Seal of Rev Alexander Livingston


Rev. Alexander Livingston

So NY and Hudson River Valley
Prominent Families
Autobiography Extract
New England Families

Rev. Alexander Livingston
(1535, Moneyabrook, Sterlingshire Scotland)
(Abt. 1598, Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, Scotland)
(son of James Livingston)
+ Barbara Livingston
(Abt. 1556, Kilsyth Castle, Stirling, Scotland)
(of the House of Kilsyth)
(dau of Alexander Livingston and Barbara Forrester)

Agnes Livingston
Katherine Livingston
Rev. William Livingston (1576 - 1641)

The Livingstons of Livingston Manor
Kilsyth: A Parish History
The Scots Peerage

Livingston Coat of Arms

Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York
and the Hudson River Valley
Cuyler Reynolds, 1914, p1303

Rev. Alexander Livingston, son of James Livingston, who was killed in 1547 at Pinkie, was in 1561 the first rector of Monyabroch after the legal establishment of the reformed doctrines in Scotland. He had as his stipend, according to the "Book of Assignation of Stipends," a most meagre living, "the third of the parsonage and vicarage, extending to three chaldees, five bolls, and one-third boll of meal, and the third of the vicarage pensionary of Monyabroch, three pounds, six shillings and eight pence (Scots)." He must have been a man of importance, for he was appointed by the Scottish Privy Council, March 6, 1589, one of the three clerical commissioners for overseeing the maintenance of the Protestant religion in Stirlingshire, and of the seven commissioners, three clerical and four lay, three were of the Livingston family. He was so aged and infirm in 1594 that the Presbytery applied to the synod for an assistant. He died about 1598. He married Barbara Livingston, of the House of Kilsyth, by whom one child.

Prominent Families, Arthur Meredyth Burke, 1908, p33
Alexander Livingston (-1597), whose father was killed at the Battle of Pinkie, 1547, was, there are good grounds for believing, a grandson of William, fourth Lord Livingston. He was one fo the very earliest ministers of the Reformed Church in Scotland; presented by William, sixth Lord Livingston, to the Rectory of Monyabroch (now Kilsyth), Co. Stirling, Aug. 1560; m. Barbara Livingston, of Kilsyth, and, dying 1597, left, by her, issue a son:-

William Livingston (1576-1641)

Autobiography Extract in Current English
of Rev. John Livingston

A Brief Historical Relation of the life of Mr John Livingstone, minister of the gospel, containing several observations of the divine goodness manifested to him, in the several occurrences thereof.

Written by Himself
during his banishment in Holland, for the cause of Christ.

With a historical introduction and notes,
by the Rev. Thomas Houston,

A new edition, with appendix.

John Johnstone,
15 Princes Street, Edinburgh; and
26 Paternoster Row, London.

My father was Mr. William Livingstone, first minister at Monybroch (The same as Kilayth), where he entered in the year 1600, and thereafter was transported, about the year 1615, to be minister at Lanark, where he died in the year 1641, being sixty-five years old. His father was Mr Alexander Livingstone, also at Monybroch, who was a near relation to the house of Calender. His father was killed at Pinkiefield, anno 1547, being a son of the Lord Livingstone, which house thereafter was dignified to be Earl of Linlithgow. My father was all his days straight and zealous in the work of reformation against Episcopacy and ceremonies, and was once deposed; and wanted not seals of his ministry, both at Monybroch and also at Lanark. My mother was Agnes Livingstone, daughter of Alexander Livingstone, portioner of Falkirk, come of the house of Dunipace. She was a rare pattern of godliness and virtue. She died in the year 1617, being about thirty-two years of age. She left three sons and four daughters. I was born in Monybroch, in Stirlingshire, the 21st of June 1603.

The first period of my life, I reckon from my birth to the first day I preached in public, which was at Lanark, on a Sabbath afternoon, the 2d of January 1625.

Having at home learned to read and write, I was sent, in the year 1613, to Stirling, to a Latin school, where Mr William Wallace, a good man, and a learned humanist, was schoolmaster; where I stayed till summer 1617; at which time I was sent for, to be present with my mother dying. About October 1617, I was sent to the College of Glasgow, where I stayed four years. I passed master of arts July 1621. After that I stayed in my father's, in Lanark, till I began to preach.

During this time, I observed the Lord's great goodness, that I was born of such parents, who taught me somewhat of God so soon as I was capable to understand anything, and had great care of my education. I had great fears about my salvation when I was but very young. I saw somewhat of the example and carriage of sundry gracious Christians, who used to resort to my father's house, especially at communion occasions: such as Mr Robert Bruce, and several other godly ministers, the rare Countess of Wigtown, Lady Lillias Graham, who also at my baptism desired my name, because her father, her husband, and eldest son, were all of that name; the Lady Culross, the Lady Bantoon, and sundry others.

It is remarkable, that Mr William Wallace came but a short while to Stirling before I was sent thither to school, and the year after I left the school he also left that charge. Likewise worthy Mr Robert Boyd of Trochrigg, was but lately come from Suamur in France, to be Principal of the College of Glasgow when I went thither,a dn went from the college the year after I left it.

The while I was in Stirling, Mr Patrick Simpson was minister there -- a man learneed, godly, and very faithful in the cause of God; and in Glasgow, I heard Mr John Bell - a grave, serious man; and Mr Robert Scot, who also was once deposed for opposing the corruptions of the time.

The first year after I went to Stirling school, I profited not much, and was often beaten by the schoolmaster; and one day he had beaten me on the cheek with a stick, so that it swelled. That same day, my father came occasionally to town, and seeing my face swollen, did chide with the master, that he having a chief hand to bring me to that place,he should use me so. The master promised to forbear beating of me, and I profited a great deal more in my learning after that. And when, in September 1616, I with the rest of my equals, had gone through all the Latin and Greek that was taught in the school, and so were ready to go to the college, and my father was come to bring me home for that end, the schoolmaster prevailed with my father (I being so young, and the master having hopes of my proficiency) that I should stay one other year; and thus another boy and I stayed another year. We for the most part read by ourselves in a little chamber above the school, the mster furnishing us books, where we went through the most part of the choice Latin writers, both poets and others; and that year was to me the largemost profitable year I had at the schools.

New England Families, William Richard Cutter, p. 1247
Rev. Alexander Livingston, son of James Livingston, who was killed at Pinkie as related above, was rector of Monyabroch in 1561, and died sbout 1598. He was deposed by the Presbytery chiefly on account of "inability of doctrine" though he was old and infirm. He married Barbara Livingston, of the house of Kilsyth.

The Livingstons of Livingston Manor, Edwin Brockholst Livingston, p. 9
At the Reformation William, the sixth Lord Livingston, espoused the Protestant cause, and became one of its leaders, or Lords of the Congregation. ... It was this lord who appointed the Rev. Alexander Livingston, his first cousin, to be the first reformed Rector of Monyabroch. This clergyman was the great-grandfather of Robert Livingston, the first Lord of the Manor of Livingston, New York. The sixth lord died in 1592.
William Livingston, 4th Lord + Agnes Hepburn
   Alexander Livingston, 5th Lord
      William Livingston, 6th Lord
   James Livingston, died at Pinky
      Rev. Alexander Livingston + Barbara Livingston

The lack of an adequate stipend was apparently the reason why the rector, "after due deliberation," so runs the charter, had to feu to his "beloved William Livingston and Janet Makgowin his spouse" and their heirs, the half of his glebe for the low rent of three pounds two shillings "usual money of the kingdom of Scotland," equivalent to five shillings and two pence sterling! Even in the year 1574, or thirteen years subsequent to the date of this transaction, the Rev. Alexander Livingston only had as stipend, according to the Book of Assignation of Stipends, "the third of the parsonage and vicarage, extending to three chaldees, five bolls, and one-third boll of meal, and the third of the vicarage pensionary of Monyabroch, three pounds, six shillings and eight pence (Scots)."


Owing to the earlier volumes of the kirk-session Records of Kilsyth having either been lost or destroyed, probably during the civil wars of the seventeenth century, little can now be gleaned from contemporary sources concerning the long ministry of the Rev. Alexander Livingston over this parish. But from the fact of his having been appointed by the Scottish Privy Council, 6th March, i589-[90], one of the three clerical commissioners for overseeing the maintenance of the Protestant religion in Stirlingshire, it would appear that he must have been favourably known to the government as a man of influence in his district, though his relationship to the head of his family alone, would probably have been sufficient to have got him appointed a member of this important commission. There were seven commissioners altogether - three clerical and four lay - and of these, three were members of the Livingston family, who at this period were all powerful in this county. The other Livingston commissioners were, William Lord Livingston, and John Livingston, the younger, of Dunipace. That family influence was the principal cause of his appointment, is borne out by the fact that only two years later "he was so aged and infirm, that he could neither preach, administer the sacrament, nor exercise discipline," so that the Presbytery advised him to get a helper. As he does not appear to have acted upon this advice, the Presbytery, in 1594, applied to the Synod for a helper to Mr. Livingston, but the result of this application is not recorded.

Mr. Livingston, probably owing to the fact that he "was in near relation to the House of Callendar," had been specially selected, in spite of his infirmities, by the Presbytery of Glasgow, to personally wait upon Lady Livingston, though she was not a resident of his parish - Callendar House, where she usually resided, being in the parish of Falkirk, - and summon her to appear before the Presbytery upon the thirteenth of April in this same year, to answer as to her religious beliefs, which were the cause of much scandal to the kirk elders, who deemed her "a malicious papist." Failing to appear upon the date named, and her excuse for non-appearance being considered unsatisfactory, she was summoned for the second time "to give the confession of her faith under the pain of disobedience"; and Mr. Livingston was duly admonished as to the personal delivery of this summons also. The lady not deigning to take any notice of this second summons, "Mr. Alexander Livingston, parson and minister at Monyabroch" was ordered on the twenty-third of the above month to summons her for the third time, to attend before the Presbytery upon the fifteenth day thereafter "under the pain of excommunication." And that the said lady "may be won to God," the Presbytery further ordained that Mr. Patrick Sharp, Principal of the College of Glasgow, and Mr. John Cooper, should confer with her "touching the grounds of religion."

This attempt to bring Lady Livingston into the right path also failing, and after waiting for nearly three years for her to see the error of her ways, the Presbytery finally upon the first of March, 1596-17], "ordains every minister within the Presbytery of Glasgow to intimate next Sunday that Dame Helenor Hay, Lady Livingston, is excommunicated, and Mr. Alexander Livingston to do the same, under the pain of disposition." This Lady Livingston was the wife of Alexander, seventh Lord Livingston, eldest son and successor of the Rev. Alexander's patron, soon to be created arl of Linlithgow. The reason why the Presbytery of Glasgow were so bitter against her religious views, was that her husband had been recently entrusted by King James the Sixth with the care of the infant Princess Elizabeth, in after years to become celebrated as the wife of the unfortunate Elector Palatine, and ancestress of His Majesty King Edward VII. The worthy elders even complained to King James himself, who very diplomatically told them in reply that his daughter was placed under the charge of Lord Livingston, "who was a man known to be of good religion," and not under that of his wife. This dispute continued for several years, for in 1602 Lady Livingston, now the Countess of Linlithgow, had to appeal to the king for protection against further threats of excommunication, this time from the Presbytery of Linlithgow. One of the charges seriously laid against her ladyship on this occasion, was "having dealings with midsummer fairies!"

The Rev. Alexander Livingston's conduct in this affair had, apparently, given great offence to the scandalised kirk elders, for under date 16th of March, 1596, it is duly recorded in the Glasgow Presbytery Register, that "as to Monyabroch neither exercise nor discipline is keepit by the minister there." And upon the twenty-first of June in the following year - namely a few weeks after the sentence of excommunication had been pronounced against Lady Livingston - the rector was summoned before the Presbytery "to hear himself deposed from the ministry at the kirk of Monyabroch for inhability to use discipline in the said kirk as becomes." When asked if he had anything to say in his defence, he raised no objection to the sentence of deposition being pronounced; whereupon, again quoting from the Register, "the moderator and brethren of the Presbytery of Glasgow by these presents deposes the said Mr. Alexander Livingston from the ministry at the said kirk of Monyabroch, for inhability of doctrine, and for inhability to use discipline in the said kirk, simpliciter and for ever." The reason why the rector so readily acquiesced in this sentence of deposition, appears to have been owing to the fact that the Presbytery had agreed, at the same time, to take Mr. William Livingston, his son, on trial for the living.

The exact date of the Rev. Alexander Livingston's death is unknown, but a man of his great age probably did not long survive his deposition from the ministry. The last reference to him in the Colzium House deeds relating to the kirklands of Monyabroch, is an instrument stating that on the 8th of May, 1596, the William Livingston, to whom he had disposed of half his glebe in 1561, resigned the same into the hands of "Mr. Alexander Levingstoun, rector, the superior," for a new infestment in favour of the resigner's eldest surviving son Alexander, but reserving to himself his own life-rent therein. This latter Alexander, as we shall see later, on coming into full possession of these lands at his father's death in 1607, and having meanwhile settled abroad at Treptow in Pomerania, disposed of all his interest therein in favour of the Rev. Alexander Livingston's grandson John, afterwards the well-known covenanting minister, but at the date of this sale only a child of four years of age.

The Rev. Alexander Livingston had married one Barbara Livingston, "come of the House of Kilsyth," probably a daughter or a sister of the then laird, whose descendants during the next century became Viscounts of Kilsyth which title remained in this branch of the family, until loyalty to the royal House of Stuart ruined them, as it also did the senior line of Linlithgow and Callendar, and many another noble Scottish family. The issue of this marriage was a son, the William who had obtained permission from the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1597, to be taken on trial for his father's rectorship of Monyabroch.

Kilsyth, Peter Anton, 1893

The first of this long line was the Rev. Alexander Livingston, who, having been presented by William, sixth Lord Livingston, was admitted to the parish near the close of 1560.

The Parliament having met in August, and the first General Assembly in December, it is evident that the ordination of Alexander Livingston to Kilsyth parish takes us back to the very root, to the very beginning, of the Reformed Church of Scotland. There are those who would have us believe that he was the very first minister appointed under the new order. They are not without reasonable arguments to make good their case, but the point has been largely lost sight of in view of the dispute which has taken place as to the relationship in which Alexander Livingston stood to his patron. The dispute has an international interest, as certain American writers have been anxious to show that Robert Livingston, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence and the descendant of the Rev. Alexander Livingston, had no connection with the Scottish aristocratic family of that name. The last discussion was held in the columns of the Athenceum for 1892, pp. 281, 282, 507, 569. The disputants were Mr. E. B. Livingston, of London, author of "The Livingstons of Calendar," than whom there could not be a more painstaking . or learned authority, and Mr. Theodore Roosevelt of Washington, U.S., author of "The History of New York." The former held that Robert Livingston had the bluest of Scottish blood in his veins, and had the best of the argument. The latter, on the other hand, if he has the worst of the debate, can without doubt claim a monopoly of the pungent writing. The discussion has shown that the exact relationship that existed between the minister and his patron cannot now be determined, but that indisputably it was of a close and legitimate kind. The American writers insist that if there was any blood relationship it must have been of a dishonourable character, and that Alexander Livingston was either an illegitimate son of William, sixth Lord Livingston, or that he was the son of an illegitimate son. They also allege that the fact that Alexander Livingston became a minister of the Reformed Church, is in itself evidence enough of his plebeian origin, seeing no nobleman's son would have occupied, or ever did occupy such a position. Neither of these allegations is of any value. The Rev. Alexander Livingston could not have been an illegitimate child, because if he had been a bastard the Church of the day would not have admitted him to Holy Orders. The clergy lists of the time, furthermore, make it evident that a considerable number of the sons and kinsmen of the nobility of Scotland entered the ministry of the Reformed Church of Scotland. The truth is, the clergy of those days were, in general, persons of considerable rank and social position. The best evidence of all, however, is the open use we find the minister making of his seal, which shows on the field the quartered arms of Livingston and Callendar. The laws relating to heraldry were, at that time, so strict, that this last witness may be held as closing the evidence of his intimate and honourable connection with the Viscounts of Kilsyth.

In September, 1547, the English Protector, Somerset, invaded Scotland. He was animated by implacable hatred, and at Pinkie there was fought one of the bloodiest battles ever waged on Scottish soil. The victory of the English was complete and the carnage among the Scotch appalling. There had been no disaster to compare with it since Flodden. In this battle the father of Alexander Livingston was killed. The battle confirmed the prophecy of Thomas the Rhymer: -

"There shall the Lion lose the gylte,
    And the Libbards bear it clean away;
At Pinkie Cleuch there shall be spilt
    Much gentil bluid that day."

The Lion of the stanza refers, of course, to Scotland; and the Libbards or Leopards to England. The Scots remembered the day by the name of the "Black Saturday." The warlike propensities of this Pinkie Cleuch hero may probably be taken as evidence that the Livingstons of the Scottish Church were sprung from a bold and resolute stock.

Till there came upon the Rev. Alexander Livingston the frailties incident to advancing years he did his work in the parish faithfully. Some months after he entered on his charge he was obliged to feu half of his glebe for the low rent of five shillings and twopence sterling. The stipend had been ten chalders of meal in the old times, but for some years after the Reformation it appears to have been greatly reduced. These early ministers had good reason to complain of the greed of the landed proprietors, who simply despoiled the Church of five-sixths of her property. Although the old ship was getting a new crew, that was no reason for entering her lockers and robbing her of her specie. "Well," exclaimed Knox, on hearing of the arrangement made by the lords of the congregation, "if the end of this order be happy, my judgment fails me. I see two parts given to the devil, and the third part must be divided between God and the devil." The scandal was too open and glaring, and some little part of the stolen property was restored, but there can be no doubt Alexander Livingston must have shared for some years the privations experienced by his brethren throughout the Church.

In 1589, Livingston was appointed by the Privy Council one of the commissioners for the oversight of the Protestant Government and religion in Stirlingshire. Two years after, however, he had become so aged and infirm that he could neither preach nor exercise discipline. In the circumstances the presbytery advised him to get an assistant, but not till 1594 did they themselves take steps before the synod towards that end. What instructions this synod gave is not known, but seeing the minister of Monyabroch had a son who was then studying at the University of Glasgow with a view to the ministry, the matter was probably allowed to drop, the son being then able to give his father substantial help in the proper discharge of his parochial duties.

Considering the disturbed state of the country, the life of Alexander Livingston had up to this year been spent in greater quiet than might have been expected. At this time, however, he became involved in an extraordinary case, which worked eventually his overthrow and deposition. The opinions of Lady Livingston had not conformed to those of the Reformers. Sticking to the old rites and observances, her conduct gave much scandal to the elders of the kirk. She was regarded by them as "a malicious Papist." In the circumstances Livingston, because he was " in near relation to the house of Calendar, and because Lord Livingston was his patron, and probably also because he was a man of mature years and large experience, and so, capable of dealing with a matter requiring delicate handling, was appointed by the Presbytery of Glasgow to wait in person on Lady Livingston and summon her to appear before them on the 13th April. The lady not being resident within the bounds of his parish it would have been well for him if he had put in a plea of want of jurisdiction when he felt the task to be uncongenial. This, however, he did not do. At their meeting Lady Livingston did not compear, and the letter she sent was regarded as wholly unsatisfactory. Mr. Livingston was again charged to wait on her ladyship for the second time, and to be present himself at the meeting to which she was summoned. Of this second call Lady Livingston took no notice. On the 23rd April, the minister of Monyabroch was commanded to summon her for the third time to attend before the presbytery on the 15th day thereafter, "on pain of excommunication," and "that the said lady may be won to God, the said presbytery ordains Mr. Patrick Sharp, Principal of the College of Glasgow, and Mr. John Cooper, to pass to the said lady on Friday this week, and confer with said lady anent the heads of religion." The commissioners exercised diligence in the matters entrusted to them, but were unable to convince Lady Livingston of the error of her ways. On the 1st March, 1597, "the presbytery ordains every minister within this presbytery to intimate next Sunday that Dame Helenor Hay, Lady Livingston, Js excommunicated, and Mr. Alexander Livingston to do the same on pain of deposition."

The whole conduct of Alexander Livingston in this matter greatly incensed the presbytery. He had been throughout lukewarm and reluctant, and during the progress of the case they had made this grave comment as to the state of his parish: " As to Monyabroch," they noted, "neither exercise nor discipline is keepit by the minister there." Only a few weeks after the sentence of excommunication was promulgated against her ladyship, the fury of the presbytery broke upon the minister. He was summoned before the presbytery, "to hear himself deposed from the ministry at the kirk of Monyabroch, for inability to use discipline in said kirk as becomes." Taking no objection to sentence being passed, he was there and then deposed by the moderator "simpliciter and forever,"

Thus most unhappily terminated the long pastorate of thirty-seven years of Alexander Livingston, the first Presbyterian minister of Kilsyth. Possibly he was not so active in the discharge of his commission as he might have been; but surely to use a minister for the purpose of humiliating his near kinsman was, on the part of the presbytery, most indiscreet. There, however, the matter stands; Livingston, a grave old clergyman, tottering on the brink of the grave, was deposed, and the stigma attaching thereto remains; but the riddle of the right and wrong, who can read it now? His wife was Barbara Livingston of "the house of Kilsyth," by whom he had one son, William. He did not survive his deposition many months. Twenty-four years before him, the man "who neither feared nor flattered mortal flesh," the intrepid Knox, was laid to his rest, and now clear and bright there was shining another star in our ecclesiastical firmament. That star was Andrew Melville.

Continues with Rev. William Livingston


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