The Covenanters’ Prison, Edinburgh, 1679 #History #Scotland

•December 5, 2016 • 4 Comments

After the Covenanters were defeated in the battle of Bothwell Brig on 22 June, 1679, at least 1,184 prisoners were delivered to Edinburgh.

They were held in Inner Greyfriars’ Yard.


What is today called The Covenanters’ Prison in Greyfriars’ churchyard only covers a small portion of the area where the prisoners were actually held. At that time, The Covenanters’ Prison was not part of the graveyard, but part of a considerably larger enclosure – the Inner Yard – which ran east from the Covenanters’ Prison through the houses, across Forest Road and through the buildings there, to Bristo Place. Today, the pub called Sandy Bell’s lies approximately in the centre of what was the Inner Yard. It was a grass park of over three acres surrounded on all sides by high walls and accessed via a single gate by the Society Port. There was no access via the present-day gate to the Covenanters’ Prison. Instead, a continuous dyke ran across the north side of the Yard, that was built by Heriot’s school in 1662.

george-heriots-schoolHeriots School

Other prisoners, presumably the wounded, were held at Heriot’s Hospital, a school that lies next to the yard.

We can tell how many prisoners there were in Greyfriars Yard and Heriot’s school from the daily ration of penny-loaves they received. On 1 July, the first day that the loaves were delivered, 1,184 penny loaves were required. For the next few months their diet was pretty unrelenting, penny loaves and biscuits (without sugar).

The number of prisoners on 1 July was probably a little lower than the figure for those captured at, or near, the battlefield on 22 June due to escapes and the wounded dying. Under the supervision of Captain Strachan’s dragoons and two regiments of the Lothian militia, they had reached the city on the evening of 24 June, a week before the first loaves were delivered. It is also clear that around 100 more prisoners were taken, as other parties of prisoners arrived in mid July. In total, probably around 1,300 prisoners were taken after the battle.

Early Presbyterian sources indicate that between 300 to 400 were killed either in the battle, or in the rout afterwards. A large number of moderate presbyterians who had escaped from the battlefield, presumably accepted the offer of the King’s peace at the regional circuit courts established later in 1679. Exactly how many accepted the King’s peace is not clear due to the fragmented nature of the records, but many must have, and did, make peace. Five years after the battle, the published fugitive roll of May 1684 lists about 1,800 individuals who were accused of being present at the battle and who had failed to take the King’s peace. Around 230 were forfeited for their part in the rebellion, some of whom also appeared in the Fugitive Roll. In total around 3,700 individuals were certainly in the rebellion, excluding the large group of moderate presbyterians that escaped immediate capture and later came into the King’s peace. No doubt many others entirely evaded the authorities endeavours to identify rebels, either by keeping a low profile, or slipping into exile. Presbyterian and historical estimates that around 6,000 men were in the rebel army at Bothwell appear to be fairly sound. That indicates that about six per cent (c.350) of the rebel army were killed, about twenty-two percent (1,300) were captured and around seventy-two percent (c.4,350) escaped the field.

With 1.184 prisoners on 1 July, 1679, the Restoration justice system in Edinburgh would have been quickly overwhelmed unless solutions to “the numbers problem” were not rapidly adopted. For example, after the Argyll Rising in 1685, the government struggled to cope with housing around 400–500 prisoners across Edinburgh and Leith. Most of them were banished within two months. The use of the Inner Yard as an outdoor prison was a matter of necessity in late June, 1679.

In the immediate aftermath of Bothwell, the Privy Council had suggested that they banish about 300 to 400 hundred to the Plantations. However, by the start of July they had a far greater number of prisoners than that in the Yard, with more on the way and existing conventicle prisoners already filling the tolbooths.

The solution the authorities seized on was to quickly release those prisoners who were willing to take the terms of King’s peace:

‘I being apprehended for being at the late rebellion; and whereas the lords of his majesty’s privy council, in pursuance of his majesty’s command, have ordained me to be set at liberty, I enacting myself to the effect underwritten: therefore I bind, oblige, and enact myself in the books of the privy council, that hereafter I shall not take up arms, without or against his majesty, or his authority. As witness my hand, &c.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 126.)

If prisoners took the oath to never to rise in arms again and obtained a bond for their good behaviour, they were released. It is clear that in this first “crisis” phase, that the majority of the prisoners, encouraged to submit by moderate presbyterian ministers, availed themselves of the government’s offer. By 10 July, the number of loaves had dramatically dropped to only 338.

From then on, a second phase began in which the authorities began to manage “the numbers problem”, perhaps with the target in mind of banishing 300 to 400. The number of loaves continued to decline to 300 until 16/17 July, when the arrival of new batches of prisoners raised the number back up to 400. It is it a coincidence that those numbers 300/400 exactly match how many they wanted to banish? However, three weeks later, on 6 August, the number of prisoners/loaves had reached more manageable levels again at 250. Had the practicalities of banishment dawned on the Council?

After that, a third phase began in which the number of prisoners stabilised, only gradually declining in the Yard and Heriot’s school until 14/15 November, the eve of their banishment, when it stood at 210. The decline to 210 in the Yard has to balanced against the fact that 257 prisoners were banished a few days later. In large part, the decline after 6 August appears to have been achieved by removing prisoners to Edinburgh Tolbooth from the Yard or Heriot’s school. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, II, 109-113.)

The fact that few prisoners were prepared to take the King’s peace after 6 August could indicate that those who remained were a hard core of militant presbyterians. However, that is only partially true. According to the Memoirs of John Blackadder, many of those who remained had in fact taken the ‘black bond’ not to rise in arms again. Blackadder was in a position to know, as he was possibly the only preacher in contact with the prisoners who actively encouraged them not to accept the King’s peace and he wrote a paper to them on the unlawful nature of it. According to the Memoirs:

‘It was found, by some who examined those that escaped [from the ship banishing them to the Plantations when it was wrecked], that many of them had refused to take the bond. Yet a few of those who had not taken it were drowned’. (Blackadder, Memoirs, 231-2.)

Robert Garnock, a prisoner brought in mid July who was executed in 1681, also led a campaign against taking the ‘black bond’. He, too, reports that many took the bond.

It was during that final, third, stable phase, that the authorities adopted a tougher judicial approach. Two field preachers that were considered as militant ringleaders, John Kid and John King, were executed. On 15, 22 August and 10 November, 1679, some of the Bothwell prisoners were selected for trial, apparently on the grounds of their obstinate refusal to take bonds and oaths, and encouraging other prisoners not to do so. A further document of 15/16 November recorded the names of 31 prisoners sent from Edinburgh Tolbooth to Leith for banishment. On the same day, Garnock was removed to a different part of the Tolbooth.

The four documents can be found here:
15 August. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, II, 97.)
22 August. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, II, 98.)
10 November. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, II, 99-100.)
15/16 November. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VI, 136-7.)

When the documents from those four dates are compared, 51 prisoners (other than Kid or King) are named in one or more of them. Who were they? And what happened to them?

Magus Muir

The Covenanters’ Graves at Magus Muir © Jim Bain and licensed for reuse.

For ease of comparison I have modernised some names/place names in the list below.

Of the fifty-one named prisoners, six faced trial for their lives. Five of them were hanged at Magus Muir in Fife where Archbishop Sharp was assassinated, although they had nothing to do with the killing. The sixth, David Hardie, was acquitted and released. The executions took place on either 18, or 25, November:

1. Thomas Brown, Shoemaker in Edinburgh (15 Aug., ‘Shoemaker’ 22 Aug., 10 Nov.)
2. John Clyde in Kilbride parish, Lanarkshire (10 Nov.)
3. Andrew Sword in Borgue parish, Kirkcudbrightshire (15 Aug., 10 Nov.)
4. John Waddell in Shotts parish, Lanarkshire (15 Aug., ‘in Clidesdale’ 10 Nov.)
5. James Wood in Loudoun parish, Ayrshire, (15 Aug., ‘in Air’ 10 Nov.)
6. David Hardie in Leslie, Fife, Released (15 Aug., 10 Nov.). (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, II, 100-101.)

Croune of London 1679

The Croune of London

A further 35 of the named prisoners were ordered to be banished. Of them, 32 were transported, another was perhaps transported, one took bonds and was released, and the last one escaped.

1. James Lileburn, in Kinross (15 Aug. 22 Aug. 10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
2. Robert Bogie [i.e., Boig], ‘in Newbigging’ Strathmiglo parish?, Fife (15 Aug. 15 Nov.)
3. Robert McGill, webster in Galashiels (15 Aug. 22 Aug. 10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
4. Thomas Williamson, ‘in Over Cranstoun’ (15 Aug. ‘Over-Waristoun’ 22 Aug. Nether Cranstoun 10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
5. John Scott, ‘in Ettrick Forest [parish]’ Selkirkshire (15 Aug. 15 Nov.)
6. John Govan, in Kirkliston parish (15 Aug. ‘Givane’ 15 Nov.)
7. Thomas Pringle, in Stow parish (15 Aug. 15 Nov.)
8. James Gray, in West Calder parish (15 Aug. 15 Nov.)
9. John Thomson, in Shotts parish (15 Aug. ‘in Bothwelmuir’ 10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
10. Patrick Keir, in Kincardine parish (15 Aug. ‘Kein’ 15 Nov.)
11. William ‘Anderson’, in Livingston parish (15 Aug. ‘Henryson in Linlithgowe Shyre’, 10 Nov. ‘hendirsone’ 15 Nov. )
12. Robert Russell, in Shotts parish (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
13. William Brown, in Kilmarnock parish (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
14. Thomas Crightoun, in Carnwath parish (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
15. Andrew Newbigging, ‘in [Bowden parish] the Merse’ (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
16. William Grindlay, in [Old or New] Monkland (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
17. Patrick Wilson, in Livingston parish (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
18. William Younger, in Livingston parish (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
19 Robert Young, in Galasheils parish (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
20. William Hardie, in Kelso parish (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
21. Robert Kirk, ‘cottar in Burghlie’ i.e., Burleigh, Orwell parish (10 Nov. 15 Nov.)
22. John McBraickney, in Kirkcudbright parish (10 Nov.)
23. Andrew Thomson in Sauchie, St Ninians parish (22 Aug., 10 Nov.)
24. David Somerwel [i.e., Somerville], in East Calder parish (15 Aug.)
25. Andrew Wallace (15 Nov. In Cloud: Wallet in Irongray parish)
26. John Kirk (15 Nov. In Cloud: in Ceres parish)
27. Thomas Miller (15 Nov. In Cloud: in Ceres parish)
28. David Cunningham (15 Nov. In Cloud: Daniel, in Drummond parish)
29. James Waddell (15 Nov. In Cloud: in New or Old Monkland parish)
30. James Corsan (15 Nov. In Cloud: in Kirkcudbright parish)
31. Wallter McDichmaye (15 Nov. In Cloud: Walter McKechnie?)
32. Jon mcCleikeraye (15 Nov. In Cloud: John McBraickney?)

John Richardson, a tenant of George, Lord Ross, had his petition for release accepted on 7 November, provided that his brother, who was also in the list of names, boarded The Croun of London for banishment.

33. John Richardson in Stenhouse, (15 Aug. 15 Nov.) Took bonds and was liberated on 18 December.
34. William Richardson in Stenhouse, (22 Aug., 10 Nov.) There is no evidence that he was actually banished. He is not listed among those who died in, or escaped from, the sinking ship. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, II, 105-6; RPCS, VI, 355-6.)

When The Croune of London sailed from Leith Roads on 27 November, one prisoner was not on board:

35. Robert Miller in Waterford (15 Aug. 22 Aug. 10 Nov. 15 Nov.) Escaped.

Six of the named prisoners from Greyfriars on the lists of militants were not banished. They took bonds/oaths and were liberated on 18 December. (RPCS, VI, 355-6.):

1. Alexander Steven, in Bothwell parish (15 Aug.) Took bonds/oaths. Liberated.
2. William Cameron, in Dalmellington parish (15 Aug.) Took bonds/oaths. Liberated.
3. James Findlay, in ‘balyrie of Cuninghame’ (10 Nov.) Took bonds/oaths. Liberated.
4. Adam Allan in Ayrshire (10 Nov) Took bonds/oaths. Liberated.
5. William McKime in Galloway (10 Nov) Took bonds/oaths. Liberated.
6. Richard Thomson in Shotts parish (10 Nov) Took bonds/oaths. Liberated.

Two of those named, who were taken before the Bothwell Rising in connection with Sharp’s assassination, were continued in the Tolbooth on 18 December to face trial:

1. Alexander Balfour, tenant in Gilston, Fife (22 Aug., 10 Nov.) Continued.
2. James Balfour, in Gilston, Fife (22 Aug., 10 Nov.) Continued

The fate of two of the named prisoners is not known:

1. James Paton, in Inverkeithing (22 August, 10 Nov)
2. ‘James Carsell, in Malmaghie’ [Balmaghie parish?] (10 Nov)

What is not clear is what happened to the other prisoners. In all 257 prisoners were loaded on to and transported by The Croune of London in November, 1679. Who the other 222 banished prisoners were will be covered in a later post.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

An Orkney Diarist on Infamous Shipwrecks #History #Scotland

•December 3, 2016 • 2 Comments

The Diary of Thomas Brown in Kirkwall provides a glimpse into how the Presbyterian struggle of the 1680s was viewed at the opposite end of the nation. Brown’s diary mainly records marriages and deaths in Orkney, sometimes hangings, mainly for sheep stealing, and domestic violence. He even recorded a clan battle, but every once in a while something else caught his eye…

Croune of London 1679

Brown rarely recorded the “far-off” events of the day, but his pen recorded three events in 1679:

‘The 3 May 1679, being Saturday, Mr Sharp, ye Arch Bischop of St Androis, was barborslie murdered by some fanacted persones within a myle or two of ye sd. citie.’ (Brown, Diary, 9.)

‘The 22 of June 1679, being ane Sabbath morneing, the Duck of Monmoth hath battell with the wigges in ye wast of Scotland, near Bothwall Briggs, and he with his arme (glorie be to the Almightie) had the victorie yt. day.’ (Brown, Diary, 9.)

The Croune of London, 1679
Later that year, the unexpected happened. The bodies of Whigs at Bothwell washed ashore on Orkney:

‘The 10th Decr. 1679, being Wednisday, at 9 in the evening or yrabout, the vessell or ship callit ye Croun, qrin was 250 or yby of ye Quhiggs takin at Bothwall Brigs to have bein sent to Verginy, paroched at or neirby ye Moull head of Deirness.’ (Brown, Diary, 10.)

It had taken the Croune of London thirteen wintry days to make its way from Leith to be wrecked on the Mull of Deerness. In the spring of 1682, Brown made the same journey, twice, in two or three days. Brown sailed to Leith, where he presumably witnessed the execution of the Covenanter. Robert Gray, and heard news about the wreck of HMS Gloucester on the Lemon or Ower shoal/sandbank off Yarmouth:

‘Munday, 1st May, 1682, I sailled from Kirkwall for Leith, and arryved yr. on Thursday’s morning, the 4th yrof.’

HMS Gloucester, 1682
‘Wednisday, the 3 May, 1682, ther wes a veshell of sixtie guns, belonging to his Matie, qron the Duk of York wes comeing for Leith, parished at that pairt, neir England, called the Limmerbre [Lemon/Ower shoal], or it lyes betwixt England & Holland, ther being tua Scott’s noblemen, viz., Roxbrugh and Hoptoun, parished in the sd. ship, with about tuo or thrie hundreth men more parished.’ (Brown, Diary, 22-23.)

For a wonderful painting of the wreck of the Gloucester, see here.

The wreck of the Gloucester was infamous as the Duke of York, later James VII & II, allegedly saved his beloved dogs rather than the men, including two Scots nobles. The drowning sailors allegedly cried out huzzas to York as the ship sank. 130 drowned. Among those who escaped was John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough.

For an account of the shipwreck, see here.

York arrived in Leith on 6 May, at least according to Lord Fountainhall. After noting a trades riot in which nine were killed, Brown returns to York’s departure after a brief stay:

‘Munday, the 15 Maij 1682, betuixt thrie & fur in the afternoon, the Duk of York, with his Dutchis, sailled from Leith for Londone.’ (Brown, Diary, 23.)

‘19 May 1682, ther wes ane Rot. Gray, a gentlemen qho leived upon the border, was hanged at the Grassmarkit, in Edr., for treasonable acting and speaking against his Matie.
Fryday’s morning, 26 Maij 1682, I sailled from Leith to Orknay, and arryved yr on the Sabbath yrafter.’ (Brown, Diary, 23.)

For York’s account of the same period, see here.

Back home, the Presbyterian struggle once again came to Orkney’s shores by ship:

‘Wednsday, at night, the 6th Maij 1685, tua of Argyl’s srvands, the ane caled Mr William Blakitter and the uyr Mr Wame. Spence, came from a great veshell of his and landit at Smowgrow, and rom thaire came to Kirkwall the sd. night, and being knowen that they wer srvands to a rebell, they wer be the Magistrates [ordered] to remaine in ther quarters as prisoners till farther ordor from the Privie Counsell, and be whois ordor, with Brecknes, they wer sent owt of Kirkwall wth. a pairtie the 29 of the sd. moneth of May to St. Marts. Houp to goe allongst with Skipper Bytter, then bound to Leith.’ (Brown, Diary, 34-5.)

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Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

Dunnottar Prisoners Attempting to Escape at Leith are put in Irons #History #Scotland

•November 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment


On 31 October, 1685, nineteen prisoners, some of whom were suspected of attempting to escape from Leith Tolbooth, were brought to Edinburgh Tolbooth and put in irons.

What makes the list intriguing is that most of the prisoners from Leith had previously been imprisoned in Dunnottar Castle. Many of them had been given to George Scot of Pitlochie for banishment to PerthAmboy/East Jersey in mid August. Some of them are recorded as having their banishment stopped before Pitlochie’s ship, the Henry & Francis, departed at the beginning of September.

The nineteen prisoners on the list were mainly women or the old, the sick or those who were simply left behind when the ship sailed. One intriguing aspect of the list is that it includes the names of five Dunnottar prisoners who are often recorded as having been banished on the Henry & Francis and said to have reached Perth Amboy. As these prisoners were in Leith on 30 October, is it clear that they were not transported.


Under the records of Edinburgh Tolbooth for 31 October, 1685:

Colin Alisone (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Stopped 25 Aug.)
William Hanna (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Stopped 25 Aug.)
David Scott (Dunnottar.)
John Kollie i.e., John Kellie (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Said to have reached Perth Amboy.)]
William Douglas (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Said to have reached Perth Amboy.)
Patrick Cunninghame (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Said to have reached Perth Amboy.)
John King (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Said to have reached Perth Amboy.)
Christian Cavie (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Said to have reached Perth Amboy.)
Jonett Scott
Elizabeth Maitland (Dunnottar.)
Margaret Maitland
Jean Sempill (Dunnottar.)
Jean Mcgie (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Stopped 21 Aug.)
Helen Smith
Marion fforrester
Elspeth Walker i.e., Elizabeth Walker (Dunnottar.)
Elspeth Corss, i.e., Elizabeth Corse/Corss (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Stopped 21 Aug.)
Christian Scott (Dunnottar, Banished 17 Aug. Stopped 21 Aug.)
Grissell Gardiner
All brought from the Tolbuith of Leith by ane ordor ffrom his Majesties privie Councill wherof the tennor ffollowes

Edr 30 of October 1685
The Lords of the Committie of his Majesties privie Councill for publict affairs having receaved information ffrom the Baillie of Leith that severall of the persones in their prison vpon the publict accompt had bein attempting to make their escape and in order therto had gott instruments and towes carryed in to them doe therfore heirby give order to the Lord Provist of Edinburgh to causs a pairty of the toun guaird to transport the saids prisoners from the Tolbuith of Leith to the Tolbuith of Edinburgh and to cause putt them in the iron houss and in the irones till furder ordor Sic Sub Will Paterson (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, XII, 184-5.)

On 12 November, one of the former Dunnottar prisoners, John Kellie, baxter in Dunbar, was liberated. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, XII, 185.)

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

Photograph: Dunnottar Castle © Copyright Jjhake and licensed for reuse.

James Nisbet Escapes at Crossford and near Shotts #History #Scotland

•November 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

After he became a fugitive in early 1685, James Nisbet appears to have mainly stayed in his native Ayrshire. However, on at least one occasion he crossed the River Clyde and journeyed to a Lanarkshire moor with strong associations with field preaching.


The Clyde at Crossford © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

‘At Crossford’, Lesmahagow parish, Lanarkshire.
Crossford was a key crossing point on the River Clyde. For fugitives like Nisbet, the use of such crossing points were risky moments as they were used by soldiers.

James Muir in ‘Crossford Boat’ was hanged in Edinburgh early 1684. Prophetesses drew large crowds to Crossford in 1686.

Map of Crossford

Aerial View of Crossford

Nisbet’s escape from capture at Crossford may be linked to the only location that he names on the north bank of the Clyde, Leadloch. Crossford immediately follows Leadloch in Nisbet’s list of escapes.


Later house at Leadloch © Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse.

‘At Lead-loch’, i.e., Leadloch in Cambusnethan parish, Lanarkshire.
Leadloch lies right on the Lanarkshire boundary in an area that was frequently used for field preachings. It is close to both Starryshaw and Falla Hill, where Donald Cargill preached, and the Peden Stone at Benhar.

Map of Leadloch

Aerial View of Leadloch

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

The Battle of Dunkeld of 1689 in Crockett’s Lochinvar #History #Literature #Scotland

•November 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment


The novel Lochinvar (1897) by S. R. Crockett contains a description of the Battle of Dunkeld fought between the Cameronian Regiment, made up of the Society people, and the Jacobites, many of them Highlanders.

The excerpt, below, mentions role of Henry Erskine, Lord Cardoss, and the death of Lieutenant-Colonel William Cleland in the battle.

‘The Cameronians, known throughout Scotland as the “Seven Thousand,” had garrisoned Edinburgh during the fierce, troublous months of the Convention. When there was no other force in the country, they had stood between the kingdom and anarchy. And now, when at last the government of William was becoming better established, twelve hundred men of the Blue Banner formed themselves into a regiment — all stem, determined, much-enduring veterans, who had brought from their Westland homes a hatred of the Highlanders sharpened by memories of the Great Raid, when for months the most barbarous and savage clans had been quartered on the West and South, till the poor folk of Galloway and Ayr were fairly eaten up, and most of their hard-won gear vanished clean away into the trackless deserts of the North.

Now, in the anxious days that succeeded Killiekrankie, eight hundred of this Cameronian regiment had been ordered to Dunkeld, which was rightly supposed to be the post of danger. The other four hundred of the regiment had been sent to garrison Badenoch and to keep the West quiet; so that the young Covenanting commander, Cleland — a youth not yet in his twenty-eighth year — had but two-thirds of his regiment with him.

But such men as they were! — none like them had been seen under arms since the Ironsides of Cromwell went back to their farm-steadings and forges.

It was no desirable stronghold which they were set to keep. Indeed, after a small experience of Dunkeld the other regiments which had Been sent under Lord Cardross to assist in driving back the enemy gladly departed for Perth. The town, they said, was completely indefensible. It was commanded on all sides by heights, even as Killiekrankie had been. The streets could readily be forced at a dozen points, and then every man would die miserably, like rats in a hole.

“Even so,” said Cleland, calmly, to my Lord Cardross, “but I was bidden to hold this town and no other, and here I and those with me will bide until we die.”

And, as is not the case with many a valiant commander’s boast, he made his words good.

It was a very considerable army which gathered about the devoted Cameronians — not less than five thousand victorious clansmen — under a leader of experience, if not of well-proven parts.

Wat was still with Lochiell, and Scarlett, in deep disgust at Keppoch’s miscellaneous plunderings, drew his sword also with the same chief.

By early morning the town was completely surrounded and the attack began. But the brave band of Wild Whigs of the West stuck dourly to their outposts, and for an hour or more their little handf uls defied behind the walls of town-yards and ruinous petty enclosures all the assaults of the clansmen. At last these inconsiderable outer defences were driven in, the whole regiment was shut up in the cathedral and in an adjoining house of many unglazed windows, which was standing roofed but unfinished close at hand.

Here the grim men of the South, doggedly saying their prayers behind their clinched teeth, met and turned every assault, taking aim at their assailants with the utmost composure and certainty.

Clan after clan charged down upon those crumbling walls. Rush after rush of plaided men melted before that deadly storm of bullets. Thrice Wat, in the thick of Lochiel’s men, dashed at the defences. Thrice was he carried back by the wave of tartan which recoiled from the reeking muskets of the men of the Covenant.

Glengarry fell wounded. The McDonalds broke. Then, in the nick of time, the McLeans dashed into the thick of the fight and had almost won the wall when young Cleland, rushing across the court to meet them in person, was struck by two bullets — one through his head, the other in his side. In spite of his agony, he set his hand to his brow and staggered towards the interior of the church, crying, “Have at them, lads! all is well with me!” This he said in order to conceal his wound from his men. But he fell dead or ever he reached the door.

The lead for the muskets began to give out. But in a moment there were men on the roof of the new building stripping off the metal, while others beneath were melting it and thrusting the bullets, yet warm from the “cams,” into their hotter barrels, or cutting the sheets of lead into rough slugs to fire at the enemy.

So, relentlessly, hour by hour the struggle went on. Ever, as the attacks failed, fresh clans tried their fierce courage in emulous assault, firing once, throwing away their guns, and then charging home with the claymore.

But these Cameronians were no levies roughly disciplined and driven in chains to the battlefield. Men of the moors and the moss-hags were they — good at the prayer, better at the musket, best of all with the steady eye which directed the unshaken hand, and the quiet heart within dourly certain of victory and of the righteousness of its cause.

Clan by clan, the very men who had swept Mackay’s troops into the Garry [at Killiecrankie] fell back shattered and dismayed from the broken defences of the Hill Folk. In vain the war-pipes brayed; in vain a thousand throats cried “Claymore!” In vain Lochiel’s men drove for the fourth time desperately at the wall. From within came no noise, save the clatter of the musket-shots running the circuit of the defences, or the dull thud as a man fell over in the ranks or collapsed like a shut telescope in his place — not a groan from the wounded, as men stricken to death drew themselves desperately np to get a last shot at the enemies of Christ’s Cause and Covenant, that they might face God contentedly with their duty done and all their powder spent.

Left almost alone in the fierce ebb of the fourth assault, Wat had gained the top of the wall when a sudden blow on the head stunned him. He fell inward among the wounded and dying men of the defenders and there lay motionless, while outside the last charge of the baffled clansmen broke on the stubborn hodden gray of the Cameronian regiment, vainly as the water of the ninth wave breaks on the cliffs that look out to the Atlantic.

The chiefs still tried to rally their men. Cannon offered to lead them again to the assault in person. But it might not be. “We can fight men,” they said, as they fell back, sullenly, “but these are devils incarnate.”


When Wat Gordon opened his eyes, he looked into a face he knew right well.

“Faith, Will, is it time to get up already ?” he said, thinking his cousin and he were off together on some ploy of ancient days — for a morning’s fishing on the hills above Knockman, mayhap.

For his cousin Will it was indeed who stood before him, clad in the worn and smoke-begrimed uniform of the Regiment of the Covenant.

“Wat, Wat, how came you here, lad?” cried Will Gordon…’

For more stories and poems on the Covenanters of the 1680s, see here.

The Shame of Stealing a Dress in 1686 #History #Scotland

•November 25, 2016 • 2 Comments


Lord Fountainhall reports:

24 June, 1686:
‘A poor woman stealls some money and cloadis, from one Dobson hir mistris, and endeavoring to escape in a ship at Prestonpans, is apprehended and incarcerat in Edinburgh Tolbuith, wher for shame shee hangs hirselfe.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices, II, 741.)

Isobel Alison Transported to Edinburgh in 1680 #History #Scotland

•November 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment


A woman’s journey to martyrdom begins, in Kinross…

Isobel Alison had brought news and provisions from Perth to the assassins of Archbishop Sharp when they were in hiding at Bridge of Earn in early May, 1679. It is not clear if her captors knew that. In her interrogations, the authorities were clearly interested in her connections to them, but homed in on her later meetings with John Balfour of Kinloch and David Hackston of Rathillet in the year before her capture, i.e., in 1680, rather than May, 1679. They were also interested in her connections to Donald Cargill and James Skene.

She was presumably captured in November, 1680, soon after Cargill was ambushed at the Mutton Hole and the supposed gunpowder plot against the Duke of York, when Cargill’s network was compromised.

27 November, 1680:
Issobell Aillisone warditt by command of my lord chancier who was apoynted to be transported ffrom Kinrose to the Tolbuith of edr and wardit. This done by ordor of major Johnstoune [of the Town Guard] by a missive under his hand’. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VI, 150.)

On her way to Edinburgh Tolbooth, Alison was held in Kinross Tolbooth. On the Canmore website, the clock tower that survives appears to be from the old pre 1742 parish church. It is not clear if it was used as the tolbooth, but other websites suggest that it was. Pittenweem did have a tolbooth spire incorporated into a church.

Street View of Kinross Tolbooth

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Picture: Kinross Town Hall © Bill Henderson and licensed for reuse.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine