07/5/13

James Renwick, Dragoons and a Ford in Galloway

Later traditions about the Covenanters are not a reliable guide to history. They are adventure story parables and akin to a form of faction in which fact and fiction seamlessly blend. Somewhere in them there may be a kernel of historical fact, but one can never be sure that it actually exists.

The following passage from Reverend Simpson, the collector of the traditions, sums up the kind of material he was looking for:

‘[The life of Renwick], written by Alexander Shiel[d]s [in 1688], is excellent; but then, it is chiefly a defence of his public character. The great desideratum, which we now-a-days would like to see supplied, is a minute account of his private history—of his wanderings, his escapes, the effects of his ministry, and the providential incidents which befell him. This, however, at this distance of time, it is impossible to supply. In the days of his biographer there existed ample materials for such a history, which to posterity would now be invaluable. There is scarcely an anecdote given by the writer of his life, of the description we would now like to see, though there are general statements made, which show that his history was an eventful one, and fraught with unrecorded incidents of a very stirring nature.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 311-12.)

Simpson attempted to make up that deficit in the 1840s.

Water of Ken at KendoonThe Water of Ken in spate at Kendoon © Davie McClure and licensed for reuse.

One tradition he relayed about James Renwick was his fording the Water of Ken in Galloway. According to Simpson, the story had been handed down from one of Renwick’s companions on that day, John McMillan.

‘The following anecdote of Mr [James] Renwick will be read, perhaps, with some degree of interest: In his wanderings in the wilder parts of Galloway, to elude the vigilance of his enemies, he came to Balmaclellan, and agreed with some of the serious people there to hold a conventicle in a solitary place among the mountains. The news of the projected meeting was circulated with all possible secrecy, and on the day appointed a great assembly convened from all parts of the surrounding district. The morning was lowering, and heavy showers were falling on the distant heights, swelling the mountain streamlets, as they descended with impetuosity into the valleys. Notwithstanding the caution, however, with which the intelligence had been communicated, the enemy received information, and came upon the congregation just as they were going to commence worship. On the approach of the troopers, the people fled in all directions; and Mr Renwick, accompanied by John M’Millan and David Ferguson, fled towards the winding Ken. It was the design of Mr Renwick to escape to the house of a friend, in the parish of Penningham[e in Wigtownshire], and there to conceal himself for a season.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 315-16.)

Renwick in the Glenkens
Renwick is known to have preached in Balmaclellan parish on three occasions in 1684: At Clay Hills in January, the Garple Burn in September and Garcrogo in October. He also preached in the area in the summer of 1685 when he made ‘a progress through Galloway, and found never such an open door for preaching the gospel, the people coming far better out than they did before. We got eight field meetings kept there without any disturbance’. His next recorded appearance in the Galloway area was at some point in the spring of 1686. He also appears to have examined the Society people in the Glenkens later in the year and on 5 December, he preached at Earlstoun Wood in the neighbouring parish of Dalry without interruption. (Houston (ed.), Letters, 192, 228, 244.)

The Mysterious McMillan
Simpson never identifies where John McMillan was from, but he appears to have been in someway connected to the area around Balmaclellan. John McMillan was almost certainly a common name in the Glenkens district. The ‘John M’Millan’ of the tradition may, or may not, be the ‘John McMillan in Arndarroch’ in Dalry parish listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 217.)

The old farm at Arndarroch lay close to the Water of Ken. Today, the ruins of the farm may lie in the Kendoon Aqueduct.

Map of Arndarroch         Aerial View of Arndarroch

In 1680, Donald Cargill addressed a letter to an important local activist in Dalry parish called McMillan. Was the John McMillan at Renwick’s side the same man? We do not know.

The Dragoons at the Ford
‘The place where they attempted to ford the stream was at a considerable distance above the village of [St John’s Town of] Dalry.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 316.)

The story implies Renwick and his two companions fled into Dalry parish where they attempted to ford the Water of Ken. According to the story, Renwick’s intention was to cross the ford and travel west to Penninghame parish in Wigtownshire. The landscape has been considerably altered since Renwick’s time, as the hydro power lochs of Earlstoun, Carsfad and Kendoon did not exist.

There are several fords marked on the old OS maps. About a mile above Dalry lay the ‘Stone Ford’ at Earlstoun, which is now drowned by Earlstoun Loch.

Aerial View of Stone Ford

About a mile beyond that lay the ‘Grass Holm Ford’ and ‘Carsfad Ford’ above Polharrow Bridge.

Map of Grass Holm and Carsfad Fords       Aerial View of Grass Holm and Carsfad Fords

Ford on Water of Ken

However, perhaps the best candidate for the ford which was described as at a ‘considerable distance’ above St John’s Town of Dalry is the one below the confluence of the Water of Ken and the Water of Deugh near Glenhoul. It lies about four miles above Dalry beside the Kendoon Hydro Electric Power Station.

Map of Glenhoul Ford             Street View of Glenhoul Ford

‘The river was greatly swollen by the heavy rains that had fallen among the hills during the morning; and before they entered into its turbid waters, they agreed to engage in prayer among the thick bushes that grew on its margin. When they rose from their knees, and were about to step into the dark rolling tide, they observed, to their amazement, a party of dragoons landing on the opposite bank. They had reached the place in pursuit during the time the three men were at prayer, and without noticing them, or hearing their voice, they rushed into the ford, in haste to cross before the waters became deeper. This occurrence seemed to the party to be a providential interference in their favour, for it was at the moment they were employed in devotion that their enemies arrived and missed them; and there is every likelihood, had they not lingered for a space to implore the divine protection, that they would have been toiling in the midst of the stream at the very time the horsemen reached the place.

John M’Millan, from whose lips this tradition has been transmitted to posterity, used to say that he was never so much impressed, either before or after, with anything he ever heard, as by the remarks made by Mr Renwick on this occasion; and that, moreover, they were the means of directing his attention more particularly to providential occurrences during the after period of his life.

As his two friends were to accompany Mr Renwick no farther than the ford, they resolved not to leave him till they should see him in safety on the other side. As the current was powerful, they resorted to the following means to assist him in crossing: They provided themselves with the long branches of the mountain ash, which were grasped by the three at equal distances, so that if one should be carried off his feet by the strength of the current, the others, standing firm, should accomplish his rescue. Mr Renwick entered the stream first, and the three proceeded in a line as steadily as they could, till he reached the bank in safety; the other two then returned to the place they left.

No sooner, however, had they stepped from the channel of the river, than the flood descended with great violence, covering the banks on both sides, and sweeping every obstacle before it. Such an occurrence is not unfrequent in the upland districts, where the thunder-clouds discharge themselves with great impetuosity among the hills.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 316-17.)

The Death of Ferguson
‘John McMillan and David Ferguson, who returned to the north bank of the Ken, after they parted from Mr Renwick, were hastening along the margin of the river, when they were met by a company of horsemen. They turned to flee; David Ferguson concealed himself under a brow by the water’s edge, and John M’Millan retreated to a thicket at a short distance from the place. The soldiers observing the flight of M’Millan, pursued him, but he escaped. Ferguson, however, was never more heard of; it is supposed that he was swept away by the strength of the stream, and found a watery grave, and thus he died a martyr, though not by the immediate hand of his persecutors.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 319.)

Simpson’s tradition continues with Renwick’s providential adventures on the opposite bank. If you want to read on, see here. How any of Renwick’s escapades on the opposite bank were known to McMillan is, of course, never explained.

If Renwick ever made the walk to Penninghame parish, it would have taken him most of a day to walk the twenty-mile journey through the Galloway hills and the parishes of Kells and Minnigaff to reach his destination. Penninghame was a parish where the Society people were active.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.


Filed under: 1685, Arndarroch, Balmaclellan parish, Covenanters, Dalry parish, David Ferguson (Glenkens), Galloway, Glenkens, James Renwick, John McMillan (Arndarroch), Kirkcudbrightshire, Penninghame parish, Scotland, Scottish History, Wigtownshire Tagged: Covenanters, Galloway, History, James Renwick, Scotland, Scottish History, Water of Ken
07/5/13

James Renwick, Dragoons and a Ford in Galloway

Later traditions about the Covenanters are not a reliable guide to history. The are adventure story parables and akin to a form of faction in which fact and fiction seamlessly blend. Somewhere in them there may be a kernel of historical fact, but one can never be sure that it actually exists.

The following passage from Reverend Simpson, the collector of the traditions, sums up the kind of material he was looking for:

‘[The life of Renwick], written by Alexander Shiel[d]s [in 1688], is excellent; but then, it is chiefly a defence of his public character. The great desideratum, which we now-a-days would like to see supplied, is a minute account of his private history—of his wanderings, his escapes, the effects of his ministry, and the providential incidents which befell him. This, however, at this distance of time, it is impossible to supply. In the days of his biographer there existed ample materials for such a history, which to posterity would now be invaluable. There is scarcely an anecdote given by the writer of his life, of the description we would now like to see, though there are general statements made, which show that his history was an eventful one, and fraught with unrecorded incidents of a very stirring nature.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 311-12.)

Simpson attempted to make up that deficit in the 1840s.

Water of Ken at KendoonThe Water of Ken in spate at Kendoon © Davie McClure and licensed for reuse.

One tradition he relayed about James Renwick was his fording the Water of Ken in Galloway. According to Simpson, the story had been handed down from one of Renwick’s companions on that day, John McMillan.

‘The following anecdote of Mr [James] Renwick will be read, perhaps, with some degree of interest: In his wanderings in the wilder parts of Galloway, to elude the vigilance of his enemies, he came to Balmaclellan, and agreed with some of the serious people there to hold a conventicle in a solitary place among the mountains. The news of the projected meeting was circulated with all possible secrecy, and on the day appointed a great assembly convened from all parts of the surrounding district. The morning was lowering, and heavy showers were falling on the distant heights, swelling the mountain streamlets, as they descended with impetuosity into the valleys. Notwithstanding the caution, however, with which the intelligence had been communicated, the enemy received information, and came upon the congregation just as they were going to commence worship. On the approach of the troopers, the people fled in all directions; and Mr Renwick, accompanied by John M’Millan and David Ferguson, fled towards the winding Ken. It was the design of Mr Renwick to escape to the house of a friend, in the parish of Penningham[e in Wigtownshire], and there to conceal himself for a season.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 315-16.)

Renwick in the Glenkens
Renwick is known to have preached in Balmaclellan parish on three occasions in 1684: At Clay Hills in January, the Garple Burn in September and Garcrogo in October. He also preached in the area in the summer of 1685 when he made ‘a progress through Galloway, and found never such an open door for preaching the gospel, the people coming far better out than they did before. We got eight field meetings kept there without any disturbance’. His next recorded appearance in the Galloway area was at some point in the spring of 1686. He also appears to have examined the Society people in the Glenkens later in the year and on 5 December, he preached at Earlstoun Wood in the neighbouring parish of Dalry without interruption. (Houston (ed.), Letters, 192, 228, 244.)

The Mysterious McMillan
Simpson never identifies where John McMillan was from, but he appears to be local to the area and in someway connected to the area around Balmaclellan. John McMillan was almost certainly a common name in the Glenkens district. The ‘John M’Millan’ of the tradition may, or may not, be the ‘John McMillan in Arndarroch’ in Dalry parish listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 217.)

The old farm at Arndarroch lay close to the Water of Ken. Today, the ruins of the farm may lie in the Kendoon Aqueduct.

Map of Arndarroch         Aerial View of Arndarroch

In 1680, Donald Cargill addressed a letter to an important local activist in Dalry parish called McMillan. Was the John McMillan at Renwick’s side the same man? We do not know.

The Dragoons at the Ford
‘The place where they attempted to ford the stream was at a considerable distance above the village of [St John’s Town of] Dalry.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 316.)

The story implies Renwick and his two companions fled into Dalry parish where they attempted to ford the Water of Ken. According to the story, Renwick’s intention was to cross the ford and travel west to Penninghame parish in Wigtownshire. The landscape has been considerably altered since Renwick’s time, as the hydro power lochs of Earlstoun, Carsfad and Kendoon did not exist.

There are several fords marked on the old OS maps. About a mile above Dalry lay the ‘Stone Ford’ at Earlstoun, which is now drowned by Earlstoun Loch.

Aerial View of Stone Ford

About a mile beyond that lay the ‘Grass Holm Ford’ and ‘Carsfad Ford’ above Polharrow Bridge.

Map of Grass Holm and Carsfad Fords       Aerial View of Grass Holm and Carsfad Fords

Ford on Water of Ken

However, perhaps the best candidate for the ford which was described as at a ‘considerable distance’ above St John’s Town of Dalry is the one below the confluence of the Water of Ken and the Water of Deugh near Glenhoul. It lies about four miles above Dalry beside the Kendoon Hydro Electric Power Station.

Map of Glenhoul Ford             Street View of Glenhoul Ford

‘The river was greatly swollen by the heavy rains that had fallen among the hills during the morning; and before they entered into its turbid waters, they agreed to engage in prayer among the thick bushes that grew on its margin. When they rose from their knees, and were about to step into the dark rolling tide, they observed, to their amazement, a party of dragoons landing on the opposite bank. They had reached the place in pursuit during the time the three men were at prayer, and without noticing them, or hearing their voice, they rushed into the ford, in haste to cross before the waters became deeper. This occurrence seemed to the party to be a providential interference in their favour, for it was at the moment they were employed in devotion that their enemies arrived and missed them; and there is every likelihood, had they not lingered for a space to implore the divine protection, that they would have been toiling in the midst of the stream at the very time the horsemen reached the place.

John M’Millan, from whose lips this tradition has been transmitted to posterity, used to say that he was never so much impressed, either before or after, with anything he ever heard, as by the remarks made by Mr Renwick on this occasion; and that, moreover, they were the means of directing his attention more particularly to providential occurrences during the after period of his life.

As his two friends were to accompany Mr Renwick no farther than the ford, they resolved not to leave him till they should see him in safety on the other side. As the current was powerful, they resorted to the following means to assist him in crossing: They provided themselves with the long branches of the mountain ash, which were grasped by the three at equal distances, so that if one should be carried off his feet by the strength of the current, the others, standing firm, should accomplish his rescue. Mr Renwick entered the stream first, and the three proceeded in a line as steadily as they could, till he reached the bank in safety; the other two then returned to the place they left.

No sooner, however, had they stepped from the channel of the river, than the flood descended with great violence, covering the banks on both sides, and sweeping every obstacle before it. Such an occurrence is not unfrequent in the upland districts, where the thunder-clouds discharge themselves with great impetuosity among the hills.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 316-17.)

The Death of Ferguson
‘John McMillan and David Ferguson, who returned to the north bank of the Ken, after they parted from Mr Renwick, were hastening along the margin of the river, when they were met by a company of horsemen. They turned to flee; David Ferguson concealed himself under a brow by the water’s edge, and John M’Millan retreated to a thicket at a short distance from the place. The soldiers observing the flight of M’Millan, pursued him, but he escaped. Ferguson, however, was never more heard of; it is supposed that he was swept away by the strength of the stream, and found a watery grave, and thus he died a martyr, though not by the immediate hand of his persecutors.’ (Simpson, Traditions, 319.)

Simpson’s tradition continues with Renwick’s providential adventures on the opposite bank. If you want to read on, see here. How any of Renwick’s escapades on the opposite bank were known to McMillan is, of course, never explained.

If Renwick ever made the walk to Penninghame parish, it would have taken him most of a day to walk the twenty-mile journey through the Galloway hills and the parishes of Kells and Minnigaff to reach his destination. Penninghame was a parish where the Society people were active.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.


Filed under: 1685, Arndarroch, Balmaclellan parish, Covenanters, Dalry parish, David Ferguson (Glenkens), Galloway, Glenkens, James Renwick, John McMillan (Arndarroch), Kirkcudbrightshire, Penninghame parish, Scotland, Scottish History, Wigtownshire Tagged: Covenanters, Galloway, History, James Renwick, Scotland, Scottish History, Water of Ken
04/3/13

Donald Cargill, Gilkerscleugh and the Glenkens in April, 1680.

Gilkerscleugh House

The 17th century house at Gilkerscleugh before it was demolished.

On Wednesday 14 April, 1680, Donald Cargill sent a letter to militants in the Glenkens district of Galloway …

Safe Houses
Cargill’s letter reveals that he had stayed at Earlstoun Castle. Cameron had also stayed there. Earlstoun was not the only recorded “safe house” used by Cargill and Cameron.

Cargill sent the letter from ‘Gilkie’, i.e., Gilkercleugh House, which formerly stood at Low Gilkerscleugh in Crawfordjohn parish, Lanarkshire.

Map of former site of Gilkerscleugh House     Aerial View of former site of Gilkerscleugh House

It was the home of Anna Hamilton, Lady Gilkerscleugh, the wife of [ John?] Hamilton of Gilkerscleugh. On 4 June 1680, the privy council ordered the processing of Lady Gilkerscleugh for the reset of John Balfour of Kinloch and other murderers of Archbishop Sharp, and of Richard Cameron and other notorious traitors, and for sheltering ‘the murther[er] of two country men’. (RPCS, VI, 455.)

Muirhouse aka the Murrays ThankertonMuirhouse, aka. The Murrays, near Thankerton © Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

A James Thomson, tenant under Robert Baillie of Jerviswood’s brother in Thankerton parish, Lanarkshire, was also ordered processed for the same charges as Lady Gilkerscleugh. In addition, he had been at Bothwell and had not accepted indemnity. His name appears on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684 as ‘James Thomson in the Murrays of Thankerton’ (RPCS, VI, 455; Wodrow, History, III, 195.)

The Murrays is now known as Muirhouse. It lay on the estate of, and next to the house of, Lady St Johns Kirk, who also was involved in protecting Cargill.

Map of the Murrays/Muirhouse            Street View of the Murrays/Muirhouse

It is a notable feature of the recorded houses used by Cameron and Cargill that elite women – Lady Earlstoun, Lady Gilkerscleugh and Lady St Johns Kirk – appear to have played a key role in sheltering them.

The Society people in the Glenkens.
Cargill addressed his letter to Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, ‘Mr Ardoch, and Mr M’Millan in Arrendarroch’.

Earlstoun was well known to both Cargill and Richard Cameron.

Who ‘Mr Ardoch’ was is not known, but it is possible that ‘Mr Ardoch’ refers to the holder of the farm at Ardoch in Dalry parish, rather than a surname. A Robert Stewart of Ardoch was killed at Auchencloy in December, 1684.

Map of Ardoch             Aerial View of Ardoch

‘Mr M’Millan in Arrendarroch’ was probably the John McMillan in Arndarroch listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 217.)

McMillan lived at what is now the ruins of the old farm at Arndarroch beside the Kendoon Aqueduct in Dalry parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.

Map of Arndarroch             Aerial View of Ruins of Arndarroch

The Letter
Once again, it appears that Cargill, like Cameron, was prevented from visiting the Glenkens due to the pressing nature of their activities further north. Instead, Cargill sent the letter via ‘our brother’ who would fill in for Cargill and convey information to Earlstoun and the others. Whatever the information was, it was important to Cargill that word of it reached both the Glenkens and the mysterious unnamed individual he mentions. References about Cargill and Cameron failing to rendezvous in their letters to the Earlstouns suggest that the latter was Richard Cameron.

The essential message of Cargill’s letter to the godly of Glenkens was that they should withdraw from others: ‘for the fewer, we shall not be the less strong’. ‘If we must die in the common lot’ they would ‘leave a model to them that come after … that [they] may go on according to that pattern, and do well’. In particular, Cargill urged them not to join in worship with their former presbyterian brethren who had owned the King’s authority, even though they had previously joined with them: ‘accept of them not, till they seriously resent, and utterly renounce these things’.

It is probable that ‘our brother’ was the field preacher Thomas Douglas, as Cargill states that ‘he doth the work of the Lord; and ye shall find the Lord hath provided better for you than if I had come.’ Douglas was the only minister to join with Cameron and Cargill in 1680. Earlstoun did not require any introduction to Cameron.

Letter from Donald Cargill to Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, Mr. Ardoch and Mr. [John] M’Millan in Arndarroch of Wednesday 14 April, 1680.

‘Gilkie, April 14. 1680.

Dearly Beloved,
I have purposed, according to your desire, to visit you, but have been hitherto hindered. The cause of my present return, after I was come mid-way, our brother [Thomas Douglas?] will shew you, and, I hope, will satisfy you; and if the Lord give opportunity, I shall yet fulfil my purpose. What I purposed to have imparted to —— [Richard Cameron?], who was gone before I came, I have imparted it to him, who will communicate it to you; so that I need not write of them further. Only leave your own things for a little, till ye receive them from God in a better way; for not only is the seeking but the receiving of favours from men, stated in such opposition to God, as not without a snare to the soul: and if it begets a just jealousy in God, to have any conversation with those with whom he hath such enmity, and seeing providence hath closed the door of doing for yourselves in these things, lay ye them aside also: and what comfort ye have within yourselves, what work ye shall give yourselves too; and what interest ye shall espouse: but let all things be little to you in respect of this, to have the land brought about to be the Lord’s, and to have the Lord reigning in it. Be frequent in prayer and humiliation, for I will assure you, ye [>243] will find those duties to be more easy and sweet in performance, more hopeful in their expectation, and more prevalent as to their effects, than before they have been. But never think yourselves right till ye have repented of what is past, and have intended to reformation in all things. And let the desires and designs of your hearts be such, that, in a manner, he cannot but both avouch you, and prosper them; and severe yourselves from the sins, interests, and courses of this present generation; otherways these who have been chastised by themselves, may be again chastised with them in their judgments, which shall be both dreadful and near. But haste you out of the city, for that hinders, and seek to be united to God, and to one another in truth and love; and this cannot be without the pouring out of the Spirit, which must be obtained by prayer; and beware of patching up with men, for they have their own cards to play, and their own way to go, which are not only diverse from, but directly opposite to God’s; and if I mistake not, God’s intention this time is clearly to sever us, that he may shew us kindness by ourselves (and till that be, we shall never have him as we would) and employ us as we desire to be employed: and fear not, for the fewer, we shall not be the less strong; and forget not to shut yourselves up in a covenant with him, that if we must die in the common lot, we may die with repentance, and such purposes in our heart, and leave a model to them that come after, of the temple we minded to build to him, that may go on according to that pattern, and do well.

As for our brother [Thomas Douglas?], ye both ought, and I [>244.] know ye will receive him gladly, and encourage him in all things, for he doth the work of the Lord; and ye shall find the Lord hath provided better for you than if I had come. The Lord establish you in every good work. Amen.
Yours, in true affection,
Donald Cargil.

P. S. There is one thing I have forgotten; Seek not to them that have been joined with us in some things, if they have owned that interest, or sided with these courses of defection: nor though they seek to you, accept of them not, till they seriously resent, and utterly renounce these things.’
(McMillan (ed.), A Collection of Letters, 242-4.)

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.


Filed under: 1680, Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, Ardoch, Arndarroch, Auchencloy, Covenanters, Crawfordjohn parish, Dalry parish, Donald Cargill, Earlstoun Castle, Galloway, Gilkerscleugh, Glenkens, James Thomson (Thankerton), John McMillan (Arndarroch), Kirkcudbrightshire, Lady Earlstoun, Lady Gilkerscleugh, Lady St John's Kirk, Lanarkshire, Murrays (Thankerton), Robert Stewart (d.1684), Thankerton parish, Thomas Douglas Tagged: Covenanters, Crawfordjohn, Earlstoun Castle, Early modern history, Galloway, History, Scotland, Scottish History, women's history
04/3/13

Donald Cargill, Gilkerscleugh and the Glenkens in April, 1680.

Gilkerscleugh House

The 17th century house at Gilkerscleugh before it was demolished.

On Wednesday 14 April, 1680, Donald Cargill sent a letter to militants in the Glenkens district of Galloway …

Safe Houses
Cargill’s letter reveals that he had stayed at Earlstoun Castle. Cameron had also stayed there. Earlstoun was not the only recorded “safe house” used by Cargill and Cameron.

Cargill sent the letter from ‘Gilkie’, i.e., Gilkercleugh House, which formerly stood at Low Gilkerscleugh in Crawfordjohn parish, Lanarkshire.

Map of former site of Gilkerscleugh House     Aerial View of former site of Gilkerscleugh House

It was the home of Anna Hamilton, Lady Gilkerscleugh, the wife of [ John?] Hamilton of Gilkerscleugh. On 4 June 1680, the privy council ordered the processing of Lady Gilkerscleugh for the reset of John Balfour of Kinloch and other murderers of Archbishop Sharp, and of Richard Cameron and other notorious traitors, and for sheltering ‘the murther[er] of two country men’. (RPCS, VI, 455.)

Muirhouse aka the Murrays ThankertonMuirhouse, aka. The Murrays, near Thankerton © Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse.

A James Thomson, tenant under Robert Baillie of Jerviswood’s brother in Thankerton parish, Lanarkshire, was also ordered processed for the same charges as Lady Gilkerscleugh. In addition, he had been at Bothwell and had not accepted indemnity. His name appears on the published Fugitive Roll of 1684 as ‘James Thomson in the Murrays of Thankerton’ (RPCS, VI, 455; Wodrow, History, III, 195.)

The Murrays is now known as Muirhouse. It lay on the estate of, and next to the house of, Lady St Johns Kirk, who also was involved in protecting Cargill.

Map of the Murrays/Muirhouse            Street View of the Murrays/Muirhouse

It is a notable feature of the recorded houses used by Cameron and Cargill that elite women – Lady Earlstoun, Lady Gilkerscleugh and Lady St Johns Kirk – appear to have played a key role in sheltering them.

The Society people in the Glenkens.
Cargill addressed his letter to Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, ‘Mr Ardoch, and Mr M’Millan in Arrendarroch’.

Earlstoun was well known to both Cargill and Richard Cameron.

Who ‘Mr Ardoch’ was is not known, but it is possible that ‘Mr Ardoch’ refers to the holder of the farm at Ardoch in Dalry parish, rather than a surname. A Robert Stewart of Ardoch was killed at Auchencloy in December, 1684.

Map of Ardoch             Aerial View of Ardoch

‘Mr M’Millan in Arrendarroch’ was probably the John McMillan in Arndarroch listed on the Fugitive Roll of 1684. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, II, 217.)

McMillan lived at what is now the ruins of the old farm at Arndarroch beside the Kendoon Aqueduct in Dalry parish, Kirkcudbrightshire.

Map of Arndarroch             Aerial View of Ruins of Arndarroch

The Letter
Once again, it appears that Cargill, like Cameron, was prevented from visiting the Glenkens due to the pressing nature of their activities further north. Instead, Cargill sent the letter via ‘our brother’ who would fill in for Cargill and convey information to Earlstoun and the others. Whatever the information was, it was important to Cargill that word of it reached both the Glenkens and the mysterious unnamed individual he mentions. References about Cargill and Cameron failing to rendezvous in their letters to the Earlstouns suggest that the latter was Richard Cameron.

The essential message of Cargill’s letter to the godly of Glenkens was that they should withdraw from others: ‘for the fewer, we shall not be the less strong’. ‘If we must die in the common lot’ they would ‘leave a model to them that come after … that [they] may go on according to that pattern, and do well’. In particular, Cargill urged them not to join in worship with their former presbyterian brethren who had owned the King’s authority, even though they had previously joined with them: ‘accept of them not, till they seriously resent, and utterly renounce these things’.

It is probable that ‘our brother’ was the field preacher Thomas Douglas, as Cargill states that ‘he doth the work of the Lord; and ye shall find the Lord hath provided better for you than if I had come.’ Douglas was the only minister to join with Cameron and Cargill in 1680. Earlstoun did not require any introduction to Cameron.

Letter from Donald Cargill to Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, Mr. Ardoch and Mr. [John] M’Millan in Arndarroch of Wednesday 14 April, 1680.

‘Gilkie, April 14. 1680.

Dearly Beloved,
I have purposed, according to your desire, to visit you, but have been hitherto hindered. The cause of my present return, after I was come mid-way, our brother [Thomas Douglas?] will shew you, and, I hope, will satisfy you; and if the Lord give opportunity, I shall yet fulfil my purpose. What I purposed to have imparted to —— [Richard Cameron?], who was gone before I came, I have imparted it to him, who will communicate it to you; so that I need not write of them further. Only leave your own things for a little, till ye receive them from God in a better way; for not only is the seeking but the receiving of favours from men, stated in such opposition to God, as not without a snare to the soul: and if it begets a just jealousy in God, to have any conversation with those with whom he hath such enmity, and seeing providence hath closed the door of doing for yourselves in these things, lay ye them aside also: and what comfort ye have within yourselves, what work ye shall give yourselves too; and what interest ye shall espouse: but let all things be little to you in respect of this, to have the land brought about to be the Lord’s, and to have the Lord reigning in it. Be frequent in prayer and humiliation, for I will assure you, ye [>243] will find those duties to be more easy and sweet in performance, more hopeful in their expectation, and more prevalent as to their effects, than before they have been. But never think yourselves right till ye have repented of what is past, and have intended to reformation in all things. And let the desires and designs of your hearts be such, that, in a manner, he cannot but both avouch you, and prosper them; and severe yourselves from the sins, interests, and courses of this present generation; otherways these who have been chastised by themselves, may be again chastised with them in their judgments, which shall be both dreadful and near. But haste you out of the city, for that hinders, and seek to be united to God, and to one another in truth and love; and this cannot be without the pouring out of the Spirit, which must be obtained by prayer; and beware of patching up with men, for they have their own cards to play, and their own way to go, which are not only diverse from, but directly opposite to God’s; and if I mistake not, God’s intention this time is clearly to sever us, that he may shew us kindness by ourselves (and till that be, we shall never have him as we would) and employ us as we desire to be employed: and fear not, for the fewer, we shall not be the less strong; and forget not to shut yourselves up in a covenant with him, that if we must die in the common lot, we may die with repentance, and such purposes in our heart, and leave a model to them that come after, of the temple we minded to build to him, that may go on according to that pattern, and do well.

As for our brother [Thomas Douglas?], ye both ought, and I [>244.] know ye will receive him gladly, and encourage him in all things, for he doth the work of the Lord; and ye shall find the Lord hath provided better for you than if I had come. The Lord establish you in every good work. Amen.
Yours, in true affection,
Donald Cargil.

P. S. There is one thing I have forgotten; Seek not to them that have been joined with us in some things, if they have owned that interest, or sided with these courses of defection: nor though they seek to you, accept of them not, till they seriously resent, and utterly renounce these things.’
(McMillan (ed.), A Collection of Letters, 242-4.)

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.


Filed under: 1680, Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, Ardoch, Arndarroch, Auchencloy, Covenanters, Crawfordjohn parish, Dalry parish, Donald Cargill, Earlstoun Castle, Galloway, Gilkerscleugh, Glenkens, James Thomson (Thankerton), John McMillan (Arndarroch), Kirkcudbrightshire, Lady Earlstoun, Lady Gilkerscleugh, Lady St John's Kirk, Lanarkshire, Murrays (Thankerton), Robert Stewart (d.1684), Thankerton parish, Thomas Douglas Tagged: Covenanters, Crawfordjohn, Earlstoun Castle, Early modern history, Galloway, History, Scotland, Scottish History, women's history