The Mystery of the Covenanter known as Mclorgan shot in 1685

The killing of John Mclorgan is one of the least recorded of the Killing Times. Any analysis of his death does not get off to a good start…

In 1690, Alexander Shields recorded the following:

‘Also John Mclorgan was killed at Drummellians House in the night time not known by whom.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 38.)

Cloud of Witnesses followed Shields:

‘John McGlorgan killed at Drummelian’s house in the night-time, not known by whom.’
(Thomson (ed.), CW, 557.)

Mclorgan’s Grave at Old Dailly © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Mclorgan is buried in Old Dailly churchyard in the same grave as John Semple.

Map of Old Dailly Churchyard             Street View of Old Dailly Churchyard

According to the inscription he was known as Thomas, rather than John, Mclorgan. The inscription, which is based on Shields, is as follows:

the Corpse of JOHN
SEMPLE who was
Shot by Kilkerran
at command of
Cornet James Douglas
Also Here lies
who was shot
uncertain by whom
for their adherence
to the Word of GOD
And the Covenanted
Reformation 1685.’

[on reverse]

A.D. MDCCCXXV [1825]
By a public
to the memory of those
who for their
Devoted attachment
To the cause of
Truth fell victims to
Despotic power.’

According to Thomson in the late nineteenth century, ‘lying flat on the ground, in front of the obelisk, is the old monument. Its inscription can still be read.’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 325.)

Who was ‘Drummellian’?
The identification of ‘Drummellian’ reveals an intriguing element to Mclorgan’s death. ‘Drummellian’ was Quentin Kennedy, elder, of Drummellane, a laird who held lands in Dailly parish.

On 6 January, ‘[David] Kennedy, younger of Drumellane’ was among a number of Ayrshire heritors who were ordered to be processed for forfeiture for their accession in the Bothwell Rising of 1679. (RPCS, VII, 7.)

The potential forfeiture of his son may have coloured Quentin Kennedy’s views. According to Paterson’s History, the laird of Drummellane was ‘personal friends’ with Colonel John Graham of Claverhouse and Captain Archibald Kennedy of Culzean (Militia). The Kennedys of Drummellane were kin to Culzean and the family did have a long connection through property to the Culzean family.

In an anecdote about Drummellane, Paterson recounts a tradition that Claverhouse and Culzean both ‘came to Drummellane, and wished him to join them in surprising the nonconformists. The Laird proudly replied, that he would serve his king in the field, but he would not be his executioner!’ (Paterson, History of Ayrshire, I, 389.)

If the anecdote is true, it appears that Drummellane did serve in the militia, probably in 1684 or 1685, when Culzean was a captain in the militia.

The fragmentary evidence about Kennedy suggests that while he may have had moderate presbyterian sympathies, that he was also loyal the Crown. In 1686, Quentin Kennedy of Drummellane and Archibald Kennedy of Culzean both subscribed an address to the earl of Dumfries that successfully requested the removal an imposition of a one merk tax on every boll of malt ground in the mills of Ayrshire. (RPCS, XII, 526.)

After the Revolution, in 1689, Drummellane was one of the commissioners for the militia in Carrick and commanded a militia troop of dragoons. (RPS, 1689/3/82.; Paterson, History of Ayrshire, I, 389.)

When Was Mclorgan Shot?
Shields does not give a date for Mclorgan’s death, but it was probably in 1685. The fact that he was shot at Drummellane’s house and the laird’s connections to the militia, suggest that Mclorgan may have been captured by the militia, which was called out in late April, 1685, and active in opposing the Argyll Rising until July. The window in which the militia were active suggests that Mclorgan was killed between May and July, 1685.

However, it is also possible that he was killed at an earlier date, possibly in 1684 when the militia were also called out under Culzean.

Where Was Mclorgan Shot?
It is not clear where ‘Drummellians House’ lay, as in 1648, the Quentin Kennedy had charter to the lands of Drummellane, Balldrenan, Bog (Attiquin), Cairnlea, Glengowland and Drumbain. However, the most likely location for Mclorgan’s death is the laird’s seat at Drummellane in Dailly parish, Carrick.

According to Paterson, the house at Drummellane lay on the south side of the Water of Girvan, opposite the house at Drumburle. ‘Drumellands’ is marked close to the Water of Girvan on General Roy’s map of the 1750s. Today, the area is marked as Mains Wood on modern OS maps. (Paterson, History of Ayrshire, I, 387.)

Map of Former site of Drummellane        Street View of Approximate location of Drummellane

Who Shot Mclorgan?
There is no way of knowing who shot Mclorgan or under what circumstances he was shot at night. At best we can only speculate on what may have happened by pushing the available evidence to the limits of interpretation. Obviously, any conclusions reached through such a process could easily be inaccurate.

Given the laird’s possible involvement in the militia, it is more likely that Mclorgan was brought to Drummellane’s home, rather than in hiding in the house. If he was hiding there, then Drummellane would have been guilty of reset and imprisoned.

It is possible that Mclorgan may have been a local fugitive, from either the circuit courts in 1683, or the Abjuration courts in early 1685. Mclorgan/McGlorgan/McClorgan may be a transcription error for a local fugitive named ‘MacLarchan’ or vice versa. On the Fugitive Roll of May, 1684, a ‘—— MacLarchan, son to Andrew MacLarchan officer in Bargeny’ was listed under Dailly parish. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 213.)

Shields did not know who was in command of the party that killed Mclorgan, if there was an officer in command at all.

However, given that he may have been captured by the militia, it is possible that the captain of the militia, Sir 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 MacAdam in June or July, 1685.

A better candidate than Culzean for an officer in command is Cornet James Dundas of the His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons. The early sources appear to have had a particular blind spot when it came to the identification of Dundas, as they mistakenly attributed two of his summary executions to a nonexistent “Cornet James Douglas”.

Dundas was in command of the local garrison at Blairquhan.

Map of Blairquhan

The most striking information about Dundas is that he and Alexander Ferguson of Kilkerran were responsible for the death of the John Semple who is buried with Mclorgan at Old Dailly. Like Mclorgan, Semple was shot at night.

The role of Kilkerran as the informer and guide who discovered Semple for Dundas’s troops in April, 1685, is of particular interest with regards to the Mclorgan case for two reasons.

First, Kilkerran lived at Moorston close to Drummellane. In other words, he was Drummellane’s neighbour.

Map of Moorston          Street View of Moorston

Second, Kilkerran was also a neighbour of Semple at Eldington. In other words, he was prepared to inform against his neighbours.

As discussed above, Mclorgan may be a fugitive named ‘——‘ Maclachan from Bargeny. If he was, then he, too, would have been a neighbour of Semple. The proximity of Drummellane, Moorston, Eldington and Bargany, and the shared grave of Semple and Mclorgan, may indicate that the deaths of Semple and Mclorgan are interconnected. If so, then it is possible that both men were killed in April, 1685. Shields knew that Kilkerran had shot Semple, but he did not know who shot Mclorgan. If the two shootings are interconnected, then Cornet Dundas’s troops may have shot Mclorgan after he was captured and taken to Drummellane.

If Mclorgan was shot at Drummellane’s house in April, 1685, i.e., before Quentin Kennedy was invited to join the militia by Culzean and Claverhouse, it may account for the laird’s alleged reluctance to play the role of executioner.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on April 23, 2012.

4 Responses to “The Mystery of the Covenanter known as Mclorgan shot in 1685”

  1. […] Semple in Dailly parish in the April of the same year. His house may also have been connected to the killing of a Covenanter named McClorgan at around the same […]

  2. […] For more on McLorgan’s death, see here.. […]

  3. […] of John Semple, who was shot by Cornet Dundas when escaping out of a window, and Thomas Mclorgan, who was shot at Drummellane and was probably the son of an officer at Bargany in the same parish. Also in the graveyard is a […]

  4. […] discussed in an earlier post, it is possible that McLorgan’s death was connected to the presence of Dundas and his troops at Blairquhan and to the death of John Semple in …. The latter is buried with McLorgan, but it is not clear if the two killings took place at the same […]

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