The Forfeited: Covenanters in Renfrewshire


The Renfrewshire lairds did not play a significant role in the Bothwell Rising of 1679. There are no references to a body of Renfrewshire men present at the battle in the contemporary accounts. There is little doubt that some ordinary folk in the shire participated in the rising. The fugitive roll lists 65 individuals. However, the vast majority of the propertied classes, even those sympathetic to the presbyterian cause, appear to kept backstage as the drama unfolded.

In total, eight Renfrewshire men were forfeited, but probably only one of them was at Bothwell.

The presbyterian historian, the Reverend Robert Wodrow, was a Renfrewshire minister. It was with the propertied class of his own shire, that Wodrow spearheaded his attack on the Restoration regime, even though the shire had not been at the centre of the Presbyterian resistance.

1. James Maxwell of Williamswood, Cathcart parish.
The seventeenth-century house at Williamwood has vanished, but it stood to the north of the present house and golf course and just to the south of Strathpark View.

Aerial View of Williamwood                      Street View of Williamwood


2. John Maxwell, younger/portioner of Bogton, Cathcart parish.
The seventeenth-century house and settlement at Bogton formerly lay around what is now the junction of Muirend Road and Windlaw Gardens with Clarkston Road.

Aerial View of Bogton                   Street View of Bogton

Both Williamswood and the portioner of Bogton, appear on the published fugitive roll of 1684, as ‘James Maxwell of Williamswood’ and ‘John Maxwell, son to John Maxwell of Bogton’. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’ II, 202.)

Both men were forfeited in absentia at Glasgow on 15 June, 1683. Wodrow made a considerable effort to vindicate Williamwood and publish his sufferings. He did not make the same effort with Maxwell of Bogton:

‘June 15th [1683] the circuit proceed against James Maxwell of Williamwood, and John Maxwell younger of Bogton, both in the parish of Cathcart in the shire of Renfrew, and in absence. They are indicted for being with the rebels at Bothwell. For probation the advocate produceth the Porteous roll, and dittay against the defenders, who not compearing were outlawed, fugitate, and put to the horn, and all their moveables to be inbrought to the king; but the spite against these good men stops not here. The lords, as the sentence runs, conform to act 11. sess. 1. parl. 2. Char. II. proceed to give further sentence in absence, and find the libel relevant, and remit it to the assize. None of the witnesses, as far as I can see, are ad idem.

John Hart in Braehead of Cathcart depones, he saw them in arms with the rebels in Hamilton, Glasgow, and some other places some time before the engagement. This Hart, as I am told, was in the Porteous roll himself, and was practised upon to witness in this case, by Mr Ezekiel Montgomery sheriff-depute [of Renfrewshire], who had Williamwood’s estate in view, but missed it.’

Alexander Shields called ‘Mr Ezekiel Montgomery, a great fine monger’. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 32.)

Wodrow continues:

‘Another depones, he saw Williamwood in arms at another place. Another depones, he met Williamwood in the road going to the rebels, at the infall on Glasgow; another, that they are held and repute to be rebels, and have taken guilt on them, and fled; but not one of the depositions agreeing as to time and place, the assize bring them in guilty of being with the rebels, and at the late rebellion: and the lords sentence them to be forfeited, and when apprehended to be demeaned as traitors, &c. in common style.

This religious and peaceable gentleman had suffered, as most about him did, very much from the Highland host, January, February, and March, 1678. That same year in June or July, there came a party of soldiers to his bouse, without any orders which they could produce, and indeed he could not be reached by law, for he had managed himself with all caution and circumspection.

The party was commanded by one Scot of Bouniton, and carried off, or caused carry off, fifty bolls of meal, four horses, with the whole household furniture left by the Highlanders, chimneys, pots, pans, crooks, tongs, beds, and bedclothes, and every thing that was portable, without any pretext of law, but that Williamwood was a suspected person. So mad and violent were they in their spite and rage, that they cut and mangled with their swords and other instruments, the beds and other things they could not carry off, and cut down and spoiled most of the young timber about the house; yea, so virulent were they that finding a stack of bear, reckoned to contain about twenty bolls, which they could not get transported, they set fire to it once and again, but being wet it did not kindle. They carried all their spoil to Rutherglen, and there sold it; and though this was once and again represented, no redress could be had, neither can any reason be given for this spoil, but an information given by Mr Finnick, curate of Cathcart, against Williamwood, as a person suspect to be presbyteriau in his judgment, and who would not join with him as one of his elders [in 1677].’

Wodrow’s ‘Mr Finnick’ was Robert Finnie, the minister of Cathcart between 1675 and 1688. Finnie, his wife and children were burnt out their manse at Cathcart on the evening that William Boyd and some Society people proclaimed William of Orange at Glasgow. He later fled to America. (Fasti, III, 381-2.)

Wodrow neglects to mention that a field preaching had been dispersed at Williamwood in May, 1678, i.e., prior to the soldiers arriving in June or July. Several prisoners were taken and a number of them banished. (Crookshanks, History, I, 366, 368.)

The laird of Williamswood was clearly suspected of Presbyterian sympathies and sheltering field preachers. He was also harassed for his irregular marriage and baptisms of his children by outed Presbyterian ministers.

General Thomas DalyellGeneral Thomas Dalyell

‘After this riot committed upon him, being conscious of his own innocence, and knowing he had never been disloyal, or acted any thing against the government, that could justly lay him open to these barbarities, Williamwood plenished his house of new, and continued in it; but in May or June, 1680, a new storm falls on him. Upon a false and invidious information given against him, as having been at Bothwell last year, a party of soldiers came to his house, and, by order from general [Thomas] Dalziel, seized him, and brought him prisoner to a kind of camp which was [nearby] at Newlands, where he was kept prisoner some days, and then carried into Glasgow tolbooth, and from thence to Edinburgh, where he was once and again brought before the council, and, no probation being adduced of his being at Bothwell-bridge, he was set at liberty upon bond to compear before the council upon the first of September.

Accordingly at that diet [in September, 1680] he appeared, and no witnesses being offered, his bail was continued till the second of November.

At that time [in November, 1680] he went in again to Edinburgh, and no proof being adduced, upon paying a little money for fees, &c. he got up his bond from the clerks, and came home and lived peaceably at his house, paying all taxes and impositions now a-going, when required.

Things went on pretty smoothly with him, till November next year [i.e., 1681], when Thomas Kennoway, of whom above [he was later assassinated by the Society people in late 1684], came with a general commission in writ from one Carmichael at Edinburgh, as donatar to all the rebels’ escheats in the shire of Renfrew, and brought a party of soldiers with him to the house of Williamwood.

It was in vain to tell them he was no rebel, that he had been liberate by the council last year, and lived peaceably since. They had him, as they said, in their commission, and unless he had been master of a force equal to theirs, there was no repelling this violence, or remedy for him. He had sought redress before, but all doors were shut to presbyterians, so the whole of his moveables were seized, and soldiers left to stay in the house, until they were carried off by countrymen, whom they ordinarily forced to such pieces of service. However, finding Kennoway was as much for money as moveables, Williamwood compounded with him, and gave him a very considerable sum, and so was delivered from the soldiers.

When thus by long experience he found there was no safety or protection to be had from the malice of Mr Finnick the incumbent [minister], notwithstanding, in obedience to the laws, he went to church and heard him, this gentleman thought good to set his land to tenants, and live himself as privately as he could with his family.

When ordering his affairs thus, Mr Ezekiel Montgomery, sheriff-depute of Renfrew, who had harassed him formerly for irregular marriage and baptisms, hearing of this, and fearing he should thus get out of his reach, applied to him, and sought from him, under pretext of a loan, (but he knew well it was never to be paid again,) the sum of two thousand two hundred merks, which the sheriff alleged the government owed him, and he could not command it at present, when he had important business to do with it, and plainly told him, if he gave it him not he would inform against him, and prove as much as would cost him twice that sum he now sought. These were the methods of the under-agents of the government at this time, and some greater men than sheriff deputes were not altogether free of them.

Williamwood being fully conscious of his innocence peremptorily refused the proposal, yet considering he had a cunning and dangerous enemy to deal with, and having some relations in Ireland, he began to resolve upon transporting himself and his family thither, that for some time he might be out of harm’s way.

Accordingly, he went over to Ireland to his brother-in-law, Mr Andrew Rowan, an episcopal minister there, and stayed some mouths, that he might settle matters in order to the bringing over his family. While in Ireland, an indictment is left at his house, of the date ____ the day of ______ to compear before the lords of justiciary [at Glasgow in June, 1683].

Neither he nor his wife living in the house, but a tenant, the paper was neglected, and not heard of till too late.

Meanwhile, Mr [Ezekiel] Montgomery the sheriff-depute is as good as his promise, and dealt with several persons who were in the Porteous roll for being at Bothwell, to depone they saw Williamwood there, promising to get them assoilied, and their names put out of the roll. Many refused, and would not perjure themselves to get free.

At length he fell upon one Hart, as we have seen, who was in the roll, but a profane vagabond, who stuck at nothing, and another like him, to whom, it is said, he gave money, and, by his interest in managing the roll, got Hart’s name scored out, and they deponed they saw Williamwood with the rebels when in arms, either at Glasgow, Rutherglen, or somewhere. Whereupon the justiciary passed the sentence of death and forfeiture upon him, in absence, [at Glasgow on 15 June, 1683] before he ever so much as knew there was dittay against him, being in Ireland; and his estate was given to provost Johnston in Glasgow, and his wife and six small children put to shift for their sustenance and bread, till the happy revolution.

And to put all the sufferings of this good man together, his wife, January, 1684 [probably an error of 1685], was harassed and persecuted with many others, because she did not appear before the courts then holden, and swear the oath of abjuration [which renounced the Societies’ war of assassinations and was pressed in January, 1685]; and, because she had not delivered her husband’s papers to the said donatar Johnston, for much of that year she was obliged to hide and flee from one place to another for safety, till through toil and grief she died in November [1685?], and exchanged a present miserable lot for a comfortable eternity.

Her six small children were in a very destitute case, their father being forth of the kingdom, and under sentence of death, and they continued under difficulties in abundance, till the general deliverance at the revolution [in 1688].

Nevertheless, since that time the estate of Williamwood is in better circumstances than ever it was, and the persecutors, Finnick and Montgomery, are extinct, and their families, for any thing I know. Many kind retributions of providence to honest sufferers at this time, might be remarked. This instance I have given at the greater length, because I have it fully documented, and it tends not a little to open up the spirit and wickedness of these times.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 485-7.)

Duchal CastleDuchal Castle © wfmillar and licensed for reuse.

3 & 4. John Porterfield of Duchal, Kilmacolm parish, and Alexander Porterfield of Fulwood.
Porterfield was the brother of a forfeited rebel from the Pentland Rising of 1666. For legal reasons, Duchal’s forfeiture comprehended the estate of his son, Alexander Porterfield of Fulwood.

He lived at Duchal Castle, rather than at the house constructed in 1710.

Map of Duchal Castle

From the later confession of his son, it is clear that Duchal sheltered presbyterian ministers and held several house conventicles at his home. The authorities appear to have suspected that Duchal’s Presbyterian sympathises extended to action in support of the movement.

Both Wodrow and tradition claim that Duchal was the victim of operations, sometimes covert, to discover him.

According to Wodrow, an intelligencer guided a raid to Duchal in search for fugitives and preachers, perhaps in 1681. (Wodrow, History, III, 249.)

A local tradition also claims that Duchal horsewhipped two troopers who were covertly sent under the guise of fugitives to gather information on Duchal. (Wodrow, History, IV, 160n.)

At the age of seventy, Duchal was imprisoned on 24 July, 1683, with many others for rebellion, reset and converse with rebels or other treasonable crimes. (Wodrow, History, III, 466.)

A year later, Duchal’s problems were compounded by the appeance of his second son, Alexander Porterfield of Fulwood, whose estate lay in Houston parish, before the Lords at Glasgow. Fulwood claimed he was not a heritor, however, the Lords rejected his claim, as his father had made a disposition of his lands at Fulwood to him, and order him to give oaths as a heritor. The house at Fulwood, lay to the west of Fulwood Mains.

Map of Fulwood

Fulwood confessed to converse with his forfeited uncle and attending several house conventicles at his father’s house at Duchal.

‘He was ordered to sign his deposition, which he did, and was kept prisoner at Glasgow until he found caution, and gave bond to compear at Edinburgh, November 20th [1684], if called, or otherwise to enter himself prisoner within the tolbooth of Edinburgh, under the penalty of 10,000 merks, in case of failie. Accordingly he was at Edinburgh, the said day, and, not being called, he entered prisoner, and, as we heard, with the rest of the gentlemen his neighbours, was called and fined in forty thousand pounds, and remitted back to the tolbooth, till he should pay the said sum. There he continued about fourteen months’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 145-6.)

Fulwood’s arrival at Edinburgh coincided with the council ordering father’s trial in Edinburgh. A few days before on 17 November, Duchal had confessed that both he and his son’s neighbour, Cunningham of Craigends, had met Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree in Edinburgh in late 1682 or early 1683, who had requested that each of them give £50 Sterling for the relief of the country’s most notorious forfeited exile, the earl of Argyll.

The day before the trial, the council recommended to the justiciary to leave the time and place of Duchal’s execution to the King. Clearly, the council intended to ensure that if he was convicted that his execution would be delayed and that the ultimate decision to hang him lay with the council. The most high-profile charge against Duchal was that he had failed to report being asked by Ochiltree for £50. However, Duchal was also indicted for the reset and converse of his forfeited brother, who appears to have lived quite openly, and for reseting George Holm, a Bothwell rebel. The latter appears on the published fugitive roll of May, 1684, as ‘——- Holm, son to George Holm, officer of Duchal’.

One 29 November, Duchal was found guilty by his own confession, forfeited and sentenced to death at a time and place of the King’s choosing.

Duchal and Fulwood supplicated the council for their release on 22 March, 1685. Fulwood was released and Duchal, after initial refusal, finally confined to Edinburgh on 23 July.

Both Duchal and his son’s forfeited estates were granted to the earl of Melfort, a cousin of Duchal, who profited by leasing the estate back to Duchal and Fulwood. (Wodrow, History, IV, 137-141, 212; Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 203.)

James Renwick later preached at Craig Minnan on Duchal Moor in September, 1687. Among his audience was Robert Wallace from Houston parish. It is possible that Renwick’s preaching either exploited, or came about because of, local tensions about the forfeiture in which a presbyterian laird was replaced by a Catholic earl. Craig Minnan lies on the boundary between Kilmacolm parish and Lochwinnoch parish.

5. James Wilson in Mosshead of Lochwinnoch, Lochwinnoch parish.
Wilson was probably the last individual forfeited for participation in the Bothwell Rising. Wilson was brought before the council in March, 1687, with several others in his locality for treasonable mustering at Middleton Hill in Lochwinnoch parish in the week before the battle of Bothwell Bridge in June, 1679. All of the others accused with him were tried and found not guilty. Wilson did not face a full trial at that time. While the others accused chose to face inquest, Wilson chose to renounce and was ordered to be held in prison until he renounced. He was probably forfeited soon after. (CST, XII, 523-68.)

Wodrow does not mention Wilson’s forfeiture in his abbreviated description of the trial. (Wodrow, History, IV, 404-5.)

Some of the five fugitives from Lochwinnoch parish on the published roll of 1684 faced trial with Wilson. They were James Caldwell in Risk and James Niven, also in Risk. One other, Hugh Love in Middleton, was recorded as deceased in 1687. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 203.)

Map of Risk

Middleton Hill, beside Middleton, was where the mustering was supposed to have taken place.

Map of Middleton

Wilson and his fellow accused were not the only heritors in Lochwinnoch parish held by the authorities. In late 1684, several heritors from there were allegedly robbed while being held in Stirling Castle for refusing to test and bond at Glasgow. Some where later sent to Dunnottar.

Lochwinnoch parish is also where the Peden Stone at Linthills is found. The Peden Stone is where, somewhat confusingly given its name, James Renwick is said to have preached. In a letter of 3 May, 1686, Renwick mentions that he had received unexpected calls to field preach from Renfrew. He may have preached in Lochwinnoch parish between mid 1686 and September, 1687. (Houston (ed), Letters, 193.)

He certainly preached on the boundary of Lochwinnoch parish at Craig Minnan in September, 1687.

Three other Renfrewshire men from Eastwood parish were forfeited before their executions. They were George Jackson in 1684 and James Algie and John Park in 1685.

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

~ by drmarkjardine on August 11, 2014.

3 Responses to “The Forfeited: Covenanters in Renfrewshire”

  1. Very interesting. It’s nice to see some information regarding Duchal Castle. I’ve passed by it a few times and you can definitely appreciate it more when you know the history as it relates to the Covenanters.

  2. […] of the Side Hill lies Duchal Castle, which had been the home of Alexander Porterfield of Duchal, a forfeited Covenanter who sheltered presbyterian […]

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