The Old Scots language (Scotis)
“A man with God is always in the
“I love Highlanders, and I love
Lowlanders, but when I come to that branch of our race that has been
grafted on to the Ulster stem I take off my hat in veneration and
Let us begin by asking a simple
question-who are the Scots-Irish? Simple questions very rarely have
simple answers, and the answer to this one is more complex than
most. Much depends, moreover, on where in the world it is posed. In
The story begins with an ending. In
March 1603, the same month that James VI of
For James the conclusion of the
Nine Years War came as a welcome addition to his new glories; it
also presented him with a problem and an opportunity. As a man and a
king he was no more sympathetic to Gaelic traditions and culture
than his Tudor predecessors on the English throne. While still King
of Scots he had been preoccupied with the problems posed by his own
minorities in the
Ireland was formally an English possession, so it was important to emphasize English as well as Scottish settlement, though for reasons of geography and temperament, the new plantation was almost exclusively Scottish, as James himself clearly recognized it would be: ‘The Scots are a middle temper, between the English tender breeding and the Irish rude breeding and are a great deal more likely to adventure to plant Ulster than the English.’
Taking the lead of Montgomery and
Hamilton, land hungry Scots crossed the
A second and more significant
opportunity came in September 1607. Although Hugh O’Neil, Earl of
Tyrone, and Hugh O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnel, had made their peace
with the government some years before, they had been subject to
almost continual harassment by the
Despite the woodkerns-and the
As well as new modes of farming the
Scots brought a strict Calvinist doctrine, which by the late 1630s
was taking a firmly Presbyterian shape, as opposed to the episcopacy
favored by the king. Later in the century an Anglican opponent of
the puritans detailed the impact of Scottish Presbyterianism on
“Hereupon followed the plantation
Charles I, James son and successor,
in attempting to force
The colony survived, though it
entered a prolonged period of stagnation and crisis, which only
really came to an end with the defeat of the Catholic Jacobites in
the war of 1689-1691. During the wars the Ulster Scots had played a
full part, assisting, amongst other things, in the famous siege of
The successive wars had the effect
of once again depopulating the fields of
By 1707, the year that the Scottish
parliament merged with its English cousin, the Protestant colony of
In 1704 the government of Queen
Anne, dominated by the
‘It seems somewhat hard, and savours of the most scandalous ingratitude, that the very people who drank deepest of the popish fury, and were the most vigorous to show their zeal and their courage in opposing tyranny and popery, and on the foot of forwardness and valour the Church of Ireland recovered herself from her low condition, should now be requited with so injurious a treatment as to be linked with the very Papists they fought against…There will certainly be no encouragement to the Dissenters to join with their brethren the next time the Papists shall please to take arms and attempt their throats. Not but they may be fools enough as they always were to stand in the gap.’
The Ulster Presbyterians had
endured-and survived-past waves of religious discrimination, and
would most likely have continued to thrive in the face of official
hostility. But in the early years of the new century they were faced
with an additional challenge, one that threatened the whole basis of
their economic existence in
‘Some would insinuate that this in some measure is due to the uneasiness dissenters have in the matter of religion, but this is plainly a mistake; for dissenters were never more easy as to that matter than they had been since the Revolution [of 1688] and are at present; and yet never thought of leaving the kingdom, till oppressed by the excessive rents and other temporal hardships: nor do any dissenters leave us, but proportionally of all sorts, except Papists. The truth is this: after the Revolution, most of the kingdom was waste, and abandoned of people destroyed in the war: the landlords therefore were glad to get tenants at any rate, and let their lands at very easy rents; they invited abundance of people to come over here, especially from Scotland, and they lived here very happily ever since; but now their leases are expired, and they are obliged not only to give what they paid before the Revolution, but in most places double and in many places treble, so that it is impossible for people to live or subsist on their farms.’
As the years passed thousands of
people crossed the
For the original Quaker and Puritan
settlers of the thirteen colonies, largely English in origin, the
‘He was a farmer so far as was needful and practicable out of the reach of all markets, though as often as not his corn was planted and his grass mown, with the long-barrelled short-stocked ponderous small-bore rifle upon which his life so often hung, placed ready and loaded against a handy stump. What sheep he could protect from the bears and the wolves, together with a patch of flax, provided his family with covering and clothing. Swarthy as an Indian and almost as sinewy, with hair falling to his shoulders from beneath a coon-skin cap, a buck-skin hunting shirt tied at his waist, his nether man was encased in an Indian breach-clout, and his feet clad in deer-skin and moccasins.’
With the outbreak of the Revolution
in 1775 the Scots-Irish, in interesting contrast to many of their
Scottish cousins, were among the most determined adherents of the
rebel cause. Their frontier skills were particularly useful in
destroying Burgoyne’s army in the
Edited from: www.sorbie.net
Today South West Scotland is a peaceful and largely prosperous area, however there survive a large number of 'martyrs' graves, which are reminders of an altogether more turbulent past. Many are located on remote moors, marking the spot where government soldiers killed supporters of the Covenant. Others are to be found in parish Kirkyards either erected at the time or often replaced by modern memorials. Almost every corner of southern Scotland has a tale to tell of the years of persecution, from remote and ruinous shepherds' houses where secret meetings were held to castles and country houses commandeered by government troops in their quest to capture and punish those who refused to adhere to the King's religious demands.
Scotland was in an almost constant state of civil unrest because people refused to accept the royal decree that the King Charles was head of the church (known as the 'Kirk'). When they maintained that only Jesus Christ could command such a position, they were effectively issuing their own death warrant. This was a grim period of religious persecution with the bloodiest crimes of the nation's history, committed by Scots against Scots.
Origins of the struggle
James VI of Scotland became James I of England in March 1603 when he was declared rightful heir upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I. It is important to remember that during the reign of James as King of both Scotland and England, the two nations retained their separate parliaments and privy councils. They passed their own laws and enjoyed their own law courts; they had their own national church, their own ways of levying taxes and regulating trade, and to a certain extent, they could pursue their own foreign policies.
Scotland itself was practically two distinct nations. There was a huge division between Highland and Lowland. James's attempts to persuade the clan chiefs to adopt the Protestant faith were a failure. They clung to the military habits of their ancestors, their Jacobite (Catholic) heritage and continued the Gaelic tongue when most of Scotland had abandoned it in favor of English. James also had a long-running quarrel with the Presbyterian Scottish Kirk (a strict form of Protestantism) and resented what he saw as their interference in matters of state.
Presbyterianism as practiced by the Scots was a hard, unyielding faith. It was deeply suspicious of Christmas, and abominated graven images such as the crucifix. It did not recognize Easter as a celebration. James insisted that his divine authority came before the Kirk's civil jurisdiction. This conflict between two uncompromising factions was to strongly influence this whole period of Scottish history. James, despite his Scots ancestry, left London to visit his native country only once in the years he held the 'two crowns' between 1603 and 1625.
Charles I reigned 1625-1649
On the accession to the throne of Charles I in 1625 he was determined to continue the work of his father. Charles therefore proposed bringing the Scots church into line with that of England, an extremely controversial move which provoked outrage north of the border. He was an opponent of Presbyterianism and thought it would be simpler if all his subjects would adopt Episcopacy (government of the church by crown appointed Bishops). He therefore planned the introduction of the 'Book of Common Prayer' into the Scottish church service. This took some time to plan and it was not until 23rd July 1637 that the new liturgy, which many Scots believed to be more Catholic than Protestant, was ordered to be read in the Church of St. Giles in Edinburgh.
Tradition has it when the new service was read, one worshipper, Jenny Geddes stood up and threw her stool at the Dean's head shouting out "Wha daur say mass in ma lug". The congregation erupted and the service had to be abandoned. Although this act is commonly portrayed as a spontaneous outbreak of popular indignation, there is evidence that the incident was carefully planned and contrived.
On 28th February 1638 the 'National Covenant' was produced on behalf of the Church of Scotland, backed by the nobility and gentry, in opposition to the new book of prayer. This was essentially an anti-Papist declaration and 60,000 folk gathered to sign the documents which had been placed on public display in Greyfriars church, Edinburgh. Other copies were taken throughout the country for further signatures,bringing the Scottish Kirk into direct conflict with the the King and the rule of law.
The signing of the Covenant in Greyfriars churchyard, a Solemn League and Covenant
Repudiation of the Covenant and Rullion Green
In 1661 the National Covenant was repudiated by Charles II. The following year the Covenant was torn up and Charles' own Bishops and curates were appointed to govern the churches and 400 non-conforming ministers were ejected from their parishes. At first the authorities tolerated them preaching in houses, barns or the open-air, but it was soon realized that the people's resolve was such that they would not attend the government-appointed Episcopal minister's services. The first attempt at limiting attendance at these conventicles was made in 1663 and by 1670 attendance became treasonable and preaching at them, a capital offence.
A massive conventicle took place on Skeoch Hill In Kirkudbrightshire in 1679. There were 6,000 Covenanters in attendance to hear three preachers, of which 3,000 were allowed to take part in communion. In the center of the congregation a series of large boulders were arranged in four parallel rows for the communicants, perhaps around 300 at a time to sit on. These stones, known as the Communion stones are still there.
Often the conventicle was infiltrated by a few non-adherents who slipped off early to inform the authorities. The Covenanters had to be highly vigilant, as the threat of armed intervention was ever present. The participants were most likely to be captured or executed, usually on their way to and from conventicles. The fact that they were away from home and probably had a bible in their possession was enough for the authorities to justify fining or executing them, often killing them where they stood.
The "Highland Host"
The government were becoming desperate and in early 1678, nine thousand soldiers from the largely Catholic highlands were brought south from their garrison in Stirling to Glasgow and the south-west. The town fathers of Ayrshire wrote to the Earl of Lauderdale, a senior official requesting him not to send so "inhumane and barbarous a crew of spoilers" into that county. The appeal fell on deaf ears. Parties of highland soldiers were quartered on land owned by suspected Covenanter sympathizers who were required to feed them and keep them for nothing. These were known as the 'Highland host' and the highlanders were responsible for many atrocities, robbing their hosts of all belongings and livestock; rape, pillage and destruction. Thousands of pounds worth of damage and theft were done in the few months they were in residence.
One example was in Kilmarnock where nine highland soldiers were quartered on William Dickie for six weeks. He was required to supply them with food and drink and when they eventually left his house, they stole bags full of ornaments, cutlery, plates and a sock full of money, to a total value of 1,000 merks (Scottish pounds). The soldiers also maltreated him and his family. His wife was pregnant, yet one of the highlanders stuck a dirk (knife) into her side and she died soon after. Dickie himself was struck on a number of occasions for not supplying all the soldiers needs and one of the beatings resulted in two broken ribs.
The minister of Kilmarnock, Rev Alexander Wedderburn, was so appalled by the actions of the highlanders in the town that he condemned them in one of his sermons. The highlanders heard this and caught up with him as he walked through the streets. In a scuffle one of the soldiers lunged at the minister with the butt of his gun, winding him and causing him to fall to the ground. He died shortly after of respiratory disease.
Many parishes have records which detail the cost of putting up the highlanders, sums in money which were long in recouping. For example, two hundred and fifty soldiers and officers from Caithness were quartered within the Parish of Cumnock for fifteen nights and the total losses recorded in the accounts were £3015 6s 8d. The total for Avondale parish in Lanarkshire was reckoned to be £1,700, although it has been surmised that this figure was only one third of the true total.
Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge
The situation was becoming grave in the Lowlands and South West and by 1679 the men of Galloway were to rise again in what became known as the 'Second Resistance'. It began with the "Rutherglen Declaration" when they condemned the proceedings of the government since 1660. Shortly afterwards a huge conventicle was arranged, somewhere in Lanarkshire. This was more than a gesture of defiance, it was a challenge the government had to meet to retain their credibility. John Graham of Claverhouse, known to his enemies as "Bloody Graham" rode out from Glasgow with about 180 dragoons, to deal with them.
Born in 1648, near Dundee, he was abhorred by the Covenanters for the part he played in ordering the execution of many friends and supporters, many being killed by his own hands. He found them drawn up in order of battle at the farm of Drumclog, near Loudoun Hill, on the morning of 1st June 1679.
Thinking their hour had come, the Covenanters proposed a march on Glasgow but discovered that the fearful residents had placed barricades across the streets to prevent them from entering the city. It was now full scale civil war, with the militia mobilized and armed men guarding the fords over the River Forth on the approaches to Edinburgh. The Covenanters turned about and at Bothwell Bridge, a crossing over the River Clyde just north of Hamilton they made their stand. By now they had become a rabble with no attempt at military formation.
This time they were soundly defeated by government troops led by the Duke of Monmouth, with perhaps 600 killed on the field and in the subsequent pursuit, 1,200 taken prisoner. Most of these were marched to Edinburgh where they were locked up in an enclosure of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Five months later after many had escaped, some had died and others were forced to sign a declaration of government support, 257 Covenanters remained. They were sentenced to banishment to the American plantations and placed on board a ship at Leith. However it foundered off the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland, with almost all on board being drowned.
James Thomson, born about 1630, a farmer from Tanhill, died of wounds inflicted at the Battle of Drumclog in 1679. His son and his wife suffered imprisonment and James was later interred in Stonehouse St.Ninian's old kirkyard. His tomb reads :
Here lays or near this Ja Thomson
Who was shot in Rencounter at Drumclog, June 1st 1679
By bloody Graham of Clavers House
for his adherence to the Word of God and Scotland's
Covenanted Work of reformation - Rev xii 11
On the other side :
This hero brave who doth lye here
In truth's defence did he appear,
And to Christ's cause he firmly stood
Until he'd sealed it with his blood.
With sword in hand upon the field
He lost his life, yet did not yield.
His days did End in Great renown,
And he obtained the Martyrs Crown.
A Covenanter's tombstone in the Kirkyard of Galston, Ayrshire commemorates Andrew Richmond, "who was killed by bloody Graham of Claver-House, June 1679". The inscription shows the victim, pointing at an open Bible, while a soldier is taking aim with a rifle, a sword hanging round his waist, and a steel helmet upon his head. Between the two is an hourglass.
The "Killing Times"
Parish Lists were drawn up in accordance with instructions to the Episcopalian Curates to furnish Nominal Rolls of all persons, male and female, over the age of 12 within their Parishes. The Ministers were ordered to give "..a full and complete Roll of all within the Parish" and "that to their Knowledge they give Account of all Disorders and Rebellions, and who are guilty of them, Heritors or others.." Their instructions concluded, "..No remarks need be made upon these Demands made upon every Curate in every Parish; they are plain enough, as also their Design.." The 'design' of this census was obviously to assist in the control and persecution of the Covenanters. The list drawn up for Wigtownshire in 1684, featured a total of 9,276 individuals in the 19 Parishes and was probably ordered by John Grahame of Claverhouse who had been appointed the Sheriff of Wigtownshire.
At Ayr there is a headstone to seven martyrs who were executed in the town as a warning to the townspeople of what would happen if they joined in any of the uprisings. The men were not of the county but were brought there and hanged as an example, the same happening in Dumfries and elsewhere. There were originally eight men to be hanged, but the burgh hangman disappeared, and the hangman brought from Irvine refused to do it, even under threat of torture. Therefore the authorities announced that one of the men could go free if he agreed to hang the remaining seven. Cornelius Anderson agreed, only if his associates would offer him forgiveness. This was forthcoming, and following the execution Anderson emigrated to Ireland, where he died insane.
These were the most horrific and atrocious times ever inflicted on the people of Scotland. The Covenanters were now flushed out and hunted down as never before and the common soldier was empowered to take life at will of any suspect without trial of law. Usually it was done without any evidence and often as the result of the suspicions of an over-zealous town official or Minister. Brutality in these days defied the imagination and the persecution had no mercy on man, woman or child, irrespective of circumstances. Any class of Covenanter once caught by the King's troops was shot or murdered on the spot.
Reverand Richard Cameron was killed by dragoons commanded by Andrew Bruce of Earlshall in the Battle of Airds Moss near Cumnock, Kyle, Ayrshire in July 1680.Sixty three Covenanters had taken to the Moss for safety and they were pursued by 112 soldiers. The Covenanters stood their ground and fought valiantly, nine being killed against twenty eight of the regular troops, but eventually they were overcome by the more experienced soldiers. The mutilated body of Cameron was buried there along with the other eight of his supporters who fell. A thundercloud passed over and under cover of heavy rain and mist many Covenanters managed to escape. Bruce persuaded one of his soldiers to allow him the pleasure of hacking Cameron's head and hands from his body, taking his trophies to Edinburgh in order to claim the £500 bounty. Two Covenanters later died of wounds suffered in the battle and six more were apprehended by soldiers and hung for their part in the battle.
James Renwick was born in Moniaive in Dumfriesshire on 15th February 1662, the son of a weaver, Andrew Renwick. He was always interested in religion and it is said that, by the age of six was able to read and question the contents of a bible. His parents scrimped and saved to ensure James received an education and after attending school in Edinburgh was able to attend the University. After graduating with an MA degree in 1681, he began to question the King's authority over the church after witnessing the public hanging of a number of Covenanters. He moved to Lanark and started to attend a series of conventicles and in October 1682 was chosen to study for the ministry at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He was ordained in May 1683 and arrived back in his homeland in October that year. On 23rd November 1683 a large conventicle was held at Darmead at which he commenced his ministry, preaching to many hundreds. James Renwick/Rennick, preached at a conventicle, on Oct 11th 1684, at John Kyle's "house and yeard," at Cleyholes, Kirkcudbrightshire.
In September 1684, the Privy Council had issued a warrant for his capture and the following year Renwick was at the head of 200 Covenanters who affixed a declaration on the cross at Sanquhar, in which James VII was denounced as a murderer an idolater. After this he made sure there was a lookout stationed wherever he went and at any conventicle at which he was preaching and there was always a horse standing by, saddled and bridled, on which the fugitive could make a swift getaway.
His last conventicle took part at Riskenhope in Selkirkshire in January 1688. According to an onlooker, James Hogg, "When he prayed that day, few of his hearer's cheeks were dry. My parents were well acquainted with a woman whom he there baptized". Renwick was apprehended on 1st February 1688 on one of his secret visits to Edinburgh. A group of excise men visited the home of his friend and trader John Lackup under the guise that they were checking up on him. In reality they were hoping to capture Renwick and claim a reward. A scuffle broke out and the preacher made a bid for freedom, running down the Castle Wynd. However he was easily caught, taking a number of blows in the process and then taken to gaol. Patrick Graham, Captain of the Guards, looked at the 26 year old and asked "Is this boy the Mr Renwick that the nation hath been so much troubled with?"
A Condemned Renwick Being Taken for Execution
Placed on trial, the witnesses for the prosecution included such notables as Claverhouse himself. He was sentenced to die on 8th February 1688 and the execution was postponed for two weeks. In which time Renwick received numerous visitors including the Bishop of Edinburgh and the Lord Advocate who pleaded with him to accept at least some rule of the King, but he refused. On the day of his hanging he was allowed to see his mother and sister who had made their way up from Dumfriesshire, his father having died when James was twelve.
On the scaffold Renwick attempted to address the crowd, but all the time the soldiers beat their drums in order to drown out his words. The hangman sprung the trapdoor and he dropped to his death. His remains were taken from the scaffold by a follower and rolled in a winding sheet before being buried in Greyfriars' Kirkyard. Renwick would have been the last Covenanting martyr but for a 16-year-old lad, George Wood. He was shot down in the fields a few days later near the village of Sorn, Ayrshire and is buried in the parish Kirkyard there. In 1688, the fugitive preacher James Renwick was captured an executed at the scaffold in Edinburgh's Grassmarket, the last Covenanter to suffer a public execution.
The "Glorious Revolution"
However for the Covenanters the period of terror was nearly over. For all his provocative attempts to restore Catholicism in England, King James II still had powerful support among the Tory stalwarts of the established order. But he seemed bent on undermining his own power base. In the spring of 1688 he ordered his Declaration of Indulgence, suspending the penal laws against Catholics, to be read from every Anglican pulpit in the land. The Church of England and its staunchest supporters, the peers and gentry, were outraged. The birth of an heir, James Francis Stuart (later to become the Old Pretender) increased public disquiet about a Catholic dynasty; fears confirmed when the baby was baptised into the Roman faith.
James VII of Scotland and II of England
At the end of June a small group of peers made the fateful decision to invite William of Orange, James's son-in-law, to "defend the liberties of England". William prepared carefully, assembling a formidable army of multinational mercenaries in Holland. In November he landed at Torbay, at the head of 15,000 men. Cleverly, he made no public claim to the crown, saying only that he had come to England to save Protestantism. James, meanwhile, marched west with his small but well trained army. But to his dismay he found his troops deeply discontented and unwilling to fight.
This put an end to the House of Stewart which had ruled over Scotland for over 300 years and England, Scotland and Ireland for eighty six years. James and his son Charles tried to reclaim the crown in the Jacobite risings of 1689, 1715 and 1745, but were unsuccessful. The ''Glorious Revolution" had taken place and the William, the new King was persuaded by his advisors, principally William Carstares, a Scottish minister who had become a friend of William in Holland to accept Presbyterianism as the established church in Scotland. In the year 1690, therefore Parliament met and passed an act which re-establishedPresbyterianism in Scotland and to this day the Church of Scotland remains a Presbyterian Church.
William and Mary
Martyrs' headstone at Kilmarnock Parish Church
"..O wild traditioned Scotland, thy briery burns
Acknowledgment to the following books, pamphlets and websites for excerpts used:
Dane Love : "Tales from the Killing Times"
Dane Love : "Scottish Kirkyards"
Visit Dane Love's website at:www.dane-love.co.uk
P. Hume Brown : "Scotland A Short History"
Nithsdale Covenanting Trail : "In the Footsteps of the Martyrs"
David Roy : "The Covenanters"
R. Dalziel : "The Covenanters" Website
John R. Young : "Wha's like us? A History of Stonehouse"
Cliff Hanley : "History of Scotland"
The Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association website can be visited at:www.covenanter.org.uk
Cumnock and surrounding areas online community forum :http://www.cumnock.net/