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Biggar and the House of Fleming
Chapter XI - The Covenanters of the Biggar District


JAMES VI. was at first, by profession at least, a zealous Presbyterian. After he was assailed by a mob while attending a meeting in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and especially after he had a certain prospect of ascending the throne of England, he began to look coldly on Presbyterianism, as being, in his opinion, incompatible with the prerogatives of monarchy. He therefore laboured till he succeeded in introducing the office of bishop into the Church, and also several religious ceremonies, such as the confirmation of youths, the observance of holidays, private baptism, private communion, and kneeling at the Eucharist, which were commonly called the Five Articles of Perth, from having been adopted at a General Assembly held at that town. He was contemplating still further innovations, when he died, in 1625, leaving it as an injunction on his son and successor Charles, to prosecute with all vigour the scheme on which he had himself so foolishly entered. In this way he laid the foundation of an unhappy contest, that raged in Scotland for more than half a century, that caused an incalculable amount of t disorder, cruelty, and bloodshed, and in the end was the means of driving the Stewart dynasty from the throne of these realms.

Charles I., true to the doctrines in which he had been educated, and madly bent on executing the scheme projected by his father, at length ordered that a liturgy and book of canons should be introduced into the service of the Scottish Kirk. The great body of the Presbyterian clergy met this order with the most strenuous opposition, as they regarded it as an unwarrantable innovation on the proper mode of conducting public worship, and as wholly invalid, inasmuch as it had not received the sanction of the General Assembly. The bishops, finding the order disregarded, caused the Privy Council to pass an Act to enforce its observance, under the pain of homing. The minister of Biggar, and most of the other ministers of the Presbytery of Lanark, refused to introduce the service-book and book of canons into their ministrations. The Bishop of Glasgow, in whose diocese they were, therefore, sent a messenger of arms to the Presbytery with a letter, commanding every member to buy the obnoxious books, and on his refusal to put him to the horn. The Presbytery were nothing daunted. They met, and resolved to petition the Privy Council against the introduction of the two books; and as their moderator, Mr John Lindsay of Carstairs, who was a subservient tool of the Bishop of Glasgow, would not join in the petition, they requested him to resign his office. Lindsay, therefore, closed the diet, and, with two or three others, left the meeting. Those who remained, constituted themselves into a new meeting of Presbytery, and chose Alexander Somervail of Dolphinton as moderator pro tempore, when the petition was unanimously adopted. The Privy Council, instead of lending an ear to this petition, and others of a similar kind, passed an Act making it treason for any body of men to meet for the purpose of adopting such memorials.

This arbitrary step* and the commotions which took place in Edinburgh on the first introduction of the service-book in the Church of St Giles, on Sabbath, the 23d of July 1637, led to an organization of all ranks, and ultimately to the adoption of a Solemn League and Covenant. This document was signed on the 28th February 1638, in the Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh; and copies of it were immediately transmitted to every parish, to receive the names of those who stood well affected to the Presbyterian cause. Before the end of March it had been read in nearly all the churches of the Upper Ward, and signed, amid demonstrations of weeping and enthusiasm, by nearly the whole people. The only notable exceptions to this unanimity were the parishes of Douglas, Carmichael, and Carstairs, in which clerical or baronial influence prevailed in favour of the innovations.

The General Assembly that met at Glasgow in 1638, set the authority of the King’s Commissioner at defiance. It declared the proceedings carried on and sanctioned by the six previous Assemblies to be null and void, and denounced and abolished the canons, the liturgy, the High Commission Court, the Articles of Perth, the forms of consecration, and the whole Episcopal system, root and branch. The gauntlet was thus thrown down to the King. He took it up, and both sides prepared for war. The Earl of Wigton, and his son John Lord Fleming, had signed the Covenant, and publicly declared that they would always maintain the doctrine and discipline now established by the General Assembly and the voice of the nation. Lord Fleming immediately took the field at the head of his father’s retainers. His Lordship, and Lords Montgomery, Loudon, Boyd, Lindsay, and others, seized the Castle of Strathaven, and compelled all the gentlemen in Clydesdale suspected of favouring the royal cause to give security that they would not rise in arms. They then marched to Douglas, where they expected a hot reception from the Marquis of Douglas. They had no cannon, and entertained little hope of being able to make a successful assault on the strong Castle of Douglas; but the Marquis did not remain to offer any resistance; so they readily obtained possession of the Castle, and left it garrisoned with a detachment of their troops.

Lord Fleming, in all likelihood, came to Biggar from Douglas, and completed his levies. He soon marched down the Tweed and joined the other Covenanters, who had now assembled in considerable numbers under the command of General Leslie, an old veteran, trained to war under the renowned Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden. The King had also raised a considerable army, and the blazing balefires soon gave token that he had crossed the border, and was penetrating into the country. He published a proclamation at Dunse, requiring the rebels to submit within ten days, fixing a price on the heads of the leaders, and confiscating their estates. He intended also to make this proclamation at Kelso, and a strong detachment wall despatched thither under the command of the Earl of Holland. The Scots getting information of this intended movement, Lords Fleming, Munro, and Erskine, with their followers, to the number of a thousand horse and foot, met them before they could accomplish their purpose, and offered them battle. The English, however, did not relish the encounter, and fled, losing two hundred men in the pursuit. Principal Baillie says that it was thought that Holland’s commission was to cut off all opposition; but his soldiers that day were a great deal more nimble in their legs than their arms, except the cavaliers, whose right arms were no less weary in whipping than their heels in jading their horses.

The Scottish army afterwards encamped on Dunse Law, and presented a strange spectacle of military and religious enthusiasm,—the din of warlike evolutions intermingling with the voice of psalms, and the prayers and sermons of the preachers. 4 Every company/ says Baillie, ‘had fleeing at the captain’s tent-door a brave new colour stamped with the Scottish arms, and the motto, “ For Christ’s Crown and Covenant,” in golden letters. Our soldiers were all lusty and full of courage, the most of them stout young ploughmen; great cheerfulness in the face of alL They were clothed in olive or grey plaiden, with bonnets having knots of blue ribands. The captains, who were barons or country gentlemen, were distinguished by blue ribands worn scarf-wise across the body. None of our gentlemen were anything the worse of lying some weeks together in their cloaks and boots on the ground. Every one encouraged another. The sight of the nobles and their beloved pastors daily raised their hearts. The good sermons and prayers morning and evening, under the roof of heaven, to which the drums did call them instead of bells, also Leslie’s skill, providence, and fortune, made them as resolute for battle as could be wished.’ The King, seeing the resolution and warlike spirit of the Scots, considered it hazardous to risk an engagement, and therefore an agreement was entered into, to settle the differences by negotiation. A conference was accordingly held at Berwick by commissioners on each side; but their proceedings were in the end rendered abortive by the obstinacy and duplicity of Charles, who would not recede from his design to establish Episcopacy in the northern part of his dominions. No alternative was left but a fresh appeal to arms.

The Scots had disbanded their army, but the tocsin of alarm was again sounded. The barons summoned forth their retainers, and the clergy beat the c drum ecclesiastic* with fury and effect. Lord John Fleming once more set up his standard at Biggar, and called on the retainers of his house, and others in the district well affected to the cause, to assemble around it. At a meeting of the Presbytery of Lanark, on the 25th June 1640, a communication was read from his Lordship, desiring every minister in the Presbytery to intimate from his pulpit, that the muster of men, according to the stipulated number, would take place at Biggar on Thursday first. The Presbytery at the same time chose Alexander Livingstone, minister of Carmichael, and afterwards of Biggar, to be chaplain to his Lordship’s Upper Ward Regiment He was to continue a month at this post, and at the end of that time was to be relieved by George Bennet, minister of Quothquan, who was assured that, in the event of his not receiving payment from the general fund for support of the army, he would be paid by the Presbytery at the rate of 80s. per day.

The Scottish army, amounting in all to 28,000 infantry and 8000 cavalry, struck their tents in the month of August 1640, and marched into England. On arriving at the Tyne, they found that General Conway, the commander of the English army, had erected batteries on its banks near Newburn, to oppose their passage. The Scots were nothing discouraged. They opened so severe a fire from their artillery that the English were forced to .abandon their guns; and a detachment of the Scots having crossed the river, encountered the English cavalry, and put them to flight. Conway’s army was thus thrown into a state of rout and confusion, and the cavalry retreated to Durham, and the infantry to Newcastle. The Scottish troops were induced, by the solicitations and subsidies of the Puritan party in England, to prolong their stay till their grievances were redressed. After some negotiation with the Royalists, it was ultimately agreed that all oppressive courts should be abolished, that no money should be levied without consent of Parliament, and that Parliaments should be summoned every three years. The Scottish army, on the completion of these transactions, received L.800,000, in name of brotherly assistance, and returned to their native country.

At the very time at which Lord Fleming and his retainers from Biggar were in England upholding the cause of the National Covenant, and contending against the arbitrary designs of the King, a meeting of nineteen Scottish noblemen was held at Cumbernauld House to support the royal cause. .They subscribed a bond, in which they declared that, from a sense of the duty which they owed to their religion, their king, and country, they were forced to join themselves in a covenant for the maintenance and protection of each other. Their country, they said, had suffered by the special and indirect practising of a few individuals, and therefore their object was to study all public ends which might lead to the safety of the religion, laws, and liberties of the poor kingdom of Scotland. This meeting was convened principally by the efforts of James, Marquis of Montrose, who, at first, took part with the Covenanters, and was at Dunse Law and Newbum; but, conceiving that his merits had been overlooked, and feeling special offence that Argyle was made his superior in the Senate, and Leslie in the field, he had obtained a secret interview with Charles when in England, and pledged himself to support his cause. The document, signed by the Earl of Wigton and the other noblemen,—1 Montrose's damnable Band,' as Baillie terms it,—was ordered by the Committee of Estates to be burnt by the hands of the common hangman, and Montrose was seized and thrown into prison.

The Earl of Wigton, having thus embraced the side of the Royalists, was honoured by receiving several letters from the King’s own hand. They are still preserved, and present a very creditable specimen of caligraphy. In one of them, dated Oxford, 21st April 1643, the King, after expressing his desire to preserve the affections of the people of his native kingdom, and to do' everything to contribute to their happiness, goes on to say: *but knowing what industry is used (by scattering seditious pamphletts, and employing privat agents and instruments to give badd impressions of us and our proceedings, under a pretence of a danger to religion and government) to corrupt their fidelities and affections, and to engadge them in ane unjust quarrell against us their King, wee cannot, therefore, but remove those jealousies, and secure their feares from all possibilitie of any hazard to either of these from us. Wee have, therefore, thought fitt to require you to call together your freinds, vassalls, tenents, and such others as have any dependencie upon you, and, in our name, to show them our willingnes to give all the assurance they can desire, or wee possibly graunt (if more can be given than already is), of preserving inviolably all those graces and favours, which we have of late graunted to that our kingdome, and that wee doe faithfullie promise never to goe to the contrarie of any thing there established, either in the eccle-siasticall or civil government, but that wee will inviolably keip the same according to the lawes of that our kingdome.’

The Earl himself does not seem, after all, to have taken a very active part in the support and advancement of the cause of Charles. It was otherwise with his son John, who had been suspected of leaning towards the King when he was with the Scottish army in England, and who now fairly turned his back on his old friends the Covenanters. After his relative Montrose had gained the brilliant victories of Tibber-muir, Inverlochy, Auldeme, Alford, and Kilsyth, he threw off all disguise, and at the head of a body of his vassals, joined the army that had fought so gallantly and successfully in behalf of the King.

He marched with Montrose to Philiphaugh, near Selkirk; the object of that general being, now that all opposition was beat down in Scotland, to make a diversion in favour of the Royalists on the soil of England. Montrose posted his infantry on an elevated piece of ground on the left bank of the Ettrick, while he himself and his cavalry occupied the adjaoent town of Selkirk, and thus allowed the river to divide his forces into two portions. General Leslie, who had been despatched from England with a detachment of 5000 or 6000 men to oppose Montrose, taking advantage of a thick mist, on the morning of the 13th September 1645, fell on both flanks of his opponent’s infantry at one time. The left flank was immediately thrown into confusion, and driven from the field; but the right occupying a more advantageous position, with a wood in the rear, fought for some time with great obstinacy, but in the end had to yield to the furious onsets of the Covenanters. Montrose, with Lords Fleming, Napier, and Erskine, Sir John Dalziel, and other officers, so soon as the din of the battle was heard, rallied the cavalry, and hastened to the scene of action. They did everything that skill,and bravery could suggest to retrieve the disasters of the day; but all their efforts were unavailing. They were forced to retire, and seek safety by speedy flight. They hastened up the Yarrow, struck along the bridle-road over Minchmuir, and came to Traquair House. Receiving little countenance here, although the Earl of Traquair was also a partisan of the King, they proceeded up the Tweed to Peebles, where they halted a short time during the night, and early next morning pursued their journey. They came to the Upper Ward and crossed the Clyde, and here they met with the Earls of Crawford and Airley, who had escaped by a different route. Montrose and a number of his friends fled to the Highlands, while Lord Fleming and others concealed themselves in the Lowlands.

The Convention of Estates were not disposed to pass over the delinquencies of those who had taken up arms against them, and subjected them to so much terror, inconvenience, and expense. They appointed a section of their number, called the Committee of Processes and Money, to institute actions against those persons who had taken part in what they termed the Rebellion of Montrose.

Lord Fleming remained concealed for some time, but the Committee of Processes permitted him, on the 9th of February 1646, ‘to repair home to his owne dwelling house on his giving James, Earl of Callender, as a cautioner, that he would appear before the Committee on the 8th of March following, at Linlithgow, or where they should happen to be sitting at the time, and that he would conduct himself with all due propriety, under a penalty of fiftie thousand punds.’ The Committee, on taking his case into consideration, decided that he should pay a fine of L.6400; but agreed to remit a portion of it, should the allegation of his Lordship, that he had expended large sums in the support of troop horses, foot soldiers, dragoons, and others in the public service, be satisfactorily established. In a document which his Lordship laid before the Committee, he stated that he had possession of no lands or teinds belonging to his father’s estate, ‘ except onely twentie chalders victuall payed to him of the estate and lands lyand about Biggar, within the shyre of Cliddisdaill, quhilk is allowed upon him be his father for keiping his purse and buying his cloathes.’ He declared that he had no casual rent, no money owing him by (band9 or otherwise, and no moveable goods or geir that could be escheated. He had borrowed, he said, L.20,000, which he had expended in the public service, viz., ‘be out reicking himself ane colonel at the first two expeditions, be buying of armes and uther necessre fumitour for his regiment, and by paying his officers and men,’ and supporting himself, as he had never received any of the public money at all. Besides, there were the charges, expenses, and pay of a garrison of forty soldiers, with a captain and lieutenant, who had occupied the Castle of Boghall of Biggar since the 14th of September last, and had been maintained solely out of his own portion, and the revenues of his father’s estates; large sums were also due for the soldiers that had been quartered, and the depredations that had been committed on his father’s lands in and about Biggar and Cumbernauld ; and further, all public orders had been obeyed, the monthly contribution paid, and ‘ twenty horsemen of trouperis and dragounners with forty-aucht foot sojouris had been out reicked and put furth be my Lord’s rent and estaite sufficientlie armed and mounted since the said fourteine day of September last bypast.’ The whole expense incurred in the equipment and maintenance of twenty dragoons and ninety-eight foot soldiers, including those lying in the Castle of Boghall, amounted to 8090 merks. The Committee, having duly weighed all the pleas advanced, decided that the account rendered by John Lord Fleming was sufficient to ‘ exhaust the wholl fine abovewritten imposed upon him for his delinquency, doe therfor discharge the said John Lord Fleming of the said fyne.’ His Lordship thus appears to have got rid of the heavy exaction imposed on him for the crime of taking part in what was then called the Rebellion of Montrose.

Charles II. had scarcely been restored to the throne, when he utterly repudiated the engagements into which he had entered in the days of his adversity, to uphold and maintain the Presbyterian form of church government, and the covenanted work of Reformation. He resolved to overturn the whole fabric of Presbyterianism, and to set up Prelacy in its stead, which the great majority of the Scottish people hated nearly as much as Popery itself. The Covenants were repealed; the opposition to Episcopal church government was denounced as sedition; the clergy who had been admitted to livings subsequent to the abolition of patronage were declared to have no title to them, and were required within four months to obtain presentation from the patrons and collation from the bishops, with assurance, if they did not comply, that they would be ejected by military force. The consequence of this edict was, that about the end of 1662, no fewer than three hundred and fifty clergymen threw up their livings rather than do violence to their conscientious convictions. The valedictory sermons which they delivered, the high esteem in which they were held, and the destitute circumstances to which they were reduced, made their flocks rally round them, and listen to their instructions with a keener relish than ever. Hence arose the practice of holding meetings for public worship in the fields, which became so obnoxious to Government, that an Act was passed prohibiting the ejected ministers from approaching within twenty miles of their former parishes, and declaring it sedition for any person to contribute to their support. The people disregarded the edicts of the drunken and infuriated man who at that time swayed the destinies of Scotland, and doggedly refused to abandon their old pasters and wait on the ministrations of the ignorant and subservient curates who now occupied their pulpits. Hence fines, imprisonments, tortures, and death, were resorted to; and the people on several occasions were goaded on to repel aggression, and assert their liberties and their rights, with arms in their hands.

From a list published by Wodrow, it would seem that in 1662 the whole of the ministers of the Presbyteries of Lanark and Biggar left their pulpits. This is rather surprising, as some of them are understood to have had a strong leaning towards Episcopacy, and, in fact, to have been the creatures of the bishops. It may be that even these parties were indignant at the violent and tyrannical conduct of Middleton and his drunken associates, and were thus induced to throw in their lot with their brethren. Wodrow’s list of the members of the Biggar Presbytery is as follows:—Alexander Livingstone, Biggar; Anthony Murray, Coulter; James Donaldson, Dolphinton; Patrick Anderson, Walston; James Bruce, Archibald Porteous, Alexander Barton, John Rae, Symington; John Crawford, Lamington; William 1 Dickson, Glenholm; John Greg, Skirling; and Robert Brown, Broughton. These men chose rather to throw themselves on the wide world, and to subject themselves to all the hardships of an unsettled life, and all the contumely and persecution of an infuriated Government, than do violence to their convictions of duty, and succumb to the dictates of tyranny. It must ever be a matter of regret, that almost nothing of their subsequent history is known. John Rae, minister of Symington, as mentioned by Wodrow, was apprehended in 1670 for preaching and baptizing in his own house, and sent to Edinburgh, where he was confined in the Canongate Tolbooth. After an examination he was sent to Stirling, but his fate is not stated. Anthony Murray of Coulter was held in high esteem by the Nonconformists, though we are not aware that he got into further trouble on account of his adherence to the covenanted work of Reformation, than being forced to abandon his manse and stipend. Wodrow states that he was a relative of the Duchess of Lauderdale, and that in consequence of this connection, he was selected by a number of influential ministers to present an address to the Duke in favour of the Covenanters. It is a tradition, we are told, that after leaving his clerical -charge, he continued to reside in the parish of Coulter, and employed himself in practising the healing art, facetiously remarking, that he would now make the doctor keep the minister. At this period, an Anthony Murray acted as factor for the Biggar estate of the Earl of Wigton. We have examined several of the books of his accounts, which are still preserved in the Fleming archives; and as he appears to have resided in Biggar or its neighbourhood, and to have enjoyed much of the confidence and respect of his employer, we have been rather disposed to think that this is the same person as the outed minister of Coulter. It will be observed, that his name appears twice in the inventory of old effects sold at Boghall Castle in 1681.

The work of imposing fines for nonconformity was early commenced in the Upper Ward. Middleton’s Parliament, which met at Glasgow in 1662, fined the parish of Biggar L.1071, 5s., Quothquan L.181, 2s. 6d., Walston L.808, 8s., Dunsyre L.177, 12s., Camwath L.6789, 19s. 8<L, Lanark L.5000, etc. Heavy fines were imposed on many individual gentlemen in the same district Among others may be mentioned, Christopher Baillie of Walston, L.9600; William Brown of Dolphinton, L.1200; Andrew Brown of the same parish, L.600; William Bertram of Nisbet, L.480; James Baillie, St John’s Kirk, L.240; Thomas Gibson, Quothquan, L.860; John Kello, there, L.260; and John Braid, Hillhead, Covington, L.600.

The Covenanters who rose in arms, in 1666, in the south-west of Scotland, after capturing Sir James Turner at Dumfries, proceeded to the Upper Ward. They halted a short time at Douglas, and then inarched to Lanark, where they listened to sermons preached by some of the clergymen who accompanied them, and with great solemnity and uplifted hands renewed the Covenants.

From the strong leaning of the people of Biggar and its neighbourhood in favour of the principles of the Covenant, and the intense indignation which they felt at the tyrannical measures of the Government, it is likely that some of them took part in this insurrectionary, or, as it may rather be called, defensive movement. We know that Major Learmont, proprietor of Newholm, in the parish of Dolphinton, and the Rev. Wm. Veitch, tenant in the Westhills of Dunsyre, and son of the Rev. John Veitch, for forty-five years minister of Roberton, joined the Covenanters at a hill above Galston, and took a leading part in their proceedings. Major Learmont was appointed to the command of one of the divisions of cavalry, and escorted Sir James Turner out of the town of Lanark, to protect him from the assaults of the inhabitants. The Covenanting army marched from Lanark to Bathgate in the midst of extremely stormy feather, and ascertaining that they were to receive no assistance from the inhabitants of the Lothians and the city of Edinburgh, they resolved to make a detoujr by the end of the Pentland Hills and march to Biggar. Mr Yeitch was sent in disguise to Edinburgh, to hold an interview with their friends in the city; but he was apprehended and detained as a prisoner. On his expressing his readiness to march against the Whigs, he was less strictly guarded, and effected his escape, and thus witnessed the conflict at Rullion Green, and arrived that same night at the herd’s house in Dunsyre Common. Major Learmont fought bravely on the field of Rullion Green. He commanded the party that defeated the second charge of the enemy. General Dalziel, seeing his men give way, hasted forward a detachment to their rescue, when Major Learmont was attacked by four horsemen, and his horse was shot under him. He started to the back of a fold dyke, shot the first trooper that approached, mounted his horse, and escaped.

It was near the close of day when Dalziel advanced his whole army to the last charge; and as his numbers were 3000 against 900, the poor Covenanters had no alternative but to scatter themselves among the deep defiles of the Pentland Hills, where they were safe from the pursuit of the cavalry, and where they were soon hid by the darkness of the night. Large numbers on the day following hasted to their homes by Camwath and Biggar.

James Kirton, who from 1655 to 1657 was one of the ministers of Lanark, in his ‘History of the Church of Scotland,’ has brought a severe charge against the inhabitants of these towns, for their cruelty to the poor distressed fugitives. His information, he says, was obtained at the spot, and therefore was entitled, as he insinuates, to the most implicit credit. His statements, which are deeply tinctured with the superstitious notions that prevailed at the period, can, however, at the most, only apply to a few individuals, and not to the mass of the inhabitants. He refers to the subject more than once, but we will quote only one of his passages. He enumerates various reasons why the people listened more readily to the ministrations of the outed clergymen than of the curates, and among others gives the following, viz.: ‘Another reason was the strange judgments seen upon those who were or had been persecutors. It i9 well known and observed what happened those who injured the poor Whigs who fled from Pentland. In the Upper Ward of Clydesdale, when some of them fled through Carnwath, one of the townsmen carried some of them into the moss and murdered them. It was told by the people of the village to myself within a little time thereafter, that frequently a fire was seen to arise from that place in the moss where the murder was committed, and thereafter creeping overland, it covered the murderer’s house. Himself, as I was told, perished, and his children are beggars to this day. What curses befell the people of Biggar who were equally guihy of this fact, and bow poor Laurence Boe died in high despair, accusing himself of the secret murder of two, was well known, and as well remembered by the neighbours.’ It would be most interesting to us at the present day to know what the curses were to which Kir-ton refers. They were, he says, well known at the time he wrote his history; but whatever they were, they are now utterly forgotten.

The curates who were thrust into the pulpits of the Upper Ward were, from all accounts, weak and despicable individuals; and some of them, particularly the curate of Carnwath, were known to lead profligate and licentious lives. The description given by Bishop Burnet of the curates generally, was, no doubt, applicable to those of the Upper Ward. ‘They were,’ he says, ‘the worst preachers ever I heard; they were ignorant to a reproach, and many of them openly vicious. They were a disgrace to their order and to the sacred function, and were indeed the dregs and refuse of the northern parts.’ Such preachers were not likely to recommend the cause of Prelacy, and induce the people to wait upon their ministrations. Some of the Upper Ward churches appear to have been entirely deserted. We jnay refer in this respect to the Church of Symington. The manse and church, in consequence of standing some time unoccupied, fell into a state almost of ruin. On the 21st of June 1676, Gavin Steven and Hugh Telfer, masons and wrights, Biggar, at the instance of the curate, Robert Lawson, who, at that time, had most likely been newly appointed, underwent a lengthened examination, on oath, before some clerical brethren, regarding the state of the manse and church. They declared that it would take 400 merks Scots to pat the manse in habitable order, making it, as they said, ‘water tight and wind tight, frith new theiking, glass windows, boards and cases, locks, sneckes, and slots, and casting the house without and within.’ In regard to the kirk, they reported that the'west gable had slidden, and had a rift in it, and that if it were not helped it was likely to fall, and that very shortly; and that, as there were no glass in the windows, no pulpit, and no reader’s desk, it would be necessary to supply them* The whole expenses for the repair of the kirk, it was estimated, would be L.48 Scots. On the 5th of July following, Robert Lawson, the curate, reported, at a meeting of his clerical colleagues, that after a search he had succeeded in finding the kirk box, the session book, the iron stauncher, and the iron holder, in which the sand-glass stood; anjl that the only thing now a wanting was the key of die kirk box.

The practice of attending field-meettags, or conventicles as they were called, was still obstinately maintained in the Upper Ward, as well as in inany other districts in Scotland. The Parliament, in 1670, passed a severe enactment against these meetings. Every unauthorised person, who should preach, expound Scripture, or pray in any place, except in his own house find with his own family, was to be imprisoned till he found caution, to the amount of 5000 merks, not to be guilty of a similar offence again, or otherwise agree to remove out of the kingdom altogether; but if he so officiated at a meeting in the fields, he was to suffer death and the confiscation of his goods. It was also enacted, that all persons who should attend such ministrations should be fined toties quoties in certain specified sums, according to their stations in life; and that these sums should be doubled if the ministrations were conducted in the open air. The fine of a landed proprietor was the fourth part of his annual rent; of a farmer or master tradesman, L.25 Scots; of a cottar, L.12 Scots; and of a servant, the fourth part of his yearly fee. Notwithstanding the severity of the Government, a number of conventicles were held in the neighbourhood of Biggar. The Rev. John Kid, who was taken prisoner at the battle of Bothwell Bridge, and executed at the Gross of Edinburgh on the 14th of August 1679, preached one day on the hill of Tinto, to a large assemblage of the inhabitants of this district. Patrick Walker, the packman of Bristo Port, Edinburgh, who wrote the lives of several Covenanting worthies, and who most likely was present on this occasion, tells us that Mr Sad, in the course of the service, gave out a part of the second psalm to be sung, and accompanied the reading of it with a commentary. When he came to the sixth verse, viz.,

'Yet, notwithstanding, I have Him
To be my King appointed;
And over Sion, my holy hill,
I have Him King anointed,’—

he exclaimed, with many tears, 4 Treason, treason, treason, against King Christ in Scotland. They would have him a King without a kingdom, and a King without subjects. There is not a clean pulpit in all Scotland this day, curate nor indulged. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be separate, saith the Lord, and touch not these unclean things; and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Almighty.’

The hill of Tinto, situated in the midst of a populous district, and affording concealment and security in its deep declivities, was a favourite preaching place with several of the other heroes of the Covenant. Donald Cargill, who was in the habit of saying that he felt more liberty and delight in preaching and praying in the glens and wilds of tjie Upper Ward of Clydesdale than in any other place of Scotland, came to this district in the beginning of June 1681, after a tour through Ayrshire and Galloway, and intended on the Sabbath following to preach on Tinto. Mrs Baillie, the Lady of St John’s Kirk, who professed a warm attachment to the Covenant and its champions, but who was looked on with suspicion by some of its more zealous and rigid partisans, as a person whose fidelity was likely to give way in the hour of trial, had begun to feel uneasiness at the frequent conventicles held in her neighbourhood. When she learned Cargill’s design to preach on Tinto, she held a correspondence with some of the leading Covenanters in the country round; and it appears that they entered so far into her views as to permit her to issue an announcement, that the meeting on Sabbath would take place on a common in tbe parish of Glenholm, at the back of Coulter Heights. Mr Cargill had taken up his abode in the house of John Liddell, at Heidmire, in the neighbourhood of St John’s Kirk; but though communication could thus have been very readily held with him, he received no notice that the place of meeting had been changed. He rose early on the Sabbath morning, and going out to meditate in the fields, he observed numbers of people travelling to the south. On learning from some of them to what place they were going, he said, ‘ This is the Lady’s policy to get us at some distance from her house, but she will be discovered.’ He did not return to Mr Liddell’s house to get breakfast; but being anxious that the great multitudes from Biggar and the surrounding country, whom he understood were flocking to the place of rendezvous, should not be disappointed, he immediately set out on his journey. The day was very warm, and the road was long and difficult; the consequence was, that by the time he reached the sequestered spot where his friends were assembled, he was very much exhausted. Before he commenced his labours, a man went to a rivulet and brought him a drink of water in his steel bonnet, and supplied him with another draught in the same way between sermon?; and these were all the refreshments which he tasted during the day. He discoursed on the 6th chapter of Isaiah in the forenoon, and in the afternoon delivered a sermon on the words in the 11th chapter of Romans, ‘Be not high-minded, but fear.’ We can easily conceive the thrilling effects that would be produced by religious discourses preached in a region so solitary and mountainous, and by the lips of a man so full of ardour and faith as Donald CargilL Holmes’ Common can never be surveyed without identifying it with that great meeting.

A short time afterwards, Cargill preached his last sermon on Dunsyre Common, on the text, in the 20th verse of the 26th chapter of Isaiah, ‘ Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers,’ etc. Walker the packman, who was present, says, 4 He insisted what kind of chambers these were of protection and safety, and exhorted us all earnestly to dwell in the clefts of the rock, to hide ourselves in the wounds of Christ, and to wrap ourselves in the believing application of the promises flowing therefrom, and to take our refuge under the shadow of His wings, until these sad calamities pass over, and the dove come back with the olive leaf in her mouth.’

After sermon, he did not leave the muir till it was dark, as he was afraid of falling into the hands of his enemies, who, he knew, were eager to apprehend him, and obtain the reward of 5000 merks offered by the Government for his person. The Lady of St John’s Kirk was present, and desired him to accept accommodation at her house; but he felt a great reluctance to comply, as he could not bring himself to regard her with entire confidence, and was m the habit of Baying, 4 Whatever end she might make> there would be foul wide steps in her life.’ Mr Walter Smith and Mr Boig, two lay gentlemen who had devoted themselves to the work of upholding the persecuted faith in Scotland, insisted that he would accept the invitation, and he so far yielded that he accompanied the lady to Covington; but refusing to go farther, he and Messrs Smith and Boig found accommodation in the house of Andrew Fisher, Covington Mill.

James Irvine of Bonshaw, a brutal individual, and a dealer in horses, having got a commission from the Privy Council to hunt down and apprehend all persons who attended field conventicles and were obnoxious to Government, and hearing that a great Covenanting meeting was to be held in the Upper Ward, left Kilbride on Sabbath evening with a party of dragoons, and arrived about sunrise at St John’s Kirk. He searched the house Very closely; but finding none of the individuals of whom he was specially in quest, he pro-eeeded to the Murrays, or Muirhouse of Thankerton, the residence of a well-known Covenanter, Mr James Thomson. A fine opportunity was thus presented to the Lady of St John’s Kirk to apprise her Mends at Covington Mill of their danger; but the good lady was too much paralysed with her own fears to cause anything of this kind to be done. Bonshaw, disappointed in not finding any of the leading Covenanters at the Murrays, set off with his troop to the house of Andrew Fisher, and his spouse, Elisabeth Lindsay, at Covington Mill, and there he apprehended Messrs Cargill, Smith, and Boig. He was Vastly elated with his success, and blessed the day that he had been bom to find so rich a prise. He carried the prisoners to Lanark, and lodged them in the Tolbooth till he obtained refreshments; and then mounting them on the bare batiks of horses, he tied Mr Cargill’s feet below the home's belly, with circumstances of great cruelty. In this posture he conveyed them hastily to Glasgow; and after halting a short time in that city, transferred them to the prison of Edinburgh. They were arraigned before the Court of Justiciary on the 26th of July 1681, found guilty of high treason on their own confessions, and oondemned to be hanged next day at the Cross of Edinburgh, and their heads to be placed on the Nether Bow. This was accordingly done; and thus their names were added to the roll of martyrs who have Ifedd down their lives for opposition to tyranny and in defence of religions liberty. Irvine of Bonshaw, as is well known, a short time afterwards, was killed in a squabble with one of his drtinken associates at the town of Lanark; and it has ever sinoe been considered by some persons as a special mark of divine vengeance, that he suffered punishment in the place where he had exercised his oraeUies on Donald Cargill

After this period Mrs Baillie, or, as she was usually termed, the Lady of St John's Kirk, fellinto considerable odium with the faore rigid of the Covenanters. It was rumoured that she had been accessory to the capture of her late friends at Covington Mill, Tbe rumour, it appears, had even reached those men in their confinement in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, short as the time wa* which they were allowed to live. OneĽ of them, Walter Smith, in his dying testimony, as inserted in the (Cloud of Witnesses,’ however, exonerates her from that oharge. In reference to this he says, 4 As to my apprehending* we were singularly delivered by Providence into the adversaries1 hands, and, for what I could know, betrayed by no one, nor were my acoessory to our taking more than we were ourselves. And particularly, let none blame the lady of St John’s Kirk.’ Thia lady, in the killing years that followed, actually, it is said, became a perse* outor, and allowed no person to dwell on her lands unless they took the oath of abjuration, and attended the ministrations of the curates. When Mr John Johnston in Grangehill of Pettinain, and Francis Leverance of Covington, two of her old Covenanting friend^ waited on her to remind her of her solemn declarations in favour of the covenanted work of Reformation, and to remonstrate with her on her inconsistent and injurious conduct, she refused to hold conversation with them, and ordered the door to be shut in their faces. The dread of imprisonment and the forfeiture of the family estate, had, no doubt, produced this change in her professions and deportment; and this incident furnishes another illustration of the unhappy effects produced by persecution fbr religion’s sake.

But two of the most remarkable religious meetings, that took place in the Biggar district were held in the Castle of Boghall, under the personal auspices of the Dowager Countess of Wigton, a daughter o* Henry Lord Ker, and widow of John Fleming, Earl of Wigton. These meetings were addressed by various outed ministers, and were largely attended by the inhabitants of Biggar and the country round. So daring a contravention of the Act to which we have referred, of course attracted the attention of the tyrants who conducted public affairs in Sootland, and, therefore, the following persons were, at the instance of John Niabet of Dirletoa, his Majesty’s advocate, summoned to appear before the Lords Commissioners and Lords of the Privy Council at Edinburgh, pn the 25th of July 1672, viz., Anna, Countes* of Wigton, James Crichton, John Kello, James Brown, John Dalziel, John Henderson, John and Laurence Tait, James Brown, wright, John Tod, mason, Alexander Gardiner, tailor, John Nisbet, and Alexander Sknith, all residing in Biggar;?nJames Paterson, Carwood; James Crichton, Westraw; William Cleghoro, Edmonston; Alex* ander Story, there; William Thomson, Boghall; Malcolm Brown, Efhnonston} James Cuthbertson, there; Peter Gillies, Skirling Wauk-miil; John Robertson, procurator, Lanark; John Watson, notax, Carnwath; Thomas Criohton, Wolfdyde; James Glasgow, Whitcastle; John Tweedie, Edmonston; Robert Lohean, Skirling; William Forrest, there; John Newbigging, Carstairs; John Hutchison, Harelaw; John Lochie, Ranstruther; Malcolm Gibson, Wester Pettinain; Ronald Spence, Thankerton; James Thomson, Muirhouse of Thankerton; and James Adam in NetherwamhilL All of these persons obeyed the summons, and appeared in Edinburgh on the day appointed. The first person brought before the Privy Council was John Robertson of Lanark. He admitted that he had been at the conventicles kept at Boghall; and being commanded to declare upon oath all that he knew regarding the persons who were present at these meetings, and the business that was transacted, he refused to do so, and therefore was ordered to be carried to prison, and there to remain until he should receive further sentence. The Privy Council very likely saw that it would be a difficult and tedious matter to deal with so many offenders, and it was on this account, perhaps, that they appointed the Earls of Linlithgow, Murray, and Dumfries; a sub-commission, to examine the others, and to imprison such of them as would not become informers and give satisfactory answers, and to impose fines on those who were less resolute, and promised to attend no more conventicles in future. Fourteen of them, whose names deserve to be held in remembrance,— viz., James Crichton and John Dalziel, Biggar; James Paterson,' Carwood ; William Cleghom, Malcolm Brown, and James Forrest, Edmonston; Peter Gillies, Skirling Waukmill; Thomas Crichton, Wolf-clyde; James Glasgow, Whitcastle; James Lindsay, Netherwamhill; James Thomson, Muirhouse; John Newbigging, Carstairs; John Hutchison, Harelaw; and Malcolm Gibson,—were then examined before the Committee, and as they resolutely refused to give the satisfaction required, they were condemned to suffer imprisonment. What the ultimate fate of these individuals was, and of the others who were arraigned on the same indictment, we have not been able to ascertain. Some of them were, no doubt, subjected to as heavy fines as they could bear, and others may have endured.a long captivity on the Bass, or in the dungeons of Dunottar, or even may have been banished to the plantations of America. The Countess of Wigton was fined in the sum of 4000 merks, which she was ordered to pay to Sir William Sharp, his Majesty’s Treasurer.

One of those who attended the conventicles at Boghall was Peter Gillies, of the waukmill of Skirling. His subsequent fate is well known to those who are conversant with the history of the Covenanting struggles. He had given refuge to some of the hard-hunted and oppressed preachers of the Covenant, sheltered them for a night under his roof, and supplied them with such victuals as his humble cottage afforded This act of humanity had been reported to James Buchan, the curate of Skirling, and this professed servant of Christ was never at rest till he got Sir James Murray, the proprietor of Gillies’s little tenement, to throw him and his family adrift on the world. After wandering about for some time, he settled at length in the parish of Muiravoqside, in the county of Stirling. Gillies was none of those faithless and faint-hearted individuals that could be daunted by persecution, and led to change their opinions and their practices to please the minions of power. He was still a staunch Presbyterian, and readily attended a conventicle, or befriended an outed minister, as often as an opportunity occurred. He thus incurred the resentment of Andrew Ure, the curate of the parish in which he had settled; and in 1682 this worthy obtained a troop of dragoons to apprehend him, but at this time he happily escaped their fangs. He at length returned to his family, and continued to pursue his humble vocation till April 1685, when the curate caused another party of soldiers to apprehend him, and John Bryce, a weaver from West Calder. The soldiers treated him most brutally, and threatened to kill him before his wife, who a day or two previously had been delivered of a child. They searched his house, carried off everything that they could readily transport, and then hurried him away with them to the west of Scotland. On the 5th of May he was served with an indictment at Mauchline, charging him with having cast off the fear of God, and his allegiance and duty to the King; with having approved of the principles of rebellious traitors and blasphemers against God, and of the practice of taking up arms against the King and those commissioned by him; with adhering to the Covenant, and refusing to pray for his most gracious majesty the King. He was tried on these charges before Lieutenant-General Drummond and a jury of fifteen soldiers, found guilty, and condemned to be hanged next day at the Town-end of Mauchline. This sentence was accordingly carried into execution. No coffin was prepared for his remains; some of the soldiers and two countrymen dug a hole in the earth, and there deposited his body in the same state as it had been cut down from the gibbet. Thus died the once humble tenant of Skirling Waukmill, the friend of suffering humanity, the victim of relentless persecution, and the unflinching adherent of the covenanted work of Reformation.

Biggar and its neighbourhood furnished a contingent to the muster of Covenanters that took place, in June 1679, at Bothwell Bridge. The number of countrymen who assembled on this occasion was considerable, and they might have produced very important effects on the Government of Scotland, had they been commanded by proper officers, and not allowed themselves to be tom asunder by contentions regarding topics which, however important they might be in themselves, were completely out of place at such a juncture. On the 22d of June they were attacked by the royal troops under the command of the Duke of Monmouth, and completely routed. Many of the men of the Biggar district escaped. In the fugitive rolls of the period, we find the names of the following, among other persons, who either had been at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, or had sheltered some of those who fled from that unhappy conflict, viz.: James Crichton; Gideon Crawford, merchant; John Gilkers, heritor; Robert Aitken, merchant; and Alexander Smith, weaver, all belonging to Biggar;—John Fisher, Covington Mill; Robert Brown, smith, Covington Hillhead; James Thomson, Muirhouse, Thankerton; James Weir, Lamington; Andrew Gilroy, Walston; and Hugh Sommerville, Quothquan.

The names of all the persons connected with the Biggar district, who were taken prisoners at Bothwell, cannot now be ascertained. The following have been preserved on account of the fate that ultimately befell them, viz.: John Rankin, Biggar; and James Penman, James Thomson, and Thomas Wilson, Quothquan. The prisoners owed their lives to the clemency of the Duke of Monmouth. Some of the Royalists, and particularly Claverhouse, who was smarting from the defeat which he had, a short time before, sustained at Drumclog, urged that they should all be shot on the field; but Monmouth, who had a leaning towards the Covenanters, would not listen to such a barbarous proposal. Numbering in all about 1400 men, they were marched in a most deplorable state to Edinburgh, and confined like so many cattle in an enclosure called the Inner Greyfriars Churchyard. They were pent up in this place without any covering from the blasts and dews of heaven, and were forced to lie all night on the cold ground; and any one that stirred or made a noise was liable to be fired at by the sentinels. Their allowance of food was four ounces of bread and a small quantity of water daily. Many persons in Edinburgh pitied their condition, and were willing to contribute to their comfort; but the food, clothing, and money which they sent, were, in many instances, not admitted, or appropriated by the sentinels to their own use.

After they had continued in this wretched state for some time, a proposal was made that they should sign a bond not again to take up arms against the King or his authority. Nearly a thousand signed this bond, and were set at liberty; but the remaining four hundred obstinately refused to sign it, and no entreaty, nor even the report that they would all be put to death, could induce them to comply. Day after day they submitted to the most severe privations, and endured the most acute sufferings. As the rigours of winter drew on, the hearts of the authorities began a little to relent, and they were treated with more indulgence and humanity. A few huts were erected to shelter them from the inclemency of the weather, and a more ready access was given to their friends. The consequence was, that about a hundred of them effected their escape, either by climbing over the walls, or being disguised in women’s clothes; and a few more, at the earnest solicitation of some Presbyterian ministers, were induced to sign the bond. Their numbers were now reduced to 257 individuals. From the want of sufficient nutriment and exposure to the weather by day and night, their bodies were fearfully emaciated, and many of them were afflicted with acute diseases. It was understood that some of them were now rather disposed to submit to the requirements of Government; but the Privy Council, irritated perhaps by their obstinacy, passed, on the whole of them, a sentence of banishment to Barbadoes. Early on the morning of the 15th November, after they had been confined in the churchyard nearly five months, they were marched to Leith, and put on board a vessel belonging to William Paterson, merchant, Edinburgh, where their sufferings, from want of water, food, and fresh air, and from being jammed together in a narrow hold, were worse than ever. They sailed from Leith Roads on the 27th November, and on the 10th of the following month, when passing the Orkney Islands, were overtaken by a storm, and the ship was ultimately dashed on the rocks. The captain had ordered the hatches to be locked and chained down; and when the vessel struck he refused to open them, but provided for the safety of himself and his men. The consequence was, that some time elapsed before the prisoners could get on deck. About forty of them, by means of boards, reached a place of safety, and the remainder found a watery grave amid the tempestuous surges of the Pentland Firth. Among those saved was James Penman, Quothquan; and among the drowned were James Rankin, Biggar, and Thomas Wilson and James Thomson, Quothquan. Biggar thus furnished at least one unflinching martyr in the cause of the Covenant, whose name is entitled to be held in remembrance in the annals of the town.

The Rev. Dr Robert Simpson of Sanquhar, in his work entitled 4 Gleanings among the Mountains,' relates an incident of the Covenanting times, which, he says, occurred at Biggar. It is to the effect that two brothers, of the names of Thomas and James Harkness, were apprehended in the wilds of Nithsdale by a party of dragoons, and conveyed to Edinburgh, where they were placed in confinement. By some means or other they contrived to escape, and, in returning to their native place, had occasion to pass Biggar. The good town, it seems, still possessed some of the persecutors spoken of by Kirton, and, among others, the leader of the very party who had captured the two brothers. Resolving to give him a taste of the terrors which he was in the habit of occasioning to others, they obtained firearms, went to his house, and demanded to see him. His wife denied that he was at home, but a little boy betrayed the place of his concealment. He was instantly seized, dragged to the fields, and ordered to prepare for death. The brothers having blindfolded him with a napkin, caused him to kneel and offer up a prayer; and this being done, they presented their muskets and fired. Their intention, however, was not to kill him; so after the volley they plucked off the napkin from his eyes, and raised him in a state of almost entire insensibility to his feet. This event made a powerful impression on his mind. He began to reflect on his previous course of life, and was struck with its injustice, cruelty, and sinfulness. He ceased to be a persecutor, and entering on a new course of conduct, became an entirely altered man. How far this story may be founded on fact, we have no means of deciding.

Graham of Claverhouse, in course of his murderous raids through the western shires of Scotland, paid occasional visits to the Upper Ward, and there exercised the cruelties for which, in all succeeding times, he has been so infamously distinguished. He was ranging up and down this district in 1685, when he met with James Brown of Coulter, fishing in the Clyde. He caused him to be searched; and a powder-horn having been found on his person, he denounced him as a knave and ordered him to be shot. He commanded six of his troopers to dismount and carry his sentence into execution; but the Laird of Culterallers, who happened to be present, interceded in his behalf, and so his life was spared till next day. He was bound with cords and carried off to the south by the soldiers. He was ultimately confined in the Tolbooth of Selkirk, from which he contrived to escape, and thus eluded the fangs of that stem persecutor, who seldom felt much scruple in imbruing his hands in the blood of his fellow-men.

In order more thoroughly to overawe the people of Biggar and the country adjacent, a detachment of soldiers was stationed in the Castle of Boghall. These soldiers no doubt embraced every opportunity of exercising their cruel and tyrannical propensities on the poor and oppressed inhabitants, and carrying out the behests of a blind and infuriated Government. We find that the Committee on Public Affairs, on the 16th July 1684, wrote a letter to Sir William Murray of Stanhope, Sir Archibald Murray of Blackbarony, and John Veitch of Dawick, stating that they had been informed that conventicles had been held at CamhiU and Colston’s Loup, in the county of Peebles, and complaining that these gentlemen had furnished no information legarding the persons who had been present, in violation of the terms of the proclamation of Council, in 1682. They were therefore ordered to make diligent search for, and to apprehend, both the preachers and hearers on these occasions; and to avail themselves in this work of the assistance of the garrison of Boghall.

The Covenanters in the Upper Ward, in spite of all the efforts of Government, kept up their meetings. By means of the Societies which were first formed in December 1681, they maintained a complete organization, and were, no doubt, regularly trained to the art of war, in order to be ready to take advantage of any favourable juncture that might arise, to assert their claims. They carried on a continued correspondence with the Prince of Orange, mainly through Sir Robert Hamilton; and when that Prince arrived in England, they lost no time in holding a great meeting, in the Church of Douglas, on the 29th April 1687, at which it was resolved in fourteen days to raise two battalions, each to consist of ten companies of sixty men each. The result of this step was the formation of a regiment, which still exists, under the name of the 26th, or Cameronian Regiment, and which, on various occasions, has greatly distinguished itself by achievements on the battle-field.


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