Five Mysterious Covenanters Banished to Barbados in 1687

Little is known about the circumstances under which five Society people were captured and banished from Leith to Barbados on Mr Croft and Captain Fairn’s ship in April, 1687. Unlike the other Society people banished, there is no further evidence of them in later Societies’ correspondence, which may mean that they either died before 1688, or were not held with the other banished prisoners on Barbados.

Their names appear in Wodrow’s record of the banishment:

‘April this year, I find sixteen men, and five women, were banished to America, and gifted to captain Fairn, who carried then away in captain Croft’s ship then lying at Leith. Their testimony they jointly signed lies before me, and therein they signify the reason of their sentence was, because they would not acknowledge the present authority to be according to the word of God, nor disown the Sanquhar Declaration, nor engage not to hear Mr James Renwick, and conclude with leaving their testimony against the evils of the times, and sign thus.

“James Hamilton, James Douglas, John Brown, George White, Alexander Bailie, Gilbert M’Culloch, Thomas Brown, John Wight, John Russel, William Hannah, John Stuart, James Richart, John White, John Aitken, Robert Mitchel, William Howie, Isobel Cassels, Agnes Keir, Isobel Steel, Margaret Weir, Bessie Weir.” (Wodrow, History, IV, 412.)

1. & 2. Margaret Weir and Bessie Weir
According to ‘Ane list of Counsell prisoners not examened in the Canoget toalbouth of Edinburgh’ from before 30 March, 1687: ‘Margrat Weire, Bessie Weire—for not auning the King and his authoritie; imprisoned by the Generalls ordore.’ (RPCS, XIII, 134.)

Margaret and Bessie were imprisoned by General William Drummond. Both women subscribed the joint testimony of the Society people banished to Barbados of 30 March, 1687. Bessie Weir subscribed as ‘Elizabeth Weir’. (NLS. MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI, f.234.)

Both women were also listed as banished by Wodrow and Cloud of Witnesses , but in the latter Margaret Weir was listed as ‘Marion Weir’. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 531; Wodrow, History, IV, 412.)

3. William Howie
Howie was also imprisoned by General William Drummond. On 6 December, 1686, he was examined by Arthur Rose, the Archbishop of St Andrews, John Paterson, the bishop of Edinburgh, Lt-Gen William Drummond aka. Viscount Strathallan, Lord Livingston and Sir George Lockhart of Carnwath, the Lord President of the Court of Session:

‘William Howie, sent in by the Generall in August last [i.e., 1686], confesses he hes bein at some conventicles; refuises to own the Kings authority or to pray for him, or to call Botherwelbridge a rebellion. (On margin) To the Justise’ (RPCS, XIII, 22.)

Howie was sent to the justiciary court and sentenced. On 12 March, 1687, he was held in the Canongate Tolbooth: ‘William Howie …Concerneing these ten it is the oppinion of the Committee that their examminationes before the Justices should be read in Councill.’ (RPCS, XIII, 134.)

The privy council must have decided to banish Howie to Barbados, as he subscribed the joint testimony of the Society people banished to Barbados of 30 March, 1687. (NLS. MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI, f.234.)

Howie was listed as banished by Wodrow and under the name ‘William Hay’ in Cloud of Witnesses. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 531; Wodrow, History, IV, 412.)

4. James Hamilton
Nothing is known about James Hamilton beyond his name. He subscribed the joint testimony of the Society people banished to Barbados of 30 March, 1687, and both Cloud of Witnesses and Wodrow list him as banished to Barbados. (NLS. MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI, f.234.; Thomson (ed.), CW, 531; Wodrow, History, IV, 412.)

5. John Brown
Brown may be the John Brown in Baro parish who escaped capture after James Renwick’s preaching at Green Cleugh in July, 1686. An alternative possibility is that Brown was John Brown, ‘sone to James Broune of Richardtoune’ in Galston parish, who was sought for attending David Houston’s conventicle at Polbeith burn armed with gun, pistol and sword in January, 1687. However, there is no evidence that either Brown in Baro parish, or Brown in Richardton, were captured.

A third, and probably the best, candidate is the John Brown in Cumnock parish who was captured after James Renwick’s field preaching in Cumnock parish in April, 1686. He refused to abjure the Societies’ war against their persecutors:

‘Jon Broun in Cum[n]ock confesses he wes at the conventicle wher Rinick preached in Apryll last [i.e., 1686]; says he dare not promise not to goe to conventickles; declairs he owen the Kings Majesty but will not take the oath of abjuration nor swear not to ryse in armes against his Majesty or his authoritie’. (RPCS, XII, 324-5.)

The John Brown who was banished subscribed the joint testimony of the Society people banished to Barbados of 30 March, 1687. (NLS. MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI, f.234.)

He was listed as banished by Wodrow, but did not appear on the list in Cloud of Witnesses. (Wodrow, History, IV, 412.)

Since all five prisoners subscribed the joint testimony after they were sentenced to banishment, it is likely that they were banished to Barbados. Their fate in not known.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on August 21, 2012.

2 Responses to “Five Mysterious Covenanters Banished to Barbados in 1687”

  1. […] The record of Brown’s answers present a very intriguing picture of an individual who owned the Catholic king James VII, but would not promise to not to rise against his authority, cease attending the Societies’ preachings and renounce the Societies’ war on their persecutors. Brown was probably the John Brown who was banished to Barbados in April, 1687. […]

  2. […] both women were committed to the Societies’ cause, as they were later captured, probably in 1686, denied the authority of the King and were banished to Barbados in April, 1687. Their fate in not […]

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