David Straiton and Norman Gourlay, Martyrs 1534.

Straiton was the younger son of  the laird of of Lauriston in Forfarshire, where his family had been for some six hundred years. His elder brother lived in the castle of Lauriston. David Straiton was proprietor of some lands at the mouth of the river Esk and also some fishing boats from which he derived a modest income. He was known to go fishing himself and his small fleet did well at their trade. He has been described as an unlikely candidate for martyrdom, at least if his early life was anything to go by.  He led an easy going life and indulged in sports and amusements of most kinds. A robust and energetic man he was very much the outdoor type and not one for books and learning, particularly religion. It was curiosity and a degree of annoyance because he was unable, at first, to obtain an explanation of heresy.

His problems began when the Prior of St Andrews, Patrick Hepburn (later Bishop of Moray) allegedly demanded a tithe payment from his catch. In another version of the story it was the Vicar of Ecclesgreig who demanded the tithe - but he would have complained about non payment to Hepburn, thus bringing Straiton to the attention of the authorities.  But Straiton was not one to mince his words and told the Prior`s servant if he wanted his tithe to obtain it where he got the stock - get your own fish in other words. Straiton then told his fishermen to throw every tenth fish back into the sea " to pay the prior of St Andrews his tithe." Hepburn summoned Straiton to answer for heresy which he rebelled against , although canny enough to be uneasy at the attention he was receiving from the Church. This caused him to meditate on his future conduct and, frustrated because he could not read, he sought help from a neighbour, no less a person than John Erskine of Dun. Through his association with Erskine the young man changed considerably as he learnt more of the new faith and mellowed in his conduct.

On 27 August 1534 Straiton  along with another man, Norman Gourlay,  were taken  into a hall of Holyrood Abbey where the Prelates and the King, dressed in red, sat in judgment.  Gourlay was in priests orders  and had been a student at St Andrews and is shown as a Determinant in 1513 and a Licentate in 1515.  He was charged for saying that there was no such thing as Purgatory, and that the Pope was not a Bishop but Antichrist, and had no jurisdiction in Scotland. Several others had been summoned before the court but did not appear, having either recanted (burnt their bill as it was called) or fled abroad. Great efforts were made to get Straiton and Gourlay to recant and the King was minded to save their lives, but the insolent clergy told him that he was " incompetent to pardon those who had been condemned by the law of the Church." In the afternoon of the same day the fire was built  at the Cross of Greenside between Edinburgh and Leith, said to be for the benefit and terror of the inhabitants of Fife, who would be able to see the flames.  After short speech and prayers the men were consigned to the gallows, hanged and then put at the stake and burned.

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