Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Inchkeith: The Island of Women

From Vanished Objects:
An English diplomat Thomas Randolph wrote that merry men joked that Inchkeith Island in the Forth, between Edinburgh and Fife, ought to be called the Isle des Femmes, because there were so many women on it. Usually called the Island of Horses, Mary of Guise, queen regent of Scotland preferred the name God’s Isle, and accounts for fortification of the island in 1555 call it both the Isle aux Chevaux and Isle Dieu. The account details women and horses on the island as part of a large workforce building and maintaining a fortress intended to defend the Forth with artillery. So this was less of joke and more of an observation.

The fortifications were devised by Lorenzo Pomarelli, an Italian architect and military engineer who was paid 150 livres tournois for his contribution on 22 October 1555. Pomarelli wrote in 1573 that he had spent six years in Scotland, presumably working for Mary of Guise between 1554 and 1560. The weekly account was made by chief supervisors on the island, Jehan Alain Farques and Jehan Francoys, and signed off by a soldier called Claude Heliot, who was at this time ‘extraordinary comptroller for war’ and later employed in the artillery works at Edinburgh Castle. Claude was in charge of work and workers on the island, (NRS E34/21 (3) f.34r.)

The summary account for the project, the Estat, is addressed to Guise’s household comptrollers, Bartholmew de Villemore and Astier.  The total spend in the 1555 season was 6,453 livres tournois 9 solz, with 5,955 livres on the building work with 333 livres given to John Stewart Prior of Coldingham, a brother of Mary Queen of Scots, perhaps to be spent at Coldingham and St Abbs. Master Black of Leith was compensated for the loss of his boat, sunk in Forth with a load of stone, par fortune de temps. Some of the income came from tax payments for fortifications received in Leith by sir William MacDowall, royal master of works, for the collectors Sir John and Richard Maitland of Lethington – a contribution from Aberdeen was recorded in the town’s records. (Read more.)

No comments: