Donald Cargill’s Preaching at Meadowhead near Fenwick
It is claimed that Donald Cargill conducted baptisms in a barn at Meadowhead in Fenwick parish, Ayrshire. The farm was the home of Captain John Paton of Meadowhead, a veteran of both Continental wars and the Covenanting struggle who was eventually executed on 9 May, 1684.
According to John Howie of Lochgoin, the great-grandson of James Howie, tenant of Lochgoin in Fenwick parish, ‘It is said, that Mr. Cargill dispensed the sacrament of baptism to twenty-two children in his barn at Meadowhead, shortly after the engagement at Bothwell-bridge [in June, 1679]’. (Howie, Scots Worthies, 437.)
The large number of baptisms conducted by Cargill were almost certainly accompanied a Sabbath day preaching, but we do not know the date for the preaching. Can it be identified?
It is very unlikely that Donald Cargill preached at Meadowhead immediately after the battle, as he was wounded and taken from the field into exile to Rotterdam. It is more likely that Cargill preached at Meadowhead after he returned to Scotland in 1680 until his death in July, 1681.
Cargill is known to have preached in locations relatively near to Meadowhead on three occasions.
Cargill preached at a fast at Auchengilloch at the end of May, 1680. The fast was the opening move the Society peoples’ renewed campaign of field preaching. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that Cargill preached ‘indoors’ at Meadowhead before the fast to a large gathering involving twenty-two children, parents and other hearers. He almost certainly did not preach at Meadowhead immediately after the fast, as he travelled east from Auchengilloch towards Queensferry where he was nearly captured on 3 June.
Cargill preached at Auchengilloch again on 3 July, 1681, however, immediately after that day he returned to the Clyde and preached for the final time at Dunsyre Common on the following Sabbath.
In both of those cases there is little chance that Cargill preached to a large gathering at Meadowhead on a Sabbath.
However, Cargill also preached at Loudoun Hill on Thursday 5 May, 1681. After that he is said to have ‘passed through the Shire of Air, Carrick, and into Galloway, preaching, baptizing and marrying’. The Loudoun Hill preaching had been cut short after it was attacked by government forces. It is possible that Cargill’s followers hastily reorganised a preaching in the same parish within a week or so. Preaching indoors may have been a sensible precaution in those circumstances.
Since Cargill then went on a brief preaching tour of the South West after Loudoun Hill, it is possible that he preached at Meadowhead on Sunday 8 or 15 May, 1681.
That in turn suggests that Cargill possibly preached at Maybole in Carrick on 15 or 22 May, and then in Galloway, probably in the Glenkens, on 22 May or 29 May.
It is also possible that he preached in Dumfriesshire, as James Mundell in Tinwald parish in Lower Nithsdale mentioned in his dying testimony that he had heard Cargill preach. (Calderwood, Dying Testimonies, 203.)
Cargill may have preached at Hynd’s Bottom on 29 May or 5 June.
What is clear is that Cargill had finished his tour of the South West by 12 June when he field preached at Coulter Heights.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.