In September, 1650, Cromwell defeated the Scottish
Presbyterian or Royalist army, under General Leslie, at Dunbar. He soon
after entered Edinburgh, and from thence went "peaceably with his whole
army and cannon, by way of Kilsyth to Glasgow." While on his journey he
was informed by a messenger from the republicans of the city, that it was
intended by the Presbyterians to destroy his army as it entered the city
by the Stablegreen port. A vault beneath the archbishop’s castle had been
filled with gunpowder, so the story went, which it was intended to fire as
the troops marched past. Some have regarded this as merely a practical
joke, but Cromwell took it seriously and changed his route, by turning to
the right. Entering the city by the Coweaddens and the Cowloan, now known
as Queen Street, he made his way to the Saltmarket, where he took up his
lodging in what was known as Silvercraigs House, situated at the northern
corner of Steel Street and nearly opposite the Bridgegate.
Arriving in Glasgow on Friday afternoon, 24th October,
1650, he found that the magistrates, ministers, and leading inhabitants
had fled; but this was unnecessary, as that morning Cromwell, "at a
rendezvous, gave a special charge to all the regiments of the army to
carry themselves civilly and do no wrong to any." It is also stated "that
the town of Glasgow, though not so big nor so rich, yet to all seems a
much sweeter and more delightful place than Edinburgh, and would make a
gallant headquarters were the Carlisle forces come up."
On his arrival, Cromwell sent for Patrick Gillespie,
minister of the Outer High Kirk. This divine was well entertained, and
when leaving, his august host treated him to such a long and unctuous
prayer that Gillespie was constrained next day to make known his
impression, or conviction, that Cromwell was one of the elect.
On the Sunday following his entry into the city,
Cromwell and his officers made a procession to the Cathedral to hear
sermon. Zachary Boyd, minister of the Barony parish, was the preacher for
the day, and as he was a man of great boldness, he did not hesitate to
rail on them all to their very faces.
It has been found from a manuscript note upon the
preacher’s own Bible, that "the fantastic old gentleman," as Carlyle
styles him, chose for his text Daniel, chapter viii., drawing a parallel
between the rough he-goat and the Protector. So enraged was Thurlow, the
secretary to Cromwell, that he asked leave—
"To pistol the old scoundrel."
"Tuts," replied the Protector, "you are a greater fool
than himself. We’ll pay him back in his own coin
He aceordingly invited his reverend foe to dinner,
which was of the scantiest and plainest kind, held pious converse with him
during the evening, and wound up with a three hours’ prayer, which lasted
till 8 o’clock in the morning. Boyd left rather pleased than otherwise,
although he does not seem to have become a partisan of the Protector, as
Gillespie appears to have been.
Cromwell also visited the University, and being
informed by Gillespie that King Charles I. had promised to give £200 for
the Library and Fabric of the College of Glasgow, but had never paid it,
he, after some delay, not only caused the £200 to be paid, but also, on
his own part, made a grant of £500 for the same purpose. Cromwell and his
army left Glasgow next day, and the same authority previously quoted
states: "I do not hear of the least injury that the soldiers offered to
any during our abode there. And they (the citizens) say, that if ever we
come that way again, they will persuade their friends to abide at home."
Baillie, who succeeded Gillespie as Principal of the
University, and who was evidently not very favourably disposed towards his
predecessor, although he was one of those who fled from the city before
the Protector’s visit, has the justice to state:-
"Cromwell’s courtesy indeed was great, for he took such
measures with the soldiers that they did less displeasure at Glasgow than
if they bad been at London," and this, in spite of the hostility of
Zachary Boyd and the other Presbyterian ministers who denounced him and
his army as "sectaries and blasphemers."