The record of the admission of JAMES HALIBURTON as a Brother of the Guild has not been preserved, although, curiously enough, the Burgess Roll from 1513 till 1581 was transcribed under his supervision. As his entry must have been about 1540, his name has been inserted here, prefixed by an excerpt from the Council Minutes of' a later date.
[1588 9] February 20th. In the Minute of the Council under this date, the following entry appears :
"Concludit, that the Council mak the haill charges and expenses of the burial of Maister JAMES HALIBURTON, sometime Provost of the Burgh, in respect of his gude will and favour during the time of his charge."
In pursuance of this resolution, a monument was erected within the Church of St. Mary, Dundee, at the expense of the Burgh.
JAMES HALIBURTON, who was thus specially honoured by the Burgh of Dundee, was one of the most prominent men of his time, and played a leading part, not only in the commercial development of the Burgh, but also in the religious and political history of Scotland. Yet it is a curious fact that no civic hero of modern times has suffered more severely from the neglect of historians. By a strange slip on the part of PATRICK FRASER TYTLER usually the most accurate of historians HALIBURTON is numbered amongst the slain who fell at Edinburgh in 1559, fighting against the Romanist soldiers of the QUEEN REGENT, though CALDERWOOD (Hist. Of the Kirk i. 472) distinctly states that it was CAPTAIN ALEXANDER HALIBURTON, brother to the PROVOST OF DUNDEE, who was thus sacrificed. Some historians of Dundee, entertaining no doubt of TYTLER'S accuracy, though unable to reconcile his statement with the fact, clearly shown by the Council books, that JAMES HALIBURTON continued to be Provost of Dundee for more than a quarter of a century after this date, have supposed that there were two Provosts of this name, father and son but this is an error.
PROVOST JAMES HALIBURTON was one of the grandsons of WALTER and CATHERINE DE HALIBURTON, who were settled at Pitcur, in the Parish of Kettins, Forfarshire, in 1432. He was born in 1518, and spent his early years of study at the University of St Andrews, where he ultimately took his degree as Master of Arts in 1538. His hearty adoption of the doctrines of the Reformers, and his life long devotion to the advancement of the Protestant Church in Scotland, may be attributed to the College friendships which he formed at this period. He was thrown into the daily society of such men as GEORGE WISHART, PETER YOUNG, DAVID STRAITOUN, and JOHN ERSKINE of Dun all students from his own district in Forfarshire and learned from them that "forbidden lore" to which he afterwards steadily adhered. The memory of PATRICK HAMILTON'S martyrdom was still fresh in the minds of the students at St Andrews, and not a few of HALIBURTON'S companions suffered a similar fate, and died as martyrs to their creed.
Having completed his Academic course, he prepared to settle down to his duties as a member of the Commonwealth. In November, 1540, he obtained a charter from JAMES V. To himself and his "affianced wife," MARGARET OF ROSSY, of certain lands in the Carse of Gowrie. About the same time he was enrolled as one of the Burgesses of Dundee, and in 1553 was elected Provost of the Burgh. For the long period of thirty three years he continued to occupy this honourable position with dignity, guiding the Burgh with prudence and wisdom amid the dangers of a troublous period. He had already proved his willingness and ability to serve the Burgh, having led the troop of horse provided by the "Angus barouns, and landit men," in 1548, against the Castle of Broughty, which was then in the hands of' the English, and having succeeded in expelling the invaders who had obtained possession of the Fort through the treachery of LORD GRAY. JAMES HALIBURTON'S brother, ANDREW, the Laird of Pitcur, had died before this time, leaving an infant son afterwards SIR GEORGE HALIBURTON, Knt. Under the guardianship of JAMES, who thus became "Tutor of Pitcur," a title by which he was known until the time of his death.
The leaders of the Reformation in Scotland were the EARLS OF MORAY and of ARGYLL, and throughout the whole of the protracted struggle betwixt the two contending forms of religion we continually find the name of the PROVOST OF DUNDEE figuring prominently amongst the Lords of the Congregation. He was summoned to co operate with the two Earls, the LAIRDS OF DUN and PITARROW, and JOHN KNOX in the Reformation of the Cathedral of St Andrews in 1559; and he led a band of the Burgesses of Dundee to Cupar Muir, prepared to do battle against the QUEEN REGENT in defence of their religious liberty. Later in the same year he and his brother, CAPTAIN ALEXANDER HALIBURTON, did all in their power to restrain the fury of the Burgesses at the burning of the Abbey of Scone, but were unable to save the place from destruction. The fire of rebellion spread rapidly, and when the QUEEN REGENT sought to impose the yoke of Romanism upon the people by the aid of French mercenaries, the burghers of the principal towns rose in open revolt. PROVOST HALIBURTON again led his fellow burgesses to battle, greatly distinguishing himself by his conduct in their repeated attacks upon Leith, then held by the French soldiers. These attacks, however, were unavailing, and CAPTAIN ALEXANDER HALIBURTON, GEORGE LOVELL of Dundee, and many other leaders amongst the Reformers, were slain. The death of the QUEEN REGENT in the following year gave a new aspect to public affairs.
To detail fully the public life of PROVOST HALIBURTON would be to write the history of the time in which he lived. He sat as Member for Dundee in the Parliaments and Conventions of Estates almost continuously from 1563 till 1581, and was frequently chosen to administer justice and to deliberate in a responsible capacity upon some of the most momentous questions in Kirk and State. It was his misfortune to offend the QUEEN by opposing her marriage with DARNLEY, and in 1565 he openly joined with MORAY, ROTHES, and KIRKCALDY OF GRANGE, in their revolt against this union. It is supposed that at this time he fled with the EARL OF MORAY to the Court Of QUEEN ELIZABETH for protection, returning with him the following year.
In 1567 JAMES HALIBURTON was restored to his office as Provost, to which the EARL OF CRAWFURD had been appointed temporarily, and having shown to the Privy Council that a pension bestowed upon him by the QUEEN REGENT, and renewed by the QUEEN, had not been available to him, he received the thirds of certain of the confiscated Kirk lands, which raised his pension to one thousand pounds. During this eventful year the murder of DARNLEY the marriage of the QUEEN with BOTHWELL, and her capture at Carberry Hill and confinement in Lochleven Castle took place; and when she unwillingly resigned the Crown, the PROVOST OF DUNDEE was one of those selected to administer the affairs of the country until the REGENT MORAY was proclaimed. On the 29th of July he took part in the Coronation of the Infant Prince, afterwards JAMES VI., at Stirling, and received his comrade, the EARL OF MORAY, as lawful REGENT on his return from England. He shared in the decisive conflict at Langside in May, 1568, and was afterwards sent to quell the abortive attempt of the GORDONS to restore the QUEEN, and to take possession of the lands of Kinnaird in Forfarshire, then held by SIR JOHN CARNEGIE, a consistent supporter of QUEEN MARY.
For many years Scotland was kept in a continual ferment by the varied fortunes of the supporters of QUEEN MARY and of the Reformers. The assassination of MORAY was followed by the defection of KIRKCALDY OF GRANGE, who declared for the QUEEN whilst he was holding the Castle of Edinburgh for the REGENT LENNOX. The army of the Protestant party was assembled at Leith, and whilst they made an attack upon Edinburgh, it was the misfortune Of PROVOST HALIBURTON who held a commission as Colonel in the army to fall into the hands of his enemies on 27th August, 1571. Eight days afterwards the REGENT was assassinated. His two murderers were captured and executed, and the QUEEN'S party were only prevented from avenging the merited death of the assassins upon the PROVOST OF DUNDEE by the earnest entreaty of the Burgesses of Edinburgh. The taking of the Castle by the new REGENT MAR enabled HALIBURTON to regain his liberty, and he returned to resume his official duties.
From this time forward his career was a peaceful one. The aged PROVOST, who had battled so bravely in defence of the rights of the Burgh and the country, at length began to feel the symptoms of approaching decay, and he resigned his office as civic ruler in 1586 - thirty three years after his first appointment. He still continued his services in the General Assembly, making his last appearance there on 6th August, 1588. He died in the month of February, 1588 9, and was honoured by his brethren of the Council in the manner described in their Minute. When some alterations were being made on the fabric of the Church of S. Mary of Dundee, in 1827, a grave and richly carved monument were discovered beside the window on the north of the pulpit, and it was stated that the inscription upon the lid of the coffer tomb proved that it was the sepulchre of PROVOST HALIBURTON. The monument was placed close to the wall beside the window, but it was completely destroyed in the conflagration by which the churches were consumed in 1841. The inscription transcribed by MONTEITH is in these terms:
Hic situs est JACOBUS HALYBURTONUS, patruus nobilis viri,GEORII HALYBURTON de Pitcur, militis, qui praefecturam Deidoni urbanum fauciter [feliciter?] annos 33 gessit. Obiit anno Dom. 1588. Aeatis suae 70.
Allecti Patriae Pupilli Ecelesiae. Iesu
Praefectus Vindex Tutor Alumnus fuit
Here lies JAMES HALIBURTON (Uncle [father's brother] of an honourable man, GEORGE HALIBURTON of Pitcur, Knight), who happily filled the civic office of Provost of Dundee for 33 years. He died A.D. 1588, of his age 70.
Chief of the Defender of Protector of Follower of the
Magistracy his Country the Orphan Church of Jesus
No one who considers the important share which JAMES HALIBURTON took in the stirring events of the time in which he lived will hesitate to endorse the judgment of his friend and comrade, JAMES BALFOUR of Hal hill, when he describes him as "that notable PROVOST OF DUNDEE."