The Fanatics of Fife: Hay, Pitilloch and the One That Got Away

Detail from Hay and Pitilloch’s Gravestone © Dr Mark Jardine

According to Presbyterian tradition, three militant Covenanters from Fife, Lawrence Hay, Adam Philip and Andrew Pitilloch were executed in Edinburgh on 13 July 1681. However, the historical evidence proves that Adam Philip was not executed.

At some point after their executions, Sir John Lauder of Foutainhall (1646-1722) recorded the trial and deaths of Pitilloch and Philip:

‘11 Julij 1681.—Two weavers of Kinneuchar, in Fyffe, one called Pittillo, and the other Philp, were condemned at the Criminal Court, for denying the King’s authority, and calling him a tyrant, and thinking it lawfull to kill him. They ware hanged for it at the Grasse mercat [in Edinburgh], on the 13 of July’. (Fountainhall, Historical Notices, II, 302.)

Fountainhall did not mention Hay’s trial or execution, however, Hay’s testimony was printed in Cloud of Witnesses next to Pitilloch’s testimony. There is no record of any testimony from Philip. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 159-72.)

In the early eighteenth century, Wodrow gave a brief account of their deaths based on the records of the Justiciary court. According to Wodrow:

‘Another process is intented before the justiciary, July 11th, against three country people in Fife, Adam Philip, Laurence Hay a weaver, and Andrew Pittilloch land labourer. There was no act of rebellion, nor field conventicles alleged against them. These three had joined in a society for prayer and conference in Fife, when they had not the gospel preached to them by any they could hear. Their society, in June last, had agreed to, and signed a paper, which they called A Testimony against the Evils of the Times: whether they published it, or how it came into the hands of the managers, I have no account, but I find them indicted for publishing an infamous paper, the 11th of June last, called by them the Sixth Month, disowning the king and all the ministers of this church, excepting Mr Donald Cargill. The paper was produced, and they acknowledged they had signed it. They are found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged at the Grassmarket, upon the 13th instant, and their heads to be severed from their body, and affixed to the tolbooth of Cupar. The last two of them are named in the Cloud of Witnesses, and their speech or testimony set down. I know no further about them. (Wodrow, History, III, 278.)

In later editions of Cloud of Witnesses, Thomson followed Wodrow’s account:

‘Laurence Hay and Andrew Pittilloch, whose testimonies immediately follow, and an Adam Philip, “three country people in Fife,” were brought before the Justiciary Court. July 11th, 1681. The three were members of a society in Fife for prayer and pious conference. The society had, in the preceding month of June, agreed to a paper entitled “a Testimony against the Evils of the Times.” This paper, which seems to have testified against the king as false to his Covenant engagements, was produced at their trial, and is referred to in their testimonies. They were found guilty of treason, and sentenced to be hanged at the Grassmarket upon the 13th July, and “their heads to be severed from their body and affixed to the tolbooth of Cupar”.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 159.)

The Kinneuchar Inn, Kilconquhar © James Allan and licensed for reuse.

The Background of the Three Fife Men
From the above, it appears that Laurence Hay and Adam Philip were weavers from Kinneuchar in Fife. Kinneuchar, now called Kilconquhar, lies in Kilconquhar parish, Fife.

Bing OS map of Kilconquhar           Google Street View of Kilconquhar

In early 1679, ‘Lowrence Hay’ was listed on proclamation of against conventiclers since 1674, as one of the residents of Fife who was ‘denounced but not intercommuned’. (A List Of the Persons Intercommuned and declared Fugitives, since the year 1674. for not compearing before the Council, or Commissions of Council, to answer for Conventicles and such like Disorders (1679))

Towards Largo House  © Jim Bain and licensed for reuse.

Andrew Pitilloch was a ‘land labourer’ from Largo (a.k.a. Upper Largo or Kirktown of Largo), in Largo parish, Fife.

Bing OS map of Upper Largo             Google Street View of Upper Largo

Pitilloch probably worked on the estate of Sir Alexander Durham of Largo, who was fined for the reset of the field preacher John Welsh in 1676 and for failing to attend the King’s standard during the Bothwell Rising of 1679. (ST, XI, 1-46; Wodrow, History, II, 326, 361.)

Wood Tower near Largo

What remains of the seventeenth-century Largo House (such as the Wood Tower) can be found around Largo Home Farm, which lies immediately to the west of Upper Largo.

Bing OS Map of Durham of Largo’s house

Google Maps View of Largo Home Farm

Largo Law © Jim Bain and licensed for reuse.

On 24 October, 1680, Cargill had preached at Largo Law, which lies next to Upper Largo and Largo House. (Wodrow, History, III, 229.)

Bing OS Map of Largo Law

Street View of Largo Law

Old Kettle Kirkyard, the site of Russell’s Protest in 1681 © Dr Mark Jardine

Hay, Pitilloch and Philip were members of a prayer society in Fife. In 1679, members of that society had been responsible for the assassination of James Sharp, archbishop of St Andrews, and in early April 1681, James Russell, one of Sharp’s assassins, had published a protest on the door of Kettle church which advocated the murder of Charles II. (Kirkton, Secret History, 399.)

A copy of Russell’s protest can be found here.

James Russell’s Protest of 1681

The Sixth Month or Joint Testimony of the Fife Society
On 11 June 1681, Hay, Pitilloch and Philip subscribed a paper called the ‘Sixth Month’ or ‘A Testimony against the Evils of the Times’ which was a ‘joint testimony given in the shire of Fife by that society’. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 162.)

It is a pity that the Sixth Month paper is now lost, as it was almost certainly the foundation document of the Russellites, a second Cameronian party that emerged out of the United Societies after societies in Fife and Perth broke with the Societies in mid 1682. The Russellites were nicknamed after the James Russell discussed above, as he played a leading role in the schism.

Fortunately, some of the Sixth Month’s contents can be deduced from the charges that the Fife men faced on account of it and from their martyrs’ testimonies.

The use of the phrase the ‘Sixth Month’ in the title suggests that the paper may have advocated the reform of the pagan names of the days and months into a numeric system. Indeed, it may have been the first collective statement on the matter by the Fife society, as they are known to have consistently supported that reform in debates with the United Societies from 1682. (Shields, FCD, 26-27.)

The ‘Sixth Month’ may also be a reference to the first chapter of Haggai, in which God called on the remnant to go to the mountain and bring wood to rebuild his house: ‘In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built…’.

The Sixth Month and King Killing
The joint testimony attempted to create a new militant presbyterian platform ‘according’ to their interpretation of ‘the Scriptures’. The charges against the Fife men appear to indicate that the joint testimony disowned the Charles II’s authority, called him a tyrant and thought that it was ‘lawfull to kill him’. The first two elements of the joint testimony’s platform are familiar from other contemporary militant presbyterian documents, but the latter element, that it was lawful to kill Charles II, was an innovation and similar to the views expressed in Russell’s protestation. In his Protestation, Russell had publicly rejected ‘Charles Stewart from being my King’ and denied that he had ‘any lawful authority over me’. He had also argued that Charles II had ‘forfaulted his right of the Crown and Kingdom of Scotland, and is no more a King, but is become a Tyrant’ and that ‘therefore the people’ were ‘loosed from all obligations and ties to him’.

The most controversial element of Russell’s protestation was also repeated in the ‘Sixth Month’ testimony. In the context of the militant presbyterians’ declaration of ‘war’ against the Charles II and his regime at Sanquhar in 1680, Russell had advanced George Buchanan’s argument that when ‘a lawful War’ was being ‘undertaken with our Enemy, and for a just cause, it is lawful not only for the whole People to kill that Enemy [i.e. the King], but for every one of them’.

Russell also advanced a biblical argument for any individual assassinating the King. When he compared Charles II to one of the ‘Bulls of Bashan’, Russell had asked:

‘What would you judge to be your duty, if there were a wild and mad Bull running up and down all Scotland, killing and slaying all that were come in his way, man, wife, and bairn? would you not think it your duty and everyones duty to kill him, according to that Scripture, Exod. 21.28,29. and if this is granted, as it cannot be denied, wherefore should any say, that it is not lawful to kill Charles Stewart or his Associats, that hath been these twenty years as it were, running up and down Scotland, killing and slaying all the true Subjects of the Land’. (Russell, Traiterous Libel, 5.)

In short, Russell proposed that it was not only lawful, but a duty, for any militant presbyterian to kill Charles II and his fellow persecutors. It appears that the ‘Sixth Month’ paper adopted a similar platform on the lawfulness of killing Charles II.

There is little doubt that in advocating an assassination strategy that Russell’s Protestation and the ‘Sixth Month’ were at the extreme fringe of presbyterian resistance theories. Even in militant circles, only a minority of militant presbyterians held such views. However, both papers intriguingly point towards the United Societies’ ‘war’ of assassinations against their persecutors declared in the wake of their Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers in late 1684.

Devon Common Farm © Dr Mark Jardine

The Sixth Month and Donald Cargill
The second known element of the Sixth Month’s platform was the disowning of all of the presbyterian ministers with the exception of Donald Cargill. According to Hay, he was ‘called to suffer this day, in this place, for … giving a testimony against the dreadful defections of these times, by the means of these backsliding ministers, who have left our sweet Lord Jesus, with His back at the wall, and His poor flock scattered upon the mountains, as sheep having no shepherd’. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 161.)

The lack of ‘shepherds’, or ministers, was due the decision by the vast majority of the presbyterian ministry to cease to field preach in August 1679 and the killing, capture or flight into exile of the handful of ministers who had continued to field preach. In June 1681, only one minister, Donald Cargill, remained committed to field preaching.

Two weeks after the subscription of the Sixth Month by members of the Fife society, Cargill preached to them at Devon Common on 26 June.

Much of Devon Common is now covered in pine woods © Richard Webb and licensed for reuse.

Devon Common is the name of a farm and a common or muir around the farm at Torloisk which both lie on the boundary between the parishes of Kettle and Kennoway and a few miles to the west of Largo and Kilconquhar.

Devon Common (Muir) OS Map

Devon Common Bing OS map

Evidence of a direct link between Cargill and the Fife society can be found in the interrogation of Walter Smith in mid July 1681, as Smith mentioned that James Russell had attended Cargill’s preaching at Devon Common. A second direct link between them can be found in the Fife society’s platform of reforming the names of the days and months, as the manuscript copy of Cargill’s sermon at Devon Common is dated in that reformed style to ‘the 26th day of the sixth month’. (ST, X, 887; Grant, No King But Christ, 261-2.)

It is possible that all three men were rounded up after Cargill’s preaching. Given Hay, Pitilloch and Philip’s membership of the Fife society, it is possible that they may have attended Cargill’s preaching at Devon Common if they were still at liberty. The fact that they were brought before the Justiciary on 11 July does suggest that they were captured at around the time of Cargill’s preaching. The serious nature of charges against them also suggests that they may not have been held in prison for long before they were brought before the Justiciary. It is also clear that the authorities had intelligence about the Devon Common preaching, as they interrogated Cargill and Smith about it only four days after the trial of Hay, Philip and Pitilloch. Whether the Council had obtained information about the preaching from one of the three Fife men or from other sources is not clear.

Detail from Hay and Pitilloch’s Gravestone in Cupar © Dr Mark Jardine

The Sixth Month: Sealed With Their Blood
The third and last known element of the ‘Sixth Month’ was that it committed its subscribers to seal its testimony with their blood. According to Hay’s speech at his execution:

‘I am come in your sight to lay down this life of mine, which I engaged to do in that testimony, through His strength, if He called me to it; because it was according to the word of God and the Covenanted Reformation; and seeing I engaged in the strength of the Lord to seal it with my blood (and now He in His holy and wise providence has put me to seal it; although I be the fecklessest, and unworthiest of all that society), I here in your presence, with all my heart, set to my seal to it with my blood, as was promised at the end of the paper.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 160.)

That final element of the ‘Sixth Month’ testimony, of individual adherence to a public testimony issued by lay presbyterians without ministerial guidance and regardless of the cost in blood, was also mirrored in Russell’s Protestation. In it Russell had stated that he had ‘resolved through the grace of God, be the outward hazard whatsomever, to write thir two or three Lines, and cause put it on the Kirk-door of Kettle, being the most publick place, as my testimony against all the wrongs and injuries done to my sweet Lord Jesus Christ.’ and that he had not sought the counsel of ‘backsliding ministers or professors’ for his actions. (Russell, Traiterous Libel, 4, 8.)

Russell’s Protestation and the ‘Sixth Month’ were an innovative response to the problem of the lack of ministerial oversight that faced militant presbyterians in early 1681. On the one hand, both documents were a practical response to the fact that the militants no longer had any ministers to oversee the development of the testimony following Cargill’s flight into exile in England in early 1681. In that sense, Russell’s Protestation and the ‘Sixth Month’ provided a model for later militant testimonies like the United Societies’ Lanark Declaration in late 1681, which was also issued without ministerial oversight.

However, on the other hand, both documents were deeply subversive acts, as they undermined Presbyterian ministerial authority and raised the frightening possibility that the fragmentation of the Presbyterian movement would lead to the emergence of new lay Radical Reformation movements in Scotland.

The fear of the latter was undoubtedly stoked by the sudden emergence of the Sweet Singers from out of the ranks of the militant presbyterian movement in early 1681, as discussed below.

One other similarity between Russell’s Protestation and the ‘Sixth Month’ is that both documents were subscribed by named individuals, rather than issued on an anonymous basis. However, while Russell publicly posted his signed Protest in order to deliberately draw the attention of the authorities, it is possible that Hay, Philip and Pitilloch did not expect the ‘Sixth Month’ to be published.

The Capture of Hay, Philip and Pitilloch
There are hints in Hay and Pitilloch’s testimonies that they may have been betrayed to the authorities by their fellow presbyterians.

In his gallows speech, Hay left his testimony against ‘all who have joined with the declared enemies, whether ministers or professors, especially in the shire of Fife, who have delivered up the testimony to these abominable wretches; particularly Balgrumma and Vederstar.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 164.)

Pitilloch, too, conveys a sense of betrayal by the ministers and professors of Fife in his speech: ‘As for anything that they have done to me, I freely forgive them, and pray that the Lord may forgive them.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 170.)

Both men also attacked their presbyterian brethren for the hurt they had done to the Lord’s cause and urged them to repent. Hay testified against:

‘that woeful Erastian Supremacy, and Indulgences first and last, which have been the dagger, the helve whereof hath gone in after the blade, and hath wounded the Church in the innermost part of the belly, and the dart that hath stricken her through the liver. Oh! how sharp are the wounds of a friend! They go down to the innermost parts of the belly. If it had been an enemy, I would have borne it. And it is evidently seen, that our mother Church hath been, and is this day, wounded in the house of her friends; for which the Lord will sadly reckon with all such as have done so, if they do not repent and mourn for it.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 164.)

And Pitilloch testified against ‘the ministers and professors in Fife, for the wrongs they have done to my lovely Lord and His sweet cause; and my head shall be a standing witness against them, and preach to them from Cupar Tolbooth, ay, and while [i.e., until] they repent.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 169.)

Were Hay and Pitilloch testifying in general terms about the betrayal of the Lord’s cause by the ministers and professors of Fife or where they making specific accusations about betrayal? It was not unusual for martyrs to condemn the an area were they were captured and those responsible for their capture. For example, see the series of testimonies directed against the people of Kilmarnock parish.

Two elements of Hay and Pitilloch’s testimonies hint that they may have been betrayed by their brethren. First, what had the ministers and presbyterians of Fife done to Pitilloch? Second, what was the particular role of ‘Balgrumma and Vederstar’ in delivering up the testimony?

The answers to both questions are not known, but it is possible that ‘Balgrumma and Vederstar’ may have played some role in Hay’s capture.

Who was Balgrumma?
Hay’s ‘Balgrumma’ must have been the land holder of the farm of Balgrummo in Scoonie parish, Fife, which lies just to the south of Devon Common. The location of ‘Vederstar’ has not been established, but it may be connected to the nearby village of Star between Markinch and Kennoway parishes.

Bing OS map of Balgrummo

It is not clear who the tenant of Balgrummo was in 1681, however, among the petitions submitted by presbyterians to parliament in 1690 for the restitution of losses that they had suffered under the Restoration regime was one from ‘Robert Henderson, sometime tenant in Balgrumo then in Burnside against Wm Patersone sometime collector at Leith’. In the same collection Henderson also petitioned for himself and others ‘fined’ in Fifeshire’. (NAS, PA7/13.65. ‘1690, Aug 4: Petition of Robert Henderson, sometime tenant in Balgrumo then in Burnside against Wm Patersone sometime collector at Leith’; PA7/13.47. ‘1690, Jul 30: Petition of Robert Henderson, tenant in Burnside for himself and other persons in Fifeshire, fined’.)

The lands of Balgrummo belonged to Sir John Gibson of Pentland and Addistone (d.1693), who had accompanied Charles II to the battle of Worcester in 1651 ‘where he lost a leg and for his gallant behaviour was knighted by the king’. (Anderson, Scottish Nation, II, 296.)

Sir John also held ‘the express privilege and right of pasturage upon the common of Dovan [or Devon Common]’, which was where Cargill had preached. (RPS, 1641/8/434.)

The link between Devon Common and Balgrummo may be accidental, but it may also hint at some form of connection between Cargill’s preaching, Balgrummo and Hay’s capture. If there was a link, it was an indirect one, as Wodrow noted that none of the three men were indicted for attending conventicles.

After their capture, the Fife men were taken to Edinburgh where they were held in the Tolbooth on the High Street.

Edinburgh’s Tolbooth

The Trial
The reason for Hay, Pitilloch and Philip’s trial on 11 July was that a subscribed copy of the Sixth Month had somehow fallen into the hands of the government.

From the outset, Hay and Pitilloch were determined to offer a testimony at their trial against the regime and all who complied with it. In his testimony, Pitilloch repeatedly made it clear that they had refused to either petition the Privy Council or hire an advocate to defend themselves:

‘There are none of the ministers that will witness for Him, nor yet any that the Lord has bestowed great parts on; their wit leads them bye the cross and beyond suffering. They will not suffer if petitioning will do it; or hiring of advocates or learned speakers. They can put in petitions, and say they never intended the death of any man but in the defence of their life; but never a word of the defence of the Gospel, the work of Reformation, or the sworn Covenant.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 171.)

And:

‘Sweet Scriptures. Take them to be your rule, and go no further than they allow you; they do not bid you to petition enemies for your liberty, nor yet to hire advocates.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 171.)

And:

‘Now, my advice to you that are taken prisoners is, that you seek no favour of God’s enemies. Black not paper with them, in good, cheap, nor dear. Stand for your sweet Lord, with your life in your hand. Own and avouch Him to be King and head of His own church. Count not your life dear unto you, when it comes in competition with truth.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 171-2.)

Moderate Presbyterian Criticism of Hay and Pitilloch
In their testimonies, Hay and Pitilloch record that they were criticised by their moderate presbyterian brethren. According to Pitilloch, ‘ministers and professors, as they call them, say that we are dying as fools and giddy-headed professors’. Hay, too, recorded similar criticisms:

‘And as for our being branded that we hold our principles of men, and are dying to please men; … Therefore as I have left my testimony against all who cast such aspersions on me, or any other who have suffered in this manner, I leave my blood also to witness against them, who will adventure to do it, whether enemies or pretended friends.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 163.)

Of particular concern to Hay and Pitilloch was the fact they were accused of being like the Sweet Singers (or Gibbites), a newly emerged extreme sect which had renounced all ministerial authority. According to Pitilloch: ‘Some brand me with that, that I am of their [Sweet Singer] judgment, which thing I exceedingly abhor and detest as the mire in the streets’. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 169.)

Hay, too, testified against the Sweet Singers:

‘Likewise I leave my testimony against … all these who maintain any principle contrary to the Word of God; especially these who deny the authority of the Scriptures, and all the work of reformation, and have razed the fundamentals of true Christianity; some of whom the Lord has given up to strong delusions, to believe lies, and deny Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, and maintain new lights, in meddling with the decrees of God, which His word never approved; and against every one of their principles [i.e. the Gibbites]. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 163.)

The suspicion that Hay and Pitilloch were influenced by the Gibbites continued for decades after their deaths. According to Wodrow, the Sixth Month ‘by the citations from it in their process, is very wild, and seems to smell of [John] Gib and his delusions’. (Wodrow, History, III, 278.)

However, Thomson disputed Wodrow’s claim that the three Fife men were delusional or under the influence of John Gibb:

‘Wodrow, valuable as his history otherwise is, had no liking to Cargill and his followers. Hence he says, “their paper is very wild, and seems to smell of Gib and his delusions.” It will be seen, however, that both Hay and Pittilloch expressly condemn the principles of Gib. Crookshanks justly says their testimonies “breathe a spirit of true piety.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 159.)

It is patently clear that Hay and Pitilloch were not Gibbites, but there is an element of truth in Wodrow’s assertion that their views had the ‘smell’ of Gibb. The lay platforms of the Gibbites and the Fife Society had both emerged at the same time, in response to the same problem and out of the same militant presbyterian movement. However, while they shared some elements, such as the reform the pagan names of the days and months, they were fundamentally divided over the issue of the authority of the presbyterian ministry and the Covenants. That fundamental split can best be seen in their different attitudes towards Cargill’s ministry. While the Fife Society recognised the authority of the Presbyterian ministry, but withdrew from all of the ministers on the grounds of their defection from true Covenanted testimony with the exception of Cargill, the Gibbites rejected the authority of the Presbyterian ministry and the Covenants, and demanded that Cargill preached to them alone.

The Covenanters’ Monument, Grassmarket, Edinburgh © kim traynor and licensed for reuse.

Given their determination to adhere to the Sixth Month, the trial of the Fife men was a fairly straight forward affair, at least in the cases of Hay and Pitilloch. After the Sixth Month was read out, they acknowledged that they had subscribed it. They were found guilty and the doomster sentenced them to be hanged at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh on 13 July and their heads to be severed from their body, and affixed to Cupar tolbooth.

Google Street View of Execution Site in the Grassmarket

On the night before their execution, Hay and Pitilloch wrote their martyrs’ testimonies to be read out at the gallows. A full transcription of them can be found here:

Laurence Hay’s Testimony, 13 July, 1681.

Andrew Pitilloch’s Testimony, 13 July, 1681.

Crossgate, Cupar © Jim Bain and licensed for reuse.

Cupar was the logical location for the heads and hands of the Fifemen to be sent as it was the head burgh of Fife and the seat of the sheriff court. Cupar Tolbooth lay at the junction of Crossgate and St Catherine Street. Its exact site can be found on an excellent series of historical maps of Cupar on the NLS Maps website.

Google Street View of Tolbooth Site

Old and St Michael of Tarvit Kirk, Cupar © Dr Mark Jardine

The grave of Hay, Pitilloch and Hackston of Rathillet can be easily found by going down Kirk Wynd (off Crossgate) and the Kirkgate towards the Old and St Michael of Tarvit Church (Church of Scotland) and turning up Ashlar Lane. The gate to the cemetery lies a short way down the lane on the right-hand side. The grave is through the gate and to the left.

Google Street View of Grave of Hay and Pitilloch

Hay and Pitilloch’s Gravestone in Cupar © Dr Mark Jardine

The inscription on the gravestone is as follows:

‘Here lyes interred the heads of Laurance Hay and Andrew Pitulloch, who suffered martyrdom at Edinburgh, July 13th, 1681, for adhering to the word of God and Scotland’s Covenanted work of Reformation. And also one of the hands of David Hackston of Rathillet, who was most cruelly murdered at Edinburgh July 30th, 1680, for the same cause.’

[On the reverse]

‘Our persecutors fill’d with rage,
Their brutish fury to aswage,
Took heads and hands of martyrs off
That they might be the people’s scoff.
They Hackston’s body cut asunder,
And set it up a world’s wonder,
In several places to proclaim,
These monsters glory’d in their shame.
Re-erected, July 13th, 1792.’
(Thomson (ed.), CW, 610.)

The back of Hay and Pitilloch’s Grave © Dr Mark Jardine

Adam Philip: The One That Got Away
Fountainhall, Wodrow and Thomson all record that Adam Philip was executed, however, the evidence plainly refutes their claims. There are three contextual reasons to doubt that Philip was executed.

First, why was there confusion over the number executed? Fountainhall recorded the execution of two individuals, i.e. Pitilloch and Philip. The martyrs testimonies also record the execution of two men, i.e. Hay and Pitilloch. Wodrow and Thomson’s interpretation of the evidence was that all three men were executed. However, it is possible that Fountainhall recorded the correct number of executions, but mixed up Hay and Philip. It is clear that Fountainhall inaccurately recorded at least one element of his record of the executions, but it is not clear which element or elements he confused, e.g. Fountainhall stated that two weavers from Kilconquhar (Pitilloch and Philip) were executed, when it is clear from other evidence that Pitilloch was a land labourer from Largo and that Hay was a weaver.

Second, why was Philip the only militant presbyterian executed between 1679 and 1681 that did not leave a martyrs’ testimony? There is no record for the existence of a testimony from Philip. It was unusual, but not rare, for a testimony not to be left behind: Of the seventy-five militant presbyterians who suffered judicial execution between 1679 to 1685, only in ten cases, or thirteen per cent of the total, has no testimony survived. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 22.)

Third, why is there no evidence of a burial for Philip’s body parts at Cupar? The heads of Hay and Pitilloch were later buried in Cupar graveyard in the same grave as the hand of David Hackston of Rathillet, the assassin of Archbishop Sharp who was executed in Edinburgh after the skirmish at Ayrsmoss in 1680. According to the sentence, Philip’s head and hands should have been sent to Cupar with those of Hay and Pitilloch. However, it possible that Philip’s head and hands either never made it to Cupar or were buried elsewhere or did not survive to be buried after the Revolution in late 1688.

All three of those factors cast doubt on Philip’s execution, but do not fatally undermine the odds that it took place. However, there is evidence which does undermine it.

Edinburgh’s Tolbooth

First, according to Robert Law:

‘Two other countrymen were a few days before [Donald Cargill was executed on 27 July] hanged for the same principles, the disclaiming of the king’s authority’. (Law, Memorialls, 199.)

Clearly, two, rather than three, men were executed.

Second, there is direct evidence that Philip was given a stay of execution by James, Duke of York. I wish to thank Douglas Somerset for sending me the following information:

‘July 13th 1681. James Ducke of Albanie and York etc His Maties HIgh Comissionner in Scotland

I desyre ye will caus the execution of the sentance against Adam philpe to be suspendit till furder order. Given at Hollieroodhous ye 13 day of Jully 1681

Sic Sub James

To the Magistrats of the Cittie of Edr

By Command of His Royall Highsse

Sic Sub Jo Werden’ (J.A. Fairley, ‘The Old Tolbooth: Extracts from the Original Records’, Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, Vol.VIII (1916), 111.)

Philip was not executed with Hay and Pitilloch.

Third, later in Wodrow’s History, he records Philip’s involvement in a daring escape from Edinburgh’s Tolbooth in 1683:

‘It was upon the 16th of September [1683] that Mr John Dick, and upwards of 24 other prisoners, none of whom almost could ever have expected to have come out of prison, but for execution, found means to cut a window and get out. The circumstances accompanying their escape were such as were truly remarkable, and the more to be observed, that not one of them save Mr Dick, fell again to the enemies’ hands. There was a sentinel in the street just below the window at which they got out, whether for the security of the prison, or because [George Livingston] the [3rd] earl of Linlithgow, justice-general, and colonel to the red regiment, had his lodgings just opposite to the tolbooth, my informer cannot tell. The window was cross-barred with iron, and after they had cut one bar, they found the space not large enough to get out at, which cost them the cutting of three other iron bars, and this took them so much time and pains that the matter was talked of among their friends, not only in the town of Edinburgh, but even at Glasgow, before they could get it accomplished; yet it came not to the ears of their enemies: but which is yet stranger, as my author very well remembers, it so happened, that the first bar they cut fell from the window, which was in the third story, upon the street of the town, about nine of the clock at night, and continued lying there all night, and next morning, till about the same hour, a friend coming in to see them, was sent down to the street, not so much to look after the bar, for that they did not so much as expect, as to know if the want of it was easily perceivable from the street; and he found it just where it fell, and got it sent up to them, and they made a shift to fix it again in its place, till they had ended the rest of their project. They could not but wonder that the street being so narrow there, and the earl of Linlithgow’s lodgings just opposite to, on a level with their window, a sentinel at his entry within a few paces where the bar fell, and the bar being a missing for some hours, and they putting it again in its place, they could not but (I say) with admiration remark that they were not observed and hindered. That night likewise they had also cut the beam of the floor above them, and made way for some of their fellow-prisoners in that room to get out with them. When all was ready, and they just coming out, two friends surprised the sentinel at the entry foresaid, threatening him with present death if he spoke one word; and the fellow was not only silent at the time, but spoke nothing when he was relieved from his post, which gave them full time to shift for themselves. And several of them were country people who knew not the town, and had no friend nor acquaintance with them, to direct them how to dispose of themselves, yet they all escaped: yea, it was then affirmed, that one Millar an Eglisham [i.e. Eaglesham] man wandering up and down, and seeing a light in a house went to it, and knocking, a servant opened to him, and he most ingenuously told his circumstances: this happened to be the bishop’s lodgings, but the maid had the generosity to hide the man, till next day she told some of her acquaintance whom she knew to be favourers of the sufferers, and they came and took a care of him. […]
No small noise was made about this escape. The council could not be got together till the 20th of September, when, I find by the registers, a committee of their number was appointed to go to prison, and call for the magistrates of Edinburgh, and view it, and see what is needful to be done for its security: they appoint likewise general [Thomas] Dalziel to call a council of war, and examine the behaviour of captain, lieutenant, sergeants, corporals, and sentinels that night, and report. And January 22d next year [i.e. 1684], I find a process before the council, against the magistrates and town of Edinburgh. They are libelled for suffering Mr John Dick, Adam Philip, George [should be Edward] A[i]tkin, prisoners for high treason, and about two and twenty others, criminal prisoners, to escape.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 445-6.)

One of the other prisoners who escaped with Philip was Robert Lawson. (Wodrow, History, III, 457.)

The ‘Adam Philip’ who was one of the ‘prisoners of high treason’ that escaped must be the same individual as the Adam Philip who was tried in 1681. It is clear that Philip obtained a stay of execution in 1681. The reason why he avoided execution is not clear, but he must have either held information which the authorities deemed valuable or repented and sought forgiveness for his treasonable subscription of the Sixth Month. Of the two options, the latter is the more likely, as a few months before at the executions of Christopher Miller, William Gogar and Robert Sangster a ‘pardon’ was offered if they would ‘repent, and ask forgiveness’ for their treasonable actions. It is likely that Philip either petitioned the Council or had an advocate represent him or listened to the advice of moderate presbyterian ministers to reject the Sixth Month in order to save his life. (T.D., A Letter From Edenbrough, (1681), 1.)

For the next two years, Philip was held in the Tolbooth until he escaped with John Dick, George Lapsley and Edward Aitkin. There is no further record of him, but after the Revolution his forfeiture was rescinded by an act of Parliament in 1690. (Wodrow, History, IV, 490n.)

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on April 19, 2011.

11 Responses to “The Fanatics of Fife: Hay, Pitilloch and the One That Got Away”

  1. Fascinating stuff. What a pity we don’t have ‘The Sixth Month’!

  2. […] Kilbride parish?) for refusing the Test. Lapsley was also indicted with Mr John Dick, but he, Dick, Adam Philip and Edward Aitken, who were all prisoners for high treason, and twenty-two other prisoners managed […]

  3. […] particular antipathy towards Lapsley, as he was indicted on two further occasions before he made a dramatic escape with Mr John Dick, Adam Philips and Edward Aitkin in 1683. Lapsley fled to London, where he heard […]

  4. […] may have helped to generate the circumstances which resulted in James Russell’s Protestation, Lawrence Hay and Andrew Pitilloch’s ‘Sixth Month’ and events and executions around his field preaching at Devon Common in June […]

  5. […] other militants, Lawrence Hay, Andrew Pitilloch and Adam Philip, were also captured in Fife after the […]

  6. […] although it also applied that term to three Fife men in the same sentence; the land labourer, Andrew Pitilloch, and two weavers, Adam Philip and Lawrence Hay. (Wodrow, History, III, 277, […]

  7. […] His origin in Alloa and a knife found in his possession which was inscribed ‘For cutting tyrants’ throats’, may indicate that he was taken after Cargill’s Devon Common preaching on 26 June, as two Society people were taken in and around Alloa after it and all of those captured after Devon Common shared similar militant views on the assassination of Charles II. (See William Cuthill and William Thomson, and Lawrence Hay, Andrew Pittilloch and Adam Philip.) […]

  8. July 13th 1681

    James Ducke of Albanie and York etc His Maties HIgh Comissionner in Scotland

    I desyre ye will caus the execution of the sentance against Adam philpe to be suspendit till furder order. Given at Hollieroodhous ye 13 day of Jully 1681

    Sic Sub James

    To the Magistrats of the Cittie of Edr

    By Command of His Royall Highsse

    Sic Sub Jo Werden

    (from J.A. Fairley, ‘The Old Tolbooth: Extracts from the Original Records’, Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, vol.8 (1916) p.111.)

    • Dear Douglas,

      I am very grateful to you for the information on Adam Philips that you have sent to me. It certainly clears up the mystery surrounding his alleged execution. I will update my post as soon as possible and record my thanks in the text. If you spot anything else, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I am always open to new sources of information.

      Kindest regards,
      Mark

  9. […] brought together the bodies of local Covenanters in consecrated ground, e.g. the grave in Cupar of Hackstoun of Rathillet, Lawrence Hay and Andrew Pitalloch brought their body parts […]

  10. […] which features two carved heads that is held in Paisley Museum and Art Gallery. The gravestone of Hay and Pitilloch in Cupar also features two carved heads, as well as the hand of […]

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