James Algie and John Park, and the Society People in Eastwood Parish
A few years after the gravestone to the executed Algie and Park was erected in Paisley, the Presbyterian historian, Robert Wodrow, published a detailed account of their martyrdom.
His account is of interest, as Algie and Park came from his own parish. One would expect that Wodrow would have had access to considerable local knowledge about the martyrs and their deaths. However, Wodrow left a number of mysterious gaps in his account. Before analysing his account, it is helpful if some of the gaps that he left are filled in.
First, the local context. According to Wodrow, Algie and Park lived at Kennishead in Eastwood parish, Renfrewshire. Kennishead lay in the barony and regality of Darnley, a large estate which covered part of Eastwood parish. The other major estate in the parish belonged to John Maxwell of Nether Pollock, a leading moderate presbyterian.
Today, the ruins of a later farm at Kennishead lie by Cowglen golf course in the south side of Glasgow.
Prior to Algie and Park’s execution, several of their neighbours were either involved in the Societies, or subject to judicial process. That cluster of Societies’ activity suggests that a prayer society operated in the area around Algie and Park’s home. From Wodrow’s account, it appears that Park was one of the Society people.
The Kennishead Fugitive
It is possible that Algie and Park knew ‘John Stuart in Kennishead’ who was declared a fugitive in mid 1683 and whose name appeared on the published Fugitive Roll in May, 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies, II, 202.)
Fugitive Neighbours, 1683 to 1684.
According to the porteous roll of 1683, Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollock was accused of resetting of several Bothwell rebels, including ‘Robert Jackson in Carnwatherick [i.e., Carnwadric in Pollock Maxwell’s Land], Arthur Cunningham there [in Darnley], [and] Robert Taylor there [in Darnley]’. All three of those rebels appeared on the published Fugitive Roll in 1684. All three men also lived next to Algie and Park’s home at Kennishead. (Wodrow, History, III, 481; Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 202-3.)
Carnwadric lay beside the site of the school.
Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollock and the other John Park
Among the witnesses against Maxwell of Pollock recorded on the porteous roll was a ‘John Park in Arden-head’. (Wodrow, History, III, 481.)
Ardenhead lay south of Kennishead in the midst of what is now housing. It, too, was part of the regality of Darnley.
What relation, if any, there was between John Park in Ardenhead and his neighbour John Park in Kennishead is not known. Park in Ardenhead’s evidence was used in the prosecution of Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollock in late 1684.
After some time in and out of prison, Maxwell was indicted for high treason for supplying Bothwell rebels and for the reset and harbouring of fugitives in November, 1684. He was before the privy council on 2 December and committed to Edinburgh tolbooth. Following letters from Charles II, Maxwell was fined £8,000 Sterling, the equivalent of £96,000 Scots or 64,000 merks. He refused to pay the fine or find caution for £5,000 Sterling to be released and continued in prison until long after Algie and Park were executed. (Wodrow, History, IV, 136-7, 141-3, 212.)
Nether Pollock sat at the pinnacle of the community in Eastwood parish. His imprisonment almost certainly diminished his influence in affairs affecting the parish and probably left local Presbyterians less able to evade repression.
The Banishment of Arthur Cunningham
Arthur Cunningham in Darnley, one of the fugitives mentioned above, was captured in Paisley parish in a search of the area in mid 1684.
Cunningham initially consented to his banishment to Stuart’s Town in Carolina. However, he later acknowledged that as a failing and subscribed a joint testimony in support of the Societies’ cause when he was banished in July, 1684. Leading moderate presbyterians involved in the Carolina Scheme facilitated his banishment.
Algie and Park probably either knew Cunningham as a neighbour, or would have heard of his banishment. What impact it had on them is not known.
James Renwick’s Preaching ‘Near Paisley’ 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 candidate for where it took place.
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. Their neighbour William Niven, a smith in Pollockshaws, was suspected of attending the preaching. He was captured at Pollockshaws on 29 July, 1684.
On 9 October, Niven was sentenced to banishment to the American colonies. He remained in prison and was interrogated on 13 November and threatened with execution over his refusal to disown the Societies’ Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers, the same document to which Algie and Park adhered. Another resident of Eastwood parish, George Jackson, was also questioned over the Apologetical Declaration at the same time as Niven.
The Execution of George Jackson
The execution of George Jackson, a tenant of Maxwell of Pollock, in Edinburgh on 9 December, 1684, may also have influenced Algie and Park. Jackson’s execution would have had impacted on the people of Eastwood parish who knew him. Later Presbyterian sources alleged that his trial and execution were conducted in controversial circumstances.
From his own account of his interrogation, Jackson appears to have attended the United Societies’ general convention, as he did not deny that he had attended the convention. He was probably a delegate from the prayer society which operated in Eastwood parish. Jackson may have attended the Societies’ eleventh convention at Darmead on 3 October, 1683. Darmead was the first convention at which James Renwick preached. (See the preachings at Brounrigge and Little Drumbreck.)
He was captured in Glasgow with seditious papers in October, 1683. He may be the George Jackson that was remitted to the justices on 17 May, 1684. (Wodrow, History, IV, 17.)
On 8 and 9 December, he was tried along with nine others – James Graham, Thomas Robertson, Thomas Wood, Alexander Heriot, Patrick Cunningham, John Watt [in Glassford parish], James Kirkwood, Alexander Vallange [forfeited] and James Glover [in Tinwald parish?] – for either posting the Societies’ treasonable Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers, or failing to disown it. Five of the prisoners disowned the declaration and saved their lives. The other five – Watt, Jackson, Graham, Robertson and Wood – were executed. Watt on 24 November, and the other four at the Gallowlee near Edinburgh on the afternoon of 9 December. (Wodrow, History, IV, 166.)
In his martyrs’ testimony George Jackson described the Apologetical Declaration as ‘most agreeable to the Word of God’ and adhered to the Sanquhar Declaration and Renwick’s ‘faithful’ preaching. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 67; George Jackson, ‘Letter of 1684’, NLS. MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI, f.208.)
What the impact the martyrdom of George Jackson had on Algie and Park is not known.
The Two Banishments of Thomas Jackson
Another resident of Eastwood parish undergoing an ordeal just before the execution of Algie and Park was Thomas Jackson. Like George Jackson, he lived somewhere on Nether Pollock’s estate.
Thomas Jackson was captured near Hamilton in 1683. He appeared before the council on 4 March, 1684, and was banished to the Army in West Flanders to serve in the short-lived War of the Reunions. The war ended on 15 August in the Truce of Ratisbon. (Wodrow, History, IV, 9, 254; Thomas Jackson and others, ‘Testimony on their banishment to Flanders in 1684’, Wod.Oct.XXIX, f.271.)
‘There he was sold as a slave [i.e., into military service], and engaged in the war against the Spaniards, he took the first opportunity that offered, and left the service, and got into a French ship coming home, and from France got over again to his native country.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 254.)
Back in Scotland, Jackson resisted recapture:
‘Towards the beginning of this year [i.e., 1685], in a close search at Glasgow, he was taken by major [John] Balfour and [lieutenant-]colonel [Thomas] Buchan [, both of Mar’s Regiment of Foot]. When seized he made some struggle to defend himself, and escape, in which he was fearfully wounded in the head, and terribly mangled. Upon examination they found he had been banished, and broke his act of banishment, and threatened him with present death.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 254.)
According to Wodrow, they threatened to summarily execute the injured Jackson in public on Glasgow Green:
‘He was carried down to the green, and ordered to be shot This did neither damp nor confuse him; he was ready for his change, and no way discouraged. When the soldiers were drawn out to fire upon him, and he set before them, and in some measure had tasted of the bitterness of death, somewhat or other made them alter their resolution, if it was settled before.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 254.)
The chronology of Wodrow’s narrative indicates that Jackson was captured and threatened with execution in about the first week of January, 1685, i.e., just after the Abjuration oath was issued. It is not clear if Jackson was proffered the oath. After his ordeal, Jackson was sent back to prison.
‘In a few days he was sent in to Edinburgh, where he lay in the thieveshole, with irons upon him, two and thirty weeks.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 254-5.)
As the name suggests, the Thieves’ Hole was a pretty unpleasant room in Edinburgh Tolbooth. Jackson was given to Scot of Pitlochie for banishment to Perth Amboy in East Jersey on 21 August. Thirty-two weeks before the date of his banishment was 9 January. (Wodrow, History, IV, 222-3; Thomas Jackson, ‘Letter to his friends when banished in 1685’, Wod.Fol. XXXIII. item 114.)
‘All that time he was never free of the irons, both upon his legs and arms, except once for a few hours, when he was brought before some committee or other, who remitted him to the irons again, for seventeen weeks more; at length he was banished to new Jersey and died in the voyage.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 255.)
What the impact of Jackson’s capture and mock execution had on Algie and Park is not known, but those events took place just a few weeks before their deaths.
We do not know what Park’s connections to other Society people in Eastwood parish were or what motived Algie to adhere to the Societies’ testimony. What is reasonably clear is that the case of Algie and Park did not take place in isolation from other incidents involving local Society people. At the beginning of 1685, the Society people in Eastwood parish had experienced sustained repression which had claimed a number of their brethren.
Relations between local Society people and moderate presbyterians had probably broken down in the aftermath of the Carolina Merchant banishments, Renwick’s preaching and the Apologetical Declaration.
The trial and imprisonment of Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollock, who appears to have offered some degree of protection to local presbyterians, may have exposed local Society people like Algie and Park to greater danger.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.