The Covenanters of the Killing Times and Their Graves: Part 1 #History #Scotland

•April 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

When were the gravestones to the martyrs of the Killing Times erected? Or more accurately, when were they first recorded in a historical source?

This study looks at the recording of the gravestones of those who were summarily executed in the fields between 1682 and 1688 in historical sources.

Tables of Killing Times Graves in PDF format

It does not list all the graves published in tomes such as Cloud of Witnesses or The Martyr Graves of Scotland. It does not include the graves of minsters and others who either died in prison, or of natural causes. It does not include memorials to those who were subject to execution after a formal judicial process in Edinburgh or Glasgow. It does not include gravestones dedicated to those who died as a result of the Pentland Rising in 1666, the Bothwell Rising of 1679 or at Airds Moss in 1680. Why? Because this study targets the relationship between the historical sources for the Killing Times, in particular Alexander Shields’s A Short Memorial of 1690, and when the gravestones for the dead of the Killing Times were recorded.

This study will be posted in two parts. This first part deals with the two main historical sources for the Killing Times and when the gravestones for the dead were recorded. The second part examines what the relationship between the historical sources and the graves tells us about those sources.

This study adopts a fairly broad definition of what constitutes “The Killing Times”, a period that has several possible definitions and time frames. In a previous post, I listed 85 deaths with historical evidence for the Killing Times using a time frame between 1682 and July 1685. If one adopts a stricter definition for the Killing Times, i.e., that it was the intense period of summary field executions and shootings between December 1684 and July 1685, then four of those deaths are removed from that tally on the grounds that they were not killed in the fields or fall out with the period. That leaves 81 field deaths which can be attributed to the “classic” phase of the Killing Times.

In this post, I have expanded the time frame to 1688, as my previous list had excluded sporadic deaths in the fields that took place after the “classic” phase of the Killing Times, i.e., later in 1685, 1686, or 1688. Those deaths are numbered 86 to 91 in this post.

I have also added two deaths to the list, those of William Harvie in 1682 and John Nisbet in 1683, as they were not hanged in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Whether they count as field deaths may be doubtful, but as they had gravestones erected to them, they have been included as numbers 92 and 93 in this post.

As usual, I have excluded the “martyrs of tradition”, i.e., those for whom there is no historical evidence as they were only recorded in unreliable nineteenth-century traditions. A handful of them have memorials, but every one of those memorials was erected in the mid Nineteenth Century or later.

In total, 93 “field” deaths were recorded, either in published Presbyterian sources, or on gravestones, for the period between 1682 and 1688.

The vast majority, 92 (or 99% of the 93) were recorded either in the list published by Alexander Shields in A Short Memorial (1690), or in the second volume of Robert Wodrow’s History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland (1722). In a few cases, their listing in those sources was in an indirect fashion, i.e., it was reference to the numbers who died at a location or contained naming errors.

When broken down by the two key historical sources, Shields listed 80 deaths (or 86% of the total) and Wodrow identified 78 deaths (or 84%). In three cases marked with a “○”, Wodrow listed them, either under the wrong name, or possessed evidence in manuscript that he did not use, or mentioned them in Analecta. The only death which was not mentioned by Shields and Wodrow was that of John Law (49), who died attacking the Ducat Tower in Newmilns. His grave was first recorded in 1741.

It is clear that both Shields and Wodrow are not comprehensive sources for all the deaths of the Killing Times when looked at in isolation. It is only when those sources are brought together and compared with the record of known graves that a comprehensive picture of the Killing Times emerges.

Of the 93 deaths, 89 (or 96%) either have, or had, a grave marker. The four martyrs without any record of a marked grave are:

James McMichael (4), whose body is said to have been exhumed and exhibited on a gallows in 1685.
William Auchenleck (18), an innocent deaf man who was shot on the road.
John Smith (52), whose death near Newmilns has often been confused with other martyrs with a similar name.
William McKergour (82), about whom very little was known.

All four of those deaths were recorded by Shields.

Between 1702 and 1714, the “Continuing” Society people, aka. the McMillanites, erected gravestones on a number of martyr graves. When their Cloud of Witnesses was first published in 1714, 52 (or 57%) of the 93 deaths were recorded as having a dedicated gravestone. By the third edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1730, the recorded total had risen to 58 (63%) with a gravestone. By the fourth edition in 1741, only two more, or 60 (65%), had been listed.

From then on, the list in Cloud did not receive a major update until Thomson’s mid-nineteenth century edition made a leap forward by listing 78 (85%). Thomson probably knew that more gravestones existed, as his edition of Cloud was a carefully edited version of the published text, rather than a fully updated record of graves. The publication of his Martyr Graves of Scotland, which in its final form was compiled from articles he had published in the decades up to 1894, nearly brought an end to the process of recording Covenanter graves by listing graves for 88 “field” deaths between 1682 and 1688. However, Thomson had missed one, that of James Smith (55) in Mauchline which had been recorded in 1852.

There is not a simple correlation between a gravestone being erected and it being recorded in published sources.

It is clear that those gravestones which were recorded in the early editions of Cloud of Witnesses were erected prior to either 1714, 1730 or 1741. However, many other gravestones were not recorded until the Nineteenth Century.

Seventeen gravestones (covering twenty-eight deaths) were recorded by Thomson in the Nineteenth Century, but most of them had clearly survived from the Eighteenth Century.

Two gravestones recorded by Thomson were certainly erected before the third edition of Cloud was published in 1730, i.e., the grave of William Shillilaw (32) erected in 1727 and that of John MacGeachan (90) in 1728.

Seven other gravestones recorded by Thomson can be approximately dated to the first half of the eighteenth century by the survival of an original stone next to a new monument erected in the early nineteenth century. The six martyrs at Caldons (9 to 14) had a ‘small monumental stone’ that Walter Scott mentions in Old Mortality (1816) as previously having had the lettering of its inscription restored. A new memorial was added at Caldons in 1827. Edward McKean (27) had a new stone erected next to his original stone in 1824. Semple and McClorkan (48, 50) had an old stone that lay flat on the ground before a new obelisk erected to them in 1825. The three Carsgailoch martyrs (70-72) had an old stone that sat before the new monument to them erected in 1827. George Wood (91) had an old, single-sided stone that was later built into a wall next to a new memorial stone erected in 1827. The old stone to Gilbert MacAdam (81) was built into a new memorial in 1829. (The Scottish Journal of Topography, Antiquities, Traditions (1848), 278.)

Alexander Linn’s Grave © Mark McKie and licensed for reuse.

In one case, Thomson makes it harder to tell when the gravestone was erected. The inscription on the stone for Alexander Linn (85) looks old, but Thomson claimed that ‘it was erected in 1827 in the place of an older one’. In other words, that a new stone had replaced an older stone in 1827. (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 406.)

The original stone to Linn? © Mark McKie and licensed for reuse.

However, Thomson was almost certainly mistaken. According to a second oval stone erected to Linn, which is mounted in the enclosing wall around the grave, the original stone was ‘renewed in 1827’. What ‘renewed’ appears to have meant in practice was that the original stone was lifted from the ground in 1827 and mounted in the new enclosing wall. It is worth noting that the chisel marks at the base of the stone appear to indicate that it had a different setting in the ground prior to its present one in the enclosing wall. Intriguingly, the inscription on it also does not follow the text of Shields/Cloud, which only claimed that the soldiers of Drummond, rather than ‘Drumand’ himself, ‘did shoot dead Alexander Lin’, rather than ‘Alexr Linn’. If the stone dates to 1827, why are there such curious differences in spelling and attribution that probably indicate an earlier origin?

All seven of the gravestones above, had, presumably, existed for many decades prior to the addition of new memorials beside them in the early Nineteenth Century.

Most of the remaining nine gravestones, eight of which were recorded by Thomson, certainly appear to be of an eighteenth-century origin. In each of the cases below, I have given the earliest source I could find via web searches for the existence of the gravestone. There may be earlier nineteenth-century sources that mention some of the stones.

One stone firmly existed in the Eighteenth Century. George Short (80) has an old upright stone inscribed on two sides that is similar in style to those of William Graham, erected in 1702 to 1714, and Andrew McRobert. His gravestone is plainly alluded to in the Old Statistical Account published in 1794. (OSA, XIII, 651-2.)

The Martyrs’ Graves at Wigtown © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

Two stones to the martyrs in Wigtown also appear to be of a far earlier date than the first record of them. Johnston, McIlroy and Walker (75 to 77), have an eighteenth-century style stone inscribed on one side. Margaret McLauchlan (66), also has a eighteenth-century style stone with an inscription on two sides. Both stones were first recorded in the New Statistical Account in 1845, at which point the parish minister reported they were of considerable antiquity. They sit next to the gravestone of Margaret Wilson that was erected before 1730. (NSA, IV, 4.)

Grave of William Adam © Copyright Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

William Adam (29) has an old, upright stone with an inscription on one side which was mentioned in ‘Hogg’s Weekly Instructor’ in 1847. His also grave appears in the OS Name Book as ‘Martyrs Grave’ in 1852-1855.

Andrew McRobert’s (26) old, two-sided stone at Twynholm was also mentioned in the same edition of ‘Hogg’s Weekly Instructor’ in 1847.

Gravestone of Thomas Richard. Photo Copyright Robert Guthrie and reproduced by his very kind permission.

Judging by its style, the present gravestone of Thomas Richard (42) may be of a later date than the early eighteenth century. The inscription only appears on one side, but is divided by a line where one would expect if the text was taken from an earlier, possibly inscribed on two-sides, stone. Richard’s grave and inscription were recorded at some point before 1847. (Knight, The land we live in, a pictorial and literary sketch-book of the British empire, 175.)

Gravestone of Dun and Paterson. Photo Copyright Robert Guthrie and reproduced by his very kind permission.

Dun and Paterson (73, 74), who lie next to Richard, have an eighteenth-century style stone with a two-sided inscription that was recorded in 1861. (Murray, Songs of the Covenant Times. By an Ayrshire Minister, 207.)

The gravestones of Dun, Paterson and Richard (42) all lie at the former site of the gallows in Cumnock. It is clear that at least one, if not both, of those graves were known about in the 1720s, as Patrick Walker recorded Alexander Peden as being ‘in the grave, beside other martyrs’. The only other martyrs buried there are Dun, Paterson and Richard. Although Walker did not specifically identify other gravestones, it is possible that Dun and Paterson’s stone, and perhaps that of Richard, or an earlier version of it, existed in the 1720s. (Walker, BP, I, 84.)

Original Photo Copyright The Glebe Blog

The gravestone of James Smith (55), which was missed by Thomson when he was in Mauchline, was recorded in 1852. The inscription on it includes a typographic error found in Shields, that misdated his death to 1684, which was transmitted through all editions of Cloud of Witnesses. However, the inscription is not directly based on Shields/Cloud, as it contains different information about where he died, i.e., in prison, rather than at Burn Anne. (Wilson, Guide to Dumfries and surrounding neighbourhood, 14; CW, 279.)

The Grave of William Harvie © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

On stylistic grounds, the gravestone of William Harvie (92) appears to be of an early date, but it also appears to he been renewed or replaced at some point in its history. It was not recorded until 1862. (Rankine, Biography of William Symington, Civil Engineer, 5.)


The gravestones for 52 of the dead from the Killing Times certainly date to before 1714. They were probably erected after 1702. The gravestones for a further ten deaths were erected before 1730 and three were erected prior to 1741. In total, the gravestones which were erected and recorded before 1741 list 65 deaths of the Kiling Times.

What of the remaining 24 deaths with gravestones?

Fifteen of those deaths were recorded on gravestones that predate nineteenth-century memorials erected to them. Those stones were probably erected in the first half of the Eighteenth Century.

The gravestones for the remaining nine deaths were not recorded before 1794 at the earliest and mainly in mid nineteenth-century sources. Many of those stones appear to be of early eighteenth-century origin.

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

A Brief History of Flyposting: A Villainous and Blasphemous paper posted in #Edinburgh, 1680 #History #Scotland

•March 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Torwood Wallace Oak 4

A brief history of flyposting. When we ‘batter something out’ or something is ‘battered up’ it means doing it quickly and in haste. According to the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, one meaning of ‘batter’ refers to flyposting with paste, which began at some point in Scotland before 1640. The history of flyposting in Scotland stretches back nearly 400 years. Flyposting has always been a way of distributing news about events, politics and happenings to the people on the streets …

In 1680, government sources report the flyposting of possibly one of the most subversive documents produced in Scotland, the Torwood Excommunication at the Wallace Oak by Donald Cargill, the text of which delivered the leaders of the Scotland up to Satan. From what the report says, below, (printed?) copies of it were quickly torn down by the authorities. However, news of what it contained rapidly spread.

The report is useful in a number of ways. First, it provides us with a date for the Torwood Excommunication of 12 September, 1680, which until now has been obscure. Second, it gives us a date of 19 September, for Cargill’s seditious preaching at Falla Hills. Third, it mentions that Cargill initially forgot to excommunicate the Duke of Lauderdale, which suggests that the full list of those excommunicated was not thought through prior to the act.

Weigh House Edinburgh

The Torwood Excommunication was posted in at least two locations in the seventeenth-century city. One copy was found at the Weigh House at the top of the Lawnmarket, near to where a small, mini roundabout stands today. The Weigh House, or Butter Tron, had been built in 1660 to replace an earlier version of the building destroyed by Cromwell. The 1660 Weigh House was eventually demolished to widen the approach to the Castle for George IV’s visit in 1822. In 1680, the Lawnmarket, which ran down to Edinburgh Tolbooth, was at the heart of the burgh’s commercial life as the open public area in the centre of the city. As a location for flyposting the excommunication, it was perfect for quickly spreading word of it.

Charles II as Caesar

The other place where the excommunication was posted in Parliament Close, the centre of Scottish political power. Parliament Close, now known as Parliament Square, was a small oblong square surrounded by high tenements, shops and the old Parliament building. Today, the appearance of the square is very different from how it looked in 1680 due to the extensive remodelling of the facades of the law courts/old parliament after a great fire destroyed many of the tenements surrounding it in 1824. The controversial equestrian statue of Charles II, which sits in the square post dates the Torwood Excommunication by a few years.

From Thomas Murray to the Duke of Lauderdale.

‘Ed[inbu]r[gh], [Saturday] 18 Sept[embe[r], 1680.

May it please your Gr[ac]e.

here I send the copie of that villanous and Blasphemous paper, I mentioned in my last to ye Earle of Murray; ane double of it wes battered, upon the weighhouse, but wes torn in pieces, in pulling it of; the originall found in the Parlia[men]t closs I cause keepe, so that no double salbe given of it to anie alive, till I know your Gr[ace’s] thoughts about it, it is a copie of that treasonable and sacrilegious sentence pronu’nced last lords day [12 September] by Mr Donald Cargill in a numerous field conventicle at the Torwood, where manie were in armes; and your Gr[ace]: wes forgotten by him in the for[e]noon, but uncanonicallie he brought you up in the afternoon, and after ane scurrilous apologie for his ommission, he proceeded with his blunt thunder against you; this spirit of profannes, and blood hath here arrived to the height of Dementation and maddnes; and is ane verie angrie dispensation of gods judgement, upon that ungodlie and ungovernable tribe; I pray God, may convince them of their maddnes, and preserve us from their crueltie and violence. I beleeve this lyne may find your Gr[ac]e at the Bath, where I pray God, you may prosper in your health, that you may be preserved for manic happie years for the service of your King, and of the poor church, to ye comfort of
May it Please yo[u]r Gr[ac]e,
Your G[race’]s most humble and
Most faithfull servand,
Jo: Edinburgen.

Your Gr[ac] will see the learning of the curser while he calls S. Ambrose, Bishop of Lyons — I have nothing else to say by this post, that is new.’

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

The Battle of Drumclog, 1679: Wilson’s Version #History #Scotland

•February 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

In 1751, an account of the Battle of Drumclog by William Wilson, a schoolmaster in the Park of Douglas parish, was published by John McCallum and sold by Robert Smith, bookseller ‘at the Sign of the gilt Bible’ in the Saltmarket, Glasgow, under the title of The true and impartial relation of the persecuted Presbyterians in Scotland; their rising in arms, and defeat at Bothwell-Bridge, in the year 1679 (Glasgow, 1751).


Drumclog Memorial (Built 1839, Rebuilt 1867) © Walter Baxter and licensed for .

William Wilson (1689–1757) was not born when the battle was fought. He was not an ‘impartial’ historical source, as he had been one of the post-Revolution McMillanites before he split from them. However, it is claimed that he consulted twelve sources, several in manuscript, for his accounts of the battles of Bothwell Bridge and Drumclog. One source he certainly used was Wodrow’s account, which also drew on original sources.

His work on the battles appeared again as A Relation of the Battle of Bothwell Bridge (Glasgow, 1797) and again in 1809 in Kilmarnock and in the An historical account of the lives and characters of Mr. W[illiam]. G[uthrie].

His account is as follows:

‘As to the rencounter at Drumclog, the true account of it is this. June 1st, [1679,] being the sabbath, the persecuted people of God met at Glesterlaw, in the parish of Loudo[u]n, for the public worship of God.’

‘Glesterlaw’ is the unnamed hill above Glaister, just to the west of Harelea Hill across the Tongue Burn.

Map of Glaister Law

‘Either late the night before, or very early this same morning; bloody [John] Graham or Claverhouse came from the new garrison at Glasgow, with three troop of horse and dragoons in great fury, vowing and swearing that whatever number were of them (meaning the honest people) he should be out through them; and according to his design, gave for his word, no quarters: and by the way, as he was plundering and spoiling houses, he took out of their beds, Mr. John King, and 17 honest country-men, whom he bound severely, two and two together, and drove them before him like beasts, and so marched towards Loudon-hill.

Immediately after divine worship was begun, by Mr. Thomas Douglas; the meeting was alarmed with the news of Claverhouse, his coming from Strathaven to surprize them; and that he had taken Mr. King, and others of their friends prisoners; whereupon, after a short consultation, they resolved, that for the relief of the prisoners, their own defence and the defence of the gospel, they would put their life in venture, and, through the Lord’s assistance, go and meet that cruel raging enemy; and, to the uttermost of their power, opose his hellish fury; and then drawing out all the men, who , any arms, and were willing to fight for the Lord’s cause, from the rest of the meeting, who were fifty horsemen, ill provided in arms, fifty footmen with guns, and 150 with halberts and forks.

Mr. [Robert] Hamilton was called to the chief command, and under him David Hackston of Rathillet, Henry Hall of Haughhead, John Balfour of Kinloch, Robert Fleeming [of Auchenfin], William Cleland, John Brown[, an ‘old soldier’].

Mr. Hamilton gave out the word, that no quarters should be given to the enemy; and then, with courage and zeal they marched forward, till they met with Claverhouse and his bloody company, near Drumclog, in the parish of Evandale, about a mile east from Loudon-hill.’

The site of the battle is usually placed about a mile north-east, rather than east, of Loudoun Hill.

Map of site of Battle of Drumclog                Street View of possible battlefield

‘The enemy fired first on them, which they bravely withstood, and fired back on them with much gallantry; and after a short, but very warm engagement with the enemy, while the enemy were drawing near to them (a stank being betwixt them) John Balfour, with some horse, and William Cleland, with some foot, and after them the rest, most resolutely brake through that passage, with courage and valour upon the enemy; and, by the good hand of God upon them, they did instantly defeat, and Claverhouse and his bloody crew took flight.

They killed about thirty-six or forty of them, wounded others, shot Claverhouse’s horse under him, and he narrowly escaped. They relieved Mr. King and the rest of the prisoners, whom Claverhouse had commanded the guard to shoot if he lost; but they were all so hotly handled at this time, that the guard got another thing to mind, than to put this part of their orders in execution. They pursued the enemy about two miles, who, in great terror fled back to Glasgow.

Mr. Hamilton discovered a great deal of bravery and valour, both in the conflict with and pursuit of the enemy: but when he and some others were pursuing the enemy, others flew too greedily upon the spoil, small as it was, instead of pursuing the victory: and some without Mr. Hamilton’s knowledge, and directly contrary to his express command, gave five of these bloody enemies quarters, and then let them go: this greatly grieved Mr. Hamilton, when he saw some of Babel’s brats spared, after that the Lord had delivered them into their hands, that they might dash them against the stones, Psal. cxxxvii. 9. [‘Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.’]

In his own account of this [in a letter of December, 1685], he reckons the sparing of these enemies, and letting them go, to be among their first stepping aside; for which he feared that the Lord would not honour them to do much more for him; and says, that he was neither for taking favours from, nor giving favours to the Lord’s enemies.

In this rencounter there was killed only one man, John Morton in Broomhill, in Newmills, a Loudo[u]n man, and five deadly wounded, who died of their wounds, viz. Thomas Weir, in Cumberhead [Lesmahagow parish]; William Dingwall, a Fife man [and assassin of Sharp]; James Thomson [in Tanhill] a Stenhouse man; John Gabby in Fioch, and James Dyks, Loudon men, who belonged to the persecuted party.’

Broomhill, the home of John Morton, lies beside Glaister Law.

Map of Broomhill                Street View of Broomhill


Feoch Farm © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

Feoch, the home of John Gabby or Gebbie, lies to the north-west of Broomhill and next to Highside, which is said to have been where the James Nisbet executed in Glasgow in 1684 was from.

Map of Feoch                      Street View of Feoch

James Thomson is said to have been an ancestor of the Thomsons in ‘Tannahill’, i.e., Tanhill, which lies just inside of Lesmahagow parish. He is buried in Stonehouse churchyard. Tanhill lies next to Rogerhill, the home of William Steel, and Blackwood House, where John Brown was summarily executed in 1685.

Map of Tanhill                           Street View of Tanhill

Thompson records the graves of two other men from Loudoun parish who are said to have been killed at Drumclog, Thomas Fleming in Loudounhill and Andrew Richmond. (Martyr Graves, 123-4.)



Loudounhill was the home of several fugitives and is said to have been where the John Law, who died attacking the Ducat Tower in Newmilns in 1685, lived.

Map of Loudounhill

‘After they returned from pursuing the enemy, they resolved to continue together, till they saw what the Lord would do with them. This night they went to Hamilton. The report of their victory over Claverhouse, and relieving of Mr. King, and the rest of the prisoners, encouraged severals to join with them by the way: and great pity it was, that they had not pursued the enemy hotly to Glasgow, considering the terror that was upon them, their defeat in all seeming probability had been easy. But being weary that night, they resolved to refresh themselves a little, and to surprize the enemy then in Glasgow, early next morning, which delay proved to be a loss to themselves, and an advantage to the enemy,’ … (Wilson’s account in An historical account of the lives and characters of Mr. W. G, 74-5.)

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


Martin, Gilry and Muir Hanged in Edinburgh #History #Scotland

•February 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Gallows Edinburgh

Under 22 February, 1684:
George Martine Adam Weir [aka. John Kerr or John Gilry] & James Muire execute in the Grassmercat for deneying aut[hor]ie.’(Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, IX, 127.)

‘The Tolbuith of Edinburgh is broke’, February, 1687 #History #Scotland

•February 13, 2017 • 2 Comments

Edinburgh Tolbooth 2

Lord Fountainhall reports:

13 February, 1687:
‘being Sunday.— At night the Tolbuith of Edinburgh is broke, and 16 malefactors and robbers escapes; yet George Drummond the keeper is not quarrelled for this, tho’ Mr. John Wanse and Arthur Udney ware put out [of their jobs on 10th] November last for one rogue’s escape [that of the militant preacher Alexander Shields on 22 October, 1686], but it was at the door, yet it was in weemen’s cleaths; and this was by a digging out a wholle in the wall, and lifting out the stones, and coming down on ropes. Two of them ware after found at Kirkliston, and being condemned, one of them was hanged at the Gallow-ly on the Friday after. (Lauder, Historical Notices, II, 781-2.)

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The Battle of Drumclog: “Torfoot’s Account” #History #Scotland #Literature

•February 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment


The following is said to have been written ‘by laird of Torfoot’, who allegedly fought at the Battle of Drumclog in 1679. However, it is obviously a work of fiction, rather than a work history. Yet, somehow, in the nineteenth century, presbyterian tradition wove it into the history of the Covenanters. As a historical source for what happened at the Battle of Drumclog, it is utterly useless. It is, however, packed with action.

It is from Narrative of the Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge (1822), which originally appeared in an American newspaper and in later chapbook editions. The story should be read as a response to the outcry over Walter Scott’s critical portrayal of the Covenanters in Old Mortality (1816). When it was first printed in the National Gazette, it was prefaced by a letter which discussed that dispute. At the end of the published passages are the initials W.C.B., i.e., William Craig Brownlee, who was not a seventeenth-century laird.

The “Captain Arrol” in the story is based on the John Arrol who died at Drumclog. According to Wodrow under the year 1678:
‘Graham of Claverhouse, with a numerous party of soldiers, came and quartered upon Gilbert M’Meiken in new Glenluce parish, for a good many days, without paying anything; and when they went off, though they had consumed ten times the value of the cess [tax], they carried with them three horses worth ten pounds sterling. John Arrol wo commanded the party, was killed next year at Drumclog, and had his bowels tread out by a horse.’ (Wodrow, History, II, 492.)

Several real Covenanters and John Graham of Claverhouse, a captain of horse in 1679, are named in the text.

Narrative of the Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge

“The following Account of the Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge, is taken from an American Newspaper, entitled the ‘National Gazette.’ It is written by the Laird of Torfoot, an officer in the Presbyterian army, whose estate is at this day in the possession of his lineal descendants the fifth generation.

“It was a fair Sabbath morning, 1st June 1679, that an assembly of the Covenanters sat down on the heathy mountains of Drumclog. We had assembled not to fight, but to worship the God of our fathers. We were far from the tumult of cities.— The long dark heath waved around us; and we disturbed no living creatures, saving the pees-weep and the heather-cock. As usual, we had come armed. It was for self-defence. For desperate and ferocious bands made bloody raids through the country, and, pretending to put down treason, they waged war against religion and morals. They spread ruin and havoc over the face of bleeding Scotland.

The venerable [Thomas] Douglas had commenced. the solemnities of the day. He was expatiating on the execrable evils of tyranny. Our souls were on fire at the rememberance of our country’s sufferings and the wrongs of the church. In this moment of intense feeling, our watchman posted on the neighbouring heights fired his carabine and ran towards the congregation. He announced the approach of the enemy. We raised our eyes to the minister. “I have done,” said Douglas with his usual firmness — “You have got the theory, –now .for the practice; you know your duty; self-defence is alway lawful. But the enemy approaches,” He raised his eyes to heaven and uttered a prayer— brief and emphatic— like the prayer of Richard Cameron [at Airds Moss], “Lord, spare the green, and take the ripe.”

The officers collected their men, and placed themselves each at the head of those of his own district. Sir Robert Hamilton placed the foot in the centre, in three ranks. A company of horse, well armed and mounted, was placed on the left; and a small squadron also on the left. These were drawn back, and they occupied the more solid ground; as well with a view to have a more solid footing, as to arrest any flanking party that might take them on the wings. A deep morass lay between us and the ground of the enemy. Our aged men, our females and children retired; but they retired slowly. They had the hearts and the courage of the female and children in those days of intense religious feeling and of suffering. They manefested more concern for the fate of relatives, for the fate of the church than for their own personal safety. As Claverhouse descended the opposite mountain, they retired to the rising ground in the rear of our host. The aged men walked with their bonnets in hand. Their long grey hairs waving to the breeze. They sang a cheering psalm. The music was that of the well-known tune of “The Martyrs;” and the sentiment breathed defiance. — The music floated down on the wind, — our men gave them three cheers as they fell into their ranks. Never did I witness such animation in the looks of men. For me, my spouse and my little children were in the rear. My native plains, and the hills of my father, far below, in the deal of Aven, were in full view from the heights which we occupied. My country seemed to raise her voice — the bleeding church seemed to wail aloud. ‘And these,’ I said, as Clavers and his troops winded slowly down the dark mountain’s side, ‘these are the unworthy slaves, and bloody executioners, by which the tyrant completes our miseries.’

Hamilton here displayed the hero. His portly figure was seen hastening from rank to rank. He insired courage into our raw and undisciplined troops. The brave Hackstone [of Rathillet], and Hall of Haughhead, stood at the head of the foot, and re-echoed the sentiments of their Chief. Burley and [William] Cleland had inflamed the minds of the horsemen on the left to a noble enthusiasm. My small troop on the right needed no exhortation; we were a band of brothers, resolved to conquer or fall.

The trumpet of Clavers sounded a loud note of defiance — the kettle drum mixed its tumultuous roll — they halted —they made a long pause. We could see an officer with four file, conducting 15 persons from the ranks, to a knoll on their left. I could perceive one in black: it was my friend [Mr John] King, the Chaplain at Lord Cardross, who had been taken by Clavers at Hamilton. ‘Let them be shot through the head,’ said Clavers, in his usual dry way, if they should offer to run away.’ We could see him view our position with great care. His officers came around him. We soon learned that he wished io treat with us. He never betrayed symptoms of mercy or of justice, nor offered terms of reconciliation, unless when he dreaded that he had met his match; and, even then, it was only a manoeuvre to gain time or to deceive. His flag approached the edge of the bog. Sir Robert held a flag sacred; had it been borne by Clavers himself he had honoured it. He demanded the purpose for which he came. ‘I come,’ said he,’in the name of his sacred Majesty, and of Colonel Graham, to offer you a pardon, on condition that you lay down your arms, and deliver up your ringleaders.’ — ‘Tell your officer,’ said Sir Robert, ‘that we are fully aware of the deception he practices. He is not clothed with any powers to treat, nor was he sent out to treat with us, and attempt reconciliation. The Government against whom, we have risen, refuses to redress our grievances, or to restore to us our liberties. Had the tyrant wished to render us justice, he had. not sent by the hand of such a ferocious assassin as Claverhouse. Let him, however, show his powers, and we refuse not to treat; and we shall lay down our arms to treat, provided that he also lay down his. Thou hast my answer.’ — ‘It is a perfectly hopeless case,’ said Burley, while he called after the flag-bearer.— ‘Let me add one word by your leave, General. Get thee up to that bloody dragoon, Clavers, and tell him, that we will spare his life, and the lives of his troops, on condition that he, your Clavers, lay down his arms, and the arms of these troops. We will do more, as we have no prisoners on these wild mountains, we will even let him go on his parole, on condition that he swear never to lift arms against the religion and the liberties of his country. A loud burst of applause re-echoed from the ranks; and after a long pause in deep silence, the army sung the following verses of a psalm:—

‘The arrows of the bow he brake:
The shield, the sword, the war.
More glorious thou than hills of prey,
More excellent art far.

Those that were stout of heart are spoil’d
They sleep their sleep outright;
And none of these their hands did find,
That were the men of might.

When the report was made to Claverhouse, he gave word with a savage ferocity, ‘Their blood be on their own heads. Be — no quarter — the word this day.’ His fierce dragoons raised a yell, and ‘No quarters,’ re-echoed from rank to rank, while they galloped down the mountain side. It is stated, that Burleigh was heard to say, ‘Then be it so, even let there be ‘no quarter’ — at least in my wing of the host. So God send me a meeting, cried he aloud, ‘with that chief under the white plume. —My country would bless my memory, could my sword give his villainous carcase to the crows.’

Our raw troops beheld with firmness the approach of the foemen; and at the moment when the enemy halted to fire, the whole of our foot dropped on the heath. Not a man was seen down when the order was given to rise, and return the fire. The first flank fired, then kneeling down while the second fired. They made each bullet tell. As often as the lazy rolling smoke was carried over the enemy’s head, a shower of bullets fell on his ranks. Many a gallant man tumbled on the heath. The fire was incessant. It resembled one blazing sheet of flame, for several minutes, along the line of the Covenanters, Clavers attempted to cross the morass, and break our centre, ‘Spearmen! to the front,’ — I could hear the deep-toned voice of Hamilton say, ‘Kneel, and place your spears to receive the enemy’s cavalry, and you, my gallant fellows fire— God and our country is our word.’ — Our officers flew from rank to rank. Not a peasant gave way that day. As the smoke rolled off, we could see Clavers urging on his men with the violence of despair. His troops fell in heaps around him, and still the gaps were filled up. A galled trooper would occasionally flinch; but ere he could turn or flee, the sword of Clavers was waving over his head. I see him in his fury, strike both man and horse. In the fearful carnage he himself sometimes reeled. He would stop short in the midst of a movement, then contradict his own orders, and strike the man, because he could not comprehend his meaning.

He ordered the flanking parties to take us on our right and left, “In the name of God,” cried he, “cross the bog, and charge them on the flanks till we get over the morass. If this fail we are lost.”

It now fell to my lot to come into action.— Hitherto we had fired only some distant shot. A gallant officer led his band down to the borders of the swamp, in search of a proper place to cross. We threw ourselves before him, a severe firing commenced. My gallant men fired with great steadiness. We could see many tumbling from their saddles. Not content with repelling the foemen, we found an opportunity to cross and attack them sword in hand. The Captain, whose name I afterwards ascertained to be Arrol, threw himself into my path. In the first shock, I discharged my pistols. His sudden start in the saddle, told me that one of them had taken effect. With one of the tremendous oaths of Charles II. he closed with me. He fired his steel pistol. I was in front of him; — my sword glanced on the weapon, and gave a direction to the bullet, which saved my life. By this time my men had driven the enemy before them, and had left the ground clear for the single combat. As he made a lounge at my breast, I turned his sword aside, by one of those sweeping blows, which are rather the dictate of a kind of instinct of self-defence, than a movement of art. — As our strokes redoubled, my antagonist’s dark features put on a look of deep and settled ferocity. No man who has not encountered the steel of his enemy, in the field of battle, can conceive the looks and the manner of the warrior, in the moments of his intense feelings. May I never witness them again! We fought in silence. My stroke fell on his left shoulder; it cut the belt of his carabine, which fell to the ground. His blow cut me to the rib, glanced along the bone, and rid me also of the weight of my carabine. He had now advanced too near me to be struck with the sword. I grasped him by the collar. I pushed him backwards; and, with an entangled blow of my Ferrara, I struck him across his throat. It cut only the strap of his headpiece, and it fell off. With a sudden spring, he seized me by the sword belt. Our horses reared, and we both came to the ground. We rolled on the heath in deadly conflict. It was in this situation of matters, that my brave fellows had returned from the rout of the flanking party, to look after their commander. One of them was actually rushing on my antagonist, when I called on him to retire. We started to our feet. Each grasped his sword. We closed in conflict again. After parrying strokes of mine enemy, which indicated a hellish ferocity, I told him, my object was to take him prisoner; that sooner than kill him, I should order my men to seize him. “Sooner let my soul be brandered on my ribs in hell,” said he, “than be captured by a Whigmore. ‘No quarter’ is the word of my Colonel, and my word. Have at the Whig — I dare the whole of you to the combat.” — “Leave the mad man to me — leave the field instantly,” said I to my party, whom I could hardly restrain. My sword fell on his left shoulder. — His sword dropped from his hand. — I lowered my sword, and offered him his life. ‘No quarter,’ said he, with a shriek of despair. He snatched his sword, which I held in my hand, and made a lounge at my breast. I parried his blows till he was nearly exhausted; but, gathering up his huge limbs, he put forth all his energy in a thrust at my heart. — My Andro Ferrara received it, so as to weaken its deadly force; but it made a deep cut. Though I was faint with loss of blood, I left him no time for another blow. My sword glanced on his shoulder, cut through his buff coat, and skin, and flesh; swept through his jaw, and laid open his throat from ear to ear. The fire of his ferocious eye was quenched in a moment. He reeled, and falling with a terrible clash, he poured out his soul with a torrent of blood on the heath. I sunk down, insensible for a moment. My faithful men, who never lost sight of me, raised me up. In the fierce combat, the soldier suffers most from thirst. I stooped down to fill my helmet with the water which oozed through the morass. It was deeply tinged with human blood, which flowed in the conflict above me. I started back with horror; and Gawn Witherspoon bringing up my steed, we set forward in the tumult of the battle.

All this while, the storm of war had raged on our left. Cleland and the fierce Burley had charged the strong company sent to flank them. These officers permitted me to cross the swamp, then, charged them with a terrible shout. ‘No quarter,’ cried the dragoons.‘Be no quarter to you, then, ye murderous loons,’ cried Burley; and at one blow he cut their leader through the steel cap, and scattered his brains on his followers. His every blow overthrew a foeman. Their whole forces were now brought up, and they drove the dragoons of Clavers into the swamp. They rolled over each other. All stuck fast. The Covenanters dismounted, and fought on foot. They left not one man to bear the tidings to their Colonel.

The firing of the platoons had long ago ceased, and the dreadful work of death was carried on by the sword. At this moment, a trumpet was heard in the rear of our army. There was an awful pause, all looked up. It was only the gallant Captain [John] Nesbit [of Hardhill], and his guide, [George] Woodburn of Mains; he had no reinforcements for us, but himself was a host. With aloud huzza, and flourish of his sword, he placed himself by the side of Burley, and cried, ‘jump the ditch, and charge the enemy’, He and Burley struggled through the marsh. The men followed as they could. They formed and marched on the enemy’s right flank.

At this instant, Hamilton and Hackstone brought forward the whole line of infantry in front. ‘God and our Country’ re-echoed from all the ranks — ‘No quarter’ said the fierce squadrons of Clavers— Here, commenced a bloody scene.

I seized the opportunity this moment offered me of making a movement to the left of the enemy to save my friend King and the other prisoners.— We came in time to save them. Our sword speedily severed the ropes which tyranny had bound on the arms of the men. The weapons of the fallen foe supplied what was lacking of arms; and with great vigour we moved forward to charge the enemy on the left flank. Claverhouse formed a hollow square— himself in the centre; his men fought gallantly; they did all that soldiers could do in their situation. Wherever a gap was made, Clavers thrust the men forward, and speedily filled it up. Three times he rolled headlong in the heath as he hastened from rank to rank, and as often he remounted. My little band thinned his ranks. He paid us a visit. Here I distinctly saw the features and shape of this far-famed man. He was small of stature, and not well formed. His arms were long in proportion to his legs; he had a complexion unusually dark; his features were not lighted up with sprightliness, as some fabulously reported; they seemed gloomy as hell: his cheeks were lank and deeply furrowed; his eye-brows were drawn down and gathered into a kind of knot at their junctions, and thrown up at their extremeties; they had, in short, the strong expression given by our painters to those on the face of Judas Iscariot, his eyes were hollow, they had not the lustre of genius nor the fire of vivacity; they were lighted up by that dark fire of wrath which is kindled and fanned by an internal anxiety, and conciousness of criminal deeds; his irregular and large teeth were presented through a smile, which was very unnatural on his set of features; his mouth seemed to be unusually large from the extremeties being drawn backward and downward — as if in the intense application to something cruel and disgusting; in short, his upper teeth projected over his under lip, and on the whole, presented to my view the mouth on the image of the Emperor Julian the Apostate.— In one of his rapid courses past us, my sword could only shear off his white plume and a fragment of his buff coat. In a moment he was at the other side of the square. Our officers eagerly sought a meeting with him. ‘He has the proof of lead,’ cried some of our men. — ‘Take the cold steel or a piece of silver.’ ‘No,’ cried Burley, ‘It is his rapid movement on that fine charger that bids defiance to any thing like an aim in the tumult of the bloody fray. I could sooner shoot ten heather cocks on the wing, than one flying Clavers.’ At that moment Burley, whose eye watched his antagonist, pushed into the hollow square. But Burley was too impatient. His blow was levelled at him before he came within its reach. His heavy sword descended on the head of Clavers’ horse and felled him to the ground — Burley’s men rushed pell-mell on the fallen Clavers, but his faithful dragoons threw themselves upon them, and by their overpowering force drove Burley back. Clavers was in an instant on a fresh steed. His bugleman recalled the party who were driving back the flanking party of Burley. He collected his whole troops to make his last and desperate attack. He charged our infantry with such force, that they began to reel. It was only for a moment. The gallant Hamilton snatched the white flag of the Covenant, and placed himself in the fore front of the battle. Our men shouted ‘God and our country’ and rallied under the flag. They fought like heroes. Clavers fought no less bravely. His blows were aimed at our officers. His steel fell on the helmet of Hackstone, whose sword was entangled in the body of a fierce dragoon, who had just wounded him. He was born by his men into the rear. I directed my men on Clavers. ‘Victory or death,’ was their reply to me. Clavers received us. He struck a desperate blow at me as he raised himself, with all his force, in the saddle. My steel cap resisted it. The second stroke I received on my Ferrara and his steel was shivered to pieces. We rushed headlong on each other. His pistol missed, fire— it had been soaked in blood. Mine took effect. But the wound was not deadly. Our horses reared. We rolled on the ground. In vain we sought to grasp each other. In the mele, men and horse tumbled on us. We were for a few moments buried under our men, whose eagerness to save the respective officers brought them in multitudes down upon us. By the aid of my faithful man Gawn, I had extricated myself from my fallen horse; and we were rushing on the bloody Clavers, when we were again literally buried under a mass of men; for Hamilton had by this time brought up his whole line, and he had planted his standard where we and Clavers were rolling on the heath. Our men gave three cheers and drove in the troops of Clavers. Here I was born along with the moving mass of men; and, almost suffocated and faint with the loss of blood, I knew nothing more till I opened my eye on my faithful attendant. He had dragged me from the very grasp of the enemy, and had borne me into the rear, and was bathing my temples with water. We speedily regained our friends; and what a spectacle presented itself! — It seemed that I beheld an immense moving mass heaped up together in the greatest confusion. — Some shrieking, some groaning, some shouted, horses neighed and pranced, swords rung on the steel helmets. I placed around me a few of my hardy men, and we rushed into the thickest of the enemy in search of Clavers, but it was in vain. At that instant, his trumpet sounded the loud notes of retreat; and we saw on a knoll Clavers borne away by his men. He threw himself on a horse, and without sword, without helmet, he fled in the first ranks of their retreating host. His troops galloped up the hill in the utmost confusion. My little line closed with that of Burleys, and took a number of prisoners. Our main body pursued the enemy two miles, and strewed the ground with men and horses. I could see the bare-headed Clavers in front of his men, kicking and struggling up the steep sides of Calder hill. He halted only a moment on the top to look behind him, then plunged his rowels into his horse, and darted forward; nor did he recover from his panic till he found himself in the city of Glasgow.

‘And, my children,’ the Laird would say, after he had told the adventures of this bloody day, ‘I visited the field of battle next day; I shall never forget the sight. Men and horses lay in their gory beds. I turned away from the horrible spectacle. I passed by the spot where God saved my life in the single combat, and where the unhappy Captain Arrol fell, I observed that, in the subsequent fray, the body had. been trampled on by a horse, and his bowels were poured out. Thus, my children, the defence of our lives, and the regaining of our liberty and religion, has subjected us to severe trials. And how great must be the love of liberty, when it carries men forward, under the impulse of self-defence, to witness the most disgusting spectacles, and to encounter the most cruel hardships of war!’

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After the Battle of Drumclog: Claverhouse’s Retreat to Glasgow, 1 June 1679 #History #Scotland

•February 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Claverhouse and his dragoons

On the afternoon of 1 June, 1679, Lord Ross encountered John Graham of Claverhouse and his men in flight from their defeat at the Battle of Drumclog. Three days earlier, it had been Claverhouse’s intention to conduct a joint attack on the Covenanters with Lord Ross. However, at Drumclog, Claverhouse had attacked on his own.

‘For the Earle of Linlithgow.
Major-Generall to His Majesties Forces.

Glasgow, Sunday [1 June, 1679], 9 o’clock at night.

My Lord,

After Ensing Achmouty wes dispatched [to his Lordship], I descovred a party marching to Glasgow, whom we made up to, but found it to be [Graham of] Claverus and Captain [John] Ingills, with the broken troops. Claverus in formed me how it went, and, therafter, we resolved to returne to this place [i.e., to Glasgow], in reguard they found that the cuntrey wes gathering evry wher to these rogues, and soe concluded that it wes fit to acquaint yo[u]r . Lo[rdship]: with it, that acordingly ye might order what we shall doe, for, be asured, if they wer ten to one, if ye comand it, we shall be throughe them if we can; soe I expect yo[u]r. Lo[rdship’s]: comands.

I know Claverus will give a full acompt of the engadgement, and, therfor, I shall forbear that. My Lord, if this be not a rebelione, I know not what is rebelione. In the meantym, I shall secure, as well as I can, this place. I have ordered the halfe of our party to mount guard this night, foot, horss, and dragouns, and have posted them as well as may, and baricaded all the streits about the Marcat place [in heart of Glasgow].

This is all can be done by Yo[u]r . Lo[rdship’s]: most fathfull and humble servant,

Rosse.’ (Letters of Viscount Dundee, 31.)

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