The Rev John Gregory of Drumoak

James Gregory's father was the Rev John Gregory, who was minister at Drumoak near Aberdeen. James was born in 1638 and during his early childhood his father was involved in the dramatic infighting in the Church of Scotland. John Gregory died in 1651 when James was 13 years old.

There was both military and political fighting in Scotland beginning around 1639 over the governance of the Church of Scotland. On the one side were the Covenanters who were violently opposed to bishops. General Robert Monro played a large part in leading the military action for the Covenanters against king Charles I who proposed an episcopal Church of Scotland. The problems were not confined to Scotland and the fighting during this time eventually led to the English Civil War.

The following is taken from John Spalding's History of the Troubles And Memorable Transactions in Scotland, from the year 1624 to 1645 (T Evans, Aberdeen, 1792). We have modernised some of the language, replaced some Scots words, but tried to leave a flavour of the language:


In June 1639, the Rev John Gregory, "who for this Covenant had fled the country to the king", returned to Aberdeen.

Upon the second day of June 1640, Mr John Gregory, minister at Drumoak, was brought in to General Monro by a party of soldiers; he was taken out of his naked bed upon the night, and his house pitifully plundered. He was closely kept in skipper Anderson's house, having five musketeers watching him night and day, and sustained upon his own expenses. None, no not his own wife, could have private conference with him, so strictly was he there watched. At last he is fined to pay Major General Monro 1000 merks [1 merk = approx 1 English shilling] for his standing out against the covenant, and afterwards got liberty to go; but in the General Assembly held in July he was nevertheless without ceremony deprived, because he would not subscribe the covenant, and when all was done, he is forced to come in and yield to subscribe the covenant. ...

Next Mr John Gregory minister at Drumoak, having been summoned to appear before the General Assembly in July 1640, above and beyond his being fined in 1000 merks, as we have said before, was deposed from the Ministry of Drumoak. ... The laird of Drum deals with him, being his own pastor, and upon swearing and subscribing the covenant, and teaching penitentially, with great difficulty he was again restored to his own parish kirk. ...

Upon Thursday the 15th of April 1641, being a presbytery day, Mr John Gregory, of whom you have heard before, taught a penitential sermon in New Aberdeen. It was not found satisfactory by Mr James Hervie moderator, and the remaining members of the presbytery, and he was ordained to put the same in writing; the brethren advised the same with the next provincial assembly, who found it not satisfactory, and therefore they ordained him to preach penitentially at certain kirks, till he gave content to the next ensuing General Assembly, which he obeyed. In July 1641 he was received and reinstalled in his kirk. ...

Upon Tuesday the 6th of September, Mr John Gregory minister at Drumoak, at the visitation of the kirk of New Aberdeen, taught most learnedly upon the fourth verse of the second chapter of the Colossians, and reprehended the order of our kirk, and new-brought in points. Mr Andrew Cant, sitting beside the reader, as his use was, offended at this doctrine, quickly closed the reader's book, and laid down the glass before it was run, thinking the minister should the sooner make an end; but he beheld and preached half an hour longer than the time. Sermon being ended, the brethren convene to their visitation, where Mr Andrew Cant impugned this doctrine, desiring the said Mr John to put the same in writing. He answered, he would not only write, but print his preaching, if need so required, and abide by all that he had reached, as orthodox doctrine. The brethren heard all, and had their own opinions, but without any more censure they dissolved, somewhat perturbed with Cant's curiosity. Upon Thursday he railed out in his sermon against the said Mr John Gregory's doctrine, and on Sunday likewise. At last, by mediation of the town's baillies, at a cup of wine, they two were agreed, and settled with small credit to Cant's business.

In D Brewster (ed.), The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia (William Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1830), the following additional information about the Rev John Gregory is given:


Mr Gregory of Drumoak was one of the first persons in Scotland who understood the use of the barometer as an instrument for prediction the weather. Having one day observed that the mercury was falling rapidly, he advised his parishioners to remove the sheaves of corn from the low grounds on the banks of the river Dee. They immediately followed his advice, and when they found his prediction verified by an unusual rise in the river, they were naturally led to regard him as a being of a superior order.


JOC/EFR May 2013

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