Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rollock, Peter

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ROLLOCK, PETER (d. 1626?), bishop of Dunkeld and lord of session, was probably connected with the old Scottish family of Rollo of Duncruib [see Rolls, Sir William]. He was educated for the law both at home and abroad, and passed as advocate prior to 1573 (Books of Sederunt). About 1585 he became titular bishop of Dunkeld, having no ecclesiastical function, but merely holding the title, and dealing with the temporalities of what was then a very dilapidated see. An act of parliament was passed in 1594 so far abrogating the act of annexation as to allow him to exercise the rights of superiority (Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, iii. 373, iv. 76). The general assembly of 1586 appointed a commission of ministers to take trial of him as bishop whether any occasion of slander could be found in his life, conversation, or doctrine, and the assembly of 1587 ordered the commission to proceed (Book of the Universal Kirk, pp. 666, 690).

In July 1587 Rollock was nominated by the parliament one of the extraordinary lords of council, i.e. to act when he should happen to be present or to be sent for by the king. In this capacity he was shortly afterwards sent to Berwick as one of the commissioners to treat with the English respecting the management of the borders. On the death of Lord Cranston-Riddell, a lord of session, the king included his name in the leet for the vacant judgeship (8 March 1595), but though he did not receive that appointment, he was admitted on 19 May 1596 an extraordinary lord; and upon a reconstitution of the privy council of Scotland on 14 Dec. 1598, he was appointed an ordinary lord.

In 1603 he accompanied King James to England, and, according to Keith, was naturalised there. During his absence, on 15 Feb. 1604, a ‘Supersedere’ was issued in his favour in respect of all actions in which he was concerned until his return (Books of Sederunt). He was again in Scotland before October 1605, when negotiations were in progress for obtaining his surrender of the bishopric of Dunkeld. On 19 Jan. of that year the lords commissioners of the kirk pointed out to the king that the bishopric was held by one who had no public function in the kirk, and that it was an exceedingly poor see, scarcely worth four hundred merks Scots (less than 25l. sterling), and asking that it might be conferred on a clergyman, James Nicolson (Original Letters relating to the Ecclesiastical Affairs of Scotland, i. 11). Lord Balmerino and the laird of Lauriston were deputed to treat with Rollock, to whom the king proposed to grant the deanery of York by way of compensation (ib. ii. 359). Rollock demitted the bishopric, but obtained nothing in its place. He was thenceforth known as ‘Mr. Peter Rollock of Pilton.’

Although he diligently attended the Scottish council meetings, and took the new oath which in June 1607 the king imposed for securing the recognition of his authority in all matters civil and ecclesiastical, yet on the reduction of the number of the privy council in February 1610 Rollock was displaced; and about the same time he was deprived of his seat on the bench, to make room for John Spottiswood [q. v.], bishop of Glasgow, afterwards archbishop of St. Andrews. Rollock, in a letter to the king, claimed to have served his majesty with all faithfulness and without one blemish, but his dismissal had given rise to the suspicion that he had offended his majesty, and he prayed for a renewal of the royal favour (Original Letters, ut supra, p. 223). The whole Scottish bench of fifteen lords also appealed to the king on 11 Jan. 1610 for his restoration (ib. p. 225; also the Melros Papers, p. 76, and original letter in the Denmiln Collection, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh). These appeals had the desired effect, and on 5 April 1619 the king ordered his restoration with the provision that this should form no precedent for the establishment of a fifth extraordinary lord of session (Letters and State Papers of the Reign of King James VI, p. 186). Rollock again took the oath of office and continued in his post until 1620, when he resigned it in favour of John, lord Erskine.

An attempt upon Rollock's life was made on 21 Sept. 1611, by two sons of a neighbour, Matthew Finlayson of Killeith, with whom he had a lawsuit. They waylaid him at the back of Inverleith while he was on his way from Restalrig to his house at Pilton, and shot at him with their pistols, but the weapons missed fire (Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, ix. 260). In 1616 he was restored to his seat in the privy council. His last attendance is recorded in September 1625 (ib. in manuscript). Mention is made of his death in a charter of his estate of Pilton to his successor, who was his grand-nephew, 2 Aug. 1626 (Registrum Magni Sigilli).

Rollock married Elizabeth Weston, widow of John Fairlie, portioner of Restalrig, but appears to have had no lawful surviving issue. He had, however, a natural son, Walter Rollock.

[Register of the Privy Council, passim; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, pp. 236–7; Keith's Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops, p. 97; and the authorities cited above.]

H. P.