The Execution at Ayr of the Arecleoch Covenanter

Because his grave has been lost for centuries, the story of the Covenanter named Andrew Macgill, one of the first “martyrs” of the Killing Times, has received little attention. To make matters worse, a black hole at the heart of his story has obscured whoever was responsible for his capture and execution…Or has it?

His death was not recorded by Alexander Shields in 1690, but his grave was mentioned in the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1714:

‘Upon a stone lying beside the Gallows of Air, upon the Body of Andrew M’gill, who was apprehended by the information of Andrew Tom, who suffered there November —— 1684.’

‘Near this abhorred Tree a Sufferer lyes,
Who chus’d to fall, that falling Truth might rise
His Station could advance no costly deed,
Save giving of a Life, the LORD did need.
When Christ shall vindicate his Way, he’ll cast
The Doom that was pronounc’d in such haste,
And Incorruption shall forget Disgrace
Design’d by the Interment in this Place.’
(Thomson (ed.), CW, 587.)

At some point after the inscription was recorded, the gravestone disappeared. It has been lost since at least the late nineteenth century.

Cloud gave a summary of what was inscribed on the front of the grave and a full transcription of the verse on the opposite side. Why it did not record all of the inscription on the front, which usually named those who captured or killed the martyr, is not known.

Cloud provides four key pieces of information.
First, that the man executed was named Andrew M’gill.
Second, that Macgill was apprehended by agents unknown on information provided by Andrew Tom.
Third, that Macgill was executed on the gallows at Ayr.
And finally, Cloud dated Macgill’s execution to November, 1684.

Macgill was executed at the gallows of Ayr. In the seventeenth century, the gallows lay to the south of the burgh on the town muir or common.

Arecleoch © Leslie Barrie and licensed for reuse.

A few years after Cloud, the reverend Robert Wodrow published further details about Macgill at the beginning of his account of the Killing Times: ‘I may well begin with Andrew Macgill son to John Macgill of Aryclaioch, in the parish of Ballentree in the shire of Ayr.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 336.)

‘Aryclaioch’/’Arieclyoch’, now Arecleoch, lies deep in the hills and moors of Ballantrae parish, Carrick, close to the Cross Water of Luce. The farm is sited near the shire boundary with Glenluce parish in Wigtownshire. Today, the area is the site of a substantial wind farm.

Map of Arecleoch         Aerial View of Arecleoch

‘His father’s sufferings were not small last year 1684] and this [1685]; and the reader may take a short hint of them from an attested account before me. After Bothwell [in 1679], the laird of Broich came and dispossessed him of his house, and seized his moveables, which were bought back for a considerable sum.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 336.)

Alexander Shields noted that the ‘Laird of Broyche’ was one of ‘the great persecutors, who sought to make themselves up with the spoils of the poor people’ in Ayrshire. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 35-6.)

The ‘Laird of Broyche’ was James Edmonston of Broich. In May, 1685, Edmonston was appointed as a commissioner of supply for Stirlingshire. (RPS, 1685/4/33.)

Brioch, which is now known as Arngomery, lies in Kippen parish, Stirlingshire.

Map of Brioch/Arngomery

The Capture of Macgill
According to Wodrow, Macgill was captured at the end of December, 1684:

‘This young man was taken about the last of December, 1684. He was all along a nonconformist, and it was alleged he had been at Bothwell, but there was no proof of it I can find.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 336.)

Curiously, Wodrow also did not know who captured or executed Macgill.

Wodrow could not find any proof that Macgill was a fugitive from Bothwell, but Macgill was listed under Ballantrae parish on the published Fugitive Roll of May, 1684, as Andrew MacGill. ‘son to John MacGill in Arieclyoch’. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 212.)

He dated Macgill’s capture to circa Wednesday 31 December, 1684, at least a month later than the date that Cloud claimed was inscribed on the grave.

It is possible the Macgill was seized as a result of a commission of 13 December, 1684, to John Hamilton, Lord Bargany, Sir [William?] Blair of that ilk, Sir Archibald Kennedy of Culzean, Sir William Wallace of Craigie, Hugh Cathcart of Carleton and Robert Hunter, provost of Ayr, to seek out rebels or those disaffected by the settlement of the church in Ayrshire and administer the Abjuration oath. Their commission lasted until 1 March, 1685. (RPCS, X, 86-8.)

It is not known how they conducted their hunt of rebels, but it is likely that the three Carrick lairds, Culzean, Bargany and Carleton, were responsible for Carrick.

One 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 Macgill.

Killochan Castle © Humphrey Bolton and licensed for reuse.

Hugh Cathcart of Carleton and John Hamilton, Lord Bargany, are perhaps the more-likely candidates for apprehending Macgill, as their estates lay a few miles up the coast from Ballantrae parish.

Hugh Cathcart of Carleton was based at Killochan Castle in Dailly parish. He was a neighbour of both Lord Bargeny and Robert Boyd of Trochrague. The latter appears to have intrigued with James Renwick in late 1685.

Map of Killochan Castle

The fact that Culzean, Lord Bargany and Hugh Cathcart of Carelton all supported the Williamite Revolution in 1689, could be one reason why key information about Macgill’s capture disappeared.

The Trial and Execution of Macgill
‘In a day or two after he was taken, he was executed at Ayr in the beginning of this year [1685]. I have no more about him, but, I suppose, it has been upon the account of his refusal to disown the society’s paper.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 336.)

According to Wodrow, Macgill was executed on circa Friday 2 January, 1685. Wodrow suspected that Macgill was executed for refusing to disown the United Societies’ ‘war’ proclaimed in their Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers. The speed with which Macgill was executed does suggest that he either refused the Abjuration oath, or may have committed some violent act that merited immediate execution.

Given Wodrow’s date, it is possible that Macgill was tried under the justiciary commission issued to Lieutenant-General William Drummond of Cromlix on 4 December, 1684, which ran to 1 January, 1685. Drummond’s commission was to the western and southern shires and give him carte blanche hold assizes where ever he thought fit. (Wodrow, History, IV, 158-9. More details about Macgill may be contained in NLS MSS, Wod.Qu.XXXVII, f.234.)

After Macgill…
After Andrew Macgill’s execution, the authorities continued to harass his family at Arecleoch. As a result of Macgill’s execution, all of his property would have been forfeited. In March, 1685, Colonel James Douglas of His Majesty’s Regiment of Foot Guards is said to have raided Arecleoch:

‘In the month of March this year, as if the execution of his eldest son a little before had not been enough, colonel Douglas came and spoiled John Macgill’s house, and what the soldiers carried not away with them, they endeavoured to make altogether useless. And to complete the barbarity, the colonel caused carry out John’s remaining son, Fergus (or Gilbert) Macgill, from his bed, where he was lying very ill, to shoot him before his door. What the pretext was I cannot say, my information not bearing it. When the soldiers carried him out, Fergus was so weak, that he fainted among their hands, and so, it seems, humanity prevailed for once, and they left him in his fainting fit, to be looked after by his friends.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 336.)

In the summer of 1685, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Buchan of Mar’s Regiment of Foot also raided Arecleoch:

‘This same summer [1685], when John had again plenished and furnished his house and room, colonel Buchan came upon him with another party of soldiers, and took away what was portable, and spoiled the rest. The colonel interrogated John, if he thought it lawful, in his opinion, to defend the preaching of the gospel by arms. This good man answered, he thought it was; and thereupon he carried him away prisoner with him, in which condition he continued some time, till, at my lord Bargeny’s intercession, and upon paying an exorbitant fine to [James Crawford of] Ardmillan, he was let go.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 336.)

Near Strabracken © Keith Salvesen and licensed for reuse.

Wodrow also claimed that Lieutenant-Colonel Buchan’s foot soldiers were responsible for the capture of Thomas Richard, possibly in the summer of 1685. Wodrow called Richard’s home ‘Strawbraiken’ and placed it in Ballantrae parish, but the farm, now known as Strabracken, lies in what was Glenluce parish in Wigtownshire. Richard was Macgill’s neighbour.

Map of Strabracken

‘In the same parish I find another good man, Thomas Richards in Strawbraickan, this year [1685], brought to the gates of death, and much trouble. He was obliged to hide, for refusing the oaths now imposed [i.e., the Abjuration oath], for considerable time; at length he was surprised by a party when asleep in a house where he was hiding. Buchan’s soldiers carried him away with them to Stranraer, whither they were going, and brought him back again to Ballentree. Here his friends set upon him, and endeavoured to bring him to a compliance, but could not prevail. Then the commander of the party ordered him to be bound, and carried out to the fields, and gave order to four of his men to shoot him. When lying bound there, matters were so ordered, that his friends came thronging about him, and begged the soldiers might spare him but a little, and they hoped to prevail with him to comply. Thomas hearing this, called out to them, that their dealing with him would be altogether in vain, adding, he was not unwilling to die, especially among his friends, and even a violent death, before he made any sinful compliances. Upon this his Christian gallantry and resolution, the captain thought good to proceed no further. […]

When he was carried into Glasgow, he had six good horses taken from him; many of his goats were shot, and his house plundered, without any compassion showed to his wife and four small children. […]

Thomas was taken into Glasgow, where, after a month’s imprisonment, his ears were cropt, and he was, with several others, put into a ship going to Jamaica, and there sold as a slave for seven years. This he endured, with abundance of hardships. And when his time was out, and he just coming home to his native country, he sickened and died in that place.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 336.)

Neither Thomas Richard, nor Strabracken, appear on the parish list for Glenluce parish of October, 1684.

However, there is no doubt that ‘Thomas Richard’ was banished, although he was banished from Edinburgh, rather than Glasgow. On 24 July, 1685, Richard was among large group of prisoners to be processed for resetting rebels, attending field conventicles, withdrawing from the kirk and refusing oath of allegiance. On 29 July, he was banished to Jamaica on John Ewing’s ship lying at Leith Roads. (RPCS, XI, 114, 119, 130, 131, 136, 329.)

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

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on May 3, 2012.

4 Responses to “The Execution at Ayr of the Arecleoch Covenanter”

  1. […] in the shootings at Caldons and that of Adam MacQuhan. In March, he was allegedly involved in a raid in Ballantrae parish, which lies next to […]

  2. […] Nick lies just to the west of Arecleoch, the home of Andrew Macgill, A Bothwell fugitive who was executed at Ayr gallows in late […]

  3. […] summer of 1685, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Buchan of Mar’s Regiment of Foot also raided Arecleoch, the home of John Macgill, the father of the Andrew Macgill executed at Ayr in late 1684. Areleoch lay to the north of […]

  4. […] it in late June to early July. At around that time, he was recorded far from Galston, as he was involved in a raid on Arecleoch in the Carrick/Galloway area. Some of his men were also in Glenluce parish in the same area at around that time. However, later […]

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