information that he may have a Doctorate of Divinity? I do know he had the Bachelor of Divinity.? Thanks!

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