The Execution of William Harvie in Lanark in 1682

For the 400th post…

On Friday 13 June, 1679, William Harvie was the drummer at the proclamation of the Hamilton Declaration. Nearly three years later, he paid for his treason of usurping the theatre of royal proclamations with his life…

Or, was he hanged for being present at the United Societies’ Lanark Declaration on January, 1682?

Lanark Mercat CrossLanark Mercat Cross

Harvie was hanged at Lanark as part of the response to the Society people’s Lanark Declaration, one of the most radical documents in Scottish history. The declaration had come as a surprise to the authorities, who had believed that they had effectively dealt with the militants who supported Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill. Its rejection of the authority of King and Parliament, and establishment of a convention of estates was a public affront to Royal power. Alongside the execution of Harvie, the Covenants and all the Society people’s documents were burnt by the hangman.

The Capture of Harvie
Following the Society people’s Lanark Declaration on 12 January, 1682, Major Andrew White of Mar’s Regiment of Foot was sent to Lanark with instructions. The action in Lanark was possibly the last undertaken by White in the field before he took over the garrison at Edinburgh Castle.

White’s instructions empowered him to take command of government forces in Lanarkshire and take action against against those in Lanark who had failed in their duty to stop the rebels’ proclamation. He was to seize fugitives, rebels or anyone who had not taken the royal indemnity offered to all but the ringleaders of the Bothwell Rising of 1679, particularly those in the burgh of Lanark. He was also to find out as much as he could about those who were behind the Lanark Declaration. (Wodrow, History, III, 369-70.)

It is possible that it was White’s men who captured Harvie in, or about, Lanark, as he had not taken the indemnity.

The Trial of William Harvie
Wodrow describes Harvie’s trial in Edinburgh:

‘[Monday] February 20th, William Harvey weaver in Lanark, is before the justiciary. He is indicted for being at the late rebellion [in 1679], and being present at publishing the treasonable declaration at Lanark, May 29th, 1679. The witnesses prove him present at the publishing of the declaration plainly, and the assize bring him in guilty of being at the late rebellion, and publishing the late treasonable declaration at Lanark.’

Wodrow was not sure which declaration Harvie was accused of proclaiming:

‘Whether this relates to the declaration January 12th last year [i.e., the Lanark Declaration], or, as he says in his speech to the people, for proclaiming Mr [John] Welsh’s declaration [i.e., the Hamilton Declaration], and he is now executed upon his being at Both well, I cannot say; but the justiciary delay pronouncing sentence till the council ordain them to pronounce sentence of death on him’.

Why does it matter which declaration that Harvie proclaimed? If Harvie proclaimed the Hamilton Declaration, then he had taken part in an action which the Society people had expressly rejected. If he proclaimed the Lanark Declaration, then he was at the core of the militant United Societies.

On Thursday 23 February, 1682, Harvie’s sentence was recorded by the Privy Council:

‘His Royall Highnes, his Majesties High Commissioner [James, duke of York], and Lords of Privy Councill, haveing receaved an account that William Harvy, weaver in Lanerk, is found guilty of by the verdict of ane assise of high treason for being in the late rebellion [in 1679], and publishing a most treasonable proclamation against the Kings Majestie at the croce of Lanerk, doe ordain the Lords Commissioners of Justiciary to proceed and pronounce the sentence of death against the said William Harvy, and to order the same to be put in execution at the croce of Lanerk at such a particular day as they shall think convenient; and gives warrand to the Generall [Thomas Dalyell] to cause transport the said William Harvy by a sufficient guard from the tolbuith of Edinburgh to the towne of Lanerk and to guard and attend him untill the sentence execute.’ (RPCS, VII, 342.)

The register of the privy council is clear that Harvie had participated in both the rebellion of 1679 and the publication of a proclamation at the cross of Lanark. However, it does not specify which proclamation. The Societies’ Lanark Declaration was certainly proclaimed at Lanark’s mercat cross six weeks before the date of Harvie’s trial.

However, Lord Fountainhall, an advocate who was present in Edinburgh at the time and kept a record of ongoing trials, notes that Harvey had proclaimed the Covenanters’ Hamilton Declaration, which was published on 13 June, 1679:

On Friday 24 February 1682.—One Harvie, a weaver, who had affixed and proclamed the Bothuel Bridge declaration at Hamilton, in June 1679, was found guilty, at the Criminal Court, of rebellion, and was sentenced to be hanged for it, on the 3d of March nixt, at Lanrick, for exemple and terror to others ther; which was accordingly done, and thought hard, because he alledged he was forced to be ther drummer vi majore, and craved pardon; which does not agree with the offers ware made to sundry of the other men and weemen [i.e., Isobel Alison and Margaret Harvie], who ware lately hanged before this, that if they would only acknowledge the King’s authority, ther life should be spared: but the difference lyes on this, all ther guilt consisted in a perverse and treasonable opinion, and had never acted any thing, nor been in armes, as this Harvy had been. Some thought the indemnity in 1679 should have saved him; but he was construed to be a ringleader. Yet severall of the witnesses deponed, that after the reading of that proclamation [at Hamilton], he cryed, God save the King. Only it may be said, this was protestatio contraria facto.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices, I, 348-9.)

Fountainhall’s evidence is clear that Harvie had attended the Hamilton Declaration, rather than the Societies’ Lanark Declaration, but was executed at Lanark in the aftermath of the latter. The mention by Fountainhall that Harvie had shouted ‘God Save the King’ at Hamilton probably indicates that Harvie was a supporter of the moderate faction at Bothwell.

After sentence, Harvie was sent back to Lanark as an ‘exemple and terror to others’ in the burgh who had failed to prevent the Societies’ treasonable declaration in January, 1682.

On the Eve of Execution
Harvie was probably conducted to Lanark by Lieutenant Adam Urquhart of Meldrum and the Earl of Airlie’s troop of Horse. On the morning of 2 March, the day before Harvie’s hanging, one of Merdrum’s men, Francis Gordon, was murdered by some Society people in hiding near Mossplatt. The atmosphere in Lanark was, presumably, quite tense on the day of the hanging.
Harvie’s Testimony
The evidence of Harvie’s martyrs’ testimony also indicates that he was at Hamilton in 1679, as it does not contain any statements in support of the Society people:

‘Dear Friends,—I desire to show you in few words—And first I declare, I am a Presbyterian in my judgment, and I adhere to the whole Scripture Confession of Faith, Catechisms, larger and shorter. Also, I adhere to the National and Solemn League and Covenant. I adhere to the government and governors, in so far as they are a terror to evildoers, and an encouragement to those that do well; likewise I adhere to all the faithful Testimonies given by the people of God since the year 1660. Likewise I bear my testimony against popery and prelacy, profanity and ungodliness, and all abominations, and punishing of the godly, and letting blasphemy and wickedness go free; as for instance, a man who was imprisoned with me in the Canongate-tolbooth for drinking the devil’s good health: and I seal my testimony against the dreadful test [passed by Parliament in late 1681], and all the sinful engagements of them.

As for my dear friends, I warn you all to flee under Christ’s banner in this day of common calamity, for there is no shelter but under his wings, because he is the only shelter. And oh, what a refreshment is there to be found under him, and nowhere else! Therefore, I desire you, my loving wife, to seek God through Christ, and to own him in his way and truth, for which I suffer. Now, I recommend you and my child to the only wise Lord, who hath promised to be a husband to the widow, and a father to the fatherless. Likewise I forgive all men, as I desire God to forgive me; and now I bid farewell to all created comforts.
Sic. Sub.—William Harvey’ (Naphtali and Cloud of Witnesses, 427-8.)

Harvie’s testimony was summarised in a more moderate form by Wodrow, who wished to portray the martyrs as moderate men. According to Wodrow, it was his speech at the gallows:

‘He declares himself a presbyterian, and that in his judgment people should obey the king in his lawful authority. He says, the law has condemned him to die in that place for proclaiming a paper over the cross, which they called Mr Welsh’s declaration, because there was something in it against prelacy; that he did this in the integrity of his heart, and when he had done, said in sincerity, God save the king; and that this was all he was condemned for. He declares, he believed what was in the scriptures, and adhered to the Confession of Faith, National and Solemn League and Covenant, our catechisms, and all the faithful testimonies since the year 1660. He declares he is for kingly government, according to God’s word.’

His testimony was not found in early editions of the continuing Society people’s Cloud of Witnesses. Wodrow was probably correct to note that ‘the collectors of the Cloud of Witnesses have no account of this man, it may be because he owns the king’s authority.’

[Note: Both Wodrow and the published version of Harvie’s testimony state in error that Harvie was ‘present at publishing the treasonable declaration in Lanark, on May 29th, 1679’. That latter date refers to the Rutherglen Declaration, rather than the Hamilton Declaration. The original manuscript is held in the Wodrow Manuscripts NLS. MSS. Wod.Oct.XXVIII, f.54v.]

Prestonpans Mercat Cross

Prestonpans Mercat Cross © Liz ‘n’ Jim and licensed for reuse.

Harvie’s Execution
Harvie was hanged beside Lanark’s mercat cross at the bottom of the High Street.

Street View of Former Site of the Lanark’s Mercat Cross

The mercat cross with its symbols of royal authority had been smashed with hammers and defaced with chisels by the Society people when they had proclaimed the Lanark Declaration. The cross was removed in 1774, probably when the new St Nicolas Church was built in the same year, but is described in the OS Name Book as having been ‘a circular building with a flat roof from which arose a stone pillar in the top of which was placed the figure of a unicorn. The roof was reached by an internal spiral stair.’ Almost precisely the same style of mercat cross, which dates to the early seventeenth century, stands at Prestonpans.

Wodrow describes his execution:
‘Accordingly, by his original testimony and other papers writ at that time, I find he was hanged at Lanark, March 3d this year. […] His testimony is very short, and he got liberty to deliver it, though two drums were ready on each hand to ruffle as major [Andrew] White should order them. After he had prayed fervently upon the scaffold, he went up the ladder, and spoke to the people a little, pressed them to make their peace with God sure, and serve God and obey the king so far as the word alloweth, and no further. He prayed again on the ladder, and committed himself to the Lord’s mercy, declared his willingness to die, and his forgiving all who had a share in his death, and died with a great deal of composure. In short, he seems to have been made a sacrifice to the managers’ resentment for the last declaration at Lanark [in 1682], though I cannot find he was concerned in that, but only in proclaiming the west country declaration before Bothwell engagement [in 1679].’

As a convicted traitor, Harvie’s goods and property was forfeited. (See no. 137.). His forfeiture was rescinded by act of parliament in 1690. His wife and child may have survived to see it restored to them.

Covenanters Grave Harvie Lanark 1682

The Grave of William Harvie © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

The Grave of Harvie
Harvie is buried in St Kentigern’s churchyard of Hyndford Road in Lanark. His body was presumably moved there after the Revolution. The grave has been recently renewed/replaced.

Map of St Kentigern’s Church        Street View of entry to St Kentigern’s

The inscription on the gravestone is as follows:


1682 . AGE . 38
TO . THE . WORD . OF .

Reverse Harvie Lanark Grave 1682

The Reverse of Harvie’s Grave at Lanark © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

A large monument to local Covenanters lies nearby.

For more on Covenanters in Lanark parish, 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

~ by drmarkjardine on November 16, 2014.

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