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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXXI - Second Insurrection of the Covenanters


THERE can be little doubt, however, that the chief troubles of the city and surrounding country at that time arose from the political disaffection of large numbers of the people on the subject of Church government. In view of the sudden increase of armed conventicles which followed Leighton's attempts to conciliate the extreme Covenanters, the Privy Council in July, 1673, commissioned the Duke of Hamilton and five others to ensure obedience to the law within the diocese of Glasgow, and in August the Town Council ordered intimation to be made in the city churches on the following Sunday that persons absenting themselves from kirk would be severely punished. It also appointed individuals to go through the town, one in each quarter, to take note of the persons absenting themselves. [Burgh Records, iii. 169. The institution of these whippers-in, or "compurgators," did not cease at the Revolution, but was continued till well into the eighteenth century, when Mr. Blackburn, arrested for walking on Glasgow Green during church hours, brought an action against the magistrates, and secured the abolition of the practice.] To maintain order a garrison of several hundred men was quartered in the town, and an order of the Privy Council in June, 1675, directed that the soldiers should be billeted on known conventiclers and persons who harboured " outed " or disaffected ministers. [Ibid. iii. 200. One of these sufferers was Mr. James Hamilton, minister of Blantyre, who, as detailed by Wodrow, had been compelled to leave his parish, and not even allowed to hold services in his own house in Glasgow. Curiously enough, as shewing the spirit of the time, this same Mr. Hamilton had, in 1653, himself displaced Mr. John Heriot, the Episcopal minister of Blantyre, and appropriated the whole stipend, so that Heriot and his family were reduced to absolute destitution.óChambers, Domestic Annals, ii. 282.] The Town Council even, in February, 1676, appointed certain of its members to go through the town with the ministers and elders, and make note of the young people due to be examined, with a view to their taking communion. At the same time, in obedience to the Acts of Parliament and the Privy Council, the magistrates and councillors themselves subscribed the Declaration and oath of allegiance, and a report of the proceedings was duly forwarded to the authorities in Edinburgh. [Ibid. 215.]

In requiring the signature of this Declaration the authorities were once more taking a leaf out of the book of the Covenanters themselves, who thirty years before had forcibly insisted on everyone signing the Solemn League and Covenant.

By this time the Government, finding more and more reason to regard conventicles as occasions for the preaching of sedition, were introducing a succession of repressive measures. One of these was the intimation on 1st March, 1676, that a fine of 500 merks should be imposed on magistrates of royal burghs for each conventicle held within their bounds. On loth July several Glasgow citizens were fined for keeping conventicles, and the magistrates apparently became liable under the new order. The provost, however, represented the hardship to the authorities in Edinburgh, and the magistrates appear to have escaped. [Burgh Records, iii. 223. Wodrow, Church History, 1829 ed. ii. 318-19, 321-22.]

The Privy Council also adopted a plan which had been used with success in previous reigns for keeping the peace in the Highlands and other parts of the country. It required the landowners or heritors to undertake that their wives, children, servants, and tenants or cottars should not attend conventicles or disorderly meetings, and should live in peaceful fashion obeying the law. A number of the landed gentry in the shires of Renfrew and Ayr declared that it was "not within the compass of their power" to undertake this obligation, and the Government accordingly organized a force to maintain the authority of the law in the disaffected districts. This force, some five thousand in number, was assembled at Stirling. Like the Glasgow police of the present day, it was largely composed of Highlanders, and on that account was given by the Covenanters the name of "the Highland Host."

At first it was intended to send part of this force to Fife, where there were a good many extreme Covenanters and keepers of conventicles; but the landowners there came together and agreed to offer the Privy Council a bond in the desired'' terms, undertaking to avoid conventicles themselves, restrain their tenants and dependents, and have no traffic with vagrant preachers. Thus reassured, the Government sent none of the Highland companies to Fife.

Glasgow also avoided the attentions of the Highlanders on that occasion by the magistrates coming under an obligation, like the gentlemen of Fife, to guarantee the lawful behaviour of the citizens. Shrewdly enough, they adopted a plan which might well have been adopted throughout the whole country, and might have solved all the difficulties of the situation. They took a bond in turn from the Merchants' House and the Trades' House, indemnifying them against any loss or fine to which their guarantee might render them liable, and the two "houses" in turn took similar bonds from their individual members. [Burgh Records, iii. 247.]

A number of the gentry in the western shires came under the same undertaking, but they were not numerous enough to guarantee the peace of the district. The Highlanders therefore were commissioned to act throughout that region. Their instructions and commission were much the same as those of modern police, and in the absence of barracks they were of course billeted on the inhabitants, preferably on those known to be disaffected. The measure, however, does not appear to have been a success. The country districts had had no previous experience of billeting. The extremists then, like the extremists of the twentieth century, regarded such control and discipline as an outrage; and one of the Highlanders was even murdered by the country people. [Wodrow, ii. 375, 379, 382. Hill Burton, vii. 191.] At the same time the Highlanders themselves, if one is to believe the disaffected folk whom they were sent to control, and to whom their presence was so objectionable, were too apt to regard the occasion as a raid upon the lowlands, and to possess themselves, with little bargain or ceremony, of such articles as took their fancy. [Wodrow, 413.]

After two months, at the instance of the Duke of Hamilton, the king sent down an express with orders to disband the Highland companies, and send the men back to their homes. Thus the "Highland Host" retired to its native glens, and an early experiment at policing the rural districts came to an end.

According to tradition in Glasgow, the Highland Host, on its way to take up its duties in the western shires, encamped to the west of the city on the high ground now known as Garnethill, and on its return was "relieved" at Glasgow bridge, by the students of Glasgow University, of a large part of the plunder which it was carrying home to the glens of the north. [Alison's Anecdotage of Glasgow, p. 86. Brown's History of Glasgow, (1795), 151-6.] The fact that this could be done by a handful of young students hardly supports the accusations of ferocity which have been brought against the Highlanders on that occasion. Glasgow itself seems even to have made some profit out of the visit of the " Host." For shoes supplied to the Angus regiment alone the magistrates received £1,056 Scots, part of which was paid at the time by the Earl of Strathmore, commander of the regiment, and part afterwards by the Privy Council direct. [Burgh Records, iii. 254.] At the same time the town had to pay John Raltoun, a vintner, £10 sterling for the loss of wines and other liquor by the Highlanders letting the taps run in his cellar, and had to allow a rebate of £50 Scots rent to the fleshers, for the occupation of the fleshmarket by the Highlanders' carriages and ammunition. [Ibid. iii. 255, 257.]

The city was very shortly, however, to make still more vivid and striking acquaintance with the warring passions of the time.

Within the burgh itself there was evidently a defiant element. On 1st April, 1678, the provost and magistrates, were standing on the plainstanes beneath the Tolbooth, as their custom was, to hear complaints and administer justice, when one Thomas Crawford, a merchant burgess, "in ane arrogant and proud maner, without consideratioune or respect," and; "in ane furious way," fell to questioning and challenging the! provost. Though the provost again and again desired him to desist, in view of the fact that certain distinguished strangers were present, Crawford declared that he knew his malice, but in a short time would get word about with him, and meanwhile defied him, with other opprobrious speeches. On being sum- moned before the magistrates, Crawford avowed that he had used the expressions complained of. The fact was confirmed by witnesses, and forthwith, as a deterrent to others, the "wild man" was deprived of his burgess-ship, ordered to pay £100 for the use of the poor, and committed to prison till the fine was paid. [Ibid. iii. 250.]

Still more ominous was a riot which occurred in connection with a conventicle in the Saltmarket on a Sunday in the following October. It is fully described in a letter of Archbishop Burnet printed in facsimile in The Book of Glasgow Cathedral, p.166. Burnet relates how the provost, on his way to church, saw a number of people going towards the Saltmarket. Suspecting a conventicle he sent a Mr. Lees with the town's officers to arrest the preacher and principal hearers. In the house Lees found "not many men, but great multitudes of women." After some scuffle he found it necessary to go for help, but on reaching the street he was set upon by some hundreds of women, who pelted him with stones, disarmed him, threw him down, trod upon him, wounded him in three places on the head, and with blows and treading under foot, left him for dead. The Archbishop was seriously alarmed at the incident, declaring "it doth but discover our nakedness, for if the women had beene repulsed, and men obliged to appeare, it is to be feared this tumult might have produced more fatall effects; for I can assure your lordship we are at their mercy every houre, and how far the noise and report of this may encourage other disaffected places I cannot tell."

Glasgow appears to have acquired a reputation for the holding of these unlawful assemblies. Information reached the Privy Council that John Hamilton, the town's tenant in Provand, was in the habit of keeping conventicles. The magistrates were informed of its displeasure, and, fearing serious consequences, they ordered Hamilton to be ejected, his goods and plenishing being retained till his rent was paid. [Ibid. iii. 258.]

So seriously did the Privy Council regard the position that in March, 1679, it ordered the magistrates to make up a list each night of strangers lodging in the city, and hand it to Lord Ross, the commander of the garrison, on pain of a fine of a thousand merks. At the same time they were ordered "to turne out the wyfes and families of all uted ministers, fugitive and vagrant preachers, intercommuned persones," from the city and suburbs, under pain of a fine of £loo sterling for each person allowed to remain. [Prize. Coun. Reg. 19th Alarch, 1679. Burgh Records, iii. 264.]

A few weeks later the worst fears of the Government were realized, when open armed rebellion actually broke out. On the 3rd of May, Archbishop Sharp was dragged from his carriage and brutally murdered before the eyes of his daughter on Magus Moor, near St. Andrews. After the deed the murderers, Hackston of Rathillet, John Balfour, alias Burley, and others, made their way to the west country, stopping their flight only when they found themselves among friends at Clock-burn, near Balfron, in the Campsie Hills. They took part in an armed conventicle on Fintry Craigs on 18th May, and after consulting with Donald Cargill, formerly minister of the Glasgow Barony, [Burgh Records, iii. 117.] resolved upon a general rising against the Government. [The spirit and intentions of these men may be clearly seen in their writings. One of them, their historian, Russel, protested against the payment of all feu-duties, land rents, and minister's stipends, and even of tolls on roads and bridges. Regarding the king he wrote: "Charles Stewart! a bull of Bashan, and all his associates are bulls and kine of Bashan. What would ye judge to he your duty if there were a wild and mad bull running up and down Scotland, killing and slaying all that were come in his way, man, wife, and bairn? Would you not think it your duty, and every one's duty, to kill him according to that Scripture, Exodus xxi. 28, 29? - Burton, vii. 220, 221.]

The 29th of May, which was the king's birthday, and also the day of his Restoration, was specially obnoxious to the Covenanters, who in their manifesto, now drawn up, declared the keeping of that day as a holiday to be an intrusion "upon the Lord's prerogative," and a giving of "glory to the creature that is due to our Lord Redeemer." [Wodrow, iii. 67,] That day, accordingly, Sharp's murderers and their friends thought most suitable for the demonstration which should summon the west country to arms. At first it was intended to make Glasgow the scene of

the demonstration, but on learning that a considerable body of troops had just been moved from Lanark into the city it was deemed prudent to go no nearer than Rutherglen. Following this resolution an armed party of eighty horsemen under Robert Hamilton, brother of the Laird of Preston, marched into that burgh on the king's birthday, threw the Acts of Parliament of which they disapproved into the bonfire with which the occasion was being celebrated, extinguished the bonfire itself, read aloud their own declaration and defiance, and fixed a copy of it to the market cross.

Next day, Friday, as he rode in from Falkirk, Captain John Graham of Claverhouse, commander of the dragoons in the disaffected district, received information of these proceedings. He had heard, on the previous day, that the conventiclers of eighteen parishes had arranged to meet on the coming Sunday on Kilbride moor, some four or five miles from Glasgow, and that they meant to keep the field in an armed body. Waiting only till Lord Ross came in to command the garrison, he rode out on the Saturday with a force of a hundred and eighty men, through Rutherglen, arresting on the way three of the men who had taken part in the demonstration, along with an intercommuned minister named King, and reached Strathaven about six on the Sunday morning. Still thinking he might come upon a conventicle, he continued a few miles further to the westward, and at Drumclog, near the scene of Bruce's famous victory of Loudon Hill, discovered the people he was looking for. "When we came in sight of them," he says in his dispatch to Lord Linlithgow, the commander-in-chief, "we found them drawn up in battle, upon a most advantageous ground, to which there was no coming but through mosses and lakes. They were not preaching, and had got away all their women and children. They consisted of four battalions of foot, and all well armed with fusils and pitchforks, and three squadrons of horse." [Barbe's Viscount Dundee, p. 48.]

Twice the dragoons drove back the skirmishers of the opposite party, only to find their own horses checked by the bog. Then the whole body of the insurgents advanced upon them, killing and wounding a considerable number of men, and laying open the belly of Claverhouse's own sorrel horse with a pitchfork. The latter saved his standard, and made the best retirement he could to Glasgow, though the people of Strathaven tried to cut off his retreat in a pass near that town. [Barbe, p. 49, Letter of Claverhouse to Linlithgow. Napier, Memorials of Dundee, ii. 222.] Among the dead on the field was Claverhouse's own kinsman, Cornet Graham, whom the conventiclers, mistaking the body for that of his chief, mutilated by cutting off the nose, tongue, ears, and hands, and scattering the brains on the ground. Of the seven dragoons captured, five were granted their lives and allowed to depart. This greatly incensed Mr. Hamilton, who had assumed command of the Covenanters, and had ordered before the battle that no quarter should be given, and on his return from the pursuit he settled the fate of one of the others by killing him himself on the spot. [Ibid. p. 52. Burton, vii. 228, Faithful Contendings Displayed, 201.]

In Glasgow immediate steps were taken to resist the attack with which it was expected the Covenanters would follow up their victory. Barricades were erected, of carts, timber, and any other materials available, in each of the four streets converging on the cross, and half of the troops were made to stand to their arms all night. The insurgents, however, made no attack till next day. The first news was brought by Captain Creighton, who, with six dragoons, had been sent out at daybreak to watch the approaches to the city. About ten o'clock he reported that the Covenanters were in sight, and had divided into two bodies. One of these, under Hamilton, marched along the Gallowgate: the other, hoping to take the royalists' position in the flank, took the more circuitous route by the Drygate and the College. The two attacks, however, were badly timed. When the force that came at Creighton's heels, along the Gallowgate, reached the barricade, it was met with a volley which at once threw it into confusion, and the soldiers, leaping the obstruction, had no difficulty in driving their assailants out of the town. They had time to do this and return to their station before the force descending the High Street could come upon the scene. That force was met in the same fashion, and forced to fall back, but it did so in some order, and rallied in a field behind the Cathedral, where it remained undisturbed till five o'clock in the afternoon. It then retired to Tollcross Moor, and presently, finding that Claverhouse was in pursuit, it continued its retreat to Hamilton.

Claverhouse, considering the Covenanters' rearguard of cavalry too strong for him, fell back on Glasgow, and, in the words of Wodrow, "my Lord Ross and the rest of the officers of the King's forces, finding the gathering of the country people growing, and expecting every day considerable numbers to be added to them, and not reckoning themselves able to stand out a second attack, found it advisable to retire eastward."

The rebellion now became rapidly formidable. Encouraged by their success at Drumclog, and taking it for a sign that the Lord had at last "bared his right arm for the destruction of the Amalekites," the disaffected folk flocked to join the little army in such numbers that in a day or two there were five thousand men in the field. The number is said even to have reached ten thousand, though it fluctuated constantly.

To meet the menace, and put an end to the insurrection as speedily and humanely as possible, the government got together an effective army, which was placed under the command of the Duke of Monmouth, who was known in Scotland as Duke of Buccleuch, from his marriage with the heiress of the Scotts.

Meanwhile the leaders of the Covenanters were spending their time in useless disputations. No attempt was made to organize their followers under military discipline. Robert Hamilton, the commander-in-chief, held that position because his doctrines were more extreme than those of anyone else. He had no military experience, but the insurgents gloried in the thought that their reliance was placed, not in any arm of flesh, but in a higher power. The dissensions in their councils were further increased by the arrival of John Welch, a clergyman, and great-grandson of John Knox, who brought a body of followers from Ayrshire. Welch had shown some desire to bring about a compromise with the "indulged" ministers, a desire which, in the eyes of the fanatics, was a sin sufficient to bring the curse of Heaven upon the whole undertaking. As they lay on the south side of the Clyde at Bothwell Bridge these two parties devoted themselves to mutual recrimination. The moderate party drew up a declaration of their views, and the extremists appointed a day of humiliation.

In the midst of their disputes, on 22nd June, news reached them that Monmouth's army was at hand. Even then Hamilton made no effort to arrange his forces, but devoted himself to superintending the erection of a huge gibbet, with some cart-loads of rope piled around it, in preparation for completing the vengeance of the Lord upon the enemy about to be delivered into his power.

In such circumstances the conflict could be expected to end only in one way. For a time Hackston of Rathillet, with a few determined followers, held the gate in the high centre of the bridge; but when their powder and ball were exhausted, and no more could be had, there was nothing for it but to retire. Monmouth's men then filed across with little opposition. To prevent carnage the good Duchess Anne of Hamilton is said to have sent a request to the victorious general that he should not disturb "the game in her woods." But in the flight and pursuit, which extended for miles across country, some four hundred Covenanters were slain and twelve hundred taken prisoner. Of these last two only, both clergymen, were executed at once, and five others afterwards paid the death penalty on Magus Moor. The rest, being too numerous for the prisons, were penned in the Greyfriars churchyard at Edinburgh, whence some were released on giving security that they would keep the peace, and the remainder were shipped to the plantations.

Thus ended another chapter of a drama in which Glasgow, by reason of its situation, played a conspicuous part. Of the city's expenses in connection with the campaign some account is given in a minute of the Town Council of 9th August, 1679: "Ordaines Johne Goveane to have ane warrand for the sowme of three thousand twa hundreth and alevine pundis Scotis, payit for the charges and expensses bestowed be the toune on the souldiers at the barracadis, provisioune to their horssis, and spent on intelligence and for provisioune sent be the toune to the King's camp at Hammiltoun and Bothwell, and for interteaning the lord generall quhen he come to this burgh, and the rest of the noblemen and gentlemen with him, and for furnishing of baggadge horrsis to Loudon Hill, Stirling, and to the camp at Bothwell, and utherwayes conforme to the particular compt thereof." [Burgh Records, iii. 269, 277, 278, 299.] Among minor losses was £466 13s. 4d. which the town found it necessary to forego of the rent of the Green, which had been "almost all eaten and destroyed" during the rebellion, and £450 similarly forgiven to the Merchants' Hospital, because the Hospital's tenants in the Craigs had had their corn and straw destroyed and eaten and so could pay no rent.

Meanwhile, following the murder of Archbishop Sharp, Alexander Burnet was translated from Glasgow to the primacy at St. Andrews, and Arthur Ross, Bishop of Argyll, was promoted to his place.


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