“Nothing here but a young creature dying”: Nisbet’s Escape from Colonel Buchan in May, 1685

After the Battle Detail

Soon after James Nisbet escaped capture by John Graham of Claverhouse and the Highlanders, a fever struck and he had a third providential escape:

‘After this [, his narrow escape from Claverhouse on c. 1 May, 1685,] I languished some days, and then was seized with a high and violent fever. I got in to a poor man’s house, and his wife made me a bed in the byre, beside the cows, that her husband might not see me, that so he might be free to give his oath that he harboured no whiggs. The very next day, one Colonel [Thomas[ Buchan came with two troops of dragoons to search that country a second time. He, with five more, dishorsed, and came into the poor cottage where I was lying, und asked the poor woman, what men was in this den. She answered, she had no men, but a young lad of her own lying sick, at the point of death. Then they came where I was, and he lifted up my head by the hair, and a bended pistol in his right hand. He looked me broad in the face, and said to these that were with him, “There is nothing here but a young creature dying;” and so let my head fall out of hit hand and went away; but I was then so sick, that I was not capable of fear at the danger nor of joy at the escape. The poor woman conceived such fear, lest she came to trouble on my account, would not, for any persuasion, let me stay, and so I was carried a great way to another poor man’s house.’ (Extract in McCrie, Lives of the Scottish Reformers, 502.)

James Nisbet claims that his encounter with Buchan took place ‘some days’ after his escape from Claverhouse and the Highlanders on c.1 May, which probably places it at around the time of the hangings at Mauchline and the Highlanders’ disruption of the Societies’ nineteenth convention on 6 May.

It was a lucky escape for Nisbet. Buchan was an experienced soldier. He had been involved in the Abuscade at Auchengilloch in the summer of 1684 and had killed John Smith in the hills between Muirkirk and Lesmahagow parishes on 12 February, 1685.

In June or July, Buchan moved deep into the South West as far as Stranraer, probably in response to the threat posed by the Argyll Rising, before returning north.

A few months later, in November, Buchan’s troops would capture Nisbet’s father, John Nisbet of Hardhill. Buchan personally interrogated Hardhill after soon his capture.

Only a few days before the capture of his father, James Nisbet was with him when he observed a great meteor. He also records how he heard the news.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on November 6, 2015.

3 Responses to ““Nothing here but a young creature dying”: Nisbet’s Escape from Colonel Buchan in May, 1685”

  1. […] Nisbet was consumed by a fever. Soon after he found sheltered in poor man and woman’s house, Colonel Buchan found him. Convinced he was ‘a young creature dying’, he left him for […]

  2. […] in the killing of John Smith in the hills between Muirkirk and Lesmahagow parish, and on c.6 May, he almost captured James Nisbet somewhere near the eastern boundary of Ayrshire. By the summer, he and his men appear to have had […]

  3. […] When the dragoons arrived at the house where Peden had preached, a long and gruelling pursuit followed across the hills. The Covenanter, James Nisbet, left a dramatic account of that and how he and others were pursued for about thirty miles. During that they encountered two parties of dragoons and a large party of foot and horse. He also encountered John Graham of Claverhouse’s force of horse and Highlanders within days, before he collapsed through sickness and exhaustion. […]

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