Discovered: Alexander Peden’s Preaching at Nick of the Liberty

The discovery of a new site connected with the Covenanting preacher, Alexander Peden, is a rare thing, but buried in the mid nineteenth-century OS name books is a mention of a very remote Peden field preaching site…

Nick of LibertyNick of the Liberty

According to an entry for the ‘Nick of the Liberty’ in the OS Name Book for Ballantrae parish:

‘This is a flat patch of moss between Beneraird and Benaw. It is said that the Rev. Alexander Peden the celebrated Minister at the time of the Covenanters preached here on Several occasions. Situation – In the South West corner of the plan’.

The ‘Nick of the Liberty’, which is also called the ‘Neck of the Liberty’ in the OS name book, lies between the hills of Beneraird, Benaw and Kilmoray.

Map of Nick of the Liberty

Kilmoray Cairn towards the MerrickKilmoray Cairn looking East to the Merrick © Billy McCrorie and licensed for reuse.

The Nick of the Liberty straddles the boundary between Ballantrae parish in Ayrshire and Glenluce parish (or New Luce parish) in Wigtownshire.

The Nick lies at some distance to the south of another traditional Peden preaching site, Peden’s Mount.

Map of Peden’s Mount

The ‘Nick of the Liberty’ also lies at the head of the Main Water of Luce, which flows through Peden’s old parish of New Luce and Glenluce parish. In the 1680s and throughout the Restoration period, New Luce parish was incorporated into Glenluce parish. The Nick then lay directly upstream from the homes of Peden’s former parishioners.

Main Water of LuceMain Water of Luce looking North © Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

Peden’s Preaching in 1682
Given the location of Nick of the Liberty on the parish and shire boundary of Glenluce parish, it is possible that it was where Peden preached his two sermons “at Glenluce” in 1682. Peden did preach to some of his old parishioners in June 1685, probably somewhere in Glenluce, Kirkcowan or Penninghame parish.

The Nick of the Liberty and the Killing Times
Peden’s preachings at the Nick of Liberty are only recorded in tradition. However, when that tradition is placed in the contest of historical evidence interesting things happen.

The Nick lies just to the west of Arecleoch, the home of Andrew Macgill, A Bothwell fugitive who was executed at Ayr gallows in late 1684.

Map of Arecleoch

According to Wodrow, the farm of Arecleoch was raided after Macgill’s execution. In March, 1685, Macgill’s father, John, was raided by Colonel James Douglas. In the raid, Macgill’s brother, Fergus, was allegedly threatened with being summarily shot. For other documented examples of that interrogation technique, such as the threat to shoot John Brounen at Preisthill, it is clear that Macgill’s brother was suspect of knowing useful intelligence about the Society people in that locality. The intelligence that Colonel Douglas sought is not revealed in the account of his interrogation.

In the summer of 1685, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Buchan of Mar’s Regiment of Foot also raided Arecleoch. In the course of that raid, John Macgill was interrogated ‘if he thought it lawful, in his opinion, to defend the preaching of the gospel by arms’. Macgill replied that ‘he thought it was’ and was ‘thereupon he carried him away prisoner’. He remaned a prisoner until Lord Bargeny’s intercession led to his being released after ‘paying an exorbitant fine to [James Crawford of] Ardmillan’.

The participants in the imprisonment of John Macgill cast some light on the events.

John Hamilton, Lord Bargany, and James Crawford of Ardmillan had been involved in a long-running dispute over the capture, holding and dubious attempts to fine Thomas Cunningham of Montgreenan, a forfeited Bothwell rebel. Montgreenan had been captured soon after Bothwell and held by Ardmillan for his own gain. (Cunningham was later released.) Ardmillan had also accused Bargany of being in correspondence with the Bothwell rebels, but the evidence of Montgreenan was damning of Ardmillan. Nonetheless, Ardmillan had risen to a position of power in Carrick where he became a notorious collector of fines. It is clear that the two men were rivals and, presumably, given the disputes between them, did not get on at all.

Bargany was authorised to press the Abjuration oath in early 1685 and may have been involved in the trial and execution of Macgill’s son, Andrew. Bargany was involved in a further dispute with Ardmillan over the latter’s refusal to accept prisoners taken by Bargany in February, 1685. Bargany was also indirectly involved in the circumstances surrounding the summary execution of John Semple in Dailly parish in the April of the same year. His house may also have been connected to the killing of a Covenanter named McClorgan at around the same time.

It is possible that the case of John Macgill was only the latest in a run of disputes between the two men.

The participation of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Buchan in the capture of John Macgill in the ‘summer’ of 1685 is unusual and probably points towards when Macgill was seized. Buchan’s area of operations throughout 1684 and in early 1685 was further to the north in Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. While Carrick was part of Ayrshire, it was a separate jurisdiction from it. The presence of Buchan deep in the South West on the boundary between Carrick and Galloway indicates that his raid almost certainly took place after government forces were marched into the deep South West to counter the threat from the Argyll Rising in May and before troops were withdrawn at the end of July. That timeframe ties in with other operations in Carrick and northern Galloway, such as the killing of the Barrhill Martyrs and Alexander Linn by Lieutenant-General William Drummond’s forces.

Buchan’s raid on Arecleoch and his questioning about armed preaching may be linked to a preaching by Peden at Nick of the Liberty. Peden did preach at other locations close to the Carrick and Galloway boundary in the summer of 1685.

Wodrow also claimed that Buchan’s foot soldiers captured Thomas Richard at around the same time. Richard lived at Strabracken in Glenluce parish, which lies directly to the south of Nick of the Liberty.

Map of Strabracken

On 24 July, 1685, Thomas Richard was among large group of prisoners to be processed for resetting rebels, attending field conventicles, withdrawing from the kirk and refusing oath of allegiance. On 29 July, he was banished to Jamaica on John Ewing’s ship lying at Leith Roads. (RPCS, XI, 114, 119, 130, 131, 136, 329.)

Once the field preaching site is place in the local context, Buchan’s raids on Arecleoch and Strabracken make more sense. It is possible that a field preaching by Peden at Nick of Liberty in mid 1685 was the trigger for both raids.

Where did Peden Preach?
Nick of the Liberty is a flat patch of moss between the hills, but it is not fetureless. Although unlisted on the Canmore database, a standing stone stood there near the head waters of the Main Water of Luce. It is possible that Peden preached there, as it may have been a feature which people attending a preaching could have been directed to and met.

Is the standing stone still there? It is possible that it is.

The standing stone at Nick of the Liberty stood near
NX 144 785
214434, 578508
-4.90757, 55.06626

If anyone could find and photograph both the standing stone and the Nick of the Liberty, and let me know, it would be a great service to history. Another lost Prophet Peden site would have been found.

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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 November 5, 2014.

4 Responses to “Discovered: Alexander Peden’s Preaching at Nick of the Liberty”

  1. […] Buchan interrogated John Macgill over a recent armed field preaching, which was perhaps one held by Alexander Peden at the Nick of the Liberty nearby. That preaching may be the one that Peden gave to his old parishioners in June, […]

  2. […] is also said to have preached at Nick of the Liberty, which is over two miles to the south-west of […]

  3. […] Peden’s preaching site at Nick Of The Liberty (near Ballantrae, Ayrshire/ New Luce, Galloway) A recently rediscovered “lost” field preaching site of Alexander Peden possibly with a standing stone. This is certainly one for the more intrepid walker. The Nick Of The Liberty lies to the east of the hill called Beneraird. It is possibly best approached via the road/path passing Kilwhannel, near Ballantrae, if coming from Ayrshire, or the path north of Lagafater Lodge, well to the north of New Luce, if approaching from Galloway. For the full story and details of the Nick of the Liberty site, see here. […]

  4. […] the full story and details of the Nick Of The Liberty site, see here. Technically, this site lies in Ayrshire, but it is literally on/just across the Galloway […]

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