Back To: HOME | Search Collections | Feedback

Strang, John, 1584-1654, Principal, University of Glasgow, Scotland

Biographical Information

Occupation, Sphere of Activity

John Strang ( 1584-1654) was born at Irvine in the county of Ayr, in 1584. His father, William Strang, Minister of Irvine, died in 1588, and his mother Agnes, married Robert Wilkie, Minister of Kilmarnock. Strang received his early education at Kilmarnock grammar school. About the age of twelve he was sent to the University of St. Andrews, where he graduated M.A. in 1600. He subsequently became one of the Regents of St. Leonard's College, St Andrews.

In 1614, he was ordained and became Minister of Errol in the county of Perth, having been recommended by the Professors of St. Andrews and the Minister of Leuchars. In 1616, St Andrews University made him Doctor of divinity, and the following year, he distinguished himself in an academic disputation held in the presence of King James at St. Andrews. He was a member of the General Assembly held at Perth in 1618, where he voted against the five Articles of Perth, the only Doctor of Divinity to do so. On 15 June 1619, he was made a member of the High Commission.

During his time as Minister of Errol, he frequently acted as Moderator of the presbytery of Perth in the absence of the Bishop. He converted several members of the Earl of Errol's family to protestantism, and contributed to the strengthening of the reformed church in that part of the country.

In 1626, he accepted, after repeated solicitations by the Professors and Magistrates, the Principalship of Glasgow University. In addition to the administrative duties, he lectured twice a week on divinity, presided at the weekly theological disputations, taught Hebrew, and preached frequently.

When in 1637, the covenanting struggle began, both parties were anxious to secure his support; but he took a middle course, which pleased neither. He resisted the imposition of the new liturgy, but, with other Glasgow Professors, he disapproved of the national covenant, though he afterwards subscribed to it in so far as it was not prejudicial to the royal authority and episcopacy. His position as Principal was, to a large extent, put in danger by his protesting against lay elders, signing the covenant with limitations, and deserting the assembly after sitting in it several days. Repeated attempts were made to bring his case before the assembly, but the skilful management of his opponents led by Robert Baillie defeated them.

In 1646, Strang's enemies accused him of heresy, based on the content of his lectures. The subject came before the General Assembly, and was referred to a committee of the most learned men in the church. After conferring with Strang and examining his dictates, they reported that they were satisfied as to his orthodoxy. This report was given in to the assembly in August 1647, and an act was passed exonerating him from the charge. However, soon afterwards the charge of heresy was renewed, and Strang thought it the safest course to resign as Principal, which he did in April 1650. He was granted a pension and a testimonial of orthodoxy.

His tenure of office had been marked by additions to the University buildings, to the cost of which he was himself a generous contributor out of his ample private means, and the income of the bishopric of Galloway was added to the University's revenues. He died on 20 June 1654, when on a visit to Edinburgh, and was buried there in the Greyfriars churchyard.


While studying at St Andrews University, Strang came under the guidance of Principal R. Wilkie, a relative of his stepfather.

Other Significant Information


Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

1600: M.A. University of St Andrews

1614-1626: Minister of Errol, Perth, Scotland

1616: Doctor of Divinity, University of St Andrews

1618: Member of the General Assembly, Perth, Scotland

1626-1650: Principal, University of Glasgow


List of sources for the biographical information:

Coutts, James, A History of the University of Glasgow: 1451 to 1909, (Glasgow, James Maclehose & Sons, 1909)

Harrison, Brian (editor), Dictionary of National Biography, ( University Press, 1995)

Rules or Conventions

Authority record created according to the National Council on ArchivesRules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names (NCA Rules)1997 and International Council on Archives: Ad Hoc Committee on Descriptive StandardsInternational Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (ISAAR)CPF1995

Author and Date of Biographical History

Personal name authority record compiled for the GASHE project by John O'Brien, Glasgow University Archive Services, 30 August 2002