Traditions of Three Lesmahagow Martyrs Tested

CarsgailochJoseph Wilson is on the Carsgailoch Monument © agentmancuso and licensed for reuse.

In 1864, an advocate, J. B. Greenshields, published his Annals of the Parish of Lesmahagow. His chapter on the Covenanters of Lesmahagow was based on a manuscript by the Reverend Charles Thomson, entitled ‘Notices etc’, of 1832 (see p299-300). Both Thomson and Greenshields claimed that three martyred Society people were from Lesmahagow parish. Is there any substance to their claims?

According to Greenshields:

‘John Wilson and John Smith of Lesmahagow were shot in 1683 [actually February, 1685] by Colonel [Thomas] Buchan and [Cromwell Lockhart,] the Laird of Lee. The latter of those worthies lies interred in Muirkirk churchyard. In the month of March following [in 1685], Lieutenant [James] Murray shot John Brown at Blackwood, and his body was buried under cloud of night in the field where he fell.’ (Greenshields, Annals of the Parish of Lesmahagow, 114-115.)

The Tradition of John Wilson
Thomson/Greenshields is the only source to claim that a John Wilson was shot by Buchan and Lee. The sources for the shooting of John Smith mention that only one man was killed.

According to Michael Shields: ‘But though they all, (except one man [i.e., John Smith], who after apprehending was immediately shot) escaped’. (FCD, 162-3.)

James Renwick recorded that the Society people escaped ‘without any skaith, save the loss of one [i.e., John Smith].’ (Houston (ed.), Letters, 170.)

A letter to Colonel Buchan also mentioned the ‘killing one of them, and sending in three prisoners under guard’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 204.)

Greenshields’ John Wilson can only be regarded as a “martyr of tradition”.

‘John Smith of Lesmahagow’
Thomson/Greenshields claimed that John Smith was ‘of Lesmahagow’. It is possible that Smith was from the parish, however, an earlier source, Alexander Shields, only mentioned that Smith was shot ‘in’ the parish of Lesmahagow, rather than ‘of’ the parish: ‘Col. Buchan, with [Cromwell Lockhart] the Laird of Lee, and their men shot John Smith in the Paroch of Lesmahago[w], [in Lanarkshire,] Feb: 1685’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 37.)

For more on Smith’s execution in the fields, see here.

‘Joseph Wilson of Lesmahagow’
Thomson/Greenshields also claimed that another historical martyr, Joseph Wilson, was ‘of Lesmahagow’ parish:

‘Joseph Wilson of Lesmahagow, probably a relative of the John Wilson, above mentioned, was shot in the summer of 1686 [actually 1685] by a party of soldiers at Knockdon hill, near the water of Kyle, in Ayrshire, upon the simple admission on his part that he was returning from Galloway from hearing James Renwick preach in the fields.’ (Greenshields, Annals of the Parish of Lesmahagow, 115.)

Wilson was shot at Carsgailoch hill in the summer of 1685. With the exception of the tradition related by Thomson/Greenshields, it is not recorded where Wilson was from.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on February 28, 2013.

4 Responses to “Traditions of Three Lesmahagow Martyrs Tested”

  1. Thanks for continuing this series. It is good to keep in touch. David.

  2. […] 1. John Wilson who was shot by Buchan and Lee in Lesmahagow parish in February 1685. […]

  3. […] Almost nothing is known about Joseph Wilson. However, a tradition recorded in 1832 claimed that the Joseph Wilson killed at Carsgailoch was from Lesmahagow parish, Lanarkshire. […]

  4. […] The search may have been intensive in Lesmahagow parish, as according to later tradition Smith was from the parish. […]

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