The Lost Gravestone of the Covenanter James Smith #History #Scotland


Is this where a Covenanter was shot and buried in the Killing Times?

In Simpson’s mid-nineteenth-century Traditions of the Covenanters, he claimed that James Smith was buried at East Threepwood, aka. Wee Threepwood, beside Burn Anne in Ayrshire:

‘This martyr was buried on the spot where his blood was shed; a stone, with inscription, was laid upon his grave, which is now overgrown with moss; but a thicket of whins, the prickly guardians of this lonely sepulchre, marks the place where his ashes rest.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 125.)

Map of East Threepwood

Later, in 1996, Thorbjörn Campbell recorded the alleged fate of Smith’s gravestone at East Threepwood:

‘Another tradition is that his tombstone was dislodged and thrown into Burn Ann by a frolicsome herdboy, and that it was broken into several pieces. One fragment, marked JS 1684 (or 1685) was recovered and built into the steading at Wee Threepwood.’ (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 103.)

Campbell’s source for that information appears to have been J.A. Hendrie’s History of Galston Parish Church (1909), 82-3.

I will leave it up to you to decided how credible a story that a ‘frolicsome herdboy’ smashed the stone and that only a fragment conveniently marked ‘J.S. 1684’ survived is.

However, it has vanished. Campbell continues:
‘No such stone is evident nowadays at Wee Threepwood which for about two hundred years has been merely a pile of rubble on the lands of Threepwood Mains [aka. West Threepwood/Threepwood]. A much later tombstone, unconnected with Smith, is discoverable in the thick grass under a large tree just beside the site. A tombstone to Smith might yet turn up there.’

East Threepwood has only been rubble for about a hundred years. It was extant in 1905, when it was photographed, and appears on the OS map surveyed in 1894. It does not appear on the 1937 OS map.

The Lost Stone Marked ‘J.S. 1684’
A stone inscribed ‘J.S. 1684’ (or possibly ‘1685’ according to Campbell) is said to have been a fragment of his gravestone which was built into the wall of East Threepwood prior to 1909. This stone is now lost.

If this was Smith’s gravestone it was of a very simple style, rather than one of the inscription-heavy stones carved by the Continuing Society people in the Eighteenth Century. They erected detailed gravestones on almost every martyr who died in the Killing Times.

The stone marked ‘J.S.1684’ was probably not a gravestone.

It may have been a lintel stone from his house. A stone marked ‘Praise God’ and ‘J– S– 1709’ marked the Covenanter John Steel’s building of a house in Lesmahagow parish. (Greenshields, Annals of Lesmahagow, 121.)

It is also possible that it was a marker stone for the traditional location for where he was wounded or killed. A similar stone marked ‘1685’ marks a field preaching site in nearby Muirkirk parish.

A stone marked ‘W. Smith’ marks where William Smith was shot in 1685, but not where he is buried.

Two other stones marked ‘James Renwick’ and ‘Peden 1681’ also identify traditional field preaching sites further south.

What all those stones have in common is that they do not mark Covenanter grave sites.

However, the main problem with the lost “gravestone” at East Threepwood is that there is another gravestone to Smith at Mauchline.

According to Campbell:

‘A tombstone to James Smith does exist at Mauchline. The epitaph on that stone states that he was “wounded by Captain Ingles, and his Dragoons, at the Burn of Ann in kyle, and there after died of his wounds in Mauchline prison.” This tombstone looks authentic.’

It does:

James Smith Grave
Photograph © The Glebe Blog

The Mauchline Gravestone
We can probably dismiss any suggestion that the Mauchline gravestone is not authentic. The residents of Mauchline had little need to ‘create’ a martyr for their town, as they already had five documented martyrs of the Killing Times. The details in the inscription are specific to Smith, even though the other early and traditional sources do not connect him to a burial in Mauchline.

The Mauchline gravestone is an inconvenient fact for the claim he was killed and buried at Burn Anne. It cannot be wished away.

Its existence was first recorded in 1852, yet, somehow, it was not included in late-nineteenth century inventories of martyr graves. The inscription has all the hallmarks of having been produced by the Continuing Society people in the first half of the Eighteenth Century and draws on the text of Shield’s A Short Memorial of 1690. However, it does add that Smith ‘thereafter died of his wounds in Mauchline prison’. In other words, the wounded Smith was brought from East Threepwood/Burn Anne to Mauchline, which lie about six miles apart.

Return to Homepage

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 April 2, 2018.

6 Responses to “The Lost Gravestone of the Covenanter James Smith #History #Scotland”

  1. Seems pretty convincing.

  2. […] have discussed the “lost” East Threepwood gravestone in a previous post and concluded that it probably marked where he was shot. It almost certainly did not mark the site of his […]

  3. […] was built into the wall of Threepwood farm. It has now disappeared, according to Campbell. If this was Smith’s gravestone, it was of an unusual and primitive type. The evidence suggests tha…. (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 103; Simpson, Traditions, […]

  4. […] known as James Smith was buried in a marked grave at Wee Threepwood in neighbouring Galston parish. However, it turns out that James Smith already had a gravestone in Mauchline, where he had died of his wounds. He may be “the fellow” Claverhouse sent on to Mauchline. It […]

  5. I used to live near Threepwood, 50 odd years ago. At the ruins of East Threepwood Farm was an inscribed stone. Sadly, I can’t remember the inscription but definitely do remember its existence in the late 60s.

    • Hi Jim, thanks for that information, it is really useful. I do not doubt your memory of an inscribed stone at Threepwood in the 60s. A number of people have said that. My argument is that it records his killing, rather than his official gravestone, which is certainly in Mauchline. I think it may have been along the lines of J S 1684 (possibly 1685?) rather than the usual Continuing Societies format as found on the Mauchline grave. It is a complex trail. I accept there was a stone at Threepwood, but I think he was actually buried at Mauchline. Best M

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.