The Execution of Algie and Park at Paisley in 1685: Wodrow’s Version

Algie and Park Monument 1835Algie and Park Monument of 1835 © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

Wodrow’s Version of the Trial and Execution of Algie and Park
‘Upon the 3d of February, I find John Park and James Algie executed at the cross of Paisley, by sentence of the commissioners for this shire.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Wodrow confirms that the judges of Algie and Park were the shire commissioners. Like the inscription on the gravestone, he did not identify who most of the commissioners were, but he did mention Ormiston’s prominent roll in the trial.

The president of the court was Lord Ross. The other commissioners present were William Hamilton of Ormiston and either some of, or all of, their fellow commissioners, i.e., the earl of Glencairn, Lord Cochrane, John Houston, younger of the ilk, and John Schaw, younger of Greenock.

Wodrow’s Sources
Wodrow claimed that he was able to give ‘particular detail’ of the trial as ‘my accounts are from persons of the best credit, who had occasion to know it exactly’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 190.)

One source that Wodrow used to obtain his information about the trial was the previous incumbent of his parish, Matthew Crawford (d. December, 1700). Wodrow knew Crawford well, as he had lived in Eastwood parish from c.1697 and he succeeded to Crawford’s charge in 1703. (Fasti, III, 135.)

‘I have a distinct account of them [i.e., Algie and Park] from the late reverend Mr Matthew Crawford minister at Eastwood, where they lived, whose piety and learning make his memory savoury to all who knew him.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Matthew Crawford was a moderate-presbyterian minister in Eastwood parish at the time of the executions. He had been declared a fugitive in 1676 and was privately ordained at the behest of one of the leading moderate presbyterians, John Maxwell of Nether Pollock, whose estate lay in Eastwood parish. Private ordination meant that Crawford did not play any public role in Eastwood parish, but under the protection of Maxwell’s household he was probably the focus for moderate-presbyterian dissent in that parish. In 1687, Crawford accepted James VII’s edicts of toleration and established a meeting house in the parish. He became the parish minister at the Revolution. Wodrow, too, was a chaplain in Maxwell’s household in the late 1690s before he became the parish minister.

As a fugitive, Crawford did not attend the trial in person, however, he did play a role in sending a moderate presbyterian preacher to Algie and Park when they were briefly imprisoned awaiting trial.

John Maxwell of PollockSir John Maxwell of Nether Pollock

Wodrow neglected to mention that Crawford was almost certainly opposed to the Society people in principle, as he was a moderate presbyterian minister. However, Crawford may not have taken a hostile attitude towards local Society people. His patron, Maxwell of Pollock, was later involved in a secret negotiation with James Renwick in October, 1685. Renwick’s willingness to visit Maxwell of Pollock’s home at that time is a sign that he trusted Maxwell and his household not to turn him over to the authorities. As Maxwell’s chaplain, it is likely that Crawford was in some way involved in those negotiations.

At the time of Algie and Park’s brief imprisonment, Maxwell of Pollock was absent from the parish as he had been imprisoned on 2 December, 1684, and accused of high treason. In that context, Crawford may well have had good reasons to ensure that his patron’s name was in not associated with any intervention to save two Society people.

It would appear that Crawford was well placed to know about Algie and Park’s case. However, he was not necessarily an unbiased source, as Wodrow also failed to mention was that Crawford had married Margaret Houston, a daughter of John Houston of that ilk, one of the judges who condemned Algie and Park. (Fasti, III, 134-5.)

A Useful Chronology for the execution of Algie and Park
Taken together, the events surrounding local Society people and the details of the Paisley court and the pressing of the Abjuration oath in Eastwood reveal both a sequence of events in Eastwood parish in the run up to the trial of Algie and Park, and information about the Paisley court which tried them.

October, 1683.
Thomas Jackson from Eastwood parish is captured near Hamilton. George Jackson of Eastwood parish is also captured in Glasgow.

4 March, 1684.
Thomas Jackson is banished to Flanders. He subscribes a testimony on his banishment.

c. 1684.
Robert King, the local miller, is an acquaintance of Algie and Park. King and his wife were dissenters like Park.

5 May, 1684.
The published Fugitive Roll names several of Algie and Park’s neighbours and John Stuart at Kennishead.

May–June, 1684.
Searches are conducted in Eastwood parish and other nearby parishes for fugitives. Arthur Cunningham, who was from a farm close to Algie and Park’s home, is captured in a search.

20 July, 1684.
Arthur Cunningham is banished to Carolina and subscribes a testimony on favour of the Society people.

Before 29 July, 1684.
James Renwick preaches near Paisley, possibly in Eastwood parish. Some local Society people probably attend the meeting.

29 July, 1684.
William Niven, a suspected attender of Renwick’s preaching, is captured in Pollockshaws

9 October, 1684.
William Niven is sentenced to banishment.

Late 1684.
Thomas Jackson secretly returns from banishment and goes into hiding.

October–November, 1684.
The parish ministers in Renfrewshire probably submit lists of nonconformists to the authorities in line with the practice in other shires in either October or November, 1684. Park may have appeared on that list.

8 November, 1684.
The Society people post the Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers on kirk doors.

13 November, 1684.
William Niven and George Jackson, both of Eastwood parish, are interrogated over the Apologetical Declaration and refuse to disown it. Niven remains under the threat of execution.

2 December, 1684
Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollock, a moderate presbyterian whose estate dominated Eastwood parish, is imprisoned for High Treason.

8–9 December, 1684.
George Jackson of Eastwood parish is tried and executed in Edinburgh. His martyrs’ testimony begins to circulate.

30 December, 1684.
The list of shire commissioners to press the Abjuration and deal with dissent is proclaimed. William Hamilton of Ormiston, the earl of Glencairn, Lord Cochrane, Lord Ross, John Houston, younger of the ilk, and John Shaw, younger of Greenock, are appointed commissioners.

4 or 11 January, 1685.
The instructions for pressing the oath are probably announced in Eastwood parish church.

Beginning of January, 1685.
Thomas Jackson is seized for the second time in a search of Glasgow and threatened with summary execution at Glasgow Green.

18 or 25 January, 1685.
The deadline for the heritors, factors etc. of Eastwood parish to submit an exact list of all the inhabitants of their estates to the parish minister, William Fisher.

Late January, 1685.
The commissioners almost certainly press the Abjuration oath in Eastwood parish. Algie and Park evade taking the oath.

1 February, 1685.
Algie and Park are captured at Kennishead in Eastwood parish.

Morning of 3 February, 1685.
The commissioners send soldiers to Eastwood parish to seize Robert King, a nonconformist and had not taken oaths.

3 February, 1685.
The commissioners hold their court at Paisley Tolbooth to handle cases arising from the pressing of the Abjuration in Renfrewshire.

With the above chronology in mind, it is now time to return to Wodrow’s narrative of the case of Algie and Park.


According to Wodrow: ‘Those two men lived in Kennishead in the foresaid parish, and were joint tenants in a bit of land there.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Algie and Park held the tack, or lease, to some land either at, or near, Kennishead. Today, the ruins of the later farm at Kennishead lie by Cowglen golf course in the south side of Glasgow.

Map of Kennishead         Aerial View of Kennishead

Kennishead lay in the barony and regality of Darnley, The barony was scattered across several neighbouring parishes and part of the Lennox estate. It is possible that Algie and Park took over the tack of Kennishead after John Stuart was declared a fugitive in mid 1683 if Stuart held the tack to the same land.

Wodrow continues:

‘I am informed that James Algie was an ordinary conformist, and heard the episcopal minister till within a few weeks before this, when through the influence of the other[, i.e., Park,] he gave it over.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Wodrow claims that ‘a few weeks before’ their execution, Park had persuaded Algie to abandon his attendance of episcopal worship and join him in supporting the Society people. Algie had made a sudden ideological volte-face, turning from episcopal conformity to the militant-presbyterian extreme.

Before he joined the Society people, Algie would have worshiped under William Fisher, the ‘curate’ of Eastwood, at the parish church. That church was demolished in 1781.

Wodrow’s account implies that Park was one of the Society people, as he persuaded Algie to adhere to their testimony. When Park joined the Societies is not known. It is possible that he may have moved in local Presbyterian circles before he adhered to the Societies, as unlike Algie, he was not described as a conformist. Park may have been known to Matthew Crawford. As discussed above, Crawford may have felt that he had a duty towards all the Presbyterians of Eastwood due to the influence of his patron, Maxwell of Pollock, in the parish.

Wodrow’s time frame for Algie’s volte-face suggests that he made it at around the same time that the process of pressing the Abjuration oath in Eastwood parish had begun, i.e., in early January.

The initiation of that process was probably not the cause of Algie’s volte-face. What crisis or events could have caused such a dramatic psychological and ideological realignment in Algie, and propelled Park’s hardline views? Wodrow does not say, but the dramatic events involving Society people in Eastwood parish who were Algie and Park’s neighbours in the months before their execution may have influenced their views and led Algie to join Park in adhering to the Societies’ testimony.

What is clear is that Algie and Park both adhered to the Societies’ Apologetical Declaration before the Abjuration oath was pressed towards the end of January.

Wodrow, however, concentrated on their giving up of the tack as the reason for why they were informed against, rather than their adherence to the testimony of the Society people. Abandoning the tack or lease would have had financial consequences for either the owner of the land or the individual who awarded the tack. According to Wodrow, their actions were taken as a slight by the unnamed tacksman or factor who awarded the ‘bit of land’ to Algie and Park.

That may be a spin on events by Wodrow. He had little time for the Society people in his history, as their extremity ran counter to the moderate image he wanted to depict of Presbyterian dissent. He was, perhaps, deliberately, vague about the reasons for Algie and Park’s abandonment of the tack.

‘It is certain that both of them gave over that land they had jointly a tack of, upon some reason or other, which one who had been instrumental in bringing them thither took very ill, and drove his resentments so far as to inform against them, and sent a nephew of his upon the Lord’s day, February 1st, with a letter to Mr John Cochran[e] of Ferguslie at Paisley, bailie of the regality of Darnley, under which they lived’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Were Algie and Park’s adoption of the Society people’s platform and their abandonment of the tack connected? A good case can be made that they were.

The Duke of Richmond in c1685The Duke of Richmond in c.1685.

Kennishead lay in the barony and regality of Darnley which belonged to Charles Stewart, duke of Lennox (d.1723). Stewart was the illegitimate son of Charles II and his long-term French mistress, Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.

The regality was part of the Lennox estates and titles which Charles II had granted to his infant illegitimate son in 1673. The estate later passed through the hands of the Duke of Montrose to the Maxwells of Pollock.

In 1685, Portsmouth’s son was only twelve years old. It is almost certain that the Duchess, who was absent at court in London, ran the regality of Darnley through factors on behalf of her son. Whoever held the post of factor or chamberlain of the regality would have had considerable social standing within that area of Renfrewshire, as the regality of Darnley was spread across several parishes.

KéroualleLouise de Kérouaille

At the time of Algie and Park’s ordeal, the Duchess was endeavouring to ensure that the terminally-ill Charles II did not die estranged from the Catholic church. Charles died three days after Algie and Park were executed.

The connection between the regality and the King and his French Catholic mistress may have made it very difficult for Society people like the newly-converted Algie to continue to hold the tack, as payments on the tack or any other burdens may have been viewed as either directly, or indirectly, aiding the repression of God’s people.

The Informer
The unnamed individual who informed on Algie and Park was probably responsible for awarding more than just Algie and Park’s tack within the Darnley estate. They were almost certainly part of the local hierarchy responsible for administering the estate in the name of the young duke. Precisely where the informer fitted into that hierarchy is not known.

It is possible that the informer was the factor or chamberlain of the regality. A chamberlain handled the finances of an estate. In 1685, the “nerve centre” of the Darnley estates was probably Crookston Castle, which lies in Paisley parish close to the boundary with Eastwood parish.

The possibility that the factor or chamberlain may have been the informer is of particular interest when the instructions of the privy council regarding the Abjuration oath are taken into account. In the absence of the heritor, i.e., the twelve-year-old duke of Lennox, ‘factors or chamberlains’ were responsible for drawing up the exact list of the inhabitants of their lands. The factor or chamberlain was also responsible for presenting that list to the local minister, William Fisher, for the use of the shire commissioners within fifteen days of the public announcement of the Abjuration oath in Eastwood parish.

That list should have included Algie and Park and would have been submitted in mid January, 1685. That may explain why Algie and Park suddenly chose to abandon their joint tack at around the same time. We do not know why they did that, but faced with appearing on the list to take the Abjuration oath, it is possible that Algie and Park decided to abandon their tack in an attempt to evade taking the oath. Their decision appears to have been sudden, may have been suspicious and was perhaps taken without them offering a plausible explanation for it to the factor. It would also have failed to evade the oath, as all inhabitants of the estate were supposed to be listed, rather than just those who headed households.

However, it is not clear if Algie and Park appeared on the list of inhabitants submitted by the factor.

If they were recorded on the list, then they would have been legally required to appear before the commissioners on the day that the Abjuration was sworn in Eastwood parish. If they evaded that duty, then they would have immediately become fugitives if the factor refused to agree to produce them within a reasonable time frame. It is possible that having failed to appear to take the oath, that the factor, then in the position of having to vouch for them until he produced them, felt compelled to inform against them.

If their names did not appear on the list, then they may have been successful in evading the oath when it was publicly taken in Eastwood parish. That possibility could only have come about if the factor or chamberlain colluded in the suppression of their names, as the instructions for the oath required all inhabitants of the estate to be listed whether they held land or not. William Fisher, the local minister, might have spotted that his parishioner, James Algie, was not on the list.

It is not clear whether the shire commissioners knew that Algie and Park had evaded the oath before they received information about them.

However, of the two options given above, the former has the benefit of being a simple explanation for their being informed against.

The latter option is convoluted and very unlikely, as it creates unnecessary complications when the logic of that scenario is drawn out. For example, either the informer informed on Algie and Park to escape the legal consequences of his own failure to list them, or his informing on Algie and Park would have led to treason charges, for which there is no evidence, being levelled against the factor or chamberlain who kept them off the Abjuration list.

The simplest explanation, that they appeared on the list, evaded taking the oath and were informed against, is to be preferred.

Wodrow does not mention if they failed to take the Abjuration in the fortnight before their trial. However, is clear is that Algie and Park had not taken the Abjuration before they were captured.

The Letter
The date that the letter was hand delivered on, Sunday, 1 February, 1685, makes it almost certain that it was sent after the Abjuration oath was pressed in Eastwood parish. At the time that it was sent, Algie and Park were among those who had failed to take the oath. The informer’s letter plainly intended to draw the authorities’ attention to Algie and Park, and presumably identified where the informer’s former tenants were to be found, i.e., at Kennishead.

Why was the letter sent?
There are a number of possible motives. According to Wodrow, it was due to the informer’s ire over Algie and Park’s desertion of the tack. However, was the informer’s anger the only reason for him directing the authorities to Algie and Park?

Wodrow’s motive for the informer obscures other possible motives.

As discussed above, it is possible that the informer, if he had submitted the list of inhabitants of his estate, was in the position of having to inform on Algie and Park or he would have had to face the same charge of treason as they did.

At the very least, he could have failed to vouch for them to the commissioners, which would have made them fugitives. However, it appears that the informer went beyond simply failing to vouch for them, as he chose to inform the authorities were they could be found and insisted that they act.

If the informer had submitted the list of inhabitants then he would have been responsible for securing the goods and gear of Algie and Park’s household or households after they were seized. That may have provided him with some compensation for the desertion of the tack. The explanation that his ire over the desertion of the tack led him to inform does make sense in that context, but it is only a partial explanation.

The informer’s ire over the tack also does not exclude the possibility that a sense of public duty may motivated the informer to expose the disloyal Algie and Park. One motive may had reinforced another.

Although Wodrow mentions breach of contract over the tack, he does not mention that the 500 merk reward offered by the privy council’s proclamation for identifying any member of the Societies may have influenced the informer. A possible thousand-merk reward for the capture and sentencing of both Algie and Park may have been very tempting to the informer, especially as it would have more than made up for any losses which he had accrued from the desertion of the tack. It is curious that Wodrow does not mention the reward due to the informer for turning in Algie and Park.

Who was the Informer?
The identity of the informer is not known. However, some local readers of Wodrow’s History may have been able to identify the individuals involved in the letter from clues contained in the text. It is clear that the informer was responsible for awarding tacks in the regality of Darnley in 1685. He would have been a prominent member of the community. Wodrow possibly knew who was involved in the letter, but like the inscribers of the gravestone, he did not publish their identifies.

Wodrow probably chose his words with care in order to balance local knowledge of the informer’s identity with a need not to place their name in the public domain. It is possible that the authors of the inscription on the gravestone may have felt the similar pressures to Wodrow, as they, too, did not reveal the name.

One could infer from the failure of both of the presbyterian sources to name the informer that either the informer, or their relatives, carried considerable social clout in the area, or that the publication of their name may have been embarrassing in presbyterian circles, or that a combination of those possibilities prevented the informer from being named. A similar set of circumstances appears to have prevented the names of those who judged Algie and Park from entering the public domain.

Who was Ferguslie?
The informer’s cousin delivered the letter to John Cochrane of Fergulie. The Regality of Darnley was a heritable jurisdiction, i.e., the landowner, the duke of Lennox, fulfilled the same functions as a sheriff within the bounds of the regality. As the duke was only twelve years old, the legal officer was his baillie, John Cochrane of Ferguslie.

Cochrane was a nephew of William Cochrane, first earl of Dundonald. Among his cousins were Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, a suspect in the Rye House plots, Jean Cochrane, who was married to Colonel John Graham of Claverhouse, and Grizel Cochrane, the mother of William, Lord Ross. Another relative was John Cochrane, Lord Cochrane, later the second earl of Dundonald.

It appears that he did not hold the lands of Ferguslie at the time of Algie and Park’s trial, as a William Hamilton of Ferguslie was one of the commissioners of supply for Renfrewshire in May, 1685. (RPS, 1685/4/33.)

However, at some point after that he must have acquired Ferguslie. On 16 October, 1688, ‘John Cochrane of Ferguslie’ was appointed a captain of the companies raised to protect Glasgow in the run up to the Revolution.

After the Revolution, Cochrane of Ferguslie was a commissioner of supply in 1689 and 1690. He died without issue before 1697. His brother, William Cochrane of Ferguslie, was a Jacobite and held the title after him. (RPS, 1689/3/189, 1690/4/44.)

The letter to John Cochrane of Ferguslie was delivered to him while he was at church, which may indicate either that it was delivered to him at a time and place when it was known that Ferguslie would be present, or that the informer wanted the letter delivered in front of witnesses.

According to Wodrow, the letter informed Ferguslie that Algie and Park were ‘of rebellious principles, disowned the king’s authority, and defended the [Apologetical] declaration of the societies [against Intelligencers], adding, that it was his business, as judge ordinary, to notice them [Algie and Park] as he would be answerable.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Wodrow’s account is the only guide to the letter’s contents. It is not clear from the cryptic final phrase if the baillie’s willingness to root out fugitives was in doubt. Does the final phrase indicate a veiled threat or was it a reminder to Ferguslie of his duty under the terms of the proclamation? We do not know.

Wodrow then adds that the informer’s nephew was immediately secured by Ferguslie after the letter was delivered:

‘The bearer of the letter was put in close custody until the forenoon’s sermon was over, and then a party of soldiers were ordered out’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Why the informer’s cousin was briefly held in ‘close custody’ is not clear. Ferguslie may have taken the preventative step of securing him to stop word leaking out that Algie and Park had been discovered. Ferguslie may not have appreciated the tone of the letter.

Paisley in Seventeenth centuryPaisley

‘[Algie and Park were] were seized [on Sunday 1 February] in their own house just when about family worship, and carried down to Paisley that night’ and ‘examined there upon the common interrogatories. In which they not giving full satisfaction, were left in prison.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Algie and Park were only held in Paisley tolbooth for over a day, i.e., mainly on Monday 2 February.

‘While they were in prison, Mr James Hay, afterwards minister at Kilsyth since the revolution, was sent to them by Mr Matthew Crawford, who was much concerned in them, being some way part of his charge, but being denounced durst not go himself.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

James Hay was one of Wodrow’s ministerial brethren. In 1685, he was a moderate presbyterian preacher without a charge. Like Crawford, Hay did not share the Societies’ hardline covenanted platform. In 1688 he accept ministerial ordination under James VII’s edicts of toleration that the Societies detested. (Fasti, III, 479.)

The dynamic between Crawford and Hay reveals interesting contextual detail. As a fugitive, Crawford was in hiding, almost certainly either in the household of John Maxwell of Nether Pollock at Haggs Castle, or nearby under Maxwell’s protection.

Crawford rapidly responded to the capture of Algie and Park. He clearly appreciated the dangerous position they were in and quickly organised Hay’s visit to dissuade them from adhering to the Societies’ testimony. Hay’s visit must have taken place on 2 February.

‘Upon conversation with them, he [i.e., Hay] found they knew very little as to the debatable points upon which they had been interrogate, only they had lately drunk in some of the tenets of those who denied the king’s authority [i.e., of the Society people]: but upon conversation and further instruction, they appeared very willing to quit them. And after some pains taken upon them, they came, to be satisfied to take the abjuration oath.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

There are numerous cases of moderate presbyterian ministers entering prisons to attempt to persuade captured Society people to take oaths to avoid execution. According to Wodrow, Hay succeeded in getting Algie and Park to agree to take the Abjuration oath that renounced the Societies’ war of assassinations. However, Wodrow then dubiously claims that ‘but it seems their death was resolved on, whatever condescensions they should make.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189.)

Paisley TolboothPaisley Tolbooth

Algie and Park Before the Paisley Court
‘The commissioners having a justiciary power for that shire, met on Tuesday, [3 February].

And when an offer was made, in their name, in open court, that they would swear the [Abjuration] oath required in the [privy] council’s proclamation, [William Hamilton,] the laird of Orbiston, who now managed matters here and in Dumbartonshire, according to the bloody imposing spirit of the times, answered, directing himself to the two pannels, “The abjuration oath shall not save you; unless you take the test, you shall hang presently.”

The two plain good men, having a just abhorrence at the test, replied, “If to save our lives we must take the test, and the abjuration will not save us, we will take no oaths at all.”

And upon this qualified refusal of the abjuration, they were sentenced to die presently.’

‘The foresaid gentleman, one of their judges [i.e., Ormiston], after the sentence was passed, boast in the wickedness, and vauntingly say, “They thought to have cheated the judges, but by, I have tricked them.”.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 189-90.)

Wodrow’s narrative of the trial plainly accuses Ormiston of being the driving force behind Algie and Park’s execution. However, his narrative excludes the actions of the other commissioners in the court. On his own Ormiston did not have the power to condemn Algie and Park, as a quorum of commissioners had to be present at the court, i.e., at least three.

In 1749 William Crookshank named William, Lord Ross, as one of the judges: ‘John Park and James Algie in Eastwood were apprehended, and on the third brought before the Lord Ross, the Laird of Orbistoun, and others, the commissioners for the shire of Renfrew’. (Crookshank, History, II, 283.)

According to a broadside on Algie and Park’s martyrdom which was published in c.1835, ‘the truth was, [that] Lord Ross was the prime mover in all these bloody transactions, and Orbiston was a mere tool in his hands’. (A Short Account of the Martyrdom of James Algie and John Park)

It is not clear if that later text’s identification of Lord Ross as the prime mover was public knowledge at the time when Wodrow wrote. Lord Ross had died in 1738, two decades after the gravestone was erected and the publication of Wodrow’s account.

Orbiston’s alleged outburst that they would be hanged if they also did not take the test was a threat, rather than a sentence. Ormiston’s threat allegedly bounced Algie and Park back to their previous position that they would take neither the test, nor the Abjuration.

According to Wodrow:

‘Had the poor men peremptorily demanded the benefit of the abjuration, even by the then laws they could not have taken their life, for they had no facts at all against them, and the test could not in law be required of them; but they had neither skill nor courage to plead before courts, and no lawyers were allowed to argue for them.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 190.)

Appointing a lawyer was almost certainly beyond the means of Algie and Park. Even if they could afford one, the Society people did not use legal representation in court as that recognised the court and king’s authority. Whatever Wodrow claimed was said in court, it is clear that both men ultimately refused the abjuration oath before the court. The sentence for doing so was immediate execution.

The commissioners ‘sentenced them in the forenoon, and they were executed [on the gibbet] that same day about two of the clock.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 190.)

Algie and Park were hanged on a gibbet at Paisley’s mercat cross which lay close by the tolbooth. The mercat cross was removed in 1692.

Street View of former site of Tolbooth and Mercat Cross

Either the short period of their confinement, or their alleged resolve to take the Abjuration or their rapid executions may explain why neither Algie, nor Park, left a martyrs’ testimony.

A Later Version of their Execution
In 1835 a different version of their execution appeared in The Liberator and a broadside pamphlet. Instead of Ormiston, it mainly blamed Lord Ross for their executions. It is tempting to believe that it revealed uncomfortable truths which Wodrow and the erectors of the gravestone had concealed. However, there is no obvious source for the material the broadside published. It also falls into the same trap as Wodrow did, as it blames one man for the actions of panel of judges.

‘When they came to the scaffold they behaved with great fortitude, but when they attempted to address the assembled multitude, the drums were beat to drown their voice. They sang the118th psalm, from the 17th verse downwards, and when giving out the lines:
“We shall not die, but live, and shall
The works of God discover”
the miscreant Lord Ross exclaimed, shaking his head,
“But ye shall die.”

The able and acute editor of Wodrow’s history, Dr. Burns, attempts to extenuate this infernal saying of Lord Ross, (merely, we suppose, because it was the saving of a Lord), on the grounds that that nobleman alluded to the chance of a rescue. But on reading Wodrow’s account of the execution, the very reverse of a rescue is quite apparent and no man can have the least hesitation in saying that the exclamation proceeded from the black malignant heart of the wretch.’ (A Short Account of the Martyrdom of James Algie and John Park)

It is difficult to unravel the basis of the broadside’s accusations against Burns. The original edition of Wodrow’s History is not different from the Burns’ edition. Both editions do not mention Lord Ross or his words at Algie and Park’s execution. (See Wodrow, History (first edition), II, 461-2.)

‘After singing the psalm and praying, they offered their bible to any of the crowd that might be pleased to accept them, but such was, the general fear that no person would take them. The martyrs then quietly declared that they, would die with the word of truth in their bosoms. Their waiscoats were accordingly unbuttoned by the executioner, and the bibles placed nearest their heart, and in a few moments these worthy youths were launched into eternity.’ (A Short Account of the Martyrdom of James Algie and John Park)

The broadside also offered an explanation for why William, Lord Ross, the convenor of the court, was not blamed:

‘The miscreant Lord Ross outlived the Revolution, and received emolument, and was covered with undeserved honour by the WHIGS;’ (A Short Account of the Martyrdom of James Algie and John Park)

It then moves on to assure the readers that judgement was ultimately visited on him and his name:

‘but nothing could allay the horrors of his perturbed imagination, which peopled his den at Hawkhead with demons, and other evil spirits, Satan himself was said frequently to pay him a visit; and often had the pious ministers of the Abbey church to wait upon him for the purpose of soothing his awakened conscience. He at length went to his account; the name is now totally extinct, and the family is merged in that of’ Kelburne. And happy for the world, if any of that gall and malignity of spirit which characterized Lord Ross be inherited by his successors, it must quietly evaporate in the petty persecution of poachers.’ (A Short Account of the Martyrdom of James Algie and John Park)

The Short Account’s discussion of Algie and Park’s execution was briefly mentioned in Thomson’s Martyr Graves without attribution. (Thomson, MGoS, 284.)

Did Wodrow suppress Lord Ross’s name and selectively blame Ormiston, a Jacobite, for political reasons? Given the pattern of evasion in naming “good revolution men” in the early sources it is possible that he did. Lord Ross also clearly had influence which may have made it politick to avoid naming him until after his death in 1738.

Gallowgreen PaisleyGallowgreen, Paisley © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

The Burials of Algie and Park
Algie and Park were buried by sympathizers at the west end of Paisley in the Gallowgreen, the place where criminals were buried. According to Wodrow, their burial led to a dispute between soldiers and those burying the pair:

‘I am informed by some yet alive, who were present at their execution and burial, that the soldiers there present endeavoured to make the people who concerned themselves in their burial, to approve of their death, and declare they died justly, threatening them with present imprisonment if they did not so’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 190.)

Encounters between soldiers and those sympathetic to the Societies’ cause were a quite a common feature at the executions of the “martyrs” in burghs. Women often played the lead role in those disturbances.

Algie and Park’s forfeiture was posthumously rescinded by an act of the Scottish Parliament in 1690.

The Gravestone
Before 1714 a gravestone was erected to Algie and Park at Gallowgreen. For the inscription and details of it, see here. The site of their burial lay near the foot of Maxwellton Street.

Aerial View of Maxwellton Street and Gallowgreen

A fragment of the original gravestone may survive as a gravestone of unknown provenance which features two carved heads that is held in Paisley Museum and Art Gallery. The gravestone of Hay and Pitilloch in Cupar also features two carved heads, as well as the hand of Rathillet.

The Reburial of Algie and Park
In 1779, due to the expansion of Paisley, their remains were exhumed and moved, along with the gravestone, a short distance to the west to a new burial site beside the Broomlands Church. The area was intended to become a new public cemetery, but that plan took some time to materialise.

According to Burns, the editor of Wodrow:
‘in consequence of the extension of the buildings of the town over the Gallowgreen, their bones were taken up, decently re-interred in a more suitable spot, and a flat stone laid over the grave with a suitable inscription. This was done by the order and at the expense of the magistrates and council of the burgh.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 190n.)

Map of the Monument to Algie and Park

The ‘flat stone’, now very worn, does not appear to be the same stone as the original gravestone. It is located next to the 1835 monument to Algie and Park.

Algie and Park Inscription 1835Obelisk to Algie and Park © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

A New Monument
In 1835, the Broomlands church was rebranded as the Martyrs’ Church and the suitably-inscribed ‘flat stone’ was joined by a large obelisk. At the same time the grave was encompassed within the new Woodside Cemetery development.

Aerial View of Monument to Algie and Park          Street View of Entry to Monument to Algie and Park.

The monument’s inscription is also badly worn. Part of it is inscribed as follows:
‘The stone, containing the Epitaph transcribed on this Monument, was erected over the grave on the Gallowgreen, the place of Common Execution; and on the occasion of the ground’s being built upon, it was removed near to this spot, along with the remains of the martyrs, by order of the Magistrates, John Storie, John Patison, & John Cochran, MDCCLXXIX.’

In about the same year, the popular broadside A Short Account of the Martyrdom of James Algie and John Park (c.1835) was published. A copy of it can be found on the NLS website.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on December 13, 2012.

2 Responses to “The Execution of Algie and Park at Paisley in 1685: Wodrow’s Version”

  1. […] II’s death. The evidence from nearby Eastwood parish, where the pressing of the oath resulted in the execution of James Algie and John Park at the beginning of February, suggests that such a timetable is credible. By necessity, this […]

  2. […] II’s death. The evidence from nearby Eastwood parish, where the pressing of the oath resulted in the execution of James Algie and John Park at the beginning of February, suggests that such a timetable is credible. By necessity, this […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.