The History of Leith

December 20, 2003

David Lindsay Minister of South Leith 1560-1613, Bishop of Ross 1600-1613

South Leith Records 1925. A record of a Commemoration Lecture given by Rev. William Swan

David Lindsay Minister of South Leith 1560-1613, Bishop of Ross 1600-1613

David Lindsay lived during the reigns of Henry VIII,JamesV, Mary of Guise, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I and James VI(I) and was directly involved with John Knox in many of the events of the Scottish Reformation.

The town of Leith figures largely in the history of our county, and naturally its ancient church emerges in connection with it. There died in August 1613 and incumbent of Leith who took a more prominent share in important national events than any of his successors have done since, able and eminent though many of them undeniably have been. This incumbent was David Lindsay, Bishop of Ross and his mortal remains lie buried a few feet from the present day pulpit as it was his wish to be buried within the Church of South Leith “ to rest with that people whom he had taken the greatest of pains during his life”.

David Lindsay was born about the year 1530 and was a scion of the house of Edzell a branch of the family of Crawford. His grandfather, Walter, fought and died at Flodden. After studying at St Andrews he went abroad to Italy and France and imbibed the principles of the Reformation. It is not likely that he was ever ordained to the priesthood of the Roman Church, for he was never characterised as an “Apostate” a charge levelled against others among his fellow labourers but there is no conclusive evidence on the point.

During his last days on the continent where it must be presumed that he met many of the leaders of the Reformation, John Knox among the number important changes were foreshadowing themselves in Scotland. The country was under the regency of Mary of Lorraine who was in residence in Leith-the arms of her dwelling being now preserved in the vestibule of this Church (South Leith Parish Church). She was governing in the name of her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, who was being educated under the eyes of her uncles, the Guises, Duke and Cardinal in France. The Roman Church was visibly breaking up, mainly through the degeneracy of the clergy in literature and morals. The earnest and loyal churchmen for there were such devoted to the see of Rome made several attempts to avert the coming change, but they were hindered as much by the corruption within as they were checked and overborne by the rising tide of truth and progress without the pale. The policy of the Queen Regent was directed to a two fold end-the maintenance of Roman Catholicism and the strengthening of the hold of France on the country, The Lords of the Congregation who represented and led the party favourable to the Reformation and to friendship with England found themselves in opposition to Mary of Lorraine. Things came a head in Leith. With the aid of two thousand French troops she fortified Leith and held it against a large attacking force under Lord Gray, the English commander who was assisting the Scots opposed to her. It was during this siege that the outworks were on the Links were thrown up, and cannon planted, by which the east end of St Mary’s as the Church was commonly called, was shot down. Nine years later they used some of the stones which were still lying around to repair part of the bulwarks of Edinburgh. On the 10th of June 1560 the Queen Regent died and peace was patched up between the contending factions. An able woman nevertheless Knox’s words are true for her “unhappy….to Scotland from the first day she entered into it, until the day she finished her unhappy life” The Lords of the Congregation were now able to make a legislative start with the Reformation, and one of their first acts, through a committee pf Parliament was to appoint twelve ministers to the twelve most important places in Scotland and David Lindsay’s appointment to Leith dates from the 19th July 1560.

The Rev. Swan’s story will continue tomorrow on this site. (Editors note- It was believed in 1925 that Mary of Lorraine lived in Leith during the Siege and that she had a house in the town. It has been discovered since that Mary of Guise left Leith before the siege started and went to Edinburgh Castle were she subsequently died. The Coat of arms mentioned above and which can be seen in the West Porch of South Leith Church didn’t come from her house in Leith which didn’t exist but appeared over the St Anthony Port which was an entrance gate in the town Wall of Leith and would have faced the English and Scots armies. Although completely accurate the coat of arms has written over the top “Maria de Loraine Regina Scotie 1560” the point here is that she wasn’t Queen Regent in 1560 having lost it the previous year by Act of Parliament. What this coat of arms is saying is 1) that parliament didn’t have the right to remove her as Queen Regent as she was mother of the legitimate Queen. 2) that she supported the “Auld Alliance with France and they were the traitors by fighting with the English and 3) she supported the old religion (ie Roman Catholicism) and they were heretics. In short the coat of arms are an early piece of anti-protestant propaganda.

After the siege the west wall was demolished and someone took the coat of arms as a piece of decoration for their house and in turn that house would have been demolished and it was put onto another house and so the legend grow up that Mary of Guise had a house in Leith)

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