Thomas Archer, the Battle of Muirdykes and his Execution in 1685 #History #Scotland

•November 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

In his History, Wodrow devoted a long passage to the life and death of Thomas Archer, a moderate-presbyterian minister who was captured at the Battle of Muirdykes and executed in Edinburgh in August, 1685:

‘It was some longer time before Mr Thomas Archer was executed; and I shall in this place give any short hints I have of this excellent person, and then go forward unto other sufferers, not unto death, upon the score of the earl of Argyle’s attempt [in 1685].

Ayloffe Glasgow

Image ‘King: ‘Coll. Ayloff and 200 more brought in Prisoners to Glascow’ Copyright © The British Museum. released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

The Reverend Mr Thomas Archer, was brother to John Archer […]; and I have the following accounts of him from ministers and others yet alive, who had the happiness of his acquaintance.’

John Archer was a candlemaker in Strathmiglo, Fife, and a nonconformist. He was imprisoned for suspected involvement in the assassination of Archbishop Sharp and released in late 1679. He was imprisoned, again, in 1683, (Wodrow, History, III, 55, 438-9.)

‘The Lord began very early to incline his heart to piety; and when he was little more than a child, that eminent minister, and extraordinary Christian formerly mentioned, Mr Alexander Moncrief, gave him that character, that he made conscience of lifting his bonnet, that is, of the most minute actions of his life, and did all with a holy tenderness, and out of a principle of religion; and yet after he had gone through his university studies, he wanted not shakings and exercise about the state of his soul; at length he got comfortably out of all, and enjoyed much of a life of serenity and consolation through the remainder of his time.

When he received his degrees at the university, I think, of St Andrews, it was with great applause, and the masters who examined him, declared they had not met with his equal in learning for many years.

Some years after, when chaplain to the lady Riddel, in that country, he was licensed to preach the gospel by presbyterian ministers, and his sermons were very judicious, methodical, and most scriptural. He was so exact in what he delivered, that he neglected the manner, being intent upon the matter. He was not so acceptable to vulgar hearers, as some other young men far inferior to him in abilities.’

Margaret Swinton, Lady Riddell, was the third wife Sir John Riddell of Riddell in Roxburgh from 1669. Sir John was the brother of the field preacher Archibald Riddell. Wodrow’s somewhat elitist statement that Archer was not ‘so acceptable to vulgar hearers, as some other men far inferior to him in abilities’ probably alludes to militant young field preachers like Richard Cameron who were licensed at around the same time in the late 1670s.

‘His conversation was very grave, sedate, prudent, affable, and cheerful; he was an excellent scholar, very bookish, and gave himself to reading, meditation, and prayer. When staying in a gentleman’s house in the Merse, he was, about the year 1682, taken prisoner, for no other fault than preaching the gospel now and then; and, as we heard, he was brought in prisoner, and continued some months in the Canongate tolbooth.’

According to Wodrow, he was taken at the same time that ‘Mr [Gabriel] Semple was seized’. Semple was married to a sister of Sir John Riddell of Riddell and Archibald Riddell. Semple was captured by a party of guards in the house of Sir Patrick Hepburn of Blackcastle near Oldhamstocks in late July, 1681. He was probably captured at Black Castle, which has now vanished but lay next to Oldhamstocks in East Lothian. Semple was released under bond of 10,000 merks on 1 October, but failed to appear when called before the council in December. Archer was appointed to continue in prison on 24 November, 1681. He petitioned the privy council to be released to depart for the Dutch United Provinces on 9 June, 1682. He was released and went into exile in Rotterdam. Both Gabriel Semple and Archibald Riddell opposed the militancy of Cameron and the Society people. (Wodrow, History, III, 267, 270, 404-5.)

‘There he improved his time very closely, and in a little, made himself absolutely master of the Hebrew tongue, and was a great master of both the original languages of the scriptures. At length he was banished the kingdom, and made to sign a bond never to return to his native country, without the government’s allowance; and he retired to Holland.

In Holland, he mightily improved in all branches of valuable learning; and while there, was employed to correct the Dutch edition of Pool’s Criticks, then printing. He was there ordained a minister of the gospel by the Scots ministers [at Rotterdam], from their deep sense of his excellent endowments. Mr Robert Fleming, and Mr Alexander Hastie preached at his ordination [in the Scots Kirk].’

Both Fleming and Hastie were presbyterian opponents of the militant Society people.

‘He was assured that his bond was got up by his friends in Scotland, from the council, otherwise it is probable he would not have consented to have come back. Being a youth of great gallantry and spirit, he was prevailed upon to engage with Argyle [in his rising in 1685].’

Battle of Muirdykes

Wodrow then gives a direct account of how Archer was wounded in the battle:

‘After they [Argyll’s Army] were dissipate, he got over Clyde [near Erskine], and was in the engagement at Muirdyke, where Sir John Cochran commanded: his horse stumbling, fell to the ground, and his pursuers might easily have made him prisoner, but such was their barbarity, that before Mr Archer could recover himself, one of them poured in a pair of balls into him, whereby he was sorely wounded, and while lying wounded, he was robbed of his bible, watch, and some gold; and, as we have heard, after he had lain bleeding almost to death, he was, by his friends, carried into a country house, where he was soon taken, and brought into Paisley, where his wounds were dressed, and were extremely painful to him.’

George Brysson’s account of the battle also contains intriguing details about Archer on the battlefield.

‘Thence he was carried into Glasgow, where he remained some days in great distress, and very low; and was sent into Edinburgh, by order of the council.

So extremely weak was he, that he was not able to sit upon a horse, and therefore was sent east upon a cart, and, with no small difficulty, the honest people in Glasgow prevailed to get a feather-bed laid under him.’

Archer’s wounds appear to have left him unable to walk. He was later carried to his execution on a chair.

‘Before the council [in Edinburgh] he was reproached bitterly, that he had broke his engagement by bond. This was no small grief to him, and he regretted very much that he had been made to believe that his friends had got it up; and the council, July 13th, put him over into the hands of the criminal court.

While in prison, great importunity was used with people in power, for his liberation; and it was represented he was in a dying condition by his wounds, and physicians declared so much; but nothing would prevail with them.

In all the turns, they resolved to have some ministers sacrificed to their fury, the great Mr Guthrie after the restoration, the excellent Mr Hugh Mackail after Pentland [in 1666], Mr [John] King and Mr [John] Kid after Bothwell [in 1679], and now worthy Mr Archer.’

According to Wodrow, the appeals for Archer’s life went to the highest levels:

‘[William Douglas] The duke of Queensberry was addressed in a particular manner, and even by his own son [Lieutenant-Colonel James Douglas], who had a high value for Mr Archer, but always received with indignation; and he told his son in very odd terms, his life could not be spared.

All those endeavours failing, a design was laid to have him secretly conveyed out of prison, and it came so great a length, that once the sentinels had money given them. A worthy gentlewoman, yet alive, Mrs Montgomery, servant to the late excellent duchess of Hamilton, bestowed ten dollars that way. In short, every thing was made ready, but he himself broke the project, and told his friends, that he reckoned himself a dying person; and seeing he reckoned he could not serve his Master in any other manner, he did not think it his duty to decline a testimony for him and his truth, by a public death.

August 12th, I find him before the justiciary. He should have been brought before them twice formerly, but was perfectly out of case through bodily weakness, and by every body looked upon as dying: yet those merciless men would take his blood upon them. His indictment was read, and he charged with treason. Probation, his own confession,

“That he had been in company with the earl of Argyle; that the earl had imparted his design to him of invading Scotland; that he went before to Ireland, to prevail with some persons there to join the said earl, but none came; he declines peremptorily to condescend upon their names; that he continued with the rebels till dissipated; that he was with Sir John Cochran’s party near the Stone-fold, and received a shot in his side, and was carried to a house near by, where he was apprehended; that he had a sword. Tho. Archer.”

The assize brought him in guilty by his own confession, and the lords sentence him to be hanged on a gibbet, August 14th, till dead. He was still delayed till Friday, August 21st, when he suffered death. I am sorry I have no large accounts of his Christian and cheerful carriage on the scaffold, but shall here insert his last testimony, which he drew up in prison, and delivered as much of it as he was able at his death, and I give it from the original copy, yet remaining with his friends.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 316-7.)

His testimony can be found here.

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Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to post this on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine



Thomas Archer in the Argyll Rising of 1685 #History #Scotland

•November 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Battle of Muirdykes

In 1685, the minister Thomas Archer had been sent as an agent for the Earl of Argyll to Ireland. During the Argyll Rising, he and a few recruits joined it at Rothesay on Bute:

‘Mr. Thomas Archer, who was sent from Holland to advertise our friends in Ireland, came to us with James Lisk and nine other men; some hundreds would have come with him, if with safety he might have staid a few days upon them.’ (Erskine, Journal, 123.)

Archer was badly wounded at the Battle of Muirdykes on 18 June and taken prisoner.

On 7 July, one of Argyll’s men, John Erskine, heard of his capture:

‘This morning I came to Gribloch, and met with Mr. F[orreste]r, Mr. John Dougall, who told us that Colonel [John] Aylif, young Cultness [i.e., David Steuart] , Mr. Thomas Archer, minister, with severall others who had come from Holland with Argyle, were taken prisoners.

On the following day, Erskine and his companions considered rescuing the prisoners held in Glasgow:

‘8th. — I did now sit up untill it was daylight and then sleep. There was now some thoughts of rescuing Colonel Aylif and other prisoners now in Glasgow, but it failed, they being carried to Edinburgh before people were ready. (Erskine, Journal, 133-4.)

Thomas Archer was executed in Edinburgh in August.


Making History: Can you find and photograph this Lost Covenanter’s grave? #History #Scotland. It is near #Wishaw & #Motherwell

•November 15, 2017 • 2 Comments

Arthur Inglis Cambusnethan 1

The grave of Arthur Inglis, who was killed in 1679, lay in St Michael’s Churchyard near Netherton, also known as Old Cambusnethan. It was there in the 1960s, but has been vandalised and may have disappeared. This picture indicates the location of where it should be in the graveyard:

Arthur Inglis Cambusnethan 2

For the full story of Arthur Inglis and more photographs of the grave, see here.

These maps mark where the graveyard is:

Map of Old Cambusnethan Graveyard

If you can find it and photograph it, please get in touch so we can share your discovery, either via twitter @drmarkjardine or jardinesbookofmartyrs [at]

Good luck!

Both pictures, above, with thanks to Robert French for his very kind permission to share these photographs. Also thanks to Tookie Bunten for arranging that. Do not reproduce these photographs without permission.


The Cotmuir Folk in the Canongate Tolbooth #History #Scotland

•October 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

In the late 1690s, Elizabeth West encountered the radical Cotmuir Folk when they were imprisoned in the Canongate Tolbooth. West’s memoirs recall the pull of the Cotmuir Folk to those who wished to keep up the Covenanted testimony. It is worth noting that two women were involved in these visits and that women were influential in the Cotmuir Folk:

‘There is one thing which I cannot but remark: About this time I had a comrade, whose converse and company was very refreshful unto me sometime a-day: for she was the first that ever I opened my mind to, when first the Lord took a dealing with my soul (and found great satisfaction in so doing.) A great while before this, she tells me that she is going to desert the ordinances, and leave hearing of the ministers, and that because there were many faults among them, which conscience could not away with: they were not like the ministers in the late presbyterian times; they had made public defection from the truth in many things, and, in plain terms, she told me, that she thought it was neither her duty, nor the duty of any of the Lord’s people, to own them for ministers.

Now, I knowing she was a godly woman, and had known much of the Lord’s way on her own soul; she was also one that attended all occasions of preachings and communions, and spoke always very favourably of our ministers; and now to see such a sudden change, put me in a strait what to think. Then did I enquire at her, what she had a mind to do? or whom she would hear? She told me there were two or three singular ones (whom they call the Coto muir folk) who only had the testimony among them; these have kept their garments clean from all the pollutions of the times. These I resolved to hold for my ministers; for there are none in all the church of Scotland that keep so strong and true to the presbyterian interest and the covenanted work of reformation as they have done.

I hearing this, was somewhat curious to see them; when I came to the place where they were (which was in the Canongate Tolbooth) I conferred with them, and thought them good people; but for me to think them righter than all the ministers of the church of Scotland, this I could not understand. I visited them frequently, and great pains were they at to get me in among them; but this I could never think of, till one time I was in a very ill case, corruption growing On my hand, and I could find no strength to fight against ray predominant sin; I could find the Lord in no duty, neither in public, private, nor secret; then thought I with myself, what if it be true that these people say, that the Lord is not to be found in ordinances? So then it is needless for me to seek him where he is not to be found: may be this is the cause why the Lord is deserting me in public and secret duties. Then had I some thoughts of leaving the ministers, and following their way; so accordingly I went one Sabbath afternoon to spend it with them, and to see what I could get there; but, instead of meeting with the Lord, I met with many a sad challenge for abstaining from the public ordinances. Then thought I, what if the word has been preached this afternoon that would have done me good? This vexed me mightily.’ (West, Memoirs: Or Spiritual Exercises of ElizabethWest, 100-101.)

For more on the Cotmuir Folk, see here.


A Glimpse of the Radical Cotmuir Folk in the Poll Tax of the 1690s #History #Scotland

•October 29, 2017 • 1 Comment

The Cotmuir Folk were an obscure, radical group influenced by women and prophetic revelations that were based in Dalmeny parish. They produced Smoaking Flax Unquenchable (1706), a wonderful, little read and deeply radical anti-Union of 1707 tract. In this post, I will reveal a few new facts about them that I have discovered in recently digitised records, including those of the Poll Tax in the 1690s. Yes, there was a Poll Tax back then … and what a mine of information it is, where it survives.

We know that the group emerged after the Revolution in 1689 to 1690, featured at its core Grisell Spiritt and her sister, Margaret Park and the brothers Andrew and John Harley/Harlaw.

We know that the group had connections to the Sweet Singers in Bo’ness of the early 1680s.

The recently digitised Poll Tax records of the 1690s, contain more clues. In the Poll Tax Roll for Dalmeny parish of November, 1694, we find ‘William Harlaw tennent in Standing Stain & his wife [and] Robert Harlaw his sone’.

The farm occupied by the Harlaws/Harleys at Standing Stane lay directly to the west of Cotmuir, the farm the Folk were later associated with. William Harlaw was almost certainly kin to, perhaps the father of, Andrew Harlaw of the Cotmuir Folk.

Map of Standing Stane         Street View of Standing Stane (today)

It is curious that Andrew Harlaw/Harley does not appear on the 1694 Poll Tax roll for the parish, but that may be because children under sixteen were exempt from paying the tax. William Harlaw’s son Robert does appear as he was over sixteen.

At that time, the Poll Tax record reveals that Cotmuir was occupied by ‘Robert Syme in Coatmure & his wife’ and Jonet Gray there & her daughter’ etc.

Map of former site of Cotmuir       Street View of former site of Cotmuir

However, less than a year later, Andrew Harlaw does appear in the Hearth Tax Record for Dalmeny parish of 1695 apparently under Cotmuir. It lists:

‘William Harlaw [in Standing Stone] … 2’
‘Robert Syme [in Cotmuir] … 2’
and directly below Syme:
‘Androw Harlaw children [i.e., in Cotmuir] … 7’.

It appears that Andrew Harlaw, although a young man, had more hearths than his probable kin William and Robert Harlaw in Standing Stone. However, it is possible that the hearths at Cotmuir included kilns, which were also included in the total for the Hearth Tax. Were the Harlaws involved in brewing, whisky production or blacksmiths? Cotmuir lay right beside the highway between Edinburgh and the ferry at Queensferry, an ideal location for producing beer or whisky for thirsty travellers. Later, in the mid nineteenth century, a smithy was located at Cotmuir, which perhaps may help to explain the large number of hearths recorded in 1695.

It is clear that Andrew Harlaw was a young man. When he was interrogated by the privy council in 1696, he and his brother, John, were described as ‘Coatmuir lads’ who were ‘very insolent and extravogant against the Government of Church and State’.

The above suggests that Andrew Harlaw/Harley was a teenager in c.1695. If we are to believe the history of the Folk, they submitted a paper to Hew Kennedy and the General Assembly in 1690. As Andrew Harlaw may have been around ten years old in 1690, it seems very doubtful that he was behind that paper. (See Raffe in Apetrei (ed), Religion and Women in Britain, 73.)

It seems more probable that adults, probably the Spiritt women, Margaret Park and/or perhaps William Harlaw, were behind it and a protest in Bo’ness in 1691. It is here that the identification of William Harlaw may be pertinent. According to Wodrow in his brief report of 1710, “The Spritts wer part of John Gibb’s follouers [around Bo’ness in the 1680s], and they wer marryed to the Harleys; the father to one of them, and the son, I think, to the other.”

Was the father William and the son Andrew?

For more on the Cotmuir Folk, 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

The Radical Women of the Cotmuir Folk near Edinburgh in 1710 #History #Scotland

•October 28, 2017 • 1 Comment

The Cotmuir Folk, aka. The Folk, were a small and extremely radical sect that had emerged out of the United Societies after the Revolution of 1689-1690. What marked the Cotmuir Folk out was that women were influential in them. The were based at Cotmuir in Dalmeny parish, which lay just beyond Cramond Brig.

Map of former site of Cotmuir       Street View of former site of Cotmuir

The following hostile account of them comes from the presbyterian historian, Robert Wodrow, who was later famed for his History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland. Wodrow disliked what he saw as the extremes of the Society people, yet for much of his History he was reliant on them for accounts of sufferings.

The source for his information was James Wilson in Douglas parish, Lanarkshire, who was a member of the United Societies before the Revolution and a known associate of Alexander ‘Prophet’ Peden and Patrick Walker. The Cotmuir Folk were interested in Peden’s prophetic revelations and printed them in The Ravished Maid in the Wilderness, Or, A True Account of the Raise, Causes, and Continuuance of the Deference between A Suffering Party of Presbyterians, Commonly Called Cotmure Folk, and these that Follows Mr John MackMillan, Commonly called Mountain Men (1708). Like many Society people, Wilson clearly had little time for the Cotmuir Folk either, as women were influential in them. The central accusation against the Cotmuir Folk was that the Spritts had been in the Sweet Singers, another group primarily made up of women that relied of revelations and had irregular marriages with the Harleys/Harlaws that had produced one son.

‘May, 1710. — I find that the Harleys [Andrew and James?], that live in Cottmuir, are the authors of “The Burning Bush,” “Smoking Flax [in 1706],” and some other of these virulent papers. I heard ane accompt of them, that I cannot nou fully recollect, from James Wilson in Douglasse. The Spritts wer part of John Gibb’s follouers [around Bo’ness], and they wer marryed to the Harleys; the father to one of them, and the son, I think, to the other. They pretend to great revelations, and that one of the Spritts was to bring forth a son who was to deliver the world, and this Church in particular! They are dreadful cheats; they pretend to fastings, and yet eat in secret. Ninian Oliphant [one of the post-Revolution “Continuing” Societies] was proselyted by them for a week, and made to fast three dayes; and at lenth he discovered them eating in secret, and left them.’ (Wodrow, Analecta I, 272-3.)

For more on the Cotmuir Folk, 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

The Captain who Rescued an Assassin Wrecked at Sea #History #Scotland

•October 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Scottish Ship

It is not everyday that you rescue one of the most-wanted men in the Kingdom from a ship wreck, but that is what happened to a James Cassill, the captain of a ship which found David Hackston of Rathillet wrecked at sea …

Rathillet had taken part in the assassination of Archbishop James Sharp on 3 May, 1679. After the defeat of the Covenanters, he had fled to Rotterdam, where, after causing considerable strife in the Scots exile community, he decided to return to Scotland to join Richard Cameron in raising the fallen standard of the Lord. It is clear that his return voyage in June 1680 had met with some catastrophe.

From the records of Edinburgh Tolbooth, under 20 August, 1680:

‘ffirst day of August 1680
The Lords off the committy off his majesties privie councell haveing considered James Cassill prisoner his oath beareing that he knew nott Rathillett when he took him up wracked att sea, nor while he wes aboord his ship and that as ane test off his loyalty he had taken the oath off alleadgiance befor the committy Doe ordaine the magistratts off Edinbu]r[gh] to sett the said James Cassills att liberty’. (Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, VI, 147.)

Thanks to his rescue, Rathillet was able to join Cameron’s band in Ayrshire. He was captured at the Battle of Airds Moss on 22 July and executed on 30 July, the day before Cassill was released from the Tolbooth.

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