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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXIII - The Campaign of Montrose


WHILE King Charles was at Holyrood for the meetings of the Scottish Parliament in the autumn of 1641 there was much feverish coming and going of commissioners from Glasgow. On 6th September the king granted to James, Duke of Lennox and Richmond, the whole temporalities of the archbishopric of Glasgow, lands and barony, castle, city, burgh, and regality, with the right to nominate the provost, bailies, and other officers, and incorporated the whole into a temporal lordship of Glasgow, for an annual payment of two hundred merks Scots (11 2s. 2 2/3d.). [Reg. Priv. Seal, cix. 294; Glasgow Charters and Doc. pt. ii. p. 403.] Glasgow thus saw its hopes of freedom from feudal authority in the appointment of its provost and bailies once more overthrown. Strong representations were accordingly made at Court; presents of Holland and Scottish linen cloth were made to "Maister Web the Duikis servand," [Burgh Records, i. 434.] and at length it was arranged that while the duke should have the power to nominate the provost out of a leet of three persons submitted to him, it was left to the Town Council itself to elect the provost, if the Duke or his commissioner were not present at the time. [Act. Parl. V. 412; Burgh Records, i. 433, 434 ; ii. 48, 49.]

Upon similar representations from the city the king assigned to the Town Council the teinds, parsonage, and vicarage revenues of the archbishopric and of the kirks of Drymen, Dryfesdale, Cambusnethan, and Traquair, for the support of a minister in place of the archbishop, for the repair of the Cathedral, and for the maintenance of schools and hospitals. [Act. Part. V. 581; Glasgow Charters, ii. 415.]

By another charter Charles conveyed to Glasgow University the lands of the bishopric of Candida Casa and its dependencies, the priory of Whithorn, the abbeys of Tungland and Glenluce, and others. [Great Seal Reg. 1633-1651, P. 374.]

It must have made sore the heart of the king thus to sign away with his own hand the revenues supporting that Episcopal system which his father and he had spent half a century in building up.

Another and more terrible anxiety, however, was even then descending upon Charles. News reached him at Holyrood of the outbreak in Ireland of the great rebellion under Sir Phelim O'Neil, in which the wild Catholics marched across the country, butchering and burning in such horrible fashion as cast the Sicilian Vespers and the Eve of St. Bartholomew into the shade. The event was made more ominous and alarming by the fact that the Irish leader produced a commission purporting to have been sent by Charles and sealed with the Great Seal of Scotland. Hill Burton shows that on 1st October, 1641, this seal was in doubtful hands, in transference between the Marquess of Hamilton and the new Chancellor, Lord Loudon, and it is still one of the problems of history whether the document that had such terrible consequences was genuine or forged. [Hill Burton, vi. 341-348.]

The king reported the outbreak to the Scottish Parliament, which promptly offered to send a force of ten thousand men to help the Protestants in Ireland. Accordingly, on 8th December, Argyll, who had now been made a Marquess, appeared before the Town Council of Glasgow with a commission from the Privy Council requiring transport for five thousand men. The Town Council made its bargain with business-like promptitude, undertaking to convey the force for thirty shillings passage money and six shillings per day for meals for each man. Glasgow further undertook to have the necessary boats in readiness at forty-eight hours' notice, and stipulated that each boat should have half payment before starting and the other half on arriving in Ireland. [Burgh Records, i. 435.] In the matters of business-like arrangement and forethought the transaction could not be bettered at the present day. In the end only some four thousand men were sent from Scotland under General Leslie, who had been created Earl of Leven. [Turner's Memoirs, pp. 24-29.] Three years later, on 27th February, 1645, the proportion of this force to be maintained by Glasgow was fixed at 110 men, with monthly pay amounting to 990 Scots (82 10s. sterling). [Act. Par!. VI. i. p. 352.]

This Irish rebellion was reflected in more than one other way in the affairs of Glasgow. Almost at once it brought across the Irish Sea a stream of refugees fleeing from the terrors in their own country, and apparently for the greater part destitute. In February, 1642, the Town Council ordered two hundred merks to be distributed among them. In March a charitable collection was ordered to be taken in the town, and in October it was reported that 1099 2s. 4d. Scots (91 11s 10d. sterling) had been contributed and disbursed among these poor people.

But there was also a later and greater reflex action on the affairs of Scotland and the city.

On 17th November, 1641, the Scottish Parliament ended its sittings, and on the 18th the king returned to London, to find himself immediately embroiled in disputes with the English Houses of Parliament sitting at Westminster. The events that followed have already been alluded to—the Grand Remonstrance addressed by the House of Commons to the king, the impeachment of Pym, Hollis, Hampden, and other Opposition leaders by the king's order at the bar of the House of Lords, and the attempt by Charles in person, with an armed force, to seize certain members within the walls of the House of Commons itself. These high-handed and unconstitutional acts brought thousands of indignant yeomen spurring into London to defend the rights and liberties of their representatives, and before the clamour of the furious multitude that besieged his palace gates in Whitehall Charles was forced to leave London, never to return except as a prisoner on his way to trial and execution. On 28th August, 1642, the king's standard was raised at Nottingham, and the Civil War in England began in earnest.

At first the English Parliamentary Party steadily lost ground in the conflict. Both sides were unused to war, but while the Parliamentary ranks were filled with hirelings, "a mere rabble of tapsters and serving men out of place" as Cromwell called them, the Royalists were mostly well-mounted gentlemen with their younger brothers, grooms, gamekeepers, and huntsmen, all well used to firearms and field exercises, with high spirits, courage, and daring. Newcastle, from which London derived its supply of coal, had been occupied for the king by the Earl of Newcastle; Bristol, the second city in England, had been surrendered by its commander, Nathaniel Fiennes, and the arms of Charles were victorious throughout the western and northern counties. The leaders at Westminster began to see before them the dreadful spectres of defeat and death on the scaffold. In the emergency they cast their eyes on Scotland, and made a bold bid for the help of that well-organized and disciplined army under General Leslie, which they had lately seen invincible on their own soil. On 10th August, 1643, a commission of the English Parliament approached the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, claiming credit for following the example of Scotland in the path of reform, and declaring for the abolition of Episcopacy. This compliment was followed by an even more overpowering one, the agreement to adopt a declaration drawn up by Henderson, based on the Scottish National Covenant of 1638. Thus the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 came into existence. Shorn of its references to Acts of the Scottish Parliament and of the General Assembly, this document was little more than a protest against Popery, an undertaking to preserve "the reformed religion of the Church of Scotland in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government," and a promise to carry out "the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland ... according to the Word of God and the example of the best Reformed Churches." [Hill Burton, vi. 353-355; Peterkin's Records, 294, 329, 347, 362.] Intoxicated by this tribute to their superior sanctity and sagacity, both Parliament and Assembly in Scotland adopted the Solemn League and Covenant with rapture as a declaration for the establishment of Presbyterianism in England, which it was not, [Gardiner's Civil War, i. 19.] and passed acts for its compulsory signature in all the parishes of the kingdom. [Cunningham, ii. 45.]

Further, the Scottish Parliament, meeting on its own initiative on 22nd June, 1643, proceeded to raise an army of 21,000 men, and sent it across the Border under the command of Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven, with his nephew, David Leslie, as major-general. With this force a considerable contingent, including two surgeons, went from Glasgow. [Burgh Records, ii. 66-70; Act. Parl. VI. i. p. 89.]

On 19th January, 1644, the Scots army crossed the Tweed on the ice. On the 28th, in a blinding snowstorm, it crossed the Tyne, drove back a Royalist force fourteen thousand strong, under Sir Charles Lucas, and besieged Newcastle. While the siege was going on Leslie marched to York, and, joining up with the English Parliamentary army under Fairfax, fought and won the first victory of the Parliament, against Prince Rupert, at Long Marston Moor. [Burton, vi. 361.] On 19th October Newcastle was stormed by the Scots, and London's coal supply set free just in time for the beginning of winter. [Ibid. vi. 360; Echard, iii. 482.]

This vital change in the fortunes of the Parliamentary Party in England was obviously owed to the help of the hardy, experienced, and well-disciplined army of the Scots. If that army could be induced to withdraw again to Scotland it seemed likely that the tide could be made to turn again in favour of the king. In the crisis the meteoric and heroic figure of Montrose again appeared upon the scene.

Queen Henrietta, who had been endeavouring, without much success, to secure help in Holland for the Royalist cause, returned in February, 1643. On her landing at Bridlington Quay she was met by the Earl of Montrose, who, it is believed, put before her the plan for a Royalist campaign in Scotland. [Napier's Montrose, p. 228. The young Earl of Montrose, some of whose exploits have been already mentioned, must have been well known in the streets of Glasgow, for his chief seat, Mugdock Castle, was only some five miles north-west of the city.] Afterwards, at Oxford, where she joined the king in July, he had further interviews with the queen. Had the plan been put into action at once it seems possible that the Earl of Leven's army might never have crossed the Tweed, and the later history of the kingdoms might have run in a different channel. But it was always the fortune of Charles I. to do the right thing when it was too late. In this case, at the instance of Hamilton, just then made a duke, Montrose's project was delayed for a year. [Napier, p. 229.] It was not till the Scottish army were besieging Newcastle that the king turned to Montrose. On 1st February, 1644, the latter received a commission as lieutenant-general, and set out for Scotland. With only a small following he crossed the Border and drove the Covenanters out of Dumfries ; but he was in turn driven out of that place by the Covenanters of Teviotdale, and, falling back on Carlisle, captured Morpeth Castle, stormed a fort near the mouth of the Tyne, and threw supplies into Newcastle. Receiving an urgent message from Prince Rupert, he hastened south with all the force he could gather, only to come up with that leader on the evening of 2nd July, the day on which he had been defeated by the armies of the Covenant and Parliament at Marston Moor. [Napier, 249-256; Rushworth, v. 482.]

It was then that Montrose, who had now been created a marquess, put into execution the bold plan which has made him for all time a hero of romance. Disguised as a groom in attendance on Sir William Rollo and Colonel Sibbald, who themselves wore the dress of troopers of the Earl of Leven, he passed without detection through the Covenanting Lowlands to Tullibeltane in the highlands of Perthshire, where he was met by his kinsman, Graham of Inchbrakie. His idea was to raise the clans, and, with the help of a force from Ireland, to make Scotland so unsafe for the Covenant that the Earl of Leven's army must be recalled from the south. If this took place it seemed likely that the Royalist forces under Prince Rupert would again be able to gain the upper hand. Accordingly from Tullibeltane, the spot from which in an early age the sacred Baal fires were scattered over the country on Beltane Day, Montrose sent his fiery cross through the glens, and in an astonishingly short space of time found himself at the head of three thousand men. Without losing time he marched on Perth, and meeting, four miles west of that town, a force more than double the number of his own, commanded by Lord Elcho, won at a rush the battle of Tippermuir—a Royalist victory which, with the possession of Perth which it secured, did much to encourage the cause of Charles in the south. The date was Sunday, 1st September, 1644. [Spalding, ii. 403; Memorabilia of Perth, p. 107.]

Another Covenanting army, 2500 strong, under Lord Balfour of Burleigh, lay at Aberdeen, and Montrose next turned his attention to it. With fifteen hundred men on 13th September, he crossed the Dee ten miles above the town, and, in a battle between the Crabstane and the Justice Mills, overthrew the Covenanting force, and pursued it into the city with merciless slaughter. [Spalding, ii, 407.]

There was still a third Covenanting army in Scotland, consisting of three thousand Campbells, two regiments from the army in England, and a strong force of cavalry, under the Marquess of Argyll. As most of his Highlanders had gone home with their plunder, Montrose avoided this force, and kept moving from place to place, till at the approach of winter Argyll disbanded his clansmen and retired to his stronghold at Inveraray. Then the Royalist general descended through the glens, and during the months of December and January laid waste the country of the unhappy Campbells. [Spalding, ii. 442; Napier, 290.]

As he retired northward through the Great Glen Montrose learned that his way ahead was barred by Seaforth with 5000 men, and that Argyll had mustered 3000 behind him. His own force numbered only 1500 men, and it looked as if he were trapped. But he turned and, marching rapidly through deep snow, surprised Argyll at Inverlochy in Lochaber, on the shore of Loch Linnhe. The Campbell chief took to his galley off the land, and on Candlemas Day, 1645, watched his army being cut to pieces with the loss of 1500 men. [Napier, 293.]

Montrose then marched to attack Seaforth, but that leader retired, and at Elgin came into the Royalist headquarters for pardon.

The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh was now thoroughly alarmed, and, with Argyll as its moving spirit, proceeded to organise further efforts against Montrose. On 11th February it passed sentence of death and forfeiture against him, [Balfour, iii. 270.] and on the 27th it passed an act requiring each county and burgh to raise a certain number of soldiers proportioned to its population, and maintain them at the rate of nine pounds Scots per man per month. [Act. Parl. VI. i. 351. Glasgow's levy was 110 men, and taking the proportion to be one man for every sixty of the population Dr. Robert Chambers estimated the population of Edinburgh at 34,440, Glasgow and Perth each 6600, Stirling and Haddington each 2160, Ayr 2460, Dundee ii, 160, Inverness 2400, St. Andrews 3600, Dumfries 2640, Montrose 3180 (Domestic Annals, ii. 162).]

Glasgow had already contributed considerably to the carrying on of the war. In 1641 a Glasgow ship, "The Merrie Katherine," had been sunk in the Clyde to prevent the king's ships from victualling Dunbarton Castle, and a new ship, "The Antelope," built by the same five merchant owners, had made only one voyage to Bordeaux when she was employed by Parliament to intercept the expected Irish invaders on the west coast, and was wrecked in the entry to Lochaber. In compensation the owners were ordered to retain a ship worth 340 sterling, given them by the Marquess of Argyll, and to be paid 100 sterling in cash. [Act. Parl. VI. i. 379.] Further, in December, 1643, the city again raised a company, and sent it under Captain Porterfield with the Earl of Leven's army into England. [Burgh Records, ii. 64, 68.]

Glasgow also, by order of Parliament, maintained on the west coast a vessel, "The Eight Whelpe," employed by Argyll against the Irish force brought over by Alastair Macdonald (Colkitto) to help Montrose. And at Argyll's request it supplied a hundred bolls of meal for the provisioning of his forces.

Sums were also spent in entertaining Lord Sinclair's regiment quartered in the town, and the troopers who came into Glasgow with Argyll on 17th February after the battle of Inverlochy. The city at that time was ready to defend itself, for on 31st August, the day before the battle of Tippermuir,

every citizen between sixteen and sixty years of age had received orders to be in readiness, with his best arms, powder, match, lead, and twenty days' provisions, to come out under appointed captains; and guards were kept at all the ports. [Burgh Records, ii. 72, 73.] For another reason, also—the outbreak of "war typhus" or plague, in the armies in the south—the inhabitants had been ordered to build up their backyards and closes to prevent strangers coming in by these entries. [Ibid. ii. 74, 75.]

It was perhaps these active preparations which saved Glasgow from the fate of sack and massacre which overtook Aberdeen and Dundee at the hands of Montrose. Descending through the central Highlands, the Royalist leader stormed the Tayside town on 3rd April, 1645. The Irish and Highlanders were in the act of plundering that stronghold of the Covenant when word arrived that Generals Baillie and Hurry, with a strong force consisting mostly of disciplined troops from the Scots army in England, were almost at the gates. With incredible efforts Montrose got his scattered plunderers together—his whole force numbered only some 800 horse and foot—and made a dexterous retreat to the Grampians. [Napier, 319, 320.] On 9th May he was lying at the village of Auldearn, between Forres and Nairn, when General Hurry made a night march to surprise him. But Montrose arranged his small number of men among the village enclosures so as to make it appear that he held the place in strength, and inflicted a severe defeat on his enemy. [Spalding, ii. 473.]

The Royalist general then appeared to be making for the Lowlands, and Baillie hastened to intercept him. On 2nd July Montrose occupied a strong position at Alford on the Don, and on seeing this Baillie would have retired. But the Covenanters had now adopted the plan of sending a committee with their forces to the field. This committee insisted on an immediate attack, and Baillie, under this pressure, crossed the river ; whereupon Montrose, swooping down upon him, cut his army to pieces. [Britane's Distemper, 127-131; Napier, 341-343.]

Meanwhile in England the Royalist cause had suffered some severe blows. At Naseby on 14th June the king had lost his infantry, his whole train of artillery, and no fewer than five hundred officers ; and a fortnight later Carlisle had surrendered to the Scottish army under the Earl of Leven. It was clear that, to afford real help to Charles, Montrose must strike a decisive blow further south. Accordingly, the fame of his victories having brought reinforcements from as far as Inverness-shire and Ross-shire, he left his headquarters at Dunkeld, crossed the Forth at the fords of Frew above Stirling, and traversing the Campsie Fells by Kippen and Fintry, on 14th August reached Kilsyth. He had 4000 foot and 800 horse, and the new Covenanting army under Baillie, which marched by Stirling and Dunipace to intercept him, had 6000 foot and 800 horse. Even then Baillie would have waited for reinforcements which were on the march to join him, but Argyll and the committee supervising their general's actions believed Montrose to be trying to evade them, and insisted on an attack. Baillie obeyed his orders, and the issue was almost immediately decided by the wild charge of the clans, which carried everything before it. [Baillie's Letters, ii. 420-423.] It was said that not one unmounted Covenanter escaped unwounded; Argyll fled by ship to Berwick, and the battle laid the whole of Scotland at the feet of Montrose.

The victorious general, with his wild Highlanders and Irish troops, was now within twelve miles of Glasgow, and the city had before it the fearful fate that had overtaken Aberdeen and Dundee. It was even said that Montrose had promised his troops the plunder of the city. With a view to conciliate him Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerston and Mr. Archibald Fleming, commissary, were sent to congratulate him on his victory and to invite him and his army to spend some days in Glasgow. He accordingly marched thither, and encamped in the neighbourhood. [Brown's Hist. of Glasgow (1795), P. 83.] He then sent a demand to the magistrates for a supply of bonnets, shoes, money, and other necessaries. The Council waited upon him to ask an abatement of his demand, when he not only granted their request, but detained them to dinner, and, on leaving, some of them were so overcome by their relief that they kissed his hand and wished him success. [Gibson's Hist. of Glasgow (1787), p. 94 ; Denholm's Hist. (1798), p. 20; (1804), p. 62.] Montrose entered Glasgow on 16th August, and "was welcomed and entertained with great solemnity." [Brown, p. 83.] But the Irish and wild Highlanders, seeing the wealth of the city, could not be restrained from plundering, and after executing some of the worst offenders without effect, and seeing there was plague in the place, he withdrew his army on the 18th to Bothwell. [Napier, 359.]

The city fathers have been accused of want of discretion in inviting and entertaining the Royalist general, [Macgeorge, p. 215.] and the provost, magistrates, and council were afterwards punished by deprivation of office and disqualification for election in future. [Burgh Records, ii. 80-83.] But it is certain that in no other way could they have prevented Glasgow from becoming a scene of wild rapine, plunder, and destruction. Moreover, from what followed it is clear that their canny complaisance, and the concessions it secured from Montrose, actually effected more for the cause of the Covenant than all the armies which had been put in the field against the brilliant Royalist general.

At Bothwell Montrose received addresses and declarations of loyalty from all parts of the country; the counties of Renfrew and Ayr offered allegiance, and Edinburgh and the south of Scotland acknowledged his authority. He thereupon summoned a Parliament to meet at Glasgow in October, and in view of the expense which this would entail upon the city, agreed to forgo the sum of 500 which was the levy the Town Council had promised for distribution among the troops.

This last concession was the fuse which exploded the discontent of his followers. Denied the plunder of the rich city which they regarded as the rightful fruit of their victory at Kilsyth, the Highlanders broke up and went home, and the Royalist leader was left with a force of no more than 580 all told. [Napier, 359; Britane's Distemper, 253, 164; Gardiner's Civil Way, ii. 348.] In these circumstances he marched towards the Border, expecting to receive reinforcements there from among the sons of the old moss-troopers, and afterwards to join forces with the king. [Gardiner, ii. 350.]

Meanwhile, however, General David Leslie, with 4000 horse, had been detached from the Scots army in England, and, joined by 2000 foot from Newcastle, was marching northwards to meet him. [Gardiner's Civil Way, ii. 309-354.]

On the evening of 12th September Montrose had encamped his infantry at Philiphaugh on the left bank of the Ettrick, while with his cavalry he himself quartered in the town of Selkirk on the hillside opposite. He had been writing a letter to the king far into the night, and was sitting down to breakfast, when the sound of firing was heard. Causing the alarm to be sounded, he leapt into the saddle, and, followed by his officers and some of his cavalry, galloped across the river, to find that Leslie's force, which had been encamped overnight at Melrose, only four miles away, had approached unseen in the morning mist, and had already routed his left wing. At the head of 150 horse Montrose himself charged twice, and drove back Leslie's squadron; but when a body of Covenanting troops, which had crossed the river above Selkirk, attacked his right wing in the rear, he saw that the day was lost, and with about fifty horsemen he and a few friends, cutting their way through the enemy, galloped from the field. [Britane's Distemper, 156-162; Gardiner, ii. 355.]

Then followed a horrible butchery by the Covenanters. The common prisoners, confined that night in Newark Castle, a little higher up the Ettrick, were shot next morning in cold blood. The captured Irish officers were hanged in Edinburgh without trial, and while a number of distinguished men were retained for execution at St. Andrews, three, Sir William Rollo, Sir Philip Nisbet, and Alexander Ogilvy of Inverquharity, a youth not eighteen years of age, were carried to Glasgow and beheaded on the 28th and 29th of October. [Britane's Distemper, 167; Napier, 392; Balfour, iii. 358-363; Burgh Records, ii. 87.]

Leslie sent half his force to Alloa to destroy the property of the Earl of Mar for his loyalty, while with the other half he accompanied the Committee of Parliament and the Commission of Assembly to Glasgow, where he exacted from the citizens a sum of 20,000 Scots, by way of interest, as he put it, on the 50,000 merks they were said to have lent Montrose. [Baillie's Letters, ii. 321; Brown's Hist. of Glasgow, 86; Burgh Records, ii. 79, 80, 177.]

Meanwhile Montrose, who had raised 1200 foot and 300 horse in the north, returned to the neighbourhood of the city, and for nearly a month "daily threatening the town in the most daring manner," tried to draw Leslie out to battle. But at last, on 19th November, he returned to Atholl, and presently, on the second peremptory order from King Charles, disbanded his force and retired to Holland.


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