The Hanging of John Hallume at Kirkcudbright in 1685

Kirkcudbright TolboothKirkcudbright Tolbooth © Chris Newman and licensed for reuse.

John Hallume was one of four Society people from the parishes of Tongland and Twynholm who were summarily executed during the Killing Times. He was hanged in Kirkcudbright, possibly in May, 1685…

Unusually, his death was not recorded by Alexander Shields in a Short Memorial in 1690. Hallume is one of the few historical martyrs of the Killing Times who were not listed by Shields. For another example, see James Algie and John Park who were executed in Paisley.

The earliest record of his death is the record of his gravestone in the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1714: ‘In the churchyard, Kirkcudbright’ where ‘lyes John Hallume’. The 1728 edition contained more information based on the inscription on his grave:

‘In Kirkcudbright upon the corps of John Hallum who was wounded in taking, and sentenced by Captain Dowglas, to be hanged in the year 1685.’. Cloud identified Captain Douglas as the same individuals who killed Robert McWhae.’ (Cloud of Witnesses, 373.)

The inscription on the grave is as follows:


[Reverse. Death’s Head]


LEAGUE 1685’ (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 403.)

For an image of the grave, see here.

In the nineteenth century, Thomson identified Captain Douglas as the ‘brother of Queensberry’, i.e., Colonel James Douglas, but, he was probably the Captain Thomas Douglas of Mar’s Regiment of Foot who operated out of Kirkcudbright in 1685.

From the inscription it appears that Captain Douglas was involved in both Hallume’s capture and execution. However, Wodrow stated that Lieutenant Livingstone was responsible for Hallume’s capture in Tongland parish, Kirkcudbrightshire. He did not record who executed Hallume. The two accounts can be easily reconciled if we accept that Livingstone captured Hallume and that Captain Douglas tried and executed him.

Lieutenant John Livingstone served in Captain Strachan’s Troop of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons. According to Shields, he was ‘a most violent Persecuter and Exacter’ in Galloway, i.e., in Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire, (Shields, A Short Memorial, 31.)

Wodrow’s Version
‘In the parish of Tongland, lieutenant [John] Livingstone with a party of dragoons harassed very severely. After courts had been held there for pressing the [Abjuration] oath [in mid January to early February, 1685], they made very strict searches for noncompliers. A youth about eighteen years, named John Hallome, seeing the party at some little distance, stepped out of the road in which he was travelling. This they quickly observed, and pursued and wounded him, first with a shot, and then with a sword in the head, never once asking him one question.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 183-4.)

Wodrow placed Hallume’s capture in the context of the courts which pressed the Abjuration oath in Kirkcudbrightshire. Those courts were held from mid January to early February, 1685. It is clear that Hallume had evaded taking the Abjuration oath, as he later refused the oath. Anyone who failed to take the oath was considered a fugitive. He was badly wounded attempting to escape from Livingstone’s party of dragoons. He was probably captured soon after the oath was pressed, i.e., in around early February.

Kirkconnell LinnsKirkconnell Linns by Lairdmannoch © J Taylor and licensed for reuse.

Hallume was probably either related to, or possibly the same as, the ‘———– Halloun, in Lairmanoch’, Tongland parish. who was listed on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 220.)

His age, if it is correct, would seem to make the former more likely.

Lairdmannoch, which was part of Kirkconnell estate, lies on the eastern edge of Kirkconnell Moor in Tongland parish. It was divided into two farms, Upper Lairdmannoch and Laigh Lairdmannoch. (Kerlie, History of the lands and their owners in Galloway, V, 194-7.)

Map of Upper Lairdmannoch           Aerial View of Upper Lairdmannoch

Laigh, i.e, lower, Lairdmannoch has been a ruin for since at least the mid nineteenth century.

Map of Laigh Lairdmannoch         Aerial View of Ruins of Laigh Lairdmannoch

Lairdmannoch is located next to the site where four Society people were shot on Kirkconnell moor on 23 February, 1685, and next to the homes of David Halliday in Mayfield and David Halliday in Glengap in Twynholm parish. The former was one of the four shot in February. The latter was killed with George Short, also of Tongland parish, at some point between March and July.

The capture of Hallume may have been the first event in that series of events. Whether it was connected to the other summary executions is not known.

Lieutenant Livingstone’s troop carried the wounded Hallume with them as they continued their search for fugitives until they delivered him to the head burgh of the shire: ‘They carried him prisoner from one place to another, till at length they brought him to Kirkcudbright.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 184.)

At Kirkcudbright he was presumably handed over into the custody of Captain Douglas and probably held in Kirkcudbright Tolbooth.

Street View of Kirkcudbright Tolbooth

‘There they put the abjuration [oath] to him, which he refusing, an assize was called [by Captain Thomas Douglas?], made up of the soldiers, and he was condemned, and executed there.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 184.)

It is not known how long each step in the processing of Hallume took. It is likely that Hallume was held prisoner until he had sufficiently recovered from his wounds to face the Abjuration oath. It is possible that weeks elapsed between his refusal to take the oath and the assize. However, it is likely that he was hanged immediately after the assize.

When was Hallume Executed?
According to Shields, Hallume was hanged in ‘1685′. Wodrow’s account suggests he was executed after January and probably before July. When he was hanged depends on the date of the assize which condemned him.

On 28 January, 1685, the privy council wrote to the justices of Kirkcudbrightshire appointing Colonel James Douglas as a commissioner in the area. In particular, Douglas was ‘to conveen and be present at the tryall of these traitors who wer accessory to and in company with these other rebells who killed Captaine Urquhart and wounded some of his Majesties sojours’. (RPCS, X, 114-15.)

The court which Colonel Douglas joined were the commissioners who pressed the Abjuration oath in Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire, i.e., Galloway. The others on the court were John, viscount Kenmuir (Convenor), Sir Robert Grierson of Lag, Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon, Sir Godfrey McCulloch of Mireton, and David Graham, sheriff-depute of Kirkcudbrightshire. (Wodrow, History, IV, 164.)

The court probably sat in February to deal with any cases of refusal of the Abjuration oath and nonconformists. However, it is unlikely that Hallume was tried before it, as it is clear that the Abjuration court was composed of important local heritors, rather than the assize of soldiers described by Wodrow.

An assize of soldiers was unusual, but there is a record of a similar trial in Mauchline in the same year. The trial of several Society people was conducted in May, 1685, under the commission granted to Lieutenant-General William Drummond. His sweeping powers permitted him to call trials as he wished and ‘to create clerks, sergeants, dempsters, and all other members of court needful’ and ‘call assizers and witnesses’. Drummond’s assize at Mauchline was a military tribunal in which he was the judge and fifteen soldiers were the jury. All five of the defendants were hanged immediately after the assize. It is possible that the assize which executed Hallume was created under Drummond’s powers.

Alexander Shields recorded that the Mauchline martyrs were executed ‘without Legal Tryal or Sentence’ and their gravestone that they were ‘Hanged Without Trial’. The complaint in the inscription on Hallume’s gravestone is more muted, as it only states that he was sentenced to hang by unjust law.

Drummond’s commission which allowed him to establish military tribunals ran from when he entered the western shires at the beginning of May until 1 June. If Hallume was sentenced by a military assize, then he may have been hanged in May.

Where was Hallume Executed?
It is not clear where Hallume was executed in Kirkcudbright. However, it is possible that he was executed on the High Street immediately outside of the tolbooth and by the mercat cross, which used to stand in the middle of the square before the tolbooth. (The mercat cross has been relocated right next to the tolbooth.)

Street View of Mercat Cross

An alternative possibility is that he was hanged outside of the burgh, if Kirkcudbright had an execution site out with the burgh.

He is buried in Old St Cuthbert’s Churchyard, which lies just outside of Kirkcudbright.

Map of St Cuthbert’s Graveyard      Street View of St Cuthbert’s Graveyard

Two other Society people, who were executed after the Auchencloy incident, are also buried there.

See also the related summary executions of David Halliday and George Short.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on January 23, 2013.

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