A Different Perspective on The Killing Times of the 1680s #History #Scotland


A different way of analysing the Killing Times of the 1680s is to look at when the deaths of Covenanters appeared in Presbyterian sources.

This way of looking at the Killing Times abandons the traditional method of listing of the dead by when they died. Instead, the list, below, orders them by their appearance in post-Revolution Presbyterian sources.

There is a triumvirate of key historical sources that list the dead of the Killing Times. The first is Alexander Shields’s A Short Memorial (1690), which is the foundation document that influenced the other two key sources.

The second key source is the list of graves and inscriptions found at the end of the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses (1714) with the additions added to that list found in the third and fourth editions of Cloud in 1730 and 1741, and in the nineteenth-century process of recording the gravestones to the dead.

The third key source is Robert Wodrow’s second volume of the History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland (1722).

There are three other largely derivative sources that drew on the first key source, Alexander Shields’s A Short Memorial. They are George Ridpath’s list of 1693, the list of field killings found in Cloud of Witnesses in 1714, which is a different list from Cloud’s list of graves, and Daniel Defoe’s “list” of 1717. Ridpath’s list was derived from Shields, Cloud’s list was more-or-less a reprint of Shields’s list with minor alterations and Defoe’s “list” was inspired by either Shields, or Cloud.

Although all of the above sources appear in the table presented here, it is important to keep an eye on the different recording patterns of the triumvirate sources, rather than on the minor differences between the three sources derived from Shields.

I have excluded the “martyrs of tradition”, i.e., those for whom there is no historical evidence as they were only recorded in unreliable nineteenth-century “traditions”, from this list.

The full table can be found here:

Field Deaths Ordered By Presbyterian Sources

Key to Table:

Column 1. The numbers in this column for the 93 field deaths refer to the number they had in previous lists I have published, here and here, for ease of cross reference.

Column 2. ‘Name’ refers to the name of each of the 93 field deaths recorded.

Column 3. ‘Incident Location’ refers to how they allegedly died – shot, hanged, drowned or killed in action – and in which parish that took place.

Column 4. ‘Shire’ refers to the shire in which they died.

Column 5. ‘Date’ refers to they year in which they died between 1682 and 1688.

Column 6. ‘Shields 1690’ refers to deaths recorded in Alexander Shields, A Short Memorial (1690). This is the first and earliest of the triumvirate sources.

Column 7. ‘Ridpath 1693’ refers to deaths found in Ridpath’s list published in 1693 that was based on the list in Shields.

Column 8. ‘Grave 1702–1714’ refers to gravestones recorded in the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1714. This is the first column that is derived from the second of the triumvirate sources.

Column 9. ‘Cloud List 1714’ refers to the list of field deaths reprinted from Shields, rather than the list of graves, found in Cloud of Witnesses in 1714.

Column 10. ‘Defoe 1717’ refers to the “list” of dead that Daniel Defoe derived from Shields/Cloud and his narrative of the Wigtown Martyrs both of which are found in his History of the Church of Scotland which was published in 1717.

Column 11. ‘Wodrow 1722’ refers to the deaths recorded by Robert Wodrow mainly in the second volume of the History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland in 1722. This is the third of the triumvirate sources.

Column 12. ‘Grave 1725 to 1741’ refers to either gravestones recorded between those years with a specific date for their erection found in the inscription, or gravestones that were first recorded in the third and fourth editions of Cloud of Witnesses. This is the second column that is derived from the second of the triumvirate sources.

Column 13. ‘Later Grave Record’ refers to gravestones not found in the early editions of Cloud, but listed in the final edition of Thomson’s Martyr Graves of Scotland (1903) and one gravestone that he missed. The date given refers to the earliest record that was found for the existence of that stone. Nearly all of those graves were probably erected in the first half of the Eighteenth Century. This is the third column that is derived from the second of the triumvirate sources.

Column 14. ‘Grave Location’ refers to the place or parish in which the gravestone is found.

The table reveals that most of the 93 field deaths were recorded very soon after they had died.

Eighty deaths were first recorded by Shields in 1690. His list was almost certainly built on information that the Society people had gathered about in the dead in the late 1680s for a proposed martyrology which was abandoned due to internal tensions over the project and the events of the Revolution at the end of 1688.

Seven deaths were first recorded in inscriptions on gravestones erected by the “Continuing” Society people between 1702 and 1714, i.e., within seventeen to thirty years of the killings. The information about those seven deaths must have been independently gathered by the Society people prior to the erection of the gravestones, as it did not come from Shields.

A further five deaths were first recorded by Wodrow when he gathered the evidence that later appeared in the second volume of his History in 1722. The evidence for three of those deaths, of men from Penninghame parish that took place in Wigtown, probably dates to 1711. Wodrow gathered testimony from the Penninghame Kirk Session about the two women drowned at Wigtown and others in 1711. (See NLS., Wod.Oct.XXIX, f.219.)

The last death to be recorded was that of John Law, which appeared on a gravestone erected prior to 1741.

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

~ by drmarkjardine on May 1, 2017.

3 Responses to “A Different Perspective on The Killing Times of the 1680s #History #Scotland”

  1. Are there any books on these events that you would recommend; mainly which give a detailed and comprehensive look at the subject in its entirety? A Killing time for dummies, so to speak.

    • Most of the books were written over a century ago by “fans with typewriters” of the Covenanters. This blog tries to address that and to some extent disagree with nearly all of them. I think the best, straightforward (but biased) book on the Killing Times is still volume two of James King Hewison’s The Covenanters (Glasgow, 1908). A good solid guide to the martyrs of the Killing Times is Thorbjorn Campbell’s Standing Witnesses (Edinburgh 1996). If you want to read good biographies of the ministers (Cameron, Cargill and Renwick), which are detailed but clear, then one has to go for Maurice Grant’s three books:
      The Lion of the Covenant: the story of Richard Cameron (1997)

      No King but Christ: the story of Donald Cargill (1988)

      Preacher to the Remnant: The Story of James Renwick (2009).

      I hope that helps. M

      • It does, and thanks for the info, the movement is something I’m interested in but know almost nothing about, so I’ll definitely try and add these books to my shelf.

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