- Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. II (The Battle of Pentland Hills) by Sir Walter Scott
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Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. II
The Battle of Pentland Hills

by Sir Walter Scott

We have observed the early antipathy, mutually entertained by the Scottish presbyterians and the house of Stuart It seems to have glowed in the breast even of the good-natured Charles II. He might have remembered, that, in 1551, the presbyterians had fought, bled, and ruined themselves in his cause. But he rather recollected their early faults than their late repentance; and even their services were combined with the recollection of the absurd and humiliating circumstances of personal degradation, [A] to which their pride and folly had subjected him, while they professed to espouse his cause. As a man of pleasure, he hated their stern and inflexible rigour, which stigmatised follies even more deeply than crimes; and he whispered to his confidents, that "presbytery was no religion for a gentleman." It is not, therefore, wonderful, that, in the first year of his restoration, he formally reestablished prelacy in Scotland; but it is surprising, that, with his father's example before his eyes, he should not have been satisfied to leave at freedom the consciences of those who could not reconcile themselves to the new system. The religious opinions of sectaries have a tendency like the water of some springs, to become soft and mild, when freely exposed to the open day. Who can recognise in the decent and industrious quakers, and ana-baptists the wild and ferocious tenets which distinguished their sects, while they were yet honoured with the distinction of the scourge and the pillory? Had the system of coercion against the presbyterians been continued until our day, Blair and Robertson would have preached in the wilderness, and only discovered their powers of eloquence and composition, by rolling along a deeper torrent of gloomy fanaticism.
Among other ridiculous occurrences, it is said, that some of Charles's gallantries were discovered by a prying neighbour. A wily old minister was deputed, by his brethren, to rebuke the king for this heinous scandal. Being introduced into the royal presence he limited his commission to a serious admonition, that, upon such occasions, his majesty should always shut the windows.—The king is said to have recompensed this unexpected lenity after the Restoration. He probably remembered the joke, though he might have forgotten the service.
The western counties distinguished themselves by their opposition to the prelatic system. Three hundred and fifty ministers, ejected from their churches and livings, wandered through the mountains, sowing the seeds of covenanted doctrine, while multitudes of fanatical followers pursued them, to reap the forbidden crop. These conventicles as they were called, were denounced by the law, and their frequenters dispersed by military force. The genius of the persecuted became stubborn, obstinate, and ferocious; and, although indulgencies were tardily granted to some presbyterian ministers, few of the true covenanters or whigs, as they were called, would condescend to compound with a prelatic government, or to listen even to their own favourite doctrine under the auspices of the king. From Richard Cameron, their apostle, this rigid sect acquired the name of Cameronians. They preached and prayed against the indulgence, and against the presbyterians who availed themselves of it, because their accepting this royal boon was a tacit acknowledgment of the king's supremacy in ecclesiastical matters. Upon these bigotted and persecuted fanatics, and by no means upon the presbyterians at large, are to be charged the wild anarchical principles of anti-monarchy and assassination which polluted the period when they flourished.

The insurrection, commemorated and magnified in the following ballad, as indeed it has been in some histories, was, in itself, no very important affair. It began in Dumfries-shire where Sir James Turner, a soldier of fortune, was employed to levy the arbitrary fines imposed for not attending the episcopal churches. The people rose, seized his person, disarmed his soldiers, and having continued together, resolved to march towards Edinburgh, expecting to be joined by their friends in that quarter. In this they were disappointed; and, being now diminished to half their numbers, they drew up on the Pentland Hills, at a place called Rullien Green. They were commanded by one Wallace; and here they awaited the approach of General Dalziel, of Binns; who, having marched to Calder, to meet them on the Lanark road, and finding, that, by passing through Collington, they had got to the other side of the hills, cut through the mountains, and approached them. Wallace shewed both spirit and judgment: he drew his men up in a very strong situation, and withstood two charges of Dalziel's cavalry; but, upon the third shock, the insurgents were broken, and utterly dispersed. There was very little slaughter, as the cavalry of Dalziel were chiefly gentlemen, who pitied their oppressed and misguided countrymen. There were about fifty killed, and as many made prisoners. The battle was fought on the 28th November, 1666; a day still observed by the scattered remnant of the Cameronian sect, who regularly hear a field-preaching upon the field of battle.

I am obliged for a copy of the ballad to Mr Livingston of Airds, who took it down from the recitation of an old woman residing on his estate.

The gallant Grahams, mentioned in the text, are Graham of Claverhouse's horse.


This Ballad is copied verbatim from the Old Woman's recitation.
The gallant Grahams cum from the west,
Wi' their horses black as ony craw;
The Lothian lads they marched fast,
To be at the Rhyns o' Gallowa.

Betwixt Dumfries town and Argyle,
The lads they marched mony a mile;
Souters and taylors unto them drew,
Their covenants for to renew.

The whigs, they, wi' their merry cracks,
Gard the poor pedlars lay down their packs;
But aye sinsyne they do repent
The renewing o' their covenant.

A the Mauchline muir, where they were reviewed,
Ten thousand men in armour shewed;
But, ere they cam to the Brockie's burn,
The half o' them did back return.

General Dalyell, as I hear tell,
Was our lieutenant general;
And captain Welsh, wi' his wit and skill,
Was to guide them on to the Pentland hill.

General Dalyell held to the hill,
Asking at them what was their will;
And who gave them this protestation,
To rise in arms against the nation?

"Although we all in armour be,
It's not against his majesty;
Nor yet to spill our neighbour's bluid,
But wi' the country we'll conclude."

"Lay down your arms, in the king's name,
And ye shall all gae safely hame;"
But they a' cried out, wi' ae consent,
"We'll fight a broken covenant."

"O well," says he, "since it is so,
A willfu' man never wanted woe;"
He then gave a sign unto his lads,
And they drew up in their brigades.

The trumpets blew, and the colours flew,
And every man to his armour drew;
The whigs were never so much aghast,
As to see their saddles toom sae fast.

The cleverest men stood in the van,
The whigs they took their heels and ran;
But such a raking was never seen,
As the raking o' the Rullien Green.

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