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View of St Andrews from the West Sands

The Quincentennial of George Wishart 1513 - 2013


Booking for the conference is now closed.

George Wishart was born in 1513 and became one of the earliest Scottish religious reformers, and, ultimately, a martyr for his beliefs when he was burned at the stake at St Andrews on the orders of Cardinal David Beaton.


He had a short life, but influential, encouraging many others to challenge the orthodoxy and practices of the Christian Church at that time. One of his supporters in particular, John Knox, carried his works forward after Wishart’s untimely death; his life was longer, and his name became better known than that of Wishart. But would John Knox have been so resolute had he not met Wishart? Some say that the Reformation in Scotland gained force because of the brutality inflicted on Wishart. Without Wishart would the Reformation in Scotland have taken the direction it did, or would it have happened at all? At the five hundredth anniversary of his birth it is surely time for a reassessment of the Life, Work and Lasting influence of George Wishart.


The Wishart Society. in conjunction with the Institute of Scottish Historical Research at the University of St Andrews, have organised a significant event at St Andrews in August 2013, including a one day conference at which some of these questions will be answered by key researchers of the Reformation. This is an excellent time to call for such a discussion as the Internet and digitalisation of documents have invigorated research in many areas and Reformation researchers are regularly discovering new facts about the period.


Although key researchers, most at Professorial level, have been lined up to speak and debate, this conference is designed for a wider audience. Along with historical and theological academics, members of the clergy and the general public, over sixty Wisharts from many countries have indicated that they wish to attend this commemorative event for one of their most famous namesakes. In addition, the Wishart Society has arranged a social programme for those with a family connection or general interest in the surname. This promises to be an exciting and stimulating event; and we welcome your participation.


Do not overlook the interest of the venue, well worth a visit in its own right. The University of St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland, founded in 1413 by the medieval Scottish Church and James I of Scotland. So it will be celebrating its six-hundredth anniversary as we celebrate Wishart’s five hundredth. The University has elegant buildings and peaceful courtyards, set against an iconic backdrop of long sandy beaches and glorious golf courses. The surrounding area is picturesque with sites and activities to suit all tastes. Conference delegates can extend their stay to take advantage of the many attractions. As well as comfortable accommodation, with en suite facilities in the university’s modern halls of residence, St Andrews has accommodation ranging from comfortable bed and breakfast establishments to world-class hotels. Why not think of extending your conference visit to experience the pleasures of this part of Scotland.

Booking for the conference is now closed.

If you intend only to participate in the conference, without university accommodation, the cost is £35 per delegate. This includes all the meetings on Friday 30th August 2013, with morning tea or coffee, a buffet lunch, afternoon tea or coffee, and a wine reception afterwards.

If you are travelling some distance, you may also need to stay at the University of St Andrews. We have reserved double rooms in Agnes Blackadder Hall at a cost of £55 for bed and breakfast, and these can be booked online.

Each double room has an ensuite, private bathroom with a shower, a TV, telephone and WiFi computer access included.

Other activities are charged separately. They include a dinner at Zizzi's Italian Restaurant at 8pm on Friday 30th August 2013 price £25; an historical tour on Saturday 31st August in the afternoon, followed by a drinks reception at St Mary's College, price £20; and a church service at 10.45am on Sunday 1st September, free.



We are very pleased to be sponsored by the Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) and the Hope Trust. Their grants will help with the travel and accommodation costs of the academic speakers and some publication and printing costs.

We are also pleased to be sponsored by the Institute of Scottish Historical Research at the University of St Andrews. They will support postgraduate students to attend, and the cost of a wine reception following the conference.

Thank you very much for your support.

Conference Synopses

Prof Alec Ryrie  
George Wishart: Scotland's Turbulent Prophet?
George Wishart’s public career was brief, but he left turbulence in his wake wherever he went. This introductory lecture will track his preaching ministry, from the turbulent events in Bristol in 1539 through his defiant tour of central Scotland in 1544-5 to his trial and execution in 1546; but it will pay particular attention to what he left behind him and the reputation that grew up around him.
The divisions which his visit to Bristol crystallised in that already troubled city were a harbinger of things to come. His ministry in Scotland not only helped to redirect a reforming movement which was disorientated and increasingly embittered after the high hopes of 1543 had been dashed; it also gave him a personal reputation as a prophet, which was cherished and transmitted by his disciple John Knox. 
This may even have been Wishart’s most enduring legacy, since he stands at the head of what became a kind of apostolic succession of prophets, running through Knox to his successors and disciples. This became one of the Scottish Reformation’s most distinctive features: its openness towards charismatic leadership which expected the providential or even the miraculous. A line can be traced from Wishart, through Knox, to the revivalist movements of Ayrshire and Ulster in the 1620s which in turn fed the revivalism of the eighteenth century.
Prof Ian Hazlett
Wishart and the Swiss Confession of Faith
This paper will discuss George Wishart’s relationship to the Swiss Confession of Faith 1536, otherwise known as the First Helvetic Confession, created in the first generation of the Reformation. Matters to be considered will include: 
1) What a confession of faith was and its function. 
2) What the context, content and purpose was of the 1536 Swiss Confession. 
3) Wishart’s encounter with the Confession when abroad in the late 1530s. 
4) The impact of the Confession on Wishart and his translation of it into (English). 
5) Possible allusions, direct or indirect, to the Confession during Wishart’s trial for heresy. 
6) The circumstances of the publication of the Confession in English a year or two after Wishart’s demise. 
7) Influence of the Confession on Scotland in relation to other confessions.
Prof Martin Dotterweich
Wishart and England
Prof Iain Torrance
Wishart and the Reformed/Calvinistic Movement
The paper will look at attitudes towards and the possible impact of George Wishart from the perspective of the Continent and, in particular, the Reformed/Calvinist movement.  It will also consider the extent to which he can be seen as fitting into the pattern of Continental reformed traditions.  Is he Zwinglian or a ‘proto-Calvinist’, for example?  As someone who was executed for conscience relatively early in the non-Lutheran Reformation period, Wishart became an iconic figure who could be used in later debates.  In that context, the paper will also consider the role of early ‘martyrs’ in the Reformed tradition as evidence not just of the truthfulness of the Reformed position but also as a sign of divine approbation as a persecuted remnant.
Prof  Roger Mason
Wishart and St Andrews
The climactic moments of George Wishart’s career – his trial and execution – took place in St Andrews in 1546.  This talk will explore the significance of Scotland’s ecclesiastical capital in the religious culture of the time.  It will then examine the political and international contexts which lent the events of 1546, including the retaliatory assassination of Cardinal David Beaton, immense symbolic significance.  Finally, it will look at how Wishart’s last days were portrayed in the writings of John Knox and George Buchanan and incorporated into an enduring Protestant narrative.
Prof Jane Dawson
Knox and Wishart: Elijah's mantle?
Starting with the very familiar picture of John Knox carrying his two-handed sword before George Wishart when he was conducting his final preaching tour, this lecture will examine the relationship between the two men. Although brief for Knox this was a crucial relationship and after Wishart’s execution he felt he was Elisha receiving the prophet’s mantle when Elijah was carried into heaven on his fiery chariot. The long-term effect of Wishart’s influence upon Knox will also be examined as it is revealed in his ministry and ideas for the remainder of his life.
Lt Col Jack Wishart 
Wishart Genealogy and the Wishart Database. 
Origins of the name, the history of the database and sundry snippets of interest.

Lunch at the Clubhouse, Fairmont Hotel

The final event in the programme will be lunch at the Clubhouse, Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews.


This will begin at 1pm on Sunday September 1st, 2013. The cost is £20 per person.


Here is a sample menu for Fairmont Lunch (PDF, 98 KB) 


Transport will be provided from Trinity Church, South Street, St Andrews following the church service at 12.30pm.

David Wishart's Tasting of Single Malt Whiskies

We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet – a Celebration of Scotch Whisky‌  

David Wishart Nosing Whisky

David Wishart

School of Management

University of St Andrews

Venue: The Gateway

7pm Thursday August 29th, 2013

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and discover the flavours of Scotch malt whiskies at this talk and tasting by Dr. David Wishart, Honorary Fellow of the School of Management and author of Whisky Classified: Choosing Single Malts by Flavour, third edition, now published in ten languages.

Dubbed the "Carl Linnæus" of whisky by fellow writer Charles MacLean, David Wishart was the first to categorise single malt whiskies by flavour. He will guide you through the history and romance of Scotch whisky, from the aqua vitae of the early monasteries, the alchemist's art of turning barley into liquid gold, and the hedonistic uisge beatha of remote Scottish crofts, to the taverns of the Royal Mile and hot toddies in Edinburgh's New Town.

Whisky is evoked in the poetry of Burns, in the travelogues of Stevenson, and in the art of Landseer and Wilkie. London toasted with brandy in the Regency period, but when a tiny phylloxera beetle devastated Cognac in 1863 the upper classes turned to whisky and the famous “Scotch” brands were born.

Today, the flavour of malt whisky is more diverse than ever, due to the influence of variable peating, cask preparation, extended maturation, and special finishing. David describes his unique scientific classification by flavour based on sensory analysis and profiling, with a selection of fine single malt whiskies to taste.

He has chosen some well-known favourites for his tasting, plus a couple of malts that are harder to find. They span the "flavour spectrum", the complete range of flavours of single malt whiskies as described in David's book "Whisky Classified".  For tonight's tasting he will be featuring Aberlour, anCnoc, Balblair, Benromach, Bowmore, Glenburgie, Glencadam, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glengoyne, Glenlivet, Laphroaig, Tomatin, Tullibardine and Jack Wishart & Friends single malt Scotch whiskies.

Further information at: