The Pentland Rising of 1666: Executed at Ayr on 27 December #History #Scotland

Five days after six were executed in Edinburgh for the Pentland Rising, seven Covenanters were hanged and beheaded in Ayr. All of those who were executed were from Galloway. At around the same time, General Tam Dalyell shot David Finlay at Newmilns.

Seven* were executed at Ayr on 27 December, 1666
A gravestone was erected to them in the Auld Kirk of Ayr churchyard between 1702 and 1714, and replaced in 1814 and renewed more recently. It was recorded in the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1714.

*Cornelius Anderson, tailor in Ayr, was forfeited, but he was not executed. After the Ayr hangman ran away and the Irvine hangman refused to conduct the executions, Anderson had to execute his comrades at both Ayr and Irvine. (Hewison, Covenanters, II, 210-11.)

For an account of how the prisoners were dealt with at Ayr, see the letter from the Earl of Rothes in the Lauderdale Papers, I, 266-8.

25. John Graham, servant to John Gordon of Midtown [in Old Clachan of Dalry], Dalry parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.
No martyrs’ testimony has survived.

26. James Smith in Old Clachan of Dalry, Dalry parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.
No martyrs’ testimony has survived.

27. John Short in Dalry parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.
No martyrs’ testimony has survived.

28. Alexander MacMillan (or MacCulloch) in Carsphairn parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.
No martyrs’ testimony has survived. Hewison named him as MacCulloch, but the rescinding of his forfeiture (1690) and his gravestone (1702 to 1714) name him as MacMillan.

29. James MacMillan ‘in Marduchat’, Carsphairn parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.
Said to be ‘in Marduchat’, i.e., in Muirdrockwood. No martyrs’ testimony has survived.

Map of Muirdrockwood

Muirdrochwood was the home of Robert Cannon of Mardrogat.

He received particular criticism for betraying Cameronians after 1679 in a set of papers from Carsphairn parish, many of which came from individuals in the parish named MacMillan. I am very grateful to Dr Louise Yeoman for sending me a copy of a paper she gave which contains intriguing information on the Ayr executions in 1666 from those potentially Cameronian papers collected in Carsphairn parish in c.1689:

“Agnes Bannoch wrote her account on the back of a letter from a young man called John Macmillan to his mother. As the young man seemed to be intending a career as a minister, it made me wonder if the letter was from the John Macmillan of Balmaghie – and if she was his mother but I have no proof of this. Her account of her sufferings tell how she had sustained oppression since the 66 year – i.e., after Rullion Green. She was later forced to leave her house in the winter time and to wander ‘with my child in my airm’, which if it was John Macmillan of Balmaghie explains a lot. She writes of how after the death of my husband she had to pay ‘ten merks to Sergeant Colloch which loss was nothing to the losse of my husband which was taken by [Captain?] William Kennedie… out of his bed which was taken to Ayr and execute’.”

What is clear is that Agnes Bannoch, or Bennoch, was married to a MacMillan prior to his execution in 1666. The only two Covenanters from Carsphairn parish who were executed at Ayr were Alexander MacMillan (or MacCulloch) and James MacMillan in Muirdrochwood. A John MacCoul from Carsphairn parish was also tried at Ayr with the MacMillans, but he was hanged and beheaded in Irvine. No other Covenanters from Kirkcudbrightshire were executed in Ayr. It is clear that Agnes Bennoch was married to one of the two executed MacMillans from Carsphairn parish.

Bannoch, or Bennoch, was a very rare surname in Galloway and Dumfriesshire. A James Bennoch was killed at Ingleston in Glencairn parish in April 1685.

As her husband was forfeited, all his (and thus her) property was confiscated. She would have been cast out of her home and in desperate straits. Where Agnes Bennoch went to after she was cast out of her home is not known, but she possibly went to kin who were prepared to take her and her young child in during the dearth of winter.

The famous John McMillan is supposed to have been born in c.1669. If he was her son, and it is an if, then he may have been born in 1667 after his father’s death. He also had a brother. ‘a plain countryman’ according to Wodrow’s vivid description, who could, perhaps, be Bennoch’s ‘child in my airm’. (Wodrow, Analecta, I, 290.)

Where John McMillan was born and/or brought up in Kirkcudbrightshire is a matter of considerable debate.

The author of A Cameronian Apostle presented credible evidence he was ‘born, and lived as separatist [i.e., one of the militant Society people]’ in Kells parish, the neighbouring parish to Carsphairn and easily accessible from it, and was known to the minister of Kells parish from 1692. (A Cameronian Apostle, 13-14.)

Later tradition claims he was born at Barncauchlaw, now Barncaughla, in Minnigaff parish in c.1669. His name does not appear on the parish list of 1684 when he may have been about fifteen (or seventeen) under what appears to be the same location, i.e., “Barncable” by Glenamour. (Parish Lists of Wigtownshire and Minnigaff, 41.)

In c.1689, Agnes Bannoch was back in Carsphairn parish, at which time her child/children by the executed MacMillan would have been an adults in their early twenties and making their own way in the world.

30. George MacCartney in Blairkennie/ Blairkenny/ Blaikit, Urr parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.
No martyrs’ testimony has survived. His close kin George MacCartney of Blaikit was later forfeited.

Map of Blaikit

31. James Muirhead in Irongray parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.
No martyrs’ testimony has survived.

Unfortunately for Cornelius Anderson, his grim task of executing his fellow Covenanters was not finished. He had hangings and beheading to conduct in Irvine …

32. David Finlay was shot ‘at Belmoynock’ near Newmilns, Loudoun parish, in December, 1666.
No grave is known. General Thomas Dalyell, who is said to have killed Finlay, was at Kilmarnock on 27 December, the day of the executions in Ayr, which is near Newmilns. Dalyell’s letter testifies to his hostility to the local population. (Lauderdale Papers, I, 266.)


~ by drmarkjardine on December 27, 2018.

2 Responses to “The Pentland Rising of 1666: Executed at Ayr on 27 December #History #Scotland”

  1. […] After the Edinburgh executions, seven Pentland rebels from Galloway were hanged in Ayr… […]

  2. […] days after he had executed seven of his rebel comrades at Ayr, Cornelius Anderson hanged and beheaded two more Covenanters in Irvine, probably at the mercat […]

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