Renwick’s Preachings at Cauldstane Slap and Cairnhill

West Cairn Hill © Copyright Chris Eilbeck and licensed for reuse.

Buried in the historical sources are clues to the location of a “lost” James Renwick field preaching on 1 June 1684. It can now be pinpointed for the first time.

From the records, it appears that the authorities did not find out about the preaching until a few weeks later. At that point, they appear to have confused separate intelligence reports from Edinburghshire and Peebleshire about a field preaching to create two preachings in almost exactly the same location a week apart. The simplest explanation for the confusion is that the intelligence reports from Peebleshire misdated the preaching by a week to create a second preaching on 8 June. The preacher was almost certainly James Renwick, who was the only active field preacher in 1684. We know that Renwick preached at Black Loch in Lanarkshire on 8 June.

Lord Fountainhall confirms that there was only one field preaching:

‘They heard ther was a conventicle in Mid-Louthian; but after a precognition tane of the witnesses, it was found to have been in Tuedale-shire, onlie a penny stone cast of the March betuen it and Mid-Louthian.’ (Lauder, Historical Observes, I, 135.)

Fountainhall indicates that the confusion over the location of the preaching was resolved after a hearing determined it was held just inside of Tweeddaleshire, i.e., Peebleshire, rather than in Midlothian, i.e., Edinburghshire. The resolution over the disputed location was important, as the determination of the correct location affected which heritor was to be held responsible.

The other sources mention two field preachings, when they should refer to one.

Wodrow records that on

‘July 16th [1684], that the committee for public affairs write a letter to Sir William Murray of Stanhope, Sir Archibald Murray of Blackbarony, John Veitch of Dawick, signifying, that there was a conventicle kept, June 1st [1684], at Carnhill, and another at Colstons-loup in Peeblesshire; and complain those gentlemen had not given advertisement of them, … and order them to make diligent search, and apprehend the hearers and preachers, and take the assistance of the garrison at Boghall’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 29.)

The original letter reads as follows:

‘Gentlemen, The Lords of the Comittee of Councill for publict affairs Being certainly informed that ther was a field Conventicle keept upon Sunday the first of June instant at Cairnehill, and another upon the Eight of the said month at Colstouneslope in Peebles shyre, where ther wer severall men in annes and diverss women present, which they think very strange, either as to your suffering those Conventicles to have been keept, or not dissipateing them, or giving advertisement thereof, as was appointed by the Councill’s proclamatione in Jully 1682, upon such ane occasione in your shyre. And therefore wee requyre yow imediately to make dilligent search after the persones who wer the preachers, and upon whose ground the same wer keept. And to return us a speedy account thereof. And to secure such of them as yow find guilty. And also requyre yow to advertise that party of His Majestie’s forces at Bogehall to prosecute those persones guilty of those Conventicles. And to acquaint us of ther dilligence from tyme to tyme, as they will be answearable. And if any such meeting fall out hereafter, yow are to give advertisement thereof to the sheriff of the shyre, or Commander of the forces nearest to yow. And to certifie the said sheriff that if he do not his duty, he will be looked upon as disaffected to his Majestie’s government, and proceeded against accordingly’. (William Chambers, A History of Peeblesshire, 201. Chambers curiously dated the letter to 6 June.)

The next day, the committee’s mood was little better. General Thomas Dalyell was sent to round up heritors who had failed to provide intelligence about rebel conventiclers crossing their lands and John Hay, 2nd earl of Tweeddale, and Walter Sandilands, 6th Lord Torphichen, were hauled over the coals for their parts in the debacle:

‘July 17th [1684], I find another process against the earl of Tweeddale, lord Torphichen, and a vast number of others, upon whose lands conventicles had been kept, and through whose lands the rebels had past from the conventicle at Cairnhill. The earl of Tweeddale appears and depones upon oath, “that he was not in the shire when the conventicles were kept, and had no knowledge of the same for some days after; and that, to his knowledge, his deputies were free of the same. And the council assoilie the earl and his deputes.” […] And the council order general Dalziel to send a party out to bring in the rest of the heritors. But I observe no more about them in the registers’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 47.)

General Dalyell

The original letter to Dalyell reads as follows:

‘Sir Having receaved information of a Conventicle keept at Cairnhill upon the first instant, and another at Colstouneslope, upon the eight thereof, in Peebles shyre, where severall men wer in armes, and diverss women present, of which informatione a Coppie is herewith sent, wee desyre your Excellencie to give such orders for discovery of those persones, and apprehending them, and of the heretors on whose ground the Conventicles wer keept, as yow shall think fitt. And wee expect frequent accounts in this affair ffrom your Excellencie. Wee ar your Excellencie’s humble servants’. (Chambers, A History of Peeblesshire, 202.)

In 1894, Hardy Bertram M’Call’s The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Mid Calder recorded that ‘a conventicle attended by about two hundred persons, some of them being in arms, was held on Sunday, 1st June [1684], at Cairn-hill, and another at Caldstane Slap on the eighth of the same month. (M’Call, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Mid Calder, 231.)

East Cairn Hill © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse.

Where are Colstouneslope and Cairnhill?
‘Colstouneslope’ is Cauldstane Slap, a pass across the Pentland Hills. It lies exactly on the boundary between Mid Calder parish in Edinburghshire and Linton parish in Peeblesshire. ‘Cairnhill’ refers to East and West Cairnhill, which are the hills on each side of Cauldstane Slap and mark the line of the shire boundary.

Map of Cauldstane Slap

According to John Sommer’s Account of the Parish of Mid Calder of 1838:

‘At the eastern extremity of the Cairn Hill which forms the south-east boundary of the parish, south of Harperrig, there is a hollow slope or declivity, known by the name of the Caldstane Slap, through which pass, lies the drove road most commonly frequented by dealers in sheep and cattle between the Scotch and English markets. This road is passable also for travellers on horseback during the summer months. But, in order to obtain a more easy and direct communication, it is gratifying to learn that our southern neighbours have already formed and nearly completed this road to within a very short distance of the boundary of this parish; and it is to be hoped that the proprietors of the Calder district will find it their interest to imitate their good example, by finishing this line of road as far as this parish extends’. (Sommers, Account of the parish of Mid Calder, 4.)

Cauldstane Slap Iain Macaulay © Copyright Iain Macaulay and licensed for reuse.

Cairnhill and Cauldstane Slap are one and the same location. That strongly suggests that one conventicle took place in the Pentlands on the boundary between Edinburghshire and Peeblesshire on 1 June somewhere on, or near, West or East Cairnhill. As we will see below, the exact site of the field preaching has been discovered.

The Society people were almost certainly responsible for that conventicle. None of the sources listed above named the preacher at the conventicles. However, it is almost certain that James Renwick, the only presbyterian minister field preaching in mid 1684, was responsible for it.

Like many of Renwick’s field preachings, the preaching at Cairnhill/Claudstane Slap took place near a shire boundary. The siting of those preachings on the western side of the Pentlands strongly suggests that both conventicles were organised by the ‘Livingston and Calder’ societies that were active in Linlithgowshire and around Calder Muir on the western fringe of Edinburghshire. Among their prominent members were Patrick Walker, the popular historian of the Societies, and, until 1683, John Flint, a Societies’ student who opposed Renwick’s control of the United Societies. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I. 46, 48-9.)

While the Societies were well organised in the parishes to the west of the Pentlands, there is no evidence that a comparable level of organisation existed among the scattered militant presbyterians in the parishes to the east of the Pentlands in northern Peeblesshire. The Societies did operate in Peebleshire, but their main recorded area of activity lay in the south-west of the shire in Tweedsmuir parish.

The response of the authorities indicates that they suspected that at least some of the audience for the preachings had either come from, or journeyed through, Peeblesshire. The earl of Tweeddale’s claim that he had heard the conventicle some days later from his deputies probably indicates that there may have been some evidence to back up that view. However, the government’s concerns about the response of their officers in Peeblesshire should not obscure the fact that most of the conventiclers had probably come from west of the Pentlands.

Panic in Peeblesshire
Renwick’s appearance on the edge of Peeblesshire exposed a security problem for the authorities. In comparison to the Western shires, which were dotted with garrisons to suppress open presbyterian dissent, Peeblesshire was not heavily policed by government forces. That situation left the authorities far more reliant on the network of local heritors in the shire to inform them about seditious activities.

Clearly, in this case, that system had manifestly failed, as six weeks after the preachings the committee of public affairs wrote to Blackbarony, Stanhope and Dawyck to inform them about the preaching and to chastise them over their failure to act.

Boghall Castle © Copyright Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

The fact that Blackbarony, Stanhope and Dawyck were to rely on government forces garrisoned outside of Peeblesshire at Boghall to ‘apprehend the hearers and preachers’ from the conventicle only reinforces the impression of failure. The Boghall garrison was based at Boghall Castle, the ruins of which lies just outside of Biggar, Lanarkshire, at the southern end of the Pentland Hills.

Map of Boghall Castle

Nineteenth century sketch of Boghall Castle

The three men responsible for suppressing presbyterian dissent in Peeblesshire at the time of the preachings were all heritors in northern or western Peeblesshire.

Blackbarony Castle

Sir Archibald Murray of Blackbarony resided at Blackbarony Castle in Eddleston parish. Today, his house is a hotel.

Map of Blackbarony Castle

Louis XIV’s palace St Germain

Sir William Murray of Stanhope (d.c.1690) resided at Broughton in Broughton parish. His second son, Captain James Murray, served the Jacobite cause under James VII and died in exile at the palace of St Germain in France.

Dawyck © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse.

John Veitch of Dawyck lived at Dawyck in Drumelzier parish. His house was pulled down in the 1830s and its stone reused to build the present house. Dawyck is still a private residence, but the heart of his estate is open to the public as a Royal Botanical Garden.

Map of Dawyck

Dawyck and countryside of western Peebleshire was used by John Buchan as the setting for his first novel, John Burnet of Barns, which deals with the political turmoil of the 1680s and the Killing Times.

Dead Wife’s Grave © Copyright Jim Barton and licensed for reuse.

A short walk from the Dawyck Botanical Garden is the ‘Dead Wife’s Grave’, which is alleged to have some connection to Montrose’s defeat at battle of Philiphaugh in 1645.

Map of Dead Wife’s Grave

Tweeddale and Torphichen
Although Blackbarony, Stanhope and Dawyck were rebuked for their failure to respond to the field preachings, most of the committee’s ire was directed against the earl of Tweeddale and lord Torphichen, for not informing them about the “conventicles” which had taken place between their estates. As mentioned above, the council finally determined that the preaching had taken place in Teeddale/Peeblesshire. Thus the earl of Tweeddale, who was the heritors of the land on which the preaching was held, ultimately was blamed for failing to act.

John Hay, 2nd Earl of Tweeddale (1625-1697)

Renwick’s preaching had taken place on Tweeddale’s lands in the barony of Linton in West Linton parish. The barony of Linton was not Tweeddale’s only holding in Peeblesshire, as he also held the barony of Neidpath around his residence at Neidpath Castle, which lies just to the west of the burgh of Peebles.

Neidpath Castle © Copyright M J Richardson and licensed for reuse.

Tweeddale was not hostile to the Restoration regime, but he did have moderate presbyterian connections. He was a political survivor. In the 1640s and 1650s, he had fought for the Covenanters, both for and against Charles I, and served in Cromwell’s puppet regime. However, when the monarchy was restored in 1660, Tweeddale had reinvented himself as a loyal supporter of the Restoration regime. Throughout the latter period, his fortunes ebbed and flowed with the tide of court politics. After the Restoration, he held various posts, but he fell out of favour when the Duke of Lauderdale controlled Scottish politics and had to wait on Lauderdale’s fall in 1679 make a political comeback.

When in power, Tweeddale was relatively sympathetic towards his former moderate presbyterian brethren, but he had no sympathy for the radical platform espoused by the United Societies. He sat in the Scottish parliaments of 1681, 1685 and 1686, which were all declared illegitimate by Societies, and he also sat on the Privy Council when it introduced the Abjuration oath against the Societies in December 1684 and proclaimed James VII as king of Scots in February 1685. (Wodrow, History, IV, 160n, 202n.)

Yester House © Copyright ronnie leask and licensed for reuse.

Tweeddale was also plagued by debt throughout the Restoration period and in 1686 he was forced to sell off all of his Peeblesshire estates to satisfy creditors. At the Revolution in late 1688, Tweeddale completed another political volte-face and backed William of Orange against James VII. He also restored his family’s fortunes. In December 1694 he was elevated 1st Marquis of Tweeddale and made 1st earl of Gifford by William II & III. On his death in 1697, his son was able to commission the fashionable Scottish architect, James Smith, to build a new residence, Yester House, at the family’s seat at Gifford in East Lothian.

Smith’s work was much in demand. Besides his own house at New Hailes (now owned by the NTS), he also worked on Caroline Park, Drumlanrig, the Canongate Kirk, George ‘Bluidy’ Mackenzie’s Tomb, Hamilton Palace and Dalkeith Palace.

Calder House © Copyright Paul Thomson and licensed for reuse.

Calder Contested

The inclusion of Lord Torphichen among those hauled up for Renwick’s preaching, who held lands around Calder House in Mid Calder parish and in West Calder parish, indicates that the committee’s wrath also initially extended to heritors in Edinburghshire/Midlothian. The preaching at Cauldstane Slap/Cairnhill lay on the boundary of Mid Calder parish, but was eventually determined to have been outside of the shire.

Like Tweeddale, Torphichen does not appear to have been one of the political opponents of Stewart monarchy, as he sat in James VII’s parliaments of 1685 and 1686. He was also opposed to the United Societies’ radical platform and violent resistance. In late November 1684, Torphichen, along with Lord Livingston and other local lairds, was given a commission with justiciary power with to seek out Society people in the parishes of Livingston, Bathgate, West Calder, Mid Calder and East Calder as part of the effort to discover the assassins of Thomas Kennoway. (Wodrow, History, IV, 155.)

However, Torphichen also had moderate presbyterian connections. Hew Kennedy, who had been brought up by Samuel Rutherford, the preeminent ideologue of the Covenanting cause, had been presented to the charge at Mid Calder in 1643 by Torphichen’s father and after the Restoration Kennedy had married into Torphichen’s family. Kennedy was deprived in 1660 for being a ‘very zealous Protester’, but by the late Restoration, Kennedy had become one of the moderate presbyterian faction that accepted royal authority. Under James VII’s edicts of toleration, he briefly returned to his charge at Mid Calder in July 1687 before he moved on to establish a licensed presbyterian meeting house in Trinity parish. After the Revolution, ‘Father Kennedy’, as he became known, was the first moderator of the reconstituted General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In November 1687, a meeting of moderate presbyterian ministers appointed William Burnett as Kennedy’s successor at Mid Calder. (Fasti, I, 127-8, 177.)

Hew Kennedy was a contentious figure for the Society people for his perceived abandonment of the Covenanted cause, especially after he and other moderate-presbyterian ministers accepted toleration under James VII’s edicts in July 1687. On 17 January 1688, James Renwick handed a copy of his Testimony Against Toleration (1688) to Kennedy in an Edinburgh street. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 182.)

Mid Calder Kirk

Torphichen’s choice of parish minister also drew the antipathy of the Societies. In 1675, Torphichen, under his rights of patronage, had presented Norman Mackenzie as the minister (or “curate”) of Mid Calder. He was still the minister of the parish at the time of Renwick’s conventicle in the Pentlands. Mackenzie did offer to vouch for moderate presbyterians accused of church irregularities who were brought before the Privy Council on 26 August 1684, however, he was also probably involved in the repression of the Society people in the local area when one of the first Abjuration courts was held at Calder kirk in late 1684. (Fasti, I, 177; M’Call, Parish of Mid Calder, 231; Wodrow, History, IV, 157, 257.)

At the Revolution, Torphichen switched sides and actively supported William of Orange by defending the Revolution from Jacobite forces in early 1689. (RPS, 1689/3/82.)

Mackenzie, too, publicly supported regime change when he prayed for William and Mary at the kirk. However, the latter’s track record of aiding moderate presbyterians and support for the Revolution seems to have cut little ice with the local Society people, as Mackenzie was threatened by ‘armed men’, almost certainly Society people and other locals who were intent on rabbling him out of Mid Calder parish, and ‘warned to desist’ from preaching. Despite being granted protection by the Committee of Estate in May 1689, the threats seem to have taken their toll as Mackenzie fled from the parish and became a brewer in Edinburgh. (Fasti, I, 177; M’Call, Parish of Mid Calder, 231.)

Renwick’s ‘lost’ preaching at Woolf-Hole-Craig
As readers of this blog will know, I have previously discussed some possible locations for Renwick’s field preaching at ‘Woolf-hole-craig’, but came to no firm conclusion. After reviewing the evidence about the preaching at Cairnhill an identification of that ‘lost’ preaching site is possible.

The conventicle at ‘Woolf-hole-craig’ was mentioned in the Alexander Shields’ Life of James Renwick, which was written in 1688, but not published until 1724. According to Shields, who was quoting from a proclamation against Renwick of 20 September 1684, Renwick had preached at Black-loch, ‘Woolf-hole-craig’ and Greenock. (Shields, Life of Renwick, 55.)

Since Renwick’s preaching at Whinn Bog by Black Loch in New Monkland parish was held in 8 June 1684 and his preaching at Greenock in early August 1684, it is a reasonable assumption that the ‘Woolf’s-hole-craig’ preaching dates to around the same time frame, although technically it may date to any point between Renwick’s return to Scotland in late 1683 and early September 1684.

It is not clear if the conventicles which were mentioned in the proclamation are listed in chronological order. Shields’ narrative of the events in the Life of Renwick is also of limited use in establishing a chronology, as it discusses the proclamation, which named the sites at Black Loch (8 June 1684), Woolf-hole-craigs (?, 1684) and Greenock (early August 1684), after an account of how Renwick avoided capture at a ‘Hill called Darngavel’. From Renwick’s letters, we know that he escaped at Dungavel Hill on 30 July 1684. (Houston, Letters, 163; Shields, Life of Renwick, 54-5; Wodrow, History, IV, 51; Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 65, 74.)

What is clear is that the authorities in Edinburgh knew about the three conventicles and believed that Renwick had preached at them. We know that government forces responded to his other field preachings at Black Loch and Greenock, but there appears to be no obvious record of a response to the ‘Woolf-hole-craig’ conventicle. Why?

The reason why there appears to be no response to the Woolf-hole-craig preaching is that it had been previously recorded as the preaching at Cairnhill/Cauldstane Slap.

Is Cairnhill/Claudstane Slap the site of the ‘Woolf-hole-craig’ preaching?
On modern OS maps nowhere is recorded as ‘wolf hole craig’. However, there are other possible sites for ‘Woolf-hole-craig’ among the placenames which contain the ‘wolf’ element.

Despite the obvious parallel between the placenames, one very unlikely contender is a hill called Wolf Hole Crag, which lies deep in northern England, as it is located too far to the south of both Renwick’s support base and any location where he is known to have preached. Wolf Hole (NU 094 033), near Rothbury in Northumberland, and Wolf Crags (NY 355 221), near Keswick in Cumbria, are slightly more promising, as we know that the Societies did have a small presence in both shires and that Renwick occasionally visited Northumberland. However, the site of ‘Woolf-hole-craig’ must lie in Scotland, as the proclamation which mentions the three illegal conventicles was issued in Scotland.

There are few sites on the OS maps for Scotland which contain the ‘wolf’ placename element and even fewer which contain anything approaching two placename elements of ‘Woolf-hole-craig’.

There is a Wolf Craig (No 380 824) deep in the Grampian Mountains, but that ludicrously remote location can be instantly discounted. Two other contenders around Stirling do not even appear on the OS maps. They are Wolf’s Hole Quarry near Bridge of Allan and Wolf Craig in Stirling. Of them, Wolf’s Hole Quarry is the superior option in terms of the type of site that was used by the Societies for field preaching, as it lies on the edge of Ochil Hills and sits on the boundary of Stirlingshire and Forfarshire. However, both sites near Stirling can probably be discounted, as they lie at quite distance to the north of both Renwick’s support base and any other site where he is known to have preached.

Wolf Craigs © Calum McRoberts and licensed for reuse.

By far the best site for ‘Woolf-hole-craig’ is Wolf Craigs (or Wolf Crag on one OS map), which lies at the southern tip of West Cairnhill by the Baddinsgill Burn.

Map of Wolf Craigs on West Cairnhill

Wolf Craigs is the only site recorded on the OS maps of southern Scotland which contains two placename elements of ‘Woolf-hole-craig’. Where the site in the Pentlands stands out from the other candidates is when one recalls Lord Fountainhall’s description of the location as ‘onlie a penny stone cast of the March’ between Edinburghshire and Peeblesshire. Wolf Craigs is precisely in that location.

There is no doubt that ‘Wolf-hole-craig’ aka. Wolf Craigs is the site of the preaching at Cairnhill/Cauldstane Slap. The identification of the site also confirms that James Renwick was the preacher there on 1 June, 1684.

Like other preaching sites used by the Societies, Wolf Craig is a shire boundary site and lies close to where three shires meet (i.e. where Lanarkshire, Peebleshire and Edinburghshire meet). The Societies favoured march sites for their field conventicles and conventions for security reasons, as they were isolated, and for organisational reasons, as they allowed the societies in two or three shires to pull their resources and networks to organise the preaching. For similar three shire sites used by the Societies, see Mungo’s Well, the preaching at the back of Cairntable and Black Loch.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine


~ by drmarkjardine on February 9, 2011.

6 Responses to “Renwick’s Preachings at Cauldstane Slap and Cairnhill”

  1. […] between Mid Calder parish in Edinburghshire and Linton parish in Peebleshire. In June 1684, Cairnhill or Claudstane Slap/Wolf Craigs was also the site of two conventicles held by James […]

  2. […] people, as it was possibly used by Donald Cargill as a preaching site in June 1680 and was also probably used for field preaching by James Renwick in […]

  3. What a pleasure to find this website. I look forward to visiting some preaching sites in the summer.

    I am a member of the Scottish Covenanters Memorial Association.


  4. […] The Black Loch field preaching was held on the morning of Sunday 8 June near to Whin Bog which lies to the south of the loch. The site of the preaching lay close to where the shires of Lanark, Stirling and Linlithgow meet. It took place after Renwick had preached at Wolf Craigs on 1 June. […]

  5. […] On 1 June, 1684, Renwick preached at Wolf Craig. […]

  6. […] also preached nearby at Wolf Craigs near Cauldstaneslap in the Pentland Hills on 1 June, […]

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