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Significant Scots
Rev Thomas Forrester


FORRESTER, REV. THOMAS, was the third minister of Melrose after the reformation, the second being Mr John Knox, a nephew of the Reformer, whose Forrester succeeded in 1643. This reverend divine was a very extraordinary character in his time. While the attempts of Charles I. to complete an episcopal system of church-government in Scotland, were the subject of violent and universal discontent, at least in the southern parts of the kingdom, Forrester appears to have beheld them with the utmost gratulation and triumph, giving way to his feelings in occasional satires upon those who opposed the court. His vein of poetry is generally allowed to have been of no mean order; and even in a later age, when many of the allusions are unintelligible, its poignancy is sufficiently obvious. This was accompanied by a general eccentricity of conduct and opinion, which was highly absurd and indecorous. For instance, he publicly declared that some kinds of work might be done on the Lord’s day; and, as an example to his people, brought home his corn on that day from the harvest field. He maintained that the public and ordinary preaching of the word, was no necessary part of divine worship, that the reading of the liturgy was preferable to it, and that pastors and private christians should use no other prayers, than what were prescribed by authority. He made no scruple to declare, that the reformers had done more harm to the Christian church, than the Popes at Rome had done for ten ages. It may easily be supposed, that a man who acted upon maxims so opposite to the spirit of the age, could not be very popular, either with his brethren or the public. Accordingly, among the acts of the general assembly of 1638, when the authority of the court was set at defiance, we find the deposition of Mr Thomas Forrester, accused of popery, Arminianism, and other offences.

The reverend satirist appears to have indulged himself in a characteristic revenge. He composed a mock litany, in which the most respected characters of the day, and the most solemn of their proceedings, were profanely ridiculed. It begins with an allusion to the assembly by which he had been deposed.

From Glasgow Raid, to which mad meeting
Huge troops from all quarters came fleeting,
With dags and guns in form of war,
All loyal subjects to debar;
Where bishops might not show their faces,
And mushroom elders filled their places:
From such mad pranks of Catherus,
Almighty God deliver us!

From sitting in that convocation,
Discharged by open proclamation,
Who did not stir till they had ended
All the mischief they had intended;
From all their cobbling knobs and knacks,
Set out in form of public acts,
And all such pranks, &c.

From, a subsequent stanza, it might perhaps be inferred, that Forrester had endeavoured to publish a pamphlet in favour of the episcopal cause, but was prevented by the covenanters having command of the printing house: -

From usurping the king’s press,
So that no book could have access,
Which might maintain the king’s just title,
Or cross the covenant ne’er so little;
It’s strange, though true, books of that strain,
Are barred under the highest pain,
And all such pranks, &c.

Some other specimens of this envious but ribald effusion of anti-convenanting, are subjoined: -

From one thing said, another seen,
From the outrage done to Aberdeen;
From hollow hearts and hollow faces,
From ridiculous prayers and graces;
From peremptorie reprobation,
From Henderson’s rebaptizatlon,
And all such pranks, &c.

From turn-coat preachers’ supplications,
And from their mental reservations,
From lawless excommunications,
From laies’ household congregations,
From unsupportable taxations—
Thir are the covenanting actions,
And all such pranks, &c

* * *

From Dunse Law’s rebels rabbled out,
Rascals from all quarters sought out,
Fair England’s forces to defeat,
Without armour, money, or meat:
True, some had forks, some roustie dags,
And some had bannocks in their bags,
And all all such pranks, &c.

From the Tables’ emissaries,
From mutineers of all degrees:
Priests, lords, judges, and clerks of touns,
Proud citizens, poor country clowns;
Who in all courses disagree,
But join to cross authoritie,
From all such pranks, &c

* *

From Will Dick, that usurious chuff,
His feathered cap, his coat of buff;
For all the world a saddled sow,
A worthie man and general too;
From both the Duries, these mad sparks,
One bribing judge, two cheating clerks,
And all such pranks, &c.

* * *

From the most stupid senseless ass
That ever brayed, my cousin Casse,
He is the assembly’s voice, and so,
Th’ assembly is his echo.
The fool speaks first, and all the rest
To say the same are ready prest,
And all such pranks, &c.

The poet concludes with the two following stanzas:

From noble beggars, beggar-makers,
From all bold and blood undertakers,
From hungry catch-poles, knighted louns,
From perfumed puppies and baboons,
From caterpillars, moths, and rats,
Horse-leeches, state blood-sucking bats,
And all such pranks, &c.

From Sandie Hall, and Sandie Gilson,
Sandie Kinneir, and Sandie Johnston,
Whose knavery made then covenantors,
To keep their necks out of the helters
Of falsehood, greed, when you’ll’t same,
Of treachery they think no shame;
Yet these the mates of Catherus,
From whome good Lord deliver us!

[We copy these extracts from an exceedingly curious volume, entitled "A Book of Scottish Pasquilis," printed in 1828. Catherus is a cant word for puritan, formed from the Greek.]

Of the ultimate fate of this strange satirist we have met with no record.


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