Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Trail, Walter

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TRAIL, WALTER (d. 1401), bishop of St. Andrews, belonged to the family of Trail of Blebo, Fifeshire. He was educated and graduated with distinction at the university of Paris, and afterwards became doctor of civil and of canon law. In the ‘Calendar of Petitions to the Pope,’ 1342–1419, he is referred to in 1365 as Walter Trayle of the diocese of Aberdeen, holding a benefice in the gift of the abbot and monastery of Aberbrothoc, and frequently afterwards as receiving church appointments in Scotland. He spent several years at Avignon as referendarius from Scotland at the court of Clement VII, and was there in 1385 when the see of St. Andrews fell vacant. He at once was appointed to the bishopric by the pope, who said that ‘he was more worthy to be a pope than a bishop, and that the place was better provided for than the person.’ In 1390 he assisted at the funeral of Robert II at Scone, and crowned Robert III, under whose feeble reign he exercised a great influence on the affairs of the country. In the following year he was sent as ambassador to France to effect a treaty between France, England, and Scotland, when a year was spent in fruitless negotiations. The ‘Wolf of Badenoch’ [see Stewart, Alexander, Earl of Buchan], who had been excommunicated for destroying Elgin Cathedral in 1390, was absolved by Bishop Trail in the Black Friars' Church, Perth (Registrum Moraviense, pp. 353, 381). In 1398, when the king made his brother Robert Stewart Duke of Albany [q. v.] and his son David Stewart Duke of Rothsay [q. v.]—the first dukedoms conferred in Scotland—Trail preached and celebrated. He died in 1401 in the castle of St. Andrews, which he had built or repaired, and was buried in the cathedral in a tomb which he had erected for himself. On his monument was the following inscription:

Hic fuit ecclesiæ directa columna, fenestra
Lucida, thuribulum redolens, campana sonora.

Trail receives a high character from Fordun and Wynton, and ‘was of such excellent worth that even Buchanan speaks in his praise.’

[Fordun's Chron.; Wynton's Chron.; Cal. of Petitions to the Pope, 1342–1419; Cal. Doc. relating to Scotland; Exchequer Rolls of Scotland; Book of Procurat. of English Nat. at the Univ. of Paris; Keith's Scottish Bishops; Lyon's St. Andrews.]

G. W. S.