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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter V - Superintendent Willocks—Archbishop Porterfield


MEANWHILE the church of John Knox seems to have found enough to do in arranging its own machinery. The ideals of Presbyterian church government were still in a nebulous state. The small handful of reformed preachers, scattered over the country, evidently required watching. Several of these persons were merely, in the words of Knox himself, "certain zealous men who took upon them to preach," without education or ordination, [Hist. of Reform. p. 251. The qualifications demanded of them were, to judge from the Book of Discipline, primitive enough.] and more than once they proved a source of weakness. On one occasion Knox had to journey to Jedburgh to investigate a scandal of the grossest sort into which one of these lay-ministers had fallen, for which the minister had subsequently to do penance in sackcloth and on the cuttystool at St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh. [McCrie's Life of Knox, pp. 250, 251. The early Assemblies had to deal with many cases of the misbehaviour of the ministers with young women of their congregations.] The Reformer could not appoint bishops as overseers of his new church, for he was not a bishop himself, and of the three Catholic bishops who became Protestant, only one, Alexander Gordon, Bishop of Galloway, had been consecrated. [Stephens' Hist. of Ch. of Scot. i. 125, note. ] In the emergency Knox hit upon the plan of appointing "superintendents" over the various districts. These men—there were five of them—had the disciplinary powers of bishops, [Keith, iii. p. 516-519.] and the literature dealing with the time is full of controversy regarding their authority. In particular it was questioned how Knox, who was not himself a bishop, could appoint bishops. Like the ministers, some of these superintendents, such as the famous John Erskine of Dun, were laymen, and the actions of some of them were also open to question. [The time of the General Assemblies of 1565 was largely taken up with complaints of ministers against superintendents, and vice versa.]

The individual thus appointed Superintendent of the West was John Willock or Willocks, formerly a friar in the town of Ayr. Adopting the Reformed doctrines, he had fled to England to avoid persecution. There he acted as a preacher in St. Catherine's, London, and as chaplain to the Duke of Suffolk. On the accession of Mary Tudor he had fled to Emden in Friesland. By the Countess of Friesland, he was, in 1555 and 1556, sent on missions to the Queen Regent of Scotland, and had taken an active part in the Reformation, [Gibson's Hist. of Glasgow, p. 58; Wodrow Miscellany, vol. i. pp. 261-4; Knox's History.] being Knox's most trusted coadjutor. The two sides evidently held very different views as to his character. Thomas Archibald, Chamberlain to Archbishop Beaton, wrote to his master in Paris—"John Willocks is made bishop of Glasgow, now, in your lordship's absence, and placed in your place of Glasgow"; and he goes on to tell how Willocks had taken possession of the Dean of Glasgow's house, and secured I000 out of the revenues of the archbishopric. [Keith, iii. 490.] And the venerable Father Thomas Innes, in his letter to Glasgow University in 1738, forwarding extracts from the Protocol Register of the Diocese, accounts for the fewness of these records saved by Archbishop Beaton by the statement that "the Friar Willox, with those of his gang," had possessed themselves of the Glasgow buildings. [Spalding Club Miscellany, ii. 368.]

On the other hand, when Knox found it prudent to abandon his flock and flee from Edinburgh when the queen-regent entered the city in 1559, Willocks took his place, and by his prudence and firmness did much to maintain peace. [McCrie's Life of Knox.] The esteem of his brethren in the Reformed Church was shown by the fact that he was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly in 1563 and again in 1565. Within his own district he evidently had some trouble, for the General Assembly of June, 1562, whose principal business was to ordain that "if ministers be disobedient to superintendents they must be subject to correction," remitted "the slander raised upon Mr. Robert Hamilton, minister of Hamilton" to the trial of the superintendent of Glasgow, "to remove him out of the ministry if he thought expedient." [Stephens' History of Ch. of Scot. i. 164.]

Willocks seems to have had no power to touch the temporalities of the bishopric. In 1571, however, a change took place. The Reformed Church had now become more powerful. There were 252 ministers, 157 exhorters, and 508 readers, [Note to Life and Times of Archbishop Hamilton in Episcopal Magazine, 337.] and they began to exercise a greater influence in state affairs. Seeing the superintendents were advanced in years, and others unlikely to take up their duties without greater emolument, the Assembly appointed a commission to attend Parliament and treat with the Regent as to a better settlement. [Spottiswood, V. 258.]

It appears to have been upon this petition that Lennox as Regent proceeded with the new device of appointing actual archbishops for the express purpose of legally alienating the properties of the Church. The public, seeing the object for which these persons were appointed, gave them the name of "Tulchans," after the stuffed image of a calf which it was a common device to bring into a byre to enable the cows to be more easily milked. In the policy which Lennox thus adopted there is reason to believe that personal interest also played a strong part. The Regent seems to have been entirely under the influence of the Earl of Morton, who, according to one writer, had such an ascendancy over him that he "could have made him forfeit his word of honour ten times in a day." [Crawford's Memoirs.] Another authority, referring to the hanging of Archbishop Hamilton, says: "There is some ground to suspect that the Earl of Morton, who had been gasping for the revenues of St. Andrews, and who managed Lennox as he pleased, had been the chief promoter of the primate's hasty fate ; for, immediately on his death, he solicited so strongly for the rich temporalities of that see, that, by threatening to leave the court in case of a refusal, he so overawed Lennox, who could not do without him, that he obtained a gift of them; which through all the various forms of polity that ensued, he took care not to part with." [Skinner, quoted by Stephens in Hist. of Ch. of Scot. i. 221.]

The "gift" thus mentioned was not a direct proceeding, but was effected by appointing Morton's nominee, John Douglas, rector of the University of St. Andrews, to be archbishop of that see. The Kirk, seeing the revenues of the archbishopric thus passing into other hands, protested against the appointment, and the superintendent of Fife inhibited the archbishop elect from voting in parliament in name of the Kirk, under pain of excommunication. Morton, however, rebuffed the protest "with contumelious words," and commanded Douglas to vote under pain of treason.

Having thus feathered his friend's nest, Lennox proceeded to feather his own.

Archbishop Beaton was still alive, and acting as Queen Mary's ambassador in Paris; but three months after Mary's overthrow at Langside the Privy Council, as we have seen, had passed an Act ordaining that, as he had failed to appear and answer "such things as might be laid to his charge," [Privy Council Register, i. p. 638. Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 188.] he should be denounced rebel and put to the horn, and all his movable goods escheated and brought to the king's use. A month later, on 18th September, a decree of forfeiture had been pronounced against him as a favourer of Queen Mary. [Retour of Charles H. to the Darnley portion of the Lennox, printed in Irving's Hist. of Dunbartonshire, pp. 87, 88.] Still, however, as we have seen from the rental book of the diocese, Beaton's steward continued to enter tenants, draw rents, 2nd transact business. This now came to an end. Lennox appointed a new archbishop to the see. The person selected was obviously a creature of his own. John Porterfield was minister of the parish of Kilmaronock, on the south-eastern shore of Loch Lomond. This parish, which then extended from the water of Endrick on the east to the River Leven on the west, was the headquarters of the old Earldom of Lennox, containing that earldom's two chief strongholds, Balloch Castle and Catter, and notwithstanding the "partition" of the earldom a century before, it was still largely in possession of Lennox himself. [Keith, p. 260.] Porterfield's stipend in Kilmaronock was £120 Scots. The purpose of his appointment to the archbishopric appears clearly enough to have been to transfer the possessions of the see to Lennox himself." His appointment must have been one of the last acts of the Regent's life. On 7th September, 1571, sitting as archbishop in the Parliament of Stirling, he subscribed an Act then passed, [Acts of Parliament of Scotland, iii. p. 70.] but already, three days previously the Earl had met his fate.

While the king's party were holding their parliament in Stirling—the assembly in which the infant James VI. remarked, pointing to some damage in the roof, "There is ane hole in this parliament"—Queen Mary's adherents were holding a parliament of their own in Edinburgh. Hearing that the Regent lay with few precautions against surprise, the lords of the Queen's party formed the plan of a sudden raid. A little before sunset on 3rd September, with a force of 60 hagbutters and 340 Border horse, Huntly, Buccleuch, and Lord Claud Hamilton set out from Edinburgh. About sunrise next morning they reached Stirling, and so rapid and unexpected were their movements that before the town was aware they had captured the Regent Lennox himself, with seven other earls and three lords of the king's party. While the Borderers, however, scattered for plunder, the town rose and the Earl of Mar opened fire from his half-built mansion at the head of Broad Street. The tables were turned and the raiders forced to flee. Before they went, however, one of their leaders, Captain Calder, seized the opportunity to shoot the Regent, who died that same night.

Porterfield's only intromission with the affairs of the archbishopric appears to have been his consent, on 10th October, 1571, to the conveyance of the parsonage house of Glasgow, with its garden, sloping down to the Molendinar on the east side of the Bishop's Castle, by the rector or parson, Archibald Douglas, to the redoubtable Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill, the capturer of Dunbarton Castle a few months earlier.[Great Seal Register, iii. p. 540, No. 2068.] The licence for Porterfield's election was only issued on 8th February following, and he seems almost immediately to have retired into private life and his parish on Loch Lomondside again, for at the parliament held at Edinburgh in January, 1572-73, Episcopacy was established in the Scottish Church, [Spottiswood, p. 260; Tytler, iii. chap. xi.; Cunningham, i. 341-346.] and in the September following, James Boyd of Trochrig, minister of Kirkoswald, was made Archbishop of Glasgow.

The circumstances attending this appointment are sufficiently interesting. Robert, fourth Lord Boyd, was the great

man of the family which was afterwards to attain the Earldom of Kilmarnock. He had fought for Queen Mary at Langside, [Great Seal Register, iii. 509, No. 1969.] but on her cause becoming desperate had joined the party of the Regent Lennox, where his natural ability appears to have made him welcome. On 28th August, 1571, his escheat was removed and he was appointed a commissioner to treat with Queen Elizabeth. The death of Lennox and the appointment of Mar as Regent did not interrupt Boyd's career, for on 4th October he became a member of the Privy Council, [Privy Council Register, ii. 83.] and when in turn, on 28th October, 1572, Mar died, and a month later Morton became Regent, it was probably felt more necessary than ever to secure Boyd's adherence. A cheap and easy means of doing this lay at hand. On the day of Morton's election, 24th November, 1572, John Knox had died, and the way was cleared for the wolves to descend on the patrimony of the Church. Six weeks later the ordinance was passed restoring Episcopacy, and forthwith, while Morton's nominee, John Douglas, rector of St. Andrews University, was confirmed in the archbishopric of St. Andrews, the archbishopric of Glasgow was conferred on Lord Boyd's nephew, the minister of Kirkoswald.


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