The Raid on Lochgoin in c.1684

LochgoinLochgoin Farm in trees and monument © wfmillar and licensed for reuse.

According to John Howie of Lochgoin, among Captain John Paton of Meadowhead’s network of hiding places was the farm at Lochgoin in Fenwick parish, Ayrshire. Lochgoin lies about two miles north of Meadowhead.

Map of Meadowhead             Aerial View of Meadowhead

Howie recounts the story of an escape by Paton at Lochgoin, in which James Howie, the tenant of Lochgoin, his wife, Isobel Howie, and their son, John Howie, were involved. He does not give a date for the escape, but the evidence suggests that it took place between mid 1683 and mid 1684.

‘The Captain [i.e., Paton], with a few more, was one night quartered in the forementioned house of Lochgoin, with James Howie, who was one of his fellow-sufferers; at which time one Captain [John] Inglis, with a party, lay at the Dean [Castle of the earl] of Kilmarnock’s who sent out parties on all hands to see what they could apprehend; and that night-party, being out in quest of some of the sufferers, came to [Paton’s house at] Meadowhead, and from thence went to another remote place in the muirs of Fenwick, called Croilburn’.

The tack on the farms of Meadowhead and Airtnoch were held John Paton of Meadowhead. A well-known supporter of the militant Covenanters, Donald Cargill probably preached at his home in 1681.

Captain John Inglis of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons was based at Kilmarnock before mid 1684.

CroilburnCroilburn © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

From Meadowhead the soldiers headed east across the moor to Croilburn.

Map of Croilburn              Aerial View of Croilburn

‘But finding nothing, they went next to Lochgoin, as apprehending they would not miss their design there; and that they might come upon this place more securely, they sent about five men with one Serjeant Rae, by another way, by which the main body could not come so well up undiscovered.’

From Croilburn they the soliders headed north to Lochgoin, which now stands on the edge of the Whitelee Windfarm. There a museum at Lochgoin, which is well worth a visit. (Reopening May, 2014.)

Map of Lochgoin                  Aerial View of Lochgoin

‘Serjeant Rae’ is probably the ‘Sergeant Thomas Rae’ in Captain, later Major, John Balfour’s company of Mar’s Regiment of Foot. Rae was present at a muster of Captain Balfour’s company on 17 June, 1682. It is likely that the raid on Lochgoin took place after that date, when the search for fugitives intensified, and before Paton’s capture April 1684. (Dalton, Scots Army, 127.)

The foot’s line of march via Meadowhead implies that they intended to capture Paton, who was what could be termed a “high-value” target. They may have been searching locations where he was suspected to be in hiding, which may imply that the troops were conducting an intelligence-led operation. However, it is also possible that they were conducting a general sweep for fugitive Society people and that Paton was just one more name on the list of those to be apprehended.

James Howie ‘tenant of Lochgoin’ (d.1691) and his son, John Howie, ‘there’, were both fugitives. They had been proclaimed fugitives by a circuit court in Ayr on 19 June, 1683, and appear on the published roll of 5 May, 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 206.)

If the raid took place after mid 1683, then Lochgoin would also have been a place where fugitives were suspected of lurking.

The farm at Lochgoin sits on open moorland and is only easily approached from one side.

‘The sufferers had watched all night, which was very stormy, by turns, and about day-break [on a Monday morning] the Captain [i.e., Paton], on account of his asthmatical disorder, went to the far end of the house for some rest.’

It is that this point that Howie mentions a ‘George Woodburn’. He was probably the fugitive George Woodburn in Loudoun Mains in the neighbouring parish of Loudoun. Woodburn was summarily executed after a later raid in Fenwick parish in which John Nisbet of Hardhill was captured in November, 1685. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 208.)

Howie assumes that the reader would know who Woodburn was. However, it is also possible that he was the George Woodburn in Ladyton, Loudoun parish, who was armed at a field preaching at nearby Polbaith Burn in 1687. The latter Woodburn is a very obscure figure who does not feature in tradition, so it is unlikely that he was involved. It is likely that the Woodburns were kin, as they lived close to each other.

It possible that all four men were fugitives when the raid took place. Captain Paton had been a fugitive since Bothwell Bridge in 1679, the Howies and George Woodburn since mid 1683. That may mean that the raid took place after 19 June, 1683 and before April, 1684.

The weather, which was very stormy during the night, and Paton’s ‘asthmatical disorder’ may have forced the fugitives indoors overnight. Returning to stay at home risked capture and in tradition is a classic way in which fugitives apprehended. It appears that the four men were aware of that danger and took the precaution of taking turns to watch for government soldiers throughout the Sunday night. It is possible that Paton and the others had intelligence that troops were either hunting them, or that they were in the area.

When it came to Woodburn’s turn to take watch at around dawn, he failed to spot the approach of Sergeant Rae’s small party:

‘In the meanwhile, one George Woodburn went out to see if he could observe any, (but it seems he looked not very surely); and going to secret duty instead of this, from which he was but a little time returned, until, on a sudden, ere they were aware, Serjeant Rae came to the inner door of the house and cried out, Dogs! I have found you now.

The four men took to the spence [i.e., the larder] – James and John Howie happening to be then in the byre among the cattle. The wife of the house, one Isabel Howie, seeing none but the serjeant, cried to them to take to the hills, and not be killed in the house. She took hold of Rae, as he was coming boldly forward to the door of the place in which they were, and ran him backward out of the outer door of the house, giving him such a hasty turn as made him fall on the ground. In the meanwhile, the Captain being alarmed, got up, put on his shoes, though not very hastily, and they all got out, by which time the rest of the party [of soldiers] was up.

The serjeant fired his gun at them, which John Kirkland answered by the like with him. The bullet passed so near the serjeant that it took off the knot of hair on the side of his head.’

John Kirkland is probably the same individual as the Ensign John Kirkland in the Cameronian Regiment who was killed at the battle of Steenkerque in 1692. Patrick Walker tells a similar story about a bullet going through the hair of Patrick Foreman at Loudoun Hill.

‘The whole crew being alarmed, the Captain and the rest took the way [east or north-east] for Eaglesham muirs, and they [the soldiers] followed. Two of the men ran with the Captain, and other two stayed by turns, and fired back on the enemy, the enemy firing on them likewise: but by reason of some wetness their guns had got in coming through the [Dunton?] water, they were not so ready to fire, which helped the others to escape.

After they had pursued them sometime, John Kirkland turned about, and stooped down on his knee, and aimed so well that he shot a highland sergeant through the thigh which made the front [soldiers] still stop as they came forward, till they were again commanded to run.’

It is not clear if the wounded Highland sergeant was Rae. There were two sergeants in Balfour’s company, which consisted of a hundred men, including officers. It is likely that a platoon, rather than the company, conducted the raid.

The Covenanters’ appear to have escaped towards Eaglesham parish, which lies directly to the east and north-east of Lochgoin.

‘By this time the sufferers had gained some ground, and being come to the muirs of Eaglesham, the four men went to the heights, in view of the enemy, and caused the Captain, who was old and not able to run, to take another way by himself. At last, he got a mare upon the field, and took the liberty to mount her a little, that he might be more suddenly out of their reach. But ere he was aware, a party of dragoons going for Newmills was at hand; and what was more observable, he wanted his shoes, having cast them off before, and was riding on the beast’s bare back; but he passed by them very slowly and got off undiscovered; and at length he gave the mare her liberty, which returned home, and went unto another of his lurking-places. All this happened on a Monday morning; and on the morrow these persecutors returned, and, plundering the house, drove off their cattle, and left almost nothing remaining.’ (Howie, Scots Worthies, 391-3.)

A second account of the raid mentions that Isobel fled into hiding and that Captain John Inglis of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons held Howie’s cattle.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on September 8, 2013.

2 Responses to “The Raid on Lochgoin in c.1684”

  1. […] [A similar account of the raid on Lochgoin appeared in Scots Worthies.] […]

  2. […] Walker tells a similar story about a musket ball going through the hair of Patrick Foreman. John Kirkland is also said to have shot a knot of hair off a sergeant. […]

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