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THE SPREULLS OF GLASGOW.
REPRESENTING through his mother the old Glasgow family of Spreull, and in possession besides of several curious memorials relating to “Bass John,” Mr. J. W. Burns of Kilmahew and Cumbernauld, rendered a service to general as well as local history by gathering together and printing in a neat form the miscellaneous papers concerning one who was at once an intelligent advocate of the truth and a sharp sufferer in its behalf. Born in the year of King Charles's surrender to the Scottish army at Newark, John Spreull was nearly old enough to remember the execution at Whitehall, and is almost certain to have been engaged in business soon after the Restoration. Seized during the “killing” time which set in after the affair at Bothwell Brig, and declining to give any information to the Privy Council, either as to his connection with Cargill or knowledge of the pretended plot against the Duke of York, John Spreull was first subjected to the cruel torture of the “boot," fined £500 sterling, and then thrown into the noisome Bass Prison, where he lay with other sufferers for over six years, when he was released unconditionally. The story will be found told at considerable length in Woodrow's “ Sufferings,” the historian, who appears to have been acquainted with Spruell, making special mention of the different examinations before and after torture, and of the public indignation excited by the cruelty manifested throughout the proceedings against this unoffending victim of tyranny. From his long imprisonment Spreull acquired the name of “Bass John,” whereof (writes Woodrow) “he needs not be ashamed.” In later and happier days the sufferings in and out of the Bass suggested a family crest of a palm-tree held down by two weights on either side, with the motto, “Sub pondere cresco." Although connected with a long line of Glasgow Spreulls, “ Bass John” was of Paisley birth. His father was a bailie and merchant of that burgh, connected with the Cowden family, suffering, like his son, for refusing to accept the ensnaring oaths of the day, but of high repute among his townsfolk for having purchased from the Dundonald family the right of electing their own magistrates. His wife was Janet, daughter of James Alexander, Paisley, and Janet Maxwell of Pollok. Failing issue from any of his three sons or four daughters, “Bass John's” position as head of the family passed to James Spreull, surgeon, Paisley, who married his cousin Ann, only child of John Spreull or Shortridge, town-clerk, Glasgow, author of “Some Remarkable Passages of the Lord's Providence." From this marriage came an only daughter, who, in 1700, married James Shortridge, and carried with her as “tocher” the property adjoining the old Hutcheson Hospital, north side of Trongate, on which site came to be built the entailed property long familiar to readers of the “ Herald” as “ Spreull's Court.” In “Glasgow Past and Present" mention is made of the town-clerk's name as being originally Shortridge, but changed under the conditions of a legacy lest by Miss Spreull. The descent is not so clear at this point as a genealogist would like, but from William Shortridge, of Messrs Todd & Shortridge, of Levenfield Printworks, came Mrs. Burns, wife of the late James of Bloomhill, Cardross, and mother of the present John William Burns of Kilmahew and Cumbernauld. After the Revolution Settlement “Bass John” would appear to have taken an active part in the politics of his day, and, as a prosperous Glasgow merchant, subscribed what was then the large sum of £1,000 towards the Darien scheme of his friend Paterson, whom he a good deal resembled for knowledge and enterprise in commercial affairs. Woodrow describes John Spreull in general terms as an apothecary, but long before the Union he would seem to have been engaged in an extensive foreign trade, as he mentions in the “Account current betwixt Scotland and England,” published in 1705, that he had dealt in pearls for forty years and more, “and yet, to this day, I could never sell a necklace of fine Scots pearl in Scotland, nor yet fine pendants, the generality seeking for Oriental pearl, because farther fetcht; yet, for commendation of our own pearl, at this very day I can show some of our own Scots pearl as fine, lucid, and more transparent than any Oriental; it's true the Oriental can be easier matcht, because they are all of a yellow water, yet foreigners covet Scots pearl.” Another personal glimpse of John Spreull is presented through a “ Representation”
in reference to a seat in the Tron Church, wherein mention is made that "in or about anno 1686, sometime before the late glorious Revolution, I was, in God's good time and providence, delivered out of my prison in the Bass, and then had my abode and dwelling-house in Provost Gilson's land, and so consequently I was a parishioner in the Outer High Church, in which I could never procure a seat for myself and family until Provost Pedie gave one in anno 1693, for which I willingly and duely paid the rent, and kept my own Parish Church, under the Rev. Mr. Alexander Hastie's ministry, in obedience to the comely Order of Christ's Church until anno 1700; when I had built my house in the Trongate, by which I became a parishioner in the late Rev. Mr. Neil Gillies' quarter in the Tron Church; after which I tryed for a seat in that church, and often regrated my want of a seat to my minister, the said Mr. Neil Gillies, while alive, and he desired me to delay a little till the new church was finished, and then it would be endeavoured, by the help of the Lord, to amend, rectifie the disorders and inconveniences in the seats of the kirks, that had been given promiscuously, to persons of different parishes, contrary to the rule of God's Word, the practice of purest churches, and contrary to the Acts of our General Assembly." These “Miscellaneous Writings,” by John Spreull, were admirably printed at the University Press by Mr. Maclehose, illustrated with a number of facsimiles of documents relating to the imprisonment in the Bass, and a characteristic portrait of the old merchant, from an original by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Mr. Burns deserves thanks for his pleasant, dainty little quarto volume.
ANDREW MELVILLE IN GLASGOW.
GRAVE as the subject is, and scholarly as should be the treatment, it is not easy to repress a smile when remembering that fuss and folly have before now paid an unconscious tribute to wisdom by directing the attention of thinking people to some fact or circumstance liable to be overlooked even by those who make ecclesiastical history a special study. Neither the time, place, nor manner of bringing such things up may have any sort of appropriateness—it is on most occasions far otherwise—but none the less a good end through time comes to be secured. The discussion (1884) on Andrew Melville's alleged advice to pull down the Cathedral as a seat of idolatry may well be listed from the dusty area of the Tron Kirk, and looked at in connection with the presence in our City of a University dignitary rivalled by Buchanan alone among scholars of the Reformation period for learning and courage. Historically inaccurate as we judge Dr. Burns to be in his general statement-based on Spottiswood—the assumption prefacing the statement is still more liable to objection. So far from their being “little doubt" about the imputed vandalism, it has been disputed over and over again since Dr. M.Crie's Memoir of Melville appeared; nor even yet, with all the busy search made among ancient documents, has anything been found corroborative of a statement, not probably extraordinary in itself, considering the circumstances of the times, but made, it must be remembered, so far as known, on the sing'e authority of a keen and active ecclesiastical opponent-an opponent none the less keen and active because he had himself been a pupil of Melville's in Glasgow, and undertook various repairs on the fabric of the Cathedral during his occupancy of the See. The harshness and even unfairness of Spottiswood to Melville has been frequently commented upon by historians and critics, some of his own communion, like Zouch, going the length of saying that the Archbishop was uniformly unfriendly to the memory of the great Presbyterian who, more than any other of his later days, combined the rarest gifts of learning with a spirit of independence, scorning danger however near, and hostility however powerful. Melville's valiant battle for the independence of the Kirk as against the State, bigoted and even mistaken as it may now appear in peaceful times, recalled to his contemporaries in no remote manner the mighty pretensions of Hildebrand and Becket. In answer to the charge made by Archbishop Spottiswood-a charge, it should always be remembered, otherwise unsupported, and, even if correctly stated, should no more be measured by present-day feelings or sentiments than the Cathedral itself should be confounded in its decay during Melville's time with its noble restoration in our own-the answer to the otherwise unsupported charge is of necessity based mainly on a kind of negative evidence, but, as will be shown below, on negative evidence not to be put lightly aside. Born 1545, only three years after Queen Mary, and one year before the martyrdom of George Wishart at St. Andrews, Melville was close on thirty years of age when he accepted an invitation from the General Assembly, backed by his preceptor Beza, to become Principal of Glasgow University, an office vacant through the death of Principal Davidson, who had struggled manfully, but with indifferent success, to save a remnant for learning from the remorseless plunderers of the old Church. As the professors of the higher branches had no salaries, but depended on their Church livings for support, the classes accustomed to gather round such chairs as then existed were broken up in the strife and well-nigh scattered abroad when Melville arrived at Glasgow in the autumn of 1574-only two years after the first Presbyterian minister obtained a footing in the City. Willocks had previously officiated as a Protestant, but Lauder, described as the last Roman Catholic “parson of Glasgow," was allowed to retain the benefice till his death. Roused into action through his natural zeal for Reformation principles, Melville selected a number of young men fairly grounded in the Latin language and introduced them to the knowledge of Greek, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, and geography, moral and natural philosophy, history and chronology, Hebrew, Chaldee, and divinity—a course of study designed to be completed in six years. James Melville, son of Richard, of Baldovy, and nephew of the Principal, was appointed to the office of “Regent" or Professor; but, in the course of a year or two, branches of learning were apportioned to other scholars, and ere the time arrived for closing the second session the drooping fortunes of the University founded by Bishop Turnbull were so far restored that students were preparing for attendance in all parts of the kingdom. In 1577 a new foundation by Royal Charter was obtained, and a gift made of the valuable living of Govan—a gift valuable to the Principal—less in a