For Whom the Bell Tolls: John Graham of Claverhouse and East Kilbride

The people of East Kilbride revelled in the news of the death of John Graham of Claverhouse after the Battle of Killiecrankie. So much so, that the church bell which rang out in celebration of the news cracked after nearly a century of use…

Killiecrankie O

The Braes of Killiecrankie

At least, that is the way that tradition recalled events. It may be true…The bell was cracked.

The first record of that event was in 1793:

‘With respect to the Church of Kilbride, few things merit the attention of the public. It was rebuilt in 1774, … That part of the old church which supported the belfry, is allowed to remain, and serves the purpose of a steeple. The bell was cast in the year 1590, by one of the most celebrated bell-founders in Europe, and bears the following inscription.


This bell was rent by violent ringing, on a day of rejoicing, held by the people of Kilbride, when they heard the news that [John Graham of Claverhouse,] Lord Dundee, a cruel persecutor, fell in the battle of Killicrankie’ fought on 27 July, 1689. (Ure, History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride (1793), 209-10.)

The bell was in the old parish church of of Kilbride, which is now in the centre of East Kilbride.

Aerial view of Kilbride Old Church            Street View of Kilbride Old Church

At least one element of that tradition needs to be teased out. The day that news of Killiecrankie broke in Kilbride parish would probably not have been a day of celebration. At Killiecrankie, the forces in support of the Revolution were defeated and routed. It was a Jacobite victory. Claverhouse died from his wound on the following day. In the immediate aftermath, government ministers worried that the area beyond the Forth was lost to them. It was also not apparent to them that Claverhouse had died until the 30 July. If the bell tolled for Claverhouse, it must have been after the news of the defeat had arrived.

A different image of Claverhouse’s death, can be found in the evidence of a prisoner of war from Killiecrankie  taken by the Jacobites:

‘Lieutenant John Nisbet, in Captain Macculloch’s company, in the Viscount of Kenmore’s regiment of foot, of the age of twenty-four years or thereby, not married, solemnly sworn, purged of partial counsel, and malice against the defenders, upon his great oath interrogated: Depones—That, at the engagement at Killiecrankie, he saw a person who was said to be the Viscount of Dundee, in arms on horseback: And that, when the deponent was prisoner at the Castle of Blair in Athole, after the fight in Killiecrankie, several persons came to the room where the deponent was, and said that the said Viscount’s body was interred: And remembers, particularly, that one named Johnston told the deponent, that he had catched the Viscount as he fell from his horse, after his being shot, at the said fight; the Viscount then asking the said Johnston, how the day went, and that he answered—the day went well for the King—meaning King James,—but that he was sorry for his Lordship; and that the Viscount replied—It was the less matter for him, seeing the day went well for his Master.’…
(Napier, Memorialls of Viscount Dundee, III, 647-8.)

I am very grateful to @The_Drouth for alerting me to the existence of the story of East Kilbride’s bell.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author.

~ by drmarkjardine on October 18, 2013.

4 Responses to “For Whom the Bell Tolls: John Graham of Claverhouse and East Kilbride”

  1. […] For Whom the Bell Tolls: John Graham of Claverhouse and East Kilbride ( […]

  2. I’m loving your posts on Covenanters, but have to say (ashamedly) that an ancestor of mine- Macaulay from Ardencaple was no friend to them.
    I have a pair of communion goblets which screw apart. The Covenanters used them in the conventicles.
    Scotland is such a small nation that I keep finding ancestors from opposing sides in different parts of my tree. I have a female Vallance, or Vallaunge, from Edinburgh (on my father’s side) and noticed the surname on one of your entries. Fascinating.

  3. […] For Whom the Bell Tolls: John Graham of Claverhouse and East Kilbride ( […]

  4. […] For Whom the Bell Tolls: John Graham of Claverhouse and East Kilbride ( […]

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