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Places of Interest about Girvan
Peden in Carrick


THE first Covenanter to be honoured with a costly monument is Alexander Peden, and the place that has honoured itself in so honouring him, is Cumnock, at whose gallows-foot he has now been resting for over 200 years. Peden was often in Carrick, and the other day I made a pilgrimage to the various places in our midst that are hallowed by connection with his name. Until about 30 years ago, a Thorn bush stood on Baltersan farm, near Maybole, which went by the name of Peden's Thorn, as marking probably one of the places where he preached, as Cargill's Stone marks the spot where he preached. And it is a pity that the old tree was not allowed to remain, as relics like these make a countryside dearer to those who live in it.

About 6 miles from Girvan, and 1 from Barr village, there stands on a hillside, near the Lane Toll, a large whin boulder which goes under the name of Peden's Stone', as marking the site of one of his conventicles. This stone is 5 feet in height and 15 in circumference, and looks down on the Stinchar valley in front, with Auchensole hill on the immediate right, and Shalloch-on-Minnoch on the remote left.

About 2 miles from Colmonell village there is, on the banks of the Water-of-Tig, a knoll known by the name of Pederis Pulpit It is a rock carpeted with heather and whin, with the stony channel of the Tig in front, and a small wimpling burn behind, while all around the ground rises like an amphitheatre. The road to it is a rough track across the moor, but the place possesses the merit of seclusion, which was of importance in those days, while it has also a certain lonely charm of its own, which would doubtless touch the heart of the prophet-preacher.

Right in front of Peden's Pulpit is the farm of Gtenower, with whose laird Peden and John Welsh were riding one day (1666) in these moors, when a party of dragoons suddenly appeared. The laird fainted, fearing they would all be taken. But Peden whispered to him to keep up his heart, as God had laid an arrest on them. The soldiers, in fact, had lost their way, and Peden at once volunteered to guide them to the ford of the Tig, which lies a few hundred yards above the Pulpit. When he returned, the laird said— "Why did you go with them? You might have sent the lad." But Peden shrewdly replied—"It was safer for me, for they might have asked questions at the lad which would have discovered us."

But chief of all in interest is the farm house of Knockdow, about two miles from Glenower, where. Peden was taken prisoner by Major Cock burn and a party of troopers. And yet Knockdow is secluded enough, one might have supposed. It is now a small one-storey house in the Stinchar valley, well up the hill side, 4 miles from Ballantrae and 3 from Colmonell. The farmer at that time (June, 1673) was one Hugh Ferguson, who had invited the wandering preacher to his house. But watchful eyes had been upon them, and that night the house was surrounded, and both host and guest hurried off to Edinburgh. After trial, Peden was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on the Bass Rock, and the farmer to a ruinous fine of 1000 merks. The gallant captors got ^50 sterling out of the fine divided among them for their night's work.

There are various other places in Carrick reputedly connected with Peden, but the above may serve as specimens. And what concerns us most is that all through, Peden showed himself not only a true-hearted Covenanter, but a shrewd, far-seeing man. He was not afraid to speak blunt, homely truths in a blunt, homely way—"Quit the Devil's service: you will never make your plack into a bawbee by him? "Some of you will greet more for the drowning of a bit calf or stirk than for all the tyranny and defections of Scotland." I like his prayer for the old man who could not run from the dragoons—" Lord, we hear tell that Thy enemies and ours are coming upon us, and Thou hast laid Thy hand of affliction on old John. Have pity upon him, for Thy enemies will have none. Spare him at this time : we know not if he be ready to die." And I like best of all his cry to God in dire extremity among these hills of ours—"Lord, it is Thy enemy's day and power. They may not be idle, but hast Thou no other work for them but to send them after us? Send them after those to whom Thou wilt give power to flee, for our strength is gone. Twine them about the hill, Lord, and cast the lap of Thy cloak over auld Sandy and thir poor things; and save us this one time, and we will keep it in remembrance, and tell it to the commendation of Thy goodness, pity, and compassion." The tradition is that a mist came down and hid them till their pursuers were gone.

It was both interesting and profitable for a modern Preacher of the Gospel thus to trace the footmarks of this persecuted preacher of former days, and try to realise his thoughts and feelings. For one thing, Religion must have been a reality to Peden, else he could not have endured what he did at its call. Then, God must have made up for his hardships by His nearer presence, else his heart must have failed him altogether. And finally, we see how it is not possible to enter into the highest life except through suffering. We in these days are not called to wear the martyr's crown, but that is not all gain. He who saves his life loses it; and it is only he who casts it away for Christ's sake that finds it.

For all through life I see a Cross
Where sons of God yield up their breath;
There is no gain except by loss,
There is no life except by death.


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