Russell and Alexander (Ninian) Kennedy, Martyrs 1539.
(also Hieronymus) Russell was a Black Friar who was a
resident in the convent of the Cordeliers in the diocese
of the Archbishop of Glasgow. John Knox described him as "
a young man of meek nature, quick spirit and good
learning." Alexander (sometimes called Ninian) Kennedy was
a young gentleman of just eighteen from Ayrshire. He
had received a liberal education, had a good wit and was
something of a poet given, as was the custom of the day,
to making rhymes of events - what is called poesie. This
was a dangerous gift in those days, when the priests
offered an inviting target and, as Kennedy found, a
fatal retribution. Perhaps inexperienced in life and
rather naive, the young man was unable to resist the
temptation to write some biting verses on the clergy and
was soon charged with heresy. Thus he found himself in
irons alongside Jerome Russell, both awaiting the pleasure
of the Archbishop of Glasgow in whose diocese they had
committed their alleged heresies.
time Cardinal David Beaton had succeeded his uncle as
Archbishop of St Andrews. He had recently been made a
Cardinal and was determined to show Rome how good and
great he was, but he had yet to formally place the
crimson hat on his head. Although Primate of Scotland he
had to be diplomatic ( a great effort for him) in his
dealings with Gawin Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow.
Although his superior in church matters, Dunbar was the
Chancellor of Scotland and had enormous civil powers -
until Beaton had his red hat he could not march into his
brother bishop`s diocese and interfere directly in
matters. He was, however, determined to get at Russell and
Kennedy and in this he again used the services of John
Lauder, who had previously entangled the Vicar of Dollar.
Lauder was sent to Glasgow to intercede with Dunbar, and
with him sent two others " almost as expert in compassing
the death of innocent men." These were Andrew Oliphant, a
notary possessed of a supple mind, and a very ardent monk,
Friar Mortman ( or Meirman). These three "sergeants of
Satan" as Knox called them " did the cardinal send
to the archbishop to stir him up to dip his hands in the
blood of God`s saints."
prisoners were put on trial before the Archbishop of
Glasgow with the "three sergeants" in close attendance.
Kennedy was in total awe of the gathering and of the
charges against him. He did not have a deep and burning
commitment to the evangel and, indeed , it was his
`poesie` that had got him into trouble. At this point in
the proceedings he was much more inclined to withdraw -
recant, anything that had offended and to humbly
companion, Russell on the other hand was of more mature
years and his convictions and beliefs were based on the
Word of God. He had spent many years in study and was
better able to argue his defence and deliver learned
opinion regarding the charges. He was calm and maintained
a forceful argument refuting charges with wisdom and a
dignity that infuriated his accusers. His was a moral
triumph that had confounded the "sergeants" and Bishops
alike, but to no avail since his doom had been fixed
before he had begun his eloquent pleading. Resorting to
the bullying tactics the accusers poured opprobium and
scorn on Russell who was well able to defend himself
your hour, and power and darkness; now ye sit as judges,
and we stand wrongfully accused and more wrongfully to be
condemned; but the day will come when our innocence will
appear, and ye shall see your own blindness, to your
everlasting confusion !. Go on, and fill the measure of
defiance had, however, an unexpected outcome and brought
two martyrs to the stake. The young Kennedy had taken the
matters to heart and revived both his conscience and his
faith. He fell upon his knees and prayed long and joyfully
of his love and devotion for his Saviour, before turning
to the Archbishop and declaring "Now I defy Death.
Do with me as you please: I praise God I am ready".
Dunbar, a more humane person than his colleague of St
Andrew`s, was moved by the declarations from the prisoners
and was inclined to spare them. At this the
"serrgeants" protested, as slaves to the will of Beaton
they dare do less. They resorted to the old tactic of
pointing out that he would be the exception if he did not
condemn them and thus be " an enemy to the Church" " If
you let these men go, ye are not the Pope`s friend ".
Dunbar realised that not just his reputation was at stake
but also his mitre and all the pleasures and liberties of
office. Thus it was that he consented to the condemnation
of the men to the flames. They were brought to the stake
the following day where both men kneeled and prayed before
being tied to the stake, straight and proud in their
certainty of the Resurrection. Russell managed a few
comforting words to his young companion before the flames
did their work -
afraid brother, for mightier is He that is in us than he
that is in the world. "
on 9th June 1839, a new church was named the
Martyrs Church. and
on 3rd July 1876,
newly created Martyrs parish in Glasgow was named after them.