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History of Aberdeen and Banff
Chapter IX

The age of castle-building and Episcopalian culture — Advance of wealth and taste—The seventeenth-century castles and mansions and their builders—George Jamesone, "the Scottish Vandyck" —Description of the city of Aberdeen—The darker side of the picture—Poverty and mendicancy—Cateran irruptions—Tumults of "clannit men"—The burning of Frendraught—The prohibited General Assembly of Aberdeen—Revival and reign of Episcopacy —Brilliant episcopate of Bishop Patrick Forbes: Church organiser and patron of learning—Forbes and the universities—"The Aberdeen Doctors "—Raban the first Aberdeen printer—Death of Bishop Forbes.

With the accession of James to the English throne the prospect of national tranquillity became much surer than it had been at any time since the days of the Alexanders, and a marked advance was taking place in civilisation and taste. The reign of James VI. is noted as the era of a new order of castle-building. The old houses of the country gentlemen were not suited to an age in which peace and security were rendering possible a greater accumulation of wealth than had hitherto been known. Since the introduction of artillery the old faith in the utility of the feudal fortresses had been shaken, but castellated architecture had a longer life in Scotland than in England, and all through the seventeenth century the northern castle-building was a picturesque combination of the old and new ideas.

One of the most famous of the Scottish castles of James's time is that of Fyvie, built by the latest but not least of the Aberdeenshire notables of that time, Alexander Seton, President of the Court of Session and Chancellor of Scotland. Seton, who had been a student of theology in Rome but at the Reformation had abandoned theology for law, and at different times was known as Prior of Pluscarden, Lord Urquhart, Lord Fyvie, and Earl of Dunfermline, purchased the estate of Fyvie in 1596 from the Meldrums, its former possessors, and immediately proceeded to supplement its Preston and Meldrum Towers with a noble residence, designed, it is believed, by a French architect, and distinguished by a splendour of style and fineness of conception that give it a place among the brightest examples of the domestic architecture of the period. Another of the north-eastern castle-builders was the Marquis of Huntly, who, though occasionally harassed by the stress of public affairs, found time to carry out great improvements on his estates, as in planting the moors with timber trees, and who added by purchase ofo his territories the lands of Strathaven, Auchindoun, and Blackwater, in Banffshire, and Melgum in Angus, as well as certain possessions in Cromar. He restored the house of Strathbogie which had been destroyed after the battle of Glenlivet, added co the castles of Bog of Gight (Gordon Castle) and Aboyne, and built new houses in Badenoch, at Plewlands in Moray, and Cean - na - Coil on Deeside, which as his occasional residence took the place of the Peel of Kinnord. It is on record that Cean-na-Coil (or " Kandychyle") was built by skilled workmen brought from Huntly, where they had been engaged on the restoration of the castle and in building a bridge. Earl Marischal's part in constructive enterprise was seen In his stately mansion of Inverugie and in the Peterhead harbour ; Sir Alexander Fraser, the other college-founder, built the castle at Kinnaird Head; and the Earl of Erroll, whose seat had been demolished at the same time as that of Huntly, provided himself with a new and better residence. Castle Fraser, the Deeside houses of Drum and Crathes, and Mid-mar Castle on the north-east slope of the Hill of Fare, are other significant examples of the transition to a higher standard of taste and culture.

A typical Aberdeenshire man of the time was William Forbes, a successful merchant in the Danzig trade, who purchased from the decayed family of Mortimer, or its creditors, the estate of Craigievar, adjacent to his elder brother's domain of Corse, and made other extensive acquisitions of land— namely, the estates of Fintray and Menie, and properties in Forfarshire, Fife, and East Lothian. The Castle of Craigievar, begun by the Mortimers, was for the most part built by Forbes. Other Aberdeenshire men were returning from abroad with money—Skenes and Aedies from Poland, Duncan Liddel from his German seats of learning, and other physicians from other places. Besides the older trade with the Continent, Aberdeen merchants were now engaged in a growing commercial intercourse with England. One result of all this was a large accession of wealth in the two counties, another was an accentuation of the demand for better houses and more luxurious furnishings.

Scotland at this period produced one considerable painter, the Aberdonian George Jamesone, " the Scottish Vandyck." After improving his artistic powers as a pupil of Ruoens at Antwerp, Jamesone returned to Aberdeen ;n 1620, where he flourished amid the brilliant group of cultured men in Church and University then gathered together in the city. His fame as a portrait-painter led to his being summoned to Edinburgh to receive sittings from Charles I., and henceforth he was in constant request by the northern and other nobility and gentry, as is shown by the numerous specimens of his work to be met with all over Scotland from Dunrobin to Tweed-side.

To James Gordon, parson of Rothiemay, son of Gordon of Straloch the Scottish topographer, we are indebted for an exact description of " both towns of Aberdeen," written shortly after the middle of the seventeenth century, and for a plan of the city as it then stood. In earlier times the low ground near the Dee had been occupied with houses, but gradually the Gallowgate Hill (called also Windmill Hill), Castle Hill, and St Katharine's Hill had been built upon, until in Gordon's time the best part of the city stood upon or between these eminences. The streets and lanes had not been laid out according to any regular design, but were neatly paved with a "grey kind of hard stone not unlike to flint," the buildings were "of stone and lime, rigged above, covered with slates, and mostly of three or four storeys' height, some of them higher." Wooden buildings, which were numerous in the preceding century, had now gone out of fashion, though numbers were in existence at a much later date, for it was not till after a great fire which destroyed the west side of the Broadgate in 1741 that the erection of houses having their outside walls of wood was finally prohibited. "The dwelling-houses," Gordon goes on to say, " are cleanly, and beautiful, and neat, both within and without, and the side that looks to the street mostly adorned with galleries of timber which they call forestairs. Many houses have their gardens and orchards adjoining; every garden has its postern, and these are all planted with all sorts of trees which the climate will suffer to grow; so that the whole town, to such as draw near it upon some sides of it, looks as if it stood in a garden or little wood." Admiration is due to an example of public spirit in adding to the attractiveness of the town on the part of Jamesone who, finding that a piece of ground called the Playfield, " where comedies were acted of old beside the Well of Spa," was being destroyed by flooding from the Denburn, feued it from the town, embanked it against inundation, laid it out as a garden, planted it with trees, and bequeathed it to the community as a place of public resort. A daughter of Jamesone, it may be added, is believed to be the artist in needlework who sewed the beautiful tapestry that still decorates the wall of the West Church of St Nicholas.

But while evidences of a progressive state of wealth and culture at this period are not wanting, the darker side of social life continues to press itself on attention. A new generation had grown up and passed away since the outburst of clamorous mendicancy following the dissolution of the monasteries, and since crowds of beggars gathered at the doors of St Nicholas Church and tugged at the cloaks of citizens, demanding alms, at the close of public worship; but in the Church records both of town and county we find many evidences of the prevalence of destitution. In Aberdeen this problem was dealt with at the end of the sixteenth century by a classification of the poor into the four orders of children, "decayed" persons, the lame and 'mpotent, and the aged and infirm who had lived in the town for at least seven years. Each householder was to receive one pauper child into his family, while relief to the other destitute classes was to be provided by voluntary contributions. Numerous edicts were passed for the repression of sturdy beggars and the expulsion of strangers without visible means of subsistence. At Banff, in 1642, it was ordered that on complaint being made of annoyance by any " strong beggars," the offenders were to be " put in the thief's hole till the magistrates get convenient time to cause scourge them in most rigorous manner without any pity."

Frequent irruptions of "caterans" from the Highland districts of Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, and Inverness-shire on predatory expeditions into the low country took place throughout the seventeenth century, and must be attributed to poverty as their predominant cause. The town itself was not wholly beyond the range of their depredations, and it continued to suffer occasionally from the turbulence of some of the lairds at the head of bodies of retainers. Aberdeen was the central meeting-place to which large numbers of people from the country resorted at the Martinmas and Whitsunday terms to collect moneys and make payments, and these half-yearly gatherings were made the occasion of reviving clan feuds and private quarrels and grudges. The magistrates tried to suppress the tumults that arose in this way, but as the great disturbers of the peace were " clannit men," who in great numbers fought for their respective sides, the local authorities themselves incurred some danger in attempting to mediate. The Privy Council was therefore petitioned in 1603 by the provost and magistrates to charge the nobility, gentry, and lieges of all ranks to put a stop to these disturbances. Four years afterwards the magistrates had to appeal again to the Privy Council to free them from the " letters of caption " that were frequently addressed to them for apprehending and putting in ward "clannit gentlemen," which commissions they declared themselves unable to fulfil, suggesting that this duty might be transferred to the Marquis of Huntly, as sheriff of the shire. The town occasionally look part in the strifes or in quelling the disorders of the country, as when it sent a force to aid the Earl Marischal in recovering Deer,1 and when, in 1603, it sent sixteen soldiers to assist the king's guard in besieging the house of Dumbreck, held against its lawful owner, his brother, by George Meldrum, who was soon afterwards beheaded " for his oppressions and other crimes." Sometimes the citizens interposed to prevent broils, as in the case of the factions of Earl Marischal and Gordon younger of Cairnborrow, between whom a strife portending bloodshed arose at one of these Martinmas gatherings. Another illustration of the state of the country in these respects is found in the case of a society called the Knights of the Mortar, or Society of the Boys, which was headed by some of the minor Leslies and Forbeses. These bravados, who were bound by oath to stand by one another in all their quarrels, went about terrorising and oppressing the population. In 1609 the Lords of Council, considering it "a reproach and scandal that such a handful and infamous byke of lawless limmars should be so long suffered" in any part of the kingdom, granted a commission against them to the Earl of Enzie, eldest son of the Marquis of Huntly, Sir Alexander Gordon of Cluny, and others; but other three years elapsed before the society was suppressed.

The friendly attitude of James towards Huntly was not continued by Charles. The new king had a special antipathy to the jurisdictions exercised by the greater nobility, and Huntly had his open or secret enemies whose whisperings may have excited prejudice against him in the royal mmd. On the occasion of new trouble with the Clanchattan, through which the marquis was suspected of acting against Moray, now the northern lieutenant, Charles called upon him to resign the sheriffships of Aberdeen and Inverness. That of Aberdeen was conferred on Johnston of Caskieben, who had been created a baronet; and under the patronage of the Court much progress in social distinction was made by the branch of the great house of Crichton which had acquired the lordship of Frendraught, in the vicinity of Huntly's seat in Strathbogie. Sir James Crichton extended his possessions by a purchase of land from Gordon of Rothie-may, whereupon followed a dispute as to boundaries and salmon-fishings, a lawsuit in which Crichton prevailed, and a feud in which acts of lawlessness were committed by the Gordons on Crichton's lands. Armed with a warrant from the Lords of Council, early in 1630, Crichton was proceeding to Rothiemay with a body of his retainers to arrest Gordon, but met him on the way also at the head of an armed party. In the conflict which ensued Gordon was fatally wounded. His son and successor allied himself with James Grant, an outlaw and brigand chief of Upper Banffshire, for the purpose of devastating the Frendraught lands; but after a reference of the matter to the judgment of Huntly, Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstown, and Sir William Seton, and an unwilling payment by Crichton of 5000 merks as compensation to Rothiemay's widow, all parties professed reconciliation.

Fresh trouble, however, soon arose. In Crichton's party in the conflict had been John Meldrum of Reidhill and James Leslie, son of the laird of Pitcaple; and Meldrum, who was married to a sister of Pitcaple, had been wounded in the affray. Thinking himself insufficiently rewarded, Meldrum possessed himself of two of Crichton's horses. In virtue of one of the commissions or warrants, that were a cause of so much bloodshed, Crichton proceeded for the purpose of exacting redress to Pitcaple, where, much to his annoyance, one of his kinsmen entered into an altercation with, and seriously wounded, James Leslie. The powerful Leslie interest was now roused against Crichton, who appealed first to Huntly and then to Moray. Moray thought he could do no good, but Huntly ultimately agreed to mediate, and invited Leslie of Pitcaple and Crichton to Bog of Gight. The Leslies were the first to leave, and hearing that they were lying in wait for Crichton, whom he detained for two days, Huntly sent his son, Lord John Gordon, who some years before had been created Viscount Aboyne and Melgum, with young Gordon of Rothiemay and an escort, to accompany him to Frendraught. There the party were hospitably entertained by the Crichtons, and pressed to remain for the night.

The house of Frendraught, an example of the new style of baronial residence, consisted of a tower and a new building adjoining it, between the two being a passage and staircase of timber. Rooms were assigned to the strangers in the tower, the viscount's being on the lower floor; while Rothiemay and some of their retinue were accommodated above. The household had gone to rest for the night. Presently Lord Melgum became aware that the tower was on fire, and rushed upstairs to apprise Rothiemay. The rapid progress of the flames prevented his return, and all the occupants of the tower perished.

Over the burning of the tower of Frendraught a mystery has always hung. Huntly and the Gordons suspected Sir James and Lady Elizabeth Crichton of being the incendiaries, though Lady Elizabeth was herself a Gordon, being daughter of the twelfth Earl of Sutherland. Crichton blamed the Leslies and their connections, whose supposed lying in wait for him was the cause of the party. being at Frendraught. The Bishop of Aberdeen and others were appointed to visit the place and take evidence as to the origin of the fire, but their report went no further than to say that m their judgment it could not have been raised by persons outside the house without aid from within. Judicial investigations were instituted, but with no other result than the execution of Meldrum upon meagre evidence except as regards his animus against Crichton. Two servants at Frendraught, a man and a woman, were tried; they were tortured to extract confession, and confessing nothing were set at liberty. The balladists and Arthur Johnston, who has two contemporary poems on the subject, voice the suspicion which from the first was directed against Lady Elizabeth Crichton. On the other hand, the fire of Frendraught was regarded as retribution on Huntly for the burning of Donibristle. But Crichton and his people were mercilessly harassed by the Gordon partisans and by lawless Highlanders with their connivance, by Gilderoy and his freebooters, by " broken men" of the Grant connection, and even by hungry Camerons and Macdonells from the west. Crichton, however, in the phrase of Spalding, had "great moyan at Court, and some years after the fire the Privy Council, at his instance, summoned Huntly before it in Edinburgh, and bound him under a penalty of a hundred thousand merks to abstain from molesting Frendraught. Broken in spirit by his reverses and sorrows, the marquis addressed a pathetic petition to the king, in which he spoke of himself as " robbed of a dear son and a near kinsman through the matchless treachery of the laird of Frendraught," and stated that, though he had not hitherto interfered to save Crichton from personal harm or his estates and goods from the insolencies of others, he now in all humility acknowledged his error in not preserving peace in the neighbourhood of his residence. Crichton retained the royal favour, and lived to see his son raised to the peerage as first Viscount Frendraught, but the house did not prosper or long survive.


The first event in the ecclesiastico-political conflict of which Aberdeenshire was the arena in the seventeenth century is the General Assembly of Aberdeen held in 1605 by a few ministers of the extreme Presbyterian party in defiance of the royal authority, and with disastrous results to themselves. The diocese of Aberdeen had been divided into two provincial synods, and these into presbyteries, a few years before James agreed reluctantly, in 1592, to the abrogation of the episcopal system; but when he convoked a meeting of the Estates, and a general synod of the Church at Perth in 1597, the ministers of the north-eastern district showed a decided indisposition to respond to the leading-strings of the Melvilles and other " Edinburgh popes." The proceedings of this Assembly were followed later in the year by the Act of the Estates providing for the restoration of episcopacy to the extent that such pastors as the king should provide to the otfice of prelate should have a vote in Parliament. The clergy of the north-eastern diocese, and even those of Angus, where Erskine of Dun had been "superintendent," were more favourably disposed than their brethren in the south towards the views in favour with the king. The powerful support which these views received from the accession of James to the English throne stimulated the Melville party to make a bold incursion into the territory of their opponents by holding a General Assembly at Aberdeen. It was to be held in July 1604, but was prohibited by royal proclamation. On the appointed day of meeting James Melville and two other commissioners from the Presbytery of St Andrews appeared in St Nicholas Church and solemnly protested that they were there to do their duty, but as it was only an assembly of nine they could merely protest and adjourn. The most active members of the Presbyterian party in Aberdeenshire at this time were Principal Ferme of the Fraserburgh College and. John Forbes, minister of Alford, and at their instance in the Synod of Aberdeen a process of excommunication was brought against the Marquis of Huntly. On Huntly appealing to the Privy Council for an interdict, the defence of the synod was undertaken by Ferme and Forbes, and proceedings being threatened against the ministers, Forbes was sent to London to plead their cause before the king. The Aberdeen Assembly was convoked again for July 1605, and again it was proclaimed illegal; but as on this occasion there were nineteen ministers in attendance, including those from the south, it so far proceeded to business as to elect Forbes its moderator, and then adjourned till the following September. Among the nineteen ministers constituting the Assembly were William Forbes of Towie, Robert Youngson of Clatt, and James Irwin of Tough, in the district where the Forbes influence predominated, besides John Forbes of Alford, with Ferme, and Welsh the son-in-law of Knox, all of whom were sent as prisoners to different places for recusancy. They had not expected to be so severely dealt with, and John Forbes pleaded that the Assembly had been held with the concurrence of Chancellor Seton, a plea which the Chancellor in a letter to the king denounced as a " manifest lie," inviting his Majesty to judge whether his Chancellor or "a condemned traitor" was most worthy of credit. There can be little doubt, however, that the ministers did receive encouragement from Seton and others. The king, for his part, concluded that " the ministers would betray religion rather than submit to government, and that the Chancellor would betray the king for the malice he bore to the bishops."

Of the three great ecclesiastical parties of Scotland, the thoroughgoing Presbyterians were exceptionally weak in these counties; and the Aberdeen Assembly, which had been convoked for the purpose of strengthening them, had led for the time to their utter discomfiture and overthrow. The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, were exceptionally strong, and though unable to continue the armed struggle, they seemed to be rapidly regaining ground. The favour shown them by Huntly was a cause of much concern to the Church by law established. Huntly himself, after being repeatedly censured, suffered new excommunication; but on again signing the Confession of Faith he received absolution at the Glasgow Assembly of 1610,—only, however, to relapse once more to his old position. Erroll, who had conformed to Protestantism with Huntly in 159S, was more earnestly Catholic at heart, and though he agreed to sign the Confession in 1610, his conscience smote him, and he drew back with tears, his manifest conscientiousness leading, as Archbishop Spottiswoode records, to his being " used with greater lenity than others of that set." Most of the other Gordons and Hays were likewise Romanists in profession or sympathy, as were several of the Leslies, some of the Irvines and Cheynes, and among minor county families the Cons, Turings, and Blakhalls. Robert Bisset of Lessen-drum, who was " bailie " to the Marquis of Huntly, has the distinction of being set down in a list of adherents of the Church of Rome drawn up at the beginning of the reign of Charles I. as "the most pestilent and dangerous instrument in the north"; and James Forbes of Blackton, the only Forbes on the list, is described as " a very pernicious seducer and busy trafficker." Among priests engaged in the mission against Protestantism in Aberdeenshire before the "troubles" broke out were several of the name of Leslie, including the notorious Capuchin known as Father Archangel, three Christies, of whom one was principal of the College of Douai, and a band of other " Fathers." The energy and zeal put forth in the Roman Catholic interest, however, were destined to be barren of substantial or lasting result.

The third and for a time the most powerful of the ecclesiastical parties were the Episcopalians. They had the king on their side; they were the moderate party who attracted the support of the burgesses ; their growing ascendancy and prestige checked the reaction towards Romanism ; and their history during the second, third, and fourth decades of the seventeenth century is the history of the intellectual and religious life of Aberdeenshire. In the days of Bishop Patrick Forbes, as in those of Bishop Elphinstone, Aberdeen had a celebrity far beyond the limits of Scotland as a home of scholars and centre of light.

The unhappy condition of the north-eastern province as regards both church and commonwealth was the subject of a remarkable memorial addressed to the king by the Synod of Aberdeen in February 1606. This document represented that "uncouth priests and Jesuits" were received by the "great men and others under them," and were saying mass and seducing the simple; that the lairds of Gight and Newton —Gordons and " excommunicated papists " — were " chief maintainers of these things " ; that when the Synods of Aberdeen and Moray sought by the censures of the Kirk to reclaim Lords Kuntly and Erroll from "papistry" these peers were continually discharged by royal letters; that much of the country was left in spiritual destitution by the long confinement of its ministers, while the neighbouring kirks had been left vacant since the Reformation ; and that other ministers were condemned and railed upon, their doctrine not heard and discipline mocked, while Jesuits ministered in the churches and parishes without pastors. As for the commonwealth, it was rent by deadly feuds of the Forbeses and Irvines, Leslies and Leiths. Another head of complaint was that every man that pleased went about armed. The memorial earnestly besought the royal intervention to remedy this state of things.

The spiritual destitution seems to have been greatest in the Presbytery of Alford, which had been deprived of four of its ministers for their participation in the forbidden Assembly. There was in this district a man of high culture, destined to exert great influence over the religious condition of the two counties—Patrick Forbes, laird of Corse and elder brother of John Forbes, minister of Alford, William Forbes, founder of the family of Craigievar, and Arthur Forbes who served in Sweden, settled in Ireland, was created a baronet, and was father of the first Earl of Granard. Patrick Forbes was educated in the south, first at Stirling, and afterwards at Glasgow University under Andrew Melville, who was his kinsman, and whom he accompanied from Glasgow to St Andrews. For a time he lived in England, and he is said to have received part of his education at Oxford. lie had been in full sympathy with the Melville party, under whose influence he had been brought up. At Corse, to which he returned, he attended to his duties as laird, pursued the literary and theological studies to which he was devoted, and, in view of the lack of public ministrations of religion, he assembled his family and dependants on Sundays and taught them in matters of faith and duty.

A serious blow fell on the Presbyterian interest when Andrew Melville, for his outbreak on the Archbishop of Canterbury, was committed to the Tower, while James Melville was exiled to England, and Welsh, John Forbes of Alford, and four of their companions were finally condemned to banishment for their participation in the Aberdeen Assembly. Deprived of its leaders, the Presbyterian party was paralysed on the other hand, the powers of the bishops had been increased, and Blackburn, who had been titular bishop of Aberdeen, with little more than nominal powers, received episcopal consecration in 1611, along with the other Scottish bishops, and became the regular president of the provincial or diocesan synod. These changes being ratified by Parliament, the importance of Presbyteries was lessened and Episcopacy was once more fully established. The restoration of Episcopacy did no violence to public sentiment in Aberdeenshire or Banffshire, but on its action with regard to the former endowments of the Church depended the attitude of their lay possessors.

Patrick Forbes was urged by the bishop and diocesan synod to become an ordained clergyman in order that the Church, in such times, might have his aid. He refused to take this step, but with the approbation of these authorities was to continue his expositions of Scripture until such time as a regular incumbent should be appointed. Archbishop Gladstanes, however, on hearing that Forbes was acting as a lay preacher, ordered him to desist, and a letter in the same sense came down from the king's secretary. To this letter Forbes made a dignified reply, stating that in the Presbyteries of Alford and Kincardine O'Neil at least twenty-one churches " lay unplanted," and the condition of the people was little removed from heathenism ; and he went on to narrate how he began in simple and private manner to catechise his own family, how the churchmen of the province pressed him to take some public charge in the ministry of the Church, and how, on his refusal to do so, they requested that at least for the good of others he would transfer his domestic services to the vacant church near his house, which he had done, but he had never gone beyond giving an ordinary lecture on Sunday. In obedience to the Primate, however, he stopped his public teaching. A painful incident led to an alteration in his course of life. John Chalmers, minister of Keith, who had been a regent of Marischal College, fell into a morbid state of mind and attempted to commit suicide. His self-inflicted wounds not proving at once fatal, he became keenly remorseful and sent for Forbes, imploring him to enter the ministry and take charge of the parish. Forbes at last resolved to take orders, and in 1612, in the forty-seventh year of his age, he became minister of Keith, where he remained till 1618, when he was raised to the bishopric of Aberdeen. He had long parted company with the extreme Presbyterians. Their principles now seemed to him incompatible with discipline and civil government.

Another gifted member of the Forbes family was already impressing his strong personality upon the citizens of Aberdeen—namely, William Forbes, afterwards first Bishop of Edinburgh. A General Assembly was held in Aberdeen, at the request of the bishops, in August 1616. Huntly had been committed to ward for relapsing into "popery," and after a short time had been released under a warrant from the Chancellor, and absolved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This Assembly, under the presidency of Archbishop Spottis-woode, adopted a new Confession of Faith, and Huntly was one of its earliest subscribers. In response to a missive from the king desiring that the principal towns of the realm should be planted with pastors and ministers of good literature and conversation, and in particular that care be taken to have a qualified and sufficient minister in the town of Aberdeen, the Assembly nominated William Forbes, minister of Monymusk, to be one of the ministers of St Nicholas'. An Aberdonian by birth, nephew of the two Cargills, and an alumnus of Marischal College, he had been in Poland, and at several of the German and Dutch universities, and through his relative Dr Gilbert Jack had made the acquaintance of Scaliger, Grotius, Vossius, and other scholars. He had also been at Oxford, and by the advice of Dr John Craig had declined an offer of the chair of Hebrew there, and returned to the bracing climate of Aberdeenshire. Degrees in divinity had been suppressed by the Reformers as tending to "popery" and superstition, but were revived at St Andrews in 1616, and in the following year, on the occasion of the king's visit, the doctorate was conferred on William Forbes. He took a leading part in the Episcopalian and liturgical revival in Aberdeen, and may be said to have been a High Churchman, in the modern or Tractarian sense, holding that many of the differences between the Church of Rome and the Protestants were merely superficial. Bishop Patrick Forbes, who by this time was presiding over the diocese, reported to the king that his majesty had not "a more learned, sound, sanctified, and diligent divine" than William Forbes. On the resignation of the principalship of Marischal College by Aedie, who had but meagre qualifications for it, Dr William Forbes became his successor.

The career of the new Principal is very instructive as to the spirit prevailing in the north-east and the contrast it presents with that exemplified in other parts of Scotland. In 1621 he was appointed one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and reluctantly left Aberdeen. In Aberdeen, the stronghold of Episcopacy, he had been one of its leaders; in Edinburgh his life was one of contention and turmoil, and his position had been prejudiced from the first by the fact that the popular candidate when he was appointed had been Andrew Cant, an Aberdonian of a very different school, and of great rhetorical powers as well as aggressiveness. After battling with little effect against the difficulties of his position, and experiencing the worry of organised annoyance till his health threatened to give way, Forbes gladly availed himself of an opportunity to return to his old charge in Aberdeen, where he was welcomed back by all classes.

With his colleague, Dr Baron—the two being foremost men in the Church—Dr William Forbes was sent by Archbishop Spottiswoode to preach in Edinburgh before King Charles on his visit to Scotland in 1633. One result of this royal visit was the erection of the bishopric of Edinburgh and Forbes's appointment to it, no doubt on the suggestion or with the concurrence of Laud. Bishop Burnet records that his father, who had acted for Bishop William Forbes in matters of law, often said that he never saw him without thinking his heart was in heaven, that he preached " with a zeal and vehemence that made him forget all measures of time," and that his sermons of two or three hours' duration so wasted his strength, with his ascetic course of life, that he died within a year of his promotion to the bishopric. In his " High" Churchism he went beyond the other Aberdeen Doctors, and his only published work is "the first Scottish theological treatise in which the writings of the Anglican divines are constantly appealed to as authorities."

Much greater importance, however, appertains to the career of Patrick Forbes. Immediately after his consecration he made a notable public appearance as preacher before the General Assembly at Perth. The Episcopal party controlled the Assembly, and the " Perth Articles" were accordingly adopted; but strong dissension soon began to manifest itself in the south, and with a view to composing differences a conference between the bishops and some leading ministers of the Presbyterian party was held a few months afterwards. At this conference Archbishop Spottiswoode put Forbes forward to take the lead, believing that his influence and sympathies would weigh with the ministers. From a summary of his speech preserved by Calderwood it would seem that his tone was that of moderation, and that he upheld the episcopal system and advocated compliance with the Perth Articles on the practical ground not only that a decree of the Church ought to command the obedience of any reasonable person, but that it was necessary to have unity of purpose in dealing with irreligion, the papists, and the weaklings who, "seeing such a distraction of opinions and contrariety amongst ministers, doubted of all religion, and knew not what side to take." Forbes seems to have become increasingly impatient of schismatic and opinionative ministers; and when he found that the ratification of the Perth Articles by Parliament was not unanimous, he made a speech in which he declared that though he would himself have preferred that the ceremonies which they authorised had not been introduced, yet there was no danger in using them, and those who refused obedience in regard to them were "contentious troublers of the peace of the Church, and worthy to be punished." The principles of tolerance were still imperfectly understood even by the most enlightened; its spirit was never characteristic of reformers.

There is no reason to dissent from the view of Spottiswoode that Forbes was the best prelate Scotland had known since Elphinstone. "So wise and judicious, so grave and graceful a pastor," says the archbishop, " I have not known in all my time in any church." Without delay he proceeded to make himself exactly acquainted with the condition of the diocese, and to remedy abuses, supply defects, stimulate the clergy, and allay dissensions. Without warning and without attendants he would arrive in a particular district on Saturday evening, attend the church on Sunday, and take note of what was defective or amiss ; he removed unworthy ministers and put better men in their place, procured the division of large parishes into areas of more manageable compass, and even succeeded to some extent in overcoming the rapacity of the lay impropriators of the tithes who had favoured the system of placing two or more parishes under the charge of a single minister, and were in large measure responsible for the spiritual destitution prevailing in the diocese. Preeminently a working bishop, the whole diocese was his parish and the whole people his flock, and he left an enduring impression on the religious life of Aberdeenshire.

But it was not alone, or perhaps even chiefly, in his direct dealings with the clergy and people that his influence was effectively exerted. The universities had his early care. In 1619 a commission of visitation was appointed to inquire into the management of their revenues and the manner of teaching, to correct abuses, and to report to the Privy Council; and it was to act through a quorum of at least seven members, of whom the bishop was always to be one. At King's College Principal Rait was severely censured by the commissioners, who found that he had usurped the office of common procurator, had been negligent in teaching, and had maladministered the college affairs. Though the revenues of the deanery, the sub-chantry, and the parsonage of Methlic had lately been annexed, the management was so corrupt that the condition of the college had not improved; while there was " no ministry of the gospel in the kirks of the deanery, but lamentable heathenism and such looseness as is horrible to record, even about the cathedral kirk of the uiocese." The principal, in accordance with the terms of the foundation, was held personally liable to make good any deficiency in the furnishings or fabric of the college; but rather than proceed to a sentence against him, the bishop and his fellow-commissioners allowed him to enter into a bond to provide from the rents of the deanery a minister for the parish of Monycabock or Newmachar, to restore the internal furnishings of the college, repair the buildings, and clear away the debt. The commission appointed a rector, dean of faculty, and professor of civil law; the professorship of canon law, abolished by the New Foundation of the Presbyterian party, was restored, as also that of physic, to which Dr Patrick Dun of Marischal College was appointed, while the office of grammarian or humanist was conferred on Wedderburn. Some of these appointments seem to have been provisional and without salary, but they betoken a desire on the part of the bishop to infuse new life into Elphinstone's university and to revive his spirit within it. Another step was to re-establish the professorship of divinity, for which purpose the bishop and clergy raised among themselves the necessary fund.

After sitting for three days at King's College the commissioners proceeded to the sister university, but only to find its gates closed against them. When they had knocked for some time the porter came to a window and told them that he himself was locked in, and that Dr Strachan, rector of the college, Gilbert Keith, son of Earl Marischal, and William Ogston, newly appointed as a regent, had taken away the keys. Earl Marischal, though he had been appointed one of the commissioners, had not attended the King's College visitation, nor was he disposed to have his own college interfered with by the bishop. The king's commission was read at the gate, the principal and his colleagues being summoned to appear. Principal Aedie answered that he was ready to welcome the visitation provided the commissioners guaranteed him against danger from his patron, Earl Marischal, and he produced a letter from the earl forbidding the principal and regents to acknowledge the commission in any way. Strachan. on being personally summoned to desist from impeding the visitation, "refused to compear or deliver any keys or open any gates," alleging that he had orders to a contrary effect from his "lord and master" Earl Marischal. An adjournment for a few days took place, as Lord Chancellor Seton, who was at the head of the commission, was about to visit Aberdeen. On the advice of Seton it was agreed by the commissioners to request the earl to give way to the visitation, and Principal Aedie undertook to deliver letters in this sense from the chancellor and the bishop, and to report the answer. On the following day the principal reported that he had not seen Lord Marischal, and that the countess " told him that he might carry back the letters, for he would not find the earl or any answer to them at that time." But the resignation of Principal Aedie and the appointment of Dr William Forbes to the principalship may be regarded as practical evidence that the bishop prevailed. Forbes had held a readership in theology created by the town council in 1616, and on the endowment of a professorship Dr Robert Baron was presented to the chair — a profound scholar and theologian after the bishop's own heart.

Bishop Forbes "visited" King's College again in 1628, when he stopped the costly banquets which students on graduating gave to the professors, and ordered the money thus wasted to be expended on the library. The university under his influence was essentially a school of philosophy, but in the hands of theologians of a different order from the Melvilles and those whom they inspired. It was the great centre of Episcopalian culture in Scotland.

The " Aberdeen Doctors" whom the bishop gathered round him, and who made Aberdeen famous in the world of learning, were his son, Dr John Forbes, professor of divinity in King's College, and reputedly the most learned of the group; Dr Robert Baron, a St Andrews' graduate, who had succeeded to the incumbency at Keith, had been translated to St Nicholas' Church, was shortly afterwards appointed first professor of divinity in Marischal College, and at his decease, which occurred prematurely, was bishop-designate of Orkney; Dr William Leslie, successively regent, sub-principal, and principal of King's College; Dr Alexander Scroggie, promoted by Bishop Forbes from the parish of Drumoak to the Cathedral of St Machar; Dr James Sibbald, of the Sibbalds of Kair, in Kincardineshire, regent of Marischal College in 1619, and minister of St Nicholas' in 1626, " to whom nothing could be objected," says the parson of Rothiemay, " if you call not anti-covenanting a crime "; and Dr Alexander Ross, another of the city ministers, but not, as has sometimes been alleged, the author read by Samuel Butler's " ancient sage philosopher." Dr William Forbes had been of the same goodly fellowship; and Dr William Guild, another of the city ministers, and afterwards principal of King's College, also belonged to the group, but when stormy weather began to arise he cast in his lot with the Covenanters. There were other eminent men in the Aberdeen society of this brilliant episcopate. Dr Arthur Johnston, whose sympathies were at one with those of the Doctors of Divinity, was in frequent residence at his house in Aberdeen, and Dr William Johnston, on his return from Sedan, was established as first professor of mathematics in Marischal College. John Lundie, master of the grammar-school and King's College humanist, and David Leech, sub-principal, emerged under Bishop Forbes and changed with the times. David Wedderburn, Principals Patrick Dun and David Rait, the latter being Dean of Aberdeen, and George Jamesone, who cultivated his art and saw much of aristocratic society while his contemporaries were pursuing learning, have each a recognisable individuality and position in the numerous company.

One other name must be mentioned, that of Edward Raban the printer. The art of printing had been introduced into Scotland at the instance of Bishop Elphinstone, but it was not until after the lapse of more than a century, under the stimulating influence of Bishop Patrick Forbes, that the first printing-press was set up in Aberdeen. Regent Andrew Strachan, the contemporary panegyrist of the founders and benefactors of the university, m an oration printed by Raban in 1631, records in grandiloquent Latin how the bishop, "when he perceived the printing-press to be a nursery of the library, brought hither as if from heaven the art of printing, an art divine and worthy of the brain of Jove which never before had greeted the furests of Caledonia and the Grampian mountains"; and how "by this privilege our academy is exalted above all others in the country." Raban, who was by birth an Englishman, appears to have settled for a short time in Edinburgh, from which he removed to St Andrews as printer to the university. His stay at St Andrews did not exceed two years (1620-1622), but during that period he did some work for Dr Baron, whose connection with St Salvator's College seems not to have ceased when he became minister of Keith. Before July 1622 Raban was exercising his art in Aberdeen as printer to the university; in November of the same year the town council appointed him printer to the town at a salary of ^40 Scots, and, in respect of the cheapening of school-books, each scholar at the grammar-school and the English and music schools was to pay him eightpence quarterly. Many works issued from his press during the next quarter of a century — yearly almanacs and "prognostications," popular poetry, controversial pamphlets, university theses, Wedder-burn's grammars and other educational publications, editions of the Latin classics, various works of Arthur Johnston, sermons, theological treatises, psalm-books and liturgies, and a famous national work, the Book of Canons, the supervision of which was entrusted to Dr Baron. By this time (1636) the hostility to the Episcopal Church in southern Scotland was ominously strong, and other reasons than Dr Baron's editorship may have dictated the production in Aberdeen of the Book of Canons.1

Never had scholarship been so highly valued or so fully provided for in Scotland as it was in Aberdeen in the days of Bishop Forbes and the eminent men he gathered round him. In the divinity curriculum at King's College a prominent place was assigned to Church History, which had hitherto been entirely neglected : it was taught by Dr John Forbes, and the historical spirit accompanied the philosophical in the erudite Dr Baron, whose special strength was in the Fathers and Schoolmen. Bishop Forbes revived the old ordinance by which the regents were obliged at the end of six years, if required, to pass from the university to the charge of parochial cures, and make way for younger men in training for the ministry. This system is said to have invigorated both the university and the Church. Otherwise, Forbes's rule left a lasting impression, which the coming " Troubles" served only to deepen. His rule was gentle, and he lived on cordial terms with the clergy, but where principle and duty were concerned he was inflexible. On the occasion of a dispute between two heritors as to sittings in one of the churches, the more influential of the two obtained a letter from the king ordering an award in his favour, but the bishop paid no attention to the missive, decided in favour of the other, and wrote to the Privy Council, of which he was himself a member, saying that he was indeed indebted for his position to the Crown, but that his conscience was God's, and by its guidance he must act. This incident is in keeping with his whole character and practice. After being struck with paralysis in 1632 and physically disabled, so that he had to be carried into church, he continued to preach and to preside over meetings of the clergy. When he died on March 28, 1635, his body was removed from the Episcopal Palace in Old Aberdeen to St Ninian's Chapel, on the Castle Hill, and there lay in state till April 9, when a public funeral took place with elaborate solemnities. During his comparatively short episcopate of seventeen years, Bishop Forbes effected a transformation in the religious life of the diocese; and a remarkable literary monument to his memory was issued from Raban's press in the course of the year of his death, in a volume containing funeral sermons by all the Aberdeen Doctors, with letters from the king and the Scottish archbishops and bishops, and poetical and other tributes to his memory by Arthur Johnston, Wedderburn, and numerous other writers.

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