‘A cloud of witnesses lyes here,
Who for Christ’s interest did appear.’
— Inscription on Battlefield at Rullion Green.
‘Halt, passenger; take heed what thou dost see, This tomb doth show for what some men did die.’ Monument, Greyfriars’ Churchyard, Edinburgh, 1661-1668. 2
2 Theater of Mortality, p. 10; Edin. 1713.
Two hundred years ago a tragedy was enacted in Scotland, the memory whereof has been in great measure lost or obscured by the deep tragedies which followed it. It is, as it were, the evening of the night of persecution — a sort of twilight, dark indeed to us, but light as the noonday when compared with the midnight gloom which followed. This fact, of its being the very threshold of persecution, lends it, however, an additional interest.
The prejudices of the people against Episcopacy were ‘out of measure increased,’ says Bishop Burnet, ‘by the new incumbents who were put in the places of the ejected preachers, and were generally very mean and despicable in all respects. They were the worst preachers I ever heard; they were ignorant to a reproach; and many of them were openly vicious. They . . . were indeed the dreg and refuse of the northern parts. Those of them who arose above contempt or scandal were men of such violent tempers that they were as much hated as the others were despised.’ 3 It was little to be wondered at, from this account that the country-folk refused to go to the parish church, and chose rather to listen to outed ministers in the fields. But this was not to be allowed, and their persecutors at last fell on the method of calling a roll of the parishioners’ names every Sabbath, and marking a fine of twenty shillings Scots to the name of each absenter. In this way very large debts were incurred by persons altogether unable to pay. Besides this, landlords were fined for their tenants’ absences, tenants for their landlords’, masters for their servants’, servants for their masters’, even though they themselves were perfectly regular in their attendance. And as the curates were allowed to fine with the sanction of any common soldier, it may be imagined that often the pretexts were neither very sufficient nor well proven.
3 History of My Own Times, beginning 1660, by Bishop Gilbert Burnet, p. 158.
When the fines could not be paid at once, Bibles, clothes, and household utensils were seized upon, or a number of soldiers, proportionate to his wealth, were quartered on the offender. The coarse and drunken privates filled the houses with woe; snatched the bread from the children to feed their dogs; shocked the principles, scorned the scruples, and blasphemed the religion of their humble hosts; and when they had reduced them to destitution, sold the furniture, and burned down the roof-tree which was consecrated to the peasants by the name of Home. For all this attention each of these soldiers received from his unwilling landlord a certain sum of money per day — three shillings sterling, according to Naphtali. And frequently they were forced to pay quartering money for more men than were in reality ‘cessed on them.’ At that time it was no strange thing to behold a strong man begging for money to pay his fines, and many others who were deep in arrears, or who had attracted attention in some other way, were forced to flee from their homes, and take refuge from arrest and imprisonment among the wild mosses of the uplands. 4
4 Wodrow’s Church History, Book II. chap. i. sect. I.
One example in particular we may cite:
John Neilson, the Laird of Corsack, a worthy man, was, unfortunately for himself, a Nonconformist. First he was fined in four hundred pounds Scots, and then through cessing he lost nineteen hundred and ninety-three pounds Scots. He was next obliged to leave his house and flee from place to place, during which wanderings he lost his horse. His wife and children were turned out of doors, and then his tenants were fined till they too were almost ruined. As a final stroke, they drove away all his cattle to Glasgow and sold them. 5 Surely it was time that something were done to alleviate so much sorrow, to overthrow such tyranny.
5 Crookshank’s Church History, 1751, second ed. p. 202.
About this time too there arrived in Galloway a person calling himself Captain Andrew Gray, and advising the people to revolt. He displayed some documents purporting to be from the northern Covenanters, and stating that they were prepared to join in any enterprise commenced by their southern brethren. The leader of the persecutors was Sir James Turner, an officer afterwards degraded for his share in the matter. ‘He was naturally fierce, but was mad when he was drunk, and that was very often,’ said Bishop Burnet. ‘He was a learned man, but had always been in armies, and knew no other rule but to obey orders. He told me he had no regard to any law, but acted, as he was commanded, in a military way.’ 6
This was the state of matters, when an outrage was committed which gave spirit and determination to the oppressed countrymen, lit the flame of insubordination, and for the time at least recoiled on those who perpetrated it with redoubled force.
6 Burnet, p. 348.
I love no warres,
I love no jarres,
Nor strife’s fire.
May discord cease,
Let’s live in peace:
This I desire.
If it must be
Warre we must see
(So fates conspire),
May we not feel
The force of steel:
This I desire.
T. Jackson, 1651 7
7 Fuller’s Historie of the Holy Warre, fourth ed. 1651.
Upon Tuesday, November 13th, 1666, Corporal George Deanes and three other soldiers set upon an old man in the clachan of Dalry and demanded the payment of his fines. On the old man’s refusing to pay, they forced a large party of his neighbours to go with them and thresh his corn. The field was a certain distance out of the clachan, and four persons, disguised as countrymen, who had been out on the moors all night, met this mournful drove of slaves, compelled by the four soldiers to work for the ruin of their friend. However, chided to the bone by their night on the hills, and worn out by want of food, they proceeded to the village inn to refresh themselves. Suddenly some people rushed into the room where they were sitting, and told them that the soldiers were about to roast the old man, naked, on his own girdle. This was too much for them to stand, and they repaired immediately to the scene of this gross outrage, and at first merely requested that the captive should be released. On the refusal of the two soldiers who were in the front room, high words were given and taken on both sides, and the other two rushed forth from an adjoining chamber and made at the countrymen with drawn swords. One of the latter, John M’Lellan of Barscob, drew a pistol and shot the corporal in the body. The pieces of tobacco-pipe with which it was loaded, to the number of ten at least, entered him, and he was so much disturbed that he never appears to have recovered, for we find long afterwards a petition to the Privy Council requesting a pension for him. The other soldiers then laid down their arms, the old man was rescued, and the rebellion was commenced. 8
8 Wodrow, vol. ii. p. 17.
And now we must turn to Sir James Turner’s memoirs of himself; for, strange to say, this extraordinary man was remarkably fond of literary composition, and wrote, besides the amusing account of his own adventures just mentioned, a large number of essays and short biographies, and a work on war, entitled Pallas Armata. The following are some of the shorter pieces ‘Magick,’ ‘Friendship,’ ‘Imprisonment,’ ‘Anger,’ ‘Revenge,’ ‘Duells,’ ‘Cruelty,’ ‘A Defence of some of the Ceremonies of the English Liturgie — to wit — Bowing at the Name of Jesus, The frequent repetition of the Lord’s Prayer and Good Lord deliver us, Of the Doxologie, Of Surplesses, Rotchets, Canonnicall Coats,’ etc. From what we know of his character we should expect ‘Anger’ and ‘Cruelty’ to be very full and instructive. But what earthly right he had to meddle with ecclesiastical subjects it is hard to see.
Upon the 12th of the month he had received some information concerning Gray’s proceedings, but as it was excessively indefinite in its character, he paid no attention to it. On the evening of the 14th, Corporal Deanes was brought into Dumfries, who affirmed stoutly that he had been shot while refusing to sign the Covenant — a story rendered singularly unlikely by the after conduct of the rebels. Sir James instantly dispatched orders to the cessed soldiers either to come to Dumfries or meet him on the way to Dalry, and commanded the thirteen or fourteen men in the town with him to come at nine next morning to his lodging for supplies.
On the morning of Thursday the rebels arrived at Dumfries with 50 horse and 150 foot. Neilson of Corsack, and Gray, who commanded, with a considerable troop, entered the town, and surrounded Sir James Turner’s lodging. Though it was between eight and nine o’clock, that worthy, being unwell, was still in bed, but rose at once and went to the window.
Neilson and some others cried, ‘You may have fair quarter.’
‘I need no quarter,’ replied Sir James; ‘nor can I be a prisoner, seeing there is no war declared.’ On being told, however, that he must either be a prisoner or die, he came down, and went into the street in his night-shirt. Here Gray showed himself very desirous of killing him, but he was overruled by Corsack. However, he was taken away a prisoner, Captain Gray mounting him on his own horse, though, as Turner naively remarks, ‘there was good reason for it, for he mounted himself on a farre better one of mine.’ A large coffer containing his clothes and money, together with all his papers, were taken away by the rebels. They robbed Master Chalmers, the Episcopalian minister of Dumfries, of his horse, drank the King’s health at the market cross, and then left Dumfries. 9
9 Sir J. Turner’s Memoirs, pp. 148-50.
‘Stay, passenger, take notice what thou reads,
At Edinburgh lie our bodies, here our heads;
Our right hands stood at Lanark, these we want,
Because with them we signed the Covenant.’
— Epitaph on a Tombstone at Hamilton. 10
10 A Cloud of Witnesses, p. 376.
On Friday the 16th, Bailie Irvine of Dumfries came to the Council at Edinburgh, and gave information concerning this ‘horrid rebellion.’ In the absence of Rothes, Sharpe presided — much to the wrath of some members; and as he imagined his own safety endangered, his measures were most energetic. Dalzell was ordered away to the West, the guards round the city were doubled, officers and soldiers were forced to take the oath of allegiance, and all lodgers were commanded to give in their names. Sharpe, surrounded with all these guards and precautions, trembled — trembled as he trembled when the avengers of blood drew him from his chariot on Magus Muir — for he knew how he had sold his trust, how he had betrayed his charge, and he felt that against him must their chiefest hatred be directed, against him their direst thunder-bolts be forged. But even in his fear the apostate Presbyterian was unrelenting, unpityingly harsh; he published in his manifesto no promise of pardon, no inducement to submission. He said, ‘If you submit not you must die,’ but never added, ‘If you submit you may live!’ 11
11 Wodrow, pp. 19, 20.
Meantime the insurgents proceeded on their way. At Carsphairn they were deserted by Captain Gray, who, doubtless in a fit of oblivion, neglected to leave behind him the coffer containing Sir James’s money. Who he was is a mystery, unsolved by any historian; his papers were evidently forgeries — that, and his final flight, appear to indicate that he was an agent of the Royalists, for either the King or the Duke of York was heard to say, ‘That, if he might have his wish, he would have them all turn rebels and go to arms.’ 12
12 A Hind Let Loose, p. 123.
Upon the 18th day of the month they left Carsphairn and marched onwards.
Turner was always lodged by his captors at a good inn, frequently at the best of which their halting-place could boast. Here many visits were paid to him by the ministers and officers of the insurgent force. In his description of these interviews he displays a vein of satiric severity, admitting any kindness that was done to him with some qualifying souvenir of former harshness, and gloating over any injury, mistake, or folly, which it was his chance to suffer or to hear. He appears, notwithstanding all this, to have been on pretty good terms with his cruel ‘phanaticks,’ as the following extract sufficiently proves:
‘Most of the foot were lodged about the church or churchyard, and order given to ring bells next morning for a sermon to be preached by Mr. Welch. Maxwell of Morith, and Major M’Cullough invited me to heare “that phanatick sermon” (for soe they merrilie called it). They said that preaching might prove an effectual meane to turne me, which they heartilie wished. I answered to them that I was under guards, and that if they intended to heare that sermon, it was probable I might likewise, for it was not like my guards wold goe to church and leave me alone at my lodgeings. Bot to what they said of my conversion, I said it wold be hard to turne a Turner. Bot because I founde them in a merrie humour, I said, if I did not come to heare Mr. Welch preach, then they might fine me in fortie shillings Scots, which was double the suome of what I had exacted from the phanatics.’ 13
13 Turner, p. 163.
This took place at Ochiltree, on the 22nd day of the month. The following is recounted by this personage with malicious glee, and certainly, if authentic, it is a sad proof of how chaff is mixed with wheat, and how ignorant, almost impious, persons were engaged in this movement; nevertheless we give it, for we wish to present with impartiality all the alleged facts to the reader:
‘Towards the evening Mr. Robinsone and Mr. Crukshank gaue me a visite; I called for some ale purposelie to heare one of them blesse it. It fell Mr. Robinsone to seeke the blessing, who said one of the most bombastick graces that ever I heard in my life. He summoned God Allmightie very imperiouslie to be their secondarie (for that was his language). “And if,” said he, “thou wilt not be our Secondarie, we will not fight for thee at all, for it is not our cause bot thy cause; and if thou wilt not fight for our cause and thy oune cause, then we are not obliged to fight for it. They say,” said he, “that Dukes, Earles, and Lords are coming with the King’s General against us, bot they shall be nothing bot a threshing to us.” This grace did more fullie satisfie me of the folly and injustice of their cause, then the ale did quench my thirst.’ 14
14 Turner, p. 198.
Frequently the rebels made a halt near some roadside alehouse, or in some convenient park, where Colonel Wallace, who had now taken the command, would review the horse and foot, during which time Turner was sent either into the alehouse or round the shoulder of the hill, to prevent him from seeing the disorders which were likely to arise. He was, at last, on the 25th day of the month, between Douglas and Lanark, permitted to behold their evolutions. ‘I found their horse did consist of four hundreth and fortie, and the foot of five hundreth and upwards. . . . The horsemen were armed for most part with suord and pistoll, some onlie with suord. The foot with musket, pike, sith (scythe), forke, and suord; and some with suords great and long.’ He admired much the proficiency of their cavalry, and marvelled how they had attained to it in so short a time. 15
15 Ibid. p. 167.
At Douglas, which they had just left on the morning of this great wapinshaw, they were charged — awful picture of depravity! — with the theft of a silver spoon and a nightgown. Could it be expected that while the whole country swarmed with robbers of every description, such a rare opportunity for plunder should be lost by rogues — that among a thousand men, even though fighting for religion, there should not be one Achan in the camp? At Lanark a declaration was drawn up and signed by the chief rebels. In it occurs the following:
‘The just sense whereof ‘— the sufferings of the country —‘made us choose, rather to betake ourselves to the fields for self-defence, than to stay at home, burdened daily with the calamities of others, and tortured with the fears of our own approaching misery.’ 16
16 Wodrow, p. 29.
The whole body, too, swore the Covenant, to which ceremony the epitaph at the head of this chapter seems to refer.
A report that Dalzell was approaching drove them from Lanark to Bathgate, where, on the evening of Monday the 26th, the wearied army stopped. But at twelve o’clock the cry, which served them for a trumpet, of ‘Horse! horse!’ and ‘Mount the prisoner!’ resounded through the night-shrouded town, and called the peasants from their well-earned rest to toil onwards in their march. The wind howled fiercely over the moorland; a close, thick, wetting rain descended. Chilled to the bone, worn out with long fatigue, sinking to the knees in mire, onward they marched to destruction. One by one the weary peasants fell off from their ranks to sleep, and die in the rain-soaked moor, or to seek some house by the wayside wherein to hide till daybreak. One by one at first, then in gradually increasing numbers, at every shelter that was seen, whole troops left the waning squadrons, and rushed to hide themselves from the ferocity of the tempest. To right and left nought could be descried but the broad expanse of the moor, and the figures of their fellow-rebels, seen dimly through the murky night, plodding onwards through the sinking moss. Those who kept together — a miserable few — often halted to rest themselves, and to allow their lagging comrades to overtake them. Then onward they went again, still hoping for assistance, reinforcement, and supplies; onward again, through the wind, and the rain, and the darkness — onward to their defeat at Pentland, and their scaffold at Edinburgh. It was calculated that they lost one half of their army on that disastrous night-march.
Next night they reached the village of Colinton, four miles from Edinburgh, where they halted for the last time. 17
17 Turner, Wodrow, and Church History by James Kirkton, an outed minister of the period.
‘From Covenanters with uplifted hands,
From Remonstrators with associate bands,
Good Lord, deliver us!’
— Royalist Rhyme, Kirkton, p. 127.
Late on the fourth night of November, exactly twenty-four days before Rullion Green, Richard and George Chaplain, merchants in Haddington, beheld four men, clad like West-country Whigamores, standing round some object on the ground. It was at the two-mile cross, and within that distance from their homes. At last, to their horror, they discovered that the recumbent figure was a livid corpse, swathed in a blood-stained winding-sheet. 18 Many thought that this apparition was a portent of the deaths connected with the Pentland Rising.
18 Kirkton, p. 244.
On the morning of Wednesday, the 28th of November 1666, they left Colinton and marched to Rullion Green. There they arrived about sunset. The position was a strong one. On the summit of a bare, heathery spur of the Pentlands are two hillocks, and between them lies a narrow band of flat marshy ground. On the highest of the two mounds — that nearest the Pentlands, and on the left hand of the main body — was the greater part of the cavalry, under Major Learmont; on the other Barscob and the Galloway gentlemen; and in the centre Colonel Wallace and the weak, half-armed infantry. Their position was further strengthened by the depth of the valley below, and the deep chasm-like course of the Rullion Burn.
The sun, going down behind the Pentlands, cast golden lights and blue shadows on their snow-clad summits, slanted obliquely into the rich plain before them, bathing with rosy splendour the leafless, snow-sprinkled trees, and fading gradually into shadow in the distance. To the south, too, they beheld a deep-shaded amphitheatre of heather and bracken; the course of the Esk, near Penicuik, winding about at the foot of its gorge; the broad, brown expanse of Maw Moss; and, fading into blue indistinctness in the south, the wild heath-clad Peeblesshire hills. In sooth, that scene was fair, and many a yearning glance was cast over that peaceful evening scene from the spot where the rebels awaited their defeat; and when the fight was over, many a noble fellow lifted his head from the blood-stained heather to strive with darkening eyeballs to behold that landscape, over which, as over his life and his cause, the shadows of night and of gloom were falling and thickening.
It was while waiting on this spot that the fear-inspiring cry was raised: ‘The enemy! Here come the enemy!’
Unwilling to believe their own doom — for our insurgents still hoped for success in some negotiations for peace which had been carried on at Colinton — they called out, ‘They are some of our own.’
‘They are too blacke ‘ (i.e. numerous), ‘fie! fie! for ground to draw up on,’ cried Wallace, fully realising the want of space for his men, and proving that it was not till after this time that his forces were finally arranged. 19
First of all the battle was commenced by fifty Royalist horse sent obliquely across the hill to attack the left wing of the rebels. An equal number of Learmont’s men met them, and, after a struggle, drove them back. The course of the Rullion Burn prevented almost all pursuit, and Wallace, on perceiving it, dispatched a body of foot to occupy both the burn and some ruined sheep-walls on the farther side.
Dalzell changed his position, and drew up his army at the foot of the hill, on the top of which were his foes. He then dispatched a mingled body of infantry and cavalry to attack Wallace’s outpost, but they also were driven back. A third charge produced a still more disastrous effect, for Dalzell had to check the pursuit of his men by a reinforcement.
These repeated checks bred a panic in the Lieutenant-General’s ranks, for several of his men flung down their arms. Urged by such fatal symptoms, and by the approaching night, he deployed his men, and closed in overwhelming numbers on the centre and right flank of the insurgent army. In the increasing twilight the burning matches of the firelocks, shimmering on barrel, halbert, and cuirass, lent to the approaching army a picturesque effect, like a huge, many-armed giant breathing flame into the darkness.
Placed on an overhanging hill, Welch and Semple cried aloud, ‘The God of Jacob! The God of Jacob!’ and prayed with uplifted hands for victory. 20
But still the Royalist troops closed in.
Captain John Paton was observed by Dalzell, who determined to capture him with his own hands. Accordingly he charged forward, presenting his pistols. Paton fired, but the balls hopped off Dalzell’s buff coat and fell into his boot. With the superstition peculiar to his age, the Nonconformist concluded that his adversary was rendered bullet-proof by enchantment, and, pulling some small silver coins from his pocket, charged his pistol therewith. Dalzell, seeing this, and supposing, it is likely, that Paton was putting in larger balls, hid behind his servant, who was killed. 21
Meantime the outposts were forced, and the army of Wallace was enveloped in the embrace of a hideous boa-constrictor — tightening, closing, crushing every semblance of life from the victim enclosed in his toils. The flanking parties of horse were forced in upon the centre, and though, as even Turner grants, they fought with desperation, a general flight was the result.
But when they fell there was none to sing their coronach or wail the death-wail over them. Those who sacrificed themselves for the peace, the liberty, and the religion of their fellow-countrymen, lay bleaching in the field of death for long, and when at last they were buried by charity, the peasants dug up their bodies, desecrated their graves, and cast them once more upon the open heath for the sorry value of their winding-sheets!
Inscription on stone at Rullion Green:
and near to
this place lyes the
Reverend Mr John Crookshank
and Mr Andrew McCormick
ministers of the gospel and
about fifty other true covenanted
presbyterians who were
killed in this place in their own
inocent self defence and deffence
of the covenanted work of
reformation by Thomas Dalzeel of Bins
upon the 28 of November
1666. rev. 12. 11. erected
sept. 28 1738.
Back of stone:
A Cloud of Witnesses lyes here,
Who for Christ’s Interest did appear,
For to restore true Liberty,
O’erturned then by tyranny.
And by proud Prelats who did Rage
Against the Lord’s Own heritage.
They sacrificed were for the laws
Of Christ their king, his noble cause.
These heroes fought with great renown;
By falling got the Martyr’s crown. 22
‘They cut his hands ere he was dead,
And after that struck of his head.
His blood under the altar cries
For vengeance on Christ’s enemies.’
— Epitaph on Tomb at Longcross of Clermont. 23
23 Cloud of Witnesses, p. 389; Edin. 1765.
Master Andrew Murray, an outed minister, residing in the Potterrow, on the morning after the defeat, heard the sounds of cheering and the march of many feet beneath his window. He gazed out. With colours flying, and with music sounding, Dalzell, victorious, entered Edinburgh. But his banners were dyed in blood, and a band of prisoners were marched within his ranks. The old man knew it all. That martial and triumphant strain was the death-knell of his friends and of their cause, the rust-hued spots upon the flags were the tokens of their courage and their death, and the prisoners were the miserable remnant spared from death in battle to die upon the scaffold. Poor old man! he had outlived all joy. Had he lived longer he would have seen increasing torment and increasing woe; he would have seen the clouds, then but gathering in mist, cast a more than midnight darkness over his native hills, and have fallen a victim to those bloody persecutions which, later, sent their red memorials to the sea by many a burn. By a merciful Providence all this was spared to him — he fell beneath the first blow; and ere four days had passed since Rullion Green, the aged minister of God was gathered to is fathers. 24
24 Kirkton, p. 247.
When Sharpe first heard of the rebellion, he applied to Sir Alexander Ramsay, the Provost, for soldiers to guard his house. Disliking their occupation, the soldiers gave him an ugly time of it. All the night through they kept up a continuous series of ‘alarms and incursions,’ ‘cries of “Stand!” “Give fire!”’ etc., which forced the prelate to flee to the Castle in the morning, hoping there to find the rest which was denied him at home. 25 Now, however, when all danger to himself was past, Sharpe came out in his true colours, and scant was the justice likely to be shown to the foes of Scottish Episcopacy when the Primate was by. The prisoners were lodged in Haddo’s Hole, a part of St. Giles’ Cathedral, where, by the kindness of Bishop Wishart, to his credit be it spoken, they were amply supplied with food. 26
25 Ibid. p. 254.
26 Ibid. p. 247.
Some people urged, in the Council, that the promise of quarter which had been given on the field of battle should protect the lives of the miserable men. Sir John Gilmoure, the greatest lawyer, gave no opinion — certainly a suggestive circumstance — but Lord Lee declared that this would not interfere with their legal trial, ‘so to bloody executions they went.’ 27 To the number of thirty they were condemned and executed; while two of them, Hugh M’Kail, a young minister, and Neilson of Corsack, were tortured with the boots.
27 Ibid. pp. 247, 248.
The goods of those who perished were confiscated, and their bodies were dismembered and distributed to different parts of the country; ‘the heads of Major M’Culloch and the two Gordons,’ it was resolved, says Kirkton, ‘should be pitched on the gate of Kirkcudbright; the two Hamiltons and Strong’s head should be affixed at Hamilton, and Captain Arnot’s sett on the Watter Gate at Edinburgh. The armes of all the ten, because they hade with uplifted hands renewed the Covenant at Lanark, were sent to the people of that town to expiate that crime, by placing these arms on the top of the prison.’ 28 Among these was John Neilson, the Laird of Corsack, who saved Turner’s life at Dumfries; in return for which service Sir James attempted, though without success, to get the poor man reprieved. One of the condemned died of his wounds between the day of condemnation and the day of execution. ’ None of them,’ says Kirkton, ‘would save their life by taking the declaration and renouncing the Covenant, though it was offered to them. . . . But never men died in Scotland so much lamented by the people, not only spectators, but those in the country. When Knockbreck and his brother were turned over, they clasped each other in their armes, and so endured the pangs of death. When Humphrey Colquhoun died, he spoke not like an ordinary citizen, but like a heavenly minister, relating his comfortable Christian experiences, and called for his Bible, and laid it on his wounded arm, and read John iii. 8, and spoke upon it to the admiration of all. But most of all, when Mr. M’Kail died, there was such a lamentation as was never known in Scotland before; not one dry cheek upon all the street, or in all the numberless windows in the mercate place.’ 29
28 Kirkton, p. 248.
29 Kirkton, p. 249.
The following passage from this speech speaks for itself and its author:
‘Hereafter I will not talk with flesh and blood, nor think on the world’s consolations. Farewell to all my friends, whose company hath been refreshful to me in my pilgrimage. I have done with the light of the sun and the moon; welcome eternal light, eternal life, everlasting love, everlasting praise, everlasting glory. Praise to Him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever! Bless the Lord, O my soul, that hath pardoned all my iniquities in the blood of His Son, and healed all my diseases. Bless Him, O all ye His angels that excel in strength, ye ministers of His that do His pleasure. Bless the Lord, O my soul!’ 30
30 Naphtali, p. 205; Glasgow, 1721.
After having ascended the gallows ladder he again broke forth in the following words of touching eloquence: ‘And now I leave off to speak any more to creatures, and begin my intercourse with God, which shall never be broken off. Farewell father and mother, friends and relations! Farewell the world and all delights! Farewell meat and drink! Farewell sun, moon, and stars! — Welcome God and Father! Welcome sweet Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant! Welcome blessed Spirit of grace and God of all consolation! Welcome glory! Welcome eternal life! Welcome Death!’ 31
31 Wodrow, p. 59.
At Glasgow, too, where some were executed, they caused the soldiers to beat the drums and blow the trumpets on their closing ears. Hideous refinement of revenge! Even the last words which drop from the lips of a dying man — words surely the most sincere and the most unbiassed which mortal mouth can utter — even these were looked upon as poisoned and as poisonous. ‘Drown their last accents,’ was the cry, ‘lest they should lead the crowd to take their part, or at the least to mourn their doom!’ 32 But, after all, perhaps it was more merciful than one would think — unintentionally so, of course; perhaps the storm of harsh and fiercely jubilant noises, the clanging of trumpets, the rattling of drums, and the hootings and jeerings of an unfeeling mob, which were the last they heard on earth, might, when the mortal fight was over, when the river of death was passed, add tenfold sweetness to the hymning of the angels, tenfold peacefulness to the shores which they had reached.
32 Kirkton, p. 246.
Not content with the cruelty of these executions, some even of the peasantry, though these were confined to the shire of Mid-Lothian, pursued, captured, plundered, and murdered the miserable fugitives who fell in their way. One strange story have we of these times of blood and persecution: Kirkton the historian and popular tradition tell us alike of a flame which often would arise from the grave, in a moss near Carnwath, of some of those poor rebels: of how it crept along the ground; of how it covered the house of their murderer; and of how it scared him with its lurid glare.
Hear Daniel Defoe: 33
‘If the poor people were by these insupportable violences made desperate, and driven to all the extremities of a wild despair, who can justly reflect on them when they read in the Word of God “That oppression makes a wise man mad”? And therefore were there no other original of the insurrection known by the name of the Rising of Pentland, it was nothing but what the intolerable oppressions of those times might have justified to all the world, nature having dictated to all people a right of defence when illegally and arbitrarily attacked in a manner not justifiable either by laws of nature, the laws of God, or the laws of the country.’
33 Defoe’s History of the Church of Scotland.
Bear this remonstrance of Defoe’s in mind, and though it is the fashion of the day to jeer and to mock, to execrate and to contemn, the noble band of Covenanters — though the bitter laugh at their old-world religious views, the curl of the lip at their merits, and the chilling silence on their bravery and their determination, are but too rife through all society — be charitable to what was evil and honest to what was good about the Pentland insurgents, who fought for life and liberty, for country and religion, on the 28th of November 1666, now just two hundred years ago.
Edinburgh, 28th November 1866.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00