Forbes, Patrick (1611?-1680) (DNB00)

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FORBES, PATRICK (1611?–1680), bishop of Caithness, was the third son of John Forbes [q. v.], minister of Alford, Aberdeenshire, and afterwards of Delft. He studied at the university and King's College of Aberdeen, of which his uncle, the bishop, was chancellor, and took his degree in 1631. Returning to Holland he became an army chaplain. He was in Scotland in 1638, and signed the national covenant in presence of the general assembly held at Glasgow in that year. In an account of the assembly it is stated that ‘Mr. Patrick Forbes was so much the more gladly received, that his father before him had been ane sufferer for the truth of Christ Jesus. To whom the moderator said these words: “Come forward, Mr. Patrick. Before ye were the son of a most worthy father, but now ye appear to be the most worthy son of ane most worthy father.”’ In 1641 he became minister of the British church at Delft, in which his father had officiated. He was an acquaintance and correspondent of Principal Baillie, who makes favourable mention of him in his letters of 1644, 1645, and 1646. He commends a manuscript which Forbes had written and sent him, and wishes to see it in print. He asks Spang, minister of the Scots church at Campvere, to ‘keep correspondence with that young man,’ and to urge him to ‘use diligence’ against the British sectaries in Holland, and to ‘write against the anabaptists.’ After a short ministry at Delft he again became a military chaplain (apparently to the Scots brigade), and continued to officiate in that capacity till the Restoration. The king, having restored episcopacy in Scotland, appointed Forbes, then chaplain to Lord Rutherford, governor of Dunkirk, to the bishopric of Caithness, and with five others he was consecrated at the abbey church of Holyrood 7 May 1662 by the archbishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow and the bishop of Galloway. He had probably received presbyterian ordination in Holland, but none of the presbyterian clergy who were raised to the episcopate in Scotland were reordained. Kirkton, referring to his appointment to the bishopric, calls him ‘the degenerate son of ane excellent father;’ but in conforming to episcopacy he had the great body of the Scottish clergy to keep him company. It was the schism of the protesters which had kept the church in anarchy from 1651 that led to the overthrow of presbytery, and even if it had stood there was little likelihood of the schism being healed. Forbes died in 1680, aged about sixty-nine. Little is known of the manner in which he discharged his episcopal duties; but he had the reputation of being ‘an honest-hearted and holy man.’ Wodrow heard from a Caithness minister that a gentleman who had been reproved for swearing before the bishop replied that he ‘had not sworn before but after his lordship,’ and that Forbes was known as the ‘swearing’ bishop. The epithet is an obvious addition to an old story which had been localised to give it point, and there is no reason to doubt that in personal character Forbes was worthy of his traditions and training. He married in Holland a daughter of Colonel Erskine, a distinguished officer of the Scots brigade, and had a family. His son John, who was commissary of Caithness, died at Craigievar, Aberdeenshire, in October 1668, and was buried at Leochel in the Craigievar aisle.

[Scott's Fasti; Lumsden's House of Forbes; Life of Mr. John Forbes prefixed to Forbes's Records (Wodrow Soc.); Statistical Account of Scotland; Grub's Eccles. Hist. of Scotland; Steven's Scottish Church, Rotterdam; Wodrow's Analecta.]

G. W. S.