Prophet Peden’s Appearance in ‘Silver Sand’ #History #Literature #Scotland

Craigmoddie Fell

The following tale is from S. R. Crockett’s novel Silver Sand: A Romance of Old Galloway (1914). It tells the story of the field preacher Alexander Peden’s encounter with John Faa, the gypsy hero of the title, during the Killing Times.

Silver Sand’s journey by the fells from Loch Moan to near Lochnaw Castle implies that the meeting with Peden took place in the Galloway hills in the parishes of Minnigaff, Penningham, Kirkcowan or New Luce, a landscape rich in historical associations with Peden. There are a number of fells in the area, but I can find no ‘Fell of Kincaid’, the location given for the encounter.

From Silver Sand:

‘He had not gone far across the heather, and was keeping well to the southward, along the edge of the fells, when he saw a man coming towards him, bending low and hiding himself behind every peat hag and knoll of “spritty” heather.

For a moment Silver Sand thought that he might be in danger of an attack. The hundred golden Charleses in his belt made him uneasy. Then he laughed at himself. “The Deceitfulness of Riches,” he thought, and took his hand from the butt of his pistol. Who but a smuggler or a hill gipsy would accost any man on the Fell of Kincaid? And to these was he not John Faa— besides being youthful, strong, quick-eyed, and trained to the use of arms?

The man who had been skulking came nearer, so that now Silver Sand could see his wild elf locks straggling out from under his broad blue Kilmarnock bonnet. The hair fell on his shoulders, long and matted, and as it were, dank with night mists, and smeared with the clay of land caverns. Undoubtedly he had before him one of the “wanderers,” as it was the fashion of the time and the country to call those who outcasted themselves for righteousness’ sake. Of such stuff they made the Martyrs — or rather John Graham and Robert Grier of Lag martyrised them merrily whenever found, spending a dozen bullets upon each martyr, being liberal men where Whigs were concerned.

“Are you of the people?” said the wild man, suddenly standing upright a couple of paces from Silver Sand.

“I am of their party,” said Silver Sand, not affecting to misunderstand him, “and I go westward to help one who is outlawed and searched for by the persecutors.”

The wild man bounded forward.

“I am he that was minister of Luce, even Alexander Peden,” he said. “I bid you welcome. At first I was afraid, having regard to your care for the appearances of this world and the gauds of cleading that you had been of the evil party— or worse still— of the Indifferents? But whom do you go to seek?”

“Indeed, Mr. Peden, I am not allowed to tell. He is a man of the highest position, and is much threatened.”

“Do you think Alexander Peden would betray you, but yet— you are right. Whom do I trust with my secrets? Who knows how, like a blind mole, I creep and steal through the earth— under it as often as upon it. I blame you not, but I would have news of your own condition. Have you taken the Test?”

“I have not, and it is for that cause that I am taking the crown of the moorland this day.”

“That is good, but it is not the one thing needful. The sun may shine on your head, good lad, yet sin may make an eclipse in your heart. The believer is married never to be loosed, but you may be held in the marriage bonds only for a season.”

And seeing that Silver Sand winced at this very plain dealing, he added hastily, “I speak of the Spirit and its works — which to the elect are camphor, and myrrh, and cinnamon. Now, answer me, young sir, for have I not been set in your ways as one with a mission to search under the rubbish heaps of earthliness deep into your spirit? Next to the Scriptures, do you make use of the Confession of Faith, the Smaller and Larger Catechisms, Directories of Public Worship, Knox’s Elocutions, and the Sum of Saving Knowledge?”

“I am afraid not,” said Silver Sand, “I have just returned from a long sojourn abroad and have not had time to perfect myself in Scots divinity, but I shall be glad to learn under your instruction, if so be opportunity is given.”

“Do you go to Ireland, sir? For if you do, you will find me bewailing the misfortunes of this poor land in the parish-house of Ballymena where many godly Presbyterian folk are gathered, as birds flock close in a season of evil weather.”

“For that I cannot promise” said Silver Sand, “I do not know my movements.”

“Who but stark fools would say they do? But in the meantime and till I or other true gospel minister can give you needed instruction, read Mr. Gray’s, Mr. Binning’s, and Mr. Guthrie’s sermons. You do not know them! Then so much the worse for you. It is a shame to see you so ignorant. There is not a cottier but could master you— even as they did the great Bishop Burnet, according to his own candid confessing. Every hedger and ditcher in the country knows at least the rudiments of truth as expressed very briefly and compendiously in the Jus Populi, the Apologetical Relation, Lex Rex, Aaron’s Rod, History of the Indulgence, Testimony against Toleration, and God’s Revenge against Murther!”

Silver Sand was staggered with the rapidity and ease with which the ex-minister reeled off this list.

“I am a poor scholar and ignorant,” he said, with due humility, “but I learned the Greek and Hebrew languages, and so can read the Scriptures in the originals, or rather I could do so again, for I may have somewhat forgotten.”

“Scholarship is a great thing,” said Peden, “but there be greater. It is better neither to take up with right hand backslidings nor left hand extremes!”

“Better still as I read it,” quoth Silver Sand, “to live in love and charity among brethren!”

“Ah, but who are the brethen?” cried the preacher, and without waiting for an answer he turned on his heel and went over the heather, neither looking to the right nor to the left, as if at every step he would avoid those backslidings and extremes of which he had spoken.’

For more stories and poems on the Covenanters of the 1680s, see here.

Photo: Craigmoddie Fell © Mark McKie and licensed for reuse.

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~ by drmarkjardine on November 13, 2016.

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