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The Scots/Irish

Clans, Families and Septs

The Covenanters

The Old Scots language (Scotis)

The Treasure of Traprain

Was Old King Cole a Member of the Coelius Gens?











Raymond Campbell Paterson
The Scots-Irish: The Thirteenth Tribe


“A man with God is always in the majority”
John Knox


“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 awe”
Lord Rosebery



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 Britain the term is virtually unknown, and most people would assume that it meant some kind of hybridisation between the Irish and the Scots. Only the Protestant communities of Northern Ireland would generally recognize what is meant, though very few would now accept the designation for themselves, preferring to be described as British or Ulstermen. Only in North America, where the term was invented, would one be likely to encounter an immediate recognition; but even here there are problems. Many of the descendents of the original Scots-Irish settlers would happily wear kilts and tartan on commemorative days, though this would have been a shock to their ancestors, who took particular trouble to distance themselves from all things Celtic and Gaelic. The task of this article is to attempt what is always a dangerous endeavor: the separation of myth and reality, and thus uncover the roots of one of the most remarkable branches of the Scottish-and Irish-race.


The story begins with an ending. In March 1603, the same month that James VI of Scotland began James I of England and Ireland, the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel, chiefs of the O’Neills and the O’Donnells, the leading families of the ancient province of Ulster, surrender to the English. Thus concluded the Nine Years War, the latest in a long line of struggles to arrest the steady expansion of English power in Ireland. It was in Ulster that Celtic Ireland had made its last stand against a foreign invader, all the more unwelcome because he now came garbed in a cloak of militant Protestantism, a direct challenge to an ancient Catholic tradition. It had been a particularly bitter struggle, and Ulster had been devastated. The northeastern counties of Antrim and Down, within sight of the coast of Scotland, are described by contemporary writers as ‘all waste’.


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 Highlands and Islands, whom he once described as ‘utterly barbarous.’ In the 1590s he had even sponsored a scheme of internal colonization or plantation, handing over the island of Lewis to a party of Lowland adventurers. These men were to bring civilization and commerce to the western Isles, in a project that allowed for the wholesale extermination of the local Gaelic clans. Faced with the widespread hostility of the Highland communities, the Lewis plantation was a costly failure: the idea, however, remained fixed in the royal mind.


In Ulster, unlike the Scottish Highlands, the local people had been severely demoralized. Plantation was not a new idea in Ireland, but past schemes had achieved very little. To begin with James showed little interest in a fresh project but for a series of unusual opportunities. The first involved two rather shady Lowland opportunists, the kind of men all too attractive to the enterprising king. James Hamilton was a university don and a spy; and Sir Hugh Montgomery, his partner, was an Ayrshire laird. Together they helped Conn O’Neill, an Irish chieftain, escape from Carrickfergus Castle, where he had been imprisoned for rioting, and offered to obtain a royal pardon for him in return for a share of his substantial estates in Antrim and Down. James, originally hostile to the proposal, became the fourth partner in the enterprise, no doubt amused by the audacity of Hamilton and Montgomery. Both men proposed to bring over large parties of Scots Lowlanders to replenish the depopulated areas, thus reviving the hitherto discredited idea of plantation. James now had a way of driving a Lowland, Protestant and English-speaking wedge into the heart of a Gaelic and Catholic world. In granting Hamilton the territory of Upper Clandeboy and Great Ardes, James emphasized the intention “…of inhabiting the same, being now depopulated and wasted, with English and Scottish men; and the carrying of men, cattle, corn and all other commodities from England and Scotland into the said territories. Also, to have liberty to alien [grant] to any English or Scottish men, or of English and Scottish name and blood, and not to have the mere Irish.”


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 North Channel in ever increasing numbers. What they found would have daunted all but the hardiest spirits: ‘…parishes were now more wasted than America (when the Spanish landed there)…for in all those three parishes [Glenabbey, Donaghdee and Newtonards] thirty cabins could not be found, nor any stone walls, but ruined roofless churches, and a few vaults at Grey Abbey, and a stump of an old castle in Newton, in each of which some gentlemen sheltered themselves at their first coming over.’ But the land was good and largely unfarmed, as the native Irish economy had been pastoral rather than arable. Settlers were also encouraged by the promise of long leases, far better than the unfavorable terms in their native Scotland, where short leases acted as a disincentive to good husbandry and improvements. Plantation, the Scots were soon to show, could be made to work, especially when it was supported by adequate military force.


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 Dublin authorities. Fearing for their safety, the two chiefs left for the continent, never to return, an episode famous in Irish history as ‘The Flight of the Earls.’ James now had huge territories in central and western Ulster: Hamilton and Montgomery’s free enterprise scheme was supplemented by the Plantation of Ulster. Land was granted to men known as ‘undertakers’, who pledged themselves to bring over settlers from England and Scotland; only the more inferior lands were to be allotted to the native Irish. This time more English settlers began to make an appearance, though they continued to be numerically weaker than their Scottish cousins. This is hardly surprising: England was richer and far more settled than Scotland, and Ireland remained a dangerous frontier. Native Irish chieftains, deeply resentful of their changing circumstances, took to the wilds as outlaws, and as ‘woodkernes’ represented a real threat to the more isolated settlers, many of whom were wiped out in midnight raids. The descendants of the Scots migrants were later to face a similar threat on the American frontier. While the Irish raiders were tough, the Scots were even tougher. Many of the early migrants came from the Scottish borders, men with names like Armstrong, Bell and Elliot, where they had been hardened in an age-old struggle with the English.


Despite the woodkerns-and the wolves-the Plantation survived and prospered. In 1634 Sir William Brereton, in a journey through Ayrshire noted that: ‘Above the thousand persons have, within the last two years past, left the country wherein they lived…and are gone for Ireland. They have come by one hundred in company through the town, and three hundred have gone on hence together, shipped for Ireland at one tide…” By 1640 it is estimated that as many as 100,000 Scots had settled in Ulster compared with some 20,000 migrants from England.


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 Ulster:

“Hereupon followed the plantation of Ulster, first undertaken by the city of London, who fortified Coleraine and built Londonderry, and purchased many thousand acres of land in the parts adjoining. But it was carried on more vigorously, as most unfortunately withal, by some adventurers of the Scottish nation who poured themselves into this country as the richer soil; and, though they were sufficiently industrious in improving their own fortunes there, and setting up preaching in all churches wheresoever they fixed, yet whether it happened for the better or the worse, the event hath showed. For they brought with them hither such a stock of Puritanism, such as contempt of bishops, such a neglect of the public liturgy, and other divine offices of this church, that there was nothing less to be found amongst them than the government and forms of worship established in the church of England.”


Charles I, James son and successor, in attempting to force Scotland to accept the English forms of worship, took a path that led directly to the Civil Wars. This had a profound effect on the Protestant settlers in Ulster. Although the Scots had originally been made welcome by the English Lord Deputy in Dublin, their enthusiasm for Presbyterianism made them politically suspect. Confronted by official hostility they faced an even greater threat in 1641 when the native Irish rose in revolt, venting years of frustration on the bewildered and badly frightened settlers.


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 Londonderry. Among their rewards they could expect, at the very least, a measure of religious toleration: after all, the revolution settlement had at last conceded the right of Scotland to a Presbyterian church after years of Stewart persecution. But the Ulster Presbyterians were in caught in a paradox: though the reign of William of Orange brought a measure of calm, they were still subject to a religious establishment in Dublin, which remained strictly Anglican in outlook. During the reign of Queen Anne the Presbyterians, though part of the victorious Protestant party, were to find themselves just as outcast as their despised Catholic neighbors.


The successive wars had the effect of once again depopulating the fields of Ulster: many of the original settlers had been killed or had returned to Scotland for their own safety. An appeal was made for fresh settlers, with twenty-year farm leases being held out as bait. Thus began the last great wave of Scots migration to Ulster. In the decade up to 1700 an estimated 50,000 people made the crossing. Politically this last wave was among the most significant, especially for the future of America and the creation of that unique outlook that was in time to be known as Scots-Irish.


By 1707, the year that the Scottish parliament merged with its English cousin, the Protestant colony of Ulster was a hundred years old. The differences that had existed between the original settlers, whither Scots or English, had largely ceased to exist. It is now possible to discover a distinct Protestant Ulster identity, recognizably unique and distinct from the sources of origin. With the absence of outmoded feudalism, still present in Scotland, looser kinship ties, and a freer labor market the Ulster Protestants began to develop in an unanticipated direction. If anything religion provided the common bond, rather than race, uniting dissenters of differing faiths, though it is also true to say that the Scots settlers had acquired a cultural domination over their English counterparts. Though loyal to the crown, they were a people who, through decades of adversity, had become self reliant, and never quite lost the feeling that they were surrounded by a hostile world: ‘They learned from hard experience’, one commentator noted ‘that one must fight for what he has; that turning the other cheek does not guarantee property rights; in short, that might is right, at least in the matter of life and land ownership.’ In the early years of the eighteenth century they found themselves once again under attack, though this time from a totally unexpected direction.


In 1704 the government of Queen Anne, dominated by the Anglican High Church party, passed an act that had a direct bearing on the Ulster Scots. All office holders were obliged to take communion in the Established Church, a measure which at a single stroke virtually wiped out much of the civil administration in the north of Ireland. It was even seriously suggested that Presbyterian ministers could be brought before Anglican church courts, charged with fornicating with their own wives. The worst features of the new legislation was removed by the Toleration Act of 1719, but the damage had been done, and full discrimination against the Presbyterians was not finally ended until the middle of the nineteenth century. The irony and unfairness of the new policy was pointed out, amongst others, by Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe:


‘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 Ireland. By 1710 most of the farm leases granted to the settlers in the 1690s had expired; new leases were withheld until the tenants agreed to pay greatly increased rents, which many could simply not afford to do. Rather than submit to these new conditions whole communities, led by their ministers, began to take ship for the Americas: a new exodus was about to begin. In 1719, the year after the first great wave moved west, Archbishop William King wrote an account of the migration from Ulster, pinpointing the real source of the upheaval:


‘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 Atlantic from Ulster, just as their ancestors had crossed the North Channel from Scotland a century or more before. However, by 1750 the pace of migration began to slow, as relatively normal conditions returned to Ulster after years of economic dislocation. The period of calm was all too brief. In 1771 a fresh wave of migration began, once again induced by the greed of the landlords, which was arguably to have serious consequences for the security of the British Empire in North America. Faced with a fresh series of rent hikes, local people at first mounted some resistance, gathered together in an organisation known as the Hearts of Steel; but the landlords had the law and the army on their side. In the short period left before the outbreak of the American Revolution a further 30,000 Ulstermen left for the colonies, joining some 200,000 who had already made their homes there earlier in the century. The contemporary image of the Ulster Protestant is most commonly that of the Orangeman, with all of his exaggerated loyalty to Britain and the Crown. For the dispossessed of the 1770s the opposite was true: they had lost everything, and came to America with an intense hostility towards all things British.


For the original Quaker and Puritan settlers of the thirteen colonies, largely English in origin, the emigrants of Ulster, an increasingly common sight, were usually described as ‘Irish.’ To counter this misconception the newcomers adopted the older description of ‘Scots’. It was in this semantic exchange that a new breed took shape: they were the ‘Scots-Irish.’ For many years these people had lived on a frontier in Ireland, and it seemed natural for them to push on to a new frontier, where land was both plentiful and cheap, introducing a new urgency and dynamism into a rather complacent colonial society. Before long these ‘backwoodsmen’, distrustful of all authority and government, had established a hold on the western wilderness, fighting Indians and wolves in much the same way that they had once fought wolves and woodkern. In Pennsylvania the Scots-Irish established an almost complete domination of the outer reaches of the old Quaker colony. It was a dangerous life, but one which has established a lasting image in American history and folklore:


‘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 Saratoga campaign; and George Washington was even moved to say that if the cause was lost everywhere else he would take a last stand among the Scots-Irish of his native Virginia. Serving in the British Army, Captain Johann Henricks, one of the much despised ‘Hessians’, wrote in frustration ‘Call it not an American rebellion, it is nothing more than an Irish-Scotch Presbyterian Rebellion.’ It was their toughness, virility and sense of divine mission that was to help give shape to a new nation, supplying it with such diverse heroes as Davy Crocket and Andrew Jackson. They were indeed God’s frontiersmen, the real historical embodiment of the lost tribe of Israel.


 The Above Published with permission of Mr. Paterson.

Other books and articles by Mr. Raymond Campbell Paterson:


















































The Covenanters

The Fifty Years Struggle 1638-1688

Edited from:


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


In 1643 Charles was ousted from the throne during a bloody Civil War by the English parliamentarians and Oliver Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector. One of his first tasks was to execute the King who was promptly beheaded. The English Parliamentarians agreed that Presbyterianism be adopted as the national religion throughout England and Scotland as they were anxious to have the Scots allied against the still dangerous forces of the Crown. The Covenanters therefore sided with Cromwell and a period of stability ensued. The treaty between the two was called the "Solemn League and Covenant". This was essentially a marriage of convenience.
Scotland was now under English rule and the Church of Scotland enjoyed a time of spiritual prosperity. Cromwell was supreme lord of a united Britain, which was now a conquered country living under an army of occupation. However it was to be short-lived as Cromwell died in 1658 and in May 1660 Charles' son, Charles II was fully restored to the throne. He soon passed an act which enforced the people to recognize him as the supreme authority in matters both Civil and Ecclesiastical. The Church of Scotland rejected this and was thrown into the furnace of persecution for twenty eight long years until 1688.

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.

By 1666 the persecution by soldiers who were given lists of the names of the non-attendees by the curates, was so bad that the country became increasingly restless. When the village of Dalry in Galloway witnessed an old man being roasted with branding irons by the soldiers, a rebellion commenced. It had not been planned, but numbers flocked to the cause and a spontaneous march took place in horrific November weather via Lanark towards Edinburgh. The exhausted Covenanters were ultimately defeated at Rullion Green in the Pentland Hills when an army of 3,000 led by General Tam Dalyell routed the meager band of 900 protestors. 100 were killed on the battlefield and 120 taken prisoner and marched to Edinburgh and charged with treason and rebellion. It is estimated that a further 300 Covenanters escaped, but died or were slain on their way home.
The captured Covenanters were crowded into part of the High Kirk in Edinburgh known as 'Haddock's Hole'. They were brought before the Justiciary Court and on December 7th 1666 they were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged on the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh. As many as ten at a time were dispatched on one scaffold, dismembered and the pieces exhibited in the Covenanter's own locality as a warning.


On 13th August 1670 the government declared that conventicles, or meetings in the fields were illegal and it was a capital offence to attend these. The authorities were concerned that these were becoming a hot-bed of revolutionary ideas. The vast outdoor assemblies were being thrilled by the preacher's words of fiery defiance and doom-laden prophecy. However the Presbyterians defied them and held secret religious meetings in the hills, usually with a circle of lookouts, often armed, posted around the site to watch for approaching dragoons. There were many bloody skirmishes amongst the bare lowland landscape. This was a time of legends, of the soldiers fun in throwing women in pits full of snakes, of men hanged on their own door lintels.
All conventicles were to be broken up and any land owner who refused to help could be fined; instead of turning master against man however, it forged links of shared suffering. Secret conventicles were attended by up to thousands of people at only a few hours notice, with mass marriages being carried out with a rock as an alter and baptisms performed in small streams. Followers of the Covenant were willing to risk the fines and sentences in order to hear the preachers. For example 7,000 people attended a conventicle near Maybole in Ayrshire in 1678, performed by four ministers and at East Nisbet in Berwickshire the same year 3,200 took part of which 1,600 were seated.

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.

Bloody Graham


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.

Battle of Drumclog

They had chosen their position skillfully, in front was a deep ditch and all around were bogs. About 1500 in number the Covenanters had had little fear of the scarlet soldiers coming towards them on horseback. After an exchange of musket fire with little effect, Claverhouse held back as he had no one to guide his men through the morass. His enemies solved his problems for him. Led by William Cleland, a young man who was later to become a famous soldier as the first colonel of the Cameronians, a large party of men made their way around the ditch and threw themselves on the dragoons who by now had dismounted. Bogged down in the marshy ground and totally outnumbered, the soldiers had no advantage as they were attacked at close quarters by sword, pike and pitchfork. Thirty six dragoons were killed, seven made prisoner and the rest fled towards Strathaven. Claverhouse had lost the battle of Drumclog.

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"

The period from 1680 until 1685 was one of the fiercest in terms of persecution and a few months between 1684-5 became forever known as the "Killing Times". Charles' brother James II had come to the throne, he was a believer in the Divine Right of Kings and a supporter of the Roman Catholic faith. It became his sworn intent to totally eradicate the Presbyterians.

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.

Thus began one of many close shaves with the authorities. In July 1684 he was travelling with three others across Strathaven Moor. They were spotted by Dragoons and a chase ensued. He galloped towards the summit of Dungavel Hill, dismounted and hid in a hollow until nightfall before he moved on. In the next few months he was responsible for the baptism of over 300 children and also performed many marriages and funerals, all held in remote farms and on the moors.

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.

At Salisbury there were mass desertions, and the king turned tail for London. Even then, James had hopes of retaining his throne, but his nerve failed him. He made for the Kent coast, was turned back by magistrates at Faversham, and was forced to sail from London. Finally, on Christmas Day 1688, he landed in France and from there he moved onto Ireland. William moved swiftly to neutralise the royal army and establish a provisional government. In January 1689 a hastily summoned Parliament declared the throne vacant. In February William and Mary - the daughter of King James - jointly acceded. The second English revolution of the century had been accomplished without violence.

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-established Presbyterianism in Scotland and to this day the Church of Scotland remains a Presbyterian Church.


William and Mary

The House of Stewart had maintained they had been appointed kings by God and not by the people, but in dethroning James the people had claimed the right to appoint their own kings. For this time onwards, therefore, it came to be understood that kings would be allowed to remain on the throne only if they governed according to the laws of the land. After the revolution the kings could make no changes in the laws without the consent of the Parliament. Thus after James was dethroned a new day dawned, both in England and Scotland.


For 50 years the non-conformist Covenanters had been fined, tortured, flogged, branded or executed without trial for failing to turn up to hear the "King's Curates" in the pulpit. One famous observer of the times, Daniel Defoe, the author of "Robinson Crusoe" estimated that 18,000 had died for their adherence to the Covenant. Kirkyards all over Scotland have tombstones to victims of the years of Covenanting persecution, but no area is as rich in them as the south-west corner of Scotland, particularly the counties of Ayr, Lanark, Kirkcudbright and Dumfries, where virtually every Parish Kirkyard contains at least one Covenanter's grave. Many more are to be seen on the moors and hills which the Covenanters were forced to frequent, the bodies of the shot hill-men being buried where they fell, for burying the body in the Kirkyard could result in another death. If the authorities learnt that a murdered Covenanter had been given a decent burial, their bodies were usually disinterred and buried in places reserved in places for thieves and malcontents. Quite often the corpse was hanged or beheaded first. Of those that lived, many were sold as slaves to America or sent to the dungeons on Bass Rock or Dunottar Castle. Those who escaped sought refuge in Holland, Ireland and and the Americas. The cause still rings out on many martyr graves scattered throughout the South West as follows: "For the word of God and Scotland's work of Reformation. Scotland's heritage comes at a price which invokes our greatest heart felt thanks for the lives sacrificed on the anvil of persecution, when innocent blood stained the heather on our moors and ran down the gutters of our streets with sorrow and sighing beyond contemplation".


Martyrs' headstone at Kilmarnock Parish Church

"..O wild traditioned Scotland, thy briery burns and braes
Are full of pleasant memories and tales of other days.
Thy story-haunted waters in music gush along,
Thy mountain-glens are tragedies, thy heathy hills are song.

Land of the Bruce and Wallace, where patriot hearts have stood:
And for their country and their faith like water poured their blood;
Where wives and little children were steadfast to the death,
And graves of martyr'd warriors are in the desert heath."



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:

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:

Cumnock and surrounding areas online community forum :