The Killing of Trooper Gordon in 1682: Was Patrick Walker a Murderer?
Patrick Walker was the chronicler of the radical Society people, a group who were the first “democratic” movement in Scotland. In a series of cheap chapbooks published in the 1720s and 30s, he recounted the lives of their preachers, Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill, and turned Alexander ‘Prophet’ Peden into a legendary figure. But was he a murderer? …
The answer to that question is yes, depending on how you define the term “murderer”. In 1682, Walker took part in the killing of a horse trooper, Francis Gordon. He may have fired the fatal shot.
In response, Walker could have claimed that he was a freedom fighter who, when he was cornered, was forced to commit to the logic of his situation. However, decades after the act, Walker went further than that. He had no doubt that he had done the right thing:
‘For as much as we have been condemn’d for this, I could never see how any could condemn us, that allows of Self-defence, which the Laws both of God and Nature allow to every Creature. For my own Part, my Heart never smote me for this; When I saw his Blood run, I wished that all the Blood of the Lord’s stated and avowed Enemies in Scotland had been in his Veins, having such a clear Call and Opportunity, I would have rejoiced to have seen it all gone out with a Gush. I have many Times wondered at the greater Part of the Indulged, lukewarm Ministers and Professors in that Time, who made more Noise of Murder, when one of these Enemies has been kill’d even in our own Defence, than of 20 of us being murdered by them.’ (Walker, BP, I, 310.)
If the term ‘terrorist’ had been invented at that time – and it was not applied to non-state actors until nearly two centuries later – there is little doubt that the forces of the state would have labelled him as such.
The Killing of Trooper Gordon
The Reverend Law records the killing of Trooper Gordon in 1682: ‘The close of the same moneth [February, 1682] was a trouper killed in Carstairs parish, by some of the countrymen who were on their keeping.’ (Law Memorialls, 216.)
Law’s date for the killing is slightly earlier than that given by Walker.
Francis Gordon was a trooper in the earl of Airlie’s troop of King’s Regiment of Horse. Adam Urquhart of Meldrum, Airlie’s nephew, was the lieutenant of the troop. When Airlie retired in November, 1682, Urquhart succeeded him, but Airlie returned to his old troop after Meldrum died in late 1684. The Captain Alexander Urquhart killed by the Society people at Caldons in January, 1685, was also Airlie’s nephew.
Walker claimed that he had reluctantly placed his account of Gordon’s killing in the public domain after Wodrow misrepresented his case. From the outset of his account, Walker consistently blackened Gordon’s name. Whether that was justified or not is an open question:
‘It was then commonly said, That Francis Gordon was a Volunteer out of Wickedness of Principles, and could not stay with the Troop, but was still raging and ranging to catch hiding suffering People.’ (Walker, BP, I, 308.)
‘[Lieutenant Adam Urquhart of] Meldrum and [the Earl of] Airly’s [horse] Troops, lying at Lanark, upon the first Day of March 1682; Mr. Gordon and another wicked Comrade, with their two Servants and four Horses, came to Kilcaigow, two Miles from Lanark, searching for William Caigow and others under Hiding. Mr. Gordon rambling thorow the Town, offered to abuse the Women.’ (Walker, BP, I, 308-9.)
The two troopers came to the small hamlet of Kilncadzow (pronounced “kil-kay-gie”) in Carluke parish to look for William Caigow [i.e, Cadzow] and other fugitives in hiding.
Cadzow later appeared on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684 as ‘William Cadzow, portioner of Wester-Cadzow’. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 194.)
The troopers then moved on to search Easterseat where Robert Muir was suspected of hiding.
‘At Night they came a Mile further to the Easter-seat to Robert Muir’s, he being also under Hiding. Gordon’s Comrade and the two Servants went to Bed, but he could sleep none, roaring all Night for Women.’ (Walker, BP, I, 309.)
Easterseat lay in Carluke parish by the boundary with Carstairs parish.
It appears that Muir lived close by Easterseat, as ‘Robert Muir, in Netherton of Moss-flat’, a farm which lies just over the parish boundary in Carstairs parish, later appeared on the published Fugitive Roll. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 195.)
According to Walker, Gordon was ‘roaring all Night for Women’ at Easterseat. In the morning, Gordon went on alone to Mossplatt in Carstairs parish.
Whatever Gordon’s motive, on reaching Mossplatt he encountered and pursued three Society people, Patrick Walker, Thomas Young and James Wilson:
‘When Day came, he took only his Sword in his Hand, and came to Moss-platt; and some Men (who had been in the Fields all Night) seeing him, they fled, and he pursued. James Wilson, Thomas Young, and my self, having been in a Meeting all Night, were lyen down in the Morning: We were alarmed, thinking there were many mo[re] than one;
He pursued hard, and overtook us.
Thomas Young said, Sir, what do ye pursue us for?
He said, He was come to send us to Hell.
James Wilson said, That shall not be, for we will defend our selves.
He said, That either he or we should go to it now.
He run his Sword furiously thorow James Wilson’s Coat. James fired upon him, but miss’d him. All the Time he cried, Damn his Soul. He got a Shot in his Head out of a Pocket-pistol, rather fit for diverting a Boy, than killing such a furious, mad, brisk Man; which notwithstanding kill’d him dead.’ (Walker, BP, I, 309.)
Walker does not say who fired the fatal shot. His reference to the pistol being more suited to divert a ‘boy’ may hint that he had fired it, as Walker was considered almost a ‘boy’ by the authorities when he was captured two years later. Although the authorities captured others involved, they appear to have only questioned Walker over the incident.
The two men with Walker were James Wilson and Thomas Young. James Wilson appears to be the same person as the Societies’ activist that Walker frequently mentions in his writings. He, too, appeared on the published Fugitive Roll as ‘James Wilson, in Townhead of Douglas’ in Douglas parish, Lanarkshire. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 196.)
The identity of Thomas Young is harder to pin down. As we shall see, from Walker we know what became of him. Walker states that Young lived in Carluke parish where he was seized by the foot of Cromwell Lockhart, the Laird of Lee. The only Thomas Young on the Fugitive Roll of 1684 is ‘Captain Thomas Young, tailor in Strathaven’, Evandale parish, Lanarkshire, however, he does not appear to be the same individual. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 196.)
The two local fugitives whom Gordon had been seeking then mysteriously reappear at the scene of the killing. They, too, may have been Society people that were involved in the meeting. The group then searched through Gordon’s possessions for intelligence:
‘The foresaid William Caigow and Robert Muir came to us. We search’d him for Papers, and found a long Scroll of Sufferers Names, either to kill or take; I tore it all in Pieces: He had also some Popish Books and Bonds of Money, with one Dollar, which a poor Man took off the Ground; all which we put in his Pocket again. Thus he was 4 Miles from Lanark, and near a Mile from his Comrade, seeking his own Death, and got it.’ (Walker, BP, I, 309.)
According to Walker, ‘None of these Men present was challenged for this [by the authorities], but my self:’(Walker, BP, I, 310.)
What happened to the Society people with Walker who were either involved in the shooting, or accessory to it?
The Banishment of Robert Muir in Netherton of Mossplatt, Carstairs parish, Lanarkshire.
According to Walker, ‘Robert Muir was banished;’ (Walker, BP, I, 310.)
The Death of William Cadzow, portioner in Wester Cadzow, Carluke parish, Lanarkshire.
Cadzow was declared a fugitive by the Circuit Court at Glasgow on 12 June, 1683, and appeared on the published roll of 5 May, 1684. At some point after that he was apprehended. According to Wodrow, Cadzow was executed in December, 1684. However he had ‘no distinct accounts’ of him. Wodrow probably meant that he was executed on 9 December with George Jackson, James Graham, Thomas Robertson and Thomas Wood, who had all refused to denounce the Societies’ Apologetical Declaration Against Intelligencers. (Wodrow, History, IV, 177.)
However, Walker firmly refutes the claim that Cadzow died on the scaffold: ‘William Caigow died in the Canongate Tolbooth, [a month later] in the Beginning of 1685; Mr. Wodrow is misinformed, who says, That he suffered unto Death.’ (Walker, BP, I, 310.)
There are strong grounds for believing Walker. First, Cadzow did not leave a martyrs’ testimony unlike almost all of the others who were publicly executed. Second, Walker knew Cadzow and was in a position to know if he had been executed as he was imprisoned with him in the Canongate Tolbooth at the time of his death. Third, no other source records Cadzow’s execution.
Thomas Young in Carluke Parish, Lanarkshire. Executed at Mauchline in 1685.
According to Walker, ‘Thomas Young thereafter suffered at Machline, but was not challenged for this [i.e., the murder of Gordon];’ (Walker, BP, I, 310.)
In a Short Memorial, Alexander Shields briefly mentions that Thomas Young ‘was taken by the Laird of Lee’ before he was taken to Mauchline, where he was executed on 6 May, 1685. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 34.)
According to Walker, Young was captured during the sweep of the Highlanders into the West at the beginning of May, 1685: ‘and when they came thorow the Parish of Carluke, they apprehended William Finn[i]eson and Thomas Young who lived there, whom the Laird of Lee’s Footmen apprehended, on whom they exercised great Cruelty:’ (Walker, BP, I, 260.)
James Wilson in Townhead of Douglas, Douglas parish, Lanarkshire.
According to Walker, ‘James Wilson outlived the Persecution;’ (Walker, BP, I, 310.)
In mid-1682, Alexander Peden preached at Townhead in the presence of James and his siblings. At that time, the Societies’ attitude towards Peden was under discussion at their conventions.
‘In the Year 1682, Mr. Peden preaching in Douglas Town-head, in that good Family of Children, Gavin, James, Archibald, and Jean Wilson’s, being all my Acquaintance, especially James, of whom I frequently spoke of. Before he began, he gave some stedfast frowning Looks to a Woman, as his Ordinary was upon unhappy Persons, and said to Gavin, Cause your Servants put out that Woman with the pirnie Plaid, I will not begin while she is here, for she is a Witch; of which she gave holding Presumptions afterwards.’ (Walker, BP, II, 93.)
Townhead lay above the Arnesalloch Burn in Douglas parish, Lanarkshire. Today, the site of Townhead lies on a forest path beyond Midtown. Details of it can be found on the Canmore website.
James and his brother Archibald, both of ‘Townhead of Douglas’, were declared fugitives by the Circuit Court at Glasgow on 11 June, 1683, and appear on the published roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 196.)
In February 1688 both James and Archibald Wilson were among the key activists whose names were revealed by James Renwick under interrogation. (Carslaw (ed.), Letters, 254-6.)
At the muster of Lord Angus’ Regiment, aka. The Cameronian Regiment, on 19 April, 1689, Archibald is recorded as an ensign in the nineteenth company.
According to later tradition, James Gavin was seized in a cave on the Arnesalloch Burn in 1685.
James Wilson was well known to Walker and a significant figure in the Society people. He is first recorded as a delegate to the convention in mid 1683. However, it appears from the role he was given that he had been involved in the Societies’ convention for a considerable period before that. At the Societies’ tenth convention at Cairntable on 1 August, 1683, Wilson was appointed to a committee of six with Robert Goodwin, Thomas Linning, ‘R——–. S——’, Alexander Ramsay and Michael Shields, the clerk of the convention, to revise the resolutions of previous conventions for circulation throughout the Societies. (Shields, FCD, 100.)
Walker also records that James Wilson was with Alexander Peden at Airds Moss during the Killing Times of 1685, when both of them visited the graves of Richard Cameron and others who had fallen there in 1680.
At the grave side, Peden is alleged to have foretold the end of the persecution and how Wilson and those with ‘Bits of Papers and Drops of Blood’, by which he meant the Societies, would be assailed by a ‘bike’ of indulged and luke-warm ministers that would join ‘Red Hands with Blood and the Black Hands with Defection’ together in a general assembly so that:
‘ye will not ken who has been the Persecutor, Complier or Sufferer; and your Bits of Papers and your Drops of Blood will be shot to the Door, and never a Word more of them, and ye and your Testimony cut off at the Web’s End, and ye and the like of you will get their Back-side.’
Wilson later understood Peden’s words to have come to fruition at the first post-Revolution General Assembly in 1690. (Walker, BP, I, 71-2.)
According to Walker, James Wilson and James Nisbet, the son of Hardhill, were both witnesses to the meeting of James Renwick and Alexander Peden at some point prior to the latter’s death in 1686. (Walker, BP, I, 91.)
Wilson is also Walker’s main source for the story that Peden backed the Renwick and the Societies over the breakaway societies who followed Robert Langlands and George Barclay in the schism of 1685/1686 and that they resolved their differences just before Peden’s death. (Walker, BP, I, 86-7, 91-3.)
However, Alexander Shields claims that their differences were not resolved at Peden’s death in January, 1686.
Wilson remained in the Societies after Peden’s death and the Friarminnan schism. According to Walker, Renwick informed Wilson that those societies which returned after the Friarminnan schism lacked their former devotion to the cause. (Walker, BP, I, 89.)
After the schism, Wilson was a prominent member of several delegations and committees. In particular, Wilson was involved in the dispute between the supporters of Renwick and the breakaway societies in Carrick, Galloway and Calder Muir.
With Renwick, James Clark, John Clark and Alexander Ramsay, Wilson was part of the delegation that met with Robert Cathcart of the breakaway societies in Carrick on 20 March 1686. (Wodrow, History, IV, 394.)
At the subsequent twenty-sixth convention at Blackgannoch on 7 April, 1686, Wilson, William Boyd, George Hill, James Renwick and Michael Shields were appointed to draw up an account of the conference with the supporters of Langlands and Barclay at Friarminnan and a vindication of their principles. That document formed the basis of the Societies’ Informatory Vindication which was published in 1687. (Shields, FCD, 243.)
After the thirty-first convention at Glasgow on 22 September, 1686, he acted as a courier to Thomas Douglas in London, and to Robert Hamilton, Thomas Linning, William Boyd and the Dutch minister, Mr Gerkima, in the United Provinces. He took draft copies of the Informatory Vindication to them to seek their approval of it and delivered letters to them. Soon after he returned home with their advice. (Shields, FCD, 255-6.)
Wilson took part in both the Societies’ post-Friarminnan response to “left-hand” defectors and their negotiations with “right-hand” defectors. On 28 May, 1686, he was also part of the delegation that included Renwick, James Ingles, William Nairn and Michael Shields which met John Flint and the Russellites. (Shields, FCD, 238-42.)
He was also employed in the key role of the Societies’ representative to other Presbyterian ministers considering joining the Society people.
Wilson in England
At the twenty-ninth convention at Auchengilloch on 24 June, 1686, it was agreed that Wilson should be part of a delegation, with Renwick, Michael Shields and Dr Ford, that met with Anthony Sleigh (d.1702), a minister at Penruddock in Greystoke parish, Cumberland, to discover if the Societies could join with him. (Shields, FCD, 251.)
Sleigh, aka. Slie, had gained his degree at the University of Edinburgh in 1660. He led a dissenting congregation which met in the house of John Noble in Penruddock, a village which lies to the west of Penrith. (The London Christian Instructor, 555-6.)
The congregation was later based at the Penruddock Presbyterian Meeting House, which was situated on land gifted by the Noble family and in use until 2011.
From the Societies’ sources, it appears that Renwick rejected the idea of issuing a call to Sleigh.
Wilson in Ireland
At thirty-fifth convention at Cairntable on 3 August, 1687, Wilson was also dispatched to Ireland to converse with ministers there, possibly about issues connected with David Houston. (Shields, FCD, 317.)
Wilson in Argyll
At the thirty-eighth convention at Blackgannoch on 7 March, 1688, Wilson was sent with Daniel Ker of Kersland to converse with John Darroch (d.1730), a tolerated presbyterian minister at the joint parishes of Kilcalmonell and Kilberry in Argyll. (Shields, FCD, 323.)
John Darroch had been the minister of the joint parishes of Kilcalmonell and Kilberry from 1669 until he was probably deprived for refusing the Test in 1681. The charge appears to have been generally in the possession of his family since Maurice Darroch (d.1638). It was also held by his probable father, Dugald (d.1664).
After he failed to take the Test Oath, John Darroch became the minister of presbyterian congregation at Glenarm in Ireland until he returned to his Argyll parish under James VII’s edicts of Toleration.
On his return to Argyll, Darroch was present at the erections of the presbyterian synod and presbytery under the edicts of toleration at the end of 1687. Wilson’s first meeting with Darroch appears to have been a success, as the thirty-ninth convention on 7 June, 1688, sent Wilson and James Inglis to Darroch to invite him to come to meet the Societies for a conference. However, before they had a chance to meet with him, they heard at Greenock that Darroch had returned to his former presbyterian congregation at Glenarm. (Shields, FCD, 341.)
According to the Fasti, Darroch was recalled to Glenarm in September, 1688. However, he returned to Kilcalmonell and Kilberry immediately after the Revolution a few months later. Although he was not recorded as the settled minister of that charge, he did attend the first post-Revolution General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1690. In 1692, Darroch translated to Craignish parish. (Fasti, IV, 3, 58.)
Wilson and the Revolution of 1688 to 1690
The prominent role played by Wilson in the Societies is obvious from the positions he held after the fall of the Stuart regime in the Revolution of 1688.
The Societies’ general meeting at Crawfordjohn on 13 February 1689 appointed Daniel Ker of Kersland, Alexander Shields and Dr Furd or Wilson to take a paper of grievances to William of Orange. (Shields, FCD, 380.)
Wilson was also appointed with Alexander Shields, William Boyd, William Stuart, John Mathieson, William Young, John Clark and Michael Shields to a committee that drafted a paper taken to Patrick Hume of Polworth, a leading supporter of William of Orange, from general meeting on 13 May 1689. (Shields, FCD, 402.)
At the muster of the Cameronian Regiment at Douglas in 1689, Wilson, William Stewart, Dr Furd and Michael Shields were sent to Edinburgh to discuss problems with the regiment. (Shields, FCD, 405.)
The general meeting on 18 July 1689 also sent James Wilson with Michael Shields to Edinburgh to seek redress for murder of their comrades at the hands of prominent oppressors. (Shields, FCD, 407.)
Wilson, Peter Walker, William M’Neil, ——- ——–, and Michael Shields were nominated by the Societies to take a protestation against the defections of the Church of Scotland to a general meeting of ministers in June 1690. (Shields, FCD, 439.)
After the killing of Trooper Gordon in 1682, Wilson became one of the most influential and trusted members of the United Societies in the later 1680s.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.