“The Fellow” Captured near Galston in 1685 #History #Scotland

Graham of Claverhouse

“The fellow” is a real mystery of the Killing Times of 1685. Who was he? What happened to him? And could he be the martyr known as James Smith?

What we know about “the fellow” was that he was held prisoner by John Graham of Claverhouse (pictured above) on c.2 May, 1685. That he had provided a halberd to John Brounen in March which was used at a muster of Covenanters at Cairn Table. We also know that he was captured at some point after that, probably on 1 or 2 May, 1685, as a result of Brounen telling Claverhouse about him.

But then the mystery deepens. We are told he was a prisoner, but not who captured him beyond that Claverhouse wrote that ‘we’ have him prisoner. Historians have no clear evidence about what happened to him.

Why does the story of “the fellow” matter? It matters because a martyr named James Smith may, and only may, be “the fellow”. In essence, it does not matter if “the fellow” was James Smith, as he was “the fellow” with his own story. Given that he supplied arms for rebellion, one would expect that he appears in the historical records, but Claverhouse never divulged a name.

At the root of this mystery is the possibility that a typesetting error misdated the death of James Smith to 1684, when it was in 1685. That hypothesis first appeared twenty-two years ago in Campbell’s Standing Witnesses. Campbell never suggested that “the fellow” was James Smith, but he did claim that Smith died as a result of a raid on Newmilns Tower in April, 1685.

It was in pursuit of Campbell’s hypothesis, that I first stubbled on the evidence of “the fellow”. When you look at the evidence for him, he could be James Smith if the latter died in 1685.

However, it is the responsibility of any historian to test their hypothesises to destruction. That is what is going to happen here. This is a window on the problems historians face when dealing with the fragmented sources of the Killing Times. There will be no definitive answer. It is up to you to decide what you think.

Is there any historical evidence to corroborate Campbell’s 1685 hypothesis that Smith died in 1685, not 1684? For what follows to be connected to Smith there must have been a typesetting error for the date for his death in A Short Memorial (1690).

What do we know about James Smith?
First, let us establish what we know about James Smith. He was a fugitive Covenanter who had fought at Bothwell Bridge in 1679 and lived at Threepwood near Galston. He was wounded by the dragoons of Captain John Inglis at Burn Anne by East Threepwood, apparently exhausted after from returning from a field preaching. He was taken by some route from where he was wounded to Mauchline, which lies six miles away as the crow flies. There he died as a prisoner of the Scottish Army. He is buried in the churchyard there under a gravestone probably erected in the early Eighteenth Century by the Continuing Society people. He may have died in 1685 if there is a typesetting error in Shields.

What do we know about “the fellow”?

Claverhouse’s Letter
There is circumstantial evidence that may point to Smith in a letter that Claverhouse wrote on 3 May, 1685.

Claverhouse’s letter was written after the Newmilns rescue, which took place on c.25 April. It indicates that after the raid, John Brounen had fled to his uncle, John Brown, at Priesthill. On 1 May, Brown and Brounen were captured in the moss near Priesthill by Claverhouse. Brown was summarily executed at Priesthill, while Brounen, after witnessing that, was subjected to a mock execution during which he offered to provide intelligence about those involved in the Newmilns rescue and those who had attended an earlier muster and field preaching at the back of Cairn Table in March.

“The Fellow”
The letter details that three men were Claverhouse’s prisoners between 1 to 3 May. One was John Brounen, who was taken at Priesthill in Muirkirk parish on 1 May. A second was identified as the goodman of High Plewlands in Evandale parish, a neighbour who had helped Brown in Priesthill to hide. The third, who is potentially of the greatest interest in this case, was simply described as “the fellow” who had provided Brounen with a halberd for the muster at Cairn Table on c.22 March, 1685. He was presumably captured as a result of Brounen’s intelligence.

When Claverhouse wrote on 3 May, he was at Galston, which lies about a mile-and-a-half from Smith’s home near East Threepwood.

Map of East Threepwood

Brounen was a Covenanter from the same parish as Smith. He probably knew his fellow fugitive from the Bothwell Rising of 1679 and both had been in hiding locally. It is clear that both men were alive when the Fugitive Roll was published in May, 1684.

Smith was listed as ‘James Smith, of Threpwood’ under Galston parish. Brounen was listed as the ‘younger’ of Richardton. Later tradition claimed that he lived at Lanfine. Both of those locations lie close to each other in Galston parish, about two or three miles from East Threepwood.

Map of Richardton

Claverhouse’s letter, which summarised some of Brounen’s intelligence, also states that those who had conducted the Newmilns prisoner rescue were sixty men mainly from Galston parish and from around Newmilns, i.e., Loudoun parish, with a few coming from Evandale parish. One would expect that the search for those involved in the rescue at Newmilns would be at its most intense in the parishes of Galston and Loudoun at the beginning of May.

“The fellow” had been specifically identified by Brounen’s intelligence as the person who had given him a halberd in March. He had been taken prisoner by 3 May.

Claverhouse and his men did not have time to prosecute a deep local search, as he reported that ‘if we had time to stay, good use might be made’ of Brounen’s confession.

Claverhouse did not write that he had personally captured “the fellow”, just that ‘we’ have him prisoner. It is possible that Brounen’s intelligence caused Claverhouse to order the local garrison under Captain Inglis to capture ‘the fellow’.

James Smith was shot by troops under Captain Inglis at Burn Anne. The evidence on his Mauchline gravestone states that he was only wounded there.

Captain Inglis’s troop of dragoons are also said to have shot John Smith “in Cronan” after the rescue at Newmilns Tower when intelligence led them to him. However, he was not taken prisoner, unlike “the fellow” and, apparently, James Smith.

Was the fugitive ‘James Smith, of Threpwood’ “the fellow”?

Circumstantial evidence suggests that he could have been, but there is no proof that he was. However, it is here that the letter takes a fascinating turn.

The Mauchline Connection
It appears that ‘the fellow’ was a prisoner in Galston on 2 or3 May. It is reasonably certain that the good man of High Plewlands, “the fellow” and the man who had given intelligence against them, were all held together there for a short time.

The fate of “the fellow” may shine a sidelight on his betrayer’s end. If “the fellow”/the good man of High Plewlands and Brounen were together as prisoners, as the evidence plainly suggests, then Brounen was directly faced with the consequences of his confession to Claverhouse. His encounter with “the fellow” may have some bearing on why Brounen was executed at Mauchline on 6 May, especially if “the fellow” died before Brounen’s trial. In that context, it is possible that Brounen had a change of heart over his cooperation with Claverhouse or taking the Abjuration oath.

In Claverhouse’s letter, he stated that ‘I, having no commision of justiciary myself, have delyvered him [John Brounen] up to the Lieuetenent Generall [William Drummond] to be disposed of as he pleases’. Brounen was a valuable prisoner providing intelligence about the Covenanters in the area and thus worthy of mention Claverhouse’s letter to Queensberry. What about the other two prisoners? Were they delivered ‘up to’ the Lieutenant-General?

Claverhouse was possibly piqued that he did not have a judicial commission to deal with his prisoners. He had to hand them over to someone with a commission, i.e., Lieutenant-General Drummond.

It is possible, but improbable, that Claverhouse took them with him the next day when he abruptly reversed the direction of his march and went back to Muirkirk parish where he had captured Brounen. There he probably made use of Brounen’s intelligence, as he captured prisoners connected with John Brown’s bunker at Priesthill. We know that a second group of prisoners en route to Mauchline were probably at the same location as Claverhouse when he returned to Muirkirk parish, as Peter Gillies, who was executed with Brounen on 6 May, left a letter at Midwellwood in the same parish. That means that on at least two occasions, Claverhouse had the chance to hand on ‘the fellow’ and the ‘goodman’ of High Plewlands to Drummond.

From Muirkirk, Claverhouse then went south via Nithsdale to Annandale and Eskdale.

Like Brounen, “the fellow” and the other prisoner were almost certainly delivered up to Drummond. Claverhouse did not need the burden of carrying them with him and had someone with a judicial commission nearby. He was also clearly in a hurry on 3 May, as he wrote that ‘if we had time to stay [in the Galston area], good use might be made’ of Brounen’s confession.

Mauchline

Where was Drummond?
We are not told where Drummond was when the prisoners were delivered up to him. He may have been in Galston and then moved to Mauchline. Two days later on 5 May, Drummond was certainly in Mauchline, which is only six miles from Galston.

At that moment in early May, it seems that the fate of all the prisoners taken by Drummond, Claverhouse and the Highlanders converged on Mauchline, which is the only time that we know for sure that prisoners were collected there. That does not mean that Smith did not die there in 1684. It means that there is a potential context for Smith’s death there in 1685.

It is clear that ‘the fellow’ was not executed with Brounen and the other Mauchline martyrs on 6 May, as the other four hanged at Mauchline came from much further to the east. That may indicate that he had already died, or was near death, on that date. However, it could also indicate that the case against him was not enough to merit execution and that he was sent on to Edinburgh.

If “the fellow” died at Mauchline, then his body was probably eligible for burial in the churchyard as he had not been convicted of a treasonable crime. Smith is buried in the churchyard. The five Mauchline martyrs who were convicted of treasonable offences before Drummond were buried below the gallows.

James Smith Grave

It is at this point that one has to look again at Campbell’s hypothesis that there is a typesetting error that has been transferred onto the gravestone of James Smith:

‘HERE LIES
intered the corpse of JAMES
SMITH who was wounded by
Captain Ingles, and his Drag-
oons, at Burn of Ann in kyle,
and there after died of his wounds
in Mauchline prison for his adhe
arance to the word of GOD and
scotland’s Covenanted Work
of reformation, A.D. 1684’

If we change the date to 1685 in line with that hypothesis, then it is possible that “the fellow” was James Smith. Smith was wounded when being taken prisoner, was moved to Mauchline and died there.

Wodrow’s James Smith?
We know that “the fellow” who gave Brounen the halberd had probably attended the muster to practice using them which was held at a field preaching by James Renwick at the back of Cairn Table hill in March.

Wodrow may provide some evidence that Smith may have attended a field preaching not long before his death. In a garbled entry that is probably about James Smith under the year 1684, he recorded that there were no field conventicles ‘but what Mr [James] Renwick kept’ in 1684.

‘John Smith [which appears to be an error for James Smith], who had been at a conventicle, in his return falling sick, sat down in the fields. A party of soldiers coming that way, without any probation or process, or any further ceremony, shot him in the fields where they got him.’

The entry in Wodrow is probably about James Smith who was reported to have died 1684, as both John Smiths were killed in 1685. Yet again, we have the same possible typesetting error, as Wodrow’s source for the date was probably Shields/Cloud of Witnesses, which simply stated that ‘Captain Ingles and his dragoons pursued and killed James Smith at the burn of Ann in Kyle, 1684.’ Where Wodrow got the information that Smith had been at a field preaching and had fallen sick in the fields is not known.

If the entry is about James Smith, then Wodrow’s date for it is probably based on Shields/Cloud, which may contain the typesetting error of 1684 instead of 1685. Of course, it is entirely possible that the 1684 date is correct and that Wodrow added to our knowledge of why Smith was shot then.

The Preaching
However, what if we change the context for Wodrow’s information to 1685 in line with Campbell’s hypothesis? Is there a possible preaching that Smith could have attended in Campbell’s time frame for his capture after the rescue at Newmilns on c.25 April?

At that time, both James Renwick and Alexander Peden were active field preachers. Renwick field preached at Cairn Table, probably on 22 March, which would be too early for Smith to have died attending it.

However, there is a better candidate that accords with Campbell’s time frame. On Sunday 26 April, Alexander Peden held a house conventicle at a young gentleman’s house somewhere in the hills in the east of Ayrshire. From clues that Nisbet provided, the house may have been close to the Glenmuir Water on the boundary between Cumnock parish and Auchinleck parish, which is about 12 miles as the crow flies from East Threepwood. (A later unreliable tradition claims that Smith travelled 14 miles across dreary moors to reach a preaching to have his child baptised.)

When the dragoons arrived at the house where Peden had preached, a long and gruelling pursuit followed across the hills. The Covenanter, James Nisbet, left a dramatic account of that and how he and others were pursued for about thirty miles. During that they encountered two parties of dragoons and a large party of foot and horse. He also encountered John Graham of Claverhouse’s force of horse and Highlanders within days, before he collapsed through sickness and exhaustion.

The Dilemma
All the historical evidence indicates that Smith died in 1684, unless there was a missed typesetting error in Shields’ A Short Memorial in 1690.

If there was a typesetting error, then the “the fellow” could be James Smith, as he fits the pattern of the evidence for the death of Smith.

You decide …

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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 April 22, 2018.

2 Responses to ““The Fellow” Captured near Galston in 1685 #History #Scotland”

  1. […] the question of “the fellow”, a mysterious prisoner held by John Graham of Claverhouse in early … […]

  2. […] He confessed that he had ane halbart and told who gave him it about a month agoe, and we have the feleou prisoner. (Perhaps James Smith.) […]

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