The Covenanter’s Grave in Bathgate #History #Scotland
The killing of James Davie at a field preaching in Bathgate parish is a complicated case to unravel. It was first recorded in Ridpath’s list of the victims of the Killing Times in 1693. A decade or so later, Adam Blackadder wrote a detailed narrative account of it and soon after that Wodrow briefly wrote up his brief version of the event. All of the sources tell broadly the same story, but differ over who was responsible for the shooting of Davie.
The final and fourth source for his death, the inscription on his grave in Bathgate, adds to the confusion over who was responsible.
4. The Covenanter’s Grave in Bathgate
Davie is buried at Old Bathgate Parish Church under flat stone in centre of churchyard to the south of the church. The church lies beside Edinburgh Road, i.e., the A89.
The inscription on the gravestone is as follows:
‘Here lies the Body
of JAMES DAVIE
who was Shot at
1673 by HERON
for his adhering to
the word of GOD
and Scotlands co
venanted work of
Opposition to POPE
RY PRELACY PER
JURY and TYRANNY
Repaired by a Few Men
in this PARISH.’
Like Ridpath and Wodrow, the grave names him as ‘James Davie’. However, it adds the unique details that he was ‘shot at Blackdub April 1673 by Heron’. Who Heron was is not known. Blackadder states he was killed by dragoons under Lieutenant Inglis. The date for his death of April, 1673, accords with the date range found in Blackadder, even though the inscriber of the gravestone did not use Blackadder as a source for the inscription, but it is too early a date for the March, 1675, date that an analysis of Blackadder’s account suggests.
Most of the inscription is of a generic character and of no historical use when it comes to evaluating what Davie actually believed. However, it does tell us what those who created it believed that David had died for.
The Shooting of Davie
According to the gravestone, Davie was shot at ‘Blackdub’, a farm in Bathgate parish, Linlithgowshire.
‘Blackdubb’ appears on Roy’s map of the mid eighteenth century. The placename – Black ‘Dub’ – probably means a ‘black stagnant pool’, which is exactly what one would expect for a location beside a moss or muir. The moss beside Blackdub is known as the Black Moss.
‘Blackdub’ and other farms around it also appear on Thomson’s map of 1832. On that map it lay further south from the road and close to, if not at, Netherhouses.
The placename ‘Blackdub’ had vanished by the time of the first OS map in the mid nineteenth century, by which time, a railway had been built across the farm. Today, that stretch of rail line has been reopened and runs between the stations at Blackridge and Armadale.
According to Blackadder’s account, Blackdub was where John Blackadder preached in 1670 and Archibald Riddell, probably in March, 1675.
Blackdub was a classic location for a field preaching, as it sat by the march boundary with Shotts parish in Lanarkshire. James Renwick later preached further west on the march boundary at Brounrigg and to the northwest at Blackloch. The Peden Stone at Benhar lies further south on the same boundary and beyond it are the sites of Donald Cargill’s field preachings at Starryshaw and Falla Hills.
The Date of the Gravestone
When a gravestone to Davie first appeared is not clear. A series of at least two, and probably three, stones have marked his grave.
The inscription on the ‘repaired’ stone probably points to the existence of an earlier gravestone, probably the first and original stone, with a similar inscription that contained nearly the same content minus the phrase ‘Repaired by a Few Men in this PARISH.’
That earlier stone was probably ‘repaired’ in the nineteenth century, when many other stones were repaired or replaced. In practice, ‘repaired’ may well mean that the stone was replaced. Judging from photographs of the ‘repaired’ stone in 2011, the lettering used looks to me like it is in a more modern form than which was used in the early eighteenth century.
Written Sources for the Stone
Records for the gravestone certainly exist from the mid nineteenth century. The inscription and grave are not recorded in the tenth edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1794, but they are in later nineteenth century editions, the mid-nineteenth century OS name book and the New Statistical Account in 1845.
The latter records that:
‘Some of the inhabitants of this parish suffered hardship and loss in the time of the Covenanters. One man, by name James Davie, was shot by one of a party of dragoons, who dispersed a congregation assembled in a hollow on the farm of Blackdub, in the western part of the parish. The worshippers had escaped across a strip of deep moss, which interposed an effectual obstacle to the progress of their mounted pursuers. But while they stood on the other side gazing at their enemies, and thinking themselves quite safe, the troopers fired their carbines at them across the moss. The only shot that took effect killed Davie. His body lies in the old churchyard of Bathgate, with this inscription, “Here lies the body of James Davie, who was shot at Blackdub, April 1673, by Heron, for his adhering to the word of God and Scotland’s covenanted work of Reformation, in opposition to Popery, Prelacy, perjury, and tyranny.” (New Statistical Account, Linlithgowshire, 157-8.)
The New Statistical Account version of Davie’s death is similar to that found in Blackadder’s “Memoirs” with a few minor variations.
The content of the inscription almost certainly predates the publication by Crichton of Blackadder’s Memoirs in the 1820s, as it records that ‘Heron’, rather than Lieutenant Inglis, was responsible for the shooting. It is clear that the inscription and Blackadder’s account of c.1700 were not influenced by each other. The inscription also differs from the version published by Wodrow, as the latter claimed that Thomas Kennoway was responsible for Davie’s death.
The rhetoric of the inscription against Catholicism, Episcopacy and the alleged tyranny of the Stuart kings indicates that the earlier stone was erected at some point after the Revolution of 1689 to 1690, almost certainly in the eighteenth century.
From the content of the inscription, it is possible that the gravestone was not erected by the “Continuing” Society people in the early eighteenth century. They used a fairly rigid formula when it came to their stones, which included a passage of information based on Shields’ A Short Memorial, which was not available in this case, the claim that the martyr died for Scotland’s Covenanted Work of Reformation, which does appear, and a poem about the martyr, often on the reverse, which is entirely missing in this case. That may point to a date a bit later in the eighteenth century for the creation of the original gravestone.
For more on the Covenanters in Bathgate parish, see here.
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