John Guthrie Smith.

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

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who spare neither sex nor age." ^

There is little or nothing to tell of the doings of Master James Stewart in
Dumbarton, save that on the 24th October, 15 18, he gave a tack of the Kirk-
lands of Strathblane (part of the property of the Collegiate Church), with consent
of the Earl of Lennox, to William Stirling of Glorat,^ and this was no doubt
one of the alienations of the Church's lands against which Master Robert Max-
well, the succeeding Provost, protested on his entry to the provostry.^


Robert Maxwell was second son of John Maxwell of Pollok and Elizabeth
Stewart.'' In 1508 he was Vicar of Erskine.''' Before 15 17, and doubtless

^ Muniinenta Univ. Glas., vol. ii. p. 1 26.

- Muniinenta Univ. Glas., vol. ii. pp. 139 and 147.

■' Papers temp. Henry VIII. Brit. Mus.

■• Glorat Writs. ^ Dennistoun MS. Adv. Lib.

^ In the Memoiis of the Maxwells of Pollok, 1863, vol. i. p. 22, Mr. Fraser says — "This
laird of Pollok married Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of John, first Earl of Lennox, of the house
of Darnley ; " and Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, in an article drawn from the same work,
styles her '■^ Lady Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of John Earl of Lennox." This high lineage
is not, however, confirmed in The Lennox, 1874, also by Mr. Fraser (vol. i. p. 328). It is
unnecessary, however, to inquire too closely who she was, though no doubt she was connected
in some way with the Lennox family. In a deed printed in the Maxzuell Book, vol. i. p. 258,
she is styled " ane honorable woman Elizabetht Steward ladye of Neddyr Pollok and modyr to
the sayd Georgis,'' (Jeorge being George Maxwell of Cowglen, younger brother of Robert, the
Provost of the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton.

T Reg. Mag Sig 20, Jac. IV. 1508.


through the influence of his mother, who was of the Lennox race, he was
appointed Rector of Tarbolton.^ In 15 19 he was a Canon of Glasgow, Chan-
cellor of Moray, and Rector of the University of Glasgow.^ On the 25th
February, 1522-3 he was instituted to the Provostry of the Collegiate Church of
Dumbarton, as already shown. Two years afterwards, on the 25th January,
1525-6, he was Postulate of Orkney, and by the 27th June of the same year
he was installed Bishop of that diocese.^

This Provost and Bishop was an excellent man, and in every position of life
threw himself heartily into his work. Thus, he was no sooner made Rector of
the University of Glasgow than he interested himself in improving the insignia
of his office, and presented the University with a new staff or baton for the
Rector's use on lesser occasions.* At Dumbarton he constructed works on the
Leven to turn aside the course of the stream and prevent it from sapping the
foundations of the Collegiate Church.^ This " dyke and watergang " was named
the "Bishop's Cast." At his Cathedral of St. Magnus in Kirkwall he built
stalls for the prebendaries, and made other additions to the building, besides
putting in a famous peal of bells, and even in his old age " his hand was " still
" in the mortar tub," for one of the last acts of a useful life was the re-building
the towers of old Pollok Castle for his young relatives, John Maxwell of
Cowglen and Elizabeth Maxwell of Pollok, spouses.

This young couple had been a special care of the good Provost. He had
interested himself in bringing about their marriage and thus uniting the two
branches of the Pollok family, getting the necessary Papal dispensation, and
arranging all the preliminaries of the ceremony, which took place about 1535,
when both bride and bridegroom were under age. Among the Pollok Writs
is a notarial instrument upon their marriage. It was executed in the College
Church of Dumbarton, i6th January, 1535 — "Johannes Maxwell, filius et heres
quondam Georgii Maxvel de Cowglen, et Elizabetht alias Besseta Maxvell de
Nedder Pollok comparentes apud ostium australe Ecclesie Collegiate Beate Marie
prope Dunberten." There were also present at this ceremony Magister Jacobus

^ Reg. Mag. Sig. 4, Jac. V. 1517. ^ Mun. Univ. Glas. vol. ii. pp. 136-138.

3 These dates are confirmed by original receipts at Pollok. — {Memoijs of the Maxwells^
vol. i. p. 403.)

* " Quo die venerabilis et egregius vir Magister Robertus Maxwell Cancellarius Moraviensis
Canonicusque Glasguensis ac alme Universitatis eiusdem Rector, dedit, donavit, et concessit
Universitate unum baculum arundineum in superiori inferiori ac mediis partibus deargentatiim
pro perpetuo apud universitatem remansurum deferendum coram rectore diebus dominicis et aliis
festis minoribus aliisque congregracionibus et vocacionibus ut moris est."—{Mi(n. Univ. Glas.,
vol. ii. p. 137.)

^ " The old dyke and watergang formerly made by umquhile the Bishop of Orkney and
head of the Collegiate Church of said burgh for the time." — (Charter of Rights and Privileges
by King James VI., quoted from Irving's Book of Diimbartonshire, vol, ii. p. 24.)


Houstoun, Sub-dean of Glasgow-, Walter Maxwell of Akynheid, Walter Crawfurd
of Ferm, William Maxwell of Kervedrig, John SmoUat, Thomas Fallusdaill,
John Palmer, Burgesses of Dunbarton, and Sirs (Domini) Thomas Palmer,
James Fallusdaill, John Ayknheid, Winfrid Lyndesay, chaplains, and many

About 1536 King James V. made a progress through the north of Scotland
and visited Kirkwall, and it is recorded that the Bishop of Orkney entertained
him there with great splendour. One of the last acts of this Provost, connected
with Strathblane, was on the 12th August, 1537, when he directed a precept to
Walter Stirling of Ballagan and others for infefting George Stirling in all and
whole the Kirklands of Strathblane " terras meas ecclesiasticas de Straeblane."
This deed was signed at Dumbarton before James Derrumpill, John Flemyne,
and others.2

This distinguished Bishop and Provost of the Collegiate Church of Dum-
barton died before 26th March, 1541.^


The next Provost of the Collegiate Church was Robert Stewart, second
son of John, third (Stewart) Earl of Lennox, and Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of
John, first Earl of Athole. He was quite a youth when he received the
appointment, but young as he was — " admodum adolescens "—he had soon
higher preferment in the Church, for in 1542 he was advanced to the Bishopric
of Caithness.^ In one of the Kirklands Charters, dated 19th April, 1544, he is
styled " Robart be the mercie of God Elect Bishop of Kaitness and Provest of
out Lade Colleg of Dunberten." In this very year, however, he forfeited both

1 Memoirs of the Maxwells of Pollo/c, vol. i. p. 269. - Kirklands Writs.

^ Memorandum of the delivery of certain articles of furniture which belonged to the late
Robert Maxwell, Bishop of Orkney, by his executors to John Maxwell of Pollok — " This is
the geir onder writtin that Johnne Maxwell Lard of Nether Pollok resaivet fra Watte Robisone,
beidman in the Collage of Dunbertane, owt of the samrayn Collage at the command of the
executouris of vmquhill Bischap Robert Maxwall of Orknay and Prowest of Dunbertane,
videlicit, Walter Maxwall of Aikinheid and William Maxwall of Carnwoderik : Item, imprimis
ane stand bed of estland burd ; Item ane makill pot ; Item the maist ark, ane brandress of
irne, the maist chymnay of irne, ane girdill, ane baikstule, ane maskin fat, with three gile
fattis, ane counter, ane harthorne, ane copburd, ane chiyr, and I the said Johnne Maxwall of
Neddir Pollok resaivit this forsaid geir at the command of the executouris the xxvj day of
Marcij the Zer of God Mv<=xli Zere befor thir witnes Thomas Fallowsdaill, George Abirnelhye,
Thomas Wicaris and Thomas Leche. " (Signed) Johnne Maxwall of Neddir Pollok. — [Memoirs of
the Maxivells of Pollok, vol. i. p. 283.)

* Robert Stewart was elected Bishop of this See (Caithness) the same year his predecessor
died. — Ry??ier. This is likewise confirmed by letters to the Lord Governor, who takes notice
to the Pope on 12th December, 1544, how His Holiness three years ago committed to this Robert
the administration of the Cathedral Church of Caithness, " admodum adolescens. " — Keith's C(?/rt -
loguc of Scottish Bishops, p. 215.


Provostry and Bishopric through sharing in the traitorous plottings of his
brother, Mathew Earl of Lennox with King Henry VIII., and he retired to Eng-
land with the Earl in May, 1544, On the 2nd September, 1545, in a Parlia-
ment held in PMinburgh, "Master Henrie Lauder, advocat," presented " befor
the Lordis Commissionaris of Parliament ane summondis of tressoun dewlie
executit and indorsate rasit at the instance of the Queenis Grace and hir
tutour the Gouvornour forsaid aganis Maister Robert Stewart elect of Cathnes
brother germane to Mathow Erie of Levnox for certane poyntis of tressoun and
crymes of lese maieste." This summons to appear and take his trial had been
duly made "at the mercat croce of Dunbertane be Peter Thomsoun, Bute
persevant " ; and " at the mercat croces of Invernes and Dornocht, principale
Cathedral Kirk of the Diocy of Cathnes."^ The Provost, however, as was no
doubt expected, did not appear either at this or a succeeding sitting of Parlia-
ment at the " Burght of Lynlythgw " on the 28th September. The Com-
missioners of Estates, therefore, at their session on the i8th October of the
same year, were about to pass sentence on him when " my Lord Cardinale
(Beatoun) protestit that, howbeit they rasit summondis of treson aganis the
elect of Cathnes, that is ane spirituale man, that it should not be preiudiciale
to the spirituale priuilege in the proces ellis depending befor him that is his
ordinar." This claim of the Cardinal Archbishop that the case should be tried
in the Church Courts was thought reasonable, and it was agreed that " no
forther process suld be had therin," " bot that the ordinar proceid as requiris." ^
The form of trial in the spiritual court is not recorded, but the result of it was
that both Provostry and Bishopric were taken from the accused. Sir David
Hamyltoun being appointed to the former and Master Alexander Gordon,
brother of the Earl of Huntly, to the latter.^

1 The Bishop's Castle and the Church of St. Gilbert, the Cathedral of the diocese of Caith-
ness, were at Dornoch. The ruins of the former show that it was a large building. The
Cathedral, which was built by Bishop Gilbert Murray in the thirteenth century, was burnt down
by John, Master of Caithness in 1570, but was afterwards rebuilt, and is now in use as the
Parish Church. Bishop Gilbert, the founder of the Cathedral, was possessed of the gift of
performing miracles. He restored to speech a dumb man, and healed many sick, and when
the tacksman of the salmon fishings of the diocese was in danger of being unable to pay his
rent through lack of fish the Bishop attracted them to the river by washing his holy hands
therein. After his death he was canonized and became the patron saint of his Diocese and

-Act Par., Marie, a.d. 1545.

^This churchman is styled in a grant by Queen Mary, dated 23rd September, 1545, "Master
Alexander Gordoun, Postulate of Cathnes." In 1547 he is still styled "Postulate of Cathnes."
In 1548 Robert, Bishop elect of Caithness, and others find surety to appear before the Civil
Court to answer for seizing upon and keeping from Master Alexander Gordoun, Postulate of
Caithness, his house and place of Scrabister and other fruits of the Bishoprick.— (Pitcairn's
Criminal Trials, vol. i. p. 337.) In 1550 and afterwards Robert Stewart styles himself in
charters either Bishop, Bishop elect and confirmed, or " Bishop of Cathanes." Sir Robert
Gordon records, in his Genealogy of the Earls of Sutherland, that " Bishop Robert Stuart


Robert Stewart very soon repented of his " diuerse crymes," or at all events
from his exile in the South turned a longing eye to his pleasant house, garden,
and orchard at Dumbarton, and his Castle and Cathedral of St. Gilbert at
Dornoch, with the ample emoluments of the See of Caithness. He therefore
sued for a remission to the Privy Council, and got it before the month of July,
1546,1 but he did not at once get back his Provostry and Bishopric, though he
had the offer of a pension " of als meikile proffett yeirlie as he mycht half
spendit baith of his Bishopric and Provostrie at the time of his depairting furth
of this realme." This did not please him ; he wanted complete reinstatement,
and though reminded by the Privy Council on the 15th September, 1546, that
in order to get his pardon he had " submittit himself in every behalf to tak sik
appuntnament as wald pleis my Lord Governour and Lordis of Counsall to
mak him," and also that "my Lord Governour" after his passing "to the
realme of Ingland and pairt-takin with his brouther had namyt be vertew of
ane Act of Parliament sertane personis to be providit to all beneficis " that
had belonged to him, he remained dissatisfied and " refusit to stand at his
submissioun." ^

Meanwhile things in the Diocese of Caithness were not going smoothly
with Master Alexander Gordon, the postulate. Immediately on his appoint-
ment the Earl of Caithness and others had seized the lands, rents, and
houses of the Bishopric, and refused to give them up to him, alleging
that they held them for Robert Stewart. When they were dispossessed
by the Earls of Huntly and Sutherland matters did not improve, for Bishop
Robert, failing, as we have seen, to get restitution from the Privy Council,

was repossessed in his owne Bishoprick, and Alexander Gordoun made Archbishop of Glasgow,
which he keipt not, bot wes takin from him agane by the Hamiltoune faction," and no doubt
he is right. Gavin Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow, died in 1547, and Bishop Alexander
Gordon was chosen his successor, and " went to Rome ther to be confirmed in that dignitie.

In the meantym some dissention happened betwein the Quein Regent and the

Earle of Arran for the government of Scotland .... and because Bishop Alexander
Gordoun assisted the Quein Regent and her partie the Earle of Arran dispossessed him of the
Archbishoprick of Glasgow. "—( 6^^rc/M7, p. 290.) The Bull of Pope Julius III., confirming
the resignation of " venerabilis frater noster Alexander, Episcopus nuper Glasguensis Archie-
piscopus," is dated at Rome, September, 1551.— (T^f^. Epis. Glas. p. 567.) "Yet in recom-
pense thereof" he "wes made Bishop of the Isles and Abbot of Inchaffray, and least he
should lose the title and dignitie of ane Archbishop the Pope did institute him Archbishop of
Athens." — (Gordon, p. 290.) From 1554 to 1562 he appears on record as Atchbishop of
Athens, Bishop Postulate of the Isles, and Perpetual Commendator of the Abbies of Inch-
affray and Icolm Kill {Origines Par., vol. ii. p. 293), and on the death of Bishop Andrew
Durie "he was made Bishop of Galloway by the Queinis gift" [Gordon, p. 137), and "so he
continued vntill his death {the year of God 1576) Archbishop of Athence, Bishop of Galloway,
and Abbot of Inchaffray." — [Gordoti, p. 290.) Robert Stewart was thus in repossession of
his Bishopric of Caithness before 1550, and Alexander Gordon, Bishop of the Isles and Arch-
bishop of Glasgow before the same date, ended his days as Archbishop of Athens and Bishop
of Galloway.

1 Reg. P. C. of Scot., vol. i. p. 35. - A'r?-. P. C. of Scot., vol. i. p. 41.


took another way of gaining his ends, and before March, 1548, assisted by
Sir John Mathesoune, Chancellor of Caithness, Hercules Barculay, Rector of
Cannisby, and others, vi et armis, gave himself institution and possession of
his Diocese regardless of legal forms, and treated with contempt a protection
granted by the Queen to Alexander Gordon.^ The end of the matter was
that " might overcame right," and Bishop Stewart was reinstated in his Diocese
of Caithness before 1550, and Bishop Alexander Gordon was made Archbishop
of Glasgow. 2

After the assassination of the Regent Murray in 1570 the Commendatorship
of the Priory of St. Andrews was conferred on the Bishop and Provost,^ who
thereupon made an arrangement by which he paid yearly " to our soverane
Lord" two thousand pounds "as for the thrid and superplus of the Pryorie
of Sanct Androis by and attour the sustening of the ministrie, as also the
haill thrid of the Bishoprik of Catnes.""^

It is nowhere recorded how or when Robert Stewart recovered his position
and emoluments as Provost of the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton, but the
Kirklands Writs show that he was possessed of them, and issued charters
under the style of bishop and provost before the Reformation.

Robert Stewart from first to last had a curious chequered life. " Born with
a silver spoon in his mouth," he had early two valuable church preferments in
his possession, but hardly had he tasted their sweets before he was under a
cloud and in exile. By vigour and self-reliance he soon regained his position
in the Church and acquired an equally high one in the State, being constantly
a member of the Privy Council of Scotland, during the reigns of Queen Mary
and King James VI.^ He was a staunch adherent of the Roman Catholic
Church in 1558, and as such attended the trial and was "consenting to the
death " of Walter Myln — the old priest and last Scottish martyr — who was burnt

"^Genealogy of the Earls of Sutherland, p. iii, etc., and Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, vol, i.
p. 337.

2 See note about Alexander Gordon, p. 183.

^ " Ws Rob. be the mercy of God Bischope of Caithnes, Coinmendatare of the Pryorie of
Sanctandrois. . . . 6th Feb., 1571." — Reg. Mag. Sig. 5, Jac. VI. 1571-2.

*Reg. P. C. of Scot, vol. iii. p. 179.

^In May, 1547, an Act of the Privy Council bears the signature of " Cathanensis."— (i*?^^.
P. C. of Scot., vol. i. p. 73.) In June, 1553, Robert Stewart was sitting as a Privy Councillor
at a meeting at Perth. — [Reg. P. C. of Scot., vol. i. p. 141.) In July, 1569, he was present
at the Convention of Estates at Perth. — [Reg. P. C. of Scot,, vol. ii. p. 2.) For the first
half of 1578 he sat at the Council Board as Bishop of Caithness. — (Reg. P. C. of Scot., vol. ii.
pp. 681, 683, 684, 707.) By the 29th of July of that year he had been created Earl of Lennox,
and sat as such. — [Reg. P. C. of Scot., vol. iii. pp. 15, 18, 240, etc.) After 5th March,
1579-80 he appears among the Councillors as Earl of March, the title he received after he
resigned the Earldom of Lennox, and which had been conferred on Esme Count of Aubigny. —
{Reg. P. C. of Scot., vol. iii. pp. 387, 388, etc., etc.)

2 A


at the stake at St. Andrews on the 28th April, 1558,1 but by 1563 he was
a member of the Reformed Church, "preaching of the gospell and planting of
kirks." 2 In 1572, along with such men as John Wynrame, David Lindesay,
Robert Pont, John Row, and others, " brethren and fellow members in Jesus
Christ," he was deputed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to
answer certain questions put by John Knox, and a few months afterwards, when
the great Scottish Reformer was on his deathbed, he was among his last

In 1578, two years after the death of his nephew, Charles, fifth (Stewart)
Earl of Lennox, brother of the ill-fated Darnley, the Earldom was bestowed on
Robert Stewart, and the Provost, Bishop, and Prior became Robert, sixth Earl
of Lennox.

In March, 1579-80, to suit the purposes of his grand-nephew, King James
VI., who wished to confer the Earldom of Lennox on his nephew and favourite,
Esnie Lord of Aubigny, Robert Stewart resigned it into His Majesty's hands,
and before 23rd May, 158 r, he received in lieu of it the Earldom of March,^

But though blessed with an ample fortune and high rank the Earl's domestic
life was not happy. He had an unfaithful wife, Elizabeth Stuart, the beautiful
widow of Hugh, sixth Lord Lovat, and daughter of John, fourth Earl of Atholl.
She was seduced by James Stewart, the talented but unprincipled Earl of
Arran who, all powerful as he was, obtained a decree of divorce against the
injured husband, and the guilty pair were married, greatly to the scandal of all
ranks of the people.

It is recorded that this old Provost of the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton,^

1 Works of Johi Knox, David Laing, vol. i. p. 551.

- Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland, vol. i. p. 224.

^ Works of John Knox, vol. vi. pp. 622, 640.

■*At a meeting of the Privy Council, 23i-d May, 1581, the sederunt consisted, among others,
of " Robertus Comes Marcie " and " Esme Comes de Lennox."

^According to Bishop Keith, it is very doubtful if Robert Stewart "was ever duly, and
according to the constant invariable usage of the primative Catholic Church, vested with
any sacred character at all"; and then he goes on to say — "Yet it is a little diverting to
observe how the men at the helm of public affairs in those days grant commission to him to
assist in the consecration of other men to the sacred office of Bishops. I persuade myself the
preamble of the following commission will surprise most people : — " . . . Our sovereign
Lord with advice, etc., ordains ane letter to be made under the Great Seal in due form direct
to the Reverend Father in God, Robert Bishop of Caithness, and the Superintendents of
Angus, Fife, Lothian, or any utheris lauchful Bischopis and Superintendents within the realme
. . commanding them to consecrate the said Mr. John Douglas electit as said is ane
Bischop and pastour of the Metropolitan Kirk of St. Androis ... at Leeth the 9th
day of February the year of God 1571." — (Keith's Catalogue of Scottish Bishops, p. 215.) An
account of the inauguration of Mr. John Douglas is given at page 206, vol. iii., of Calderwood's
History of the Kirk of Scotland, where it is stated that " the Bishop of Cathnesse, Mr. John
Spotswod, superintendent of Lothian, and Mr. David Lindsay, sitting with the rector (John
Douglas) upon a furme before the pu'pit at the time of the sermoun, layed their hands on him,
and embraced him, in sign of admissijun to the Archbishoprick. "


who seems to have continued in favour with his relative King James,^ spent
the latter years of his Hfe in quiet and study at St. Andrews,^ and that he died
childless "the 29th day of August, the yeir of God 1586, and wes bureid in
St. Leonard his Colledge at St. Andrews wher he departed this mortall lyff."^


We must now retrace our steps to the year 1545, when by Act of Parliament
" My Lord Governour," James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, was empowered to
name persons to fill the benefices which had been held by Provost and Bishop
Robert Stewart, and forfeited by his complicity in the plots of his brother, the
Earl. We have already shown how Alexander Gordon was appointed to his
Bishopric of Caithness; it remains to show how the Provostry of the Collegiate
Church of Dumbarton was filled up.

Hitherto the Earls of Lennox had been patrons of it, but the forfeiture of
Earl Mathew in 1545 included not only his lands and superiorities, but also the
patronage of the Provostry of Dumbarton. This right, Arran, the Governor, in
virtue of the powers conferred on him, made over to his brother, John
Hamilton, Abbot of Paisley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Primate of

The relatives and friends of the Lennox race had for long held the Provostry.
It was only natural, therefore, that when the house of Hamilton came into power,
her clerical children should not be neglected. Accordingly Sir David Hamyltoun
stepped into the office vacant by the expulsion of Robert Stewart. It is im-
possible to determine accurately who Sir David Hamyltoun was, though there
is reason to believe that he belonged to that branch of the house which was
represented by Sir Andrew Hamilton of Cochna. On the 27th February,
1549-50, "Sir David Hamyltoun, Provost of the Collegiate Church of Dun-
bartane," is mentioned in a deed of sasine in favour of John Cochran as heir
of Ninian Knox, sometime citizen of Glasgow, of a tenement, garden, and acre

^ 25th October, 1582. The King nominates and " appointis and oi-danis his Hienes dearest
onlie greit uncle Robert Erll of Marche to have place and vote in Counsele at sic tymes as he
sail happin to be present with his Majestic."- — [Reg. P. C. of Scot., vol. iii. p. 522.)

^ History of the Stewarts, Andrew Stuart, p. 245.

^Genealogy of the Earls of Stithsrland, p. 124. Crawford in his Peerage, p. 310, gives the

Online LibraryJohn Guthrie SmithThe parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history → online text (page 23 of 45)