Mysterys of the Carsgailoch Covenanters Shot in 1685

Three Covenanters were shot at Carsgailoch hill near New Cumnock, but who were they? And where were they from?

Shields Carsgailoch

Shields’ Version
Their deaths were first recorded by Alexander Shields in 1690: ‘A party of Highlanders killed Joseph Wilson, David Dun, Simeon Paterson, and other two, near the Water of Kill, in a Moss in Kile, Anno 1685.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 38.)

Shields records five deaths as part of the same incident, but names only three of them: David Dun, Simon Paterson and Joseph Wilson. He did not name John Jamieson and John Umphrey who were killed at Carsgailoch.

He places their deaths near the Water of Coyle in a moss in the district of Kyle. Dun and Paterson were probably killed or captured by Highlanders near the Water of Coyle, but the other three appear to have been shot further away at Carsgailoch, which lies on the eastern extremity of the hills and mosses where the Coyle flows. Carsgailoch lay in Cumnock parish in 1685.

Map of Water of Coyle              Map of Carsgailoch

His statement that they were killed by ‘a party of Highlanders’ in 1685 narrows down the time frame for their deaths.

The Highlanders were sent into the West in the summer of 1685. A party of them under the command of John Graham of Claverhouse first appeared in Ayrshire near Muirkirk on 1 May, where they were involved in the dramatic events at Priesthill.

By 5 May, Lieutenant-General William Drummond, commander of the Highland force, was at Mauchline where he hanged five Society people on 6 May.

Map of Mauchline

On 6 May, the Highlanders had also penetrated beyond Carsgailoch and Cumnock parish, as on that day, Drummond’s Highlanders disrupted the deliberations of the Societies’ nineteenth convention which probably met somewhere near the Crawick Water in Sanquhar parish, Nithsdale. (Shields, FCD, 164.)

Map of Crawick Water

With the Highland irregulars present at both Mauchline to the north of Carsgailoch and in Sanquhar parish to the east of Carsgailoch, it is a reasonable presumption that they reached the Carsgailoch area at around that time. They appear to have remained in that quarter of Ayrshire for some time.

After their time in Ayrshire, the Highlanders were encamped at Leadhills in Lanarkshire on 16 June.

Map of Leadhills

They departed from Leadhills and the West at the beginning of July.

The movements of the Highlanders in the area around Carsgailoch indicates that the five men mentioned by Shields were killed at some point between mid May and mid June, 1685.

It is possible that a reference by Michael Shields to the Highlanders killing Society people relates to the Carsgailoch and Water of Coyle killings:

‘Among other means made use of at this time by the enemies to accomplish their wicked designs, the sending for many of the savage and wild Highlanders was one, who coming to the west, were very cruel and vigorous in robbing and spoiling and hunting of poor people, some of whom fell into their hands and were barbarously murdered. And by them (especially) and others ranging up and down the country, severals were hindered from coming to this Meeting [i.e., the Societies’ nineteenth convention].’ (Shields, FCD, 164.)

The Grave at Carsgailoch
The inscription on the grave is as follows:

‘HeRe. LyeS. IOSePH

[and on the reverse]


(Thomson, Martyrs Graves, 338.)

With the exception of the names, the inscription is exactly the same as that of Dun and Paterson’s grave at the gallows of Cumnock. Both stones were almost certainly erected at around the same date in the early eighteenth century. The original Carsgailoch stone was joined by a second monument in the nineteenth century. The stone gradually degraded and recently a surviving fragment of it has been removed to the Baird Institute in Cumnock for preservation.

Today, the site of the martyrs’ grave is difficult to approach due to opencast coalmining both to the north and the south of Carsgailoch, but it can probably be approached via Dalgig farm.

Aerial View of Opencast around Carsgailoch

In many ways the Carsgailoch killings suffer from the same narrative problems as those of Dun and Paterson at Cumnock. Both sets of martyrs were elided together in Shields’ A Short Memorial in 1690. Both gravestones follow Shields’ text in claiming they were killed by Highlanders, but add that they were ‘shot’, rather than using Shields’ phrase of ‘killed’. Both gravestones are generic in the text they use and it is not clear how much the erectors of them knew about what had taken place. Wodrow also presents a different version of events for both sets of martyrs from than that found in Shields and the gravestones.


Wodrow’s Version of Carsgailoch
‘Some time this summer, four men were coming from Galloway, where they had been hearing Mr [James] Renwick in the fields, to the shire of Ayr, Joseph Wilson, John and Alexander Jamisons, and John Humphrey. A party of soldiers overtook them at Knockdon-hill, and upon their confession they had been hearing a sermon, they immediately shot three of them. What were the reasons of sparing Alexander Jamison I know not.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 252.)

Wodrow is the first source to place the men shot at Carsgailoch on a journey from Galloway into Ayrshire. He specifically mentions that they were returning from a preaching by the Societies’ minister, James Renwick. The implication of that is that Wilson, Umphrey and the Jamiesons were en route to some other location or locations further to the north, rather than local fugitives in hiding on Carsgailoch. In contrast, Dun, and perhaps Paterson, were local fugitives.

The earliest potential date for Renwick’s preaching, when both he and the Highlanders were possibly present in the area, is Sunday 10 May.

Wodrow does not refer to the Highland irregulars mentioned by Shields and the gravestone. Instead, he mentions ‘a party of soldiers’, which in his account of Dun and Paterson he refers to as ‘the same party of dragoons’, i.e., the regular forces of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons.

The soldiers ‘overtook them at Knockdon-hill’. Knockdon was the name of a farm just to the west of Carsgailoch.

Map of Knockdon

According to Wodrow, ‘upon their confession they had been hearing a sermon [by Renwick]’ three of the four men were ‘immediately shot’. If discovered in transit from Galloway, the men would have been expected to have produced a pass/testificate which proved that they had taken the Abjuration oath that renounced the Societies’ war. We do not know if they possessed passes, or not. Frankly, we do not know what actually led to the three men being ‘killed’ or ‘shot’ dead at Carsgailoch. Wodrow, who was not beyond spinning an event, made it sound like a summary execution, but they may have resisted, attempted to escape or been interrogated and shot.

A fourth man in the party, Alexander Jamieson, was not killed: ‘What were the reasons of sparing Alexander Jamison I know not’. Whatever happened in the encounter between Jamieson’s party and the soldiers, he was spared death and taken prisoner. As discussed below, he was banished at a later date.

CroftfootCroftfoot © Leslie Barrie and licensed for reuse.

Who were the four men at Carsgailoch?
Surprisingly, very little is known about the Carsgailoch martyrs. With four individuals involved in the one incident, one would expect that at least one, or some, of them could be identified in some way. However, almost nothing is known about those who were killed. None of the main sources reveal any details about them beyond their names, that they were killed and that they had heard Renwick preach. Often, those who were summarily executed were fugitives. Were any of the men at Carsgailoch fugitives? Perhaps they were.

It is possible that the Alexander Jamieson who was captured at Carsgailoch was the same individual as ‘Alexander Jamieson, servitor to Matthew Alexander in Croft-foot’, i.e., Croftfoot in Sorn parish, who appeared on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 210.)

Map of Croftfoot            Aerial View of Croftfoot

It appears that an Alexander Jamieson was captured and brought to Edinburgh after the Presbyterian prisoners there were marched to Dunnottar in mid May, i.e., at around the time of the incident at Carsgailoch. In the aftermath of the Argyll Rising, he was warded into Edinburgh Tolbooth on 10 July. That points to a time frame for the Carsgailoch incident of between mid May and the end of June. Jamieson banished to the plantations on 28 July and had his ears cropped on 4 August. On 7 August, he was given to Robert Barclay of Ury for transportation to East Jersey. (Wodrow, History, IV, 218, 220, ‘as Archibald’ 221.)

The fact that Jamieson was banished and had his ears cropped, suggests that he was either quite belligerent before the privy council in refusing all oaths, or that he had taken part in resistance to government forces. If he was the same man as recorded at Carsgailoch, and he probably was, then Alexander Jamison appears to have been one of the Society people, rather than an casual hearer of Renwick caught up unfortunate circumstances. Alexander Jamieson had worked and lived in Sorn parish in mid 1683, but we do not know where he was from or where he hid before his capture.

Middlefield FarmMiddlefield © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

The three men who died at Carsgailoch are more mysterious.

John Jamieson was probably kin to Alexander Jamieson, as he was travelling with him. If Wodrow was correct about the party heading north from Galloway, probably via Carsphairn parish, then one would expect that he lived somewhere to the north of Carsgailoch. Sorn parish is a possibility, but he could have been any of the parishes in the surrounding area. Robert Guthrie points out that the Jamieson surname appears most often – five times – in Muirkirk parish in the hearth tax records of 1691, including an Alexander Jamieson. He also reveals that the registers of the privy council record in October, 1684, that ‘Joanet Andersone’, spouse of John Jamieson in Middlefield, ‘keepes not the church’.

Map of Middlefield

Almost nothing is known about Joseph Wilson. However, a tradition recorded in 1832 claimed that the Joseph Wilson killed at Carsgailoch was from Lesmahagow parish, Lanarkshire.

If John Umphray was a fugitive, he may be the same individual as ‘John Umphrey, merchant’ in Lanark, who appears on the published Fugitive Roll of May, 1684. Umphray, under the name of ‘John Pomphray, there [in Lanark]’ had been forfeited with other Lanarkshire heritors in 1681 for his part in the Bothwell Rising of 1679. His forfeiture was reversed in 1690. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 199; Wodrow, History, III, 247; RPS, 1690/4/80.)

The significance of those potential identifications is that all three parishes possibly connected to the Carsgailoch martyrs – Muirkirk, Lesmahgow and Lanark – lie one after another on a route to the north-east of Carsgailoch.

That may not be a coincidence. The hill of Carsgailoch stands above a natural gap between the hills and moors which stretch back into Galloway and those to the north-east which straddle the Ayrshire/Lanarkshire boundary. Today, that gap is filled with the A76, B-roads and a rail line, but in the seventeenth century it was filled small farms and a road which connected the upper valley of the Nith to the rest of Ayrshire.

Map of Carsgailoch ‘Gap’

If one wanted to avoid government forces and prying eyes when returning from Galloway in 1685, then crossing that gap meant briefly leaving the relative safety of a hills. On the other side lay the heights of Avisyard and a route through the hills and muirs to the three parishes of Muirkirk, Lesmahagow and Lanark. If the Jamiesons, Umphray and Wilson were heading home from a Galloway preaching, then they were on the natural route for fugitives to take.

A Fifth Source?
If we push the evidence to the limit of historical analysis, a fifth source for the Carsgailoch killings may exist. In James Nisbet’s spiritual autobiography, which was written around c.1700, he claims that government troops ‘shot severals to death who’ had a ‘pass’ following the pressing of the Abjuration oath in 1685. Among those he named were ‘a young lad of 14 years of age near to Cumnock, and two others whose names I have forgot’. (Narrative of James Nisbet, 61.)

It is not clear from Nisbet’s narrative if the killing of the young lad and the two others are connected. However, at least with the young lad we have a location, ‘near Cumnock’, which may help to identify who he was.

There are ten male martyrs of the Killing Times connected with Cumnock parish. Four of them are traditional martyrs, for whom there is no historical evidence. Six more are found in the early sources for the Killing Times. One other grave site is probably a mapping error.

Among the traditional martyrs, the young lad could have been either George Corson, or John Hair, or it could be one of the two unnamed others who were allegedly killed with Margaret Dun near Dalgig/or Margaret Cameron, but there is absolutely no historical evidence for any of those killings.

The boy is also probably not in the “missing martyrs’ grave” to the east of Cumnock, as it is probably a mapping error for the grave of John McGeachan/Mackechan in Meikle Auchengibbert who was killed in 1688.

That leaves the six historical martyrs in Cumnock parish. It cannot Thomas Richard, as he was an old man. It also cannot be the fugitive, David Dun, as he would have been eight years old when he fought at Bothwell in 1679. The remaining possible martyrs are either Simon Paterson, about whom nothing is known, or one of the dead at Carsgailoch.

The best fit with Nisbet’s record of a killing ‘near Cumnock’ with two other deaths is the three people who fell at Carsgailoch. The hill of Carsgailoch certainly fits Nisbet’s description of ‘near Cumnock’.

If the above identifications of the Carsgailoch martyrs are correct, and it is an ‘if’, then the boy cannot be John Umphray, as he was a fugitive who fought at Bothwell. That leaves Joseph Wilson and John Jamieson as possible candidates.

In his narrative, James Nisbet generally recorded members of his kin, friends and local people (John Smith and John Barry) who had died, rather than attempting to create a wider picture of the martyrs. With the exception of a beggar in Galloway and the boy near Cumnock, those he named were from his home area around Newmilns in Loudoun parish.

As discussed above, John Jamieson and Joseph Wilson may have come from Muirkirk and Lesmahagow parishes. Did Nisbet have any connection to those parishes? Yes, he did. Nisbet claimed that he was kin to John Brown in Priesthill, in Muirkirk parish, and Brown had strong connections through both marriage and the Society people to Lesmahagow parish. Nisbet also hid at Priesthill with Alexander Peden, allegedly on the morning that John Brown was summarily executed on 1 May, 1685. He also fled from John Graham of Claverhouse’s force of three-hundred Highlanders and a hundred horse in the same area at almost exactly the same time.

Map of Priesthill

Brown, a former elder in the parish, was both a fugitive and a leading dissenter in the parish. He probably knew his fellow farmer, John Jamieson in Middlefield, who was about the same age as Brown, and his wife, Janet Anderson, who refused to keep the church in October, 1684. Middlefield lies a short way down the valley of the Greenock Water from Priesthill.

Map of Middlefield and Priesthill

As discussed above, Robert Guthrie has suggested that the Jamieson family in Middlefield were close kin to the two Jamiesons at Carsgailoch. Was the John Jamieson killed at Carsgailoch the son or younger brother of Alexander Jamieson? Were they close kin of John Jamieson and Janet Anderson in Middlefield? We do not know.

The circumstantial evidence of a connection between Nisbet, Brown and the Jamiesons in Muirkirk parish suggests that it is possible that Nisbet was relaying information about a killing of a boy from an area he knew. The possible connection between his story of a killing ‘near Cumnock’ and the Carsgailoch martyrs is also intriguing. However, there is no direct evidence to prove that Nisbet’s boy killed ‘near Cumnock’ was one of the Carsgailoch martyrs.

On one level, Nisbet’s possible story of the boy and two others who were ‘shot’ by government forces does make sense in the context of the Carsgailoch killings. If the Carsgailoch party were travelling north from Galloway and were not from Cumnock parish, then they would have required a testificate/pass to travel. Anyone found out with their own parish would have been of interest to government forces, especially if found in the hills. We do not know if any of the Carsgailoch martyrs had a pass, or not. If they were fugitives, it is unlikely that they did, unless they had fake passes.

Nisbet also contradicts his own story of the shooting of pass holders. If the boy was fourteen years old, then he would not have had, or required, a pass, as the Abjuration oath which led to a testificate/pass only applied to those over sixteen years old. The implication of the Nisbet’s age claim is that the boy was unlawfully executed in the field as he could not have held a pass in the first place. (Wodrow, History, IV, 161n.)

Tod FauldThe Tod Fauld ‘Fox Park’

Tradition and the Carsgailoch Martyrs
A later tradition collected by Simpson contains details of events before and after the killings, but does not tell us a great deal about the Carsgailoch martyrs. Traditions are unreliable sources, as they record how the Covenanters and the Killing Times were later remembered, rather than what actually took place.

In many ways, Simpson’s traditions about Carsgailoch contradicts the historical evidence. He begins his account by rehearsing Wodrow’s version of events. He then inverts the rules of historical analysis with his claim that the tradition is ‘much more valuable than the meagre outline of the historic narrative’. (Simpson, Traditions, 129.)

It is obvious from reading Simpson, that his tradition is in fact about the many escapes of Hugh Hutchison of Dalgig, rather than about the Carsgailoch martyrs, who only feature as the cause of Hugh’s troubles. Simpson reinforces the dubious tradition of Hugh Hutchison by using Wodrow.

The tradition about Hugh Hutchison transforms the Carsgailoch martyrs from Wodrow’s passing wanderers into local fugitives. Simpson begins with a description of Carsgailoch:

‘Crossgellioch is an oblong hill on the farm of Daljig, situated on the western boundary of the upland parish of New Cumnock. The ascent on three sides is very steep, but on the north the declivity is gentle. The top of the hill is generally flat, and interspersed with deep and rugged moss-hags, which were frequently occupied as hiding-places by the worthies of the suffering period. It was in the broken morass on the summit of this mountain that the individuals above mentioned sought, about the time that they were slaughtered by their enemies, a hiding-place.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 129.)

He then places the Carsgailoch Covenanters in the context of another tradition that John Paterson in Pennyvenie, Dalmellington parish, hid at the Tod Fauld. His claim that they hid there for some time contradicts Wodrow’s claim that they were returning from one of Renwick’s preachings in Galloway when they were killed.

‘They had formerly sought a retreat in a place called Tod Fauld, below Benbeoch Craig, where they lay for some time; but, being informed by one Paterson [in Pennyvenie], who was himself a refugee, that a reward was offered for their apprehension, they retired to the more secluded locality of Crossgellioch.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 129.)

If some of those killed at Carsgailoch were fugitives, as they appear to be, then they already knew that they were sought by government forces. Anyone attending one of Renwick’s preachings, especially in the summer of 1685, could not be unaware of the risks they were taking.

‘It was in this place [at Carsgailoch] that they were ultimately found, after having one day returned from a conventicle at Carsphairn.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 129-30.)

Again, Simpson emphasises that they had been in hiding locally and journeyed to attend Renwick’s preaching. The available historical evidence suggests that they were not local people. Simpson is the first source to identify where Renwick’s preaching was held, i.e., in Carsphairn parish, rather than just in Galloway. Carsphairn parish is the closest part of Galloway from where they were killed.

‘[John Graham of] Claverhouse, it appears, had been in pursuit of the wanderers in that neighbourhood; and they, in order to elude his search, took up their accustomed abode among the dark and shaggy heath on the mountain.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 130.)

Claverhouse is the bogeyman of the Covenanters in popular tradition. He had spent a good deal of time pursuing the Covenanters in 1684, but he was generally absent from the West in 1685, until the beginning of May when he entered Ayrshire with a force of 300 Highlanders and 100 horse.

‘In this seclusion they remained for several weeks in comparative safety, because, from their lurking-place, they had a view of all around, and therefore they could easily perceive the approach of the enemy. This shelter became to them a place of encampment, from which they sallied out at convenient times to visit their brethren in the country around. In this way they could occasionally hold intercourse with their fellow-sufferers, and also furnish themselves with provisions, on which to subsist in their solitude.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 130.)

Simpson then follows that up with a conversion story about a ‘youth’, Hugh Hutchison, who did live at Dalgig, a farm below Carsgailoch. In late 1684, a local heritor reported that John and George Hutchison in Dalgig had ‘gone furth of the parish about ane yeire since’ and had been ‘disorderly persones’. At the same time, a George Hutchison, ‘age 85’ resided there. It would appear that Hugh had previously encountered Covenanters.

Map of Dalgig                     Street View of Dalgig

‘Their hiding-place, it would seem, was known to none in the vicinity, save to one young man of the name of Hugh Hutchison [in Dalgig]. This youth was their almost daily visitant, and from them he learned the nature of those principles for which they suffered; and he, who formerly sympathized with them from feelings of humanity, in a short time became one with them on religious grounds, and experienced the higher sympathy of Christian brotherhood. His heart being now knit to the sufferers in the bond of a common faith, he made their cause his own; and he conscientiously observed the sacred duty of visiting them in the day of their distress. It was his occupation to attend the horses and cattle that were grazing on the hill; and hence he had ample opportunity of meeting with them without interruption or suspicion.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 130.)

Fugitives were often supplied by local sympathisers, otherwise they would have starved. Dalgig was a location sympathetic to their cause. Simpson then cuts to Hugh Hutchison witnessing the aftermath of their deaths:

‘One day, as he was traversing the bent in the way of his calling, he heard the loud report of fire-arms on the top of the hill, in the distance; and not knowing what might be the matter, he hastened to the spot. When he reached the summit, and cast his eye along the mossy level, he saw a party of fierce dragoons on the spot where his friends used to conceal themselves; and Alexander Jamison (whom tradition names James Jamison) in full flight along the heath.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 130.)

According to Simpson, the tradition named Alexander Jamieson as ‘James Jamieson’. In other words, it named James as the survivor and Alexander as one of the dead. The historical evidence, including the gravestone which had stood locally for over a century, indicates that Alexander Jamieson survived. The tradition follows Wodrow in claiming that dragoons carried out the killings. The gravestone, just above Dalgig, states that Highlanders were responsible.

‘On observing the scene a little more narrowly, he saw the other three weltering in their blood, shot by the merciless troopers, the firing of whose pistols had drawn him to the place. As he stood gazing in mute astonishment on the tragic scene, he was observed by the soldiers. He instantly fled; and the dragoons called on him to stop, otherwise he should instantly share the fate of those whose lifeless bodies lay stretched on the heath.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 130.)

Simpson then follows the dramatic flight of the boy over several miles until he escapes the pursuing dragoons and returns to Dalgig. According to Simpson, ‘there is no doubt, though it is not mentioned, that Hugh Hutchison and his companions dug their graves where they fell’.

Simpson came to some conclusions, which blend Wodrow’s version of events with the implied claim of the Hugh Hutchison tradition that they had been in hiding locally for weeks, if not longer:

‘It is probable that the friends who were killed in the moss had issued from their concealment, to meet the conventicle convened by Mr Renwick, and that, in returning, they had been followed by the dragoons to the place where they fell. The individual who on this occasion escaped, namely, [Alexander] the brother of John Jamison, was afterwards seized by the enemy, and carried prisoner to Cumnock.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 132-3.)

Simpson’s tradition of Hugh Hutchison is the only source that mentions that Alexander Jamieson was taken to Cumnock. While there, Hugh Hutchison was, once again, involved in a series of narrow escapes before ending up in hiding at the Tod Fauld in ‘June’, 1685.

As a source for what took place at Carsgailoch, the tradition of Hugh Hutchison is of little historical value and should be abandoned as a credible account of what happened there.

CarsgailochThe Second Carsgailoch Monument © agentmancuso and licensed for reuse.

The Second Monument at Carsgailoch
A second monument was raised at Carsgailoch in 1827, which was renewed and repaired in 1868 and 1896. The inscription on it is as follows:


1868.’ (A different version is found in Thomson, Martyrs Graves, 329.)

After a sermon preached here by the
Revd. A. M. Rogerson, Darvel
From Rev. VII, 14
These are they which came out of
great tribulation and have washed their
robes and made them white in the
blood of the Lamb.

After a sermon preached here by
the Rev. Dr. McAllister
of Alleghany, Pittsburg, USA
28 th June 1896’

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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

~ by drmarkjardine on February 26, 2014.

11 Responses to “Mysterys of the Carsgailoch Covenanters Shot in 1685”

  1. Hello Mark, Another excellent contribution to our Covenanting story. It seems an age since the magical ‘Traditions of the Covenanters’ from the New Cumnock library was the only source of information at hand. Taking my OS map out and tracking the route of Hugh Hutchison’s across the hills of New Cumnock !

    The Hutchison of Dalgig traditions both of Thomas and Hugh gathered by the Rev Simpson were contributed by John Johnson, who had a school at Benston in the parish of New Cumnock. He was a fascinating man , son of the Laird of Clackleith (an acquaintance of Burns – and from Sanquhar, home also of the Rev Simpson). He lived to a great age, one of the oldest survivors of the Battle of Trafalgar.

    In the ‘notes of Hugh Hutchison’ in the Traditions, Johnson had been challenged by a lady who was not too enamoured to have been descended from a Covenanter and challenged that such a person of Hugh Hutchison of Dalgig ever existed. Johnson then visited Dumfries House and given access to the Marquis of Bute’s rental books which confirmed Hugh Hutchison was in Dalgig in 1685. The OPR of New Cumnock show a child of Hugh Hutchison (of Hoodsknow?) baptised in 1710.

    The Hutchisons were in Dalgig for some period after the Covenanting times and one of the daughters of the house married George Ranken of Whitehill, a descendant of whom is P.L. Travers author of Mary Poppins …. Let’s go fly a kite on Carsgailloch hill!

  2. Hi Bobby,
    I really value your expertise and opinion on this one.

    It is fascinating that Hugh Hutchison existed and can be traced. Often these traditions just leave you wondering if the subject did exist, as they do so much, encounter so many others, and yet, leave no trace in the historical record of the 1680s.

    I think the tradition about Hugh Hutchison tells us a lot about Hugh (or what he is said to have believed took place), but it is hard to pinpoint the nature of his connection to the Carsgailoch martyrs. The tradition has Hugh witnessing the aftermath of the killings with [Alexander] Jamieson on the run. Alexander Jamieson may have been taken to Cumnock, as he was clearly taken somewhere after capture. It is possible that Hugh may have provided them with supplies, as Simpson claims, but it is hard to know how accurate Simpson’s report is. It is not clear at times where Simpson takes over from the tradition, or vice versa. Simpson clearly embellished the stories. It is clearly possible that Hugh fled for some reason, perhaps reset? I wish we had Simpson’s notes he worked from!

    I well remember spending ages looking for the Lurgfoot associated with Daniel McMichael on a map after Simpson’s tradition claimed that it was Blairfoot and makes out that McMichael came from Morton parish. Then I found it in a completely different parish!

    I hope this post suggests new places to look for the proverbial needle in the haystack of the martyrs’ names. One day someone might crack this case, probably in the most unexpected of ways.

    Getting my kite teady!


  3. […] 1826 or 1827, a new monument was raised at the grave of the Carsgailoch martyrs. A gruesome discovery awaited the workmen toiling in the […]

  4. I have done a little investigation into the background of John Pumphray or Pomphry, merchant from Lanark. I started off uneasy, and now am totally sceptical, about the idea that he might be the John Umphrey who was one of three covenanters summarily killed and buried at Carsgailoch near Cumnock in May 1685 – along with Joseph Wilson and John Jamieson. Here’s why.

    1) Pumphrey vs Umphrey.

    My initial diffidence arises from the fact that it’s rare for the name ‘Pumphray’ to be recorded as Umphrey or Humphrey. In fact the 1684 fugitives roll – where he’s certainly listed as “John Umphray merchant” in Lanark – is the only instance I can find. In the transcript of the March 1681 Treason Trials after Bothwell, [Cobbett vol 11 p 279] he appears twice, in ‘Lanerk’, as “John Pumphray there”. Similarly, the subsequent (1681) forfeiture decree for Lanark lists him as “‘John Pomphray, there”, and the 1690 Act rescinding those forfeitures records him as “John Pomphray there”.

    As you recently pointed out, the 19th Century Lanark covenanters’ memorial records him twice – as “John Pumphry” (among “Fugitives and Outlaws Town”) and as “John Pumphrey” (among those “Condemned as Traitors and had their Lives and Possessions Forfeited but Fled and Escaped Town”.

    2) The Pumphrey merchant family in Lanark.

    Pumphrays with a ‘P’ were a long-established merchant family in Lanark, appearing periodically in the “Records and Charters of the Royal Burgh of Lanark”, which never once names them either Umphrey or Humphrey. As far back as 1488, a David Pumfray rented a stall (‘buth’) in the market place, and became a burgess of the town. A couple of centuries later, a Christopher Pumfray was elected burgh treasurer, the council minutes of 16 December 1658 noting that “The baillies and counsell hes delyverit to Cristopher Pumfray, thesaurer, tua velvit moircloathes..” He had several children recorded in the baptismal register.

    3) Who was John Pumphray, merchant?

    The John Pumphray whose possessions were forfeited in 1681 was Christopher’s son, born in 1657:
    “pumphray John lall Son to Chrystall pumphray borne on March 22 & baptized on ye last thereof Witnesss John fisher & John White”. [scotlandspeople 648/ 010/ 076]

    3) Bothwell Bridge, and John Pumphray’s life thereafter.

    According to the Lanark memorial, John Pumphray “fled and escaped town” in the aftermath of Bothwell Bridge in 1679. In his absence he was fingered by at least three local witnesses at the March 1681 Treason Trial, as having been seen “in arms with the rebels” during the period between Drumclog and Bothwell. The January 1682 proclamation of the United Societies’ “Apologetical Declaration” in the town in 1682, resulted in the burgh being specially targeted for harsh military clampdown. Troops were quartered on the townspeople, and the heritors and burgesses hit with a heavy punitive fine. There was clearly nowhere in town for John Pumphray to hide, and he disappears from the records, his whereabouts seemingly unknown. However, his father Christopher seems to have maintained his residence and business in Lanark.

    There is absolutely no corroborating evidence that John Pumphray was one of the three men killed in the hills near New Cumnock in the summer of 1685.

    But there is ample evidence that he was still alive and well TEN OR MORE YEARS LATER:

    • 4 July 1690 Act rescinding the forfeitures and fines since the year 1665… “John Wilson, writer in Lanark … John Pomphray there…..”

    • 1690-1694 Hearth Tax List “Ane true List Taken vp by Thomas hamiltoune and William Inglis baillies of the brugh of Lanark vpon the third fifth and threttein dayes of September jaj vi ct nyntie four Off the severall hearths payed for, out of the sd burgh at Fourtein shilling for ilk hearth payable at Candlemes jaj vi ct nyntie ane years By the severall persones underwrn burgeses and inhabitants of the said burgh Viz.. … It Robert scott merchand payed the hearth but hes not a discharge
    It John Lauchland tailzior four p receatt — 4
    It John pumphray ane p discharge – 1”

    • Some time in or before 1689 John Pumphrey married Marion Cleiland, daughter of Roger & Katherine Cleiland.
    • 7 Jan 1690, James Pumphray was born in Lanark [bap 12 Jan 1690] son of John Pumphray & Marion Cliland [scotlandspeople 648/ 020/ 022]
    [Even though John Pumphray’s marriage to Marion Cleland is not recorded in the Lanark parish register (it will have occurred in 1689 or earlier), the baptism of his son James in January 1690 pre-dated the official rescinding of his forfeiture and indicates that his life in Lanark had already returned to normality ~ probably immediately after William of Orange’s accession to the Scottish throne in April 1689, if not before].

    • 5 May 1692, Anna Pumphrey was born in Lanark [bap 14 Jun 1692] daughter of John Pumphrey & Marion Cleiland [scotlandspeople 648/ 020/ 040]
    • 16 Jan 1694 William Pumphray was born in Lanark son of John Pumphrey & Marion Cliland [scotlandspeople 648/ 020/ 051
    • 31 Oct 1695 Margaret Pumphray was born in Lanark [bap 17 Nov 1695] daughter of John Pumphray & Marion Cleland [scotlandspeople 648/ 020/ 066]

    • 11 Nov 1693 Testament of Christopher Pumphrey, John’s father, was confirmed:
    “The testament dative and inventor of the Goods gere soumes of money and debts qlk pertained to Umqle. Christopher pumphrey merchant burges of lanerk in the parochin yrof and shirreffdome of Lanerik tyme of his decease in the moneth of December Jajvjct Eightee nyne years ffaithfullee made and Givin up be John pumphrey his laüll Sone.. Att Lanerk the eleventh day of Nov 1693 In pnce of William Wilkie.. Comr. Of Lanerk sittand in Judgment Compeired personallie the sd John pumphray and produced the inventor ..” [scotlandspeople CC14/ 5/ 13]

    • June-September 1695. Various townspeople complained to the baillies and council that a house had encroached on a public right of way:
    “John Pumphray, merchand in Lanerk, his predecessors and authors, hes builded ane house in the midst of the public streitt passeand frae the croce to the Castlehill, to the enorm hurt of the neighbours and afrunt to the burgh and incroachment upon the Kings libertie, and as informed the said continueing in the fault of his authors and predecessors resolves to build up the said house to ane great hight to further prejudice and afrunt of the burgh, and therfor craveing in respect the the rooft was now taken of the said house, that the said John Pumphray might be decerned and ordained to remove the hail rubbish of the said house and sueip the ground, to the end ther may be a frie streitt frae the croce to the Castlehill as hes bein of old.” [Records and Charters of the Royal Burgh of Lanark AD 1150-1722 [Glasgow 1893] p254-257]

    4) So if not John Pumphray, the identity of the John Umphrey killed and buried at Carsgailoch remains a mystery. As you point out – and assuming that the three covenanters were en route from a preaching in Galloway to another destination, rather than local inhabitants – there’s an issue of where they might (separately or together) have been headed. It’s true that the killing site was close to a “natural gap” between the hills and muirs on either side of Cumnock, which would act as a funnel for those travelling northwards from Galloway. But this gap opened up a route towards south, central Ayrshire as much as towards Muirkirk and Lesmahagow. Which leads me to speculate that for the identity of this John Umphrey we may have to consider the three persons of that name mentioned in the 1684 Fugitives’ Roll:
    Barnwell [parish] … John Humphrey son to Charles Humphrey in Tarshaw …
    Tarbolton [parish] … John Humphrey in Birks …
    … in Burnhouse … John Humphrey there

    Best regards,

    John Humphrey, Toronto, Canada

    • Nice work! I don’t really have a problem with the differing surname issue, but the evidence of survival is really interesting and probably correct. So back to the drawing board with him! Your expertise is appreciated.

    • Your last point is very telling. I used to think that he may be the one from Tarshaw. I’ll have to review all options on who he was. Some forfeited fugitives were shot in the Killing Times, but it looks like Umphrey was not the forfeited fugitive. The problem we/I have with the three men killed at Carsgailoch is that there is no reliable information about where they were from. That stands in contrast with many others who were killed at that time. That makes their case quite unusual. Any hints about who the Umphrey shot at Carsgailoch may have been are much appreciated. Mark

    • Thinking on it, again, those who were killed in the Killing Times usually have some kind of trail in the records from late 1684. Any possible candidate for the Umphrey killed ar Carsgailoch should not have a record in the post Revolution era. Any narrowing down of the possibile candidate is extremely welcome. Mark

  5. […] Two of those martyrs, David Dun and Simon Paterson, appear to have been captured or killed near the Water of Coyle, i.e., near Martyrs’ Moss. The other three were killed further to the east at Carsgailoch Hill. […]

  6. […] seems to have referred to the Carsgailoch killings in his spiritual autobiography in a passage on the death of a boy of fourteen near Cumnock and two others whose name he could not […]

  7. […] The Little Mill/Kilmein preaching may have taken place immediately before the killings at Carsgailoch. […]

  8. […] However, probably the best candidates for the Galloway beggar and the other two are the Carsgailoch Martyrs. […]

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