The Life of Alexander Reid, Covenanter. in Uphall

East MainsEast Mains

Alexander Reid was the son of a tenant farmer at East Mains in Uphall parish, Linlithgowshire. The farm lay between what is now Westerton Road and Dunnet Way in the East Mains Industrial Park in Broxburn. Reid appears on the published Fugitive Roll of May, 1684, as ‘Alexander Reid, in Strabrock parish under [Lord] Cardross’. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 232.)

Map of East Mains

Reid was born in 1646 in Kirkliston parish. He may be related to an ‘Alexander Reid, in Humbie’, who appears under Kirkliston parish on the 1684 fugitive roll. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 230.)

Reid survived the repression of the 1680s and died in 1706. His widow, Margaret Storie, lived for thirty-six more years after his death.

At some point after 1693 and before his death, Reid wrote a spiritual autobiography of the providences he had met with from the Lord. The text was later published as Life of Alexander Reid, Scottish Covenanter in 1822.

This post aims to use selected extracts from Reid’s autobiography to place the story of Reid and his wife in the context of the Society people’s struggle in the 1680s.

Bothwell BridgeBothwell Bridge

Reid and the Battle of Bothwell Bridge
From his youth, Reid was influenced by Presbyterian ministers, but lay by from active participation in the struggle until he attended field preachings and communions in the run up to the rebellion in 1679. He was briefly imprisoned in Linlithgow Tolbooth and fined for attending conventicles and baptising his children before Bothwell (Reid, Life of Alexander Reid, 30.)

Once the rising was underway in June, 1679, Reid went to join the Presbyterian army in the West:

‘I went, having a good will to that cause, with some of my neighbours, and joined the people, being conscious that it was my duty to assist that party, according to my power, in the defence of the presbyterian principles:’

Reid says little about his experience of the rising. However, he does mention that John King, the chaplain of Lord Cardross, was captured and rescued before Reid arrived. Cardross was Reid’s feudal superior.

He does not identify who his neighbours were who went with him to Bothwell. In 1679, he and Margaret lived in Uphall parish. Two high-profile Society people, Robert Hamilton in Broxburn and John Potter, a servant to Lord Cardross, came from the same parish. It is likely that Alexander and Margaret either knew, or knew of, both men, but Reid does not mention them in his spiritual autobiography.

The 1679 Rising was defeated:

‘The cause of the break was the difference amongst them, which discouraged many; and their horses were untrained. And although one would have thought they had a good opportunity at the bridge, yet it seemed good to the Lord that they were defeated upon a sabbath-day [22 June], to the effusion of the blood of many of that godly people, especially of the foot; for many of the horsemen escaped. But many of the foot-men that were not killed, were taken prisoners, and were very harshly dealt with; but I escaped on horseback.’

Reid does not indicate whether he backed the militant or moderate presbyterian faction at Bothwell.

‘… A little after the break at Bothwell-bridge, there was an indemnity given for a time to those that had escaped. A time was set to them to come in, and sign a bond; and during this time of the indemnity [in late 1679], I came home to my own house, and was thinking of no hazard till the time of indemnity was over, wherein we were to advise about the signing of the bond: but they treacherously sent out a party of soldiers from Blackness [Castle], to apprehend William Carmichael and me. William Carmichael was not at home: I was at my own house; but by the good hand of Providence, I arose hastily after dinner, and went to a neighbour’s house: and when I was got in, there came twenty soldiers, running in all haste, past the house where I was, and went to my own house, and made a search there, and round about the yards. I escaped their hands at that time, which I thought was very remarkable; and I withdrew, and was on my keeping till after harvest, when that cruel tyrant, the Laird of Carlowrie, after our corn was shorn, and put in the barn-yard, seized upon it, and put my wife out of the house, and closed the barn-doors; and she was obliged to go to a neighbour’s house, with a child sucking on her breast.’

‘Old Major’ William Carmichael was recorded as present at the Bothwell Rising on 7 June, 1679. He presumably lived somewhere in the vicinity of Reid’s home.

George Drummond, laird of Carlowrie, came from Kirkliston parish. In 1685, he was appointed a commissioner of supply. (RPS, 1685/4/33.)

Reid returned to Margaret and the fermtoun:

‘One day I came to see her, when that cruel man [, Drummond of Carlowrie,] came with some of his servants; so that I was surprised, and could not escape. He caused his men to seize upon me, thinking to carry me to prison. Two of his men took hold of me, to lead me away prisoner, I essaying if possible to escape: my wife earnestly desiring one of them, who was an acquaintance and related to me, to let me go; but he would not. His name is John Samuel. Another of Carlowrie’s men, who was my own cousin, would not lay hands on me; but that John Samuel, and another of the laird’s men, held me fast; and I essaying if possible to escape, my wife flew to the men, to loose their hands from me, but could not; and that terrible man threw her down many times on the ground, cruelly, without mercy. He, with a staff in his hand, struck her many times; he likewise broke my head with it, that the blood ran. I put my hand to my head, and in striking again he crushed my thumb, and almost broke it. Several women in the town came, beseeching him to let me go, but he would not; but seemingly he would have killed us, and then taken our possession, but some other women came, and violently loosed these two men’s hands, my wife doing her utmost to hold the laird. I escaped their hand at that time. He took possession of all our barn-yard, in which was corn and straw, which would largely be worth 1000/. Scots. My wife and her child were driven cruelly out of the town, under cloud of night, so that we had little, of all we had, left. For at that time we had taken a farm [at East Mains], under that noble lord, my Lord Cardross; and, notwithstanding all that Carlowrie took from us, that public oppressor of the Lord’s people, Hallyards, (who was made donator by the council, to seize upon those people’s goods that were at Bothwell, in three shires; Linlithgow, Clydesdale, and Dumbarton); he also would have seized upon our cattle, had not my father-in-law agreed with him, and given him 100 merks.’

Alexander Shields described John Skene of Hallyards as an oppressor who ‘uplifted more then 8400 pounds [Scots]’ in Clydesdale. Hallyards also lived in Kirkliston parish in Edinburghshire.

Reid was bailed out by his wife’s father, perhaps out of the understandable concern of his father-in-law for his daughter and her new baby. Margaret continued to occupy the farm, while Reid hid in the vicinity of their home. Their economic future and survival depended on Margaret:

‘My wife, with some servants, laboured that farm at the east end of Broxburn for three years [i.e., until 1682/3?]; I wandering to and fro, in daily hazard. One night these troopers were sent out to apprehend some that were in hazard; but I, providentially, went from home that same day, before the troopers came; who made a narrow search; yet I escaped their hands, going to the Queensferry.

On that same night [at Queensferry] there came a party to seek a comrade of mine, whose house I went to at near twelve o’clock at night. He told me he had a way to escape if there was any hazard. I resolved to stay with him all that night; but we were scarcely laid down, when the troopers came to the door, and we hastily escaped out at a window, three stories high, and slid down the wall, without hurt, and mercifully and wonderfully escaped their hands.

There is one thing that deserves to be taken notice of, and recorded. When we were thus hardly dealt with, as is mentioned before, Mr. Walter Smith, who was an intimate Christian friend of ours, heard in Holland of our trouble and cruel usage with that cruel man, Carlowrie; both violently driven out, and forced to go under cloud of night with a young child. He wrote to us, he was persuaded the Lord would raze that man and his posterity from their habitation, (which came to pass shortly after) but wonderfully provide for us and ours, which we cannot deny but he hath done in a wonderful manner.’

Drummond of Carlowrie’s son, Samuel, appear to have emigrated to America in the first decade of the 1700s.

Walter Smith had been the clerk of the Covenanters’ council of war in the Bothwell Rising of 1679. He was a close confidant of Donald Cargill and escaped with the wounded Cargill after the defeat at Bothwell into exile in the United Provinces. Smith is known to sent letters to Janet Filmerton, a widow in Edinburgh, in late 1679.

It appears that Reid and Storie were also among Smith’s correspondents. Alongside Cargill, Smith was pivotal in establishing societies for prayer and spiritual correspondence, particularly in Lanarkshire, in early 1681. It is also clear that a network of militant presbyterians existed in Linlithgowshire during the period that Cargill preached in that area from 1680 until the execution of both Smith and Cargill in July, 1681. Given the connections Hamilton in Broxburn and Potter had with Cargill and the Society people, it is possible that either Alexander Reid, or Margaret Storie, were involved in one of those prayer societies in Linlithgowshire. It appears that Smith’s letter from Holland to Reid or Storie must date to late 1679 to mid 1680, as in late 1680, Smith returned to Scotland in time for Cargill’s excommunication of Charles II at Torwood.

Westquarter HouseWestquarter House

‘After this, my wife lived for a time in this farm at Broxburn; but persecution going on, ay, the longer the greater, one Westquarter got a commission from Lord Linlithgow, to hold courts, with instructions not to permit any to stay in the bounds, but those that would go to hear curates; so that my wife was put to it, if she would go?’

James Livingstone of Westquarter was later involved in the capture of Peter Gillies in 1685.

Lord Linlithgow was the earl of Linlithgow, He was the Colonel of His Majesty’s Regiment of Foot Guard until 13 June, 1684, sat on the privy council and played an active role in the repression of the 1680s.

The Loss of East Mains
The farm at East Mains worked by Margaret Storie and her farm servants was held from Henry Erskine, third lord Cardross, a moderate presbyterian. Cardross frequently appears in the famous journal of his half-brother, John Erskine of Carnock. In mid 1684, Lord Cardross went into exile in Carolina. Prior to that, Cardross was under considerable legal pressure for his debts and Presbyterian sympathies.

There is an accusation in Reid’s autobiography that Margaret was not fairly dealt with either by Alexander Higgins, Lord Cardross’s chamberlain, or Thomas Russell, who took over their farm. Reid does not give any date for when his wife lost the farm. Earlier in the narrative, he says she and some servants worked the farm for three years, but it is not clear from what point in time that arrangement began or ended. Presumably, it was after the indemnity expired in early 1680. There may be a second clue as to the time frame for the attitudes of the Cardross estate in the pursuit of Reid, as although he was suspected and sought for his part in Bothwell, he was not legally declared a fugitive until 10 July, 1683. It may have at around the latter date, that Margaret Storie came under intense pressure from Cardross’s chamberlain to abandon the tack on the farm, which was probably in Reid’s name. Margaret Storie would also have been suspected for the reset of her husband, as plainly that was the case. However, from Reid’s narrative, it appears that the main concern was over her nonconformity, i.e., her refusal to attend the parish church. It is clear that Margaret was determined to uphold her Presbyterian views, but that that would come at a considerable cost. John Moubray, the minister of Uphall, would have been expected to inform the authorities of Presbyterian nonconformists at some point. (Fasti, I, 233.)

Their predicament left them vulnerable to unscrupulous operators:

‘She asked my counsel what she should do: I said I would not bid her do the thing I would not do myself; she could not stay without being apprehended. Taking to consideration there was no staying without hazard; and [Alexander Higgins] the chamberlain [of Lord Cardross] pretending that my Lord Cardross and he were in great hazard for setting his land to us, (which indeed was true, according to their law) and having one Thomas Russel that was related to him, who offered that if we would go away peaceably from the farm, he would pay us for any thing of our goods we left behind; and seeing there was no staying, without going along with their sinful courses, in going to hear those perjured curates, my wife made a bargain with Thomas Russel; he promising to pay us for all he got, and she thinking to stay till our victual was threshed; so she bargained with that person, the chamberlain pressing to the bargain, and pretending all favour if we did it peaceably. The time when this was done was very near Yule: our wheat seed was all sown. There was a bargain made for the wheat, and several other things, which amounted to 420 merks, for which they were to lay down present money, and my wife and some servants were to stay till the rest of the victual was threshen, to pay the farm, and what was over, a boll to ourselves. But when that treacherous man, Thomas Russel, was entered in possession, he would pay none of it, pretending we were rebels; and also when that was done, that cruel man, Alexander Higgins, who was [Cardross’s] chamberlain, threatened and compelled my wife to leave all, threatening to bring soldiers out of Blackness to take her; and would not suffer any of the servants to stay; so she was forced to leave all amongst their hands, corn in the barn and barnyard, and did not so much as get our household plenishing, nor the clothes out of the beds; so that our family was driven away unmercifully in the midst of the winter; and those cruel men took possession of nearly all our corn, cattle, and plenishing; all we got away was about 300 merks of all we had, at the time of the spoiling of our goods. …’

Nor Loch Edinburgh 1690Edinburgh

Reid and Storie in Edinburgh and the Carolina Banishments of 1684
For the next year or two, Reid and his family lived in Edinburgh. Reid does not mention that he was declared a fugitive on 10 July, 1683, and that his name appeared on the published roll in May, 1684:

‘After we were driven from our possession in Broxburn, we went to Edinburgh, and retired into quiet places, because of the cruelty of the enemy;…Many countrymen that were taken were banished to Carolina and New Jersey; and others that were not taken, went away willingly, with some ministers, having the sad apprehension of the Lord’s departure from the land, and seeing no way of escaping the cruel enemy’s hands, without dreadful compliance, and taking dreadful bonds; so many concluded the Lord was to leave Scotland, and set up his tabernacle in another place.’

Reid meant the Carolina Scheme in which Lord Cardross took part.

Canongate TolboothCanongate Tolbooth

‘At this time I was in hazard, put to wanderings and hidings, being driven away from any thing we had, as is told before. But this one thing I must declare, there was an honest man who was taken prisoner, James Clarkson by name, a Linlithgow man; my wife, who went into the Tolbooth at Edinburgh several times to see him, asked his advice concerning me, knowing my daily hazard.’

By leaving their farm, Margaret Storie had avoided the attentions of the authorities. She was free to visit Clarkson, whom she and Alexander probably knew from their time in Linlithgowshire.

On 27 May, 1684, Robert Malloch, an Edinburgh merchant whose ship lay in Leith Roads, was given six prisoners for banishment: “James Clerksone, David Jameson [one of the Sweet Singers], Alexander Montgomery, William Andrew, George Higgins and William Grieve in Linlithgow, prisoners in the tolbuit of the Cannogate’ to banished to the plantations’. (RPCS, VIII, 526-7.)

Reid was not the only Presbyterian source to draw attention to the banishment of James Clarkson. In his lives of leading Covenanters, Patrick Walker, who was involved in the Society people in Linlithgowshire in the early 1680s, also mentions Clarkson’s banishment by Malloch in 1684. Walker was to be banished with Clarkson, but was continued in prison. Clarkson left a letter to his wife when he was banished. (James Clerkson, Copy of testimony letter to his wife when banished to America, NLS MSS. Wod.Oct.XXIX, f.302.)

Walker wrote:

‘Merchants, such as Gibson in Glasgow, and Malloch in Edinburgh, Pitlochie a Laird in Fife, and many others got Gifts of them (and, as the old Saying is, Cocks are free of other Folks Corn) who transported them to Carolina, NewJersay, Jamaica, and Barbadoes, to be their Slaves; but none of them made their Plack a Babee with trading in such Wares, which confirms what that singular Christian James Clarkson Merchant in Linlithgow, whom the foresaid Malloch got a Gift of with other Thirteen, said, when banish’d on Ship-board on the Roads at Leith, to which I was a Witness, We are the best baddest Wares that ever Malloch had in his Pack-sheet; and if Malloch, Or any other that trade in such Wares, be not great Losers, I am far mistaken.’ (Walker, BP, II, 39.)

Lord Fountainhall also records the Malloch banishments on 5 August, 1684:

‘15 prisoners, for being in Bothuel-Bridge rebellion, are delivered up to Robert Malloch, merchand, to be transported away in his ship to Carolina; where he will get 10 Ife. Sterling for each of them. And to which place they say my Lord Cardrosse is gone, not being able, for debt and cautionries for my Lord Kincairne, and his bigotrie in the Presbyterian persuasion, to keip his oune country.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices, I, 547.)

That Reid’s wife visited Clarkson in the Canongate Tolbooth prior to his banishment in the summer of 1684 once again hints at connections between her and Society people in Linlithgowshire. However, it is at this point in Reid’s narrative that he clarifies where he and his wife stood on the spectrum of Presbyterian dissent. Alexander and Margaret received an offer to go into voluntary exile in Carolina. The Society people were opposed acceptance of such terms as a desertion of the testimony in Scotland. At the same time as the Malloch banishments, several Society people held in Glasgow offered a joint testimony against their banishment and those who accepted voluntary exile to Carolina. James Renwick, the Societies’ minister, also preached against the banishments.

Clarkson had advice for her:

‘He declared to her, that he saw nothing but seemingly the Lord was to leave the land and desired her to tell me, and advise me, to go with them that were going away [to Carolina]. She signified we had little to carry us over. He offered great encouragement in that particular. When she told me, I had an aversion to leave the land, but my wife seemed to be more willing than I was; yet the honest man offering such encouragement, I had some thoughts it might be a call of Providence. He sent word again by my wife, desiring me to seek the Lord’s mind, and then do what I had liberty to do; and being in a retired place in the country, I did set a day for this end as single as I could, to seek counsel of the Lord, what to do in this matter; and when I was about that work, that passage of scripture was suggested to me, Jer. xlii. 2. “And the people desired Jeremiah to pray for them, that the Lord might shew them the way wherein they might walk, and the thing they might do;” which the prophet did, and gives them the answer, verse 9–“And said unto them, thus saith the Lord the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him, If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down; and I will plant you and not pluck you up; for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.” This scripture I got, as I thought, from the Lord, to answer my suit, and from this time I resolved not to set my face to go abroad to the plantations for safety or bread.’

Reid then leaps forward in time to the period of the Revolution in 1688:

‘This I remembered, when I heard that my worthy Lord Cardross was driven from his plantation by the Spaniards [in the late 1680s], because the Lord had work to do with him here, in his own native land. He was a zealous forward instrument for the overturning of that cursed prelacy, and the establishment of presbyterian government [in 1689]; and thus the Lord brought him back to be a famous instrument before his removal by death [in 1693];’

Hangings Alison and Harvie

Back in 1684, Reid continues:

‘so I resolved to stay in our land. Our persecution grew ay the hotter and hotter, the devil raging in wicked men, for his time was to be but short. Searches were made through all the country, whenever they heard where any of those whom they called rebels haunted: many falling in their hands, and they taking their lives in a cruel manner, not suffering them to speak on the scaffold; yea, some not to read, pray, or sing psalms: some of their lives were taken soon in the morning, some late at night, and some taken away to the scaffold as soon as ever they got their sentence.

Great searches were made in Edinburgh, the ports closed, and guards set round about the town several times, because many persecuted people came, lurking privately in the town; for their cruelty went so on, that they took men’s lives for their opinion, although they had been in no action; and not only men’s lives, but women’s also, for their opinion. Two young women [Isobel Alison and Marion Harvie] suffered in the town of Edinburgh [in January, 1681]; for they raged more and more.’

In many ways the above is a potted “history” of “persecution” in Scotland in the early to mid 1680s. Alison, and especially Harvie, who was from Bo’ness, were dedicated followers of Donald Cargill. Reid’s narrative probably reflect his experiences in Edinburgh in 1684, when many Society people were executed. He then moves on to the searches which were conducted in Edinburgh, probably in late 1684.

West Kirk EdinburghThe West Kirk, Edinburgh.

‘There was one great search, in which I narrowly escaped from the enemy’s bands. I went to an uncle’s house, near the West Kirk [now St Cuthbert’s], and continued there all night. In the morning when we arose, there was a guard standing at the door. My aunt cried, that we should all be ruined, which was true according to their law; for those that haunted them were in danger, as well as those that haunted with them. I desired her to hold her peace; and putting on a meally-coat of my uncle’s, got safely without the guard, and went to the country.’

The West Kirk, now St Cuthberts, lay outside of Edinburgh and below the north-western side of the castle rock. Reid follows his account of the ‘great search’ with the story of the assassination of two soldiers at Swine Abbey in Livingston parish, Linlithgowshire. Although Reid places the ‘great search’ before his account of the killings of the soldiers in his narrative, it is likely that the those events took place in the reverse of that order. Hanna Keir was also caught up in the searches of Edinburgh after Swine Abbey.

‘After this there was one Thomas Kennoway, a cruel persecutor of the people of God. He haunted at the Swine-abbey; he lived at [West] Calder before he took on to be a trooper. He was a most wicked instrument in these places, about [West] Calder, Livingstone, and Bathgate parishes. Many days he watched the field-meetings, and led out parties upon them, knowing the ground; and after the break of Bothwell, he oppressed all honest men that were in hazard in these places, and got money from many; oppressing the country-side mightily. His cruelty was so great against his countrymen, that one James Nimmo, a Bathgate parish man, when in hazard, fled to the north for safety.’

James Nimmo appears the published Fugitive Roll of May, 1684, as ‘James Nimmo, son to William Nimmo [factor] of Boghall’. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 230.)

Nimmo also wrote a narrative of his life.

Boghall farm has been demolished for housing.

Street View of former site of Boghall Farm Steading

‘This Kennoway got notice of it, and went to the north to search him out; and having found him serving a gentleman, he attempted to pannel him; but the young man escaped his hands. [Kennoway failed to find him, as Nimmo was near Berwick, but he did find and Nimmo’s father and brother-in-law.] Kennoway immediately came home again, and was at Swine-abbey, with one Duncan Stewart, another trooper, a comrade of his: upon a night they were both slain. This occasioned a great persecution and search in that part of the country, and no man could travel without a pass, but was challenged and counted a rebel if he had not one, and bonds and oaths were put to the country people, and those that were apprehended. The persecution going on in this manner, some of my acquaintances went to the English border for safety; I, hearing of this, went thither also, and was very kindly dealt with by Christian friends in that country; and in a little time after I went there, I was employed to be grieve to a gentleman; for I had skill in husbandry, and continued about half a year in that service.’

Reid spent at least the first half of 1685 in England. The editor of Reid’s narrative adds that his wife fled to Bo’ness for ‘some time’ while Reid was in England:

‘During his absence his wife resided some time in Borrowstounness. She was a woman of great beauty, and the neighbours seeing her in a manner unconnected with relatives or friends, charitably chose to consider her as secretly the kept mistress of some cavalier. But she owed her safety to this misrepresentation. For it was not the profane and the profligate, but the religious and pure in heart that then suffered. When it was discovered who she was, she felt the necessity of seeking safety in flight, and exclaimed, with bitter indignation, as she was leaving the house in which she had resideed, “Oh, sirs, it is a sad time for Scotland, when a woman is safe, as long as she is thought to be a strumpet, and has to flee for her life whenever it is found out that she is an honest woman!” She slept that night in a coal-pit.’

While Reid was in Northumberland, the Argyll Rising broke out. Reid did not join the rebels, but was briefly seized and held prisoner at Wooler:

‘At the time when these worthy men came over from Holland, I was in Northumberland, where I was a grieve to a gentleman. In that country the militia horse were raised, to apprehend all that they suspected as friends to Monmouth or Argyle. The country was searched for any they suspected, especially Scotsmen. I being in that country, and they supposing me a stranger, I was taken prisoner at Wooler; but the captain, getting notice on the morrow that I was a servant to such a gentleman in that country, and had resided there for some time, let me go in the morning after I was taken.’

Reid and the Revolution
After his brief capture in 1685, Reid’s narrative reflects on the times up to and beyond the Revolution in 1688 to 1690, but he gives very few details about his, or his wife’s, activities. That suggests that he and his wife probably took no part in the ongoing campaign of the Society people against Restoration regime. At no point in his narrative does Reid express any approval for the actions of the Society people, their preachers or mention attending their field preachings.

However, it appears that he did notice them after the Revolution when they arrived in Edinburgh in 1689 to protect the convention of estates that deposed James VII. It appears Reid did not approve of their methods, but saw the hand of God in their actions:

‘There is one thing I may notice ag very remarkable:— In the time of the convention there were a set of men, commonly called the rabble, who, in a warlike posture, cast out the curates in many parts of the land, as soon as they got any access, although their practice was not approven of by many honest people. These men came, in a warlike posture, to the town of Edinburgh, in the time of the convention, and offered themselves to defend and assist our well-affected noblemen and gentlemen who sat in the convention; and though there were many ill-affected in the town, yet they were received into it in a warlike posture, and guarded the men who might be in hazard. This is the more remarkable, that the town of Edinburgh used not to let any soldiers enter the city, but the citizens themselves guarded it.’

The Revolution also restored Reid’s fortunes:

‘A great part of this time we were meal-makers; and we were provided for in this way, without being troublesome to others; our stock was very little when we set to that employment; but the Lord did prosper us in it, and it became better; but it was not my inclination to follow that employment, for having been brought up from my infancy in husbandry, it was my inclination, if I had my liberty, and the opportunity of taking a farm, to have taken it. The man that came to the possession which we were put wrongously out of [Thomas Russell], had taken a tack of nineteen years from my Lord Cardross and his chamberlain [Alexander Higgins], so that hopes were gone of our returning to it. Besides, our stock was so small, that we could not think of plenishing that farm; yet there was a break in the man’s tack at seven years, so that he came and quitted the farm to my Lord Cardross; who was unwilling that he should have done it, not knowing of a tenant to it. But, in the mean time, there was a man who was concerned in my lord’s interest, hearing that the man was to quit the farm, and knowing that I came out of that farm, inquired of me if I would take our own farm again? I said I would gladly, but our stock was too small to plenish it. He said, “Fear not that, for I will help you to plenish it.” I desired him to tell me when the man quitted it, and I would advise what to do; which accordingly he did, and I came in terms of the rent with him, and very nearly agreed.

My lord being but newly come home, I went to him, and told him I would take that farm. He said, “I am glad of it; there shall no man get it before you, if you can plenish it.” I said, we should do our utmost. So within a little time after, we agreed: but I had my own perplexity how to get it done; but that was not my greatest puzzle, thinking, if I should be able to plenish it, that I had been two times robbed already, and put out of two farms before this, and times seemed yet to be dangerous. What, if I should borrow from others, to lose their goods? which would be my great perplexity and trouble while in this condition. A door being opened to return again where we were wrongously and violently put from, I desired to seek counsel of the Lord how to do in this case, … After this I took courage, and ventured, and got the farm plenished by the favour of friends. And the Lord prospered us so, that at this time there is little or nothing owing to any: and we are even as well in the world as those that complied with the enemy, and went over the belly of their light-heard curates, and submitted to bonds and tests. This I say to the praise of the Lord’s goodness, even in providing temporal things. And this I commonly said of the Lord’s goodness to us, that we were among the first of the captives that returned to their own possession; and, as has been said, it was evidently the Lord’s hand that brought us back, and blessed our endeavours. Being settled here, the Lord mercifully provided the gospel in the place and congregation, and we got that eminent servant of the Lord, Mr. George Barclay, which was my very choice. Thus ye see the Lord’s good providence in providing both spiritual and temporal mercies to us, and to the church of God.’

Reid’s admiration of George Barclay, a former Argyll rebel, as the new minister of Uphall reveals his moderate inclinations. Throughout the mid 1680s, Barclay had been strenuously opposed to James Renwick and the hardline Society people. However, Reid also admired the martyrs, who were mainly Society people. Perhaps the key to unlocking Reid is his advice to this children to avoid “janglings”. Reid’s presbyterian principles could encompass both Walter Smith and George Barclay

Reid was contented with the post-Revolution established Presbyterian church. However, as he advised his children, he remained committed to the Covenants:

‘And truly I regret and lament, that these covenants seem to be buried, and, as I said before, little or no word of them, as though our fathers, the worthy reformers, had been fools, and our worthy martyrs who suffered at Pentland and Bothwell, yea, all who suffered during the bloody persecution, had been blockheads and madmen, who owned these covenants. Yet the Lord owned them, and they died in the faith, that God will own and raise up these covenants, and that buried work of reformation. I exhort you to be zealous and forward in your stations and generation, and the Lord will own you. Some may think there is some reflection here, upon both ministers and professors; but I cannot help it, for, indeed, it is my judgment, though I desire to reflect on none; but I must be free with you, expecting it will be my last advice in writ.

My children, I desire all of you that may be alive after my death, if your mother be alive, that ye be kind to her: for she hath been afflicted in all my afflictions since she and I met, and carried courageously in our sharpest trials.

As I have exhorted you to be zealous in joining with the zealous party, and purest means, I also exhort you to beware of excess, either to the right or left hand, to join with any party, that would unnecessarily rend the mystical body of Christ by divisions, not according to the word of God, or the example of the best reformed churches; for ye see the sad example in our own days, of the Lord’s wrath against such as those who followed that woful person [John] Gib, who pretended zeal; so that the Lord has given him up, and some with him, to work horrid wickedness; but has delivered some of them, who were simply led away with him, from the fowler s snare; so that here is a beacon to beware; so I shall add no more, but bid you all farewell, both my Christian and natural friends.’

At the end of his narrative, Reid, once again, returns to his Linlithgowshire background. His warning to his children was not to follow the path of John Gibb and the Sweet Singers of Bo’ness who had split from, or were ejected from, the Society people in 1681.

The editor ends Reid’s narrative:

‘Alex[ander]. Reid died in 1706. His widow [Margaret Storie] lived thirty-six years after his decease.’

Reid, and probably his wife, are buried at Uphall.

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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 October 15, 2014.

5 Responses to “The Life of Alexander Reid, Covenanter. in Uphall”

  1. […] Thomas Robertson apparently lived in Newcastle and was imprisoned, there, for refusing the English oath of allegiance. He escaped and fled to Edinburgh where he was captured in a sweep search of the city on 29 November, 1684. The search of Edinburgh had been provoked by the assassination of two Lifeguards by the Society people at Swine Abbey. Hanna Kier was captured in the same search. Alexander Reid escaped the search. […]

  2. […] by George Drummond of Carlowrie. He was almost certainly not involved in concealing Cargill, as he was later denounced as ‘a cruel tyrant’ by the Covenanter, Alexander Reid in […]

  3. Mark, I am a direct descendant of James Clarkson. You quote a source “James Clerkson, Copy of testimony letter to his wife when banished to America, NLS MSS. Wod.Oct.XXIX, f.302.” in this post. As you can imagine, a copy of such would be invaluable to a family researcher such as myself. I have tried locating it through the ALS site, but with no luck. I would visit them personally, but it is a long swim from the states. Can you please direct me to it’s location there or elsewhere? I have no objection to paying any required fees if I could just find it. Thanks for sharing such fascinating information on a unknown/much overlooked era in our shared history.

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