A Little Light on the Barrhill Martyrs

The OS name book adds a further layer of detail about the Barrhill martyrs, John Murchie and Daniel McIlwraith, who were shot in the summer of 1685.

Covenanters Grave Barrhill

The Covenanters’ Grave at Barrhill © Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

In later traditional accounts of their deaths there is conflicting evidence about where they came from. According to Thomson, McIlwraith belonged in some way to the family which held Altercannoch in Colmonell parish, the place where they were shot near Barrhill. There is a link via an inscription McIlwraith’s grave to the McIlwraiths who lived in Altercannoch in 1787.

However, Lawson claimed that they were discovered ‘at New Luce [parish], about 12 miles off, had been pursued hither by soldiers, and found hidden in a farm house called Alticannoch’. McIlwraith probably had some connection to the Altercannoch family, but that does not mean that he lived there in 1685. From other sources, there is some circumstantial evidence to reinforce the view that Murchie came from New Luce parish in Wigtownshire.

The evidence of the OS name book records the monument which is extant at Barrhill:

‘This is a small unadorned stone edifice like any other tomb in a church yard. In the wall is placed a stone on which the following lines are cut. – “Erected A.D. 1825. To the memory of John Murchie and Daniel Meiklewrick at the expense of a generous public and friends in the Covenanted Cause which these martyrs suffered, bled & died in the persecution of 1685. Here in this place two Martyrs lie whose blood to heaven hath a loud cry Murder’d Contrary to divine laws for owning of King Jesus’ Cause by Bloody Drummond they were shot Without any trial on this spot.’

The name book’s account of the grave is similar to that of other later sources. However, it then adds another layer of evidence:

‘There is an old stone placed by the side of the wall inside which appears to be the original, by the old spelling etc. on it are the following lines .- “Here lys John Murchie & Daniel Meiklewrick by bloody Drummond they were shot.1685[”?] They are natives of Wigtonshire & have been hunted from New Luce & shot on the spot. where this Tomb is erected Signed. Thomas O Farrell 30th March ’54.’

In the late nineteenth century Thomson noted that three fragments of an earlier tombstone, inscribed on one side “Here lys John Murchie and Daniel McJlurick martyrs by bloody Drummon they were shot 1685″, and on the other “Renewed by Gilbt McIlurick in Alticonnach 1787”, lie within the enclosure. The former inscription must have been on the original stone, as it appears in the “Cloud of Witnesses”, published in 1730.

Like Lawson, the earlier OS name book claims that both men were ‘natives of Wigtonshire’ and had ‘been hunted from New Luce’. It claims that Meiklewrick and Murchie had fled from New Luce parish, which in the 1680s formed the northern portion of Glenluce parish, to the area around Altercannoch. From other sources it appears that they were killed there when Lieutenant-General William Drummond and his men were in the area of Barr Kirk in June or July, 1685. The time frame for their deaths is reasonably secure, as the movements of Drummond before he arrived in the area can be broadly reconstructed.

However, both the OS name book and Lawson do not specify when the two men fled from the New Luce area. As both men do not appear on the fugitive of roll of May, 1684, it is almost certain that they fled after that date. Possible time frames for their flight are either in October, 1684, when circuit courts were held across Galloway, or after the Abjuration oath was pressed in early 1685, or after some event in the area around New Luce in the spring or summer of 1685. The claim that they were ‘hunted from New Luce’ may suggest that their flight was connected to a specific event, or series of events, in the New Luce area. A field preaching, probably by Alexander Peden, was held on the boundary of New Luce with Carrick in the summer of 1685. The arrival of government forces in the area soon after may have prompted McIlwraith and Murchie’s flight.

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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 14, 2014.

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