The Killings of the Black Clauchrie, Killoup Wood and Half Merk Covenanters

The anonymous Covenanter from Black Clauchrie who was martyred and said to be buried under his hearthstone exists at the very edge of Covenanting tradition.

The Clauchrie Burn © Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

Black Clauchrie sits on the banks of the Clauchrie Burn, a tributary of the River Cree, deep in what was Barr parish in Carrick, Ayrshire. General Roy’s map of the 1750s shows two dwellings near the burn, ‘Black Clochry’ and just to the north of it ‘Cotts of Clochry’.

Map of Black Clauchrie

Towards Black Clauchrie © Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

The Black Clauchrie story is intertwined with that of another obscure martyr allegedly shot at the roadside in Killoup Wood in Old Dailly parish, which is also in the district of Carrick in Ayrshire. Killoup Wood lies a little to the west of Old Dailly.

Map of Killoup Wood

According to Hutchison, the editor of Martyr Graves:

‘The correspondent of Mr Thomson, referred to at the close of the preceding chapter, [Mr D. Mackie, Knockgerran, Girvan,] says further regarding Dailly parish kirkyard: “It is believed that two other martyrs rest in this churchyard one who lived at Blackclauchrie, Barr, and whose hearthstone is placed over his grave; also another, who was shot on the roadside in Killoup-wood, about a mile west from Old Dailly, and is said to have been buried here, but whose grave is unknown.” It does not appear that tradition has preserved any particulars regarding the circumstances in which these martyrs met their fate.’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves of Scotland, 326.)

Both Covenanters are allegedly buried in Old Dailly kirkyard and are mentioned on a monument there.

Old Dailly Church © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

The monument is primarily dedicated to John Stevenson of Camregan, whose home lay next to Killoup Wood.

Stevenson had taken up the Covenanting cause after hearing Thomas Kennedy preach and attended John Welsh’s field preaching at Craigdow in Maybole parish in August 1678. He was at Bothwell and escaped after the defeat. He and his brother Thomas Stevenson are both listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. As a result, he spent the whole period up until the Revolution in hiding around his father’s house at Camregan and at Craigdarroch (NX 740 909) in Glencairn parish, Dumfriesshire, where his wife was a nurse. Stevenson wrote a spiritual autobiography for his family that was published after his death as A soul-strengthening Cordial for old and young Christians. (Lawson, The Covenanters of Ayrshire, 61-8.)

Both Camregan and Killoup Wood were probably owned by Hew Cathcart of Carleton. The inscription on the monument tells a slightly different story to that given above.

‘In Honour of John Stevenson, of Camregan. A man of faith and prayer,
who suffered much for his conscientious adherence to Scotland’s Covenanted work of Reformation. Born 1656. Died 1729.
Erected by the people of this district August 1886’

[On the reverse]

‘Also in memory of John Martin, Schoolmaster, Old Dailly, who after an imprisonment of four years and four months, suffered in the Grassmarket Edinburgh, on 22 nd Feb 1684
for his adherence to the Covenant.

Also of other two Covenanters (Names Unknown) one of whom, according to tradition, was shot dead, while herding his cow at Killoup and the other was struck down on his own hearth at Black Clauchrie, Barr, and is buried near this spot’.

Monument to Stevenson, Martin and the two anonymous Covenanters © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

In that alternative version of the story, the Covenanter shot at Killoup Wood appears to have been a local man ‘herding his cow’. The information about the Black Clauchrie Covenanter claims that he was ‘struck down’ at his home, i.e. at Black Clauchrie, rather than to have been buried under his hearth.

The graveyard also contains a monument to two other martyrs of the Killing Times, John Semple and Thomas McClorgan.

A New Dimension
The Black Clauchrie Covenanter may also be linked to a tradition from Carsphairn parish about a Covenanter named M’Roy or McCroy (McIlroy/Milroy?) who was allegedly shot by Robert Grierson of Lag.

The traditional story of M’Roy’s execution by Lag for reading the Bible is very similar to the stories of Arthur Inglis and William Adam, and, like them, equally implausible. Such stories recall how later generations liked to imagine the Killing Times, rather than the reality of them. The idea that the dragoons should not have ridden on the Sabbath, the day on which most subversive field preachings were conducted, patently reflects later Sabbatarian concerns.

The tradition about M’Roy in Simpson’s 1846 edition is as follows:

‘There lived in the parish of Carsphairn, at a place called Half-Mark, in the vicinity of Garryhorn, the residence of the notorious Lagg, a person of the name of M’Roy. This man was a Covenanter, and was in reality what he professed to be, a holy and upright character. He was a peaceable and unobtrusive man, and one who took great delight in reading the Scriptures and in prayer. It happened one Sabbath morning that this good man, having driven his cows to the fields to graze, sat down on the turf, and having taken from the corner of his plaid the Sacred Volume, began to peruse its blessed contents as an exercise suitable at all times, but more especially on the holy Sabbath. Lagg and his men, it would appear, were early abroad on the same morning, but for a very different purpose—their object was, not to worship God and to keep his Sabbath, but, if possible, to suppress his worship, and to desecrate the hours of holy rest. They sallied out to seek their own pleasure on the Lord’s-day, and with a view to discover any small conventicle of worshippers in the moors, whom they might, as it best suited their caprice, either capture or kill. In their raid they came upon M’Roy devoutly studying the Word of God. The poor man had found his salvation in this Word, and now he was poring over it with a believing and a grateful heart, and enjoying more true satisfaction by far, in the possession of this treasure, than the men of the world can experience in all their riches and in all their fair and spacious inheritances. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”

Garryhorn © Leslie Barrie and licensed for reuse.

This lowly and heavenly-minded man was, in spirit, holding converse with his God, when Lagg and his troopers came suddenly upon him. The good man was taken by surprise, but, by the grace of Him in whom he believed, he was ready for whatever event might befall. The ruthless persecutor asked, in a rough and imperious tone, what book he was reading? The pious man, looking up in his face, meekly replied: “It is the Bible.” And who can tell how much He, who knew what was coming upon his faithful witness, had fortified his heart for his hour of trial, by means of the consolations of that Gospel on which he was meditating at the very moment when his deadly foes presented themselves before him? The reading of the Bible was a sin not to be forgiven by Lagg, who, like the rest of his brotherhood employed in the same work of wickedness with himself, regarded it as a symptom of disloyalty that merited its appropriate punishment. When the honest man made the confession that it was the Word of God he was reading, Lagg instantly exclaimed, that his cows must forthwith find another herd, as his life, as a rebel, was now forfeited. M’Roy no sooner heard the sentence of death pronounced, than Lagg, without ceremony and without compunction, shot him dead on the spot. The summons was indeed hasty, and he was called, at a time and in a place he did not expect, “to seal” his testimony with his blood; but he was not unprepared to enter that rest in heaven, of which the Sabbath he had begun to keep holy on earth was a figure. His murderers left his bleeding body on the heath, and went onward, prepared to act a similar tragedy in the case of the next suspected person with whom they might happen to meet.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 406-7.)

The Halfmark Burn © Leslie Barrie and licensed for reuse.

M’Roy is supposed to have lived in the ‘vicinity’ of Grierson’s base at Garryhorn at a place called ‘Half Merk’. Simpson places Half Merk in Carsphairn parish. There is a Halfmark Burn in Carsphairn parish close to Garryhorn.

Map of Garryhorn         Map of Halfmark Burn

However, ‘Half Merk’ is also specifically the name of a farm and a burn which lie next to Black Clauchrie in the neighbouring parish of Barr.

Map of Half Merk by Black Clauchrie

Is it possible that the tradition about M’Roy in Carsphairn and the fragmentary tradition about the Black Clauchrie Covenanter in Old Dailly parish relate to the same events? They possibly do.

Half Merk and Black Clauchrie are both sited in the wild hills between Barr parish and Carsphairn parish. In the Carsphairn tradition, M’Roy is said to have been discovered in the course of Lag’s ‘raid’ across ‘the moors’ and his bleeding body left ‘on the heath’. In the Old Dailly tradition, the Black Clauchrie Covenanter is said to have been either killed at his ‘hearth’ at Black Clauchrie on the moor, or to have been killed on the moor and buried under his ‘hearth’ stone at Old Dailly. Like the Killoup Wood Covenanter in Old Dailly parish, the Carsphairn tradition has M’Roy involved in herding his cows when he was shot.

The idea that the two traditions are linked is plausible, but that does not necessarily mean that a Covenanter named M’Roy, shot by Lag and buried in Old Dailly churchyard has been identified. Instead, what we have are two later traditions that potentially relate to the same events. It is as if each tradition was using a different astronomical instrument to look at the same scene: while the Carsphairn tradition could see a very detailed but distorted picture, the Old Dailly tradition could only see a distant, fragmented and low resolution image. If we accept that the two traditions are related, then it is clear that neither the traditions of Carsphairn, nor that of Old Dailly, truly saw the whole panorama before them. As a result of their limited view, the events surrounding Black Clauchrie are forever obscured from history.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on January 26, 2012.

8 Responses to “The Killings of the Black Clauchrie, Killoup Wood and Half Merk Covenanters”

  1. […] The area along the boundary between Galloway and Carrick also gave birth to traditions surrounding the killing of a Covenanter from Black Clauchrie. […]

  2. […] other “martyrs” only recorded in tradition, see John Dempster, the Black Clauchrie, Killoup Wood and Half Merk Covenanters, and the Gibb’s Corse […]

  3. […] connected to several killings which are only recorded in Simpson’s traditions – John Dempster, McRoy and, of course, Gracie and […]

  4. […] In 1886, a monument was erected to John Stevenson in Old Dailly kirkyard. […]

  5. […] is associated in later tradition with a number of deaths in the Killing Times. See John Dempster, M’Roy, and the pursuit of Margaret […]

  6. […] 16, 17 & 18. The killings of the Black Clauchrie and Killoup Wood Covenanters and M’Roy in Halfmerk. […]

  7. […] stayed at the neighbouring farm of Garryhorn, rather than Lagwyne. From theere he is supposed to have killed a Covenanter called M’Roy, but there is no historical evidence for the death. He is also supposed to have killed John […]

  8. […] beyond Camregan is Killoup Wood, where unreliable tradition and the monument in the churchyard claim that an unknown Covenanter was […]

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