|My own interest in the Radical War of 1820
was prompted by a pamphlet on the Rising by Glasgow lawyer, Frank A.
Sherry, published in the late 1960’s. This was followed by the
publication of 'The Scottish Insurrection of 1820’ by Peter Berresford
Ellis and the late Seumas Mac a’Ghobhainn in 1970 which gave an
invaluable picture of the radical build-up from the days of Thomas Muir
and the Friends of the People, through the Society of United Scotsmen,
to 1820 and its aftermath.
The Scottish Radicals of 1820 had the
smeddum to play and sing the Scottish National Anthem - unlike present
day Scots - indeed the band leading a demonstration in Airdrie were
arrested for playing ‘Scots Wha Hae’.
Earlier this year I came across an
eyewitness account of the involvement of the 63 year old Nationalist
Radical James ‘Purlie’ Wilson, Strathaven, in the 1820 Rising. The
eye-witness, Mrs Hunter, was also among the crowd of 20,000 who
witnessed his ‘murder’ by the authorities at Glasgow Green on 30th
August 1820. The Authorities had decided to execute Wilson, in spite of
a plea for clemency by the jury, but they certainly did not break his
spirit. He stoically remarked to his executioner Thomas Moore on the way
to the gallows "Did y’ever see sic a crowd Tammas?".
The pamphlet by Frank A. Sherry,
reprinted in 1973, is long out of print, but the 1887 newspaper account
by Mrs Hunter of 1820 reminded me that James Halliday, then Principal
History Lecturer at Dundee College of Education, had carried out a
similar task with a series of articles on 1820 in the monthly
Nationalist newspaper the Scots Independent.
Ready permission was given to reprint the
articles in booklet form, and furthermore ‘The Scots Independent’
agreed to publish same. Valuable additional information was provided by
Ian O. Bayne of the 1820 Society particularly on the 19 Radicals
transported to New South Wales.
It seemed appropriate in the year that
the 19 names were added to the Martyrs Memorial in Sighthill Cemetery,
Glasgow that details of their fate should appear in the appendices. The
new plaque was unveiled in the presence of Mr Ian Wilcock, Minister of
Trade and Policy at the Australian High Commission in London on 5
September 1993. After the unveiling Mr Wilcock laid a wreath and spoke
of the contribution of the transported Scots to the development of
Their names along with the three executed
Radicals James Wilson, Andrew Hardie, and John Baird should remind us,
as Ian O. Bayne wrote in 1990 that 'The sacrifices made by the men of
1820 set a Scottish Agenda which - 170 years on - we have yet to
My thanks are extended to
James Halliday, lan O. Bayne, John G. Inness, Jeff Fallow, Angus
McGillveray, David Rollo, Hamish MacQueen and the Editor and Directors
of the Scots Independent (Newspapers) Ltd for their assistance towards
this publication. I would hope that this booklet will, as with Frank A.
Sherry’s 25 years ago, inspire readers to seek greater knowledge of
the 1820 Rising, the Radical War and its place in the history of
Peter D. Wright