The Watchmen in the Woods: Cargill’s Preaching at Underbank, 1681.

The Covenanter Donald Cargill preached at Underbank Wood on 1 May, 1681. Following his preaching at Darmead on 24 April, 1681, Cargill stayed in Underbank Wood, by the river Clyde in Lesmahagow parish, Lanarkshire.

Across the Clyde towards Underbank © G Laird and licensed for reuse.

After that Conference with the Gibbites at Darngavel, the next Sabbath-day he preached two miles beneath Lanark, in the Under-bankwood upon Clydeside, upon that Text, I have set Watchmen upon thy Walls [i.e., Isaiah 62.6.]; where he lamented that it had been the great Sin of the Church of Scotland, in setting up of Watchmen that had little or no Experience of Regeneration, and had been overly of their Trials, contenting themselves with a Clatter of Gifts and Learning: And lamented also that so many Watchmen were fled off the Walls, and deserted their Posts, frighted as if they were blasted or thunder-slain.’ (Walker, BP, II, 23-4.)

Today, Underbank Wood lies above Underbank Primary School.

Street View of Underbank Wood

Walker records that Cargill met with John Stewart and Gavin Witherspoon in the wood. Stewart is almost certainly the ‘John Stewart in Underbank’ listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684.

Today, Underbank lies next to the wood and above the Silverbirch Garden Centre.

Map of Underbank           Street View of Underbank

Heatheryknowe © Robert Murray and licensed for reuse.

Gavin Witherspoon of Heatheryknowe in Old Monkland parish, Lanarkshire, was also listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. The farm at Heatheryknowe lies just to the east of Easterhouse in Glasgow. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 200, 201.)

Map of Heatheryknowe       Street View of Heatheryknowe

According to Walker:

‘He [i.e., Cargill] stayed for some time in that Wood. In the Beginning of May 1681, Gavin Wotherspoon and John Stewart, both my Acquaintances, two serious, zealous Christians, and great Sufferers, came unto him [at Underbank Wood]: The Braes being steep, & the Woods close, he inquired if there was any Appearance of Rain; They said, they saw none. He said, These Braes look very burnt like, being a cold East Drought. Gavin said, We fear, if the Lord send not Rain, there will be a Scarcity of Bread.’ (Walker, BP, II, 24.)

Aerial View of Underbank Wood

Stewart and Witherspoon’s fears about the weather accurately recorded the conditions in the summer of 1681. According to Robert Law:

‘This last summer, 1681, was a very dry summer and hot; the corns were very short through drought, the grass much withered universally, the brooks and streams dryed up, (some effects, as appears, of the great comet the winter before;)’ (Law, Memorialls, 216.)

The effects of the hot summer are also mentioned in the account of Cargill’s preaching at Holm’s Common by the Coulter Heights on 12 June, 1681.

Walker continues the dialogue at Underbank Wood:

‘[Cargill] said, I have been thinking upon that since I came into this Wood; but if I be not under a Delusion (for this was his ordinar Way of speaking when he gave his Thoughts of what was to come) you need not fear that, as long as this Persecution lasts: For the Lord hath a greater Respect to his own Suffering People, than to suffer such a rough Wind to blow in such an East Wind; for, if that were, the heavy End of that Stroke would come upon his own People. For me, I am to die shortly by the Hand of this bloody Enemy; but you that outlive this Persecution, as I am of the Mind you will both do (which they both did, and saw the said Accomplishment) you will see Cleanness of Teeth, and many a black pale Face, which shall put many Thousands to their Graves in Scotland, with unheard-of Natures of Fluxes and Fevers, and otherwise; and there shall be great Distress in the Land, and Wrath upon this People.’ (Walker, BP, II, 24.)

For Walker, writing in the 1730s, Cargill’s prophetic words about famine and disease had come to pass in the ‘seven ill years’ of famine and disease of the 1690s. (Walker, BP, II, 24-9.)

Gavin Witherspoon appears to have survived the persecution and is recorded in the sources for the Society people until 1686. John Stewart in Underbank was later listed as a fugitive on the roll of 1683 to 1684. He was probably banished to Barbados in 1687, but returned to Scotland in mid 1688 and led a successful mission to free his banished brethren. His close kin, Archibald Stewart, was executed in Glasgow in March, 1684. Both John Stewart and Witherspoon probably played a part in the formation of the United Societies in late 1681.

After preaching at Underbank Wood, Cargill preached at Loudoun Hill on 5 May and then toured the South West of Scotland.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on August 24, 2011.

10 Responses to “The Watchmen in the Woods: Cargill’s Preaching at Underbank, 1681.”

  1. […] next field preaching was at Underbank Wood by the […]

  2. […] moved his preaching activities to the west. In that year Cargill preached at Darmead (24 April), Underbank Wood (1 May), Loudoun Hill (5 May), toured the South West (c.12 May- c.5 June), Coulter Heights (12 […]

  3. […] followed Cargill’s preaching at Underbank Wood on Sunday 1 May. According to Patrick Walker, who may have been […]

  4. […] then publicly preached against the Sweet Singers at Underbank Wood on 1 May and at Loudoun Hill on 5 […]

  5. […] firmly in the context of the aftermath of Cargill’s preaching against the Sweet Singers at Underbank Wood (1 May) and Loudoun Hill (5 […]

  6. […] either one, or some, of Cargill’s preachings in 1681, which were held at Darmead (24 April), Underbank Wood (1 May), Loudoun Hill (5 May) or at Auchengilloch (3 July). The latter two preachings are probably […]

  7. […] ‘woody place’ where the barn was located may be Underbank Wood, which was where Donald Cargill hid after he preached at Darmead in 1681. Like Renwick hints about other locations in his letter to Robert Hamilton of 9 July, it is […]

  8. […] at Wolf Hole Craig in the Pentlands in mid May. Before that, Cargill had preached against them at Underbank Wood on 1 May and at Loudoun Hill on 5 May. Some of Cargill’s letter is taken up with refuting the Sweet […]

  9. […] has survived from at least before the 1750s, and very probably from the 1680s. It also lay next to Underbank Wood, where Donald Cargill had preached in 1681. In his testimony, Wilson particularly admired Cargill’s martyrs’ […]

  10. […] of Cargill’s preachings in 1681 indicates that he preached there on Sunday 24 April, as he preached on the ‘next Sabbath-day’ at Underbank Wood on 1 May. (Walker, BP, II, […]

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