The Covenanter at Craignaw, Dalmellington and the Death of Roger Dun

There are a number of traditional stories about Roger Dun which connect him to the attack on a house at Caldons in Minnigaff parish, Kirkcudbrightshire. The Dun family in Dalmellington parish, Ayrshire, were key members of the United Societies.

According to Wodrow, Roger’s father, James, ‘had four sons, one of them [Robert] with a son-in-law of his [Gilbert Macadam] were killed by the soldiers, another [Quintin] was banished, the other two [Roger and James?] were severely hunted and harassed’. (Wodrow, History, III, 496.)

In 1682, Roger Dun was fined for attending a sermon held by George Barclay:

‘In the small parish of Dalmellington, at one of major [Andrew] White’s courts this year, the following persons were fined in the after sums, for being present at one sermon preached by Mr George Barclay, at the chapel in Straiton parish. Roger Dunn in M’Colmston, actually paid an hundred merks, besides thirty pounds to Drumsuy, to bring his fine so low. John Edgar in Daharro paid fifty merks. Robert Dunn in Lassin-hill [Roger’s brother in Lethanhill] paid an hundred merks, and thirty pounds to Drumsuy, to bring it so low. Peter M’Whitter in Waterside paid an hundred merks, and some time after this an hundred pounds for his wife’s not keeping the church. David M’Gill in Drumgrange paid fifty merks. John Wright in Barclaystoun paid fifty merks. James Dunn in Bluewhat [Roger’s father in Benquhat] paid an hundred merks. Ronald Rob paid twenty-five merks, and was imprisoned four days. John Cunningham in Keirhill compeared not, and his family was obliged to disperse, and all left in his house was plundered. Anthony Bizzard in Dynasken [i.e., Dunaskin], was fined in an hundred pounds. John Bizzard in Laight paid twenty-five merks, and was imprisoned four days. From such multitudes in so small a parish for one sermon out of the parish, of which I have an attested account, the reader will guess what was uplifted in other places.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 386-7.)

In 1682, Roger Dun was resident in the farm at M’Colmston/M’Commistoun, which on General Roy’s map of the 1750s lay on the eastern bank of the River Doon, opposite what is now the Patna.

Map of M’Commistoun

Benwhat © david johnston and licensed for reuse.

However, on the published fugitive roll of 1684, Roger Dun and his brother, Robert, were listed under their father’s farm at Benquhat: ‘Robert Dun, in Benwhat’ and ‘Roger Dun, there’ i.e., in Benquhat. Both men had been declared fugitive at the Circuit Court in Ayr on 19 June, 1683. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 205.)

Map of Benquhat               Aerial View of Benquhat

Simpson’s Traditions of Roger Dun
According to a tradition published by Simpson in the 1840s, he was the son of James Dun, a farmer in ‘Bennet’ or ‘Benholt’, i.e., Benquhat. He also states that Roger was related to David Dun in Closs, who was shot at Cumnock in 1685.

Craignaw © Chris Wimbush and licensed for reuse.

According to Simpson, Roger Dun attended a conventicle held at ‘Craignew in Carsphairn [parish]’. From the flow of Simpson’s narrative, the field preaching appears to have taken place in 1684. James Renwick would have been the preacher.

‘A conventicle had been held at Craignew in Carsphairn, and Roger, with two of his brothers, attended the meeting. The report of this circumstance soon spread, and the dragoons were sent to apprehend all they could find returning from the place. They met the three brothers on their way home—Andrew and Allan were made prisoners, and carried back to Carsphairn; but what befell them is not known, for they were never more heard of.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 154.)

There is no historical evidence for his brothers named Andrew and Allan. His brothers may have been Robert and James. The claim that after the brothers were taken to Carsphairn, they were ‘never more heard of’ is very dubious.

‘Roger, however, by a sudden and unexpected spring, eluded the grasp of the soldier who attempted to seize him; and bounding away, fled to a soft marshy place, into which the horsemen durst not venture, and made his escape.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 154.)

A hill called Craignaw lies just outside of Carsphairn parish in Minnigaff parish, Kirkcudbrightshire. It lies close to the site of another conventicle held by Alexander Peden at Craigminn in 1685.

Map of Craignaw

Craignane © david johnston and licensed for reuse.

The above is probably the correct location, but it is also possible that Simpson’s ‘Craignew’ refers to a hill called Craignane in Carsphairn parish. It, too, lies close to the site of an alleged field preaching by James Renwick at Fingland.

Map of Craignane

Dun in Dunaskin Glen
After his escape at the field preaching, ‘Dun sought a retreat in Dunasken Glen, a place about two miles from Bennet.’

He said to have hid ‘beneath the projecting bank of a mountain streamlet’ at Dunaskin Glen, which lies close to both Benquhat and Lethamhill in Dalmellington parish.

Map of Dunaskin Glen       Aerial View of Dunaskin Glen

The traditions of Dun feature the usual stories of daring and narrow escapes from the clutches of the dragoons.

‘One morning, as he was returning home from his hiding-place, he encountered unexpectedly, a party of dragoons who were sent out in search of him. He was so near them that to attempt flight was in vain. In order, therefore, to avoid suspicion, he appeared to be as much at his ease as possible; and walking forward with an undaunted mien, he determined to accost the soldiers in a style that would tend to direct their attention away from himself.
“I think I can guess your errand, gentlemen,” addressing the troopers in a familiar manner, “I am thinking you are in search of Roger Dun, who is supposed to be in concealment somewhere in this quarter.”
“It is even so,” replied the commander of the party, “he is the very person we are in quest of.”
“Well,” said Roger, “though I hate the name of an informer, yet I think I could direct you to a place in which he is sometimes to be found. See you yon shepherd’s hut afar in the waste; bear down directly upon it, and see what you can find.”
“You are an honest fellow, I opine,” answered the leader; “and we will follow your advice.”
The party then proceeded onward at full speed, and Roger, with all expedition, betook himself to his hiding-place in the glen, which is said to have been beneath the projecting bank of a mountain streamlet.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 154-5.)

He also returned to Benquhat:

‘On another occasion, when Roger had crept from his concealment, and had found his way unperceived to his father’s house, he was surprised by the hasty arrival of a company of troopers before the door. He attempted to escape through an aperture in the gable of the house, but which, being partly closed up with rubbish, hindered him from making his way with the speed that was desirable. When the soldiers entered, Roger was gone, but they found a youth of sixteen years of age, who had not time to follow his friend; him they seized, and how he was disposed of none could tell, for he was never again seen in the country. Dun made his way through a morass, leaving his pursuers behind him, and got with all safety into his retreat in Glenasken.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 155.)

That story may relate to Roger’s younger brother, Quintin Dun, who was seized at Benquhat in December, 1683:

‘In December he [i.e., Quintin Dun] was taken for his nonconformity, and indeed he was capable of no other crimes, not being yet full fourteen years of age. However, the party of soldiers took him into Ayr, and put him in prison, without having any thing to lay to his charge. All this the boy did bear, with a staidness and composure far beyond his years. When his father [James] came to Ayr, though there was nothing worthy of death or of bonds to lay to his door, yet he could not get him liberate, till he paid down two hundred and forty pounds. I question if they would have got so much for him, if they had sold him as a slave, as they did afterwards, as we may hear.’

Quintin Dun was banished to the Jamaican plantations and had his left ear cropped in the summer of 1685. He was sixteen when he was banished. (Wodrow, History, III, 496; IV, 217, 218, 220.)

Caldons © David Baird and licensed for reuse.

Traditions of Dun and Caldons
According to Simpson, searches by soldiers forced him to retreat to Minnigaff parish where the house he was hiding in was assaulted by soldiers and two of its occupants killed. Roger escaped by swimming under water in a nearby loch. That story appears to refer to the incident at Caldons in January, 1685, in which Captain Alexander Urquhart of His Majesty’s Regiment of Foot Guards and a number of Society people were killed.

‘From the incessant harassings to which he was subjected, Roger Dun found it necessary to leave the district, and to retire to the lower parts of Galloway. When he was in the neighbourhood of Minigaff, residing in the house of a friend who was favourable to that cause in which he suffered hardship, he nearly lost his life by the hand of the enemy. The soldiers having made an attack on the house in which he lodged, two of its inmates were killed defending themselves; and Dun, after an ineffectual resistance, fled, and plunging into the waters of a neighbouring loch, swam under water, to a shallow place in the middle, where grew several shrubs and willows, at the side of which he emerged, while the soldiers shot into the lake at random. Owing to his immersion in the cold waters he caught a severe fever, which threatened to terminate his life, but from which he ultimately recovered.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 155.)

According to Simpson:

‘He lived till after the Revolution, and was at last killed at a place called Woodhead, by an individual who mistook him for another person whom he intended to murder; so that the worthy man, who had so often escaped the sword of the public persecutor, fell by the hand of the private assassin.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 155-6.)

Loch Trool © David Baird and licensed for reuse.

Thomson’s Version of Caldons
An alternative account published by Thomson states that he was the brother of James and Robert. It claims that after the assault on the house at Caldons, that Dun escaped pursuit by hiding in Loch Trool.

Map of Caldons and Loch Trool

‘The tradition is that it was upon a Sabbath morning, and when they were engaged in prayer and in reading the Scriptures, that the dragoons surprised the six martyrs; a seventh, a Dun, brother of the two Duns that were shot [James and Robert], managed to escape from the house, and was closely pursued by two of the soldiers. Seeing no other way of safety, he made for Loch Trool. For the moment a little hill concealed him from view of his pursuers as he ran into the water. Once in the loch he got in among the reeds, where, although his head was above water, he was entirely out of sight. The soldiers fired at random, but no shot came near him.’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 358.)

Thomson’s version of Dun’s escape in plainly based on the text of Simpson’s tradition.

‘How long he remained standing up to his neck in water is not recorded, but he remained so long— and the time was the month of January—that he shivered with cold and caught fever. When he came out he took refuge in a house close to the loch. Here the inmates sent him to bed while his clothes were drying. The fever soon appeared, and raged with great violence until his life was despaired of.’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 358.)

Dun’s terrible fever is similar to the stories of two other Society people possibly connected to the killings at Caldons, Adam Macquhan and Thomas MacHaffie, were allegedly struck down with fever and dragged from their sickbeds by soldiers.

According to Thomson, Dun’s story had a happy ending:

‘A young woman in the house carefully nursed him during his illness. At last he recovered, and the story pleasantly ends by saying that after a time Dun married his nurse’. (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 358.)

Roger Dun’s Grave at Carsphairn © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

However, Roger Dun lies buried to the south of Dalmellington in the kirkyard of Carsphairn parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.

According to his grave, Dun was killed in June, 1689. The site of his assassination lay at Woodhead in Carsphairn parish.

Map of Woodhead         Aerial View of Woodhead

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on July 26, 2012.

3 Responses to “The Covenanter at Craignaw, Dalmellington and the Death of Roger Dun”

  1. Hello I try to learn more about my family in Scotland and would like to ask geographical information, bibliographic data and publications that can help me locate missing ancestors in my genealogy. If you can help me will be grateful. They can contact me by email lordcloss@hotmail.com. Thanks for your attention Fabiano M. Closs

  2. […] to Simpson, Dun was related to the Roger Dun, who was involved in the Caldons Incident in January, 1685, and the Duns in […]

  3. […] Covenanter that tradition claims ‘sought a retreat in Dunasken Glen’ was Roger Dun. He said to have hid ‘beneath the projecting bank of a mountain streamlet’ at Dunaskin Glen in […]

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