Forrest – the Vicar of Dollar and the Stirling Martyrs,

burnings of Straiton and Gourlay in 1534 had the desired
effect of striking terror in the populace but succeeded
only in driving the new Evangel underground, with greater
caution exercised among its adherents. It also served to
heighten the concern, even fear, among the priests who had
no weapon save the fire, with which to combat the the new
beliefs. In this they were unfortunately aided by having
the King in thrall, afraid to halt the persecutions. Among
the common man there may well have been many executions
for heresy but these were not recorded; usually only those
with some assets or land were entered in the records.
However, among the alleged heretics at this time were
several priests, including the Thomas Forrest, or Forret,
the Vicar of Dollar.

Forrest  came from a district just north of Cupar in
Fife. His father had been Master of the Stables to King
James IV and was able to send Thomas to grammar school
before going on to study in Cologne. When he returned to
Scotland he was admitted as a cannon regular to the
Augustinian monastery of St Colme Inch, in the Firth of
Forth. Here he became embroiled in an arguement between
the cannons and the Abbott whether or not they were
receiving all they were due under their foundation
charter.  Discovering that the cannons had the
charter and were seeking out the truth, the Abbott took it
from them and gave them an old Augustine manuscript. This
did not contain the information they wanted but Forrest
took the document to his cell to read. In the event it was
truly a God send, as it led him to read the New Testament
and a convert was born again. With a renewed faith and
flush with the excitement of his discovery Forrest 
began to influence his young colleagues, while the older
men stopped their ears. Forrest reputedly said  “The
old bottles would not receive the new wine “.  The
Abbott soon heard of the goings on and counselled Forrest
to keep his opinions to himself, but when he did not do
so, he arranged for Forrest to be promoted to the post of
Vicar of Dollar. This was  a rural parish about
eighteen miles away at the foot of the Ochiltree Hills.

Forrest was
a rare priest in his day and preached in his parish every
Sabbath. He also taught his parishioners the Ten
Commandments  and composed a short catechism for the
children to learn. In his sermons he taught  that
salvation  came only through the the blood of Jesus
Christ. His renegade streak was displayed to the Church
when he opposed clergy who came to sell Indulgences in his
parish, when he told the people that all was deceit “There
is no pardon for our sins that can come to us  either
from the Pope or any other, ..” In his personal conduct he
continued to read and learn the New Testament and
reputedly committed three chapters of the Bible to memory
each day. At evening he would pass the Bible to his
servant, Andrew Kirk, who followed him round while he
recited what he had learned that day. He rose at six in
the morning and studied to noon. In the afternoon he
visited his flock and studied again in the evening. He was
known to carry bread and cheese in the sleeves of his gown
that he gave to the poor and needy, also to give money
when he had it. He also declined to take the mandatory
dues from families whom he visited at the time of a death
– the so called uppermost cloth  and the
corpse present of a cow.

It was
inevitable, however, that there arose both jealousy and
fear among other priests who saw in his conduct the danger
that they would be ensnared. It highlighted  their
idleness and his temperance shamed their sometimes riotous
assembly, while his charity  made thir extortions in
the name of faith to be odious. Thus complaints were made
to the Bishop of Dunkeld who summoned Forrest to him. At
their meeting the Bishop sought to curb Forrest`s
enthusiasm and not to put his colleagues and the Church in
a bad light. Forrest offered only to preach the good
gospels and epistles that he found in the New and Old
Testament if the Bishop could tell him which were evil and
thus to be omitted. Confounded by this challenge the
Bishop rejected the arguement and said he would know
nothing but his Breviary and Book of Ceremonies. Forrest
was allowed to return to his flock but went with a warning
in his ears ” to let alone all these fancies, for if he
persevered in these opinions he would repent it when he
could not amend it.”

It was not
long, however, before he was summoned before the
Archbishop of St Andrews, the newly appointed Cardinal
David Beaton, nephew of Alexander Beaton, and an
altogether more cruel and bigoted individual. Here he was
faced by John Lauder as his accuser. There were many
vehement accusations levelled which Forrest mildly, even
meekly, replied to. Chief among the accusations was that
he taught his flock in English since they did not
understand Latin, and that the Apostle Paul saith

 “ that
he had rather speak five words to the understanding 
and edification of the people than ten thousand in a
strange tongue which they understood not.”

At this Lauder demanded
where it said this, to which Forrest said `In my book here in my sleeve.`
Lauder then took hold his sleeve and took out a copy of the New Testament
which he triumphantly flourished calling it the book of heresy. It was
enough to condemn Forrest  to be burned at the stake in 1538.

Four others
were condemned at the same time . John Keilor was a Black
Friar who had some poetic talent. His great sin was to
compose  a tragedy of Christ in which the hypocrisy
of the Popish priests was portrayed  under that of
the Pharisees and high priests. This was enacted in
Stirling on the Good Friday with the King and Court
present. The priests were greatly upset at its cutting
sarcasm and led to his indictment for heresy.

Beveridge was another Black Friar, Sir Duncan Simpson was
a secular priest from Stirling; and Robert Forester a
gentleman of Stirling. Little is known of these men save
that they all favoured the evangelical doctrine and some
were also alleged, along with Thomas Forrest, to have
attended the marriage of the vicar of Tullibodie, near
Alloa. There, it was alleged, they ate meat during Lent
and transgressed the commandments of the Church. Desperate
as ever to convict, the Court quickly sentenced them to be
burnt together on Castle Hill, Edinburgh.