Shot at Strathaven: The Mystery of William Paterson the Executed Cambusnethan Covenanter

Image from A Hind Let Loose (1687)

In Strathaven kirkyard lies the body of William Paterson, a Covenanter from Cambusnethan parish, Lanarkshire, who was executed by Captain-lieutenant John Bell at some point in 1685, probably between February and mid May. In the same grave is John Barrie, from Kilbride parish, who was shot in April, 1685. Until now, little was known about Paterson. An investigation into the sources for him does not get off to a promising start.

Paterson’s entry in A Short Memorial

The First Record

Paterson’s shooting was first recorded by Alexander Shields in 1690: ‘William Paterson was shot at Strevin [Strathaven], uncertain by whom, 1685’. The same text was also reproduced in Cloud of Witnesses. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 38; Thomson (ed.), CW, 556.)

Paterson’s Grave

His gravestone in Strathaven was erected between 1702 and 1714. It recorded that Paterson and John Barrie were shot by Captain Inglis and Captain-Lieutenant Bell, but did not identify which captain ordered the shooting of Paterson:

‘Here lys tuo mar
tyrs severally
who fell
by Captains
Inglis and by
bloody Bell.’

Wodrow’s William Paterson

In comparison to the scant knowledge that Shields and the inscription on the gravestone possessed of Paterson, Wodrow had considerably more information about him when he published his History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland:

‘Likewise this year [1685] I find William Paterson, son to Robert Paterson in Kirkhill, in the parish of Cambusnethan, who was killed, as we heard, at Ayrs-moss, was shot in the fields.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 253.)

William was the son of the Robert Paterson in Kirkhill, a fugitive from Bothwell who was killed in a skirmish between Richard Cameron’s followers and government forces at Airds Moss in July, 1680. His father was probably a tenant of Thomas Steuart of Coltness, a leading moderate presbyterian. Coltness had sheltered Paterson’s father for some months after Bothwell, but after Airds Moss, William does not appear to have taken over the tenancy of Kirkhill. That may have been due to the hostility of Coltness towards Cameron’s militant followers, but, as discussed below, the evidence suggests that William Paterson and his family had already established themselves elsewhere in the parish.

Map of Kirkhill           Streetview of Kirkhill

Thomas Steuart aka. “Gospel Coltness”

Kirkhill lies in the Clyde Valley in Cambusnethan parish, close by the old ruined kirk of Cambusnethan and the boundary with Dalziel parish. As the son of Robert Paterson in Kirkhill, William was probably kin to the Walter Paterson in Carbarns, Cambusnethan parish, who was killed in the Covenanters’ failed assault on Glasgow in early June 1679.

Wodrow continues William’s story:
‘This good man was cast out of his house some years ago [i.e., a few years before 1685] by his master Muirhouse, merely for noncompliance with prelacy. His poor family was broken and scattered, and he himself forced to wander through many difficulties, at length taken and sent away to be a soldier abroad. There he made his escape, and came home.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 253.)

It is worth examining Wodrow’s narrative of Paterson in detail.

Old Cambusnethan Kirkyard © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

Where was Muirhouse?
According to Wodrow, Paterson was a tenant or servant of Muirhouse. The small estate of Muirhouse lay just west of Kirkhill on the Cambusnethan side of the parish boundary with Dalziel parish and just above the old kirk of Cambusnethan.

It is not clear who the heritor of Muirhouse was in the 1680s. The communion roll for Cambusnethan parish of 1640 lists a ‘Matthew Stewart of Muirhouse’ as the heritor. However, a decade later, the estate was in the possession of ‘Master James Hamiltone of Murrays, minister of the parish’. In the early Eighteenth Century, Muirhouse appears to have been held by James Hamilton (b.c.1697-d.1788), the second son of James Hamilton, 3rd of Dalzell (b.1670-1727). (Somerville, Memorie of the Somervilles, II, 412.)

James Hamilton of Murrays was the minister of Cambusnethan parish from 1635 until possibly 1668. Hamilton purchased the Murrays from Matthew Stewart at some point before 1648, when he became involved in a protracted dispute over the location of Cambusnethan Kirk between the Stewarts of Kirkfield and Allanton, and Somerville of Cambusnethan. Part of the dispute lay over relocating the manse. Hamilton of Murrays was married to Margaret Thomson (d.1667), the granddaughter of Mr Thomas Muirhead ‘of Kirkhill’, the minister of Cambusnethan between 1592 and 1634. At the Restoration, Hamilton of Murrays was raised to Bishop of Galloway and in 1669 purchased the estate of Broomhill from his elder brother, John Hamilton, 1st Lord Belhaven (d.1679). Hamilton of Murrays died in 1674. He left behind two sons, James Hamilton of Broomhall, an advocate who died unmarried in 1675, and John Hamilton of Broomhall (1658-1720), who died without issue. It is possible that John Hamilton held the Murrays in the 1680s and was responsible for evicting Paterson, if his father retained the Murrays after he purchased the Broomhall estate. (Birnie, Account of the families of Birnie and Hamilton of Broomhill, xiii-xiv, xvii., 48, 63; Fasti, III, 240.)

According to Tom Orr’s Historic Sketches: Burgh of Motherwell and Wishaw (1925):
‘Muirhouse, the property of the Dalzell family, is situated on the Wishaw Back Road, within half a mile of Dalzell House. It was at one time the residence of the clergyman when public worship was performed at the Old Kirk, Cambusnethan, from which it is little more than a quarter of a mile distant. During the middle of the Eighteenth Century it was the residence of Mr. James Hamilton a brother of the Laird of Dalzell’.

What is clear is that the lands at Muirhouse were held by one of the smaller heritors within the bounds of Cambusnethan parish, as ‘Muirhouse’ and other heritors took part in a protracted dispute with Steuart of Coltness over where they sat in the new kirk built at Greenhead in the mid 1650s.

On Blaeu’s Map of Lower Clydesdale of 1654, Muirhouse does not appear, but the placename ‘Murrayen’ is recorded beside the auld kirk of Cambusnethan. Murrayen lies in the same place as Muirhouse would be expected to be on the map. (Blaeu’s map on the NLS website.)

It is also clear that Muirhouse/Murrayen was known as ‘Murrays’: a similar interchangeable use of the name Muirhouse/Murrays is found at Muirhouse outside of Edinburgh.

Paterson the fugitive in Murrays

The identification of Muirhouse as Murrayen/Murrays leads to the identification of William Paterson on the Fugitive Roll of 1683 to 1684, as a ‘William Paterson in Murrays’ is recorded on the roll under Cambusnethan parish. The Fugitive Roll confirms Wodrow’s claim that William Paterson was a tenant or servant of Muirhouse, but it also undermines his claim that Paterson was evicted merely for nonconformity to episcopacy, as Paterson was declared a fugitive at Glasgow in mid 1683. It is possible that Muirhouse did turn Paterson out for nonconformity at some point prior to 1683, but it is perhaps more likely that the declaration of Paterson as a fugitive at Glasgow led to Paterson’s family being turned out of their home. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 194.)

Wodrow’s claim that Paterson was evicted by Muirhouse ‘merely for noncompliance with prelacy’ is also undermined by Paterson residing in Cambusnethan parish, as since 1672 that parish had an indulged presbyterian, William Vilant, as its minister. It would have been perfectly lawful for Paterson to attend Vilant’s sermons at Greenhead, however, Paterson’s family background and unwillingness to swear allegiance to the king in 1683 suggest that he held more militant views than Vilant and may have refused to attend his preaching. In other words, Paterson may have been turned out for not conforming to the indulgences, rather than episcopacy.

Dalzell House © Paul McIlroy and licensed for reuse.

The later connection between Muirhouse/Murrays and the Hamiltons of Dalzell may suggest that Paterson’s ‘landlord’ may have been kin to Alexander Hamilton, 2nd of Dalzell (b.c.1647-d.1691). Muirhouse lay right behind Dalzell Tower, the home of the Hamiltons of Dalzell.

Map of Dalzell House

The Hamiltons had acquired the barony of Dalzell from the earl of Carnwath in 1647, after they had made a fortune supplying the Covenanting army.

The Hamilton Mausoleum at Dalzell by Jonathan Oldenbuck (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Dalzell and the Covenanters’ Oak

According to presbyterian tradition, the Hamiltons of Dalzell were sympathetic to the presbyterian cause and allowed field preachings to be held at the nearby Covenanters’ Oak. The minister named by tradition as preaching at the Oak was John Lauder (1631-1691). He was the indulged minster at Dalziel from 1670 until 1684, when he was deprived for not praying for the deliverance of Charles II and James, Duke of York, from the Rye House Plot. (Fasti, I, 179; III, 248.)

The Covenanters’ Oak © Elliott Simpson and licensed for reuse.

The Covenanters’ Oak lies about 400m west of Dalzell House near the driveway. At over 800 years old, it has been described as ‘the oldest living thing in North Lanarkshire’ although the Yew trees in the nearby Adder Gill are far older. In 2008, part of the Covenanters’ Oak collapsed and a project is underway to save it. Details about the tree and the rescue project can be found here.

Like Vilant, the John Lauder who preached at the Oak was a moderate presbyterian who accepted the King’s authority. He returned to the parish in 1687 under James VII’s toleration and translated to West Calder parish in 1689. As a moderate presbyterian, Lauder would have opposed the Society people after their Sanquhar Declaration of 1680 renounced the King’s authority. (Fasti, I, 179; III, 248.)

The Monument Darmead. Reproduced by the very kind permission of Jon Morrice

The Indulged Presbyterian Minister of Cambusnethan

Unlike Lauder, Vilant faced a strong challenge from the Society people in his own parish. The moorland site of Darmead, which lies deep in the eastern uplands of the parish, was the location for the Societies’ eleventh convention on 3 October 1683. It was also a field preaching site of great symbolic importance for the Society people. In April 1680, Richard Cameron, Donald Cargill and Thomas Douglas had launched their field preaching campaign there, and in late 1683, James Renwick preached on the same spot. (Shields, FCD, 104-112; Walker, BP, I, xxxi; 197, 267-8, 296.)

Map of Darmead

The Covenanter William Paterson may have faced hostility from members of the local elite other than Muirhouse.

William Vilant’s public opposition to the Societies’ platform was well known. In 1681, Vilant had attacked the works of the chief ideologues of the Societies when he published a response to John Brown’s History of the Indulgence (1678) and Richard Cameron’s Sanquhar Declaration of 1680 in A Review and Examination of a Book bearing the Title of the History of Indulgence …to which is added, a Survey of the mischievous absurdities of the late bond, and the Sanquhair Declaration (London, 1681).

In May 1683, Vilant and John Oliphant, the indulged minister of Stonehouse parish, also appear to have been responsible for making scandalous accusations against the Societies:

‘A few weeks before this [i.e. in May 1683], to the number of 30 men meet betwixt the Kirk of the Shotts and Cambusnethen, who had beforehand forsaken the ordinances of God, and there did debate the authority of the Scriptures, and thereafter played at the foot ball with them, and after that burned them; this was verified by two ministers, Mr William Violet and Mr John Oliphant, who had certain information of it.’ (Law, Memorials, 248; Fasti, III, 280.)

Vilant’s incendiary accusations of football with the scriptures and bible burning may have been part of a wider coordinated campaign to smear the United Societies by moderate presbyterians during the Rye House Plots of 1683. The Societies later alleged that at the same time as Vilant had accused them of bible burning, that James Steuart of Goodtrees (or Gutters), the brother of Thomas Steuart of Coltness, was involved in similar dirty tricks in the United Provinces.

The evidence for James Steuart of Goodtree’s anti-Societies propaganda comes from a letter sent by William Brackel, the minister of Leeuwarden in Friesland, to Robert Hamilton, the Societies’ commissioner in the United Provinces, in the run up to James Renwick’s ordination by the Classis of Groningen in May 1683.

According to the Societies, Brackel’s letter was based on an ‘information’ sent to him by Robert Langlands and George Barclay, two moderate-presbyterian ministers in exile in Rotterdam, that had been drawn up after ‘Mr. [George] Barclay had been at a consultation with James Stuart [of Goodtrees], Mr. Gordon, and some others, where an information was condescended upon to be sent away against us [i.e. the Societies]’. (Shields, FCD, 171.)

According to the Societies’ brief summary of Brackel’s letter, the information had contained four charges against the Societies which were designed to halt any ordination of Societies’ students by the Classis.

First, that the Societies had ‘not only cast [off] all magistrates now ruling in Scotland, but moreover, had constituted among ourselves all kinds of magistrates, a Chancellor and President over all great men, &c. Orders, or Lords for a public politic convention, usurping an imagined power over the commands of those that are in authority; yea saying that all are to be cut off as open enemies, who do not acknowledge that government’.

That charge claimed that the Society people had set up their own government after they had rejected the authority of the Restoration regime. In a letter in later 1683, the Societies did acknowledged that they had laid claim to the ‘legislative powers of the nation’ and ‘the powers of Parliament’. The charge was also a direct attack on the Sanquhar Declaration and the Societies’ general convention. The Societies did have a praeses or president appointed by the convention. In 1683 it was George Hill from Caldercruix. There is no direct reference to the convention having a chancellor, but Patrick Walker was in charge of the contributions and distribution of the Societies’ funds in the late 1680s.

Second, ‘that the Societies are not pure in religion, which, they say, is manifest by questions proponed to all who are admitted to their fellowship, &c.’

The second charge was an attack on the questions which were put to all delegates of the Societies’ general convention as to whether that were free of the sins of the land, such as the indulgences, taking oaths and bonds etc. In other words, the Societies insisted on questions which had not been agreed by the Presbyterian church.

Third, ‘that the Societies are only a faction, and not a church, and that they have no power of calling pastors, or of giving ecclesiastic testimonies to any man; saying that they themselves are the most pure church, and that they have pastors, presbyteries and synods, and that it is their part to examine students, and to confirm them in the ministry with the imposition of hands, and that it is not lawful for any Hollandish Presbytery to pluck that right out of their hands.’

The third charge attacked the Societies’ claim to be the ‘true’ presbyterian church of Scotland on the grounds that other moderate presbyterians were backsliders from true testimony. It also attacked the Classis of Groningen (a formal meeting of Dutch ministers) for the potentially unlawful ordination of the Societies’ students.

Fourth, ‘that the [Societies’] students that were at Groningen were: not of an unblameable life’.

The Societies were curiously reticent to expand on the meaning of the final charge, perhaps as it involved James Renwick, but in part it claimed that John Nisbet, one of the Societies’ prospective students, had plotted to assassinate ‘one’, possibly meaning either the bishop of Edinburgh, or perhaps Charles II in the Rye House Plot. (Shields, FCD, 170-1.)

While Vilant attacked the Societies in Scotland and James Steuart of Goodtrees spread information against them to their Dutch allies, Thomas Steuart of Coltness is alleged to have been part of a Scottish delegation of moderate presbyterians sent to London that threw as much mud as possible at the reputation of the Societies among English whigs.

According to government sources, Steuart of Coltness was one of a delegation of Scottish moderate presbyterians who planed a joint insurrection with prominent English whigs to overthrow Charles II.:

[Coltness] and his said accomplices did upon the […] days of January, February, March, April, May and June 1683 meet, cabal or by letters and agents correspond and consult anent the carrying on of a most horrid and damnable rebellion and conspiracy against the person of his majesty’s royal brother, King Charles II, and against his majesty’s own person and government.

And for the better and surer carrying on of the same, the deceased [James Campbell], earl of Loudoun, Sir James Dalrymple of Stair, James Stewart [of Goodtrees], sometime advocate, son to the deceased Sir James Stewart [of Coltness], sometime provost of Edinburgh, and Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun went over to Holland to manage and negotiate the same with the late [Archibald Campbell], earl of Argyll, a forfeited and declared traitor, and other rebels and traitors there.

And Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, with George [Melville], lord Melville, Sir Hugh and Sir George Campbell of Cessnock, John Weir of Newton, David Montgomery of Lainshaw, William Denholm of Westshiels, Mr Robert Martin, sometime clerk to the justice court, Mr Gilbert Elliott, sometime writer in Edinburgh, and the said Thomas Stewart of Coltness went to London pretending to negotiate the settlement of a Scots colony in Carolina, but truly and really to treat anent and carry on the said rebellion and conspiracy with [Anthony Ashley Cooper], earl of Shaftesbury and [Arthur Capel, earl of] Essex, [William Russell], lord Russell and others in England who had likewise entered in a treasonable design for rising in arms in that kingdom against his majesty, their native prince and sovereign; for killing, at least seizing on, his majesty’s sacred person and the person of his highness’s royal brother, King Charles II; and for forcing him and his present majesty to condescend to such proposals as they, the said damnable conspirators, should make.’ (RPS, A1685/4/12.)

Given the known hostility of Vilant and Coltness to the Society people in May, 1683, is it a coincidence that Paterson appears to have been evicted at around the same time?

Paterson’s Banishment
Wodrow claims that Paterson’s family were ‘broken and scattered’ after his eviction from Muirhouse/Murrays and that Paterson ‘forced to wander through many difficulties’ until at some later date he was ‘taken and sent away to be a soldier abroad’.

There is no record of Paterson’s banishment to Charles II’s army in Flanders, however, there is only one record of such an event in this period and it involved several individuals from Cambusnethan parish who were captured in October, 1683. Wodrow’s story appears to indirectly link Paterson’s story to that of other fugitives and residents of Cambusnethan parish who were banished to the army in Flanders in March 1684, although Wodrow does not make that link.

Here is Wodrow’s account of the banishment:

‘Some time in October this year [1683], James Forrest in Old-yards, in the parish of Cambusnethan, and his son, with his nephew Robert Gourlay, were seized by a party of soldiers. They had nothing to charge them with save an allegiance, that the suffering people sometimes lodged in James’ house. When they were taken, the house was spoiled of goods to a considerable value. After some time’s imprisonment they were banished to West Flanders: thence they made their escape, and returned home the close of the next year [i.e., 1684]. In a little time he and his son, and daughter Margaret Forrest, were seized, and she was banished to [Perth Amboy in New] Jersey [by Pitlochie in late 1685], and they to Jamaica [in 1685], after long imprisonment.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 446.)

According to Alexander Shields, ‘afterwards were banished to Flanders, 7. men’. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 33.)

There is no mention of Paterson’s name among the seven banished to Flanders:

‘These seven following were sentenced and banished to West Flanders, who departed the kingdom, March 4, 1684:
Thomas Jackson [in Eastwood], George Jackson, James Forrest elder, James Forrest younger, John Coline [or Collin], James Gourlay, ——– Gillies [Wodrow names the latter ‘Dennis Gilcreif’]’. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 524.)

The reason why the banishment of the seven men was recorded was that they subscribed a joint testimony that can be found in the Wodrow manuscripts in the NLS. (Wod.Oct.XXIX, f.271.)

In the mid nineteenth century, Simpson collected a tradition about a James Gourlay in Cambusnethan parish: (Simpson, Traditions, 306.)

The exclusion of William Paterson from the list of those banished could mean either that his banishment did not occur or that the records of it are no longer extant. The latter is probably the reason.

Two other individuals, whose names are also not on the list of seven banished to Colonel Gage’s Regiment in Flanders, are recorded by John Erskine of Carnock:

‘[29 Feb, 1684,] Upon a report that George Buchanan, once a tennant of my brother’s, in Kippen parish, and John M’Lean, there, were given to Col. Gage to take ot Flanders for soldiers, I went to the Cannongate Tolbooth, where they were and found by them that such a proposal had been made to them by the Committee of Council’. (Erskine, Memoirs, 39.)

Wodrow claims that Paterson ‘made his escape, and came home’. Perhaps like others banished to Flanders, Paterson returned in late 1684.

The Capture and Shooting of William Paterson
Wodrow describes the day that Paterson was shot as follows:

‘After some time’s hiding, he was again this year [1685] taken in a place called Charon-heugh, upon a sabbath. There were fourteen persons in that place, ten of whom, on the soldiers’ approach, got into a secret place in the cave, William and three others were taken, the other three took the abjuration. William refusing it, the soldiers carried him with them to Evandale castle [in Strathaven], where that afternoon, without any trial, he was shot by captain Bell.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 253.)

What Wodrow meant by ‘home’ is not clear, but it is quite liekly that he returned to Cambusnethan parish where Paterson knew people. If he did return from banishment, Paterson was automatically a fugitive who had to avoid the authorities. His luck ran out.

Garrion Haugh © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

Where was he captured?
According to Wodrow, he was captured at ‘Charon heugh’. I have been unable to identify any location with such a name on historical or modern maps. It is a reasonable assumption that ‘Charon heugh’ lay within a reasonable distance of Strathaven. According to the Reverend Peter Brown, ‘Charon heugh’ was Garrion Haugh, a farm to the east of Muirhouse and Kirkhill in Cambusnethan parish. (Brown, Historical Sketches of Cambusnethan Parish)

Map of Garrion Haugh

It is also possible that ‘Charon heugh’ may be a transcription error for other local locations close to Paterson’s former home at Muirhouse and his father’s home at Kirkhill. ‘Charon heugh’ could easily be an error for “Carbarns heugh”. However, no location of that name is listed on any map. Another possibility is Baron’s Haugh, which is now a nature reserve on the banks of the Clyde just downstream from Carbarns and Kirkhill, and right next to Dalzell.

Map of Baron’s Haugh

The placename element ‘heugh’ mainly refers to a steep bank or glen, but it was also applied to early modern coal workings which were often located at places where coal seams were exposed. An example may have been found at Garrion Gill, next to Garrion Haugh. (Simpson, Traditions, 306 onwards.)

The most likely candidates for the location of Paterson’s capture are all in the Clyde Valley and close to his former home. Many fugitives were captured near their homes. All of the locations mentioned are reasonably close to Strathaven and would fit Wodrow’s chronology of the day.

Jacob’s Ladder in Garrion Gill © M22RDY and licensed for reuse.

The ‘Cave’
Wodrow mentions that Paterson was captured on the Sabbath and that ‘fourteen persons’ were in hiding at ‘Charon heugh’. When the soldiers approached, Paterson and three others were captured, but ten managed to get ‘into a secret place in the cave’.

The precise circumstances are not clear, but it appears that either Paterson and the other three did not manage to gain entry to the ‘cave’ and were captured, or that they did, but were not well concealed in the cave.

The use of the term ‘cave’ to describe a hiding place often appears in later Covenanting tradition, but it was often applied to manmade dugouts or perhaps, in this case, to a coal pit. For an example of a dug out of that size, see Claverhouse’s discovery of one at Priesthill or the dugout used by those who escaped from Edinburgh Tolbooth.

Paterson and the Abjuration Oath
Wodrow claims that Paterson and the other three were proffered the Abjuration oath that renounced the United Societies’ war against the state. Paterson’s refusal to take the oath signals his support for the Societies.

The claim that he was not shot on the spot implies that the troopers who captured him were not accompanied by an officer who was commissioned to carry out the immediate execution of any individual who refused the oath.

Strathaven Castle

Paterson’s refusal to take the oath resulted in him being brought to ‘Captain Bell’ at Evandale Castle, aka. Strathaven Castle, which was garrisoned by government troops. In 1685, Bell was in fact ‘captain-lieutenant’ of a company in the Earl of Mar’s Regiment of Foot.

Bell may have been an ensign in Lord James Douglas’s Regiment of Foot raised in 1678. On 14 December, 1681, he had been commissioned as the lieutenant to the earl of Dalhousie’s company in Mar’s regiment. On 1 April, 1684, Bell had been commissioned captain-lieutenant of his company and on 30 March, 1685, he was once again recorded as ‘captain-lieutenant’ of a company. A captain-lieutenant was the leading lieutenant of the regiment. The reference to Bell as ‘Captain Bell’ refers to his title after he was promoted to the rank of captain on 23 April, 1688. He accompanied Mar’s regiment to England in October of that year. In short, John Bell was known as Captain-Lieutenant Bell in 1685. (Dalton, Scots Army, 102, 114, 115, 117, 154.)

Strathaven Castle, the site of Paterson’s execution, lies in the centre of the town.

Map of Strathaven Castle   Street View of Strathaven Castle

The shooting of Paterson was the only incident in the Killing Times that involved Captain-Lt Bell. His company appears been stationed at Stirling in November or December, 1684, when one of Bell’s sergeants, John Downie, is alleged to have stripped presbyterian prisoners of their cash. Sergeant Downie is recorded on the muster roll for Marr’s Regiment of Foot in 1682. (Dalton, Scots Army, 125.)

The incident was recorded in Wodrow and involved funds being syolen from Robert Orr of Millbank, James Allan, portioner of Kerse, John Orr of Jamphreystock [now Jeffreystock], James Ramsay, portioner of Auchinbane [now Auchenhain], John Orr of Hills, Robert Sempill of Balgreen, William Orr, portioner of Keam [now Kaim], and Robert Blackburn of Landiestone [Langstilly?], who were all heritors from Lochwinnoch parish in Renfrewshire. See Wodrow, History, IV, 135.

When was Paterson executed?
Paterson’s execution is only dated to 1685 in general. Can that time frame be narrowed down?

Paterson may have returned to Scotland around the end of 1684. After that he is described as having spent ‘some time’ in hiding before he was captured. Paterson’s death appears to fit a pattern of shootings following the abandonment of the general pressing of the Abjuration oath after Charles II’s death in early February until mid May, 1685. It is not known when Captain-Lieutenant Bell’s company moved into Lanarkshire or garrisoned Strathaven, although some time in the spring of 1685 seems the most likely period.

Paterson and Barrie’s Grave at Strathaven.

Paterson’s Grave

Paterson was later buried high up in Strathaven cemetery. The cemetery lies opposite the castle just off Castle Street. Cloud of Witnesses records the inscription on his gravestone in Strathaven churchyard, where Barrie is buried with William Paterson:

‘Here lyes the corpses of
William Paterson and John
Barrie, vho vas
shot to death for their adhering to the

Word of God and
our Covenants
anno 1685.
Here lys tuo mar
tyrs severally
who fell
by Captains
Inglis and by
bloody Bell.
posterity shall
knou theyre shot
to death
as sacrifices
un to Popish
(Gibson, Inscriptions, 98; Thomson (ed.), CW, 573.)

Paterson and Barrie’s gravestone was recorded in the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses (1714) and was almost certainly erected between 1702 and 1714. It ‘renewed’ by Reformers in 1832.

The presence of two martyrs in one grave does not necessarily signify that they were executed either in the same event, or at the same time. For example, David Halliday in Mayfield and David Halliday in Glengap were shot in different locations a couple of months apart, but both bodies are said to be buried in the same grave in Balmaghie kirkyard.

The Barrie/Paterson grave may be a post-Revolution, reburial, which brought together the bodies of local Covenanters in consecrated ground, e.g. the grave in Cupar of Hackstoun of Rathillet, Lawrence Hay and Andrew Pitalloch brought their body parts together.

The fact that Alexander Shields listed both men separately in A Short Memorial probably indicates that Paterson and Barrie were shot at different times and in different locations. How long the gap between those events was is not known, but the form of Paterson’s killing – shot in the fields – and Shields’ date of 1685, almost certainly means that Paterson was killed within at most a couple months of Barrie. We know that Barrie was shot in April, 1685. As Paterson was proffered the Abjuration oath, he was shot after January. Since the Killing Times tailed off after mid May and had more-or-less ended by mid July, the most likely period for Paterson’s summary execution is between February and mid May, 1685.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on January 25, 2012.

10 Responses to “Shot at Strathaven: The Mystery of William Paterson the Executed Cambusnethan Covenanter”

  1. […] Shot at Strathaven: The Mystery of William Paterson the Executed Cambusnethan Covenanter ( […]

  2. […] parish; Paterson in Kirkhill (killed 1680), James Stewart in Coltness (executed 1681), and William Paterson in Murrays (executed in […]

  3. […] as it is the parish burial ground. Indeed, there is a strong hint in Shields’ account of William Paterson’s death, who appears to have been killed at a different time from Barrie but is buried in the […]

  4. […] in Lochwinnoch parish held by the authorities. In late 1684, several heritors from there were allegedly robbed while being held in Stirling Castle for refusing to test and bond at Glasgow. Some where later sent to […]

  5. Did William Paterson die without issue, do you know? And did he have any brothers and sisters? It would be interesting to trace forward any descendants of Wm Paterson or his siblings to see if any stories and/or memorabliia have passed down the lines.

  6. Correct, Murrays is Muirhouse. Vide the draft manuscript by Timothy Pont (the source of Blaeu’s map), which records Muirhouse as “Murrayes”. It’s said that Blaeu had difficulty with Pont 😉 See

  7. Another fascinating blog, Sir! We have a workshop on the 4th of October 2015 to kick off a project to research, record and restore the ancient graveyard at Cambusnethan as part of our campaign to restore Cambusnethan Priory as a visitor centre for a community park with historic sites of interest. This is supported by the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership – if you are interested, please see:

  8. […] son, William Paterson in Muirhouse, was summarily executed at Strathaven and buried there in 1685. Muirhouse/the Murrays lay next to Kirkhill and the old graveyard. (See the 1816 map above for […]

  9. […] as it is the parish burial ground. Indeed, there is a strong hint in Shields’ account of William Paterson’s death, who appears to have been killed at a different time from Barrie but is buried in the […]

  10. […] The story of the William Paterson who was executed at Strathaven and buried with John Barrie is dealt with in this post. […]

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