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.

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