The ‘Sculking Rebells’ Beside Kilmarnock in 1685

Killing Times

Napoleon used to say that ‘History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon’. There is, however, always scope for manoeuvre…

According to Lauder of Fountainhall:

‘12 November, 1685.—News came from the West [to Edinburgh], that Lieutenant-Collonell [Thomas] Buchan had met with some of thesse sculking Rebells beside Kilmarnock, and had killed 3, and tane on[e] of ther leaders, called Nisbet, on whosse head a price had been put, and therefore they keeped him alive. (Lauder, Historical Notices, II, 676.)

Lauder of Fountainhall’s entry reinforces the date for Hardhill’s capture and the Midland killings as 8 November, as word of a significant development in the field would have only taken a few days to reach the streets of Edinburgh from the West.

Fountainhall praises Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Buchan of Mar’s Regiment of Foot for capturing Hardhill. However, Hardhill was taken by Lieutenant Robert Nisbet of the grenadier, or assault, company of the same regiment. Lieutenant Nisbet was under Buchan’s command and took Hardhill to Buchan at Ayr, where he was interrogated on Monday, 9 November, the day after the raid on Midland.

By pinning down a date for the seizure of Hardhill, Fountainhall also reinforces the date for the appearance of the Great Scottish Meteor in the night sky a week earlier.

Fountainhall also recorded Nisbet’s execution. At first sight there is quite a surprise in his account:

‘4 December 1685—One Nisbet, taken … for disouning the King’s authority, and having been at Pentland hills, or Rouland green [in 1666], Bothuel-bridge [in 1679], &c.; and one called Stranger, of the same principles, are hanged at the Grass-markat. A third was repreived, having acknowledged the King.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices, II, 681.)

The surprise is that there is no record of a martyr called ‘Stranger’. However, when Fountainhall’s record is compared to other historical sources, it is clear that ‘Stranger’ was Edward Marshall of Kaemuir and that the ‘third’ of the condemned, who was reprieved, was John Welsh of Cornlee.

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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 18, 2014.

One Response to “The ‘Sculking Rebells’ Beside Kilmarnock in 1685”

  1. […] few months later, in November, Buchan’s troops would capture Nisbet’s father, John Nisbet of Hardhill. Buchan personally interrogated Hardhill after soon his […]

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