Martyred at Moniaive: The Shooting of William Smith in 1685

The sources for the summary execution of William Smith in Glencairn parish in Nithsdale, Dumfriesshire, tell a consistent story about his shooting in the Killing Times.

According to Alexander Shields’ A Short Memorial of 1690:

‘The Laird of Stenhouse, Sir Robert Laurie of Maxueltoun and John Craik of Stewartoun, did instigate and urge Coronet Bailie his party of Dragoons to sho[o]t William Smith in Hill, after he had been prisoner one night (it was the day of Maxweltouns daughters Marriage,) who also refused to let him be buried in the Church-yeard.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 37.)

Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton (c.1641-d.1698) was created a baronet of Nova Scotia on 27 March, 1685, i.e., at around the same time Smith was executed. Through his mother, Agnes Grierson, he was kin of Sir Robert Grierson of Lag. If a marriage took place at the time of Smith’s death, then it was probably of one of Maxwelton’s two daughters, Mary or Agnes, from his second marriage to Mary Dalyell, who were probably of marriageable age.

Hill is now known as Crawfordton Farm. Smith’s family apparently lived in what became known as the ‘gardener’s house’ at Crawfordton. (Corrie, Glencairn, 57n.)

Map of Hill                Street View of Hill

The Laird of Stewarton
Shields was the only source to mention the involvement of John Craik of Stewarton in Smith’s death. Craik was a neighbour of Maxwelton.

Map of Stewarton           Street View of Stewarton

John Craik of Stewarton was also involved in the execution of James Kirko at Dumfries. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 543.)

Both John Craik of Stewarton and Laurie of Maxwelton were appointed as commissioners of supply for the sheriffdom of Nithsdale and Dumfries on 13 May, 1685. (RPS, 1685/4/33.)

Smith’s Grave in Tynron Churchyard © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Smith’s Grave
William Smith is buried in the neighbouring parish of Tynron in Nithsdale. His gravestone was probably erected by the heirs to a section of the Society people. It is mentioned in the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1714. (TDGNHAS, VII, 10.)

Map of Grave at Tynron             Street View of Tynron Kirk

The inscription on it is as follows:


[at a right angle to the above]

(Thompson, Martyr Graves, 440.)

Killiewarren © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

The Laird of Stenhouse
John Douglas of Stenhouse, aka. Stonehouse, (d.1697), probably lived at Killiewarren in Tynron parish.

According to the Register of the Privy Council, Stenhouse and his home had been attacked by Covenanters prior to 5 February 1680:

‘The Lords of his Majesty’s Privy Council being informed that John Douglas of Stenhouse, in Nithsdale, was lately invaded in his own house by a number of the rebels, who committed divers outrages and violences upon him, robbed and pillaged his house, and carried away his goods, out of malice and prejudice against him because of his affection to his Majesty’s Government,—the said Lords do recommend to the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty’s Treasury, to cause the said John Douglas of Stenhouse to have reparation of the damage he has suffered by the said rebels, out of the moveables of any persons in Galloway or Nithsdale who were in the late rebellion.’

Shields described him as ‘a Papist’ who exacted above £5,000 Scots in Nithsdale. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 32; Wodrow, History, III, 442, 493.)

As a Catholic, Stenhouse refused the Test oath and demitted his office of Sheriff of Nithsdale. However, he continued to be involved in the repression of dissent in Nithsdale. After the Enterkin Rescue, he was involved in the pursuit and capture of one of the prisoners rescued. Stenhouse held the forfeited lands in Glencairn parish of the laird of Lochear, who had been rescued at Enterkin, and those of John Gibson of Ingleston, who was shot in the Killing Times. (Wodrow, History, III, 358, 468; IV, 173-4, 337.)

On 4 March, 1688, a warrant was issued to John Douglas of Stonehouse at Whitehall ‘for being his Majesty’s secretary of War to all his Forces in Scotland during his Majesty’s pleasure only.’ (Dalton, Scots Army, 167.)

Wodrow’s Account of Smith
At around the same time that the gravestone was erected, Wodrow gathered the following account of Smith’s death for his History:

‘I begin with the death of William Smith in the parish of Glencairn in Nithsdale, a country man’s son there. Cornet Bailie of the garrison of Kaitloch, March 2d, met with this young man in the fields near his father’s house [i.e., Hill], and had nothing to lay to his charge save his refusing to answer his interrogatories, and carried him that night to the garrison [at Caitloch].’ (Wodrow, History, 242.)

A John Baillie, or Baily, ‘of Poikmal (sic)’ was commissioned as the cornet of General Thomas Dalyell’s troop in His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons in 1681. He was still the cornet of the troop on 30 March, 1685. (Dalton, Scots Army, 122, 144.)

The garrison of dragoons at Caitloch was established in the forfeited property of William Ferguson of Caitloch, a leading moderate-presbyterian fugitive in April, 1684. It lay in Glencairn parish, a little to the north-west of Moniaive. (Wodrow, History, IV, 12.)

Map of Caitloch              Aerial View of Caitloch

According to Wodrow, Smith’s father, William, tried to obtain his son’s release:

‘To-morrow his father hearing of it, prevailed with his master John Lawrie of Maxwelton, to meet with the cornet at the kirk of Glencairn, as he hoped, to get his son liberate; but it proved otherwise to his great grief.’ (Wodrow, History, 242.)

Glencairn Old Church, Kirkland © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Glencairn Kirk lay just to the east of Hill, at Kirkland.

Map of Glencairn Kirk      Street View of Old Glencairn Kirk

Dunreggan © Chris Newman and licensed for reuse.

Smith’s father appears to have been a tenant farmer or servant of Maxwelton. The Smith household at Hill was probably part of the lands of Dunreggan in Glencairn parish.

Map of Dunreggan

In 1681 the lands of Dunreggan belonged to Robert Ferguson of Craigdarroch (d.<1687.), but at some point they were transferred to Maxwelton, as Parliament ratified them as held by him on 16 June, 1685. (RPS, 1681/7/164, 1685/4/104.)

The Laurie family had also owned nearby Glencairn Castle, aka. Maxwelton House, since 1611.

Map of Maxwelton          Street View of Maxwelton

After his father’s intervention, the captured Smith was brought before Maxwelton and Cornet John Baillie:

‘Upon the [Tuesday,] third of March, William was brought before them, and refusing to answer the queries put to him, Maxwelton immediately passed sentence of death upon him, by virtue of the power he said he had as a commissioner. The cornet opposed this, as what was illegal, unless he would call an assize and judge him; but this blood-thirsty man would hear of no delay, and threatened to delate the cornet for sparing him so long.’ (Wodrow, History, 242.)

Part of Wodrow’s case, that Maxwelton acted without a commission, depends on his date of 3 March for Smith’s summary execution.

Maxwelton had been commissioned to press the abjuration oath and crack down of dissent on 30 December, 1684. His commission lasted until Sunday, 1 March, 1685, i.e., two days before the date that Wodrow claims that Smith was sentenced on. (Wodrow, History, IV, 164.)

However, Smith’s gravestone in Tynron kirkyard dates his execution to Sunday 29 March, 1685. If Smith was executed on 29 March, rather than Tuesday 3 March, then his shooting would have been two days after Maxwelton was commissioned by the privy council on 27 March under the sweeping powers granted to Colonel James Douglas.

Is Wodrow’s date for the execution or the date on the gravestone erected by the heirs of the Society people correct? It is not known which date is the right one, as arguments could be made in favour of both dates.

However, the key issue which Cornet Baillie is alleged to have objected to was not whether Maxwelton held a valid commission, but why he did not call a judicial assize to deal with Smith.

In that context, it is worth noting that Cornet Baillie was also commissioned under the same act of 27 March. Under its terms, if Colonel Douglas was absent, ‘any three’ commissioners were empowered ‘to follow such directions’ as were issued to Douglas to call courts as expedient and to cause justice to be done to ‘any persons, heritors or others guilty of reset, harbouring. or entertaining or corresponding with rebels’ in accordance with the laws of the kingdom. (Wodrow, History, IV, 207n.)

It is possible that the alleged dispute between Baillie and Maxwelton was over whether the sentence against Smith was legally competent as they were one commissioner short. Maxwelton may have been confident that Smith’s guilt was clear enough for Baillie to immediately carry out the sentence – Smith is said to have freely admitted to harbouring and conversing with fugitives, and refusing to reveal their hiding places. Shields indicates that two other local heritors, John Douglas of Stenhouse and John Craik of Stewarton, joined Maxwelton in pressurising Cornet Baillie to summarily execute Smith. The claim that the judgment against Smith took place on the wedding day Maxwelton’s daughter may indicate that Maxwelton was under some pressure to achieve a resolution.

Smith’s Stone © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Cornet Baillie agreed to execute Smith: ‘Accordingly he was carried out to the Race-muir near by, and shot to death by a party of the soldiers.’ (Wodrow, History, 242-3.)

According to tradition, Smith was shot by Baillie’s men at Smith’s Stone, which lies between Maxwelton’s property at Dunreggan and Smith’s home at Hill. The stone is, or was. inscribed ‘W. Smith’. (Corrie, Glencairn, 57)

Map of Smith’s Stone

According to Wodrow:

‘He died with a great deal of holy composure and courage, and in full assurance of faith, declaring to the spectators that he died for no rebellion, or any crime could be laid to his charge, but only upon two heads, for converse with the persecuted people, as they came and went, which he had acknowledged, and his refusing to discover their haunts and lurking places. He said much for the comfort of his parents when he took his farewell of them.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 243.)

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on June 5, 2012.

5 Responses to “Martyred at Moniaive: The Shooting of William Smith in 1685”

  1. […] an officer in His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons. However, he was involved in the execution of William Smith in March, […]

  2. […] boulders/stones, or a cairn of stones. For examples see, Dempster’s Stone, McWhann’s Stone, Smith’s Stone, the Preaching Stone and the Martyr’s […]

  3. […] 1681 and 1687. He later supported the Revolution and was killed, aged 28, at Killiecrankie in 1689. William Smith in Hill, who was summarily executed in 1685, may have lived on Craigdarroch’s […]

  4. […] The garrison established at Caitloch in April, 1684, captured William Smith, who was summarily executed in 1685. […]

  5. […] stone marked ‘W. Smith’ marks where William Smith was shot in 1685, but not where he is […]

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