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The Borthwick Family Bible That Went to Canada

This Bible originally was in the possession of the Borthwick family of Dumfrieshire, Scotland, who were Covenanters. This Bible has been handed down from generation to generation beginning in the early 1600’s.

The Covenanters were those people in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638. They signed this Covenant to confirm their opposition to the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. They especially rejected the belief of King Charles I (The Divine Right of the monarch) that the spiritual head of the Scottish Church was the king, and that he should attempt to force a common book of liturgy and prayer upon the Church of Scotland.

The Covenanters embraced the principles of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. They considered themselves disciples mainly of John Knox(c. 1514-1574), the leader of the Reformation in Scotland. Due to the division in the church open warfare broke out. Covenanters became subject to persecution- a great deal of suffering, torture, imprisonment, transportation and executions would ensue until William of Orange became ruler of England in 1688. This persecution included the burning of Bibles found in their possession.

At some time in the 1600’s, soldiers entered the home of the Borthwick family of Dumfrieshire. One of the soldiers threw the family Bible into the fireplace. The soldiers briefly harassed the family, but soon left. Family members quickly rescued the Bible from the slow burning peat fire. As a result of the fire, the sheepskin front cover and the Book of Genesis are missing. Other scorch marks are plainly visible. To prevent this from happening again, the family found a way to hide the Bible in the thatched roof of their cottage.

A record of births, deaths and marriages listed in the Bible begins in 1650. The writing is still legible.

This Bible was brought to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland in 1907 by Thomas Waters, who settled in Saskatoon, Manitoba. Waters possessed the Bible by marriage into the Borthwick family. The last known location of this Bible(to our knowledge) was Dauphin, Manitoba.

References: typed note, page from First Presbyterian Church, Bradenton, Florida, newsletter volume 17, issue 9, about 1985. This was provided by Barb’s grandfather, William Borthwick, who was also emigrating from Scotland to Canada at this same time in the early 1900’s.

Also see the web site for the Scottish Covenanters Memorial Association.