Covenanters Captured at David Houston’s Preaching at the Polbaith Burn in 1687

At nine o’clock at night on Sunday 16 January, 1687, a new seditious field preacher, David Houston, held a conventicle at the Polbaith Burn in Kilmarnock parish, Ayrshire. In the aftermath the field preaching, thirty-eight people were identified as among those who had attended. Within five days of it, Captain Thomas Douglas of Mar’s Regiment of Foot had captured seventeen prisoners. Two more were taken at a later date and a further nineteen attenders named.

Polbaith Burn, downstream from the site © wfmillar and licensed for reuse.

The Preacher
The preacher was David Houston, ‘ane aged man with ane whyt night cape’.

Houston had been born near Paisley in 1633, studied at the University of Glasgow and been ordained to a parish in Antrim. After the Restoration, he was noted as ‘disquyeter of the peace’ and by 1686 had become embroiled in a dispute with the Irish presbyterian clergy over his hardline preaching.

His notoriety as ‘a contender against defections’ drew the attention of the United Societies. From James Renwick’s letter of 11 January, 1687, it is clear that Houston had been called by the Societies’ thirty-second convention at Wanlockhead on 22 December, 1686 to preach for further trial, but was ‘not as yet settled amongst us as our minister by a formal and a solemn call to that effect’. (Houston, Letters, 218.)

Renwick believed that Houston was right for the cause and that his arrival in Scotland was a means to ‘wipe away some of our reproach from among men, and to put some dash upon the confidence of our oppressors’ due to his ‘most obstinate’ stance. (Houston, Letters, 225.)

However, others disagreed with Renwick’s assessment and Houston’s call was disputed for a considerable period of time due to allegations of scandal about his private conduct in Ireland.

The preaching at Polbaith Burn was almost certainly the preaching for further trial which the thirty-second convention had requested.

In those circumstances, it is understandable that many of the prisoners claimed that they did not know the minister’s name. One claimed that some had said that it was James Renwick. Another stated that the preacher ‘might have bein a woman for him’. What is, perhaps, of greater interest is that many of those seized had been prepared to hear an unknown field preacher.

Where did Houston Preach?
The location of Houston’s field preaching was variously described as ‘in Grugor in the head of Kilmarnock paroch about a myle from Loundon place’, ‘in Grugor moore’, ‘at Grugor Moore’ and at ‘Powbeath burne’ or ‘Pouheath burne’.

The different descriptions of the preaching site narrow down its possible location, but do not identify the exact site.

First, the preaching is said to have taken place at the Polbaith Burn, which forms the boundary between Kilmarnock parish on its northern bank and Loudoun parish on the southern bank. It is also the boundary between the districts of Cunninghame and Kyle in Ayrshire. The arc of the Polbaith Burn does lie about a mile from Loudoun Palace.

Map of Polbaith Burn

Loudoun Palace

Second, the preaching is said to have taken place either on the Grougar muir or at the head of Kilmarnock parish. That suggests that the site lay on the muir to the east of the farms at Muirside and possibly Blackhill/Cowans Law. Both farms are marked as surrounded by cultivated ground on General Roy’s map of the 1750s.

Map of Muirside

The head of Kilmarnock parish, the upland and most distant point from the its lower populated area, lies between Muirside and the low hill of Sneddon’s Law. Today, the easternmost boundary of Kilmarnock parish runs north from the Polbaith Burn from just to the west of Yellow Knowe along the angular break in the forestry to Cameron’s Moss.

Map of Eastern Boundary of Kilmarnock parish

The site of the preaching presumably lay close to the northern bank of the burn in its upper reaches.

Aerial View of the Possible Site of the Preaching

Polbaith Burn was also the location for the United Societies’ twenty-fourth convention on 21 October, 1685.

Who Attended the Preaching?
Thirty-eight named individuals were identified as attending Houston’s preaching. Of them, nineteen were imprisoned. Nearly all of the prisoners were released, however, two of them were ultimately banished to Barbados on Mr Croft’s ship in April, 1687.

The prisoners produced different estimates of how many people attended the field preaching with varied between around eighty to nearly five hundred, but most estimated that about 300 attended. One attender claimed that the ‘most pairt’ were women, although only six women were identified as attending. Four of the prisoners were youths who were described as aged sixteen, ‘a young boy’, ‘a weaver boy’ and a scholar at school.

Most of those named as attending came from the surrounding parishes of Ochiltree, Auchinleck, Sorn, Galston, Loudoun, Kilmarnock and Fenwick Galston, Sorn in Ayrshire, but sizable contingents also came from Evandale parish and Glasgow in Lanarkshire as well as two people from Carluke parish.

The prisoners also estimated that between ten to twenty per cent of the attenders carried arms, such as swords, pistols, carbines, halberds, pikes and staffs.

Houston also baptised around a dozen children who were brought by their parents. One witness declared that ‘he heard him cry out against cess paying and localitie for maintaining of those troops’, another that Houston had ‘requyred that they should be brought up in the Presbyterian religione’. According to Renwick, Houston refused to baptise children ‘because of their paying exactions to the enemy’. (Houston, Letters, 218.)

Those captured or mentioned as attending were as follows:

1. Patrick Harvie in Ochiltree parish.
He was brought before Captain Thomas Douglas at Ayr on 21 January, 1687:

‘Patrick Harvie, aged tuentie or thereabouts, declairs that upon Sunday last being the 16th instant he was present at ane conventicle, and that one James Thomsone in Burnock Mill [See No. 2] in Ochiltree parish conducted him thither; he thinks the number of these persons consisted of three or four hundred, he thinks there were about three score in armes; he declairs that Thomson hade a carabine; he declairs that he neither knows the minister nor the place wher the meeting was but he thinks it was some six myles eastward from Mauchline.’ (RPCS, XIII, 128.)

On 1 March, Harvie was interrogated by Viscount Strathallan, aka. Lieutenant-general William Drummond, in Edinburgh:

‘Patrick Harvy in Ochiltree paroch confesses he was at a conventicle where one Howstoune preached; sayes he only went out of curiosity, and promises never to goe to any such meeting hereafter; acknowledges the King to be his lawful soveraigne, and never to ryse in arms against him or his authority; and declares he cannot wreate.’ (RPCS, XIII, 128.)

After he gave undertakings, Harvie was probably liberated.

2. James Thomson in Burnock Mill, Ochiltree parish.
Thomson attended the conventicle armed with a carbine. He was a neighbour of David Dun in Closs who was killed in 1685.

Map of Burnock Mill          Aerial View of Burnock Mill

Thomson probably also conducted William Murray [No. 3.] and Bessie Strathearn [No. 4.] to the preaching site.

3. William Murray in Hillhead, Ochiltree parish.
Murray attended the field preaching armed with a sword. He was brought before Captain Douglas on 21 January, 1687, at Ayr:

‘William Murray, aged tuentie years or therby, duelling in Hillheade in Ochiltree parish, declairs that upon Sunday last he was at ane conventicle, where there were mett about four or fywe hundred persons, wherof one hundred or therby in armes; he declaires that [Patrick] Harvie [in Ochiltree parish. See No.1.] carried him thither and that himselfe hade ane suorde which another gave him whom he knows not; he declairs that he knows neither the minister or ministers name nor the place of the meiting, but judges the meiting was northeastward from Ochiltree about nine milles.’ (RPCS, XIII, 128.)

Map of Hillhead          Street View of former site of Hillhead

He was also before General Drummond at Edinburgh on 1 March:

‘William Murray in Ochiltree paroch confesses [to being at conventicle], promises [not to attend conventicles] and acknowledges [the King’s authority] ut supra; cannot wreate.’ (RPCS, XIII, 128.)

After he gave undertakings, Murray was probably liberated.

4. Bessie Strathearn in Boghead, Ochiltree parish.
On 21 January, Strathearn was brought before Captain Douglas at Ayr:

‘Bessie Streahearn, about tuentie or therabouts, duelling in Bogheade in Ochiltree parish, declairs that upon Sunday last she was at ane conventicle, and that [Patrick] Harvie [No. 1] and [William] Murray [No. 3.] carried her thither; declairs she knows not what number they were; declairs she knows neither the ministers name nor the place of the meeting.’ (RPCS, XIII, 128-9.)

On Roy’s map of the 1750s, Boghead lay between Crofthead and Knockshiffnock, and to the north-east of Burnock Mill.

Map of Boghead          Aerial View of former site of Boghead

There is no record of Strathearn appearing before the privy council in Edinburgh.

5. Janet Paterson in Burnside, Sorn parish.
Paterson was also before Captain Douglas at Ayr on 21 January: ‘Jannat Patersone, daughter to Androw Patersone in Burnsyde in Dalgain [i.e., Sorn] parish, aged sixteen years or therby, declairs that she was at the conventicle.’ (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

There is no record of Paterson appearing before the privy council in Edinburgh.

6. Margratt Muir in Burnside, Sorn parish.
Muir, too, was before Captain Douglas at Ayr: ‘Margratt Muir in Burnsyde in Dalgaine parish declairs as the former [i.e., Jannat Patersone].’ (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

Map of Burnside           Aerial View of former site of Burnside

There is no record of Muir appearing before the privy council in Edinburgh.

Auchencloigh © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

7. James Todd, scholar, in Auchencloigh, Sorn parish.
The young James Todd was also brought before Captain Thomas Douglas on 21 January:

‘James Tode in Dalyean [i.e., Sorn] parish in Auchencloich, he denyes he knowes the master of the ground; confesses he was at the conventicle of Sunday last at nyne at night; he offers to suear he neither knowes the minister, the gound, nor was advertised by any; likways he confesses he hade a suorde and a longe banginge staff; he declairs he thinks there were about a hundred, and that severalls of them had armes.’ (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

On 23 February, he was liberated after he appeared before the earl of Linlithgow and Sir James Foulis of Colinton, the Lord Justice Clerk:

‘James Toad in the paroch of Dalvein [i.e., Sorn] in Air shyre, a scollar at the school, confesses he wes at the said conventicle at Grugar Moore; promises never to goe to any other conventicle, and that he will never ryse in armes against the King nor any commissionat by him; owns his authoritie and prayes heartily for him; declares he cannot wrytt. (Signed) Linlithgow (On the margin) 5. Liberat[e]. (sic.)’ (RPCS, XIII, 126.)

Todd’s home at Auchencloigh was also the birthplace of the notorious field preacher, Alexander ‘Prophet’ Peden.

Map of Auchencloigh             Street View of Auchencloigh

Lawersbridge © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

8. Daniel Speir, servant in Lawersbridge, Sorn parish.
Speir was also before Captain Douglas on 21 January:

‘Daniel Speire in the parish of Sorne, servant to George Richmond in Lairebridge, tenant to my Lord Loudoune, confesses he was at the conventicle on Sunday last at nyne of the night; denyes he knows the minister or the ground, nor that he was advertised by any; declairs he knew none that was there but George Wilsone [No. 9], rebell, lately come from Ireland; Andrew Muire in Galstoune [No. 10], but denyes he knows the particullar place; Agnas Edwart [No. 11], he denyes he knows so much as the parish she lives into; he thinks there were about four score, about tuentie with guns and severalls hade long staffs.’ (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

Map of Lawersbridge

He was also before General Drummond in Edinburgh on 1 March:

‘Daniell Speir in Dalgaine paroch confesses he was at the said conventicle out of ignorance and curiosity, and promises never to goe to any such meeting hereafter but to keep the paroch kirk; acknowledges ut supra and promises accordingly; cannot wreate.’ (RPCS, XIII, 128.)

Having given undertakings, Speir was probably liberated.

9. George Wilson, rebel, in Whitehill, Riccarton parish
Daniel Speir [No. 8] declared that ‘he knew none that was there but George Wilsone, rebell, lately come from Ireland’. (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

Wilson was possibly ‘George Wilson, George, piper in Whitehill’ who was appended to the Fugitive Roll for Ayrshire. (Wodrow, History, IV, 21n.)

Whitehill lies close to Speir’s home at Lawersbridge and sits in a detached portion of Riccarton parish between Sorn parish and Galston parish.

Map of Whitehill            Street View of Whitehill

10. Andrew Muir in Galston, Galston parish.
Speir [No. 8] also mentioned ‘Andrew Muire in Galstoune’ as present. (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

Map of Galston

11. Agnes Edward, unknown parish.
Edward was mentioned in the interrogation of Daniel Speir [No. 8], however he denied they he knew which parish she was from. (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

Auchmannoch © wfmillar and licensed for reuse.

12. Alexander Gilbert in Auchmannoch, Sorn parish.
Gilbert was not among the prisoners interrogated by Captain Douglas at Ayr, however, he was brought before the earl of Linlithgow and Sir James Foulis of Colinton, the Lord Justice Clerk at Edinburgh on 23 February:

‘Alexander Gilbert in Dalgain [i.e., Sorn] paroch, in Auchmonach, confesses he wes at the said conventicle in G[r]ugarmoor; depones he never knew the minister that preached, and knew not but he might have bein a woman for him, and is sory for his being ther; owns his Majesties authoritie, prayes for him, and thinks it unlawfull to ryse in armes against him, and that Bothwelbridge wes a rebellion, and shall never ryse in armes (Signed) Alexander Gilbert; Linlithgow. (On the margin) “Lib[erated] 9.”’ (RPCS, XIII, 127.)

Map of Auchmannoch

Darnconner © Leslie Barrie and licensed for reuse.

13. Hugh Gibson, tenant in Darnconner, Auchinleck parish.
Gibson was apparently seized in his house at Darnconner, however, he may have had his child baptised at Houston’s field preaching. When he was seized he was in possession of illegal arms – a gun and powder. He appears to have tried to dispose of seditious books when he was seized.

On 21 January, he was before Captain Douglas at Ayr:

‘Heuge Gibson in Dargoner, Watersydes tenant in the parish of Auchenfleck, baptised tuo children with the indulged minister of the Sorn; refuises to tell where his youngest child was baptised. There was a gune and halfe a pund of pounder found in his house; he sayes the gune was his goodfathers; his wyfe gott pairt of the pouder from the dragounes for rubbing his cattell; these rebelliouse books were found betuixt his house and his cottars throune out of ane window.’ (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

Map of Darnconner           Street View of Darnconner

On 23 February he was also before the earl of Linlithgow and Foulis of Colinton in Edinburgh on 23 February:

‘Hewgh Gibsone in the paroch of Auchinleck, in Watersydes land, depones he wes not at any of these conventicles, and never wes in any armes against the King; lives regularlie, and swears he will never be in armes against him; owns his authoritie and prayes heartily for him, his long life and prosperous government; and depones he cannot write. (Signed) Linlithgow. (On the margin) 6. Lib[erate].’ (RPCS, XIII, 126.)

14. Andrew Wylie in Logan, Sorn parish.
Andrew Wylie lived near Hugh Gibson in Darnconner [No. 13.]. He was before Captain Douglas at Ayr on 21 January: ‘Andrew Wylie in Logane in the parish of Mauchline, in the fugitive roll.’ (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

‘Andrew Wylie in Logan’ was listed under Mauchline parish on the Fugitive Roll, but Logan lay in Sorn parish. A number of fugitives from Sorn parish were listed under Mauchline parish. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 210.)

As a declared fugitive no more had to be said of Wylie’s case other than recording his fugitive status. His presence among a batch of prisoners from David Houston’s conventicle probably indicates that he was either seized with the prisoners from the conventicle, or with Hugh Gibson, who denied that he had been at that field preaching.

Map of Logan

15. Alexander Brown, tailor in Newmilns, Loudoun parish.
Alexander Brown was before Captain Douglas on 21 January:

‘Allexander Broune, taylour in Newmills, confesses he was at the conventicle on Sunday last, where on[e] Houstoune as he says, ane aged man with ane whyt night cape, preached; he was advertised by his wyfes sister Barbara Gray [No. 16.] of wnsetled residence; he thinks they were of the bulk of 4 or 500, most pairt women; he declairs he sawe none butt three suordes and one with a carabineand another with a pair of pistolls at his syde; he did see there George Widburn in Ladytoune [No. 20.], Carfins land in the parish of Loudoune, John Frue, dyster in Glasgow [No. 21.], James Masson [No. 19.], sone to Masson, carrier in Loudon Kirk; he judges they hade all armes for he sayes they had something under there uper coats; likways he did see Jannat Smith and Margratt Smith, sisters [No. 17 & 18.], the latter spouse to Patrick Robisone, coal carrier in Newmilles; he says he heard that there were 16 or 17 children baptised and all presented by wemen; he likways heard James Wilsone and [———] Gilchrist [No. 35 & 36.] both in the parish of Carlouk [i.e., Carluke] proclaimed for the second tyme.’ (RPCS, XIII, 129-30.)

Map of Newmilns

On 23 February, he was liberated by earl of Linlithgow and Sir James Foulis of Colinton:

‘Alexander Brown in Newmilns confesses he wes at the said conventicle; depones he was never in armes against the King or his authority; being interogate what wes the ministers name answers he heard him called Hog or Houstoun, but does not know realy what wes his name; decleares he will never goe to any conventicle hereafter, and that he hes still heretofore lived regularly and will continow to doe so; owns his Majesties authority and prayes heartily for him (Signed) Alexr Browne. (On the margin) 3. Lib[erate].’ (RPCS, XIII, 125.)

Alexander Brown mentioned six others who attended the field preaching.

16. Barbara Gray, possibly in Loudoun parish.
Gray was the sister of Alexander Brown in Newmiln’s wife. She was described as of ‘unsettled residence’. She informed Brown [No. 15.] that the field preaching would take place. (RPCS, XIII, 129-30.)

17 & 18. Jannat Smith and Margratt Smith, sisters, Loudoun parish.
The latter was spouse to Patrick Robisone, coal carrier in Newmilns, Loudoun parish. Alexander Brown [No. 15.] stated that they attended the preaching. (RPCS, XIII, 129-30.)

19. James Masson, Loudoun Kirk, Loudoun parish.
Masson son to Masson, carrier in Loudon Kirk, Loudoun parish. According to Alexander Brown [No. 15.] he had arms or ‘something’ under his coat at the field preaching. (RPCS, XIII, 129-30.)

Map of Loudoun Kirk            Aerial View of Loudoun Kirk

20. George Woodburn in Ladyton, Loudoun parish.
According to Alexander Brown [No. 15.] Woodburn had arms or ‘something’ under his coat at the field preaching. (RPCS, XIII, 129-30.)

Map of Ladyton          Street View of Ladyton

21. John Frew, dyster in Glasgow, Lanarkshire.
According to Alexander Brown [No. 15.] Frew had arms or ‘something’ under his coat at the field preaching. Frew is the only member of the large Glasgow contingent that attended the field preaching who is named in the reports. (RPCS, XIII, 129-30.)

22. John Mitchell, servant in ‘the Wintocks’, Loudoun parish.
On 21 January, John Mitchell was before Captain Thomas Douglas at Ayr:

‘John Mitchell, servant to Robert Miller in the Wintocks, Loudoune parish, he confesses he was at that conventicle on Sunday last the 16th of this instant which was keept at the Powbeath burne; he was advertised by John Broune [in Richardton, No. 32.] mentioned in [John] Nimmoes [No. 29.] declaratione about middday on Sunday; he declairs he meett with 40 Ewindaill men [i.e., from Evandale parish, Lanarkshire.], severalls of them hade guns, pistolls and suords. He says there wold have been 200 in all. He sawe many in armes bysydes the Ewindaill company. He daclairs there were severall children baptized, and these tuo persone proclaimed mentioned in the former declarations [i.e., James Wilsone and [—–] Gilchrist of Carluke parish. No. 35 & 36.]. He declairs the same with the former concerning the doctrine.’ (RPCS, XIII, 130.)

The Wintocks is probably now known as Intax

Map of Intax

23. Thomas Jamieson, a young boy in Whatriggs, Loudoun parish.
Jamieson was also before Captain Douglas on 21 January:

‘Thomas Jamesone, sone to the deceased Archibald Jamesone in Whytrigs, in Loudouns land and parish, confesses he was at that conventicle on the 16th of Janwarie at the Powbeath burne. He was advertised by on[e] Roger Black [No. 25.], sometime servant in Broadlie; the advertiser is in the fugitive roll, now lives in Evandaille. He says he saw John Smith [No. 26.], servant to Faire John Jamesone in Newtounehead in Loudoune. He thinks there were about 300, and about 20 in armes, about ten children baptized and that a man and a woman was proclaimed [i.e., John Wilson and [—–] Gilchrist of Carluke parish. No 35 & 36.]. He declairs as the former as to the doctrine, and that his elder brother Heughe Jamesone [No. 24., in Whatriggs?] was at that same conventicle.’ (RPCS, XIII, 130-1.) ’

Whytrigs is probably now known as Whatriggs.

Map of Whatriggs

On 23 February, he was before the earl of Linlithgow and Sir James Foulis of Colinton:

‘Thomas Jamieson, a young boy in the Earle of Loudouns land, confesses he wes at a conventicle in Grugor in the head of Kilmarnock paroch about a myle from Loundon place, about a moneth agoe; depones that he knew not the minister nor his name, being in the night tyme; owns the Kings authoritie and prayes heartily for him, and promises never to goe to ane other conventicle, and depones he was never in armes against the King and shall never take armes against him or any commissioned by him (Signed) Thomas Jamesonn. (On the margin) 2. Lib[erate].’ (RPCS, XIII, 125.)

Jamieson mentioned three others who attended the preaching.

24. Hugh Jamieson, Whatriggs?, Loudoun parish.
The elder brother of Thomas Jamieson [No. 23.]. He probably resided at Whatriggs, Loudoun parish. His younger brother identified him as present. (RPCS, XIII, 125.)

25. Roger Black, Braidley, Loudoun parish.
Thomas Jamieson [No. 23.] identified him as present. He is almost certainly ‘Robert Black, servitor to Hugh Alexander in Broadlie’ was listed under Loudoun parish on the published Fugitive Roll of may, 1684. The names Roger and Robert were interchangeable. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 208.)

Broadlie is probably Laigh Braidley

Map of Laigh Braidley

Black was probably one of the forty-strong contingent from Evandale parish in Lanarkshire that attended the field preaching.

26. John Smith, servant in ‘Newtounehead’. Loudoun parish.
Thomas Jamieson [No. 23.] identified him as present. Smith was a ‘servant to John Jamesone in ‘Newtounehead’. ‘Newtounehead’ is probably West or East Heads.

Map of West/East Heads

A John Smith who was executed in the Killing Times allegedly lived nearby at Cronan.

27. James Jamieson in Muirhouse, Loudoun parish.
James Jamieson was also before Captain Douglas on 21 January:

‘James Jamesone in Muirhouse in the parish of Loodonne, he confesses he was at the conventicle on Sunday last at Powbeath burne; he offers to depone that none did advertise him, nor that he knows not the minister, but declairs he heard him cry out against cess paying and localitie for maintaining of those troops. He declairs he knew onlie James Allan, servant to Mathew Patoune in the Rushae, Kilmarnock parish. He thinks they were about 300, and about 40 in armes with guns and severalls with halfe picks [i.e., pikes]. There were several children baptized, but he says he knows not the number; likways heard James Wilsone and [—-] Gilchrist [No. 35 & 36] both in the parish of Carlouke proclaimed for the second tyme. He says when they were parting, which was about midnight, he heard a man cry ‘Those that are for Glasgow come this way,’ and that there was a great number of them followed the cry.’ (RPCS, XIII, 130.)

Map of former location of Muirhouse       Aerial View of remains of Muirhouse

On 23 February, 1687, he was liberated by the earl of Linlithgow and Foulis of Colinton:

‘James Jamiesone in the said paroch of Lowdoun confesses he wes at the said conventicle in Grugor moore; depones he knows not the ministers name, and is sory for his being therat; ownes his Majesties authoritie and prayes heartily for him; depones he wes never in armes against the King nor never shall be, and lives orderly as his minister will testifie; declares he cannot write (Signed) Linlithgow. (On the margin) 4. Liberat[e].’ (RPCS, XIII, 125.)

Jamieson also mentioned one other who attended the preaching:

28. James Allan, servant to Mathew Patoune in the Rushae, Kilmarnock parish.
Identified as present by James Jamieson [No. 27.]. (RPCS, XIII, 130.)

Rushae or Rushes, was a farm that has vanished to the east of Darwhilling. A rectangular enclosure marks its former location on the OS map, but only the angle of two sides are clearly visible from above.

Map of Rushes/Rushae           Aerial View of Rushes/Rushae

29. John Nimmo in Grougar, Kilmarnock parish.
Nimmo was also before Captain Douglas at Ayr:

‘John Nimmo in Grudger, in Archibalde Halles of Ginlits land in Kilmarnock parish, confesses he was at that conventicle on Sunday last at the Pouheath burne, where he heard the minister exclaime against paying of the cess and localitie [taxes], but declairs he does not know how they call him; he declairs there were about a dozen of children baptized and that the minister requyred that they should be brought up in the Presbyterian religione. He saw there John Patoune in Galstoune parish [No. 31.], Johne Broune [No. 32.], sone to James Broune of Richardtoune in Galstoune parish, James Loc[kh]art [No. 30.], sometime servant to James Black in Altoune, Loudouns land in that same parish [i.e., Loudon parish]; the former tuo hade guns, pistolls and suords. He judges there were about 30 armed with guns and pistolls; tuo armed with halbert staffs. He heard James Wilsone and [—–] Gilchrist [No. 35 & 36.] proclaimed for the second tyme.’ (RPCS, XIII, 130.)

On 23 February, 1687, he, too, was liberated by the earl of Linlithgow and Foulis of Colinton:

‘John Nimmo in Kilmarnock paroch confesses he wes at the said conventicle, and that he knew not the minister but heard him called Howstoun, and is sory for his being therat; lived allways orderly as can be testified by his minister; owns his Majesties authoritie, prayes for the him and depones he wes never nor ever shall be in armes against him or any commissionat by him; declares he cannot write. (Signed) Linlithgow (On the margin) 5. Liberat[e].’ (RPCS, XIII, 125.)

Map of Grougar           Street View of Grougar Mains

30. James Lockhart, Alton, Loudoun parish.
According to John Nimmo [No. 29], Lockhart attended the field preaching. Lockhart was ‘sometime servant’ in Altone, aka. Alton, Loudoun parish. (RPCS, XIII, 130.)

Map of Alton           Street View of Alton

31. John Paton in Galston parish.
According to John Nimmo [No. 29], Paton attended the conventicle armed with gun, pistol and sword. (RPCS, XIII, 130.)

32. John Brown, ‘sone to James Broune of Richardtoune’, Galston parish.
According to John Nimmo [No. 29], Paton attended the conventicle armed with gun, pistol and sword. Brown also advertised the field preaching to John Mitchell in Loudoun parish [No. 22.]. (RPCS, XIII, 130.)

Map of Richardton            Street View of Richardton

Barbados

33. George White in ‘Beine hill’, Galston parish.
George White was one of the most obstinate prisoners. He was brought before Captain Douglas on 21 January:

‘George Whytt in Breine hill, in John Airds of Miltounes vellaine in the parish of Galstounne, declairs that he was at the conventicle of the 16th instant he declairs that he knowes not the minister but heard some say that it was Rainie [i.e., James Renwick]; he denyes that he knows the place particullarlie, but sayes some said it was Grugare Muire belonging to my Lord Kilmarnock, others that it was in Loudoune Muire; refuises to give me accompt of any that were present.’ (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

White’s home at ‘Beine hill’, or ‘Beanyhill’ on General Roy’s map of the 1750s, has vanished, but it lay on the northern side of the A719 road between Woodhead and Galston.

Map of ‘Beine-hill’

On 30 March, 1687, a George White subscribed a joint testimony of a group of Society people banished to Barbados. (NLS. MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI, f.234.)

Both Cloud of Witnesses and Wodrow possibly include him among those who subscribed the joint testimony. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 531; Wodrow, History, IV, 412.)

George White in Beine-hill was banished to Barbados on Mr Croft’s Ship in April, 1687.

He was listed as one of the Society people to be rescued from forced indenture on Barbados in a letter from the fortieth convention to the banished prisoners of 1 August, 1688. His indenture was bought out and he was among the Society people who subscribed a letter to the United Societies when she returned to Scotland in the spring of 1689. (Shields, FCD, 344-5; Hay Fleming (ed.), Six Saints, II, 281.)

34. George White, ‘weaver boy’ in Galston parish.
It is not clear from the entries in the registers of the privy council if the two George Whites were one and the same individual. However, the lists of those rescued by the Societies in 1688 make it clear that two individuals of that name were banished and rescued. On that basis, it is likely that the George White ‘in Beine-hill’ was not the ‘weaver boy’.

On 23 February, 1687, he was brought before the earl of Linlithgow and Foulis of Colinton, but unlike the others before them, White was sent for trial:

‘George White in Galstoun paroch, a weaver boy, confesses he wes at the said conventicle latlie keept at Grugar moore, but cannot tell what wes the ministers name, but refuises to give his oath anent the circumstances relating therto; refuises to own his Majesties authoritie or to pray for him; refuises to depone at all. (Signed) Linlithgow (On the margin) “Justices”’ (RPCS, XIII, 126.)

On 30 March, 1687, he may have subscribed a joint testimony of a group of Society people banished to Barbados. (NLS. MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI, f.234.)

Both Cloud of Witnesses and Wodrow possibly include him among those who subscribed the joint testimony. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 531; Wodrow, History, IV, 412.)

George White, the weaver boy, was banished to Barbados on Mr Croft’s Ship in April, 1687.

He was listed as one of the Society people to be rescued from forced indenture on Barbados in a letter from the fortieth convention to the banished prisoners of 1 August, 1688. His indenture was bought out and he was among the Society people who subscribed a letter to the United Societies when she returned to Scotland in the spring of 1689. (Shields, FCD, 344-5; Hay Fleming (ed.), Six Saints, II, 281.)

35 & 36. John Wilson and [—–] Gilchrist in Carluke parish, Lanarkshire.
Several prisoners [No. 15, 22, 23, 27, & 29.] confessed that they had heard the marriage of Wilson and Gilchrist proclaimed at the field preaching. A John Gilchrist in Carluke parish had attended Renwick’s preaching at Stonehouse Church in 17 January, 1686.

37. Andrew Smith, servant at Roddingdykes in Fenwick parish.
Smith was before Captain Douglas at Ayr: ‘Andrew Smith in Phinick parish, servant to John Smith in Rodding Dykes, refuises to depone he was at the conventicle.’ (RPCS, XIII, 129.)

On 23 February, 1687, he was liberated by the earl of Linlithgow and Foulis of Colinton:

‘Andrew Smith in Phinick [i.e., Fenwick] paroch, servant to a tennent there, confesses he wes at the forsaid conventicle; depones he knew not the minister but heard him called Houstoun; is sory and repents for being therat; lived allwayes orderly, owns his Majesties authority, prayes heartily for him, and wes never in armes against the King and shall never be in armes against him or any commissionat by him. (Signed) Andrew Smith; Linlithgow (On the margin) “7. Libe[rated].”’ (RPCS, XIII, 126.)

The triangular outline of Roddingdykes is still visible.

Map of Roddingdykes       Aerial View of former location of Roddingdykes

The nearby farms of Horsehill and Darwhilling were involved in the dramatic events of the Killing Times.

38. William Campbell of Wellwood, Muirkirk parish.
The final prisoner interrogated by Captain Thomas Douglas at Ayr on 21 January, 1687, was William Campbell of Wellwood, Muirkirk parish, who had been banished to East Jersey in 1685. Campbell had allegedly attended Houston’s preaching and was seized at some point in the days following it.

‘William Campbell of Walwood, banished by act of Counsell, transported from London to Kirkaldy in a vessell belonging to that place, the masters name is Clinkelatter (sic); likways resetts his brother John [Campbell in Over Wellwood], fugitive, and all his familie who was likeways banished by act of Counsell, who returned in that same ship’ (RPCS, XIII, 131.)

Campbell was brought before the earl of Linlithgow and Foulis of Colinton at Edinburgh on 23 February, 1687. His reasons for returning from the East Jersey colony are very intriguing.

‘William Campbell of Walwood, formerlie banished with [George Scot of] Pitlochie to New Jersie [in 1685] for refuiseing the oaths then put to him, and now come home in reguard he could not live there for the extream povertie of the place, and now apprehended for allegit being at a conventicle [held by Houston], depones on his solemne oath that since he came home he wes never at any conventicle nether house nor fields, and wes never in any rebellion against the King [in 1679], and thinks it unlawfull to ryse in armes against him, and that it wes never his practise nor ever shall be; owns his Majesties authoritie and prayes heartily for him. (Signed) William Campbell. (On the margin) Linlithgow. Re-examin.’ (RPCS, XIII, 125.)

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on September 7, 2012.

3 Responses to “Covenanters Captured at David Houston’s Preaching at the Polbaith Burn in 1687”

  1. […] week after the Renfrewshire preaching, Houston preached at Polbaith Burn, which lies just south of Renfrewshire in […]

  2. […] John Gilchrist was probably captured after David Houston’s preaching at the Polbaith Burn in January, 1687. […]

  3. […] individual as the fugitive named ‘Andrew Wylie of Logan’ in Sorn parish who was seized at  David Houston’s preaching in January, 1687. If so, it appears that Wylie also continued to support […]

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