Cargill at Falla Hill: Prefaces, Prophecy and Poison
In September 1680 Cargill preached at ‘Fala-hill’ or ‘Fallow-hill’ in Livingston parish: ‘The next Sabbath-day [after the Torwood Excommunication] he preached at the Fallow-hill, in the West End of Livingstoun Parish, upon the Borders of Clidesdale’. (Walker, BP, II, 8, 50.)
Today, Falla Hills or Fauldhouse Hills lies in Whitburn parish, but in the 1680s it was part of Livingston parish in Linlithgowshire.
Walker’s evidence dates the Falla Hills preaching to September or early October 1680, as he stated that it took place on the Sabbath after Cargill’s excommunication of Charles II at Torwood in September. That suggests that Cargill’s preaching at Falla Hills probably took place on either the 12, 19 or 26 September or the 3 October.
Walker also provided a short account of what Cargill said in his preface to his sermons at Falla Hills:
‘In the Preface he said, I know I am and will be condemned by many for what I have done, in excommunicating these wicked Men; but, condemn me who will, I know I am approven of God, and am perswaded, that what I have done on Earth is ratified in Heaven: For, if ever I knew the Mind of God, and clear in my Call to any Piece of my Generation-work, it was in that; and I shall give you two Signs whereby you may know that I am in no Delusion. 1. If some of these Men do not find that Sentence binding upon them ere they go off the Stage, and be obliged to confess it from their Terror, and to the Affrightment of others. 2. If these Men die the ordinary Death of Men, then God never sent me, nor spoke by me.’ (Walker, BP, II, 9.)
Cargill’s preface made explicit reference to his excommunication of Charles II (1630-1685), James, Duke of York, later James VII and II (1633-1701), James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth and 1st Duke of Buccleuch (1649-1685), John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale (1616-1682), John Leslie, 1st Duke of Rothes (c.1630-1681), Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh (c.1638-1691) and General Tam Dalyell of the Binns (1615-1685) at Torwood.
For Walker, the first of Cargill’s ‘signs’ was ‘clearly verified in the Case of my Lord Rothes’ at the time of Cargill’s execution in late July 1681:
‘When that blest singular Christian, zealous and faithful Minister and Martyr, Mr. Cargill, was first apprehended and brought before the Council, they were very fierce and furious against him, especially Chancellor Rothes: But these that were in Council, and heard what Mr. Cargill said to him, and saw and heard what Rothes said when he was dying, roaring under Horror of Conscience, and his Bed shaking, put a Fright upon their Spirits, and drew Tears from their Eyes, which verified what he said at the Fala-hill on the Sabbath after the Excommunication, as before-related, and made them to propose in Council, That he was old, and had done all the Ill he would do, to let him go to the Bass, and be Prisoner there during Life’.
Walker also claimed that the second of Cargill’s ‘signs’ was verified ‘to the Remembrance of many yet alive’:
‘(1.) All know that Charles II. was poisoned. (2.) His Brother, the Duke of York, died in St. Germains in France: I can give no Account of his Death. (3.) The Duke of Monmouth was execute at London. (4.) The Duke of Lauderdale turned a Belly-god, and died upon the Chamber-box. (5.) The Duke of Rothes died Raving, under the dreadful Terrors and Sense of that Sentence binding upon him, making his Bed shake, to the Affrightment of all that heard and saw him. (6.) Bloody Sir George Mackenzie died at London, with all the Passages of his Body running Blood. (7-) General Thomas Dalziel of Binns died with a Glass of Wine at his Mouth in perfect Health: But a more particular Account of these afterwards, if the Lord will.’ (Walker, BP, II, 9, 50.)
Walker and the Poisoning of Charles II.
Walker’s belief that Charles was poisoned was based on wild rumours that were circulated by James VII & II’s political opponents, which claimed that James or his Catholic agents had murdered the king. For example, the Duke of Monmouth asserted that James poisoned Charles when he proclaimed himself king at Taunton on 20 June 1685.
In his Life of Cargill, Walker claimed that:
‘All know that he [Charles II] had none to succeed him, although many said, and some write, That, if all the Women that he lay with in Adultery and Fornication had conceived and brought forth, his Offspring would have been as the Stars in the Firmament, spending his Time only with Wine and Women, unconcerned about Heaven or Hell, and easy about all Religions. Not driving on Rome’s Interest, as they expected, and he engaged when abroad with the Popish Princes; His Brother the Duke of York being a sworn Vassal of Antichrist, and longing to be at the Throne, that he might be more active in all Mischiefs, made them all conspire to give him a Dose, and send him off.’ (Walker, BP, II, 10-11.)
The evidence for the deliberate poisoning of Charles II is flimsy and should be viewed as part of a pattern of anti-Catholic propaganda directed against James, rather than reflecting reality. Walker clearly believed the very worst about James, as he described him as a usurping tyrant, ‘a profess’d and excommunicate papist’, ‘the Devil’s lieutenant’ and a ‘sworn vassal of anti-Christ’. It is worth noting that James was also accused of causing the Great Fire of London, involvement in the fictional Popish Plot, the murder of the earl of Essex, and saving his dogs, rather than men, from drowning when the Gloucester sank in the North Sea. James was entirely innocent of at least the first two of those charges.
Walker does provide evidence for the circulation of rumours about James poisoning Charles in Scotland. According to Walker, Alexander Shields, George Lapsley and John Reid, who went on to become the minister of Lochrutton, were:
‘all at London in the Time that he [Charles II] was poisoned, who made all Search to know when, where or how he was buried, but could never find it out, being buried clandestinely; … The foresaid Friends at London said to me, That it was commonly reported, that when he found the Poison working upon him, he sat up in his Bed, having one of his many Whores in Bed with him, as was his ordinar, and took a Snuff; and it being poison’d also, he fell a roaring, and said, Oh mad Man that I have been, that have murdered my best Subjects, and banished my Son the Duke of Monmouth, and committed myself to the Hand of Murderers!’ (Walker, BP, II, 10-11.)
Alexander Shields was in London in February 1685, but he was hardly in a position to investigate the poisoning as he was held in Newgate Prison. However, in late 1685, Shields wrote of ‘the late King’s Fatal and Astonishing Death, the Circumstances whereof, and Opinions and Suspicions about it, I cannot Pertinently here Speak of’ and ‘all the surprising Circumstances of it, and ugly Presumptions of foul-play’. Shields also mentioned that his transportation to Scotland was delayed due to the King’s death ‘by His Order, who cuts of the Spirit of Princes, and is Terrible to the Kings of the Earth’. (Shields, A True and Faithful Relation, 14, 16.)
Shields expanded on what he meant by ‘foul play’ in A Hind let Loose (1687):
‘But at length in the top and height of their insulting insolency, and heat of their brutish immanity and barbarous cruelty, designing to cut off the very name of that remnant [i.e. the Society people in the Killing Times], the king of terrors (a terror to kings) cut off that supreme author and authorizer of these mischiefs, Charles the Second, by the suspicious intervention of an unnatural hand as the instrument thereof. Wherein much of the justice of God was to be observed, and of his faithfulness verified, that ‘bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.’ [Psalms 55.23.] His bloody violence was recompensed with the unnatural villany of his brother [James, Duke of York,], and his unparalleled perfidy was justly rewarded with the most, ungrate, and monstrous treachery of a parricide: for all the numerous brood of his adulterous and incestuous brats, begotten of other men’s wives, and of his numerous multitude of whores at home and abroad, yea of his own sister too, he died a childless pultron, and had the unlamented burial of an ass, without a successor save him that murdered him; and for all his hypocritical pretensions to a protestant profession, he not only received absolution and extreme unction from a popish priest at his death, but drunk his death in a popish potion contrived by his own dear brother that succeeded him; impatiently longing to accomplish that conspiracy of reintraducing popery, wherein the other moved too slowly, and passionately resenting Charles’ vow, to suffer the murder of the earl of Essex to come to a trial (which was retorted by the reiterated solicitations of some, who offered to discover by whom it was contrived and acted) which made the duke’s guilty conscience to dread a detection, of his deep accession: whereupon the potion quickly after prepared, put a stop to that, and an end to his life, Feb. 6, 1685. Of which horrid villany time will disclose the mystery, and give the history when it shall be seasonable.’ (Shields, A Hind Let Loose, 178-9.)
Shields was not alone in his belief that James murdered Essex. Robert Ferguson, another Scot who was at the heart of the whig plots against Charles in London, also published a pamphlet called An enquiry into and detection of the barbarous murther of the late Earl of Essex, or, A vindication of that noble person from the guilt and infamy of having destroyed himself (1684) that accused James of being the principal author of Essex’s death and part of an enormous Catholic conspiracy. (Melinda S. Zook, Radical Whigs and Conspiratorial Politics in late-Stuart England, 118; Cobett, State Trials, Vol. 9, 1332; James Ferguson, Robert Ferguson, “The Plotter”, 186.)
Ferguson’s pamphlet was spread in London before Shields was captured and Charles died. In his journal entry for 19 December 1684, Narcissus Luttrell noted that:
‘There has been for some daies past a scandalous libellous book entituled An Enquiry about the barbarous Murther of the Earl of Essex, and a single sheet writ by col. Danvers, being an abstract of the former, thrown about the street, and in at several persons doors; and there is a reward of 100l. published in the Gazet for any one that shal apprehend the said col. Danvers.’ (Luttrell, A Brief Historical Relation of the State of Affaires, Vol. 1, 324.)
For a detailed discussion Essex’s death and York’s possible role in it, see Richard L. Greaves, Secrets of the Kingdom: British Radicals from the Popish Plot to the Revolution, 219-29.
The Sermon at Falla Hills?
Although Walker does not give details of the sermons that Cargill preached at Falla Hills, it is possible that one of Cargill’s surviving sermons was preached there. In John Howie of Lochgoin’s A Collection of Lectures and Sermons, Preached upon Several Subjects, mostly in the Time of the Late Persecution (Glasgow, 1779), which was later edited and republished by Rev. James Kerr as Sermons Delivered in Times of Persecution in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1880), a sermon by Cargill on Revelation 20.11-12 is dated to September 1680. (Howie, Sermons Delivered in Times of Persecution in Scotland (ed. J. Kerr), 380.)
It is possible that Cargill’s sermon on Revelation 20.11-12 was not preached at Falla Hills, however, Walker only mentioned Cargill preaching at Torwood and Falla Hills in September 1680, and the sermon was not preached at Torwood.
The subject of Cargill’s sermon was the Last Judgment:
‘And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ – Revelation 20.11-12.
The full text of the sermon can be found here:
George Lapsley, a miller in Linlithgow, possibly attended Cargill’s sermon on Rev. 20.11-12., as Cargill referred to the Bible as ‘heaven’s acts of parliament’ in his sermon and Lapsley, when under interrogation before the Privy Council, referred to the Bible as ‘the Acts of the parliament of heaven, and I charge you, as ye shall answer at the great day, when you and I shall stand in equal terms, that you judge me according to what is contained in it’. The latter part of Lapsley’s answer before the Council is also remarkably similar to the contents of Cargill’s sermon. (Wodrow, History, III, 473.)
Mr John Dick, who was executed on 28 September 1683, also records that Lapsley referred to the Bible as
‘the acts of parliament of heaven, pertinently enough,— yet some of your number in rage against our great Law-maker disdainfully did laugh,— I say by this self same law are you all and every one of you to be judged: and however you may be so diabolically bold, as to contemn it now, you shall not then dare to whisper in the least against it! Now, having told who is to be Judge, and what the law by which you are to be judged, if you incline to know who are to be witnesses, we tell you — even your own consciences, with that great book of remembrance, the comparing of which together shall be as sufficient as millions of witnesses. Then for your assizers,—know you are to have the whole generation of the righteous, and amongst the rest, even these whom you in your rage against the Almighty have slain for the testimony of our blessed Lord and Master Christ Jesus,—whom you have not only renounced yourselves (as head of his church,) but also are raging in madness against all such as will not with you run into the same excess of riot’. (M’Gavin, CW&N, 470-1.)
Walker claimed that Lapsley had also heard Cargill’s sermon at Craigmad.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.