The Craignorth Martyrs near Sanquhar

The two Covenanters killed at Craignorth belong to the realm of tradition, rather than history. They were first recorded by Simpson in Traditions of the Covenanters in 1846. Nonetheless, Simpson’s tradition about them does contains information about victims of the Killing Times who were recorded in the historical sources…

Simpson’s story about them is as follows:

‘In the beginning of the summer of 1685, a year in which the persecution raged fearfully in the south and west, six men fled from Douglasdale, namely, David Dun, Simon Paterson, John Richard, William Brown, Robert Morris, and James Welsh. In their wanderings they proceeded southward, and sought refuge among the more inaccessible heights in the upper parts of Nithsdale.’

Glenshalloch © Iain Thompson and licensed for reuse.

‘They concealed themselves in a thicket in a place called Glenshilloch, a little to the west of the mining village of Wanlockhead, in the parish of Sanquhar, and not far from the ancient farm-house of Cogshead.’

Glenshilloch is Glenshalloch, a remote glen in the Lowther Hills.

Map of Glenshalloch

Cogshead © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

Cogshead was the site of the United Societies’ thirty-ninth convention on 9 June, 1688. On 6 May, 1685, the Societies were also forced to hold their nineteenth convention somewhere near the Crawick Water due to the presence of Lt-Gen. Drummond’s Highland forces.

Map of Cogshead

‘This house, now a shepherd’s cottage, is situated in a delightful glen, and surrounded by lofty and green mountains. It stands not far from the edge of a precipitous brow, the base of which is laved by the limpid brook that traverses the glen, and pours its slender streamlet into the River Crawick. In the times of our persecuted forefathers, the place must have been a desirable retreat, as even now there are no regular roads that lead to it, except the solitary footpaths which here and there mark out a track for pedestrians across the hills.’

Today, Cogshead in on the route of the Southern Upland Way.

‘The family which, at this time, resided in Cogshead, was related to William Brown, one of the wanderers who had taken refuge in Glenshilloch; and as the two places were contiguous, Brown made his way stealthily over the intervening height, and informed his friends of the circumstances in which he and his companions in suffering were placed. The sympathy of this household was easily gained, and an ample supply of provisions was conveyed to the men in their hiding place. It is not easy to say how long the party might have continued here among the dense brushwood during the warm days of summer, had not a strict search been made for them in all the glens and hills of the locality in which it was suspected they had taken refuge.’

Lord Drumlanrig

Drumlanrig’s Sweep Through the Lowthers
‘The report had reached Drumlanrig that a company of refugees from Douglas Water had eluded the pursuit of the dragoons, and were somewhere concealed in the wilds between the [water of] Mennock and the [water of] Crawick.’

‘Drumlanrig’ was Lieutenant-Colonel James Douglas, aka. Lord Drumlanrig. From late 1684, he commanded a troop of horse in His Majesty’s Regiment of Horse. He was the eldest son of William Douglas, first duke of Queensberry, and the nephew of Colonel James Douglas of the Regiment of Foot. He succeeded as duke of Queensberry in 1695 and played an infamous role in securing the Union of 1707.

‘On this information, Drumlanrig collected his troopers for a vigilant search. He formed his party into three divisions, one of which traversed the lonely stream of the Mennock, another the pastoral banks of the Crawick, and the third pursued the middle route by the dark Glendyne.’

The first two elements of Drumlanrig’s horse were sent through the Lowther Hills via the Crawick Pass, to the west of Cogshead, and the Mennock Pass, to the east of Cogshead.

Map of the Crawick Pass

Map of the Mennock Pass

The third party of horse under Drumlanrig headed through the hills via the Glendyne Burn, which lies just to the south of Cogshead.

Map of Glendyne

‘By this means it was confidently expected that the fugitives could not possibly escape, and more especially as no note of warning had been sounded in the district respecting the design of the persecutors. The six men who were lying among the hazel bushes, not anticipating any danger in their solitary retreat, had adopted no precautions in stationing a watch on any of the neighbouring heights to give notice of the approach of the enemy.’

The slope up from Glendyne © Chris Wimbush and licensed for reuse.

‘Drumlanrig himself conducted the middle division of the troopers; and having led them over the height in the north side of Glendyne, descended on the Water of Cog, and took his station on what is now denominated “The Martyr’s Knowe”—a romantic elevation at the lower end of an abrupt ravine, called by the shepherds “The Howken.”’

Map of Martyr’s Knowe

View from Southern Upland Way of Martyr’s Knowe (background centre) © Iain Thompson and licensed for reuse.

‘It happened, while Drumlanrig and his party were on the hillock [at Martyr’s Knowe], that some of the dragoons who were scouring the adjacent hills in search of the reputed rebels, seized a boy who was returning from Glenshilloch to Cogshead, carrying an empty wooden vessel, called by the peasantry a kit, in which were several horn spoons—a proof to the soldiers that he had been conveying provisions to some individuals among the hills, and they naturally suspected that the individuals of whom they were in quest were the persons. Under this impression, they carried him to their commander, who strictly interrogated him, but without eliciting anything satisfactory. The firmness of the youth enraged Drumlanrig, who drew his sword with the intent to run him through the body, and would have slain him on the spot, had not a second thought occurred, that by using other and gentler means he might eventually succeed in obtaining all the information he desired. With this design he caused him to be bound hand and foot, while he sent out the soldiers in the direction in which he had been seen returning over the hills. It was not long before the troopers, in descending the north side of the mountain, found the men in their hiding-place [in Glenshalloch]. They pounced on them as a falcon on his quarry, and secured [David] Dun, [Simon] Paterson, and [John] Richard, while [William] Brown, [Robert] Morris, and [James] Welsh made their escape.’

The ‘Providential’ Thunderstorm
The party of fugitives were split in two. The prisoners were taken back to Drumlanrig on Martyr’s Knowe where providence intervened:

‘The troopers having been so far successful in their object, were seen returning triumphantly over the height; but ere they reached the rendezvous, an unexpected occurrence befell, which fairly routed the assailants, and accomplished the deliverance of the prisoners. In the hilly districts, after a clear and chilly night in summer, the incident of a thunder-storm after high noon is not unfrequent. When the sun has fully evaporated the dew, small dense clouds with bright edges begin to appear above the tops of the higher eminences, and, gradually increasing in size, and approximating each other, form, in a short time, a dark and lowering mass of vapour, which soon overspreads the whole sky. An immediate thunder-storm is the consequence, and so terrific sometimes is the explosion from the clouds, and the gush of waters from the teeming firmament, as to alarm the stoutest heart. In these cases the fiery bolts, falling incessantly on the hills, tear up the benty surface for a great space around; and the tumultuous descent of the waters, covering the green sides of the hills with a white foam, gathers into a torrent, which carries moss, and soil, and rocks promiscuously to the vale beneath, and forms, all at once, a trench down the steep declivity, which afterwards becomes the channel of a mountain rivulet.’

‘It was with one of these hasty storms that Drumlanrig and his party were visited, and which had been gathering over them unperceived. When the dragoons who led the three prisoners were within a short distance of Drumlanrig’s station on the Martyr’s Knowe, the first burst of thunder rattled its startling peal over their heads. The horses snorted, and the sheep on the neighbouring heath crowded together, as if for mutual protection. The rapid descent of the hail, the loud roaring of the thunder, like the simultaneous discharge of a hundred cannon from the battlements of the hills, and the flashing of the sheeted lightning in the faces of the animals, rendered them unmanageable, and they scampered off in every direction, like the fragments of a fleeing army that has been signally routed on the battlefield.’

‘In the confusion, Drumlanrig himself panic-struck—as when Heaven bears testimony, by terrible things in righteousness, against the ungodly when caught in their deeds of wickedness—fled from the face of the tempest, reckless both of his men and of his prisoners, provided he could obtain a place of shelter. It is not said to what place he fled; but there can be no doubt that it was to the farm-house of Cogshead, which was scarcely half a mile from the place where he stood.’

‘When the soldiers saw their master retreating with such precipitancy from the warring of the elements, they followed his example, and let go the captives. The three worthy men stood undaunted in the storm, because they knew that the God who guided its fury, was He in whose cause they were suffering; and though it was regarded with consternation hy their enemies, it was hailed as a friendly deliverer by them, who were incessantly exposed to the pitiless storms of a wrathful persecution, compared with which the fierce raging of the elements was mildness itself.’

‘When the prisoners found themselves at liberty, and being shrouded in the mantling of the murky tempest, they resolved to embrace the opportunity of instant flight. As they passed the Martyr’s Knowe, they observed a person lying on its summit, apparently lifeless. This they found to be the little boy who had brought them provisions in the morning, and whom Drumlanrig, in his haste, had left bound on the spot. They untied him, and found that he was not dead, but only stunned with terror. Having raised him up, and informed him of what had occurred, and directed him to keep himself in concealment till the soldiers should leave the glen, they went westward and sought a retreat among the wilds in the upper parts of Galloway.’

Burnfoot © Bob Forrest and licensed for reuse.

The Fate of Dun, Paterson and Richard
The three men who escaped to upper Galloway were David Dun, Simon Paterson and John Richard.

David Dun and Simon Paterson were captured by Lieutenant-General William Drummond’s force of Highlanders soon after one of James Renwick’s field preachings in May, 1685. They are both shot at Cumnock and are buried there.

John Richard was possibly the fugitive John Richard in Burnfoot, Muirkirk parish, Ayrshire, who had eluded capture.

Map of Burnfoot

Craignorth © Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse.

The Fate of Brown, Morris and Welsh
‘The other three who escaped at Glenshilloch, namely Brown, Morris, and Welsh, fled northward, and were intercepted by the party who were sent up the vale of the Crawick. Brown and Morris were shot at the back of Craignorth, where they lie interred in the places respectively where they fell’. (Simpson, Traditions, 150-3.)

Craignorth hill lies just over a kilometre from Glenshalloch.

In another chapter, Simpson recorded:

‘A similar incident … occurred at Craignorth, an abrupt and magnificent mountain near the source of the Crawick, where two Covenanters, named Brown and Morris, were killed by the soldiers. The incident, it is said, befell in 1685—the year in which so many of the worthies were shot in the fields. Two small rivulets descend from the hill on which they were slaughtered; the name of the one is Brown’s Cleuch, and of the other Morris’ Cleuch.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 134-5.)

According to the OS name book for Sanquhar parish, to which Simpson provided information:

Brown’s Cleugh:
‘Adjoining Crawick Water on the East, About 4½ miles N.N.E. from Sanquhar Burgh. A Cleugh on the South side of Craig North Hill, a burn runs through it and falls into the Crawick Water about ¾ of a mile North of Cogg House, derives the name from a man of the name of Brown being shot in the Cleugh during the Persecution.’

Morris’ Cleuch:
‘Near Haw Cleugh A Cleugh deriving the name fr[om] a man of the name of Morris having been shot in [?] during the Persecution.’

Map of Craignorth

Street View of Brown’s Cleuch

Street View of Entry to Morris Cleuch      Aerial View of Morris Cleuch

‘[James] Welsh, in the meantime, made his escape, and remained in concealment among the Nithsdale mountains.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 153.)

A cleuch near Craignorth is also said to be the site of another martyr’s burial recorded by tradition.

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

Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on May 19, 2012.

3 Responses to “The Craignorth Martyrs near Sanquhar”

  1. […] David Dun in Closs was one of the Society people. According to tradition, he and Simon Paterson had escaped capture at Cogshead. […]

  2. […] 9 & 10. The Craignorth Martyrs, Robert Morris and William Brown, who were shot by Lord Drumlanrig near Sanqu… […]

  3. […] in late 1684 to early 1685 for which we do not have records. There they are said to have been briefly captured by Lord Drumlanrig and his troops at the Martyrs’ Knowe before they escaped and fled to upper […]

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