The Radical Women of the Cotmuir Folk near Edinburgh in 1710 #History #Scotland

The Cotmuir Folk, aka. The Folk, were a small and extremely radical sect that had emerged out of the United Societies after the Revolution of 1689-1690. What marked the Cotmuir Folk out was that women were influential in them. The were based at Cotmuir in Dalmeny parish, which lay just beyond Cramond Brig.

Map of former site of Cotmuir       Street View of former site of Cotmuir

The following hostile account of them comes from the presbyterian historian, Robert Wodrow, who was later famed for his History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland. Wodrow disliked what he saw as the extremes of the Society people, yet for much of his History he was reliant on them for accounts of sufferings.

The source for his information was James Wilson in Douglas parish, Lanarkshire, who was a member of the United Societies before the Revolution and a known associate of Alexander ‘Prophet’ Peden and Patrick Walker. The Cotmuir Folk were interested in Peden’s prophetic revelations and printed them in The Ravished Maid in the Wilderness, Or, A True Account of the Raise, Causes, and Continuuance of the Deference between A Suffering Party of Presbyterians, Commonly Called Cotmure Folk, and these that Follows Mr John MackMillan, Commonly called Mountain Men (1708). Like many Society people, Wilson clearly had little time for the Cotmuir Folk either, as women were influential in them. The central accusation against the Cotmuir Folk was that the Spritts had been in the Sweet Singers, another group primarily made up of women that relied of revelations and had irregular marriages with the Harleys/Harlaws that had produced one son.

‘May, 1710. — I find that the Harleys [Andrew and James?], that live in Cottmuir, are the authors of “The Burning Bush,” “Smoking Flax [in 1706],” and some other of these virulent papers. I heard ane accompt of them, that I cannot nou fully recollect, from James Wilson in Douglasse. The Spritts wer part of John Gibb’s follouers [around Bo’ness], and they wer marryed to the Harleys; the father to one of them, and the son, I think, to the other. They pretend to great revelations, and that one of the Spritts was to bring forth a son who was to deliver the world, and this Church in particular! They are dreadful cheats; they pretend to fastings, and yet eat in secret. Ninian Oliphant [one of the post-Revolution “Continuing” Societies] was proselyted by them for a week, and made to fast three dayes; and at lenth he discovered them eating in secret, and left them.’ (Wodrow, Analecta I, 272-3.)

For more on the Cotmuir Folk, see here.

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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

~ by drmarkjardine on October 28, 2017.

One Response to “The Radical Women of the Cotmuir Folk near Edinburgh in 1710 #History #Scotland”

  1. […] in 1691. It is here that the identification of William Harlaw may be pertinent. According to Wodrow in his brief report of 1710, “The Spritts wer part of John Gibb’s follouers [around Bo’ness in the 1680s], and they wer […]

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