Buried By Covenanting Tradition?

James Smith Threepwood.JPG

James Smith (d. late 1684)

Smith lived in Threepwood, also known as Threepod, Wee Threepwood or East Threepwood, which lies just to the south of a stream known as Burn Anne in Galston parish, Ayrshire.

He appears under Galston parish on the published Fugitive Roll if May, 1684, as ‘James Smith, of Threpwood’. The use of ‘of Threpwood’ implies he was of some social status, as otherwise it would probably have read ‘in Threpwood’.

Today, the buildings where he was later said too have lived at East Threepwood have been demolished.

The First Record of his Killing in 1690

According to Alexander Shields in A Short Memorial (1690), ‘Captain Inglis, and his dragoons, pursued and killed James Smith at the Burn of Ann in Kyle, 1684.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 37.)

In 1693, Ridpath, who recycled the text of A Short Memorial, also recorded similar details:

‘Captain [John] Inglis, a profane ruffian, one of the first of the Episcopal missionaries, with his Dragoons, killed James Smith, at the Burn of Ann, in Kyle 1684.’

Cloud of Witnesses (1714), which directly recycled Shields’ text, also dates Smith’s death to 1684.

There may be a problem with Shields’ original date for the killing of Smith. Shields arranged his list of those who were killed in the fields by officer responsible and broadly in chronological order, beginning in 1682 and ending in 1688. The entry for Smith occurs in the midst of a very long series of entries which are dated to 1685. It may have been a typesetting error that Shields failed to pick up. However, James Smith’s death is the first that Shields recorded under the actions of the dragoons of Captain John Inglis and his son, Cornet Peter Inglis. As such, a date of 1684 is probably robust. If he was killed by Inglis and his dragoons in 1684, then it was probably in the latter half of the year, as his troop appears to have arrived in the area in August, 1684

Captain John Inglis was based nearby in Newmiln’s Tower, which was the site of a prisoner rescue on c.25 April, 1685. He was dismissed from his command soon after the attack.

Burn Anne is pronounced ‘Burn awn’.

Wodrow’s “John Smith” dies in the fields
Wodrow appears to have briefly mentioned James Smith in his History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland. He refers to a ‘John Smith’ in an entry under 1684:

‘No small severities were exercised this year [1684] upon the account of house-conventicles, and there were none in the fields but what Mr [James] Renwick kept. John Smith, who had been at a conventicle, in his return falling sick, sat down in the fields. A party of soldiers coming that way, without any probation or process, or any further ceremony, shot him in the fields where they got him.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 171.)

The problem with that entry is that the two John Smiths who were killed in the fields definitely died in 1685. (See the John Smith buried in Muirkirk and the John Smith in Cronan.)

Wodrow certainly used the list of the dead found in Shields A Short Memorial/Cloud of Witnesses to fill in details about a death in his History when he had not collected any accounts of their end.

It appears that Wodrow had used Shields/Clouds’ James Smith who was said to have died in 1684, but then he (or his typesetter) mistakenly put ‘John’ instead of ‘James’ Smith.

James Smith Grave

Photo Copyright the Glebe Blog.

Smith’s Grave, < 1852.

However, the evidence from the inscription on Smith’s grave suggests that he actually died of his wounds in Mauchline, rather than at Burn Anne. In Mauchline he is recorded on a gravestone in the parish kirkyard:

HERE LIES
intered the corpse of JAMES
SMITH who was wounded by
Captain Ingles, and his Drag-
oons, at Burn of Ann in kyle,
and there after died of his wounds
in Mauchline prison for his adhe
arance to the word of GOD and
scotland’s Covenanted Work
of reformation, A.D. 1684

(Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 140-1.)

Smith’s gravestone was missed by Thomson when he compiled lists of Covenanter graves for Cloud of Witnesses and Martyr Graves of Scotland, even though he was in Mauchline.

The earliest record that I could find for it was in 1852. (Wilson, Guide to Dumfries and surrounding neighbourhood, 14; CW, 279.)

The gravestone probably probably predates 1852 by decades, perhaps over a century. The inscription was based on Shields, who dated his death to 1684, the date which was transmitted through all the editions of Cloud of Witnesses. However, the inscription is not directly based on Shields or Cloud, as it contains different information about where he died, i.e., in prison, rather than at Burn Anne.

The 1823 Galston Memorial
In 1823 a memorial was erected at Galston parish church which commemorated James Smith and others. It is a later tradition, rather than a historical source:

‘AND
JAMES SMITH
East Threepwood
Who was shot near Bank of Burn Ann.
By CAPT INGLIS and his dragoons
And buried there.’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 124.)

This is the first traditional source to link Smith specifically to East Threepwood, rather than to being killed or wounded at Burn Anne or to ‘of Threpwood’, as he was described in the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 546; Thomson, MGoS, 125.)

The memorial was completely replaced by the SCMA in 1993. The modern memorial, and probably the earlier one, recorded his death as ‘near Bank of Burn Ann. 1684’. Curiously, Thomson did not put the date in his nineteenth-century transcription of the inscription.

The 1920s Monument

He is also commemorated on a monument erected in 1926 at Gallow Law close to the site of East Threepwood. See here and for more photos here.

‘In November 1926 a group of miners decided to erect a memorial to James Smith at Burn Ann, since all trace of the original had disappeared. They built the present marker on the Gallows Hill overlooking Burn Ann and Threepwood, incorporating pieces of glass to reflect the sun’s rays. This is also dated 1684, deriving probably from the same sources. It will now be found on the lands of Hillend Farm.’ (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 104.)

Map of Gallow Law

© Copyright wfmillar.

Later Traditions

In the Nineteenth Century Simpson collected the following tradition of Smith:

In Smith’s family there was an infant child, which it was the desire of the parents to devote, as soon as an opportunity offered, to the Lord in baptism. There was, it would seem, about the distance of fourteen miles from Threepod, a conventicle meeting, which was held in the night season. To this meeting Smith carried his child to be baptised by the officiating minister. After the rite was performed, he retraced his steps through the dreary moors in the dark night; and having arrived at his own house before the dawn, he, in order to prevent suspicion, betook himself to the barn, and was thrashing his corn at the early hour at which labourers generally commence that occupation. In spite of all his caution, however, he had been discovered, and information communicated to his enemies. When he saw that the circumstance was known, and that evil was determined against him, he withdrew from his house, and sought a hiding place in the fields. Here also his retreat was found out, and two soldiers were sent to apprehend him.

[Smith then fights back with a broadsword – not an item an innocent farmer normally had to hand]

When the soldiers found that he was entirely in their power, they hewed him down without mercy, and left him lifeless on the field.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 124-5.)

Like the first sources for his death, Simpson claims that Smith was buried at Burn Anne:

This martyr was buried on the spot where his blood was shed; a stone, with inscription, was laid upon his grave, which is now overgrown with moss; but a thicket of whins, the prickly guardians of this lonely sepulchre, marks the place where his ashes rest.’

A stone inscribed ‘J.S. 1684′ (or possibly ‘1685′ according to Campbell in 1996), that was said to be Smith’s gravestone was built into the wall of Threepwood farm. It has now disappeared, according to Campbell. If this was Smith’s gravestone, it was of an unusual and primitive type. (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 103; Simpson, Traditions, 125.)

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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

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~ by drmarkjardine on September 13, 2010.

11 Responses to “Buried By Covenanting Tradition?”

  1. […] The elision of John Smith in Cronan with other martyrs of a similar name may have come from a desire to bring some order to the Killing Times. However, there is no need to rub out Smith from the list of martyrs for the sake of neatness. In fact, the historical records are absolutely correct when they identify John Smith in Cronan as a separate individual from John Smith in Muirkirk (forthcoming) and James Smith in Threepwood. […]

  2. […] is highly probable that Brounen’s information directly led to the deaths of two Society people, James Smith in Threepwood and John Smith in Cronan, as discussed in following […]

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

  4. […] That Barrie was shot by Peter Inglis, the son of Captain John Inglis, is entirely consistent with Inglis’ dragoons track record of other killings in Ayrshire in April or early May 1685. (See also James Smith in Threepwood.) […]

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

  6. […] If M’Kay’s tradition is correct that two men were later ‘shot’ in May by Captain Inglis’s dragoons in revenge for the attack, then the death of Law may be directly connected to that of James Smith in Threepwood. […]

  7. […] Several Society people were killed as a result, including John Brown 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 […]

  8. […] For similar three shire sites used by the Societies, see Mungo’s Well, the preaching at the back of Cairntable and Black […]

  9. […] Simpson’s mid-nineteenth-century Traditions of the Covenanters, he claimed that James Smith was buried at East Threepwood, aka. Wee Threepwood, beside Burn Anne […]

  10. […] Smith’s execution is a historical “fact”, but the fragmentary evidence for where and when he was killed and buried contains […]

  11. […] do we know about James Smith? First, let us establish what we know about James Smith. He was a fugitive Covenanter who had fought at Bothwell Bridge in 1679 and lived at Threepwood […]

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