WILLIAM ROW was a son of Mr. John Row, minister at Perth, who gave him a very liberal education under his own eye. [As this family occupies a very prominent place in the ecclesiastical history of Scotland, a few additional particulars may be furnished regarding it. The founder of the family was John Row, who in his earlier years was a staunch and zealous adherent of the Romish Church. At the commencement of the Reformation in Scotland, he was residing in Rome, where he had been for seven or eight years; and so great was the confidence reposed in him by the Pope and Cardinals, that, on his proposing to return to his native country, he was invested with the character of Legate or Nuncio, and was instructed to inquire minutely into the nature and causes of the prevailing disaffection, and report. As his son remarks, however, he proved "a corbie messenger to his master;" for not only did he not return to Rome, but he speedily embraced the great principles of the Reformation himself, and became one of their ablest and most strenuous supporters. He was one of the six ministers selected to draw up the Confession of Faith, and the First Book of Discipline; and for a period of twenty years, besides discharging his ordinary pastoral duties in Perth, he took an active and prominent part in all the proceedings of the Church. On his death, which occurred at Perth on the i6th October 1580, he left several children, five of whom afterwards became ministers. One of these was John, who for fifty years was minister of Carnock in Fife, and is known as the author of the "History of the Kirk of Scotland," and as the father of John Row, principal of King's College, Aberdeen. Another was William, the subject of the present memoir. —Ed.]
William Row was settled minister at Forgandenny, in the shire of Perth, about the year 1600, and continued there for several years. He was one of those ministers who refused to give public thanks for King James VI. 's deliverance from his danger in Cowrie's conspiracy, until the truth of that conspiracy was made to appear. This refusal brought upon him the King's displeasure. He was summoned to appear before the King and Council at Stirling, soon after. On the day appointed for his compearance, two noblemen were sent, the one before the other, to meet him on the road, and, under the pretence of friendship, to inform him that the Council had a design upon his life, that he might be prevailed on to decline going up thither. The first met him near his own house, the second a few miles from Stirling; but Row told them that he would not, by disobedience to the summons, make himself justly liable to the pains of law, and proceeded to Stirling, to the amazement of the King and his Court. When challenged for disbelieving the truth of the Cowrie conspiracy, he told them one reason of his hesitation was, that Henderson, who was said to have confessed that Cowrie hired him to kill the King, and to have been found in his Majesty's chamber for that purpose, was not only suffered to live, but rewarded: "Whereas," said he, "if I had seen the King's life in hazard, and not ventured my life to rescue him, I think I deserve not to live."
The two following anecdotes will show what an uncommon degree of courage and resolution he possessed.
Being at Edinburgh, before the Assembly there, at which the King wanted to bring in some innovation, and meeting with James Melville, who was sent for by the King, he accompanied him to Holyrood House. While Melville was with the King, Row stood behind a screen, and not getting an opportunity to go out with his brother undiscovered, he overheard the King say to some of his courtiers, "This is a good simple man; I have stroked cream on his mouth, and he will procure me a good number of voters, I warrant you." This said, Mr. Row got off, and overtaking James Melville, asked him what had passed. Melville told him all; and said, "the King is well disposed to the Church, and intends to do her good by all his schemes." Row replied, "the King looks upon you as a fool and a knave, and wants to use you as a coy-duck to draw in others;" and told him what he had overheard. Melville suspecting the truth of this report, Mr. Row offered to go with him and avouch it to the King's face. Accordingly, they went back to the palace, when Melville, seeing Row as forward to go in as he was, believed his report, and stopped him ; and next day, when the Assembly proceeded to voting, Melville having voted against what the King proponed, his Majesty would not believe that such was his vote, till he, being asked again, did repeat it.
This biography is from, The Scot's Worthies, by John Howie (1736-1793)