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

Linlithgow Bridge © Richard Webb and licensed for reuse.

One of Donald Cargill’s narrow escapes from the troopers took place at the Bridge of Linlithgow.

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 it lay on the boundary between Linlithgowshire and Stirlingshire. (It probably crossed the Avon slightly upstream of the present bridge.) A natural bottleneck on the Avon, in 1526 the area to the south of the bridge was the site of a battle.

Bing OS Map of Linlithgow Bridge

Google Street View of Linlithgow Bridge

Maddiston, near Falkirk.Photo Richard Webb [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Bing OS Map of Maddiston

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 [4 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, 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.)

Cargill’s preaching at Craigwood
Row is the first and only source to connect the incident at the bridge with a field preaching at Craigwood. There does not appear to be a location named ‘Craigwood’ 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. Today, Craigswood is part of the new town of Livingston.

Bing OS Map of Craigswood       Google Street View of Craigswood

It is not clear if Craigswood was Row’s ‘Craigwood’. However, Craigswood does lie close enough to the bridge for it to be a viable candidate for the preaching site and its location on the boundary between Linlithgowshire and Edinburghshire is similar to other boundary preaching sites used by Cargill in 1680 to 1681.

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 and before his preaching at Hill Teasses in Fife on 24 October. That date range can be narrowed down thanks to the record of the prisoners appearance before the Privy Council on 5 October, 1680.

From other sources we know that Cargill preached at Torwood and Falla Hills on consecutive Sabbaths. It is not clear if the ‘Craigwood’ preaching occurred before or after Cargill’s preaching at Falla Hills, as it may have taken place on a Thursday, but it most likely took place on a Sabbath after the Falla Hills preaching.

Taken together, the available dating evidence suggests that he preached at Torwood on either 5, 12 or 19 September and that the preaching at Falla Hills followed it a week later on either 12, 19 or 26 September depending on the date of the Torwood preaching. If the ‘Craigwood’ preaching was held after Falla Hills, then it probably took place on either 19 or 26 September or 3 October.

One unknown factor in narrowing down the date of the Craigwood preaching is the length of time that the prisoners were held for before they appeared before the Council on 5 October. The above suggests that it may have been anywhere between a day and two weeks. The key factor in determining the urgency with which the prisoners were brought before the Council would have been if the Council knew that the prisoners were closely associated with Cargill. If they knew, then the best comparison with the incident at Linlithgow Bridge 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. Obviously, Linlithgow Bridge lies at a greater distance from Edinburgh than the Mutton Hole, but it does not lie 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 locally. If the troopers who took part in the hot pursuit of Cargill and fired on him knew that they had potentially taken some of Cargill’s close companions, then it is quite likely that they would have quickly delivered them to Edinburgh. A rapid movement of the prisoners suggests that the date of the Craigwood preaching and the Linlithgow Bridge incident probably lay towards the end of the possible range of dates for them, with Sunday 3 October being the strongest candidate for the day that the troops pursued Cargill’s party after the conventicle.

The Sermon at Craigwood?
Depending on the date of the Craigwood preaching, it is possible that one of Cargill’s surviving sermons was preached at Craigwood. 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 in 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, which is more securely dated to September, has a stronger claim.

The full text of the sermon can be found here:

Donald Cargill Falla Hills Sermon September 1680

Torwood Castle © Peter Gordon and licensed for reuse.


The ‘Obstinate’ Prisoners
Who were the Society people captured at the Bridge of 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. In practice, that description almost certainly meant that the 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 in the weeks before the prisoners appearance on 5 October. That mode of behaviour is found in a number of cases where 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 Bridge were indicted for treason.

The action at Linlithgow Bridge, which saw Cargill’s horse shot from under him and the prisoners taken, also probably indicates that Cargill was travelling with a party of companions from the field preaching who were able to rescue him from the encounter with the troopers.

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 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 that of Marion Harvie, James Skene and Archibald Stewart who were captured at the Mutton Hole.

The Council register for 5 October does not name the six other prisoners taken at the bridge. 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.

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 indictments. The incident at bridge, which followed the Torwood preaching, is a 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, 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, ‘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’. Russell was executed in October 1681. (RPCS, VI, 602; Wodrow, History, III, 232.)

There is no direct evidence to link any of the cases above to Linlithgow Bridge, especially in the cases of Jarvey and Russell who were specifically described as having been ‘apprehended for being at Torwood’. However, on the same day, the cases of three women who appear to have been held since early October when the Linlithgow Bridge prisoners were brought to Edinburgh, where assessed: ‘Christian Spence, Sarah Spence and Janet Smith being these two moneths 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 have been captured at Linlithgow Bridge. Other strong candidates appear several months later who were probably captured after conventicles in September or October 1680, as after that period Cargill stopped field preaching. Cargill’s preachings at Torwood (mid September), Falla Hills (late September) Craigwood (3 October?) Largo Law (24 October) and at an unknown place south of Linlithgow (31 October) were his last field preachings in 1680, as after mid November he fled into exile in England and did not return to Scotland until April 1681. 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 Linlithgow Bridge. Intriguingly, one of them could be described as very “obstinate”and lived in locations in the vicinity of Linlithgow Bridge.

Linlithgow Mills © Callum Black and licensed for reuse.

George Lapsley, who 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 Linlithgow which carries the main rail line between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Bing OS Map of Linlithgow Mills.      Google Street View of Linlithgow Mills

Lapsley was present at Cargill’s preaching at nearby Craigmad on 1 August 1680 and probably attended at least one of Cargill’s preachings at either Falla Hills or Craigwood, 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 either Falla Hills or Craigwood. 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 or Craigwood, 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.

For some unknown reason, the Council appear to have held 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 possible shortlist for the six ‘obstinate’ prisoners taken at Linlithgow Bridge must include Christian Spence, Sarah Spence and Janet Smith, on the circumstantial evidence of the timing of their capture, and George Lapsley, as he was an “obstinate” prisoner who lived close to Linlithgow Bridge.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.


~ by drmarkjardine on July 20, 2011.

7 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 […]

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