John Mathieson Encounters Prophet Peden in Ayrshire, 1685.
John Mathieson was one of Patrick Walker’s informants for the life of Peden. Walker and Mathieson probably knew each other from the late 1680s and from Mathieson’s service as a captain in the Cameronian Regiment after the Revolution.
At some point in 1685, Mathieson ‘and others’ were with Peden in Sanquhar parish in Nithsdale.
In the additional passages added to the third edition of life of Peden in 1728, Walker added a further story that involved Mathieson and Peden.
‘[Additional passages] 27. In that bloody Year 1685, he came to a House in the Shire of Air; Captain John Mathison, and other Twelve of our Wanderers being in the House, he said, Lads, ye must go to the Fields and seek your Beds, for the Enemy will be here this Night, and I’ll go to my Cave; they said, Some of us will stay with you, for you will weary your alone: No, said he, I will not weary; for, as a Sign to you that the Enemy will be here this Night, a godly eminent Christian Man, whom I have often heard of, but never saw, will come and ly with me this Night:
All which came to pass; for the Men fled, and himself entred the Cave, and fell asleep; and a little thereafter, the said Man coming to the Family, and asking for Mr. Peden, desired Access to the Cave, and to ly with him; who, when lien down in Bed, found Mr. Peden slumbering, but within a little he awoke, and naming the Man, ask’d how he did?
The Soldiers came that Night, but missed their Prey. The next Morning when these said Men returned, he said, Lads, it was well I came to this House Yesternight, otherwise ye had been among their bloody Hands this Day.’ (Walker, BP, I, 116.)
Where was the house in Ayrshire?
It is not possible to identify which ‘house’ in Ayrshire that Mathieson and the others hid at. Walker does use the same phrase in a story about James Nisbet, but that is not a firm ground for linking the two events.
The appearance of Mathieson, who came from Closeburn parish in Nithsdale, in Ayrshire is unusual, as fugitives generally hid close to their homes where they could easily be supplied.
Mathieson had been banished to America in 1684, but had returned home at some point, probably in early to mid 1685. Where he went when he came home is not known.
At some point after his return, Mathieson became a prominent member of the Societies’ Convention that may have involved travel on Societies’ business, but he is not recorded in a prominent role until mid 1686.
He and the others may also have been either travelling to, or from, a field preaching.
A further possibility is that Mathieson was simply in hiding with others in Ayrshire. From the limited sources available for his career at this time, he appears to have been in hiding in Sanquhar parish at some point in 1685.
Sanquhar parish lies on the border of New Cumnock parish, which is the 1680s was incorporated into Cumnock parish, a very large parish that enveloped the top of Nithsdale and contained head waters of the river Nith. Cumnock parish would be a good candidate for the possible location of the house in Ayrshire.
However, we will never know where the house in Ayrshire was.
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