The History of John Brown of Priesthill

•April 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The story of the killing of John Brown in Priesthill was a staple of traditions of the Covenanters. In 1839, James Brydone, who published a series of chapbooks, printed The History of John Brown of Priesthill, commonly called the Christian Carrier, who was Murdered by the Bloody Claverhouse (Edinburgh, 1839).

As history, the chapbook on Brown leaves a lot to be desired. It is biassed, idealised and lacking in accuracy, but it does contain a number of traditions about John Brown, the Steel family and James Renwick, which are not recorded elsewhere.

The author of the chapbook is not identified, however, the text does contain several references to traditions and locations both in, and around, Lesmahagow parish. Some of the information it contains about local martyrs appears to have come from Charles Thomson’s unpublished ‘Notices etc’ of 1832.

John Brown


John Brown of Priesthill was only a boy when upwards of three hundred ministers were deposed, in one day [after the Restoration], by Charles II.; because they, in conscience, could not submit that the Church should be lorded over by bishops. Often did he describe the distress that prevailed in the country on that occasion; and the anguish and weeping throughout the churches, on the Sabbath their ministers preached their farewell sermons. It was heart-rending to part with such men, so remarkable for grace, eminent for gifts, many of them learned, and all of them singularly dear to their people. “None of them were scandalous, insufficient, or negligent, and the fruits of their ministry were everywhere conspicuous. You might have travelled many miles without hearing an oath. You scarce could lodge in a house where God was not worshipped. But that a dreadful reverse was felt when Prelacy was introduced by arbitrary means. It was like King Saul’s change — a bad spirit after a good.”

“It is something remarkable, that every time that Prelacy was established in Scotland, it was accompanied with persecution of the Church, taking away the rights of the people, and degeneracy in the moral character of the nation. The discipline of the Presbyterians was too strict for the king and his councillors. The bishops were ambitious, and attained power and riches, by flattering the great, and passing over their sins. They justified the wicked for reward; and their curates were the dregs of society, ignorant and wicked. Many of the bishops had sworn, along with the king and his nobles, to support the Church they had overturned. It was no wonder though they were regarded as coming in with perjury written on their foreheads; where holiness to the Lord had formerly been.” The consequence was, that the churches were deserted; and the ministers, still bound by God’s laws to their people, taught them from house to house. This the bishops could not bear, and fell to their former practice of making laws against them. The laws against non-conformity, says Defoe, were so extraordinary, and savoured so much of a spirit of persecution, were in themselves so unjust, and in some things so unnatural, that none can wonder though they sometimes drove the poor people to desperation. “They suffered extremities that cannot be described, and which the heart can hardly conceive of, from hunger, nakedness, and the severity of the weather; where it is known how unsufferable the cold is, lying in damp caves, without covering, fire, or food. None durst harbour, speak to them, or relieve them, but upon the pain of death.”

The whirlwind of persecution carried the seeds of salvation where the influence of the Reformation had not reached. The Scottish border, proverbial for freebooters or robbers, felt the divine effects of the banished ministers. They were there harboured without fear or dread of laws, and kindly entertained. The inhabitants of the heath-covered moors, and the distant isles of the sea, were made glad, and blossomed as the rose. Thus, the scattering of the ministers made new inroads upon Satan’s kingdom. The gospel flourished, though driven from temples made with hands. Many date their conversion from the glad tidings they heard in these wilds, saying with the Psalmist, Lo! we heard of thee at Ephratah, we found thee in the field of the wood.

John Brown of PriesthillAn imagined image of John Brown of Priesthill

It was from these banished ministers that John Brown received his superior education. He was intended for the Church, had not an uncommon difficulty of expressing his sentiments to strangers prevented him from prosecuting his studies. But what was strange, in prayer he was gifted in an extraordinary measure. In such scriptural language did he pour forth his soul, and at the same time with such variety, fluency, and affection, that he appeared like one superhuman. Many have a gift of prayer, whose lives bespeak them far from the kingdom of heaven. Such was not Priesthill. His actions with men were just and judicious; so much so, that he was intrusted, when a very young man, with the produce of the neighbouring shepherds, to carry to market and dispose of, and bring back what they required in return. In this capacity he got the name of the Christian Carrier; and was often the first that brought them tidings of the mischief that was framed by law against the Presbyterians.

He wan merely a youth at the rising of Pentland [in 1666]; and not having been either at the battle of Drumclog or Bothwell [in 1679], he could evade with ease the ensnaring questions that every traveller was required to answer; by which means he passed to and fro unmolested.

John Brown’s good education was not lost; besides being a source of enjoyment to himself, it was a benefit to the youth for miles around him, who were then much neglected. No faithful minister was left to instruct them. The fathers who used to tell the children what great things the Lord had done for Scotland, were either banished or had suffered death. To counteract the bad example of the wicked, who now walked on every side, since vile men were high in place, every Monday night he met with these young persons, and instructed them from the Bible and the Confession of Faith. In summer they assembled in a sheep-bught, and in winter they formed a circle wide around a large fire of peats and cannel-coal, that blazed in the middle of the spence-floor. The effects of the substantial information these rustics got, is felt to this day in that neighbourhood. John Brown was not alone in this good work; David [Steel in Cumberhead] and William Steel [son of John in Rogerhill] were helpmates.

It was about the year 1680, that Priesthill got acquainted with Isabell Weir, in the parish of Sorn. She was a very superior woman, though her disposition was the very reverse of his: she was lively and humorous, and could cheer up his grave countenance till he was as animated as herself; at other times she would sit and listen to the good sense of his conversation with the simplicity of a child. She saw him often, for he had frequently business to transact with her father, when he passed to and from Ayr. They often talked of Zion’s trouble; and what was remarkable, when he sought her in marriage, he told her he felt a foreboding in his mind that he would one day be called to seal the Church’s testimony with his blood. If it should be so, she nobly answered, through affliction and death I will be your comfort. The Lord has promised me grace, and he will give you glory.

After this, the indulged ministers had gone so far in the course of defection, that the more conscientious sufferers had none they could hear after the death of Cameron and Cargil. They resolved to form themselves into societies, to meet quarterly, of members delegated from their weekly prayer-meetings. The second of these quarterly meetings took place at Priesthill, February 1682, [actually March, 1682] where they made a contribution to send a young man to Holland, to be licensed as preacher to them. The fruits of this brought forward Mr [James] Renwick, of glorious memory. And these meetings, for no other end than to enjoy the liberty of serving God, free from the impositions of men, were counted seditious, and the members punished with death. What a dreadful state was Scotland in then, when God’s people were counted her enemies!

Marriage of the Covenanter

About two months after this [in June], Priesthill was married by Mr [Alexander] Peden, who happened to be in Kyle baptizing children. The marriage took place in a glen near the house. When Isabell [Weir] and her company arrived at the spot, they were surprised at the assembly gathered. Mr Peden welcomed her, and said, these are to be witnesses of your vows; they are all friends, and have come at the risk of their lives to hear God’s Word, and to countenance his ordinance of marriage. After all was over, Mr Peden took Isabell aside, and said, “You have got a good husband, value him highly, keep linen for a winding-sheet beside you, for in a day when you least expect it, thy master will be taken from thy head. In him the image of our Lord and Saviour is too visible to pass unnoticed by those who drive the chariot wheels of persecution through the breadth and length of bleeding Scotland. But fear not, thou shalt be comforted.”

There is something in the human heart that puts the evil day far away. She could not think it possible that one so blameless as her husband could be considered an enemy to any. However, the kind warning had this good effect on them both, that none of the trifles that make such havoc upon domestic peace were regarded by them.

John Brown had, by a former wife, a little girl about five years of age [called Jennie/Janet Brown], who, on the morning after his marriage, lifted the latch of the spence-door, and finding Isabell alone, said, while she covered her face shyly with her arm, “They say ye are my mother.” “What if I should be your mother?” replied Isabell. “Naething; but if I thought ye were my mother, I would like to come in aside you a wee,” said Jennie, with artless simplicity. “I hope I will be your mother, my bairn, and that God will give me grace to be so, and that you will be a comfort to me and your father.” And she proved so. When but a child, she was a help and pleasure to them. She would watch her father’s return, and as soon as she saw his pack-horse (there being no carts in those days) at a distance, coming along the bent, she would announce the joyful tidings. Then the gudewife hasted, and made ready his milk porridge, had them dished, covered with a clean cloth, and warm water to wash his weary feet, a blazing fire, a clean hearth; and she and Janet [Brown] would go out and welcome him home, and help him off with his horse’s load.

The domestic peace and comfort of Priesthill are talked of to this day; and many anecdotes are told, and one among the rest, that illustrates the precept of hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. The second year after his marriage, one night in the beginning of winter [i.e, the Great Frost of 1683 to 1684], John Brown had gone to a neighbour’s house: the family at home were preparing the wool of their flocks for hodden grey cloth, to sell at Lowrie’s fair in Hamilton. The shepherd carded the black and white wool together, for the women to spin; Janet and the herd-boy were teasing for the carder; the gudewife sat nursing her first-born son at one side of the fire; when the dog, which lay at full length at the other, started up, and ran to the door, barking at the approach of a stranger. Isabell thought it would be her husband returned, and was about to rise to meet him. Janet and the herd were almost as soon at the door as the dog, and calling to him, “Whisht, Collie, whisht, ye mu’na speak to the unco man.” The herd caught the dog in his arms, and returned with him into the house, while Janet followed, leading a stranger, first looking to her mother for encouragement, and then to her guest. She led him to her father’s chair with a courtesy that seemed to give rise to strong emotions in his heart.

The stranger was young in years, of a little stature, and fine fair countenance, but he was pale with fatigue and sickness. His shoes were worn out; a shepherd’s plaid hung round him, seemingly for disguise, for by his dress and speech he seemed of a superior rank. While the servants gazed on him, the gudewife did not know whether she should welcome him as a sufferer, or consider him as a spy; so she left Janet to perform the kind offices which the stranger required, while she lulled her boy to sleep, by singing a verse of an old song.

While the gudewife sang, the stranger’s face brightened up, and he more cheerfully accepted the child’s endearing attentions, who placed him in the warmest corner, helped him off with his dreeping plaid, imitating all the kind offices she had seen her mother perform to her father, to the no small amusement of the rest of the family. On the stranger it had a different effect. He burst into tears, and cried, “May the blessing of him that is ready to perish rest upon you, my dear bairn. Surely God has heard my cry, and provided me a place to rest my head for a night. O that I had in the wilderness a lodging-place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people and go from them; for they be an assembly of treacherous men.”

Just as he had finished, John Brown entered. He gazed at him, and with great deference bade him welcome to his house. “Do you know me,” said the stranger. “I think I do,” said John Brown. “It was in this house that the societies met that contributed to send you to Holland, and now I fear they have not received you (at least some of them) as they ought.” “Their reproach has not broken my heart,” said Mr Renwick, (for it was he, though he was not named before the family.) “but the excessive travelling, night wanderings, unseasonable sleep, frequent preaching in all weathers, especially in the night, has so debilitated me, that I am unfit often for my work. The reproach of those who called me to the ministry, I look upon as the device of the enemy to stop the Lord’s work; but blessed be his grace that has kept me from mixing anger or scorn of them with my sorrow. Some have declared that I will never be honoured of the Lord to do his poor remnant good. But one thing I know, and may say, that the Lord has done me good. Oh! let none fear a suffering lot. Enemies think themselves satisfied that we are put to wander in mosses, and upon mountains; but even amidst the storms of these last two nights, I cannot express what sweet times I have had, when I had no covering but the dark curtains of night. Yet, in the silent watch, my mind was led out to admire the deep and inexpressible ocean of joy, wherein the whole family of heaven swim. Each star led me to wonder what He must be who is the Star of Jacob, of whom all stars borrow their shining. Indeed, if I may term it, I am much obliged to enemies; they have covered me many a table in the wilderness, and have made me friends where I never expected them.”

When he ceased speaking, every one of the family strove to do him some kindness. The shepherd brought him clean hose and shoes; the herd his new nightcap; the lasses left their wheels and washed his feet; the gudewife prepared him a warm supper; while little Janet, worn out, was fast asleep at his side.

He remained another night with them, and was greatly bettered in his health. It was a time of refreshing to the family from on high.

In those days, hospitality was with many in reality what it ought to be — purely exercised for God’s glory, and without display of grandeur. The motives were like silver tried; it was at the risk of all, even life. Hence, the joy of such pure intercourse was sweet beyond description. As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the face of man his friend. Renwick and Priesthill talked of the sufferings of the Church, her testimony, her covenanted cause, and her ultimate triumph. Yes, they had more comfort in the faith that Christ would one day be head over all things, King of kings, and Lord of lords, than the wicked have, when corn and wine do most abound.

Soon after Mr Renwick left Priesthill, his followers and he published their Apologetic[al] Declaration [in November, 1684]. Mr Renwick was at first averse to the measure, but at last agreed.

The circumstances of the times were dismal, says Crookshanks’ History. The societies that had made choice of Mr Renwick for their minister were now exposed to the whole vengeance of the government. The sea-ports were shut, that none could leave the kingdom. They were pursued by bloody and merciless soldiery. The whole country was sworn to discover them, and bound from giving them meat, drink, or lodgings. Secret spies were hired to find out their haunts, or any who shewed them the least kindness. They were put from under the protection of the laws of their country. No terms were allowed them but a renouncing of principles, and swallowing those oaths by which thousands were involved in the horrid guilt of perjury. What can we think of that tree which produced such fruit?

It was under such circumstances that the Apologetic Declaration[al] was published. In it may be seen a spirit, still in Scotland, that dared to be free from tyranny; a spirit that animated the first Reformers; that would one day speak terrible things in righteousness.

Although this effort of freedom was like the child threshing the mountain, and its consequence apparently the same, save that the Church on this account suffered much; the court-party making it a pretence for sending more soldiers on the country, particularly about Lanark, vainly thinking that it would never be well with them till the south and west of Scotland were made a hunting-field; and the better to execute this, any soldier in the ranks had liberty to shoot all they thought suspicious, and it was not long till there was scarce a moss or mountain in the west of Scotland but was flowered with martyrs.

The society that met at Priesthill was soon broken up. John Wilson, and John Smith of Lesmahago, were shot by Colonel [Thomas] Buchan and [Cromwell Lockhart,] the Laird of Lee, in February 1685. John Brown of Blackwood, in the same parish [i.e., Lesmahagow parish], was shot in the beginning of March following, by Lieutenant [James] Murray, after the promise of quarter. The pure snow then on the ground was stained with his blood. His corpse was buried, under cloud of night, near to the spot where he was treacherously slain.

After this, John Brown could not continue his business of carrier, though he had no hand in the Apologetic[al] Declaration. His opinion (and his conduct was consistent with it) was, that he ought to live as in an enemy’s country, and without sin. Yet he was often obliged to betake to the high lands of Kyle and of Lanarkshire, and to bear the chilling cold of March and April winds, with the more bitter blast of persecution. Still, however, amidst the storms of nature, and of the political heavens, he had the rainbow of the covenant around his head, and enjoyed a freedom and pleasure that his enemies could not rob him of.

On one of those days, when driven from his home, he fled for refuge to a deep ravine, or moss-hag, that had been formed by the current of a water-spout, carrying shrubs, soil, moss, and all before it, to the dale-land beneath, leaving a frightful chasm, amidst a vast field of heath. Its deep mossy sides made it inaccessible to strangers; only the neighbouring husbandmen knew where the brackens hid the rocks, whose shelvy sides conducted to the bottom. In the sides of this natural alley were dens and caves sufficient to hide a large company. In one of these, Priesthill intended to spend the day in prayer; and had begun to pour out his soul, in the words of Lamentations iii. 40, and downwards, when a sweet sound reached his ear, that seemed to proceed from another part of the moss-hag. At first it was in a soft under voice, as afraid to be heard, but soon rose above all fear, joined with others; and the verses of the Psalm were distinctly sung.

“It is the hallowed sound of praising God, and by some fellow-sufferers,” said John Brown, as he arose from his knees to search them out. And to his no small joy found out David and William Steel, his neighbours, and Joseph Wilson from Lesmabago, in the cleft of a rock that jutted half-way into the ravine. David Steel had a narrow escape the day before this. When just about to begin the morning worship, one cried out, “There is the enemy coming.” He arose with the Bible under his arm, and, without knowing what he was about, went into the byre, and laid himself down in an empty cow-stall, putting the Bible on his breast. His wife, equally unconscious, turned over him a heap of bedding, just as the soldiers entered the place. They stabbed the straw where he lay, but the Bible received the point of the sword, and they left the house without finding their victim. William Steel’s house was near at hand, and was also searched. His wife had locked him in her clothes-press. After they searched every place without success, and had left the house, a soldier returned, and said to the gudewife, “Mistress, next time you hide, hide better; part of your husband’s coat is locked without your press;” and with these words, he left her, to join his company. After he was gone, to her amazement, she found it as the soldier had said. It was to avoid such harassing scenes that they had all fled to the ravine; and they found, to their sweet experience, this dreary waste a Bethel; and in their harassings and hidings, as it was with Moses on the Mount, nearest God when farthest from creature comforts. All day, they read God’s Word, and prayed by turns; and during the dark and silent watches of the night, by turns they prayed and praised.

The seventy-fourth Psalm was deeply imprinted on their memories, from its being remarkably descriptive of their situation. The whole of it was sung about midnight; and while the wind carried the sound to the dale land below, faith carried the matter up to heaven. It entered the ear of the God of sabaoth [i.e., hosts], through the highly exalted Intercessor for His suffering Church. And though the Lord waited to be gracious, as the cup of wickedness that the Stuart race was to fill had not come to the brim, they were to fill it: but he sent the Comforter to uphold them with peace and joy, in believing that it was Jesus’ cause they were suffering for. And though counted as slaughter-sheep, they were fed in green pastures, and drank of that river of life, whose divine influence refreshed their souls passing all understanding. They felt a peace that made them loath to part. Every one was sensible that the presence of God had been with them. It was in this spirit that these poor haunted saints spent the time till morning dawned; and the lark arose above their heads, joining his notes with theirs in praise to God for the light of another day.

William Steel, who escaped death from the persecutors, and lived many years after the Revolution, said often, if ever there was a time in his life that he would wish to enjoy over again, it was that in which he suffered persecution, especially that day and night he spent in the moss-hag. They all thought it would be their last meeting on earth. He was the first that ascended from the ravine to look if the enemy were in view; and it being a clear morning, and no person in sight, they all followed, and were standing to consult on the separate paths they would take home, to prevent them from being seen, when they were struck silent by a voice, sweeter than anything they had ever heard, passing over the ravine, singing these words:—

Oh! let the prisoners’ sighs ascend
Before thy sight on high;
Preserve those by thy mighty power,
That are ordained to die. [Metrical Psalms (1650), 79, verse 11.]

And again, while they still stood speechless, another voice sung, in tones of exultation:—

Though ye have lain among the pots,
Like doves ye shall appear,
Whose wings with silver, and with gold
Whose feathers covered are. [Metrical Psalms (1650), 68, verse 13.]

After standing for some time looking at one another, some of them thought they had left other worshippers in the moss-hag; others thought that the sound echoed from a greater distance. “Whoever or wherever the words come from, we have little concern,” said John Brown; “one tiling we may take comfort from; they are God’s words to his Church in affliction; and that is our situation. Who lie among the pots? We scullions, black in the opinions of our enemies. But God sees us not as man sees us, but compares us to doves — doves on the wing, whose feathers of gold and silver are best seen when they fly. It may be, we are on the wing to an eternal world, and this Bethel meeting is preparing us to mount up with wings like eagles. If so, let us keep in mind that we have nothing to boast of, but grace, grace; unto it is our acknowledgement.” While he spoke, his countenance beamed the pleasantest ever they had seen; and when he parted from them, they stood and looked after him. It was the last time they saw him in life, and the last time they heard him speak. “He had a most uncommon talent in communicating information and consolation to others, and when he came himself to be tried, he was not left a cast-away.”

Graham of ClaverhouseColonel Claverhouse

Among the last of the needy adventurers of Charles II’s reign, who could swim through the blood of their more conscientious countrymen to favour and emolument, was [John] Graham of Claverhouse. “He was descended from the house of Montrose, and was educated in France, the best school for dissolute manners and cruelty. He fought against the French in the Low Countries, under the Prince of Orange; but being refused the command of one of the Scottish regiments then in the Dutch service, he left it in disgust and came over to England. His dissolute manners and vivacity soon got him notice at court, and the command of a party of Highlanders.” His first appearance on the stage of Scotland’s tragedy was in 1678, taking free quarters for himself and men in the house of Gilbert M’Michen, in New Glenluce; and when they went off, besides what they consumed, they took with them three horses, worth ten pounds each. In every succeeding appearance he may be marked as rising in cruelty and exaction.

“What Bishop Burnet says of [General Thomas] Dalziel, may be affirmed of Claverhouse with equal, or perhaps with greater truth: that he acted the Muscovite too grossly, threatening to spit men and roast them alive. He pleaded, in excuse, that terror was true mercy, if it put an end to, or prevented war.”

Charles being now dead, James Duke of York required such instruments to compel submission to his system of cruelty. Having now thrown off the mask, the suspicion of the Reformers, that Prelacy was to be handmaid to the introduction of Popery in Scotland, was verified. For that purpose, he enlarged the commission of Claverhouse, and created him Viscount of Dundee; and none was better fitted to drive fell Ruin’s ploughshare through everything that could make life desirable.

“The measure of fixing garrisons of soldiers through the south and west counties, as if Scotland had been invaded by a foreign enemy, was the beginning of many cold-blooded murders in the field. One of these garrisons was fixed at Lesmahago.” Claverhouse came unexpectedly there, late on the last night of April 1685, and having heard of John Brown’s piety and non-conformity, by six o’clock next morning he was at Priesthill — a proof how he thirsted after the blood of such men.

John Brown, as usual, had arisen with the dawn, and had offered up the morning sacrifice. His wife often told how remarkably the Psalm, sung that morning, tended to gird up the loins of their minds. It was Psalm xxvii. 1–4. The chapter read was John xvi., equally suitable; and his prayers were like those of one lost to the world, and entered into the holy of holies, through the rent vail of the Redeemer’s death.

Claverhouse and his dragoonsClaverhouse and his Dragoons

How good is it, when the Lord comes, to be found watching in the way of doing our duty, was experienced in no small measure by the family at Priesthill. After worship, the gudeman went to the hill to prepare some peat-ground; the servants were also out, but at some distance, when Claverhouse surrounded the helpless man with three troops of dragoons, and brought him down to his own house. He left his implements of industry with great composure, and walked down before them more like a leader than a captive.

Meanwhile, Janet had alarmed her mother by telling her that a great many horsemen were coming down the hill with her father. “The thing that I feared is come upon me; give me grace for this hour!” said her mother, hastily taking up her boy, and wrapping him in her plaid, and taking Janet by the hand, she went out to meet her foes, praying in secret as she went.

Claverhouse asked John Brown,— Why he did not attend the curate, and if he would pray for King James? It was remarkable, that, though a stammerer in speech to strangers, this morning he answered Claverhouse distinctly. He said he acknowledged only Christ as supreme head of the Church, and could not attend the curates, because they were placed there contrary to His law, and were mere creatures of the bishops, and the bishops were creatures of the king,— and he being a Papist, and himself a Protestant Presbyterian, who, along with all ranks in the nation, had sworn and covenanted to God that no Papist should bear rule over these lands,— so that he neither could nor would pray for him. But if he repented and turned from his wicked way, he would acknowledge, obey, and pray for him.

Upon hearing this, Claverhouse said, Go to your prayers, for you shall immediately die, which he did in such a manner as filled the troops with amazement. On his family it had a different effect. His wife, who was great with child, with another in her arms, and Janet at her side, stood while he prayed “that every covenanted blessing might be poured upon her and her children, born and unborn, as one refreshed by the influence of the Holy Spirit, when he comes down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers upon the earth.”

When Claverhouse could bear his prayers no longer, and had succeeded, after interrupting him twice with the most blasphemous language, to raise him from his knees, John Brown said to his wife, Isabell, this is the day I told you of before we were married; and added, with his usual kindness, you see me summoned to appear in a few minutes before the court of heaven, as a witness in our Redeemer’s cause against the ruler of Scotland; are you willing that I should part from you? Heartily willing, said she, in a voice that spoke her regard for her husband and her submission to the Lord, even when he called her to bow before His terrible things. “That is all I wait for; death, where is thy sting? O grave, where will be thy victory?” said John Brown, while he tenderly laid his arms around her, kissed her and her little boy, and lastly Janet, saying to her, my sweet bairn, give your hand to God as your guide, and be your mother’s comfort: he could add no more, a tide of tenderness overflowed his heart. At last he uttered these words, “Blessed be thou, O Holy Spirit! that speaketh more comfort to my heart than the voice of my oppressors can speak terror to my ears!” Thus, when the Lord brought his witness to be tried, he discovered such a magnanimity, that, as he fell, he conquered his persecutors.

If, in the christian’s life, there is a light that discovers the spots of the wicked; so, in the martyr’s heroic grappling with death, there was a heat that scorched past enduring. It was, doubtless, under this feeling that Claverhouse ordered six of his dragoons to shoot him ere the last words were out of his mouth ; but his prayers and conduct had disarmed them from performing such a savage action. They stood motionless. Fearing for their mutiny, Claverhouse snatched a pistol from his own belt, and shot him through the head. * * * And, while his troops slunk from the awful scene, he, like a beast of prey that tramples and howls over a fallen victim, insulted the tender-hearted wife, while she gathered up the shattered head, by taunting jeers:— “What thinkest thou of thy husband now, woman?” “I ever thought meikle good of him,” said she, “and now more than ever.” He, seeing her courage, said, “It were but justice to lay thee beside him.” She replied, “If ye were permitted, I doubt not your cruelty could go that length; but how will ye answer for this morning’s work.” With a countenance that belied his words, he answered, “To men I can be answerable, and as for God I will take him in my own hands.” Thus saying, he hastily put spurs to his horse, and left her with the corpse. She tied up his head with her napkin, composed his body, covered it with her plaid, and when she had nothing further to do or contend with, she sat down on the ground, drew her children to her, and wept over her mangled husband.

The mourners of Priesthill did not long want friends. The report of the foul deed circulated rapidly, creating dismay and abhorrence. Who now could think themselves safe, when John Brown was thus treated, who was not otherwise obnoxious to Government than in not attending the curate, and he several miles distant? The first who arrived on the spot was David Steel’s wife, [Mary Weir. Walker says it was Steel’s mother, Jean Brown,] one well fitted to comfort in the most trying dispensation. She ran up to the group, and throwing her arms around them, saluted Isabell thus, “Wow, woman! and has your master been taken from your head this day? and has God taken you and your children under his own care, saying, I will be a husband to the widow, and a father to the fatherless? No wonder though ye are overcome and astonished at his doings.” This salutation aroused and strengthened the widow. She remembered the words of Mr Peden [in 1682], and she arose from the ground to search out the linen he had warned her to prepare. About this time, David Steel, and William Steel with his wife, arrived, and assisted Isabell to bring in and wrap up the precious dust. All was done, while the silence of death reigned over the household.

As was said of the proto-martyr Stephen, devout men carried him to his burial: in like manner was John Brown, for literally God’s hidden ones carried him forth, and laid him in his grave, on the very spot where he fell.

Marytr's Grave PriesthillJohn Brown’s Grave at Priesthill © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

Renwick writes, on one occasion, to Sir R[obert]. Hamilton, after a field-preaching, “that if ever God could be tied to any place, I think it is to the muirs and mountains of Scotland.” Rutherford many a time declares, “Sweet, sweet is the cross; and no wonder, when Christ bears both us and it.” The sorrow of the righteous is better far than the joys of the wicked, that are only like the crackling of thorns under a pot, and worketh death. Had a miracle opened the eyes of Claverhouse, as it did the eyes of the prophets servant, to have seen John Brown’s soul from “insult springing,” at the moment his body fell a mangled corpse, he would have seen himself changed from a powerful oppressor, like Haman, to a mean servant, only fit, as an instrument, to clothe the humble sitter at the king’s gate in royal robes and a glorious crown, and usher him into the city of Shushan as a man whom the King delights to honour. It was not granted that his eyes should be opened by a miracle, or by faith in God’s written testimony, to see himself as he really was; but God’s vicegerent, conscience, even in this life, speaks out awful things of righteousness and judgment to come. “He afterwards acknowledged that John Brown’s prayer made such an impression on his spirit, that he could never get altogether worn off, when he gave himself liberty to think.” Thus, mischief haunts the violent man, and the “bloody and deceitful man shall not live half his days.” This was eminently exemplified in the lives and death of the persecutors of that age; and in none more than in Graham of Claverhouse.

His maxim, of terror being true mercy, if it prevented or put an end to war, like every other attempt to do evil that good may come out of it, proved fallacious ; and acting up to it was the means of bringing on the Revolution of 1688, and of “banishing James VII. from the throne and hearts of the people of Scotland.” Claverhouse, for various reasons, had no alternative than to follow the fortune of his benefactor. When he found a large majority in the Scots Convention on the side of William, he left Edinburgh with the determination of exerting himself in the cause of James, in the field.

Not long after this, he appeared openly in arms at Inverness, and was successful at the battle of Killicrankie — putting William’s army to flight; but while in the act of raising himself on the saddle, and waving with his arm, pointing to guard the pass of Killicrankie, that his favourite maxim, “no quarter,” might be put into execution, lo! a musket-ball passed into his arm- pit, that proved fatal in a few hours after. His estate was made over to the house of Douglas; and his widow, [Jean Cochrane,] marrying to Lord Kilsyth, and returning to Holland, became, along with her children, the victim of a dreadful misfortune [in 1695]. The house in which she resided at Utrecht falling suddenly in, and overwhelming the whole family, his name and titles became extinct.

[Lady Claverhouse is buried below the Kilsyth Vault in the Howe Street Burial Ground in Kilsyth.]

Aerial View of Burial Ground

About fifty years ago, a gentleman riding to Edinburgh fell into conversation with a respectable-looking countrywoman on the road, and learning that she was a grand-daughter of John Brown, he on that account made her ride behind him into the city. So much was the memory of the Christian Carrier respected. And what was a proof of the harmony of his family, she could not tell whether she was of the first? or the second wife’s children. None of them now reside at Priesthill, but their house stands; and the broad flat stone that covers their father’s grave is shewn, with this inscription:—

In death’s cold bed, the dusty part here lies
Of one who did the earth as dust despise:
Here in this place from earth he took departure;
Now he has got the garland of the martyr.
Butcher’d by Clavers and his bloody band,
Racing most rav’nously o’er all the land,
Only for owning Christ’s supremacy,
Wickedly wrong’d. by encroaching tyranny.
Nothing how near so ever he to good
Esteem’d, nor dear for any truth his blood.

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Alexander Peden’s Vision of the Killing of John Brown in Priesthill in 1685

•April 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

John Borwn of Priesthill

According to Patrick Walker, Alexander Peden was ten or so miles from Priesthill, where John Brown was summarily executed, when he had a vision:

‘This Murder [of John Brown at Priesthill] was committed betwixt Six and Seven in the Morning [of 1 May, 1685]; Mr. Peden was about ten or eleven Miles distant, having been in the Fields all Night; he came to the House [in Ayrshire?] betwixt Seven and Eight, and desired to call in the Family, that he might pray amongst them: He said, Lord, when wilt thou avenge Brown’s Blood? Oh, let Brown’s Blood be precious in thy Sight, and hasten the Day when thou’lt avenge it, with Cameron’s, Cargill’s, and many others of our Martyrs Names; and O for that Day when the Lord would avenge all their Bloods.

When ended, John Muirhead enquired what he meant by Brown’s Blood; he said twice over. What do I mean? Claverhouse has been at the Preshill this Morning, and has cruelly murdered John Brown; his Corps are lying at the End of his House, and his poor Wife [Isobel Weir] sitting weeping by his Corps; and not a Soul to speak comfortably to her. This Morning after the Sun-rising, I saw a strange Apparition in the Firmament, the Appearance of a very bright clearshining Star, fall from Heaven to the Earth; and indeed there is a clear-shining Light fallen this Day, the greatest Christian that ever I conversed with.’ (Walker, BP, I, 74-5.)

Walker’s informant for Peden’s vision was John Muirhead, who appears to have been one of Peden’s guard.

Ten or eleven miles from Priesthill would place Peden somewhere in, either Ayrshire, or Lanarkshire. Peden is known to have been in Ayrshire in 1685.

Map of Priesthill

A few days before Brown’s execution, Peden was at a house where James Nisbet, the son of John Nisbet in Hardhill, was in hiding. It is not clear if the house above refers to the same house.

A Providential Mist for Prophet Peden: Galloway 1685

•April 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The following is the first of several stories of providential mists which Patrick Walker claims allegedly intervened to protect Alexander Peden or his followers from government forces in 1685.

Peden Mist GallowayMist in the Galloway Hills © Anthony O’Neil and licensed for reuse.

‘When the greater Part [of the 26 Scots who arrived with Peden in Galloway at the beginning of March, 1685,] took their Farewel of him, he said to the rest [for there were twelve of them, including John Muirhead], To what House or Place will we go? One Hugh Kenneday said, We will go to such an House. He said, Hewie, ye will not get your Nose set there; for the Devil and his Bairns are there. Notwithstanding Hugh went, and found the House full of the Enemies: And that Night, a Woman in that House, made Way of her self. Hugh came quickly back, and told him. He said, We’ll go to such an House; I have an Errant there. When they went, the Good-wife was dying, under great Doubts and Fears; where he was a blessed Instrument of Comfort to her: And said to Hugh, Hewie, this is the Errant I had here.

[...] They went eastward, somewhat contrair to his Inclination; they came to the Top of an Hill, upwards of two Miles distant from the House, to which they designed: He halted, and said, I will not go one Foot further this Way; there is undoubtedly Danger before us. An Herd-lad being there, he gave him a Groat, and desired him to go to that House, and fetch them Meat and News: When the Lad came to the House, the Good-wife hasted, and gave him Meat to them, saying,

Lad, run hard, and tell them, That the Enemies are spread, and we are every Minute looking for them here. As the Lad was going from the House, eighteen of the Enemy’s Foot were near, crying. Stand, Dag. The Lad ran, and 6 of them pursued half a Mile, and fired hard upon him; the Ball went closs by his Head.

All that Time, Mr. Peden continued in Prayer for him hig alone, and with the rest, being twelve Men; when praying with them, he said. Lord, shall the poor Lad that’s gone our Errand, seeking Bread to support our Lives, lose his? Direct the Bullets by his Head, however near, let them not touch him; Good Lord, spare the Lap of thy Cloak, and cover the poor Lad. And in this he was heard and answered, in that there was a dark Cloud of Mist parted him and them.’ (Walker, BP, I, 62-3.)

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Alexander Peden: Prophecy, Ploughmen and Preaching in 1682

•April 17, 2014 • 1 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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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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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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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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