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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXXIII - Rebellion and Revolution


THE Netherlands were, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, the chief rival of this country in colonizing enterprise and naval power. Since the days of Charles I. they had afforded an asylum to discontented and disinherited persons from England and Scotland alike. [Coltness Collections. Chambers's Domestic Annals, ii. 540.] Charles II. himself had found a retreat there while he waited an opportunity to recover the double crown from the Government of Oliver Cromwell. The Netherlands also were the arsenal from which the weapons were obtained which were used against the Government troops at the battles of Rullion Green, Drumclog, Bothwell Bridge, and Ayr's Moss. Accordingly, the arms and men were both ready there when the accession of Charles II.'s brother, the Duke of York and Albany, as King James VII. and II., seemed to offer a favourable opportunity for another attempt. The new king was a Roman Catholic, and for that reason unpopular, and the discontented elements at Amsterdam and the Hague resolved to seize the chance to effect a revolution without delay. Within three months of the beginning of the new reign two strong and fully equipped expeditions sailed from the Dutch ports.

The Earl of Argyll, as we have seen, had pleaded lack of means as a reason for refusing to repay the money borrowed by his father from Hutchesons' Hospital and the Town Council of Glasgow. But lack of means did not prevent him from fitting out a formidable expedition, with ships and men and ample munitions of war, for a more definite attempt than had yet been made to overthrow the Government of Scotland. And thus, while the Duke of Buccleuch and Monmouth, son of Charles II. and Lucy Walters, with certain pretensions to legitimacy and a claim to the throne, landed with a force in the south-west of England, Argyll, at the head of an equally threatening array, disembarked in leis own country, near the disaffected southwestern district of Scotland. The story of that ill-starred campaign is told with fullness and, for him, unusual fairness by Lord Macaulay in his history of that time.

Had the Earl been a leader of military ability, like the two Leslies or Montrose, he might easily have raised an army of formidable size and determined character from among the Covenanters of Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, and Galloway, and might have opened another campaign like that of forty years earlier which resulted in the overthrow and execution of Charles I. The very real apprehensions of the Government as to such a possibility are shown by the fact that, at the news of Argyll's rebellion, some two hundred Covenanter prisoners then in Edinburgh were sent to safer keeping in the strong northern fortress of Dunnottar. [Wodrow, iii. 322.]

But Argyll was no general. Leaving his munitions, with a small garrison, on one of the islands at the mouth of Loch Ridden in the Kyles of Bute, he proceeded, with a force of some eighteen hundred men, to cross Loch Long and march upon Glasgow. After fording the Water of Leven at Balloch, however, the rebels came in sight of a strong body of Government troops posted in the village of Kilmaronock. Argyll was for giving instant battle, but the expedition was really under the control of a committee of which Sir Patrick Hume of Marchmont was the leading spirit, and on his advice it was determined to delay till night, and then, crossing the Kilpatrick Hills, give the redcoats the slip, and endeavour to reach the objective at Glasgow, where, it was expected, strong reinforcements would join the rising. But the night was dark, the guides mistook the track, and among the bogs and in the darkness many of the Highlanders took the opportunity of going home. In the morning at Kilpatrick the Earl found his force reduced to five hundred men. Perceiving further attempt to be hopeless, he disbanded his company, and, crossing the Clyde, changed clothes with a peasant. He had made his way as far as Inchinnan, when his appearance excited suspicion, and he was seized by some rustics. He is said to have betrayed himself by the exclamation "Unhappy Argyll!" and as a result found himself under strong guard that night in the tolbooth of Glasgow. Thence, almost immediately, he was conveyed to Edinburgh, where, on the warrant of a bygone sentence, he was executed on 30th June.

How Argyll expected to find support or reinforcements in Glasgow is difficult to understand. It is true that while he, with three other officers and "ane poor Dutchman," "being all wounded," lay in the tolbooth, the magistrates expended the sum of 55 2s. Scots on dressing their wounds and furnishing them with drugs. [Burgh Records, 10th Aug. 1685.] But that was no more than a matter of common humanity. On the accession of King James the magistrates had sent the new monarch a most loyal address. [Ibid. 13th March.] At the news of Argyll's sailing past the Orkneys, three regiments of Lothian and Angus militia had been quartered in the town, and the city fathers had themselves equipped a body of eleven militiamen who were on service for forty-four days. [Ibid. 10th Aug.]

Argyll's invasion was the last armed attempt of any size made against the Government by the Covenanters in the West of Scotland. Lord Macaulay has justly said of it, what might be said of the earlier efforts of the Covenanters at Dunbar and Bothwell Bridge, "What army commanded by a debating club ever escaped discomfiture and disgrace?" Nevertheless the alarm which it caused was not the less profound. The Privy Council protested against the withdrawal of troops to meet Monmouth's invasion in the south, declaring that not many of the rebels had been captured, and that there remained "a vast number of fanaticks ready for all mischief upon the first occasion." [Reg. Priv. Coun., 3rd Series, vol. xi.]

At the end of July, a month after Argyll's rebellion had been suppressed, the prisoners, eight score and seven in number, who at the outbreak of hostilities had been sent for safe keeping to Dunnottar, were brought south again, and tried by the Lord President of the Court of Session and four earls at Leith. Among those who took the oath of allegiance and were set free were two Glasgow men, John Marshall and David Fergusson; but the greater number, remaining refractory, were sent to the plantations. [Woodrow, iii. 326.]


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