Alexander S Morton.

Galloway and the Covenanters; or, The struggle for religious liberty in the south-west of Scotland online

. (page 24 of 28)
Online LibraryAlexander S MortonGalloway and the Covenanters; or, The struggle for religious liberty in the south-west of Scotland → online text (page 24 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

He was buried in North Berwick churchyard, where
a large flat stone resting on short pillars has been
placed over his grave. It bears the following in-
scription: —

Here lies the body of Mr. John Blackader, minister
of the Gospel at Troqueer, in Galloway, who
died on the Bass, after five years' imprisonment,
anno Dom., 1685, and of his age sixty-three years.

" Blest John, for Jesus' sake, in Patmos bound,
His prison Bethel, Patmos Pisgah found ;
So the blest John on yonder rock confin'd,
His body suffered, but no chain could bind
His heav'n-aspiring soul : while day by day,
As from mount Pisgah top he did survey
The promised Land, and view'd the crown by faith
Laid up for those who faithful are till death :
Grace form'd him in the Christian hero's mould.
Meek in his own concerns, in's Master's bold.
Passions to reason chain'd, prudence did lead,
Zeal warm'd his breast, and reason cool'd his head.
Five years on the bare rock, yet sweet abode.
He Enoch like enjoy 'd, and walk'd with God,
Till, by long living on this heavenly food,
His soul by love grew up, too great, too good.
To be confin'd in jail, or flesh, and blood ;
Death broke his fetters, off then swift he fled
From sin and sorrow, and by angels led,
Entered the mansions of eternal joy.
Blest soul ! thy warfare's o'er ; praise, love, enjoy.
His dust here rests till Jesus come again,
Ev'n so, bless 'd Jesus! come, come, Lord! Amen."


Some years ago a mural brass tablet was placed in
Troqueer Church, bearing the following inscription: —

To the Glory of God and in memory of


Born 1615.

Ordained minister of the Parish of Troqueer 1653.

Extruded 1662. Outlawed for preaching in the fields 1674.

Imprisoned on the Bass Rock 1681.

Died after cruel confinement 1685.

•' Faithful unto Death."

Erected A.D. 1902.




Tombstone at Caldous Wood and inscription — The first erected
by Old Mortality — James and Robert Dun, Thomas and John
Stevenson, James M'Clive, and Andrew M'Call — Tradition
of their martyrdom — Captain Urquhart's dream and death —
Letter from privy council — A romantic story — Narrow escape
— The Duns of Benwhat.

Glentrool is in the heart of Raiderland, and within
recent years has from the beauty of its surroundings
become well known to all visitors to Galloway. One
of the weekly excursion drives from Newton Stewart
has Glentrool as its destination, and apart from that
it is a place of frequent pilgrimage. At the Caldons
Wood a monument has been erected to the memory of
six Covenanters slain here in 1685.

As Sir Walter Scott tells us in the introduction to
Old Mortality, there is a small monumental stone on
the farm of Caldons, near the House of the Hill in
Wigtownshire,* which is highly venerated as the first
erected by Old Mortality, to the memory of several
persons who fell at that place in defence of their
religious tenets in the Civil War in the reign of
Charles II. The stone stands in a walled enclosure,

* It is, however, on the Stewartry side of the Cree.


and is about two and a half feet high by two feet in
breadth. The inscription is as follows: —


Other side: —


There are also two oblong stones on the wall with
the following inscriptions: —











JAN-23. 1685.







Little is known about the martyrs. Tradition tells
that a number of Covenanters had gathered one
Sabbath morning in the Caldons Wood, and were
engaged at worship, when they were suddenly surprised
by a company of dragoons under Colonel James
Douglas. A few of the Covenanters had arms and
defended themselves, but were speedily overcome.
Most of them escaped, but the six already mentioned
could not get away, and sought refuge in the Caldons
farmhouse. They were shot dead, and buried where
they fell. One dragoon was killed in the encounter,


besides Captain Urquhart, of whom we read: —
" Tradition asserts that he had dreamed he would be
killed at a place called the Caldons, and whilo
approaching the cottage of a shepherd in search of
the fugitives, he enquired the name of the place. On
being informed, he gave utterance to a fearful oath,
and with the superstitious feeling of the age, drew up
his horse, but ere he could determine whether to
advance or retire, a shot fired from a window brought
him to the ground." At the same time one of the
Covenanters levelled his musket at Colonel Douglas,
but it would not go off, and so that officer had a
providential escape. There were some women among
the Covenanters, and it was probably on their account
that such fierce resistance was offered. From Kir-
kinner Session Records we learn that May Dunbar,
second daughter of Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon, of
known piety all her life, " very providentially and
narrowly escaped the enemy's fury at the Caldons."

In The Cloud of Witnesses and in Wodrow, two of
the names are given as Andrew M'Aulay and John
M 'Chide. On the stone they are Andrew M'Call and
James M'Clive. But for the difference of John and
James it might have been said that these were only
different forms of the same name, but probably, as
another writer suggests, there may be an error in the
first transcription, and the likelihood is that the names
on the tombstone are correct.

On January 28th, 1685, the Council sent the
following letter to those they had commissioned for
Wigtown and Kirkcudbright: —


" Right Honourable, — His Majesty's Privy
Council, being certainly informed that Captain
Urquhart hath been killed, and some others of
His Majesty's Forces killed and wounded by some
desperate rebels in your bounds, who had the bold-
ness to attack them, whereof three were taken
alive and made prisoners. The Council thinking-
it fit that justice may be done upon these
notorious, desperate rebels, upon the place, for
greater terror and example to others, do therefore
require you immediately upon receipt of this to
proceed and do justice upon them according to
your commission, you being first convened to this
purpose by Colonel James Douglas, Colonel of
the Footguards, whom we have added to your
commission, and punish them according to law and
your instructions. And where they shall be found
guilty, you shall forthwith cause burn their houses
and the materials thereof, and secure their goods
for His Majesty '8 use. And particularly if you
find any of those rebels have been maliciously and
wilfully reset at the Houses of Star or Lochhead
lying towards Kilrine and Craigmalloch, inquire
into it. Your punctual and exact obedience is


" (Signed) Perth."

A romantic story has been handed down regarding
Roger Dun, a brother of the two Duns killed. In
fleeing from the soldiers he made for Loch Trool. For
a few moments the formation of the ground hid him


from view, and he took advantage of this to jump into
the loch and get in among some reeds and bushes,
where he stood with only his head out of the water 1 .

His pursuers could not see him, and after an un-
successful search, they fired some shots at random and
went away. Dun had to remain in the water for a
considerable time. When he ventured out, he sought
refuge in a house close to the loch, where the inmates
put him to bed while his clothes were being dried at
the fire. Soon, however, he was in a raging fever,
owing to the long wait in the cold water, for it was the
month of January, and for a time his life seemed to be
hanging in the balance. He was carefully nursed by
a young woman in the house, and ultimately recovered,
and the story ends with the marriage of Dun to his
faithful attendant. The spot where he was concealed
is still pointed out, and retains the name of " Roger's
Bush." M'Kerlie and other writers give a somewhat
different version of the story, and say that Roger was
shot the following day. This, however, is erroneous,
as we shall see.

The three Duns, there is every reason to believe,
were the sons of James Dun, the farmer of Benwhat,
in Dalmellington parish. Roger was born in 1659,
and early identified himself with the cause of the
Covenanters. He was frequently pursued, and had
many narrow escapes. On one occasion, when return-
ing home with his brothers Andrew and Allan from a
conventicle at Craigview, in Carsephairn, a company
of troopers suddenly pounced on them. Andrew and
Allan were captured, but Roger, by a sudden and un-


expected spring, eluded the grasp of the soldier who
attempted to take him, and got away. He lived till
after the Revolution, but was killed at Broekloch, a
short distance from Carsephairn, having been mistaken
for another man. It appears that the farmers of
Camlar, Carse, and Borland were at enmity with the
Laird of Lochhead, and on the night of Carsephairn
fair, having imbibed too freely, they formed the design
of murdering Lochhead on his way home. In the
failing light, and mad with drink, they came upon
Roger Dun, and, believing him to be Lochhead, they
stabbed him to death before they realised their
mistake. " Roger Dun's Cairn " still marks the scene
of the tragedy. In Carsephairn churchyard a stone
has the following inscription: —


In Memory of Roger Dun, who was born at Benwhat,
parish of Dalmellington 1659. He suffered much
persecution for the cause of Christ, and was
Killed on the night of Carsephairn Fair, June
1689, on the Farm of Broekloch.

'* Pluck'd from Minerva's breast here am I laid,
Which debt to cruel Atropos I've paid;
Resting my clayey fabric in the dust,
Among the holy ashes of the Just,
My Soul set sail for the celestial shore.
Till the last trump the same with joy restore."




Wodrow's narrative — The Wilsons of Glenvernock — Their children
would not conform and fled — Margaret and Agnes Wilson,
venturing to Wigtown, are betrayed and arrested — Margaret
M'Lauchlan seized at worship and imprisoned — Tried before
the Laird of Lagg and others for rebellion — Found guilty
and sentenced to be drowned — Agnes Wilson liberated on a
Bond for £100 — The execution on 11th May, 1685 — Scenes at
the Bladnoch — Buried in Wigtown churchyard — Tombstones
and inscriptions — Napier's Case for the Crown in re. the
Wigtown Martyrs proved to be Myths — Petition by Margaret
M'Lauchlan for recall of sentence of death — A reprieve
granted, but not given effect to — Procedure in another case
showing pardon granted— Wigtown case had no such ending
— Proof of martyrdom shown by (1) Tradition, (2) Early
pamphlets, (3) Earlier Histories, (4) Minutes of local Church
Courts, Kirkinner, Penninghame, and Wigtown, (5) Monu-
mental evidence — Miscellaneous — Singular dream of Margaret
M'Lauchlan's daughter re. Provost Coltrain of Drummorral
— The Stirling monument — The Wigtown monument.

No fact connected with " the killing times " in Scot-
land is better known than the story of the Wigtown
martyrs. Various circumstances have contributed to
this result, not the least important of which has been
the fierce but futile attack made on the truthfulness
of the story by Mark Napier, Sheriff of Dumfries, in
The Case for the Crown in re. the Wigtotvn Martyrs


proved to be Myths." This bitter and bombastic-
pamphlet was answered by the Rev. Dr. Stewart of
Glasserton, Mr. David Guthrie, Stranraer, the Rev.
Dr. Thomas Gordon, Newbattle, and Sir Andrew
Agnew, Bart., of Lochnaw, and many others, with
such an accumulation of proofs, hitherto known onlyj
to the few, that the reality of the martyrdom was for
ever placed beyond the region of doubt. We shall;
return to The Case for the Crown later. Meantime
we give the story of the Wigtown martyrs as narrated
by Wodrow: — " Upon the 11th of May, we meet with
the barbarous and wicked execution of two excellent
women near Wigtown, Margaret M'Lauchlan and
Margaret Wilson. History scarce affords a parallel
to this in all its circumstances; and therefore I shall
give it at the greater length, and the rather, because
the advocates for the cruelty of this period, and our
Jacobites, have the impudence, some of them to deny,
and others to extenuate this matter of fact, which can
be fully evinced by many living witnesses. And I
shall mostly give my narrative of it, from an account
I have from the forementioned Mr. Rowan, now with
the Lord, late minister of Penningham, where
Margaret Wilson lived, who was at pains to have its
circumstances fully vouched by witnesses, whose
attestations are in my hand; and I shall add, to make
the account more full, the sufferings of the said
Margaret's relations, though not unto death, as coming
in natively enough here, and what will hand me in
to what I have most in view.



" Gilbert Wilson, father to the said Margaret, lived
in Glenvernock, belonging to the laird of Castlestewart,
in the parish of Penningham, and shire of Wigtown,
and was every way conform to episcopacy; and his
wife, without anything to be objected against her as
to her regularity. They were in good circumstances as
to the world, and had a great stock upon a good ground,
and therefore were the fitter prey for the persecutors,
if they could reach them. Their children to be sure,
not from their education but a better principle, would
by no means conform or hear the episcopal incumbent.
This was a good handle to the persecutors; so they
were searched for, but fled to the hills, bogs, and caves,
though they were yet scarce of the age that made them
obnoxious to the law. Meanwhile their parents are
charged at the highest peril not to harbour them,
supply them, or speak to them, or see them without
informing against them, that they might be taken;
and their father was fined for his children's alleged
irregularities and opinions, which he had no share in,
and harassed by frequent quarterings of the soldiers,
sometimes an hundred of them upon him at once, who
lived at discretion, upon anything in the house or field
belonging to him. Those troubles continuing upon
him for some years together, with his attendance upon
courts at Wigton almost once a week, thirteen miles
distant from his house, his going to Edinburgh, and
other harassings, brought him under exceeding great
losses. At a modest calculation, they were about five


thousand merks, and all for no action or principle of
his own, for he was entirely conformist. He died some
six or eight years ago in great poverty, though one of
the most substantial countrymen in that country. And
his wife (1711) lives a very aged widow, upon the
charity of friends. His son Thomas Wilson, a youth
of sixteen years of age, this February 1685, was forced
to the mountains and continued wandering till the
revolution, at which time he went to the army, and
bore arms under King William in Flanders, and after
that in the castle of Edinburgh. He never had a
farthing from his parents to enter that ground which
they possessed, but having got together somewhat by
his own industry, lives now in his father's room, and
is ready to attest all I am writing.


"It is Gilbert's two daughters, who fell into the
hands of the persecutors, Margaret Wilson of eighteen
years of age, and Agnes Wilson a child not thirteen
years, that have led me to this account. Agnes, the
youngest, was condemned with her sister by those
merciless judges, but her father obtained a liberation
from prison, under a bond of 100 pounds sterling to
present her when called. However Gilbert had to go to
Edinburgh before she was let out; but to all on-lookers
and posterity, it will remain an unaccountable thing
to sentence a child of thirteen years to death, for not
hearing and not swearing. In the beginning of this
year, those two sisters for some time were obliged to



abscond and wander through Carrick, Galloway, and
Nithsdale, with their brothers, and some others. After
the universal severities slackened a little at King
Charles' death, the two sisters ventured to go to
Wigton, to see some of their suffering acquaintances
there, particularly

Margaret M'Lauchlan,

of whom just now. When they came to Wigton, there
was an acquaintance of theirs, Patrick Stuart, whom
they took to be a friend and well-wisher, but he was
really not so, and betrayed them; being in their
company, and seeking an occasion against them, he
proposed drinking the king's health; this they
modestly declined; upon which he went out, informed
against them, and brought in a party of soldiers, and
seized them. As if they had been great malefactors,
they were put in the thieves' hole, and after they had
been there some time, they were removed to the prison
where Margaret M'Lauchlan was, whom I come next
to give some account of.

" This woman was about sixty-three years of age,
relict of John Mulligen, carpenter, a tenant in the
parish of Kirkinner, in the shire of Galloway, in the
farm of Drumjargan, belonging to Colonel Vans of
Barnbarroch; she was a countrywoman of more than
ordinary knowledge, discretion, and prudence, and for
many years of singular piety and devotion; she would
take none of the oaths now pressed upon women as
well as men; neither would she desist from the duties


she took to bo incumbent upon her, hearing presby-
terian ministers when providence gave opportunity,
and joining with her Christian friends and acquaint-
ances in prayer, and supplying her relations and
acquaintances when in straits, though persecuted. It
is a jest to suppose her guilty of rising in arms and
rebellion, though indeed it was a part of her indict-
ment, which she got in common form now used. For
those great crimes and no other, she was seized some
while ago upon the Lord's day, when at family worship
in her own house; which was now an ordinary season
for apprehending honest people. She was imprisoned,
after she had suffered much in her goods and crop
before she was apprehended. In prison she was very
roughly dealt with, and had neither fire, nor bed to
lie upon, and had very little allowed her to live on.


" Jointly with Margaret M'Lauchlan, or M'Lauch-
lison, these two young sisters, after many methods
were taken to corrupt them, and make them swear the
oath now imposed, which they steadily refused, were
brought to their trial before the laird of Lagg, colonel
David Graham, sheriff, major Windram, captain
Strachan, and provost Cultrain, who gave all the three
an indictment for rebellion, Bothwell-bridge, Ayr's
Moss, and being present at twenty field conventicles.
No matter now how false and calumnious poor people's
indictments were. None of the pannels had ever been


within many miles of Both well or Ayr's Moss: Agnes
Wilson could be but eight years of age at Ayr's Moss,
and her sister but about twelve or thirteen; and it was
impossible they could have any access to those risings:
Margaret M'Lauchlan was as free as they were. All
the three refused the abjuration oath, and it was un-
accountable it should be put to one of them. The
assize bring them in guilty, and the judges pronounce
their sentence; that upon the 11th instant, all the
three should be tied to stakes fixed within the flood-
mark, in the water of Blednoch near Wigton, where the
sea flows at high water, there to be drowned. We
have seen, that Agnes Wilson was got out by her
father upon a bond of an hundred pounds sterling,
which, I hear, upon her non-production, was likewise
exacted. Margaret Wilson's friends used all means
to prevail with her to take the abjuration oath, and
to engage to hear the curate, but she stood fast in her
integrity, and would not be shaken. They received
their sentence with a great deal of composure, and
cheerful countenances, reckoning it their honour to
suffer for Christ and His truth. During her imprison-
ment Margaret Wilson wrote a large letter to her
relations full of deep and affecting sense of God's love
to her soul, and an entire resignation to the Lord's
disposal. She likewise added a vindication of her
refusing to save her life by taking the abjuration,
and engaging to conformity; against both she gives
arguments with a solidity and judgment far above
one of her years and education.



" This barbarous sentence was executed the foresaid
day, May 11th, and the two women were brought from
Wigtown, with a numerous crowd of spectators to so ex-
traordinary an execution. Major Windram with some
soldiers guarded them to the place of execution. The
old woman's stake was a good way in beyond the other,
and she was first despatched, in order to terrify the
other to a compliance with such oaths and conditions
as they required. But in vain; for she adhered to her
principles with an unshaken steadfastness. When the
water was overflowing her fellow-martyr, some about
Margaret Wilson asked her, what she thought of the
other now struggling with the pangs of death. She
answered, ' What do I see but Christ (in one of his
members) wrestling there. Think you that we are the
sufferers? No, it is Christ in us, for he sends none
a warfare upon their own charges.' When Margaret
Wilson was at the stake, she sang the 25th Psalm from
verse 7th, downward a good way, and read the 8th
Chapter to the Romans with a great deal of cheerful-
ness, and then prayed. While at prayer, the water
covered her: but before she was quite dead they pulled
her up, and held her out of the water till she waa
recovered, and able to speak; and then by major
Windram's orders, she was asked, if she would pray
for the King. She answered, ' She wished the sal-
vation of all men, and the damnation of none.' One
deeply affected with the death of the other and her
case, said, ' Dear Margaret, say God save the King,


Say God save the King.' She answered in the greatest
steadiness and composure, ' God save him, if he will,
for it is his salvation I desire.' Whereupon some of
her relations near by, desirous to have her life spared
if possible, called out to major Windram, ' Sir, she
hath said it, she hath said it.' Whereupon the major
came near, and offered her the abjuration, charging
her instantly to swear it, otherwise return to the water.
Most deliberately she refused, and said, ' I will not,
I am one of Christ's children, let me go.' Upon which
she was thrust down again into the water, where she,
finished her course with joy. She died a virgin-martyr
about eighteen years of age, and both of them suffered
precisely upon refusing conformity, and the abjuration
oath, and were evidently innocent of anything worthy
of death."

The martyrs were buried in Wigtown old church-
yard at the foot of Bank Street. The ruins of the
old church are to the north-west of the present building
which was erected in 1853, and the martyrs' grave-
stones are to the north of the old church — the place
assigned to criminals. They are enclosed by a neat
iron railing, and arc carefully looked after, in agree-
able contrast to some of the martyrs' tombstones we
have seen elsewhere in Galloway. The largest of the
stones is to the memory of Margaret Wilson. It is
a thin flat stone resting upon four pillars about a foot
high, and has the following inscription: —


ANNO 1685 AGED 18.


F 2 ffiffiKj o 3 E *-

„OHO B C ^ ri o m ai


w«^gX^O n SMS

w ^ S a? °> po^ks

>2° > ^ J M 2 £ $

yoO m o n w h

. H . so a > a

> X > 3 S w



Near to Margaret Wilson's stone is that erected to
the memory of her aged fellow-sufferer — Margaret

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 24 26 27 28

Online LibraryAlexander S MortonGalloway and the Covenanters; or, The struggle for religious liberty in the south-west of Scotland → online text (page 24 of 28)