John Livingstone Commemorated

Last month a new plaque was unveiled marking the ministry of the Covenanter John Livingstone in Stranraer from 1638-48.

His ministry up to and including his time in Stranraer is summarised in the Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology as follows:

The plaque on the church street wall - an identical plaque is on the gate of the High Kirk

The plaque on the church street wall - an identical plaque is on the gate of the High Kirk

‘Licensed to preach in 1625, Livingstone quickly gained a reputation as a powerful preacher, but he refused to enter the parish ministry through opposition to the Five Articles of Perth. In 1630, after being instrumental in a revival at the Kirk of Shotts (Lanarkshire), he crossed to Ireland and became minister of Killinchy in County Down, but he was deposed for nonconformity in 1632. In 1637 Livingstone returned to Scotland to support the Covenanters against Charles I, and became minister of Stranraer, Wigtownshire. He played a notable part in the tumultuous events of the following years. He joined those who demanded the abolition of some traditional practices in worship as unwarranted, and insisted on the right of the godly to hold prayer meetings in addition to attending public worship.’

Livingstone himself recounts how in 1638 he received calls from both ‘Stranrawer in Galloway’ and Straiton in Carrick. He would have chosen Straiton, but sought the advice of six ministers (Robert Blair, David Dickson, Andrew Cant, Alexander Henderson, Samuel Rutherford and his own father) who advised him to choose Stranraer, because it was within four miles of Portpatrick ‘and so nearer for the advantage of our people in Ireland’.

He recounts the 3-day boat journey from Irvine to Stranraer, including a whole day without food or water, concluding ‘yet it pleased the Lord we came safe to Lochryen’. And in words quoted in the newspaper report above, he writes: ‘Some of our friends out of Ireland came and dwelt at Stranraer, and at our communions twice in the year great numbers used to come; at one time 500 persons; and at one time I baptized towards twenty-eight children brought out of Ireland’.

You can read more about Livingstone in:


W, K. Tweedie, Select Biographies edited for the Wodrow Society (2 vols, Edinburgh, 1845-7), i, 127-370

(republished by Banner of Truth in 2008 as Scottish Puritans).