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Looking Back: Bad Coins in the Collection

From 1923

Bad Coins in the Collection

By the Rev RH Calder, Glenlivit

Many jibes and jeers have been levelled at the humble bawbee and the sonsy penny of the church collection plate or ladle, and many derisive allusions have been made to “Alexander the coppersmith” and “the copper Scotsman”; but during many generations these copper coins played a great part in, were indeed the mainstay of, Scottish church finance.

Worse things, more contemptible things, than coins of little value (the widow’s mite were good mites) were often found in the church coin collection plate or ladle. These were bad coins, base coins, spurious coins, coins of no value, or all but no value. In the church records of the eighteenth century and later frequent mention is made of bad coins in the collections, and of the efforts of Kirk-Sessions to turn the wretched metal to some practical account.

The Church rarely made any definite complaint on the subject; for the Church is patient and forbearing and ‘meekly suffers many a wrong.’ Occasionally an exasperated minister spoke out.

A Mr Wilkie who had charge of a chapel-of-ease some miles south of Aberdeen, and who depended almost entirely for his living on the collections taken in his church, is recorded to have uttered  his protest in these terms: “When ye gang to Aberdeen to sell yer butter and yer eggs and yer cheese and get a bawbee that ye’re dootfu’ aboot, I’m tell’t that ye’ll gie’t a toss up atween yer finger and yer thoom an’ say – 'It’s nae muckle worth, but it’ll dae weel eneuch for Wilkie.'"

(Extract from a longer article)

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