Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smeton, Thomas

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SMETON, THOMAS (1536–1583), principal of Glasgow University, was born at Gaak, near Perth, in 1536. He was educated at the school at Perth, and in 1553 incorporated a student in St. Salvator's College, St. Andrews. A promising scholar, he was made a regent of the college, and remained there until the reformers gained the ascendency. He was then ejected, and in consequence proceeded to Paris. There he associated with many of the reformers, and enjoyed the friendship of Andrew Melville. He still adhered to the Roman catholic faith, but, to settle some doubts which occurred to him, he entered the order of the jesuits as a probationer, and proceeded to their college at Rome, visiting Geneva on his way. After continuing in Rome about a year and a half, he found himself still unresolved in his faith, and suspected in Rome as a favourer of protestant doctrine. He consequently left for Paris, and shortly after proceeded to Clermont, in both places lecturing on humanity (Dempster, Hist. Eccl. Gentis Scotorum, ed. 1829, ii. 586). After a visit to Scotland on private business he returned to Paris, where he abode till 1571. At this time Thomas Maitland, a younger brother of William Maitland (1528?-1573) [q. v.] of Lethington, prevailed on Smeton to accompany him to Italy. Maitland died there, and Smeton proceeded to Geneva, where he conversed with the reformers, and finally decided to quit the Roman catholic church. He was in Paris during the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and, as a protestant, escaped death only by taking refuge with Walsingham, the English ambassador. On arriving in England he publicly renounced popery, and settled in Colchester as a schoolmaster.

In 1577 he returned to Scotland, and was appointed minister of Paisley Abbey and dean of faculty to Glasgow University. He soon took a prominent part in church matters. In October 1578 he was nominated one of the assessors to the moderator in the general assembly, and in the following year was himself chosen moderator. On 3 Jan. 1580 James VI appointed him principal of Glasgow University, in succession to Andrew Melville. In April 1583 he was again chosen moderator of the general assembly. At this time Andrew Melville was anxious that Smeton should succeed him at St. Andrews, but the king, instigated by the prior of St. Andrews, who was opposed to the appointment, forbade his nomination, on the ground of the loss it would inflict on the university of Glasgow. On his return to Glasgow Smeton was seized with a high fever, and died on 13 Dec. 1583. He married before 1575, and had a son Thomas who was connected with Glasgow University, and is perhaps the Thomas Smeton who graduated M.A. 1604 and died in 1657. From him was descended John Smeaton, the engineer (Munimenta Almae Univ. Glas., Maitland Soc. iii. 9, 580).

Smeton was author of 'Ad Virulentum Archibaldi Hamiltonii Apostatae Dialogum, de Confusione Calvinianae Sectae apud Scotos, impie conscriptum. Orthodoxa Responsio, Edinburgh, 1579, 4to; a reply to Archibald Hamilton (d. 1593) [q. v.], a Roman catholic controversialist. To this work was affixed a 'life' of John Knox, 'Eximii viri Joannis Knoxii, Scoticanae Ecclesiae Instauratoris, vera Extreme Vitae Obitus Historia.' Dempster also attributes to Smeton 'Epitaphium Metellani' (Hist. Eccl. ii. 586).

[Melville's Autobiography and Diary, ed. Pitcairn, pp. 72-4; Mackenzie's Writers of the Scots Nation, iii. 19t-7; M'Crie's Melville. 1819. i. 117-22, 281, 283. 473; Calderwood's Hist. of The Kirk, passim; Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot. II .i. 65, 194; Chambers's Biogr. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen, ed. Thomson, iii. 355-7; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict. 1816.]

E. I. C.