Bloody Drummond, Bible Burning and the Barrhill Martyrs

The shootings of Daniel McIlwraith, John Murchie and Alexander Linn in June or early July, 1685, are all connected to ‘Bloody Drummond’, the executioner of the five Mauchline Martyrs.

Their deaths were first recorded by Alexander Shields in 1690:

‘Liev. Gen. [William] Drummond commanded without any Process of Tryal John Murchie, and Daniel Mckilwrick, to be immediatly shot, after they were taken, in the Paroch of Comonel in Carrick, Anno, 1685. At the same time, his Souldiers did shoot dead Alex. Lin.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 36-7.)

As usual, Cloud of Witnesses reprinted Shields’ text with minor spelling corrections. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 545.)

Lt-General Drummond

When Were They Shot?
The deaths of all three men are linked to Lieutenant-General William Drummond of Cromlix, who was recorded in the West on four separate occasions during the Killing Times.

Drummond’s interest in Ayrshire came through his possession of the forfeited estate of Kersland, which in other circumstances would have belonged to Daniel Ker of Kersland. From mid 1685, the latter was involved in the Societies.

In early October, 1684, Drummond sat on a circuit court held at Ayr which took evidence from local ministers about those who were deemed disorderly within their parishes. (Wodrow, History, IV, 125.)

From 4 December, 1684, until 1 January, 1685, Drummond held a justiciary commission for all of the western and southern shires and was given a considerable force to carry out his instructions. About half the Scottish army was placed at his disposal for December: half of the troop of His Majesty’s Life Guards, four troops of His Majesty’s Regiment of Horse (which included the troops of Major William, lord Ross, Captain Colin Lindsay, earl of Balcarres, and Captain James Ogilvy, earl of Airlie), all six troops of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons (i.e., the troops of General Thomas Dalyell, Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Charles Murray, Captain John Wedderburn of Gosford, Captain John Strachan, Captain William Cleland, Captain John Inglis) and two companies of Mar’s Regiment of Foot.

Given the broad date of 1685 for the killings of McIlwraith, Murchie and Lin, it is reasonable to presume that they were not victims of Drummond’s activities in late 1684.

On 13 February, 1685, Drummond was commissioned to administer the oaths to gentlemen in Ayrshire processed for church irregularities. (Wodrow, History, IV, 214.)

It is far more likely that their deaths occurred when Drummond returned to the western and southern shires in command of a predominately Highland force in late April, 1685. From their line of advance, the first 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 Mauchline.

Where Drummond went next is not clear. We know that his command of western forces did not last long. In late May, command over the army in the West was handed to the earl of Dumbarton at the start of the Argyll Rebellion. Drummond’s justiciary commission also expired on 1 June. The latter date is not the last possible date for the killings of the three men, as Drummond remained in the field in June or early July.

According to the account of the capture of Gilbert McIlroy, Drummond was at the church in Barr in Carrick in June or eraly July, 1685. His presence in Carrick suggests that the killings of McIlwraith, Murchie and Linn took place at around the same time. In other words, all three men were probably shot in June or early July, 1685.

Drummond’s presence at Barrhill in Colmonell parish, Carrick, probably indicates that he and some of his men were conducting a sweep through the hills between Carrick and Galloway. Drummond’s campaign strategy relied on speed and manoeuvre to capture fugitives and suppress the King’s enemies.

The Killing of McIlwraith and Murchie
Daniel McIlwraith and John Murchie were shot near Barrhill in Colmonell parish in Carrick, Ayrshire.

Shields’ chronology of events is that both men were spotted, pursued, apprehended and then shot on Lieutenant-General Drummond’s orders. His phrase that they were shot ‘without any Process of Tryal’ probably means that they subjected to a summary execution in the field after failing to take the Abjuration oath, rather than shot out of hand. Drummond was a strict disciplinarian with his troops and probably would not have shot the two men merely on a whim. His instructions clearly permitted him to conduct summary executions:

‘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.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 209.)

Neither McIlwraith nor Murchie appear on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. However, it is possible that they were either fugitives from Drummond’s circuit court at Ayr in early October, 1684, or captured in possession of arms.

Local Traditions

According to a later local tradition recorded by Thomson in the late nineteenth century, McIlwraith was a local man who ‘belonged to the Altercannoch family’ in Colmonell parish. Murchie was described as a ‘friend’ of McIlwraith from the neighbouring parish of Barr in Carrick, Ayrshire.

Thomson’s local tradition also claims that their possession of bibles was considered a sign of guilt and features a caricature of an evil persecutor happily burning the bible. Such stories reflect how later generations imagined the persecution of the Killing Times, rather than the reality of that period. Perhaps the only circumstance in which the discovery of bibles may have been considered suspicious would have been if Drummond was in pursuit of people fleeing one of Renwick’s field preachings. The tradition, as reported by Thomson, does not mention that possibility. It is as follows:

‘They were on the top of a hill, that rises behind the Free Church manse [in Barrhill], when they were seen by Drummond and his dragoons guided by the Laird of Bellymore.’

Street View of hill behind the Manse

In 1685, the setting for the shootings was different from today. At that time, the village, church and manse of Barrhill did not exist. Even on General Roy’s map of the 1750s, it is represented in a similar way to the neighbouring farm of Altercannoch.

Bellamore © James Allan and licensed for reuse.

One interesting aspect of the tradition, is the role of the laird of Bellymore who guided Drummond through the hills to Altercannoch. The laird was either David Kennedy of Bellymore or his son, who resided just across the parish boundary of Colmonell at Bellymore/Bellimore/Bellamore in Barr parish. How willing Bellymore was to discover fugitives is not known, but his local knowledge (combined with his possible loyalty to the Restoration regime) may have been a crucial factor. In 1685, the area was poorly-mapped deep hill country.

Map of Bellamore

‘As soon as Meiklewrick and his companion perceived the soldiers, they ran west to Altercannoch, but were overtaken. Bibles were found in their possession. This was enough to condemn them, and without any process or trial they were instantly shot. Their bodies were left where they fell, but under covert of night two women came and buried them where they now rest. It is said their Bibles were carried to Old Kildonan House, and cast into the fire, while Drummond used his sword as a poker, stirring them up until they were reduced to ashes.’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 319-20.)

The image of Drummond as Bible burner is probably far fetched. In 1685, burning the Bible would have meant burning the king’s name, as a loyal address to James VI featured in the preface. Drummond was also married to a daughter of a famous Covenanter, Archibald Johnston of Wariston. It is hard to imagine that Drummond could have committed such a treasonable and blasphemous act.

Cross Water © James Allan and licensed for reuse.

McIlwraith and Murchie were shot and buried not far from Altercannoch near the Cross Water, also known as the Cross Water of Duisk.

Map of Grave       Street View towards Grave from Barrhill

According to Thomson, McIlwraith is said to have belonged to the family Altercannoch. That is a reasonable presumption given that a Gilbert McIlwraith in Alterannoch renewed their gravestone in 1787 and the fact that both men were shot near Altercannoch.

Map of Altercannoch         Street View of Laigh Altercannoch

The old farm at Daljarrock lay to the left of the bridge © Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

The probable familial connection between Daniel McIlwraith and Gilbert in Altercannoch may indicate that Daniel was related in some way to a militant fugitive who was also named Gilbert McIlwraith. A ‘Gilbert MacKilwrath in Dalwharroch’, i.e., Daljarrock, in Colmonell parish is listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 212.)

Map of Daljarrock          Street View of Daljarrock

On 15 October, 1685, ‘Gilbert M’Ilwrick in Colmmonel [parish?]’, a prisoner in Edinburgh, was brought before the privy council and ordered to be tried for ‘not owning the king’s authority, and refusing to take the oaths of allegiance and abjuration’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 223.)

The Gilbert McIlwraith in Daljarrock was obviously sympathetic to the Societies’ war against the Restoration regime.

Chased from New Luce?

In 1892, the Reverend Robert Lawson added a new dimension to the story by introducing a second tradition, which contradicts key elements of Thomson’s tradition:

‘It is not known what the particular crime of these two young men was; but, in all probability, they had been present at Rullion Green or Bothwell Bridge, and this was accounted sufficient. They were discovered at New Luce [parish?], about 12 miles off, had been pursued hither by soldiers, and found hidden in a farm house called Alticannoch. Taken from the house and searched, Bibles were found on them, which was accounted proof positive. Without any trial, they were forthwith shot, and left where they lay. But two women (less likely, therefore, to be interfered with) came by night, and performed the friendly office of burying their bodies where they now lie. The place is singularly secluded, although close to the village; and the rough rocks about, and the babbling burn beside, keep watch over the solitary graves.’ (Lawson, Places of Interest About Girvan (1892), chapter 22.)

In Lawson’s tradition, both men do not appear to have been locals, but were pursued across the hills from New Luce parish in Wigtownshire and found at Altercannoch.

It would be easy to dismiss Lawson’s tradition as a later invention if it was not for a couple of connections between them and the New Luce area.

First, their deaths are connected to that of Alexander Linn, who was killed close to New Luce parish.

Second, there are a number of individuals listed on the parish list for Glenluce of October, 1684, named John Murchie. At the time Glenluce parish incorporated New Luce parish. The wife of one John Murchie, Janet McMorland, was listed at the head of the parish list as refusing depone. (Parish Lists of Wigtownshire and Minnigaff, 1684, 10.)

Was the executed John Murchie from New Luce/Glenluce parish? Did he seek shelter with Daniel McIlwraith at Altercannoch? There is no way of knowing.

Martyrs’ Grave at Barrhill © James Allan and licensed for reuse.

The Grave Near Barrhill

The first monument on the grave was erected at some point before the inscription on it was recorded in the third edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1730. According to Cloud it read:

‘Here lies John Murchie and Daniel M’Ilwraith, martyrs. By bloody Drummond they were shot. 1685.

Here in this place two martyrs ly,
Whose blood to heaven hath a loud cry,
Murder’d contrary to Divine laws
For owning of King Jesus’ cause.
By bloody Drummond they were shot,
Without any trial near this spot.’ (Thomson (ed.), CW, 598.)

The stone was renewed in 1787 (a three foot by two foot stone) which was in still in situ, but in fragments, when Thomson visited the site in the middle of the nineteenth century. Thomson did not record the poetic inscription on the reverse of the stone that he saw:

‘Here lys John
Murchie and
Daniel M c jlurick
martyrs By
bloody
Drummon
they were
shot 1685.

[On the Reverse]

Renewed By
Glibt M c lurick
in Alticonnach
1787.’

A third monument was erected in 1825, which restored the poetic inscription:

‘Erected Anew
A.D. 1825
To the memory of
JOHN MURCHIE
and
DANIEL MEIKLEWRICK
at the expense of a generous Public
and Friends to the same
Covenanted cause
for which these MARTYRS suffered,
bled and died
in the persecution of 1685.
HERE in this place two martyrs lie
Whose blood to heaven hath a loud cry
Murder d contrary to Divine laws
For owning of King Jesus cause
By bloody Drummond they were shot
Without any trial near this spot.’

For the history of Alexander Linn, see here.

McIlwraith may have been kin to the Matthew McIlwraith killed by Claverhouse.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on March 19, 2012.

11 Responses to “Bloody Drummond, Bible Burning and the Barrhill Martyrs”

  1. […] Claverhouse went next, is not clear. From the killings of Daniel McIlwrath, John Murchie and Alexander Linn, we know that other elements of Drummond’s force were probably operating in […]

  2. […] Was Linn Shot? Linn’s death is linked to that of Murchie and McIlwraith at Drummond’s hands. He was probably shot when soldiers led by Drummond was present in nearby […]

  3. […] violent period of repression. That suggests that Drummond may have been involved in the deaths of the Barrhill martyrs and Alexander Linn in […]

  4. […] Macgill’s home also lay near the parish boundary with Colmonell parish and close to the location of the Barrhill killings. […]

  5. […] Martyrs The McIlroy’s journey may also establish the time frame for the killings of the two Barrhill martyrs and Alexander Linn by the forces of Lieutenant-General William […]

  6. […] the night after the deaths of the two Barrhill martyrs in 1685, Lieutenant-General William Drummond is said to have burned the Bible when he lodged in […]

  7. […] early July in other parts of Galloway and on the borders of Carrick. They resulted on the deaths of the Barrhill martyrs, Alexander Linn and the hanging of three men at […]

  8. […] Barrhill Martyrs were killed near his former […]

  9. […] Peden’s preaching in Barr parish may have taken place at around the same time as the killing of the Barrhill martyrs in the same parish. […]

  10. […] end of July. That timeframe ties in with other operations in Carrick and northern Galloway, such as the killing of the Barrhill Martyrs and Alexander Linn by Lieutenant-General William Drummond’s […]

  11. […] violent period of repression. That suggests that Drummond may have been involved in the deaths of the Barrhill martyrs and Alexander Linn earlier in May, as he was also in central Ayrshire on c.6 May. However, the […]

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