The Story of the Killing of Andrew Hislop, Covenanter. #History
The shooting of Andrew Hislop is one of the most interesting of the Killing Times of 1685, as an allegedly notorious persecutor, John Graham of Claverhouse, reluctantly carried out the field execution.
The story is recorded in early Presbyterian sources, but it is also found in unpublished local traditions that add new details to Hislop’s story. How reliable those details are, is, as always with later traditions, open to question.
I would like to thank Jim Hyslop for providing me with a transcription of some genealogical notes, written by an “H.H.” in 1911, which quote from a ‘diary’ of Dr. William Brown (1764-1835).
Brown was the minister of Eskdalemuir parish from 1792-1835. He compiled the parish entries for Eskdalemuir in both the Old and New Statistical Accounts. However, he did not mention Hislop’s grave in them. Brown also left an unpublished manuscript entitled ‘The Memorabilia of the Parish of Eskdalemuir, 1793-1808.’ It is mentioned in the notes to James Hogg’s Three Perils of Woman (p 424) as a source used by later authors. One suspects that the ‘diary’ mentioned by “H. H.” in 1911 is Brown’s ‘Memorabilia’ manuscript and that the passage on Andrew Hislop was intended for publication in it.
‘He [Dr. William Brown] was a literary man of some repute and wrote the History of Ewes. [probably an error for Eskdalemuir parish]
Excerpt from his diary [probably Brown’s manuscript of the ‘Memorabilia’]:
The only religious curiosity if such it may be called that exists in the Parish [of Eskdalemuir] besides that of the Druidical Temple, which might perhaps have come more properly under this article than the preceding one, is the grave of Andrew Hislop on the farm of Craighaugh, who was shot by Claverhouse and Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall for being a Covenanter, on the 11th May 1685.
The following are all the particulars of his death which could be collected.
John Graham of Claverhouse, having been appointed by Government to the command of a Troop of Horse, came into this Parish with the design of searching for Covenanters, or according to the Court Phrase, rebels, and pitched his camp at Johnston for some time.’
‘Johnston’ is almost certainly Old Johnstone in Eskdalemuir parish. It lies directly to the north of Craighaugh where Hislop is buried. Today, the Samye-Ling Tibetan Centre lies beside Old Johnstone.
‘He went about with a small party in quest of them, but without success. At length one of the Covenanters happening die at Andrew Hislop’s Mother’s house and being buried in the night time in the adjacent field, the grave was discovered and news brought of it to Claverhouse at [Old] Johnston, whereupon Sir James Johnstone and he went with a party and barbarously dug up the Body, and finding that the corpse had come out of Widow Hislop’s house, they pillaged and pulled down the house, and drove herself and children to the fields. One of these vis. Andrew was older than the rest and –(omission in the diary here) not to say that they were hardly used, but at that time they could not get hold of him.
Afterwards however, when Claverhouse was in Hutten [and Corrie] Parish in search of Covenanters, he accidentally came upon four, of which Andrew was one, lying resting themselves up in the Winshields Burn, at a place called Dumfinns and their horses grazing near them.
[The location where Hislop rested appears to be Dumb Linn, in Hutton and Corrie parish. It lies on the Caldwell Burn that flows past Winshields. Today, the Dumb Linn is not marked on the OS map, but it did appear on the mid nineteenth-century OS maps, on the Caldwell to the west of Dragon’s Plantation. The linn is to the north-west of the monument at Winshields. If anyone can find and photograph the Dumb Linn, that would be great.
‘Whenever they saw Claverhouse each ran to catch his horse, but Andrew’s being young would not be taken, but running down the Burn. Before he could get hold of it, Claverhouse’s men had got up to him and seised him a little above the Winshields.’
A ‘little above the Winshields’ would be somewhere in the vicinity of the monument at Winshields.
‘This was on the 10th May. Having thus got him in their power, they brought him to Sir James Johnston, who was then at Johnston, and who when he heard of their coming met them at Craighhaugh.’
After capture near Winshields, Hislop was brought a few miles north-east to Craighaugh in Eskdalemuir parish.
‘And Sir James to show his loyalty, would have him dispatched immediately, saying that they would shoot the Rebel on the rebel’s land, Scott of Johnston to whom Craighhaugh and Johnston belonged being a Covenanter.
Claverhouse however was backward and craved delay (perhaps the impression of John Brown’s murder, who was killed by him in the Parish of Muirkirk was not yet worn off) but Sir James pressed it so that Claverhouse at length said “The blood of this man, Westerhall, be upon you, I am free of it.” Whereupon they brought him to the place where is is now interred and allowed him some time for prayer. Having gone into a kiln which was hard by, he prayed so long that Sir James said to Claverhouse “Go and harken if he be done.” Claverhouse went and returning said he had left off praying and begun preaching.
At length coming out, Sir James ordered a Highland Captain, who was there, to shoot him, but he, instead of obeying his command drew up his men at some distance and swore that “Her nain sell would fight Claverhouse and all his Dragoons first”. Whereupon Claverhouse ordered three of his own men to do it. When they were ready to fire, they bade Andrew draw his bonnet over his face, but he refused, telling them he could look his murderers in the face, for he had done nothing of which he needed to be ashamed. Then holding up his Bible he charged them to answer at the Great Day for what they had done, and were to do, when they should be judged by that Book.
He was buried in the very spot where he was shot, and the place is rendered an object of notice by a gravestone on which is the following inscription:-
Here lies Andrew Hyslop, Martyr – shot dead upon this place by Sir James Johnston of Westerhall, and John Graham of Claverhouse, for adhering to the Word of God – Christ’s kingly government, and covenanted work of reformation, against tyranny, perjury and prelacy.
May 13th 1685. re. 12. 11. –
Halt, Passenger, a word with thee or two,
Why I ly here wouldst let thou truly know?
By wicked Hands, Hands cruel and unjust,
Without all Law, my life from me they thrust,
And being dead, they left me on the spot,
For Burial this same place I got.
Truth’s Friends in Eskdale now rejoice their lot,
Viz. th’faithfull, for thruth my seal thus got.”
The above more-or-less follows the same story as that found in both Cloud of Witnesses and Wodrow. However, it also contains a few tantalising traditions about Hislop, such as where he was resting when he was discovered.
The manuscript continues with further traditions about both Hislop and Claverhouse.
In addition to what has been said about Andrew Hyslop, I may add some particulars which I got from my Mother-in-law, Mrs. Moffat. [Brown was married to Mary Moffat in 1797.] She told me that Andrew Hyslop left the Howpasley height, where he had been hiding for some time, the very morning of the day on which he was shot, and that her Grand father, William Borthwich who was tenant of Howpasley [in 1685] advised him very strongly to stay from the fear of what might happen. But he told him that he could not, for that he needed to go to Borland (of which he was the farmer) to meet some persons on business.’
Howpasley lies in Roberton parish, Roxburghshire.
The tradition claims that Borthwick met Hislop at ‘Howpasley height’, where Hislop had been hiding for some time. There is no wy of knowing the veracity of that tradition. If it is true, then it does appear to indicate that Hislop must have had good reasons to go into hiding. Since he is not recorded as a fugitive in the published roll of May, 1684, it is possible that Hislop had either evaded the abjuration oath pressed at the beginning of 1685, or taken part in some violent act. The alleged reset of fugitives by Hislop’s mother, one of whom had died and been buried, had, allegedly, led to her and Hislop’s younger siblings being burned out of her home. Perhaps that tipped Hislop into becoming a fugitive, or, perhaps, his fugitive status after he failed to take the abjuration oath led to his mother’s home being burned. What is clear is that the Presbyterian sources never really get to the heart of the issue as to why Hislop was hunted down.
‘Howpasley height’ is almost certainly Howpasley aka. Muckle Knowe and Mid Rig, which lies above Howpasley Hope and the Howpasley Burn. Today, the hill is covered in forestry.
The tradition also claims that Hislop intended to go to his farm at Boreland, which lies in Hutton and Corrie parish, to ‘meet some persons’.
The diary continues:
‘These were probably the persons who were with him at the Wan Shiels Burn when he was taken.’
The Dumb Linn near Winshields where Hislop is said to have been captured lies over a mile to the north/north-west of Boreland.
‘She told my father that her grandfather strongly dissuaded him from taking his gun with him, and that it was his firing his gun at the Troopers when they were pursuing him that made him be more hardly dealt with.’
The implication of the tradition is that Hislop was armed and fired his weapon on the troopers when they tried capture him.
‘She also mentioned a striking instance of the power of conscience on Claverhouse, for that very evening, when he had gone to Langholm Castle where Mr. Melvile the Duke [of Buccleuch]’s factor lived, he could find no peace, but walked backwards and forwards thro’ the room. Mrs. Melvile several times asked him if he was well, but he gave no answer. At length he turned about and said to her with great emotion “I have been the Butcher of Government, but I will be so no more.” And this was the last execution that he ever had any hand in.’
This tradition of Claverhouse’s conscience striking him after the event builds on the evidence found in Shields in 1690 and in a longer form in Cloud of Witnesses in 1714, that Claverhouse refused to carry out Hislop’s execution.
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