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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s


By James McGrath

Mary, Queen of Scots The Reformation succeeded unopposed in Glasgow after James Beaton (1517-1603), the Catholic archbishop, fled the city in 1560. National events next impinged on Glasgow when Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) was defeated at the battle of Langside in May 1568 and forced into exile. A turning point in the ensuing wars was the seizure of Dumbarton Castle in 1570 from Mary's supporters by Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill (d 1603). A soldier of fortune and an astute courtier, the crown appointed him provost of Glasgow in 1577-1578.


Defence of the Cathedral The crown also sought to control the re-established Glasgow see and in 1581 appointed Robert Montgomery (d 1609) as Archbishop. The church had not been consulted and, led by the theologian Andrew Melville (1545-c 1622), vigorously opposed the new archbishop. Melville had become principal of the University of Glasgow in 1574, providing it with a new constitution, and was also responsible for The Second Book of Discipline which would form the basis of the Church's adherence to presbyterianism. The Montgomery crisis passed. The crown continued to appoint archbishops, the most distinguished being John Spottiswood (1565-1639), author of a History of the Church of Scotland, who occupied the see 1605-1615 before being translated to St Andrews.

Saint John Ogilvie Catholicism went underground in Glasgow after the Reformation. There were probably many crypto-Catholics like Archibald Hegate who continued his legal career into the early 1600s despite having appeared on a list of "receavers (sic) of Jesuits" in the late 1580s. However, the clearest example of Roman Catholic activism rests with the trial and execution at Glasgow of the Jesuit missionary John Ogilvie (1580-1615). Ogilvie was canonised in 1976, becoming the only recognised Scottish martyr of the Reformation.

Zachary Boyd Monument The first Protestant minister was Mr David Wemyss (d 1615) who ministered in the burgh from 1562 to 1605. Another notable cleric was Zachary Boyd (1585?-1653), minister of the Barony Parish and a great benefactor to the University of Glasgow, which he also served as Dean of Faculty and Rector. The burgh also had benefactors. Peter Lowe (d 1612), surgeon, founded in 1599 what became the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. The bequests in 1639 and 1641 of George Hutcheson of Lambhill and his brother Thomas, notaries public (lawyers) and bankers, led to the establishment of a hospital and a school that still bear their name.


Sir George Maxwell The activities of women were seldom in the public eye, save for those hauled before the courts for brawling, scandal-mongering or lewd behaviour. A few were unfortunate enough to be accused of witchcraft and subjected to the barbaric punishments of the period, as befell Janet Mathie and others in 1677 at Paisley for the supposed bewitching of Sir George Maxwell of Pollok. Such fates were not exclusively for women - Janet's son was burnt with her.


John Spreull The burgh was torn by factions during the wars of the 1640s but the anti-royalists, led by provost George Porterfield, eventually prevailed. Glasgow's stance in defence of Presbyterianism was given theological justification by learned men such as Patrick Gillespie, (1617-1675), the University principal 1653-1660. The tide turned against the anti-royalists in 1660 but the government's insistence on episcopal governance (ie; church government by the bishops) provoked civil disobedience that found expression in popular presbyterianism and the mass conventicles (open air meetings) of the Covenanters. There were moderate Episcopalians like Glasgow's Robert Leighton, archbishop 1671-1674, but Alexander Burnett, archbishop 1663-71 and 1674-1679 was more in tune with government policy and persecuted the religious dissenters. Many suffered during the "Killing Times". Covenanters James Nisbet, James Lawson and Alexander Wood were among those executed at Glasgow. Leading citizens were not immune: John Spreull (1646-1722), a prominent merchant, earned the nickname "Bass John" after being imprisoned and tortured on the Bass Rock.


John Anderson Despite these upheavals, Glasgow's merchants created a wealth base from which later success would spring. Trade in tobacco can be traced to at least 1640, when substantial stocks are mentioned in the legacy of the otherwise anonymous Andrew Martin. Though most merchants were men, Kathryn Glen (d 1610) was by no means unique; eligible for commerce through widowhood, she left a large legacy that included shares in The Grace of God, a ship trading with France and Spain. Manufacturing was mostly in the hands of middling craftsmen, but the move from the cottage to the factory had begun. Robert Fleming established a woollen "manufactorie" in 1638 and Simon Pitchersgill from England became its manager in 1650, a post he continued to hold in 1669.

Tait's Directory p33 The arrival of William III in 1689 and the abolition of episcopacy opened an era of domestic peace, little disrupted by the Jacobite rebellions. Glasgow prospered, particularly after the 1707 Union with England. Those who now took centre stage were entrepreneurs and men of letters.

Joseph Black The explosion of the colonial trade in the 18th century saw the emergence of very wealthy Glasgow merchants and manufacturers, the so-called "Tobacco Lords". William Cuninghame of Lainshaw (d 1789), John Glassford of Dougalston (1715-1783) and Alexander Speirs of Elderslie (1714-1782) dominated the trade by the 1750s. Other trading and manufacturing individuals and dynasties, hardly less wealthy, included Archibald Ingram (1699-1770) and the Bogles, the Buchanans, the Cochranes, the Dunlops, the Murdochs and the Stirlings (one of whom, Walter, founded the library that still bears his name).

Artists and Scholars

Glasgow became a sophisticated European city. Letters flourished. John M'Ure produced the city's first history in 1736. The brothers Robert (1707-1776) and Andrew Foulis (1712-1775) opened a quality publishing business and an Academy of Fine Arts (one of whose pupils was the medallion-maker, James Tassie (1735-1799). The University enjoyed a golden age, with teachers of great renown including Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), professor of Moral Philosophy 1729-1746; Thomas Reid (1710-1796), professor of Moral Philosophy 1764-1796; Joseph Black (1728-99), professor of Medicine 1757-66. Adam Smith (1723-90) was professor of Logic and Moral Philosophy 1752-1764 and author of the hugely influential The Wealth of Nations. It was probably John Anderson (1726-1796), professor of Natural Philosophy 1757-1796 and founder of what became the University of Strathclyde, who presented the College's talented instrument maker James Watt (1736-1819) with a problem involving a working model of a Newcomen steam engine. His solution, the separate condenser, would help spark the Industrial Revolution.

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