The Calm Before the Storm: Ayrshire in 1679 #History #Scotland


In the weeks before the Presbyterian Rising of 1679, Captain James Murray of His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons was busy in Ayrshire pursuing those suspected of assisting the field preacher, John Welsh, to evade capture. Murray was responding to the general belief among the Army commanders, that Welsh would head the rebellion. He should have been looking elsewhere, as the Covenanters who did start the rebellion had just struck at Newmilns in Ayrshire …

The evidence of Murray’s activities comes in letter from him to the Earl of Linlithgow, the commander of the Scottish Army, of 21 April, 1679. The letter reveals how frustrated Murray was with the lack of judicial action against the followers of Welsh in Ayrshire.

‘Letter from Captain [James] Murray [of Philiphaugh] to the Earle of Linlithgow anent the killing & wounding of the Kings sojers at New Mills.

Aire, [Monday] Appril 21, 1679.

My Lord,
Yours [i.e., his letter] I receaved wpon firiday last [18 April] abowt 6 in ye afternoon, & wpon Saturndayse night [19 April] I sent three parties to ye cowntrie for apprehending thoise persones included in my order, as alsoe I mead a search for thoise qo were recidentors here in Town [of Ayr], bwt all I gote wes one William Thomsone tenent in Monibold [? probably Maybole], ane active man in all ye rebelliows meetings, & swbstantiows, & one John Mackerrall in Mackelstowne [i.e., Mackailston] tenent to ye Laird of Kirk[-]michell qo profferred 30 dollers to ye comander of ye partie to dispence with his escaipe.

And in ye Town [of Ayr] I gote none but one Andrew Makclellin, Merchand, & ye schoolmister Adamsone, all ye rest bying flede, w[hic]h maikes me verrie apprehensive of y[ou]r intelligence, thowgch I cane not divyne q[uha]t way,

this day [Monday 21 April] I have sent a partie to Wewing [i.e., Irvine] in disgwise, hoping to meet with some of thoise I cowld not find here, yr byng a great merket yr. My Lord it is thowght strainge yt in ye shyre of Aire & Wigtowne yr is not a mane intercommwned or declared fwgitive;

I have receaved no comands conserning thoise two indwlged ministers ye one intertaining [John] Welch [formerly of Irongray] in his howse, ye other in his pwlpite, yr is one Mr Yownge licensed by ye indwlged ministers contraire to lawe to preach at Cilmamoch [i.e., Kilmarnock] & ane other Mr [John] Gilchryst in ye Chwrch of Carsfarne [Carsphairn] which I jwdge a high contempt of Awthoritie,

lykwyse yt Thomas Cennitie [Kennedy] of Grange in Carrik hes been at severals conventikles & baptized childring yr, thowgch he gaive in bond to ye contraire to ye committie at Aire,’

Kennedy of Grange was later forfeited for marching with John Welsh’s Carrick men to the Bothwell Rising.

‘lykwyse yr is yt ladey Cornehill [i.e., Mary Stewart, Lady Corsehill] a great interteaner of Mr [John] Welch, & keeps a chapling, Mr William Wallis, qo hes extreamlye oftine been at those rebelliows meetings.

My lord I cane name a great many gentlemen qo hes entertained Welch, if ye cownsell will say anay thing to yem, I wish with all my hart I had a generall order, for apprehending all thoise yt have receste Welch & others qo have been lived irregwlerly & freqwents feild meetings & entertaines vagrant preachers, yen I showld bee jealowse of none for intelligence, but blaime my owne condwct in caise of noe succeese, but Ill bege yowr lord[shi]p pardone for this, qo ame not in ye least to prescribe rwles to yowr lord[shi]p or his Maj[estie]s Cownsell qo wants not both airt & candore in all effaires.’

Murray men were busy pursuing the network of supporters of John Welsh in Ayrshire, but as his letter continues, he describes how they encountered something new in the fields, the militant Covenanters who followed Richard Cameron, Thomas Douglas and Robert Hamilton, when they attacked soldiers at Newmilns….

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Additional 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 July 21, 2018.

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