‘For Cutting Tyrants’ Throats’: The Capture of Patrick Foreman, Covenanter
For the Scottish Restoration regime, the inscription on a knife – ‘For Cutting Tyrants’ Throats’ – found on Patrick Foreman when he was captured, almost certainly represented everything which was terrifying in the ‘New Mode Against Monarchie’ that emerged in early 1681. …
Foreman was from Alloa (NS 886 925) in Alloa parish, Clackmannanshire, which lies on the north bank of the river Forth.
His martyrs’ testimony contains a some useful biographical details. In it he stated that he had been through ‘wanderings and imprisonments’ and that he knew some of the Sweet Singers:
‘evil company hath been made useful to me. Yea, these antiscripturists [of the Sweet Singers] were made instructive to me; for I saw these four men (I mean John Gib and his followers) were once as fair on the way, by appearance, as any I knew. But I see gifts are not graces; and now, I think, they are hopeless; and I advise none that tenders [i.e., regards] the glory of God to meddle with them; for they are turned horrid blasphemers and deniers of the Scriptures.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 206.)
Foreman’s reference to his ‘wanderings’ and ‘imprisonments’ alludes to the possibility that he had failed to take the bond of peace issued after Bothwell and perhaps hints that he may have joined the Rising of 1679 and been imprisoned at Greyfriars.
His other claim, to have known the men involved in the Sweet Singers before they split from the Society people, confirms that he was active in the Societies before mid April 1681. It may also hint that Foreman was involved in the Societies in Stirlingshire, an area which lies just across the Forth from Alloa and near to Bo’ness where the Sweet Singers were active. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 200, 205-206.)
Patrick Walker’s Life of Donald Cargill also places Foreman at Cargill’s field preaching at Loudoun Hill on the border of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire on 5 May, 1681 and present when dragoons attacked:
‘They had out no Sentinels that Day, which was not their ordinary; they were so surprized, that some that had been at Pentland, Bothwel, and Airdsmoss, and in other great Dangers, were never so seized with Fear: Some of the Women threw their Children from them, and Mr. Cargill in the Confusion was running straight upon the Enemy. Gavin Wotherspoon and other Friends gripped him, and hal’d him into the Moss to which the People fled; also the Dragoons, fired hard upon them, but there were none either kill’d or taken that Day. The Ball went through Patrick Foreman’s Hair, but his Head was safe, his Hour not being yet come, and that neither the Time nor Place that he was to die’. (Walker, BP, II, 32.)
The presence of Foreman and Witherspoon at Cargill’s side may indicate that Foreman was part of Cargill’s personal guard at field preachings.
Foreman’s testimony does not reveal how or precisely when he was taken prisoner, however, his reference to the ‘evil company’ of John Gibb and the three other Sweet Singer men probably indicates that he was captured either before mid-May 1681, or, more likely, at some point after that and prior to 2 August, as the four Sweet Singer men were held in the Canongate Tolbooth between those dates. (RPCS, VII, 177. See the Capture of the Sweet Singers.)
His listing in August 1681 as one of those suspected of attending field preachings probably indicates that he was picked up after one of Cargill’s final field preachings between mid June and mid July. (RPCS, VII, 190.)
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.)
On 25 August, 1681, Foreman was listed in the Register of the Privy Council as among those ‘suspected as guilty of conventicles’ who were to be set at liberty due General Thomas Dalyell’s failure to find witnesses against them. He was to be liberated on condition that he found caution, agreed to live orderly and to appear when recalled by the Privy Council.
The full list of prisoners suspected of conventicles to be released was as follows:
‘John Miller in Machline, John Gilbert in Loudoun, Andrew Murdoch in Culton, David Rae in Dalrey, John Wyllie in Darvell in Loudoun parish, John Semple at Burskeenim, James Thomson in Covingtoun, Alexander Russell in Randifood, James Bryce in Cutle, Robert Rennie, wright, William Pender, John Gray in Dirngavell, John Inglis, tenant there, James Petticrue in Reidmyre, Robert Davidson, gardener, John Stoddart in St Innes, John Ure in Glasgow, John Cluny, barber, David Farrie in Air, Alexander Anderson, John Hodge, swordslipper in Glasgow, John Gilbert, John Stark, John Miller, Andrew Murdoch, John Wyllie, John Campble in Loudoun, John Anderson in Comerhead, John Corse in Cairnsham, William Dick, James Stewart, Patrick Foreman, John Bryce in Calder, William Young in Egleshem, [Anna Hamilton] the Lady Gilkerscleugh, David Ritchardson in Gilmertoun, and Andrew Howatson’. (RPCS, VII, 189-190.)
Foreman appears to have refused to meet the conditions for his liberation. He was executed at Edinburgh with James Stuart, David Farrie, Robert Garnock and Alexander Russell on 10 October, 1681. A full account of the circumstances of their execution will follow in a later post.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.