3 March 2010

Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo

During my very happy six years in Devon, I discovered gradually quite a lot about an earlier, late fifteenth century, Rector, Patrick Haliburton. It was surprising how details slotted into place. He turned out to be a Scot. Why a Scot in Devon? Well, because he was presented to the living by a Scottish noble, the Earl of Douglas. How did Douglas come to do that? Because the Black Douglases, having tested their strength against King James II of Scots, lost out; and the Earl fled south to England. The English government, anxious to foment trouble north of the Border, made much of him and gave him an heiress for wife, the daughter of the Duke of Exeter. By right of whom Haliburton was presented to the living of Lifton.

And - gracious - Haliburton was a hitherto unknown Archdeacon of Totnes. How did I discover that? By looking, in the library of All Souls' College in this University, at a book he had owned, which had, inked onto the cover, his style and dignity. And towards the end of his life, he went to Jerusalem on pigrimage. How do we know that? Because an inventory of the ornaments of Exeter Cathedral lists a sudary [humeral veil] which he had brought back with him; and the Chapter records reveal a significant gap in his residence a couple of years before he died. And his family were minor nobility from Southern Scotland; he had their coat of arms put into the church windows. Not they it is there now; but a cavalier called Richard Symonds, who was with King Charles in 1644 when King and army stayed at Lifton, recorded it. Not that Haliburton was a senior member of his family. Because he had his own version of the arms carved onto a choir stall (not that it is there now; it languishes in a dark corner of Launceston museum - no, Joshua, not the Launceston in Tasmania). And, to the family arms, the Rector added, for difference, a number of additional charges taken from the arms of Douglas - indicating either a feudal alliance or a family relationship.

And, also carved onto the choir stall, I read a highly abbreviated verse from the psalms: Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo.

Why those words? I reveal all next time.


Antonio said...

Father, everytime I read your blog, I have the impression that you are the "incarnation" of Anglican Patrimony... ;)

Rubricarius said...

Did Archdeacon Haliburton by any chance reside at a house (now)called 'The Priory' in Totnes?

One room has a magnicent plaster ceiling with, as its centre piece, King Charles' profile surrounded by a Badge of the Order of St. George, all in relief work.

Joshua said...


Requiescat in pace.