Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


The Story of a Book

The Recently discovered Reformation Catechism from the Session Records of South Leith Parish Church as recorded in the “South Leith Records Second Series” by the Rev. William Swan and David Robertson MA LLB. 1925

Some years ago on Saturday 7th October 1922 the Ecclesiological Society of Edinburgh visited the Church of South Leith. A paper on the history of the Church was read by Mr Robertson and an account of the proceedings of the afternoon was published in the Scotsman of the following Monday. Following on this report a letter was received from Sands and co the Roman Catholic publishers in which there was offered for sale a small MSS volume neatly bound with three forms of Catechism in it. Two of them were quite definitely assigned to authors. One of these was David Lindsay and the other was James Nicholson. They were all written in one hand and therefore one at least of them were not in the authors handwriting. The other two conceivably might have been. The style of writing was that in use between 1560 and 1630. Before advising the Kirk Session to purchase the volume, the minister thought it wise to have it submitted to the eminent Scottish Scholar, Dr Hay Fleming. He gave as his opinion that the volume was ancient, but not in all probability by the elder David Lindsay. As his son David Lindsay succeeded him in the first charge in 1613 and lived until 1627, and as he was known as the author of several works it was considered a likely thing that he was the possible author of the catechism. It was accordingly purchased and added to the many ancient possessions of our historic church.

It is only fair t say that there was still another David Lindsay who was practically a contemporary of the younger David Lindsay of South Leith. He was minister of the first charge of Dundee for many years continuing in the charge even after he had accepted the Bishopric of Brechin. He lived until after 1640 having been deprived of his Bishoproc by the covenanting Glasgow Assembly of 1638. Against his claim to be the author of our Catechism is not only the general character of the man which was hard and worldly, but also the fact that he has not been mentioned anywhere as the author of the Catechism. Although some other writings are set down to him. Rather in his favour however is the fact that James Nicholson whose catechism is bound up with that attributed to Mr David Lindsay was a brother-in-law of his own. It is at least a atriking coincidence that a Catechisms to which the names of brother-in-laws are attached appear in the same MSS. So far as a somewhat careful enquiry can discover there are no other facts which can help us to a solution of the problem.

David Lindsay the second of the name to occupy the charge of South Leith was born about 1566. educated at St Andrews, he was ordained to Forfar in 1590. Translated to the second charge of S Andrews in 1597, he was instituted Rector of St Olave, Southwark London in 1603. coming back to forgan in Fife, he worked there until he was appointed to the second charge at South Leith in 1609. He succeeded his father to the first charge un 1613. he published from St Andrews in 1622 “The Heavenly Chariot Laid Open” and from London in 1625 “The Godly Man’s Journey to Heaven”. He appears to have been a man gentle and meditative in character, while delicate in health.

The story of James Nicholson, who died Bishop of Dunkeld in 1607 is deeply affecting. Born in a good station in Life in 1570,he spent his early days at court. James Melville induced him to offer for the ministry and at the early age of nineteen he became minister of a Parish. In 1597 he and Melville were being interviewed by the King, whose steadfast purpose was to make Scotland Episcopal like the England on the throne of which he hoped so soon to sit. James succeeded in seducing Nicholson from his allegiance to Presbyterianism and the interview between Nicholson and his bedfellow and friend Melville that same evening was a full revelation of the character of the other. While Nicholson proved most useful to the King, nevertheless his disloyalty to the higher truth seems to have preyed on his mind. First of all he does not have left Meigle for the Chapel Royal at Stirling to which he ws appointed in 1602. by 1607 when he was appointed Bishop of Dunkeld, melancholy and disease combined to to make him refuse both confirmation in the Bishopric and also all its worldly emoluments. He lived only a few weeks after his appointment. He would not allow the name and style of “Bishop” to be put in his letters, will or testament, nor rents thereof to come in reckoning among the goods and gear left to his wife and children. To his brother-in-law David Lindsay of Dundee he said “Be never a Bishop, for if you be Bishop, you mist resolve to take the will of your sovereign for the Law of your conscience”. He further gave the advice “not you haunt the court and to eschew all the Kings employments” but neither his grief nor his admonition made any good effect on Mr David Lindsay for he made no scruple to accept the Bishopric o Brechin and defend all the corruptions and innovations ir pleased the King to obtrude upon our Kirk.

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