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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish
The Martyrs’ Stone


Although not in Kirkintilloch parish, is so well known that an account of it is requisite.

It is about two miles from the cross of Kirkintilloch, on the side of the road leading to Kilsyth, just when entering a part of the road which is greatly admired, being shaded by rows of large trees on either side.

The stone was erected in commemoration of John Wharry and James Smith, who, as Woodrow tells, “ were put to death on the charge of being concerned in an attack on a body of soldiers who were conveying a prisoner named Alexander Smith to Edinburgh.”

The soldiers were attacked at Inchbelly Bridge, in Campsie parish, by a number of men, and, after a short tussle, their prisoner was taken from them, and one of their number killed. The rescue party thereupon made off with their friend in the direction of Auchinreoch, and the soldiers, who had been taken by surprise, rallied themselves, and in great fury began to search the neighbourhood for any stragglers. Very soon they discovered John Wharry and James Smith sitting in a wood, and having made them prisoners, they carried them off to Glasgow.

The two men had been found unarmed, and the only evidence that could be brought against them was that they were discovered near the place of the encounter, but this was considered sufficient; and as it was necessary to do something to awe the people of a district where, on twa occasions, a soldier had been killed, they were sentenced to have their right hands cut off, and then to be hanged, and their bodies carried to Inchbelly Bridge, and there hung in chains.

This sentence was carried out on the day on which the circuit was to commence its sittings in Glasgow, and, no doubt, the execution added much to the impressiveness of the sitting.

Of the two martyrs the historian says that “ their carriage at their execution was cheerful and gallant. John Wharry was ordered to lay his hand on the block, and, thinking they required him to lay his head down, he did so with much courage.”

Major Balfour thereupon angrily said, “It is not your head but your hand we are seeking.” John answered, “He had then heard wrong, but was most willing to lay down not only his hand, but his neck, and all the members of his body, for the cause of Christ.”

When his hand was cut off he was not observed to shrink, but holding up the stump with great courage, said, “This and other blood will yet raise the buried covenants.” James Smith died in much peace and comfort, not in the least discomposed.

“When they were but half-choked (says the ‘Cloud of Witnesses’) they were cut down, and in that condition carried on two carts to Inchbelly Bridge. Some honest people had provided coffins for them, and caused bring them near, at which Balfour raged terribly, and caused break them in pieces.” The bodies were, therefore, buried coffinless in the moss.

The inscription on the stone is as follows :—

“’Twas martyrs' blood bought Scotland's liberty.
Erected February 1865, in room of the old tomb-stone, by the
people of Kirkintilloch and neighbourhood.

Original Inscription.

In this field lie the corps of John Wharry and James Smith, who suffered at Glasgow 13th June 1683, for their adherance to the word o God, and Scotland's covenanted work of Reformation.

'And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death, ’ —Rev. xii. 2.

Halt, courteous passenger and look on
Our bodies dead, lying under this stone;
Altho we did commit no deed, nor fact
That was against the Bridegroom's contract,
Yet we to Glasgow were as prisoners brought,
And against us false witnesses they sought.
There, sentence cruel and unjust they past,
And then our corps on scaffold they did cast.
There we our lives and right hands also lost,
The pain was ours, but theirs shall be the cost,
From Glasgow we were brought unto this place,
In chains of iron hung up for a certain space,
Then taken down, interred here we ly,
From 'neath this stone our blood to heaven doth cry,
Had foreign foes, Turks or Mahometans,
Had Scythians, Tartars, Arabian caravans,
Had cruel Spaniards, the Pope's blood seed
Commenced the same, less strange had been the deed.
But Protestants profest, once covenanted to
Our countrymen this bloody deed could do,
Yet notwithstanding of their hellish rage,
*The noble Wharry, stepping on the stage,
With courage bold and with a heart not faint
Exclaims, this blood now seals our covenant.
Ending, they who would follow Christ must take
Their cross upon their back, the world forsake.”


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