Martyred at Mauchline: The Secret History of John Browning or John Binning, Covenanter

John Brounen, Browning or Binning (d.6 May 1685)

Brounen’s identity has been a matter of some confusion as he is known in different sources as either John Browning in Lanfine or John Brounen, Brouning, Bruning, Buiening or Binning. All the sources appear to refer to the same individual.

Two naming conventions have probably created the confusion.

The first naming convention, drawn from Alexander Shields’ A Short Memorial and Patrick Walker, who was probably using Shields as a source, refers to a John Buiening/Binning as the name of a martyr.

The second naming convention, which draws on the documentary evidence of the published Fugitive Roll of May, 164, a letter from Claverhouse, a will and, local tradition and the inscription of the original gravestone, refer to a John Browning, Brouning, Bruning or Brounen as a Covenanter and in one case, as the later martyr.

Those naming conventions have often led to the identification of Browning/Buiening as separate individuals, when the naming conventions clearly converge at key points and appear to refer to the same man.

Tradition relates that John Browning ‘in Lanfine’, was involved in the encounter at Airds Moss in 1680 when the field preacher Richard Cameron was killed. (New Statistical Account, V, 838.)

He was probably the John Browning, ‘younger of Riccarton’, in Galston parish, Ayrshire, who was listed on the published Fugitive Roll in May, 1684, who had been at Bothwell in 1679. The implication of the evidence of the Fugitive Roll is that Browning was the son of a tenant farmer. His father, another John Browning, ‘elder in Riccarton’, i.e., Richardton, was also listed on the 1684 Roll. A James Browning in Richardton was apprehended after one of Renwick’s preachings in 1686.

Richardton lies adjacent to Lanfine. It also lies right next to the farm of John Richmond, younger of Knowe, a Societies’ martyr executed in Glasgow on 19 March 1684. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 339.)

Map of Richardton, Knowe and Lanfine

Both John Brownings were part of an extensive Cameronian kin network that connected the Society people around Lesmahagow parish with those in Galston and Fenwick parishes. The younger John Browning is said to have been the nephew of John Brown in Priesthill, the Societies’ activist who was infamously shot by John Graham of Claverhouse and his men on 1 May, 1685.

Claverhouse wrote that Brounen was the nephew of John Brown. His connection may have been through his father’s marriage to a younger sister of Brown in Priesthill, i.e., it is possble that John Browning, elder in Richardton, was married to a sister of Brown in Priesthill.

In the will of Brown in Priesthill’s first wife, Jonet Richart (d. June 1678), a ‘herd laddie’ known as ‘John Brouning’ is mentioned as owed a fee. Patrick Walker, who knew John Brown’s second wife, Isobel Weir, also described the John Binning, later executed at Mauchline, as a herd lad. (Hewison, Covenanters, II, 471; Walker, BP,I, 260.)

John Brown in Priesthill was one of the founding fathers of the United Societies and his farm at Priesthill, on the border of Muirkirk parish, Ayrshire, with Lesmahagow parish, Lanarkshire, was the location for the Societies’ second convention in March 1682.

Wodrow’s claim that Brown in Priesthill was ‘in no way obnoxious to the government, except for not hearing the episcopal ministers’ is laughable. Throughout his account he makes no mention of Brown’s involvement in the United Societies who were certainly highly obnoxious to the government. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 45; Wodrow, History, IV, 245.)

Map of Priesthill

If John Browning from Galston parish and John Binning the martyr were the same individual, they were involved in a series of events.

The Raid on Little Blackwood, March, 1685

According to later tradition, ‘John Browning of Lanfine’ was involved in the rescue of Society people held prisoner in Newmilns Tower.

Those Society people had been taken prisoner in a raid on a prayer meeting at James Paton’s farm at Little Blackwood in Fenwick parish in March, 1685. Of the twelve members of a society caught up in the raid, one, James White, was shot dead and soon decapitated with an axe, John Gemmel and two others escaped.

James Finlay in Dykes, was wounded in the raid and captured by Cornet Peter Inglis. James Paton in Little Blackwood and six others were imprisoned in Newmilns Tower, also known as the Ducat Tower. (Pictured at the top of this post.)

The Attack on Newmilns Tower, 25 April, 1685

A few weeks later, Browning led a force of close to sixty local Society people to attack Newmilns tower, probably on Saturday 25 April. After raiding a blacksmiths at Darvel, the Covenanters forced entry into the tower and rescued the prisoners. One of the attackers, John Law ‘in Loudounhill’, a brother-in-law of John Nisbet in Hardhill, was shot dead as they forced their way in. (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 147-51; NSA, V, 838; Archibald M’Kay, The History of Kilmarnock, I, 63-5; James Paterson, History of the County of Ayr, II, 318.)

Map of Newmilns Tower

Priesthill in Muirkirk Parish

The Capture of John Brounen, 1 May, 1685

After the attack on the Ducat tower, it appears that ‘Browning’ fled straight to Priesthill, as John Graham of Claverhouse records that John ‘Brounen’ arrived there on Sunday morning, i.e. 26 April, 1685.

On the morning of Friday 1 May, John Brown in Priesthill had recently parted from Alexander Peden and probably James Nisbet, the son of John Nisbet of Hardhill, who left a few days earlier. Later on the morning of 1 May, Claverhouse, who was operating with Highland troops, came across John Brown and John Brounen in the moss between Plewands and Douglas and pursued them until they were captured.

They were taken to Priesthill where Brown was shot on Claverhouse’s orders for refusing to take the Abjuration oath and denying the authority of King James VII.

Claverhouse’s letter to William Douglas, duke of Queensberry, regarding ‘John Brounen’ of Sunday 3 May offers a rare insight into the United Societies in the area and John Browning/Brounen. It is worth quoting at length:

‘John Brounen, offered to take the [Abjuration] oath; but would not swear that he had not been at Neumilles [Newmilns] in armes at the rescuing the prisoners [on 25 April]. So I did not knou what to doe with him. I was convinced that he was guilty, but saw not hou to proceed against him; wherfor after he had said his prayers and carabins presented to shoot him, I offered to him that if he would make ane ingeneous confession and make a discoverie that might be of importance for the King’s service, I should delay puting him to death, and plead for him [to Queensberry?]; upon which he confessed that he was at that attack at Neumilles [on 25 April], and that he had com straight to this house of his uncles on Sunday morning [i.e. 26 April].

In the mean time he was making the souldiers found out a house in the hille under ground, that could hold a dusen men, and there were swords and pistolles in it; and this fellu declaired that they belonged to his uncle [i.e., John Brown], and that he had lurked in that place ever since Bothwell, where he was in armes.

He confessed that he had ane halbart and told who gave him it about a month agoe, and we have the feleou prisoner. (Perhaps James Smith.)

He gave account of the names of the most pairt of those that wer there [in the attack on Newmilns Tower]. They were not above sixty, and they wer all Gaston and Neumilles men, saive a feu of Streven parish.

He gave also acount of a conventicle keeped by [James] Renek at the bak of Carantable, where there wer threttin scor [260] of men in armes mustered and exercised, of which number he was with his hallard.

He tells of ane other conventicle about three moneths agoe keeped near Loudon Hille, and gives acount of the persons wer at both and what childring wer baptised, particularly that at Carntable [, i.e., Cairn Table which was probably in March, 1685], which was about the time that Leiv: [James] Muray and [Lieutenant John] Crichton should have laiten them eskeap.

He also gives acount of those who gave any assistance to his uncle [John Brown in Priesthill], and we have seized there upon the good man of the upmost Plewlands [i.e., High Plewlands near Priesthill] and ane tenant about a mile belou [High Plewlands], that is flaid upon it. I dout not but if we had time to stay, good use might be made of his confession’. (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 207-8.)

Image from A Hind Let Loose (1687)

Having seen his uncle shot, Brounen offered to take the Abjuration Oath, but was faced with the firing squad in a ruthless piece of interrogation technique until he confessed to attending Renwick’s conventicles at Loudoun Hill in February, the mustering behind Cairntable in March and the attack at Newmilns on 25 April.

The conventicle ‘near’ Loudoun Hill, was probably Renwick’s preaching to a ‘great company’ at the Moor of Evandale ‘a short time before the accession of James’ VII in early February, 1685. It appears to have taken place immediately prior to the meeting of eighteenth convention at Auchengilloch on 12 February, probably on 11 February. Auchengilloch, lies east of Loudoun Hill in Lanarkshire. (Simpson, Traditions, 29.)

Map of Loudoun Hill

Map of Auchengilloch

The mustering and conventicle held by Renwick at the back of Cairn Table that Brounen attended with his halberd appears to have been held in the weeks prior to the Newmilns attack [i.e., in late March, 1685].

Map of Cairn Table

It is clear that Wodrow’s image of Brown in Priesthill “innocently” cutting peats when Claverhouse descended on him is quite ridiculous. Brown may have been cutting peats, but he was hiding Brounen, hid fugitives, had been active in the United Societies when they began. (Wodrow, History, IV, 245.)

Claverhouse was in no doubt that if he had time to stay in the area ‘good use might be made’ of Brounen’s confession. Plainly, Brounen had turned intelligencer and provided useful information to government forces that directly led to the apprehension of two men and betrayed a large number other local Society people who were eithir involved in conventicles, the attack at Newmilns or had aided his uncle.

It is possible that Brounen’s information directly led to the deaths of two Society people, James Smith in Threepwood and John Smith in Cronan, and the capture of William Campbell at Welwood.

Brounen’s comprehensive betrayal of the Societies would have been a major breakthrough for the government forces in the locality. However, in doing so, he had brought himself under the terms of the Societies’ Apologetical Declaration against Intelligencers which threatened intelligencers with death. This left Brounen in the near-impossible position of potentially being killed by either government forces or by his brethern in the Societies. However, his fate was not in his hands.

Lieutenant General DrummondLt-General Drummond

John Brounen in Prison

In his letter, Claverhouse, reveals that he had delivered Brounen to Lieutenant General William Drummond of Cromlix for further questioning and trial. He probably passed Brouning on to Drummond at Mauchline on 2 or 3 May. He also went on to plead for Brounen with Queensberry – saying he had only been a month or two with his halberd – but in a noncommittal fashion, as he left the decision on Brounen’s fate entirely to Queensberry. (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 207-8; Hewison, Covenanters, II, 472-4.)

Claverhouse played no part in Brounen’s trial, as he states on 3 May that he did not have ‘time to stay’ to deal with Brounen and by 10 May he was operating in Annandale.

The Execution of Brounen, 6 May, 1685

At some point in early May, Queensberry must have given Drummond instructions as to how to deal with Brounen/Binning, as the latter and four others – John Bryce, Peter Gillies, William Finneson and Thomas Young, who had been brought to Mauchline by the Highlanders – were hanged.

According to Defoe, the five men had not been gathered up by Claverhouse, but were summarily tried and executed at Claverhouse’s head quarters at Mauchline. (Defoe, History of the Church of Scotland, 250.)

However, Defoe’s version of events is flatly contradicted by Claverhouse’s letter which states that Brounen had been delivered to Drummond and the decision left to Queensberry.

According to Walker, a ‘John Binning waiting upon cattle, without stocking or shoe’ was apprehended by the Highlanders making their way west in early May 1685 and hanged at Mauchline with Brice, Gillies, Finneson and Young. (Walker, BP,I, 260.)

Walker claims to have known the four others executed, but did not claim to know Binning. He may not have realised that John Binning was the same individual as John Brounen, the nephew of Brown of Priesthill, although his description of him as a herd lad is similar to the description of ‘John Brouning’ in the will.

Walker makes no connection between Binning and Brouning, and curiously makes no mention of him in his version of the shooting of Brown of Priesthill, when it is clear from Claverhouse’s letter that Brounen was present when Brown was shot. (Walker, BP, I, 72-5.)

Walker either failed to make the connection between them, or was being evasive on the identity of Binning/Brounen, perhaps because Binning had turned intelligencer. The former explanation is entirely possible, as Walker may well have been using Alexander Shields’ A Short Memorial (1690) as a source for Binning’s martyrdom and would not have known about the contents of Claverhouse’s letter. According to Alexander Shields, ‘John Buiening’ and four others were hanged by Highlanders at Mauchline in May 1685. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 34. Is ‘Buiening’ a typesetting error for Brouning?)

However, the latter explanation for Walker’s failure to make the connection between Binning/Brounen is worthy of consideration. By betraying the Societies, Binning/Brounen may have damned his memory. For some, Brounen/Binning may have sat very uneasily among the other martyrs, as intelligencers were often named and shamed by presbyterian sources and on martyrs’ gravestones. It was perhaps easier for Walker, not to connect the evidence between the two names and record Binning as the poor herd lad that he may have been in the will of 1678.

The Gravestone of Brounen

The final piece of naming evidence comes from the inscription of the original gravestone marking their deaths, as recorded by Gibson and Cloud of Witnesses. Their record of a ‘John Bruning’ as one of the five martyrs connects Walker’s ‘Binning’ to the Brounen/Browning trail of evidence.

In summary, John Bruning was Claverhouse’s John Brounen, Walker’s John Binning and Shields’ John Buiening. John Bruning/Brounen/Binning/Buiening was John Browning, the nephew of John Brown of Priesthill. In short, John Bruning/Brounen/Binning/Buiening/Browning all refer to the same individual.

The gravestone of the martyrs in Mauchline also gives some indication of the legal process that Binning/Bruning faced, but it also adds to the confusion over of who was responsible for their execution and when it happened. According to Cloud, the original inscription read:

‘Here lies the bodies of Peter Gillies, John Bryce, Thomas Young, William Fiddison, and John Bruning who were Apprehended and Hanged Without Trial at Mauchline, Anno 1685, according to the then Wicked’s Laws for their Adhearance to the Covenanted Work of Reformation Rev xii II. [Revelations 12.11: ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.’]’

‘Bloody Dumbarton, Douglas and Dundee
Moved by the Devil and the Laird of Lee,
Dragged these five men to Death with gun and suord,
Not Suffering them to Pray nor Read God’s Word.
Ouning the Work of God was all their Crime.
The Eighty Five Was a Saint Killing Time.’

(Thomson (ed.), CW, 588; Thomson, MGoS, 161-2; Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 140.)

At least in Bruning’s case, the inscription probably overstates why he was executed. He was probably not executed for refusing the Abjuration oath, unless he had changed his mind. In all likelihood he was executed for the treason of attacking the King’s forces at Newmilns.

The Date of Brounen’s Trial and Hanging

Wodrow states that they were hanged on 6 May, 1685. Neither A Short Memorial nor the inscription on the gravestone in Mauchline give a precise date of execution; Shields’ only states that it was in ‘May’ and the gravestone dates their execution to ‘1685’. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 34; Thomson (ed.), CW, 588; Wodrow, History, IV, 245.)

There is also the problem of who sentenced them to death, if Wodrow’s date of execution is correct. As Claverhouse makes plain, the fate of at least Brounen was passed into the hands of Queensberry and Drummond, but the poem on the gravestone lists the names of others held responsible. Claverhouse and Cromwell Lockhart of Lee were certainly involved in the apprehension of the prisoners, but not in their execution on 6 May.

Long ago, Hewison also pointed out that the involvement of George Douglas, earl of Dumbarton, in any trial on 6 May was impossible, as the newly commissioned Dumbarton was expected to arrive in Edinburgh from London on 13 May. Hewison suggested that 16 May was a more likely date for their execution. (Hewison, Covenanters, II, 478.)

The basis for Wodrow’s date appears to be the indictment of Peter Gillies for his treasonable crimes at Mauchline tolbooth on 5 May, 1685. Gillies and the others may have been tried and found guilty on 5 May, but that does not mean that they were immediately put to death, either on 5 May or the next day. They could, especially given Brounen’s known willingness to cooperate, have been held in prison after their initial hearing before Drummond while the judgement was sent up upstairs to Queensberry or Dumbarton for further instruction or judgement. (Wodrow, History, IV, 246.)

If we set Wodrow’s date to one side for a moment, things may become clearer. From the evidence of Claverhouse’s letter and the indictment, their executions must have been after 5 May and probably before c.20 May, when the government forces in the West turned their efforts towards dealing with the Argyll Rising. It is worth noting that all of those executed were already prisoners. On 6 May, emergency legislation was passed by parliament ordering all prisoners indicted for treason to be dealt with within two days. If they were executed in mid May, say c.11 May, it would fit with a pattern of government forces quickly executing prisoners accused of treason in the immediate aftermath of the emergency legislation passed to deal with the Argyll Rising. However, in my own view, the most likely date for the executions remains Wodrow’s date of  6 May. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 128, 138, 251-2.)

For a discussion of Drummond’s entry into the West and the other Mauchline martyrs, see here.

According to the inscription and tradition, they were swiftly executed with no time for prayers, bible reading or speeches. No martyrs’ testimonies from Binning or any of the others executed has survived. All five were buried below the gallows.

A similar pattern of gallows burials took place at Cumnock that also involved the same Highlanders.

It is worth noting that the gallows at Mauchline were chopped down by unknown assailants in November, 1688, in what was probably the first act of the Revolution in Scotland.

The Fate of his Gravestone

In 1830 the original gravestone to the Mauchline martyrs was replaced by new gravestone measuring 12′ by 6′ erected by public subscription on what was then still ‘a small common on the outskirts of Mauchline’. In 1885 an obelisk was placed on the burial site and the gravestone removed thirteen metres and inserted into the wall of a primary school shed. Recently, the monuments’ setting has changed again with the refurbishment of Mauchline Primary School. Streetview provides the evidence and lets you wander round the site.

Martyrs’ Gravestone and Monument at Mauchline

There is some dispute in the sources over whether the ‘old-decayed’ original gravestone or the 1830 replacement stone is buried beneath the obelisk. (Compare Canmore with Thomson (ed.), CW, 588.)

Text © Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on September 7, 2010.

22 Responses to “Martyred at Mauchline: The Secret History of John Browning or John Binning, Covenanter”

  1. […] 170. Renwick’s conventicle at Moor of Evandale, attended by James Smith in Threepwood and John Brounen, is mentioned in Simpson, Traditions, 29, […]

  2. […] were seized by John Graham of Claverhouse. It is quite possible that their capture was due to John Brounen’s betrayal of local society people to Claverhouse. In his letter of 3 May, Claverhouse determined that ‘good […]

  3. […] recapture of the two Campbells was also to some extent directed by Brounen’s information. (See John Brounen, James Smith in Threepwood and John Smith in […]

  4. […] between the shooting of Law and the capture of Smith raises another question: Was Law betrayed by John Brounen? If Law was shot a few days after the raid, then it is possible that the intelligence which Brounen […]

  5. […] Renwick’s conventicles were sometimes the prelude the general convention. The conventicle and the convention were not always in the same location, e.g. after Renwick held a conventicle ‘near’ Loudon Hill in February 1685, he and the Societies’ delegates when on to attend the eighteenth convention at Auchengilloch. (See John Smith and John Brounen) […]

  6. […] of Priesthill (1 May), James Smith in Threepwood (4-c.10 May?), John Smith in Cronan (4-c.10 May?), John Brounen or Browning (c.6-10 May?) and perhaps James White and John Law. It is possible that the capture of William […]

  7. […] of Claverhouse (d.1689), later elevated to viscount Dundee, was responsible for the capture of John Brounen/Bruning at Priesthill on 1 May, 1685, and sent him on from Galston to Drummond at Mauchline. Claverhouse […]

  8. […] dugouts or perhaps, in this case, to a coal pit. For an example of a dug out of that size, see Claverhouse’s discovery of one at Priesthill or the dugout used by those who escaped from Edinburgh […]

  9. […] the first elements of Drummond’s force reached Ayrshire on 1 May. On 6 May, Drummond executed John Brounen, Peter Gillies, John Bryce, Thomas Young and William Fiddison at […]

  10. […] of 3 May confirms that he had reached Galston by that date and that he had sent one prisoner, John Brounen, a few miles to the south to Lieutenant-General Drummond at Mauchline. Soon after, he captured two […]

  11. “John Brown of Priesthill, the Societies’ activist who was infamously shot by John Graham of Claverhouse and his dragoons in 1685.”

    Brown, merely an ‘activist’… come on! I note that you that refer elsewhere to the cold blooded murder of Pierson as simply an ‘incident’ which – at the risk of being rude – is all rather too MacAulayesque .

    To compound the error, the use of ‘Infamously’ samcks of flawed history. Claverhouse directly commanded Horse. Although he had use of Dragoons, they could not be called “his” is the sense that it is implied here. Surely this long debunked piece of “John Brown, martyr” propoganda needs putting to bed once and for all doesn’t it?

    Great site in many respects, but deeply harmed by your constant reliance on VERY questionable texts. Good history relies on proving facts and clearly seperating them from opinion and vested interest.

    Any true picture of the Killing Time needs to contain information about the cold blooded murders committed by many of these ‘saints’, the near bestial treatment of the body of Cornet Graham at Drumclog and other attrocities committed in the name of the ‘Baby Lord Jesus’ and his chosen ones.

    Barrington puts it rather nicely when he says “opinion, unlike Truth needs no passport to travel around the World.”

    • Good to hear from you again. I’m glad that you are enjoying the site. Keep at it!

      I think “Societies’ activist” is an accurate term for Brown of Priesthill. He was clearly involved in the formation of the United Socities, but curiously does not appear in their ‘official’ history, Faithul Contendings Dislayed. In my view, his inflated reputation in presbyterian tradition comes about because of Claverhouse’s involvement in his summary execution. His shooting is ‘infamous’ in presbyterian tradition because Wodrow mistakenly claimed that Claverhouse personally shot Brown. I will tackle the Priesthill incident in a later post. In my view, Claverhouse had no option but to immediately execute Brown. I do not see Claverhouse as the cold-blooded killer of whig memory. The killings of Covenanters by “good Revolution men”, like Colonel James Douglas, or the moderate presbyterians open hostility to the Society people never gets mentioned in Covenanting tradition.

      The ‘cold-blooded murder of Pierson’ will feature in a later post, as will the killing of Captain Urquhart and the attempted killing of the minister of Irongray etc. I’ve been holding back on them because they link into a whole series of interconnected shootings in the South West. I generally like to take a thread and follow it in a series of posts, so the Societies’ war of assassinations following the Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers will feature.

      You’re right that Claverhouse commanded horse, rather than dragoons. I’ve mentioned his command of His Majesty’s Regimment of Horse in countless other posts.

      If you are going to analyse the Killing Times, you have to use the available sources – There are no others for the field shootings. I don’t think that the early sources are ‘VERY questionable texts’, i.e., Shields/Wodrow. (Cloud recycled Shields, Defoe (mis)used Shields and the graves often used Cloud/Shields.) They certainly need to handled with care, but they cannot simply be dismissed as whig propaganda. The later traditions collected by Simpson are ‘VERY questionable’ sources for the 1680s. It constantly amazes me to see how Simpson’s traditions have often become accepted as “history”. In part, I’m interested in how the early sources and the later traditions relate to each other, and how they intersect on the ground. I’m not sure what is going to emerge from that, but that is part of the joy.

  12. I whole heartedly agree with you about the joy of unearthing and unravelling some of the complex, mysterious and even baffling claims, ‘history’ and traditions of this time.

    Although I may have alluded to ‘whiggish’ bias, I am actually inclining to something far more sinister at play – especially in relation to the Claverhouse fantasy – in the reporting, recording and acceptance of ‘stories’ that have become ‘undeniable facts’ merely because they have been repeated so many times.

    More people would know of the Claverhouse ‘pact with the Devil and the silver bullet’ story far better than his statements that “I am as sorry to see a man die, even a Whig, as any of themselves. But when one dies justly for his own faults, and may save a hundred to fall in the like, have no scruple .” or “it will be more of consequence to punish one considerable laird, than a hundred little bodies. Besides, it is juster; because these only sin by the example of those.”

    I understand the argument about Shields’ work being contemporary. I would however, suggest that his work was merely an extension of his preaching and I am thus wary of the implicit bias. The Biographia Scoticana states – when covering Shields – “At and after the revolution he was of much service to the army, and greatly esteemed by King William”. This in itself provides us with a clue as to motivations and – I would contented – links into my theory that far more sinister methods were employed to rewrite the history of the Killing Times.

    That all sides – in equal measure – practised sophistry when recounting the last years of the Stuarts is in little doubt! That this subsequent ‘history’ appears to marginalise the ‘moderate’ dissenters and vilifies the previous regime is of little wonder. For despite the claims of mass slayings, torture and unchecked blood letting – the actual recorded death toll (a few hundred at most) seems incredibly low – especially if we compare it with a similar event in 17th century Scotland. For instance, 300 or so people were executed in Scotland as witches between 1660 and 1663. Yet this received far less attention from historians of the time as it did not serve a specific political purpose. Whereas William needed to maintain his mask as ‘champion of the righteous’. The Killing Time martyrology was perfect for William. It can be seen as being analogous to the despised Catholic inquisitions and this served his purpose quite nicely!

    That’s my theory anyway…

    I would hate to be seen as attempting to sabotage this great site – so apologies to anyone who perceives this to be the case! Maybe we could continue some of this discussion via email? I have a number of ideas that I would be interested to develop in some more detail, which maybe could form the basis of future postings.

  13. […] Restoration soldiers did not operate under the strictures of the Geneva Conventions. For other cases where mock executions were used to obtain information, see the Mauchline martyrs and John Brounen. […]

  14. […] to shoot prisoners to gain information. That “enhanced interrogation technique” was used by John Graham of Claverhouse in the case of John Brounen. It was also allegedly used against John Bryce. Balfour was not unique in his use of […]

  15. […] his conversation with Isobel Weir. For example, Walker’s account does not mention at all that John Brounen, or Browning, was captured with Brown and suffered a mock execution immediately after Brown was executed. Isobel […]

  16. […] Taken together, the available evidence suggests that the house probably lay in the portion of Ayrshire around Muirkirk parish. It also adds to the body of evidence for the context in which Claverhouse shot John Brown in Priesthill and captured John Brounen, who was executed at Mauchline on 6 May. […]

  17. […] was a place associated with John Brounen/Browning in Lanfine, who was hanged at Mauchline in May, 1685. It also lies very close to the former home of John Richmond, younger of Knowe, who was hanged at […]

  18. […] parish. His force of Highlanders and Horse also pursued James Nisbet. By 3 May, he was at Galston when he sent John Brounen to Drummond at Mauchline. Soon after that, Claverhouse was involved in a raid on Midwelwood in Muirkirk parish, probably on […]

  19. […] prisoner James Lambie lived, that is of particular interest. Lanfine is a place associated with John Brounen/Browning in Lanfine, who was hanged at Mauchline in May, 1685. It also lies very close to the former homes of John Richmond, younger of Knowe, who […]

  20. […] Inglis was about to shoot the others, when it was suggested to him that it would be prudent to get a written order from Edinburgh for the execution, The seven men, in the meantime, were confined to the old tower [of Newmilns]. But while the troop was absent on one of its bloody raids, with the exception of a small guard, a man named [John] Browning, from Lanfine, with others who had been with him at [the battle of] Airds Moss [in 1680], got large sledge hammers from the old smithy, (still in existence [at Darvel],) with which they broke open the prison doors, and permitted the Covenanters to escape. [Browning, aka., Brounen, was captured hiding at Priesthill on 1 May and hanged at Mauchline.] […]

  21. […] Claverhouse’s letter was written after the Newmilns rescue, which took place on c.25 April. It indicates that after the raid, John Brounen had fled to his uncle, John Brown, at Priesthill. On 1 May, Brown and Brounen were captured in the moss near Priesthill by Claverhouse. Brown was summarily executed at Priesthill, while Brounen, after witnessing that, was subjected to a mock execution during which he offered to provide intelligence about those involv…. […]

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