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The Scottish Nation

BALNAVES, a surname which, according to one tradition, was derived from the high mountain Bennevis, (the Hill of Heaven,) in the south-west extremity of Inverness—shire, near which those who bore the name are said to have lived. According to another tradition the name arose from one Nevoy or Nevay playing well at the football before one of our kings, when the latter called out, "weel ball’d, Nevoy," hence the surname Balnaves; in accordance with which some persons of the name have a football for crest, with the motto, Fortitudine et velocitate. An old family, Balnaves of Carnbody, had for crest a hand holding a football, with the motto, Hinc origo. (Nisbet’s Heraldry, vol. i. p. 20.)

BALNAVES, HENRY, of Hallhill, one of the promoters of the Reformation in Scotland, was born at Kirkcaldy, in the reign of James the Fifth. After a course of study at the university of St. Andrews, it is stated that, while yet a boy, he travelled to the continent, and hearing of a free school at Cologne, procured admission into it, and received a liberal education. While on the continent he imbibed the principles of the Reformation. On his return to Scotland he studied the law, and was for some time a procurator at St. Andrews. On 31st July, 1538, James the Fifth appointed him a lord of session; and on 10th August 1539 he obtained a charter of the lands of Hallhill, in the parish of Collessie, Fife, to himself and Christane Scheves his wife. (Diplomata Regia, vol. vii. p. 176.) He was afterwards employed by the earl of Arran when governor of the kingdom, on whose appointment to the regency he became secretary of state; and is said by Sir James Melville to have been very instrumental in getting passed the celebrated act of parliament introduced by Lord Maxwell, by which the reading of the Bible in the "vulgar toung" was permitted. In 1542 he was depute keeper of the privy seal, and in 1543 he was chosen by parliament one of the ambassadors to Henry the Eighth, sent with their instructions with regard to the proposed marriage of the infant queen Mary to Edward the young prince of Wales. In this embassy he was joined with Sir James Learmonth the treasurer, and Sir William Hamilton of Sanquhar. They set off from Edinburgh 23d March, 1543 (Sadler’s State Papers, vol. i. p. 90), and the treaties of peace and marriage were finally arranged on the 1st of July. But, shortly after, on the return of the governor Arran to the popish faith and his reconciliation with Cardinal Bethune, Balnaves was dismissed from all his offices, in consequence of his protestant principles and his favouring the English alliance. In November of this same year (1543), with the earl of Rothes and Lord Gray, he was apprehended at Dundee by the regent and cardinal, and confined in the castle of Blackness until May following, when they were restored to liberty, in consequence of the arrival of Henry’s fleet in the Firth of Forth. In 1546, after the murder of Cardinal Bethune, he joined Norman Leslie, and the others, in the castle of St. Andrews, for which he was declared a traitor and forfeited, although he was not actually concerned in the deed. While his friends were besieged in the castle, he was sent as their agent to England, for assistance, and in February 1547, a month after the death of Henry the Eighth, he received from the guardians of Edward the Sixth considerable sums of money and provisions for them. (Faedera, vol. xv. p. 133.) He himself obtained a pension of one hundred and twenty-five pounds, from lady day (25th March) that year; at the same time, he became bound that Leslie and his associates should do what they could to deliver the young queen Mary and the castle of St. Andrews into the hands of the English. When that fortress at last surrendered, he was conducted with the others to France, and confined in the French galleys at Rouen. On this occasion it was that the popish party in Scotland shouted for joy in the streets;

Ye priests, content ye non;
Ye priests, content ye non;
For Normand and his companie
Hae fill’d the galleys fun!

            During his confinement at Rouen, he wrote what Knox terms "a comfortable treatise of justification," which, after being revised by Knox, who prefixed a recommendatory dedication, was published in 1584, under the title of ‘The Confession of Faith, &c., compiled by M. Henry Balnaves, of Hallhill,' &c., as given in full after this article. Dr. M’Crie speaks of a London edition of the same date, but this is evidently a mistake.

      In 1556, the forfeiture which Balnaves had incurred was removed, when he returned to Scotland, and in 1559, "the year," according to Pitscottie, "of the uprore about religion," he took a leading part for the congregation. In August of that year he was secretly despatched to solicit the assistance of Queen Elizabeth’s envoy, Sir Ralph Sadler, at Berwick, and obtained from him a promise of an aid of two thousand pounds sterling. On the 11th February 1563 he was reappointed a lord of session, and in December of that year named one of the commissioners for revising the Book of Discipline. On the trial of Bothwell for the murder of Darnley in 1567, he was appointed one of the four assessors to the earl of Argyle, the lord justice general, and in the following year, he and Buchanan accompanied the regent Murray when he went to York, to attend the inquiry, by English and Scottish commissioners, into the alleged guilt of the unfortunate Queen Mary. In requital for his various services, he received the lands of Letham from the regent. He retired from the bench previous to October 1575, and died at Edinburgh, according to Dr. Mackenzie, in 1579. We learn from Calderwood’s History and Sadler’s State Papers that he raised himself, by his talents and probity, from an obscure station to the first honours of the state, and was justly regarded as one of the principal supporters of the reformed cause in Scotland. He is described by John Knox as a very learned and pious man, and Sir James Melville characterizes him as "a godly, learned, wise and long-experimented counsellor." (Melville’s Memoirs, p. 27.) A short ballad, signed Balnaves, in Ramsay’s Evergreen, entitled ‘Advice to a headstrong Youth,’ and beginning,

"O gallandis all, I cry and call,"

has been attributed to him ; but in our estimation without sufficient grounds. On the faith of it, however, he has obtained a place in Irving’s ‘Lives of Scottish Poets.’ (Vol. ii. p. 136.) His estate of Hallhill he disponed to Sir James Melville, third son of Sir John Melville of Raith, and brother of Sir Robert Melville of Murdocairnie, first Lord Melville. It remained the property of his descendants till the reign of Charles the Second, when it was purchased by the earl of Melville. The house of Hallhill has long been taken down, and its site, with a portion of the estate, is included within the parks round Melville House.

The following is the title of Balnaves’ treatise on Justification above referred to:

The Confession of Faith, conteining how the troubled man should seeke refuge at his God, therto led by faith; &c. Compiled by M. Henry Balnaues, of Halhill, and one of the Lords of Session and Counsell of Scotland, being as prisoner within the old pallaice of Roane, in the yeare of our Lord 1548. Direct to his faithfull brethren, being in like trouble or more, and to all true professours and fauourers of the syncere worde of God. Edinb. 1584, 8vo.

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