Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Halyburton, James

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HALYBURTON or HALIBURTON, JAMES (1518–1589), provost of Dundee, Scottish reformer, was son of George Halyburton of Pitcur or Gask (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1513–46, entry 1546). His grandfather was Walter Haliburton or Halyburton (second son of the first Lord Halyburton of Dirleton), who, with his wife, the daughter and coheiress of Alexander de Chisholm, obtained the barony of Pitcur, in the parish of Kettins, Forfarshire, of which he had a charter in 1432. James was born in 1518, and studied at the university of St. Andrews, where he graduated M.A. in 1538. In 1540 he obtained from James V for himself and his affianced bride, Margaret Rossy, a charter of Buttergask and other lands (ib. entry 2221). About the same time he was enrolled as one of the burgesses of Dundee. He became tutor or guardian to Sir George Halyburton, son of his elder brother, Andrew of Pitcur, on which account he is usually referred to by contemporaries as ‘tutor of Pitcur.’ At the siege of Broughty Castle, when in the hands of the English, he commanded a troop of horse provided by the Angus barons and ‘landit men,’ and assisted the French in the assault by which it was captured on 20 Feb. 1548–9. In 1556 he was appointed to the command of a troop of light horse, raised by the queen-regent to guard the frontier of Liddesdale. He was taken prisoner by the Grahams, who placed him in the tower or keep of a rebel Scot, only separated from England by a ditch, resolving to remove him to England should his rescue be attempted. The tower was, however, surprised by the Scots during the night, and the tutor of Pitcur carried off before the Grahams, to whom the alarm was sent, had time to reach the tower (M. D'Oysel to M. de Noailles in Teulet's Relations politiques de la France et de l'Espagne avec l'Écosse, i. 287–8).

In 1553 Halyburton had been elected provost of Dundee, a dignity he retained for thirty-three years. Dundee, owing to its intercourse with Germany, was one of the earliest towns in Scotland to become infected with Reformation principles (Knox, i. 61); and in command of the men of Dundee Halyburton played a prominent part in the ensuing contest with the queen-regent. In 1559 he was chosen by the reformed party one of the lords of the congregation as representing the boroughs (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1559–1560, entry 120). As provost of Dundee he was requested by the queen-regent to apprehend the reformer Paul Methuen, who had been preaching in that town, but instead of doing so he ‘gave secret advertisement to the man to avoid the town for a time’ (Knox, i. 317). He was one of the leaders whom the Earl of Argyll and Lord James Stuart, after their failure to come to terms with the queen-regent, summoned to meet them at St. Andrews on 4 June 1559 ‘for Reformation to be made there’ (ib. p. 347). With the men of Dundee he joined the forces which shortly afterwards barred the queen-regent's march towards St. Andrews; and the other lords having on account of his military experience delegated to him the disposition of the forces, he posted the hurried musters from Fifeshire and Forfarshire in such a skilful position on Cupar Muir as to command the whole surrounding country (ib. p. 351). The queen-regent, thus finding her immediate purpose baffled, agreed to a truce of eight days, and promised to retire ‘incontinent to Falkland,’ to dismiss the French soldiers from her service, and to send a commission to consider final terms of agreement between her and the lords of the congregation. As she showed no signs of fulfilling the conditions of the ‘assurance,’ Halyburton, in command of the men of Dundee, again took up arms to assist the reformers in delivering Perth from the French soldiers. When at Perth he, along with his brother, Alexander Halyburton, and John Knox, made strenuous but vain exertions to restrain the men of Dundee, who had special reasons for taking revenge on the Bishop of Moray, from destroying the palace and abbey of Scone on 25 and 26 June (ib. pp. 360–1). Subsequently he assisted in the defence of Edinburgh, and in October, having, in command of the men of Dundee, ‘passed forth of the town with some great ordnance to shoot at Leith,’ was surprised by the French while at dinner, and compelled to retreat, leaving the ordnance in their hands (ib. p. 457). In a second skirmish on 5 Nov. his brother, Captain Alexander Halyburton (sometimes confounded with him), was slain. The provost of Dundee was one of the commissioners who met the Duke of Norfolk at Berwick to arrange the conditions on which assistance might be obtained from Elizabeth (ib. ii. 56; Calderwood, i. 581), and he signed the ‘last band at Leith’ for ‘setting forward the reformation of religion.’ He was also one of the lords of the congregation who on 27 Jan. 1560–1 signed the first Book of Discipline (Knox, ii. 257).

He was chosen in 1563 to represent Dundee in parliament, and was elected to all subsequent conventions and parliaments down to 1581 (Forster, Members of the Parliament of Scotland, p. 168). By the parliament of 1563 he was chosen one of a commission to administer the Act of Oblivion; and the following year was one of a committee appointed by the general assembly to present certain articles to the lords of the secret council in reference to the ‘abolition of idolatry,’ especially the mass. Being, along with others of the extreme section of reformers, strongly opposed to the marriage of Mary with the catholic Lord Darnley, he joined the Earl of Moray in his attempt to promote a rebellion, and after the ‘roundabout raid’ took refuge in England (Calderwood, ii. 294). On 2 Aug. 1565 he was required to enter into ward (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 348), and on the 27th he was denounced as a rebel (ib. p. 357). In all probability he returned to Scotland with Moray about the time of the murder of Rizzio. On 23 March 1566–7 he received a pension of 500l. for his important military services to his country, especially in resisting the invasion of England (ib. p. 501). This pension was subsequently increased, and was ordered to be paid out of the thirds of the abbey of Scone (ib. ii. 112). Halyburton was present on 29 July 1567 at the coronation of the infant prince at Stirling. He was one of ‘the lords of secrete counsale and uthers, barons and men of judgement,’ who on 4 Dec. 1567 had under consideration the casket letters preparatory to the meeting of parliament (Murdin, State Papers, p. 455). He also took part in the battle of Langside on 30 May of the following year. In the jeu d'esprit published after the regent Moray's assassination, in which the regent is represented as holding a conference with the six men of the world ‘he believed most into,’ to obtain their advice for his advancement and standing, Halyburton, being famed as a soldier, is represented as advising him to make himself ‘strong with waged men both horse and foot’ (published in vol. i. of the Bannatyne Club Collections; in Richard Bannatyne's Memorials, pp. 5–10; and in Calderwood's History, ii. 515–25). In August 1570, in command of the men of Dundee, he assisted in preventing the capture of Brechin by the Earl of Huntly (Calderwood, iii. 8). In June of the following year he was present with the Earl of Morton in the skirmish against the queen's forces at Restalrig, between Leith and Edinburgh (ib. p. 101). On 27 Aug., while engaged in chasing a foraging party and driving them into the city, ‘he was taken at the port upon horseback, supposing that his companions were following’ (ib. p. 138). On 10 Sept. he was delivered into the Earl of Huntly's hands and was to have been executed next day, but was saved by the interposition of Lord Lindsay (Bannatyne, Memorials, p. 187). Soon afterwards he was set at liberty, for on 2 Dec. he was present at a meeting of the secret council (Reg. P. C. Scotl. ii. 98). On 22 Nov. 1572 he was named one of a commission for the trial of Archibald Douglas, parson of Glasgow (fl. 1568) [q. v.], then in ward in the castle of Stirling (ib. ii. 171).

The Earl of Morton on 28 Sept. 1578 appointed Halyburton his commissioner in the conference with Argyll and Atholl, by which a reconciliation was brought about between the rival parties in Scotland (Moysie, Memoirs, p. 19). On 22 Dec. following he held a conference by order of the king in Stirling Castle for the settlement of the church. He was named in April one of the commissioners on pauperism (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iii. 138), and on 7 Aug. of the following year he was named a commissioner for the reforming of the universities, with special reference to the university of St. Andrews (ib. p. 200). He also served on a similar commission chosen 1 April 1587–8. Halyburton was on 4 Dec. 1579 presented to the priory of Pittenweem, previously held by Sir James Balfour. After obtaining the king's protection Balfour repossessed himself of the priory, but, on the complaint of Halyburton, was ordered to ‘deliver the abbey within twenty-four hours after being charged, under pain of rebellion’ (ib. p. 520). On 26 Oct. 1583 it was taken from Halyburton and bestowed on Colonel William Stewart. Halyburton was on 5 March 1581–2 elected a member of James's privy council (ib. iii. 458). He was present at the raid of Ruthven on 22 Aug. 1582, but according to one account was ‘not there at the beginning, but being written for came afterward’ (Calderwood, iii. 637). In the following October he was appointed, along with Colonel William Stewart, the king's commissioner to the general assembly of the kirk (ib. p. 674), and he was also commissioner to the general assembly which met in April of the following year (ib. p. 709). On the escape of King James from the protestant lords to St. Andrews in 1584, Halyburton was deprived of the provostship of Dundee and was compelled to go into hiding (ib. iv. 421). He probably returned with the banished lords, who captured the castle of Stirling in November 1585. At the general assembly which met in February 1587–8 he was again one of the king's commissioners, and in this as well as the assembly which met in August he acted as one of the assessors of the moderator. He died in February 1588–9. On account of the services rendered by him to the nation, and also to the town of Dundee, he received the honour of a public funeral at the expense of the corporation. He was buried in the South Church, Dundee. During the alterations made in the church a monument to him with a Latin inscription was discovered in May 1827 on the floor on the west side of the pulpit, but it was destroyed by the burning of the churches in 1841.

[Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. vol. i.; Reg. P. C. Scotl. vols. i–iv.; Acta Parl. Scot. vol. ii.; Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. reign of Elizabeth; Richard Bannatyne's Memorials; Moysie's Memoirs; Knox's Works; Calderwood's Hist. of the Church of Scotland; Millar's Roll of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee.]

T. F. H.