Schaw, William (1550-1602) (DNB00)

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SCHAW, WILLIAM (1550–1602), architect, probably a younger son of Schaw of Sauchie, was born in 1550 (cf. Reg. Magni Sig. 1593–1608, No. 913). For many years he acted as ‘master of works’ in the household of James VI. On 28 Jan. 1580–1 his signature was attached to the parchment deed of the national covenant signed by James VI and his household at Holyrood (now in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh). On 22 Dec. 1583 he became ‘maister of wark,’ with five hundred marks as ‘yeirlie feall’ or salary, succeeding Sir Robert Drummond of Carnock, and continuing in office till his death. In 1585 315l. was paid to him for work at the ‘Castell of Striviling.’ He was employed on various missions to France. In 1585 he was appointed to receive the three Danish ambassadors who came to the king respecting the latter's marriage with one of the daughters of Frederick II. In 1588 his name occurs in a list of papists whom the presbytery of Edinburgh were empowered to examine should they ‘resort to court.’ In the winter of 1589 he accompanied James to Denmark, returning on 16 March 1589–90 ‘to have all thingis in radines for his majesteis home comming’ (Marriage of James VI, 1828, pp. 15, 29, and appendix ii. 17, Bannatyne Club). On 14 March 1589–90 he was paid 1,000l., expended in ‘bigging and repairing’ Holyrood House and church; and 133l. 6s. 8d. was paid to him for dress, &c., on the marriage of the king and the queen's coronation on 17 May (ib. appendix ii. 15). In 1590 he received 400l. ‘for reparationn of the hous of Dumfermling befoir the Queenis Majesties passing thairto.’ This refers to the jointure house of Anne of Denmark, whose chamberlain Schaw became, and with whom he was a great favourite. In Moysie's ‘Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland,’ 1755, it is stated that ‘Buccleugh was put to the horn for wounding William Schaw, master of work, and making him his second in a combat betwixt him and Sir Robert Ker.’

Schaw played a prominent part in the development of freemasonry in Scotland. On 28 Dec. 1598 he ‘sett doun’ the statutes and ordinances to be observed by all master-masons (Lawrie, Hist. of Freemasonry, 2nd edit. 1859, p. 441). As ‘general warden’ he exercised authority over the masons of Scotland. He subscribed the ‘statutes’ of 28 Dec. 1598, and those of 1599 (Gould, History of Freemasonry, 1883, ii. 382, 387–91, 426).

Schaw died on 18 April 1602, and was buried in the abbey church at Dunfermline—on which he did good work by way of restoration; he is said to have built one of the west towers. A tomb there, erected by the queen of James VI, bears his monogram and mason's mark and a long Latin eulogistic inscription by Dr. Alexander Seton. A copy is given in Monteith's ‘Theater of Mortality,’ 1704. The privy council appealed to the king as to payment of arrears of Schaw's salary to his executor, James Schaw (Melrose Papers, Abbotsford Club, 1837).

A portrait of Schaw is in the grand lodge of freemasons, Edinburgh, and his signature is given in ‘Laws of the Grand Lodge of Scotland,’ 1848. [Mylne's Master-Masons to the Crown of Scotland, 1893, pp. 61–2; Calderwood's History, iv. 691; Dictionary of Architecture; authorities cited.]

G. S-h.