Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Durie, John (1537-1600)

DURIE, JOHN (1537–1600), presbyterian minister, was born at Mauchline in Ayrshire in 1537, and educated at Ayr. He became one of the monks of Dunfermline, but being suspected of heresy was ordered to be shut up till death. At the time of the Reformation, through the influence of the Earl of Arran, he made his escape, and became an exhorter between 1563 and 1567, and then a minister, at Leith or Restalrig. He was extremely devoted to John Knox, and a most ardent supporter of his views. Becoming a minister of Edinburgh about 1573, he was conspicuous in the conflicts between the church and the king, and in many ways suffered for his outspokenness. In 1575 he expressed himself strongly in the general assembly against prelacy, and was supported by Andrew Melville. For inveighing against the court Durie and Walter Balcanquhal (1548–1616) [q. v.] were imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh until they produced in writing the passage objected to. For reflecting on the Duke of Lennox and others in a sermon preached 23 May 1582, he was called before the privy council and ordered to leave Edinburgh. Soon, however, he got leave to return, and on his arrival at Leith on 4 Sept. the people of Edinburgh met him at the Gallow Green and marched with him up to Edinburgh and along the High Street singing the 124th psalm in four parts, showing not only their attachment to their minister but their skill in psalmody. In November, however, he was again banished from Edinburgh, but allowed to exercise his ministry at Montrose. He was a member of the assembly in 1586, and on 7 Aug. 1590 was granted by the king a pension of 140l., in respect of ‘the greit chargis and expenses maid by him mony zeirs [years] in avancing the publict effayres of the kirk and the greit houshold and famelie of barnis quhairwith he is burdynit.’ James Melville, who was his son-in-law, says of him that though he had not much learning, he was a man of singular force of character, mighty in word and deed. Preaching and athletics went together, for ‘the gown was no sooner off and the Bible out of hand in the kirk, when on went the corselet and up fangit [snatched up] was the hagbut, and to the fields.’ But he speaks of him as a man of singular devoutness, who prayed and communed with God in so remarkable a manner that he counted it one of the privileges of his life that he had come in contact with him. His death took place on the last night of February 1600, amid great serenity of mind. In many ways he bore a great resemblance to his master, John Knox. Andrew Melville composed no fewer than eight Latin epitaphs in his honour, chiefly celebrating the courage with which he resisted the court.

Duræus, ore tonans, Edenâ pastor in urbe,
Arcuit a stabulis quos dedit aula lupos.
Celurcâ in cælum migravit nunc, quia non quit
Arcere a stabulis quos dedit aula lupos.

(‘Celurca’ is the Latin for Montrose.)

Durie married Marion, daughter of Sir John Majoribanks, provost of Edinburgh, and had her husband's pension continued to her by act of parliament 11 July 1606. He had six children—three sons (Joshua, Robert [q. v.], and Simon), all in the presbyterian ministry, and three daughters.

[Scott's Fasti, i. 5, 103, 147, vi. 843; Melville's Diary; Calderwood's Hist.; Knox's Life of Melville.]

W. G. B.