Alexander Peden, Glen Trool and ‘a Feather out of Antichrist’s Wing’

In March, 1685, Alexander Peden and a party of armed followers landed in Galloway. At some point in the next few months, he preached against the new Catholic monarch, James VII, at Craigminn, which lies close to the martyrs’ graves at Caldons Wood in Glentrool and the site of King Robert Bruce’s victory in the Battle of Glen Trool.

Craigminn, aka. Craigmyne, is a hill which lies in Minnigaff parish, Kirkcudbrightshire, close to a mountain biking route.

Map of Craigminn

Craigminn © Andy Farrington and licensed for reuse.

‘Upon a Sabbath-Night, he preached in a Shield or Sheep-house, in a desert Place; a Man standing at the Door as he came in, he gripped him, and said, Where are you going, Sir, and what brought you here? go Home, Sir, go Home, ye’ve neither Art nor Part with us, there will be a black Account heard of you ere long! Accordingly, very shortly thereafter he went to Edinburgh, and took that black Test.’ (Walker, BP, I, 63-4.)

From clues in the description in the preaching – Craigminn, the sheep house and the burn – it may have taken in one of the sheep folds near Glenhead at the foot of Craigminn.

From the contents of the sermon, it appears to date to before the end of the Argyll Rising in mid June, 1685. Peden had been drawn back to Scotland from exile in Ireland after James VII had succeeded to the crowns of Scotland, England and Ireland. According to Patrick Walker, Peden’s return was due to the onset of the Killing Times. The combination of the Killing Times and James VII was a propaganda gift to the Societies, due to its intoxicating blend of a Catholic monarch and Protestant martyrs. It also caused the hostile ranks of the moderate presbyterian ministry against the Societies to break for the first time with Peden’s return.

Preaching on the wall of a sheep fold, Peden delivered a sermon on the herdsman prophet Amos’s third vision, citing Amos 7.8, in which the Lord stood on a wall with a plumbline in his hand and said: ‘I will set a Plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more’. It was undoubtedly a vivid image for his upland audience. His sermon condemned the moderate-presbyterian ministry:

‘That Night he lectured upon the 7th Chapter of Amos, And I will set a Plumb-line in the Midst of my People, the House of Israel: He cried out, Oh, how few of the Ministers of Scotland will answer this Plumb-line! Lord send us a Welwood, a Cargill and a Cameron, and such as they, and make us quit of the Rest: And I will rise against the House of Jeroboam with the Sword.’ (Walker, BP, I, 64.)

He also picked up on the next verse of Amos to foretell an apocalyptic struggle which would see James VII, aka. The Duke of York, banished, the Stewart dynasty ended, and persecution stopped:

‘He said, I’ll tell you good News, Our Lord will take a Feather out of Antichrist’s Wing, which shall bring down the Duke of York, and banish him out of these Kingdoms, and will remove the bloody Sword from above the Heads of his People; and there shall never a Man of the Name of Stewart sit upon the Throne of Britain after the Duke of York, whose Reign is now short, for their Leachery, Treachery, Tyranny, and shedding the precious Blood of the Lord’s People; but Oh, Black, black, black will the Day be, that will come upon Ireland, that they shall travel Forty Miles, and not see a Reeking-house, nor hear a Cock crow:’ (Walker, BP, I, 64.)

He was certain that the Lord would wreak devastation, but believed that the blood testimony of the martyrs who had refused the Abjuration would assuage the Lord in His judgment:

‘At this he started up to his Feet, and clapt his Hands, and with a ravishing Voice, cried aloud, Glory, Glory to the Lord, that has accepted a bloody Sacrifice of a seal’d Testimony off Scotland’s Hand; we have a bloody Clout to hold up, and the Lads that got the Bullets through their Heads, the last Day at Glentroll, their Blood has made the Clout the redder; when our Lord looks upon the bloody Clout, he will keep the Sword of his avenging Justice in the Sheath for a Time:’ (Walker, BP, I, 64.)

The ‘lads’ at Glentrool to which Peden referred were the six Society people killed at nearby Caldons in January, 1685.

Map of Caldons

However, Peden also warned that:

‘But if Scotland shall not consider the merciful Day of their Visitation, nor his long-suffering Patience and Forbearance, lead them to Repentance, as we fear it will not, but harden them in their Sin; and the greater Part turn Gospel-proof, and Judgment-proof, and wax worse and worse; then will the Lord accomplish all that he has threatned, well deserved, foreseen and foretold of Day of Vengeance; when he begins, he will also make an End, especially against the House of Eli, for the Iniquity, which they cannot but know.’ (Walker, BP, I, 64-5.)

Long Loch Burn © Andy Farrington and licensed for reuse.

‘When ended, he and those that were with him, lay down in the Sheep House, and got some Sleep; he rose early, and went up the Burn-side, and stayed long; when he came in to them, he did sing the 32d Psalm from the 7th Verse to the End;’

Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. (PSS. 32. 7-11.)

‘When ended, he repeated the 7th Verse. Thou art my hiding Place, thou shalt from Trouble keep me free; Thou with Songs of Deliverance about shalt compass me. Saying, These and the following are sweet Lines, which I got at the Burn-side this Morning, and we’ll get mo[re] to Morrow, and so we’ll get daily Provision: He was never behind with any that put their Trust in him, and he will not be in our Common, nor none who needily depends on him; and so we will go on in his Strength, making Mention of his Righteousness, and of his only.’ (Walker, BP, I, 65.)

Peden’s sermon was an explicit declaration of support for the Society peoples’ cause. At around the same time, James Renwick stated that Peden had returned ‘to join with us’ and that he was ‘clear in all things’. In early May, Renwick wrote that he did not dread any ‘hostile draft’ from Peden, although he had not yet met him. At some point, probably before mid June, Renwick and Peden had an amicable meeting at Cairntable, where Renwick invited him to preach along with him. However, when it became clear that Renwick opposed joining the Argyll Rising, Peden turned against him.

Who was at the Craigminn Preaching?
The source for Peden’s preaching at Craigminn is Patrick Walker’s Life of Peden. Walker claimed to have had several sources for it. According to Walker, James Cubison was with Peden:

‘The foresaid James Cubison went eight Miles with him; when he took Good-night, he said, Sir, I think I’ll never see you again: He said, James, Ye and I will never meet again in Time; and Two several Times when he went to Ireland before, when they parted, he told him, they would meet again.’ (Walker, BP, I, 65.)

Ballochbeatties © Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

James Cubison, who was Walker’s source for a few stories about Peden, lived at Ballochbeatties in Straiton parish, a farm which lies about ten miles to the north of Craigminn. Wodrow also collected accounts of the ‘sufferings’ of James and John Cubbison. (NLS MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVII, f.252.)

Map of Ballochbeatties

Walker’s second informant was John Muirhead:

‘The said James [Cubison], John Muirhead, and others of our Sufferers who were present, gave me these Accounts.’ (Walker, BP, I, 65.)

John Muirhead was from either ‘Cambusnethan or Shotts’ parish in Lanarkshire. Muirhead was one of the twenty-six armed company who had returned with Peden from Ireland in early 1685. He was possibly the John Muirhead the Council ordered processed for refusing all oaths on 31 July 1685, and given to Pitlochie for banishment on 21 August 1685. (Wodrow, History, IV, 222-3.)

A third source for Walker was William McDougal in Creetown. He claimed that the Craigminn preaching had took place at around the same time as the deaths of Johnston, McIlroy and George Walker in Wigtown:

‘Three Lads murdered at Wigtoun; at the same time he [Alexander Peden] was Praying at Craigmyne, many Miles distant, he cryed out, There’s a Bloody Sacrifice put up this Day at Wigtoun; these are the Lads of Kirkelly [i.e, Kirkcalla]. And these who lived near; knew not of it till it was past. I had this Account from William M’Dougal, an old Man in Ferrytoun, near Wigtoun, worthy of Credit, who was present.’ (Walker, BP, I, 69.)

The three men executed at Wigtown appear to have been hanged in June or early July, 1685, which suggests that Peden preached at Craigminn in May or early June, 1685.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on May 26, 2012.

7 Responses to “Alexander Peden, Glen Trool and ‘a Feather out of Antichrist’s Wing’”

  1. […] in Minnigaff parish, Kirkcudbrightshire. It lies close to the site of another conventicle held by Alexander Peden at Craigminn in […]

  2. […] was close to Ballochbeatties after he preached at Glen Trool, probably in around June, […]

  3. […] would return to the seventh chapter of the herdman prophet in 1685, when he once again declared that the Stewart kings would be swept […]

  4. […] the same is a thief and a robber…’, features similar sheepfold imagery to his sermon on the herdsman prophet Amos at Craigminn, which he probably preached within a couple of months of his sermon in the gentleman’s […]

  5. […] and Barclay’s presence in Wigtownshire may have taken place at around the same time as Peden’s preaching at Craigminn mentioned the killings of the Kirkcalla […]

  6. […] Peden is said to have hidden at Peden’s Hut, a remote site near the boundary between Carrick and Carsphairn parish. It also lies close to Ballochbeatties, the resident of which, James Cubison, accompanied Peden from his preaching at Craigminn. […]

  7. […] Peden preached there in 1685 and the Earl of Hume’s militia were present at Minnigaff in the middle of that […]

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