The Anglo-Dutch War broke out in 1665, and Covenanters in the southwestern Scottish region of Lanarkshire, to the south of the Pentland Hills, saw a chance to attempt a Presbyterian takeover of the government. Men from the southwest rose up and marched on Edinburgh in 1666. They received little sympathy and support from the rest of Scotland. The so-called ‘Pentland Rising’ started on 13 November, 1666 in the village of St. John’s Town in Galloway with the beating up of an elderly farmer named Grier by government troops for his failing to pay a fine for not attending church. Seeing this as they were passing by, four Covenanters led by MacLellan of Barscobe, went to the farmer’s rescue. After overpowering the government troops, the Covenanters headed to the nearby village of Balmaclellan; a conventicle was underway there. They told of their encounter and succeeded in inciting a large group of nearly three thousand men to march on the city of Dumfries where the government troops were headquartered. The commander of the government troops, Sir James Turner was taken captive. The rabble became more of an organized body under the leadership of Colonel James Wallace of Auchens, and they next headed for Edinburgh. They planned on presenting a petition to the Privy Council, and like the Whiggamore Raid in 1648, to achieve a takeover of the current government.
The weather was bad, and the march was long and difficult. Many of the Covenanters dropped out along the way. The number of Covenanters who eventually reached Edinburgh was no more than eleven hundred. They arrived at Colinton, a suburb of sorts of of Edinburgh, and were met by a body of troops known as the Edinburgh Fencibles. The meeting between the two groups was peaceful enough, but the Covenanters were refused permission to enter the city to present their petition to the Privy Council. They turned back and headed toward the west across the Pentland Hills, arriving at a village named Rullion Green, about eight miles to the south of Edinburgh. There they would encounter a body of government troops sent out to intercept them.
On 28 November, 1666 the government troops under General Tam Dalyell (variously, Dalziel, of the Binns) launched an attack on the Covenanters at Rullion Green. Dalyell’s force numbered twenty-five hundred foot soldiers and six troops of cavalry. The government troops charged into the line of Covenanters a number of times. The Covenanters valiantly stood their ground. But they eventually had to give way. Fifty of the Covenanters lay dead on the field of Rullion Green and between eighty and one hundred were taken prisoner. The rest succeeded in escaping slaughter or capture due to the gathering darkness. General Dalyell had promised the Covenanters quarter if they would end the fight and surrender. They believed him, but those who were taken captive soon discovered that the government did not intend to honor the General’s promise. They were forced into ‘Haddo’s Hole’ in St. Giles’ Cathedral where a number of them had their feet and lower legs crushed in the infamous instrument of torture, the ‘Boot’. Twenty-one or twenty-two of the prisoners were hung, ten in Edinburgh, and eleven or twelve in towns throughout Ayrshire: at Dumfries, Irvine and Ayr itself to set an example for others. (See below for more information about the Ayr Martyrs.)
The Monument at Rullion Green
~ Source unknown.
The government’s treatment of the Covenanters at Rullion Green resulted in a great embarrassment to the King and his council. The Earl of Lauderdale quickly issued Accomodation Licences, a sort of statement of amnesty to any Covenanting ministers who would simply agree to adhere to non-violence.
The First Declaration of Indulgence was passed in June, 1669. The Declaration extended tolerance to the Presbyterian Covenanters, but it also extended tolerance to Catholics. While the Declaration may have been intended by the King to offer some relief, like the Accomodation Licences, it simply split the Covenanters into two opposing factions: those who had ‘indulged’ and those who had ‘not indulged’ in accepting the morsel of ‘tolerance’ that the King was offering.
The Accomodation Licenses and the First Declaration of Indulgence did not accomplish their desired effects, and so the government once more decided to resort to the opposite approach. In 1670 the conventicles were banned and the death penalty proscribed for any ministers caught preaching at them.
In 1673 the Second Declaration of Indulgence was enacted by the King. It relaxed the laws against the conventicles once again. It would seem that the Declarations were probably less intended as a relief to the Covenanters as a means to lure some of the more moderate proponents of Presbyterianism to side with the government. The result, in the end was to alienate the more radical Covenanters even more, and they reacted by protesting.
The government’s response to the protests was to enact even stricter laws against the conventicles. This time the King sent government troops, the Highland Host, to maintain order. They occupied Ayrshire and the surrounding region of southwest Scotland and were billetted among the people. The billetting of the soldiers in the homes of the residents angered them, just as it would in America nearly one hundred years later.
Another rising took place in Galloway in 1679. It was sparked by the killing of Archbishop James Sharp of St. Andrews. Sharp was a confirmed episcopalian who had once been a moderate Resolutioner. He had been captured, along with other ministers, in 1651 in the raid on Alyth, during the final conquest of Scotland by General Monck. Sharp had been taken prisoner to London. But he was released only after a few months, at which time he returned to Scotland as an intermediary between the Kirk and Oliver Cromwell. The Covenenaters viewed Sharp as a kind of Judas who was betraying the true goals of Presbyterianism for personal gloray and gain. To say the least, he was very much hated by many of the Covenanters.
On the afternoon of 3 May, 1679 Sharp was returning from a meeting of the Privy Council in Edinburgh. He travelled through the moorland of Magus Muir to his home in St. Andrews along with his daughter, Isabel. After passing through the village of Magus, a group of a dozen Covenanters caught sight of his coach and set out in pursuit. The group, which included John Balfour, Laird of Kinloch, and his brother-in-law, David Hackston of Rathillet, had actually been lying in wait for the Sheriff of Fife, William Carmichael, who was in charge of the troops in Fife who were suppressing the conventicles in that region. So it was quite by accident that the Archbishop rode into the midst of a group of Covenanters intent on murder.
The murder of the Archbishop came about swiftly. When the coachman realized his coach was being followed by the group, he whipped the horses and tried to outrun them. They caught up with the coach and slashed the harnesses of the horses, effectively bringing the coach to a stop. The coachman and four other servants were quickly disarmed. Sharp and his daughter were violently dragged from the coach, he being stabbed in the kidneys as he was pulled out, and Isabel being held to watch her father’s impending murder. The Archbishop, on his knees, begged for mercy, but his pleas were answered by sword cuts to his arms and head until he fell over dead. The group of murderous Covenanters rifled through the coach and Sharp’s baggage, and then rode off unaware that they had just started a series of events which would culminate in the Killing Time.
Archbishop Sharp’s murderers fled to the west, where they were given refuge by a militant band of Covenanters led by Sir Robert Hamilton. On 29 May (the King’s birthday), Hamilton led a party of eighty into the royal burgh of Rutherglen. They proceeded to burn copies the oppressive Acts of Parliament and then nailed a Declaration And Testimony to the Mercat Cross (i.e. the ‘market cross’). The Declaration listed all the violations of the National Covenant during the previous twenty years.
A body of government troops that had been sent north from Dumfriesshire on a routine tour of duty to patrol the region of Ayrshire were informed about Hamilton’s activities. They set off in pursuit, but Hamilton’s group escaped capture. Despite their failure to capture Hamilton and his band, the government troops were informed of a conventicle which was assembling on Loudoun Hill near the village of Darvel in Ayrshire, near the Ayrshire and Lanarkshire border, and so they set off to disrupt the Covenanters’ meeting. On the 1st of June, 1679, a very large number of Covenanters, men, women and children, estimated in the several thousands, were congregating. The minister received a warning of the approach of the government troops under General John Graham of Claverhouse, and he directed the women, children and very old to withdraw from the place. The men in the congregation, numbering perhaps fifteen hundred, gathered their swords and other weapons and prepared to greet the government troops. On the boggy moor at the base of Loudoun Hill, known as Drumclog Moor, the Covenanters, under the leadership of William Cleland, a divinity student, formed a line behind the natural defenses of a ditch and a peat marsh.
Claverhouse realized that the Covenanters outnumbered his troops nearly four to one. He also realized that a cavalry charge, though preferable to disperse the crowd, would be impossible over the marshy terrain. The dragoons were ordered to dismount. Then, forming a line opposite the Covenanters, they began to march forward. The Covenanters started to sing psalms as they returned the Dragoons’ musketfire. The Covenanters could not wait for the government troops to arrive across the moor, and instead rose up from the ditch and started toward the Dragoons. A fight at close quarters ensued. At some point in the battle, the horse on which Claverhouse rode was slashed in the stomach. The horse bolted and the dragoons thinking that their leader was signalling a retreat, followed. Claverhouse attempted to restore order to his troops, but it was too late. They were routed by the Covenanters, and fled through the streets of Strathaven, all the way being pelted with rocks and refuse by the townspeople. Thirty-six of the government troops lay dead on the field.
The Battle of Drumclog Moor
~ Source unknown.
The Covenanters followed the retreating government troops to Glasgow, but barricades were quickly constructed. As the Covenanters charged up the Gallowgate, they were raked with musketfire. Although they would have to give up the pursuit, the Covenanters could bask in the glory of having won the battle at Drumclog.
The King’s government was taken aback by the turn of events at Drumclog. They gathered together a new army to subdue the Covenanters, and placed at its head, General James Scott, Duke of Buccleugh and Monmouth, the King’s illegitimate son.
The Covenanters sent out word for recruits to their army and established an encampment at Bothwell Bridge, which spanned the River Clyde just to the north of the village of Hamilton. Over the next three weeks more and more Covenanters flocked to Bothwell Bridge. Unfortunately, the time they were there was not spent in organizing and training for the eventual clash with the government troops. Instead, the different factions of Covenanters spent the time arguing and bickering. There were extremists, such as the fledgling ‘Cameronians’ who advocated nothing less than complete adherence to the Solemn League and Covenant. There were the ‘Indulgers’ led by the Reverend John Welch, who advocated accepting those ministers who had ‘indulged’, and who believed in working with the King’s government in order to reach a compromise. Then there were those who followed the Reverend John Blackadder of Troqueer, who advocated passive resistance.
Monmouth’s troops clashed with the Covenanters in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge on 22 June 1679. Monmouth’s two thousand troops arrived on the north bank of the river and faced nearly five thousand Covenanters who held the bridge, the only way to pass across the river. Three hundred of the best Covenanters defended a barricade set up at the portal that occupied the middle of the bridge. They were commanded by Hackston of Rathillet and Hall of Haughhead.
An attempt was made by the Covenanters to avoid bloodshed. David Hume, a clergyman, and Fergusson of Kaitloch approached the Duke with a supplication which demanded that the Covenanters be permitted to practice their religion freely, that a free parliament be established, and that a general assembly of the church be called. The Duke accepted the party’s petition and promised that he would submit it to King Charles on the condition that they disband and immediately disperse. Hume and Fergusson returned to the Covenanter ranks and tried to argue for their acceptance of the Duke’s conditions. But while they were discussing the proposal, the Duke’s army proceeded to place their cannon in line on the west side of the river. Foot soldiers were soon dispatched under the command of Lord Livingstone to force the defenders on the bridge to give up their position.
The Covenanters and Monmouth’s troops exchanged musket fire until the Covenanters’ ammunition ran out. Monmouth’s artillery raked the Covenanter line with a deadly bombardment. Despite a valiant effort by Hackston’s men, the Covenanters were finally obliged to retreat from the bridge. Monmouth’s troops took advantage of the situation and crossed the bridge, all the while slaughtering the many ill-equipped Covenanters whose ammunition had run out after the first volley. Monmouth’s troops surrounded the Covenanters and took between fourteen and fifteen hundred prisoners.
The Battle of Bothwell Bridge lasted a mere two to three hours. Estimates placed the casualties of the Covenanters at between four and eight hundred killed. The prisoners were taken to the Greyfriars churchyard in Edinburgh, into which they were herded to wait for their executions. Two were hung at Edinburgh while five were hung at Magus Muir. Most of the rest were released on their word that they would not participate in any further rebellion.
Two hundred and fifty-seven of the Covenanters taken prisoner at Bothwell Bridge were sentenced to be deported to the Americas. They were placed aboard the ship, Crown, which set sail on 27 November, 1679. Bad weather had set in, causing the ship to make an unscheduled stop at Deersound Port in Orkney. Despite the urgings of the local residents to not advance further until the weather should clear up, the captain of the Crown set out once more on 10 December. It was said that the heartless captain ordered the hatches to be chained to prevent the Covenanter prisoners from escaping. Barely had the ship cleared the land than it struck rocks and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The accident claimed two hundred and eleven Covenanter lives. The forty six people who survived the wreck were later deported to the Americas on another vessel.
In 1680, with the death of the (by now) Duke of Lauderdale, a new figure stepped onto the stage of Scotland’s troubles. James, Duke of Albany, the extremely radical Roman Catholic brother of King Charles, was placed in the position of Scotland’s Secretary of State. He immediately began to push for even greater suppression of all Covenanter activities.
Throughout 1679 and 1680, Covenanters known variously as the ‘Society Men’ or ‘Cameronians,’ led by the Presbyterian ministers, Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill, had been congregating to train for armed resistance against the government. The Cameronians claimed that they owed no allegiance to Charles II, but rather that the only king they would declare allegiance to was ‘King Jesus.’
Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill collaborated on a document called the Queensferry Paper in early 1680. The Queensferry Paper, a declaration of faith and disapproval of the King and his ‘sinful’ government, was never published. It only became known when, on 03 June, 1680, Cargill and Henry Hall were taken prisoner at an inn at Queensferry; the document was found in Cargill’s clothes.
Donald Cargill gained notoriety when, at a conventicle at the village of Torwood, near Stirling, he formally excommunicated Charles Stuart II, King of the England, Scotland and Ireland. Also excommunicated by Cargill were John Duke of Lauderdale, James Duke of York, James Duke of Monmouth, John Duke of Rothes, Sir George MacKenzie and Thomas Dalyell ‘of the Binns.’ Cargill was taken captive at Covington Mill not long afterward. On 27 July, 1681 he was executed at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh; his head was hung on the Netherbow Gate as a warning to others.
The Declaration of Sanquhar(
The Sanquhar Declaration
The years 1684 and 1685 were known as the Killing Time because of the great number of ghastly atrocities committed by both the Covenanters and the King’s government. During the Killing Time, Covenanters and anyone simply suspected of being a Covenanter was in danger of being arrested and killed on the spot without the benefit of a trial. During the Killing Time there were known to have been thirty-one executions in Edinburgh and one hundred and thirteen additional executions throughout the countryside, eighty of which took place in Dumfries.
One very notorious example of the hideous manner in which the government forces executed the Covenanters was the deaths of Margaret McLachlan and Margaret Wilson. They were both followers of the minister, James Renwick. In April of 1685 the eighteen year old Margaret Wilson and sixty three year old Margaret McLachlan had refused to take the Test Act and the Abjuration Act, which were oaths denying Presbyterianism and rejecting, in particular, a ‘Declaration of Faith’ promoted by Renwick. The two women were taken prisoner and sentenced to be drowned in Wigtown Bay. Drowning was the preferred method of execution of women by the government. The sentence was carried out in May. The older woman, Margaret McLachlan, was tied to a post which was sunk into the sand ‘within the flood marks of the sea’ and the younger, Margaret Wilson, was tied to a similar post a short distance inland. It was hoped that Margaret Wilson would repent of her ‘sin’ after being forced to watch McLachlan drown. But she was steadfast in her conviction and refused to give in. The sea waters rose and rose, eventually covering the heads of the two women and drowning them. The two women are commonly referred to as the Solway Martyrs.
Charles Stuart II died of a stroke on 12 February, 1685 and was succeeded by his brother, James II, under whom the people found little more relief.
The Killing Time was ostensibly brought to an end on 13 May, 1685 with the death of a man named James Kirk. He was shot at Solway Firth for refusing to take the Abjuration Oath. His was the last death recorded in the Killing Time.
James Renwick, the Presbyterian minister, continued to hold conventicles into the 1680s. He was captured and executed on 17 Feb 1688 at Edinburgh. George Wood, sixteen years old, was the last Covenanter to be executed. He was shot in June 1688 by a trooper, John Reid.
The persecution of the Covenanters was finally brought to an end with the advent of the Glorious Revolution, in which the Protestant rulers of the Netherlands, William of Orange and Mary invaded the Isles (by invitation) and wrested the throne from Mary’s father, James Stuart. On 24 April, 1689 William was proclaimed king, and thereafter, the Presbyterian Covenanters of Scotland were given the right to worship as they pleased.