Search and Destroy: The Mauchline Martyrs of 1685

It is a bizarre story of wild Highlanders, brutal Russian tactics and a mission to search and destroy, but the execution of the Mauchline martyrs initiated the most violent period of the Killing Times…

The First Record

Their deaths of the Mauchline Martyrs are first recorded in Alexander Shields’ A Short Memorial (1690):

‘Item, The said [John Graham of] Claverhouse, together with the Earl of Dumbarton, and Liev: Gen: Dowglas, caused Peter Gillis, John Bryce, Thomas Young, (who was taken by the Laird of Lee,) William Fiddison, and John Buiening, to be put to Death upon a Gibbet, without Legal Tryal or Sentence, suffering them neither to have a Bible, nor to preay before they died, at Mauchlin[e], anno 1685.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 34.)

A Short Memorial

As usual, Cloud of Witnesses followed Shields’ text:
‘The said Claverhouse, together with the Earl of Dumbarton, and Lieutenant-General Douglas, caused Peter Gillies, John Bryce, Thomas Young (who was taken by the Laird of Lee), William Fiddieson, and John Bruning, to be put to death upon a gibbet, without legal trial or sentence, suffering them neither to have a Bible, nor to pray before they died, at Mauchline, 1685.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 533.)

Ridpath also followed the same course in 1693.

The Grave at Mauchline

The second source for their execution is the inscription on their gravestone in Mauchline. It erected between 1702 and 1714. In 1727 part of the inscription was recorded by Patrick Walker. (Walker, BP, I, 260.)

The original stone was possibly a two-sided monument with the poem on the reverse. In 1830 it was replaced with the present slab of red standstone, the inscription of which is given below. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 588.)

‘Here lies the Bodies of Peter
Gillies john Bryce Thomas
Young William Fiddisone and John
Bruning Who Were Apprehen
ded & Hanged Without Trial
at Mauchline Anno 1685, acc
ording to the then Wicked
Laus for their Adherence to
the Covenanted Work of
Reformation Rev XII. V. II.
Bloody Dumbarton Douglas and
Movd by the Devil & the Laird
of Lee
Draggd these Five Men to Death
with Gun & Sword
Not suffering them to Pray nor
Read Gods Word
Owning the Work of God was all
their Crime
The Eighty five was a Saint
killing Time’

It is worth noting that the carver of the original gravestone may have used Cloud of Witnesses’s transcription of Shields’ text on the Mauchline martyrs as source material for the inscription. Both the gravestone and Cloud spell Brounen’s name as ‘Bruning’ and both date the Mauchline executions only to the year ‘1685’, rather than Wodrow’s specific date of 6 May. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 588.)

Daniel Defoe

The First Narrative Source
In 1717, Daniel Defoe in his rambling and sometimes wild account of the Killing Times also commented on the Mauchline executions, although he did not mention them by name:

‘[John] Graham of Claverhouse, the same who was afterwards Viscount of Dundee, … heaving at his Heels a Crew of Savages, Highlanders, and Dragoons, whose sport was in Blood, and whose Diversion was to haul innocent Men out from their Houses or hiding Places and Murther them; his Companion in this Work was Colonel James Douglass, since call’d Lieutenant General Douglass. These two with their Men kill’d 28 Men in a very few Days, and at several places in the Shire of Galloway, most of them without the least Evidence of their being Guilty, all of them without any legal Prosecution, and some without so much as Examination. At their first coming down they found five Men in several Prisons, who had been committed by other Persecutors before their coming: It seem somebody had maliciously told this Graham that they were of the Whiggs that used the Field Meetings; upon which without any Oath made of the Fact, or any Examination of the Men, without any Trial or other Sentence, than his own command, his bloody Soldiers fetch’d them all to Mauchlin[e], a Village where his Head Quarters were, and hang’d them immediately, not suffering them to enter into any House at their coming, nor at the Entreaty of the poor Men, would permit One to lend them a Bible who it seems offered it, nor allow them a Moment to pray to God.’ (Defoe, Memoirs of the Church of Scotland, 86.)

Defoe’s account was the first to place their executions in the context of the arrival of the Highland forces into the western shires at the beginning of May 1685. As we shall see, his account contains several factual errors, e.g. neither Claverhouse nor Colonel Douglas executed the five prisoners, and at least some of those executed were captured rather than discovered in prisons. Nonetheless, Defoe’s narrative grasps the broad outline of events which led to the execution of the Mauchline martyrs, i.e., that five prisoners were seized elsewhere and brought to Mauchline and hanged.

In summary, the early accounts of the Mauchline executions only had a general idea of when the executions took place and only Defoe placed them in the context of the Highlander’s entry into the West.

With the exception of Defoe, all the other the early sources were based on the entry of Alexander Shields in A Short Memorial. They were also consistent in naming those involved, but they did not name Lieutenant-General William Drummond, the officer who was directly responsible for their trial and execution.

Who ‘Drag’d these Five Men to Death with Gun and Sword’?
None of the military officers mentioned in the early sources appear to have been involved in the trial and execution of the five prisoners, but at least some of them did play a role in the capture of them.

‘Bluidy Clavers’/’Bonnie Dundee’

Colonel John Graham of Claverhouse (d.1689), later elevated to viscount Dundee, was responsible for the capture of John Brounen/Bruning at Priesthill on 1 May, 1685, and sent him on from Galston to Drummond at Mauchline. Claverhouse took no part in the trial of the Mauchline martyrs, as he did not have a justiciary commission.

According to Patrick Walker, the footmen, i.e., foot soldiers, of Cromwell Lockhart, Laird of Lee (d<1698), captured William Finneson and Thomas Young in Carluke parish. It is not known if Lee was present at their capture or participated in it. The laird of Lee was an officer in the government forces in the West. In February, 1685, Lee and Colonel Buchan shot John Smith near Auchengilloch. (Walker, BP, I, 260.)

A  Hero of the Boyne, 1690

Colonel James Douglas, later known as Lieutenant General Douglas, was the son of James Douglas, 2nd earl of Queensberry (d.1671) and the younger brother of William Douglas, 1st duke of Queensberry. At the time of the Mauchline executions, Claverhouse was in dispute with Colonel Douglas and Queensberry, the High Treasurer. (Fountainhall, Historical Notices, II, 633.)

Whether he was directly involved in the capture or trial of the Mauchline martyrs is not clear, but the early sources certainly thought that he was involved in some capacity. On 27 March, 1685, Colonel Douglas was given an extensive commission to suppress the Society people in the western and southern shires. A month before the Mauchline executions, on 5 April, Colonel Douglas executed Thomas Richard at Cumnock. (Wodrow, History, IV, 207n.)

In late April, he and Lieutenant General Drummond were put in command of the Highland forces which seized at least four of the Mauchline martyrs (excluding Brounen). It likely that Douglas or the forces under his command were in some way involved in the capture, transportation or guarding of some of the Mauchline martyrs, in a similar way to Claverhouse’s capture of Brounen or Lee’s role in the capture of Finneson and Young. As Drummond’s deputy, Douglas may well have been involved in their trial. There are hints in the sources which may point to his role. Claverhouse wrote to Douglas’s brother about Brouning on 3 May and in 1685 Colonel Douglas held the lands of Skirling where Gillies was originally from.

At the Revolution in 1688, Lieutenant General Douglas quickly switched sides and brought his troops over to William of Orange. In 1690, he commanded 10,000 troops at the Battle of Boyne and led an unsuccessful siege at Athlone. He died in 1691. Douglas’s well-known support for William of Orange may explain why his specific role in the Mauchline martyrdoms has slipped just beyond the reach of history. However, it is beyond doubt that the Colonel Douglas who was one of William’s trusted generals at the Boyne, persecuted Covenanters. (Dalton, Scots Army, 78-86; Fountainhall, Historical Notices, II, 636.)

The Earl of Dumbarton

Dumbarton’s Drums?

The most confusing name listed by Shields is that of General George Douglas, 1st earl of Dumbarton. On 6 May, the traditional date for the executions in Mauchline, Dumbarton was in London. Why is his name attached to the executions? The earl of Dumbarton was the younger brother of William Douglas, duke of Hamilton. Alongside his men, Dumbarton’s Regiment of Foot which was recruited in Scotland, he fought for Louis XIV and rose to become a Marechaux De Camp in the French Army. The song ‘Dumbarton’s Drums’ is based on the Jacobite sympathies of the regiment.

In the 1670s, Dumbarton and the regiment returned to the King’s service and in May 1685 he was sent to Scotland to assume overall command of Scottish forces that would face the earl of Argyll’s rising. As James King Hewison pointed out a century ago, the involvement of the earl of Dumbarton in any trial on 6 May is impossible, as the newly-commissioned earl was expected to arrive from London on 13 May. Hewison’s solution was to move the date of the executions back to 16 May. However, it is more likely that Dumbarton was listed because he was the later commander-in-chief of the forces which were responsible for the Mauchline executions. Dumbarton was a high-profile Jacobite. At the Revolution he joined James VII in France. He died in exile in 1692 and is buried in the Abbey of St Germain des Prés. (Hewison, Covenanters, II, 478.)

In focusing on the individual “persecutors” who possibly apprehended the Mauchline martyrs, the presbyterian sources did not reveal the wider context which led to their capture. Two interconnected events would dictate the fate of the Mauchline prisoners, the commission given to Lieutenant General Drummond and the entry of a second “Highland Host” into the West.

Lieutenant General William Drummond

“Muscovy” Drummond
William Drummond was in command of government forces in the West before the earl of Dumbarton arrived from London. In his long and colourful career he had been introduced by the Covenanters to Cromwell, joined Charles II and fought at Worcester (1651) and in the Glencairn Rising (1652-4). With the King’s permission he entered the service of Muscovy with Thomas Dalyell in 1655 and became a colonel in the Tsar’s army, governor of the key fortress of Smolensk and ‘served long in the wars at home and abroad against the Polonians and Tartars’. (See the Russo-Polish War 1654-1667.)

A severe disciplinarian; Burnet claimed ‘he had yet too much of the air of Russia about him’ when he returned in the mid 1660s. He brought the thumbscrews back to Scotland and urged the harshest measures against the Covenanters. However, when he fell out of favour with Lauderdale, he was imprisoned in Dumbarton Castle and corresponded with presbyterian exiles. He was later restored to his command and became lieutenant general of Scottish forces in 1684.

The son of John Drummond, 2nd Lord Madderty, he succeeded his elder brother as Lord Madderty in 1684, and was elevated to Viscount Strathallan and Lord Drummond of Cromlix in 1686. He was married to Elizabeth Johnston (d.1679), the daughter of the Covenanting martyr Archibald Johnston of Wariston. When he died in 1688, he was memorably described as ‘a bad Christian but a good Protestant’ due to his resistance to James VII’s attempts to introduce toleration for Catholics in 1686. Cromlix Castle has now vanished. (Malcolm, House of Drummond, 101-3.)

Bing OS Map of site of Cromlix Castle

Drummond served Tsar Alexis I

Drummond was commissioned on 21 April, 1685, and went to the West on 25 April. He was at Mauchline by the beginning of May. His commission was more wide ranging than that given to Colonel Douglas a month earlier and an admission of failure, as it made void all previous judicial commissions in the West:

‘James, by the grace of God, &c. greeting. Forasmuch as, notwithstanding of all the endeavours used by us, for suppressing and punishing rebels, fugitives, vagrant, and skulkingpersons, who disturb our government, and peace and quiet of our good and loyal subjects, in the southern and western shires; yet, by reason of the reset, supply, and harbour which they have, and is afforded from some persons disaffected to our government in these shires, their number and insolence still increases; and when any of our forces do march in search of them, as they draw together in companies and bodies, nevertheless they dissipate and evanish, and are hid, sheltered, and maintained privately in the houses of wicked and disloyal people, without being pursued, expelled, or intelligence given of them, …we being resolved to extirpate such rebels, … we do hereby make and constitute our trusty and well-beloved counsellor, general-lieutenant Drummond, master general of our ordnance, to be our commissioner and justice in all the southern and western shires, … with power to him to call and hold courts, at such times and places as he shall think expedient; and there to create clerks, sergeants, dempsters, and all other members of court needful, to call assizers and witnesses, … and if he finds any persons … guilty of reset, harbour, and intercommuning, or corresponding with rebels, that he cause justice to be done forthwith upon them, … and to the effect these desperate rebels may be totally reduced …, we hereby fully empower you …, to call to your assistance all magistrates, heritors, officers of our standing forces, and of our militia … , [who will] conform to your instructions; and particularly you are to take under your command, those highlanders now to be employed in our service, who all are hereby strictly required and commanded to march, concur with, fortify, and assist you in this our service, and obey your order,… until the first day of June next, … And further, we hereby declare all former commissions granted by us or our privy council, for trying or punishing the said crimes in the country, either to noblemen, gentlemen, or officers of our army, to be void and extinct.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 208-9.)

Drummond was also given specific instructions as to how to proceed:

‘Edinburgh, 21st April, 1685.

1mo. You are to employ all his majesty’s standing forces in the southern and western shires, or so many of them as you shall find expedient, for pursuing, suppressing, and utterly destroying all such fugitive rebels as resist and disturb the peace and quiet of his majesty’s government, and his loyal subjects; and you are to cause immediately shoot such of them to death, as you find actually in arms.

2do. You shall give order to apprehend all persons suspect for harhourers or resetters of rebels, and fugitive vagabonds, and punish such as you find guilty, according to law.

3tio. You are to cause examine in every parish where you shall think fit, who of them hath not taken the late oath of abjuration, or are guilty of withdrawing from the church, or other irregularities, and punish them accordingly.

4to. You are hereby warranted and authorised to take free quarters for all under your command, (they not being of his majesty’s forces,) in all places and parishes where rebels, fugitives, and vagabonds are suspect to be harboured, reset, and connived at, and from whence no intelligence of them has been given to the officers of the army, or magistrates.

5to. If any fugitives or rebels make application to you for the king’s mercy, or supplicate for the benefit of his majesty’s gracious indemnity, (even after the time thereby allowed is elapsed,) you are to transmit such addresses to his majesty’s high commissioner [i.e., Queensberry], and to the council, and to allow them safe conducts until you receive their pleasure.

6to. If any proposals be made by the heritors in the said shires, for securing the peace of the respective shires, to the end the present burden of quartering may be taken off them, you are to receive and report the same, as above said.

And lastly, and generally, you are to do every thing for securing the peace, and promoting the interest and advantage of his majesty’s government, as you shall judge convenient.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 209.)


As mentioned above, Drummond was put in charge of the Highlanders ‘now to be employed in our service’ in the West. They would go in hard, fast and move on rather than occupy the local area. Drummond’s reliance on speed and manoeuvre probably drew on his experiences in the Tsar’s wars ‘against the Polonians and Tartars’ in Eastern Europe and the great steppes of Central Asia.

Search and Destroy
The second event, which led to the capture of all five prisoners, was the sweep of those Highland forces, or the second “Highland Host”, into heartlands of the Society people in late April and early May, 1685.

According to Fountainhall in late April:

‘Upon rumors of fears of Argile’s landing, &c, the Privy Counsell ordaine 1200 Hylanders to be presently sent into the Western Shires, under the command of Lieutenant Generall Drummond, and of Collonell [James] Douglas, that what the King’s forces had left, thesse caterpillers might eat.’ (Fountainhall, Historical Notices, II, 636.)

Patrick Walker gives testimony to the impact of the 1,200 Highlanders:

‘There are many Thousands yet alive can witness from their sad Experience, that there were 1000 Highlanders, in the Month of March 1685, … who were sent to the South and West of Scotland (it being Killing-time) to assist the Forces, they being more swift of Foot, to run through Bog and Moss, Hill and Glen, to apprehend the Sufferers, than the standing Forces, who were turn’d fat and lazy with free Quartering, and strong Feeding upon the Ruins of the Lord’s People: As also, these Highlanders were brought to the West, to rob and plunder, and to frighten People, more especially Women and Children, by their strange Language, not knowing whether they were to kill them or save them alive; which is a great Aggravation of a Judgment. And what great Murder and Robbery they committed these Three Months that they were in the South and West of Scotland’ (Walker, BP, I, 259-60.)

Walker, who was in prison for the first half of 1685, misdated the initial entry of the Highlanders into the West to March, when they entered the West in late April.

According to Wodrow, the Highlanders were expected to march from Stirling to Glasgow, but instead swept south-east into Stirlingshire, Linlithgowshire and the western edge of Edinburghshire, before moving west. Wodrow was keen to blame the “curates” for the Highlanders’ change of march. However, the sudden change of plan was almost certainly due to Drummond and Douglas assuming command of the Highlanders and all government forces in the West. (Wodrow, History, IV, 257.)

The Highlanders appear to have carried out Drummond’s instructions and were used, as Walker indicates, to apprehend fugitives, particularly those who had failed to take the Abjuration Oath in early 1685, and for the wider purpose of quelling the presbyterian strongholds in the West prior to the rising which the authorities suspected would break out when the earl of Argyll’s small invasion force landed somewhere in the West.

It is clear from Wodrow’s account is that after their initial march south-east from Stirling, the Highlanders broke into smaller parties to comb the countryside and moors. Although they did not march as a coherent formation, they were clearly operating to a coherent military plan. (Wodrow, History, IV, 257.)

Walker’s assessment, that the ‘swift of Foot’ Highlanders were more effective in pursuing fugitives ‘through Bog and Moss, Hill and Glen’, appears to be correct, as their entry into the West coincides with a dramatic spike in the number of fugitives shot in the fields in early May. Defoe’s estimate that twenty-eight men were killed ‘in a very few Days’ is not a wild overestimate. Drummond and Douglas’s search and destroy tactics would only a last about three weeks, as the appointment of Dumbarton and the landing of Argyll on 20 May brought about a change in tactics when the Scottish forces focused on the defence of the kingdom.

According to Wodrow, ‘the savage Highlanders came in among them, towards the end of April’. Their march was ‘very swift and sudden’ with the result that ‘a great many were surprised’ and ‘all who had escaped the former [circuit and Abjuration] courts were sore put to it, and many made prisoners.’

Specifically, Wodrow mentions their presence in the parishes of West Calder, Mid Calder, Livingston, and ‘neighbouring parishes’. At West Calder, they arrived ‘before the country about knew of their coming’ and the ‘searched for all nonconformists and suspect persons in that parish two days, and committed great spoils’. Wodrow also mentions that ‘another party’ of Highlanders ‘was in Bathgate, and another in Shot[t]s parish’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 257.)

All three parties of Highlanders ‘then made a diligent search for wanderers’ through Livingston, Calder, Carnwath, and Auchtermuir before reaching Lanark, where some captives, presumably the less serious cases, were imprisoned for several months. (Wodrow, History, IV, 257-8.)

From Lanark, the Highlanders swept west, where forward elements of them are recorded on 1 May at the field shootings of Robert Lockhart and Gabriel Thomson in Eaglesham parish and in the shooting of John Brown and capture of John Brouning at Priesthill in Muirkirk parish.

In the course of their sweep west, the Highlanders began to capture those who would be executed at Mauchline. Peter Gillies and William Bryce were the first to be captured.

Skirling Kirk © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Peter Gillies
Before his capture, Gillies had a long record of opposition.

‘Peter Gillies, a walker of cloth in a mill belonging to Sir James Murray of Skirling, in the year 1674, was brought to great trouble for having a presbyterian minister preaching in his house, by Mr James Buchan episcopal minister in the parish, and his master [Murray]; he was turned out of his house and possession, and his losses were very great.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 245.)

Bing OS Map of Skirling

James Buchan was presented to the parish of Skirling in Peeblesshire by Murray of Skirling (d.1678) in 1667. He translated to the parish of Prestonpans in 1676 and was deprived for refusing the Test in 1681. In mid 1688 he became the minister at Eddleston, but had abandoned the charge for some time before mid 1691. He was formally deposed for alleged “charming”. (Fasti, I, 257, 273.)

Google Street View of Skirling Kirk

Waulk mills used water power to drive large mallets which pounded woven cloth in vats to wash and soften it. There are two mills marked on old maps of Skirling. One of them is described as a ‘Walk Mill’, near Spittal, which technically lies just inside of Biggar parish. That may be the mill owed by Murray where Gillies worked. Gillies probably lived in the village of Skirling, as it is the only settlement of any size in that very small parish.

Bing OS Map of Spittal     Google Street View of area of Waulk Mill

After his eviction in 1674, Gillies was again in trouble for his presbyterian beliefs in 1682:

‘In the year 1682, when in the parish of Muirend-side [i.e., Muiravonside], in the shire of Stirling, he was again attacked by Mr Andrew Ure curate there, for nonconformity, and had a party of soldiers sent upon him, and very narrowly escaped.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 245.)

It was probably between 1682 and mid 1684, that Gillies and Bryce became Patrick Walker’s ‘very dear Acquaintances’. Walker generally used that phrase for Society people he knew who were either banished or executed. He was active in the societies in the areas where Gillies and Bryce lived. (Walker, BP, I, 260.)

Wester Woodside (The mill lay by the River Avon in the trees to the left) © M J Richardson and licensed for reuse.

Gillies’ escape did not go unpunished, as ‘Peter Gellies in Walkmill of Woodside’ is listed under Stirlingshire on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 191.)

The ‘Walkmill of Woodside’ (NS 950 735) lay in Muiravonside parish in an eastern district of Stirlingshire which is now known as Falkirkshire. The site of the waulk mill lay in the trees on the bend on the river Avon below Wester Woodside.

Bing OS Map of Mill at Woodside         Google Aerial View of Mill

Gillies was informed against by Mr Andrew Urie, the minister or “curate” of Muiravonside. Urie’s name appears on the Almond communion cups, which were presented by Alexander Livingstone, Lord Almond, in 1676. In 1689, Urie was rabbled from his kirk by presbyterians and deserted his charge. (Fasti, I, 222.)

The Wallace Cave by the River Avon lies near the Waulk Mill © M J Richardson and licensed for reuse.

As the Highlanders marched through the area, Urie alerted them to the presence of Gillies. Wodrow continues:

‘[Gillies] still continued at his trade till the end of April, this year 1685, when, the day before the Highlanders came to Falkirk [i.e., 29 April], the curate went to West-quarter, and informed against him, and prevailed with him [i.e., Westquarter] to get a party sent to his house next day.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 245.)

Westquarter House

Westquarter House was owned by James Livingstone of Westquarter. He arranged for the Highlanders to apprehend Gillies when they reached Falkirk on the 30 April.

Bing OS map of Westquarter

Google Street View of Doocot of Westquarter House

The Capture of Gillies and John Bryce
According to Walker,
‘When they [the Highlanders] came south thorow the Parish of Morrinside, the Curat there, Mr. Andrew Ure, informed them of worthy Peter Gilles, who lived in that Parish, who apprehended him, with John Brice who lived in the Parish of West-calder;’ (Walker, BP, I, 260.)

Wodrow gives a more detailed account:

‘Accordingly, the last of April, he and John Bryce a weaver in the parish of West-Calder, who had come to him to get some cloth he had dressing, were apprehended. Peter’s wife was but brought to bed of a child a few days before, and very tender. In her sight they threatened him with present death, and hurried him away without allowing him to speak to her, or change his clothes. In less than an hour’s time, a party of soldiers came back to his wife with a lie, saying, her husband had signified that she knew where his arms were, and if she discovered them, he would not be shot, if not, he would presently on their return be despatched. She was a calm and composed Christian, and told them, “He (had no arms she knew of, and if they got liberty to take his life, she would endeavour to say, good is the will of the [Lord, and he who did all things well, would not wrong her or hers.” This put them in a terrible passion, and they threatened to burn her where she lay, swearing she should live no longer, which was heavy treatment, especially to one in her case. They rifled the house, and took away every thing portable, but some bibles which they cast from them.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 245-6.)

Given Claverhouse’s record of the ruthless interrogation techniques used against John Brouning, the treatment of Gillies’ wife is not surprising. Gillies, too, was terrorised when he was transported west to Mauchline.

‘The two men were tied together, and driven before them. When they had carried them some miles they bound a napkin over Peter’s eyes, and set him down on his knees to be shot, with a file of musketeers before him. In this posture they kept him upwards of half an hour, and then carried him away with them to the west country, whither they were marching.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 246.)

The use of the firing squad to terrify prisoners was replicated at Brouning’s interrogation at Priesthill.

By 4 May, the party with Gillies and Bryce had reached Middle Wellwood, in Muirkirk parish.

‘May 4th, I find them at Middle-Welwood, in the shire of Ayr, where Peter writes a letter to his wife full of affection and seriousness, and leaves her and five children on the Lord, with much holy confidence, and desires her to speak to some of his relations, and reprove them for their faults, which he heartily forgives them. He wanted not impressions that he was to die, and would shortly be beyond the reach of enemies, after reading some of the scripture, for which the soldiers abused and threatened him.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 246.)

The modern farm of Midwellwood does not stand in the same location as the ‘Mid Wellwood’ farm found on General Roy’s map of the 1740s. In May 1685, Mid Wellwood lay to the south, rather than north, of the River Ayr and just north, and to the east, of the confluence of the March and Shiel burns.

Bing OS Map of Mid Wellwood

The arrival of Highlanders with Gillies and Bryce at Mid Wellwood, appears to coincide with the capture of John Campbell of Mid Wellwood and William Campbell of Upper Wellwood by Claverhouse on c.4 May, 1685. Both of those men had been pursued for months following a large escape of prisoners from Canongate Tolbooth in Edinburgh in August 1684. They may have been captured due to the intelligence that John Brounen, who was hanged with Gillies and Bryce, had provided to Claverhouse or because of the efficiency of the Highland forces in seeking out fugitives.

Two more of the Mauchline martyrs, William Finneson and Thomas Young, were apprehended by the Laird of Lee’s foot in Carluke parish. Their case will be discussed in a separate post.

Mauchline Tower

By the evening of 4 May, Gillies and Bryce had reached Mauchline, where they were probably held in the Castle:

‘That day they [i.e., Gillies and Bryce] were carried down to Mauchlin[e], and, with some others [Fiddison, Young and Brouning], were examined by lieutenant-general Drummond, and an assize was called of fifteen of the soldiers, and an indictment was given them, May 5th.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 246.)

John Brouning, who was taken on 1 May, 1685, was the fifth Mauchline martyr. It is clear from Claverhouse’s letter to Queensberry of 3 May 1685 that he had personally seized John Brouning and delivered him to Mauchline for further questioning and trial by Lieutenant-General Drummond. In his letter, Claverhouse left the decision over Brouning’s fate in the hands of duke of Queensberry. The Duke may informed Drummond of his decision by 5 May, however, Drummond’s instructions gave him carte blanche to dispense justice as he wished.

It was Drummond who conducted their trial, allegedly in a local inn. It is worth noting that Shields did not dispute that they had a trial, only that they had been executed ‘without Legal Tryal or Sentence’. The inscription on their grave and Defoe appear to have inaccurately assumed that Shields had meant that they were ‘Hanged Without Trial’ or ‘without any Trial or other Sentence, than his own command’. The survival of their indictment plainly contradicts the latter interpretation.

Drummond’s commission permitted him to call trials and ‘to create clerks, sergeants, dempsters, and all other members of court needful’ and ‘call assizers and witnesses’. What Drummond called was a military tribunal in which he was the judge and fifteen soldiers were the jury.

The indictment only named Gillies and Bryce, but it left space of other names to be added as other prisoners were brought in. As discussed above, Gillies and Bryce were the first to be captured and the other prisoners were forwarded to Drummond from diverse locations. Their indictment is as follows:

‘Peter Gillies in Muirend-side, John Bryce in West Calder, ———————- [i.e., William Fiddison, Thomas Young and John Brouning] you and ilk one of you are indicted, that, contrary the laws both divine and human, the laws and practices of this realm, and several acts of parliament, ordaining an humble submission, by all persons, to kingly power and authority, and an acknowledgment of their just power and greatness, and of their full consent to the laws and acts in their jurisdictions, and giving sufficient demonstrations of their loyalty and adherence to their prince, as their head and sovereign, in all things and cases, when required; and the opposers thereof and refusers, to give sufficient testimony of their loyalty and consent, as aforesaid, being justly to be reputed enemies, and not friends, rebels and not subjects, and, by the same laws and ordinations, are to be cut off from other loyal, obedient, true, conforming subjects. Yet true it is and of verity, that you, in a manifest contempt of those laws, though living under a gracious prince and sovereign, having cast off all fear of God, duty and allegiance to the king, have not only, contrary to the word of God, and all law and equity, most traitorously and impiously shaken off all love and obedience to kingly power, by a long time homologating with the principles of those rebellious traitors, and blasphemers of God and the king, joining with them in their wicked courses and practices, wanting nothing but an opportunity to murder and assassinate his majesty’s subjects of the contrary opinion; but also openly and avowedly disowned the king his just authority and government, adhered to the covenant, owning and approving rising in arms against the king, and those commissionate by him, and refuse to pray for the king, whereof, and of the other crimes specified, you being found guilty by an assize, you and ilk one of you ought to be punished with forfeiture of life, lands, and goods, to the terror of others to commit the like hereaffer. You are summoned to compear before lieutenant-general Drummond, commissioner of justiciary, within the tolbooth or court place of Mauchlin, this fifth of May, to answer to your indictment.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 246.)

All five were found guilty by the assize. According to Wodrow, ‘they are sentenced to be hanged at the town-end of Mauchlin[e], May 6th, which was done accordingly’. According to Walker, they were ‘hang’d … all up upon one Gibbet’ with no time for prayers, bible reading or speeches. No martyrs’ testimonies from the execution have survived. All five were buried below the gallows. ‘No coffins were allowed them, nor dead clothes; but the soldiers and two country men made a hole in the earth near by, and cast them all together in it.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 246; Thomson, Martyr Graves of Scotland, 163; Walker, BP, I, 260; Hewison, Covenanters, II, 477-8; Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 140, 195.)

Mauchline 1830 Stone

In 1830 the original gravestone was replaced by a new memorial stone erected by public subscription on what was then still ‘a small common on the outskirts of Mauchline’. In 1885 an obelisk was placed on the burial site and the 1830 stone removed thirteen metres and inserted into the wall of a primary school shed. Recently, the monuments’ setting has changed again with the refurbishment of Mauchline Primary School and the 1830 stone is now enclosed in a new purpose built shelter.

Google Street View of Mauchline Monuments

There is some dispute in the sources over whether the ‘old-decayed’ original gravestone or the 1830 replacement stone is buried beneath the obelisk, but it is likely that the original gravestone was buried. (Compare Canmore with Thomson (ed.), CW, 588.)

Mauchline Martyrs’ Obelisk, 1885

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on September 1, 2011.

20 Responses to “Search and Destroy: The Mauchline Martyrs of 1685”

  1. Thank you, Mark, for drawing my attention to your website. (Your message ame without a reply email address) It will take me some time to work my way through your extensive library, and I look forward to doing so.
    Yours aye,
    William Douglas

  2. […] Rothes and Lauderdale died in the year after Cargill’s execution. The successors to their posts were usually closely associated with York, Catholicism and the persecution of the Society people. Renwick could have excommunicated the successors of Lauderdale and Rothes who also repressed the Society people, such as James Drummond, fourth earl of Perth, or John Drummond, earl of Melfort, or William Douglas, duke of Queensberry, but he did not. After Charles II, Monmouth and General Dalyell died in 1685, Renwick also failed to excommunicate the latter’s replacement, Lieutenant General William Drummond, who led 1,200 Highlanders in the most brutal campaign of the Killing Times. […]

  3. […] Wellwood was also the location where Peter Gillies, who was executed with Brounen at Mauchline on c.6 May 1685, left a letter to his wife. (Thomson […]

  4. […] For a discussion of Drummond’s entry into the West and the other Mauchline martyrs, see here. […]

  5. […] elements of Drummond’s force reached Ayrshire on 1 May. On 6 May, Drummond executed John Brounen, Peter Gillies, John Bryce, Thomas Young and William Fiddison at […]

  6. […] The letter also establishes that the earl of Dumbarton had arrived from London and was still in Edinburgh on 23 May, which strongly suggests that he could not have been directly involved in the case of the Mauchline martyrs. […]

  7. […] Geneva Conventions. For other cases where mock executions were used to obtain information, see the Mauchline martyrs and John […]

  8. […] assize of soldiers was unusual, but there is a record of a similar trial in Mauchline in the same year. The trial of several Society people was conducted in May, 1685, under the […]

  9. […] was used by John Graham of Claverhouse in the case of John Brounen. It was also allegedly used against John Bryce. Balfour was not unique in his use of […]

  10. […] to Walker, Young was captured during the sweep of the Highlanders into the West at the beginning of May, 1685: ‘and when they came thorow the Parish of Carluke, they apprehended William Finn[i]eson and […]

  11. […] from Claverhouse of 3 July, 1685, confirms that the Highland forces, which had swept through the West of Scotland since the beginning of May, had […]

  12. […] indirectly linked to the earlier capture of Peter Gillies. Kaemuir lay beside the Mill of Woodside where Gillies was discovered in hiding by Highlanders in late April, 1685. Gillies was taken to Mauchline, where he was executed  on 6 […]

  13. […] By 5 May, Lieutenant-General William Drummond, commander of the Highland force, was at Mauchline where he hanged five Society people on 6 May. […]

  14. […] was about to encounter Claverhouse and the Highlanders who entered Ayrshire via Muirkirk parish on 1 May, […]

  15. […] certain that those who were hanged at Mauchline were the five men condemned and executed there by Lieutenant-General William Drummond and a military assize on 5 to 6 May, 1685. They are the only recorded hangings at Mauchline in the Killing Times of the […]

  16. […] James Livingstone of Westquarter was later involved in the capture of Peter Gillies in 1685. […]

  17. […] from Claverhouse and the Highlanders on c.1 May, which probably places it at around the time of the hangings at Mauchline and the Highlanders’ disruption of the Societies’ nineteenth convention on 6 […]

  18. […] on 23 May, which makes it almost certain that he could not have been involved in the cases of the Mauchline martyrs, who are said to have been hanged on 6 […]

  19. […] Wellwood was also the location where Peter Gillies, who was executed with Brounen at Mauchline on c.6 May 1685, left a letter to his wife. (Thomson […]

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