‘Woe to this Land’: Visions and Dumb Seers near Glasgow in 1677
In early 1677, a number of strange signs and apparitions were reported in the Presbyterian heartlands. Some of those visions were probably “witnessed” at ecstatic prayer meetings in the fields. Others were said to have come from the ‘dumb’, that some believed had the gift of the second sight, the ability to see future or distant events:
‘January 1677- There was seen at Kilbryd, near to Glasgow, in a plain, an appearance of two armies, shooting of gunns and fighting on both sides ; the fyre and smock was seen, but without noise and crack. Sic lyk at Easter Calder; on a moor there the lyke was seen, attested by eye-witnesses. – Also about the same time there was an apparition of a man clothed in rid, on a hill above Eastwood-moor, near Glasgow, crying, “Wo, woe to this land!” It’s also remarkable, that in that month there was a dumb man in a hous, at the Wynd Heid of Glasgow, sitting, and on a sudden (he rousing up a man that was sleeping by him,) made, with his staff in his hand, draughts of fighting, shooting of gunns, and sounding of trumpets, saddling of horses, and drawing off boots, and making signs of some great stir, (the lyke a dumb man in Calder, before the rise of the west in the yeir 1666, made signs of a rysing, shooting of gunns and of fighting, and of imprisoning,) attested by famous witnesses.
Siclyke, in February 1677, did the dumb Laird of Duntraith, at Pasely, make signs to some of great troubles and fightings to be in this land in a few months.
These seem to be presages of sad things following, together with the strange revelations made to the foresaid dumb lass [Janet Douglas], in discovering witches, seems to be a presage of great alterations.
In 26th March, 1677, there was seen by some inhabitants of Glasgow, betwixt 11 and 12 at night, great fyres, as if it had been the burning of three corn stacks, on the south side of Clyd, beside Litle Govan, which flamm’d exceedingly; but there was no burning of houses, or stalks, as was found after search, and before that tyme was a dreadful voice heard in the [vacant] Blackfriar Church [on the east side of the High Street near the college and which had burned down after being struck by lightening in 1670] for severall nights.’ (Law, Memorialls, 128-9.)
William Edmonstone, the “Dumb Laird” of Duntreath, was well known for the second sight. Although he was the eldest son, he did not inherit the family titles and estate in Strathblane parish, Stirlingshire, as he was deaf and dumb from birth. He was certainly born before 1630, as a letter of that year records that “the King’s best Doctors” tried to cure him. When he attained maturity, he was supported by an allowance and is said to have lived in a room in the castle. The castle can be seen from the West Highland Way/John Muir Way.
According to one description of him, “he was an exceedingly sightly handsome gentleman as could be seen. He had a great vivacity and quickness of imagination, and a wonderful and amazing apprehension of things; and so great and so strong a memory, that…he seldom or ever forgot any person he had once ever seen.”
The Reverend Law also relates the following story of Edmonstone’s second sight:
‘The Laird of Duntraith, born dumb and deaf, a man devoter sett, one a tyme two of his neighbours falling out at two myles distance fiom him, where he was at present in Duntreath, the one striking the other with a whinger in the arme, he, in the same instant of tyme, makes a sign of it. So at Pa[i]slay, he being there in the year 1676, in December, in the time of the frost [17 to 18 December], there was one of his acquaintance went forth to a water at a good distance fra him upon the ice, and had fallen in; and he, at that instant of time, gave warning of it by a sign.’ (Law, Memorialls, 118.)
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