The Polmadie Martyrs: A Widow’s Petition in 1689 #History #Scotland

Polmadie 1685

In early 1689, Jennet Howie petitioned the Convention of Estates about Major John Balfour’s killing of her husband, John Urie, and two others at Polmadie near Glasgow in May, 1685:

Indorsed ‘1689.’

‘To the Honourable Meeting of the Estates of the Kingdom of Scotland,

The Humble Petition of Jennet Howie, relict of umquhill John Urie, slain at Polmodie, near Glasgow,

Sheweth, —
That, whereas Lievtenant Coll. Balfour, of whose cruel and insolent oppressions and persecutions, as a very active tool and instrument of the tyrannie of these bygone years, many poor widowes and orphans have had long just reason to complain, is now, upon suspicion of his evil designs against the government, committed to prison; whence by imposing upon your honours clemency, if his crimes be not known or considered, he may seek to be released upon baile:

your poor petitioner finds her self constrained in conscience, in all humility, to represent to your Honours that about four years ago, in or about [May — interlined] in the year one thousand, sex hundred and eighty five, the said Lievenant Coll. Balfour came with his souldiers under his command to Polmodie, and took your petitioner’s husband, John Urie, from his work, with other two honest and innocent men, Thomas Cook and Robert Tam, against whom nothing could be charged deserving either death or bonds, and most unjustly and inhumanely without any trial, conviction, or colour of law, caused them all three be shot dead in the field, not permitting them to end their prayers to God, which they desired to put up before death, nor regarding their oun intreaties, nor the intercession of Captain [James] Maitland then present on their behalf, requesting for God’s sake to spare them a litle, to which the said Lievtenant Coll. Balfour ansured. For God’s sake they shall die, and not be spared.

And, after this horrid action was done, [he] would not suffer your poor petitioner, nor any of their friends, to come near their corpse, nor either sheet or coffin to be given to any of them, but caused break their coffins coming from Glasgow.

May it therefore please your Honours to consider the premisses, and commisserate the cries of a poor widow, and her fatherless child, begging for God’s sake that this bloody man may not be suffered to escape justice, but be kept in custody until your Honours shall find conveniency to take cognizance of the like grievances. And your petitioner shall ever pray, &c.’

(EUL Laing MSS., vol. 350, No. 249. Printed in Hay Fleming, Six Saints, II, 231-2.)

Jennet Howie’s petition provides corroboration for the historical sources such as Shields’ list in 1690 (above) that stated that they were executed by Balfour.

Polmadie Village

Major Balfour may have had justification for his summary executions in Polmadie.

Street View of former site of seventeenth-century Polmadie

The diary of Colin Alison mentions that after the preaching at Black Loch in June 1684, he left his arms at Polmadie before he returned to Glasgow. The weaving hamlet of Polmadie may have been was a refuge for Society people prior to 1685.

On Tuesday 19 August, 1684, the privy council ordered several Society people to ‘be processed and indicted before the justices, that they may be proceeded against according to law’. Among them were ‘Robert T[h]om in Carmanock paroch’ and ‘John Urie, maltman in Glasgow’. Both men possibly escaped with a group of prisoners within a week.

On 28 August, 1684, governments forces were ordered to seize or bring in one ‘ —– Tom in Polmadie, Little Giveand or Glasgow’ who appears to have been at James Renwick’s preaching near Greenock earlier in the month. (RPCS, IX, 131.)

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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 April 25, 2018.

One Response to “The Polmadie Martyrs: A Widow’s Petition in 1689 #History #Scotland”

  1. […] Many of those on the “Carolina Merchant” can be identified. They included Robert Urie who may have been known to the contingent from the Little Govan area. A John Urie was summarily executed at Polmadie in May, 1685. The latter’s widow, Jennet Howie, later petitioned the Privy Council. […]

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