James Renwick’s Halloween Preaching in 1686

On Hallowe’en, 1686, James Renwick preached at the Annick Water in Dreghorn parish, Ayrshire.

Map of the Annick Water near Lambroughton

earl of Linlithgow

Four months after the preaching, the prisoners from it were brought before the earl of Linlithgow in Edinburgh on 23 February, 1687.

1. James Armour, servitor at Caprington Tower, Riccarton parish, Ayrshire.
On 23 February, 1687:

‘James Armor, servitor to Sir William Cuninghame of Capringtoun, apprehended for being at a conventicle upon the water of Ennock near Lambrughtoun about eightein or nynetein weiks agoe, which he confesses and is heartily sory for and swears he shall never goe to ane other, but one the contrary he shall run as fast from them as ever he went to them; owns the Kings authoritie and prayes heartily for him, and declaries that he thinks it unlawfull to rise in armes against the King, but shall willingly feight for him when called to it. [Signed] Jeames Armour. [On the margin] “1. Liberat.”’ (RPCS, XIII, 125.)

According to Armour’s confession, the preaching took near on the Annick Water near Lambroughton in Dreghorn parish. His confession also approximately dates the preaching to about eighteen or nineteen weeks before he appeared before the earl of Linlithgow, i.e., on around c.27 October, 1686.

Two other prisoners taken after the preaching were from Stewarton parish, which borders Dreghorn parish to the north.

2. John Auld, tenant to John Cochrane, second earl of Dundonald (d.1690), in Stewarton.
He was also brought before the earl of Linlithgow on 23 February, 1687:

‘Jon Auld, tenant to the Earle of Dundonald in Steuartoun, confesses he wes caried prisoner by six men to the conventikle in Dreghorn parish at Halyday [i.e., 1 November] in the nicht tyme; declares ther would hawe bein about 100 men besyd women at the conventikle and that [ther] wer six children baptisd; declares it wes sore against his will, that he wes thretend and forced and keipt prisoner till the meiting wes ower, and wes newer at such meitings befor; ouns his Majesties authority and heartly prays for him, and promises to liwe orderly as [he] allvays used to doe; declares he heard it wes one Renwick that preached. [Signed] John Awld. [On the margin] “10. Lib[erate].”’ (RPCS, XIII, 127.)

Map of Stewarton

Auld’s confession probably dates Renwick’s preaching to the night of Sunday, 31 October, 1686, which was Hallowe’en, the evening before All Hallow’s Day, i.e., Halyday.

3. Alexander Watt, tenant to the earl of Dundonald in Stewarton parish.
Watt’s wife attended Renwick’s preaching and had a child baptised. Alexander Watt appears to have been keen to impress on the earl of Linlithgow the severe measures he may have taken if he had known that his wife was going to attend the preaching. He, too, was before the earl of Linlithgow on 23 February:

‘Alexander Watt in Stewartoun paroch, tennent to the Earle of Dundonald, apprehended because his wife wes at the said conventicle, depones he wes not there himselfe and that his wife wes there contrare to his knowledge; ownes his Majesties authoritie and prayes for him; confesses his wife caryed a bairn there which wes baptized, but if he hade known it he would have bound her with a chain before she should have gone there. [Signed] Allexander Watt. [On the margin] “11. Lib[erate].”’ (RPCS, XIII, 127.)

Lane to Warwickhill © Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse.

4. John Lin in Warwickhill, Dreghorn parish.
Lin was before the earl of Linlithgow on 23 February:

‘Jon Lin in Warockhill in Dreghorn paroch, confeses he wes at the said conventicle on the water of Nock, and heard the preacher called Mr James Renwick; refuises to depone, or to acknowledge the kings authority and pray for him. [Signed] Linlithgow. [On the margin] ‘Just[ices]. Afterwards examind and liberat[e].’ (RPCS, XIII, 127.)

Map of Warwickhill            Aerial View of Warwickhill

5. Charles Lin in Dreghorn parish.
The case of Charles Lin is of interest as he did not swear to never rise against the King but was still liberated. He also before Linlithgow on 23 February:

‘Charles Lin in Dreghorne paroch confeses he wes at the said conventicle, and that there would have bein some persones in armes; sayes the[y] called the minister Mr James Renwick, and that their wes sex bairnes baptised; sayes it wes out of simplicity he went there; sayes he wes in no kirk since there own minister [Alexander Mushet] dyed [at some point before 12 October], but hes bein prisoner since Mertimes [i.e., Martinmas on 11 November] and sayes he wes never at any other conventicle, and resolves to keep the kirk and live orderly; sayes it is unlawfull to ryse in armes against the King or his authority, but refuises to depone or swear not to ryse in armes. [Signed] Linlithgow. [On the margin] “12. Lib[erate].”’ (RPCS, XIII, 127; Fasti, III, 88.)

Dykehead © Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse.

6. Robert Mitchell in the ‘toun’ of Dykehead, Dreghorn parish.
The ‘Robert Michaell’ recorded below appears to be the ‘Robert Mitchell’ who was banished to Barbados in April, 1687. Mitchell’s case is of interest in comparison to the case of Charles Linn listed above. While Lin was not banished after he refused to swear that he would not rise in arms against James VII, Mitchell was sent to the plantations because he would not pray for the king. Like the other prisoners from the Dreghorn preaching, Mitchell was before Linlithgow on 23 February:

‘Robert Michaell in Dreghorne paroch, and toun of Dyckhead, confesses he wes at the said conventicle, and it wes one the watter of Nock that it wes heild by Renwick, that there would have bein about one hundred at it and some of them hade armes; owns the Kings authority but refuises to pray for him. [Signed] Linlithgow. [On the margin] Plant[ations]’ (RPCS, XIII, 127.)

Dykehead is part of what is now called Cunninghamehead. The ‘toun’ of Dykehead could also refer to either ‘Auldtoun’ or ‘Newtoun’ which lie next to Dykehead.

Map of Dykehead              Street View of Dykehead

7. Alexander Finlay.
The Alexander Finlay who was also banished to Barbados in March 1687 may also have attended Renwick’s preaching in Dreghorn parish. (RPCS, XIII, 134.)

Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.


~ by drmarkjardine on September 12, 2012.

3 Responses to “James Renwick’s Halloween Preaching in 1686”

  1. The interrogators always seem interested as to whether the conventicle attendees were carrying arms, and compliant arrestees frequently attest that they were. Presumably this was just an excuse to imply that a violent insurrection against the established order was about to break out, thereby justifying harsh measures of repression. Surely the only reason arms would be carried by participants in a conventicle would be self-defence insurance against an attack by the royalist troops. A well-founded fear. Or am I being naive?

    • Hi John,
      in the late 1670s confrontations at field preachings became more common. This led militants to express the right to bear what they termed ‘defensive arms’. However, the government, quiet rightly as it turned out, believed that these preachings were seditious. In 1679, a confrontation at a preaching at Drumclog did lead to an all out rising in the West of Scotland. It was all a little chicken and eggish. So both sides had well-founded fears about the others use of arms.

      Up until late 1685 repression increased and both militant and moderate presbyterians plotted insurrections in 1683 and 1685. The carrying of arms was banned in the West and searches were conducted for them. The bearing of arms at field preachings was both a source of concern for the interrogators and a more severely punishable crime. The questions were slanted to elicit evidence that an offence had been committed. Imprisonment would follow, but often individuals were released provided they accepted the King’s authority and swore not to rise in arms against the king.

      So behind the arms issue, lay an ideological conflict.
      The attitude of the prisoners to royal authority was a key element in interrogations. Usually, there was witness evidence against them, unless they were captured red-handed at an event. When faced with the questions, militant Society people often refused to depone, i.e., give evidence. Refusal to depone usually led to either banishment, or, depending on the offence, execution. However, others did answer the evidence put to them, either agreeing to it, denying part of it or giving evidence against others. The more you cooperated, the more likely you were to be liberated.

      The ultimate key to liberation was almost always accepting royal authority, the only legitimate form of authority in the eyes of the regime as God agreed with royal authority. In crude terms, moderate presbyterians believed that royal authority was legitimate, but subject to limitiations. For the most part, they could assent to the king’s authority.

      The militant Society people believed in greater limitations on royal authority and that it must accord with God’s wishes, i.e., it must be Covenanted. Since they had rejected the King’s authority in the Sanquhar Declaration of 1680 and given him over to Satan, i.e., excommunicated him, in the Torwood Excommunication, also of 1680, they found it very difficult to accent to royal authority without betraying their testimony/cause.

      Two other sidelights on that debate.
      1. In late 1684 the Society people expanded the definition of ‘defensive arms’ to include the assassination of renowned persecuters in the Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers. Assassinations followed and the repression of the Killing Times, i.e., summary execution in the field if you failed to renounce the Societies’ war, was brought down on them. The Society people found that taking an offensive stance (outwith insurrections) brought a great deal of condemnation down on them. The policy was quietly abandoned in practical terms, but continued to be justified in theory. However, at the same time, the killings of their ‘martyrs’ also made the movement more popular.

      2. Once repression declined after the failure of the Argyll Rising in mid 1685, the Societies’ leadership found themselves in position of having to urge people to bear arms at field preachings. So it appears that as the fear of attack declined, so did the bearing of arms.


  2. […] of Nithsdale. In the late summer he preached in Cambuslang parish, Lanarkshire, and on 31 October in Dreghorn parish, […]

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