Brown, Gilbert (DNB00)


BROWN, GILBERT (d. 1612), Scotch catholic divine, was descended from the ancient family of Carsluith in the parish Kirkmabreck. He entered the Cistercian order and was the last abbot of Sweetheart, or New Abbey, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, about seven miles from Dumfries. In that capacity he sat in parliament 17 Aug. 1560, whilst the confession of faith was approved. He was, however, an active opponent of the Reformation. In 1578 he complained of as being zealous in the family of Lord Herries; and in the following year he was accused before the general assembly of enticing people within the bounds of 'papistrie.' Brown laboured so zealously for the catholic cause in Glasgow, in Paisley, and in Galloway, that in 1588 the general assembly complained of his 'busyness.' Lord Herries then expelled the presbyterian ministers from Dumfries. As all endeavours to stop the catholic reaction proved unavailing, the general assembly in 1594 petitioned for Brown's apprehension by the guard. At this period he entered into a written controversy with John Welsche, minister of Ayr, and composed 'Ane Answere to ane certaine libell or writing sent by Mr John Welsche, to ane Catholicke, as ane Answer to ane Objection of the Romane Kirk whereby they go about to deface the veritie of that onely true religion whilk we professe.’ This elicited from Welsche 'A Reply against Mr Gilbert Browne, priest' Edinburgh, 1602, 4to, afterwards reprinted under the title of 'Popery anatomized.' At the time Welsche published this reply Dumfries 'had become the seat of excommunicated papists and jesuits;' and the abbot is described as the 'famous excommunicat, foirfaultit, and perverting papist named Mr. Gilbert Browne, Abbot of New Abbey, quho evir since the reformatioun of religioune had conteinit in ignorance and idolatrie allmost the haill south west partis of Scotland and had been continowallie occupyit in practiseing of heresy.' At length Abbot Brown was captured near New Abbey in August 1605. The country people rose in arms to rescue him but were overpowered by Lord Cranstoun and his guardsmen. Brown was first conveyed to Blackness castle, and thence transferred to the castle of Edinburgh, 'where he was interteaned upon the kings expenses till his departure out of the countrie,' (Calderwood, Historie of the Kirk of Scotland, vi. 295). Eventually he was banished and he died at Paris on 14 May 1612.

[Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.; Calderwood's Hist. of the Kirk of Scotland (Wodrow Soc.), v. 39, 416, vi. 295, 367, 576, 764; Gordon's Catholic Church in Scotland, 526; Keith's Cat. of Scottish Bishops (1824), 425; McCrie's Life of Melville ii. 208; Murray's Lit. Hist. of Galloway, 56–8, 121–3.]

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