The Capture, Torture and Banishment of John Pollock in 1680

Boots and Thumbikins

After the battle of Airdsmoss on 22 July, 1680, John Pollock, was brought to Edinburgh as a prisoner.

According to David Hackstoun of Rathillet:

‘[On Sunday, 25 July] they brought me and John Pollock, and other two of us, two miles on foot, I being without shoes, where that party which had broken us at first received us. They were commanded by [Andrew Bruce of] Earlshall. We were horsed, civilly used by them on the way, and brought to Edinburgh, about four in the afternoon, and carried about the north side of the town to the foot of the Canongate, where the town magistrates were, who received us; and setting me on a horse with my face backward, and the other three bound on a goad of iron, and Mr [Richard] Cameron’s head carried on a halbert before me, and another head in a sack, whose I knew not, on a lad’s back, we were so carried up the street to the Parliament Close, where I was taken down, and the rest loosed. All was done by the hangman.’ (Thompson (ed.), CW, 47.)

On 28 July, 1680, Lord Fountainhall recorded that ‘One of the prisoners brought in from [Airdsmoss in] Moorkirk with Rathillot, wer Cameron the feild-preacher was killed, was this day, at Privy Councell, tortured in the boots, he having been a chapman, and carried their letters. The Bishops at this, as a sanquinary case, retired furth of the Councell.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices of Scottish Affairs, 1661-1683, 269.)

Wodrow confirms that the prisoner tortured in the boots was John Pollock: ‘I find another in prison with them, John Pollock, who was put in the boots, and endured the torture with much firmness and cheerfulness. I find no more about him.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 221.)

As a chapman, a small-scale travelling merchant, Pollock was a useful conduit for Cameron and Rathillet’s correspondence with their militant brethren. Obviously, the authorities were keen to discover with whom they had been in correspondence. No details of his interrogation in the boots survive. It appears that Pollock refused to talk:

Wodrow stated that he could find ‘no more about him’. However, John Pollock was banished to the North American colonies with John Drysdale, James Wharrey, and John Anderson on 11 October, 1681. Wodrow recorded him as ‘James’ Pollock by mistake. (RPCS, VII, 219; Wodrow, History, III, 269.)

John Drysdale, a weaver in Bo’ness, had attempted to kill one of the King’s Lifeguards after the execution of three militants in December, 1680.

‘John Anderson in Comerhead’ appears on a list of prisoners suspected of attending conventicles on 25 August, 1681. ‘Comerhead’ is Cumberhead in Lesmahagow parish, the home of a leading activist in the United Societies, David Steel. (RPCS, VII, 189-90.)

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

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~ by drmarkjardine on December 16, 2013.

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