A Radical Weaver From Bo’ness Tries to Kill ‘An Enemy to God and his People’ in 1680

KirklistonKirkliston © Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse.

After the execution of three Society people in December, 1680, A weaver called Drysdale had had enough of ‘the murdering of the people of God’. He decided to strike down their oppressors…

‘On the 3d of December 1680, on[e] [John?] Drysdaill, a weaver, assaulted on[e] of his Majestie’s [Life]guard called [Adam] Masterson, about Kirkliston, railing upon him as on[e] of then that was accessory to the murdering of the people of God, and particularly [, in Drysdale’s view,] of James Skene and these other innocent persons who had suffered [execution] tuo dayes before [on 1 December], and wounded him with a sword; wheirupon the trouper pershueing him, did at last apprehend him and bring him in prisoner to Edenburgh, wheir he feingied himself to be distracted.’ (Fountainhall, Historical Observes, 13.)

Law also recorded Drysdale’s attack on Masterson in conjunction with the capture of another after Skene’s execution:

‘One poor man [unidentified], present at [t]his execution [that of James Skene, Archibald Stewart and John Potter on 1 December, 1680], declared his adherence to their opinions, and was seized on and made prisoner; another of that gang [i.e. Drysdale] sett upon the Earl of Marr’s servant, carrying home some things to his lady. He was a webster, and meeting with [Adam Masterton] the Laird of Grange, setts upon him also in the way, and told him he would kill him, because he was an enemy to God and his people, and struck att him with his sword. The gentleman shoots a pistol at him to fright him fra him, but the more eager he grew upon him. At length the gentleman rode him down and apprehended him.’ (Law, Memorialls, 168-9.)

Fountainhall’s weaver who attacked ‘on[e] of his Majestie’s [Life]guard called Masterson’ and Law’s webster, i.e., a weaver, who attacked ‘the Laird of Grange’ refer to the same individual.

Masterson of Grange
Adam Masterson of Grange (d.1695) appears to have belonged to His Majesty’s Troop of Lifeguards, a small unit of horse in the Scottish Army. Prior to the attack on him, Masterson was appointed by the privy council as one of the ‘commissioners of excise and for the militia and justices of peace in the shire of Perth’ on 4 August, 1680. (RPCS, VI, 522.)

On 3 September, 1680, he escorted the field preacher John Dickson from Edinburgh’s Tolbooth to imprisonment on the Bass Rock. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VI, 147.)

He held the lands of Grange in Culross parish, in what was then an enclave of Perthshire.

Map of East Grange          Street View of East Grange

After the attack, Masterson was became a burgess in Edinburgh in 1684. He was known to John Erskine of Carnock, a neighbour of his. On 18 December, 1683, Carnock saw ‘Grainge Masterton’ in Haddington, when the Marr and Queensberry’s sons and the Laird of Lundie took coach under escort. Masterson also waited on a pass for Carnock at Edinburgh on 19 December, 1684. (Erskine, Journal, 26, 99.)

He was later called as a witness in a case against Captain Alexander Bruce of Broomhall and petitioned on behalf of the nephew of John Philip, the minister of Queensferry, who was imprisoned on the Bass in 1683. (Fasti, I, 225.)

Masterson at Muttonhole
The evidence of Drysdale’s attempted assassination of Masterson suggests that the latter was in some way accessory to James Skene’s capture when Donald Cargill was ambushed at Muttonhole on Friday 12 November, 1680. It appears that the attack on Masterton was motivated by his role in Skene’s capture and execution, and was probably premeditated.

The attack took place near Kirkliston, which lies in Kirkliston parish in what was known as Linlithgowshire.

Map of Kirkliston

Drysdale’s attack on Masterson was not an isolated incident, as other attacks on the persecutors of Cargill’s followers were allegedly planned at around the time of the execution of James Skene, John Potter and Archibald Stewart on 1 December.

According to the interrogation of Archibald Stewart on 15 November, 1680, two of Donald Cargill’s followers, William Cuthill and John Murray, planned to attack the ministers of Bo’ness and Carriden, and Thomas Kennoway of the King’s Lifeguards for their roles in earlier near captures of Cargill.

William Cuthill, a seaman in Bo’ness, was later captured by ‘some of the earle of Mar’s men, with two pistolls and a durk, about him’. No date was given for his capture, but it was probably in early to mid 1681. He was executed alongside Cargill in July, 1681.

John Murray, a sailor in Bo’ness, was captured with Christopher Miller at around the time of the executions on 1 December.

Drysdale, too, may have been from Bo’ness, as a ‘John Drysdale, weaver in Borrowstonness’ was listed on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 230.)

Map of Bo’ness

It appears that Cuthill and Murray’s planned attacks and Drysdale’s attack were all instigated by the followers of Cargill in Bo’ness. Some of those followers later emerged as a distinct sect known the Sweet Singers. Others were later executed as ‘notorious traitors’.

It is difficult to avoid the obvious conclusion that Drysdale and the others from Bo’ness were inspired by Cargill’s preaching to launch assassination attempts on those who were directly involved in the endeavours to capture Cargill and ‘the murdering of the people of God’.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on March 15, 2013.

2 Responses to “A Radical Weaver From Bo’ness Tries to Kill ‘An Enemy to God and his People’ in 1680”

  1. […] Drysdale, a weaver in Bo’ness, had attempted to kill one of the King’s Lifeguards after the execution of three militants in December, […]

  2. […] Drysdale, a weaver and one of the Society people from Bo’ness, would later attempt to assassinate Masterson of Grange as ‘an enemy of God and His people’ in December, […]

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