Beneficent Glasgow Clergymen 16th/17th Century.

Beneficent Glasgow Clergymen.

The Glasgow Merchants House has over its 400 odd years received a large number of benefactions to bring help and support to whomsoever the benefactor deemed in need of it. It may be for educational purposes by providing bursaries, for the poor of a given area, or to help distressed sailors or merchants. In fact, the range of causes and purposes of these benefactions is extensive.

The first was given by John Mure, a skipper and Burgess of Glasgow in 1602, the amount being £2 Scots, about 3s 4d sterling.[i] A paltry sum perhaps but the economic power of that amount is equivalent to c. £1,000 today.[ii] Among those donating funds to the House, and elsewhere, were a number of clergymen. The purpose of this post, and others to come, is to give some information on their lives and their charity.

Zachary Boyd.

Figure 1 Zachary Boyd. From ” A History of the University of Glagow 1451-1909.” James Coutts 1909

According to most biographical notes on Zachary or Zacharias Boyd he was born around 1585 in Ayrshire, a descendent of the Boyd family of Pinkhill and Trochrig. He was educated at Kilmarnock School and matriculated at Glasgow University in 1601.He gained an MA from St Andrews University in 1607 and then went to the protestant college at Saumer in France (where his cousin Robert Boyd had a professorship) subsequently becoming Regent Professor there in 1611. He eventually returned to Scotland and in 1623 was appointed minister of Barony Parish Church in which position he remained for the rest of his life.[iii]

He had a strong connection with Glasgow University possibly because of his cousin Robert Boyd who had become Principal of the University in 1615. He remained so until 1621 resigning because he could not support the idea of bishops in the Church of Scotland.[iv]

Boyd held several University positions from 1634 until c.1651. He was elected rector in 1634 and again in 1645.[v] He was also Dean of Faculty in 1631, 1633, and 1636. Finally, he became Vice Chancellor in 1651.[vi]

In 1650 following the execution of Charles I and the defeat of the Scots at Dunbar in September of that year by the English New Model Army, Oliver Cromwell came to Glasgow. Such was the apprehension of the city’s magistrates and other leading inhabitants that they fled the city, leaving it to the mercy of Cromwell’s army. In the event they had nothing to fear in that respect. Cromwell himself however did not escape censure. On Sunday the 26th October, two days after he entered the city he and his officers attended a church service at the Cathedral, where the preacher of the day was Zachary Boyd. During his sermon Boyd was highly critical of Cromwell, so much so that his secretary Thurlow offered to “pistol the scoundrel”. Fortunately, Cromwell did not agree and instead invited Boyd to supper, which he accepted, with the subsequent discussion and prayers lasting until the early hours of the morning.[vii]

Most sources say Boyd married twice, one has it that he married three times, his first wife’s name being unknown, but that they had a son called James. There is general agreement that his ‘second’ wife was Elspet or Elizabeth Fleming whom he married on the 16 May 1624[viii] and that he married Margaret Mure in 1639 after Elizabeth’s death.[ix]

Margaret Mure married James Durham after Boyd’s death and it has been said that as he was dying his wife requested that he leave something to Durham. His reply apparently was “I’ll lea him naething but thy bonnie sel’” [x] Another version has him say “I’ll lea him what I cannot keep frae him”[xi]

Although this post relates to donations to the Merchants, it is perhaps unsurprising that most of his charitable works were all aimed at University life. His initial charitable activity was in 1650 to donate 500 marks (£333 6s 8d Scots) to a fund to improve the University buildings.[xii] He then in 1635 mortified (to be used in perpetuity) £1000 Scots to be used for the education of one poor theological student to be selected by the Merchants House.[xiii] This was his sole contribution to the House.

Figure 2 Boyd’s mortification Board in the Merchants House Grand Hall. G. Manzor

His largesse to the University however did not end with the 500 marks. He was a person of great wealth and on his death in 1653 it was split between his wife Margaret and the University. He bequeathed £20,000 Scots, his library and his writings to the University with one condition attached, that some of the money be used to publish his many manuscripts of poems and religious tracts. In the event his works were not published, all of the money being used on University buildings.[xiv]

The money bequeathed is an astonishing amount for a clergyman, in fact for anyone of the time. It equates to just under £1670 sterling. Today’s equivalent lies somewhere between £250k and £57m dependent on whether you use simple RPI changes or more complex measures. Probably the most appropriate would be to use an income comparison which would make the bequest worth around £5.9m.[xv]

In 1655 a marble bust of Boyd was ordained by the University with an inscription detailing his bequest.[xvi] The bust, by sculptor Robert Erskine, was on display in 1658 in the old University buildings. When it was relocated to Gilmorehill, the bust was removed to the Hunterian Museum following restoration by John Mossman.[xvii]

It should be noted that the Merchants House as we know it today came into being in 1605 when an agreed Letter of Guildry was established. Prior to that date there had been some form of Merchants and Trades Guilds in place.

John Howieson

According to volume III of Fast Ecclesiae Scoticanae, Howieson (lots of different spellings) was born in 1530. He was educated at Glasgow University, his first recorded ministry being at Kelso in 1576, becoming minister at Cambuslang around 1579. Like Boyd he had a strong antithesis to bishops in the Church of Scotland, a view that had him imprisoned on several occasions and, on one, assaulted in the Cathedral by the Lord Provost of Glasgow and his fellow bailies! In 1581 he became a member of the Glasgow Presbytery and by 1582 he was its Moderator.[xviii]

In was in 1582 that his opposition to bishops resulted in him being assaulted. Archbishop Boyd of Glasgow had died in 1581 and despite the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland forbidding bishops the Earl of Lennox was empowered by King James VI to appoint a replacement. He was Robert Montgomery, minister of Stirling. He was prohibited by the Church courts and initially promised not to take up the role, probably because he was threatened by excommunication and by being deposed from his ministry. However, he changed his mind, probably at the urging of Lennox.

Howieson and the Presbytery met in the Cathedral to consider the matter in March of 1582 during which Montgomery appeared with the Lord Provost Sir Matthew Stewart the Laird of Minto, his Bailies and other citizens. Stewart ordered Howieson to leave, which he refused to do along with the rest of the Assembly. At that point he was attacked by the Provost and his Bailies and had a tooth knocked out, his beard pulled and was given a number of blows to his face. He was then jailed in the Tolbooth.[xix]

In the following years he was continually in trouble because of his anti-bishop views, marriage to Agnes Columnes in 1586 being no deterrent to his activities. At various times he was held in the Spey Tower of St Johnstone (Perth), then Falkland Palace, eventually being removed as minister of Cambuslang in 1587. In 1595 he was held in Edinburgh Castle for allegedly having had printed a false version of an Act of Parliament. On his release he again became minister at Cambuslang confining himself to parish duties for the remainder of his life.[xx]

Like Boyd his beneficence was to both the Merchants House and the University. In 1612 he donated 500 marks to the House for charitable purposes[xxi] and in 1613 he mortified 1000 marks to fund a bursary at the University.[xxii] In 1615 he donated 2000 marks for the upkeep of two old men from Cambuslang at the hospital in Hamilton.[xxiii] He died in 1618 and in his will dated 14th October 1618 he bequeathed to the University his library of one hundred and thirty books.[xxiv]

[i] Ewing, Archibald Orr and others. (1866) The Merchants House of Glasgow. 2nd ed. Glasgow: Bell & Bain. p. 567.

[ii] Measuring Worth (2018).

[iii] Scott, Hew. (1920). Fast Ecclesiae Scoticanae. The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland since the Reformation. Vol. III. New Edition. Synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. p. 392.

[iv] The University of Glasgow Story. Robert Boyd of Trochrig.

[v] Innes,, ed. (1854). Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis. Records of the University of Glasgow, from its foundation till 1727. Vol’ of Preface and Index. Edinburgh: T. Constable. pp. lviii, lvix, lxxiv.

[vi] Innes, ed. (1854). Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis. Records of the University of Glasgow, from its foundation till 1727. Vol. II Statutes and Annals. Edinburgh: T. Constable. p. 321.

[vii] MacGregor, George (1881). The History of Glasgow. Glasgow: Thomas D. Morison. p. 226.

[viii] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 16 May 1624. BOYD, Zacharie and FLEMINGE, Elspet. Source Film Number 0102924, 0919484. Family Search Transcription. Collection: Scotland Marriages, 1561-1910.

[ix] Scott, Hew, op. cit.

[x] Lang, John Marshall. (1895). Glasgow and the Barony Thereof: A Review of 300 Hundred Years and More. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons. p.53.

[xi] Electricscotland. The Scottish Nation: Boyd.

[xii] Coutts, James. (1909). A History of the University of Glasgow. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p. 113.

[xiii] Ewing, Archibald Orr and others, op.cit. p. 591.

[xiv] Milligan, Susan (2004) The Merchants House of Glasgow, 1606-2005. Glasgow: The Merchants House of Glasgow. p. 26.

[xv] Measuring Worth (2018).

[xvi] Coutts, James, op.cit. p.133.

[xvii] The University of Glasgow Story. Zachary Boyd.

[xviii] Scott, Hew, op. cit. p. 234.

[xix] Coutts, James, op.cit. pp. 76,77 AND Marwick, Sir James D. Early Glasgow. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. pp. 194, 195.

[xx] Scott, Hew, op. cit. p. 235. 5

[xxi] Ewing, Archibald Orr and others. (1866) The Merchants House of Glasgow. 2nd ed. Glasgow: Bell & Bain. p. 568.

[xxii] The University of Glasgow Story. John Howieson.

[xxiii] Scott, Hew, op. cit. p. 235. 5

[xxiv] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 14 October 1618. HOWESOUNE, John. Testament and Inventory. Glasgow Commissary Court. CC9/7/15.




Author: harmonyrowbc

Ex aero engineer with a life long passion for Glasgow History

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