The Twynholm Covenanters: The Earl of Annandale and Lag Hunt Fugitives in Galloway
Two Covenanters, David Halliday and George Short, were shot in Galloway in 1685…
Their deaths were first recorded by Alexander Shields in 1690:
‘Item the said Laird of Lagg, with the Earle of Anandale, having Command of some Troups of Heretors, pursued another David Halyday and George Short, and apprehended and shot them, under the cloud of Night, in the Paroch of [T]Wynhame in Galloway, Anno, 1685.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 38.)
As usual, Cloud of Witnesses reproduced the same text with minor spelling changes. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 554.)
Short is probably the same individual as the George Short ‘who haunted in Tongland parish’ that is listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 219.)
The Presbyterian sources do not mention that Short was a fugitive.
David Halliday is said to have lived at Glengap in Twynholm parish, Kirkcudbrightshire. A William Halliday ‘in Glencape’ is listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 220.)
Glengap lies at the northern end of the narrow parish of Twynholm close to its eastern boundary with Tongland parish.
In 1682 Glegap was owned by James Maclellan, Lord Kirkcudbright. Glengap, and the farms of Culcaigrie and Miark which were part of the same estate in Twynholm parish, then appear to have sold to Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon (1610–1686), who lived in Kirkinner parish, Wigtownshire. Dunbar appears to have been sympathetic to the presbyterian cause. In July 1679, he gave refuge to some of the assassins of archbishop Sharp after the defeat at Bothwell. It was probably after Dunbar’s death, that Glengap, passed to his daughter, Elizabeth Dunbar, and her daughters, as their father’s heirs, had retour in anmio redditu in 1687. (Kerlie, History of the lands and their owners in Galloway, V, 273-4; Kirkton, History, 472.)
The ownership of David Dunbar may indicate that Glengap was possibly a safe haven for noncomformists. A similar pattern of presbyterian landowners sheltering nonconformists also appears in the case of the three men who were hanged at Wigtown and in the case of both of the Wigtown martyrs. However, in January and February, 1685, Dunbar sat on the commission which pressed the Abjuration oath in Galloway. Clearly, Glengap was not a safe haven in 1685. That may explain why Halliday was described as ‘once of” Glengap. (Wodrow, History, IV, 164.)
The neighbouring farm of Miefield was the home of a second David Halliday, the ‘portioner of Mayfield’ who was shot by Robert Grierson of Lag on nearby Kirkconnell Moor in February, 1685.
The Hallidays had probably purchased Mayfield/Miefield after the Restoration. On the 17 September 1674, Alexander Halliday, son to Halliday of Grobdaill, had principal sasine of the land of Mayfield. After that the records suggest that the ownership was transferred in 1682 to John Gordon of Troquhain in Balmaclellan parish, as he is mentioned on a valuation roll as the owner. (Kerlie, History of the lands and their owners in Galloway, V, 282.)
The transfer in ownership took place at the same that a ‘——– Halliday in Mayfield’ was forfeited in December, 1682, for his participation in the Bothwell Rising in 1679. Halliday did not answer the summons to appear. Several witnesses identified him as one of the rebels. The forfeiture was reversed by the Scottish Parliament in 1690. (Wodrow, History, III, 413; CST, X, 909-48; RPS, 1690/4/80.)
Given the evidence above, the close proximity and relative isolation of Meifield and Glengap, and the similar first names of both Hallidays, it is likely that Halliday in Meifield and Halliday in Glengap were close kin. That may indicate that there was some kind of causal connection between the deaths of the two Hallidays. Both were killed at the hands of Lag.
Who Killed Halliday and Short?
Shields’ brief account implies that Halliday and Short were shot on the same night, but it does not indicate if they were either captured, or executed, at the same time or place.
The commanders of the troop of heritors whom Shields held responsible for their were Sir Robert Grierson of Lag and William Johnstone, 2nd earl of Annandale and Hartfell,
Grierson of Lag
Lag was based at Lag Tower in Dumfriesshire. He is associated in later tradition with a number of deaths in the Killing Times. See John Dempster, M’Roy, and the pursuit of Margaret Gracie.
However, he is also linked to historical summary executions at Kirkconnell Moor (February), Irongray (March) and perhaps Wigtown (May). His involvement in the death of Halliday in Mayfield at Kirkconnell Moor at least indicates that he had previous experience of hunting fugitives in the area where Halliday and Short were killed.
Shields recorded that Grierson of Lag was ‘a most wicked persecutor’ in Galloway. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 31.)
Shields’ description of their command over troops of heritors may suggest that militia forces were involved. In 1685, the militia was called out in late May is response to the Argyll Rising and elements of it remained in the field until July. However, Lag may have taken part in the killings of Halliday and Short at any point between February and July, 1685.
The Earl of Annandale
The earl of Annandale (1664–1721) was the convener of the court that pressed the Abjuration oath in Annandale and Nithsdale in the first months of 1685. Lag, too, was involved pressing the oath in Annandale and Nithsdale under the earl, who was Lag’s superior in terms of social status. However, in Kirkcudbrightshire, it was only Lag who held the commission to press the Abjuration. (Wodrow, History, IV, 164.)
Annandale retained his commission after the accession of James VII and was given a new commission in Nithsdale and Annandale under Colonel Douglas which lasted until 20 April. (Wodrow, History, IV, 204, 207n.)
It would appear that the earl was busy with his duties in Annandale until April. However, on 10 March, all freeholders, heritors and gentlemen in Annandale and Nithsdale ‘were summoned to attend the King’s standard, and the militia were raised in several shires’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 255.)
Shields claim that they were in command of a force of heritors may have been quite precise. It is possible that Annandale and Lag were in command of that force, or a latter force called out with the militia in the summer to deal with the Argyll Rising.
It is likely that the earl was in command of the heritors, rather than Lag, due to Annandale’s status in society. However, it was Lag, rather than Annandale, who was empowered to press the Abjuration oath in Kirkcudbrightshire. In other words, if Halliday and Short failed to take the Abjuration, it was Lag’s call whether to summarily execute them.
Like Lag, Annandale was active in Galloway. According to Shields, ‘Lord Annandale dispossessed and harassed many families [in Annandale], and persecuted much in Galloway.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 31.)
The Hallidays’ Grave.
The Hallidays’ gravestone lies over five miles to the north-east of Glengap in the churchyard at Balmaghie. A flat stone six feet long and three feet wide raised on pillars, it is located in the south side of the churchyard. It was erected at some point prior to 1714, as it is mentioned in the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses: ‘A gravestone in the churchyard, Balmaghie’ where ‘lyes David Halliday, portioner of Mayfield, and David Halliday, once of Glenape’.
The inscription is as follows:
‘HERE LYES DAVID HALLIDAY, PORTIONER OF MEIFEILD WHO
WAS SHOT UPON THE 21 OF FEBR 1685, AND OF
DAVID HALLIDAY ONCE IN GLENAPE WHO WAS LIKEWISE
SHOT UPON THE 1 1 OF JULY, 1685, FOR THEIR ADHERENCE TO
THE PRINCIPLES OF SCOTLANDS COVENANTED REFORMATIONE.
BENEATH THIS STONE TWO DAVID HALLIDAYS
DOE LY WHOSE SOULS NOU SING THEIR MASTERS PRAISE
TO KNOU IF CURIOUS PASSENGERS DESYRE
FOR WHAT, BY WHOME AND HOU THEY DID EXPYRE
THEY DID OPPOSE THIS NATIONS PERJUREY
NOR COULD THEY JOYN WITH LORDLY PRELACY
INDULGING FAVOURS FROM CHRISTS ENEMIES
QUENCHED NOT THEIR ZEAL THIS MONUMENT THEN CRYES
THESE WERE THE CAUSES NOT TO BE FORGOT
WHY THEY BY LAG SO WICKEDLY WERE SHOT.
ONE NAME, ONE CAUSE ONE GRAVE ONE HEAVEN DO TY
THEIR SOULS TO THAT ONE GOD ETERNALLY.’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 369.)
The epitaph contains two significant pieces of information.
First, the inscription describes Halliday as ‘once of Glenape’. It is not clear what the significance of either the ‘once’, or the ‘of’, is. ‘Once’ could mean that he had left Glengap either before he was killed, or that he had been forfeited. ‘Of’ may indicate that he was a laird. However, it is probably pushing the interpretation of the text too far to draw any firm conclusions from those two words.
Second, it specifically dates Halliday’s death to 11 July, 1685, which places it among the later executions of the Killing Times. Other summary executions in similar circumstances took place in June and early July in other parts of Galloway and on the borders of Carrick. They resulted in the deaths of the Barrhill martyrs, Alexander Linn and the hanging of three men at Wigtown.
Wodrow had an earlier date for their execution, 10 June, but his date still places their deaths in the same context.
Wodrow’s account of their deaths was probably published after the Hallidays’ gravestone was erected.
‘June 10th, the lord Annandale, and Grierson of Lagg, were pursuing some of the hiding people in the south, and searching for nonconformists and such who refused the oaths; and hearing of four wanderers in the parish of Twinam, they hunted for them through all that bounds with sixscore of horse in different parties.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 252.)
Wodrow places their capture in the context of Lag following up on intelligence about four fugitives in Twynholm parish. The logical place for wanderers to hide in that parish was in the hills around Glengap in the northern tip of Twynholm, as the rest of the parish was more heavily populated and dotted with farms. From his earlier experience at Kirkconnell Moor, Lag knew that the area around Mayfield and Glengap was a place where fugitives hid. It would appear that Halliday and Short were probably captured in the hills around Glengap.
Lag and Annandale were in separate parties.
‘My lord Annandale and his party fell in with David Haliday in Glencayre, and George Short; and upon their surrender he gave them quarters, till they should be tried tomorrow.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 252.)
Having captured the two men, the earl of Annandale, who did not have a commission to press the Abjuration oath in Kirkcudbrightshire, allegedly decided to take them for trial, i.e., he decided to take them to Lag who did have the power to put the oath to them. Wodrow has Lag encounter Annandale’s troop.
‘When that cruel man Lagg came up, he would have them shot presently as they lay bound in tedders upon the ground. They begged they might have tomorrow to prepare for eternity, and my lord Annandale told him he had promised so much; but nothing could move that merciless man, he swore they should have no time,’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 252.)
Lag was perfectly entitled to make immediate trial of Halliday and Short. Wodrow’s account makes no mention of them being proffered the Abjuration oath, but it is likely that the oath was put them by Lag. Failure to take the oath in the field would have led to summary execution.
According to Wodrow:
Lag ‘ordered his men to shoot them straight. For some time they refused, till he threatened to do it himself; and they were shot just as they lay bound on the ground, and their dead bodies continued in their gore till next day.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 252.)
A number of reports record troops refusing to carry out summary executions. How reliable they are is not known. In this case, the ‘men’ were heretors called up to defend the realm on a temporary basis, rather than seasoned regulars. A reluctance on their part to carry out Lag’s order is understandable, if such a rebellion in the ranks ever took place.
The gravestone of George Short is located in the south-west part of Balmaghie churchyard.
The stone appears to be of a later date than that of Halliday, as the inscription on it was not recorded until the 1730 edition of Cloud of Witnesses. The epitaph is of a standard form and is, in part, directly lifted from the text of either Shields or Cloud. It is as follows:
WHO WAS PURSUED
AND TAKEN AND
TO DEATH UNDER
CLOUD OF NIGHT
IN THE PAROCH
BY GRIER OF LAG.
[One the reverse below Death’s head and cross bones.]
AND THE EARLE
BECAUSE OF HIS
LEAGUE 1685.’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 370.)
Contrary to both Shields and Wodrow’s assertions that the two men were killed in Twynholm parish, the inscription claims that Short was killed Tongland parish, the area where Short is said to have ‘haunted’ in 1683 or 1684. The grave is sited in Balmaghie parish, which lies to the northern borders of both Twynholm and Tongland parishes. Why the grave contradicts both Shields and Wodrow’s location for their deaths is not known. Was local knowledge the reason for that discrepancy? Was the place where they were executed ambiguously located somewhere among the hills on the boundary between the parishes? Or was Short killed separately from Halliday? There are no definitive answers to those questions.
The potential later date of erection for Short’s gravestone is also of some interest when the identity of parish minister is taken into account. John McMillan held the charge between 1701 and 1710 and shared the church with another minister from 1714 until 1727 when he left Balmaghie. In 1703, McMillan had been deprived of the parish for his adherence to covenanting principles, but he remained in situ with considerable local support. In 1706, he also became the minister to a section of the Society people who had refused to accept the Revolution settlement. Violence and local defiance followed McMillan’s deposition until an accommodation was eventually reached. (Fasti, II, 392-3.)
The presence of McMillan in Balmaghie creates a puzzling situation with regards to Short’s grave. For nearly nineteen years, McMillan was both the parish minister and the leader the Society people. Yet, during his tenure, only the gravestone to the Hallidays appears to have been erected outside of his church.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.