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Rx Libris 


20 Kensington Square, London, W.! 


Nihll obstat 




Archiep. S. Andrea et Edimb. 
Corpus Christi, 1914 


(From an old painting preserved at Palm a, Majorca) 


A Glimpse of the Scottish Reformation^ 1559 










FOREWORD ....... 7 

PROTOMARTYRS . . . . . . . 1 1 











TION, 1559) 


SOME time ago I contributed several 
articles to the Aberdeen Free Press ^ bearing 
on the martyrdom of the Trinitarian or 
" Red " Friar, Francis, in the opening days 
of the Reformation in Aberdeen. All that 
I could gather about his death was scanty, 
but I am satisfied that there is no chance 
of adding to the information which I culled 
from very varied sources. These articles 
have been carefully revised, with much 
of the topography of Aberdeen eliminated, 
and with many improvements, I hope, 
introduced into the original monograph. 

Scotland differs from England and 
Ireland in having but few martyrs for the 
faith, and she can ill afford to lose sight 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

of any one of them. It is something, I 
submit, to rescue from oblivion the 
man whose full name must remain for 
ever unknown, but who was certainly 
the protomartyr of Aberdeen and of the 
Scottish Reformation, and, probably, the 
protomartyr of the whole of Catholic 
Scotland. In saying this I see no need 
of making an apology to the Scottish 
martyrologist of the seventeenth century, 
who figures largely and is criticised 
strongly in the accompanying pages. 

The story of a lowly friar of the 
Trinity, about whom little or nothing is 
known except his death, must needs be 
" thin." It does not follow, I hope, that 
all the rest is padding. The condition of 
Catholicism in Aberdeen and the country 
generally is here treated as a setting to 
the martyrdom of the Trinitarian, but 
there is no attempt made to write a 
history of the Reformation in Scotland. 
That has yet to be done, and when it 
is done, the Historic of John Knox, the 
only one in the national possession, will 
be relegated to its proper place, among 
the myths and mendacities which have 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

corroded the substance and poisoned the 
sources of historical truth. 1 

This little work would never have 
been completed except for the generous 
assistance of the Father General of the 
Order of the Most Holy Trinity. A 
friend in Rome, who wishes to remain 
unknown, approached the General and 
elicited from him a large amount of in 
formation embodied in this sketch. With 
his own hand, the General wrote out a good 
deal about his Order and allowed me to 
make whatever use I liked of his communi 
cations. The almost dramatic discovery 
of the painting of the Aberdonian friar, in 
Palma, Majorca, was entirely due to the 
Father General and his brethren, who 
entered with zest into a long and arduous 
questof the lost treasure of the Trinitarians. 

1 One great lesson can be drawn from Knox s Historic. 
Scottish Protestantism, like every other form of Protestantism, 
was the creation, not of any book, human or divine, but of the 
all-pervading spoken words of its preachers, with Knox 
himself as their perfect model (see p. 33). To the credit 
of Knox be it said, that though he treats the nuns of 
Scotland with derision, he never once charges them with 
immorality. This was left to Cardinal Sirmonetta, whose 
" Report," unsupported by any Protestant witness, is of 
little or no worth. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

My thanks are due to many others 
who have helped me in my labours on 
this virgin soil. I may be allowed to 
make special mention of Mr George 
Stronach, M.A., and Mr William Max 
well Cooper, both of the Advocates 
Library, Edinburgh ; of Mr G. M. Fraser, 
Librarian of the Public Library, Aberdeen, 
and of all the officials, ladies and gentle 
men, of the same institution, who were ever 
ready with their skilful and untiring co 
operation. In the same city I received 
nothing but kindness and help from 
the officials in charge of the precious 
MSS. stored in the "Town House," from 
Monsignor Meany, Cathedral House, 
and Father Russell, Librarian of Blairs 
College. To all these and many more I 
beg to tender my best thanks. 

To the decree of Pope Urban VIII., 
mentioned in these pages, 1 I need hardly 
say I yield entire submission. 


^ Infra, p. 53. 



THE last martyr for the Catholic faith 
in Scotland was the Ven. Father John 
Ogilvie, of the Society of Jesus. Was 
he Scotland s first martyr too ? It is a 
strange question to ask. It is generally 
assumed that every country converted 
from heathenism to Christianity has had 
a protomartyr to boast of. Catholic 
England has had hers in S. Alban (A.D. 
305). Catholic Ireland, strange to say, has 
never paid any cult to hers, though she 
undoubtedly had not one but many proto- 
martyrs, who died at the hands of semi- 
pagan Pictish pirates and are explicitly 
mentioned in the document which is now 
universally accepted as the composition of 
S. Patrick himself. In the Epistola ad 
Coroticum, the Gaulish Latin of the Apostle 
of Ireland becomes indefinitely more 
barbarous than that of S. Gregory of Tours, 

1 1 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

and leaps into flame as the writer describes 
the slaughter of his beloved neophytes 
with the " chrism still glistening on their 
foreheads." The Scottish protomartyrs 
might have been S. Donnan and his fifty- 
one monks massacred by a band of pirates 
in A.D. 617 in the island of Egg on the 
west coast of Scotland, 1 but the community 
thus annihilated were Irishmen that 
is, Scoti from Western Scotia or Ireland 
proper. In the eyes of some modern Scot 
tish Catholics, S. Magnus of the Orkneys 
has a claim to be considered the proto- 
martyr of Scotland, but it is forgotten 
that this chieftain labours under a triple 
disqualification : (i) he was certainly a 
Norseman, not a Scot in any sense, 
(2) he was slain a long way " furth " of 
Scotland, (3) he was simply a very good 
man foully murdered by a very bad one, 
about A.D. 1097. 

Once upon a time Protestant England 
used to boast of her protomartyr, John 

1 See Reeves, Adamnan, p. 293. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

Rogers, an apostate priest burnt in London, 
in 1555, but she is now oblivious of the 
fact. Neither Presbyterian Scotland nor 
Protestant Ireland has ever given a martyr 
to the cause of the Reformation. It 
used to be the fashion with Presbyterian 
historians to award the palm of Presby 
terian martyrdom to Patrick Hamilton, 
lay-abbot of Fern, in Ross-shire, who was 
burnt at the stake in St Andrews, in 1528, 
but at that early date it is as impossible 
to call Hamilton a Presbyterian as to 
invoke him as the pioneer of Tariff Reform 
or Christian Science. This unfortunate 
youth suffered for many heresies, including 
the stout denial of free will. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 


IN our search for the protomartyr of 
Catholic Scotland, care must be taken not 
to consult for early times, at least the 
incurable romancer and incorrigible liar, 
Thomas Dempster, the Catholic author 
of the Ecclesiastical History of the Scottish 
Nation, who died in exile in 1625. As 
false to truth as his wife was to him, 
Dempster seems to have cultivated his 
mythopoeic faculty to an heroic degree. 
One reason why the year 1 579 is doubted 
to be the year of his birth is that he him 
self gives it. According to him, Alcuin 
was a Scotsman, S. Boniface, the Saxon 
martyr and apostle of Germany, was 
another. Boadicea was not only a 
Scottish lady, but " the daughter of the 
King of the Scots," and author of a 
book on Military Orations, another on 
Infantry, and four others on miscel- 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

laneous subjects. To arrive at historical 
truth in all things, Dempster solemnly 
declares that he had read through twelve 
hundred authors, and adds that, being a 
born scholar, he had never ceased, through 
a strenuous life, to supplement the immense 
stores of erudition accumulated in his 
infancy. He was, he gravely informs us, 
not only the twenty-fourth son of his 
mother, nee Jane Leslie, but one of a 
triplet, with five more brothers and sisters 
to follow, making a total of twenty-nine. 
His father, he says, was "prorex " or vice 
roy of Banff and Buchan, the truth being 
that Dempster pere was the simple laird 
of Muresk, Auchterless and Killemont. 
On one important point we know with 
a certainty, not derived from Dempster 
but from contemporary documents, that 
he deviated into substantial truth, with a 
little colouring laid on. The point is this. 
Dempster s uncle, William* Leslie, was 
an officer in the army of James VI. of 
Scotland. Presented by the King, who 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

thought everything ecclesiastical was in 
his gift, with the commendatorship of 
New Abbey (the famous " Sweetheart " 
Abbey), Leslie was apparently prompted 
by an uneasy conscience to convey the 
forfeited lands to a real monk, the holy 
and capable Cistercian of Dumfries, 
Gilbert Browne or Brown or Brounius or 
Brunus, who was most certainly the last 
Abbot of Catholic Scotland. 

The only redeeming features one can 
find in Dempster are three : (i) his 
passionate love for his native land, (2) his 
sound mediaeval Latinity, which the writer 
in the Dictionary of National Biography 
quaintly calls " thoroughly barbarous," 
(3) his reliance on the historical testimony 
of Abbot Gilbert Brown. And it is 
through this Cistercian writer, quoted 
by Dempster, that we obtain our first 
documentary introduction to the Proto 
martyr of Scotland. It is not Father 
Ogilvie, who was hanged for the faith in 
Glasgow, in 1616, but Friar Francis of 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, 
of Trinity church, Aberdeen, slain in 
odium fidei in December (probably 4th 
December 1 ), 1559. 

That Gilbert Brown wrote much is 
certain, though not one of his works is to 
be found in the British Museum or in 
the Advocates Library, Edinburgh. 2 That 
he wrote with learning and force against 
the leaders of the Scottish Reformation is 
clear from the extant and sulphurous 
language of John Welsche, " preacher of 
Christ s Gospel at Aire" (Ayr), the son- 
in-law of Knox and ancestor of Jane 
Welsh Carlyle. The book that lashed 
Welsche to fury in his " Reply to M. 
Gilbert Browne, priest," was probably 
entitled Capita Fidei Controversy*. The 
highly educated and hard-working Abbot 
passed from theological to historical 
writing. This fact is attested by the late 

1 Camerarius gives this date. See p. 44. 

2 George Chalmers calls him " a person of learning and 
talents," Caledonia, v. 306. Cf. MS. Advoc. Lib. W. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

Father Griffin of New Abbey, a very 
competent local historian, 1 friend and 
fellow-labourer of the archaeologist, the 
late Mr John Stuart of Aberdeen, by the 
late Rev. Mr Wilson, Presbyterian parish 
minister of New Abbey, an eloquent and 
accomplished lecturer on the history 
of " Sweetheart," and by Colonel Max 
well Witham, the present Catholic laird 
of Kirkconnell, New Abbey. On the 
variety and value of the works of Abbot 
Brown, the tradition of the Cistercians is 
unbroken. 2 His main historical work 
seems to have been called Collectanea 
Historic? Scotia? grandiosely changed by 
Dempster into Historia Labentis in Scotia 
Religionis Catholics. There is no chance 
of its ever being found. Thus the 
history of the Scottish Reformation has 

1 Catholic Directory for Scotland, 1855. 

2 Cf. the Cistercian, Christopher Henriquez, Menologium 
Cist.y Antwerp, 1630; also the Trinitarian chronicler, 
Figueras, Chron. Ord. SS. Trin., Verona, 1645; also 
Dugdale, Monasticon, London, 1661. 

3 Figueras, op. cit. See p. 50 infra. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

fallen a prey to men like Knox and 
Buchanan, whose efforts at historiography 
are stigmatised by James VI., the royal 
pupil of Buchanan, as "infamous invectives 
and infamous libels." The tradition in 
Dumfries holds persistently to this day 
that the Opera Omnia of Abbot Brown 
were publicly burnt in the market place 
of that town, soon after the arrest of the 
author through the dastardly lie of 
William, Lord Cranston, Captain of the 
Border. 2 Beloved by all the Catholics of 
Dumfriesshire, this confessor of the faith 
was spirited away to Blackness Castle on 
the Forth, thence to Edinburgh Castle, 
where he was kept in ward till he was 
shipped to France in 1605. He died in 
extreme poverty in Paris, i6io. 3 Under 
lying the inevitable rhetorical flourishes 

1 Basilikon Doron, in Op. Omn. Jacobi I. [VI.], p. 176; 
ed. Bp. Montague, London, 1616. 

2 Calderwood s MS. in Advoc. Lib., 34, i. 8. 

3 Blairs College MSS., Necrolog. Coll. Scot. Paris. This 
date is authentic. Nearly all modern historians give the 
wrong year. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

of Dempster, the substance of the narrative 
of Gilbert Brown can be detected by the 
careful reader. The Abbot knew Aberdeen 
well and was probably a student at its 
University. Hence his narrative of the 
martyrdom of an Aberdonian friar may 
be accepted without reserve. " Many 
fragments of history," as Irving, the 
scholarly editor of Dempster, admits, 
are found in this myth-maker and this 
is probably one of them. 


BEFORE we give the Brown-Dempster 
account of the martyrdom in Aberdeen, 
it may be well to take a brief survey of 
the position of the Trinitarians on the 
Continent and in Scotland. In France 
they were called " Mathurins," not from 
S. John of Matha, but from the Church 
of S. Maturin, Paris, the mother-house 
of the French province. The popular 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

Italian name for the brethren was 
" Maturini." The habit and scapular 
were white and the mantle black. The 
only piece of red stuff was the vertical 
beam of the long cross on the habit, the 
cross-bar being blue. Only in Great 
Britain were they called the " Red Friars," 
in contradistinction to their " White," 
" Black," and " Grey " brethren. 1 With 
the abundant material associated with the 
venerated names of S. John of Matha, 
S. Felix of Valois, S. Raymond of Penna- 
fort, and James, King of Arragon, it is 
surprising to find the Trinitarians spoken 
of as "a military order" like the Knights 
Templar. In the early days of the 
thirteenth century, the friars undoubtedly 
sold themselves into captivity for the 
ransom of Christian slaves from the 
Paynim, but they never lifted mace or 
spear in pursuance of this charitable 
object. When there were no slaves to 
redeem from the Mussulmans, the brethren 

1 i.e. Carmelites, Dominicans and Franciscans. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

took to visiting the poor in the mediaeval 
hospitals. This was certainly their work 
in Aberdeen. In Spain they were noted 
for their miracle-plays and their many 
ingenious devices for collecting alms, but 
there is nothing to show that they were 
ever burdened, like the other religious 
Orders, with wealth. In Scotland they 
were the poorest of all, and begged without 
any display. The income of their house in 
Aberdeen is shown by Mr P. J. Anderson, 1 
University Librarian, to have been the 
lowest amongst all the religious bodies. 
In the minority of Mary Queen of Scots, 
Governor Arran gave alms to the " Blacks," 
"Whites 5 and "Greys" of Aberdeen, 
but forgot the "Reds." 2 At the Re 
formation the total rental of the Aberdeen 
property of the Trinity was 54, is. i^-d. 3 
The charters of this Aberdeen house, 
dating from 1318, are still in Aberdeen in 

1 Aberdeen Friars. 

2 Accounts of Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, 1 551-1559. 

3 Keith, Affairs, iii., 392. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

the custody of " the Master of Trades 
Hospital," ! but, strange to say, have never 
been printed and this in a city which 
is particularly rich in local historians. 
Nearly all the archives of the Scottish Red 
Friars were destroyed during the Refor 
mation. I have found only two brief 
references to them in the Register of the 
Great Seal of Scotland. The name of 
the " minister " the Trinitarian equiva 
lent for "prior" of Peebles has come 
down to us in a document signed by 
James VI. in 1580. It is Gilbert Brown, 
not, of course, the Cistercian of the same 
name. Only one Red friar, the minister 
of Failfurd, is known to have joined the 
coalition or faction that Knox loves to 
describe as " the Lords and Gentlemen of 
Scotland " or " the Congregation of Christ 
Jesus." His name has not been preserved. 
Mr Ebenezer Bain is the only modern 
Scotsman who has given attention to 
the scanty record of the Trinitarians in 

1 Bain, Merchant and Craft Guilds, p. 151. 
2 3 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

Scotland. Following John Spottiswoode 
(not the Protestant Archbishop of Glasgow 
who sentenced Father Ogilvie to death), 
Bain thinks there were no fewer than 
thirteen houses of the Order in this 
country. The most celebrated were at 
Dornoch, Sutherlandshire ; Houston, near 
Linton ; Fairfield, in Ayrshire ; Peebles, 
Dunbar and Aberdeen. As early as 1272, 
Christina Mowbray or Fraser endowed 
the Houston friary, which flourished until 
its destruction by the English raiders. A 
year before he died of a broken heart, 1 
James V., the great pilgrimage-maker in 
his penitent days, who often journeyed 
on foot from Holyrood, Edinburgh, to 

1 The " broken hearts " of both parents of Mary Queen 
of Scots are sometimes regarded as pieces of " Scottish 
sentimentality." James VI., the grandson of James V., 
distinctly mentions the broken heart of his grandfather, Op. 
Omn. (supra), p. 162, and Buchanan, referring to the death 
of Mary of Guise in Edinburgh Castle, turns her broken 
heart into a beautiful bit of classical Latin. Hollinshed and 
Bishop Leslie, both contemporaries of hers, convey the same 
idea. Knox s remarks on her death are too disgusting to 
reproduce (Hist. 9 folio ed., p. 227). 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

the Church of the Holy Rood, Peebles 
(now the Chambers Institution), trans 
ferred to the Trinitarians there the muni 
ficent gift of the Lady Christina. About 
the year 1545 Peebles in turn felt the 
mailed fist of Henry VIII. and shared the 
fate of Houston. 1 


ABERDEEN was the first place in Great 
Britain to greet the newly founded Trini 
tarians. It is an established fact that 
William the Lion, King of Scotland, as 
early as 1211, the year that the Order was 
solemnly approved by Pope Innocent III., 2 
petitioned his Holiness to send to Scotland 
a small band probably seven of the 
new institute. On their arrival, according 
to the old Scottish writers, their royal 
patron " gave them his palace." No 

1 Cf. Bain, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in 
Scotland, vol. xxii., p. 26 (1887-1888). 

2 The Catholic Encyclopedia gives the date as 1 198. 

2 5 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

critical historian can be expected to 
accept literally this tale of the gifting of 
a splendid structure by a king of 
sumptuous tastes to a few undistin 
guished French-speaking friars, bound 
by the strict vow of poverty taken by 
the early Trinitarians. All that is meant 
by the gift seems to be that the Lion 
housed the strangers in his palace and 
soon after helped them to build, in close 
proximity to the " Kyngis gayttis," the 
oldest monastic house in Aberdeen. The 
first fathers of the Trinity in Scotland 
were beholden to their hot-headed and 
open-handed benefactor in other ways 
too. He infefted them with the lands of 
Banchory and Cowlie, and most probably 
with a large section of the river frontage 
bounded on the west by the now hidden 
stream called the Denburn. The new 
friars were not ungrateful to their friend. 
They buried him with magnificent pomp 
at Arbroath, in 1214, and for generations 
attended the hospital of " S. Peter, Chief 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

of the Apostles," founded by Matthew 
Kynnimond, Bishop of Aberdeen, in 
memory of the King. 

Although my identification of the site 
of the little church of the Trinity where 
Friar Francis was killed by the mob, 
is called in question by some eminent 
Aberdonian antiquaries, or is said to run 
counter to the famous map of Aberdeen 
designed by Gordon, parson of Rothie- 
may, a hundred years after the Reforma 
tion, I am fairly confident that the follow 
ing description is accurate : 

" (l) The North aisle. It was * in vico navium, x i.e. 
it ran along the Shiprow. 

" (2) The South aisle. It faced the sloping patch of 
land that ran down to the water s edge and was called 
the Trinity kirkyard. This bit of land was as 
much an integral part of the Aberdeen Green as was 
the contiguous area known as the kirkyard of the 
White friars or Carmelites. 2 Both kirkyards are now 

1 Cartularium Eccles. S. Nic. Aberd. (ed. Prof. Cooper), 
i. 189. 

2 Cf. Extracts from the Council Reg. of the Burgh of 
Aberdeen, ist Sept. 1459. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

partly covered by the new goods station of the 
Caledonian Railway. The Trinitarians and Carmelites 
gone, the river Dee saw its opportunity, knocked 
down the palisades and encroached on the property of 
the dead. At high tide its waters partially sub 
merged God s Acre on the Green. Just forty- 
seven years after the burning of Trinity kirk and the 
* slaughter of Friar Francis, one Alexander Davidson 
sought and obtained leave of the Town Council to 
build a ship in the Trinity kirkyard. l At low 
water, worse things than the Dee were revealed in 
the same kirkyard, quhilk is filthilie abusit by 
middyngis. 2 Evidently the Trinitarians had ceased 
to dam the flowing tide and their dead had by this 
time found a watery grave. 

" (3) The West front. Here the Shiprow and the 
Green become practically one. The former did not, 
of course, end here, for being once identical with what 
is now known as Trinity Lane, it ran on west towards 
the Carmelite section of the Green. The west door 
of the old Trinity kirk was admirably situated to 
catch the fisher folk as they left their nets to dry on 
the green slope of the kirkyard and felt indisposed to 
breast the brae that separated them from the old 
parish kirk of S. Nicholas, patron of sailors and 
fishermen, or to face the quality that might have 
stared and sniffed at their fishy clothes at Sunday 
Mass in the great church above. The bonnie river is 

1 Forbes Leslie, The Irvines of Drum, p. 79. 

2 Ibid. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

now a long way off the west door of the Trinitarian 
church. Many of the stones about show signs of 
having been turned and polished in the lathe of the 
old estuary. In the sixteenth century the Dee was 
close up to Trinity kirk, but in the nineteenth, it was 
diverted from its natural course and thrust to the 
south to make room for the new docks. The re 
formed river has had no such indignity offered it in 
its upper reaches, and still swirls with delight under 
the Auld Brig o Dee and sings the praises of Bishops 
Elphinstone and Dunbar, the pious founders of the 
stately erection, and Alexander Galloway, priest and 
architect, and Thomas French, master-mason, now 
lying in S. Machar s kirkyard. Needless to say, there 
is not a vestige of the west door of Trinity kirk left. 
Many feet above the spot it once occupied, we now 
see a storehouse for bananas, and flush with it, a 
depot for Starley cycles. These business premises 
make excavation impossible. There is nothing for it 
but to use the X-rays of memory and plunge a couple 
of fathoms below the present level which was partly 
silted up by the old Dee and then still further raised 
by the work connected with the construction of the 
Upper Dock. The banana store, with its ponderous 
wooden ceiling picked with gold, was once occupied by 
the Catholic Apostolic church, while the cycle depot 
was (l) a Presbyterian chapel, (2) a music hall, (3) a 
wee zoo. Above ground, not a stone is left on a 
stone in the church where the martyr of Aberdeen 


The Protqmartyr of Scotland 

" (4) The East front. This is hard to find, but I 
fancy it bordered a little vennel that once ran 
fra the Shipraw to the Grene. " * 

In 1794, the very last stones of the 
charred and wasted gables of the old 
Trinity kirk were removed and the 
ground prepared for the coming of bananas 
and cycles. 


TRANSLATING from the picturesque Latin 
of Dempster, I now give his account of 
the death of 


"When the heretics of Aberdeen, maddened with 
incendiary fury, attacked his monastery, he wished to 
admonish them with saving words. The response 
was, first to stab him through the abdomen, then to 
hurl his body down the stairs, lastly when it was 
pierced with many a wound, they flung it into the 

1 Extracts, etc. (supra), for 2ist April, 1558. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

" Thus this blameless and saintly man, who was 
more truly a silent witness than an active champion, 
amid the rout and destruction of holy things, yielded 
up, in defence of the truth, the life that was to be 
exchanged for a better one. 

" (GILBERT BROWN). He died in the year 1559." l 

In four different passages in his vol 
uminous works, Dempster repeats, with 
substantial sameness, the story of the 
martyrdom. In one place this uncritical 
scribe has given a precisely similar account 
of the death of a martyr whom he calls 
" Patrick." The present Superior-General, 
or, according to Trinitarian terminology, 
the " Minister-General " of the Order of 
the Most Holy Trinity, 2 saw at a glance 
that Dempster had divided the victim of 
the sacrilegious riot in Aberdeen into two, 
the one the true " Francis," the other 

1 Hist. Eccles. Gent. Scot. y Bannatyne Club, torn. I., p. 289. 

2 Its headquarters are at the Basilica of San Crisogono, 
Rome. This church was given to the Order of the Most 
Holy Trinity by Pius IX. in 1856. Both at S. Crisogono 
and S. Carlino, the Trinitarians were under the impression 
that the old painting of their Scottish martyr was still in 
Rome. See p. 53. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

the mythical " Patrick. " The same Father 
leaned to the belief that the real martyr 
was " minister " or superior in Aberdeen, 
but he overlooked the fact mentioned by 
Mr P. J. Anderson, that this post was 
filled at the time by a friar of the name 
of Whitcross, of whom nothing is known. 
My own conjecture is that the Trinitarian 
murdered and burnt in his kirk bore the 
double name, in conformity with the 
general practice of his Order, of Friar 
Francis of S. Patrick. Anyhow, Dempster s 
trick of " duplication " is manifest. There 
was one and only one man in Aberdeen who 
died at the hands of a Reformation mob. 

The history of the rise, progress and 
triumph of the Reformation in Aberdeen 
has yet to be written. It will begin with 
John Marshall and a few other school 
masters who had imbibed the " New 
Learning " from the Continent, and en 
couraged the importation of Lutheran 
books, especially the famous Babylonian 
Captivity of the German Reformer. The 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

efforts of James V. and his Catholic parlia 
ments to keep out these imports proved 
abortive. 1 But Aberdeen, with its four 
thousand inhabitants, followed the rule of 
every " reformed " town in Christendom. 
It was never won by the printed page 
of Protestantism. It fell a prey to the 
Protestant preaching of apostate Catholic 
monks, especially two Dominican friars, 
ex-chaplains of the Lord Governor, Arran. 
Their inflammatory and brawling style 
of speech produced in the north-east of 
Scotland the same " No Popery " riots 
caused by the Knoxian preachers who 
had lashed to iconoclastic fury the " rascal 
multitudes," as Knox calls them, of 
Dundee, Perth, St Andrews and Edin 
burgh. As early as 1544, fifteen years 
before Knox landed at Leith to take the 
command of the Reformation, Thomas 
Branche and Thomas Cussing were 

1 Thomson, Acts Parl. Scot., II., 342. In the Act of 
1 4th June, 1535, Scotland is declared to be non-heretical 
and " clene of all sik filth and vice," ibid. 

c 33 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

arraigned before the civil courts on the 
charge of " hanging " in mockery the statue 
of the inoffensive S. Francis of Assisi. 1 The 
iconoclasm, which in this one instance 
was unaccompanied by the lust of loot, 
was a portent of the deeds that emptied 
every niche in the Collegiate Church of 
S. Giles, Edinburgh, and of the blind 
savagery that was to turn the altar-filled 
aisles of S. Nicholas, Aberdeen, into a 
naked barn. So far advanced were the 
principles of the Reformation under the 
Catholic - Protestant - Catholic - again - Pro- 
testant-again Lord Governor of Scotland, 
James Hamilton, Duke of Chatelherault 
and Earl of Arran, that it is as true to say of 
Queen Mary of Guise as of her daughter, 
Mary Queen of Scots, that she never had 
a chance against the men who were first 
rebels against the House of Stewart and 
then religious reformers bent on booty. 
In 1543, the Governor of Scotland, on 
pretending to turn again to " popery," 

1 Extracts, etc., for 1st December, 1544. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

dismissed his renegade Catholic chaplains 
with instructions to preach the new Gospel 
in Aberdeen. The same traitor, in 1557, 
when Mary of Guise had superseded him as 
Regent, led her Scottish forces against "the 
auld ennemie of Ingland," sat down before 
the walls of Wark in Northumberland, 
saluted the besieged Englishmen in the 
castle and galloped with his men home 
again. 1 Thus he broke the heart of his 
Queen, taught Lord Huntly of Aberdeen, 
his kinsman by marriage, to play the 
traitor, and stamped on the armies of the 
once independent kingdom of Scotland the 
worst stigma in the military annals of Great 
Britain. The main abettors of the Re 
formation in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire 
were : (i) the preachers sent by Hamilton, 
(2) Huntly, Lord Lieutenant of the North, 

1 The whole of this disgraceful episode is related in the con 
temporary Talbot Papers. All Scottish historians, from Knox 
onwards, slur it over, but the story as told by the English 
commanders is unquestionably true. It is given by Lodge, 
Illustrations, etc., i. 290 sqq. Knox s mutilated version of 
it is accompanied by a coarse gibe, Hist., folio ed., p. 93. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

and ex-Provost of Aberdeen, the nearest 
approach that Scotland has ever seen to 
human almightiness, the betrayer of the 
two Queen Marys, 1 and the signatory of the 
strong Protestant Profession of Faith before 
the walls of Leith (27th April I56o), 2 
(3) his brother, William Gordon, Bishop of 
Aberdeen, waster of Church property and 
chronic debauchee, (4) Thomas Menzies, 
Provost of Aberdeen, the mealy-mouthed 
Anglo-Scottish trafficker with England s 
friends and Scotland s foes, the consummate 
hypocrite who denounced the threatened 
invasion of his town by the Reformers he 

1 The high treason of Huntly, which led to his well- 
deserved punishment by Mary Queen of Scots, is proved 
beyond doubt by Knox in his Historic (folio ed., p. 221 ), the 
Sadler Papers (ii. 229, ed. Clifford), the Council Reg. of the 
Burgh of Aberdeen, January, 1560 (see note on p. 40), 
Pitscottie, Hist. Scot., p. 210, Calderwood, True Hist., p. 13. 
The eye-witness of the siege of Leith in Hollinshed s 
Chronicles is apparently of the same opinion. Still many 
Catholics in the north cling to the legend of his loyalty. 
Hill Burton s long-winded invective on Mary s cruelty to 
this faithful subject of hers only excites the mirth of the 
modern historian (see his Hist. Scot., iv. 53). 

2 Keith, i. 273. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

was hand and glove with, then, on the 
agth December 1559, gave the rebels safe 
conduct and sure guidance, in full view of 
his own estates, over the Blue Hill, across 
the Auld Brig o Dee, already denuded of 
its Madonna chapel, down the Hardgate 
and Windmill Brae, across Bow Brig, up 
Back Wynd Stairs (once part of the present 
Back Wynd), until they reached their 
objective of S. Nicholas and began the 
work, which Menzies and Huntly l could 
have stopped at a word, of tearing down 
the costly leaden roof for sale in the 
Flemish markets. A few years after this 
feat of violence and duplicity, in which 
Menzies had the open or tacit support of 
the klite of Aberdeenshire the many 
Gordons of Strathbogie, the Burnetts of 
Leys, the Irvines of Drum, the Forbeses 

1 Huntly is commended by his partisan, Bishop Leslie, 
for having stopped, in mid course, a similar act of vandalism 
at S. Machar s Cathedral, Old Aberdeen. As if Huntly 
could not have stayed the beginning of such an outrage ! 
The Lords had got all the lead they wanted for exportation. 
Much of it was afterwards lost at sea, off the Girdleness. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

of the several Echts (the incendiaries of 
the kirk of Echt), the Lumsdens of 
Wardhouse, the Leslies of Balquhain, the 
Arbuthnots, and Keiths and Udneys and 
Mowats and Erasers and Cheynes and 
Ogilvies and Bannermans and Buchans 
the said Provost who had been forty years 
in office, threw off the mask and made 
open profession of the " newe religioun " 
in a highly flavoured Protestant letter to 
the General Assembly of 1567.* 

It took some time for " sum induellaris 
of this burgh " 2 to see that the invaders 
of Aberdeen from the south were getting 
too much out of the spoliation of all the 
religious houses of the town. When 
they realised the loss to themselves and 
saw the folly of parting with the spoils to 
"strangeouris," the canny Aberdonians, re- 

1 Written on I2th July, 1567 (Keith, iii. 175). The 
bearer was Adam Heriot, apostate Augustinian friar and 
first minister of Aberdeen. He was given a black suit and 
other necessaries of the value of ^30, with 10 for house 
rent added (Kennedy, Annals, i. 114). 

2 Extracts, etc., for 4th January, 1560. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

presented by the city fathers, determined to 
keep "sklayttis [slates], tymmir [timber], 
and leid [lead] " for themselves. They then 
called for a public " roup " (auction), in 
which they were the only bidders. The 
great bulk of the Church plate and orna 
ments was knocked down to the wealthy 
Patrick Menzies. 1 All the churches in 
Aberdeen were now dismantled and looted. 
It was better, from a financial point of 
view, to treat them thus than to commit 
them to the flames like Trinity kirk. 

In the history of the Scottish Reforma 
tion, most of the Provosts joined in the 
rebellion against their lawful Queen, like 
Halliburton, Provost of Dundee, Ruthven, 
Provost of Perth, Learmonth, Provost of 
S. Andrews, and Moscrip, Provost of 
Jedburgh, but in the matter of the cult 
of the u bawbee " and religious cant, 
Provost Menzies of Aberdeen and his 
Council are an easy first. The greedy 
and double-faced bailies who stole the 

1 Extracts, etc., for 6th January, 1561. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

" silver euchrysts " and the " velvet 
kaips " (copes), who were never tired of 
professing allegiance to the " Quenes 
autoritie " and yet equipped forty men of 
war to assist Huntly in driving her out 
of her last stronghold in Leith, 1 stand out 
conspicuously even in an age when high 
treason against the State and abjuration 
of the old faith were practically universal 
among the " better " classes. 2 

Nor can it be said of the fathers of the 
Town Council, who fell off one by one 
from the faith, that they succeeded in 
reforming the morals of the people of 
Aberdeen and district. Thirteen years 
after the burning of Trinity kirk, out of 
eighty children, thirty-five were illegiti 
mate. 3 In the one year, 1597, twenty- 
four witches were burnt at the stake in 

1 Extracts, etc., for i ith March, 1560. The cost to the 
burgh of the forty men was ^400 Scots. The " capitane " 
in command was Lord Huntly, who had a little standing 
army of his own besides these municipal reinforcements. 

2 See Appendix B. 

3 Kennedy, Annals of Aberdeen , i. 103. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

Aberdeen alone, 1 the grand total for the 
whole of Reformed Scotland being about 
four thousand. 2 The records of the Kirk- 
Sessions of Aberdeen and Strathbogie are, 
to a very large extent, much too unsavoury 
for modern publication. 

The sacking and burning of churches 
was not nearly so prominent a feature in 
the Reformation of the north-east of 
Scotland as in the campaign personally 
conducted by Knox farther south. The 
scurrilous attacks made by the same 
Reformer on the character of Mary of 
Guise find no echo in Aberdeen. The 
cry of " Idolatry " was not taken up in 
Aberdeen as it was in Edinburgh. But 
for systematic swindling and elaborate 
trickery, no one of the municipal bodies 
of Scotland can compare with the Council 
headed by Thomas Menzies of Pitfoddels, 
and David Mar, Treasurer of Aberdeen. 

1 Selections, Eccles. Records, Aberdeen (Spalding Club), 
p. xxxii. 

2 Watt, Aberdeen and Banff, p. 199. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

In the official documents of that city, 1 as 
might be expected, there is no mention 
of the burning of the kirk of S. Fincan, 
Virgin, Echt, in 1558, or of the Trinity 
church, Aberdeen, in 1559. Much can 
be gleaned from contemporary records of 
the pathetic surrender of the Grey friars 
under their last Guardian, John Roger, 
to the Town Council on the afternoon 
of agth December I559, 2 when the 
Corporation of Aberdeen undertook to 
save them from " the Gentlemen of 
Angus and Mearns " who were on their 
way from the south to replenish the war- 
chest of the Keiths by the pillage of the 
great kirk of S. Nicholas. A good deal 
of information is also given about the 
equally interested motives of the bailies 
in " rescuing " the Black and White 
friars from the raiders, and keeping 
"onspoulzet" 3 (un-despoiled), the valuable 

1 There is dreadful confusion in the printed copy of the 
Extracts between the years 1559-60. 

2 Moir Bryce, Grey Friars in Scotland, ii. 233. 

3 Extracts, etc., for 8th January, 1560. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

monastic " biggings " (buildings) for the 
" common weill " and for purposes of 
" hospitalitie " and for the " puir " (poor) 
who now for the first time in the history 
of Aberdeen begin to swarm ; but of the 
Red friars of the same " guid toun," 
called by Dunbar (the sweet singer of 
pre-Reformation days), 

The Lamp of bewtie, bountie, and blythnes, 

there is not a word in the Records, MS. 
or printed. The murder of the friar was 
a grave blot on the civil authorities, and 
from the blackened ruins of the kirk where 
he perished, there was nothing for the 
Corporation to filch or seize or " protect." 
The chiefest of the sinners of Aberdeen, 
because the most hypocritical, were the 
Provost, 1 Treasurer and Council always 
excepting Gilbert Collison the younger, 
who was as staunch as the one fearless and 
outspoken priest, Anderson, Vice-Principal 
of the University. 

1 The amende of the Menzies family came when the Blairs 
estate was handed over to the Catholic Church in 1829. 
Long before this they had returned to the old faith. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 


IT must not be thought that Gilbert 
Brown and Thomas Dempster are the 
only authorities for the death of the 
Red friar of Aberdeen. 

(i) A much more trustworthy writer 
than Dempster is David Camerarius, the 
martyrologist, whose name is unaccount 
ably omitted in Tanner and the Dictionary 
of National Biography. His reputation as 
an historian might well be established by 
his concise and unbiassed narrative of the 
triumphant march of Knox, and the Lords 
whom Mary of Guise in her letters to 
France frequently calls " ces rebelles," on 
Edinburgh in the summer of 1559, and of 
their incessant " purges " of "idolatrous" 
places of worship on the way. In his 
book, dedicated to Charles I., 1 he gives an 
account of the death of Friar Francis, 

1 De Fortitudlne Scot or um, p. 201, Paris, 1631. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

probably based on Abbot Brown and 
independent of Dempster s additions. The 
oratorical intentions of the doomed friar 
happily disappear in Camerarius, but he 
adds the very likely incident that the 
skull of Francis was fractured as he was 
being dragged down the stairs. With the 
door blocked by the infuriated rabble, the 
first impulse of the hunted man would 
have been to fly up the tower and gain 
the roof. 

(2) Far and away the best non-Catholic 
interpreter of the unvarying tradition of 
Aberdeen, is Alexander Keith, Episco 
palian minister in that town in 1732. 
His summing up is terse and business-like : 
" Francis, one of the fryars here while the 
monastery was a-burning, was at first 
stabbed by the rabble, then thrown down 
stairs and at last barbarously burnt." 1 
Passing over Dempster, Keith prefers to 
refer to Camerarius. 

1 View of the Diocese of Aberdeen, ed. Dr Joseph Robertson 
in his Collections, etc., p. 204. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

(3) Kennedy, the well-known Protestant 
historian of Aberdeen, is equally explicit. 
" Friar Francis, one of the brethren in 
attempting to make his escape, was 
stabbed and his body thrown into the fire 
and burnt." 1 Kennedy refers in the 
vaguest way to a MS. in the Advocates 
Library, Edinburgh, which cannot now 
be traced. 

(4) The truth of the old tradition is 
not questioned by the most eminent of 
the Aberdeen archaeologists, Dr Joseph 
Robertson. 2 

(5) Mr P. J. Anderson, the present 
Librarian of the University of Aberdeen, 
seems to endorse the received account. 3 

(6) The particularly cautious Aber- 
donian, Mr Watt, who died in 1906, 
writes : " The Trinity monastery was set 
on fire and a wounded monk, Friar Francis, 
perished in the flames " 4 

1 Annals of Aberdeen, ii. 68. 2 Robertson, loc. cit. 

3 Aberdeen Friars, p. 1 1 . 

4 Aberdeen and Banff ^ p. 14. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

(7) The last scholar in Aberdeen to 
refer to the tragedy is Mr G. M. Fraser, 
Librarian of the Public Library of the 
city. 1 

It is the cause that makes the martyr. 
If the hatred of the old faith of Scotland 
prompted the destruction of the hundreds 
of churches and chapels that were spoiled 
and wrecked during the raids of the Lords 
and the riots of the scum of the population 
during the Scottish Reformation, the man 
who died at his post in Trinity kirk may 
well be considered to have fallen a victim 
to " heretical fury " ; and the right of 
Catholics to do him private honour as a 
martyr in the cause of the faith can 
hardly be challenged. 


ONE must know a religious Order from 
inside and mark the care with which its 

1 The Green, etc., p. n. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

menologies and martyrologies are com 
piled to realise the pains taken before any 
one of the members who has seemingly 
died in defence of the Catholic faith is 
honoured as a true martyr of Christ. If 
there is to be any proclamation of martyr 
dom, addressed to the Church Universal, 
it is needless to say that even more 
elaborate precautions are observed by the 
Roman Congregation concerned in the 

The uniform practice is to follow 
scrupulously the canons of evidence before 
the emotional aspirations which tend 
towards some new object of veneration 
are allowed to have play. 

For about seven hundred years the Order 
of the Most Holy Trinity has been in exist 
ence, and during that long span no bogus 
saint or martyr has been invoked in its ranks, 
and no brother who has given his life for 
any cause, short of the noblest, has received 
from his too credulous or over-compliment 
ary brethren the aureole of martyrdom. 

4 8 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

It is about three hundred and fifty-five 
years since the Red friar of Aberdeen was 
slain in the Trinity kirk, and through that 
period his fellow-religious have saluted 
him as a martyr. It were rash to say 
they have erred. 

From among the authorities, Latin, 
Italian and Spanish, I select thefollowing : 

(i) The first is Father John Figueras, or 
Figueras Carpi of Verona, author of what 
is a magnum opus in Trinitarian literature, 1 
born about thirty years after the death of 
the friar of Aberdeen. With the effusive 
detail of the seventeenth-century title-page, 
this good Latinist and diligent searcher in 
the archives of the Order in France, Italy, 
Spain and Portugal, describes himself as 
" Minister-Provincial and Vicar-General 
through England, Scotland and Ireland." 
It is doubtful whether he ever landed in 
the British Isles, but this honorary title 
was given him, it would seem, in recog- 

1 Chron. Ord. SS. Trin. de Redempt. Captiv., Verona, 

D 49 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

nition of the deep interest he took in the 
one Trinitarian whose laurels were won in 
Great Britain. The authority he quotes 
for " the passion and death " of Francis, 
is the Cistercian Abbot, Gilbert Brown 
above mentioned. 1 He appears to have 
actually seen the works of this writer, 
during one of his visits to Paris, for he 
quotes as if from sight, chapter and verse 
of the Collections for the History of Scotland. 2 
(2) About 1670, though the date is 
uncertain, there appeared in Rome an 
Italian work by an anonymous Trinitarian 
author. 3 The writer, discoursing on the 
Anglo-Scottish Lords and gentlemen who 
levied war on their lawful Queen, makes 
the shrewd guess that they were all 
working for the " pessima tiranna Elisa- 
beta." He little knew how near he was 
to the conclusion of modern historians, that 

1 Seep. 1 8. 

2 The Collectanea mentioned on p. 18. Figueras quotes its 
chapters, IV. and IX. 

3 Origin* e Instituzione del Sacrosanto e Celeste Ordine della 
SSS. Ttinita, etc. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

without the English gold parsimoniously 
dealt out to the rebels by Elizabeth and 
Secretary Cecil, there would have been 
no effective appeal to the greed of the 
Scottish aristocracy, whose hands, accord 
ing to Knox, were " liberallie anoynted," 
and no Scottish Reformation at all. 

(3) Another Spanish Trinitarian follows, 
as the anonymous author of a work held 
in esteem by his Order. 2 With an extra 
ordinary accuracy, which shows that he 
had had access to some Scottish Trinitarian 
records, he lays the scene of the martyrdom 
in " Aberdon la Nueva "that is " New " 
as distinguished from " Old " Aberdeen. 
The distinction is still in daily use in the 
" Granite city." Stranger still, he rightly 
locates the " New " town on the " river 
Den." " Den " cannot be the Spanish 
for the river Dee, but represents the 
burn or brook still called " Den " or 
" Denburn." 

1 Knox, Hist., folio ed., p. 35. 

2 Coronada Historia, Granada, 1697. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

(4) The next witness of the same 
Order is Father Ignatius of S. Antony. 1 
To his narrative of martyrdom he appends 
some interesting information about a 
famous picture of " this venerable man." 

(5) Yet another Spanish member of 
the Order, Father Francis de la Vega 
et Toraya, uncanonically canonises his 
Aberdonian brother under the title of 
" S. Francis of Aberdeen." 2 

(6) Father Augustine of S. John the 
Baptist calls the Aberdonian by the more 
guarded title of "Blessed Francis," and gives 
a collect in his honour, with the particulars 
of his martyrdom, and the wonders 
wrought by his picture, rather clumsily 
interwoven. 3 

It looks as if the Order of the Holy 
Trinity has practised an " immemorial 
cult " of their Aberdeen brother. 

1 Necrolog, Religiosorum, etc., Aix, 1707. 

2 Vida del Ven. Siervo de Dios, fray Simon de Roxas, 
Madrid, 1715. 

3 Cultus Sanctorum Ord. SSS. Trin., Lemberg, 1738. For 
the prayer, see Appendix A. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 


IT is a far cry from Aberdeen to Palma, 
the still more beautiful and far more 
ancient town of Majorca, yet it is here 
and not in Scotland that we are to look 
for the last piece of evidence regarding 
the protomartyr of Aberdeen and possibly 
of all Scotland. 

It is an old oil painting of no artistic 
merit, first located in Rome, then in 
Valladolid, and now in the hands of the 
Oratorian Fathers who have succeeded to 
the church once served by the Trini 
tarians of Palma. Obedient to the Bull 
of Pope Urban VIII. (1634) against pre 
mature popular canonisation, the present 
holders of the old Trinitarian treasure are 
careful, both in act and hagiography, to 
give no handle to pietistic excess and are 
resolved, pending the final decision of the 
Holy See, not to allow the picture to be 
removed from the private sacristy into 
the public church. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

There can be little doubt that the man 
who inspired the artist, but gave him no 
data except the fact of martyrdom to 
work upon, was no other than Father 
Figueras, the Spanish Trinitarian more 
than once referred to, and the champion 
of the Red friars of " England, Scotland 
and Ireland/ 

The legend attached to the picture is 
rather bold and seems to indicate that 
Figueras set his artist to work before 
the issue of the above Bull perhaps 
about 1630. 




The nationality of the painter is clear. 
Not only is the " 1 " beloved of the 
Spaniard introduced into the local ad 
jective " Aberdonensis," but u Martir," 
the Spanish way of spelling the Latin 
" Martyr," enforces the same conclusion. 
It is equally clear that the artist is not 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

Figueras, who, like all Latinists of his day, 
wrote " Martyr/ but an uneducated man, 
probably a Trinitarian lay-brother, who 
caught the sound of " Martyr," and wrote 
it down as above. The painter seems to 
have been not only a Spaniard, but a 
resident in the Roman house of the Order. 
The two Trinitarian writers above referred 
to are agreed that the picture, which 
was afterwards credited with miraculous 
powers, was painted in Rome ; and truly 
enough the work bears distinct traces of 
the Roman Renaissance. The pug-nosed 
angel is, of course, there, holding a highly 
convoluted shield that might be Carrara 
marble or might be plaster of Paris. The 
conventional palm branch is gracefully 
poised in the right hand of the martyr, and 
the drapery both of the habit and the 
mantle is easy and flowing. Part of the 
red-blue cross is still distinctly visible in 
the fading picture. As might be expected 
in a purely " fancy " design, there is 
nothing Scottish in the whole conception. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

The man is a tall, good-looking Spanish 
youth, with a luxuriant crop of hair which 
conceals the neo-Roman tonsure. Instead 
of the prosaic Scottish " whinger," the 
likeliest instrument of his death, there is 
a costly Spanish sword-handle worthy of 
the Toledo blade buried deep in the left 
breast of the martyr. 

It is almost impossible that anything 
can be added to this last link in the chain 
of evidence regarding the claim of the 
Trinitarian to the martyr s crown in 
Scotland. Perhaps it is enough. 



Translated from the Latin of 
Father Augustine of S. John the Baptist. 1 
(Not authorised for public use.) 

O Blessed Francis, Martyr, who in thine attempt to 
withstand the impious and sacrilegious raid of heretics 
on thy religious house, wert wounded and dragged 
down the stairs, and with thy head cleft didst give up 
thy soul to heaven as a victim ; thou who hast won 
this favour from God, that thy picture, painted in 
Rome, with the laurels of martyrdom added, when 
laid on the heads of the possessed, has put the demons 
to flight, obtain for us, by thine intercession, 
deliverance from the snares of the devil. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

1 See p. 52. 




AFTER some research, I am inclined 
to think that, including, by a little 
chronological stretch, the name of Father 
Ogilvie in the list, we cannot ascribe to 
Scotland more than the three following 
undoubted martyrs for the Catholic faith 
in the days of the Reformation : 

(1) Father Francis, Trinitarian, died in Aberdeen, 
4th December, 1 1559. 

(2) Father Robson, secular priest, died in Glasgow, 
4th May, 1 1574. 

(3) Father John Ogilvie, Jesuit, died in Glasgow, 
28th February, 1 1616. 

Of the first, enough has been said. 

The second is known only through one 
short phrase of an unknown burgess of 
Edinburgh, the authorof the extraordinarily 
accurate and strictly contemporary Diurnal 

1 These dates are, of course, " old style." 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

of Occurrents. Robson was hanged " for 
saying of Mass." 1 To those acquainted 
with this close observer and faithful 
recorder of events, this one authority, the 
only one available, will seem enough to 
establish the claim of the priest, Robson, 
to the crown of martyrdom. 2 

Of Father Ogilvie, S.J., it is enough 
to say here that he is already declared 
"venerable" by the Catholic Church. 
The account of his trial and conviction is 
given in Pitcairn s Criminal Trials, and 
deserves to be reprinted in full. 

It is quite possible that there is a 
fourth Scottish martyr in the person of 
Father John Black, of the Order of 
Preachers, sometime confessor of Mary 
Queen of Scots, and murdered by a mob 
in the Cowgate, Edinburgh, in 1566. 

The task of vindicating Friar Black 

1 Diurnal, p. 341, quoted by Lang, Hist. Scot., ii. 254. 

2 Buchanan gives the date of the execution of Robson as 
1571, and is wrong by three years. There is a shocking 
slander on the priest as a breaker of the seal of Confession in 
the same author, Hist. Scot., Aikman s trans., ii. 600. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

from the hideous charges of Knox and 
Randolph has been undertaken with 
exceptional courage by Father Devas of 
the Order of Preachers * and will seem to 
many readers to have been accomplished 
with signal success. 

No layman and no woman is known to 
have been executed for the Catholic faith 
during the Scottish Reformation. It was 
different in England. In Scotland it was 
not the lack of will to kill papists 2 ; it 
was the want of material for the hang 
man. There is no doubt that to escape 
death it was absolutely necessary for a 
very large number of Scottish Catholics, 
lay and clerical, to fly to the Continent. 
This they did " ob Catholics fidei 
ardorem," is the bitter remark on one of 

1 In the American Catholic Quarterly, July, 1910. 

2 In his emphatic teaching of the stern duty of the civil 
government to punish these idolatours with death," Knox 
never wavered. His most explicit and savage utterance on 
the point emanated from Geneva in 1558; The Appellation 
of John Knoxe, &c., Laing, Knox, IV., 507. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

them by the famous printer and scholar, 
Aldus Manutius. In England there was 
a large exodus too, but the Elizabethan 
Government could never feel sure that the 
exiles would not return with new recruits 
for the mission field. Hence the need, 
which was not felt in Scotland, of a large 
army of paid pursuivants and spies. The 
immediate peril of death over, two move 
ments become apparent among Scottish 
Catholics. Many exiles returned home, 
and many of the resident Catholics who 
had conformed to the new religion came 
back to the fold under a storm of per 
secution not much less bitter than death. 
Hence the impossibility of the attempt 
made by some Scottish historians to draw 
up two lists, first of Catholics who had 
lapsed, secondly, of those who remained 
staunch. Of many families as well as of 
many individuals it is equally true to say 
that they were Catholics and Reformed 
by turns. When the local bishops had 
all disappeared, along with the vast bulk 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

of the local secular clergy and all the 
religious bodies, and when the last man 
of the fighting column which had done 
so much to relight the dying embers 
of Catholicism was recalled by the 
General of the Jesuits, the old religion 
died of inanition, and the triumph of the 
Protestant Reformation was secured. It 
took a long time to come. To say with 
Froude that on the morrow of the 
parliamentary abolition of the Papacy 
and the Mass (August, 1560), Scotland 
awoke and found herself Protestant, is a 
travesty of history and a denial of human 
nature. Very slowly the triumph of the 
Presbyterian form of Protestantism came, 
but when it came, never, in the annals of 
religious strife in Europe, was there a 
conquest more complete or a rout more 
shattering. Leaving a few patches of the 
west inviolate, the storm of victory swept 
along its unresisted course from Kirkwall 
of the Orkneys, where Bishop Adam 
Bothwell openly preached the doctrines 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

of the Reformation, to the braes of 
Galloway where Bishop Alexander Gordon 
was stingily paid by the new Kirk of 
Scotland for his services to the cause. 
Compared to the continental area covered 
by the Protestant tide, Scotland was small, 
but no part of Europe, large or little, was 
so cleared of Catholicism as this western 
spot. On the Continent, Catholicism 
was being constantly borne down and as 
constantly springing up. The floods of 
Lutheranism and Calvinism were being 
ever broken up by the irrepressible peaks 
and importunate islands of Catholicism 
that refused to be long submerged ; but 
in Scotland the waters prevailed, and the 
land lay quiescent and crushed under their 
weight. The Catholic Church was practi 
cally wiped out, " as a man wipeth a dish, 
wiping it and turning it upside down," 1 

And mountainous error was too highly heaped 
For truth to overpeer. 

To avert defeat, it would have taken a 

1 4 Kings xxi. 13. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

whole army of Catholic martyrs, and they 
were not forthcoming. 

It was the old story of the choice of 
the line of least resistance, the old method 
beloved of " the hovering temporiser," of 
craven acquiescence in things which are 
imagined to be right and known to be 
wrong. In Scotland as in England there 
were found 

the temporisers or schismatics who kept the faith 
but frequented the [Protestant] churches, and the 
open Catholics who braved fine and imprisonment and 
refused to go to church. * 

In Scotland even more than in England 
the religious touchstone was the Catholic 
Blessed Sacrament or the Protestant Lord s 
Supper, 2 but the percentage of Catholics 
who for the first half-century after the 
Reformation agreed to accept the latter 
test, and thus to proclaim their out 
ward conformity with the new religion, 
was enormously greater in the northern 

1 Simpson, Edmund Campion, p. 204; London, 1896. 

2 See the remarkable evidence as regards England, ibid. 
p. 198. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

kingdom. The supreme authority on 
this period is the Aberdonian Jesuit, 
Father John Leslie, who began his labours 
in Scotland in 1628, and whose letters 
to the Jesuit General are a model of 
accurate observation and temperate writ 
ing. 1 Because of the very pointed reference 
to the north of Scotland, where Friar 
Francis lived and died, a fairly long 
passage from Leslie s " Quinquennial " Re 
port is here transcribed. It is of surpassing 
interest, not only because it comes from 
a thoroughly well-informed writer, but 
also because it is the only compact survey 
extant of the causes of the progress of the 
national apostacy during the interval, 
1560-1617. It is probably the best piece 
of religious diagnosis in the Annual 
Letters of the Scottish Jesuit Mission. 

" I shall be cautious in what I say and be careful not 
to write down anything which the most scrupulous 
prudence would condemn. 

" At the time of the change of religion in Scotland, 

1 Stonyhurst MSS. Translated from the Latin and printed 
by Father Forbes Leith, S.J., in Memoirs of Scottish Catholics, 
i., pp. 17 sqq. ; London, 1909. 

The Protomartyr of Scotland 

as soon as infidelity had triumphed over the true 
faith, the persecution was so violent that very few 
had the courage to profess themselves Catholics 
openly. In compliance with the laws of parliament 
and the tyranny of public opinion, and in consequence 
of the ignorance or carelessness or cowardice of some 
of the ecclesiastical order, it became customary with 
Catholics to attend heretical worship on stated days ; 
and once a year, though they did not actually receive 
what is called the Lord s Supper, they pretended to 
do so. Taking their places at the table of destruction 
[desecration ?] 1 and lifting the bread to their lips, 
they secretly let it fall to the ground, and taking the 
cup of the Calvinists in their hands made believe to 
drink ; and they did not feel that in doing this, they 
were doing anything very wrong. 

" A great many went still further, when the com 
pulsion was unusually severe, and not only subscribed 
on oath the Calvinist Articles of Faith, 2 but received 
the Supper in reality, taking advantage of the remiss- 
ness of some of the priests, who did not reprove this 

1 Father Forbes Leith prints "destruction." 

2 i.e. the Knoxian Confession of Faith (Mary, 1560, c. 
i) ; Knox, Hist., folio ed., pp. 239 sqq. The Westminster 
Confession afterwards became law (William and Mary, 
1690, c. 7). Strange to say, though the two Confessions 
differ considerably, both are in equal force as the Statute 
Law of Scotland. Cf. Fleming and Millar, Acts Par!. Scot., 
1 424- 1 707, pp. 22,212; "by Authority," Edinburgh, 1908. 


The Protomartyr of Scotland 

detestable insincerity and impiety as sharply as they 
should have done. 

" Thus from the date of the overthrow of religion 
to the year 1617, there were very few Catholics to 
be found in Scotland who were not guilty of this 
compliance ; while in the north, where the Catholics 
were in the majority, it is certain that there were not 
more than eight." 

There was a very marked improvement 
from 1617 onwards, due to Fathers William 
and James Lindsay and Patrick Stickel, 
Jesuit missioners. 1 


By " the laws of parliament," Father Leslie means 
two main Acts, (i) the Act of Abolition of the Mass, 
(2) the Act of Abolition of the Jurisdiction of the 
Pope. Both Acts were at the outset null and void, 
neither having ever received the Royal Assent of 
Queen Mary, but in course of time both became law 
by prescription or f< use and wont." The Act against 
the Mass was repealed by the Statute Law Revision 
Act (6 Edward VII. c. 38), which received the 
Royal Assent on 4th August, 1906. Up to this date, 
the Mass was, by Statute, illegal in Scotland. The 
Act against the Pope remains unrepealed, though it 
has fallen into desuetude and is practically dead. See 
the two Acts in Thomson, Acts Par 1. Scot. ; Knox, 
Hist., folio ed., pp. 254^. Cf. Fleming and Millar, 
op, cit. y pp. xx vi., 38. 

1 Ibid. 



As has been said above, the history of the 
Reformation in the north-east of Scotland 
has yet to be written. Bishop Leslie of 
Ross has not done it. An abortive 
attempt was made many years ago by a 
writer in the Aberdeen Observer. 1 The 
articles were unsigned, but when they 
appeared in book form, the author stood 
revealed as the great historian and archae 
ologist, Dr Joseph Robertson. 2 On this 
one occasion an aggressive and acrimoni 
ous Protestantism has taken the place of 
the writer s habitual solicitude for the 
support of contemporary documents and 
has deprived his work of all historical 

1 April- June, 1837. 

2 History of the Reformation of Aberdeen ; Aberdeen, 1887. 


BX 4705 .FT P68 1914 


Power, Matthew A., 

The protomartyr of 

Scotland, Father 
AKE-2727 (awsk)