He was a religious reformer and poet born in Dundee,
Scotland, to a prosperous family where his father was a merchant and his
brothers were James and Robert who were also poets and reformers. He studied at St. Andrew’s
University and graduated in 1528 with his M.A. He went from there to take
holy orders and it is thought he worked at St. Matthews in Dundee as
Things changed for him in 1539 when he and his
brothers were accused of being heretics after they had supposed written
what were considered to be “anti-Church” ballads. They escaped to Germany and settled
in Wittenberg where they were given teaching by reformers there and while
there he was exposed to many Lutheran hymns.
After returning to Scotland, when the Earl of Arran
who was the regent at the time allowed exiles back, he took the Lutheran
hymns he’d learned with him.
This was when he and his brothers published the Gude and Godlie
Ballatis in the Compendious Book of Psalms and Spiritual Songs
that contained “anti-Catholic” poems, ballads and several
German hymn translations. This
publication was extremely influential with the reform movement in Scotland
and there were several penalties given out, not only to the brothers, but
to the printers as well.
Once again he had to leave his home country and fled
to England where he lived in exile.
He died there in 1556.