Donald’s Dead Horse, the Obstinate and Cargill’s ‘Lost’ Preaching at Craigwood

Linlithgow Bridge

One of the Covenanter Donald Cargill’s narrow escapes from pursuing troopers took place when he was crossing Linlithgow Bridge in early October, 1680. As he crossed the bridge, his horse was shot from beneath him. Somehow he escaped …

Today, the seventeenth-century bridge has been substantially widened.

Linlithgow Bridge Webb

Linlithgow Bridge © Richard Webb and licensed for reuse.

The earliest record of the incident is an entry in the registers of the Privy Council for 5 October 1680 about the prisoners taken at the Bridge:

‘Seven persons prisoners taken at the Bridge of Linlithgow coming from a conventicle examined, who are most wilfull and obstinate persons and would make no answer, continued in prison, except one William Duncan in Madrestoun who wes dismist’. (RPCS, VI, 553.)

Wodrow used an edited version of the Privy Council’s record in his History: ‘six persons taken at the bridge of Linlithgow, as coming from a conventicle, and most obstinate, are imprisoned.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 196.)

The ‘Bridge of Linlithgow’, or Linlithgow Bridge, crosses the River Avon to the west of the burgh of Linlithgow on the old A9. In the Seventeenth Century, the original bridge was part of the main road to the north and lay across the boundary between Linlithgowshire and Stirlingshire. A natural bottleneck on the Avon, in 1526 the area to the south of the bridge was the site of a battle.

Map of Linlithgow Bridge          Street View of Linlithgow Bridge

Cargill at the Bridge
The first narrative to record Cargill’s part in the incident was a history of the Restoration period up to 1680 written by William Row (d.c.1697), the minister of Ceres parish in Fife:

‘All this while by-past, Mr Donald Cargill, since his escape at the Queensferry [3 June, 1680], is roving up and down West Lothian and farther west, and in Stirlingshire, keeping field conventicles and venting strange doctrines. In September, on a Lord’s day [of the 12th], preaching at the Torwood, he did very summarily, yet formally, excommunicate the King, Duke of York, Monmouth, Lauderdale, the Chancellor, King’s Advocate, General Dalziel, giving reasons of their excommunications. This by sober men or [moderate presbyterian] ministers was judged a very wild prank, tie durius dicam. Shortly after preaching in the fields at Craigwood, he was hotly pursued by some troopers, and his horse shot under him, which died at Linlithgow Bridge, but Donald escaped; only some four or five persons that had been hearing him, coming to Linlithgow, were apprehended and incarcerated in Edinburgh.’ (Row in M’Crie (ed.) Life of Mr Robert Blair, 581.)

According to Patrick Walker, who wrote about four decades after Row: ‘[Cargill’s] Horse was shot beneath him at Linlithgow-bridge, and he very narrowly escaped their bloody Hands.’ (Walker, BP, II, 11.)

Letham Craigswood 2

Cargill’s Preaching at Craigwood
Row is the only source to connect the incident at the bridge with a field preaching at ‘Craigwood’. At first it appears that Row may have mistranscribed Craigmad, where Cargill preached on 1 August, 1680, but the evidence of the Privy Council registers clearly places the incident at the bridge much later in the year in October.

Where is ‘Craigwood’? There does not appear to be a location named ‘Craigwood’ or Craig Wood in the immediate area of the bridge, but there is a Craigswood in Mid Calder parish, Edinburghshire, which on General Roy’s map lay along a track leading south from Linlithgow across the Drumshoreland Muir.

Craigswood lay by Old Craigs and Letham. The former gave the wood its name. The latter was the home of James Tennent in Letham, a fugitive in mid 1684 who was interrogated over the Apologetical Declaration in 1684.

Letham Craigswood

Today, Craigswood is part of the new town of Livingston.

Map of Craigswood       Google Street View of Craigswood

It is not clear if Craigswood is Row’s ‘Craigwood’. However, Craigswood does lie close enough to the bridge for it to be a viable candidate for the preaching site that Cargill had fled from. Its location close to the boundary between Linlithgowshire and Edinburghshire is similar to other boundary sites used by Cargill in 1680 to 1681. Cargill did field preach in Livingston parish in late 1680, at Falla Hills on 19 September and near there again on 31 October.

When did Cargill preach at Craigwood?
Row’s narrative also helps to date the incident at the Bridge, as it places the ‘Craigwood’ conventicle after Cargill’s preaching at Torwood in September on 12 September. A date range for the preaching can be narrowed down thanks to the record of the prisoners appearance before the Privy Council on 5 October, 1680. That places the ‘Craigwood’ preaching and the incident at the bridge at some point between 13 September and 4 October.

From other sources we know that Cargill preached at Torwood and Falla Hills on consecutive Sabbaths., i.e., 12 and 19 September. That leaves a date range between 20 September and 4 October. As Cargill conducted his field preachings on the Sabbath, that leaves two probable dates for the ‘Craigwood’ preaching, either Sunday 26 September or Sunday 3 October.

How long the prisoners were held for before they appeared at the Privy Council on 5 October is not known. The above suggests that it may have been anywhere between one and eight days.

A key factor in determining the urgency with which the prisoners were brought before the Council would have been if the prisoners were known to be closely associated with Cargill. If they known to be associates of Cargill’s, then the best comparison for prisoners being brought before the Council is Cargill’s near capture at Muttonhole on 12 November, 1680. In that case, the three prisoners who were seized within a few miles of Edinburgh were brought before the Council on the following day.

Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge

The prisoners before the council on 5 October were hearers at Cargill’s ‘Craigwood’ preaching and were taken at Linlithgow, near the bridge.

At about nineteen miles from Edinburgh, Linlithgow lies at a greater distance from the city than the Mutton Hole, but it does lie on a main road and not far enough away from Edinburgh for the prisoners to have taken much more than a day to reach the Council.

Row’s account does not give any time frame for the prisoners journey time to Edinburgh, however, his use of the phrase that they ‘apprehended and incarcerated in Edinburgh’ does appear to show that they were rapidly transported there, rather than held in Linithgow’s tolbooth. Any prisoners taken at a Cargill preaching, especially after the treasonable Torwood Excommunication, would have been of the highest priority for the Council.

Row also tells us that the troopers were in the hot pursuit of Cargill and fired on him at Linlithgow Bridge. As they almost certainly knew who their quarry was at the bridge, when the prisoners were taken nearby it must have been clear that they may have  potentially captured some of Cargill’s companions. They would have been quickly delivered to Edinburgh for the valuable intellgence that they may have had, either about Cargill, or his preaching.

The above suggests that the ‘Craigwood’ preaching and the incident at Linlithgow Bridge took place on Sunday 3 October.

The Sermon at Craigwood?
It is possible that one of Cargill’s surviving sermons may have been 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.)

If the Craigwood preaching took place on 26 September, rather than on 3 October, it is possible that Cargill’s sermon on Revelation 20.11-12 was preached there. However, the conventicle at Falla Hills is securely dated to 19 September.

The full text of the sermon can be found here:

Donald Cargill Falla Hills Sermon September 1680

Torwood Wallace Oak 4

 “The Obstinate Six”
Who were the militant presbyterians captured at Linlithgow? The register of the Privy Council describes them as ‘most wilfull and obstinate persons’ who ‘would make no answer’ to the questions put to them by the council.

One of the seven prisoners can be dismissed, as he was taken by accident. William Duncan was from Maddiston in Muiravonside parish. Today, Maddiston is a large housing estate in Falkirkshire, but in the 1680s it was a small farm or fermtoun and lay in Stirlingshire. Duncan appears to have been innocent party in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the Privy Council dismissed him without requiring him to live orderly and not attend conventicles.

In practice, the ‘obstinate’ description almost certainly meant that the six prisoners refused to acknowledge the authority of the Council in any way. The central justification for prisoners denial of the authority of the Council was Cargill’s excommunication of several Privy Councillors at Torwood, which occurred three weeks before the prisoners appeared on 5 October. Cargill had conducted the Torwood Excommunication on 12 September by the Wallace Oak, the closest Sabbath to the anniversary of William Wallace’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11 September. (The big tree on the map above is probably the Wallace Oak.)

It is clear that the six obstinate prisoners were hardcore followers of Cargill.

The prisoners’ obstinate mode of behaviour is found in a number of cases where militant Society people were brought before the Council from late 1680 to the end of 1681. In similar cases that we know of, such “obstinacy” often resulted in the prisoners being tried for treason. It is likely that at least some of the ‘obstinate’ prisoners taken at Linlithgow were later indicted for treason.

The action at Linlithgow Bridge, which saw Cargill’s horse shot from under him and the prisoners taken nearby, possibly indicates that Cargill was travelling with a party of companions from the ‘Craigwood’ field preaching. They may, or may not, have rescued him when he encountered the troopers at the bridge.

The make up of Cargill’s party at Linlithgow Bridge may have been similar to that when he was nearly captured at the Mutton Hole in November 1680. On that occasion, he and one other were on horseback while his companions, including two women, proceeded ahead of them on foot. It is possible that the security measures used to protect Cargill at the Mutton Hole were similar to those deployed at Linlithgow Bridge, or that they were developed in response to the experience of Linlithgow Bridge. The description of the prisoners taken as ‘most wilfull and obstinate persons’ is also very similar to Marion Harvie, James Skene and Archibald Stewart who were captured at the Mutton Hole.

The Privy Council register for 5 October does not name the six other prisoners taken. The registers are frustratingly incomplete in this period. However, in the following months, a number of Society people were brought before the Council for being at the Torwood conventicle, some of whom were highly uncooperative and from the area around Linlithgow Bridge. In all of the ‘Torwood’ cases we do not know where or when the individuals were captured, only that they were alleged to have been at the treasonable Excommunication at Torwood, i.e., at liberty on 12 September and captured at a later date.

Attending a field preaching was usually not sufficient grounds to merit an indictment for treason and the death penalty. It usually required some open act of treason, either by word before the Council, or deed, to merit one. Being at the Torwood Excommunication or approving of it was often singled out in indictments. The prisoners taken near Linlithgow, a few weeks after the Torwood preaching, are strong candidate for where some of those later accused of being at Torwood were apprehended.

The above suggests that among those indicted for Torwood we should be looking for ‘obstinate’ male or female prisoners who denied the Council’s authority. The registers contain the following references to prisoners who were accused of being at Torwood whose date or place of capture is not known:

On 9 December, 1680, ‘George Johnstone, James Stewart, George White and William Dick, prisoners, being examined for some of them being in the rebellion and others at Torwood conventicle, and having refused to give any satisfaction and refrain from conventicles hereafter, it is the opinion of the Committy that the King’s Advocat be appointed to process them.’ Of the four men, at least James Stewart and William Dick were possibly at Torwood and perhaps at Craigwood, as their names reappear in August 1681 on a list of prisoners ‘suspected of being guilty of conventicles’. (RPCS, VI, 602; VII, 189-190; Wodrow, History, III, 232.)

At the same time on 9 December, ‘the case of Thomas Jarvey and Alexander Russell who have been apprehended for being at the Torwood conventicle and are content to live orderly and not goe to conventicles hereafter is remitted to the Councill’. However, Russell, who was from near Falkirk, was executed less than a year later in October 1681. (RPCS, VI, 602; Wodrow, History, III, 232.)

There is no direct evidence to link any of the cases above to the Linlithgow Bridge Incident. However, on the same day that they faced the council on 9 December, the cases of three women, who appear to have been held since early October when the Linlithgow prisoners were brought to Edinburgh, where assessed: ‘Christian Spence, Sarah Spence and Janet Smith being these two moneths [i.e., since 5 October?] prisoners upon the account of their being at Torwood conventicle, it is the opinion of the Committy that, in regard of their bygone imprisonment and poverty and ignorance, they be liberat, certifying them, if hereafter they be found guilty of conventicles, they shall be scourged’. (RPCS, VI, 602)

The three women may well have been captured at Linlithgow when Cargill escaped.

Other Strong Candidates

Others appear in the records several months later who were probably captured after conventicles in September or October 1680, as after that period Cargill stopped field preaching.

Cargill preached at Torwood (12 September), Falla Hills (19 September) and Craigwood (3 October). After his narrow escape at Linlithgow Bridge, he resurfaced field preaching at Largo Law in Fife (24 October) and near Fauldhouse (31 October). They were his last two preachings in 1680, as after an alleged Gunpowder Plot to kill the Duke of York and his near capture at the Mutton Hole on 12 November he fled into exile in England and did not return to Scotland until April 1681, when he preached at Darmead in Lanarkshire where he met the Sweet Singers.

While Cargill was in exile, other prisoners were indicted for Torwood who had almost certainly been held since late 1680 and potentially may have been captured at the time of the Linlithgow Bridge incident. Intriguingly, one of them could be described as very “obstinate”and lived in a location by Linlithgow Bridge.

Linlithgow Mills © Callum Black and licensed for reuse.

George Lapsley was the miller at Linlithgow Mills (aka. the Burgh Mills) whixh lay just to the south of the Bridge. Today, the site of Lapsley’s mill lies at the end of Burgh Mills Lane in Linlithgow and below the viaduct on the western edge of present-day Linlithgow which carries the main rail line between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Map of Linlithgow Mills.      Street View of Linlithgow Mills

Lapsley was present at Cargill’s preaching at nearby Craigmad on 1 August 1680 and probably attended Cargill’s preachings at Falla Hills, as in a later appearance before the Council, he used very similar phrases to those used by Cargill in his sermon which he delivered at Falla Hills. Lapsley appears to have had a track record of attending Cargill’s local sermons in the run up to the incident at Linlithgow Bridge. However, after Falla Hills, he vanishes from the record for over a year before he reappears being tried with other long-term obstinate prisoners in October 1681. In the intervening period, we know that Lapsley was captured for ‘hearing the gospel’, but do not know when or where he was taken.

The Privy Council appear to have held a 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 of the alleged poisoning of Charles II, and survived to reach the safety of the post-Revolution era. (Hewison, Covenanters, II, 356, 410; Wodrow, History, III, 285, 287, 457, 473.)

The above suggests that any potential shortlist of the ‘Obstinate Six’ taken near Linlithgow must include Christian Spence, Sarah Spence and Janet Smith on the evidence of the timing of their capture. Also Alexander Russell and William Dick, as they had apparently been at Torwood. George Lapsley, as he was an “obstinate” prisoner who lived by Linlithgow Bridge, is also a strong candidate.

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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 July 20, 2011.

8 Responses to “Donald’s Dead Horse, the Obstinate and Cargill’s ‘Lost’ Preaching at Craigwood”

  1. […] […]

  2. […] with Cameron), Starryshaw (25 July), Craigmad (1 Aug), Torwood (mid Sept), Falla Hills (late Sept), Craigwood (3 Oct?) Largo Law (24 Oct) and south of Linlithgow (31 […]

  3. […] imminent – Cargill had already experienced two very close shaves that summer at Queensferry and Linlithgow Bridge. However, for others, his flight was a desertion of his duty to maintain their Covenanted testimony […]

  4. […] also know that Cargill preached at Craigwood at some point not long before 5 October, when Society people returning from Craigwood captured at […]

  5. […] heard Donald Cargill at Torwood? Three women, who were probably captured at Linlithgow Bridge in early October, were […]

  6. […] Kennoway at Linlithgow Bridge? Circumstantial evidence suggests that Kennoway may have been involved in an incident at Linlithgow bridge where Cargill’s horse was shot beneath him. […]

  7. […] would go on to have other very narrow escapes, at Linlithgow Bridge and especially at the Mutton Hole, before he was captured in mid […]

  8. […] On 24 October, 1680, Donald Cargill preached near Largo Law in Fife. It appears to have been Cargill’s first field preaching in three weeks, after his horse was shot under him escaping soldiers at Linlithgow Bridge. […]

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