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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter IX - Parsons and Ministers—Archibald Douglas—David Wemyss


IT has already been mentioned that, although the ritual of the Roman Church was made illegal at the Reformation, the clergy of that Church were allowed to retain their benefices for life, subject to deduction of one-third for the Crown and the support of the Protestant ministers. Under this arrangement Henry Sinclair, Dean of Glasgow and Bishop of Ross, was in the enjoyment of the fruits of the parsonage of Glasgow in 1561. [Glasgow Protocols, iii. 643.] Following him, Archibald Lauder, the "persoun" or Parson of Glasgow, continued to enjoy the revenues of the benefice till 1568. [Cleland's Annals, i. 124.] His only recorded action in connection with the affairs of the city was one for which, as a clergyman of the Roman Church, he can hardly be blamed. He appears to have refused to furnish bread and wine for the celebration of communion by the Protestant congregation. In this matter he found himself in the same dilemma which would have assailed John Knox if Queen Mary had asked him to furnish the elements for her Mass at Holyrood. The provost, bailies, and community of Glasgow, however, carried their complaint before the Privy Council, and on 5th October, 1566, Lauder was ordered to comply with the demand. [Privy Council Register, i. 422.]

The next Parson of Glasgow was one of the greatest blackguards of his time. Archibald Douglas was a grandson of John, second Earl of Morton, and a near relative of that sinister personage, the Regent Earl. He was Parson of Douglas in 1565, when he was made an Extraordinary Lord of Session. To avoid the consequences of his implication in the murder of Rizzio he fled to France, but by the intervention of the French king was allowed to return, and helped to secure the pardon of the other conspirators. Almost immediately, however, he engaged in the plot for the murder of Darnley, and it was at his elder brother's seat of Whittingehame that Bothwell, Lethington, and he first proposed to Morton to join the conspiracy. [Tytler, iii. ch. vii.] He was present in person at the murder itself, and on the ground was found a shoe he had dropped as he fled. [Ibid. iv. ch. ii.] It throws a curious light on the character of the Regent Moray that in 1568 he appointed this man an Ordinary Lord of Session, and also Parson of Glasgow. The kirk refused to admit him, but the Privy Council sustained his title. [Privy Council Register, ii. 79, 80.] A significant account is on record of his behaviour when examined as to his fitness for the latter position. After casting over the leaves of the Psalm book in an uncertain fashion, he "desyrit sum minister to mak the prayer for him," with the naive observation, "I am not used to pray." [Bannatyne's Journal, pp. 311-13.] His attempt at the construction of a homily was equally inept and ridiculous. For sending money to the queen's party in Edinburgh Castle he was arrested and imprisoned at Stirling, [Ibid. 334-5.] but escaped with a mock trial. Ten years later, when James Stewart, captain of the Royal Guard, as already narrated, secured the downfall of Morton by accusing him before the Privy Council of the murder of Darnley, he drove home his accusation with the taunt, "As to the Earl's pretended zeal against the guilty, let me ask him, where has he placed Archibald Douglas, his cousin? That most infamous of men, who was an actor in the tragedy, is now a senator, promoted to the highest seat of justice, and suffered to pollute that tribunal before which he ought to have been arraigned as the murderer of his prince." As a result, while Morton was instantly seized, Hume of Manderstone, with a party of horse, rode furiously all night to apprehend Douglas in his castle of Morham, only to find that he had escaped, a few hours earlier, across the English Border, his friend the Laird of Lang-Niddry having ridden two horses to death to give him warning in time. [Caiderwood MS., fol. ii 16, quoted by Tytler, iv. ch. ii.] His brother Whittingehame was the "deep dissembler and fearful wretch" whose "faithless and traitorous dealing" in revealing secrets brought Morton to the scaffold. [Randolph's "Negociations" in Tytler's Proofs and Illustrations, vol. iv. No. 7.] In England Archibald Douglas ingratiated himself into the confidence of Queen Mary and the French Court, who trusted him in their confidential communications. [TytIer, iv. ch. iii.] After the Raid of Ruthven he was base enough to write to Elizabeth's agent, Randolph, that Captain Stewart, now Earl of Arran, had offered, in order to save his own life, to accuse his friend, the Duke of Lennox, of high treason. [TytIer, iv. Proofs and Illustrations, x.] But while he was exultingly preparing to return to Scotland he was seized by order of Queen Elizabeth, had his house and papers ransacked, and was committed to the keeping of Henry Killigrew, who in a letter to `'Valsingham styled him "The old Fox." [Tytler, iv. ch. iii.] Then, to secure his own freedom the precious Parson of Glasgow proceeded to betray all he knew of the secrets of Queen Mary, and to plot against her with a success which ultimately led to her destruction. [Ibid. from Letter in State-paper Office, addressed to Walsingham, June, 1582-3.] He was the chief organiser in England of the plot of Queen Elizabeth and of the treacherous Master of Gray by which in November, 1585, the banished lords returned, besieged Stirling Castle, and seized the king and government. [MS. Letters, Master of Gray to Douglas, August 14, and to Walsingharn, Nov. 6, 1585, quoted by Tytler, iv. ch. iv] As a reward for this and for betraying the secrets of Queen Mary, he was set free by Elizabeth and sent with a letter to King James, who received him at a private interview, and after a mock trial and acquittal restored him to his rank and estates and took him into the highest confidence. [Tytler, ibid.] This friendship of the king Douglas proceeded to exploit in order to bring about the ruin and death of Queen Mary. [Robertson's Hist. of Scotland, Appendix Nos. xlix and 1; Lodge's Letters, vol. ii. p. 295.] James appointed him his ambassador to the English court, and in this position he played fast and loose with the interests entrusted to him. [Tytler, iv. ch. v.]

Tytler sums up his character in a few words. He "united the manners of a polished courtier to the knowledge of a scholar and a statesman." But, while "externally all was polish and amity, truly and at heart the man was a sanguinary, fierce, crafty, and unscrupulous villain."  [Tytler, iv. ch. iv.]

Naturally Glasgow itself derived little benefit from the ministrations of Archibald Douglas. In 1571, as already mentioned, he sold the manse of the parsonage to Captain Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill. [Supra, p. 33; Great Seal Register, iii. p. 540.] On 1st May, 1573, he feued to David Rollok of Kinclayde and his spouse 13 acres of land, comprising the Parson's Croft, near the Stable-Green, the Parson's Haugh near Stobcross, and some ground near the Broomielaw. [Great Seal Register, iv. No. 2954.] And on 1st November, 1576, he renewed for 19 years the tack granted by Queen Mary in 1565 to William Baillie, Lord Provan, of the teind sheaves of the lands of Provan at the old rental of £88 18s. Scots. [Great Seal Register, v. No. 232; Act. Pail. iii. p. 242.] On the application of David Wemyss, the acting minister of the city in 1572, Douglas was ordered to pay him and his successors a stipend of £22 Scots yearly. [Privy Council Register, ii. 114, 115.] On 1st June, 1586, after his return from England, he leased the teinds of the parsonage to Walter Stewart, the prior of Blantyre, for a yearly payment of 300 merks (£16 13s. 4d.) to himself, and 800 merks (£44 8s. 10d.) to the two ministers of Glasgow. On 13th March, 1593, he was deposed for non-residence and neglect of duty, but retained the emoluments till 4th July, 1597, [Fasti Ecclesiez, iii. p. 3.] and on 8th November of that year his demission was intimated to the presbytery.

It need only be added that this strange Parson of Glasgow, whose career is worthy of more attention than has hitherto been accorded it, was married to Lady Jane Hepburn, widow of John, Master of Caithness.

Archibald Douglas, it will be seen, was totally unfit to perform any part of the spiritual duties of his office as Parson. These were attended to by a member of the Reformed Church. David Wemyss was appointed minister of Glasgow in or about the year 1562. The population of the city at that time has been estimated at 4500, and of this for a time Wemyss was in sole charge. The support of the ministry in the city was provided for by Queen Mary's charter under the Great Seal of 16th March, 1566-7, in which she conveyed to the provost and city of Glasgow the possessions of the chaplainries, altarages, and prebends, and of the Black and Gray Friars of Glasgow for the support of the ministers, churches, and hospitality of the city. [Charters and Documents, part ii. p. 131, No. 59.] As the existing Roman clergy were not to be deprived of their benefices it is unlikely that this charter brought any great immediate revenue to the civic authorities. Accordingly, two months later the Privy Council ordained that the magistrates of Glasgow should pay the minister resident in the burgh the sum of £80 Scots (£6 13s. 4d.), for which they were to tax all the inhabitants according to their ability.6 Again, on 5th June, 1568, three weeks after the battle of Langside, a precept under the Privy Seal authorized the magistrates to uplift the thirds of the revenues of the prebends, altarages, etc., and apply these to the support of the ministry. In 1569, when Sir John Stewart of Minto, then in charge of the castle of Glasgow, found it necessary to make use of the third of the revenues of the bishopric for the maintenance of the stronghold, he did so with the consent of Wemyss. [Privy Council Reg. i. 508-9.] In 1571, however, the minister found it necessary to bring the state of his affairs before the Commissioners of the kirk. Stating that he had served as minister for ten years, "in some trouble and without certainty of his stipend," he asked that it should be determined whether he should be paid out of the fruits of the parsonage collected by Archibald Douglas, or from some other source. It was then ordained that Douglas should pay him and his successors £200 (£16 13s. 4d. stg.) of yearly stipend in name of the third of the parsonage benefice. [Charters and Documents, i. pt. ii. p. 137.]

At the same time a convention of the clergy at Leith considered an abuse that had crept in, of appointing unordained individuals to the higher dignities of the church, by virtue of which they enjoyed a seat in parliament. With consent of the Privy Council it was then declared that this proceeding must cease, and that meanwhile, in matters spiritual, including the election of the archbishop, only such holders of the offices as were ordained ministers should act. Meanwhile four ministers were named to act as chief officers of the chapter, and to succeed to these offices at the death of the existing holders. Of these four ministers Wemyss was appointed to act as chancellor. [Priv. Coun. Reg. ii. 168; Calderwood, iii. 168, 219; Spottiswoode, ii. 170.] Wemyss appears to have been a shrewd man of business, and had the terms of his relationship with the town council set forth in a written contract. [Treasurer's Accounts, 30th June, 1573.]

Wodrow in his life of Wemyss states on the authority of Calderwood that the bailies and council in the beginning of July, 1584, took Wemyss out of the cathedral pulpit in order to place the excommunicated archbishop, Robert Montgomerie, in possession; [Collections, Maitland Miscellany, ii. pt. ii. pp. 4, 5.] but this seems merely a repetition of the previous episode in which Mr. John Howieson was the minister ejected. [Supra, p. 56.]

A more threatening experience sustained by Wemyss is recorded in the Presbytery records of 25th August, 1587. The minister was attacked in the public street by William Cunninghame and his son, Umphra, each armed with whinger and pistol. Wemyss, however, stoutly defended himself, drawing his own whinger, and, assisted by Andrew Hay, the parson of Renfrew, who happened just then to come down the Rottenrow with a whittle in his hand, put his assailants to flight. [Wodrow's Collections, ii. app. iii.; Regality Club, 3rd Series, pp. 53, 54.]

Down to 1587 a single minister sufficed for the needs of the whole burghal and landward parish of Glasgow. On 28th February, 1587-8, however, the kirk session records declare that "Mr. Johne Couper is gladlie and willinglie acceptit and admittit as minister secund in Glasgow." They were to take the Sunday forenoon and afternoon services in the "Hie Kirk" alternately, and during the week the first pastor was to exercise on Wednesday and the second on Friday. In the previous year Archibald Douglas had leased the teinds of his parsonage to Lord Blantyre for a yearly payment of 300 merks (£16 13s. 4d.) to himself, and 800 merks (£44 8s. told. sterling) to two ministers. This was now apportioned by the provost, bailies and presbytery, 500 merks to David Wemyss and 300 merks to John Couper.

It was not long after this till Glasgow had a third minister. The collegiate church of St. Mary and St. Anne, with its cemetery in the Trongate, having fallen into a ruinous state, had been feued in 1570 by the magistrates and council to James Fleming and his heirs for an annual payment of £5 6s. 8d. Scots. [Charters and Documnents, i. 140, No. Ixi.] About 1592, however, the town reacquired the property and had it repaired. The next thing to do was to find the means of supporting a minister. The old revenues of the church, which had been conveyed to the magistrates of the city by Queen Mary's Act of 1566-7, had been used to furnish certain bursaries for poor scholars at the college. These bursaries, it was now alleged, had been improperly applied to the support of the richest men's sons. An Act of Parliament was therefore obtained on 8th June, 1594, cancelling the bursaries and devoting the revenues "to the sustentation of the ministrie within the citie of Glasgow." [Charters, i. pt. ii. page 242, No. 81 ; Act. Parl. iv. 73.] John Bell, minister of Cardross and one of the regents of the University, was then appointed to the charge of the restored church, which became known as the Tron or New Kirk. In 1599 the ministers applied to the Town Council desiring that the town be divided into two separate parishes in order that each minister might know his own flock. To this, after due consideration, the city fathers consented, on the stipulation that the citizens should not be burdened with the building of more kirks or the support of more ministers than already existed. [Burgh Records, T 195-6.] Thus the Tron was separated from the High Kirk. The town's records for the period are awanting, but the accounts for 1607-8 show the revenue collected and paid over to Bell in that year as £250 Scots. Additions were afterwards made to the church, and the steeple, still existing, was built in 1637. [McUre, p. 59.] The church was burned and rebuilt in 1793.

Still another charge was set up almost immediately afterwards. On loth April, 1595, the kirk session records mention that the synod and presbytery had ordained the landward part of the parish of Glasgow to have a kirk and minister of its own. [Wodrow's Collections, ii. 7.] On 19th July Patrick Sharp, principal of the college, with David Wemyss, John Couper, and John Bell, ministers, presented to the town council " maister Alexander Rowatt, to be admitted and appoyntit the ferd minister of the towne and perrochun." The council not only admitted Rowatt, but allowed him £20 yearly for house rent. [Burgh Records, i. 169.] Next, on 1st February, 1596-7, it was announced that the parishioners without the town should form a congregation by themselves with Rowatt as their minister. [Maitland Club Miscellany, i. 70, 86.] Thus, without any formal disjunction, the Barony parish was constituted. Its place of worship was the lower church in the cathedral. The arrangement was a revival of pre-Reformation usage, by which there was a vicar in burgo and a vicar in rure. [Glasgow Protocols, No. 1318, pp. 117, 119, 122.] There is no record as to the source of Rowatt's stipend, but it is almost certain to have been paid out of the teinds. [Early Glasgow, 255; Charters and Documents, i. 179, note.]

In 1593 Archibald Douglas was deposed from the parsonage on account of non-residence and neglect of duty, and in 1597 he ceased to draw the emoluments. On 15th December of that year parliament declared it lawful for the king to appoint bishops, abbots, and other prelates, [Act. Parl. iv. 130.] all new appointments to be confined to qualified ministers and preachers, and in March, 1598, the Act was adopted by the General Assembly. This was followed on 29th June by an Act restoring Archbishop Beaton to his honours, dignities, and benefices, to enable him to sustain his position as Scottish ambassador in France. [Ibid. iv. 169.]

Another Act in November, 1600, confirmed this restitution, but excepted the feus which had been given off, the deductions for ministers' stipends, the rents, etc., assigned to the college, the possession of the castle, the choosing of the magistrates, and the offices of provost and bailie. [Act. Parl. iv. 256.] Two days later the king, by a charter under the Great seal, conveyed to the Duke of Lennox and his heirs the castle of Glasgow and the heritable bailieship of the archbishopric. [Great Seal Reg. 1593-1608, p. 379.] The duke had already been made superior of the possessions of the diocese, [Act. Payl. iv. 146.] and had been promised the erection of the archbishopric into a temporal lordship in his favour on the death of Beaton. [The Lennox, by W. Fraser, ii. 343.] All that remained to be restored to the old archbishop at his restitution was but a shadow of his once great possessions and power in Scotland. On 1st December, 1601, the king presented Wemyss to the parsonage and vicarage, with the manse, glebe, teind sheaves, and other properties, which included, of course, the balance of tack duty, 300 merks (£16 13s. 4d. sterling), payable to Lord Blantyre.

Great changes were now taking place in the kingdom. On 24th March, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died, and on 5th April, King James set out from Edinburgh to assume the English crown. Two days later he granted a charter, feuing to the Duke of Lennox the lands and barony, the castle, city, burgh, and regality of Glasgow, the lands and tenements of the burgh and certain other lands, constituting him and his heirs superiors, and erecting these possessions into a temporal Lordship of Glasgow, to be held of the crown for an annual payment of £304 8s. 4d., 36 chalders 4 bolls of meal, 31 chalders 5 bolls of barley, 13 chalders 4 bolls of oats, 49 dozen capons, 31 dozen poultry and 14 dozen kane salmon, with all other duties specified in the annual rental of the bishopric, and twenty merks further of augmentation. [Great Seal Reg. 1593-1608, P. 531] This was probably the whole revenue of the archbishopric at that time, out of which the stipulated thirds and other payments had to be made.

Further on his journey, at Burleigh House, near Stamford, news reached the king that Beaton had died at Paris on 25th April. He thereupon designated John Spottiswood, minister of Calder, in Midlothian, who was in attendance upon him, to be archbishop, and sent him back to escort the queen to England. [Priv. Coun. Reg. vi. 568; Spottiswoode, i. 139.]

The career of Spottiswood, who was to play an important part in the affairs of the reign of James and his son Charles I. will be referred to later. Meanwhile it is enough to say that there appears to have been some transferring to him of the revenues of the archbishopric then vested in the crown. To help him, a pension of 80 English money was granted by the king, and, probably with the same object, David Wemyss in 1605 demitted his benefice as parson of Glasgow. The king, at any rate, immediately granted the emoluments of the parsonage to the archbishop, [Charters, i. Append. p. 53.] and confirmed the grant three years later by a charter under the Great Seal, [Reg. Mag. Sig. vi. 2084; Charters and Documents, i. pt. i. App. 61.] and the archbishop granted a lease of them to the Master of Blantyre for 300 merks a year, the Master to keep the kirks in repair, and the archbishop to pay the ministers' stipends and the cost of bread and wine for the communion. [Charters and Documents, i. pt. i. Abstract, p. 62.]

Among the stipends the archbishop appears to have paid Wemyss a retiring allowance of twelve chalders yearly. [Charters and Documents, i. pt. i. Abstract, p. 74.]

Wemyss had then been some forty-four years minister of Glasgow, and the respect in which he was held may be judged from the fact that, when the famous Letter of Guildry was drawn up in 1605, defining the respective powers and relations of the Merchants' House and the Trades House, he was appointed an oversman or referee along with Sir George Elphinstone and other trustworthy persons. [Charters and Documents, i. pt. i. 620.] In his last days certain accusations were brought against Wemyss before the presbytery. It was declared that he was "found to be declynand in doctrine, negligent in preparacioun, and in his teaching hes gevin occasioun of lauchtir, and aftymes to be overtaine with drink." [Presbytery Records, 29th October, 1600.] But the old minister had borne the burden and heat of strenuous times, he could not remain vigorous for ever, he may have needed the comfort of a little aqua vitce, and—his stipend was only 500 merks, equal to £27 15s. 6d. Altogether the first minister of Glasgow appears to have been of a kindly, capable, and sufficiently shrewd character, without the narrowness and bitter bigotry which marked too many of the early ministers of the Reformed Kirk.


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