Traitors, Runnagates and Fugitives: Claverhouse and the Covenanters’ Talla Linn Convention of 1682
On 15 June, 1682, the Society people held their third convention at Talla Linn, a spectacular location in Tweedsmuir parish, Peebleshire.
According to tradition, locations near the site of the convention were used by Donald Cargill and Alexander Peden for field preaching.
Among the c.80 to 130 Society people who attended the convention were James Renwick, the clerk of the convention, James Russell, Alexander Gordon of Kilsture and possibly Thomas Linning. A reference to the suspension of an anonymous young man in Dunbartonshire from the convention is the only mention of a delegate from that shire. (Shields, FCD, 21-24.)
When Renwick was returning to Edinburgh after the convention he may have encountered government soldiers somewhere in the hills of Tweeddale.
The Talla Linn convention was the first of the United Societies’ meetings to be discovered by the authorities. It is clear from the correspondence of John Graham of Claverhouse, below, that the Scottish regime had no idea, either about the purpose of the third convention, or that it was one of a series of secret conventions. The government appear to have suspected that those behind the mysterious Talla Linn meeting were in some way connected to those who had proclaimed the Lanark Declaration five months earlier, but in mid 1682 they had very little intelligence about the Societies. Initially, some senior figures within the regime came to the erroneous conclusion that the Talla Linn meeting aimed to killed Claverhouse. In fact, the presence of both Claverhouse and the third convention in the same locality was a coincidence.
Claverhouse accidentally stumbled upon intelligence of the convention when he was travelling from Edinburgh to Dumfries. Among those who informed him about the convention on the day after it took place was Francis Scott, the minister of Tweedsmuir parish. (Shields, FCD, 25; Fasti, II, 295.)
Letter of John Graham of Claverhouse to William Douglas, duke of Queensberry.
‘Dumfries, 17 June, 1682.
My Lord, I thoght to have waited on your Lordship befor this, but I was stayed at Edinboug tuo days beyond what I desseined, which has proved favourable for me. Yesterday [16 June], when I came at the Bille [change house], I was certenly informed that severall pairtys of Whigues in arms to the number of six or seven scor [i.e., 120 to 140], were gon from thence but six hours befor.’
The Bille, aka. Beild, lies at Tweedsmuir. It was the location of a change house, a small roadside inn where horses were changed.
A large party of Society people had emerged out of Lanarkshire a few days earlier:
‘They came from Clidsdelle upon Mondays night [of 12 June] and passed [the river] Tueed at the Bille going towards Teviotdelle, but went not above three mylles further that way [to Talla Linn]. They stayed thereabout devyded in small pairtys, most all on foot, Tuesday [13 June], Wednesday, and Thursday, till Freyday morning [of 16 June], when they passed the hills towards Clidesdell [again]. Som say they hade a meeting with Teviotdelle folks; others would make me believe that they had a mynd for me [i.e., to attack Claverhouse].
They did ask, in several places what they heard of me, and told they were sure my troup [of Horse] was far [away] in Galloway; others say they wer flaying the West for fear of the diligen[c]e the gentry is deseined to use for their discovery [there]. I could believe this, wer they not returned [to the West].
I spok with the minister, [Francis Scott,] and severall other people in whose houses they wer; but he keeped himself out of the way. They did not prejudice in his house, further then meatt and drink: they gave no where that I could learen any acount of their dessein there; only I heared they said they wer seeking the enimys of God, and enquired rooghly if any body there keeped the Church. The contry keeps up this business [of not informing on the Society people]. I heared nothing of it till I was within tuo mylles of the Bille, and that was from a gentleman on the road who had heared it at a buriall [at Tweedsmuir Kirk] the day befor.
Ther was a dragoon all Teusdays night [of 15 June], at the change-house at the Bille, and the mester of the [change] house confessed to me he loot him knou nothing of it. They pretend it is for fear of bringing trouble to the contry.
I sent from the Bille ane express to acquaint my Lord Chancelour [, Lord Haddo, in Edinburgh] with it; for I thought it fit the quarters should be advertised not [to] be too secur, when those rogues had the impudency to goe about so.
If your Lordship be at hom [at Drumlanrig] on Monday, or lait me knou where you will be, I will have the honor to wait on you. I am, my Lord, your Lordship’s faithfull and humble servant,
J. Grahame.’ (SHS, Miscellany XI (1990), 182-3.)
On the following day, Claverhouse wrote to General Thomas Dalyell of the Binns:
Dumfries, 18 June, 1682.
‘May it please your Excelence, I would have informed yow befor this lyne of what I learned passing the Bile on frayday, that thair hav com thairabout (as the maister and wyves told me) about six or seven scoir of Armed men but I have wasted all this day to gett further intelligence of them but can learn nothing more nor I heared then which was that they came from Clydsdaill and crossed Tweed at the Bile but went not above three myles beyond it ans returned nixt day and stayed about that watter in severall pairties from Mundays night till fraydayes Morning when they returnd west from whence they came. What was thair dessigne I could not learn. We are hear in great peace and all in obedience. I am Sir your Excelence most faithfull and humble servant.’ (SHS, Miscellany XI, 183-4.)
General Dalyell sent Claverhouse’s report on to the Duke of Hamilton on 20 June.
On 27 June, Queensberry informed Lord Haddo, the Lord Chancellor, that ‘matters here [in Nithsdale], and in Galloway, look very well, without the least appearance of trouble: But, for all that, the [government] forces must not be removed, for reasons your Lordship shall know at meeting. I doubt not but your Lordship has full account of Clavers’ rencounter at the Bile, It was good he did not come a day sooner; for certainly their design was against him.’ (Napier, Memorials of Viscount Dundee, II, 283.)
Over a week later the privy council issued a proclamation against the ‘traitors’ involved in the convention. Like the later proclamation about Renwick’s preaching at Black Loch and the Ambuscade at Auchengilloch in 1684, it gives testimony of the reluctance of local people to inform the authorities about the activities of the Society people.
Proclamation of July 8, 1682.
‘Charles, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith: To Our Lyon King at Arms, and his Brethren, Heralds, Macers of Our Privy Council, Pursevants, and Messengers at Arms, Our Sheriffs in that Part, conjunctly and severally, specially constitute, Greeting: Albeit, by the Blessing of almighty God upon Our royal Endeavours, the many Attempts of His and Our Enemies, (made most impiously under pretence of Religion and Zeal, against the Laws of God, of Nature, of Nations, and of this Our Kingdom, designing the Overthrow of Religion, Government, Liberty and Property) have been frequently disappointed and defeated, and their Malice turned upon their own Heads; and that the many Acts, both of Mercy and Justice, exere’d by Us, conform to the Laws of God and the Kingdom, and the great Prudence, Vigilance, Moderation and Justice of Our dearest and only Brother [James, Duke of York], during his Abode in, and Government under Us, of this Our ancient Kingdom [of Scotland], have had such happy Success, as to bring Our good Subjects to further Abhorrence of Fanaticks and their Impieties; and most of these who were misled by the lying Spirit of some of their pretended Ministers, are shrunk from these Ways, whereof they are justly ashamed, so that Our People are brought nearer to that dutiful and peaceable Deportment, which becomes Christians and Subjects. Yet some are so indefatigable in Malice, as to continue and stir up others to disturb that Peace and Tranquillity, which Our People may enjoy under Our Reign:
Insomuch as of late, some Traitors, Runnagates, and Fugitives, have convocate towards the Number of Eighty, with forbidden Weapons, and in unlawful Manner, near to Talla-lin, in the Shire of Peebles; and the People in that Country have been so defective in the Duties of loyal Subjects, or good Countrymen, as to neglect giving timeous Notice of such Meetings or Actings, either to Our Council, the Sheriff of the Shire, or the Commanders of Our Forces, who were nearest to them; and this Neglect of theirs, being not only a Breach of Duty in them, but of very bad Example, and dangerous Consequence, if practised by others on such Emergents:
We therefore, by Our Royal Authority, and also in Conformity to the whole Course of Our Laws, particularly to the 144 Act of the 12 Parl. King James VI. and 7 Act, Parl. 1. King James I. do hereby strictly require and command all the Subjects and Inhabitants within this Our Kingdom, whether in Burgh or Land, upon Knowledge or Information that any Number of Men do convocate unlawfully in Arms, or appear in Company in any Place, or where any one or Two of such, as are declared Traitors or Fugitives from Our Laws, on treasonable Accounts, shall repair, that they shall with all Diligence give Intimation thereof to Our Chancellor, and such others of Our secret Council, as shall be at Edinburgh:
As also, without Delay, that they give Information to any Commander of Our Forces, who shall be nearest to the Place where the said unlawful Convocation, or such Traitors and Fugitives are, and to the Sheriff of the Shire, Stewart of the Stewartry, Bailie of the Regality, or Magistrates of Burrows, where the said Meeting or Persons appear, or are informed to be, and that within the Space of one Hour at most, for every Three Miles Distance they are at the Time from Edinburgh, or from the nearest Commander of the Forces, Sheriffs and other Magistrates foresaid.
And further, We do hereby require and command Our said Sheriffs, Bailies and Magistrates, upon any such Information given to them, that they call together competent Numbers of Our good Subjects, and with these do exact Diligence, at the utmost of their Power, to search, seek and apprehend these who are so met, and to present them to Justice, and to follow them until they be apprehended, or expelled out of their Jurisdiction, and on their Flight, they are immediately to acquaint the Magistrates of the next Shire, whither they are fled; who are hereby required to do the like Diligence, and so from Shire to Shire, until they be apprehended, or expelled forth of this Realm:
And in case any Hurt or Skaith fall out in the Pursuit, or in apprehending of these so unlawfully convocate, the Actors thereof are to be free, and unpunished in any manner of way; with Certification, that these whoever fail in their said respective Duties, whether it be the Magistrates, in not Pursuance, or Our other Subjects, in not giving timeous Information, within the Space foresaid, or in not rising with, and assisting the Magistrates in their forementioned Duties, they shall be held and repute as disaffected to Our Government and Service, and as Art and Part, and Connivers with them in their said unlawful Designs and Convocations, and undergo the Punishment due to these who were of the said unlawful Convocation, by the Laws of this Our Kingdom.
And We hereby of new intimate to all Our Subjects, that whoever shall intercommune with, reset, supply, shelter, or give any Comfort to any declared Traitors or Fugitives, or who shall conceal, reset or shelter any who do convocate, in manner foresaid: that such Resetters or Assisters shall be proceeded against, as if they were guilty of the Crimes whereof these Traitors and Fugitives are guilty, according to the just Rigour of Our Laws.
Our Will is herefore, and We charge you straitly and command, that incontinent, these Our Letters seen, ye pass to the Market-cross of Edinburgh, and the haill Marketcrosses of the Head-burghs, and haill Parish Kirks of this Kingdom, and other Places needful, and there, in Our Name and Authority, by open Proclamation, make Publication of Our Royal Will and Pleasure, in the Premisses, that none may pretend Ignorance, but give cheerful and punctual Obedience thereto. The which to do We commit to you eonjunctly and severally, Our full Power by these Our Letters, delivering them by you duly execute, and indorsed again to the Bearer.
Given under Our Signet at Edinburgh, the Eighth Day of July, One thousand six hundred eighty two Years, and of Our Reign the Thirtieth and fourth Year.
Per actum Dominorium secreti concilii.
Pat. Menzies Cl. Secr. Concilii.
God save the King.’
(Wodrow, History (1722), II, 90-1.)
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