John Guthrie Smith.

The parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history online

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certain sum yearly, and also out of the income of his prebend he was to
pay a perpetual vicar, who was to serve the cure in the church of Strath-
blane, 14 merks Scots =i5/6f sterling; and one merkland of land, 34f
acres, '^ \\as to be given to him for a glebe near the church of Strathblane.
This merkland has retained its name to the present day, being the part of
Broadgate farm called the " Vicarland."

The only prebendary who is known for certain to have had any benefit
from Strathblane was " Magister Robertus Storman canonicus ecclesie Glas-
guensis ac prebendarius prebende de Strablane," who was a party to an
ecclesiastical deed, i6th February, 1440.^ It may be he was the first and
the last who enjoyed it. One would have thought that the Bishop of Glas-
gow, having acquired Strathblane Church, would have been very un-
willing to give it up again, but given up it certainly was, about 1453, when

^ Reg. Epis. Glas. p. 328, and vol. i. p. ci. ^-^'<f. Epis. Glas. p. 326.

^ " Quod dicta piebenda cum contigerit vacare clerico idoneo et in cantu bene et notabiliter
instructu conferatur."

■* This is according to the ordinarj' computation.

^^V_^. Epis. Glas. p. 359. The name is printed Stor'" = Storman in the " Registrum
Episcopatus Glasguensis'' ol the Maitland Chib, but in another copy of the same deed which
the author has seen the name is written For'"=Forman or Foreman. This copy was talcen by
Mr. John Dillon, a well known antiquary of the early ]xirt of this century.



Isabella Duchess-Countess of Lennox, the daughter and heiress of the Earl
Duncan, who had arranged matters with the Bishop, founded her Collegiate
Church at Dumbarton. Strange to say, one of the principal endowments of
this new establishment was the church and Kirklands of Strathblane and the
lands, or part of them, of Little Govan, or Polmadie. It is nowhere recorded
how she managed this transaction.


The provost and prebendaries of the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton were
thus now, so to speak, the " Rector of Strathblane," enjoying its Kirklands
and tithes. Our parish history therefore w^ould be incomplete without some
account of this venerable establishment.

Colleges or Collegiate Churches or Provostries — for they were known by
any of these names — had come very much into fashion abcut this date. They
were establishments of the secular clergy, and were the result of the decay of
religious feeling in Scotland, which, beginning in the fifteenth century, had
by this time showed itself in many ways, one of them being the want of the
unselfish spirit which founded monastries of the regular clergy and endowed
cathedrals and churches for the benefit of all. These Colleges were little else
in constitution and service than small cathedrals, only their head instead of
being a Bishop was a Provost or Dean, and in place of being established
for the good of the people at large, they were intended solely for the
present and future good of the souls of the founder, his predecessors, and
successors and friends. There were usually six or eight priests attached to
them, who were called prebendaries, or, canons or chaplains, and whose
stipends were drawn from lands gifted to the College, and from the tithes of
any unfortunate parishes over which the founder had authority.

The Collegiate Church of Dumbarton ^ was an establishment for a provost

^Augustinus Theiner in his Vetera Aliinimenfa Hiberno7'tttn et Scoto7-um Histoiiam illustrantia
gives the Papal authority for the foundation of the Collegiate Church of Hamilton and certain
other colleges, but is quite silent as to the erection of the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton.
The printed accounts of this provostry are both meagre and incorrect. The author has failed to
find the foundation charter among the Dumbarton Writs or elsewhere, and is therefore unable
to contradict absolutely the assertion made by every writer who notices the Collegiate Church that
it was dedicated to St. Patrick. He can only say that in none of the many original documents
alluding to it which have come under his notice is it called the Collegiate Church of St. Patrick.
On the contrary, it is always styled the Collegiate Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dumbarton
or Our Lady College of Dumbarton. Chalmers in his Caledonia, and no doubt every succeeding
writer has copied from him, asserts — and his assertions are well worthy of respect — that the
Collegiate Church was dedicated to St. Patrick, and that six prebends were founded in con-
necti<;n with it ; but the authorities he gives, so far as they can be found, do not bear him out
either in the dedication or in the number of the prebends. Probably he took his statement in part
from Spottiswoode's Religious Houses, where it is said that the College Church of I Dumbarton
was "dedicated to St. Patrick, the Apcstle of Ireland, who was born in Lennox." But where
does Spottiswoode find this? No doubt, however, Chalmers and Spottiswoode may have had
access to documents now lost.



and certain prebendaries or chaplains, with an hospital or almshouse attached
to it for poor people/ and manses for the provost and chaplains. The
Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Our Lady Chapel was made over by
the Bailies and Councillors of Dumbarton to the Duchess-Countess for the seat
of her provostry, and the following interesting documents, translated from the
original in the archives of the Burgh of Dumbarton, show the terms on
which she obtained it : —

" To all and sundry the sons of holy Mother Church, to whose knowledge
these present letters shall come, the bailies, councillors, community, and co-
burgesses of the Burgh of Dumbarton, wish salvation, in Him who is the
true salvation of all : Whereas we are informed, and given to understand, that
the noble and magnificent lady. Lady Isabella Duchess of Albany and Countess
of Lennox, for the welfare of the souls of her ancestors and successors, for
increase and enlargement of Divine worship, is disposed to found and endow
a college, with provost and ministers suitable for supporting Divine service
therein, in a place fit and convenient for this purpose, and rather in our burgh
than elsewhere ; We, considering and recognizing the intention and purpose of
our said lady the Duchess, to be laudable and acceptable to God, and being
moved and solicited on her behalf, and having taken the advice of experienced
men thereupon, and held formal deliberation, do grant, give, and by the tenor
of these presents, do for ever confirm, the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
situated in our aforesaid burgh, of which chapel we are the undoubted patrons,
with the lands, tenements, possessions, and rents belonging to the same,
together with the waste land recently granted by us to the said chapel, the
free consent and advice of a discreet man, Sir William of Dumbarton, present
perpetual chaplain of the said chapel, acceding to this, together with the consent
and assent of the said lady Duchess, that this chapel be erected and created a
Collegiate Church, and the free disposition and right of patronage thereof:
provided, however, that the said Sir William remain for his lifetime with the
benefits granted to the said chapel and now possessed, except the yards old and

^ These poor people had in later days considerable difficulty in maintaining their rights,
thus — " Cuthbert Cunynghame, Provest of the College Kirk of Dumbarton," refused to receive
a " beedman," I2th July, 15S2. "The Lords decernis and ordanis the said Cuthbert Cunyng-
hame to ressave the said Coline Schaw to the said beidmanschip and to cans him be
auswerit of the fruitis and devveteis thairof according to the presentatioun of Esme Duke of
Lennox, patroun to ane beidmanschip of the Hospitale of the College Kirk of Dumbertane." —
{Reg. P. C. of Scot., vol. iii. p. 491.) And again, 5th February, 1583-4, "Johnne Patersoun," a
blind man in the Castle of Dumbarton, complains that though Esme Duke of Lennox presented
him to "ane beidmanschip of the said College Kirk vaccand be the deceis of umquhile Jonat
Cuik, last possessour thairof." Cuthbert Cunynghame, Provost thereof, refused to admit him.
The Lords ordained the Provost to put the complainer into the Beidmanship. — {Reg. P. C. of
Scot., vol. iii. p. 627.)

Some account of the foundation of these Bcadmanships, and documents connected there-
with, will be found in the Appendix.


new lying about the same, freely granted by us and the said Sir William, for
manses to be built for the provost and chaplains : and, on his being taken away
from the midst of us, the advocation and presentation of the said chaplaincy
in the aforesaid Collegiate Church shall be held only to pertain and belong
to us and our successors in all times future : In testimony of which thing, we,
the bailies, councillors, and co-burgesses aforesaid, have caused our common seal
of our foresaid burgh to be set to these presents : And because I, the said Sir
William, have not at present my proper seal, I have procured the seal of a
prudent man, John Palmar, burgess of the said burgh, to be set to these
presents, in testimony of my consent and assent to all the premises : At Dum-
barton the eleventh day of the month of May in the year of the Lord a
thousand four hundred and fifty third : these being witnesses, Murdac Stewart,
Knight ; Master Dugal of Lochaw, archdean of Argyll ; Sir John of Atheray,
treasurer of Dunblane; Sir John Rede, vicar of Dumbarton; Sir Andrew M'Beth,
Sir Maurice Palmar, and Sir Symon Patrickson, chaplains, with many others."

On the next day, 12th May, 1453, the Duchess-Countess granted the follow-
ing obligation and bond : —

"Be it kend til al men be thir presentes letteres, vs Isabell duches of
Albany and countes of the Leuenax to haue promittit and faythfulli promittis
and oblisis vs to oure richt welebeloued frendis the baleyeis consale and com-
munite of the burgh of Dunbertane that forsamekill as thai haue grantit and
geuyn to vs the chapell of our Lady situate within thair said burghe togydder
with landis rentis patronage and pertinentis of it — for our college to be erect
and create in the said chapell, gyf it sal happin, as God forbede the said
erectioun to falye, that we sal renunce and gyf our the said chapel with the
patronage landis rentis possessionis and pertinentis of it to the saidis balyeis
counsale and communite, sua fra thine furth we haue nane interessis tharin bot
that we and al ouris be excludit fra al clame and richt propirte and posses-
sioun of the said chapell with the pertinentis, and fra it excludis vs and ouris
foreuir be thir our letteres. Geuyn vnder our sele at Inchmuryne the tuelft
day of Maij the yhere of our lorde m"'° cccc""' fyfti and thre yheris."^

The lands that went along with this chapel, including the lands of Lady-
ton in Bonhill,2 were of considerable value, and Sir William of Dumbarton, the

^ These documents are in excellent preservation, the seals only being awanting. The author
is much indebted to Mr. Alexander Allan, Town Clerk of Dumbarton, for his courtesy in allow-
ing him to inspect the writs under his charge, and make copies from the originals.

-See Appendix for an account of Ladyton. The Chapel of St. Mary also possessed
lands that marched with the Colquhoun lands to the east of the burgh. — (Reg. Mao-. Si"-. 19
Jac. IV. 1506, p. 641, No. 3,012.) And in the " Compota ballivorum burgi d"e Dunbertane" in
the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland there appears an annual payment of xx.s. — " Viginti solidi
de firmis dicti burgi " to the chaplain— " Capellano celebranli in Capella beate Marie Virginis
infra dictum burgum."


incumbent of the chapel of the Blessed Virgin when it was an independent
charge, became, on the presentation of the baihes,i the first holder of the pre-
bend formed by its endowments.^ The other endowments of the Collegiate
Church of Dumbarton were the tithes or teinds of Strathblane,^ Fintry, and
Bonhill, and certain lands ^ of which the Kirklands of Strathblane were the
most valuable.^ The whole, when arranged and set agoing, was no doubt a
very pretty establishment, and it was certainly very satisfactory to the Countess
to have a provost and set of prebendaries, all handsomely endowed, whose sole
employment was the present and future care of her soul and those of her dead
relatives ; but for the parishes of Strathblane, Fintry, and Bonhill it was a
very different matter. They were distinctly robbed of endowments which un-
doubtedly belonged to them, and which the pious ancestors of the Countess
had given them to be employed in conducting with propriety the services of
the church by an efficient and suitably paid priest.

The site of the Collegiate Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dumbar-
ton, or Our Lady College of Dumbarton, as it is sometimes styled, was on the
banks of the Leven at the south end of the Broad Meadow, a street or vennel,
now called College Street, connecting it with the burgh.^ There were attached
to the College a mansion house for its provost, with a garden and orchards,'' and
manses for the chaplains. Standing as the College did close to the Leven, the
buildings were often endangered by the frequent floods which came down the river,
and during the time when Robert Maxwell Bishop of Orkney held the provostry, a
dam or embankment was constructed to turn aside the water at this point. This
piece of engineering was for long known as the " Bishop's Cast." After the
Reformation the College Church fell into disuse, and no effort being made to

1 After the Reff)rmation, the Town of Dumbarton, the Provost of the Collegiate Church, and
the Minister of Bonhill had frequent lawsuits about the possession of the endowments of this
prebend. — (Irving's Book of Dtivtbartonshi7-e, vol. ii. p. 2i8, in a note.)

2 Sir William of Dumbarton continued to hold this prebend till at least 1st July, 1476, for
on that date in the " Compotum ballivorum burgi de Dunbretane " he gives a receipt lor xxs.
due to " Capellano beate Marie Celebranti in ecclesia Collegiate de Dunbertan." — {Exchequer
Rolls of Scotland, vol. viii. p. 395.)

'The arrangements made for the support of a vicar at Strathblane to serve the cure there,
when the new prebend of Glasgow Cathedral was formed, were continued now that the tithes
of the parish belonged to the provostry of Dumbarton.

^See Appendix.

^ There were occasionally small donations made to the College. Thus when King James IV,
was in Dumbarton, loth June, 1505, he gave "To the priests of the Collec of Dunbartane
XX sh." — {King James IV.^s Household Book.)

"Irving's Book of Dumbartonshire, vol. ii. p. 149.

'■"Item the xiiij day of Aprile, gififin to ane cheld that brocht apillis to the King fra the
Prouest of Dunbartane. — {Accounts oj the Lord High Trrasm-er of Scotland, vol. i. p. 329-)

"Loco sive manerie in qua praepositi ecclesiae collegiatae de Dumbartane habitabant cum
hnrtis et jiomariis. " — (Dumbartonshire Ketouis, No. 15.)


keep the "Bishop's Cast" m order, the river, which burst through it in 1590,
gradually sapped the foundations of the venerable edifice and it fell into ruins,
part of which were used to raise new embankments against the river and part
for other secular purposes.^ " The College," as the mound of ruins continued
to be called, with its last remaining arch — " the College Bow " — was for long
a sort of public place in Dumbarton.^ In 1850 the Dumbartonshire Railway-
was carried through the Bankend where it stood and the whole was swept

The Provosts or Deans of the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton were all
men of position in their day and generation.


A very early Provost, if not the first, was Master George Abernethy, who
was in possession of the provostry before 6th November, 1461, on which day
there was a charter in his favour by John Duncansone, burgess of Dumbarton,
of an annual rent of twenty shillings from a house in the burgh.* He is also
witness to a charter by David Earl of Crawford of certain lands to Herbert de
Johnestoune, dated at Edinburgh, 26th February, 1463. ^ George Abernethy was

^ " Item, that the hoills in the Kirk Vennel be helpit and fillit up w' erd and staines fra
the Colledge.'" — {Records of the Buygk of Duvibarton, Joseph Irving, 22nd April, 1628, p. 26.)

2 " The twentie-nynt day of May, appointed be Act of Parliament to be kept in all tyme coming
as ane memoriall of his majesties restauratione to the exercise of his authoritie. Thairfor
it is ordainit that the inhabitants in the Croce Vennell contribuit for ane bonfyre to be at the
Colledge, 28th May, 1664." — {Records of the Btirgh of Dumbarton, p. 83.)

On the 29th May, 1669, there were four "grit bonfyres " on the same anniversary, one of
which was at "the Colledge." — {Records of the Btirgh of Duvibarton, p. 85.)

* " The College Bow," as the arched gateway, the last remnant of the old Collegiate
Church, was called, was carefully removed, and being re-erected formed the gateway of the old
public school, and on it is incised the following incorrect and somewhat absurd legend: —


ST. Patrick's collegiate church










When the new academy was built on the opposite side of Church Street, the old school area
and other property was acquired by the managers of the Scottish Episcopal congregation in
Dumbarton, and the "College Bow" now forms the entrance to the house occupied by the
incumbent of St. Augustine's Chapel.

■* Craigbarnet Charter, printed in Stirlings of Keir, p. 238.

^ Reg. Mag. Sig. 4, Jac. III. 1463.



a cadet of the family of Saltoun, and nearly related to Margaret Abernethy, the
wife of John Stirling of Craigbarnet, whose son William Stirling was first of
Glorat and the Kirklands of Strathblane. The Provost was among those
present at Balloch on the 27th July, 1473, when John Lord Darnley bad sasine
of the principal messuage and half of the Earldom of Lennox, and he was
again at Balloch on the loth October of the same year, when a royal letter
was delivered to the tenants of Lennox commanding them to obey " oure
hertly belouyt cousyn Johne Erie of Leuenax and Lord Dernlie."^ In the
following year he had a dispute with John Cardross, curate of the Parish
Church of Dumbarton, alleging that the latter had inhibited the parishioners,
on pain of excommunication, from frequenting or paying oblations in the
Collegiate Church. ^ Provost George Abernethy died before i6th June, 1479,
for at that date Master Walter Abernethy was in possession.^


Provost Walter Abernethy was " carnal " son of Provost George Abernethy,^
and the first notice of interest we find of him is in a commission by Pope
Sixtus IV., dated at Rome, 17th January, 1483, the object of which was to
inquire into the propriety of feuing off lands belonging to the Abbey of
Paisley.^ The commissioners, who are styled in a succeeding deed " venera-
biles et circumspecti viri Magistri Johannes Crechton precentor ecclesie Glas-
gwensis et Walterus Abbirnethe prepositus ecclesie collegiate de Dunbartan,"
reported favourably of the scheme in 1488.^ In 1493 the Provost's house
and farm were "berried," though apparently he recovered his goods and cattle,
or the value of them, for it is recorded that George Robisone was ordained
to make restitution to " Maister Walter Abirnethy, Prouest of Dunbertane,"
" anent the xvj oxin five ky four stirkis four skore twa scheip, the breking
of the said Maister Walters chawmer and takin out of the samyn of a conter,
twa fedder beddis, a doble curlet of sey, a pare of ffustiane blankatis, a bankure
(a stool or bench covering) four cuschings, twa grapis of siluer, a spone owr-
gilt, and certane utheris gudis.""

On the 1 8th March, 1502, the Provost was in Edinburgh, and was a witness
to the charter by Mathew Earl of Lennox, to John Stirling of the .lands of

^ Both deeds at Buchanan Castle, and printed at pp. 98 and !Ol of 1 he Lennox, by W.

''■Book of Dumbarto)ishire, Joseph Irving, vol. ii. p. 148.

^ Excheque7- Rolls of Scotland, vol. viii. p. 635. ■* Stirlings of Keir, p. 238, etc, etc.

^ Reg. Mon. de Passelet, p. 2 58. '' Reg. Mon. de Passelet, p. 261.

• Artfi Dam. Condlii, 25ih October, 1493, p. 315.


Craigbarnet and others, the holding in future to be blench in place of ward
as before.^ In 1506 he was again in Edinburgh, and a witness along with
the Earl of Lennox and John Stirling of Craigbarnet to a charter by William
Crawfurd of Ferme, in favour of his son Walter Crawfurd.^ On the 23rd
October, 1507, we find him cited before the Archbishop and Chapter of Glas-
gow for refusing to pay Sir Humphrey Cunninghame his salary for serving
the cure of Strathblane,^ and in 15 12 he was defending an action raised against
him by Mr. Martin Reid, Chancellor and official of Glasgow, in respect of cer-
tain teinds the Chancellor claimed from him.*

These Provosts Abernethy— father and son — were closely connected with the
Earls of Lennox and Stirlings of Craigbarnet, and when John Stirling in 1508
endowed a chaplain to serve in the chapel of the Virgin Mary " within his
place and manor of Craigbernard," one of his duties was to pray for the souls
of Mathew Earl of Lennox and George Abernethy, Provost of the Collegiate
Church of Dumbarton.


The next Provost on record is Master James Stewart. He was installed
on the 24th August, 15 18. The Protocol Book of "Master Matthew Forsyth"
narrates how on that day " Master James Stewart, Provost of the Collegiate
Church of Dunbartane," having in his hands letters of collation by the Arch-
bishop of Glasgow to the said church, required a venerable man, Master Patrick
Schaw, Rector of Cardross, to give him possession of the Provostry according to
the said letters of collation. These letters were handed to " Sir Robert Cochrane,
vicar of Strablane," notary public, to be read, and this he did in a loud and
intelligible voice in presence of the parties, and of John Earl of Lennox and
Lord Darnley, patron of the Provostry. The said Master Patrick then gave
possession and institution, placed the Provost in his stall on the north side
of the choir and in his place in the chapter.-^

Master James Stewart, who was thus installed, was no doubt one of those
relatives of the Earls of Lennox for whom were carefully kept the ecclesiastical
preferments of the earldom. On the 23rd August, 15 12, he was rector of
Cardross,^ and at the feast of Crispin and Crispinian (25th October) of the

^ Reg. Mag. Sig. 15, Jac. IV. 1502.

'Reg. Mag. Sig. 19, Jac. IV. 1506.

'^Diocesan Register of Glasgow, vol. ii. p. 218.

^Diocesan Register 0/ Glasgow, vol. ii. p. 451.

■^ Dennistoun MS., Adv. Library.

" Chiefs of ColquIiQuii, Wm. Frascr, vol. ii. p. 323.


same year he was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow under the style
of Canon of Glasgow and Rector of Cardross.^ In 15 18, as just shown, he was
put in possession of the Provostry of Dumbarton, and in 15 21 and 1522 — now
under the style of Provost of the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton — he was re-
elected Rector of the University.'^ Provost Stewart was a useful Rector. On
his suggestion certain irregularities in the taking of Degrees were amended, and
the old custom of one of the Regents going with the students to church,
of a nightly inspection of their rooms and other old regulations, were again put
in force. He also obtained for the members of the University some exemption
from taxation, and had the accounts of the University properly audited. On
the 25th February, 1522-3, he was no longer Provost of the Collegiate Church,
his successor being instituted that day. He was, however, soon to obtain
higher preferment, for, through the influence of the Duke of Albany, Regent of
Scotland, he was appointed Abbot of Dryburgh 13th December, 1523; the
Regent giving as a reason, that it was necessary to appoint one " who would
zealously rebuild the monastery, the whole country being wasted by the English,