James Renwick’s Preaching ‘Near Paisley’ in 1684

Paisley in Seventeenth century

Soon after the Carolina Merchant banishments, James Renwick preached at Greenock and ‘near Paisley’. Both preachings almost certainly took place before Tuesday 29 July, 1684.

According to Alexander Shields, Renwick’s preaching ‘near Paisley’ was ‘much noised about’ by the moderate presbyterian ministers as an ‘intrusion’, when, after a call from several local people, he had preached to a meeting at the same time as a moderate presbyterian minister was due to hold a similar illegal meeting in the same parish. (Shields, Life of Renwick, 57-8, 119-20.)

When Renwick preached ‘near Paisley’, he would have drawn an audience from both the surrounding parishes and across Renfrewshire. The location of Renwick’s preaching is not known, but Eastwood parish is a good candidate for where it took place.

First, Eastwood parish is one of five parishes which are adjacent to, or ‘near’, Paisley parish.  Of those six parishes, including Paisley, Eastwood is the only one with a known support base of Society people in 1684. On a practical level, the presence of several Societies’ martyrs in the parish and the concentration of presbyterian dissent in Renfrewshire in Eastwood and parishes to the east of it would make that area the most likely location for Renwick to hold a meeting. Were those the local people who called Renwick? We do not know.

Second, the other minister who held an illegal meeting at the same time as Renwick was probably a moderate presbyterian minister. At no point did Shields describe the other minister as an indulged minister. If the minister had been an indulged minister, Shields probably would have directly dismissed the charge of intrusion into their parish by referring to their indulgence, as the Societies did not recognise indulged ministers. The implication of the passage on Renwick’s “intrusion” into the other minister’s parish is that the latter nominally held the parish charge. The only minister in the area who was both a moderate presbyterian and privately held a charge was Matthew Crawford in Eastwood parish.

Renwick’s “intrusion” near Paisley probably made the difficult relations between moderate presbyterians and Society people in that area of Renfrewshire more fractious in the run up to James Algie and John Park’s executions.

There is no evidence that either Algie or Park attended the preaching, but Renwick’s essential message to withdraw from both episcopal and moderate presbyterian ministers may have influenced them.

William Niven, smith in Pollockshaws
Renwick’s preaching ‘near Paisley’ led to the capture of William Niven, a smith in Pollockshaws, Eastwood parish.

The old village of Pollockshaws on the Irvine–Glasgow road on the north side of the Shaw Bridge.

Map of Pollockshaws           Street View towards old Pollockshaws

Wodrow claimed that Niven was not ‘chargeable with any thing, but not hearing Mr [William] Fisher’ the minister of Eastwood parish, however, Niven was suspected of being one of the Society people who attended Renwick’s preaching. (Wodrow, History, IV, 150-1.)

‘[On Tuesday] July 29th, this year [i.e., 1684], about midnight, a party came and took him out of his bed, and carried him to Glasgow tolbooth. They alleged he had been at a sermon of Mr [James] Renwick’s, which was false. He lay three weeks there in irons [i.e., until c.19 August], and then, with John Macbae of the parish of Kilpatrick in Dumbartonshire, he was carried up to [Arthur Rose] the bishop [of Glasgow], and examined by him and colonel [John] Windram upon the ordinary questions.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 151.)

Colonel Winram was Lieutenant-Colonel John Winram of His Majesty’s Regiment of Foot Guards. Winram was the eldest son of Lord Liberton. He was an experienced officer who had been a captain in the regiment since December, 1668. On 8 January, 1681, he was promoted to Major, and on 20 June the following year was raised to Lieutenant-Colonel to replace the deceased George, Lord Ross. Winram is further recorded as Lieutenant-Colonel on 27 July, 1683, and 30 March, 1685. He died in late August 1687 and was buried in Greyfriars churchyard in Edinburgh on 2 September. (Dalton, Scots Army, 19n., 27, 28, 29, 147.)

‘Nothing was found against William [Niven] save his not hearing Mr Fisher, [the minister of Eastwood,] to whom I must do the justice to say, he was one of the soberest of his way, and he came into Glasgow and used his interest with the bishop, and signified to him, that the prisoner was a good peaceable person, and as to his not hearing, he would take him into his own hand. But nothing could prevail unless he would take the test, which he peremptorily refusing, was sent, with five others, two and two of them fettered together, in to Edinburgh under a guard.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 151.)

On 9 October, 1684, Niven and John Hodge, another suspected member of the Societies from Glasgow, were banished to the American plantations because ‘they would not take the oath of allegiance, or engage to live regularly [i.e., go to church] or own Bothwell to be rebellion.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 53.)

On 13 November, Niven was brought before the privy council with other suspected Society people and interrogated over the recently posted Apologetical Declaration.

‘This same day, when the accounts of the apologetical declaration came into Edinburgh, William [Niven] with some others whom my informer hath forgot, but minds John Hodge armourer in Glasgow, John Campbell in Overmoor, John and Peter Russels in Muirhead of Shot[t]s parish, James Tennant in West-Calder, were brought most suddenly about six of the clock at night, from the iron-house to the council or its committee.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 151.)

Some of the others that Wodrow’s informant had, perhaps conveniently, forgotten were John Semple, Gabriel Thomson and John Watt, three Society people from Lanarkshire who were executed on 24 November.

Two others, George Jackson of Eastwood parish and James Graham of Crossmichael parish in Kirkcudbrightshire, were also interrogated over the Apologetical Declaration. They were executed on 9 December.

The framing of Wodrow’s narrative excludes the prisoners who refused to the Abjuration oath and were executed for doing so. He continues:

‘The chancellor posed William [Niven] and the rest, whether they knew any thing of these treasonable papers that had been affixed to church-doors last Saturday night, or Sabbath. They all declared, they did not. Then they were interrogate if they owned the matter of them. The pannels answered, they knew nothing about them, and could neither own, nor disown them. The lords appeared to my informer to be in an unusual hurry and rage, and the clerk was bid read the paper, which he did as fast as he could run over it. Upon hearing of it, the pannels declared ingenuously, that they could make no judgment of it upon so overly an hearing. They were again required, under the highest pains, to disown it as their opinion. They answered, they had no share in it, and would not take upon them to judge of it, since this came not to their door.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 151.)

In other words, they did not disown the treasonable Apologetical Declaration.

‘Whereupon they were removed a little, and when called in, they were told they were sentenced to die that night at ten of the clock, and were removed two and two into corners of the laigh council-house, with a soldier or two to wait on them, there to continue till the hour of their execution. Happily for them something or other fell in that night which put the managers in confusion; it was said, it was some letters they received, and so about two hours after, they were carried back to the iron-house, and for a good many weeks afterward they were made to expect every day they were to be executed at two of the clock, till the king’s death fell in [February, 1685], and then they were no more directly threatened.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 151.)

Niven continued in ‘irons’ until May 1685, when he was sent to Dunnottar. He was later banished by George Scot of Pitlochie to Perth Amboy in East Jersey. (Wodrow, History, IV, 151.)

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on December 6, 2012.

3 Responses to “James Renwick’s Preaching ‘Near Paisley’ in 1684”

  1. […] and William Niven in Pollockshaws At the same time that the Carolina banishments took place, James Renwick preached ‘near Paisley’. Although the location of the preaching is not known, Eastwood parish is probably the best […]

  2. […] was also involved in the interrogation at Glasgow of prisoners taken after Renwick’s preaching at Paisley in July, […]

  3. […] other candidate is James Renwick’s preaching ‘near Paisley’ in July, 1684, which was ‘much noised about’ by the moderate presbyterian clergy as ‘intrusion’ into one […]

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