Alexander Peden: Prophecy, Ploughmen and Preaching in 1682

•April 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Alexander Peden’s activities in Scotland in 1682 tell us a lot about his relations with the Society people when they were formed.

Marriage of the Covenanter

‘15. In the Year 1682, he was in Kyle [in Ayrshire], and preaching upon that Text, The Plowers plowed upon my Back, and drew long their Furrows;’ (Walker, BP, I, 51.)

Kyle is a district of Ayrshire. Alexander Peden conducted the marriage of John Brown at Priesthill in Muirkirk parish in 1682. Muirkirk parish is also known as Muirkirk of Kyle parish.

The text Peden preached on was Psalms 129.3. The text of the psalm is as follows:

‘Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.
[3] The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.
The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.
Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.
Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up:
Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.
Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.’

‘where he said, Would you know who first yoked this Plough? It was cursed Cain, when he drew his Furrows so long, and so deep, that he let out the Heart-Blood of his Brother Abel; and all his cursed Seed has, and will design, desire, and endeavour to follow his cursed Example: And that Plough has, and will gang Summer and Winter, Frost and Freshweather, till the World’s End; and at the Sound of the last Trumpet, when all are in a Flame, their Theats will burn, and their Swingle-trees will fall to the Ground; the Plow-men will lose their Grips of the Plough, and the Gade-men will throw away their Gades; and then, O the Yelling and Skreeching that will be among all his cursed Seed, clapping their Hands, and crying to Hills and Mountains, to cover them from the Face of the Lamb, and of him that sits upon the Throne, for their Hatred of him, and Malice at his People!’ (Walker, BP, I, 51.)

Walker also maintains that Peden conducted a marriage after the sermon.

‘After Sermon, when marrying a Pair of Folk, when the Man had the Woman by the Hand, he said, Indeed, Man, you have a bonny Bride by the Hand, I see a covetous Devil in her, she is both a Thief and a Whore, let her go, let her go, you will be ashamed of her; the Man kept fast her Hand; he said, You will not take my Advice, but it will tend to thy Disgrace:’ (Walker, BP, I, 51-2.)

And that after the marriage, he prayed:

‘After Marriage, when praying, he said, Good Lord, many a Plough hath been yoked upon the Back of thy Church in Scotland, Pagans yoked their’s, Antichrist yoked his, and Prelacy her’s, and now the plagued Erastian Indulged they have yoked their’s, and ill it became them: Good Lord, cut their Theats, that their Swingle-trees may fall to the Ground.’ (Walker, BP, I, 52.)

Walker’s witness to the sermon and marriage was John Kirkland:

‘Ensign John Kirkland was Witness to this Sermon and Marriage; he was my very dear Acquaintance, who told me several Times of this, and more of that Sermon.’ (Walker, BP, I, 52.)

Ensign John Kirkland of the Cameronian Regiment was killed at the battle of Steenkerque on 3 August, 1692.

According to Walker, in 1682, Peden had also married Kirkland to Janet Lindsay, the widow of Thomas Weir in Cumberhead who was mortally wounded at Drumclog. (Walker, BP, I, 108.)

Kirkland’s marriage may have taken place near Cumberhead in Lesmahagow parish, which lies close to Priesthill in Muirkirk parish where Peden conducted the marriage of Brown:

‘18. In the Year 1682, he married John Brown in Kyle, at his own House in Priesthall, that singular Christian, upon Isabel Weir; after Marriage he said to the Bride, Isabel, you have got a good Man to be your Husband, but you will not enjoy him long; prize his Company, and keep Linen by you to be his Windingsheet, for you will need it when ye are not looking for it, and it will be a bloody one; this came sadly to pass, in the Begining of May 1685, as afterwards shall be made appear.’ (Walker, BP. I, 53.)

John Brown was summarily executed by a firing squad under the command of John Graham of Claverhouse on 1 May, 1685.

Walker also records a further marriage by Peden, probably in 1682:

‘16. About the same Time, he was marrying two Pair of Folk; he said to the one, Stand by, I will not marry you this Day; the Bridegroom was anxious to know his Reason, after Marriage inquired privately; he said, You will thank me for this afterwards, and think your self well quit of her, for she is with Child to another Wife’s Husband, which was Matter of Fact, as Time afterwards discovered.’ (Walker, BP, I, 52.)

Why are the marriages significant?
The marriages Peden conducted place him in the same location as where the United Societies were formed at the beginning of 1682. The Societies’ first convention was held at Logan House, which is close to Cumberhead, and their second convention was held at Brown’s home at Priesthill. Both Muirkirk parish and Lesmahagow parish were strongholds of the Society people. At that time, the Society people did not have a preacher in their ranks to conduct baptisms and marriages. Clearly, a backlog of baptisms and marriages had built up among militant presbyterians since Donald Cargill’s execution in July, 1681. The Societies would not obtain a minister until James Renwick returned home in late 1683.

That tells us that Peden was prepared to conduct his ministry among the Society people when they began, a position which broke ranks with the rest of the Presbyterian ministers in Scotland. At some point in about mid 1682, the Societies’s convention began to debate whether it was acceptable to either hear Peden, or receive marriage or baptism from his hands. At the same time, Peden returned to Ireland. In early 1683, Peden rejected a formal call to become the Societies minister and in April of that year James Renwick named Peden as a minister the Society people were to withdraw from. However, Peden retained the support of important contacts in the Societies, which would return to haunt Renwick in mid 1685.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to or retweet this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

Prophet Peden, the Martyr and the Suicide: Douglas Parish in 1682

•April 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

One of Patrick Walker’s stories about Alexander Peden places him in Douglas parish, Lanarkshire, in June 1682:

‘13. In the Month of June 1682, he was in the House of James Brown in Paddockholm above Douglas;’

Douglas Water above Parish HolmDouglas Water above Parish Holm © Chris Wimbush and licensed for reuse.

‘Paddockholm’ is probably a typographic error for ‘Parrochholm’, i.e., Parish Holm in Douglas parish, Lanarkshire. Parish Holm lies ‘above Douglas’ near Glenbuck, the head of the Douglas Water, Cairntable Hill and the shire march with Ayrshire.

Map of Parish Holm             Street View of Parish Holm

Aerial View of Parish Holm

‘John Wilson in Lanark was with him, who suffer’d Martyrdom, in the Grass-market of Edinburgh, the next Year, May 1683.’

John Wilson was captured by Lieutenant Crichton on an island in the river Clyde below Lanark. He was executed with David McMillan in Edinburgh on 16 May, 1683. Wilson’s martyrs’ testimony was admired by Hanna Keir, but was rejected by James Renwick and Robert Hamilton. It is possible that Wilson’s connections to Peden were the cause of Renwick and Hamilton’s hostility, as they both urged to Society people to have no contact with Peden.

Peden’s Preaching at Parish Holm
‘He lectured at Night upon the 7th Chap, of Amos, and repeated these Words in the 9th Verse three Times, And I will rise against the House of Jeroboam with the Sword.

The seventh chapter of Amos is as follows in the King James Bible:

‘Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings.
And it came to pass, that when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.
The Lord repented for this: It shall not be, saith the Lord.
Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord God called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.
Then said I, O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.
The Lord repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord God.
Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:
And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.
For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:
But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac.
Therefore thus saith the Lord; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.’

Peden would return to the seventh chapter of the herdman prophet in 1685, when he once again declared that the Stewart kings would be swept away.

Peden, the Martyr, and the Suicide
‘He laid his Hands on the said John [Wilson], and said, John, Have at the unhappy Race of the Name of Stewarts; Off the Throne of Britain they shall go, if all the World would set Side and Shoulder to hold them on.

Afterwards, in that Exercise, he broke out in a Rapture about our Martyrs, saying, They were going off the Stage with fresh Gales and full Sails, and now they are all Glancing in Glory; O if you saw them! they would fley you out of your Wits. He again laid his Hand upon the said John [Wilson], and said, Encourage your self in the Lord, and follow fast, John; for you’ll win up yonder shortly, and get on all your Bra’s.

That Night he went to the Fields; To morrow, about six a Clock, John [Wilson] went to seek him, and found him coming to the House: He said, John, let us go from this House, for the Devil is about it, and will take his Prey with him. John said, We will take Breakfast ere we go, ‘tis a Question when we get the Offer again. He said, No, no, I will eat no more Bread in this Place; our LandLord [, James Brown in Parish Holm,] is an unhappy Man, the Devil will get him shortly, for he will hang himself:

Which very shortly came to pass. His Daughter Jean Brown was the first that got him, in her Arms, hanging in the Statue: She was reckoned hy all to be a grave Christian Lass, but from that Day had never her Health, and died of a Decay at last, after she had been some Time in Prison for her Principles. This Passage the said John Wilson reported several Times to many, and some yet alive can bear Witness to the Truth of it.’ (Walker, BP, I, 49-50.)

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to or retweet this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

After the Defeat at Airds Moss: Prophet Peden at Mauchline Fair 1680

•April 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment


The following story from Patrick Walker’s Life of Peden is probably the only hint we have that Alexander Peden had returned to Scotland from Ireland by the latter half of 1680:

‘14. In the Year 1680, after the Murdering of Mr. [Richard] Cameron, and these Worthies with him at Airdsmoss, he was near Machline in the Shire of Air.’

Map of Mauchline

‘One Robert Brown of Crosshouse, who lived near the Newmills, and one Hugh Pinaneve Factor to the Earl of Lowdon, stabled their Horse in that House where he was, and went to a Fair in Machline:’

In 1606. Lord Loudoun was granted free barony status for the ‘town of Mauchline’ with the right to hold ‘weekly market day upon Saturday and two free fairs yearly’. (RPS, 1605/6/99.)

The exact dates of the Mauchline fairs in 1680 are not clear, as in 1698, an act of Parliament empowered the Earl of Loudoun to hold ‘a fair to be yearly in all time coming at the said town upon the last Wednesday and Thursday of January, for buying and selling all kinds of vendible commodities’ in Mauchline. (RPS, 1698/7/148.)

If Walker’s story is correct, then at least one of the fairs took place at some point after the date of the skirmish at Airds Moss on 22 July. The present day Holy Fair at Mauchline in May is of modern origin.

Robert Brown of Crosshouse, who may have been a barber surgeon, and Hugh Pinaneve, Loudoun’s factor, both lived on the Earl’s estate near Newmilns. Both were probably at Mauchline Fair due to its connection with the Loudoun estate.

Map of Loudoun

‘Robert Brown, in Crosshouse’ appears on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684 under Loudoun parish. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 209.)

Crosshouse is not named on the modern OS map, but is marked just to the north of the policies of Loudoun.

Map of Crosshouse               Aerial View of Crosshouse

‘And in the Afternoon, when they came to take their Horse, they got a Drink; and in the Time of it, the said Hugh, a wicked Wretch both in Principle and Practice, brake out in Railing against Sufferers, particularly against Mr. Cameron [who had been killed on 22 July].’

Richard Cameron and his followers had renounced the King’s authority and held seditious preachings in the summer of 1680. To moderate presbyterians their actions and their Sanquhar Declaration were both shocking and divisive. It is alleged that some moderate presbyterians provided government forces with intelligence on Cameron’s whereabouts. The story portrays Hugh as a drunken loud mouth, but in reality drinking was part of the culture of fairs and his hostility towards Cameron was not unusual in moderate presbyterian circles.

‘Mr. Peden being in another Room, over-hearing all, was so grieved, that he came to the Chamber-door, and said to the said Hugh, Sir, hold your Peace; ere Twelve a Clock you shall know what for a Man Mr. Cameron was; God shall punish that blasphemous Mouth and cursed Tongue of yours, in such Manner as shall be astonishing and affrighting to all that shall see you; and shall set you up as a Beacon to all railing Rabshakehs.

Robert Brown, knowing Mr. Peden, hasted to his Horse, being perswaded that Mr. Peden’s Words would not fall to the Ground, and fearing that some Mischief might befal him for being in the said Hugh’s Company. They rode hard home; Robert went to his own House, and Hugh to the Earl’s House; and casting off his Boots, he was struck with such Sickness and Pain through his Body, with his Mouth so wide, and his Tongue hanging so far out in a fearful Manner, they sent for the said Robert [Brown], being used to take Blood: He got some Blood of him, but all in vain; he died before Midnight. The said Robert, an old Man, told me this Passage, when in Prison together [in Edinburgh in late 1684 to mid 1685].’ (Walker, BP, I, 50-1.)

Canongate TolboothCanongate Tolbooth

Brown was probably the same man as the prisoner named Robert Brown whom General Thomas Dalyell was ordered to bring probations against with George Jackson and Thomas Wood. The order of the privy council to Dallyell is not dated, but the latter two prisoners were executed on 9 December, 1684 and Wood was taken in early August, 1684, after the attack at Enterkin. After examination, Brown was ordered released from the Canongate Tolbooth by the council, again at an unspecified date either in late 1684, or early 1685. (RPCS, IX, 178, 184.)

Patrick Walker was held in the Canongate Tolbooth at the same time as George Jackson and records a story of Jackson attacking John Gibb, the former leader of the Sweet Singers, in prison. (Walker, BP, II, 22.)

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to or retweet this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

Alexander Peden in Galloway in 1681

•April 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

HangingsThe following story found in Patrick Walker’s Life of Peden is one of the few hints we have that Alexander Peden may have been in Scotland in early 1681.

‘12. After the publick Murdering of these two worthy Women-Martyrs, Isabel Alison and Marion Harvie [of Bo’ness], in the Grass-market of Edinburgh, [26] January 1681, he was in Galloway: A Professor [i.e., a Christian] of some Note, who had more carnal Wit and Policy, than suffer him to be honest and faithful. after reasoning upon the Grounds of their Sufferings, affirmed, That they would never be reckoned a mong the Number of the Martyrs. Mr. Peden said, after musing a little, Let alone, you’ll never be honoured with such a Death; and, for what you have said against these two honest, worthy Lasses, your Death shall be both sudden and surprizing: Which was verified shortly thereafter; That Man, standing before a Fire smoking his Pipe, dropt down dead, and that without speaking more.’ (Walker, BP, I, 48-9.)

Isobel Alison and Marion Harvie were both followers of Donald Cargill. At some point in the first half of that year, Peden may have encountered Cargill.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to or retweet this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

Beware Prophet Peden on the Bass Rock

•April 15, 2014 • 1 Comment

Bass RockThe Fortress Prison on the Bass Rock

Patrick Walker tells two stories about Alexander Peden’s imprisonment on the Bass Rock between 1674 and his banishment in 1678. The conjunction of the two stories appears to have been designed to make a point:

‘6. While Prisoner in the Bass, one Sabbath Morning, being about the publ’ck Worship of God, a young Lass, about the Age of Thirteen or Fourteen Years, came to the Chamber-door, mocking with loud Laughter: He said, Poor Thing, thou mocks and laughs at the Worship of God; but ere long, God shall write such a sudden, surprising Judgment on thee, that shall stay thy Laughing, and thou shalt not escape it. Very shortly thereafter, she was walking upon the Rock, and there came a Blast of Wind, and sweeped her off the Rock into the Sea where she was lost.

While Prisoner there, one Day walking upon the Rock, some Soldiers passing by him, one of them cried, The Devil take Him; He said, Fy, fy, poor Man, thou knowest not what thou’rt saying, but thou wilt repent that: At which Words the Soldier stood astonished, and went to the Guard distracted, crying aloud for Mr. Peden, saying, The Devil would immediately take him away. He came and spoke to him, and prayed for him; The next Morning he came to him again, and found him in his Right Mind, under Deep Convictions of great Guilt. The Guard being to change, they desired him to go to his Arms; he refused, and said, He would lift no Arms against Jesus Christ his Cause, and persecute his People, I’ve done that too long: The Governor threatned him with Death to Morrow at Ten a Clock; he confidently said Three Times, Tho’ he should tear all his Body in Pieces, he should never lift Arms that Way. About three Days after the Governor put him out of the Garrison, setting him ashore: he having Wife and Children, took a House in East-Lothian, where he became a singular Christian. Mr. Peden told these astonishing Passages to the foresaid James Cubison, and others, who informed me.’ (Walker, BP, I, 43-4.)

James Cubison was the source for a number of Walker’s stories about Alexander Peden. He lived at Ballochbeatties in Carrick and close to Peden’s Hut.

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Crichope Linn and the Covenanter’s Cave: Building Tradition

•April 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Crichope LinnCrichope Linn © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Today, it is hard to spot Crichope Linn. Even from the road, there is little sign that this sublime site was visited by tourists such as Sir Walter Scott and Jane and Thomas Carlyle. However, hidden in the woods is a remarkable waterfall, chasm and a Covenanter’s cave. What path remains has to be negotiated with care.

Crichope Linn lies in Closeburn parish, Dumfriesshire.

Map of Crichope Linn

Balfour of Kinloch aka Balfour of Burley 2Balfour of Burley

The site first appears in connection with the Covenanters in Walter Scott’s novel, Old Mortality, of 1816. Scott used Crichope Linn as a setting for his fanatical Covenanter, Balfour of Burley, a character based on the assassin of Archbishop Sharp, John Balfour of Kinloch.

Scott’s novel led to the naming of ‘Burley’s Leap’, a narrow part of the chasm above the Crichope Burn.

Scott’s influence on the site was noted in the Transactions of the Highland Society in 1845.

Inscriptions at Crichope LinnCrichope Linn became a popular tourist spot © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Nivison of Closeburnmill
In 1846, Simpson published a tradition that James Nivison (d.1704) and his wife had hidden at Crichope Linn.

According to Simpson, Nivison had lived at Closeburnmill:

Map of Closeburnmill

‘The farm of Closeburn Mill was, in the times of persecution, tenanted by James Nivison, a man of a saintly character and of unbending integrity. His house was an occasional resort to the wanderers that frequented the district. The curate of Closeburn had no good-will to this worthy man, and he sought every opportunity to injure him. James refused to attend his church —a circumstance which gave unpardonable offence to that Prelatic underling— and he failed not to lodge information against him, as being a disaffected and disloyal person. He had one friend in the parish, however, in the person of Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick, whose lenity to the sufferers that crept into the woods and glens near him was displayed on various occasions. When the worthy knight learned the determination of the curate respecting James Nivison, and knowing the vindictive disposition of the man, he entreated James to yield so far as to consent to enter the church, though it were only to go in by the one door and out by the other. With this, however, he would by no means comply; alleging that it would be a compromise of his principles to yield even this apparently trifling matter. The knight could not but admire the firmness and honesty of purpose displayed by this virtuous man, in a case in which he deemed his conscience concerned. Anxious, however, to protect his tenant, he made another proposal, and assured him, if he would come only to the “kirk-stile,” it might still be in his power to save him; but Nivison continued firm in his determination, and even went so far as to declare, that if the turning of a straw, in obedience to the unprincipled rulers of the time, would save him from trouble, he would not comply. He was resolved to follow what he conceived to be the plain line of his duty, and to preserve a good conscience, whatever might betide. This decision of mind, which some may probably be inclined to call obstinacy, did not lessen him in the estimation of the laird of Closebirrn, who determined, since he could make no more of it, to communicate to his honest tenant whatever he knew of the designs of the enemy respecting him, and by this means to afford him opportune warning of the danger that threatened him.

Sir Thomas had a domestic servant, whose leanings towards the Covenanters were no secret to his master, and him he instructed to understand the import of certain signs, by which, when he could not hold conversation with him, he wished to communicate the designs formed against the Covenanters who at the time might happen to be lurking in the neighbourhood, and especially against his friend James Nivison. When, therefore, any proposal was made to Sir Thomas to lend assistance to the persecutors in searching the woods and linns on his estate for persons under hiding, information of the circumstance was instantly communicated, by means of the servant, to Nivison, and others concerned. In this way much mischief was prevented, and the purposes of the enemy in many, instances defeated. When these occasional warnings were given to Nivision, he had one place of resort to which he generally fled, and this was the darkly wooded sides of Crichope Linn.

Crichope Linn is, perhaps, one of the most striking scenes of the kind in the south of Scotland, and the caverns in its precipitous banks are well calculated to afford a concealment, which few who know the danger of the attempt will care to invade.’

Simpson then relates the inevitable stories of Nivison’s cunning and narrow escapes from government forces at Closeburnmill:

‘One day, however, the dragoons came upon James without warning, and on his first view of their approach he saw that they were too near the house to admit of his making an escape to the woods. In his perplexity he ran into the mill, crying he was now in the power of his enemies, as the soldiers were just at hand.
“Not so fast,” replied the miller; “doff your coat, and here is mine in exchange.”
The miller having hastily arrayed his master in his dusty coat, next took a mealy sack, and powdered him all over from head to foot, and left him busily engaged in his own occupation. The soldiers who saw him enter the mill soon followed in the pursuit. Having entered the lower apartment, they examined every corner with the closest scrutiny; they next ascended the upper story in quest of him who, they were certain, was somewhere within. This place they searched with equal care, and with equal want of success. It never occurred to them that the man who was working at the mill was the individual whom they were seeking, and therefore they paid no attention to him. When they found that all their efforts to find the fugitive were fruitless, and probably supposing that he had left the building by some way unknown to them, they were about to retire, when one of the party, looking in the miller’s face, exclaimed:
“Here he is! — the very man we have been seeking!”
On hearing this, James, who seemed to the soldiers to be entirely absorbed in his employment, turned round, and, with a dauntless countenance and apparent surprise at the affirmation, said, with a firm and deliberate tone:
“I think the devil seems to be in these men.”
Such an expression, they thought, could never proceed from the mouth of a douce Covenanter, and therefore they interfered no further, believing, at the same time, that his habiliments indicated the presence of an entirely different person from him of whom they were in quest. What James said was true; they were actuated by the spirit of evil in promoting the interests of Satan, to whose service they seemed to have sold themselves; and when these worthless men heard any one use the name of their master in conversation, they thought they recognised in him a fellow-servant. On the present occasion they left the mill without having accomplished their purpose.’ [...]

‘James Nivison, notwithstanding the hints which he occasionally received to provide for his safety, was often surprised by the visits of the soldiers who came in quest of him. One day, when he was least expecting it, a party of troopers approached his house; and he, having no other place to flee to, darted through a window in a back part of his cottage, and sought refuge in the garden. The little plot of herbs was at this time in its most luxuriant state, and the large stocks of green kail — a vegetable indispensable in the gardens of the Scottish peasantry — meeting at the tops in lengthened rows, formed a long vaulted cavity so large as to admit, underneath the broad and verdant blades, the body of a fullgrown man without being perceived. It was into one of these deep furrows, and beneath the green arch, that James Nivison crept, that in this earthly bed he might lie secure from the prying eyes of the soldiers. The dragoons arrived, and proceeded to the search as formerly; and, as formerly, were unsuccessful. Having questioned his family respecting his place of concealment without expiscating anything satisfactory, they departed, expressing their determination to repeat their visits till they found him. Had the dragoons entered the garden with the slightest suspicion of his being concealed within its precincts, there is little doubt that he would have been discovered.’ [...]

Crichope Linn 2Crichope Linn © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Nivison Heads For Crichope Linn

‘James Nivison now saw that there was to be no peace nor safety for him in his own house; and that, therefore, it would be necessary for him to resort to some place of more permanent security among the woods and lonely caves of the hills, and to associate with other wanderers who frequented the deserts and dreary glens far from the abodes of men. His life hung in doubt every day before his eyes; and therefore he deemed it better to retire to the solitudes than to be teased with incessant anxiety and uncertainty. He communicated his intention to his wife, and showed her the necessity now imposed on him of leaving her and the sweet babe behind him for a season, under the more especial protection of Providence, seeing his presence was the occasion of so much disquietude to the household.
“And, my dear wife,” says he, “comfort yourself, since it is stern necessity that forces us to a temporary separation. God will be with us both — with me in the wilderness, and with you in. this house, in which, though solitary, you shall not be alone. In removing for a season, I will thereby provide both for your safety and my own.”
But the wife of James Nivison was, in a moral sense, a heroine, and she was not to be deterred from following the fortunes of her husband, from the consideration that she must lodge in the cold damp cavern, or in the dark forest, exposed to unwanted hunger and fatigue. The thought that she was to be with her husband compensated for all, and she was resolved to follow him, and to suffer with him in the same common cause. No remonstrance, on the part of her husband, could induce her to remain behind him.
“I will accompany you,” said she, firmly, “I will accompany you; and if the archers should hit you, I will be present to staunch your wounds, and to bind up your bleeding head; in whatever danger you may be, I will be at your side, your affectionate wife in life or in death.”
How valuable are virtuous love and genuine Christian attachment! Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. Thus James Nivison and his wife, too happy in each others affection to complain of hardship, and happier still in the love of their Saviour, left their home to wander they knew not whither, but safe under the guidance of Him who never leaves nor forsakes his own people, and more especially when they are suffering for his sake.
Their first place of retreat was the woods and caves of Crichope Linn. The mother carried the babe, the companion of their sufferings and their wanderings. The tender infant, exposed to hardship in common with its parents for Christ’s sake, could ill endure the cold and other inconveniences to which the household was now subjected. To protect the child, however, from the keen and inclement air, James employed part of his time in preparing a portable cradle, of pliant twigs cut from the willow bushes that grew in the linns and by the sides of the mountain stream. In this little basket was the infant, wrapped in a warm blanket, deposited and rocked asleep, while the soft lullaby, chanted by the affectionate mother, filled with a sweet plaintive music the dark recesses of the cave, the sound of which, wafted stealthily on the fitful breeze, was carried adown the gloomy ravine, and died away among the distant woods. When they removed from cave to cave, the wicker bed was carried with them, and was found to be of great use for the accommodation of the babe, over whom the hearts of the parents yearned with the fondest solicitude.
This pious and devoted pair, with their offspring, were shielded, during the years of persecution that remained, from the malice of their foes. They left their all on earth for Christ’s sake, and, by the kindness of the people in the moorlands, they were never suffered to want, God providing for them in the day when they could not provide for themselves. What were the varied incidents which during their wanderings befell them, tradition does not say; but they outlived the reign of oppression, and at last, with glad hearts, returned to their home, from which they had formerly departed in sadness. This worthy man met with his death in the following manner: While he was working among some horses before his own door, one of them struck him violently on the breast, and killed him on the spot. Thus was he, who had weathered many a storm, and escaped the perils of a protracted persecution, killed by accident before his own house, in circumstances in which no danger was apprehended. When the worthy knight of Closeburn was informed of his death, he exclaimed:
“Now has God, who sustained this good man in all his tribulations, taken him to heaven by a stun and gentle surprise.”
“Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.”
James Nivison died in 1704, and was buried in the ancient churchyard of Dalgarnock, in the parish of Closeburn.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 271-8.)

There is no record of a James Nivison being a fugitive in the mid 1680s. However, there was a fugitive in the area called John Nivison in late 1684.

Simpson’s story of Nivison was republished in volume two of the Christian Treasury in 1847 and in a ‘Our Children’s Corner’ section of the second volume of the Christian Miscellany and Family Visiter of 1847.

Crichhope Burn

Two years after Simpson published his tradition of James Nivison, the Covenanter’s Cave is first recorded.

According to the OS Name Book for Dumfriesshire of 1848 to 1858: ‘A Deep Crevice in the rock overhanging Crichope Linn, where as tradition asserts the Covenanters concealed themselves during the times of persecution.’

The site of the remains of the cave is misplaced in a field near the Linn on the Canmore website, as the first OS map does not align with the google map. It is not clear if anything of the Covenanter’s Cave remains.

Crichope Linn 3Crichope Linn © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

In 1856, Simpson published a further tradition of a raid by Claverhouse which mentions that Thomas Harkness in Mitchellslacks hid at Crichope Linn.

Finally, in 1904, S. R. Crockett recorded a very fanciful story that the arch villain of the Covenanters, Robert Grierson of Lag, cast a boy into the linn. (Crockett, Raiderland, 6.)

Did the tradition of the Covenanters at Crichope Linn begin with Walter Scott or in the Killing Times? You decide.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to or retweet this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

Claverhouse’s Raid on Mitchellslacks

•April 12, 2014 • 1 Comment

Simpson published the following traditional story in 1856, a few years after his Traditions of the Covenanters had been published. The story allegedly relates to a raid by John Graham of Claverhouse on Mitchellslacks in August, 1685.

Claverhouse Old MortalityClaverhouse in Scott’s Old Mortality

‘Sufferings Of The Family Of Harkness, Of Mitchelslacks.

Notwithstanding all that has been done to resuscitate the memories, and record the sufferings of the Covenanters, there are still thousands of those who suffered and fell in the noble struggles of the seventeenth century whose names have been forgotten in the lapse of time, and over whose final resting-place no monument has been raised, not even the “rude cairn,” to tell that a saint and a patriot was buried there. With mingled feelings of emotion and delight, we have visited those scenes in the western shires, which still bear the marks of the bloody contests between truth and error, liberty and despotism; and participating in the sympathies of “Old Mortality,” we have sought to renew those time-worn memorials which the hands of some pious peasant may have raised to perpetuate the honourable fall of a departed sire. Nor have our sympathies been less awakened by the touching narrative of some hapless wanderer, but still to memory dear, who had perished amid the snows of winter, while hiding from the persecutor, or by the hand of some bloody dragoon.

It is with kindred feelings that we now devote a page in honour of one of those persecuted families who suffered in that dark period of Scottish history; and although at the risk of sharing with them the reproach of bigotry and fanaticism, we will never cease to venerate the memories and defend the principles of those who, under the blessing of God, were the means of preserving to our country those precious privileges, civil and religious, which we now enjoy.

The family of Harkness has been upwards of four hundred years tenants on the farm of Queensberry, and have occupied the residence known by the name of Mitchelslacks, on the banks of Caple, in the shire of Dumfries.’

Map of Mitchellslacks          Street View of Mitchellslacks

‘The district is wild and mountainous, but rich in that species of grandeur which pleases most the student of nature, and furnishes abundant scope for the pencil of the artist. There the “Queensberry” raises its sombre majestic form, and constitutes a bold feature in nmny of the fine scenic views of the county; and while situated amid a congeries of noble heights, sovereign-like, it tops them all; hence its name, the “Queen hill of the district.” It was in such localities as these where the genuine sons of Scotland have been reared. Like the flowers on their native mountains, they grew up, happily, unacquainted with many of those evils which contaminate more refined society, and early and deeply drank from the fountainhead of divine truth, those precious principles which murk the true Christian and patriot here, and fit him for the enjoyments of heaven hereafter. And it was in these remote districts where multitudes of God’s persecuted people sought refuge from their enemies, and where they often heard with unutterable joy, the word of God

By Cameron thundered,
Or by Rcuwick poured in gentle stream.”

It was on an afternoon in the month of August, that a troop of horsemen were seen crossing the Glassrig, a flat and heathy moor, and learing down with great speed on the house of Mitchelslacks. Mrs Harkness had been recently delivered of a child, and still occupied her bed, in what was called the “inner ch’amer.” Her husband, the object of pursuit, had been duly warned of the coming danger by one of those wonderful incidents of Providence, so apt to be attributed to chance or superstition, rather than to the orderings of Him who has all creation, animate and inanimate, at his call. Tradition has it, that a bird of singular plumage appeared at the window whenever danger threatened the family of Harkness by the approach of the merciless soldiery, and in this way his life was frequently preserved, and his enemies foiled in their wicked design. In this instance, he was duly warned by the little unconscious messenger, and he betook himself to his usual hiding-place in the neighbouring mountain. From a cleft in the brow of a rocky precipice, totally inaccessible save to a practised foot, he could see his own dwelling, and mark the movements of his bitter foes. The troopers, as usual, having surrounded the house, placing a guard at each door and window, besides a sentinel on an adjoining eminence to give alarm in case of escape, they proceeded to search the house, which they did with brutal rudeness and incivility. Even the children did not escape the barbarous treatment they bestowed on the inmates. After searching every corner and crevice of the house in vain, these monsters in human form had the cruelty to interfere with the bed in which the sick mother and new born child were laid. Privacy or infancy was nothing to them; and thrusting his sword in to the hilt, hetween mother and infant, [John Graham of] Claverhouse exclaimed, “The old fox is here ;” and such was the violence with which he struck, that his sword was transfixed in the floor below.
“Toss out the whelp,” cried out “Red Rob,” one of the leaders, always forward on such occasions, and suiting the action to the word, he dragged the unconscious babe down on the floor.
“The Lord preserve my poor child,” was the instinctive exclamation of the agonized mother, and at the same moment sprung from her bed to shield it from the violence of the ruffians; but thanks to a kind providence, it had sustained no injury.
The mother then gave vent to her impassioned feelings, forgetting how much she and her family were at the mercy of these merciless dragoons: “Agents of Satan and enemies of God,” she exclaimed, “begone! he whom ye seek is not here, nor will the God whom he serves, and whom ye defy, ever suffer him, I fervently trust, to fall into your unhallowed hands.”
At this instant, a boy about twelve years of age was dragged into the room, and questioned as to the place of his father’s concealment; but neither coaxing nor threats could extract a word that would lead to the capture of his parent; to every interrogation he presented a determined silence.
“Have the bear’s cub to the croft,” said Claverhouse, “and shoot him on the spot.”
The boy was immediately carried off by the soldiers, leaving the mother, happily for herself, in a state of insensibility. There was then growing in the garden of Mitchelslacks a Rowan tree, and which is standing to this day. To this tree was the boy fastened with cords, his eyes bandaged, and there told, that if he did not reveal his father’s hiding-place, a ball would instantly pass through his brain.
The boy shivered, attempted to speak, sunk, and gathered strength alternately, but remained silent.
“Do you wish to smell gunpowder,” vociferated Red Rob, firing a pistol immediately under his nose?
The boy uttered a loud and unearthly scream, and his head sunk on his breast, although uninjured by the shot. At this moment, the aroused and horrified mother was seen on her bended knees, with clasped hands and staring eyes, in which distraction rioted, at the feet of the destroyers. But nature, which had given her strength for the effort, now deserted her, and she fell as dead at the feet of her apparently murdered son.
This touching scene seemed to produce a shade of remorse even in the breast of Claverhouse himself, and he had just given the order to march, when the husband and the father rushed into the circle, under the influence of mingled emotions of the utmost intensity. He had observed from his hiding-place the deeds of that fearful hour, and believing that he was purchasing his own safety at the cost of the lives of his whole family, he had therefore issued from his “cave,” hurled himself down the dangerous precipice, and was now in the midst of those whom he deemed the murderers of his wife and children.
“Ye bloody and heartless fiends, and agents of the wicked one,” exclaimed Harkness, “would not the life of one sacrifice to Moloch satiate your thirst, that you must also imbrue your hands in the blood of a helpless and infirm woman? And O! thou man of blood,” turning to Claverhonse, “think, think ye not that the blood of godly John Brown [in Priesthill], of my beloved wife and darling child, besides that of many more of the saints of God, will be fearfully required at your hands?”

Having uttered these words with awful energy, he was on the point of drawing his sword, which was concealed under his coat, determined to sell his life as dearly as possible, when his wife, being now restored to her consciousness, flew to restrain him, and crying, “O Thomas! beware; why are you here? We are all alive; but oh! you, into what hands yon have fallen, and to what an end you are now reserved!”
“Unloose the band,” vociferated Claverhonse, “make fast your prisoner, and in the devil’s name have done with this drivelling!”

There was at that time a small public-house at Closeburn Mill, in the immediate neighbourhood, to which Claverhouse and his party at once repaired with their prisoner, and to get refreshment.’

Map of Closeburn Mill                  Street View of Closeburn Mill

‘Harkness was secured in an adjoining barn, till the dragoons were ready for their march. Being thus loft alone, he began to devise means for his escape. A sentinel had been placed on the door, which prevented all egress by it, without incurring the almost certain risk of being captured. The construction of the barn was, however, providentially known to him, and, favoured by the gloom of the evening, which was now setting in, he commenced to perforate the gable wall, the upper part of which was built of turf, as was frequently the case at that period, and working with that desperation which a man will do when his life is at stake, in a short space of time he effected a sufficient breach to permit him to pass. A “peat-stack” had been built to the gable wall, which aided his descent; and in a few minutes Harkness was bounding over the rugged country towards Crichope Linn, with which, alas! he was too well acquainted.’

On the OS map the waterfall is called “Chrichope Linn”, but it is nearly always named Crichope Linn.

Map of Crichope Linn               Aerial View of Crichope Linn

Crichope LinnCrichope Linn © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

‘From some cause, his escape became almost immediately known to Claverhonse. The party was turned out to the chase; stones were rolled over the adjoining precipices; but all in vain. Under the covert of the shades of night, and favoured by the broken ground, he soon reached a place of safety.

The following day, Claverhouse was called off to Lanarkshire on similar business. In a short time, Thomas Harkness returned to his family and home, and although long kept in a state of deep anxiety for his personal safety by the emissaries of a persecuting government, he lived to see happier days for Scotland, and finished his earthly pilgrimage surrounded by a happy and affectionate family, and deeply beloved by a large circle of pious friends.

The godly man of whom we have given this brief account, had many honourable companions to share and sympathise with him in his tribulations. Among these were John Brown, the Christian carrier, [in Priesthill] whose tragic end by the hand of Claverhouse [on 1 May, 1685] is well known to all the readers of ecclesiastical history; Daniel M’Michel of Dalzien, on the water of Scarr, who was dragged from a cave in a fever, and shot by Captain [John] Dalzell in Dalveen Pass, near Durrisdeer; James Harkness of Locherben [actually Thomas Harkness in Locherben], Andrew Clerk of Leadhills, and Samuel M’Ewing of Glencairn, who were apprehended by Claverhouse and his soldiers when scouring thc district of Nithsdalc [in 1684]. Worn out by exposure and fatigue, these threc worthy men had laid themselves down to sleep on the lands of Sorgfoot, in the parish of Closeburn, and in this helpless state did these “beasts of prey” fall upon them. They were immediately carried off to Edinburgh, tried and condemned to death, and on the same day [15 August, 1684] scaled with their blood the noble testimony they had given for the public cause of Christ.

We count it an honour to record the names and the sufferings of these worthy men, as we account it our high privilege to be witnesses with them in the same cause. There are many, however, of whom no memorial has been preserved to call up our sympathy and gratitude; but the loss is ours, not theirs. The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance, and in the great day they will be found among those “who came out of great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”’ (Original Secession Magazine 1854-1856, II, 156-60.)

Simpson’s story was based on Wodrow, who told the same story without identifying who was involved. Wodrow’s version dates the story to earlier in the year. The letters of Claverhouse prove he was in the general area between May and 3 July, 1685.

According to Wodrow, the boy confessed what information he knew to Claverhouse:

‘In the parish of Closeburn, [John Graham of] Claverhouse with a party came to a country man’s house, upon some information given him against the man. It was little wonder people fled at this time, when by any means they could. Thus the whole family, getting some notice that the soldiers were near by, fled, leaving a child of eight or nine years of age in the house. Claverhouse finding he was the man’s son, and that by fair means he would answer no questions, shot one of his pistols at some distance from him. The child stood firm, and would answer no questions. Then he shot another pistol very near his head, which terribly frighted him; and at length he told them all he knew anent his father, the family, and neighbours. According to the informations thus gotten, he sent his parties up and down the country in quest of such as escaped him. Thus he continued until [the Earl of] Argyle’s defeat [in mid June, 1685], exercising all manner of severities, driving thousands of kine and sheep from Eskdale, and the adjacent country. After the earl was taken, he went into Edinburgh to the council, and boasted of the mighty feats he had done in the south.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 256.)

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to or retweet this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine