The Mystery of the Covenanters’ Panbreck Convention Site #History #Scotland

Panbreck was the site of the secretive United Societies’ thirteenth convention on 20 March, 1684. Where was this treasonable meeting held? …

Panbreck Hill

Faithful Contendings Displayed only gave a placename for the convention site:

‘[The date for the convention] was delayed until till the 20th of March [1684] thereafter.
Which day, A General Meeting did conveen at Panbreck.’ (Shields, FCD, 129.)

There are two Panbrecks which lie close together. Both are very remote locations.

Panbreck Hill (part of a hill embracing Stony Hill and Drummond’s Knowe) and the Panbreck Burn straddle the Ayrshire/Lanarkshire boundary. The burn flows in a north-east direction from Panbreck Hill to North Bottom where it swings south-east to join the Duneaton Water at South Bottom.

Map of Panbreck Hill and Burn

At first sight, this appears to be the location and I had previously assumed that this was where the thirteenth convention had taken place. If this was the site, it truly was a meeting in the wilderness, as apparently even in the Seventeenth Century there was no shelter there. But then, I spotted this …

A second Panbreck, just over a kilometre to the south. It appears on Roy’s mid-eighteenth century map as a farm called ‘Panbreak’ and in a charters of 1654 and 1696 as ‘Panbreck’. Was this where the convention was held? It has the same name and it was a better location for the meeting, as it would have provided shelter from Scotland’s March weather.

Map of ‘Panbreck’

It also appears as ‘Benbrock’ below ‘Benbreek Hill’ on Pont’s map of Kyle published by Blaeu in 1654.

‘Panbreak’/‘Panbreck’ lay deep in the hills on the west side of the Penbreck Burn below the ridge of Penbreck Rig. It also lay close to the drove road between Muirkirk to Sanquhar, which may have made it a convenient meeting point for delegates.

On the mid-nineteenth century OS maps the farm was located on the opposite, eastern, bank of the Penbreck Burn. At that time, the boundaries of the farm were the March Burn on the west, and the march boundary with Dumfriesshire – Nether Black Law, Nipes and White Hill – on the east. The Lanarkshire boundary marked the northern limit, possibly including some of Stony Hill in the farm.

‘Panbreak’/‘Panbreck’ lay at the extreme east end of the narrow parish of Auchinleck, Ayrshire, with Muirkirk parish just to the north.

In 1654, ‘2 merkland of Panbreck’ was held by James Crichton ‘of Castellmaynes’ along with the 23 Shilling and 4 Penny lands of Dornal and other lands in Cumnock parish, including Lochnorris. There is a clear kin connection to the next recorded holder of the lands. In 1696, the lands of ‘Panbreck’ appear to have been held by Penelope Crichton, daughter and heir of William Crichton, earl of Dumfries (d.1691). The earl had lived at Lochnorris near Cumnock, when it was raided for arms by the Society people in 1685. Penelope Crichton also held the lands of Dornal and Glenmuirshaw, and on the hearth tax list of 1694, ‘Dornills List of Hearths’ included ‘Penbreak – 2 – –’, i.e., it was a fairly modest dwelling but a step up from a one hearth household. It is clear that the lands of ‘Panbreck’ were related to those of Dornal estate, which lies several miles down the Glenmuir Water from ‘Panbreck’.

That relationship between Panbreck and Dornal implies that Society people may well have had good reasons to settle on Panbreck as a convention site. From scattered clues in the historical sources, it appears that Dornal and the area around it was a place of relative safety for militant Covenanters in the 1680s. After the defeat at Bothwell Bridge in 1679, several of the assassins of Archbishop Sharp were sheltered at Dornal, where they appear to have got a guide to Panbreck. In 1680, two proclaimed traitors for the Sanquhar Declaration lived in the valley of the Glenmuir Water. Alexander Peden probably fled from government forces in this area in 1685, and in the same year, James Nisbet hid and made escapes at several locations along the Glenmuir Water.

Today, the farm has disappeared, but the site, perhaps ruins (of at least the nineteenth-century farm), lie by a single tree. It is probably the site of the seventeenth-century farm, if Roy’s map placed in the wrong side of burn. If Roy’s map was correct, which is far from certain, then the site of the meeting may have been just across the burn.

Sadly, it is not obvious in the historical records who the tenant of Panbreck was in 1684.

However, we do know who occupied (some?) lands at Dornal in 1684. At almost exactly the time of the thirteenth convention, John Begg of Dornal was probably imprisoned. On 2 April, ‘John Bog of Dornel’ was before the criminal court in Edinburgh, probably for the suspected reset, converse and sheltering rebels, but the diet against him was deserted. In 1689, he reappears in the sources alongside George Logan of Logan and John Campbell of Horsecleugh, two moderate presbyterian lairds who had called the field preacher Richard Cameron a Jesuit in 1680, as one who testified that the rabbling of the minister of Cumnock was the work of Cameronians who were not of the parish. (Wodrow, History, III, 64.)

Among those who attended the thirteenth convention were James Renwick (d.1688), Michael Shields, David Steel (d.1686), George Hill, William Nairn, John Mathieson and Archibald Hunter. The latter was possibly the fugitive in Tererran in Glencairn parish, Dumfriesshire, listed on the roll of 1684.

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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 August 18, 2017.

One Response to “The Mystery of the Covenanters’ Panbreck Convention Site #History #Scotland”

  1. Roy’s map is not accurate enough to precisely locate a farm.

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