The Grave of Margaret McLachlan, the Wigtown Martyr

Margaret McLachlan, one of the Wigtown Martyrs, is buried in Wigtown Churchyard alongside Margaret Wilson and the three men hanged at Wigtown.

Wigtown Graves

McLachlan’s Graves at Wigtown © Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse.

The inscription on her gravestone is as follows:

‘MEMENTO MORI
HERE LYES
MARGRAT LACHLANE
WHO WAS BY UN
JUST LAW SENTENC
ED TO DIE BY LAGG
STRACHANE WIN
RAME AND GRHAME
AND TYED TO A
STAKE WITHIN THE
FLOOD FOR HER
[On the side, in reference to Lag]
SURNAMD GRIER

[On Reverse]
ADHERENCE
TO SCOTLANDS RE
FORMATION COVE
NANTS NATIONAL
AND SOLEMN LEAGUE
AGED 63 1685’

Images of the front and rear of the gravestone in 2011

Those accused of complicity in her death in the inscription are Sir Robert Greirson of Lag, Captain John Strachan of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons, Captain ‘Major’ George Winram, who was also of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons, and ‘Grhame’, who is probably David Graham, the local sheriff depute and brother of John Graham of Claverhouse. He was also a cornet in His Majesty’s Regiment of Horse from 21 February, 1684. However, it is possible that ‘Grhame’ was Lieutenant William Graham of the earl of Airlie’s troop of His Majesty’s Regiment of Horse. Formerly known as Cornet William Graham of Balquhaple of Claverhouse’s troop, he was promoted to Lieutenant of Meldrum/Airlie’s on 21 February, 1684.

One intriguing aspect of the gravestone is that the inscription is not, unlike those on many other martyrs’ graves, based on a transcription of Alexander Shields’ text from 1690, which was curiously omitted from Cloud of Witnesses. According to Shields, ‘the said Col: or Liev: Gen: James Dowglas, together with the Laird of Lag and Capt: Winram, most illegally condemned, and most inhumanly drowned at stakes within the sea-mark, two Women at Wigtoun, viz. Margaret Lauchlan, upwards of 60: years, and Margaret Wilson, about 20: years of age, the foresaid fatal year 1685.’

While the inscription shares two of the names mentioned by Shields, Lag and Winram, it adds the names of Strachan and Graham and does not mention Colonel James Douglas.

However, it does share the common feature in the inscriptions of those gravestones that were erected by the continuing Society people in the early eighteenth century, which is that it she is said to have died ‘FOR HER ADHERENCE TO SCOTLANDS REFORMATION COVENANTS NATIONAL AND SOLEMN LEAGUE’. A more moderate presbyterian origin for the stone may not have made such an explicit claim for her martyrdom.

There is little doubt from the form of the gravestone that it probably dates to the early eighteenth century, but no firm date for it can be ascertained, as, unlike the grave of Wilson next to it that was recorded in 1730, McLachlan’s grave was not included in Cloud of Witnesses until Thomson’s edition in the latter half of the nineteenth century. (Thomson, (ed.), CW, 606.)

Early editions of Cloud did record an extensive entry on McLachlan and Wilson’s deaths. (See the 1794 edition here.), but they curiously omitted the entry on their deaths in Shields’ text of 1690 from the reproduction of Shields’ list.

The entry on the Wigtown Martyrs should be found between that on Thomas Richard and the killing of “Mowat” by Captain Douglas, but it is not listed. (See the 1794 edition here.)

The failure of Cloud to record McLachlan’s grave for over a century is not unusual in the context of the collection of stones at Wigtown, as it also omitted any mention of the three men hanged there whose gravestone lies next to both of the Wigtown Martyrs’ stones until they were recorded in Thomson’s new edition in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

For more on Margaret McLachlan, 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

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~ by drmarkjardine on December 4, 2014.

3 Responses to “The Grave of Margaret McLachlan, the Wigtown Martyr”

  1. Mark,

    It is quite amazing how many of these – not inexpensive – pieces of “monumental evidence” – exist. Especially when many of those “testified for” would certainly have not had the means for anything more than the most basic burial. Let alone a permanent enough marker that would have still been in existence 30-40 years after the apparent martyrdom. How did Old Mortality or whoever “immortalised” them know where to erect the stone?

    Would it not have been more in keeping with the tradition of the time for each woman to have been buried in their own parish? Assuming of course that Kirkinner and Penninghame could agree on their stories.

    Cheers
    David

  2. […] The Graves of Margaret McLachlan and Margaret Wilson, before 1730. The inscriptions on the two gravestones to the Wigtown Martyrs, which were erected in the early eighteenth century […]

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