Blackadder’s Killing of a Bathgate Covenanter #History #Scotland
The second source for Davie’s death are the so-called “Memoirs” of the field preacher, John Blackadder, which record Davie’s first name as John, rather than James.
Blackadder’s “Memoirs” is a complex source, as they were compiled in the 1820s from two documents. First, an ‘Account of Mr Blackader’s Sufferings’, which was written by Adam Blackadder, John’s son, at some point in the decades after the Revolution. Second, memoirs that John Blackadder wrote while he was a prisoner on the Bass Rock between 1682 and his death in 1685. The passages that mention ‘John Davie’, quoted below, both appear to come from the pen of Adam Blackadder.
The “Memoirs” provide a detailed account of Davie’s death:
‘The following year a large conventicle was kept at Bathgate [parish] by Mr [Archibald] Riddell. “A party of dragoons commanded by one Lieutenant [John] Inglis, who kept garrison in Mid-calder, made search for them in the moors. The meeting had notice of them, but hearing they were at a distance, and, as some reported, returning to their quarters again, they were the more secure, and continued their worship. But within a little they appeared in sight, and that near, ere they knew. Upon which, the most part got over a bog hard by, where horse could not follow: But many stood on the other side, thinking themselves safe. Meantime the dragoons came up and apprehended several on the spot, among others, [John?] Sandilands, Lady Hilderstone’s brother[in-law?, who was brought before the privy council in 1675?]. Then they approached to the side of the bog, and shot over among the people, as they usually basely did, on such occasions, to shoot bullets among such a promiscuous multitude of men, women, and children, though they found them without arms. One of their shot lighted on ane honest man, an heritor in Bathgate parish, called John Davie, and killed him dead on the spot. They carried their prisoners to the garrison at Calder, with a great booty of cloaks, plaids, bibles, and what else they could lay their hands on, spoiling the poor people as they had got the victory over a foreign enemy: This was the ordinary practice; however, the minister [i.e., Riddell] escaped among others.”’ (Blackadder, Memoirs, 157-8.)
The “Memoirs” indicate that Davie attended a field preaching held by Archibald Riddell somewhere in Bathgate parish in Linlithgowshire. False reports misled those attending the conventicle into the belief that John Inglis’ company of dragoons had abandoned their search of the moors and returned to their base at Mid Calder. When the dragoons appeared in sight, most of the field preaching withdrew across a bog for safety, but some who remained at the preaching site were captured. When the dragoons fired across the bog, Davie was killed.
The text added at the beginning of the “Memoirs” account of Davie’s death does not give a precise date for the preaching, as it only notes that it was in the ‘following year’, which from the flow of the narrative was apparently a year after 1671 and before 1674.
Besides Davie, the account names four others in connection with the field preaching.
1. Archibald Riddell
Archibald Riddell was an active field preacher in the 1670s. A later field preaching by him was also attacked by troops in May, 1679. After the defeat at Bothwell Brig, he abandoned field preaching, following the minsters’ agreement with Monmouth, in favour of house conventicles. He was apprehended in September, 1680, and had a conference with one of the militant prisoners Robert Garnock at the end of that year.
Riddell rejected the militancy of Cameron and Cargill and he attempted to persuade some Cameronian/Cargillite prisoners to recant their militant beliefs in 1681. He was confined to his house under a bond of 10,000 merks, but after breaking his conditions was sent to the Bass Rock before he accepted banishment to the Americas in 1685.
2. John Inglis
Lieutenant John Inglis is said to have been the commander of the garrison of ‘dragoons’ in Mid Calder that attacked Riddell’s field preaching.
Inglis was appointed as a captain of a company of dragoons, when companies of dragoons were first raised, in May, 1678. What rank or position he held before that and at the time of Davie’s death is not clear. He appears to have been an ensign in a new company of foot guards in September, 1674, which suggests either that Inglis was not a lieutenant in the dragoons in the early 1670s, or that Davie was killed at a date some time after September 1674. (Dalton, Scots Army, 22.)
The confusion in the “Memoirs” over both ‘Lieutenant’ Inglis and the involvement of ‘dragoons’ in the early 1670s indicates that the account found in Blackadder is not a reliable guide as which unit took part in Davie’s death.
Inglis later commanded dragoons at the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679 and was one of the key field commanders in the hunt for fugitive Covenanters afterwards. His troop are said to have been responsible for capture of Thomas Richard and killing of James Smith in 1685. His son, Cornet Peter Inglis, in the same troop, is also said to have killed several martyrs. In late April, 1685, John Inglis lost his commission in the dragoons after armed Covenanters raided the Ducat Tower in Newmilns and rescued prisoners.
3. Elizabeth Cunningham, Lady Hilderston
Lady Hilderston is also mentioned in the “Memoirs”, but it is not clear if she was present at the preaching. Hilderston lies in Torphichen parish, Linlithgowshire, which is the neighbouring parish to Bathgate. Today the site of Old Hilderston, a ruined house and steading, lies to the north of Hilderston Farm. An early seventeenth-century silver mine nearby also bears the name.
William Sandilands of Hilderston, was the third son of James, second Lord Torphichen (d.1617). He married Elizabeth Cunningham, second daughter of John Cunningham of Cunninghamhead (d.c.1640) in Dreghorn parish in Ayrshire, in 1641. She is the Lady Hilderston referred to in the “Memoirs”.
Their eldest son, William Sandilands, was commissioned as a Captain of foot for service out with Scotland on 14 March, 1672. He may have died soon after. (Dalton, Scots Army, 95; Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 619.)
Another son, Walter Sandilands, [younger?] of Hilderston, married, Anna Hamilton, daughter and heiress of James Hamilton of Westport, on 13 December, 1674. In consequence, he assumed the name and arms of Hamilton. (Wodrow, History, III, 441.)
The Blackadder Connection
It is at this point that the evidence takes a very interesting turn that forges a connection between the John Blackadder of the “Memoirs”, Lady Hilderston and the site for Davie’s later death at Blackdub.
According to the “Memoirs”, John Blackadder preached at Hilderston House and ‘Black Dub’ in May 1671. However, it is clear that the “Memoirs” were in error about the date, as both those preachings clearly took place in May, 1670, when Lady Hilderston was fined:
‘In the spring of 1671[, an error for 1670], Mr Blackader again visited Borrowstouness and the neighbourhood. He went to visit Lady Hilderstone; and being indisposed, intended to remain private. But on Sabbath morning early [of 8 May, 1670], the house was surrounded with multitudes [of hearers]’.
Faced with such a throng, Blackadder preached to a crowd of over eight hundred that occupied the house and yard. (Blackadder, Memoirs, 153-4.)
The Hilderston house conventicle brought the wrath of the authorities down on the locality. Lady Hilderston and others were fined immediately afterwards, but Blackadder was not finished.
‘Scarcely three weeks after the meeting at Hilderstone [House], Mr Blackader preached in the same neighbourhood, at the Black Dub in Livingstone [parish]. “It was a moorish place, where they could have no drink nor well of water, and nothing except new beer, which he could not make use of. It happened to be [Sunday] the 29th of May , the usual day of their rant [for the King’s Birthday/celebration of the Restoration]. He left Edinburgh at four o’clock in the mornings when the cannons of the castle were shot as usual. He returned at ten in the evenings when the cannons were shooting again for the closing that day’s rant. The reason why he went and came back the same day, was his tender respect for the people, lest, by his lodging among them, or in any of their houses, they might be fined for reset and converse” (Blackadder, Memoirs, 156.)
‘Black Dub’ does not lie in Livingston parish, as the “Memoirs” claim, but in Bathgate parish. The farm there lay just over a kilometre to the north of the northern boundary of what was Livingston parish in the 1670s.
‘Blackdubb’ lay just to the south of the kink in the road between Northrigg Farm and Stonerigg on the edge of Armadale. The farm was located in a gap between two bogs.
Blackdub was, and still is in places free of conifer plantations, a ‘moorish place’ with muirs that extend to the south and west of the former site of the farm that straddle the march boundary with Lanarkshire. Where precisely Blackadder’s preaching took place is not clear, but it was presumably close to the moorland on the farm.
According to the gravestone for James Davie, he was shot at Blackdub.
The Kin of James Davie near Hilderston
The “Memoirs” claim that ‘John Davie’, i.e., the James Davie named in other sources, was a ‘heritor in Bathgate parish’.
James Davie may be related to a John Davie, a presbyterian dissenter in Bathgate parish, who had a child, Janet, baptised at a field preaching held on 5 January, 1679. John Davie appears to have married Janet Thomson of Torphichen parish in April 1678. In 1702, a John Davie ‘in Braehead’ used the mort cloth of Torphichen parish.
James Davie may also have been related to a Christian Davie in Bathgate parish who married George Martine in Torphichen parish in December 1677.
Martine appears to have been a moderate-presbyterian dissenter immediately before the Revolution. George Martine had a daughter, Anna, baptised at a presbyterian meeting house at ‘Hilderstone House’ on 14 March, 1688. The minister who conducted the baptism was probably Alexander Hastie.
Soon after the Revolution, George Martine ‘in Hilderstonhills’ used Torphichen’s mort cloth ‘for a child’ on 10 February, 1689.
The above suggests that potential kin of James Davie were presbyterian dissenters who lived in the vicinity of Hilderston, which clearly was a centre of presbyterian dissent between 1670 and the Revolution.
When Did James Davie Die?
Remarkably, there may be a new date for Davie’s killing due to the probable identification of the fourth person named at the field preaching.
‘[——-] Sandilands, Lady Hilderstone’s brother’, is the last individual named as present at Riddell’s field preaching where Davie died. The identification of Sandilands suggests that Davie died, not in 1673, as his gravestone states, but in March, 1675.
Wodrow’s History records that John Sandilands, who may have been one of the prisoners probably taken at the preaching where Davie was killed, was before the privy council on 6 August 1675, for ‘being at a conventicle in Bathgate, in the beginning of the year’. From complaints about the field preaching, it appears to have taken place in March. Sandilands was fined 3,000 merks. (Wodrow, History, II, 295, 389, 398.)
A New Perspective on Davie’s Killing
When carefully sifted and compared to reliable sources, our understanding of the version of Davie’s death in the “Memoirs” is transformed. James Davie, an alleged heritor in Bathgate parish, probably had dissenting kin both near to, and connected with, Hilderston. He was shot at a field preaching held by Archibald Riddell at Blackdub, a known field-preaching site used by John Blackadder in 1670 in Bathgate parish. Although his grave suggests he was killed in 1673, the evidence of the presence of Sandilands, Lady Hilderston’s brother-in-law, at the fatal preaching and the probable record of his appearance before the privy council, clearly indicate that Davie was shot at a field preaching in March, 1675.
However, the “Memoirs” claim that ‘Lieutenant’ Inglis and his ‘dragoons’ were responsible for Davie’s death is clearly unreliable, as dragoon units were not established in Scotland until 1678.
The third source for Davie’s death, Wodrow’s History, claims that a different man, Thomas Kennoway, was responsible for the killing. The final source for Davie’s death, the inscription on his grave, identifies a mysterious individual named ‘Heron’ as responsible for the killing.
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