Rediscovered for #History: The Covenanter of Carlin’s Cove in Galloway #Scotland

•October 13, 2019 • Leave a Comment


Carlin's Cove in Kirkcudbright Bay

Yet again, the excellent historical research of Nic Coombey and the Solway Firth Partnership has uncovered a lost Covenanter’s cave. Located on the west side of Kirkcudbright Bay in Galloway, the story of Carlin’s Cove had slipped from memory.

It is remarkable discovery. At first sight, it seemed to be an unreliable traditional story of a Covenanter in the cave, but then, as we dug a little deeper, it connects to real historical events in the Killing Times of 1685 in Borgue parish…

The Tradition of Carlin’s Cove
Let us begin with the tradition that the Solway Firth Partnership revealed found in a work published in 1824:

‘Carlines Co’ — A very small cove on the west side of the river Dee, and one of the most lonely and romantic any where to be seen. When the bloody Grier o’ Lagg and the Douglass’s [i.e., Colonel James and Captain Thomas] hunted the Covenanters over hill and dale, a poor man of the name of Dixon took up his abode in Carlines Co’, and lived the whole of the time that foul persecution lasted, on the shell-fish he gathered on the seashore beside him, the which he found means to broil on a fire by night: thus he eluded the foes of his clan, the foes of God and man.

The mouth of the cave is quite covered with brush-wood; at the farther end or benmost bore of it, remains yet his seat — a square sea-stone: on it I expected to find an inscription of some kind or other, but was deceived. The Assmidden [i.e., ash pit], and other remains of fire, to be met with, together with the general appearance of the cave, left no doubt on my mind but that it had been once inhabited, and for a considerable time.’ (Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia, 115.)

Map of Carlin’s Cave

Carlin's Cove Senwick Bay

The Cove is found on the first OS map and shown a little more clearly on the later 25-inch map, but it does not appear on the modern OS map.

The nineteenth-century OS name book for Borgue parish lists the Cove under Senwick Bay, but it makes no reference to the tradition of “Dixon” at all: “On one side of the bay is a natural cavity called “Carlin’s Cove” beyond [it?] there is no interest attached to [the] bay.”

Back in late 1684, there were several fugitives in hiding in Borgue parish. One of them is of particular interest in relation to the tradition of “Dixon” and the Cove.


The Fugitive John Richardson in 1684
It appears that the tradition of “Dixon” is based on a local fugitive called John Richardson. Dixon should probably be rendered as the Scottish surname Dickson, and Dick is, of course, the short form of Richard. It seems that tradition remembered Richardson as Dixon.

There is strong evidence that tradition changed the name. ‘John Richardson, there’ is listed on the published Fugitive Roll of 5 May, 1684. We know that he was still a fugitive in late 1684, as according to a summons to a circuit court held in Kirkcudbright, ‘Mareon McKie in Over Sennick’ was brought before the court ‘for conversing with and resetting John Richardsone, rebell;’ (RPCS, IX, 375.)

Reset means hiding and suppling a fugitive.

Carlin's Cove Upper Senwick

Over Sennick, now Upper Senwick, lies right next to Carlin’s Cove and Senwick Bay.

Map of Upper Senwick

Richardson may well have had good reasons to hide in Carlin’s Cove during the Killing Times. As a fugitive in hiding, he almost certainly evaded taking the Abjuration oath in January, 1685, that renounced the United Societies war of assassinations against known state “persecutors”.


A close neighbour and fellow fugitive, Grizel Fullarton, the good wife of Balmangan, was threatened with execution by drowning at Kirkcudbright by the Abjuration court there for evading exactly the same oath. Execution by drowning only applied to obdurate militant women who refused the oath. Richardson, as a man. would have faced hanging, banishment or summary field execution, if discovered and he failed to take the oath. He apparently took to the Carlin’s Cove.

There is also a Scots poem on “Dixon” in the Gallovidian Encyclopedia:

“There sat the lanely trimmling wight,
Fear hardly let him draw his breath,
For every hour by day and night,
He dreaded that he’d meet his death.

A day o’ storm — a night fu’ black,
War seasons whan his soul had ease;
Light e’er flung him on the rack,
Grim terror did poor Dixon tease.

He lang’d na for the brade bright moon,
But wish’d her ay ahint a clud;
When morning came he griend for noon.
The darker — less his heart did thud.

Gif that the heron ga’e a scraigh,
While staging on the saunie shore;
Or shelldrake ‘mang the craigs, a squaigh,
His cauld sweat gush’d frae every pore.

He’d shade the binwud door aside,
And through the wunnock sleely peep;
And whan he saw nought but the tide,
He hurkled ben, and hauflins fell asleep.”

For more on the Covenanters of Borgue parish, see here.

For more on the Solway Firth Partnership, see here.

Photograph of Carlin’s Cove © Copyright the Solway Firth Partnership and reproduced by kind permission.


Five Covenanters Hanged at the Gallowlee near Edinburgh, 10 October, 1681 #History #Scotland

•October 10, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Edinburgh Tolbooth Street View

All other historical sources state the execution of five Covenanters took place on 10 October, 1681, however, the records of Edinburgh Tolbooth places their hanging at the Gallowlee between Edinburgh and Leith on 17 October. The latter date is probably in error.

October 17th 1681:
Patrick forman Robert Garnock Alexander Russell David fferies and James Stewart all hanged at the Gallowlee for high treasone and denying the Kings authoritie’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 117.)

The Wigtown Martyrs: Historical Narrative Sources #History #Scotland

•September 27, 2019 • 2 Comments

A diagram of the historical narrative sources for the summary execution by drowning of the Wigtown Martyrs, Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLachlan, in 1685.


Five Covenanters Escape From the Canongate Tolbooth in late 1685 #History #Edinburgh #Scotland

•August 18, 2019 • 2 Comments

Canongate Tolbooth

On 24 November, 1685, five Covenanters broke out of the Canongate Tolbooth in Edinburgh. Their stories link to intriguing events, including an attack on a castle, about which little is known…

Lauder of Fountainhall recorded their escape under 24 November 1685: ‘At night, the Canongate Tolbuith was broke, and 5 of the Privy Counsell’s prisoners, who ware in for conventicles, &c., escaped.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices, II, 679.)

1. John Sloss, portioner of Dalfarson, Dalmellington parish, Ayrshire.
At some point, probably too late for the mass banishments at the end of July in 1685, John Sloss was captured, brought to Edinburgh and imprisoned in the Canongate Tolbooth.

He was probably the ‘John Sloas, portioner of Dalharfrow’ in Dalmellington parish, Ayrshire, who was listed on the fugitive roll published in May, 1684. Dalmellington parish witnessed significant military activity during the summer of 1685 and it is possible that it led to the capture of Sloss.

Dalharfrow is now called Dalfarson.

Map of Dalfarson

We will return to the story of John Sloss, below.

He and four others escaped …

When Did They Escape?
After the escape, General William Drummond held ‘examinationes anent the escape of the prisoners furth of the tolbooth of the Cannogate’ on 27 November. According to his list, ‘James Templetoune; Gilbert McIlwrick; John Sloch [Sloss or Sluce]; John Strang, Hugh McMaisters[, smith]’ had escaped on 6 October [which is probably a recording/transcription error for the date of the escape as an inquiry into the escape would have immediately followed it]. (RPCS, XI, 368, See also XI, 571.)

24 November is probably the date they escaped.

Who escaped with John Sloss?

2. James Templeton ‘in Lesmahagow’, Lesmahagow parish, Lanarkshire.
A ‘John Templeton, in Threpwood [i.e. Threepwood]’, Lesmahagow parish had appeared on the fugitive roll published in May, 1684.

Map of Threepwood

Whether James ‘in Lesmahagow [parish?]’ was related to John Templeton in Threepwood is not clear.

On 15 October, 1685, the privy council allowed ‘James Templeton in Lesmahagow, to consider the oath of allegiance till the next meeting.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 223.)

3. Gilbert McIlwraith in Daljarrock, Colmonell parish, Ayrshire.
‘Gilbert MacKilwrath, in Dalwharroch [i.e., Daljarrock]’ appeared on the fugitive roll published in May, 1684.

Map of Daljarrock

He was examined before the privy council on 15 October. ‘Gilbert M’Ilwrick in Colmmonel [parish]’, a prisoner in Edinburgh, was brought before the privy council and ordered to be tried for ‘not owning the king’s authority, and refusing to take the oaths of allegiance and abjuration’, as council remitted ‘James Patrick indweller in Kilmarnock, Alexander M’Millan born in Nithsdale, and Gilbert M’Ilwrick in Commonel, to be tried before the justices, for their not owning the king’s authority, and refusing to take the oaths of allegiance or abjuration.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 223.)

Gilbert was possibly kin to Daniel McIlwraith, who was summarily executed in 1685.

Gilbert was remitted to the justices with James Patrick, who was possibly the ‘James Patrick, in Wardlaw’, now West, or East, Wardlaw, in Kilmarnock parish who was also listed on the published fugitive roll in May, 1684.

The fourth prisoner to escape was from Kilbride parish.

4. John Strang of Crosshill, Kilbride parish, Lanarkshire.
‘John Strang, of Corshill [i.e., of Crosshill]’ appeared on the fugitive roll published in May, 1684.

Map of Crosshill

The final prisoner to escape is intriguing, as his story records an attack by Covenanters on a castle in Wigtownshire.

Wigtown List Balneil

5. Hugh McMaster in Balneil, Glenluce parish, Wigtownshire.
McMaster appears on parish list for Glenluce in October, 1684, under Balneil, as an irregular attender of church.

On 15 October, 1685, the privy council appointed that ‘Hugh M’Kinasters, who has made discoveries of several persons rebels in Galloway, and who were accessory to the attack of the castle of Stranraer, whereof some are taken, to be further examined upon oath by the earl of Balcarras and [John Graham of] Claverhouse.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 223.)

McMaster was a blacksmith who probably ran a smithy in New Luce, which is next to Balneil.

Map of Balneil

As a blacksmith, McMasters had a particular skill set, either in relation to arms, or horses, which was of use for the attackers at some point in their armed attack on St Johns Castle. He had vital intelligence of who was involved.


The Attack on St Johns Castle in Stranraer in 1685.
McMasters had apparently revealed important intelligence about which Covenanters had taken part in an attack on St Johns Castle in Stranraer. It is not clear when that attack took place, but given that James Renwick’s Society people attacked other castles, towers and tolbooths to rescue prisoners or acquire arms between late 1684 and the summer of 1685, that is probably when the attack took place.

Map of St Johns Castle

Street View of St Johns Castle

It appears that McMasters was captured at some point after the attack on St Johns Castle and that his intelligence had led to the capture of ‘several persons rebels in Galloway, and who were accessory to the attack of the castle of Stranraer, whereof some are taken.’

That probably points to the summer of 1685 as the time of the attack, as his case was dealt with in October.

However, McMasters, who was probably directly implicated in assisting the attack, chose not to remain in prison even though he had provided intelligence of it.

Escaping the Canongate
The Canongate Tolbooth seems to have had a problem with prisoners escaping. On 22 December, 1685, a summons was issued to Walter Young, the keeper of the Canongate Tolbooth. It lists the same five prisoners: ‘James Templetoun; Gilbert McIlwrick; John Sloch [Sloss]; John Strang, Heugh McMaisters’. According to the summons, the ‘fyve escapt … would neither oune us nor our authority and who being examined did adhere to their seditious principles and were thereupon sent strict prisoners to the said tolbooth’. (RPCS, IX, 420.)

Sloss and the four others were not the only militants who had escaped. According to the summons, Allan Currie, ‘incarcerat for being in arms against us, denying our [au]thority and approving of the Sanqwhar Declaration [of 1680], the Bishops murder [in 1679] and all the rest of the treasonable opinions’ had made his escape ‘in November last’, i.e., the same month that the others had escaped. (RPCS, IX, 420.)

The summons also mentions that a ‘Helen Frazer, incarcerat for denying of our authority and harbouring of rebells, made their (sic) escape’ in a unspecified month. On 26 January 1686, the keeper claimed that Frazer was released, as she was there on private business, not public account, and set at liberty by those who had imprisoned her. (RPCS, XI, 420, 512.)

John Sloss is Recaptured
Sloss was apparently still a liberty in late January, 1686, as the former keeper of the tolbooth could not produce him at that time to refute claims against him that he had let prisoners escape.

What happened next is probably found in an undated document found in the registers of the privy council:

‘John Sloss, prisoner in the tolbooth off Edinburgh, wes aprehended be Captain Strachans dragoons for being in arms with [James] Renek att field conventickells. He denyes the kings authoritie, and will not bidd God save the King. Its lykwayes informed he break the tolbooth off the Cannongatt [in November, 1685], and wes e[n]devoring to make his escape out of the tolbooth off Wighton. He had no armes when he wes taken.’ (RPCS, XI, 431.)

It is clear that when that document was written that John Sloss was a prisoner in Edinburgh Tolbooth, and that he had previously escaped from the Canongate in November.

What is not clear from the document is when he was armed at one of James Renwick’s field preachings and when he attempted to escape from Wigtown Tolbooth. It does appear that the latter events took place after he escaped the Canongate Tolbooth, but we cannot be sure of that.

He was recaptured by Captain John Strachan’s dragoons, who were based at New Galloway in the winter of 1685 to 1686.

Sloss had no arms when recaptured, although he was said to have been armed when he had previously attended one of James Renwick’s field preachings.

That is possibly rare evidence that Renwick preached in Wigtownshire, as Sloss was held in the Wigtown Tolbooth after the field preaching. Renwick did preach across Galloway, which includes Wigtownshire, in late 1685, although we do not have direct evidence that he specifically preached in Wigtownshire. It is, of course, almost certain that Renwick did preach in Wigtownshire, given the strength of support for the militant cause in the parishes of Penninghame, Kirkcowan and Glenluce.

After his recapture, Sloss apparently attempted to escape from Wigtown Tolbooth. He was later brought to Edinburgh Tolbooth, what happened to him next is not clear.

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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


Major Johnston of Edinburgh’s Town Guard takes Prisoners to the Bass Rock #History #Scotland

•August 16, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Bass Rock

‘August 16th 1681
I Robert Johnstoun major to ye good toune of Ed[inbu]r[gh] grant me to have receaved fra ye hands of Mr John vans goodman of ye tolbooth of Edr the persones of John Spreull & W[illia]m Lin prisoners within ye s[ai]d Tolbooth who ar ordered to be transported from ye s[ai]d tolbooth to the Bass and that conforme to ane order of his Maties privie counsell granted for that efect Sic Sub Robt Johnstoune’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 114.)

Covenanters Kill Captain Urquhart at Caldons in January, 1685 #History #Scotland

•August 12, 2019 • 1 Comment

Covenanters Grave Caldons

In a description of Minnigaff parish written by Andrew Heron of Bargaly (at some point between 1699 and his death in c.1728) he describes Covenanters attacking Colonel James Douglas and Captain Urquhart (or Orchar as he calls him) in January, 1685:

‘And it is to be remembered, at a house called the Caldons, that remarkable scuffle hapned between the mountainers [of the United Societies] and Coll [James] Douglas, at which time Captain Orchar (I think it should be [Alexander] Urquhart) was killed: there was one particular worth the noticing, that, when two of these people were attacked, they got behind the stone dyke, with their pieces cocked for their defence. Upon their coming up at them, marching very unconcernedly, one of their peices went off, and killed Captain Orchar dead; the other peice designed against Douglas wou’d not go off, nor fire for all that the man could do, by which the Coll., afterwards General Douglas, escaped the danger.

There were six of the mountaneers killed, and no more of the King’s forces but one dragoon. — One of these poor people escaped very wonderfully, of the name of [Roger?] Dinn or Dun; two of the dragoons pursued him so closely, that he saw no way for escape; but at last flying in towards the lake, the top of a little hill intercepted the soldiers’ view, he immediately did drop into the water all under the brae of the lake, but the head, a heath-bush covering his head, where he got breath; the pursuer cryed out, when he could not find him, that the devil had taken him away.

That morning Captain Orchar had that expression, that, being so angry with the badness of the way, he wished the devil might make his ribs a broiling-iron to his soul, if he should not be revenged on the Whiggs that day, which was the Sabbath morning [of 23 January, 1685], he entred the Glen of Troul, and according to his wish, came upon these poor people, as they were worshiping God upon his day, with a surprizing crueltie.’ (The History of Galloway, Appendix, 162-3.)

When the above manuscript account was published in 1841, the escape of ‘Dun’ quicky found its way into one of Simpson’s Traditions about Roger Dun and later editions of Cloud of Witnesses.

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Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please 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

Banishments of Covenanters and Argyll Prisoners in July 1685 #History #Scotland

•August 8, 2019 • 1 Comment


Following the unsuccessful Argyll Rising of May to June, 1685, the government conducted large-scale banishments of prisoners held in Edinburgh. Most were banished to the plantations in Jamaica.

[24 July, 1685]
Banished:– William Smith, Andrew Scot, James Forrest, John Elliot, Georg Young, Robert Cameron, John Gib, James Stewart, John Swane, William Haistie, James Olipher, John Jackson, Thomas Weir, Neil Black, Gilbert McArthur, Duncan McMillen, John Campbell, sone to Walter [Campbell], John Fletcher, Archibald Thomson, Duncan McVig, Ivar Grahame, John McGibbon, John McCuming, John Campbell, John McIchan, John McIver, John Dow McLauchlan.

Delayed:– Alexander Ritchie, Robert Campbell, John McLauchlane.

Remitted to the Justices:– Thomas Stoddart [executed 12 August], James Wilkie[son], Mathew Bryce [executed 12 August], Archibald Campbell in Paulswork.

Dismist:– John Campbell, a young boy.
All in the Cannogate Tolbooth.

[28 July]
Banished:– William McCall, John Finnieson, John Kennedy, James Corsbie, Robert Sharp, William Marschaell, Andrew Jardin, Agnes Ferguson, Marion Lawson, Elizabeth Kirkwall, Bessie Jardine, Janett McQueen, Mary Clerk. Nota: These in this colum banished. Being men are to have their [left] lugs cut, and women brunt in the cheek.

Remitted:– Edward Stit, David Low [executed 12 August], Gavin Russell [executed 12 August].

Dismist:– one their enactment to live regularly and appear when called, haveing sworn alleadgience:– John Black, Walter Donaldson, William Maider, Georg Howatsone, Robert Rae, Andrew Bell.

Dismist at the Bar:– Robert Johnstoun, a sojer; Janet Dobie, a poor old woman.

[29 July]
Banished:– John Gilliland, Hector McGibbon, Archibald McGibbon, Samwell Huie [warded 10 July]; with Argyle:

Alexander Jamieson [taken at Carsgailoch. Warded 10 July], Andrew Reid, John Huy, William McIlroy [in Kirkcalla], Quintan Dune [in Benquhat], William Drenon, John McVillie, John Cuninghame, Thomas Richard [in Strabracken, Glenluce parish, warded 10 July], Archibald Campbell, Alexander Manson, Mathew Hamiltoun [charity of Tolbooth given to him 17 June]; all in Edinburgh tolbooth: Thes to have their ears cut.

Delayed:– Gil[bert]. McIlroy [in Kirkcalla], Cam, Engleishman.

Dismist:– John McBlean, William McBlean, James McBryde, Mith. Smith.

[30 July]
Banished:– Gilbert Ferguson, John Campbell, Donald McTaylior, Archibald McTyre, John McGillich, Donald McIlmoon, Robert Hutchieson, Archibald McIlvain, Donald McIveraine, David Ochiltree, Duncan Alexander, John Adam, Patrick Stewart, Malcome Whyte, Colin Campbell, John Balvaradge; all with Argyle prisoners in the Cannogate.

Walter Hownan, James Murray [burgess of Dumfries. Later died in prison], Malcome [i.e., Matthew] Bryce [executed 12 August], James Wilkieson, Thomas Stodhart [executed 12 August], Grissell Alstoun; to be cut in the ear and the woman burnt.

Delayed:– David Campbell, John Campbell, seek, Samuel Grahame, seek, John Clerk.

Dismist or Liberat:– Robert Blaikburn, James Ramsay, Robert Or; the oath , alleadgience and prerogative and enact.

[30 July]
Prisoners in the Correction House sentenced the same tyme:–
Hugh McLean, Donald Campbell, John McIlhallum, Duncan Fletcher, Alexander Grahame, John McLean, Duncan Thomson, Donald Moor, Donald Morisone, Neill McIlbryde, Malcom Blak, Dugall McKello, Hugh McQueen, Donald Johnstoun, Sorlay Lamond, John Nicol, Malcom McIvar, Angus McIvar, Neill McKairne, Duncan McIlvory, Duncan McIlbryde, John McKell, Neill Thomson, John McKello, Donald McLachlan, Donald McIvar, James Gray; all with A[rgyle].

Delayed:– ______McGibbon sent to Edinburgh tolbooth as a witnes for the King.

Dismist and ordered to be liberat:– Malcolme McNeill, John McLauchlan, servant to Cragintyry; James Wilson, not with A[rgyle].; Test.

[31 July]
Banished:– Thomas Trumble with A[rgyle]; John Simpson [warded 22 July], Jam[es]. Gray (deleted), James Gavin [in Douglas parish], John Mundill [later died in prison], Andrew McLean; Anna Murray [suspected of child murder. Returned from Burntisland 20 May], Kathern Laikie, Cristan Gardner [confessed adultery and child murder. Warded 11 May], Janett Walace, for alleged murder of their own children; Margerat Holmes [warded 10 July] for not owneing authority: To be cut in the ears and banishd, and the women to be burnt in the cheek.

Delayed:– Thomas Abercrombie [elder in Dalwyne], old, James Munsie [burgess in Dumfries. Died in prison], Gavin Lockhart, Mrs Binning, Elizabeth Brown, all seek in the prison of Edinburgh.

Remittted to the Justices:– William Cuninghame, John Murehead [Shotts or Dumfries who died at Leith], William Jackson, Mr Alexander Sheill.

Dismist and Liberat:– Hugh McGallant, John Beattie, William McMeikin; having sworn the alleadgience. Jan. Paterson, very old and regular. Nota: Thir prisoners are in Edinburgh tolbooth.

[31 July]
Banished:– James Baird, Neill McCallum, Duncan McCallume, Archibald McCureith, John McNeill, Archibald McNeill, Donald Ferguson, John Anderson, Duncan Sinclare, Archibald Lammond, Donald McCurrie, Donald Crawford, William Watsone, John Martine, Duncan Ferguson, James Hall, John McChalartie, Duncan McMicheall, Alexander McMillen, John McIntargat, James Young, Alexander McKurie, John McIvar, Neill McInlae, Archibald McCallum, Dugald Clerk, Donald Walker, Archibald McKwen, Donald McKeun, John Crawfurd, Martin McBae; all with Argyle.

John Allan, Robert Edward, John McMitchaell, Roger McMichaell, John Weir, Robert Muire, John Dunie; to have their ear cutt.

Allan McWhidie, Neill Campbell, Neil Walker, William Hoode, Duncan McQueen, John McKewn, John McGowan, Coline Campbell, Hector McNeill, John McDounie, Alexander McLime, Neill McConachy, Archibald McCorkadale, Duncan McDougald, Duncan Walker, Archibald Brown, Donald Brown, Duncan McMillen, Neill Kell, Duncan McIvar; all with Argyle. 177.

Dismist and Liberat:– George McAdam, John Paterson, Gilbert Walker, John McMeikie, James McMeikie, Georg McAdam, seek, Gilbert McRedie, Patrick McRedie, William Allan, William Brown, Robert Walker, Rodger McWalker, Gilber McRedie, David Kennedy, haveing all sworne the alleadgience and never to ryse in armes, David Patone, ane old man; Archibald Campbell, very old man, Duncan Broun, a young boy; dismist at the Bar.

(Summation at foot)— “Banished in all 177, of which there is to be cut in the eare, 49; delayed in prison, 15; remited to the justices, 11; dismist and libert, 40. (Total) 292.”