Banished to New York: Seven Gypsies in 1682 #History #Scotland

•January 10, 2018 • 2 Comments

Scotland had draconian laws against travelling folk. Hostility towards “Egyptians” took off under King James VI, who was also famously opposed to Border Reivers, Gaelic-speaking Highlanders, alleged Witches, Protestant religious dissenters and tobacco smokers.

Edinburgh, 13 May 1682:

‘His Royall Highnes his Maties heigh Comisioner and lords of privie counsel being informed by the Earl off Dumfreis Shiref prin[cipa]ll of ye shyre of Aire that there are severall persones aprehendit within ye s[ai]d shyre as gipsies & vagabonds doe ordean ye s[ai]d seven persones to be transported from shiref to shiref to ye tolbooth of Ed[inbu]r[gh] … to be put in suire firmance till course be taiken for yr tryall’. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 125.)

On 29 August, 1682, the keeper of the Tolbooth addressed a supplication to the Privy Council in which he stated that seven gipsies were brought from the West [in Ayrshire] and have lain in prison these eleven weeks ‘without any subsistence but what they have had from the petitioner, and they being destitute as well of food as rayment are a very great burden to the petitioner, and their wives and children night and day lying in the oppen streets at the prison door which does not only grieve the petitioner but all the neighbours; and, although William Johnston got warrand from the Councill to transport them, yet now he altogither refuses.’ The petitioner therefore craves that the Council may take course ‘to frie the prison of Edinburgh of such vagabonds and either ordaine them to be sent to the plantationes or forraigne service.’ (RPCS, VII, 427, 537, 538.)

Some Gypsies were banished, either to the American Plantations, or into the Army. Both were viewed as an economically productive form of punishment by the elite.

It is alleged that the famous settlement of Gypsies at Kirk Yetholm was due to some gypsies in the Army saving the life William Bennet, younger, of Grubbet, at the Siege of Namur in 1695.

Banished to New York
On 21 October, 1682, the records of Edinburgh Tolbooth reveal:

The sex (sic, should be seven) Gipsies & other persones relived [i.e., sent out of the tolbooth] & sent to New york conforme to the recept following:

Receaved be me Samuell Muire ane of ye Corporalls of Captaine Grahames companie the persons of John Hamiltoun, Heugh Bailzie [i.e., Baillie], John Bailzie, James Bailzie younger, Gilbert Bailzie, Margaret Bailzie, Margaret Robertson Gipsies,

Jonnet Campbell, Marion Lawsone, Jonnet Mackie, Alexr Keith, Andro Hooge, Marion Buchanan, Jonnet Bruntoun, Jonnet Moriesone, David Milne, Alexr Broune, Andro Miller & Alieson Bell prisoners in the tolbooth of Ed[inbu]r[gh]

from Mr John Vans goodman of ye said tolbooth who ar ordained to be transported from ye s[ai]d tolbooth [of Edinburgh] to Greinock in order to yr transportation for new York I say reced by me
Sic Sub Sa[muel]: Moor’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 137-8.)

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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

Image: ‘A Gypsy Encampment’ by Thomas Austen Brown (1859-1924). © Copyright Glasgow Museums.


Dragoons in the Tavern in Dumfries in 1687 #History #Scotland

•January 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment


In 1687, five officers from His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons went drinking in Dumfries. Each of them doubtless had tales to tell of Covenanters they had pursued or killed … they also left a bill for the burgh to pay.

Mistress Rome, who kept the town’s tavern in Dumfries in 1687, charged the subjoined account against the Council that year:– “Spent with Lieutenant-Colonell [George] Windram, Captain Strauchane, Captain [Alexander] Bruce, Lievetenant [Lewis] Lauder, Leivetenant Livingstone, six pynts of wyne, with tobacco and pypes, £36 9s 4d.” (History of Dumfries, 487.)

That’s six Scottish pints, of course. The equivalent of fouteen-and-a-half modern bottles.

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The Fugitive James Nisbet at Carsgailoch #History #Scotland

•January 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment


The Covenanter James Nisbet, the son of Hardhill, also escaped government forces at Carsgailoch, a hill near New Cumnock, in 1685.

‘At Cargilloch’, i.e., Carsgailoch hill in [New] Cumnock parish.
Nisbet’s close encounter at Carsgailoch may be significant, as it was the hill where three Covenanters – John Jamieson, John Umphrey, Joseph Wilson – were killed in the summer of 1685.

Nisbet seems to have referred to the Carsgailoch killings in his spiritual autobiography in a passage on the death of a boy of fourteen near Cumnock and two others whose name he could not remember. Nisbet’s failure to name those killed probably indicate that he knew of their deaths, but did not personally know them. They were killed by Highlanders when returning from a field preaching by James Renwick somewhere in Galloway in the summer of 1685.

Map of Carsgailoch


James Nisbet’s Escapes in Nithsdale in July 1685 #History #Scotland

•January 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Friarminnan Meeting

Among the locations where the Covenanter James Nisbet narrowly escaped from government forces were two locations in Nithsdale, which appear to relate to one of James Renwick’s preachings in July, 1685.

‘At Frier-Midden-moor’, i.e., Friarminnan, Kirkconnel parish, Dumfriesshire.

Friarminnan was a very significant location in the history of the United Societies, as several general conventions were held there and at nearby Blackgannoch.

Map of Friarminnan

‘At Spangna-glen’, i.e., by the Spango Water.

Map of Spango Glen by Meikle Knypes

The Spango Water ran by the Societies’ site at Knypes. It appear that those locations probably relate to Mary Wilson’s rescuing of Nisbet at Friarminnan in July, 1685.

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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


The Notorious Traitor Gordon of Kinsture is Captured (Briefly) in 1684 #History #Scotland

•January 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment


Alexander Gordon of Kinsture/Kilsture was one of the men behind the notorious Sanquhar Declaration of 1680. He also subscribed the bond taken before the declaration and a reward of 1,000 merks was issued for his capture, dead or alive.

Kilsture was captured a short time prior to 9 June, 1684, and held at Dumfries by Captain-lieutenant Andrew Bruce of Earlshall, who commanded Claverhouse’s troop of horse. Three days later, the privy council wrote to Earlshall.

Extract from a letter from the Committee of the Privy Council in Edinburgh to the Laird of Earlshall in Dumfries of 12 June, 1684:

‘Sir, The Lords of the Comittie haveing considered your letter direct to my Lord Advocat from Dumfreis of the nynth instant, it is ther pleasure that yow examine [Alexander] Gordon of Kinsture was suspected to have been in the late rebellione and at the late treasonable declarations at Sanquhar [in 1680], and other persones who can give informatione against him thereanent, and, eftir yow have done so, yow are ordered to send in the said Gordon of Kinsture to the tolbuith of Edinburgh and the examination to the Clerks of Councill’ (RPCS, IX, 5.)

Earlshall never got his prisoner to Edinburgh, as Gordon was rescued at the Enterkin Pass.

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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



Blue on Blue: The Covenanter who Shot a Covenanter #History #Scotland

•December 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Semple Old Dailly 1685

In the annals of the Killing Times of 1685, Alexander Ferguson of Kilkerran is remembered for shooting dead John Semple, one of the Society people, at Eldington in April. What has not been noticed in the accounts of his death is that Kilkerran, who was about 70 when he fired the shot, had been imprisoned for presbyterian dissent a few years earlier …

In the records of Edinburgh Tolbooth under 15 March, 1682, is the following:

‘His Royall Highnes his Maties heigh Comissioner and lords of Counsell haveing considered the petition off Alexr fergusson of Kilkeran prisiouner in ye tolbooth off Ed[inbu]r[gh] doe in regaird of his age & infirmittie & long imprisonment And that no persones insists agt him vpon ye grounds of his imprissonment Ordean ye Magistrats of Edr or Keiper of ye tolbooth of Edr to sett him at libertie’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 121.)

Moderate presbyterians were complicit in the killing of some of the militant Society people.

For the story of the killing of John Semple, see here.

Image: Semple’s Grave at Old Dailly © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.


Swords of the Covenanters: In Lesmahagow Parish #History #Scotland

•December 30, 2017 • 7 Comments


In the mid Nineteenth Century, several swords of the Covenanters were held in Lesmahagow parish, Lanarkshire.

‘At Neu[c]k is preserved a Spanish trombuco or shoulder gun, with brass barrel and bell-shaped mouth; a plug dirk, being the origin of the bayonet; a claymore (claid-neamh-more), and other swords; a drum used at Drumclog in 1679; and a flag under which the men of Lesmahagow rallied at that engagement. The flag is of dark blue silk, with a St Andrew’s cross, in white, sewed to the upper corner next the staff. In the centre is inscribed, in red capital letters, “For Lesmahagow.” It is believed to be of older date than Drumclog, being probably made 1640 to 1650, when the levies of militia forces, or musters, as they were then called, were raised by the Convention of Estates of the Kingdom of Scotland; the Presbyterian clergy of that period acting in a great measure as recruiting sergeants, their contingent being arranged in districts or parishes under a distinguishing flag.’

Neuck was the home of John White, a forfeited Covenanter and fugitive.

Map of Neuck

‘At Auchlochan is preserved a fine Andrea Ferrara sword, of the rose pattern, worn by one of the ancestors of the present proprietor, and who is elsewhere described as a valiant Covenanter.’

The image of Auchlochan at the top of this post, is the house where the sword was held. Due to the cost of refurbishment, it was demolished in 2014. It was not the seventeenth-century house that was replaced by the house pictured above.

Thomas Brown in Auchlochan is said to have been a Covenanter.

‘Thomas Steel of Auchlochan’, ‘John Carscallan in Auchlochan’, ‘Thomas Weir in Auchlochan’ and a ‘Thomas Brown, son to William Brown in Town-foot of Auchlochan’ all appear on the Fugitive Roll of 1684.

Map of Auchlochan

‘At Birkwood are no fewer than seven Andrea Ferraras, several of which are known, from authentic evidence, to have been unsheathed during the cruel persecution. One of them belonged to David Steel, whose name stands out so heroically among the Lesmahagow martyrs. It was long traditionally known to have been hid in a moss near Skellyhill, and at last was discovered by accident, buried to the hilt.’

David Steel was a leading figure in the Society people and was killed attempting to escape from Skellyhill in 1686.

‘Another [sword at Birkwood] was worn at Bothwell Bridge by John M’Wharrie, a younger brother of the Laird of Scorryholm. He was apprehended long after the battle, and hanged, together with a James Smith, in a field near Kirkintilloch, where a tombstone is erected over their graves.’

MacQuarrie and Smith were actually hanged in Glasgow and their bodies displayed on a gibbet near Inchbelle Bridge close to Kirkintilloch in 1683.

Map of Birkwood

Miscellaneous Relics
‘The late Mr. Gavin Dalzell, draper in Abbeygreen, had in his possession a sword which belonged to an Ayrshire Covenanter; […] Amongst the miscellaneous objects of antiquarian interest in the parish is a powder horn, used at Bothwell Brig, and preserved at Brakenrig;’ (Greenshields, Annals of Lesmahagow Parish, 38-9.)

‘Brakenrig’ is now Brackenridge.

‘Robert Fleming, in Wester-Brackenrig’, and ‘George Jackson, in Brackenrig’, both appear on the Fugitive Roll of 1684.

Map of South Brackenridge

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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