NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: gravestone of Thomas Peter

taken 5 years ago, near to Paisley, Renfrewshire, Great Britain

Paisley Abbey: gravestone of Thomas Peter
Paisley Abbey: gravestone of Thomas Peter
The stone is located in front of the Marjorie Bruce tomb, part of whose base can be seen in the present picture. For context, see NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: tomb of Marjory Bruce, showing this gravestone beside the tomb. For further context, see NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: the choir, where the stone can again be picked out on account of being darker than the surrounding pavement.

As noted in the last-linked item, the choir, before its restoration in the early twentieth century, had long been an unroofed ruin, and it was used as a burial ground. The gravestones, though occupying more or less the same places, were set in a grassy space that was open to the sky, and which was walled off from the rest of the abbey.

I photographed as many of the stones in the choir as I could, though only for my own interest; for the purposes of this site, a single example should suffice. Those who would like a listing of the other stones in the choir should see the works cited at the end of the item on NS4863 : Paisley Abbey: the choir.

As examples go, the memorial shown in the present picture is a fairly good one. Like several other old stones in the choir, its inscription spirals towards the centre:

"Heir lyes ane honest man callit Thomas Piter, Bailȝie of Paslay, quha deceissit ■e 10 of Nov anno 1609 & Ionet Urie his spous & Iohne Piter thair sone & Margaret Craig his spous quha deceisset ■e 30 of Octob. Anno 1617."

Robert Brown, in the first volume of his "History of Paisley" (1886), tells us that Thomas Peter was a Bailie of Paisley in 1605, and that he was one of the first to be buried in the Abbey churchyard. Brown adds that one of his descendants went to Glasgow, where he became a successful merchant, and was eventually elected Dean of Guild, and that he presented the sum of 3000 Scots Merks to the magistrates of Paisley, a donation that came to be known as "Peter's Charity", and whose annual income "was to be applied to the maintenance of decayed burgesses" (what that means is explained below).

The descendant who went to Glasgow was also called Thomas Peter (or Peters, as his name is sometimes spelled), and he was Dean of Guild (of the Merchants House) in Glasgow from 1708 to 1709.

James Ewing's "The Merchants House of Glasgow" (1866) describes "Thomas Peter, Merchant and late Dean of Guild", as making a donation of "three thousand merks to the Merchants House, the interest of which is to be paid, quarterly, to an honest, old, decayed, and poor man of the Merchants rank, being a Burgess and Guild Brother, and Inhabitant of the Burgh. The name of Peter to be preferred, and the presentation, by the Merchants House, after his own decease.' This Mortification registered 10th November, 1721".

Although there is the possibility that Thomas Peter made a separate donation of exactly the same sum, and on exactly the same terms, to Paisley, this seems highly improbable; in all likelihood, Brown was referring to Peter's Mortification, but mistakenly connected it with Paisley rather than with Glasgow (although Brown's books are useful, the reader needs to be wary of errors; see my comments at NS4864 : Memorial to the teacher James Peddie and NS4864 : Oakshaw Trinity Church).
Paisley Abbey
The abbey's website ľ LinkExternal link ľ provides a summary of its history, and other information.

It is thought that an early religious community was established at Paisley by St Mirin. In the twelfth century, Walter FitzAlan, High Steward of Scotland, had a priory established on his lands in Paisley, to be founded by monks of the Cluniac order; one of Walter's charters confirms certain lands "to God and Saint Mary, and the church of St James, and St Mirin, and St Myldburge de Passelet [Paisley], and to the priors and monks serving God there according to the order of Clugny".

In its design, the original priory was modelled on the Abbey of CÚrise in France. The religious establishment at Paisley was elevated to the status of an abbey in 1245, after lengthy negotiations.

The abbey suffered grievous damage during the Wars of Independence: according to an annal entry (here translated from the original Latin), "in this year, 1307, the English burnt the Monastery of Paisley"; nothing remained but blackened walls. Some repair work was started in 1317, but little progress was made for several decades: however, by 1389-90, we have notice of glass being purchased for the abbey's windows, showing that repairs were then well under way.

A great deal of rebuilding was carried out during the time of Abbot Thomas Tervas (mid-fifteenth century), and, a little later, by Abbot George Shaw. The buildings appear to have been damaged by fire towards the end of the same century. It also seems that, at some point in the abbey's history, its central tower collapsed, damaging adjacent structures.

At the time of the Reformation (1560), the damage done to the abbey was limited, perhaps partly because the building was already in poor condition.

Subsequent developments will not be described here in detail, but it is worth noting several restorations of the abbey that were carried out in recent centuries: (1) 1788-89, under the supervision of Dr Robert Boog, minister of the First Charge at the Abbey (Boog was also responsible for piecing together what is now called the Tomb of Marjorie Bruce); (2) 1859-62, under ministers Andrew Wilson and J Cameron Lees; (3) 1898-1907, under the ministers Thomas Gentles and J B Dalgety; and (4) 1912-28 (but interrupted in 1918 by the War), under A M Maclean and W Fulton. See Howell, cited below, for details.

In the 1990s, the Great Drain below the abbey was rediscovered (see Malden, cited below); it has subsequently yielded many interesting artefacts, some of which are now displayed in the Sacristy Museum, within the abbey.

Selected references:

▪ "Historical Description of the Abbey and Town of Paisley", Charles Mackie (1835).
▪ "The Abbey of Paisley", J Cameron Lees (1878).
▪ "Paisley Abbey: Its History, Architecture, & Art", Rev A R Howell (1929).
▪ "The Monastery and Abbey of Paisley" (various contributors), edited by John Malden (2000).
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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Date Taken
Monday, 15 July, 2013   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 2 October, 2013
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Religious sites  Burial ground, Crematorium 
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OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4857 6395 [10m precision]
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