IN the years following the Reformation, Glasgow had turned quite quickly from a city wedded to the Catholic Church to a bastion of Presbyterian Protestantism.

There were still a few Roman Catholics in the city, though they practised their faith in secret, not least because after 1607 the mass was banned and there were several capital crimes associated with the practice of Catholicism.

One of those was for a Catholic priest to say Mass anywhere in Scotland, and also for a Catholic to attend mass, but in the Highlands and Islands, priests not only said Mass regularly but attended to all the spiritual needs of their extensive parishes.

The Kirk and political authorities in Edinburgh tended to ignore what happened in the North, as only a full army could march up there and be assured of victory – and King James VI did not possess such a force, even after he became James I of England in 1603, when he left the Highlands well alone.

In the cities, however, Catholics had to worship underground – often literally so, as the cellars of wealthy Catholics were often turned into chapels.

In 1605, as the world well knows, a Catholic leading a Catholic plot tried to blow James and his entire Parliament to smithereens – the question of what might have happened to Britain had Guy Fawkes succeeded is a debate for another day. No wonder James’s supporters back in Scotland’s Parliament brought in the 1607 Act that banned the saying and hearing of mass on pain of death.

Ten years after the Gunpowder Plot, Glasgow would be the scene of the worst excess of anti-Catholicism since the Reformation, with events that would give Scotland its only post-reformation Roman Catholic saint. His name was John Ogilvie (left).

Born in 1579 at Drum-na-Keith in Banffshire, Ogilvie was the son of a landowner Walter Ogilvie, a Presbyterian. In 1592, and barely into his teens, Ogilvie was sent to the Continent for his education. It seems his parents preferred their son to have that education at establishments which were still Catholic, and over the next four years, he wrestled with his Protestant faith. Years later during his trial in 1615, he said that his soul “had become sick with anxiety and interior doubts concerning this matter for he could not tell which, amongst the great varieties of religious bodies he saw in Europe, was the true one, and he resolved at least to leave the matter to God”. That is quoted in the excellent work by Eleanor McDowell called John Ogilvie: A Jesuit in Disguise (1579-1615), on which this account relies heavily.

In 1596 he was received into the Catholic Church with the express wish to become a Jesuit priest and go home to Scotland to help his fellow Catholics. There followed long years of study in the Society of Jesus before he was ordained a priest in Paris in 1610.

He worked in Jesuit institutions in Rouen and elsewhere until in 1613, he was allowed to go home to Scotland to minister to the remaining Catholics in the Glasgow area.

Dressed in ‘civvies’ he landed at Leith in November 1613, and using the alias of John Watson and disguised as a horse trader, he was able to travel around, saying mass and issuing sacraments at night.

Records show that in October 1614, Ogilvie was saying Mass in his lodgings in Glasgow, believed to be those of Marion Walker, the brave woman who, as we saw last week, had halted the Glasgow witch hunt of 1597 and who had remained a clandestine Catholic.

It was arranged for Ogilvie to meet a local man called Adam Boyd and others who wanted to be baptised into the Catholic Church, but Boyd turned out to be a double agent who betrayed Ogilvie to the city’s Protestant Archbishop John Spottiswoode – we’ll learn more about him next week.

Ogilvie was arrested and one account states that the Archbishop bashed Ogilvie in the face and said: “You are bold to say your masses in a reformed city.” Ogilvie is said to have replied “You act like a hangman and not a bishop in striking me.” Thrown in prison Ogilvie was battered. He wrote from his cell: “They rained blows on me, they tore my hair and my beard, and they scratched my face with their nails.”

Unfortunately for Ogilvie James VI and I had decreed from London that Jesuits and others preaching the “leprosie” of Catholicism were to be shown no mercy, so the Glasgow authorities led by Spottiswoods decided to put him on trial for his life. The jury was hand-picked – we know that because its chancellor was none other than Sir George Elphinstone of Blythswood, the former Provost.

King James VI intervened and the Wisest Fool in Christendom dreamed up two questions to be put to Ogilvie – one that would force him to deny his faith and one that would see him deny the King’s authority.

Ogilvie replied: “In all that concerns the king, I will be slavishly obedient; if any attack his temporal power, I will shed my last drop of blood for him.

But in the things of spiritual jurisdiction which a king unjustly seizes I cannot and must not obey.”

His fate was sealed. On March 10, 1615, in a farce of a show trial, Ogilvie knew he was doomed and proceeded to excoriate King James. The verdict of guilty of high treason was a foregone conclusion and there was none of that nonsense about appeals – he was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered and the sentence was carried out that afternoon.

Taken to the gallows at Glasgow Cross, Ogilvie tossed his rosary into the crowd where it was caught by Baron John ab Eckersdorff, a Calvinist nobleman who later converted to Catholicism, attributing his conversion to witnessing the martyrdom.

Ogilvie then refused to be prayed for by a Kirk minister but shouted on any “hidden Catholics” to pray for him.

He was then disembowelled and hanged but such was the reaction of the crowd to Ogilvie’s courage that he was not quartered. Instead his body was buried whole in a long-lost unmarked grave.

In 1976, Pope Paul VI declared John Ogilvie a saint and martyr. Outside St Peter’s Basilica, Pastor Jack Glass demonstrated against the canonisation.

The conflicts of the Reformation in Glasgow have never really been resolved.