Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

History of Moffat
Chapter VI

The Reign of Charles I. in relation to Religious Matters.—Arch. bishop Laud.—The Reading of the New Service in Edinburgh. - Framing of the National Covenant.— Army raised by the Presbyterians.—They take Newcastle.—Charles' visit to Edinburgh in 1641.—The Government advise Charles how to act.— Declines to agree to Proposals advanced.—The Solemn League and Covenant.—Nature of the Covenant.—Montrose.—The Battle of Naseby. —The "King's Cabinet Opened."—Trial and Execution of Charles I.—Viscount of Dundee.—Conventicles. —Proclamations issued against them. —Claverhouse proceeds into Annandale.—His Letters from Moffat.—William Moffat. —His Exploits. —Curates.—Death of John Hunter.—Dobbs' Linn.—Halbert Dobson and David Dun.—Their Encounter with Satan.—The Watch Hill.

THE object of this chapter is to show the position of the Scottish people in their struggles for religious liberty during the reign of the Stuarts; and more particularly to observe the state and condition of Moffat, referring briefly to those of its inhabitants who zealously fought for "Christ's Crown and Covenant," and who died in endeavouring to free themselves from the oppressor. From the commencement of the reign of Charles I. the movements of the English caused ecclesiastical affairs in Scotland to assume a turbulent aspect. Charles determined to make all religions or forms of worship succumb to and kneel at the feet of his particular beliefs and style; and was desirous "to render Prelacy paramount in his northern dominions, and thus complete the fabric begun by his predecessor." Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, became Charles' confidential man in ecclesiastical matters, and had unquestionable power in turning the will of the King in the direction which would best promote his own wishes and designs; and by all his actions he showed himself desirous, by means of certain ceremonies and observances, to bring the people of England back to the faith of their ancestors.

Charles, anxious to test the strength of his former operations, ordained that the new service should first be read in Edinburgh, on the 23rd July, 1637. The Dean of Edinburgh accordingly proceeded to read the service on the day set apart for the purpose in St. Giles' Kirk, but was speedily interrupted, and ultimately put down by the profane declamations of his audience. The service, though much disturbed by the wild shout-jugs of the assembled multitude, was in reality stopped by the throwing of a. stool at the Bishop, and those over memorable words being pronounced—" Villain, dost thou say mass at my lug." This act has been attributed to one Jenny Geddes, but Wodrow contradicts this, when he says—" it is a constantly believed tradition that it was a Mrs. Mean, wife to John Mean, merchant in Edinburgh, who first cast the stool." This then may be termed the foundation of all subsequent troubles. Four Committees were formed for the purpose of looking after the religious interests of the people, which were commonly called the "Four Tables," in whose hands the full authority of the Kingdom was entrusted. Accordingly the Government first produced a Covenant made up chiefly of a renunciation of Popery, termed, from its universal influence, the National Covenant which was signed with Scottish enthusiasm, never equalled before or since, on the 28th February, 1638. Having gained a slight victory, they, by the public subscription of the Covenant, set the King and his Government at defiance. On the 21st November, 1638, they held at Glasgow a General Assembly of the Church, at which they renounced and determined to abolish Episcopacy, by legitimate means if possible, and if not, by more forcible measures; at the same time accusing the Bishops of sundry crimes, such as, swearing, drunkenness, bribery, perjury, heresy, &c., which statement was publicly read in all the Scottish Churches.

As was to be expected, the Presbyterians took arms to enforce the commands issued during the sitting of the Assembly, raised a sufficiently powerful army, and called as their advisers, guides, and supporters, the Scottish officers who had gained great practice and repute in the German wars, making Alexander Leslie their commander-in-chief. While such movements were being carried on with a high hand, Charles gathered together, in May, 1639, a large and powerful force, numbering upwards of 20,000 men, ready and fully equipped for the field, with a small fleet having upwards of 5,000 landsmen on board, which he ordered to sail straight for the Firth of Forth, while he led his army across the Border, intent upon bringing the discontented Presbyterians under subjection, receiving a great and glorious victory, and confident, by overcoming them, he would be enabled to re-establish Prelacy in Scotland. His opponents resisted, however, manfully, and retained their position. On the 28th August, 1640, they crossed the Tweed, advanced on Tyne, and after a brief yet smart encounter with the English, hastened to, and ultimately became the fortunate possessors of Newcastle. The English Puritans, Chambers informs us, aimed at exactly the same things as the Scottish Covenanters, and, as was natural, they gave them their cordial sympathy and support. The Parliament, destined to sit for eleven years, now resumed to consider the grievances said to have been instituted on account of the accession of Charles to the English throne. Laud and others were examined and ultimately imprisoned. Stafford, taken at the same time, was beheaded.

Charles now remained as between two fires. He was oppressed by the movements of his Government, and annoyed at the discontent which prevailed in Scotland. He determined to do all in his power to institute terms of reconciliation with the Scots, and, if accepted, he knew they might through time become his friends, or as Chambers remarks, "perhaps to some degree his partisans." In the summer of 1641 he revisited Edinburgh, for the purpose of carrying into effect those resolutions which he had formed effectually to maintain peace in the Kingdom. He presided over a meeting of Estates, "and," says Chambers, "there he sanctioned all the measures they had themselves taken; and distributed honours and rewards among the Covenanting leaders." "By this time (1641)," says a writer, "the King observing that the strength and courage of the Commons rose from their confederacy with the Scots, whose army in the north was entirely in their interest, resolved on a journey to Scotland, and to yield them all they desired, in order, thereby, to disunite if possible the Scots from the English, and bring them over to himself." Charles was over confident, however, in securing the affections and support of the Scottish people, and as a necessary result, upon his return to London he refused to adopt measures advanced by his Government—measures which were aparently the only chain of safety to hang by under the circumstances.

His Government said (while enumerating the errors with which his reign had been filled) that he should give himself into the charge of Ministers, enabled, from personal abilities and the power which they possessed, to direct him in all his movements; but this he peremptorily refused. He seemed desirous of clinging to the fruitless hope of retaining his position by the ready aid which he might possibly receive from his "friends," the Scots—a belief which his Government was anxious by clear and forcible arguments to expel from his mind, and secure his consent to be led by them into the path which could alone secure him safety and repose among a discontented people. He evinced consummate foolhardiness in his refusal of the proposals advanced, and continued in his own way, gradually procuring for himself universal hatred, which was destined to end in ignominy and death. We are told that what brought to a head that hatred which had so long been smouldering in the breast of his Government, was his foolish attempt, in the month of January, 1642, to secure the principal and most patriotic members of the Lower House. Charles raised his standard of independence at :Nottingham, in August 1642., proclaiming by such actions that he was willing, yes, even desirous of testing by the strength of the sword, which form of worship should ultimately be chosen by the people—whether Presbyterianism or Prelacy should hold sway in the Kingdom. In the two campaigns which followed the silent yet effectual proclamation of war, it seemed as if for a time the strength of the Covenanters had waned; and the probabilities were that Charles would conquer.

The English instructed parties to speak with the Scots, and procure their consent to a bond of union, promising, at the same time that if they became victors the abolition of Episcopacy and re-establishment of Presbyterianism should shortly follow. "Their estates," says Chambers, "accordingly entered into what was called a Solemn League and Covenant with the English Parliament (August, 1643), one of the provisions of which engaged them to send an army against the King." With a harmony and piety seldom seen, the Covenant was mutually entered into. The idea of religious and professed God-fearing men sending troops against their King, has been considered inconsistent by not a few. "It is true," says Stevenson, "adversaries have all along objected that this Covenant was a device of hell, because, say they, it binds to hostile measures, and to extirpating of Popery and Prelacy by the sword. But if we could carry in our eye that an army of Papists and Episcopals were at that instant winning the cause of religion and liberty, it seems but reasonable to admit that Presbyterians might stand in defence of these; and that the better to accomplish this, they might warrantably enter into a Solemn League and Covenant."

On the 19th August the Assembly adjourned, appointing a committee to look after the religious rights and liberties of the people, and the ratification of their treaty with the English in their Parliament. On the 24th a proclamation was issued, which contained a command, to the effect that all between sixty and sixteen should be in readiness to answer a call to take up arms in the defence of their principles. Some of the Commissioners appointed, proceeded to England to hasten  matters and procure an agreeable ending of the affair. Alexander Henderson drew up the Solemn League, characterised, by not a few, as one of the most important documents connected with the religious history of our country. In St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, on the 25th September, 1643, the Houses of Parliament, the Scottish Commissioners, and the Assembly of Divines, met for the purpose of considering the propriety of subscribing the Covenant. Article by article the document was read to the vast assemblage, all standing uncovered with their hands directed heavenwards, swearing reverently to abide by, and defend, if necessary, with their lives, the Solemn League and Covenant of Scotland.

The Covenant being so favourably accepted by the English Parliament, it was returned to Scotland, "with orders that it should be subscribed throughout the Kingdom." An author somewhere states that this document was framed for the fulfilment of various objects which could alone be accomplished through its instrumentality. And Dr. M'Crie states, "In this Covenant our fathers bound themselves and our posterity, first, To endeavour the preservation of the Reformed religion in the Church of Scotland, the Reformation of religion in England and Ireland, 'according to the word of God and the example of the best informed churches,' and the bringing of the three Churches to the nearest possible conjunction and uniformity in religion:

Secondly, To the extirpation of Popery and Prelacy: Thirdly, To the preservation of the rights of Parliament, of the liberties of the Kingdoms, and of his Majesty's person and authority; and lastly, they pledge themselves to personal reformation and a holy life." On the memorable 13th of October, the Solemn League and Covenant was subscribed in the New Church, Edinburgh, after a "pertinent sermon" by Mr. Robert Douglas, midst a concourse of people, grave and pious, and affected somewhat similarly to the day of the signing of the National Covenant, while eighteen Privy Councillors added to the number. Copies of the document were printed and given to the several Presbyteries to be distributed amongst the members, read on the following Sunday, willingly signed by all, or, to quote the words of Baillie, "with a marvellous unanimity everywhere." Skinner gives an untrue account of the provisions of the Covenant, and the duties which devolved upon its numerous adherents. He says, "By the religion of this Covenant, children were taught to persecute, inform against, and rob their parents, fathers their children, servants their masters, wives their husbands; so that the mutual offices to which men are bound in society were denied to those who differed from them in opinion." It is almost unnecessary to repudiate such a statement.

The provisions of the Covenant., if carried out and recognised, were calculated to promote peace, but, at the same time, those who resolutely adhered to it, were determined that the nuisance against which they appealed, should be removed by less peaceable means, if the terms contained in the document were not mutually accepted. Its object was to plant peace; when discord, tyranny, and superstition were laying waste the land, to erect one common altar for the glory of God, and thus destroy factions and party jealousies. The Scottish Commissioners earnestly and affectionately entreated Charles to sign his name to the Covenant, but he signified his willingness to sacrifice his crown and life, rather than leave the religion which he had so long supported. We have already alluded to one special provision—the sending of an army against the King. An army of 18,000 foot, and 3,000 cavalry was speedily formed, and in January, 1644, they crossed the Tweed, reached Newcastle, which they stormed and took with little difficulty. During this time many of the Scottish nobility seemed inclined to identify themselves with the royalist army, which they consequently did. One of the number was the Marquis of Montrose, who had been but recently invested with the title, a man blessed with abilities worthy of a better cause, but heedless of the number slain or the blood shed, if he but had his wishes realized. "Many of his actions," says Scott, "arose more from the dictates of private revenge, than became his nobler qualities."

The sudden change which Montrose made, has not been fully accounted for. As all are aware, he was one of the principal promoters of the National Covenant, and is spoken of in February, 1039, as going about and causing all to sign it, and raising money for the good of the Presbyterian cause. Pride, ambition, and envy have been the small sins attributed to him, which may in some measure account for his speedy transition from the ranks of Presbyterianism into those of Popery and Prelacy. He gained many victories over the covenanting forces, and to some extent annoyed them, but, as Chambers wisely remarks, "Montrose only distressed his country, he did not conquer or convert it to loyalty. He never accomplished any solid or permanent advantage, but was as much the mere guerilla at the last as at the first." The character of Montrose seems to be a disputed point. Some hold him up as a specimen of bravery and manliness, while others as emphatically denounce him as a vile miscreant. We must confess, while admitting his personal abilities as a man of genius and a scholar, we have a predilection in favour of the latter belief. On the 13th of September, 1645, he was totally defeated, and subsequently left England for the Continent, as a place better adapted to hold in safety his loyal person. The battle of Naseby was destined to be an eventful and decisive one, which overturned the royalist party; and, through ill fortune, brought 'the royal person of Charles I. to trial and to death. The chief part of the royalist army was headed by Charles himself having as his remaining leaders Prince Rupert and Sir Marmaduke Langdale; while Fairfax, Skipper, Cromwell, and his son-in law Ireton commanded the several battalions of the opposing parties. Nothing seemed to impede their progress as they hurried through the ranks of their adversaries, mighty courage was mutually displayed, while Charles in all his movements evinced a. resolute spirit, and showed he was endowed with no small amount of military skill.

These good qualities could not prevail against their enemies, for, says Hume, "The regiment was broken." Charles seems to have retained his courage and presence of mind to the last struggle, for while the other Generals were inclined to withdraw from the fight, he is reported to have said—"One charge more and we recover 'the day." That charge never took place, however, and Charles was likewise compelled to leave the field. The Parliamentary army contrived to secure 4,500 prisoners, officers and private men; and what would subsequently more materially assist them, artillery and ammunition. Unfortunately the King lost his private cabinet of papers, &e., consisting chiefly of letters to the Queen. They were carried to and scrutinized carefully by his lynx-eyed persecutors, who found a considerable amount of condemnatory matter which they afterwards ordered to be published under the significant title of "The King's Cabinet opened." Hume accuses the Government of selecting (to suit their own ends) the worst specimens of his letters; but it matters not what the predjudiced historian considers the letters to signify, suffice it to say, that these disclosures' entirely ruined Charles in the minds of his people. Charles was subsequently seized, but contrived to escape from his captivity, and flee to friendly shelter in the Isle of Wight. His accusers, however, soon secured him, and on the 19th January, 1649, he was brought before the High Court of Justice, found guilty, and sentenced to be executed. On the 20th of the month, Charles's sentence was carried into effect. The greatest sympathy prevailed in Scotland, on account of the death of Charles. "The execution of the king," says Chambers, "among its other bad effects, put enmity between the ruling powers of Scotland and England."

From 1649 till the death of Cromwell, that personage was viewed as the right and lawful ruler of England, Scotland, and Ireland, but when in 1658 he died, Charles II. was restored to the throne (chiefly through the interposition of General Monk) in 1660. Another man of ancient and honourable descents was destined, some twenty years after the death of Montrose, to add fuel to the flame of Scottish troubles. We allude to John Grahams of Claverhouse, subsequently created Viscount Dundee, infamous for his injustice and cruelty. Regarding his appearance, Napier says, "In a little more than twenty years after the death of Montrose, another Grahame, head of an ancient branch of the noble house, entered upon the Scottish troubles, and became, for a brief space, conspicuous in the rapidly shifting scenes that ensued." Prior to the introduction of Claverhouse upon the scene, it had been a habit of the Covenanters to hold field conventicles, but between 1663-64 the Parliament issued an order strictly forbidding Presbyterians to assemble in such a manner for religious purposes, and commanded also the "doors of meeting-houses to be shut, or guarded by soldiers, and imposing upon delinquents, for the first fault a fine; for the second, imprisonment; and for the third, banishment—that punishment might at length restrain those whom clemency could not gain;" and in the suppression of these field conventicles, Claverhouse acted an important part.

This order did not however, receive much attention from the zealous Presbyterians, who met for the same "seditious purposes," as the Government so termed it. In 1670 the Privy Council had no small duty to perform in raising the fines from parties caught in the act, in accordance with the first part of the proclamation previously referred to. Kirkton states that field conventicles were the order of the day, except in towns where meeting-houses were provided for the celebration of religious ordinances. In field meetings, greater interest and enthusiasm was manifested, as the freqnently vast assemblages listened to the quaint haranguings of the preachers, and ready with sword, however, to fight for Christ's Crown and Covenant. "On the whole," says Scott, "the idea of repelling force by force, and defending themselves against the attacks of the soldiers and others who assaulted them, when employed in divine worship, began to become more general among the harassed nonconformists." Engagements had frequently taken place, in most of which the Covenanters were defeated, and suffered extensive losses. The engagement at Pentland and Rullion Green, in which so many were slaughtered, taken prisoners, and subsequently executed, tended to damp the spirits of the religious enthusiasts. At the battle of Drumelog (one of the bloodiest strifes in which they were ever engaged), they gained a victory which partially made up for the numerous defeats which they had but recently sustained, and caused them to banish the little timidity which had been attendant on the same. Claverhouse had received orders to suppress conventicles and secure the Presbyterians who patronised them, and he carried out his instructions to the letter. He was destined, at the head of his army, to overturn completely the victory gained by the Covenantors at Drumclog, by routing them at Bothwell Bridge. He was one who could not treat indifferently a defeat, and consequently he performed his offices with an enthusiasm and harshness which he had never before fully displayed.

On the 12th February, 1687, a proclamation was issued to the effect, that "moderate" Presbyterians would be permitted to hear the "indulged Ministers," but field meetings "should be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law." On the 28th June an order proclaimed that all should be allowed to worship God according to their principles and custom, in any house, &c., but this privilege the Parliament restricted, for we find "a third was emitted October 5th, that all preachers and hearers at any meetings in the open fields should be prosecuted with the utmost severity whch the law would allow; that all dissenting Ministers who preach in houses should teach nothing that should alienate the hearts of the people from the Government; and that the Privy Councillors, Sheriffs, &c., &c., should be acquainted with the place set apart for their preaching.* These proclamations were not regarded by the Covenanters, who chose their own mode of procedure in religious matters. These field meetings having been held as formerly, Claverhouse was sent to suppress them, and truly used or abused the authority granted him, in many cases, evincing the most consummate brutality which has ever been the lot of historian to record.

For the sake of continuity, we have sketched the history of the Solemn League and Covenant, at the same time endeavouring to give as lucid an explanation as possible of the motives which led to its origin; and have endeavured to relate the hardships and privations to which those who fought for Christ's Crown and Covenant were exposed. We may be blamed for being so tardy in relating to what extents and in what manner, the "killing times" of the Stuarts affected the town of Moffat, and its renowned vale. It shall be our duty now, in as concise a manner as the subject will permit of, to narrate in what manner the movements of the persecuted Presbyterians affected Moffat, promising at the same time, that our readers will be surprised to find that this place, chiefly celebrated for its mineral wells, held a prominent part in the times of the Covenant, and its mountain fastnesses gave frequent shelter to its adherents. To do this, we must go back from where we ended in 1687, instead of continuing the narrative at the present time further.

Moffatdale throngs with traditions of the Covenanters, and an absolute hatred is still manifested by some of the more antiquated members of the community to Claverhouse, the ready executor of all those seventies ordered to be inflicted on the Presbyterians by the Privy Council. One prevalent superstition in olden times was, that he had some secret communication with the Evil One, who took a paternal interest in his prosperity, and kept him secure against the attacks of his enemies, by no means few. The Covenanters affirmed that he performed wondrous deeds on his famous black charger while in pursuit of his prey. "It is even yet believed," says Scott, "that mounted on his horse, Claverbouse. (or Clavers, as he is popularly called) once turned a hare oh the mountain named Brandlaw, at the head of Moffatdale, where no other horse could have kept its feet." Clarerhouse was sent into Dumfriesshire for the purpose of breaking up field meetings, and securing the Covenanters, "all of whom are seditiously disposed," and we learn from his own letters, addressed to his commanders, that he spared neither labour nor time to obey his orders in the Annandale district. We give one letter of his sent to his superior, dated from Moffat, which explains his movements :-

"For the Earl of Linlithgow,
Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's Forces.

Moffat, December 28th, 1678.

My Lord,— I came here last night with the troops and am just going to Dumfries, where I resolve to quarter the whole troop. I have not heard anything of the dragoons, though it be now about nine o'clock, and they should have been here last night according to your lordship's orders. I suppose they must have taken some other route. I am informed since I came that this country has been very loose, On Tuesday was eight-days, and Sunday, there were great geld conventicles just by here, with great contempt of the regular clergy, who complain extremely when I tell them I have no orders to apprehend anybody for past misdemeanours; and besides that, all the particular orders I have, being contained in that order of quartering, every place where we quarter must see them, which makes them tear the less. I am Informed, the most convenient places for quartering the dragoons will be Moffat, Lochmaben, and Annan, whereby the whole country may be kept in awe. Besides that, my Lord, they tell me that the end of the Bridge of Dumfries is in Galway, and that they may bold conventiclos at our nose, [and] we not dare to dissipate them,seeing our orders confine us to Dumfries and Annandale. Such an Insult would not please me. And on the other hand, I am unwilling to exceed orders; so that I expect orders from your Lordship how to carry in such eases, &c.,

Again, writing to Linlithgow from Dumfries in 1679, he mentions that one Captain Inglis had evidently made a mistake regarding the most suitable places to station the troops, Moffat and Annan having been assigned by Claverhouse, whereas, Loehmaben and Annan were the places where Inglis understood they were to be quartered. The troopers were in the habit of sleeping, eating, and drinking off the bounty of the inhabitants of Moffat, who, it was reported soon after, had resolved on complaining to the Council anent the unjust proceedings of the soldiers. Claverhouse, writing to Linlithgow on this subject, begs of him to take no heed of the "silly" complaint lodged by the Moffatians until he has made enquiries concerning the complaint made, and the mode of procedure adopted by his men to obtain such things as they required during their visits. Whether his enquiries resulted in confirmation of previously made statements, or the removal of the burden against which the people made just complaint, we are not in a position to state. Clavorhouse, again writing to Queensberry from Moffat, on the 17th April, 1682, says—" My Lord, all things hero are as I would wish, in perfect peace and very regular." We can scarcely see how Clawers could give such a favourable and unprejudiced report of the state and condition of Moffat: its absolute untruth is the most glaring point in it.

At this very period, there was an eccentric but piously inclined man, who zealously wrought for the extension of the Covenanters' principles, and the increase of the body who enthusiastically defended the Covenant, to which they resolutely adhered. William Moffat, who dwelt in the mountainous and inhospitable regions of Hartfell, in the vicinity of Moffat, had long been held in repute, as irreproachable in moral character, as blameless for his enthusiasm, energetic in the cause for which he fought, and an invaluable service to the Presbyterian army. He started Conventicles, and soon drew around him a crowd of devout worshippers, who heard with pleasure the quaint eloquence of their voluntary pastor. During the reign of Charles II, a part of Hartfell became, for many months, the sheltered habitation of the Covenanters of MofIatdale, who were terrified to expose themselves to still greater hardships, knowing full well that the eagle-eye of Claverhouso would soon be upon them if they ventured to leave their seclusion. "To that desolate and unfrequented region," says Hogg, "did the shattered remains of the routed fugitives from the field of Bothwell Bridge, as well as the broken and persecuted Whigs from all the Western districts, ultimately flee as to their last refuge. From the midst of that inhospitable wilderness, from those dark morasses and unfrequented caverns, the prayers of the persecuted race nightly arose to the throne of the Almighty, prayers, as all testified who heard them, fraught with the most simple pathos, as well as bold and vehement sublimity. In the solemn gloom of the evening, after the last ray of day had disappeared, and again in the morning, before the ruddy streaks began to paint the east—yea, often at the deepest hours of midnight, songs of praise were sung to that being under whose fatherly chastisement they were patiently suffering.

These hymns, always chanted with ardour and wild melody, and borne afar off on the light breezes of twilight, were often heard at a great distance, causing no little consternation to the remote dwellers of that mountain region."* During their imprisonment—for such in truth it was-.--they suffered the greatest privation and misery. Mr. Keddie informs us that at night they sallied forth from their shelter to obtain food, which they received from the friendly tenants of Bodsbeck down the vale, and whom, says he, "they not unfrequently requited by working for thorn while they slept." One day William Moffat had a conventicle in close proximity to his place of dwelling. Though engaged in their devotions they were not incapable of perceiving that the lambkins, peacefully grazing close by, from some unknown cause were being gradually driven closer to them. Moffat noticing this, with an eye accustomed to peril, said, "We are in danger, these sheep are not scattered without a cause;" and he spoke truly.

A party of dragoons, who had evidently, on seeing the covenanters, diverged from the road along which they were travelling, were coming in a black mass towards them. To resist was an idea which could not for a moment be entertained, for neither in arms nor numbers were they sufficient to maintain their position; and to flee was equally absurd, as the fleet horses of their persecutors could soon overtake them. It has ever been admitted that God takes a particular care in the preservation of his chosen followers, and this was in the present instance verified. They were providentially protected by the gloomy mist coming down on the mountain upon which they had assembled. The dragoons rode on, outwitted by the misty curtain which had enveloped those whom they sought, and thus Moffat and his brethren, from this sudden freak of nature, eluded their grasp. At another time he was exposed to still greater danger. He was pursued by dragoons, and fled for safety towards Evan Water, to conceal himself in the woods. While he hurried on, his eye fortunately fell on a small cavern conveniently situated, to which he hurried and secreted himself. The soldiers, as formerly, did not perceive him, as he Jay comfortably concealed in the secluded recess. The Laird of Buccleuch noticed the eccentric movements of this curious man, and consequently hastened to congratulate him on the clever escape which he had effected. But the friendly intentions of the worthy Laird did little or no good to him, for the dragoons noticed them conversing together, and speedily retraced their steps, intent upon his capture. Moffat again took to the mountains in the direction of Elvanfoot, when he hid himself in the heather, and thus, for the third time, contrived to escape from his persecutors.

During these troublous times, the people of Moffat manifested a dislike to the curate, and considered his services of no further use. They accordingly secured the services of one Harkness to acquaint the curate of the feeling displayed by them, and to request his speedy and peaceable removal from the parish. The curate, somewhat astonished at the information which he received from Harkness, after much reflection intimated his willingness to comply with the request of the people. The following passage regarding the curates may in some measure mitigate their audacity:

"When the curates entered the pulpit, it was by an order of the bishop, without any call from, yea, contrary to the inclinations of the people. Their personal character was black, and no wonder their entertainment was coarse and cold. In some places they were welcomed with tears in abundance, and entreaties to be gone; in others, with reasonings and arguments which confounded them: and some entertained with threats, affronts, and indignities, too many here to be repeated. The bell's tongue in some places was stolen away, that the parishoners might have an excuse for not coming to church. The doors of the churches in other places were barricaded, and they made to enter by the window literally. The laxer of the gentry easily engaged them to join in their drinking cobals, which with all iniquity did now fearfully abound, and sadly exposed them. And in some places the people, fretted with the dismal change, gathered together, violently opposed their settlement, and received them with showers of stones. This was not indeed* the practice of the religious and more judicious—such irregularities were committed by the more ignorant vulgar; yet they were so many evidences of the regard which they were like to have from the body of their parishioners. Such as were really serious mourned in secret as doves in the valleys, and from principle could never countenance them, and others dealt with them as had been said. The longer they continued, and the better they were known, the more they were loathed for their dreadful immoralities."

James Douglas, a colonel of a regiment, evinced, in his treatment of one John Hunter, brutality which could alone have been expected to be seen in his superior, Claverhouse. Hunter was accompanied by one Welsh, who was desirous of evacuating his peaceful homestead, fearing that Douglas might pay him a visit, and they fled to the shelter of the mountains, in the vicinity of Corehead, near Annan Water. Douglas saw them, and noticing the path taken by the fugitives, pursued them, and ultimately overtook the terrified runaways. Perceiving they had been noticed by the dragoons, they hurried to a place termed the "Straught Steep," trusting that its steepness would, render further pursuit useless. But they were fired at by the dragoons, and Hunter fell amongst the stones to bleed his life away.

There is a place termed Dobb's Linn, in Moffatdale, spoken of as being the retreat of the Covenanters of the district, and where two of them had an encounter, says tradition, with the "Foul Fiend," as Scott styles him. In this place Halbert Dobson and David Dun made a cavern, to which they could flee in those times of persecution. Having once retreated to this cavern, they thought into

"..... the dark recesses of the cave
The serpent came."

How appropriate would the words of Crabbe have been, had they been uttered by them in their precarious situation.

"But who is this, thought they—a demon vile,
With wicked meaning, and a vulgar style."

Infuriated at the intrusion, they proceeded to make an onslaught upon him, with no less an article than their Bibles. This tale is preserved in the following rhyme:-

Little kend the wirrikow
What the Covenant would dow!
What o' faith, an' what o' fen,
What o' aught, an what o' men;
Or he bad never shown his face,
His reokit rags, and riven taes,
To men o' mak, an' men o' monse,
Men o' grace, an' men o' sense;
For flab Dab an' Davie Din

Dang the Dell owre Dobb's Linn.
Weir, quo' be, an' weir, quo' he,
Haud the Bible till his e'e;

Ding him owre or thrash him down,
He's a fause deceitfu' loon !---

Then he owre him an' he owre him,
He owre him an' he owre him,
Habby held him grill an' grim,
Davie threush him liff an' limb;
Till, like a hunch o' harkit skins,
Down flew Satan owre the Hans!"

While stating that this rhyme gave Burns some idea how to write his "Address to the Deil," Sir Walter Scott says—" It cannot be matter of wonder to anyone at all acquainted with human nature, that superstition should have aggravated by its horrors, the apprehensions to which men of enthusiastic character were disposed, by the gloomy haunts to which they had fled for refuge." Thus have we narrated, in as brief a manner as possible, the doings of the Covenanters of Moffatdale. To what extent we have succeeded remains to be determined by the reader, though we have the self-consciousness of not having done justice to such a prolific and soul-inspiring theme.

Return to Book Index page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus