The Trial of a Militant Covenanter & the Rye House Plots of 1683 #History #Scotland

•July 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment


If an account in Wodrow’s Analecta is to be believed, then the 1683 trial in Kilmarnock of the militant Covenanter John Nisbet “in Glen” was, in part, a set up, to bring down moderate-presbyterian Ayrshire lairds who were set to be members of the jury. However, here we enter the labyrinth of Restoration politics and plots …

Was that later story a cover up? Was it a cover story for moderate presbyterian skullduggery in the Rye House Plots planning a rising against Charles II?

The Trial of John Nisbet
The key details in the story is the trial of John Nisbet in Glen in late March/very early April, 1683. Major Andrew White was granted justiciary power to try him on 22 March and Nisbet was executed on 4 April. As we know little of the trial of Nisbet, any fragment of information about it is valuable.

One mystery surrounding it, is why he was tried in Kilmarnock, rather than in Edinburgh? The charges Nisbet faced were common in treason trials at that time and there is no obvious local dimension to them. The story Wodrow tells may suggest that some in authority wanted the trial to be held in Ayrshire with the specific goal of testing the loyalties of local Presbytrian lairds in the expectation that they would profit from their downfall and forfeiture.

However, much of Wodrow’s account depends on an alleged conversation between James Crawford of Ardmillan and the nephew of David Montgomery of Lainshaw.

Was Ardmillan telling the truth? Or was it cunning ploy by him to put Lainshaw to flight?

Or was it a story put out by Lord Lisle, the son of David Montgomery of Lainshaw, to justify, or muddy the waters of, his father’s role in the Rye House Plots against Charles II?

All of the above could be true. Perhaps all of them tell different parts of the story.

The Lainshaw Story
In September, 1722, Wodrow reported that:

‘Mr Robert Millar tells rne, that he had this account from [Montgomery of] Langshau, nou Lord Lisle, who had it from his father [David Montgomery of Lainshaw], who was one of the gentlmen: That the occasion of the trouble the West country gentlmen met with, 1683, or therabout, viz. [Sir Hugh Campbell of] Cesnock, [Sir William Mure of] Rewallan, Langshau, &c,

after [George Gordon the earl of] Aberdeen was made Chancelor [in late 1682], he sent for John Boyle of Kelburn, and would have him to sup with him; and that night enquired very particularly at him anent all the gentlmen in the shire of Air who favoured the Presbyterians, and had good estates, and yet wer so regular and loyall, as they could not be reached by the then laues, and concerted and formed a designe with the said gentlmen to reach them.

Langshau was to be called to be one of the assize to sit of John Nisbet [in Glen], who was to be processed before Major [Andrew] White’s Court at Kilmarnock [in late March or early April, 1683]; which, if he refused, which they expected he would, the Major was to send a party of horse, and seize him; and paralel methods wer to be taken with other gentlmen, to ensnare them.’

It appears that Lainshaw was to sit on the jury at the trial of Nisbet in late March or early April, 1683, but, as we shall see, he fled Scotland before it took place. Presumably, Lainshaw was going to find it problematic to find Nisbet guilty. That was not because Nisbet was innocent of the charges that he faced, which he was almost certainly guilty of. It was probably due to one or two factors. First, Lainshaw probably doubted that some of the charges constituted treason at all. Second, Lainshaw was probably involved in treasonable negotiations at that time and may have feared that he would be captured.

Nisbet had allegedly been in the rebellion of 1679. When captured in 1683, he owned that the Bothwell Rising was legal and in self defence. Perhaps the moderate-presbyterian Lainshaw had few problems with Nisbet’s views on that. However, Nisbet had gone further under interrogation, as he disowned royal authority and owned the militant ministries of Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill who had treasonably forfeited and excommunicated the King. Usually moderates like Lainshaw had very few problems disavowing the supporters of that militant platform in 1683. But there was a third issue with Nisbet’s trial. Soon after it, Nisbet disputed that he was guilty of ‘self murder’, i.e., that he was martyring himself. In other words, the evidence of Nisbet’s alleged treason was only of his stated opinions, his failure to answer questions, rather than “hard facts” that he had actually committed any treasonable act. Lainshaw could have had a problem with that, as the same could be applied to him and his fellow moderate gentry. It appears that Lainshaw could have foreseen the potential bear trap that Nisbet’s trial had set for him and other moderate presbyterians on the jury.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh an enemy apparently warned him of the danger:

‘[James] Crauford of Ardmillan, and another who lived and made their fortunes by spo[o]king the shire of Air, fearing some concert ‘twixt Kelburn and the Chancelor, when so much and late together, that might interfer with their gain, resolved to wait his coming out from the Chancelour, and, if possible, to get the secret from him. Accordingly, they catched him, and plyed him hard that night with the bottle, till at length, (post vinum Veritas, ) he opened and told them the secret concert ‘twixt them, against the above-mentioned gentlmen and others.

Ardmillan, finding he was not to share the spoil, nixt morning met with John Caldwell of that Ilk on the street, nepheu to [David Montgomery of] Langshau, then at Edinburgh, and acquainted him with the concert and designe against his uncle as above, who immediately took his horses and rode west to Langshau [in Ayrshire], and acquainted his uncle; who, finding hou matters wer like to go, nixt day took his horse and rode for London, taking Rewallan and Cesnock in his way as he went; and to them he discovered the designe, who in a week or therby folloued him, seing there was noe safety at all to be had in Scotland, let them be never so regular or loyall.’

Events appear to have moved quickly. As soon as he nephew rode to Lainshaw, he fled the next day for London. On the way he warned Rowallen, Hugh Campbell, elder of Cessnock, and, probably, George Campbell, younger of Cessnock. It is remarkable that all of these gentlemen were prepared to fly at relatively short notice to evade entrapment at the trial of a militant presbyterian. Were they, too, aware of the bear trap? Or were they aware they were about to depart for London anyway to plot an insurrection of their own? Perhaps the earl of Aberdeen was right to try and flush them out.

‘When at London [in April, 1683], they fell in to the acquaintance and conversation with the Earl of Shaftsburry and others, who wer upon Monmouth’s party for the liberty of the subject, and against the Duke of York, and wer present at [a] meeting with them and others, for which they wer afterwards processed.

Thus gentlmen wer first attacked, when living peacably at home, and threatned with ruin, and forced to fly the country, and then forfaulted for sham-plots. Langshau was a person to whom Shaftsburry used to give great incomiums for his great abilitys. He was forced to fly to Dublin, and live privately there for some years, till the Tolleration [in 1687]. (Wodrow, Analecta, II, 365-6.)

Whig Plots in London

The London element of the story is intriguing. Lainshaw had apparently been lauded by the earl of Shaftesbury. As the earl fled London for the United Provinces in late November, 1682, and died there in January, 1683, i.e., months before Lainshaw and the other gentlemen fled, it appears that Lainshaw had met Shaftesbury in London or the United Provinces before the latter’s death.

Lainshaw and some of the other named Ayrshire lairds who fled with him were involved in meetings with Monmouth’s party in April, 1683, i.e., immediately after they journeyed to London. Those meetings were part of the Rye House Plots about launching a joint Scottish and English insurrection against the King and raising money for the Earl of Argyll to do so in Scotland. (Greaves, Secrets of the Kingdom, 164-5.)

In May to June, 1685, Lainshaw and other gentlemen were forfeited in absentia by Parliament in Scotland for their part in those meetings in London.

Lainshaw was forfeited the following lands and his title:

‘the ten merk land of Lainshaw and teinds thereof, the ten merk land of Kirkbride, with the mill and pertinents, the five pound land of Milnton of Flett, the five merk land of Over and Nether Peacock lands, with the mill and pertinents, with the tower and fortalice called Castle Stewart [Lainshaw Castle?], and lands of Brokholmer, all lying within the bailiary of Cunninghame and sheriffdom of Ayr; and the lands of Over Castleton, extending to a three merk land, with the teinds and pertinents, lying within the said bailiary and sheriffdom, all formerly pertaining to the said David Montgomery, sometime of Lainshaw.’ (RPS, 1685/4/77.)

Somehow the trial of a militant Covenanter, John Nisbet in Glen, had led to the flight and later forfeiture of several high-profile and moderate-presbyterian Ayrshire lairds.

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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 Assassin Andrew Gullane is Executed in Edinburgh, 1683 #History #Scotland

•July 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

One of the assassins of Archbishop Sharp was discovered in hiding near Edinburgh and executed.

On 14 June, 1683, he was warded into Edinburgh Tolbooth:
‘You are upon sight heirof to receive the body of Andrew gullian ane of the murthers of the late Archbishope of Stantandrosse (sic) [in 1679] and to keep him closse prissoner in the tolbuith of Edr in irons ffor doeing which this shall be yor warrand’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 152.)

A month later, under 13 July, 1683:
‘Androw Guillen execute at the [mercat] cross of Edr by sentence of the Lords of Justiciary as being accessory to the late Bishop of St andrews death’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VIII, 153.)

The Covenanters’ Minister Murder Plot of 1682 #History #Scotland

•June 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Killing Times

According to reports that Wodrow heard from presbyterian ministers decades later, the militant Covenanter John Nisbet of Hardhill was the chief mover behind a plot to ‘murder’ indulged presbyterian ministers in Ayrshire in a coordinated series of attacks in 1682. Wodrow had trouble in believing that the plot was real and instead weakly blamed Catholics ‘in disguise’ for encouraging the plan, which is, frankly, a ridiculous and despicable excuse, but was par for the course in those times.

According to Wodrow in 1712:
‘Mr [Andrew] Tate [minister at Carmunnock from 1692] informs me he had this account from Mr Antony Shau [induged at Loudoun parish], and others of the Indulged: That at some time, under the Indulgence, there was a meeting of some people, where they resolved in one night, which they sett to divide themselves in soe many, [to] goe to. evry house of the Indulged Ministers, and kill them; and all in one night. The thing took soe farr air, that it comes to the Earl of Loudon’s hands, who sent for all the Indulged Ministers near him, and keeped them that night in his house. Mr Shau and severall others came to the house of Loudon that night; and it was a matter generally then knouen. I find this account confirmed by Mr John Millar [minister of Neilston]; who tells me, he hath heard his mother [Grizel Cochrane] frequently tell of it, and that one of these High-flyers came about the house [in Ochiltree parish], and desired to speak with [her husband] Mr [Robert] Millar, but they wer in some terrour.’ (Wodrow, Analecta, II, 63-4.)

Wodrow’s informant for the murder plot was Andrew Tait (d.1742), the minister of Carmunnock from 1692, who was married to a daughter of Andrew Morton (d.1691), an indulged minister who had been under the protection of John Maxwell of Pollock in 1679 and the minister of Carmunnock before Tait. (Fasti, III, 379.)

Tait’s source was Anthony Shaw (d.1687), who was the indulged minister at the heart of the action in Loudoun parish, Ayrshire. As Shaw was removed from his charge on 2 January, 1684, the alleged plot must have taken place before that date. Shaw must have passed his account of the plot on to Tait before he died in 1687. (Fasti, III, 120-1.)

Wodrow’s source that confirmed the story of the plot was Mr John Miller, the minister of Neilston, via the stories he had heard from his mother, Grizel Cochrane, a niece of earl of Dundonald. She had been married to Robert Miller (d.1685), the indulged minister of Ochiltree parish. (Fasti, III, 61.)

In 1681, when militants were deterring people from going to hear the indulged, one woman responded to Robert Miller ‘being spoken of as a great prayer’ with ‘so is a ——- great at the one end, small at the other.’ (Law, Memorialls, 203.)

Loudoun Palace

Loudoun Palace

Wodrow’s Second Version of the Plot
Tait had further information on the alleged murder plot a decade later in 1722:

‘Mr Andreu Tate, Minister at Carmunnock, tells me that he was fully informed and assured, that, in the late times, ther was a designe formed among some of the rigid and High-flying Cameronians, to assasinat the Indulged Ministers in the shire of Air, at their houses, in one night, by different partys. That this designe was so far gone into, that it was agreed to in a meeting of these wild people, where . . . Nisbit, father to Mrs Fairly, wife to Mr Ralph Fairly in Glasgou, was present. He used to meet with them formerly; but when he heard that proposall, his very hair stood, and he never more went to their meetings. That, as soon as possible, he got a hint of this conveyed to my Lord Loudon [i.e., the earl of Loudoun], then living at Mauchlin, (I suppose it might be 1682 or [168]3, ) and informed him of the time it was designed. My Lord sent expresses to Mr Robert Millar [the indulged minister] at Ochiltrea, Mr James Vetch [indulged] at Mauchlin, and others in the neighbourhood that wer Indulged, and called them to his house that night; and severall of them came. My informer [Andrew Tait] was then in my Lord Loudon’s family, and had the account from the above-said Mr Nisbit.’ (Wodrow, Analecta, II, 357.)

In Wodrow’s second record of the minister murder plot, one of the militant Society people named Nisbet betrayed the plot to the earl of Loudoun in advance of the date that it was due to be carried out. Loudoun then sent expresses to Robert Miller, the indulged minister of Ochiltree. Miller’s son had provided Wodrow with information in the first record of the plot.

One of the others that Loudoun sent an express to was James Veitch (d.1694), the indulged minster at Mauchline. Wodrow suggested date for the plot of 1682 or 1683 is plausible, as like Shaw, Veitch was deprived of his charge at the beginning of January, 1684.

Wodrow’s Third Version of the Plot
In 1731, Wodrow returned, again, to the Cameronian Society people’s plot to murder the indulged ministers. On that occasion Wodrow had a name for the chief plotter:

‘Mr Andreu Tait tells me, (perhaps it’s already set doun,) that, about the [16]78, or, may be, afterwards [i.e., probably in1682 or 1683], ther was a design laid, and a particular night fixed, by John Nisbit of Hardhill, who was said to [be] the principal promotter of it, and other violent Cameronians, as they wer called, to attack all the Indulged Ministers in the shire of Air their houses, and to murder them. That one privy to it [i.e., a different Nisbet in the United Societies from Hardhill] revealed it to the Earl of Loudon, the last Earle Hugh[‘s] father, a very litle before it was to be execute; and the Earl immediately wrote letters to them, and sent expresses with them, requiring them to come to his house at Loudon, wher they should be safe that night; and that, accordingly, eight or nine of them came, among whom Mr Heu Campbell of Muirkirk was one, who told the informer [Andrew Tait].’ (Wodrow, Analecta, IV, 302.)

John Nisbet of Hardhill (d.1685) was a notorious fugitive Covenanter from Loudoun parish.

In this third version of the plot, Wodrow’s identification of the earl of Loudoun, as ‘the last Earle Hugh[‘s] father’ narrows down the potential time frame for the plot. James Campbell, the father of Hugh, was earl of Loudoun until his death in 1684, however, he fled to the United Provinces prior to the revelation of the Rye House Plots in June, 1683. The alleged plot must date to 1682 or early 1683. It is possible that the plot was earlier, as Wodrow suggests in this third version. However it could not have been as early as 1678, as Wodrow suggests. It is clear from Wodrow’s description of the alleged plotters as ‘violent’, ‘rigid’ and ‘High-flying Cameronians’ that the alleged plot plainly post dates June 1680 and was probably after 1681.

Wodrow also named a fourth indulged minister as a potential target in Muirkirk parish, Hugh Campbell (d.1714). (Fasti, III, 59.)

The parishes of Muirkirk, Loudoun, Ochiltree and Mauchline where places where the militant Society people were active.

Was the Plot Real?
In the end, it comes down to how much you trust the later moderate presbyterian accounts and their interrelation with other. Tait, who was said to have been part of the earl of Loudoun’s household (presumably before the end of 1687), was informed by two ministers, Anthony Shaw of Loudoun parish who died in 1687 and Hugh Campbell of Muirkirk parish who died in 1714. Wodrow was informed by Tait, but also by the minister of Neilston, whose mother and father (d.1685) were involved in the events.

In the end, Wodrow settled on the ridiculous and conforting idea that Catholic incendiaries were behind a false alarm, even tough all his sources were moderate presbyterians:

‘This information seems to be very indubitable; and yet it’s strange that, these forty years, I have met with no hint of this but this one. One would not wish to belive such a horrid thing in people who have the name of Christians! I knou sad lenths wer run to by some at this time, and the coal was blouen by Papists in disguise; but one would willingly belive that this may have been a false alarum, really given to the good Earle, by one who was ane enemie to the sufferers, with a designe to leave a blott upon them. Houever, I have set [it] doun as I have it.’ (Wodrow, Analecta, IV, 302-3.)

For more on John Nisbet of Hardhill, see here.


John Welsh’s Secret Meeting in Edinburgh in 1679 #History #Scotland

•June 27, 2018 • 1 Comment

Nor Loch Edinburgh 1690

Alexander Hamilton of Kinkell was a intimate of John Welsh, the former minister of Irongray who was one of the main leaders of Presbyterian Rising in 1679. Kinkell was imprisoned between July, 1679, and the end of February, 1680, on suspicion of his role in the Presbyterian Rising. During his imprisonment, he is said to have secretly met with the fugitive Welsh in Edinburgh at the end of 1679.

What makes his connection to Welsh interesting, is that his servant, John Henderson. was connected to the militant Donald Cargill. Henderson was described by one presbyterian opponent as ‘an ignorant, proud, presumptuous, crack-brained sectary’ and Cargill’s ‘armour-bearer’. He was also sent to a meeting at his master’s commission that planned an attack on the sheriff of Fife which led to the assassination of Archbishop Sharp on 3 May, 1679. Some of the assassins may have been hidden in Kinkell Cave after the deed. At some point in that process, Kinkell rejected Henderson.

‘I am well informed, by one present, that Mr John Welsh was at Edinburgh in the end of the 1679, or therabout. Ther had been a great intimacy between him and Mr [Alexander] Hamiltoun of Kinkell. He was at that time in prison at Edinburgh. Mr Hamiltoun was suffered to go out sometimes with a keeper with him in the day time, and came still at night back. One day, finding Mr Welsh in town, and desirouse to meet with him, he got rid of his keeper for a little money, and came wher Mr Welsh was. When they wer together, his wife brought the allarum that ther was a search, and that it was already in the same land [i.e., set of buildings in Edinburgh] they wer [in]. Mr Welsh paused for a little, and at lenth he said to Miss [Mistress] Hamiltoun, “Be not affrayed, I am assured the searchers shall not once come near us !” and so it was, they did not enter that house. This was the last time Mr Welsh was at Edinburgh, before he went to London and dyed. (Wodrow, Analecta, III, 12.)


The Torn Bible of the Covenanter and Assassin Balfour at RUSI #History #Scotland

•June 21, 2018 • 1 Comment

Bible John Bafour of Kinloch

‘253.–Bible which belonged to John Balfour of Kinloch, “The Covenanter,” who, with others, took up arms against the [allegedly] intolerant Government of Charles II.; he fought at Drumclog, where, on [correction] 1 June, 1679, the “Covenanters” defeated [John] Graham of Claverhouse.
The first part of this Bible was torn out by Balfour to make wads for his musket.’ (Official Catalogue of the Royal United Services Museum (1914), 31.)

It is a nice story, that the Covenanter John Balfour of Kinloch tore pages from his bible to ‘make wads for his musket’. However, the assassin of Archbishop Sharp in 1679 probably tore the first pages out of his bible to remove what he saw as the “offensive” dedication of God’s word to King James VI.


For example, Christopher Miller did the same thing and the Sweet Singers are said to have torn and burned the bible, or at least parts of it written by man.

It would be interesting to know where Balfour’s bible is now, as RUSI is in a process of handing over its wonderful collection of historical objects to other institutions. The National Museum of Scotland would be an ideal home for Balfour’s intriguing bible.

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Text © Copyright  @drmarkjardine

Traditions of the Capture of the Covenanter Daniel MacMichael #History #Scotland

•June 5, 2018 • 1 Comment

In the 1840s, Simpson published “traditions” that he had collected about the Covenanter Daniel MacMichael. Quite a significant portion of Simpson’s “traditions” of MacMichael were based on Wodrow’s account of his death over a century before. However, there were areas where Simpson diverged from the historical sources for MacMichael’s death.

The Refuge at Blairfoot
Simpson noted that MacMichael appeared on the published fugitive roll of May, 1684 as “Daniel M’Michael in Lurgfoot.”, but claimed that Lurgfoot was ‘now called Blairfoot, and belongs to the farm of Burn, in the parish of Morton, in Nithsdale.’

The historical sources place MacMichael at Lorgfoot, now Lorg, in Dalry parish, rather than at Blairfoot.

The farm at Blairfoot by Burn had vanished just before Simpson visited the location probably prior to the mid 1840s:

‘The house in which Daniel lived at Blairfoot is now razed from its foundation. It was demolished only the other year, when the ploughshare was made to pass over its site, and a solitary tree is left to mark the spot where this honest worthy lived’.

Map of former location of Blairfoot

The ‘solitary tree’ that Simpson probably observed was the Judgment Thorn, which lay close to Blairfoot.

The OS name book for the parish in the 1850s describes the Judgment Thorn as

‘A thorn tree probably the last representative of a group of thorns which had marked the spot where some execution or murder had occurred. — Within sight and at a short distance to the north-west there is a small conical hill encircled by a natural amphitheatre which might formerly have been used for judicial purposes.’

And that

‘Mr. Nevison [i.e., Thomas Nivison], of the Burn [farm], recollects the Ancient Thorn tree being standing, and says, this [Thorn] is growing from the old root’.

Map of former site of Judgment Thorn

It is an intriguing intersection between traditions that the Judgment Thorn was said to have been ‘where some execution or murder had occurred’ and that Simpson may have believed that the executed MacMichael lived by it.

The Capture of MacMichael
Simpson claimed that Blairfoot was where Covenanters took shelter:

‘One day a company of these pious persons met at Blairfoot, for the purpose of engaging in religious exercises, and they adopted the common precaution of stationing a friend as a warder, to give notice in case of danger.

At this time, Dalziel of Kirkmichael and Lieutenant Straiton, with a party of fifty soldiers, were ranging the country in quest of fugitives. Muncie of Durisdeer, the informer, having received notice of the meeting that was being held in Daniel’s house, lost no time in communicating information of the circumstance to the commander of the troops, who led his company without delay to Blairfoot.

The watchman, however, observed their approach, and hastened to the house with the unwelcome tidings. The party within instantly prepared for flight, but in their haste to be gone they forgot not their sickly brother. They knew that if he were left alone his sickness would procure him no exemption from the ill usage with which the soldiers might be disposed to treat him, and therefore they determined to remove him from his bed, and carry him along with them. Accordingly they wrapped him in the warm bed-clothes, and conveyed him with all speed, and unobserved, to the cave.’

Simpson claims that MacMichael was removed from Blairfoot to a cave. He had described the cave earlier in his story, but did not identify where it was:

‘In this locality there was a cave by the margin of a mountain stream, to which, in those days, the Covenanters often resorted. It was a hallowed retreat to many, not only as a place of refuge from their foes, but as a sanctuary for heavenly fellowship.’

The cave, if it existed, lay somewhere in the hills to the east of Blairfoot.

According to Simpson there was an intelligencer among those with Macmichael:

‘But there was another informer beside Muncie, and one who pretended to belong to their party, and who, under the mask of friendship and of piety, had connected himself with them, with a view to accomplish his own nefarious designs. This individual (whose name we do not deem it prudent to mention) left the cave to give certain information to the party that was in quest of the fugitives.

Another of the company having left the hiding-place shortly after the departure of the traitor, and having occasion to call at a smithy in the neighbourhood, was informed that their nameless associate was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and that he would to a certainty conduct the troopers to their place of concealment.

On receiving this report, the man hastened back to his companions in the cave to expedite their retreat before the soldiers should arrive. The friends in hiding agreed instantly to vacate the cavern, and to separate themselves into two companies, the one party conveying Daniel, who was unable to walk, to move in the direction of Durisdeer; and the other party to flee towards the dark moss hags of Kirkhope.

It was the design of the latter party to act as a decoy to the dragoons, and to draw them away from the party that was conveying their friend Daniel towards Durisdeer. The dragoons, however, having observed the movement, divided themselves also into two parties, the one pursuing the fugitives that were hastening to the wilds of Kirkhope, and the other following in the route of the company that were moving more slowly with their sickly charge.’

The two parties different direction of travel allow us to roughly locate where the traditional cave allegedly lay in the hills to the east of Blairfoot.

The Decoy Party
The decoy party apparently headed to ‘the wilds’ or ‘moss hags’ of Kirkhope.

Kirkhope lay across the hills to the east of Durisdeer and in Crawford parish, Lanarkshire. Today, the farm lies by at the southern end of the Daer Reservoir.

Map of Kirkhope

The Party with MacMichael
According to the tradition, MacMichael’s party headed towards Durisdeer, which lies on the western edge of the hills and directly to the north of Blairfoot.

From the location of Durisdeer, it is clear that the party with MacMichael were headed either in a westerly, or north-westerly direction through the hills for Glenaggart which leads to Durisdeer.

It is also clear that the decoy party were heading either in a northerly or north-easterly direction towards Kirkhope.

The Covenanter’s Cave
The Covenanter’s Cave at Earn Craig lies in that rough area. It lies directly to the south of Kirkhope close to the head of the Daer Water and Daer Hass. It also lies to the east through the hills of both Durisdeer and Blairfoot.

The Covenanter’s Cave is located in Closeburn parish, the neighbouring parish to Morton parish, and very close to march boundary with Crawford parish in Lanarkshire.

The Cave lies by the source for the Capel Water which flows directly to Locherben and Mitchellslacks, where the fugitive James and Thomas Harknesses lived. Both men had taken part in the rescue at Enterkin along with MacMichael’s brother, James. It is possible that Daniel MacMichael had also taken part in the rescue. He may have had some connection with them, which later led to his execution at the entry to the Enterkin Pass.

Map of Covenanter’s Cave at Earn Craig

Simpson’s remarkably detailed and unreliable tradition continues:

‘The company that fled to the moss [towards Kirkhope] expected to secure themselves in its deep trenches from the approach of the soldiers. In some of the messy parts of the hills and moors there are deep gullies, worn by the impetuous streams that descend from the heights after the melting of the winter snows, or during the gushing of a great thunder spate. These water courses are in some places covered above with the tufted heather, which, decked with its purple blossoms, waves on each margin of the narrow ditch. It was into one of these slippery conduits that an individual of the fleeing party was endeavouring to creep, when the troopers came in view of the dark and rugged peat ground. This circumstance was observed by one of the dragoons only, who, being unwilling, it would seem, to expose the life of the poor man, fell to the rear of his party, and allowing them to proceed, advanced cautiously to the mouth of the mossy outlet, and seeing the cowering fugitive stretched at his full length in his murky hiding-place, accosted him in a suppressed and gentle tone, saying: “Friend, I know you are one of the party whom we are pursuing; I have no desire, however, to reveal you; creep further into the hole, and stir not till the danger be overpast.” He then rejoined his companions in the pursuit, but how the affair ended with this branch of the fugitives tradition has not said.

Meanwhile, the party who were carrying Daniel [MacMichael] were pushing westward in the direction of Durisdeer. On this company the dragoons easily gained ground, as their motions were necessarily impeded by means of the burden with which they were charged. It was obvious to every one, and to none more than the sick man himself, that escape was nearly impossible, and it was his urgent request that they should leave him, and provide for their own safety. This they were unwilling to do, but finding that their remaining would endanger their own lives, and could not save his, they, at his earnest desire, concealed him in a cave under the projecting brow of a mountain stream, in hopes that the foe would not find his retreat, while the pursuit would be directed chiefly after themselves. How long, and with what success, the troopers pursued the fleeing party is not said, but had anything of a tragic nature occurred, it is likely that tradition would have preserved it.’

Simpson has MacMichael left in an unspecified cave ‘under the projecting brow of a mountain stream’.

‘Daniel, however, was soon discovered. The soldiers, as was common, were accompanied with dogs, which were often found very useful in leading to a discovery of persons in concealment, and these animals scented out the place where he was hid. The dragoons laid hold on their victim, and mercilessly dragged him from his retreat.’

The historical sources agree that MacMichael that was captured in Morton parish, but at a shiel, rather than in a cave behind a waterfall. If one was feeling generous towards the tradition, one could note the shiels in the area beyond Kettleton Byre and Garrochshiels. Garroch was the neighbouring farm to the Harknesses at Locherben.

MacMichael’s Execution
According to Simpson:

‘Among the spectators who were present witnessing this atrocious murder [of Daniel MacMichael], was a boy named John M’Call, from Dalveen, the place of Daniel’s nativity.’

Earlier in his Traditions, Simpson had claimed that MacMichael was born at Dalzean, which lies deep in the Scaur Valley in Penpont parish, Nithsdale. Dalveen was where MacMichael was executed.

Map of Dalzean

John McCall, the lad from Dalzean, just happened to be at Dalveen?

‘There happened to be lying on the grass, near the bleeding body of the martyr, a small wooden basin, yclept by the peasantry a luggie. The captain commanded the boy, who was standing by, to take the vessel and run to the well to fetch him water, to wash from his hands and clothes the blood that had spurted from the wounds of the slaughtered man, whom, in his contemptuous style, he denominated a dog. The boy, with the mingled feelings of terror and indignation, seized the luggie, and ran towards the well; but instead of fetching water, he dashed it into the limpid fountain, and fled to the hills. The insulted commander ordered the troopers to pursue, and fire on the fugitive. They did so, but he was young and agile, and like the fleet roe, he bounded away, and left the dragoons far behind in the hopeless pursuit. This boy was the greatgrandfather of the venerable person who at present occupies the Holm of Drumlanrig.’

Holm of Drumlanrig, aka Holm, lies in Penpont parish. In the OS name book 1848 to 1858, it was occupied by a George Dalziel.

Map of Holm of Drumlanrig

If you want to read what history says about Daniel MacMichael, see here.

For more on Daniel MacMichael, see here.

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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

Death at Dalveen: The Killing of the Covenanter Daniel MacMichael in 1685 #History #Scotland

•May 26, 2018 • 3 Comments


The Covenanter Daniel MacMichael had a price on his head … one thousand merks, dead or alive. He was shot in summary execution in Durisdeer parish, Nithsdale, on 31 January, 1685.

The reward was offered for his subscription of the treasonable bond before the Sanquhar Declaration and for being present when the declaration was proclaimed on 22 June, 1680.

He is said to have born at Dalzean in Penpont parish, Dumfriesshire. In 1680, he lived at Lorgfoot in Dalry parish, a remote location which lies on the boundary between Kirkcudbrightshire and Dumfriesshire. MacMichael was active in both shires. He was listed on the published fugitive roll of May, 1684, under Dumfriesshire as ‘Daniel Macmitchel, in Lurg-foot’.

Today, Lorgfoot is called Lorg.

Map of Lorg

Daniel McMichael

A Short Memorial, 1690
As usual, Alexander Shields was the first to record his death in A Short Memorial (1690). However, with a simple slip of the pen, he caused confusion. Why? Because he linked two executions in a clumsy fashion:

‘Sir Robert Dalzel and liev: Stratoun, having apprehended Daniel Mackmichel, and detained him 24 hours Prisoner, took him out and shot him at Dalveen, in the parish of Durisdeer in Nithsdale, Jan: 1685:
Item, The said Captain Dalzel and Lieu: Stratoun, with their men, found William Adam hiding in a Bush, and instantly killed him, at Walwood in Kyle, Feb: 1685’. (Shields, A Short Memorial, 36.)

The ‘Captain Dalzel’ who killed William Adam in Kyle, Ayrshire, was Captain John Dalyell of Mar’s Regiment of Foot. He was not the same individual as his close kin Sir Robert Dalyell of Glenae, who Shields claimed summarily executed MacMichael at Dalveen in Nithsdale.

Lieutenant Alexander Straiton, also of Mar’s Regiment of Foot, was involved in both deaths.

Sir Robert Dalyell of Glenae was not a military officer. He was in receipt of judicial commission to press the Abjuration Oath and deal with other cases of dissent in Dumfriesshire between the beginning of January to 1 March, 1685. Prior to that, on 18 December, 1684, he wrote to Queensberry about an attack on the Isle Tower in Nithsdale and other locations in Dumfries and Galloway. Finding the men behind those attacks was the top priority for government forces in the winter of 1684 to 1685. Six Society people died as a result of that hunt, including Daniel’s brother, at Auchencloy. At least six more were killed at Caldons as the result of an assassination on 23 January. More groups of Society people connected with violent acts were killed soon after Daniel’s death.

However, the error in Shields was repeated. According to Ridpath in 1693:

‘Sir Robert Dalzel and Lieut. Straten, shot Daniel Mac Michel at Dalveen, in the Parish of Durisdeer in Nithsdale, Jan. 1685. The same men killed William Adam, hiding himself in a bush at the Walwood in Kyle, Feb. 1685.’

Cloud of Witnesses (1714) also recycled the error in Shields:

‘Sir Robert Dalziel and lieutenant Straton, having apprehended, Daniel M’Michael, not able to flee, by reason of his being sick, and detained him twenty four hours prisoner, took him out and shot him at Dalveen, in the parish of Durisder in Nithsdale, January, 1685.
Item, The said captain Dalziel, and lieutenant Straton, with their men, found William Adam hiding in a bush, and instantly killed him, at the Walwood in Kyle, February, 1685.’

Shields did make errors in his 1690 list that he corrected. He may also have made errors which he did not correct. In this case, there is a clear error in his list, as the entries for both martyrs contradict each other. However, it is not clear which way round the error is. When Shields published his list in 1690, Sir Robert Dalyell had died and been succeeded by Captain John Dalyell to the title of Glenae. Which of ‘Sir Robert’ or ‘The said captain’ is not correct? One of them is an error that Shields did not correct.

From the evidence of two other historical source, ‘Sir Robert’ is not correct.

Daniel MacMichael’s Gravestone
The next major piece of evidence in the death of Daniel MacMichael is his gravestone, which was erected between 1702 and 1714, and included the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses. As his gravestone predates the publication of Wodrow’s History, the inscription on it cannot have been influenced by it.

The first wave of gravestones erected by the “Continuing” Society people between 1702 and 1714 sometimes made minor factual corrections to the evidence found in Shields’ 1690 list. The inscription on MacMichael’s grave claims he was killed by Captain John Dalyell, NOT Sir Robert Dalyell.

PRELACY 1685 REV 12:11

[and at a right angle to the above]


His grave is located in Durisdeer parish churchyard by the church.

Map of Durisdeer         Street View of Durisdeer Church

Wodrow’s Version of MacMichael’s Death
A few years later, Wodrow, using a different stream of evidence from both Shields and Cloud, also alleged that Captain John Dalyell killed MacMichael:

‘Upon the 30th of the same month [January, 1685], a party of fifty soldiers commanded by John Dalziel, son to Sir Robert Dalziel of [Glenae in] Kirkmichael [parish], and lieutenant Straton, fell in with some of those who were upon their hiding, asleep in a shiell in the parish of Morton, in Nithsdale.’

In the 1840’s Simpson claimed in his later traditions that MacMichael lived at Blairfoot in Morton parish, Nithsdale. Morton parish lies immediately to the south and east of Durisdeer parish. The farm at Blairfoot, which vanished in c.1840, lay close to the confluence of the How Gill, which flows down from the ruins of Morton Castle, and the Kettleton Burn (i.e., just to the east of the Burn Point Plantation). As the lands of Blairfoot had been purchased by William Douglas, Duke of Queensberry, in 1673, it seems highly improbable that MacMichael was his tenant.

Map of former location of Blairfoot

Simpson claimed that Blairfoot was ‘Lurgfoot’ and that it was where MacMichael lived. However, it is clear that he lived at Lorgfoot in Dalry parish in Kirkcudbrightshire, and was associated with that location until at least mid 1684. If he lived at Blairfoot, he was only there on a temporary basis, perhaps in hiding with the unnamed others that Wodrow mentioned. MacMichael was a high-profile fugitive wanted dead or alive, for his part in the Sanquhar Declaration of 1680.

Simpson’s later unreliable traditions would also romantically claim that MacMichael was captured in a “cave” behind a falls on a stream somewhere in the hills east of Durisdeer.

However, Wodrow used the term ‘shiel’ to describe where MacMichael was taken in Morton parish, i.e., a temporary or roughly-made house or shelter, hut or bothy for sheep or cattle and their shepherds, which was used when the animals were moved to higher pastures in the summer. As MacMichael was taken in mid winter, a shiel would have been deserted and an ideal hiding place from the cold. The area around Blairfoot and the hills to the north of it are probably the only part of Morton parish where a shiel would be found.

‘My information bears, they all made their escape, but Daniel M’Michael who was sickly, and not able to flee. The soldiers wounded him at his being taken, and he was that night carried to the parish of Durisdeer. The captain put many interrogatories to him, which he declined to answer, and laid many things to his charge, which he denied, and said he knew nothing of.’

We are not told where in Durisdeer parish he was taken to on the night of 30 January. He may have been taken straight to Dalveen, where he was executed the next day. He may have been taken elsewhere in the parish before being taken to Dalveen. If MacMichael and the fifty men from Mar’s Regiment of Foot went directly from where he was allegedly captured at Blairfoot to Dalveen, they covered just over six miles, less than half of a day’s march in summer.

MacMichael was not the only victim of the Killing Times who was allegedly sick when captured. Adam MacQuhan and Thomas McHaffie were also taken from their sick beds. Being a fugitive was gruelling, especially in the cold of winter when provisions were in short supply.

MacMichael had good reasons not to answer Dalyell’s questions as a traitor and fugitive. He also had good reasons not to name those who were with him or who had kept them supplied. However, the Captain had a new weapon in his armoury:

‘At length he was told, that unless he presently submitted unto, and owned the government both in church and state, and as an evidence of this, sware the oath he offered him the benefit of, the law made him liable to present death.’

That oath was clearly the Abjuration Oath introduced in mid January. Swearing it renounced the United Societies’ ‘war’ of assassinations against known persecutors. MacMichael refused to swear the oath. It would have contradicted his actions at the Sanquhar Declaration of 1680, which proclaimed ‘a war’, and the United Societies’ Apologetical Declaration of November,, 1684, that launched a wave of assassinations against known persecutors.

Wodrow, of course, managed to downplay MacMichael’s commitment to a war:

‘Daniel was a very sedate sensible country man, and said, ‘Sir, that is what in all things I cannot do, but very cheerfully I submit to the Lord’s disposal as to my life.’
The commander replied in some pet, ‘do you not know your life is in my hand?’
the other modestly replied, ‘No, Sir, I know my life is in the Lord’s hand, and if he see good, he can make you the instrument to take it away.’
Then Daniel was ordered to prepare for death to-morrow; all he said, was, ‘If my life must go for his cause, I am willing, my God will prepare me.’
That night he enjoyed a sweet time of communion and fellowship with God, and great outlets of joy and consolation, so that some of the soldiers desired to die his death, and not a few convictions were left in their bosoms.’

Daniel McMichael Martyr's Monument Dalveen

The Summary Execution at Dalveen
MacMichael had been captured in Morton parish (perhaps at Blairfoot) and was brought north to (Nether) Dalveen in Durisdeer parish. The latter lay on the way to two passes through the hills, the Dalveen Pass and the Enterkin Path or Pass. It appears that the party of soldiers were heading from Dalveen over the Bught Hass to the Enterkin Path, the road to Wanlockhead and Edinburgh.

Map of Dalveen

However, it is possible that like his brother, James MacMichael (d.1684), Daniel had taken part in the Enterkin Rescue on 30 July, 1684. It is possible that he was deliberately brought to, and symbolically executed at, an entry to the Enterkin Pass.

‘Tomorrow, January 31st, he was brought out to the fields at Dalveen, [a farm] in the parish of Durisdeer. He had the liberty granted him, which many of his fellow-sufferers had not, to pray, which he did to the wonder of the by-standers. He sang part of the forty-second psalm, and read over the sixteenth chapter of John, and spoke with much gravity and solidity to captain Dalziel.’

It appears that Captain Dalyell was doing his job in accordance with the law. He permitted MacMichael time to make his peace with his maker. Not all officers were so patient.

MacMichael sang Psalm 42. In the Scottish Metrical Psalter it begins:

‘Like as the hart for water-brooks
in thirst doth pant and bray;
So pants my longing soul, O God,
that come to thee I may.

My soul for God, the living God,
doth thirst: when shall I near
Unto thy countenance approach,
and in God’s sight appear? …’

He also read from John, Chapter 16. It begins as follows: ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. …’

Dalyell offered him a blindfold:

‘And then after the napkin was put upon his head, he said, “Lord, thou brought Daniel through many straits, and hast brought me thy servant hither to witness for thee and thy cause; into thy hands I commit my spirit, and hope to praise thee through all eternity.”

And then gave the sign to the soldiers to do their work; and four of them who were appointed, shot him dead.

So convincing was this man’s carriage and death, that some of the poor soldiers were for some time after in confusion, for their obeying commands in this matter; but a little money, and some more ravages, quickly calmed their convictions.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 239-40.)

The confusion ‘for some time after’ among Dalyell’s company may reflect a genuine psychological impact on the men. The orders under which MacMichael was shot were new and Dalyell’s company had not previously conducted a summary execution. The ‘little money’ they received and shared was due to the 1,000 merks on MacMichael’s head, dead or alive. The ‘some more ravages’ that followed the shooting included the killing of William Adam within weeks.


The Dalveen Martyr’s Monument
In 1836, a monument was erected on the traditional location for his summary execution at Dalveen. According to the OS name book:

‘A monument erected to MacMichael by the masons who built [the new] Dalveen Steading’

The inscription is as follows:

To the memory of
who suffered martyrdom here
by Sir James Dalziel, A.D. 1685.
Erected in 1836.’

On Sunday 9 October, 1842, a large preaching was held ‘nigh to the spot of
Daniel McMichaels martyrdom’ at Dalveen that paid for a memorial stone by his grave at Durisdeer Church.

To find out about later traditions about MacMichael’s capture and death, see here.

For more on Daniel MacMichael, see here.

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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