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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s


George Porterfield

By John R Young

George Porterfield (died 1675) was probably the most important Glasgow merchant and politician during the period of the Covenanters (1639-1651). He was Provost of Glasgow at various times (1645, 1646, 1648, and 1649) and he also represented the burgh of Glasgow in the Scottish Parliament and Convention of Estates (c.1644-50). He was the third son of Alexander Porterfield, younger of Porterfield, in Renfrewshire, and his wife Agnes, daughter of Sir Patrick Houston of Houston. George Porterfield was a merchant who was admitted as a burgess of Glasgow in 1623.

In 1639 he was elected by the town council to command a company of men raised by Glasgow to resist Charles I in the First Bishops' War (1639). In this capacity he was known as Captain George Porterfield and he was also confirmed as the captain of the town's company at later dates (such as in 1643-44). He was a committed Covenanter who was involved in national affairs. He supplied wheat and clothing to the Covenanting army in Ireland in 1643 and he served on a range of important committees in the Scottish Parliament. He was one of the MPs, for example, on the 1650 witchcraft committee for hunting witches and in the same year he was one of the politicians who examined the Marquis of Montrose in prison.

Domestically, Porterfield played an important role in Glasgow's affairs. During his tenure of office he was closely involved in the completion of the lands of the Gorbals by the town and Trades' House in 1649-50, the amending of the rules for the conduct of Hutcheson's Hospital and the purchase by the city of the teinds (tithes) of the vicarage and parsonage of the archbishopric. During the period of Cromwellian rule, Porterfield was a commissioner for approving ministers in Glasgow and Ayr in 1655 and a commissioner for the cess (a local tax) in 1655, 1656 and 1660. At the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Porterfield fled to Holland with his wife. He was fined £3000 Scots at the Restoration for his militant Covenanting past, but it is unlikely that this fine was ever paid. He died in 1675 in Rotterdam, a year after his wife died there. He was buried in the French church at Rotterdam. His gravestone described him as "burgermeester" of Glasgow.

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