The whigs, now become desperate, adopted the most desperate principles;
and retaliating, as far as they could, the intolerating persecution
which they endured, they openly disclaimed allegiance to any monarch
who should not profess presbytery, and subscribe the covenant.—These
principles were not likely to conciliate the favour of government; and
as we wade onward in the history of the times, the scenes become yet
darker. At length, one would imagine the parties had agreed to divide
the kingdom of vice betwixt them; the hunters assuming to themselves
open profligacy and legalized oppression; and the hunted, the opposite
attributes of hypocrisy, fanaticism, disloyalty, and midnight
assassination. The troopers and cavaliers became enthusiasts in the
pursuit of the covenanters If Messrs Kid, King, Cameron, Peden, &c.
boasted of prophetic powers, and were often warned of the approach of
the soldiers, by supernatural impulse, [A] captain John Creichton, on
the other side, dreamed dreams, and saw visions (chiefly, indeed, after
having drunk hard), in which the lurking holes of the rebels were
discovered to his imagination. [B] Our ears are scarcely more shocked
with the profane execrations of the persecutors, [C] than with the
strange and insolent familiarity used towards the Deity by the
persecuted fanatics. Their indecent modes of prayer, their extravagant
expectations of miraculous assistance, and their supposed inspirations,
might easily furnish out a tale, at which the good would sigh, and the
gay would laugh.
In truth, extremes always approach each other; and the superstition of
the Roman catholics was, in some degree, revived, even by their most
deadly enemies. They are ridiculed by the cavaliers, as wearing the
relics of their saints by way of amulet:—
In the year 1684, Peden, one of the Cameronian preachers,
about ten o'clock at night, sitting at the fire-side, started up to his
feet, and said, "Flee, auld Sandie (thus he designed himself), and hide
yourself! for colonel——is coming to this house to apprehend you; and
I advise you all to do the like, for he will be here within an hour;"
which came to pass: and when they had made a very narrow search, within
and without the house, and went round the thorn-bush, under which he was
lying praying, they went off without their prey. He came in, and said,
"And has this gentleman (designed by his name) given poor Sandie, and
thir poor things, such a fright? For this night's work, God shall give
him such a blow, within a few days, that all the physicians on earth
shall not be able to cure;" which came to pass, for he died in great
misery.—Life of Alexander Peden.
See the life of this booted apostle of prelacy, written by
Swift, who had collected all his anecdotes of persecution, and appears
to have enjoyed them accordingly.
"They raved," says Peden's historian, "like fleshly devils,
when the mist shrouded from their pursuit the wandering whigs." One
gentleman closed a declaration of vengeance against the conventiclers
with this strange imprecation, "Or may the devil make my ribs a gridiron
to my soul!"—MS. Account of the Presbytery of Penpont. Our armies
swore terribly in Flanders, but nothing to this!
"She shewed to me a box, wherein lay hid
The pictures of Cargil and Mr Kid;
A splinter of the tree, on which they were slain;
A double inch of Major Weir's best cane;
Rathillet's sword, beat down to table-knife,
Which took at Magus' Muir a bishop's life;
The worthy Welch's spectacles, who saw,
That windle-straws would fight against the law;
They, windle-straws, were stoutest of the two,
They kept their ground, away the prophet flew;
And lists of all the prophets' names were seen
At Pentland Hills, Aird-Moss, and Rullen Green.
"Don't think," she says, "these holy things are foppery;
They're precious antidotes against the power of popery."
The Cameronian Tooth.—Pennycuick's Poems, p. 110.
The militia and standing army soon became unequal to the task of
enforcing conformity, and suppressing conventicles In, their aid, and to
force compliance with a test proposed by government, the Highland
clans were raised, and poured down into Ayrshire. [A] An armed host
of undisciplined mountaineers, speaking a different language, and
professing, many of them, another religion, were let loose, to ravage
and plunder this unfortunate country; and it is truly astonishing to
find how few acts of cruelty they perpetrated, and how seldom they added
murder to pillage [B] Additional levies of horse were also raised, under
the name of Independent Troops, and great part of them placed under the
command of James Grahame of Claverhouse a man well known to fame, by
his subsequent title of viscount Dundee, but better remembered, in the
western shires, under the designation of the bloody Clavers. In truth,
he appears to have combined the virtues and vices of a savage chief.
Fierce, unbending, and rigorous, no emotion of compassion prevented his
commanding, and witnessing, every detail of military execution against
the non-conformists. Undauntedly brave, and steadily faithful to his
prince, he sacrificed himself in the cause of James, when he was
deserted by all the world. If we add, to these attributes, a goodly
person, complete skill in martial exercises, and that ready and decisive
character, so essential to a commander, we may form some idea of this
extraordinary character. The whigs, whom he persecuted daunted by his
ferocity and courage, conceived him to be impassive to their bullets, [C]
and that he had sold himself, for temporal greatness, to the
seducer of mankind. It is still believed, that a cup of wine,
presented to him by his butler, changed into clotted blood; and
that, when he plunged his feet into cold water, their touch
caused it to boil. The steed, which bore him, was supposed
to be the gift of Satan; and precipices are shewn, where a fox could
hardly keep his feet, down which the infernal charger conveyed him
safely, in pursuit of the wanderers. It is remembered, with terror, that
Claverhouse was successful in every engagement with the whigs, except
that at Drumclog, or Loudon-hill, which is the subject of the following
ballad. The history of Burly, the hero of the piece, will bring us
immediately to the causes and circumstances of that event.
John Balfour of Kinloch, commonly called Burly, was one of the fiercest
of the proscribed sect. A gentleman by birth, he was, says his
biographer, "zealous and honest-hearted, courageous in every enterprise,
and a brave soldier, seldom any escaping that came in his hands." Life
of John Balfour. Creichton says, that he was once chamberlain to
Archbishop Sharpe, and, by negligence, or dishonesty, had incurred
a large arrear, which occasioned his being active in his master's
assassination. But of this I know no other evidence than Creichton's
assertion, and a hint in Wodrow. Burly, for that is his most common
designation, was brother-in-law to Hackston of Rathillet a wild
enthusiastic character, who joined daring courage, and skill in the
sword, to the fiery zeal of his sect. Burly, himself, was less eminent
for religious fervour than for the active and violent share which he had
in the most desperate enterprises of his party. His name does not appear
among the covenanters, who were denounced for the affair of Pentland.
But, in 1677, Robert Hamilton, afterwards commander of the insurgents at
Loudon Hill, and Bothwell Bridge, with several other non-conformists,
were assembled at this Burly's house, in Fife. There they were attacked
by a party of soldiers, commanded by Captain Carstairs, whom they beat
off, wounding desperately one of his party. For this resistance to
authority, they were declared rebels. The next exploit, in which Burly
was engaged, was of a bloodier complexion, and more dreadful celebrity.
It is well known, that James Sharpe, archbishop of St Andrews, was
regarded, by the rigid presbyterians, not only as a renegade, who had
turned back from the spiritual plough, but as the principal author of
the rigours exercised against their sect. He employed, as an agent of
his oppression, one Carmichael, a decayed gentleman. The industry
of this man, in procuring information, and in enforcing the severe
penalties against conventiclers, having excited the resentment of
the Cameronians, nine of their number, of whom Burly, and his
brother-in-law, Hackston, were the leaders, assembled, with the purpose
of way-laying and murdering Carmichael; but, while they searched for him
in vain, they received tidings that the archbishop himself was at hand.
The party resorted to prayer; after which, they agreed, unanimously,
that the Lord had delivered the wicked Haman into their hand. In the
execution of the supposed will of heaven, they agreed to put themselves
under the command of a leader; and they requested Hackston of Rathillet
to accept the office, which he declined alleging, that, should he comply
with their request, the slaughter might be imputed to a private quarrel,
which existed betwixt him and the archbishop. The command was then
offered to Burly, who accepted it without scruple; and they galloped off
in pursuit of the archbishop's carriage, which contained himself and
his daughter. Being well mounted, they easily overtook and disarmed the
prelate's attendants. Burly, crying out, "Judas, be taken!" rode up to
the carriage, wounded the postillion and ham-strung one of the horses.
He then fired into the coach a piece, charged with several bullets, so
near, that the archbishop's gown was set on fire. The rest, coming up,
dismounted, and dragged him out of the carriage, when, frightened and
wounded, he crawled towards Hackston, who still remained on horseback,
and begged for mercy. The stern enthusiast contented himself with
answering, that he would not himself lay a hand on him. Burly and his
men again fired a volley upon the kneeling old man; and were in the act
of riding off, when one, who remained to girth his horse, unfortunately
heard the daughter of their victim call to the servant for help,
exclaiming, that his master was still alive. Burly then again
dismounted, struck off the prelate's hat with his foot, and split his
skull with his shable (broad sword), although one of the party (probably
Rathillet) exclaimed, "Spare these grey hairs!" [A] The rest pierced
him with repeated wounds. They plundered the carriage, and rode off,
leaving, beside the mangled corpse, the daughter, who was herself
wounded, in her pious endeavour to interpose betwixt her father and his
murderers. The murder is accurately represented, in bas-relief, upon a
beautiful monument erected to the memory of Archbishop Sharpe, in the
metropolitan church of St Andrews. This memorable example of fanatic
revenge was acted upon Magus Muir, near St Andrews, 3d May, 1679. [B]
Peden complained heavily, that, after a heavy struggle with
the devil, he had got above him, spur-galled him hard, and obtained a
wind to carry him from Ireland to Scotland, when, behold! another person
had set sail, and reaped the advantage of his prayer-wind, before he
Cleland thus describes this extraordinary army:
—Those, who were their chief commanders,
As sach who bore the pirnie standarts.
Who led the van, and drove the rear,
Were right well mounted of their gear;
With brogues, and trews, and pirnie plaids,
With good blue bonnets on their heads,
Which, oil the one side, had a flipe,
Adorn'd with a tobacco pipe,
With durk, and snap-work, and snuff-mill,
A bag which they with onions fill;
And, as their strict observers say,
A tup-born filled with usquebay;
A slasht out coat beneath her plaides,
A targe of timber, nails, and hides;
With a long two-handed sword,
As good's the country can afford.
Had they not need of bulk-and bones.
Who fought with all these arms at once?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Of moral honestie they're clean,
Nought like religion they retain;
In nothing they're accounted sharp,
Except in bag-pipe, and in harp;
For a misobliging word,
She'll durk her neighbour o'er the boord,
And then she'll flee like fire from flint,
She'll scarcely ward the second dint;
If any ask her of her thrift.
Forsooth her nainsell lives by thift.
Cleland's Poems, Edin. 1697, p. 12.
It was, and is believed, that the devil furnished his
favourites, among the persecutors, with what is called proof
against leaden bullets, but against those only. During the battle of
Pentland-hills Paton of Meadowhead conceived he saw the balls hop
harmlessly down from General Dalziel's boots, and, to counteract the
spell, loaded his pistol with a piece of silver coin. But Dalziel,
having his eye on him, drew back behind his servant, who was shot
dead.—Paton's Life. At a skirmish, in Ayrshire, some of the wanderers
defended themselves in a sequestered house, by the side of a lake. They
aimed repeatedly, but in vain, at the commander of the assailants, an
English officer, until, their ammunition running short, one of them
loaded his piece with the ball at the head of the tongs, and succeeded
in shooting the hitherto impenetrable captain. To accommodate Dundee's
fate to their own hypothesis, the Cameronian tradition runs, that, in
the battle of Killicrankie, he fell, not by the enemy's fire, but by the
pistol of one of his own servants, who, to avoid the spell, had loaded
it with a silver button from his coat. One of their writers argues thus:
"Perhaps, some may think this, anent proof-shot, a paradox, and be ready
to object here, as formerly concerning Bishop Sharpe and Dalziel—How
can the devil have, or give, power to save life? Without entering upon
the thing in its reality, I shall only observe, 1. That it is neither
in his power, or of his nature, to be a saviour of men's lives; he is
called Apollyon, the destroyer. 2. That, even in this case, he is said
only to give enchantment against one kind of metal, and this does not
save life: for, though lead could not take Sharpe and Claverhouse's
lives, yet steel and silver could do it; and, for Dalziel, though
he died not on the field, yet he did not escape the arrows of the
Almighty."—God's Judgement against Persecutors. If the reader be not
now convinced of the thing in its reality, I have nothing to add to
such exquisite reasoning.
Burly was, of course, obliged to leave Fife; and, upon the 25th of the
same month, he arrived in Evandale, in Lanarkshire, along with Hackston,
and a fellow, called Dingwall, or Daniel, one of the same bloody band.
Here he joined his old friend Hamilton, already mentioned; and, as they
resolved to take up arms, they were soon at the head of such a body of
the "chased and tossed western men," as they thought equal to keep the
field. They resolved to commence their exploits upon the 29th of May,
1679, being the anniversary of the Restoration, appointed to be kept as
a holiday, by act of parliament; an institution which they esteemed a
presumptuous and unholy solemnity. Accordingly, at the head of eighty
horse, tolerably appointed, Hamilton, Burly, and Hackston, entered the
royal burgh of Rutherglen, extinguished the bonfires, made in honour
of the day; burned at the cross the acts of parliament in favour of
prelacy, and for suppression of conventicles, as well as those acts
of council, which regulated the indulgence granted to presbyterians.
Against all these acts they entered their solemn protest, or testimony,
as they called it; and, having affixed it to the cross, concluded with
prayer and psalms. Being now joined by a large body of foot, so that
their strength seems to have amounted to five or six hundred men, though
very indifferently armed, they encamped upon Loudoun Hill. Claverhouse,
who was in garrison at Glasgow, instantly marched against the
insurgents, at the head of his own troop of cavalry and others,
amounting to about one hundred and fifty men. He arrived at Hamilton,
on the 1st of June, so unexpectedly, as to make prisoner John King, a
famous preacher among the wanderers; and rapidly continued his march,
carrying his captive along with him, till he came to the village of
Drumclog, about a mile east of Loudoun Hill, and twelve miles south-west
of Hamilton. At some distance from this place, the insurgents were
skilfully posted in a boggy strait, almost inaccessible to cavalry,
having a broad ditch in their front. Claverhouse's dragoons discharged
their carabines, and made an attempt to charge; but the nature of the
ground threw them into total disorder. Burly, who commanded the handful
of horse belonging to the whigs, instantly led them down on the
disordered squadrons of Claverhouse, who were, at the same time,
vigorously assaulted by the foot, headed by the gallant Cleland, [A] and
the enthusiastic Hackston. Claverhouse himself was forced to fly, and
was in the utmost danger of being taken; his horse's belly being cut
open by the stroke of a scythe, so that the poor animal trailed his
bowels for more than a mile. In his flight, he passed King, the
minister, lately his prisoner, but now deserted by his guard, in the
general confusion. The preacher hollowed to the flying commander, "to
halt, and take his prisoner with him;" or, as others say, "to stay,
and take the afternoon's preaching." Claverhouse, at length remounted,
continued his retreat to Glasgow. He lost, in the skirmish, about twenty
of his troopers, and his own cornet and kinsman, Robert Graham, whose
fate is alluded to in the ballad. Only four of the other side were
killed, among whom was Dingwall, or Daniel, an associate of Burly in
Sharpe's murder. "The rebels," says Creichton, "finding the cornet's
body, and supposing it to be that of Clavers, because the name of Graham
was wrought in the shirt-neck, treated it with the utmost inhumanity;
cutting off the nose, picking out the eyes, and stabbing it through in
a hundred places." The same charge is brought by Guild, in his Bellum
Bothuellianum, in which occurs the following account of the skirmish at
They believed Sharpe to be proof against shot; for one of
the murderers told Wodrow, that, at the sight of cold iron, his courage
fell. They no longer doubted this, when they found in his pocket a small
clue of silk, rolled round a bit of parchment, marked with two long
words, in Hebrew or Chaldaic characters. Accordingly, it is still
averred, that the balls only left blue marks on the prelate's neck and
breast, although the discharge was so near as to burn his clothes.
The question, whether the bishop of St Andrews' death was
murder was a shibboleth, or experimentum crucis, frequently put to the
apprehended conventiclers. Isabel Alison, executed at Edinburgh, 26th
January, 1681, was interrogated, before the privy council, if she
conversed with David Hackston? "I answered, I did converse with him, and
I bless the Lord that ever I saw him; for I never saw ought in him but
a godly pious youth. They asked, if the killing of the bishop of St
Andrews was a pious act? I answered, I never heard him say he killed
him; but, if God moved any, and put it upon them, to execute his
righteous judgment upon him, I have nothing to say to that. They asked
me, when saw ye John Balfour (Burly), that pious youth? I answered,
I have seen him. They asked, when? I answered, these are frivolous
questions; I am not bound to answer them." Cloud of Witnesses, p. 85.
Mons est occiduus surgit qui celsus in oris
(Nomine Loudunum) fossis puteisque profundis
Quot scatet hic tellus et aprico gramine tectus:
Huc collecta (ait) numeroso milite cincta;
Turba ferox, matres, pueri, innuptaeque puellae;
Quam parat egregia Graemus dispersere turma.
Venit, et primo campo discedere cogit;
Post hos et alios, caeno provolvit inerti;
At numerosa cohors, campum dispersa per omnem,
Circumfusa, ruit; turmasque indagine captas,
Aggreditur; virtus non hic, nec profuit ensis;
Corripuere fugam, viridi sed gramine tectis,
Precipitata perit, fossis, pars plurima, quorum
Cornipedes haesere luto, sessore rejecto:
Tum rabiosa cohors, misereri nescia, stratos
Invadit laceratque viros: hic signifer eheu!
Trajectus globulo, Graemus quo fortior alter,
Inter Scotigenas fuerat, nec justior ullus:
Hunc manibus rapuere feris, faciemque virilem
Faedarunt, lingua, auriculus, manibusque resectis,
Aspera, diffuso, spargentes saxa, cerebro:
Vix dux ipse fuga salvus, namque exta trahebat
Vulnere tardatus, sonipes generosus hiante:
Insequitur clamore, cohors fanatica, namque
Crudelis semper timidus si vicerit unquam.
MS. Bellum Bothuellianum.
Although Burly was among the most active leaders in the action, he was
not the commander in chief, as one would conceive from the ballad. That
honour belonged to Robert Hamilton, brother to Sir William Hamilton of
Preston, a gentleman, who, like most of those at Drumclog, had imbibed
the very wildest principles of fanaticism. The Cameronian account of
the insurrection states, that "Mr Hamilton discovered a great deal of
bravery and valour, both in the conflict with, and pursuit of the enemy;
but when he and some others were pursuing the enemy, others flew too
greedily upon the spoil, small as it was, instead of pursuing the
victory: and some, without Mr Hamilton's knowledge, and against his
strict command, gave five of these bloody enemies quarters, and then let
them go: this greatly grieved Mr Hamilton, when he saw some of Babel's
brats spared, after the Lord had delivered them to their hands, that
they might dash them against the stones." Psalm cxxxvii. 9. In his own
account of this, "he reckons the sparing of these enemies, and letting
them go, to be among their first stepping aside; for which, he feared
that the Lord would not honour them to do much more for him; and says,
that he was neither for taking favours from, nor giving favours to the
Lord's enemies." Burly was not a likely man to fall into this sort of
backsliding. He disarmed one of the duke of Hamilton's servants, who had
been in the action, and desired him to tell his master, he would keep,
till meeting, the pistols he had taken from him. The man described Burly
to the duke as a little stout man, squint-eyed, and of a most ferocious
aspect; from which it appears, that Burly's figure corresponded to his
manners, and perhaps gave rise to his nickname, Burly signifying
strong. He was with the insurgents till the battle of Bothwell Bridge,
and afterwards fled to Holland. He joined the prince of Orange, but died
at sea, during the expedition. The Cameronians still believe, he
had obtained liberty from the prince to be avenged of those who had
persecuted the Lord's people; but through his death, the laudable design
of purging the land with their blood, is supposed to have fallen to the
ground.—Life of Balfour of Kinloch.
William Cleland, a man of considerable genius, was author
of several poems, published in 1697. His Hudibrastic verses are poor
scurrilous trash, as the reader may judge from the description of the
Highlanders, already quoted. But, in a wild rhapsody, entitled, "Hollo,
my Fancy," he displays some imagination. His anti-monarchical principles
seem to break out in the following lines:—
Fain would I know (if beasts have any reason)
If falcons killing eagles do commit a treason?
He was a strict non-conformist, and, after the Revolution, became
lieutenant colonel of the earl of Angus's regiment, called the
Cameronian regiment. He was killed 21st August, 1689, in the churchyard
of Dunkeld, which his corps manfully and successfully defended against
a superior body of Highlanders. His son was the author of the letter
prefixed to the Dunciad, and is said to have been the notorious Cleland,
who, in circumstances of pecuniary embarrassment, prostituted his
talents to the composition of indecent and infamous works; but this
seems inconsistent with dates, and the latter personage was probably the
grandson of Colonel Cleland.
The consequences of the battle of Loudon Hill will be detailed in the
introduction to the next ballad.
THE BATTLE OF LOUDONHILL.
You'l marvel when I tell ye o'
Our noble Burly, and his train;
When last he march'd up thro' the land,
Wi' sax and twenty westland men.
Than they I ne'er o' braver heard,
For they had a' baith wit and skill
They proved right well, as I heard tell,
As they cam up o'er Loudoun Hill.
Weel prosper a' the gospel lads,
That are into the west countrie;
Ay wicked Claver'se to demean,
And ay an ill dead may he die!
For he's drawn up i' battle rank,
An' that baith soon an' hastilie;
But they wha live till simmer come,
Some bludie days for this will see.
But up spak cruel Claver'se then,
Wi' hastie wit, an' wicked skill;
"Gie fire on yon westlan' men;
"I think it is my sov'reign's will."
But up bespake his cornet, then,
"It's be wi' nae consent o' me!
"I ken I'll ne'er come back again,
"An' mony mae as weel as me.
"There is not ane of a' yon men,
"But wha is worthy other three;
"There is na ane amang them a',
"That in his cause will stap to die.
"An' as for Burly, him I knaw;
"He's a man of honour, birth, an' fame;
"Gie him a sword into his hand,
"He'll fight thysel an' other ten."
But up spake wicked Claver'se then,
I wat his heart it raise fu' hie!
And he has cry'd that a' might hear,
"Man, ye hae sair deceived me.
"I never ken'd the like afore,
"Na, never since I came frae hame,
"That you sae cowardly here suld prove,
"An' yet come of a noble Graeme."
But up bespake his cornet, then,
"Since that it is your honour's will,
"Mysel shall be the foremost man,
"That shall gie fire on Loudoun Hill.
"At your command I'll lead them on,
"But yet wi' nae consent o' me;
"For weel I ken I'll ne'er return,
"And mony mae as weel as me."
Then up he drew in battle rank;
I wat he had a bonny train!
But the first time that bullets flew,
Ay he lost twenty o' his men.
Then back he came the way he gael,
I wat right soon an' suddenly!
He gave command amang his men,
And sent them back, and bade them flee.
Then up came Burly, bauld an' stout,
Wi's little train o' westland men;
Wha mair than either aince or twice
In Edinburgh confined had been.
They hae been up to London sent,
An' yet they're a' come safely down;
Sax troop o' horsemen they hae beat,
And chased them into Glasgow town.