The Wigtown Martyrs: The “Galloway” Memorandum of the Killing Times #History #Scotland

The following document is one that Sheriff Mark Napier used in the Nineteenth Century to deny that the two female Wigtown martyrs were drowned in the Killing Times. However, when you look at it, the document undermines Napier’s case…

Memorandum of the severall inroads of the souldiours through the Stewartrie of Galloway, since January 1679, as also of their severall garisons, and the number of men shot on the fields and execut on scaffolds during the said tymes.’

The document refers to cases in the Stewartry of Galloway, i.e., specifically to cases in the Stewartry, aka., Kirkcudbrightshire. It does not include cases from Wigtownshire, which is part of Galloway, but is not part of the Stewartry.

Under the year 1685, it lists the following events:

‘January 23d, 1685,—Cornal [James] Douglas, with a partie of horse, killed six men at the Calduns.’

Those were the killings of James Dun, Robert Dun, Andrew (or James) McCall, John McClive, John Stevenson and Thomas Stevenson at Caldons in Minnigaff parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.

‘The garisons of Earlstoune, Watterhead, and Machermoor, planted January 1685.’

Three new garrisons were established in Kirkcudbrightshire under the direction of Colonel James Douglas.

Earlstoun Castle in Dalry parish was the former home of the forfeited militant laird Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, who was imprisoned in Blackness Castle in 1685. His wife, Lady Earlstoun, was in exile in the Dutch United Provinces when Earlstoun was captured in mid 1683.

Map of Earlstoun Castle

Machermore Castle lies in Minnigaff parish and was the former home of the forfeited laird Patrick Dunbar of Machermore.

Map of Machermore

Margaret McLachlan, one of the Wigtown martyrs, was held for a period by the garrison at Machermore Castle in the spring of 1685.

The third new garrison was established at ‘Watterhead’, which was probably the Waterhead estate on the Ayrshire/Kirkcudbrightshire boundary and Carsphairn parish.

The documents continues:

‘Six men killed by [Robert Grierson of] Lag and his partie at Lockerbie [i.e., Lochenkit], February 19, 1685.’

Those were the killings of four Covenanters at Lochenkit in Kirkpatrick Durham parish: John Gordon, William Herron, William Stewart and John Wallace. It appears that the ‘six men’ mentioned above included the two men who were hanged at Hallhill on the following day. They are listed slightly out of sequence below the next entry on the list:

‘The 20th of February [1685] 2 hung upon trees at Irongray, by Captain[-lieutenant Alexander] Bruce.’

Those were the summary hangings of Edward Gordon and Alexander McCubine at Hallhill in Irongray parish. Their summary execution was directly connected to the killings at Lochenkit on 19 February.

‘The 21st day [of February, 1685] 5 men killed by him [i.e., Robert Grierson of Lag] and his partie at Kirkconnal.’

Those are the deaths of John Bell, James Clement, David Halliday, Robert Lennox and Andrew McRoberts at Kirkconnell Moor close to the boundary between Twynholm and Tongland parishes. The memorandum links the killings at Kirkconnell Moor to the Lochenkit killings and the Irongray hangings in two ways. First, it places those events on consecutive dates, 19, 20 and 21 February. Second, Lag was involved in both the Hallhill hangings and the deaths at Kirkconnell Moor.

The Highlanders brought to the countrie at the beginning of May.

The elivent of May [1685] a man shot at Newtowne [of Galloway] by Cornall [James] Douglas and his partie, who cam in the said tyme.’

The 11 May was the alleged date of the drowning of two women at Wigtown. On that day, Colonel James Douglas is said to have come to New Galloway in Kells parish and ordered the summary execution of Adam MacQuhan. It is possible that MacQuhan was either captured, or executed, soon after the Caldons incident in January, 1685, but the Stewartry source clearly dates his summary execution to 11 May.

In the mid Nineteenth Century, Sheriff Mark Napier made a great deal out of Douglas being at New Galloway on the same day that the drowning of the two women at Wigtown is alleged to have taken place. For Napier it proved that Douglas could not have been involved in the drownings and that the Wigtown Martyrs were a Presbyterian fabrication.

He was indulging in a diversionary tactic. Only one of the many Presbyterian sources for those executions, Alexander Shields’ A Short Memorial, identified Colonel Douglas as being in some way involved in how the women ended up being drowned. All the other sources which deal with the drowning incident consistently identified ‘Major Winram’, rather than Douglas, as present on that date.

‘June 11 [1685] Lag and a partie of drago[o]ns killed uther twa men near to the place [at Kirkconnell Moor] where he killed the 5 before.’

Those are the killings of David Halliday in Glengap and George Short in Twynholm or Tongland parish. Robert Grierson of Lag, and the militia under William Johnston, earl of Annandale, are said to have been involved in their deaths. The above mentioned Lag and ‘a partie of dragoons’ as participants in their deaths.

‘June 13 [1685] two regiments came to Newgallaway, and thereafter went to Minigaffe. They stayed twentie days [i.e., until 3 July], and killed a number of nolt and sheep, belonging to suffering men.’ (Printed in Napier, History Vindicated, lxxi.)

The mention of ‘two regiments’ probably denotes two companies of either horse, dragoons, foot or the militia. The appearance of the two companies at New Galloway and then Minnigaff corresponds with the capture of Gilbert and William McIlroy in neighbouring Penninghame parish, Wigtownshire. They were brought to Minnigaff where they were interrogated by the Earl of Home before being sent on to Barr kirk in Barr parish, Carrick, where they encountered Lieutenant-General William Drummond.

Sheriff Mark Napier’s Use of the Document in the Case of the Wigtown Martyrs
Napier argued that the list found in the document above corroborated the Lord Advocate George Mackenzie’s statement that only two women had been executed in the repression of the 1680s, i.e., the execution of Isobel Alison and Marion Harvie in 1681. Mackenzie’s statement could be evidence that the two female Wigtown Martyrs were not drowned.

The reason that Napier claimed that the ‘Stewartry of Galloway’ document corroborated Mackenzie’s statement was that the two drowned women, Margaret McLachlan and Margaret Wilson, did not appear in it.

Napier referred to the document as covering ‘Galloway’, rather than using the term Stewartry of Kirkcudbright that is clearly implied by the title of it. That is an important difference, as Galloway covers both Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire.

It is perfectly clear that Stewartry Memorandum only named those who died in Kirkcudbrightshire. It plainly does not cover Wigtownshire. As well as the two women drowned in Wigtownshire, it does not mention any of the other deaths in that shire, e.g., the deaths of Alexander Lin, William Johnston, John McIlroy and George Walker.

The Stewartry Memorandum is NOT evidence against the drowning of the Wigtown Martyrs, as it does not cover Wigtownshire, and therefore it does NOT corroborate Mackenzie’s statement that only two women were executed. Napier’s claim that it did corroborate Mackenzie’s statement is false.

~ by drmarkjardine on September 13, 2018.

3 Responses to “The Wigtown Martyrs: The “Galloway” Memorandum of the Killing Times #History #Scotland”

  1. […] Push Factor When Douglas arrived in Galloway with 200 soldiers in January, he planted three new garrisons at Machermore Castle, Earlstoun Castle and, crucially, at Waterhead. The latter lay within a few miles of Starr in Carsphairn parish and was the home of MacAdam of […]

  2. […] know that Hume’s militia left New Galloway and Minnigaff on c.3 July. A Presbyterian source records that on ‘June 13 [1685] two regiments came to Newgallaway, and thereafter went to Minigaffe. They […]

  3. […] fir trees, lay across the River Cree from Penninghame parish in Wigtownshire. The castle was one of three new small garrisons which were established, almost certainly by Colonel James Douglas and his 200 foot guards, in January, 1685. (The others […]

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