Hard To Kill: Colonel Claverhouse, the Shooting of Andrew Hislop and New Jersey

In May 1685, John Graham of Claverhouse shot the Covenanter, Andrew Hislop, but it wasn’t easy…

Hislop’s death was first recorded by Alexander Shields in 1690:

Sir James Johnstoun of Westerhall, caused apprehend Andrew Hislop in the parish of Hutton [and Corrie] in Anandale delivered him up to Claverhouse, and never rested untill he got him shot by Claverhouse his Troupers; Claverhouse would have delayed it, but Westerhall was so urgent, that Claverhouse was heard say, This Mans blood shall be upon Westerhall, May 1685.’. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 37.)

According to Shields, Hislop was captured by either James Johnstone of Westerhall, sheriff-depute of Annandale, or his men, in Hutton and Corrie parish in Annandale, Dumfriesshire, and then ‘delivered’ to John Graham of Claverhouse.

Shields’ account is remarkable contemporary evidence that Claverhouse was not the bloody-thirty persecutor of later tradition.

Three decades later, Wodrow’s longer version of events claimed that Claverhouse captured Hislop and brought him to Westerhall. For a discussion on the capture of Hislop, see the monument at Winshiels.

Andrew Hislop’s Grave © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

No matter who captured Hislop, he was shot at Craighaugh in Eskdalemuir parish where his grave is marked by a stone erected in 1702.

Map of Grave at Craighaugh           Street View of Grave at Craighaugh

The inscription on the grave blames both Westerhall and Claverhouse for his death.

‘Here lyes Andrew Hislop
Martyr shot dead upon
This place by Sir James
Johnston of Westerhall
And John Graham of C
laverhouse for adheri
ng to the word of God
Christ’s kingly govern
ment in his House and
the covenanted work of
Reformation against tyran
ny, perjury and prelacy
ay 12 1685 Rev 12.11. Halt p
assenger, one word wi
th thee or two why I ly
here wouldst thou tru
ly know by wicked han
ds, hands cruel and unj
ust without all law
my life from me they
thrust and being dead
they left me on this s
pot, and for burial this
same place I got. Tr
uth’s friends in Esk
dale now triumph
their lot, to wit the faith
ful for my seal that
1702 got’

APRIL 1825’


Colonel John Graham of Claverhouse

Wodrow’s Version of Hislop’s Execution
More than a decade after the gravestone was erected, Wodrow published an account of the killing.

‘Claverhouse falls upon Andrew Hislop in the fields, May 10th, and seized him, without any design, as appeared, to murder him, bringing him prisoner with him to Eskdale unto Westerraw that night. … Andrew being taken upon his ground, he [i.e., Westerhall] would needs signalize his loyalty in having him despatched in the fields; and as one empowered by the council, he passed a sentence of death upon him.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 250.)

Westerhall had been commissioned from 30 December, 1684, to 1 March, 1685, to press the Abjuration oath. (Wodrow, History, IV, 164.)

He was further commissioned under the wide-ranging powers granted to Colonel Douglas on 27 March, 1685. (Wodrow, History, IV, 207.)

Wodrow was clear that ‘Claverhouse in this instance was very backward […] and pressed the delay of the execution; but Wester-raw urged till the other yielded, saying, the blood of this poor man be upon you, Westerraw, I am free of it.’

He also made the highly dubious claim that Claverhouse’s reluctance was ‘perhaps’ due to his ‘not wanting his own reflections upon John Brown’s murder’ at Priesthill on 1 May, 1685. However, John Brown’s treasonable statements had made his summary execution inevitable.

‘Claverhouse ordered a highland gentleman, captain of a company who were traversing the country with him, to shoot him, with some of his men. The gentleman peremptorily refused, and drawing off his men at some distance, swore he would fight Claverhouse and his dragoons before he did it.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 250.)

If the Highland captain mentioned above ever existed, he may have been in command of one of the Highland companies sent into the West of Scotland at the end of April, 1685.

‘Whereon … [Claverhouse] ordered three of his own men to do it. When they were ready to fire, they bid Andrew draw down his cap or bonnet over his eyes. He was of an undaunted courage, and refused to do so. He told them, he could look his deathbringers in the face without fear, and had done nothing whereof he was ashamed ; and holding up his bible which he had in his hand, charged them to answer for what they had done, and were to do, at the great day, when they were to be judged by that book. … he lies buried in Craighaugh in Eskdale Muir.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 250.)

According to Thomson, Hislop is supposed to have sung verses of Psalm 118 before his execution. (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 455.)

Langholm Castle © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

After the shooting, Claverhouse allegedly spent the night at Langholm Castle where he remarked that he was sick of doing the Government’s killing.’

Map of Langholm            Aerial View of Langholm Castle

North Carthat © Chris Newman and licensed for reuse reuse.

Corroboration that Claverhouse and Westerhall operated together in Annandale at the time of Hislop’s death comes from the case of James Forsyth in Lochmaben parish who was captured on 13 May, 1685.

‘James Forsyth in the parish of Lochmaben, or near by, had been brought to great trouble for not hearing the curate, who had either gone very near to pronounce, or actually had pronounced against him the sentence of excommunication.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 321.)

‘James Forsyth in Carthat’, Lochmaben parish, was listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684 under the Stewartry of Annandale. (Jardine, ‘United Socities’, II, 223.)

Map of Carthat              Street View of Carthat

‘At length he was apprehended, but found means to get out of their hands. Not compearing before the last court in February [1684?], he was denounced, and forced to lurk; and wanderers being upon every turn in hazard of their lives, he went into England, where he was seized, and sent down prisoner to Sir James Johnston of Wester-raw, May 13th, this year [1685].

Wester-raw indeed offered to let him go, if, with uplifted hands, he would swear and say, ‘God bless king James the VII.

When James asked him what he meant by blessing the king, for his part he wished him well, and that all spiritual blessings might be upon him;

the other answered, he meant, That he should own him as his lawful king, and that he should pray, Long and well may he prosper in all his actings and proceedings.

This, James said, he could not do, since he was a violent persecutor of God’s people, and a papist.

In a little time he was examined by Claverhouse and the foresaid gentleman, and threatened with present death; but providence restrained them, and he was sent prisoner to Edinburgh, and thence to Burntisland.’

Dunnottar Castle © Russel Wills and licensed for reuse.

Both Forsyth and his wife were marched north to Dunnottar Castle:

‘His wife having come to see him, they sent her prisoner with him, though they had nothing to charge her with, and she was big with child. They were both sent … to Dunnotter; there his wife fell into her pangs. The keepers were desired to let her go to a private house to be delivered, but the barbarous governor would not allow this; so she was delivered in prison, and by ill management, and want of ordinary accommodation, she died in a little time.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 321-2.)

When he returned from Dunnottar, the privy council ordered Forsyth’s banishment from Leith Tolbooth to the East Jersey in North America aboard George Scot of Pitlochie’s ship, the Henry & Francis, on 17 August 1685. (Wodrow, History, IV, 221.)

On 28 August, he was among the twenty-eight banished Society people who subscribed a joint testimony in Leith Roads. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 531.)

Forsyth reached Perth Amboy in New Jersey in December, 1685.

Map of Perth Amboy              Aerial View of Perth Amboy

Perth Amboy is named after James Drummond, fourth earl of Perth. A renowned opponent of the Society people, a statue of the earl stands in front of Perth Amboy City Hall.

Street View of earl of Perth Statue

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on August 4, 2012.

8 Responses to “Hard To Kill: Colonel Claverhouse, the Shooting of Andrew Hislop and New Jersey”

  1. […] Claverhouse probably played no part in Brounen’s trial, as he states on 3 May that he did not have ‘time to stay’ to deal with Brounen and by 10 May he was operating in Annandale. […]

  2. […] were coming. Quite at the head of the same valley, at a place called Craighaugh, on Eskdale Muir, one [Andrew] Hislop, a young covenanter, was shot by Johnstone’s men, and buried where he fell; a gray slabstone still marking the place of his rest.’ (Samuel Smiles, […]

  3. I have recently begun researching Andrew Hislop, as he appears to be a distant relative of mine. I have some genealogical notes, written in 1911 by an “H.H.”, which quote from a diary of Dr. Brown, who was parish minister in Eskdalemuir from 1792-1835. H.H. wrote:

    He [Dr. Brown] was a literary man of some repute and wrote the History of Ewes.

    Excerpt from his diary.
    The only religious curiosity if such it may be called that exists in the Parish besides that of the Druidical Temple, which might perhaps have come more properly under this article than the preceding one, is the grave of Andrew Hislop on the farm of Criaghaugh, who was shot by Claverhouse and Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall for being a Covenanter, on the 11th May 1685.

    The following are all the particulars of his death which could be collected.

    John Graham of Claverhouse1 having been appointed by Government to the command of a Troop of Horse, came into this Parish with the design of searching for Covenanters, or according to the Court Phrase, rebels, and pitched his camp at Johnston for some time.

    He went about with a small party in quest of them, but without success. At length one of the Covenanters happening die at Andrew Hislop’s Mother’s house and being buried in the night time in the adjacent field, the grave was discovered and news brought of it to Claverhouse at Johnston, whereupon Sir James Johnstone and he went with a party and barbarously dug up the Body, and finding that the corpse had come out of Widow Hislop’s house, they pillaged and pulled down the house, and drove herself and children to the fields. One of these vis. Andrew was older than the rest and –(omission in the diary here) not to say that they were hardly used, but at that time they could not get hold of him. Afterwards however, when Claverhouse was in Hutten Parish in search of Covenanters, he accidentally came upon four, of which Andrew was one, lying resting themselves up in the Winshields Burn, at a place called Dumfinns and their horses grazing near them.

    Whenever they saw Claverhouse each ran to catch his horse, but Andrew’s being young would not be taken, but running down the Burn. Before he could get hold of it, Claverhouse’s men had got up to him and seised him a little above the Winshields.

    This was on the 10th May. Having thus got him in their power, they brought him to Sir James Johnston, who was then at Johnston, and who when he heard of their coming met them at Craighhaugh.

    And Sir James to show his loyalty, would have him dispatched immediately, saying that they would shoot the Rebel on the rebel’s land, Scott of Johnston to whom Craighhaugh and Johnston belonged being a Covenanter.

    Claverhouse however was backward and craved delay (perhaps the impression of John Brown’s murder, who was killed by him in the Parish of Muirkirk was not yet worn off) but Sir James pressed it so that Claverhouse at length said “The blood of this man, Westerhall, be upon you, I am free of it.” Whereupon they brought him to the place where is is now interred and allowed him some time for prayer. Having gone into a kiln which was hard by, he prayed so long that Sir James said to Claverhouse “Go and harken if he be done.” Claverhouse went and returning said he had left off praying and begun preaching.

    At length coming out, Sir James ordered a Highland Captain, who was there, to shoot him, but he, instead of obeying his command drew up his men at some distance and swore that “Her nain sell would fight Claverhouse and all his Dragoons first”. Whereupon Claverhouse ordered three of his own men to do it. When they were ready to fire, they bade Andrew draw his bonnet over his face, but he refused, telling them he could look his murderers in the face, for he had done nothing of which he needed to be ashamed. Then holding up his Bible he charged them to answer at the Great Day for what they had done, and were to do, when they should be judged by that Book.

    He was buried in the very spot where he was shot, and the place is rendered an object of notice by a gravestone on which is the following inscription:-

    Here lies Andrew Hyslop, Martyr – shot dead upon this place by Sir James Johnston of Westerhall, and John Graham of Claverhouse, for adhering to the Word of God – Christ’s kingly government, and covenanted work of reformation, against tyranny, perjury and prelacy.

    May 13th 1685. re. 12. 11. –
    Halt, Passenger, a word with thee or two,
    Why I ly here wouldst let thou truly know?
    By wicked Hands, Hands cruel and unjust,
    Without all Law, my life from me they thrust,
    And being dead, they left me on the spot,
    For Burial this same place I got.
    Truth’s Friends in Eskdale now rejoice their lot,
    Viz. th’faithfull, for thruth my seal thus got.”


    In addition to what has been said about Andrew Hyslop, I may add some particulars which I got from my Mother-in-law, Mrs. Moffat. She told me that Andrew Hyslop left the Howpasley height, where he had been hiding for some time, the very morning of the day on which he was shot, and that her Grand father, William Borthwich who was tenant of Howpasley advised him very strongly to stay from the fear of what might happen. But he told him that he could not, for that he needed to go to Borland ( of which he was the farmer) to meet some persons on business.

    These were probably the persons who were with him at the Wan Shiels Burn when he was taken.

    She told my father that her grandfather strongly dissuaded him from taking his gun with him, and that it was his firing his gun at the Troopers when they were pursuing him that made him be more hardly dealt with. She also mentioned a striking instance of the power of conscience on Claverhouse, for that very evening, when he had gone to Langholm Castle where Mr. Melvile the Duke’s factor lived, he could find no peace, but walked backwards and forwards thro’ the room. Mrs. Melvile several times asked him if he was well, but he gave no answer. At length he turned about and said to her with great emotion “I have been the Butcher of Government, but I will be so no more.” And this was the last execution that he ever had any hand in.

  4. […] story is recorded in early Presbyterian sources, but it is also found in unpublished local traditions that add new details to Hislop’s story. How […]

  5. […] are different versions of how Hislop was captured and executed, and his story was recalled in later local […]

  6. […] Claverhouse probably played no part in Brounen’s trial, as he states on 3 May that he did not have ‘time to stay’ to deal with Brounen and by 10 May he was operating in Annandale. […]

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