History in Errata

Sometimes history turns up in the ‘escapes of the Press’. It is lovely to find out that something that you suspected was amiss turns out to be so.

Caldons‘Cornet Douglas’ on the Grave at Caldons © David Baird and licensed for reuse.

In my posts on the connection between two martyrs, Mowat and McWhae, and the responsibility of Cornet James Dundas for the killings of John Semple and Edward McKean, I argued that historical errors had been made in the transmission of the information about their deaths. At first, it appeared that Alexander Shields had recorded the wrong names in his A Short Memorial of 1690. However, a closer look at his errata reveals that it was the typesetter or Shields’ handwriting that was at fault.

This is important as A Short Memorial is the foundation document of the list of martyrs who were summarily executed in the Killing Times of 1685. It is essential that the text we have is accurate. To make matters worse, others failed to check Shields’ errata with the result that the initial typesetting errors have spiralled through history.

Shields includes the following list of ‘escapes of the Press’ in A Short Memorial:

Shields Errats

The key section which relates to his vital list of those summarily executed in the Killing Times can be expanded to read as follows:

Page 35, Column 2, Line 11, for ‘Douglas’ read ‘Dundass’
Page 36, Column 1, Line 5, for ‘Mouat’ read ‘Mcwae’
[Page 36] Column 2, Line 20, [instead of ‘Douglass’] read ‘Dundass’ and
[Page 36, Column 2,] Line 26, [instead of ‘Douglass’] read ‘Dundass’.

What impact does that have on our view of the Killing Times?

1. Caldons
‘Item, The said Col: or Liev: Gen: James Dowglas, with Liev: Livingston, and Coronet James Dowglas, surprised six Men at Prayers at the Calduns, in the parish of Minigaf; viz: James Dun, Robert Dun, Andrew Mckale, Thomas Stevenson, John Macklude and John Stevenson, in January 1685.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 35.)

It should read:

‘Item, The said Col: or Liev: Gen: James Dowglas, with Liev: Livingston, and Coronet James Dundass, surprised six Men at Prayers at the Calduns, in the parish of Minigaf; viz: James Dun, Robert Dun, Andrew Mckale, Thomas Stevenson, John Macklude and John Stevenson, in January 1685.’

Cloud of Witnesses did not spot the errata and recycled Shields corrupted text which accused ‘Cornet Douglas’, rather than Cornet Dundas, of involvement in the Caldons incident. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 539.)

The gravestone at Caldons, which has recently been replaced, also repeats that same error in its inscription.

Covenanters Grave KirkandrewsRobert M’Whae’s Grave © Colin Brown and licensed for reuse.

2. Mowat/M’Whae
‘Captain Dowglas finding one —— Mowat, a Taylor, meerly because he had some pieces of lead belonging to his Trade, too him, and without any further trial shot him dead, between [the Water of] Fleet and [the River] Dee in Galloway.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 36.)

It should read:
‘Captain Dowglas finding one —— Mcwae, a Taylor, meerly because he had some pieces of lead belonging to his Trade, too him, and without any further trial shot him dead, between [the Water of] Fleet and [the River] Dee in Galloway.’

Cloud of Witnesses followed the corrupted version fo Shields’ text. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 540.)

As a result, there appeared to be no gravestone for Mowat. However, there is a gravestone to a mysterious martyr named Mcwae, about whom virtually nothing was known.

Whoever erected the gravestone to M’Whae in Kirkandrews churchyard in Borgue parish, Galloway must have had local input about the correct name for the martyr. When the stone was inscribed, it did not use the version of the name found either in Shields, i.e., ‘——– Mowat’, or in his errata, which would have been ‘——– Mcwae’. Instead, the name inscribed was ‘Robert McWhae’, which contains both the missing first name and a different spelling of his surname.

Semple Old Dailly 1685Semple’s Grave at Old Dailly © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

3. Dundas Kills John Semple
‘James Dowglass Coronet of Dragoons, commanded to shot John Semple, Essaying to escape out of his Window, in the Paroch of Dellie, Anno 1685. Kilkerron shot him.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 36.)

It should read

James Dundass Coronet of Dragoons, commanded to shot John Semple, Essaying to escape out of his Window, in the Paroch of Dellie, Anno 1685. Kilkerron shot him.’

Cloud of Witnesses failed to note Shields’ errata and simply reproduced the corrupted text that accused ‘James Douglas, cornet of dragoons’, rather than Cornet Dundas of John Semple’s killing. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 544.)

That error was also inscribed on Semple’s grave at Old Dailly churchyard as it names Dundas as Douglas.

Edward Kyan 1685McKean’s Grave in Barr Kirkyard © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

4. Dundas Kills Edward McKean
‘Item. The said Coronet Douglass Apprehended Edward Mckcen, and by search finding a Flint stone upon him, presently shot him without any further Tryal, Feb: 1685.’ (Shields, A Short Memorial, 36.)

It should read:

‘Item. The said Coronet Dundass Apprehended Edward Mckcen, and by search finding a Flint stone upon him, presently shot him without any further Tryal, Feb: 1685.’

As Cloud failed to note Shields’ errata, it reproduced the corrupted text that accused ‘Coronet Douglass’, rather than Cornet Dundas, of the killing. (Thomson (ed.), CW, 545.)

The same error is inscribed on Edward McKean’s grave in Barr parish churchyard.

Wodrow, too, recorded McKean’s executioner as Douglas, rather than Dundas.
(Wodrow, History, IV, 240-1.)

Always read the small print of the sources.

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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 March 27, 2014.

5 Responses to “History in Errata”

  1. […] The unusual step of correcting Shields’ text by removing the accusation that Claverhouse was responsible may reflect local knowledge. (For a similar case of where a gravestone corrected Shields’ text, see the case of Robert McWhae.) […]

  2. I found a reference for a grave on or near Dalzell House. Any info?

  3. […] One way that we can tell that Shields was the source for some of the details in the inscriptions is that on occasion they included typographic errors in the published list without checking Shields’ errata. […]

  4. […] Shields’s list, or recycled versions of it, were the core texts for many of the inscriptions on the martyrs’ gravestones. The interrelationship between Shields and the inscriptions is particularly clear in cases where typesetting errors found in Shields appear in later inscriptions. […]

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