Armed and Dangerous: Renwick’s Preaching in the Lammermuirs and Banished to Barbados
The story of James Renwick’s armed field preaching in the Lammermuirs on 18 July, 1686, begins with two shepherds spying the conventicle and ends with a banishment to Barbados. By leaving the Societies’ western heartlands, Renwick was taking a risk…
Throughout the documents the location of the preaching was described as either the Garmuir Well, within ‘half a mile of the well’, Green Cleugh or ‘within two miles’ of Byrecleugh.
The Garmuir Well is almost certainly Elliot’s Well, a mineral water spring which lies in Green Cleugh deep in the Lammermuir Hills. The well is located in Longformacus parish, in what was Berwickshire. Details about the holy well and its exact location can be found here and here on the RCAHMS website.
The preaching was said to have been held ‘at a place called the Greencleugh within half a mile of the well’. That suggests that it was held either up, or down, the cleugh from Elliot’s Well, perhaps at the mouth of the cleugh, or, more likely, at the head of the cleugh.
Pulpit Law, which lie nearby in Lauder parish, suggests that the area may have been used for field preaching.
Information about the preaching comes from three depositions from hearers of the sermon which were given to the earl of Tweeddale and his son Yester on Tuesday 20 July, 1686:
‘John Stewart, servant to Mr John Brown, minister of Baro, aged 22 years, unmaried, being sworn and interogat, depones that on Saturdays night last [17 July] aboutt sunsett one James Baxter, smith, who had come from Edenbrough … , with another comrade with him called William [Nairn?] whose surname he is ignorant of, came to him [in Baro parish] and desired him to go to a meeting at Gairmoor-well where he would hear a preaching and think his travell well-waird, which he condescended to, and next morning [Sunday 18 July] ane hour befor sun riseing they three, with one John Brown, servant to Andrew Hay, tenant to the Kirkhall of Baro, went to the place and by the way he and John Brown went in to Birecleugh and the other two to Handiswood on the other side of the burn and got theire breakfast, and from hence to the place of meeting’. (RPCS, XII, 369.)
John Brown, the minister of Baro parish, Haddingtonshire, died in .c.1688. (Fasti, I, 365.)
John Stewart probably served the minister at both Baro Kirk and manse, both of which have vanished.
From Baro, John Stewart, John Brown, James Baxter and William [Nairn?] moved south along a route via Redstone Ridge to Byrecleugh.
A second version of events came from a shepherd at Byrecleugh who was caught up in the preaching.
‘John Rankine, herd to Byrecleugh, aged five and twenty years, unmaried’:
‘That on Sunday last [18 July] he observed severall people going towards the Gairmoor-well in Daye-Forest in Latherdale early in the morning’. In particular he saw ‘John Brown and John Stewart [both of Baro parish, Haddingtonshire] … at Byrecleugh in the morning as they went to the meetting’. He also ‘saw severall others pass that way, particularly the minister [i.e., Renwick] whom he knew by his cloaths and that he came as from Lowthian by the Redstoneridge.’ (RPCS, XII, 368, 369.)
The Field Preaching
Rankine gives a fascinating portrait of the conventicle:
‘between ten and eleven [in the morning] as he went to his flock and to look what became of these people, he found them all at a place called the Greencleugh within half a mile of the well, to the number of about 100, whereof 2 parts were women and about a 3d part men, wherof about a dozen had horses, and he heard that one of them had pistolls and that there was two carabines in the company, quherof he saw one standing behind the minister that preached to them; he lectured and prayed befor he [the minister] came,’ (RPCS, XII, 368.)
Stewart also paints an intriguing portrait of an armed James Renwick at the preaching:
‘thought them about six-scor at the meeeting; quherof 2 parts were women, 12 had horse, diverse of them swords, the minister a shable, one pair of pistolls, and two of them carabines.’ (RPCS, XII, 369-70.)
According to Stewart ‘[Renwick] came not [to the meeting] for ane hour thereafter, and till he came the young man that came with James Baxter [called William] prayed, read a chapter and sung a psalme;’ (RPCS, XII, 369.)
He ‘heard 2 sermons and remembers that the text was in the Song of Solomon’ (RPCS, XII, 369.)
According to Rankine, the text of Renwick’s sermons ‘was the first chapter of the Song of Sollomon at the fourth verse;’ (RPCS, XII, 368.)
The biblical text Song of Solomon/Canticles 1.4. is as follows: ‘Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.’
According to Rankine, he was forced to remain at the field preaching:
‘they forced him to stay with them till that sermon and the afternoon was done and all the time they were togither; that he asked one of them the preachers name, who told him it was Mr James Renick, but having asked on[e] James Baxter after, whom he knew, his answer was, ‘Have you a minde to put him out!’’ (RPCS, XII, 368.)
According to the deposition of ‘John Blaikie, herd to Robert Hilson in Galawater, aged 18 years, unmaried’ who could not write:
‘Coming from his dinner on Sunday last to look after his flock he saw a multitude of people togither who had scouts out on tops of the hills, as so soon as they came within distance of the people where theire flocks were going they would not suffer them to go from them again, but made them stay all the time of the sermon; when he asked who preached he was told it was Mr James Renick, his text the 1st of Solomon the 4th verse;’ (RPCS, XII, 369.)
After sermon, a marriage of two Society people was proclaimed.
According to Blaikie: ‘depones he heard the parties proclamed in the afternoon, the mans name he did not hear but the womans name was Mary Dainty in the parish of Westcather [i.e., West Calder, Edinburghshire].’ (RPCS, XII, 369.)
According to Rankine: ‘there was two parties proclamed for marriage, one James Crescent or Keder in the parish of Cairnwaith [i.e., Carnwath, Lanarkshire], and one Mary Dainty in the parish of Westcather.’ (RPCS, XII, 368.)
Stewart did not know where Renwick went after the sermons, but it is almost certain that he proceeded to the North East of England. (RPCS, XII, 369.)
The Preaching Discovered
Renwick’s preaching was quickly discovered after the farmer at Byrecleugh informed the earl of Tweeddale’s son that two shepherds had been at the conventicle.
On 20 July, 1686, John Hay, second earl of Tweeddale, sent intelligence of the preaching to Lieutenant-General William Drummond.
‘Sir, As I cam hom yisternight from making a wisite to Tuningham [i.e., Tyninghame], my son, [David Hay,] the leutenant of the Gwards, told me that a gentlemen in Byrecleught in Lammermour had bein with him acqwainting him of a fild conventicle had bein within two miles of his hous at the Garmour Weel in Daye Forest in Lawderdale, a plac wher people resort to for the drinking the watters, as to Moffit weel; and his and other hirds had discoverid them, and had bein detaind by them all the time of their meetting, and that they condescendid upon the ministers nam and severals whom they knew wer at the conventicle, amongt whom was Jhon Stewart, serveing man to the minister at Barow, and on[e] Jhon Broune, who liwes in that paroch, and on[e] Jam[e]s Baxter, smith, who lives in the Caltoun in Edinbrught.’
David Hay, later of Belton, (1656–1720) was a lieutenant in His Majesty’s Regiment of Lifeguards.
‘The heirds my son orderid Byrcleught to send to me this morning [20 July], and he sent immediately for the minister of Barows man [John Stewart], whom I and my son Yester [i.e., John Hay,] examinid yisternight [19 July] and found by him that this James Baxter … had com from Edenbrught to keep that conventi[c]le, and hawing bein formerly a servant to the smith thir was suspectid for kiping such meetings of befor;’ (RPCS, XII, 367.)
John Brown, servant in Kirkhall of Baro
Tweeddale’s attempt to capture John Brown in Baro parish did not go well:
‘This Jhon Broun whom I sent two serwants to aprehend early this morning [of 20 July], who found him at a limkil[n] breaking stone, and denying his nam callid himself Jhon Armour till by others they discoverid that he was the man they lookid for, he desird he might goe into his hous to see his wife and gett clean lining, and whilst they stayd at the dor knowing ther was noe bakdore, he brok a hole in the roufe and got out into a bush of wood hardby, and hawing searched for him they and half a dussone mor could not find him, but the search is yitt making and all indeawours shal be used to catch him.’ (RPCS, XII, 367.)
John Stewart, servant to the minister of Baro
Tweeddale also sent Drummond the deposition of Stewart, whom he had already imprisoned in Haddington tolbooth:
‘My son Yester and I have examined the two hirds and the ministers man [John Stewart] and have heir inclosed ther depositiones, and becaws we think the ministers man gwilty of going to the conventicle willingly, we have comittid him to the prison of Haddingtoun, that yow may resolve how to dispose of him, thought he suears this was his only conventicle he was ever at and knew not the danger of going to them.’ (RPCS, XII, 368.)
Haddington Tolbooth has vanished but lay opposite Newtown Port.
Stewart had recently arrived in Baro parish:
‘He hes serwid the minister this last year, hawing bein formerly in the serwic of a Perthshyr gentillman who was kild in Argyle [during the Argyll Rising] by the Highlanders upon a mistak, beeing all under the comand of the Marqwis of Athole.’ (RPCS, XII, 368.)
On 21 September, 1686, ‘x John Stewart’ was among the prisoners given in by Lieutenant-General Drummond to be examined by the privy council. (RPCS, XII, 475.)
On the same day, he was brought before the council:
‘John Stewart, servant to the minister of Barro, for his being at a field conventicle in —- where Mr Reny preached, and he haveing confessed his being their and his heart sorrow therfor and promised never to comitt the like in tyme coming, ownd his Majesties auctoritie and prayed for him, doe hereby grant order and warrant for dismissing of him and setting him at liberty’. (RPCS, XII, 475.)
Who Else Attended the Field Preaching?
Stewart had claimed that ‘neither asked nor heard the ministers name; depones that he knew none there but the three that went with him [i.e., Brown, Baxter and William ——-’. (RPCS, XII, 369.)
However, the two shepherds were able to provide a list of ten others who were present at Green Cleugh. (RPCS, XII, 368-9.)
What is strking about the list of attenders is their diverse origins in Edinburghshire, Haddingtonshire, Berwickshire, Roxburghshire and Lanarkshire. That may be due to the fact that the Societies were not well supported out with their western heartlands.
The others alleged to have been at the conventicle were:
1. ‘Patrick Kers, chapman’.
2 & 3. ‘Adam Halyday and James Lyon, living at Athelstaneford [, Haddingtonshire,] but working at Byrecleugh for the present’.
4. ‘James Steill, sone to the tenent of Marysheill, there’.
Maryshiell, now Mayshiel, lies in Whittinghame parish by Redstone Rig.
5. ‘Patrick Fowns, chapman in Thirlstone or Thirlstone Miln’, i.e., Thirlestane, Lauder parish.
6. David Smell, ‘once a servant to William Brown in Clints’, Channelkirk parish, Berwickshire.
7. ‘James Moffit that had been a tenent to Gallawshiells [i.e., Hugh Scott of Galashiels] in Neither Burn, whom [John Riddell of] Haining had formerly fined’, possibly in Roxburghshire.
8. ‘Robert Wright, a smith, who lived at Langshaw [near Galashiels?] when he knew him’, in Melrose parish, Roxburghshire.
9 & 10. Mary Dainty of West Calder parish, Edinburghshire, and James Keder of Carnwath parish, Lanarkshire, whose marriage was proclaimed by Renwick.
Drummond sent Lieutenant Robert Somerville of His Majesty’s Regiment of Foot Guards to conduct the search for the others at the preaching. Somerville had been commissioned as a lieutenant of the Grenadier company in 1682. He was promoted to Captain on 28 February, 1689, but had left the regiment by September, 1691. He subsequently became a private in the Scots Company in the French Army and in 1695 his name appears on a list of Jacobite rebels in France. (Dalton, Scots Army, 28, 147.)
A few days after his first letter, Tweeddale wrote to Drummond from West Calder on the progress of Lieutenant Somerville’s search for the conventiclers on 25 July, 1686:
‘West Cather; Sir, Lewtenant Somerveal, whom yow wer pleased to order to call to me, hath bein with greatest cair and diligence looking for thos people whos names wer given him [many of whom were probably listed in the depositions Tweeddale sent to Drummond on 20 July], and hath traveld a great many mils in search of them, as he will give your Excellent an account; three of them he sent to me, whom I found upon examinations to have bein compeld to com to that meeting, beefing in their sight, and to stay with them untill they desolwid, who had never bein at any conventicles befor and hardly understood what it meant. The father of on of them and the master of the other two hath given assuranc to produce them when callid for.
The Lewtenant hath taken cawtione for the woman [Mary Dainty?], and all the rest by the best intelligent we can have ar wagabonds residing noe wher, on Molt leet out of prison within thir few days. It is possible the proclamatione and mariadg of thos two persons in West Cather and Carnwath may have bein the occasione of this conventicle, (as the Lewtenant very rationally thinks), who may be lookid for [i.e., Mary Dainty and James Keder], as I shal for [John] Broun who escapid from my serwants. I most humbly thank yow for putting me in mind to writt to that noble person, and I am your Excellent most humble and obedient serve.
The Capture of James Baxter in Calton, Edinburgh
On the 20 July, Tweeddale had been keen that Drummond should seize Baxter:
‘The other, Jam[e]s Baxter who lives in the Caltoun, if your Excellenc will be pleasid to send any of the gwards with this bearer he knows wher he lives and will goe to the plac with them, that they may ceas him this morning. (RPCS, XII, 368.)
Baxter was of particular interest to Tweeddale as he may have led the authorities to Renwick:
‘By the depositions yow will find Mr Jam[e]s Rennike to be the preacher and that it is lyk he cam from Edenbrught and returnd to it, and that this Jams Baxter … may knowknow wher he hawnts or is to be found; and ther is on[e] cam[e] out of toun with this Baxter callid William, whom Baxter most condescend on, who it seems most be notorious in kiping thos meetings, for he prayd, read and sung the psalme at this conventicle, who may know as much as any of this Mr Rennick his haunts, if yow pleas to seiz upon him likways.’ (RPCS, XII, 368.)
Baxter was captured. On 5 October, 1686, he remained obstinate when he was examined by the privy council:
‘James Baxter, smith, prisoner for being at the conventicle keept near Lauder, declares he accidentally fell to be at the said conventicle going to his mothers house in Lauther, but does not deny that he knew of it the night before; wil not promise to forbear going to conventicles; sayes he is not acquant with what the Kings authoritie is, and that he does not think it unlaw[full] to bear armes in defence of the gospell.’ (RPCS, XII, 479.)
Baxter is Barbadoed
On 12 March, 1687, he was among the prisoners held in Edinburgh Tolbooth who were to be banished:
‘William Hana [younger, in Tundergarth] to be transported; Patrick Cunninghame in reguard of his old age to ly in prison; David Scot and [Colin] Elisone to be in the same condition; John Russell to be banished; William Steill to the Justices; James Baxter to be banished; Alexander Gordone [of Kilsture] to lye in prisone untill report be brought from Dumfreise anent him’. (RPCS, XIII, 133.)
He was also listed on the same day before a committee of the council:
‘Edinburgh —To be transported—William Hanna, John Russell, Robert Slose, James Baxter; George Main, Alexander Finlay, Hew Smith—formerlie remitted to the Justices and against remitted to the Councill’. (RPCS, XIII, 134.)
Baxter was banished to the sugar plantations of Barbados on Mr Croft’s ship in April, 1687. He did not subscribe the joint testimony of twenty Society people banished there.
The Rescue of James Baxter
However, the United Societies’ fortieth convention wrote a letter to James Baxter in Barbados on 1 August, 1688, which agreed to rescue him and other banished prisoners by buying out their forced indentures. (Shields, FCD, 344-5.)
Baxter clearly played a key role in the rescue of the banished prisoners. He returned to Scotland in the spring of 1689, as his name appears on a letter of 16 February from the banished prisoners to the United Societies accounting for all the expenditure involved in their rescue. (Hay Fleming (ed.), Six Saints, II, 281.)
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.