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.

Return to Homepage

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 • Leave a 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.

Return to Homepage

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.”

The Capture and Banishment of Two Galloway Covenanters: Or A “Clothes Rail” for the Killing Times #History #Scotland

•July 27, 2019 • Leave a Comment



One of the problems that bedevils the history of the Killing Times is that several of the known field deaths do not have a date attached to them beyond the year 1685. One way round that problem in the historical evidence is the knowledge that, on occasion, Wodrow’s stories about different groups of Covenanters intersect with each other. A classic example of that is the capture and transportation of Gilbert McIlroy and William McIlroy in Kirkcalla from Wigtownshire to Edinburgh.

Map of Kirkcalla

At one point in the narrative of their journey, they were brought to the parish church at Barr in Ayrshire, where they were interviewed by Lieutenant-General William Drummond. The General’s presence in Barr parish almost certainly coincides with the killing of the Barrhill martyrs at some point in 1685, as Drummond was said to be responsible for their deaths. We know from other evidence that the killings of the Barrhill martyrs and Alexander Linn took place at some point in the summer of 1685. If we can establish roughly when the McIlroy brothers were at Barr parish church, we can further narrow down the time frame for the Barrhill martyrs.

The “Clothes Rail”
The chronology of the journey of the McIlroy brothers is not only of utility in the Barrhill case and that of Linn, as it also begins to unravel other apparently mysterious events in Wigtownshire during the Killing Times of 1685. In that respect, the McIlroy brothers’ journey is like a “clothes rail” from which we can hang other events in order once we understand the chronology of how the Killing Times unfolded in that area. The task of this post is to establish that “clothes rail”. Later posts will hang events from it.

Let’s begin …
From Wodrow’s account of the McIlroys’ journey, it is clear that they were captured at Kirkcalla in Penninghame parish, Wigtownshire, in ‘June or July’. From there they were rapidly transported to neighbouring Minnigaff parish in Kirkcudbrightshire where they were interrogated by the Earl of Hume. From there they were taken to Barr Kirk in Carrick and, after a second interrogation, on to Hamilton and then Edinburgh. (Wodrow, History, IV, 185.)

Wodrow does not give a detailed chronology of their journey, but he does indicate they were taken in June or July and where they stayed and how many days they were there. The three places he mentions on their route to Edinburgh are Minnigaff, Barr Kirk and Hamilton [tolbooth?). That information indicates their route to Edinburgh if we follow the seventeenth-century road system. It was a journey of around 125 miles.

Journey’s End
One problem with narrowing down a time frame for the McIlroys’ journey was that there does not appear to be an obvious date for when the McIlroy’s arrived in Edinburgh. We know that the Privy Council ordered their banishment on 24 July, 1685. However, Wodrow is very vague about when they arrived in Edinburgh. Without a date for their arrival in Edinburgh, the McIlroys’ journey could have taken place at any point in the month or two before 24 July. (Wodrow calls them ‘Milroy’. Wodrow History, IV, 185-6.)

However, we do have an exact date for when Gilbert McIlroy and William McIlroy were imprisoned in Edinburgh Tolbooth. Both men arrived in Edinburgh before 23 July, 1685, as that was when they were warded into Edinburgh Tolbooth.

The Edinburgh Tolbooth Record of 23 July, 1685
The records of Edinburgh Tolbooth under 23 July, 1685, list the following prisoners as being warded. Eight of those prisoners were banished:

1. James Gavin [in Douglas parish. He was banished in Edinburgh on 24 July and had his ear cropped on 4 August.]

2. Andrew McLean [aka. Mcclellan/Maitland. He was banished on 24 July and had his ear cropped on 4 August. He was delivered to John Ewing for banishment on 11 August.]

3. John Mundell [aka. Mudlie, who was possibly the fugitive ‘at the Runnerfoot’ in Tinwald parish. He was banished 24 July and had his ear cropped on 4 August. He was delivered to John Ewing for banishment on 11 August.]

4. William Drenon [aka. John. He was banished on 24 July and had his ear cropped on 4 August. He was given to Barclay of Urie on 7 August, but delivered to John Ewing for banishment on 11 August.]

5. Gilbert McIlroy [aka. ‘John McIlvie’, in Kirkcalla, Penninghame parish. He was banished on 24 July. He was due to have his ear cropped on 4 August, but he evaded that punishment as he was very sick. He was delivered to John Ewing for banishment on 11 August.]

6. John Cunningham [He was banished on 24 July and had his ear cropped on 4 August. He was delivered to John Ewing for banishment on 11 August.]

7. William McIlroy [in Kirkcalla, Penninghame parish. He was banished on 24 July and had his ear cropped on 4 August. He was given to Barclay of Urie on 7 August, but delivered to John Ewing for banishment on 11 August.]

8. Quintin Dun [in Benquhat, Dalmellington parish. He was banished on 24 July and had his ear cropped on 4 August. He was delivered to John Ewing for banishment on 11 August.]

9. John Beattie [aka. Peattie. Banished on 24 July. Liberated on 30 July.]
10. John McBride [Banished 24 July. Liberated 29 July as old and infirm.]
11. John McLean [Banished 24 July. Liberated 29 July.]
12. William McLean [Banished 24 July. Liberated 29 July.]
13. John McCully [aka. Mcwatter. Banished 24 July. Liberated 29 July.]
14. Adam Muir [Banished 24 July. Liberated 29 July.]

Brought in by order of his Ma[jes]ties privie Councill by Serjant Muire’. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, XII, 164, 165, 167.)

Remarkably, the same list of names in the same order also appears in Wodrow when he quotes from the registers of the privy council under 24 July, i.e., the day after the tolbooth record above. (Wodrow, History, IV, 217.)

At least we know when they entered Edinburgh Tolbooth. However, that is only a small step forward in resolving a chronology for their journey to Edinburgh, as it leaves another problem in its wake. It is clear that the McIlroy brothers had been held in the ‘guard house’ of Holyrood before they were moved to Edinburgh Tolbooth on 23 July.

Guard House Holyrood

How long they had been in the ‘guard house’?
The answer to that question is not immediately clear. We know they were held in the gate house constructed by James IV for his palace in 1502, which was extended in 1647 and 1663. A remarkable and spectacular structure, as we can see above, it was demolished in 1753. It was not a regular place of imprisonment and they were put in there as an emergency measure because ‘all the rest of the prisons’ were ‘fully packed’.

Map of Former Guard House

That indicates that they were brought to Holyrood’s guard house after the collapse of the Argyll Rising on 18 June, as a couple of hundred prisoners from it flooded the tolbooths and other buildings in Edinburgh in the weeks that followed.

While the McIlroys were in the guard house, they were interrogated and refused to take oaths. It is alleged that the minister in Penninghame parish wrote a letter which Gilbert’s wife brought to the judges in their case to Edinburgh. That letter is said to have secretly denounced them.

The overall impression is that they were not in the guard house at Holyrood for too long, perhaps as little as a week or so, and probably no more that three weeks as it is clear that they were brought there after the Argyll Rising prisoners.

Let us go back to the beginning. When were they captured in the fields?

The Raids on the McIlroys at Kirkcalla
We do not know the exact date of the raid on Kirkcalla, but we do know that the Merse Militia of the Earl of Hume were involved in capturing them.

We know that Hume’s militia left New Galloway and Minnigaff on c.3 July. A Presbyterian source records that on ‘June 13 [1685] two regiments came to Newgallaway, and thereafter went to Minigaffe. They stayed twentie days [i.e., until 3 July], and killed a number of nolt [i.e., cows] and sheep, belonging to suffering men’.

Map of New Galloway

On 3 July, John Graham of Claverhouse wrote that Hume’s militia regiment was still in the field, clearly in Galloway, even though the Highland militia to the north at Wanlockhead had already gone home. The campaign to suppress support for the Argyll and Monmouth risings was drawing to a close in Scotland. Argyll had already been defeated and captured on 18 June. On 6 July, Monmouth’s army was defeated in England. The militia was dismissed as soon as news reached Edinburgh that Monmouth was defeated. One can assume that Hume’s militia left soon after the Highlanders, as there was no reason for them to remain in the field as the rebellion was over and they were dismissed.

When did Hume’s Militia arrive at Minnigaff?
The Earl of Hume’s militia arrived at New Galloway in Kirkcudbrightshire on 13 June before moving on to Minnigaff, a distance of 18 miles, which is on the boundary of both Penninghame parish and Wigtownshire. From there they could easily reach Kirkcalla, which lies about 11 miles north-west of Minnigaff.

Map of Minnigaff

The militia regiments are said to have remained in the area for twenty days, i.e., until c.3 July. Hume’s militia could not have been at Minnigaff before 14 June at the earliest and were probably not operational to the west of it, i.e., in the area around Kirkcalla in Wigtownshire where the McIlroys lived, until 15 June at the earliest. Events in nearby Wigtown, Peden’s preaching on 16 June, and when Kersland was raising men there and Peden had second sight of Argyll’s capture on 18 June, the day the Argyll Rising collapsed, possibly indicate that Hume’s militia did not reach Minnigaff and Wigtown until after 18 June.

The foot of the Earl of Hume’s militia raided Kirkcalla taking the McIlroys’ nolt or cattle.

Two days later at night, seventy ‘horsemen’ raided Kirkcalla taking clothes from the house and committing great severities on the women.

On the following morning, they seized William McIlroy at Kirkcalla and took him to Minnigaff along with the remaining stock and household goods.

The McIlroys were possibly held at the garrison at Machermore Castle, which lies just outside of Minnigaff. (The garrison was established in January, 1685, and Margaret McLachlan was held there in the spring of 1685.)

It is clear that the McIlroys were captured at some point after 15–18 June and before Hume’s militia left Galloway in early July.

We also know that they probably arrived in Edinburgh in about the first two weeks of July.

This is where the details of their journey from capture to Edinburgh become important. If we can determine how long their journey was, we can start to further narrow down when they were captured and when they reached Edinburgh.

The McIlroy Brothers’ Journey to Edinburgh
As long as we assume that Gilbert McIlroy was not wildly in error over the few details he gave about his journey to Edinburgh to Wodrow, we can begin to provide time frames for when the events of their journey took place.

After their capture, the McIlroys from Kirkcalla were held at Minnigaff for six days. They were interrogated by the earl of Hume there. Assuming that the six days that the McIlroys were held in Minnigaff took place before the Earl of Hume’s militia withdrew from the area on, or a little after, c.3 July, it appears that the raids on Kirkcalla took place between 19 and 27 June. As the capture of William McIlroy took place on the morning of the third day of the raids, he was probably taken between 22 and 27 June or a tad later.


125 Miles
The account of their journey in Wodrow does not mention the number of days that they spent marching the 125-mile-long route that their guards took them from Minnigaff to Edinburgh, but does record that they spent three days at Barr Kirk and one night at Hamilton.

Map of Barr Kirk

As McIlroy and his fellow prisoners were not high-value targets who needed to be rushed to Edinburgh, they were probably guarded on the march by small detachments of foot and perhaps some horse. It is improbable that the vital resource of mounted horse or dragoons, the government’s rapid-reaction force, were deployed in their transport, as Monmouth’s rebellion was still taking place in England.

Here we hit the problem of how far a detachment featuring at least some people on foot, some of them bound to prevent escape, could march in a day.

They may have covered around 16 miles a day at a push, including stops to rest, eat, camp or shelter for the night. That total per day may be generous, but a useful comparison is that the Galloway Covenanters covered around 16 miles a day on their march from near Wigtown to Bothwell in the summer of 1679. They were keen to get to the rebellion. They took a different route north, but they also followed the seventeenth-century road system.

As for the McIlroys, their march from Minnigaff to Barr Kirk was about 26 miles, Barr to Hamilton around 60 miles and Hamilton to Edinburgh about 38 miles. That probably indicates that they marched for about nine days, which with the addition of the three days that they spent at Barr kirk, indicates a journey time of about twelve days from Minnigaff to Edinburgh.

If William McIlroy was captured on the earliest probable date of 22 June, then he was in Minnigaff until 28 June and did not reach Edinburgh until 10 July. If he was taken on a later date of capture, say 27 June, then he was in Minnigaff until 3 July and did not reach Edinburgh until 15 July.

Let us return to the McIlroys in Edinburgh

The McIlroys in Edinburgh
It appears that the McIlroy brothers were held in Holyrood’s guard house for between eight and thirteen days, before they were warded into Edinburgh Tolbooth on 23 July. That time frame accords well with Gilbert McIlroy’s claim that they were held in the guard house because Edinburgh’s tolbooths were full of rebels captured in the failed Argyll Rising.

Let us put all that information into chronological order.

The “Clothes Rail”
In summary:
The Earl of Hume’s militia regiment probably reached Minnigaff on 15–18 June or a few days later. The raids on Kirkcalla took place after that.

William McIlroy was captured at Kirkcalla between 22 to 27 June or a tad later.

They were held at Minnigaff for six days between 22 June to c.3 July.

28 June is about the earliest date they departed Minnigaff. The Earl of Hume’s militia regiment departed New Galloway and Minnigaff on c.3 July.

The McIlroys were sent about 26 miles to Barr Kirk in Ayrshire, arriving around 30 June to c.5 July.

The McIlroys were held Barr Kirk for three days leaving their between c.3 July to c.8 July.

The journey from Barr Kirk to Edinburgh (via an overnight stop at Hamilton) covered close to 100 miles. It probably took about seven days.

They arrived in Edinburgh and were placed in Holyrood’s guard house between 10 to 15 July, as all other prisons were full of Argyll Rising prisoners.

An unhelpful letter from the minister in Penninghame was delivered to Edinburgh. Details of their interrogations at Minnigaff and Barr Kirk would also have been sent.

The McIlroys were warded into Edinburgh Tolbooth on 23 July for trial. They were ordered banished by the privy council on 24 July.

William MacIlroy’s sentence of banishment was confirmed on 29 July.

Gilbert McIlroy had his banished delayed due to sickness on 29 July.

William McIlroy had his ear cropped by the hangman on 4 August. Gilbert was sick.

They were both given to John Ewing for banishment on 11 August, 1685, and moved to the Jamaica-bound ship.

The time line for McIlroy’s capture and journey is important because it creates time frames that can be connected to locations. Those time frames intersect with the historical evidence for at least two other sets of martyrs for whom we do not have a date for their deaths.

To unravel that evidence will have to await further posts.

Return to Homepage

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

Donald Cargill Imprisoned in Edinburgh Tolbooth, July 1681 #History #Scotland

•July 26, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Condemned Covenanters West Bow Edinburgh

On 26 July, 1681, after over a year hunting the leaders of the militant Covenanters behind many treasonable documents and seditious field preachings, the King’s army finally brought them in as prisoners to Edinburgh Tolbooth:

‘July 26th 1681
Mr Donald Cargill Mr Waltir Smith & Mr William [should be Mr James] Boge werdit by ordor of the Lords off justiciarie’. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 111.)


Two Fife Fanatics Executed on 13 July, 1681 #History #Scotland

•July 13, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Edinburgh Tolbooth 2
Andrew Pitilloch was warded in Edinburgh Tolbooth on 7 July, 1681. On 13 July, he was executed with Laurence Hay, another Fife man. As the following entry in the records of Edinburgh Tolbooth confirms, Adam Philip was not executed with them:

‘Andro Pitiloch & Lourance Hay execut ffor denying his Matie & au[thori]tie in ye Grassmercat’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 110.)

The sentence of death passed on Adam Philip was suspended by James, Duke of Albany and York, on the same day:

‘James Ducke of Albanie and York etc His Maties High Comissionner in Scotland
I desyre ye will caus the execution of the sentance against Adam philpe to be suspendit till furder order Given at Hollieroodhous ye 13 day of Jully 1681
Sic Sub James
To the Magistrats of the Cittie of Edr
By Command of His Royall Highsse’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 111.)

Adam Philip was given a reprieve, probably a short time before his execution was carried out, as he almost certainly acknowledged royal authority.