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Scenes of the Scottish Covenanters page 2

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The pre-eminently evil genius in the Government's military excesses came now to the front in the person of John Graham of Claverhouse, afterwards Viscount Dundee. Graham had been a soldier of fortune on the Continent, but in 1677 he was back in Scotland, a lieutenant under Montrose. To him was assigned the task of coping with the Rutherglen rebels. Within a week he was at their heels, surprising them at a great conventicle at Drumclog, on a desolate moor near Strathaven. Graham never anticipated defeat. His charger was disembowelled under him with a hayfork, and his forces were heavily routed, himself escaping on a borrowed horse, drawing rein only when Glasgow was in sight. It was the only battle the Covenanters won - the only one Claverhouse lost.

The victors marched gaily to Glasgow, but that city desired none of them. They retired on Hamilton, adding daily to their adherents, but stupidly fell out among themselves over questions hotly debated from the standpoint of those who were either moderates or extremists, willing to recognize the Indulgencies, or not.

At Bothwell Bridge the men of the Covenant faced their worst disaster. Some 400 of them were slaughtered. No fewer than 1,184 were taken to Edinburgh, where they were confined for five months in a corner of Greyfriars churchyard. Five were executed on Magus Moor to avenge the murder of Sharp, with which they had nothing to do; about a hundred escaped; a considerable number died of starvation; many were given their liberty by taking the necessary oaths, until 257 were left, to be shipped as slaves for the American plantations, which none of them ever saw, the vessel being wrecked off the Moul Head of Deerness in the Orkneys, when 48 managed to struggle ashore and 209 perished.

Notable names at this period are Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill - both extremists, founders of the Cameronians or Society Folk. On the anniversary of Bothwell, with a score of followers armed with drawn swords, Cameron and Cargill rode into Niths-dale, and on the Cross of Sanquhar displayed a manifesto disowning allegiance to Charles and declaring war on "such a despot and usurper." A month later Cameron, "the lion of the Covenant," fell at Ayrsmoss, near Muirkirk.

Of all years of the Covenant struggle, 1684 and 1685 stand out with such undiluted horror and obloquy as to be specially labelled the Black Years and the Killing Time, although the whole period was more or less a Killing Time. The arrival in Scotland of the king's brother, the Duke of York, was responsible for most of those atrocities. Under him the Test Act was put into operation, and became an instrument of almost incredible oppression. All classes, gentle and simple, rich and poor alike, came under its ban. Robert Baillie of Jerviswood and Mellerstain suffered death, ostensibly as a Rye House plotter, but really for his staunch Presbyterianism. William Carstares, afterwards Principal of Edinburgh University, was tortured by the "thumbkins." Throughout the whole of the south of Scotland, Claverhouse, Colonel James Douglas, Dalyell, Bruce of Earlshall, and the superiniquitous Sir Robert Grierson of Lag, carried on their dastardly avocation, riding down victims in every district and desolating hundreds of homes in their bigoted fury.

In the prisons of the Covenanters, Dunnottar Castle, Blackness and the Bass Rock, hundreds of brave sufferers languished for long and weary months, herded together like cattle, in dark and filthy dungeons, where to lie down was impossible, and so stifling the atmosphere that turns were taken at tiny air-holes for a breath of the fresh breeze from the sea.

James Renwick, a native of Moniaive (where is his monument), was the last of the Covenant martyrs of Scotland. For five years he pursued his noble itinerant labours, wandering across many a rugged mountain and shelterless moor, enduring unspeakable dangers and hardships in his mission of comfort to the scattered remnant. But the vigilance of the enemy found him in the end, and on February 17, 1688, amid the beating of drums to drown his dying speech, he glorified God in the Grassmarket. Like the shepherd overwhelmed in the snowdrift, he perished within sight of the door.

With the arrival of the Presbyterian Prince of Orange the sun of freedom shone once more. Episcopacy was abolished and Presbyterianism restored to its true place in a land which can never forget how it has been flowered and hallowed with martyr graves.

An authoritative estimate of the number who suffered from 1660 to 1688 is impossible. The statement on the Martyrs' Monument in Greyfriars churchyard that 18,000 were murdered and destroyed between the execution of Argyll and that of Renwick was probably derived from Defoe's "Memoirs of the Church of Scotland," published in 1717. That total therefore includes not only those who were killed in fights and skirmishes, shot in cold blood on the hills and moors, or executed after a trial hardly deserving of the name, but also those who were banished from the country, those who perished of exposure and disease, those who died of privations of other kinds, those who were tortured or maimed or driven insane, and those who went into voluntary exile.

Lonely graves lie scattered over all the southern shires, where the conflict was chiefly waged and persecution raged its fiercest. What Robert Paterson (Scott's "Old Mortality") did to perpetuate their memories by rechiselling their rough, decaying epitaphs has been done in more durable form by the Rev. John H. Thomson in his "Martyr Graves of Scotland," wherein is given an account of over

one hundred of those sacred resting-places amidst the wilds of Galloway and Dumfriesshire, and in many town and country churchyards of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. All tell their own valiant tale of "adherence to the Word of God and Scotland's Covenanted Work of Reformation." The inhuman monster who decreed their doom is not forgotten, and in the vast number of instances "Bloody Claver'se" is the predominating cognomen of detestation and shame, a man who, it is said, though the evidence is not clear, himself shot through the head John Brown, the "Christian carrier" of Priesthill, before the eyes of his pleading wife.

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