History of Leith, Edinburgh

December 20, 2003

The Life and Times of David Lindsay

Part 5 South Leith Records 1925. A record of a Commemoration Lecture given by Rev. William Swan.

David Lindsay returns to Leith to die but first he was involved in the Gowrie Conspiracy. One of the most mysterous in Scottish history.

After the Gowrie Conspiracy, James crossed from fife and landed in Leith in August 1600. Lindsay had taken an important part in the thanksgiving for the Kings deliverance from this mysterious and inexplicable danger which was held at the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh. He seems to have place implicit faith on the story related to him by the King at Falkland “ Mr David taketh him to the Kirk (South Leith Parish Church) exhorted him after thanksgiving to perform his vows made aforetimes for the performance of Justice, at which times he smiled and talked with those that were around him, after his unreverent manner of behaviour at sermons” if he was a courtier, he was still able evidently to point out to the King the principles which were the “habitation of his throne” and which he was in danger of forgetting. David Lindsay was now a very old man but he seems to have been I residence for the purposes of his work as a Bishop in the neighbourhood of Dundee, while still superintending his Parish of Leith and no doubt sometimes occasionally officiating there. When James went to London in 1603 to ascend the throne of England, Lindsay was one of those who went with him in state.

David Lindsay was twice married first to a daughter of Ramsay of Clattie and next to a Helen Harrison who survived him. His son Jerome was of some note, becoming a Knight and Laird of Annatland and occupying the honourable position of Lyon, King at Arms from 1621 to 1639. He married a grand niece of the famous Sir David Lindsay of the Mount and is said to have descendents in the United States. Another son became a clergyman of the Church of England in Southwark in this resembling the two sons of John Knox himself who crossed the border and served in the Southern Church (Editors note he means here the Church of England). He afterwards became colleague to his father occupying the Second Charge. The names of his other sons are known but nothing is known about them. His daughter Rachel married Spottiswoode who built the beautiful church of Dairsie near Cupar. Spottiswoode became well known as an Archbishop and also as the historian of the Scottish Kirk on the Episcopal side as Calderwood is of that of the Presbyterians.

The corpse of David Lindsay was interred in Leith by his own direction as desiring to rest with that people on whom he had taken great pains in his life.

(Editors note. The Gowrie conspiracy. 5th August 1600 James VI enticed by Alexander Master of Ruthven into Gowrie House, the King alleged that he was threatened with death, and when his followers came to his help the Master and his brother were killed. Recent opinion tends on the whole to believe that there was a real plot and that it was not an invention of the King. David Lindsay was buried in South Leith Parish a few feet from the present day pulpit)

The life and Times of David Lindsay

Of Church,State and Civil War (The Life of David Lindsay

In 1571-72 at a conference in Leith, probably in this Church (Editors note. South Leith Parish Church), he expressed approval of Morton’s scheme to introduce a limited Episcopacy. James Melville in his diary says of Morton “he could not suffer the right government of Christ’s Kirk by the Presbytery of his lawfully called pastors and elders, mislyked the General Assemblies and would have had the name changed thereof that he might abolish the privilege and power thereof, whereunto my uncle Mr Andrew specially opposed himself and thereby and for the Bishops incurred his special indignation, and thereabout first discorded with Mr David Lindsay to whom he was commonly contradictor saying that Mr Knox had commended him to the court all his days, that he was a good mid-man, and maker of Brues (Editors note he means peacemaker) among men, but should not have place between God and Man. Yet, in effect the said Mr David Lindsay kept honest in the cause of the discipline till it was concluded and after”

In 1575 Lindsay was one of three chosen to represent the Episcopal side, against three who took the Presbyterian view. When the following question was discussed “Have Bishops as they now are in Scotland, their function from the word of God or not?” And ought the chapters appointed for electing them be tolerated in the reformed Church? He visited John Knox several times during his last illness in 1572, and the following incident is worth repeating. Asking Knox one day how he was, the answer was “Well, brother. I thank God I have desired all this day to have you with me, that I might send you to that man in the castle (Editors note he means Edinburgh Castle) the Lord of Grange, whom you know I have loved so dearly, and whose courage and constancy in the cause of God you have sometimes seen, although now, most unhappily he has cast himself away. Go I pray you and tell him from me in the name of God, that unless he leave that evil cause and forsake that evil wicked course wherein he hath entered neither that rock in which he confideth (the Castle of Edinburgh) shall defend him, nor shall the carnal wisdom of that man whom he counteth half a God (Maitland of Lethington)afford him any help, but he shall be pulled out of that nest and his carcass shall hang before the sun, So God has assured me” David Lindsay undertook the errand, not with much alacrity, as may be supposed. Grange saw him, but after consulting with maitland sent him away with the reply “go and tell Mr Knox that he is a drytting (Editors note Dirty) prophet” On being informed of what had happened Knox concluded “I have been earnest with my God concerning these two men, as for the Lord of Grange. I am sorry that it should befall him yet God assureth me that there is no mercy for his soul. As for the other I have no warrant that ever he shall be well” Lindsay accompanied Grange as minister of comfort about a year later when that soldier was led out to execution. Seeing what was the cause of it “Faith, Mr David. I perceive well now that Mr Knox was the true servant of God and his threatening to be accomplished”

In 1578 when Morton and Mar were contending for the custody of the young King, Civil war was imminent. Both sides were equally matched and the honour o averting bloodshed lies with two ministers, James Lawson and David Lindsay and the English ambassador, Bowes. After this Lindsay was admitted to the privy Council. “No stir, in our memory” says Archbishop Spottiswoode “was more happily pacified”. The unhappy Queen Mary was long a prisoner in England, and Lindsay, with the exception of the court chaplain, was the only minister who consented at James request to pray in public on a critical occasion for her deliverance. The central thought in King James mind was ever his ultimate succession to the Crown of England, and Lindsay, on one occasion at least was one of an embassy sent to a permanent understanding between the two countries. James was never, except under constraint, in favour of Presbyterianism and as soon as he gained the reigns of power, he commenced plotting for its overthrow. The earl of Lennox was the first to have influence with him when he was nearing his eighteenth year, and one his schemes that fascinating person had in view was to subvert the growing Presbyterianism of the Church and country. Lindsay, although a consistent supporter of a moderate Episcopacy, was at this period not in favour of a tyrannical overthrow of the liberties of the Church. He went, as representing the Presbytery of Edinburgh, to the King and Lords at Holyrood, to entreat that nothing should be done prejudicial to the liberties of the Church. But he was seized by the orders of the Earl of Arran and conveyed to Blackness Castle, where he was kept prisoner for nearly a year. While in durance here he had a remarkable dream on two successive nights…..

To be continued……

(Editors note Sir William Kirkcaldy (of Grange) (1520-1573) was an experienced soldier and reformer. He opposed cardinal Beaton and was involved in his murder. he was captured and sent France but later returned to help the reformers. However he was against the deposition of Mary, Queen of Scots and held Edinburgh Castle for her (1571-1573), he was hanged after its fall.)

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