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Carrick's Share at Bothwell Bridge


WHEN Claverhouse and his dragoons were repulsed by the Covenanters at Drumclog, the hope arose that relief for the persecuted was at hand. From all quarters, therefore, those favourable to the Covenant hastened to join the men who had upheld so. bravely the cause of Freedom. These had marched first to Hamilton, then to Glasgow, and then back to Hamilton again, where on Hamilton Moor, to the south of Bothwell Bridge, they awaited the approach of the King's troops.

How many volunteers came from Ayrshire to Bothwell Bridge is nowhere stated, but I have made a calculation, from which it would appear that at least iooo men, or one-fifth of the whole, came from our western county. And the way I have arrived at this conclusion is the following:—

The prisoners taken after the fight numbered 1200 men. These were marched, tied together in pairs, to Edinburgh, where they were imprisoned for five weary months, in the open air, in the south-west corner of Greyfriars Churchyard. During that time, some of the 1200 died, some escaped over the walls by night, some were liberated through the influence of friends, some weakly yielded. But at the five months' end, there were still found 257 Unconquerables who refused to purchase liberty at the cost of conscience.

These men were sentenced to be banished to America as slaves, and accordingly, in November, 1679, they were handed over to one William Paterson, a merchant in Leith, to be conveyed to their destination. The vessel in which they sailed was too small to accommodate such a number, and their sufferings were very great. In a place under hatches hardly sufficient to hold 100 persons, these 257 were huddled. "All the troubles we met since Bothwell," wrote one of them, "were not to be compared to one day of those troubles. Our misery was beyond words."

After setting sail the vessel encountered great storms, and off the southern coast of Orkney the danger was so pressing, that the captain ran the vessel close in shore, and cast anchor. The prisoners begged to be allowed on deck, but the captain ordered the hatches to be fastened down; and in this condition the vessel foundered. A few as the vessel broke up escaped ashore; but more than 200 of them (amongst whom were all our Carrick men) perished miserably in the hold. The place where this last scene in the Bothwell Bridge tragedy was enacted is called the Afoul Head of Deerness, a lofty precipitous cliff which strikes the eye of the voyager as he nears the mainland of theOrkneys; and on it there has recently been erected a suitable monument.

The names of the unconquerable 257 who were thus shipped for America, but drowned on the passage, have been preserved, along with the names of the parishes they came from. And from this list I find that 57, or rather more than one-fifth of the whole, belonged to Ayrshire; and of these 57, 21, or somewhat more than one-third, belonged to Carrick. Now, if these 257 formed an average specimen of the Bothwell Bridge force, we may gather that upwards of 1000 of the 5000 men who were at the fight were from Ayrshire; while of these 1000, 370 were furnished by our nine Carrick parishes

The names of the Carrick Covenanters who were drowned off the Orkney coast are as follows:—From May bole— Mungo Eccles, Thomas Home, Robert M'Garron, John M'Harrie, John M'Whirter, William Rodger. From Kirk-michael—John Bryce, John Douglas, James M'Connell, John M'Tier, Robert Ramsay. From Straiton—George Hutcheson, Alexander Lamb, James M'Murray. From Colmonell—John M'Cornock, John MlLellan, Thomas M'Lurg. From Kirkoswald—Thomas Germont, John White. From Girvan—William Caldwell. From Barr— Alexander Burden.

These 21 men, then, with some 349 more whose names we do not know, but among whom John Stevenson of Dailly was one, must have assembled, in all probability, at the Muster Lea of May bole in that leafy month of June, 1679, and marched away in high spirits for Hamilton Moor. What became of them afterwards we do not know. Some, doubtless, would be among the 400 who were cut down and buried on the field. Some escaped to remain in hiding for the rest of their lives. Some, perhaps, were among the weak ones who yielded up their conscience at the Greyfriars. But 21 of them at least remained true, to show their countrymen what a Scottish peasant can do when brought face to face with conscience and God. Now these men ought to be had every whit as much in honour as those who were shot down in "the Killing Time." For they were martyrs too, and endured even more suffering than those who were sent to "glorify God in the Grassmarket." Let us pay the whole of them, then, their meed of praise, and let each Carrick parish specially cherish its own.


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