William Adam: The Wanderer at Wellwood

For centuries, the death of William Adam has been viewed as a relatively isolated martyrdom of the Killing Times. However, the case of William Adam is the crucial link which connects several other martyrdoms in the area of Muirkirk to the dramatic escape of John Campbell in Upper Wellwood.

Adam’s Grave near Upper Wellwood © Copyright Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

As usual, Alexander Shields was the first to record his death in 1690: ‘Item, The said Captain Dalzel and Lieu: Stratoun, with their men, found William Adam hiding in a Bush, and instantly killed him, at Walwood in Kyle, Feb: 1685’. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 36.)

Cloud of Witnesses copied Shields: ‘The said Captain Dalziel and Lieutenant Straiten, with their men, found William Adam hiding in a bush, and instantly killed him, at the Wellwood, parish of Muirkirk, in Kyle, February 1685’. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 542.)

Site of Adam’s Grave

One of Wodrow’s sources, John Cochrane of Waterside, the son of the moderate presbyterian Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, states that Dalziel and Straiton discovered Adam ‘hiding himself in a bush, did stick him dead without ever speaking a word unto him’. Cochrane probably used Shields for his information. (Hewison, Covenanters, II, 460.)

According to Wodrow, who also used Shields as one of his sources, Adam fled from his work threshing in a barn at Mid Wellwood at the sight of Sir John Dalziel’s dragoons and hid in some bushes in a marsh, but he was discovered and killed:

‘Not a few others were thus killed in cold blood, without any indictment or process, this month [February, 1685], of whom I have scarce any other account but their names. William Adam in Middle-Welwood, who was in no Porteous roll, nor any way chargeable, was threshing in his barn, and seeing Sir John Dalziel’s company of dragoons coming, fearing they should come in upon him in the barn, and propose their ordinary questions, went out at the back door, and hid himself in a marsh ground among some bushes. The party seeing him flee, searched for him, and discovering him, instantly killed him’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 241.)

One problem with Wodrow’s account is that John Dalziel (or Dalyell) was was a captain in the Earl of Mar’s Regiment of Foot, rather than a captain of dragoons. Lieutenant Straton is probably Lieutenant Alexander Straton of Mar’s Regiment of Foot

Wodrow also made no mention of Lieutenant Straiton’s involvement, even though he clearly knew of his role from Shields. However, elsewhere in his history, we find Captain John Dalziel operating with Lieutenant ‘Straton’ when they were both involved in the shooting of Daniel McMichael at Lower Dalveen in Nithsdale on 31 January 1685. (Wodrow, History, IV, 239-40.)

Map of [Lower] Dalveen

There is some degree of confusion over the identity of Captain Dalziel. Shields refers to him as either ‘Captain Dalziel’ in his entry for Wellwood or ‘Sir Robert Dalziel’ in his entry for Dalveen. Wodrow states that he was ‘Sir John Dalziel’ in his entry for Wellwood, but names him as ‘John Dalziel, son to Sir Robert Dalziel at Kirkmichael’ in his entry for Dalveen. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 36. Wodrow, History, IV, 239, 241.)

The problem is one of choronology. The Captain Dalziel they both refer to was John Dalziel of Glenae (d. March 1689), who succeeded to the title of the 2nd Baronet Dalzell (Nova Scotia) in 1686. He was the son of Sir Robert Dalzell (d. before April 1686), a member of the Scottish parliament for Dumfriesshire.

Captain John Dalziel came from Kirkmichael parish in Annandale. Besides the killing of Adam, Shields also records that Captain Dalziel ‘harassed much in Annandale’ with fines and forfeitures. His family were committed supporters of the Stewart monarchy. Sir John was the nephew of the staunchly royalist Robert Dalziel, 2nd earl of Carnwath, who had fought for Charles I in the British Civil Wars. The Captain’s two sons, Robert and James, and his brother, James, also fought for the Jacobite cause in the earl of Mar’s disastrous 1715 Rising. His eldest son, Robert (b.c.1687-1737), inherited the title of 6th earl of Carnwath in 1703, but was forfeited in 1716 for his part in the Rising.

Sir John married Harriet Murray in June 1686, the daughter of Sir William Murray of Stanhope. The Lieutenant Murray who escorted the Campbell brothers of Upper Wellwood to prison in Edinburgh in August 1684 and shot John Brown at Blackwood in March 1685 was also one of the Murrays of Stanhope.

Sir John’s daughter, Agnes, later married Sir John Johnstone of Westerhall (d.1711), who was probably the son of the Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall who ordered the summary execution of Andrew Hislop in Annandale in May 1685. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 31, 36, 37. See also here)

Wodrow also states that Adam was at ‘Middle Welwood’. The modern farm of Midwellwood does not apparently stand in the same location as the ‘Mid Wellwood’ farm found on General Roy’s map of the 1740s. At the time of Adam’s killing, Mid Wellwood lay to the south, rather than north, of the River Ayr and just north, and to the east, of the confluence of the March and Shiel burns.

Bing OS Map of approximate location of Mid Wellwood.

General Roy’s Map

In Wodrow’s narrative, Adam saw Dalziel’s troop at a distance and then fled and hid. If Adam fled from the barn at Mid Wellwood, he must have covered just under half a kilometre across the rigs of Mid Wellwood to his hiding place in the marshy ground around the Proscribe Burn.

Bing OS Map of Adam’s Grave

Adam’s fairly-determined flight from Dalziel’s men raises a contradiction in Wodrow’s narrative: Why did Adam hide in fear of the ‘ordinary questions’, that included the Abjuration oath, if, as Wodrow claims, he was not in ‘any way chargeable’?

Wodrow believed that Adam was not listed on any fugitive roll, however, a William Adam ‘servant to John Alexander’ in Crofthead (NS 533 269) in Mauchline parish, Ayrshire, was listed on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684. If Adam was the same man as the fugitive on the Roll, then the reasons for his flight and summary execution are more explicable. He also would have almost certainly known another fugitive named Alexander Jamieson, who was the ‘servitor to Matthew Alexander’ in the adjacent farm of Croftfoot in Mauchline parish. Jamieson may have been captured in 1685 when three other fugitives returning from one of Renwick’s field preachings were shot at Carsgailoch Hill. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 127; II, 210.)

Map of Crofthead

After Wodrow’s account, the killing of Adam moves from history into the realm of popular tradition. Well over a century later, Simpson recorded a tradition that Adam was about to be married and that the dragoons (not foot) interrupted his Bible reading before a lovers’ tryst:

‘We may notice the following anecdote of a young man of the name of William Adams, who lived in Wellwood, and who, on account of his piety and nonconforming principles, became an object of hostility to the persons who, in those times, sought every opportunity to harass and persecute the people of God. William, who was about to be married to an excellent and amiable young woman in the neighbourhood, had appointed a meeting with her in the moors. On the day specified, he was first at the trysting-place; and, in order to pass the time till his friend should arrive, in the most profitable way, he opened his Bible and read the Word of God. He had not long continued at this employment till his eye caught a party of dragoons close upon him; he started to his feet; the enemy rode up to him, and, in an instant, he was shot dead on the spot. The young woman, who was now advancing at a quick pace along the heath, heard the loud and startling report of fire-arms precisely in the direction in which she was going. She walked onward with a throbbing heart and with a faltering step— she feared lest her beloved William had fallen by the savage hand of the foe; and her worst suspicions seemed to be justified, when she saw several horsemen coming over the rising ground, apparently from the very place where she expected to meet with her lover. She met them just as she was passing along a narrow foot-bridge, thrown by the shepherds, for their own convenience, over the mossy streamlet; and as they were crossing the brook, close by the side of the bridge, one of the dragoons drew his sword, and jocularly struck her with its broad-side, under the pretence of pushing her into the water. Her spirit was embittered, and her courage was roused; and, wrapping her apron closely round her hand, she seized the sword by the blade, wrenched it from the grasp of the warrior, snapped it in two over her knee, and flung the pieces into the stream. With eager impatience she hastened to the meeting-place. All her fears were realized—her William was lying stiff on the ground, and his blood had stained the heather bloom with a deeper dye’. (Simpson, Traditions, 9.)

Unlike Wodrow’s Adam, Simpson’s Adam was an ‘object of hostility’ for the government forces.

Adam Grave near Upper Wellwood © Copyright Chris Wimbush and licensed for reuse.

In the late nineteenth century, Thomson, in his editorial note to the entry for Adam in Cloud of Witnesses, placed a slightly-altered version of Wodrow’s narrative alongside a slightly-altered version of Simpson’s tradition and came to the somewhat generous conclusion that Simpson’s tradition was ‘by no means irreconcilable’ with Wodrow’s account. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 542.)

Simpson’s recorded version of Adam’s death is only true in terms of how popular tradition recalled the Killing Times. It is not true in historical terms. As Campbell pointed out several years ago, elements of the story surrounding the killing of Adam, that he was bible reading and that his death was discovered by his sweetheart, are substantially the same as the traditional stories about the death of Arthur Inglis in Cambusnethan parish and those of John Murchie and Daniel McIlwraith at Barrhill. (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 182-3.)

When was Adam killed?
Perhaps the best clue as to the timing of Adam’s killing comes from the role of Captain Dalziel and Lieutenant Straiton in the death of Daniel McMichael at [Lower] Dalveen on 31 January 1685, as Adam and McMichael were killed by the same party of soldiers.

The account of the shooting at Dalveen provides us with a pretty good idea of Dalziel and Straiton’s northward line of march out of Dumfriesshire up to the point at which they shot McMichael at Lower Dalveen, now known as Dalveen, in Durisdeer parish. From Dalveen it is a very short journey over the hill behind Dalveen farm to the old road which climbed up the Enterkin Pass to Wanlockhead, which lies in the heart of the hills to the south of Mid Wellwood.

Map of [Lower] Dalveen

Their line of march suggests that Dalziel and Straiton’s force were operating in the hills to the south of Mid Wellwood in the period prior to Adam’s death. That may suggest that Adam was killed in early February 1685, although a later date is possible. A date in early February certainly accords with Shields and Wodrow’s chronology for Adam’s death. However, Shields and Wodrow’s chronology is contradicted by the date of ‘March’ inscribed on Adam’s gravestone. (Wodrow, History, IV, 239-40.)

What was the context of Adam’s killing?
Adam’s killing at Wellwood was not a coincidence. Perhaps the greatest lapse in Wodrow’s narrative is that he did not connect the soldiers’ presence at Mid Wellwood or Adam’s killing to the events surrounding Upper and Mid Wellwood at that time.

His History of the Sufferings contains both information on Adam’s death and a considerable quantity of evidence about events in Muirkirk parish, but Wodrow does not present the meagre evidence he had about the killing of Adam in the context of other events in Muirkirk. Wodrow’s choice of narrative form was the cause of his failure to place the killing in context. Although his narrative form suited his wider purpose of exposing the vast scale of presbyterian sufferings at the hands of a “despotic regime”, it made Adam’s death subservient to his wider agenda. In doing so, he left Adam’s killing isolated from the local context that may have had caused it.

Upper Wellwood was the home of the brothers, John and William Campbell of Wellwood, while Mid Wellwood was the home of their cousin John Campbell. Both the brothers and their cousin appear to have been captured in Muirkirk parish and subsequently made a successful escape from their Edinburgh prison with eight others in August 1684.

Bing OS Map of Upper Wellwood

Although Adam’s killing has the appearance of a random event in the martyr tradition, it seems likely that it was the first in a pattern of local killings that developed as the net tightened around the Campbell group of fugitives.

The circumstantial evidence for a connection between the Campbell group of fugitives and the killings in the area is surprisingly strong when both narratives are run alongside each other.

At the time of Adam’s killing, Wodrow reports that the Campbell brothers and their father, William Campbell, who was also a fugitive, and Mid Wellwood, were passing the winter of 1684/1685 in hiding out in the open in the hills. (Wodrow, History, IV, 51.)

To survive in such an environment would have required a regular flow of supplies and provisions from sympathetic local people. There is little doubt that the people at Wellwood and in surrounding area would have been suspected of aiding the Campbell group of fugitives and, as a result, drawn significant attention from government forces.

Given those circumstances, why was William Adam at Mid Wellwood? Clearly, the farms at Upper and Mid Wellwood were neither the ideal hiding place for any fugitive, nor the best place to work if one wanted to avoid questioning by soliders. If Adam was a fugitive, as he appears to have been, it is possible that he may have had been at Midwellwood for some purpose in connection with the other fugitives in the hills.

The capture and execution of Thomas Richard in Greenock in late March or early April 1685 may also be connected to the Campbell group of fugitives, as one of the reasons given for the capture and execution of Richard was that he had confessed to the recent shelter of fugitives.

Bing OS Map of Greenock

With Adam’s death at Midwellwood and Richard’s capture at Greenock, one gets the sense that the options for the fugitives in the hills had narrowed. Wodrow’s History, certainly suggests that the Campbell group of fugitives took further precautions to maintain themselves in the hills in the month after Richard’s capture: ‘In April, 1685, they had made a little lodge for themselves, in a very retired place in the middle of the mountains’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 51.)

It is worth noting that the Campbell group of fugitives built their ‘little lodge’ after the worst of the winter was over and immediately after the capture of Richard. Curiously, Claverhouse reported the discovery of just such a large dugout after John Brown was shot and John Brounen was captured at Priesthill on 1 May:

‘In the mean time he [Brounen] 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 [Brounen] declaired that they belonged to his uncle, and that he had lurked in that place ever since Bothwell, where he was in armes’. (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 207.)

The capacity of the dugout to hold a dozen fugitives does seem to contradict Brounen’s implication that the dugout was just for his uncle. Like the location of the Campbell dugout, Priesthill is ‘in a very retired place in the middle of the mountains’.

Map of Priesthill on Multimap.com
Get directions to or from Priesthill

The arrival of Claverhouse and Highland troops also had a dramatic impact on the Campbell group of fugitives: ‘In a little time after [they had built their ‘little lodge’ in the hills], the highlanders came to that country [by 1 May 1685], and discovered their hiding-place, and they were forced to remove, and separate one from another’.

With the arrival of the Highlanders and the discovery of the ‘little lodge’, the Campbell group of fugitives were no longer able to maintain themselves as a coherent group in the hills. Whatever system of support they had established after their escape and tried to maintain by building their dugout, had patently disintegrated.

In early May, it had become every man for himself among the fugitives. According to Wodrow:

‘In a few days [after the fugitives had separated from each other] Middle-Welwood and … [John Campbell’s] brother [William] were taken by Claverhouse, and cruelly treated, and with others were sent to Dunotter [Castle]’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 51.)

Dunnottar Castle © Copyright Jjhake and licensed for reuse.

It is possible that the intelligence from Claverhouse’s prisoner from Priesthill, John Brounen, may have played a part in their recapture. Since Claverhouse’s other known movements at the beginning of May followed up on Brounen’s intelligence and the Priesthill dugout does resemble the Campbells’ ‘little lodge’, it is possible that Claverhouse’s 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 Cronan.)

Mid Wellwood was also the location where Peter Gillies, who was executed with Brounen at Mauchline on c.6 May 1685, left a letter to his wife. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 534.)

John Campbell managed to evade capture and within a few weeks at most had joined with William Cleland, John Fullerton, Robert Langlands, George Barclay and Alexander Peden in their efforts to incite the West of Scotland to rebel in the Argyll Rising. However, with the Rising’s collapse in mid June, John Campbell’s resolve to remain in hiding around Wellwood also collapsed, as he secretly attempted to emigrate to Virginia. (Wodrow, History, IV, 51.)

Walker records a visit by Peden to John Campbell’s mother at Upper Wellwood at some point in late 1685:

‘28. In the said 1685, he [Peden] came to Welwood to Captain John Campbell’s, he having escaped out of the Canongate Tolbooth, in the Month of August 1684; and he in Danger every Day, resolved to go to America, took farewel of Friends, and went a Ship-board; Mr. Peden said to his Mother, Mistris, what’s become of Johnie? She said, He’s gone to America: He said, No, no, he’s not gone; send for him, for he’ll never see America. Accordingly it was so; a Storm rose, where he was in Danger, but was preserved, and came off, and is yet alive [in the 1720s]’. (Walker, BP, I, 117.)

The Grave of William Adam
According to RCAHMS and Thorbjörn Campbell in Standing Witnesses, but not according to Cloud of Witnesses, the inscription on Adam’s gravestone dates his death to March 1685. I’ve given the inscription as recorded by Campbell, the last line of which is omitted by Cloud:

‘Here lyes WILLIAM ADAM
who was
shot in
this place
by CAPt DALZEAL
and his party for his
adherence to the
Word of GOD
and Scotland’s
Covenanted work
of Reformation
March 1685’

(Thomson (ed.), CW, 607; MGoS, 150-1; Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 183.)

Inscription on Grave © Copyright Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

The grave is accessed through the farm of Upper Wellwood farm. If you intend to visit the grave site, please call ahead on (01290) 661 206.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on October 11, 2010.

5 Responses to “William Adam: The Wanderer at Wellwood”

  1. […] or Browning (c.6-10 May?) and perhaps James White and John Law. It is possible that the capture of William Campbell in Upper Wellwood and John Campbell of Mid Wellwood in early May was another product of the crackdown which followed the attack on […]

  2. […] captured at Renwick’s conventicle at Greenock, escaped from the Canongate Tolbooth and were later pursued as fugitives in 1684 and […]

  3. […] of Highlanders with Gillies and Bryce at Mid Wellwood, appears to coincide with the capture of John Campbell of Mid Wellwood and William Campbell of Upper Wellwood by Claverhouse on c.4 May, 1685. Both of those men had been pursued for months following a large […]

  4. […] The ‘Cave’ Wodrow mentions that Paterson was captured on the Sabbath and that ‘fourteen persons’ were in hiding at ‘Charon heugh’. When the soldiers approached, Paterson and three others were captured, but ten managed to get ‘into a secret place in the cave’. The precise circumstances are not clear, but it appears that either Paterson and the other three did not manage to gain entry to the ‘cave’ and were captured, or that they did, but were not well concealed in the cave. The use of the term ‘cave’ to describe a hiding place often appears in later Covenanting tradition, but it was often applied to manmade 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 Tolbooth. […]

  5. […] the escape of his neighbours, John and William Campbell of Wellwood, from the Canongate Tolbooth in Edinburgh on 21 August 1684 would have added to the climate of surveillance in Muirkirk parish, […]

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