The Polmadie Martyrs: A Widow’s Petition in 1689 #History #Scotland

•April 25, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Polmadie 1685

In early 1689, Jennet Howie petitioned the Convention of Estates about Major John Balfour’s killing of her husband, John Urie, and two others at Polmadie near Glasgow in May, 1685:

Indorsed ‘1689.’

‘To the Honourable Meeting of the Estates of the Kingdom of Scotland,

The Humble Petition of Jennet Howie, relict of umquhill John Urie, slain at Polmodie, near Glasgow,

Sheweth, —
That, whereas Lievtenant Coll. Balfour, of whose cruel and insolent oppressions and persecutions, as a very active tool and instrument of the tyrannie of these bygone years, many poor widowes and orphans have had long just reason to complain, is now, upon suspicion of his evil designs against the government, committed to prison; whence by imposing upon your honours clemency, if his crimes be not known or considered, he may seek to be released upon baile:

your poor petitioner finds her self constrained in conscience, in all humility, to represent to your Honours that about four years ago, in or about [May — interlined] in the year one thousand, sex hundred and eighty five, the said Lievenant Coll. Balfour came with his souldiers under his command to Polmodie, and took your petitioner’s husband, John Urie, from his work, with other two honest and innocent men, Thomas Cook and Robert Tam, against whom nothing could be charged deserving either death or bonds, and most unjustly and inhumanely without any trial, conviction, or colour of law, caused them all three be shot dead in the field, not permitting them to end their prayers to God, which they desired to put up before death, nor regarding their oun intreaties, nor the intercession of Captain [James] Maitland then present on their behalf, requesting for God’s sake to spare them a litle, to which the said Lievtenant Coll. Balfour ansured. For God’s sake they shall die, and not be spared.

And, after this horrid action was done, [he] would not suffer your poor petitioner, nor any of their friends, to come near their corpse, nor either sheet or coffin to be given to any of them, but caused break their coffins coming from Glasgow.

May it therefore please your Honours to consider the premisses, and commisserate the cries of a poor widow, and her fatherless child, begging for God’s sake that this bloody man may not be suffered to escape justice, but be kept in custody until your Honours shall find conveniency to take cognizance of the like grievances. And your petitioner shall ever pray, &c.’

(EUL Laing MSS., vol. 350, No. 249. Printed in Hay Fleming, Six Saints, II, 231-2.)

Jennet Howie’s petition provides corroboration for the historical sources such as Shields’ list in 1690 (above) that stated that they were executed by Balfour.

Polmadie Village

Major Balfour may have had justification for his summary executions in Polmadie.

Street View of former site of seventeenth-century Polmadie

The diary of Colin Alison mentions that after the preaching at Black Loch in June 1684, he left his arms at Polmadie before he returned to Glasgow. The weaving hamlet of Polmadie may have been was a refuge for Society people prior to 1685.

On Tuesday 19 August, 1684, the privy council ordered several Society people to ‘be processed and indicted before the justices, that they may be proceeded against according to law’. Among them were ‘Robert T[h]om in Carmanock paroch’ and ‘John Urie, maltman in Glasgow’. Both men possibly escaped with a group of prisoners within a week.

On 28 August, 1684, governments forces were ordered to seize or bring in one ‘ —– Tom in Polmadie, Little Giveand or Glasgow’ who appears to have been at James Renwick’s preaching near Greenock earlier in the month. (RPCS, IX, 131.)

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“The Fellow” Captured near Galston in 1685 #History #Scotland

•April 22, 2018 • 1 Comment

Graham of Claverhouse

“The fellow” is a real mystery of the Killing Times of 1685. Who was he? What happened to him? And could he be the martyr known as James Smith?

What we know about “the fellow” was that he was held prisoner by John Graham of Claverhouse (pictured above) on c.2 May, 1685. That he had provided a halberd to John Brounen in March which was used at a muster of Covenanters at Cairn Table. We also know that he was captured at some point after that, probably on 1 or 2 May, 1685, as a result of Brounen telling Claverhouse about him.

But then the mystery deepens. We are told he was a prisoner, but not who captured him beyond that Claverhouse wrote that ‘we’ have him prisoner. Historians have no clear evidence about what happened to him.

Why does the story of “the fellow” matter? It matters because a martyr named James Smith may, and only may, be “the fellow”. In essence, it does not matter if “the fellow” was James Smith, as he was “the fellow” with his own story. Given that he supplied arms for rebellion, one would expect that he appears in the historical records, but Claverhouse never divulged a name.

At the root of this mystery is the possibility that a typesetting error misdated the death of James Smith to 1684, when it was in 1685. That hypothesis first appeared twenty-two years ago in Campbell’s Standing Witnesses. Campbell never suggested that “the fellow” was James Smith, but he did claim that Smith died as a result of a raid on Newmilns Tower in April, 1685.

It was in pursuit of Campbell’s hypothesis, that I first stubbled on the evidence of “the fellow”. When you look at the evidence for him, he could be James Smith if the latter died in 1685.

However, it is the responsibility of any historian to test their hypothesises to destruction. That is what is going to happen here. This is a window on the problems historians face when dealing with the fragmented sources of the Killing Times. There will be no definitive answer. It is up to you to decide what you think.

Is there any historical evidence to corroborate Campbell’s 1685 hypothesis that Smith died in 1685, not 1684? For what follows to be connected to Smith there must have been a typesetting error for the date for his death in A Short Memorial (1690).

What do we know about James Smith?
First, let us establish what we know about James Smith. He was a fugitive Covenanter who had fought at Bothwell Bridge in 1679 and lived at Threepwood near Galston. He was wounded by the dragoons of Captain John Inglis at Burn Anne by East Threepwood, apparently exhausted after from returning from a field preaching. He was taken by some route from where he was wounded to Mauchline, which lies six miles away as the crow flies. There he died as a prisoner of the Scottish Army. He is buried in the churchyard there under a gravestone probably erected in the early Eighteenth Century by the Continuing Society people. He may have died in 1685 if there is a typesetting error in Shields.

What do we know about “the fellow”?

Claverhouse’s Letter
There is circumstantial evidence that may point to Smith in a letter that Claverhouse wrote on 3 May, 1685.

Claverhouse’s letter was written after the Newmilns rescue, which took place on c.25 April. It indicates that after the raid, John Brounen had fled to his uncle, John Brown, at Priesthill. On 1 May, Brown and Brounen were captured in the moss near Priesthill by Claverhouse. Brown was summarily executed at Priesthill, while Brounen, after witnessing that, was subjected to a mock execution during which he offered to provide intelligence about those involved in the Newmilns rescue and those who had attended an earlier muster and field preaching at the back of Cairn Table in March.

“The Fellow”
The letter details that three men were Claverhouse’s prisoners between 1 to 3 May. One was John Brounen, who was taken at Priesthill in Muirkirk parish on 1 May. A second was identified as the goodman of High Plewlands in Evandale parish, a neighbour who had helped Brown in Priesthill to hide. The third, who is potentially of the greatest interest in this case, was simply described as “the fellow” who had provided Brounen with a halberd for the muster at Cairn Table on c.22 March, 1685. He was presumably captured as a result of Brounen’s intelligence.

When Claverhouse wrote on 3 May, he was at Galston, which lies about a mile-and-a-half from Smith’s home near East Threepwood.

Map of East Threepwood

Brounen was a Covenanter from the same parish as Smith. He probably knew his fellow fugitive from the Bothwell Rising of 1679 and both had been in hiding locally. It is clear that both men were alive when the Fugitive Roll was published in May, 1684.

Smith was listed as ‘James Smith, of Threpwood’ under Galston parish. Brounen was listed as the ‘younger’ of Richardton. Later tradition claimed that he lived at Lanfine. Both of those locations lie close to each other in Galston parish, about two or three miles from East Threepwood.

Map of Richardton

Claverhouse’s letter, which summarised some of Brounen’s intelligence, also states that those who had conducted the Newmilns prisoner rescue were sixty men mainly from Galston parish and from around Newmilns, i.e., Loudoun parish, with a few coming from Evandale parish. One would expect that the search for those involved in the rescue at Newmilns would be at its most intense in the parishes of Galston and Loudoun at the beginning of May.

“The fellow” had been specifically identified by Brounen’s intelligence as the person who had given him a halberd in March. He had been taken prisoner by 3 May.

Claverhouse and his men did not have time to prosecute a deep local search, as he reported that ‘if we had time to stay, good use might be made’ of Brounen’s confession.

Claverhouse did not write that he had personally captured “the fellow”, just that ‘we’ have him prisoner. It is possible that Brounen’s intelligence caused Claverhouse to order the local garrison under Captain Inglis to capture ‘the fellow’.

James Smith was shot by troops under Captain Inglis at Burn Anne. The evidence on his Mauchline gravestone states that he was only wounded there.

Captain Inglis’s troop of dragoons are also said to have shot John Smith “in Cronan” after the rescue at Newmilns Tower when intelligence led them to him. However, he was not taken prisoner, unlike “the fellow” and, apparently, James Smith.

Was the fugitive ‘James Smith, of Threpwood’ “the fellow”?

Circumstantial evidence suggests that he could have been, but there is no proof that he was. However, it is here that the letter takes a fascinating turn.

The Mauchline Connection
It appears that ‘the fellow’ was a prisoner in Galston on 2 or3 May. It is reasonably certain that the good man of High Plewlands, “the fellow” and the man who had given intelligence against them, were all held together there for a short time.

The fate of “the fellow” may shine a sidelight on his betrayer’s end. If “the fellow”/the good man of High Plewlands and Brounen were together as prisoners, as the evidence plainly suggests, then Brounen was directly faced with the consequences of his confession to Claverhouse. His encounter with “the fellow” may have some bearing on why Brounen was executed at Mauchline on 6 May, especially if “the fellow” died before Brounen’s trial. In that context, it is possible that Brounen had a change of heart over his cooperation with Claverhouse or taking the Abjuration oath.

In Claverhouse’s letter, he stated that ‘I, having no commision of justiciary myself, have delyvered him [John Brounen] up to the Lieuetenent Generall [William Drummond] to be disposed of as he pleases’. Brounen was a valuable prisoner providing intelligence about the Covenanters in the area and thus worthy of mention Claverhouse’s letter to Queensberry. What about the other two prisoners? Were they delivered ‘up to’ the Lieutenant-General?

Claverhouse was possibly piqued that he did not have a judicial commission to deal with his prisoners. He had to hand them over to someone with a commission, i.e., Lieutenant-General Drummond.

It is possible, but improbable, that Claverhouse took them with him the next day when he abruptly reversed the direction of his march and went back to Muirkirk parish where he had captured Brounen. There he probably made use of Brounen’s intelligence, as he captured prisoners connected with John Brown’s bunker at Priesthill. We know that a second group of prisoners en route to Mauchline were probably at the same location as Claverhouse when he returned to Muirkirk parish, as Peter Gillies, who was executed with Brounen on 6 May, left a letter at Midwellwood in the same parish. That means that on at least two occasions, Claverhouse had the chance to hand on ‘the fellow’ and the ‘goodman’ of High Plewlands to Drummond.

From Muirkirk, Claverhouse then went south via Nithsdale to Annandale and Eskdale.

Like Brounen, “the fellow” and the other prisoner were almost certainly delivered up to Drummond. Claverhouse did not need the burden of carrying them with him and had someone with a judicial commission nearby. He was also clearly in a hurry on 3 May, as he wrote that ‘if we had time to stay [in the Galston area], good use might be made’ of Brounen’s confession.


Where was Drummond?
We are not told where Drummond was when the prisoners were delivered up to him. He may have been in Galston and then moved to Mauchline. Two days later on 5 May, Drummond was certainly in Mauchline, which is only six miles from Galston.

At that moment in early May, it seems that the fate of all the prisoners taken by Drummond, Claverhouse and the Highlanders converged on Mauchline, which is the only time that we know for sure that prisoners were collected there. That does not mean that Smith did not die there in 1684. It means that there is a potential context for Smith’s death there in 1685.

It is clear that ‘the fellow’ was not executed with Brounen and the other Mauchline martyrs on 6 May, as the other four hanged at Mauchline came from much further to the east. That may indicate that he had already died, or was near death, on that date. However, it could also indicate that the case against him was not enough to merit execution and that he was sent on to Edinburgh.

If “the fellow” died at Mauchline, then his body was probably eligible for burial in the churchyard as he had not been convicted of a treasonable crime. Smith is buried in the churchyard. The five Mauchline martyrs who were convicted of treasonable offences before Drummond were buried below the gallows.

James Smith Grave

It is at this point that one has to look again at Campbell’s hypothesis that there is a typesetting error that has been transferred onto the gravestone of James Smith:

intered the corpse of JAMES
SMITH who was wounded by
Captain Ingles, and his Drag-
oons, at Burn of Ann in kyle,
and there after died of his wounds
in Mauchline prison for his adhe
arance to the word of GOD and
scotland’s Covenanted Work
of reformation, A.D. 1684’

If we change the date to 1685 in line with that hypothesis, then it is possible that “the fellow” was James Smith. Smith was wounded when being taken prisoner, was moved to Mauchline and died there.

Wodrow’s James Smith?
We know that “the fellow” who gave Brounen the halberd had probably attended the muster to practice using them which was held at a field preaching by James Renwick at the back of Cairn Table hill in March.

Wodrow may provide some evidence that Smith may have attended a field preaching not long before his death. In a garbled entry that is probably about James Smith under the year 1684, he recorded that there were no field conventicles ‘but what Mr [James] Renwick kept’ in 1684.

‘John Smith [which appears to be an error for James Smith], who had been at a conventicle, in his return falling sick, sat down in the fields. A party of soldiers coming that way, without any probation or process, or any further ceremony, shot him in the fields where they got him.’

The entry in Wodrow is probably about James Smith who was reported to have died 1684, as both John Smiths were killed in 1685. Yet again, we have the same possible typesetting error, as Wodrow’s source for the date was probably Shields/Cloud of Witnesses, which simply stated that ‘Captain Ingles and his dragoons pursued and killed James Smith at the burn of Ann in Kyle, 1684.’ Where Wodrow got the information that Smith had been at a field preaching and had fallen sick in the fields is not known.

If the entry is about James Smith, then Wodrow’s date for it is probably based on Shields/Cloud, which may contain the typesetting error of 1684 instead of 1685. Of course, it is entirely possible that the 1684 date is correct and that Wodrow added to our knowledge of why Smith was shot then.

The Preaching
However, what if we change the context for Wodrow’s information to 1685 in line with Campbell’s hypothesis? Is there a possible preaching that Smith could have attended in Campbell’s time frame for his capture after the rescue at Newmilns on c.25 April?

At that time, both James Renwick and Alexander Peden were active field preachers. Renwick field preached at Cairn Table, probably on 22 March, which would be too early for Smith to have died attending it.

However, there is a better candidate that accords with Campbell’s time frame. On Sunday 26 April, Alexander Peden held a house conventicle at a young gentleman’s house somewhere in the hills in the east of Ayrshire. From clues that Nisbet provided, the house may have been close to the Glenmuir Water on the boundary between Cumnock parish and Auchinleck parish, which is about 12 miles as the crow flies from East Threepwood. (A later unreliable tradition claims that Smith travelled 14 miles across dreary moors to reach a preaching to have his child baptised.)

When the dragoons arrived at the house where Peden had preached, a long and gruelling pursuit followed across the hills. The Covenanter, James Nisbet, left a dramatic account of that and how he and others were pursued for about thirty miles. During that they encountered two parties of dragoons and a large party of foot and horse. He also encountered John Graham of Claverhouse’s force of horse and Highlanders within days, before he collapsed through sickness and exhaustion.

The Dilemma
All the historical evidence indicates that Smith died in 1684, unless there was a missed typesetting error in Shields’ A Short Memorial in 1690.

If there was a typesetting error, then the “the fellow” could be James Smith, as he fits the pattern of the evidence for the death of Smith.

You decide …

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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

Covenanter Prisoners Reject Unlawful Rule of William of Orange in 1693 #History #Scotland

•April 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment

William of Orange

The Revolution had put William of Orange and Queen Mary in power in 1689. However, some Covenanters who had proclaimed the Tinwald Paper in 1692 rejected their authority. They were imprisoned in Edinburgh’s Canongate Tolbooth:

‘This is a just dowble of the paper which we delivered to goodman of the Tollboth of Cannongate, and one of the bayllifes there, with our hand at our outcoming [in 1693]:

Wee, John Clark, Herbert Wells, John Bell, Thomas Mc’Millan, being unjustlie apprehended and for a long tyme detained by the present pretended powers, whom, upon the account of their unlawfull constitution, and unlawfull acts flowing there from, endeavouring the buriall of our broken down covenanted work of reformation, and their asociation and confederacie with the enemies of Christ, his covenanted interests and people, &c., we could neither own nor supplicat as our lawfull rullers [William of Orange etc.].

And now hearing of our designed liberation, fearing there may be a snare in it, as procured by some petitioning in our names to the prejudice of the testimonie we own; we declare our ignorance off or accession to anie such petitions, or anie accession directlie or indirectlie to anie owning of the forsaid powers, and desires that this may both be presented to the pretended counsell and registrat amongst their acts; as alsoe registrat in the (soe called) clarks books of the Tollbooth of Cannongate: as wittnes our hands, March 25, 1693, Cannongate Tollbooth,

Jo[hn]: Bell Jo[hn]: Clark
Tho[mas] M’Millan Ha: Wells’

(EUL, Laing MSS. vol. 344, No. 300, published in Hay Fleming (ed.), Six Saints, II, 233.)

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The Covenanter Paton of Meadowhead Enters Edinburgh Tolbooth #History #Scotland

•April 14, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Edinburgh Tolbooth Street View

Under 14 April, 1684:
Captain John Patoun [of Meadowhead] wairdit by order of ye Lords of his Maties
Justiciarie’ (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, IX, 133.)

A Petition About the Capture of James Renwick in 1688 #History #Scotland

•April 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

After the Revolution, the capture of James Renwick on 1 February, 1688, was still a live issue. Some key Society people sought to get financial revenge on John Justice, the man who had led to Renwick’s capture when he had searched a house in Castlehill in Edinburgh. Renwick had fought his way out of the house, but was taken running through streets at the Cowgate. The petition reveals that several key Society people were connected with the house. It does not mention that Renwick was captured in the incident back in 1688, probably because everyone knew that.

Indorsed: — ‘Petition for Mr. Alex Scheill and others, 1689’

‘To the Right Honourabell the Lords of his Majesties Privie Councell, The Petition of Mr. Alexander Scheills, preacher of the Gospell, Samuell Hall, sone to the deceast Henry Hall of Haughhead [(d.1680) also father of Benjamin Hall], and John Luckup, merchant in Edinburgh, Humbly sheweth : —

That, in February 1688, [on the day that James Renwick was captured, that] John Justice, merchant, accompanied with severall of his associats, came to the house of the said John Luckup petitioner [where Renwick had been hiding], and (pretending he had a warrand to search for prohibit goods) he most unwarrantably and contrar to all law, at his own hand, entered the house of the said John Luckup, in the Castlehill, and after the breaking up of some doores, chists, and presses; in a most rude and ryotous maner, he carried away not only the wholl goods and household plenishing of the said John Luckupe, to the value of 300 merks or therby, but also the books and papers of the said Mr. Alexander Scheill, lyeing in a great chist and coffer, of a considerable value, as lykewayes the goods and cloaths of the said Samuell Hall, lyeing in the said house, to the value of ten lib. sterling or therby; and sieing this was ane act of very great rudenes and cruelty, and to the reproach of every weill governed nation.

May it please your Lordships to consider the petitioners case, and to ordaine restitution to be made to them of their goods and books, &c., or value therof; and your Lordships ansuer.’
(EUL, Laing MSS. vol. 350, No. 250, published in Hay Fleming (ed.), Six Saints, II, 232-3.)

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The Strange Case of the Covenanter Who Died Twice #History #Scotland

•April 11, 2018 • 4 Comments


James Smith’s execution is a historical “fact”, but the fragmentary evidence for where and when he was killed and buried contains contradictions.

One strand claims that he was killed at Burn Anne and buried nearby at East Threepwood in Galston parish in 1684. An other strand says that he was wounded at Burn Anne and died in prison in Mauchline in 1684. A third strand claims he was shot returning from a field preaching. A close examination of the historical sources indicates that he probably died in 1684. However, Thorbjörn Campbell has also claimed that he died in 1685.

The simplest solution to the conflicts in the evidence is to accept that each of those pieces of evidence points to an aspect of Smith’s story and combine them into a narrative in which Smith was returning from a field preaching when he was wounded at Burn Anne, taken to Mauchline, and died in 1684.

However, there may be a crucial typesetting error in the evidence, which would place his death in 1685.

The killing of James Smith over three-hundred years ago is not a major historical question, but for me, after a decade of study, when he died is a matter of some importance if we are to have a clear understanding what happened in the Killing Times. Did he die in 1684 or 1685?

In this post, I want to discuss Campbell’s claim that he died in 1685. In a later post, I will put forward additional evidence which may support that claim.

When Did Smith Die?
Until recently, the time frame of James Smith’s death seemed secure. The records of Shields, Cloud of Witnesses and Smith’s gravestone dated his death to 1684. However, as can be demonstrated in the case of other graves, simple typesetting errors in the text of Shields have been transmitted down the centuries. As discussed in a previous post, a 1684 date for his death seems robust, but it is possible that he was killed in 1685.

If we adopt a 1685 date for his death, it contradicts all the early sources which date his death to 1684. That is a big step to take based on a possible typesetting error for the date of his death, even though all the early sources for him are based on one line in a single text, Alexander Shields’ A Short Memorial published in 1690.

A 1685 date for Smith’s death appeared in Thorbjörn Campbell’s Standing Witnesses in 1996.

Campbell’s Case for 1685
Campbell linked Smith’s end to the aftermath of the attack on Newmilns Tower and suggested a date in April. (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 139, 140-1, 151, 195.)

It was certainly a bold move. Campbell clearly had doubts about how accurate the typesetting was in Cloud of Witnesses and how accurate the inscriptions on the tombstones were about dates.

Under his entry for Mauchline, Campbell transcribed the inscription on Smith’s grave:

intered the corpse of JAMES
SMITH who was wounded by
Captain Ingles, and his Drag-
oons, at Burn of Ann in kyle,
and there after died of his wounds
in Mauchline prison for his adhe
arance to the word of GOD and
scotland’s Covenanted Work
of reformation, A.D. 1684’

He then briefly describes his fate:

‘If this is the same James Smith who was shot as described in the aftermath of the prison break at Newmilns, the date should read 1685; the source of error is perhaps the hagiography A Cloud of Witnesses, whose first edition may antedate this gravestone.’ (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 140-1.)

The date for the erection of that gravestone is not known. It was certainly put up at some point between 1702 and when its existence was first recorded in 1852. The source text for the inscription may have been an early edition of Cloud of Witnesses after 1714, but Cloud merely recycled the same text which was published by Shields in 1690. The latter certainly predates the establishment of the stone by at least twelve years, as the famous Covenanter gravestones were first put up in 1702.

Campbell’s Mauchline entry, above, refers to a more detailed entry of his on Smith under Galston parish.

In that entry he began by giving the text of a memorial from 1823 at Galston parish church. The memorial was replaced three years before Campbell published, so it is not clear which stone he viewed. Among those listed on it is James Smith:

East Threepwood
Who was shot near Bank on Burn Ann 1685
By CAPT INGLIS and his Dragoons
And buried there.’ (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 103.)

Today, the 1993 replacement monument reads ‘Bank of Burn Ann 1684’, not 1685. Curiously, Thomson in his late-nineteenth-century Martyrs Graves of Scotland did not record a date at all. (Thomson, Martyr Graves, 124.)

It is clear that a transcription or typesetting error has been made. The 1823 memorial probably dated Smith’s death to 1684, as all the earlier sources did and the present-day 1993 version of the memorial does.

There are no historical primary sources or grave inscriptions that claim that Smith died in 1685.

Campbell: ‘James Smith of Wee or East Threepwood is rather mysterious. He appears to have been caught up in the aftermath of the prison break at the Ducat Tower [in April 1685]… The tradition is that he was shot on his own doorstep for having given food to escapees.’

Campbell cited a traditional story in the New Statistical Account of 1845 for what happened to James Smith. However, that story – of giving food to escapees after the Newmilns prisoner rescue– was actually about a different Covenanter, John Smith in Cronan. It was not about James Smith, whose name does not appear in the New Statistical Account story.

Campbell appears to have followed a long line of historians from Wodrow who have hopelessly confused the various John and James Smith who died in the Killing Times. They left such a mess behind them, that it is hardly surprising that Campbell mixed up the two Smiths.

He continued: ‘Yet this stone [the 1823 Galston memorial] says he was shot “near Bank on Burn Ann … and buried there”. Bank in some distance away from Wee Threepwood.’

Map of East Threepwood

Campbell cited J.A. Hendrie’s History of Galston Parish Church (1909), 84-5 as the source for that information. Bank lies about 500m to the north of East Threepwood. It has been a ruin since at least the 1840s.

Here there is a second transcription or typesetting error. The 1823 Galston memorial actually recorded was that he was shot ‘near Bank of Burn Ann … and buried there’, which probably meant buried the near the bank of Burn Anne.

What is interesting about the 1823 Galston memorial is that it is the earliest traditional source to specifically link James Smith to East Threepwood. (Thomson, Martyrs Graves, 124.)

Campbell: ‘Another tradition is that his tombstone [at East Threepwood] was dislodged and thrown into Burn Ann by a frolicsome herdboy, and that it was broken into several pieces. One fragment, marked JS 1684 (or 1685) was recovered and built into the steading at Wee Threepwood. No such stone is evident nowadays at Wee [/East] Threepwood which for about two hundred years has been merely a pile of rubble on the lands of Threepwood Mains. A much later tombstone, unconnected with Smith, is discoverable in the thick grass under a large tree just beside the site. A tombstone to Smith might yet turn up there.’

I have discussed the “lost” East Threepwood gravestone in a previous post and concluded that it probably marked where he was shot. It almost certainly did not mark the site of his grave.

Campbell, too, spotted a problem with the lost Threepwood stone: ‘A tombstone to James Smith does exist at Mauchline. The epitaph on that stone states that he was “wounded by Captain Ingles, and his Dragoons, at the Burn of Ann in kyle, and there after died of his wounds in Mauchline prison.” This tombstone looks authentic.’

Campbell was one of the first to point out the existence of Smith’s Mauchline gravestone, that was recorded in 1852 but curiously missed out of later guides to the martyrs’ graves. The fact that it was missing from books such as Thomson’s Martyr Graves has probably added to historians’ confusion over the James Smith and the two John Smiths who died in the Killing Times.

Image Copyright The Glebe Blog

Campbell made a connection between Smith’s Mauchline grave and hangings at Mauchine in 1685:

‘The fact that five men, one of whom [John Brounen] is known to have participated in the Newmilns prison break in April 1685, were hanged at Mauchline on 6th May, 1685 seems to indicate that that Mauchline was the centre to which all the suspects implicated in the affair were transferred. It looks as if James Smith, grievously wounded, was carried to Mauchline perhaps for interrogation, but died before he could be hanged.’

A very interesting point. Smith is buried in Mauchline and it was where prisoners were sent to be tried in early May, 1685. If Smith was wounded in the time frame of late April/early May of 1685 then he probably would have been sent to Mauchline, where he did die. However, As Campbell points out:

‘The Mauchline tombstone is dated 1684, and we know that the Newmilns attack took place in April, 1685, but this need not invalidate our surmise, since tombstone dating can be very unreliable; some of the epitaphs were not composed until nearly forty years after the events they commemorate; this date may have been derived from that published in A Cloud of Witnesses, which is full of printing errors.’

A good point. The list of those killed in the fields produced by Shields in 1690 and reprinted in Cloud of Witnesses (1714) does contain typesetting errors.

However, Shields corrected the proofs for A Short Memorial and published his corrections in the errata. He listed several minor changes to his list of the dead which were not corrected when the list was republished in Cloud of Witnesses. The compilers of Cloud did not check the errata.

Shields did not correct the 1684 date for Smith’s death. It is possible that he missed that typesetting “error”, but any claim that Smith’s death should be dated to 1685 relies on a hypothesis that Shields did not spot the error in this particular case. That said, we also know that Shields did not some errors on his 1690 list. For example, he failed to spot the obvious contradicton in his listing of Daniel MacMichael and William Adam.

Campbell: ‘If, however, this [i.e., a printing error] has happened to James Smith, how do we explain the tradition of the vanished tombstone at Bank or Wee Threepwood?’

It is quite easy to answer Campbell’s question. We can dismiss the vanished tombstone at East Threepwood. There is no credible historical evidence for it ever having been a tombstone. It was probably a marker for where he was shot. The first evidence for Smith being allegedly buried at Threepwood only appears in 1823. It is unreliable traditional evidence.

‘Yet another tradition states that in his rage after the escape of his prisoners [from Newmilns Tower], Captain Ingles had two innocent men shot. If James Smith was one, who was the other?’

The tradition found in the New Statistical Account in 1845 named John Smith in Cronan, not James Smith, as one of the individuals killed after the Newmilns attack. It does not name the second alleged victim.

‘Could there have been two James Smiths of Wee Threepwood (perhaps father and son)? Martyrs of the same name were not uncommon. (Cf. The two David Hallidays buried in the same grave at Balmaghie.)’ (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 103-104.)

That is probably a leap too far. It is true that there were martyrs of the same name, but there is no evidence at all for that conjecture in this case. The historical sources only discuss the death of one James Smith.

Campbell suggested that it was possible that there may have been two James Smiths; one buried at Mauchline and one buried at East Threepwood.

As discussed above and previously, there is no historical evidence for the tradition that a grave existed at East Threepwood. If their was a stone there marked ‘J.S. 1684’ it was almost certainly not from a grave. There is only one gravestone to Smith and that is at Mauchline.

There are significant weaknesses in Campbell’s case for a 1685 death. It is clear that in part his case relied on a transcription error of 1685, when the 1823 Galston memorial dated his death to 1684. It is also clear that James Smith was not the same person as John Smith in Cronan. Historians have confused those two different Covenanters. Campbell clearly used a tradition about John Smith in Cronan in the aftermath of the attack on Newmilns in April 1685 about James Smith. By confusing him with Smith in Cronan, it appears that James Smith was killed after the attack. However, while the tradition said two were shot after the attack, it only named John Smith in Cronan as one of those who were killed and did not name James Smith.

However, one should not be too hasty in dismissing Campbell’s case. Despite flaws in the evidence, there are also strengths in his argument. It is possible that Shields misdated his death to 1684, even though that date seems robust. All the early sources for his death, including the inscription on his gravestone, relied on Shields’s date and that source does contain typesetting errors. We know that the East Threepwood stone was almost certainly not a grave and that Smith was not buried there. Smith is buried in Mauchline under a stone with, what appears to be, an authentic Continuing Society people inscription from the early Eighteenth Century. That Mauchine gravestone dates his death to 1684, but it, too, draws on the same single line in Shields. Mauchline was definitely a place where prisoners were sent for trial in early May 1685.

Campbell’s case for a 1685 date can be refined as follows:

If there is a typesetting error for the date of Smith’s death in A Short Memorial then all the other historical sources – Cloud of Witnesses, Wodrow, the Mauchline gravestone and even the later 1823 Galston memorial – contain the same flawed date.

The context of his burial in Mauchline suggests that he may have died there in late April or early May 1685. That aligns with a later unreliable tradition that Captain Inglis shot two men after the Newmilns raid.

Is there any historical evidence to corroborate Campbell’s 1685 hypothesis? …

There is the question of “the fellow”, a mysterious prisoner held by John Graham of Claverhouse in early May, 1685. His story could fit the story of James Smith, if he died in 1685. Is he James Smith?

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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 Lost Gravestone of the Covenanter James Smith #History #Scotland

•April 2, 2018 • 2 Comments


Is this where a Covenanter was shot and buried in the Killing Times?

In Simpson’s mid-nineteenth-century Traditions of the Covenanters, he claimed that James Smith was buried at East Threepwood, aka. Wee Threepwood, beside Burn Anne in Ayrshire:

‘This martyr was buried on the spot where his blood was shed; a stone, with inscription, was laid upon his grave, which is now overgrown with moss; but a thicket of whins, the prickly guardians of this lonely sepulchre, marks the place where his ashes rest.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 125.)

Map of East Threepwood

Later, in 1996, Thorbjörn Campbell recorded the alleged fate of Smith’s gravestone at East Threepwood:

‘Another tradition is that his tombstone was dislodged and thrown into Burn Ann by a frolicsome herdboy, and that it was broken into several pieces. One fragment, marked JS 1684 (or 1685) was recovered and built into the steading at Wee Threepwood.’ (Campbell, Standing Witnesses, 103.)

Campbell’s source for that information appears to have been J.A. Hendrie’s History of Galston Parish Church (1909), 82-3.

I will leave it up to you to decided how credible a story that a ‘frolicsome herdboy’ smashed the stone and that only a fragment conveniently marked ‘J.S. 1684’ survived is.

However, it has vanished. Campbell continues:
‘No such stone is evident nowadays at Wee Threepwood which for about two hundred years has been merely a pile of rubble on the lands of Threepwood Mains [aka. West Threepwood/Threepwood]. A much later tombstone, unconnected with Smith, is discoverable in the thick grass under a large tree just beside the site. A tombstone to Smith might yet turn up there.’

East Threepwood has only been rubble for about a hundred years. It was extant in 1905, when it was photographed, and appears on the OS map surveyed in 1894. It does not appear on the 1937 OS map.

The Lost Stone Marked ‘J.S. 1684’
A stone inscribed ‘J.S. 1684’ (or possibly ‘1685’ according to Campbell) is said to have been a fragment of his gravestone which was built into the wall of East Threepwood prior to 1909. This stone is now lost.

If this was Smith’s gravestone it was of a very simple style, rather than one of the inscription-heavy stones carved by the Continuing Society people in the Eighteenth Century. They erected detailed gravestones on almost every martyr who died in the Killing Times.

The stone marked ‘J.S.1684’ was probably not a gravestone.

It may have been a lintel stone from his house. A stone marked ‘Praise God’ and ‘J– S– 1709’ marked the Covenanter John Steel’s building of a house in Lesmahagow parish. (Greenshields, Annals of Lesmahagow, 121.)

It is also possible that it was a marker stone for the traditional location for where he was wounded or killed. A similar stone marked ‘1685’ marks a field preaching site in nearby Muirkirk parish.

A stone marked ‘W. Smith’ marks where William Smith was shot in 1685, but not where he is buried.

Two other stones marked ‘James Renwick’ and ‘Peden 1681’ also identify traditional field preaching sites further south.

What all those stones have in common is that they do not mark Covenanter grave sites.

However, the main problem with the lost “gravestone” at East Threepwood is that there is another gravestone to Smith at Mauchline.

According to Campbell:

‘A tombstone to James Smith does exist at Mauchline. The epitaph on that stone states that he was “wounded by Captain Ingles, and his Dragoons, at the Burn of Ann in kyle, and there after died of his wounds in Mauchline prison.” This tombstone looks authentic.’

It does:

James Smith Grave
Photograph © The Glebe Blog

The Mauchline Gravestone
We can probably dismiss any suggestion that the Mauchline gravestone is not authentic. The residents of Mauchline had little need to ‘create’ a martyr for their town, as they already had five documented martyrs of the Killing Times. The details in the inscription are specific to Smith, even though the other early and traditional sources do not connect him to a burial in Mauchline.

The Mauchline gravestone is an inconvenient fact for the claim he was killed and buried at Burn Anne. It cannot be wished away.

Its existence was first recorded in 1852, yet, somehow, it was not included in late-nineteenth century inventories of martyr graves. The inscription has all the hallmarks of having been produced by the Continuing Society people in the first half of the Eighteenth Century and draws on the text of Shield’s A Short Memorial of 1690. However, it does add that Smith ‘thereafter died of his wounds in Mauchline prison’. In other words, the wounded Smith was brought from East Threepwood/Burn Anne to Mauchline, which lie about six miles apart.

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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