Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Laing, John (d.1483)

LAING, JOHN (d. 1483), bishop of Glasgow and chancellor of Scotland, was a native of Edinburgh, and belonged to the family of the Laings of Reidhouse, Midlothian, whose last male representative was John Laing, Lord Reidhouse, lord of session under James VI. As he inherited a house in the High Street of Edinburgh, and his kinsmen held property within that city, his father was probably a wealthy burgess. The earliest notice of him in public documents is in a charter of 1463, in which he is described as secretary to Mary of Gueldres, queen-dowager of James II. At this time he probably held the office of rector of Tannadyce in Forfarshire. According to Crawfurd (Officers of State, p. 39), he was ‘preferred to the treasurer's place in 1465.’ The evidence on which this statement is founded is a charter dated 13 Oct. 1465, but Dr. Thomas Dickson has shown that the true date of this charter is 1472, and there is proof extant to show that the office of lord high treasurer was held by Sir David Guthrie [q. v.] of Kincaldrum in 1465 (Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, Preface, p. xxx). On 12 Feb. 1470 Laing's name first appears as ‘Rector of Tannadyce, Treasurer.’ In several charters dated September 1470 he is described as ‘Vicar of Linlithgow, King's Treasurer,’ and he was at that time engaged in administering the affairs of the late queen. The rectories of Southwick and of Newlands were conferred upon him in 1472, at which date he was treasurer and clerk of the king's rolls and register. The oldest extant rolls of the treasury were written by Laing while he was in that post. He appears to have resigned his office of treasurer on 1 Dec. 1474, having then been promoted to the see of Glasgow. Crawfurd's theory that Laing was reappointed to the office of treasurer is not supported by documentary evidence, but he still took an active part in state affairs, and it is said that the reconciliation between James III and the Duke of Albany was effected principally through Laing's intercession. In 1476 he founded the Franciscan monastery or ‘Greyfriars’ of Glasgow, in conjunction with Thomas Forsyth, rector of Glasgow. So highly was he esteemed by the king that when the office of lord high chancellor became vacant at the close of 1482, through the resignation of Lord Evandale, Laing was chosen as his successor. He held office till his death on 11 Jan. 1483.

[Registrum Magni Sigilli; Origines Parochiales Scotiæ; J. F. S. Gordon's Scotichronicon, ii. 511.]

A. H. M.