From His Cold, Dead Hands…

At Barrie’s Grave in Strathaven

John Barrie or Burrie is one of the more elusive Covenanting martyrs of the Killing Times. Very little is known about him, but now new evidence reveals his roots in East Kilbride and draws conclusions from the paper held in his own cold, dead hands…

His death is first recorded by Alexander Shields in 1690:

‘Item. The said Peter Inglis shot John Barrie, with his Pass in his hand, in Evandale, April, 1685’. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 37. Strathaven parish is also known as Evandale or Avondale parish.)

Cloud of Witnesses repeated exactly the same information. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 547.)

It also recorded the inscription on his gravestone in the churchyard at Strathaven, Lanarkshire, where Barrie is buried with William Paterson:

‘Here lyes the corpses of William Paterson and John Barrie, who was shot to death for their adhering to the Word of God and our Covenants, anno 1685.

Here lys two martyrs; severally who fell
By Captains Inglis and bloody Bell.
Posterity shall know they’re shot to death,
as sacrifices unto Popish wrath’.
(Thomson (ed.), CW, 573. Paterson will be dealt with in a separate post.)

Map of Strathaven Graveyard

Wodrow, too, based his account on Shields’s text, but he also elaborated on Shields’ narrative by adding a new element to the story:

‘Some time this month, Peter Inglis, a very cruel soldier, shot John Burrie in the parish of Evandale, as he met him, although he had his pass in his hand, and had showed him it. Nothing would satisfy this man of blood, but the life of this innocent, whom he would have to be one of the wanderers’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 244.)

Wodrow’s statement that Barrie was the innocent victim of misidentification is almost certainly one of his own invention, as Barrie was a fugitive.

Barrie was listed on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684 as ‘John Bawdie, younger of Newlands’ in Kilbride parish in Lanarkshire. He was also mentioned under his brother’s listing on the Fugitive Roll: James Barrie, ‘brother to John Barrie, younger in Newlands’ in Kilbride parish. John Barrie and John Bawtie are one and the same man. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 198.)

Since the Fugitive Roll does not specify any trade for the Barrie brothers, it is a reasonable assumption that John and his brother were either the sons of a tenant farmer at Newlands or were tenants of Newlands. From General Roy’s Map, Newlands appears to be a reasonably substantial arable tenant farm.

Today, Newlands lies right on the south-western edge of the Scottish new town of East Kilbride.

Map of Newlands              Street View of Newlands

Barrie and the Pass

A second element of the story, that Barrie had a pass, also requires a little deconstruction. Barrie probably did have a pass, but presbyterian sources are silent on whether his pass was not valid for any reason or a forgery. Fortunately, the Privy Council’s acts about the passes help to clarify the issue of Barrie’s possession of a pass.

The restrictions on movement, mainly in the South and West of Scotland, that required travellers to have a testificate, or pass, had been introduced by proclamation on 30 December 1684 as a knee-jerk reaction to the Societies’ Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers of 8 November, 1684:

Since these rebels, after declaring their hellish intentions, for the better performance of their mischievous designs, do lurk in secret, and are never discerned, but in the acts of their horrid assassinations, and passing up and down unknown amongst our loyal subjects, take opportunity to murder and assassinate, and it being necessary to provide a remedy against so imminent a danger, which cannot be so well done, as when the good are differenced from the bad by discriminating signs; at least constant inquiries may occasion a continual trouble, even to our good subjects :

Therefore, as a remedy for these inconveniences, we declare it to be our royal will and pleasure, and we hereby command and require all our subjects, within this our ancient kingdom, both men and women, past the age of sixteen years, not to presume to travel without testificates of their loyalty and good principles.’

Under the proclamation, all landholders or their agents within the specified shires were ordered to assemble ‘all the inhabitants upon their lands’ over sixteen and before government commissioners deliver ‘an exact list of the names of all their inhabitants’ on their lands. All the inhabitants of the parish had to publicly subscribe the Abjuration oath at those assemblies. The terms of the Abjuration are as follows:

I, A. B. do hereby abhor, renounce, and disown, in presence of the almighty God, the pretended declaration of war, lately affixed at several parish-churches, in so far as it declares a war against his sacred majesty, and asserts, that it is lawful to kill such as serve his majesty, in church, state, army, or country.’

Anyone who was absent from the oath taking or for whom their landholder would not engage was to be considered a fugitive. Anyone who adhered to the Apologetical Declaration was to be immediately secured and imprisoned, and would almost certainly have been either banished or executed.

In return for taking the Abjuration oath, the commissioners issued every oath taker with a printed testificate:

We, … [the commissioners’ names] do, by these, testify and declare, that C [e.g John Barrie] in the parish of D. [e.g. Kilbride] did compear before us, aud on his, or her solemn oath, before almighty God, did abjure and renounce the late traitorous Apologetical Declaration, insofarasit declares war against his majesty [Charles II], and asserts, that it is lawful to kill such as serve his majesty in church, state, army, or country.’

The testificate was ‘to serve for a free pass … for all time thereafter, and … preserve them from all molestation and trouble in going about their affairs’ from government forces.

Extensive security precautions were also taken to protect against passes being lost, not carried or forged. If a pass was lost, the holder was to have it renewed by the issuing commissioners and the episcopal minister of their parish. Anyone who travelled without a pass, was held to be concurring with the Societies and ‘guilty of the … treasonable Declaration’. Pass holders were also ‘obliged to swear’ that they were the ‘persons mentioned’ in them and that they were ‘true and unforged testificates’, if required of them by any royal official. (Wodrow, History, IV, 160n.)

On 10 February 1685, the Privy Council added a further layer of complexity when it ordered that the passes issued under their December proclamation were to be replaced with a new version that had a new clause inserted into the Abjuration oath which stated that ‘I do solemnly swear to not take up arms against the King [James VII], or any commissioned by him’. That change widened the scope of the oath from simply renouncing the Societies’ war to encompass a broader renunciation of armed rebellion and defensive arms against the King or his agents. However, it is not clear if the revised plan was carried into effect, as news of the death of Charles II brought an end to the general pressing of the Abjuration oath at some point in mid February. (Wodrow, History, IV, 204; Shields, FCD, 162.)

Let’s explore four scenarios about Barrie’s possession of a pass.

What if Barrie did not have a pass?
The implication of such a scenario is that Barrie was declared a fugitive after the implementation of the Abjuration oath in early 1685, possibly in addition to his already declared fugitive status from mid 1684. In that situation, Inglis had every right to apprehend Barrie, even if he had simply forgotten his pass. However, while that scenario fits most of the known evidence about Barrie, it plainly contradicts Shields, Cloud and Wodrow’s assertion that Barrie possessed a pass when he met Inglis.

What if Barrie possessed a valid pass?
If Barrie held a valid pass, the pressing of the Abjuration must have taken place in Kilbride parish soon after mid January 1685 and prior to the news of Charles II’s death. The evidence from nearby Eastwood parish, where the pressing of the oath resulted in the execution of James Algie and John Park at the beginning of February, suggests that such a timetable is credible. By necessity, this scenario dictates that Barrie must have attended the local oath taking assembly and taken the Abjuration oath in order to obtain a valid pass. The recorded date of his shooting in April may imply that his pass carried the revised wording renouncing armed resistance against James VII, although the new wording may not have been put into operation.

Since Barrie was recorded as being shot at an unspecified location in Strathaven parish, rather than in Kilbride parish, Barrie must have been carrying a pass as he was out with his home parish. The presbyterian sources seem to imply that Inglis encountered Barrie as traveller, rather than discovering him at his home, even if we discount the evidence that Barrie was from Kilbride parish.

This is the only scenario which accords with Wodrow’s account of an innocent Barrie being murdered by a near-psychotic Inglis on the basis of unfounded suspicions about him. However, if that was the scenario, then Barrie was not one of the Society people/Covenanters, as he had taken all oaths. That contradicts the inscription on his gravestone that he was a ‘martyr’ shot for adhering to ‘our Covenants’. It also contradicts the evidence that Barrie was a fugitive.

What if Barrie possessed an invalid pass?
That scenario follows the same path as the previous scenario that Barrie had a valid pass, but diverges from it in assuming that Barrie did not have an up-to-date pass that bore the revised wording that renounced armed resistance against James VII. (If that was actually introduced!) It is possible that Barrie was a moderate presbyterian who baulked at renouncing defensive arms against a Catholic king, although that does feel like a fine point of principle for a moderate presbyterian to lose their life over. In that scenario, it seems that only the revised wording of the Oath – which may or may not have been present on his pass – could have been the reason, or question he was asked, which accounts for his failure to comply. That, at best, tenuously accords with the generic last line of the gravestone’s inscription about ‘sacrifices to Popish wrath’. However, again, such a scenario contradicts the evidence of both the inscription for his militant views and of Barrie’s fugitive status.

What if Barrie was carrying a forged pass?
As a fugitive, it is highly unlikely that Barrie would have appeared before the King’s commissioners in Kilbride parish, for rather obvious reasons. The only way that he could have removed his fugitive status was if he had subsequently taken oaths and given full satisfaction to be released from prison in order to attend the local oath-taking. There is absolutely no evidence that he did so. Almost certainly, Barrie did not attend the oath taking in Kilbride and remained a fugitive.

In such a scenario, Barrie would have had good reasons to carry a forged pass or one that belonged to someone else. It is clear from the sources that Inglis suspected that Barrie was either a fugitive (as he appears to have been) or that his pass was a forgery or did not belong to him. Presumably, having met with Inglis and his detachment of dragoons, Barrie was entrapped after being asked to swear that he the rightful holder of the pass and that it was a ‘true and unforged’ testificate. The scenario in which Barrie was carrying a forged or substitute pass is the only one which fits all the known facts about Barrie’s shooting.

The Shooting of John Barrie

The facts that Barrie was shot by Peter Inglis and that he was executed in ‘Evandale parish’ also need to be deconstructed.

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.)

There may be some substance to Wodrow’s description of him as a ‘a very cruel soldier’ and a ‘man of blood’. In addition to his role in Barrie’s death, Cornet Inglis is recorded as having captured, but not shot, Thomas Richard, and killing James White in an action at Little Blackwood and John Smith in Cronan. Inglis was a cornet, the lowest rank of officer in the dragoons. Cornets were very infrequently listed among the officers held responsible for field shootings, as it was usually the higher ranking officers that the Society people later accused of responsibility. (Alexander Shields, A Short Memorial, 34-8; Wodrow, History, IV, 252-3.)

It may simply be that Cornet Inglis and his detachment were highly efficient in finding insurgents. In reality, it would have been Cornet Inglis detachment of dragoons who did the dirty work of shooting insurgents. It also seems that Inglis was only ‘very cruel’ for one month out of his year-long presence in the area, which probably indicates that it was the context and circumstances in which he found himself that dictated the brutality of his actions. For instance, his area of operations coincided with the heartlands of the United Societies and there was significant Societies’ activity and violence in the area at Little Blackwood, Cairntable and Newmilns at that time.

The timing of the activities of the Societies in the area may provide a context for Barrie’s execution in the field. The Renwick conventicle and Societies’ muster of 250 men behind Cairntable Hill in about mid April, and the Societies’ attack on Newmilns tower on c.25 April, would have made the Inglis’ local garrison of dragoons highly suspicious of any alleged travellers that they encountered, especially after an attack on their headquarters. We will never know if Barrie was party to either the conventicle and muster or the attack, but it is possible. It could simply have been that as a fugitive he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of the puzzling aspects of Shields’ account is where Barrie was shot in Evandale parish, as Shields gives no specific location within the parish. This appears to be all that Shields knew about Barrie’s death, as in some of his other narratives of martyrs in A Short Memorial he is more specific as to the location.

Barrie was buried in Strathaven churchyard at some point after the events, but that does not mean that he was shot in Strathaven as it is the parish burial ground. Indeed, there is a strong hint in Shields’ account of William Paterson’s death, who appears to have been killed at a different time from Barrie but is buried in the same grave, that Barrie was not shot elsewhere in the parish. In that account, Shields specifies that Paterson was shot in ‘Strevin’, rather than in ‘Evandale’. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 38.)

Why was Barrie was shot in Evandale parish when Inglis was based in Ayrshire?

Although Captain Inglis’ dragoons had been based at Newmilns in Ayrshire since mid 1684, it is entirely consistent with the orders to Inglis dragoons that they operated across the shire boundary in Lanarkshire, as its commander, Captain John Inglis, or his superiors, Colonel John Graham of Claverhouse and Lieutenant-colonel Thomas Buchan (who was based in Lanarkshire), were permitted to deploy the unit ‘anywhere’ they ‘shall think best for the good of the government’. (Wodrow History, IV, 33.)

Newmilns also lies only about seven miles from the shire boundary with Evandale parish. The area along the boundary between Ayrshire and Evandale in Lanarkshire is dominated by hills, muirs and bogs. Given that Ayrshire was Inglis’ area of operation, this difficult terrain may be where Barrie was shot, although it could have been anywhere in Evandale parish.

The final piece of evidence to be analysed is that Barrie was shot ‘with his pass in his hand’. Was Barrie immediately executed? From the description, it sounds like he was. Neither failing to have a valid pass nor being a fugitive was enough in itself to permit Barrie’s immediate execution once he was in the hands of the dragoons. We will never know the exact circumstances of his death, literally anything could have happened, but it is likely that after he was questioned and exposed as a potential fugitive that Barrie was proffered the Abjuration oath in the field. Since Barrie had previously evaded the oath in Kilbride parish, it is quite possible that he refused to take it. The punishment for failure to do so in the field in the presence of a military officer and two witnesses was to be immediately shot.

Barrie’s gravestone was renewed in 1832. On the pedestal it is inscribed: “Renewed by the Reformers of Avondale at the passing of the Reform Bill, anno domini 1832’. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 573.)

Right next to the graveyard in Castle Street is a monument to James Wilson, one of the Radical martyrs of the 1820 Rising. Details on Wilson can be found here.

Text & Photographs © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on September 25, 2010.

5 Responses to “From His Cold, Dead Hands…”

  1. […] location and the cause of their shooting are remarkably similar to the date, location and cause of James Barrie’s summary execution in nearby Evandale parish. Until now, the shooting of Barrie has not been […]

  2. […] story of the William Paterson who was executed at Strathaven and buried with John Barrie will be dealt with in a later […]

  3. […] who was executed by Captain-lieutenant John Bell at some point in 1685. In the same grave is John Barrie, from Kilbride parish, who was shot either at the end of April, or the beginning of May, 1685. […]

  4. […] Kirkwood, like all the other inhabitants of Sorn parish, would have required the testificate to be able to travel outside of the parish and prove that he was a loyal subject. For a discussion on the process of swearing of the Abjuration oath, see the entry on John Barrie. […]

  5. […] Barryen’ is John Barrie, Shields records that Barrie was summarily executed by, either in Evandale, or in that parish. He is said to have had a pass when he was executed by […]

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