James Renwick’s Preaching at Cumnock in 1686

In April, 1686, James Renwick field preached somewhere in Cumnock parish, Ayrshire. Three men, Hector Brown, John Brown in Cumnock and John Ramsay, a shoemaker in Ayrshire, were captured after the preaching. Two others may also have been captured after the preaching.

Lord Castlehill

Reproduced by the kind permission of Stephen Marsh

They were taken to Edinburgh and brought before Arthur Rose, archbishop of St Andrews, Alexander Cairncross, archbishop of Glasgow, John Paterson, bishop of Edinburgh, Sir James Foulis, Lord Justice Clerk and John Lockhart, Lord Castlehill on 20 June, 1686:

1. Hector Brown.
‘Hector Brown declares he wes not at that conventicle keept in Cumno[c]k, but will not swear; will not give his oppinion anent the unlawfullnese of riseing in armes againest the King; refuises to declare under his hand that he owns the Kings Majesty as his lawfull sovereigne,’ (RPCS, XII, 324.)


2. John Brown in Cumnock.
The record of Brown’s appearance provides the evidence that Renwick was the preacher:

‘Jon Broun in Cum[n]ock confesses he wes at the conventicle wher [James] Rinick preached in Apryll last [1686]; says he dare not promise 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 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.

3. John Ramsay, shoemaker in Ayrshire.
‘John Ramsay, showmaker in the shyre of Ayre, taken as being at the conventicle at Cumnok, sayes he wes taken for want of a pass; being asked if he would take the oath of abjuration [which renounced the Societies’ war], sayes he will take it to consideratione; being asked if he acknowledges the King as his lawfull sovereigne, sayes he will take it to consideration.’ (RPCS, XII, 325.)

The implication of Ramsay’s answers is that he did not have a pass to travel because he had not taken the Abjuration oath in early 1685. There is also an intriguing equivocation in his attitude towards both the abjuration oath and royal authority. Ramsay did not say that he would not take the oath or acknowledge James VII’s authority, only that he would consider his answers. That may imply that Ramsay broadly assented to the Societies’ campaign, but did hold hardline the views of James Renwick and many other Society people.

Robert Cathcart, who was one of the leaders of the societies that broke with James Renwick at the beginning of 1686, later wrote to Ramsay, Gilbert McCullie and James Douglas.

A two others may have been captured as a result of the Cumnock conventicle.

4. James Browning in Richardton, Galston parish.
In one entry in the register of the privy council, Browning was said to have been at the Cumnock preaching, but a later entry recorded that he was at Renwick’s preaching in Muirkirk parish which took place a month earlier. It is more likely that Browning was at the Muirkirk preaching.

5. John Reid, in Cumnock parish.
He is perhaps the ‘John Reid in ———-, Cumnock parish’ listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 205.)

Reid was probably captured in April or May, 1686. On 6 and 7 December, 1686, he was brought before the committee of the council:
‘John Reed, sent in by the Generall [William Drummond] in May last [1686] as being at some conventicle about Kyle, being interrogat if he owns his Majesties authoritie sayes he is ignorant of such questiones; refuises to inact himselfe not to rise in armes. To be remitted to the Justices.’ (RPCS, XIII, 22.)

The date of Reid’s appearance in Edinburgh suggests that he had attended one of James Renwick’s field preachings in the district of Kyle. The two strongest possibilities are either Renwick’s preaching in Cumnock parish in April, 1686, or in Muirkirk parish in May. Given where he was from, he was probably at the Cumnock preaching.

The record of his trial is lost, but on 12 March, 1687, the council ordered that reports on John Reid ‘in Cumnock parish’ should be read by the council to decide on his banishment. (RPCS, XIII, 133-4.)

There is no record of the decision or of him after the reports. He was probably banished to Barbados in April, 1687.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on September 14, 2012.

5 Responses to “James Renwick’s Preaching at Cumnock in 1686”

  1. Hello Mark, John McKnight of the Mylne of Cumnock ( Old Mill, New Cumnock) in his interrogation of 1684 ‘depones he knoues John Reide in Dunshill and Patrick Gemill, fugatives, but knowes [not] quher they are’. The Gemill family held the lands of Bank (St Brydesbanck), Nether Blackcraig and Dounshill in what is now New Cumnock. I can;t race Dounshill in any old maps. However, as recent as the early 20th century the properties of Bank, Blackcraig and Dunside (not Dunshill) are parcelled together. Dunside, sits on Dunrig in the boundary of New Cumnock http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=15&lat=55.34808&lon=-4.08307

    Reide was apprehended and his confession of 1686 reads-
    ‘John Reede in Cumnock paroche confeses he had a pistole about him when taken and is sory for it; demurs when asked if he owns the Kings authority; refuises to give a direct answere as to his not riseing in armes, and refuises to swear not to doe so, and will not pray for the King’ [RPC]

  2. Sorry Mark, can’t find the exact references, Oct 1684 for interrogation of John McKnight ( a descendant of this family kept the Inn at the Old Mill when Robert Burns lodged there) and I only have 1686 for the Reede reference. I’ll need to look through old notes. Bobby

  3. […] field preached about once a month: In Stonehouse parish (17 January), Lesmahagow parish (March), Cumnock parish (April), probably somewhere in Galloway, Nithsdale and Annandale prior to 3 May, and in Muirkirk […]

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