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Issue 53 - The ties that bind

Scotland Magazine Issue 53
October 2010


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The ties that bind

Annie Harrower-Gray looks into the family history of the legendary Cash family.

There is no denying that Rosanne Cash has inherited her singing and song writing talents from her father, the legendary John Cash. But it is another man though that haunts her genes, urging her to revisit the place of his birth.

Back in Scotland to perform at ‘The Big Tent’ festival of Stewardship on the Falkland Estate, Rosanne tells the story of her ancestor, William Cash from Strathemiglo in Fife, who emigrated to America in 1630.

The people of lowland Scotland in the early 17th century were divided into social classes determined by their economic position in the farming community. At the top of the social ladder were the tenant farmers who rented directly from the landowner. The tenant farmers believed themselves the aristocracy of the community and many claimed the empty title of ‘gentleman’ – at a cost. Under the terms of an early ‘poll tax’, tenants with delusions of grandeur paid higher taxes.

If the tenants thought themselves gentlemen, their wives certainly did not lead the life of a lady. Agriculture relied heavily on female labour and it was the job of the farmer’s wife to help with the harvest, cut the hay, bring in the peats, tend the limekiln, cart and carry the stacks for threshing and all this before mucking out the byre.

Immediately below the tenants in this social structure, were the sub-tenants who would in turn give ‘cotters’ a piece of land to work. Some areas limited the number of cotters according to the size of the farm.

These restrictions saw an increase in the number of unmarried, landless males who would have to move to another town to find jobs or emigrate overseas.

As a mariner, William Cash ferried many of the displaced and landless across the Atlantic before he decided to settle in Massachusetts. He later sent for his nephew, Rosanne’s forefather.

The number of Scots emigrating rose sharply in years of famine as in the double season of dearth in 1623 and 1624. Few saw the real reason for these shortages – the country relied solely on growing oats.

During these famines the people blamed crop failure on witchcraft, which in turn was partly responsible for epidemics of witch – hunting. One epidemic in 1628-1630 saw the conviction and deaths of around a thousand Scots. The church fuelled the fires for these judicial murders with their dreadful warnings against falling prey to the devil’s desires and the hellfire that awaited.

By the 1690s, the Scottish authorities were more enlightened and repulsed by the barbaric burnings. Not so the magistrates of colonial Massachusetts where the persecution of witches was reaching epic proportions at the Salem Witch trials. In 1692 more than 150 people were arrested and imprisoned with at least five dying in custody. A descendent of Rosanne’s first Scots/American ancestor found himself serving on one of the juries that convicted all 26 accused.

The Cash name was first recorded in a document dated 1294 after King Malcolm IV granted the ‘Lands of Cash’ to Earl Duncan of Fife in 1160. The name still lingers in the streets of Falkland and in surrounding villages, East Cash, Wester Cash and Cashmills. It is here Ninian Stuart, former steward of the Falkland estate discovered Mrs. Anne Hutton another of William Cash’s descendents and a surprise visitor awaiting Rosanne on her arrival at Falkland estate.

When Ninian introduces the two, the pleasure at discovering each other is so profound it warms the hearts of everyone present. The similarity in the women’s facial expressions and features is uncanny.

Ninian’s genes too carry a long and dramatic family history. Walter Fitzalan or Walter the Steward fought with Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn but his main duties involved supervising the king’s domestic affairs and organising the food served at the monarch’s table. Walter married Bruce’s daughter Marjorie.

It was as a result of this earlier union that Robert the High Steward succeeded to the throne in 1371 as Robert II. David II died as Bruce had done, without a legitimate male heir and his nephew in accordance an Act of 1318, was crowned first Stewart king of Scotland. Mary later changed the name to the more French sounding spelling of Stuart.

Falkland however, did not receive its royal status until the reign of James II. James endowed the village of Falkland with the title of a Royal Burgh and ordered the enclosure of the Wood and Park of Falkland as a recreation area for deer hunting at his newly appointed royal seat. Deer hunting was not James’ only love for the king possessed a great passion for heavy artillery. His marriage to Mary of Gueldres in 1449, was for him was an ideal match. Mary was daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, wealthiest ruler in Europe and expert weapon maker. The lucky bride received the heavily fortified Ravenscraig Castle at Kirkcaldy as a token of his affection. James did not live long enough to fully appreciate his creation – he died aged 30 at the siege of Roxburgh Castle, blown up by one of his own cannons.

Today, stewardship involves much more than just supplying the tables of the elite.

Situated within the Lomond Hills Regional Park, the estate connects the past, present and future by adapting old ideas of stewardship to the needs of a modern fast changing world.

This connection, balancing communities with the land and its wood, water, soil stone and wildlife will provide sustainable resources for future generations.

‘The Big Tent’ festival with its excellent music and cultural programme is a meeting place for ordinary people to share and celebrate ideas and actions that promote good stewardship.

The stands at the three-day event represent the bringing together of past and present.

The beef and pork sold straight from wooden spits over slow burning fires and the famous Arbroath Smokies, prepared on the site are all sourced from local, organic or artisan producers.

Exhibitions show how wood, wicker, and food can be prepared by displaying talents from the past adapted to suit modern day needs. Even the goods on sale are a development of crafts all but forgotten in a throw away society.

As the sun prepares to set over the Lomonds, Roseanne takes the stage for the finale and the audience rise to applaud the homecoming of one of its own. Performing with her husband, guitarist John Leventhal, Rosanne sings both her own songs and some of her father’s favourites.

Rosanne’s final number is based on the traditional Scottish ballad, telling the tale of the mariner William Cash who in the past had to leave his homeland for the promise of a better future.

She has captivated the hearts of everyone present, people who know that by interweaving strands of history, community and environment the Stewardship at Falkland is today, cultivating a brighter outlook for Scotland’s future.