The first newspaper is generally considered to be the Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien produced in Strasbourg in 1605. It was another 55 years before the appearance of the first Scottish newspaper, the Mercurius Caledonius, although it only ran for 12 issues before closing in 1661. Newspaper production really took off in Scotland in the 18th century with the first appearance of the Edinburgh Courant in February 1705. Newspapers have continued in Scotland since then.
The oldest daily newspaper in Scotland still in print is the Press and Journal, originally published as a weekly newspaper under the name of the Aberdeen Journal in 1748. The name is perhaps slightly misleading, as it always covered national and international news, albeit with a strong local element. While newspapers may sometimes be useful for genealogy, they are often much more useful for family history.
In the Aberdeen Journal of 21 July 1800 is the following short, but horrific, story:
We hear from Buchan, that on Sunday the 29th ult. Margaret Keith, in Auchtydonald, was barbarously murdered. She was seen that morning with a man to whom she was supposed with child, who decoyed her to the river Ugie, and threw her in. she was scrambling to the other side, when the villain went across by a small bridge a little higher up, and ere she could reach the brink, he knocked her on the head by repeated blows of a bludgeon, when she sunk and perished. The murderer immediately absconded.
[Aberdeen Journal 21 July 1800, p. 4]
O’er scenes of woe, where common griefs prevail
Where pity melts at sorrow’s mournful tale
Death’s solemn call in peaceful hope obey’d
No law transfress’d, no innocence betray’d
Oft has the muse pour’d forth her doleful lay
And wept the just effects of Heaven’s dread sway.
And shall no muse be found to wield the rod
And vindicate the injured laws of God?
No friend of truth to scan the murd’rous mind
And rouse the virtuous feelings of manking?
O say, thou impious wretch! What fiend posses’d?
What dire delusion steel’d thy hard’n’d breast?
Hadst thou no fear of God, no fell remorse
No dread of angry Heaven’s avenging curse?
No thought of that blest day – the first of seven
Ordain’d to life the souls of men to heaven?
Could nought awake thee, nought make thee relent
Or lay aside thy murderous intent?
No – nought avail’d, thy hardy soul enchain’d
Fix’d in its purpose to the last remain’d.
That sacred day, when mortals find release
And leave their toils to seek th’ Almighty’s peace
On that blest day the impious deed was done;
No covert sought, but brav’d the mid-day sun;
When all the neighbours to God’s house repair
And pour out all their souls in fervent prayer;
In pious adoration bend the knee
And leave the world to Satan and to thee.
Methinks I see thee bold, yet still afraid
Through all thy mien, thy purposes betray’d:
Now hurrying rapid on, now moving slow
As thy just fears impel thy feet to go;
On ev’ry hand thy guilt creates a spy
And dread detection trembles in each eye;
Till all the threat’ning ddangers having pass’d
And all thy guilty fears dismiss’d at last
Th’ infernal worker gives the needful aid
And crowns th’ intent his own devices laid.
But see the guileless object of thy hate
The hapless victim of a dreadful fate!
See her advance in homely, trustie guise
Thoughtless of aught thy malice might devise;
Perhaps deluded by some tale of love
Perhaps some proffer’d marriage vow to prove;
Mean was the conquest o’er such poor defence;
Unguarded, easy, heedless, see her come
With careless step, to meet her certain doom.
Perhaps no time allow’d, no respite given
No power to use the trembling lungs beneath
See her resisting, struggling hard for breath
And striving oft to shun the double death;
Till faint and languid in th’ unequal strife
She courts thy strangling grasp, scarce feeling life
And from that fatal brink where late she stood
Is thrown resistless sinking in the flood.
Yet she revives, and panting seeks the shore
And rears her head, thy mercy to implore;
Mercy, a boon thy ruthless soul deny’d.
Again, she plunges in th’ o’erwhelming tide.
Thy ready bludgeon ply’d with brutal force
In deepest gulph to sink the hated corse.
But say, what first impell’d thee? What the train
That brough thee under this relentless chain?
Where was thy manhood, where thy better sense
What the temptation to this foul offence?
Thy feelings though couldst not at once forego
And be the thoughtless worker of such woe.
No – thou hadst motives, motives worth such fruit
Motives, of all our ills the baneful root;
False pride, false shame, a sordid love of self
Fear of abridging thy well hoarded self
These were thy guides, these urg’d thee to conceal
By this black deed, what time would soon reveal;
These steel’d thy breast, and in the fatal hour
Mark’d thee a proper tool for hell’s dark power;
Crush’d all thy tender feelings, left thee blind
To every nobler impulse of the mind;
To all th’ inhuman guilt, the monstrous shame
The horrid action would in end proclaim;
A woman murder’d in deliberate mood
Thy savage hands imbru’d in human blood!
No provocation given, no passion try’d
But ineffective, merk, the victim died!
A mother too! A widow! Once the ward
Of manly feeling, virtuous regard;
A widow, reft of her protector’s arm
To shield her breast from ev’ry dire alarm;
A mother torn from all her wedded joy
Two little daughters and a smiling boy;
Torn from her house, her home by guileful art
Of unprepared for death to feel the smart;
Sent to her last account in trembling dread
With all her imperfections on her head.
Here, let us pause, and drop a silent tear
O’er this poor widow’s sad untimely bier
And hope, that mercy she from God will gain
Which, from relentless man, she fought in vain.
Her infants, may th’ Almighty shield from ill
And bend their tender hearts to do his will;
Preserve them in his ways till life be o’er
Then take them to himself to die no more.
And thou, ill-fated man! Whose impious deed
Has made each heart on Ugie’s banks to bleed;
If doom’d a wanderer o’er the world to roam
And ne’er in peace to hail thy native home
Thy greatest, only curse, O! May it be
In blackest dye thy heinous guilt to see;
The pangs of deep remorse still mayst thou know
And let thy conscience be thy greatest foe;
That, if no earthly doom thy crimes await
Thou may’st in wringing sorrow expiate;
With contrite heart thy Savior’s wrath remove
And flee the vengeful judgment from above.
And let the tale to youth this rule convey
To shun th’ approach of sin’s imperious sway.
From flight beginnings, mighty crimes arise
And little faults indulg’d, inure to vice;
The lesser sins, the greater always claim
To ease the anguish, and to hide the shame.
This awful truth the horrid tale declares
And youthful minds for wisdom’s paths prepares
Shewing in sin the progress of disgrace
And of forbidden roads the rapid downward pace.
[Aberdeen Journal 28 July 1800 p. 2]
A Reward Offered
Whereas, upon Sunday the 29th day of June last, Margaret Keith, in Auchtydonald, was barbarously assaulted and drowned in the Water of Ugie, where her body was afterwards found – and whereas, there is the strongest reason to suspect, from some investigation already made, that this most atrocious deed was committed by JAMES CARLE, in Auchtydonald, who has absconded and fled from justice; these are offering a REWARD of TEN GUINEAS, to be paid by Chares Keith, in Pitcow of Kininmonth, to any person who will give such information to William Burnett, advocate in Aberdeen, procurator fiscal for the county, as may enable him to cause apprehend and incarcerate the said James Carle in the tolbooth of Aberdeen – or to any person whatever, who will procure the said James Carle to be confined within any jail in Scotland, upon intimation thereof being given to the said William Burnett.
The said JAMES CARLE is by trade a weaver, aged 30 years or thereby, about 5 feet 8 inches high, stout made, has duskish hair, grey eyes, a sour look, and a swelling on one side of his neck. He left the part of the country where he resided, upon the 3d day of July last, and is said to have passed through the town of Aberdeen. He usually wore, when dressed, a dark green coat and a hat.
August 2, 1800.
[Aberdeen Journal 4 August 1800 p. 1]
On Wednesday last, James Carle, who was lately advertised on suspicion of the murder of Margaret Keith, Auchtydonald, was brought into prison here.
[Aberdeen Journal 1 September 1800 p. 4]
On Saturday morning, the Circuit Court of Justiciary was opened here by Lords Craig and Armadale, with the trial of James Carle, accused of the murder of Margaret Keith in Achtydonald. The trial lasted till near 7 in the evening, when the jury inclosed, and are to return their verdict this morning at ten o’clock.
[Aberdeen Journal 22 September 1800 p. 4]
On Monday Morning, the Circuit Court received the verdict of the jury, on James Carl, unanimously finding the libel not proven, on which he was dismissed from the bar.
[Aberdeen Journal 29 September 1800 p. 4]
It having been suggested, that a small fund should be established for the future support of the THREE ORPHAN CHILDREN of the late Margaret Keith, in Auchtydonald, who was recently found murdered in the Water of Ugie – the smallest sum, for this purpose, will be thankfully received at Mr Ewen’s, Castlestreet.
[Aberdeen Journal 29 September 1800 p. 4]
On a Sunday morning, towards the end of June, another barbarous murder, equalling in atrocity that of Elspet Imlach, was committed at Auchtydonald, in Banffshire. Margaret Keith, a widow, living there with her children, had been courted by a man called James Carle, a weaver, to whom, at the time, she was supposed to be with child. Her body was found in the river Ugie. She had been decoyed out of her house on that Sunday morning, and had walked with Carle to the banks of the river, when he seized her, and threw her into the water. The poor creature contrived to scramble to the other bank, when her inhuman murderer seeing her likely to escape, ran up the side of the water, and having crossed it by a bridge, came again on his victim, and, as she was struggling in the water, gave her several blows on the head till she sunk and perished. Carle absconded, but in July following, he was committed to jail in Aberdeen on suspicion of the murder, and was tried at the September Circuit. Mr Gordon of Craig was counsel for the prisoner. We understand that Carle was not identified completely to the satisfaction of the Jury, who brought in a verdict of Not Proven. The evidence was in substance, that, on the Sunday morning, the woman was enticed out of her house by Carle; this fact was proved by the evidence of her children. Her body was afterwards found in the Ugie. A lad, who was keeping sheep on a hill, saw a man, whom he could not identify at the distance, struggling to keep something down in the water, but he did not pay much attention to this, as he thought that it was a person drowning a dog. The verdict of the Jury was unanimous, but, we believe, that it did not give satisfaction to the public at the time.
[Black Kalendar of Aberdeen, [by James Bruce]. Aberdeen, 1845. p. 182-183]
Marriage – At Fintray the 21st cur. Ann Ferguson, after a courtship of ten days, presented herself before the Altar of Hymen, and gave her hand to Robert Porter. The age of this venerable and happy pair amounts to about 150 years. So large was the company who honoured them with their presence, that it was judged expedient for the clergyman to perform the ceremony in the Grand Temple of Nature. That the scene of festivity might not be too soon interrupted by Sunday, the marriage was solemnized on Monday afternoon. In the evening there was an elegant ball, attended by many Ladies of the first rank in that corner of the country. From one family were present no fewer than 30 persons. An assembly so numerous, so chearful, and so elegant, has not been remembered at Fintray for 50 years past.
[Aberdeen Journal, 28 July 1800 p. 4]