Culzean and the Missing Martyr of Blairquhan

The killing of William McKergur, or McKergour, is one of the least recorded deaths of the Killing Times. His death was not recorded by Wodrow and no gravestone exists…

Old Bridge at Blairquhan © david johnston and licensed for reuse.

Alexander Shields’s A Short Memorial of 1690 is the only source for his death:

‘The Laird of Culyean, for that time Captain of a Troup of Militia and Heretors, killed William McKergur at Blairquhan Milne, Anno, 1685. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 38.)

As usual, Cloud of Witnesses repeated Shields’ text with minor corrections. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 554.)

The Old Mill Lade at Milton © david johnston and licensed for reuse.

Where Was McKergur Killed?
Blairquhan Milne is ‘Milton’, which lies next to the old bridge of Blairquhan over the Girvin Water in Straiton parish in Carrick, Ayrshire.

Map of Milton [of Blairquhan?]

When Was McKergur Killed?
McKergur was killed by Sir Archibald Kennedy of Culzean (d.1710).

Culzean had been a captain of the militia since 25 July, 1684, when he was appointed by the privy council as a replacement for the deceased Kennedy of Girvanmains as the captain ‘of that militia troup of the shyre of Air’. (RPCS, IX, 72.)

He had already served the crown by administering the Abjuration oath in Ayrshire:

On 13 December, 1684, John Hamilton, Lord Bargany, Sir [William?] Blair of that ilk, Sir Archibald Kennedy of Culzean, Sir William Wallace of Cragie, Hugh Cathcart of Carlton and Robert Hunter, provost of Ayr, were commissioned to seek out rebels or those disaffected by the settlement of the church in the shire of Ayr and administer the Abjuration oath. The commission lasted until 1 March, 1685. (RPCS, X, 86-8.)

Culzean and the others listed above were issued with a second judicial commission under the commission given to Colonel James Douglas to extirpate the rebels in the West between 27 March and 20 April, 1685. (RPCS, X, 205.)

Shields specifically states that the killing of McKergur took place when Culzean was serving as a captain in the militia.

The militia, which was made up of companies of irregular horse and foot, was called out to counter Argyll’s threatened invasion of the kingdom on 28 April, 1685. The force included ‘all the heretors, liferenters, fewers and wodsetters in the shires of Air, Renfrew, Clidsdale, Wigtoun, Dumfries and stewartries and bailliaries within the same’ who were to turn out their tenants to form companies and ‘be in readiness with fourteen dayes provision’. The force assembled at Linlithgow from 19 May and its troops of horse were disbanded after the Argyll Rising on 24 June. (RPCS, XI, 29-31, 41, 81.)

The most likely time frame for the killing of William McKergur is May or July, 1685.

The laird of Culzean also shot Gilbert McAdam in July, 1685.

For an update on McKergur’s case, see here.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.


~ by drmarkjardine on April 11, 2012.

6 Responses to “Culzean and the Missing Martyr of Blairquhan”

  1. […] Archibald Kennedy of Culzean, was involved in some way. Culzean was responsible for the killings of William McKergur, probably in May to July, and Gilbert McAdam in July, […]

  2. […] of them, Sir Archibald Kennedy of Culzean, was linked to the deaths of William McKergur and Gilbert Macadam in the Killing Times, but tradition has not connected him to the capture of […]

  3. There were McHargs (McQuharg) living in the Straiton area. Could McKergue possibly be McHarg?

    • It could be possible that McKergue is McHarg/McQuharg. For example Boig is sometimes rendered Bogue. So it could be McKerg which is pretty close to McHarg. Alexander Shields is the only source for the killing and he was only as reliable as his source for the spelling. McKerg looks the most likely.


      • Thank you for your quick response. I do think it’s possible they are the same.

  4. […] case was discussed in a previous post, but let us take second […]

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