The Battle of Muirdykes, 1685: Fountainhall’s Version #History #Scotland

Battle of Muirdykes

Lord Fountainhall wrote an account of the battle of Muirdykes, which took place near Lochwinnoch on 18 June, 1685. He was not present at the battle and worked up his later account of it from reports he heard at the time:

‘The night before [the earl of] Argile’s taking, and the dispersion of his forces, he had a Counsell of war [on 17 June], wher he proposed, first, that, seeing the King’s forces under the command of the Earle of Dumbarton was come within a mile of them, it was fitt immediatly to fall upon them, and fight them whille they ware weary; this was rejected by Sir John Cochrane [of Ochiltree], and Sir Patrick Home of Polwart, (who had ane accumulation of reasons against every thing that was proposed, being never satisfied with anything he met with.) Then Argile moved, that they should march straight forward to Glasgow, and he doubted not but they might easily surprize it, ther being nothing to guard it but Winton’s Militia regiment of East Louthian, and by it they would both get provisions and breathing to look about them; in this he was also outvoted as a dangerous attempt. So ther nixt resolve was, to crosse over to the south side of the river of Clyde to Renfrew, at that fuird called Kirkpatrick fuird; by which they had this advantage, that, the sea being out, they passed over easily, whereas, in the morning, [George Douglas,] my Lord Dumbarton and his forces missing the rebells, and hearing they had crossed the river, and attempting to doe the like, ther was no riding it, the sea being in, so that he behooved ather to stay till the ebbe tyde, or goe to Glasgow bridge, which last he choised. But this stratageme did cast him half a day behind; however, Providence infatuated the rebells, so that this advantage of marching signified them nothing, for Sir John Cochrane, thinking himselfe in his oune ground, undertook, with the help of guides, to conduct them safe in to Galloway, and so jank their ennemy; and if they fand ther reception ther not secure, then to march straight to the English border. But, on the 18 of June, in the morning, being Thursday, they fall into a bog, wher all their horse and baggage is myred; and during the tyme they are disimboguing themselves, a detached party of dragouns, under the command of the Lord Rosse and Captain [William] Cleilland, comes upon them. Before this tyme, Argile had left them, and desired every on to shift for himselfe. Sir John Cochrane fortold [>p180.] him his destiny, that the country peeple would seize on him as a stragler, and he would be carried in Dundonald, his father’s coach, to Edinburgh, which came to passe, only Sir John Cochrane did not forsee his oune fatality.

Sir John Cochrane seeing that party of the King’s forces approaching, he took up his ground within a fauld dyke, so hy that nothing was seen but ther head pieces: though he, with some 300 men, ware so advantagiously posted, yet Captain [William] Cleilland, with more zeall than discretion, charged them and was killed on the place. A bullet graized on my Lord Rosse’s breist plate, (to which, nixt to God, he was beholden for his life,) and from that rebounded on his face, but did him litle or no hurt. Sir Adam Blair younger of Carberry was shot in the neck, and Sir William Wallace of Craigie, in the thigh, but none of them dangerously wounded; on[e] [James] Dundas, a lieutenant, had his arme shot away with a blunderbuss.

The service was so hot, and the ground so weill defended by Sir John Cochrane and the rebells, that the dragouns seing Cleilland, ther Captain, killed, would not come up, so the rebells escaped to Blackstoun, besyde Paisley, and in the night tyme, dissipated and escaped by the help of the darknesse; though the nixt day, many of the Hylanders and other common bodies ware apprehended stealing away home.’ (Lauder, Historical Observes, 179-80.)

Lauder of Fountainhall states that the rebels escaped towards Blackstone in Kilbarchan parish, Renfrewshire. Blackstoun lies to the north-east of Muirdykes on the west bank of the Black Cart Water. Today, it is near to where the M8 passes the end of Glasgow Airport runway.

Map of Blackstoun

It is not clear in Brysson’s account that their party made it to Blackstoun. Previously, they had become hopelessly lost in the night and circled back a round to within a mile or so of Muirdykes. In the morning after the battle they were probably in the area around Loch Libo in Neilston parish. However, soon after, they moved again to a different location, which probably was Blackstoun, where they parted after hearing news that Argyll was captured.

Among the government casualties listed by Fountainhall in his later write up of the battle was Sir William Wallace of Craigie, who was serving with the Earl of Dumbarton. He was later commissioned as a captain in the King’s Regiment of Horse a year after Muirdykes, on 29 July, 1686. (Dalton, Scots Army, 142, 143n.)

Also among the casualties was Lieutenant Dundas, who is certainly the same man as Cornet James Dundas. Dundas was promoted to a lieutenancy in the Dragoons a few months after Muirdykes on 7 November, 1685. At the time of Muirdykes, Dundas served as a cornet in Gosford’s Troop of Dragoons.

The two troops of dragoons who fought at Muirdykes appear to have been the troops of Gosford, under Dundas, and Captain Cleland’s. Lord Ross was a captain in the King’s Regiment of Horse.

The severe wound in the arm that Dundas received probably put him out of action for some time. Dundas was involved in the deaths of a number of Society people in the Killing Times of 1685 – Edward McKean in February, John Semple in April. However, his career also intersects with the deaths of two others, William McKergur and Thomas/John McLorgan.

William McKergur was killed at Blairquhan Mill by Archibald Kennedy of Culzean and his militia troop probably at some point between late May and July, 1685. The killing of McKergur by Culzean was probably connected to the absence of Cornet Dundas from the Blairquhan garrison, which lies by the mill. Dundas had been in command of that garrison in early 1685. At some point between February and November of that year, he was ordered to remain at Blairquhan until he received further orders. Previously, it was not clear when Dundas had left Blairquhan, as it could have been at any time up to November. However, his presence at Muirdykes on 18 June almost certainly indicates that he had received further orders to leave Blairquhan in the weeks prior to the battle.

Blairquhan was probably regained by its owner, John Whiteford of Blairquhan, soon after, as ‘[John] Hay of Park’ and ‘Whiteford of Blairquhan’ were both released from prison due to lack of probation against then on 21 August, 1685. ( Walter Scott (ed.) Chronological Notes on Scottish Affairs, from 1680 Till 1701 , 143.)

While the absence of Dundas from Blairquhan may provide circumstantial evidence for the date of McKergur’s death, his presence there may help to pin down when another of the martyrs died.

The killing of Thomas or John McLorgan is one of the most mysterious martyrdom events of the Killing Times, as it was not clear either where he was from, or who killed him, or when that took place.

Recently, a probable origin and identity for McLorgan as a fugitive and son of Andrew McClorkan in Bargany, Dailly parish. has been established.

As discussed in an earlier post, it is possible that McLorgan’s death was connected to the presence of Dundas and his troops at Blairquhan and to the death of John Semple in April. The latter is buried with McLorgan, but it is not clear if the two killings took place at the same time, i.e., in April 1685.

The presence of Dundas at Muirdykes in mid June provides a potential time frame for McLorgan’s death of between February and about the end of May in 1685.

For firsthand accounts of the battle of Muirdykes, see that of Hume of Polwarth and that of George Brysson.

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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

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~ by drmarkjardine on December 6, 2015.

2 Responses to “The Battle of Muirdykes, 1685: Fountainhall’s Version #History #Scotland”

  1. […] Accounts of the battle with was fought on 18 June were recorded by Patrick Hume of Polwarth, George Brysson and Lord Fountainhall. […]

  2. […] further accounts of the Battle of Muirdykes, see the versions of Patrick Hume of Polwarth, Lord Fountainhall, George Brysson and his escape after it, and the visit of Maxwell of Cardoness to the […]

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