Lee Penny

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Lee Penny

Famous Scottish amulet that belonged to Sir Simon Locard on Lockhart of Lee, ca. 1330. The story of this relic suggested the title of Sir Walter Scott 's novel The Talisman, and in his introduction to the book, Scott related the incident that led to the acquisition of the Lee penny.

After the death of Robert the Bruce, king of Scotland in 1329, his friend Lord James of Douglas set out to take the dead king's heart to the Holy Land, making the pilgrimage that the king was not able to undertake in his lifetime. While making their way through Spain, Douglas and his band of knights battled with the Saracens. Douglas died on the battlefield, but the king's heart in its silver casket was rescued by Sir Simon Locard of Lee, who brought it back to Scotland for burial (Sir Walter Scott, however, believed it was taken on to the Holy Land).

Sir Simon Locard imprisoned a wealthy emir from a battle. His aged mother ransomed him, and in the course of counting out the money, a pebble inserted in a coin fell out of the lady's purse. She was in such a hurry to retrieve it that the Scottish knight realized it must be valuable to her and insisted on this amulet being added to the ransom. The lady reluctantly agreed and also explained to Sir Simon Locard what its virtues were.

Apparently it was a medical talisman believed to drive away fever and stop bleeding. The stone was a dull, heart-shaped pebble of a semitransparent dark red color, set in a piece of silver said to be an Edward IV groat (coin). The Lockhart family tradition credits the Lee penny with the ability to cure all diseases in cattle and the bite of a mad dog. The stone should be dipped in water three times and swirled around, then the water should be given to the man or beast to be cured.

The amulet was used frequently in the past, according to tradition. In 1629 the Lee penny was used to cure sick oxen, but as a result a young woman was burned at the stake for witchcraft. There are records of an accusation of witchcraft against Sir Thomas Lockhart during the Reformation, but the Church Synod at Glasgow merely reproved Sir Thomas and advised him to cease using the penny as a charm.

During the reign of Charles I, the citizens of Newcastle requested the use of the penny to cure a cattle plague. Sir James Lockhart required from the corporation a bond of 6,000 pounds. The penny was used, the plague abated, and the corporation offered to purchase the amulet with the money. The offer was refused, and the Lee penny was returned to Scotland. During the eighteenth century it was housed in a gold casket presented to the head of the family by the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. Many cures are recorded through the middle of the nineteenth century. More recently the penny has passed into the possession of Simon Macdonald Lockhart of Lee, at Dolphinton, Scotland.