From Glasgow to Barbados: A Preaching in Renfrewshire in January 1687


On Sunday 9 January, 1687, a Societies’ field preaching took place somewhere in Renfrewshire. Two Society people captured on the following day were later banished to Barbados. An Irishman who was also seized near Paisley was also probably connected to the preaching in some way. He, too, was probably banished.

The preacher or preachers were either James Renwick, David Houston or Alexander Shields, as it took place immediately after Renwick had been joined in the fields by Shields and Houston.

If it was Renwick, he had recently returned from a preaching tour in the South West which ended before he attended the Societies’ thirty-second convention on 22 December, 1686. The convention had cleared both Shields and Houston to make trial preachings. Renwick and Shields preached together on Sunday 26 December and at fast day on Thursday 30 December. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 167.)

In a letter of 11 January, 1687, Renwick mentions that Houston had been called by the thirty-second convention to preach for further trial, but was ‘not as yet settled amongst us as our minister by a formal and a solemn call to that effect’. (Houston, Letters, 218.)

A week after the Renfrewshire preaching, Houston preached at Polbaith Burn, which lies just south of Renfrewshire in Ayrshire.

According to Wodrow:
‘Toward the beginning of January, there had been a sermon somewhere in the shire of Renfrew in the night time, at which, among others, James Cunningham merchant in Glasgow, and John Buchanan cooper there, were present. When they were returning to their houses, they were seized and challenged where they had been, and being unwilling to give an account, were imprisoned; and there confessing they had been at a sermon, they were sent into Edinburgh, and banished to Barbadoes.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 412.)

According to one member of the Societies in Glasgow:
‘X Ja: Cunninghams & Jo: Buchanans taking [Monday] 10 Janry 1687’. (‘Hints of Sufferings’, EUL MSS. La.III.344, Vol. 2, item 125.)

Who where the two Society people captured in Glasgow?

1. James Cunningham
Cunningham was a chapman or merchant in Glasgow. He is almost certainly either ‘James Cunningham, ‘merchant in the Bridgegate’ or ‘James Cunningham, younger, merchant’ who were both listed under Glasgow on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 197.)

On 8 October 1681, a James Cunningham, merchant in Glasgow, was forfeited with others of his ‘lives, lands and goods’ and to be pursued for his part in the Bothwell Rising of 1679. (Wodrow, History, III, 247-8.)

After his capture on 10 January, 1687, Cunningham was among a batch of prisoners who were reviewed on 23 February:

‘James Cuninghame, chapman in Glasgow, apprehended by the sheriff deput of Renfrew, refuises to own the kings authority or pray for him (except with his own limitationes), or declare never to take up arms against him, sayes he cannot write. (Signed) Linlithgow. (On the margin) Justices.’ (RPCS, XIII, 126.)

The records of his trial in 1687 have not survived, but on 12 March reports of his examination before the Justices were to be read by the privy council, presumably to decide on his banishment. (RPCS, XIII, 133-4.)

According to Wodrow, Cunningham was banished to Barbados. In common with several other Society people who appear to have been banished at the same time, his name does not appear on the joint testimony issued by some of the prisoners. That probably indicates that he and those other prisoners were processed separately from those who issued a testimony, but were banished in the same shipment. A letter he wrote before banishment has survived. (James Cunningham, ‘Copy of letter of 1687, NLS MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI, f.233.)

The ‘x’ next to his name in the ‘Hint of Sufferings’ manuscript denotes that James Cunningham had died, either during the voyage, or on Barbados. He was not listed among those to be rescued in mid 1688. Cunningham’s forfeiture was rescinded by Act of Parliament in 1690. (Wodrow, History, IV 489n.)

2. John Buchanan
Buchanan was a cooper in Glasgow. He is almost certainly the John Buchanan ‘maltman’ in Glasgow who was listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 197.)

His son, who was also named John Buchanan, was banished to Carolina in 1684.

The elder Buchanan was captured with James Cunningham on 10 January 1687. The record of his trial has not survived. However, on 12 March, 1687, John Buchanan, ‘coupar in Glasgow’ was one of several prisoners whom it was ‘the oppione of the Committee [of the privy council] that their examinationes before the Justices should be read in Councill.’ (RPCS, XIII, 134.)

He was banished. At some point after his capture and before his banishment, he wrote to Colin Alison, either elder, or younger, who were active members of the Societies. (John Buchanan, Letter from him to Col[in], Alason, 1687’, NLS, MSS. Wod.Qu.XXXVI. item 69.)

In a letter from the fortieth convention at Campshead Heights on 1 August, 1688, Buchanan was named as one of those who had been banished to Barbados who were to be relieved by the Societies. (Shields, FCD, 345.)

Buchanan returned to Scotland after the Revolution and is listed in letter of to the Societies’ convention of 16 February, 1689, as one of those who were rescued.

The Irishman Captured near Paisley

3. William Thomson, schoolmaster in Ireland.

Thomson was captured near Paisley on c.12 January, i.e., probably just after the preaching took place. On 23 February, 1687, he was brought a committee of the privy council: ‘William Thomsone from Ireland, apprehended near Paisley sex weeks agoe [i.e., 12 January], refuises to own the kings authority; refuises to pray from him; refuises to promise never to take up arms against the King; refuises to subscrive. . (Signed) Linlithgow. (On the margin) Just[ices].’ (RPCS, XIII, 126.)

The presence of Thomson near Paisley increases the probability that David Houston was the preacher at the Renfrewshire preaching.

The record of his trial before the justices have not survived, but on 12 March reports from the justices about William Thomson, schoolmaster in Ireland, were ordered to be read to decide whether he should be banished. (RPCS, XIII, 133-4.)

There is no record of him after the reports. Given his point-blank refusal to recognize the authoirty of the king and council, it is likely that Thomson was banished to Barbados on Mr Croft’s ship in April, 1687.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on January 11, 2013.

One Response to “From Glasgow to Barbados: A Preaching in Renfrewshire in January 1687”

  1. Interesting findings Mark. I wonder what became of them in Barbados? No doubt sold as indentured labourers to planters who were at the cusp of the ‘sugar boom’ in the 1680s.

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