‘Do Not Shoot the Bonny Lad’: The Pursuit of Hardhill #History
1682. ‘The cruel enemy got my dear brother into their hands. They examined him concerning the persecuted people where they haunted, or if ho knew where any of them was, but he would not open his mouth to speak one word to them; they spoke him fair—they offered him money to speak and tell them, but he would not—they held the point of a drawn sword to his naked breast—they fired a pistol over his head—they set him on horseback behind one of themselves, to be taken away and hanged—they tyed a cloath on his face, and set him on his knees to be shot to death—they beat him with their swords and with their fists—they kicked him several times to the ground with their feet; yet, after they bad used all the cruelty they could, he would not open his mouth to speak one word to them; and although he was a very comely proper child, going in ten years of age, yet they called him a vile, ugly dumb devil, and beat him very sore, and went their way, leaving him lying on the ground, sore bleeding in the open fields.’
In the following year, James Nisbet also claims to have encountered government forces:
‘1683. Being the 14 year of my age [, curiously Nisbet states he was born in February, 1667], in July, one morning at five o’clock, I went out to a wood, and within a little I heard the sound of people among the trees drawing near to me. I looked up and saw men cloathed in red, and as I got to my feet, one of them bade me be shot. I said to him, “What good will my blood do to you?”
And when he cocked his pistol, another of them said, “Hold, man, do not shoot the bonny lad.”
The man with the pistol said, “He is a Whig; I saw him on his knees.”
They asked my name, and I told them my new name [i.e., an assumed name].
They said to one another, they had none in their list of that name.
They asked me, who learned me to pray.
I told them, my Bible.
He that commanded them, I think he was a sergeant, said, “Since we have none of that name, let him alone.”
The first man that came unto me, swore again, that he would have me shot, but two of them would not let him. There were about twelve of them in all, but none of them spoke to me but three, and two of these were for sparing my life, and so they went off and left me’. (Extract in McCrie, Lives of the Scottish Reformers, 502.)
Two years later, James Nisbet was forced to flee from his hiding place at a gentleman’s house in Ayrshire.