The Wigtown Martyrs: The Record of Penninghame Kirk Session, February, 1711
One of the key sources for the Wigtown Martyrs, perhaps the key source, is the account of their drowning drawn up by Penninghame Kirk Session in 1711. Penninghame parish was the home parish of Margaret Wilson, one of the women said to have been executed in 1685.
Wigtown Martyrs’ Post @ Copyright Stephen McGarva and reproduced by his kind permission.
‘A Brief Information of the sufferings of people which are most remarkable in the paroch of Peningham in the shire of Wigtown upon account of their adherence to the Reformation of the Church of Scotland and their refusing to conform with Prelacie, with the occasions of their trouble especiallie from the year 1679 to the year 1689.
Gilbert Wilson in Glenvernoch in [the Laird of] Castle Stewarts land [in Penninghame parish, and husband of Elizabeth Gordon] being a man to ane excesse conform to the guise of the tymes and his wife without challenge for her religion, in a good condition as to the worldly things with a great flock on a large ground (sett to be a prey) was harassed for his children who would not conform. They being required to take the Test and hear the curates [in late 1684] refused both, were searched for, fled and lived in the wild mountains bogs and caves; their parents were charged on their highest perill that they should neither harbour them, speak to them supplie them nor see them and the country people were obliged by the terror of the law to pursue them as well as the souldiers with hue and cry.
In February 1685 [following the imposition of the Abjuration oath] Thomas Wilson of Sixteen years of age Margaret Wilson of Eighteen years, Agnes Wilson of Thirteen years, children to the said Gilbert, the said Thomas keeping the mountains his two sisters Margaret and Agnes went secretly to Wigtown to see some friends, were there discovered taken prisoners and instantly thrust into the Thieves hole [of Wigtown]. As the greatest malefactors: whence they were some tyme brought up to the Tolbooth after a considerable tymes imprisonment where severall others were prisoners for the like cause particularly ane Margaret McLauchlan of Kirkamer paroch, a woman of sixty three years of age.
After their imprisonment for some considerable tyme Mr David Graham Sheriff, [Robert Grierson] the Laird of Lagg, [Captain] Major [George] Winram, captain [John] Strachan called ane assize Indicted these three women viz, Margaret McLachlan Margaret Wilson Agnes Wilson to be guilty of rebellion at Bothwell Bridge, Airds Moss, twenty field conventicles and twenty house conventicles. yet it was well known that none of these women ever were within twenty miles of Bothwell Bridge [in 1679] or Airds Moss [in 1680] and Agnes Wilson being eight years of age the tyme of Airds Moss, could not be deep in the rebellion then, nor her sister of thirteen years of age and twelve years at Bothwell bridges tyme. The Assize did sitt and brought them in guilty and those judges sentenced them, To be tyed to palisades fixed in the sand, within the flood mark of the sea, and there to stand till the flood overflowed them and drowned them.
They received their sentence without the least discouragement with a composed smiling countenance judging it their honour to suffer for Christs Truth, that he is alone King and Head of his church. Gilbert Wilson got his youngest daughter Agnes Wilson out of Prison upon the bond of ane hundreth pound sterling, to produce her when called for, after the sentence of death passed against her; but was obliged to go to Edinburgh for this before it could be obtained. The tyme they were in prison no means were not essayed with Margaret Wilson to persuade her to take the Oath of abjuration and hear the Curates with threatenings and flatteries but without any successe.
Upon the Eleventh day of May 1685 These two women Margaret McLachlan and Margaret Wilson, were brought south to Execution. They did put the old woman first into the water, and when the water was overflowing her they asked Margaret Wilson what she thought of her in that case. She answered What do I see but Christ wrestling there, think ye that we are the sufferers? No it is Christ in us for he sends none a warfare on their own charges. Margaret Wilson sang Psalm 25 from the 7th verse, read the 8 chapter of the Epistle to the romans and did Pray and then the water covered her.
But before her breath was quite gone, they pulled her up and held her till she could speak and then asked her if she would pray for the King? She answered that She wished the salvation of all men but the Damnation of none. Some of her relations being on the place cried out She is willing to conform being desirous to save her life at any rate. Upon which Major [George] Winram offered the Oath of Abjuration to her either to swear it or return to the water. She refused it saying I will not, I am ane of Christs children let me go. And then they returned her into the water where she finished her warfare, being a Virgin Martyr of Eighteen years of age suffering death for her refusing to swear the Oath of Abjuration and hear the curates.
The said Gilbert Wilson was fined for the Opinion of his children, harassed with frequent quarterings of souldiers upon him sometymes ane hundreth men at once, who lived at discretion on his goods and that for severall years together and his frequent attendance on the courts at Wigtown almost every week at Thirteen miles distance for three years tyme; [c.1685 to 1687?] riding to Edinburgh on these accounts so that his losses could not be reckoned; and estimat to be (without doubt) not within Five Thousand Merks; yet for no principle or action of his own, and died in great poverty lately a few years hence: his wife a very aged woman lives [in 1711] upon the charity of friends; his son Thomas lived to bear arms under King William in Flanders and the castle of Edinburgh but had nothing by his parents to enter the ground which they possessed, where he lives to certify the truth of these things with many others who know them too well.’ (Transcription of NRS, CH2/1387/1/186-88 byJeffrey Stephen in The Bulwark, No2. 2014., 22-24.)
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