Alexander Peden’s Last Preaching at Coilsholm Wood and Peden’s Cove near Failford
Downstream from the village of Failford in Tarbolton parish, Ayrshire, are a set of steps cut into a sandstone cliff by the River Ayr that are alleged to date to the seventeenth century.
Peden’s Cove © Copyright Bovinelife
According to local legend (and the display board), the steps were cut out to allow the Covenanting preacher, Alexander Peden, to preach to his congregation on the other side of the river. It extremely unlikely that the story of preaching to the other bank is true.
Peden’s Cove © Copyright Bovinelife
However, all is not lost.
Peden’s Cove, or rather the sandstone rocks into which the steps are cut, lie in Coilsholm Wood on the northern bank of the Ayr. The wood is shown on General Roy’s map of the 1750s, but is not named. On Blaeu’s map of 1654 it is called ‘Koylam Wood’, which is pretty close to the local pronunciation.
According to Patrick Walker, Peden preached his last sermon at ‘Colum-wood’ or ‘Collomwood, at the water of Air’. John Howie of Lochgoin, who used Walker as his source for his account of the preaching, called the site ‘Collimwood, at the water of Ayr’. (Walker, BP, I, 81, 118; Howie, Scots Worthies, 579.)
It is almost certain that Peden’s last preaching took place in Coilsholm Wood. Peden died on 28 January, 1686, so the likely date for his last field preaching is either late 1685 or in the first weeks of 1686.
Were the steps used? We do not know. However, if they existed at the time, they may have provided a useful escape route for Peden if the field preaching was attacked.
What we do know is what Peden is supposed to have said at Coilsholm Wood. Walker provides information on Peden’s preface, or introduction, to his preaching:
‘Some Notes of Mr. Peden’s last Preface in the Collomwood, at the Water of Air, a little before his Death.
My Master is the Rider, and I’m the Horse; I never love to ride but when I find the Spurs; I know not what I have to do amongst you this Night: He wish’d it might be for their Good, for it would be the last: It is long since it was our Desire to God, to have you taken off our Hand; and now he’s granting us our Desire.
There are four or five Things I have to tell you this Night, and the First is this, A bloody Sword, a bloody Sword, a bloody Sword for thee, O Scotland, that shall pierce the Hearts of many.
2dly, Many Miles shall ye travel, and shall see nothing but Desolation, and ruinous Wastes in thee, O Scotland.
3dly, The fertilest Places in Scotland, shall be as waste and desolate as the Mountains.
4thly, The Women with Child shall be ript up and dashed in Pieces,
5thly, Many a Conventicle has God had in thee, O Scotland; but ere long, God shall have a Conventicle that will make Scotland tremble: Many a Preaching has God waired on thee; but ere long, God’s Judgments, shall be as frequent as these precious Meetings were, wherein he sent forth his faithful Servants, to give faithful Warning of the Hazard of thy Apostacy from God, in breaking, burning, and burying his Covenant, persecuting, slighting, and contemning the Gospel, shedding the precious Blood of his Saints and Servants; God sent forth a Welwood, a Kid and a King, a Cameron and a Cargil, and others to preach to thee; but ere long, God shall preach to thee by Fire, and a bloody Sword. God will let none of these Mens Words fall to the Ground, that he sent forth with a Commission to preach these Things in his Name; he will not let one Sentence fall to the Ground, but they shall have a sure Accomplishment, to the sad Experience of many.’ (Walker, BP, I, 81-2.)
Walker also gives a glimpse of a part of Peden’s last sermon:
‘In his last Sermon, … he said, That a few Years after his Death, there would be a wonderful Alteration of Affairs in Britain and Ireland, and the Persecution in Scotland should cease, upon which every Body should believe the Deliverance was come, and consequently would fall fatally secure: But I tell you, said he, you will be all very far mistaken; for both England and Scotland will be scourg’d by Foreigners, and a Sett of unhappy Men in these Lands, taking Part with them, before any of you can pretend to be happy, or get a through Deliverance: which will he a more severe Chastisement, than any other they have yet met with, or can come under, if once that were over.’ (Walker, BP, I, 118.)
Peden’s Cove and the Coilsholm Wood © Copyright Bovinelife
Peden died soon after the preaching. Walker recounts Peden’s prayer after the sermon:
‘In his Prayer after Sermon, he said, Lord, thou hast been both good and kind to old Sandy, thorow a long Tract of Time, and given him many Years in thy Service, which have been but as so many Months: But now he’s tyr’d of thy World, and hath done the Good in it that he will do; let him win away with the Honesty he has, for he will gather no more.’ (Walker, BP, I, 82.)
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine