Galloway Levellers 2nd January edit
This is unfinished, struggling with the conclusion.
Religious and Political Background to the Events of 1724 [Jan 09]
The following section of this dissertation is potentially the most complex and confusing. For example, whilst it is possible to look back from 1724 and recognise that the National Covenant of 1638 had an important influence on the Galloway Levellers uprising, it is not possible to look forward from 1638 and anticipate the events of 1724. Likewise, the description 'Jacobite' cannot be used until after 1688, yet from the perspective of 1715, the local Jacobites had a 'proto-Jacobite' lineage in Stuart loyalists of the period 1638-1688. Further confusion is added when religious affiliations are considered.
According to a piece of local religious folklore, Galloway was the cradle not only of Christianity in Scotland (St. Ninian's Whithorn) but also of the Reformation in Scotland. The claim was that soon after 1520 Alexander Gordon of Airds (Kells parish) had acquired, from English followers of John Wycliffe (died 1384), a copy of the Bible translated into English. Gordon gave readings from this Bible at secret meetings (proto-conventicles) in the woods of Airds. The secrecy was necessary since “the law at that time  regarded the possession of the sacred volume as a high crime and misdemeanour”. Inspired by Gordon's readings of the 'sacred volume', Reformation principles soon spread through the Glenkens and beyond, even before the martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton at St. Andrews in 1528. “Thus Galloway may be considered the cradle of the infant Reformation in Scotland”. 1
Although recounted as authentically part of Galloway's history as recently as 2000 2 the above account of Alexander Gordon's Glenkens Reformation was written up by McKenzie on the basis of a footnote to Murray's 1827 edition of Samuel Rutherford's The Last and Heavenly Speeches and Glorious Departure of John Gordon, Viscount Kenmuir (first published 1649 3). Murray's source in turn is an unreferenced quotation from the works of Robert Wodrow (1679- 1734). Since Wodrow visited Galloway whilst researching The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the Revolution (published 1721 -1722), Wodrow's source is likely to have been the family history of the Gordons of Earlston who were descended from Alexander Gordon of Airds and had been active Covenanters in the seventeenth century and anti-Jacobites as recently as 1715.4 Even if Alexander Gordon really had an English translation of the Bible in the 1520s, the Reformation in Galloway is more likely to have been driven by political rather than purely religious influences. Briefly put, after Henry VIII's break with Rome in 1534, promoting Protestantism in Scotland as a way to drive a wedge between the Scots and their 'auld allies', the Roman Catholic French, became English policy. After the disastrous battle of Solway Moss in 1542, the English took 1200 Scots prisoners.
The Solway Moss prisoners had been thrown into company in England which confirmed their Protestant leanings. Cassillis had lived chiefly with Cranmer and Latimer and Garlies with followers of Wycliffe. Thus it came about [in 1543] that a motion was made by Lord Maxwell, a Catholic, that the Bible should be allowed to be read in the vulgar tongue. This was bitterly opposed by Archbishop Dunbar, a native of Galloway.5
'Cassillis' was Gilbert Kennedy, the 3rd Earl of Cassillis in Ayrshire. 'Garlies' was Alexander Stewart of Garlies (Stewartry of Kirkcudbright) who was exchanged as a hostage for his father, who had been captured at Solway Moss. Alexander Stewart subsequently became “foremost among the reformist lairds of Galloway”6 and forbear to the Earls of Galloway. 'Archbishop Dunbar' was the brother of Archibald Dunbar who becam the first Dunbar of Baldoon in 1533 (see above). In the seventeenth century, Sir David Dunbar and his son David were both Episcopalian supporters of the Stuarts. In 1715 Sir David Dunbar's great-grandson Basil Hamilton was a Jacobite. The 'Lord Maxwell' referred to was Robert Maxwell, 5th Lord Nithsdale, who had also been captured at Solway Moss. Despite Robert Maxwell's flirtation with Protestantism in 1543, the Maxwells of Nithsdale remained loyal to the Roman Catholic faith. (Robert's brother John was abbot of Dundrennan Abbey 1524-1526) Even after William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale fled to France in 1716 to avoid execution for his part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, masses continued to be said at Terregles House (Stewarty of Kirkcudbright) and at Munches in Buittle parish, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. A Roman Catholic chapel at Munches until 1814, when services were transferred to a Roman Catholic chapel built in the new town of Dalbeattie nearby.7
In the absence of any studies of Roman Catholicism in Dumfries and Galloway it is difficult to establish the extent of this survival. A strong possibility is that the close connection between the Maxwell of Nithsdale family and the abbeys of Dundrennan and New Abbey (Sweetheart Abbey) and Lincluden Collegiate Church was a significant factor in this survival.
As an example, the last abbot (1565- 1598) of Dundrennan Abbey was Edward Maxwell who was a grandson of Robert Maxwell, 5th Lord Nithsdale. Edward was the third son of John Maxwell, Lord Herries and brother to Robert Maxwell of Spottes (the first Maxwell of Orchardton). The bulk of Dundrennan's lands passed to members of the Maxwell family, especially Robert Maxwell of Spottes and Orchardton. The Maxwells of Orchardton continued to be Roman Catholics until the mid eighteenth century. The Neilsons of Barncallie followed a similar pattern.In May 1588, Edward Maxwell confirmed that Gilbert Neilson held Barncaillie (Kirkpatrick Durham parish) in feu-ferm from Dundrennan as heir to William Neilson. In 1545, William Neilson had been infefted in Barncailllie as heir to his father who had been granted the farm in 1527.8 The Neilson family retained Barncaillie until 1749. They also persisted in their adherence to the Roman Catholic faith. In 1705 “after frequent citations and provocations, Robert Neilson [of Barncaillie] was solemnly excommunicated by The Presbytery of Dumfries, but in 1710, not withstanding that sentence, Mr. Neilson and his family were still denounced as “popish”.9 In 1724, in what seems to have been an 'unauthorised' anti- Catholic action (see below) the dykes of Barncallie were levelled.
Lincluden Collegiate Church held lands in Crossmichael and Troqueer parishes (Stewartry of Kirkcudbright). Here the Maxwells had less influence and the Crossmichael lands passed to Robert Gordon of Lochinvar and then, in 1621, to the Gordons of Lochinvar. The Troqueer lands passed to John Murray of Lochmaben,before being bought, as the Barony of Drumsleet, by Robert Maxwell 1st Earl of Nithsdale. These lands were still (despite forfeiture in 1716) being managed for the Maxwells of Nithsdale in 1722, when the most important feuar was Sir Robert Grierson of Lag.10
At Sweetheart Abbey, under the protection of the Maxwells, Roman Catholic worship survived until 1608 under the direction of Gilbert Broun, the last abbot.
Even after he [Gilbert] was forced from office for allegedly 'enticing his people to papistry', he stayed in the district 'saying Masses, baptising sundry bairns and preaching the Catholic religion'...even as late as 1608 there was 'a daylie and frequent resort of people unto him...' When the king's guard attempted to arrest him, they were beaten off by 'a great number of rude and ignorant people of the New Abbay who armed themselves with staves, muskets and hagbuts....'. 11
Under Gilbert Broun and his predecessor, John Broun (his uncle), the abbey's lands in New Abbey parish were first leased out and the feued to Broun family members. The abbey's lands in Kirpatrick Durham parish passed to the Maxwells. These lands included the farm of Arkland, which, along with Netherbar, Overbar, Drumhumpry and Auchinhay belonged to John Maxwell, son of John Maxwell of Munches in 1604.12 This branch of the Maxwell family were descended from an illegitimate son of Robert Maxwell, 5th Lord Nithsdale. In December 1694, James, son of John Maxwell of Arkland married Margaret, daughter of Robert Neilson of Barncaillie. Their son Robert Maxwell of Arkland helped found the Honourable Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture in 1723. Although Robert Maxwell's religion is not known, like his nephew John Maxwell of Terraughtie and Munches (who was also an advocate of agricultural improvement) he was a product of Galloway's Roman Catholic community.
How numerous this community was is difficult to establish. Between 1665 and 1670, the Episcopalian Synod of Galloway (of which Andrew Symson was a leading member)discussed the problem of illegal conventicles six times but discussed the problem of 'papists' ten times. At a meeting of the Synod in Kirkcudbright in April 1669, it was reported that the number of Roman Catholics in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright was increasing.
The Presbytery of Kirkcudbright being interrogate anent the Papists reported that anent the conferring with them, it was impossible there being so great a multitude of them, and that their number was greatly increased within this twelve month... the Bishop and Synod do recommend with all earnestness to the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright to … take tryal anent such as are suspected of Popery conveening them before them and offering them conference for their reclaiming.13
In 1704, William Tod, minister of Buittle compiled a list of 70 Roman Catholics resident in the parish.14 Extrapolating from Adamson,15 if the population of Buittle was 500 in 1704, then 14% of the population were Roman Catholic. However Buittle, home to Maxwells of Munches was probably exceptional. In 1666, 60% of the 'Papists' noted by the Synod of Galloway lived in Buittle. The only other parish likely to have had similarly high proportion of Roman Catholics would have been Terregles, home to the Maxwells of Nithsdale. Both families supported the Jacobites in 1715.
Whilst the Synod of Galloway may have seemed more concerned by the persistence of Roman Catholicism in seventeenth century Galloway, in reality the struggle between Episcopalianism and Presbyterianism was the overriding conflict. Between 1638 and 1660, the Presbyterians had the upper hand. Between 1660 and 1688, power shifted to the Episcopalians. After 1688, a 'moderate' form of Presbyterianism became the established religion of Scotland. In 1706, fears for the future of Presbyterianism briefly threatened the proposed union of Scottish and English parliaments, but after these fears were assuaged, mainstream Presbyterians accepted both the Union and the Hanoverian succession to the British crown. Thus in the autumn of 1715, when the Jacobites, who threatened to turn the clock back to 1688, advanced on Dumfries, volunteers from across Dumfries and Galloway flocked to defend the town.
Most of these volunteers had been recruited by landowners who had benefited from the Revolution Settlement of 1689 and they were supported by parish ministers who had likewise benefited from William of Orange's “Glorious Revolution”. Significantly, it was in the town of Dumfries rather than amongst the moors and hill of Galloway and Nithsdale that the regional version of this revolution was first played out. On 17 February 1688, James Renwick of Moniaive was executed in Edinburgh. Renwick's death left the surviving adherents to the Covenants of 1638 and 1643 - the United Societies or Cameronians – leaderless. Even before Renwick's death, they had been reduced, in the words of James Renwick and Andrew Shields 1687 Informatory Vindication to a “Poor, wasted, misrepresented, Remnant of the Suffering, Anti-Popish, Anti-Prelatick, Anti-Erastian, Anti-Sectarian, True Presbyterian Church”.16
More influential than Renwick's death was the birth of a son to James VII/II in June 1688. The fear that James might establish a Catholic dynasty led to the unopposed landing of William of Orange's invasion fleet at Torbay in Devon on 5 November 1688. Although at first James hoped his army would defeat William's he soon realised this hope was futile. James then decided to flee to France. His first attempt failed, but on 23 December 1688 he succeeded. The national collapse of James' regime was swiftly followed at local level. Indeed, even before William of Orange had landed, Dumfries' provost had vanished from the scene. This provost, John Maxwell of Barncleuch, was a relative of Robert Maxwell, 4th Earl of Nithsdale, and like Robert Maxwell, John Maxwell was a Roman Catholic. John Maxwell had been directly appointed as provost of Dumfries by James in December 1686.17 On 26 December 1688, having received official confirmation of regime change by way of a letter from William of Orange's Privy Council, Dumfries town council elected William Craik of Duchrae and Arbigland as provost. On 6 January 1689, Provost Craik and his fellow councillors declared William king. This declaration being somewhat premature, since William did not officially become king of England and Ireland until 11 February 1689 and did not become king of Scotland until 11 April 1689, the actual proclamation at Dumfries' Merkat Cross was delayed until 24 April 1689.18
Thus an armed struggle, which in Dumfries and Galloway had begun in 1640 with the sieges of Caerlaverock and Threave castles, held by the Maxwells of Nithsdale for Charles I against the Covenanters, was peacefully voted to an end by Dumfries town council in December 1688. Even the subsequent “rabbling of the curates”, when Episcopalian minsters across Dumfries and Galloway were evicted from their parishes did not result in any personal violence or fatalities.
John Gordon, Bishop of Galloway now retired into France, and the first meeting of the Presbyterian clergymen within the bounds of the Synod of Galloway, took place at Minnigaff, on the 14th of May 1689. Few of the ministers who had possessed parochial charges before the Restoration were present; but a number of preachers from Ireland attended the meeting, who afterwards received appointments to vacant parishes. 19
Whilst the south-west may have peacefully accepted the new order, with Sir Robert Grierson of Lag managing “in spite of his past misdeeds to gain favour from the Revolution Government”20, Lag's former colleague, John Graham of Claverhouse, was not so peacefully inclined. The Highland Jacobite force he raised was victorious at Killiecrankie in July 1689, although Claverhouse died in the battle. At Dunkeld, the Jacobites came into conflict with a regiment raised from the Cameronians of Douglasdale in Lanarkshire. In a ferocious fight, the Jacobites were defeated and forced to withdraw.
As well as marking the first serious defeat for the Jacobites, the Battle of Dunkeld is notable in one other regard: it was the last fight of the Covenanter Wars. In June 1690 Parliament passed an act establishing the Presbyterian system of church government, with the Westminster Confession as the basis of its doctrine. All the minister ejected since 1661 were restored to their former charges, and a General Assembly was called, the first since 1653.21
Amongst those who fought at Killiecrankie were four from Galloway. Claverhouse' ssecond-in-command at Killiecrankie was Major General Alexander Cannon. After Claverhouse' s death he led the Jacobites forces. Amongst the anti-Jacobites were Alexander Gordon, 5th Viscount Kenmure (whose son was a Jacobite in 1715), Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch (who was killed) and William Maxwell. William Maxwell was to a play a central role in the events of 1724. To understand his responses to the Galloway Levellers, awareness of his personal background is necessary. The following account is based on a biographical sketch provided by Reid.22
Colonel William Maxwell “One of King William's Men”
William Maxwell was born in 1663, three weeks after the death of his father. His father, William Maxwell was a member of the Maxwell of Calderwood, had been minister of Minnigaff parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright from 1638 to 1662. In 1638, “Mr William Maxwell, minister at Minigoff” was first to sign a copy of the National Covenant circulated in Minnigaff parish.23 Unwilling to accept the restoration of Episcopacy, he was forced to give up his position as parish minister. William Maxwell's mother was Elizabeth Murdoch of Cumloden in Minnigaff parish. The Thomas Murdoch who had several dykes levelled in 1724 was William Maxwell's cousin. In April 1665 Elizabeth Murdoch and Patrick Peacock (described as tacksmen) set the hill farm of Roundfell (Kirmabreck parish) in tack to Andrew Reid 'the present herd there', requiring him to 'mark and burn every beast' grazing on the Roundfell.24 This is an interesting tack, since Patrick Peacock was the former minister of Kirkmabreck. He was also forced out of his parish in 1662 and took refuge in Ireland. He returned to Kirkmabreck in May 1689 and served as minister there until his death in 1695.25 Presumably this tack was a way to provide income for Patrick Peacock and Elizabeth Murdoch. It was witnessed by Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie who had signed the Minnigaff Covenant in 1638.
Elizabeth hoped that her son would also become a minister and moved with him to Glasgow where he was educated at Glasgow High School and then Glasgow University. After graduating he moved to Edinburgh. According to his diary, which is usually more of a record of his spiritual than physical life, on 30 June 1685:
This day spent with much grief, not wanting reason when the people of God has been trysted with so great a loss this day as the sufferings of Archibald earl of Argyll (to which I was a witness, being with him all the time on the scaffold, there after accompanying his corpse to the Madline cheapald )[Magdalen Chapel]...26
Unlike his Cameronian contemporary, John McMillan (1669- 1747), who was able to study for the ministry of a Presbyterian church in 1695, the Scottish church of 1685 was firmly Episcopalian. Therefore in early 1686, after much prayer and soul-searching, William Maxwell decided to train as a doctor in Edinburgh rather than a minister. Reid believes the 'eminent teacher' Maxwell studied under and boarded with was Professor Robert Sibbald. In September 1686 he attended a conventicle and on 23 January 1687 he was arrested and imprisoned in Edinburgh Tolbooth where he was held until March. Deciding it would be safer to complete his studies abroad, he arrived at Leyden in Holland on 28 December 1687. Here he joined the Scottish Presbyterian community in exile and attended services led by William Carstairs, a close ally of William of Orange. On at least one occasion (March 18th 1688) he met James Dalrymple, Lord Stair. By September 1688, Maxwell seems to have decided, or been persuaded, to join the army being assembled by William of Orange. There is then a gap in the diary entries between 17th October 1688, when Maxwell was preparing to board one of the invasion ships, and 27th May 1691.
During this period, William Maxwell fought for William of Orange at the battles of Killiecrankie and the Boyne ( where he was promoted to Captain in the field). He then served in Europe, rising through the ranks to the position of colonel. In 1696 he married Nicolas Stewart, daughter of William Stewart who was a son of the James Stewart, 2nd earl of Galloway. Nicolas was heiress to the estate of Cardoness, Anwoth parish, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. In 1702, Maxwell was elected to represent the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the Scottish Parliament. Maxwell opposed the Union of 1707 in this parliament, for which he was briefly stripped of his commission.
Whatever reservations Colonel Maxwell may have had about the Union of 1707, when rumours of a Jacobite threat surfaced in 1714, Maxwell took the led in organising a south-west Scotland anti-Jacobite alliance. The first meeting of this alliance took place at Dalmellington in 13 March 1714. At this meeting Colonel Maxwell, along with Thomas Gordon of Earlston ( whose Covenanter father Alexander had fought at Bothwell Brig) and Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch (whose father had died fighting against Claverhouse at Killiecrankie), passed resolutions
to the effect that a general correspondence be entered into among the well- affected nobility, gentry, and citizens “within the shires of Clydesdale, Renfrew, Ayr, Galloway, Nithsdale, and the Stewartries and bailiaries thereof;” that meetings be held in each of these districts, for furtherance of the common object; that each district shall be invited to send representatives to general quarterly meetings, the first of which was fixed to be held at Dalmellington; that intercourse by letter or otherwise be kept up with their friends in Great Britain and Ireland; and that “it be earnestly recommended to each of the said particular meetings to fall upon such prudent and expeditious methods to put their people in a defensive posture, in such a manner as they shall see most proper and conform to law.”27
Mackenzie adds that “these various gentlemen, well affected to a Protestant Government... raised considerable sums of money; and; having provided arms and ammunition, they took care to see the people instructed in military exercises. Many peoples in both districts [Galloway and Nithsdale] assembled regularly to accustom themselves to the use firearms under the specious pretence of shooting for a prize.”.28 The fear that local Jacobites were organising was heightened on 29 May 1714 (the anniversary of the Charles II Restoration) when, under the cover of attending a horse race at Lochmaben in Annandale, there was a gathering of 'Jacobite and 'Popish gentlemen' who proceeded to Lochmaben's Market Cross where they drank the health of king James VIII.29 The training and arming of anti-Jacobite volunteers seems to have continued into 1715. According to Rae, a Major Aikman visited Dumfries and Galloway in August 1715 to review assemblies of these volunteers and make arrangements for their deployment in the event of the Jacobites landing at Kirkcudbright or Loch Ryan. However Rae's version of events conflicts with Szechi's findings that 'Associations' for the defence and support of George I were formed in late July 1715. These 'armed zealots' so alarmed George and his ministers that they instructed Adam Cockburn, the Lord Justice Clerk, to 'take the most prudent and discreet method for preventing the country's proceeding any further in that matter of association and levying of troops'.30
Returning to Colonel Maxwell, on 2 October 1715 he was appointed Governor of Glasgow and set about organising the defences of the city. On 12th March 1716 the Town Council of Glasgow presented Maxwell with a service of silver plate to the value of £35 1s 8d “as a mark of the town's favour and respect towards him for his good service in taking upon him the regulation and management of all the Guards that were kept in the city, quhich, during the rebellion and confusion were judged necessary to be kept for the security thairof...” 31 By 1724, 'king William's man' Colonel William Maxwell was a leading member of the Hanoverian establishment of Galloway.
John Hepburn of Urr (?1649 -1723) 32
If Colonel Maxwell upheld and represented the established order of early eighteenth century Galloway, John Hepburn and his followers (the Hebronites) were representatives of Galloway's disruptive and anti-establishment traditions. Hepburn was the son of a Morayshire farmer. He graduated from Aberdeen University in 1669. Initially an Episcopalian, in 1678 he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in London. In 1683, along with William Carstares (close ally of William of Orange), Hepburn was accused of complicity in the Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II and despatched to Edinburgh for trial. In Edinburgh, an unsuccessful attempt was made to link Hepburn and Carstares with Alexander Gordon of Earlston, a Galloway Covenanter who had fought at Bothwell Brig and who had been captured whilst attempting to flee to Holland. This attempt to construct a conspiracy connecting conventiclers with Rye House plotters failed and Hepburn was freed. Hepburn had already (1680) begun preaching in the parish of Urr in Galloway and now he returned there. In May 1684, the Scottish Privy Council declared him 'fugitive' for preaching at conventicles. Since Hepburn continued to preach in Urr despite “the remarkable severity of the measures taken by Claverhouse and the numerous executions or martyrdoms in Galloway in 1685 it is somewhat of a mystery that Hepburn should have remained seemingly unmolested.” 33
After suggesting that Hepburn's 'diplomatic ways' may have afforded a degree of immunity from persecution, Reid adds the testimony of Robert Smith (1666 -1724)
Of Mr. Hepburn, I say, if he had been as clear, tender and distinct the cause and testimony as he was said to be tender in his walk, the Lord might have honoured him. But because he ay joucked [dodged] to the leeside in persecution, and out of persecution and pushed at the more tender and straight in the testimony, with head and shoulder - I fear his name may not be honoured among Scotland's worthies.34
However, Robert Smith testimony continues “I was necessitate to withdraw from that gospel preached by Mr. John M'Millan, which if it had been right, as some time I had it under the beloved Mr. James Renwick, I would have been very loath to have done.” If Smith considered that even McMillan had fallen by the wayside, he is unlikely to have had any respect for Hepburn.
In 1690 and again in 1693, Hepburn and his followers presented a 'Memorial of Grievance' to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which complained that no action had been taken against ministers and others who were guilty of 'sinful compliance with the late regime', that the Covenants had not been renewed, that some Episcopalian curates remained in post and that many 'malignants' retained office in Church and State. This led the General Assembly to suspended him in 1696. In the same year, he was summoned to appear before the Privy Council, since Lord Advocate Sir James Stewart believed there was 'treason' in the Memorial and as a result Hepburn found himself once more a prisoner in Edinburgh's Tolbooth. Restored to Urr in 1699, he was suspended again in 1705, but this time refused to quit the parish. In 1707 he was re-instated as minister of Urr and remained a minister of the Established kirk until his death in 1723.
When not engaged in religious disputations, Hepburn actively intervened in the political affairs of the time. The most well known35 of these interventions occurred on 20 November 1706 when Hepburn gathered together a group of his followers and occupied the centre of Dumfries. Here they lit a fire and burnt copies of the Articles of Union at the Mercat Cross, followed by a list of the names of the Commissioners. As this list was consigned to the flames, Hepburn is alleged to have cried out “thus may all traitors perish”. Finally, echoing the actions of Richard Cameron and his followers who fixed a copy of their Declaration to mercat cross of Sanquhar on 22 June in 1680, “An Account of the Burning of the Article of Union at Dumfries “ was attached to Dumfries Mercat Cross. Hepburn had thoughtfully had several copies of this document printed up beforehand. This prepared statement itself contains an 'eyewitness' account of the event.
This was publickly read from the Mercat Cross of Dumfries about one of the clock in the afternoon,the 20th day of November, 1706, with great solemnity, in the audience of many thousands; the fire being surrounded with double squadrons of Foot and Horse in martial order: And after the Burning of the said Books (which were holden up Burning on the point of a Pike, to the view of all the people, giving their consent by Hussa's and Cheerful acclimations). A Coppy herof was left affixed on the cross, as a Testimony of the South part of this nation against the proposed Union, as Moulded in the printed Articles therof. This we desire to be printed and kept in record ad futuram rei memorium.36
At the time it was rumoured that opposition to the Union was going to unite Jacobites and 'Cameronians', including “a sectarian splinter known as the Hebronites led by John Hebron, minister of Urr who even became implicated in Jacobite plotting by 1706”.37 In his account, Stephen sources these rumours to two Jacobites -John Ker of Kersland and George Lockhart of Carnwath. After demolishing Ker's claim to have been with Hepburn in Dumfries on 20 November 1706, Stephen continues on, effectively demolishing the alleged conspiracy.38 The fear that Hepburn and the Hebronites might support the Jacobites surfaced again in 1715 and is discussed below. Even after his death (20 March 1723), Hepburn's influence continued. In 1724, Colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness informed Robert Wodrow that “many of the Dyke Levellers were Hebronites”.39
Before moving on to discuss the impact of the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 on Dumfries and Galloway, the eventful life of one of William Maxwell and John Hepburn's contemporaries must be explored.
John McMillan (?1669 -1747) – the Standard Bearer40
Amongst William Maxwell's parishioners who signed the Minnigaff copy of the National Covenant in 1638 were 27 members of the McMillan family. Amongst these signatories would have been the father of John McMillan, who was born in 1669 at Barncaughla farm in Minnigaff parish. His family were members of the United Societies, followers of Richard Cameron who was killed at Airds Moss in Ayrshire in 1680. After working as a hill-farmer in the neighbouring parish of Kells, in 1695, aged 26 McMillan became a mature student at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1697.
McMillan now took a step which he afterwards regretted keenly, although he maintained that his motives were pure. He “broke off” from his Society [Cameronian] connections in Kells or Minnigaff, as well as at college, and began to attend the parish church...He had decided to give the Established Church a trial. There alone he could obtain the needful training and license to preach. In the Societies there was no hope of either, for they now held a strictly negative attitude, training no ministers, and simply waiting on events.41
McMillan then studied to become a minister of the Established Church of Scotland. Completing his studies in 1700, he became chaplain to John Murray of Cally (and Broughton, Wigtownshire) in Girthon parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. In September 1701 John McMillan was chosen to become minister of Balmaghie parish, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. McMillan remained at Balmaghie until May 1727. McMillan continued to occupy the manse and church of Balmaghie, but from 1704 he did so illegally, having been expelled from the established Church of Scotland in December 1703. McMillan did not quit Balmaghie until 1727, when he moved to Eastshields in the Lanarkshire parish of Carnwath, having accepted an offer to become minister to the United Societies (Cameronians). In 1743, McMillan was joined by another minister, Thomas Nairn and together they founded the Reformed Presbyterian Church. McMillan died in 1747.
The trigger for McMillan's revolt seems to have been the death of William of Orange in March 1702. Following William's death, McMillan was required to swear an oath of allegiance to queen Anne who was believed to be biased towards the Episcopalians. 42The subsequent and complex theological disagreements which led to McMillan's break with the established church are documented in a fifty page appendix to Reid's 1898 biography of McMillan. The practical nub of these disputes was the failure of post-1689 re-established Presbyterian Church of Scotland to renew the Covenants of 1638 (the National Covenant) and 1643 (the Solemn League and Covenant). For his fellow ministers in the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright, including Richard Cameron's brother Andrew, the renewal of the Covenants was a divisive distraction from the moderate Prebysterianism advocated on William of Orange's behalf by William Carstares. If the Church of Scotland tried to renew the Covenants, the national outcome would be a revival of the religious and political conflict of the seventeenth century.
For McMillan, such political and secular considerations were irrelevant. A deeply religious man, he worked with the United Societies towards a renewal of the Covenants. This was achieved between 26 and 28 July 1712 at Auchensaugh Hill near Douglas in south Lanarkshire, when over 1000 Cameronians attended. MacMillan formally debarred both Queen Anne and members of the newly formed United Kingdom parliament from participation. McMillan's return to the fold of the 'suffering remnant' had followed on from his expulsion from the established church. After initially seeking an alliance with John Hepburn of Urr,43 in April 1704 a general meeting of the United Societies at Crawfordjohn favourably considered a letter from McMillan desiring a conference with its members. Negotiations were protracted, but in October 1706 he was asked to become minister to 'the United Societies and General Correspondences of the Suffering Remnant of the true Presbyterian Church of Christ in Scotland, England and Ireland' as the Cameronians still described themselves.44
With the support of the United Societies, McMillan's position in Balmaghie was strengthened. Having expelled McMillan, the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright assumed he would quit Balmaghie. But he did not. With support of the overwhelming majority of his parishioners, McMillan refused to leave. Several attempts were then made to forcibly remove him. For example, in August 1708, the heritors of the 16 parishes in the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright (including Colonel William Maxwell and Patrick Heron for Balmaghie) were summoned to meet at Carlingwark (now Castle Douglas). This force of about 100 then proceeded to Balmaghie in an attempt to evict McMillan. Opposed by an even larger group of men (armed with swords and pistols) and women posted around the church, the heritors had to withdraw.
That which overawed and discomfited the authorities, ecclesiastical and civil, was the fact that all over Galloway, and in Dumfriesshire and Ayrshire, there were bodies of men prepared to act on the old Cameronian lines, by making, if necessary, armed demonstrations against McMillan's ejection. This is no mere conjecture, startling as the statement may seem. In the Societies' minute at Crawfordjohn May 3, 1708, there is an entry which has a significant air in this connection: “Concluded that each man capable in our Societies provide arms sufficient and have them always in good case, with ammunition conformable; and that each correspondence supply those that are not able to furnish themselves. And likewise that some be appointed in each correspondence to sight the arms and ammunition and the foresaids to be kept private till further allowance and necessity.”45
What makes McMillan's struggle so significant is that his opponents were not former Episcopalians (although from 1690 onwards an 'Episcopal Society' met in Sir Robert Grierson of Lag's house in Dumfries46) but former allies like William Boyd, minister of Dalry. Boyd had been a member of the United Societies. During the Episcopalian supremacy the United Societies arranged for him to be sent to Holland (along with Alexander Shields, Thomas Lining and James Renwick) to train as a minister. Boyd was befriended by William of Orange and was with William when he landed at Torbay in 1688. Instead, McMillan's opponents were converts to the moderate Presbyterianism advocated by William Carstares “Principal of Edinburgh University, meddler par excellence in affairs of kirk and state and political fixer of Scottish administrations for William of Orange.”47
For his opponents, it was McMillan's inability to move beyond the martyrology and theology of the 'Killing Times' that was the problem. As Reid points out, although Andrew Cameron was the best educated and most effective member of the Presbytery, in his responses (on behalf of the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright) to McMillan's 'Grievances', Cameron struggled to make headway against McMillan's dense theological arguments. The Oath of Allegiance to Queen Anne and the failure of the restored and established Church of Scotland to renew the Covenants were part of a political rather than religious process. In the political background to the dispute between McMillan and Cameron in 1704/5 were a very real Jacobite threat to the recent revolution, the preliminary negotiations which led to the Union of Parliaments and the War of Spanish Succession (1701 – 1714). Once McMillan began negotiating with the surviving remnant of the followers of Andrew Cameron's brother Richard, the political aspects of their religious dispute could not be ignored.
Although much reduced in numbers (e.g. by the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689) from their heyday in 1683, when Reid reports a claim by William Gordon of Earlston that the United Societies could muster 7000 armed men, they still represented a potential military threat to the status quo. It is perhaps fortunate then that John McMillan was so deeply religious, leading his people to the possession of a spiritual rather than physical kingdom. Initial preparations for the renewal of the Covenants on Auchensaugh Moor in July 1712 advised that “all have their arms in readiness” but Reid suggests that “probably McMillan received some private assurances of protection and immunity”48 and was thus able to persuade the Suffering Remnant to assemble unarmed. Although the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 led to a brief resurgence of armed readiness, under McMillan's guidance, the Suffering Remnants' swords and guns were henceforth, if not beaten into ploughshares, at least allowed to gather rust.
On a final note, although there had been negotiations between John McMillan and John Hepburn concerning Hepburn's participation in the renewal of the Covenants in 1712, these fell through and Hepburn and his followers did not attend.49 It is possible that Hepburn's failure to renew the Covenants in 1712 inspired McMillan to dub Hepburn and his followers the 'Hebronites'. The Biblical town of Hebron is associated with two Covenant renewals - firstly by Abraham and secondly by David.50 Since Hepburn and his followers never renewed the Scottish Covenants, there would have been a very Biblical irony to their description as 'Hebronites' by those who had.
To conclude this section on the religious and political background to the Galloway Levellers Uprising of 1724 to a conclusion, the events of 1715 must now be considered. The Jacobite rebellion in the south of Scotland began when William Gordon. 6th Viscount of Kenmure raised their standard at Moffat on 12 October 1715. On 16 November 1715, 16 Jacobites from Dumfries and Galloway51 were amongst those who surrendered at Preston:
William Maxwell, earl of Nithsdale
John Maxwell of Stielston
Edmund Maxwell of Carnsalloch
William Maxwell of Munches
George Maxwell, his brother
Charles Maxwell of Cowhill
William Gordon, viscount Kenmure
Robert Dalzell, earl of Carnwath
John Dalzell, his brother ( their sister Mary was married to William Gordon)
William Grierson of Lag
Gilbert Grierson his brother (sons of Robert, persecutor of Covenanters)
Andrew Cassie of Kirkhouse
Walter Riddle of Glenriddle
Robert McClellan of Barscobe
Robert Douglas of Auchenshinnoch
Basil Hamilton of Baldoon
The Jacobites' move had already been anticipated by the government. On 8 October, Adam Cockburn, Lord Justice Clerk, had written to Robert Corbet, the Provost of Dumfries:
Having good information that there is a design framed of rising in Rebellion in the Southern parts, against His Majesty and the Government, I send this express that you may be on your guard: For what I can rely upon , their first attempt is to be suddenly made upon your town. I heartily wish you may escape their intended visit. I am Sir, etc
On 10 October, the ministers of Tinwald and Torthorwald assembled a group of armed parishioners at Locharbridge, just outside Dumfries, and offered their services in defence of the town. Meanwhile, William Johnston, Marquis of Annandale, acting as Lord- Lieutenant for Dumfriesshire and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright appointed several Deputy Lieutenants for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, including Alexander Murray of Broughton, Thomas Gordon of Earlston, Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie, Robert Johnston of Kelton and Adam Craik of Arbigland Stewartry, with orders to assemble all the 'fencible (militia) men' of the Stewartry at Leathes Muir (near present day Castle Douglas on the Old Military Road to Dumfries) on 11 October. In his 1718 History of the Late Rebellion, Rae claims 5000 assembled, but this must be an exaggeration. A similar gathering, which had already been rehearsed in mid- September, took place near Closeburn in Nithsdale on the same day. On the 12 October a company of armed volunteers from Kirkcudbright, led by their provost, arrived in Dumfries.53
The Jacobite forces, which amounted to only 153 armed horsemen, had reached within a mile and half of Dumfries on the afternoon of 12 October before becoming aware that they had lost the element of surprise. They then retreated to Lochmaben and continued heading east into the Borders via Langholm , Hawick and Jedburgh before crossing over in to Northumberland where they joined with a group of English Jacobites at Rothbury on 19 October. This joint force then crossed back over into Scotland to meet up with a force of 1500 Highlanders led by Mackintosh of Borlum at Kelso on 22 October. With the support of these reinforcements, the Jacobites decided to make another attempt on Dumfries. On the night of 31 October, an advance party of 400 Jacobite horsemen came within 3 miles of the town, but once more retreated on learning that the town was now fortified and defended by 1500 fully armed volunteers under the direction of 7 'half-pay' officers plus 100 volunteers equipped with scythes blades attached to long poles.54
Significantly for claims later made by the Galloway Levellers, after visiting Dumfries on 20 October, the Marquis of Annandale returned to Edinburgh under the impression that immediate (i.e. 12 October) crisis was over. Following the Marquis' departure, the official militia raised by his Deputy Lieutenants was stood down. Thus, after the Jacobites had been reinforced by Mackinotsoh and his Highlanders on 22 October and made their second advance towards the town, “Dumfries had to rely for its defence on volunteer soldiers alone.”55 Whilst the majority of these volunteers would have been drawn from those recruited by Colonel William Maxwell and his colleagues after their meeting at Dalmellington in 1714, one group were not. On 31 October, John Hepburn and 300 of his armed followers assembled on the outskirts of Dumfries. Their arrival was greeted with concern, since Dumfries minister William Veitch was convinced that Hepburn was secretly a Jesuit and hence a Jacobite supporter. Reid dismisses this claim as an 'extraordinary theory', but it made Dumfries town council very nervous.56 As a result, Hepburn's force were not invited to enter the town, remaining west of the Nith on Corbelly Hill until the Jacobite threat had passed.
What then was the legacy of 1715? It was the revival of old divisions. The oldest of these divisions had its origins in the Reformation and was revived when members of the Roman Catholic Maxwell family (led by the Earl of Nithsdale) joined the Jacobite forces. The Jacobite forces also included William and Gilbert Grierson, sons of a still living Robert Grierson of Lag. Their involvement could not but revive memories of the Killing Times. Finally, the ambiguous involvement of John Hepburn and his Hebronites (with John McMillan and the Cameronians in the background) revived recent divisions within the Presbyterian community. Significantly for the events which were to unfold in 1724, these religious and political divides had a geographical focus centred on the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.
Of the 16 identifiable Jacobites in 1715, nine were land owners in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright were. The Jacobite forces were led by Viscount Kenmure from Kells parish, the Earl of Nithsdale's home was in Terregles parish, George and William Maxwell were of Munches in Buittle parish, Robert McLellan was of Barscobe in Balmaclellan parish, Basil Hamilton 'of Baldoon' lived in Kirkcudbright parish, Robert Douglas came from Auchenshinnoch in Dalry parish and the Griersons of Lag had lands in Troqueer and Lochrutton parishes. The remaining seven Jacobites were Dumfriesshire land owners. In contrast, Wigtownshire provided no Jacobites in 1715.
Opposition to the Jacobites in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright was initially led by Colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness and then by another 14 landowners (including Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie). They were actively supported by Kirkcudbright town council and most parish ministers.57 This group represented the moderate Presbyterianism of the majority of the population and the post-Revolution Settlement establishment.
Outwith these two groups were three others in the Stewartry. In Balmaghie, John McMillan still illegally occupied the kirk and manse with the support of his parishioners of whom Reid estimates there were around 500.58 These parishioners were personally loyal to McMillan rather than being members of the Cameronian flock he simultaneously ministered to in Lanarkshire. In Urr, there was John Hepburn who likewise drew on the personal loyalty of his immediate parishioners as well as that of his Hebronite followers who lived in neighbouring parishes. The third group were the Roman Catholic population of the Stewartry. These were mainly tenants of the Roman Catholic Maxwells in Buittle, Troqueer, Kirgunzeon and Terregles (and Caerlaverock in Nithsdale) but also included the Glendinnings of Parton and the Neilsons of Barncaillie. Despite fears that this group would support the Jacobites, many were “at arms in Dumfries and manifested a great deal of zeal against the Rebellion.”59
With a population of only around 18 000 in 171560,
lowland zone rural population growth/ pressure on farming =arable, unimproved.