John Graham of Claverhouse and the Hunt for the Black Loch Covenanters in 1684

On Tuesday 10 June, 1684, John Graham of Claverhouse received word that a body of Society people from James Renwick’s field preaching at Black Loch had moved south and crossed the Clyde ‘towards the moors in our quarter’.

John Graham of ClaverhouseClaverhouse

The Covenanters that Claverhouse intended to pursue had escaped the pursuit of Lieutenant-Colonel John Winram in Cambusnethan parish.

He first heard of the orders to pursue them in the morning, when William, Lord Ross, indicated that he had been given orders by General Thomas Dalyell.

Most of the account which follows is based on Claverhouse’s letters to David Falconer of Newton of Friday 13 June, General Thomas Dalyell of Sunday 15 June and Arthur Rose, archbishop of Glasgow, of Monday 16 June, 1684.

Claverhouse appears to have been quite annoyed that he was kept out of the loop about the Black Loch preaching until 10 June:

‘I passed at the Kirk-of-Shotts, which is not far from the place [at Black Loch where the preaching took place], on the Saturday before [on 7 June], about six o’clock at night; and about eight, as I passed at Glasgow, I sent to acquaint the General [Dalyell] that I would be at Paisley, if he had orders for me. Yet I heard nothing of this till Tuesday morning [10 June], that my Lord Ross told me he had a letter from the General about it.’

He was particularly annoyed on this occasion with good reason:

‘I shall be revenged some time or other of this unseasonable trouble these dogs give me. They might have let Tuesday pass.’

Tuesday was his wedding day. Duty called:

‘Upon the news of the conventicle near Blackloch, and that one hundred of them had passed Clyde, towards the moors in our quarter, I marched with half of the Guards—which, by the way, are but twenty-two, when they ought to be fifty—and my Lord Ross’s troop, and some dragoons, and thirty foot’.

Newmilns TowerThe Ducat Tower at Newmilns

‘Upon which, I sent immediately and ordered Colonel [Thomas] Buchan to meet me at Newmills, with the half of Guards, my Lord Ross’s troop, and thirty Fusiliers he had with him at Dalmellington, and I call[ed] out Captain [John] Inglis’s dragoons [who were possibly near Newmilns];’

From Paisley, Claverhouse rode over twenty miles to Newmilns Tower in Ayrshire. At the same time, the force under Colonel Buchan marched the slightly longer distance from Dalmellington.

Map of Newmilns (change to OS view)        Street View of Newmilns Tower

The force assembled to pursue the Covenanters consisted of twenty-two foot guards under the command of Colonel Thomas Buchan of His Majesty’s Regiment of Foot, William, Lord Ross’s troop of His Majesty’s Regiment of Horse, ‘thirty foot/fusiliers’ (of Mar’s Regiment of Foot?) and ‘some dragoons’ under Captain John Inglis.

High PlewlandsHigh Plewlands with Dungavel behind © Chris Wimbush and licensed for reuse.

‘[From Newmilns] on Tuesday night [10 June], and Wednesday all day [11 June], we came through the moors and over hills that lay betwixt Clydesdale and the shire of Air; and made exact search and enquiry for those rebels, but could not hear the least of them. But only at Ploughlands [on 11 June], in the head of St[r]athaven [parish], we saw two men running to the hills; we followed them, but because of the mosses could not reach them.’

Ploughlands is now High and Low Plewlands.

Map of Plewlands (change to OS view)

The two men Claverhouse pursued were William Young, a tailor in Evandale parish, and John Leitch, a shoemaker from Newmilns. Young was captured about six weeks later. He escaped imprisonment, but was recaptured and executed at the end of August.

The people at Plewlands ‘could give no account of any that had been seen for three or four days before’, so Claverhouse concluded that the Society people had either ‘not taken that way, or were dissipated’.

Strathaven CastleStrathaven CastleStrathaven Castle

The next morning, when he was at Strathaven, he and Lord Ross decided to return to Paisley. They having ‘scoured all the mosses but one part towards Lesmahago, which I [Claverhouse] left to Colonel Buchan to seek in his back-going [on Thursday 12 June].’

Map of Strathaven (change to OS view)

Claverhouse believed the Society people had dispersed. He was about to be proved spectacularly wrong.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on July 12, 2013.

3 Responses to “John Graham of Claverhouse and the Hunt for the Black Loch Covenanters in 1684”

  1. […] Black Loch Covenanters had already escaped from Winram’s men and eluded Claverhouse’s search. Buchan probably did not expect that he would find any trace of […]

  2. […] near Black Loch, narrowly eluded both the soldiers of Winram in Cambusnethan parish and those of Claverhouse in the hills above Strathaven. He had also taken part in the ambuscade at Auchengilloch, attended the fourteenth convention at […]

  3. […] After Winram failed to find the Society people, John Graham of Claverhouse continued the search on the other side of the Clyde. […]

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