A Rain of Blood in Scotland, October 1688.

Rain of Blood

A reign of blood ended with a rain of blood…

It seems too neat that the downfall of James VII, the king in whose reign the Killing Times had taken place, would be preceded by a blood rain. However, that is, apparently, what happened, but that was not how the rain of blood was interpreted at the time. Such prodigies were seen, by some, as warnings of impending events. What they foretold could only be guessed at, but in October, 1688, the blood rain was linked to the forthcoming conflict between King James and the invading William of Orange.

As the time of William’s invasion drew nearer, the kingdom was ‘full of commotions and rumours of war; everyone looking for changes and revolutions, some hoping for, and others fearing the same; and almost all were expecting the ensuing of these calamities that attend war, as its inseparable companion’. (Shields, FCD, 360.)

In the month of October, Alexander Shields, a leader of the Society people, recorded the blood rain in his diary:

‘A shouer of blood seen at Langhome on the Border, while the soldiers wer there going into England. They took away some of stones with the blood on them.’ (Wodrow, Analecta, I, 181.)

Langholm parish lies in Dumfriesshire bear the Border.

Map of Langholm

It does not really matter whether the blood rain actually happened or was a rumour. What matters is that people believed that it had happened and that it was a sign, a portent, of things to come.

The phenomenon of a rain of blood was occasionally recorded in different locations in the seventeenth century. It has also been recorded in the last few years. It is interesting that Shields uses the term shower, rather than rain, which presumably indicates it was believed to have been a short, relatively localised event. What caused it, if it ever took place, is not known, as there are different theories about the causes of such events.

Even aurora, the Northern Lights, have been linked in seventeenth-century sources and in modern journals to blood rain. For example, the Reverend Law who was based near Dumbarton records that ‘in Ireland, upon the 8th or 9th of January 1681, appeared a vision of men fighting in the air, and thereafter a showr that turned to lapered blood.’ (Law, Memorialls, 179.)

The soldiers crossing into England were the standing forces of the Scottish Army, as they headed south to boost the forces available to King James in defence of his kingdoms. Their removal left the unreliable militia forces in place to deal with any organised action by the Society people in Scotland.

Colonel James Douglas William of Orange

The Scots Army, under General James Douglas, a notorious figure of the Killing Times who soon switched sides to William of Orange, began to march south from near Edinburgh for Carlisle on Wednesday 3 October. On Thursday 11 October they were leaving Penrith and reached London at the end of the month and prior to William’s landing on Monday 5 November at Torbay. (Dalton, Scots Army, 81-2.)

The chronology of the march would suggest that the army covered the march to Penrith in about a week. That suggests that the main body of the Scots army crossed the border about four or five days after the march began, i.e., on about 7 or 8 October. If the soldiers belonged to the main body of the army, as seems likely, then the shower of blood probably took place on around those dates, as the soldiers are said to have taken some of the stones with them in England.

The entry in Shields diary is only dated to October, but presumably it was written a few days or a week or so after the shower, as his next entry on the forty-first convention can be securely dated to on, or just after, 24 October.

Alexander ‘Prophet’ Peden is also said to have preached in the Langholm parish.

For other wonders in Scotland of the 1680s, see here.

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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

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~ by drmarkjardine on September 27, 2014.

4 Responses to “A Rain of Blood in Scotland, October 1688.”

  1. […] Posted at Jardine’s Book of Martyrs: […]

  2. […] On Thursday 8 November, 1688, ‘Jon Wilsone, [in] Spannoach.’ wrote from Kirkconnel close to the Ayrshire/Nithsdale boundary to James Johnstone of Westerhall, an official worried about the state of the kingdom after the Scottish Army had been sent into England: […]

  3. […] On Thursday 8 November, 1688, ‘Jon Wilsone, [in] Spannoach.’ wrote from Kirkconnel close to the Ayrshire/Nithsdale boundary to James Johnstone of Westerhall, an official worried about the state of the kingdom after the Scottish Army had been sent into England: […]

  4. […] Writing in 1684, Symson does not give a date or year for the Galloway rain of herring beyond it taking place ‘not many years since’. Tornados of any kind are relatively rare in Scotland. It is possible that the rain of herring took place in the same weather conditions that produced the Scottish Tornado of 1678, which appeared in the Firth of Clyde and made landfall east of Dumbarton. A rain of blood was reported near Langholm in 1688. […]

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