Rev. Andro Knox, the Papist

It is very easy to be swept
along by the story of the Reformation, by the hardships suffered and 
the persecution of the Covenanters in later years. We should, however,
stop occasionally and observe the other side of the coin where the zealous
Presbyterians themselves indulged in a form of persecution, particularly 
in rooting out residual Catholic practices. We should also remember that
in the `outing` of ministers in 1662 roughly one third of the total
ministers in Scotland  left their manses but two thirds overcame any
scruples they might have had and remained under an Episcopal system. The
`faithful remnant` were therefore always a `faithful minority` by their
own choice. This in no way detracts from admiration of their devotion,
strength of mind and will. So far as the Catholic Church is concerned there were still some 12-14,000 members of the faith in the Highlands and Islands, with indulgences issued to the powerful lords, and  a nucleus of missionary priests and monks tending the flock. Overall it reinforces the view that the
coercion of the Presbyterian Godly practiced by Charles I, Charles II and James II was
completely unnecessary.

The ratification of the
Confession of Faith and adoption of a Protestant religion (
Presbyterianism)  was formally established in Scotland on 17 August
1560. From this point the French military in Scotland were expelled and
the first General Assembly met on  20 December 1560. At the Assembly 
the First Book of Discipline including the Confession of Faith, was
produced by John Knox and others (the six Johns)
and the scene was set for for a Protestant Scotland to move forward. 
There was, however, a strong nucleus of adherents to the Catholic Church 
among the nobility, especially in the Highlands and in the southwest of
Scotland amongst families of Irish origin. The Highland nobility was a
tough nut to crack and eventually required armed intervention, but in the
south west the Catholic families were a minority who could be pressured
either to comply or to leave the country. This some in fact did.

A zealous pursuer of Papacy
was Andro Knox, minister in Paisley from about 1585. His pursuit of the
`ungodly` of all and any rank  was extreme, if not fanatical, and his reputation had
even reached the Privy Council and the King.  In February 1588 a
complaint or `greeve` was made about the Abbott of Paisley and a Burgess
called Algeo  alleging that they had entertained Jesuits –  this
was almost certainly instigated by Knox. However, this complaint seemed to fizzle
out probably due to the influence of Lord Claude Hamilton recently
returned to his family seat after exile and appointed Member of Parliament
for Paisley. Lord Claude had  known Spanish sympathies and had been
expelled from the Abbacy of Paisley in 1579. Meanwhile, goaded on by
fierce persecution, a Catholic intrigue with Philip II of Spain to
overthrow the government was bubbling away beneath the surface.

With suspicion everywhere
Knox obtained a warrant from the King in 1592 that empowered him, certain
nobles , and others of his choosing to seek and apprehend 

 all excommunicate
papists, Jesuits, seminarie priestis and suspect trafficquaris with the
King of Spayne and utheris foreynnaris to the subversion of Goddis trew

Knox heard  from the
English secret service that one George Ker, a doctor of Law, brother of
the Abbott of Newbattle and an excommunicated person for Popery, was in
the district. Knox tracked him down to Glasgow and to a vessel in the
Clyde which was boarded  off the Isles of Cumbrae where Ker was
apprehended. Hidden in the sleeves of a sailor were highly incriminating
documents that showed the clear link of several nobles to a conspiracy.
The papers included some sheets bearing only the signatures of the
Scottish lords involved – the `Spanish Blanks`
as they became known.  This success added greatly to Knox`s
reputation and he became feared throughout Renfrewshire and the west of Scotland. The letters are
reproduced in Calderwoods History of the Kirk of Scotland (vol 5)
and confirm (even by modern evidence rules of `beyond reasonable doubt`) that their was conspiracy and treason afoot. Why on earth the King merely `warded` Huntley – a clear traitor under his own signature, is beyond reason.

In his role as the parish
minister Knox sought to take action against the influential Maxwell family
and accused John Maxwell of Stanely of not taking Communion. This seemed
to be a response to an earlier and successful action that Maxwell had
taken against Knox for trespass. Maxwell was summoned to appear before the
Presbytery of Paisley on 30 September 1602 but did not appear until
October 14 when he declared his penitence. The penalty imposed required
future compliance of both himself and his family, and he was ordered to
appear in the Kirk of Paisley the following Sabbath. A caution was made
and a penalty of five hundred merks set for non compliance.

Knox was, however, to get
his come uppance. In September 1602 a Gavin Stewart was accused of seeking
the aid of witchcraft and alleged that he was seen prostrating himself
before a Martha Pinkerton. On investigation by the Presbytery the matter
was resolved and Knox instructed to cease from further admonitions against
him. In October 1604 Stewart had apparently used threatening language
against Knox who then summoned him before the magistrates and the Provost, 
the Earl of Abercorn. Stewart was bound over to keep the peace and not to
molest Knox under penalty of one hundred pounds (Scots). In the court it
seems, Stewart made a remark in Knox`s hearing that so outraged him that
he struck Stewart on the head with a large metal key and drew blood.

The result of this assault
was that the magistrates asked the Presbytery to deal with the matter.
Knox was suspended and further exacerbated the matter when he failed to
appear before the Presbytery but sent in a petition, having meanwhile
conducted baptisms while suspended. Knox was then declared suspended from
the pulpit of the Abbey Church which made him realise he was in serious
trouble. He sought to apologise to the Town Council who refused to hear
him in the absence of the Earl of Abercorn. Later that same day at a joint
meeting of the Session, Presbytery and the Town Council it was decided
that Know may be reinstated to his office in eight days time – the 19
November. The conditions prescribed in the Presbytery record of 16
November 1604 are given in Metcalfe`s History of Renfrew  :

 the said Mr Andro sall
sit in the maist patent place of the Kirk of paisley upon Sounday
nixtocumn befoir noone …. and ther, aefter that  Mr John Hay,
appoyntit be the Brethren to supplie the place that day, hes delaitit the
fault and offence of the said Mr Andro to the people, the said Mr Andro 
in all humilitie sall confes his offence to God, his brethrein and the
partie offendit, and sall sit doun apoun his knees and ask God 
mercie for the same.

Knox was clearly chastened
by this experience and despite efforts to remain in Paisley, and a
promotion to the post of  Bishop of the Isles, he finally resigned
and was replaced by  Mr Patrick Hamilton in November 1607. Knox  continued as a bishop, however, and exercised great civil authority in his see for which had special authority from the king to deal with many local matters. Knox was
later transported to the See of Raphoe in Ireland where he was a friend to Presbyterian ministers migrating to join the Scottish settlers. He died in Ireland in 1622.

With or without the likes
of Andro Knox, the Presbytery of Paisley were fully occupied with its
duties which they conducted with great impartiality. High and low born
were treated alike and pursued in some cases for years for any failure to
comply with the `trew religion`.

Presbytery of Paisley.