Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Alexander Peden and the 100 Ulster-Scots

(Illustration - Alexander Peden at the grave of Richard Cameron, Airds Moss, between Cumnock and Muirkirk)

The Covenanters in Ulster story is so unresearched (except by the dedicated few) that it's like stumbling through a diamond mine - kick something over and there's another gem right before your eyes. Here's the latest one:

From a book called Historical Notices by Lord Fountainhall, Vol II p 630, dated 27th March 1685:

"News came to the Privy Counsell that about 100 men well armed and appointed had left Ireland, because of a search there for such malcontents, and landed in the West of Scotland and joyned with the wild fanatiques... They had one Mr Peden a minister with them, and one Isaack who commanded them. They had frighted the most part of all the country ministers, so that they durst not stay at their churches, but retired into Edinburgh or garrison tounes; and it was sad to see whole shires destitute of preaching except in brughs. Whenever they came they plundered armes, and particularly at my Lord Dumfries's house" (quoted in History of Old Cumnock, page 169)

So Peden left Ulster, returned to Scotland (probably in 1685 - when the 23 year old Rev James Renwick was emerging as the new leader of the Covenanters), and brought with him a band of 100 well-armed Ulster-Scots. They joined their Scottish Covenanter kinsfolk, and promptly tore their way through the west of Scotland, seizing guns whereever they went.


Peden had heard much about young Renwick (shown here), but was wary of him. When they eventually met, Peden was reassured by Renwick's commitment. He had little to worry about, for when Renwick was seized and hauled to Edinburgh to be martyred, these were his final words:

"...Spectators, I am come here this day to lay down my life for adhering to the truths of Christ, for which I am neither afraid nor ashamed to suffer. Nay, I bless the Lord that ever He counted me worthy, or enabled me to suffer anything for Him; and I desire to praise His grace that He hath not only kept me from the gross pollutions of the time, but also from the many ordinary pollutions of children; and for such as I have been stained with, He hath washed and cleansed me from them in His own blood.

I am this day to lay down my life for these three things:
1. For disowning the usurpation and tyranny of James, Duke of York.
2. For preaching that it was unlawful to pay the cess expressly exacted for bearing down the gospel
3. For teaching that it was lawful for people to carry arms for defending themselves in their meeting for the persecuted gospel ordinances.

I think a testimony for these is worth many lives; and if I had ten thousand, I would think it little enough to lay them all down for the same.

Dear friends, I die a Presbyterian Protestant; I own the word of God as the rule of faith and manners... I leave my testimony approving the preaching in the fields, and defending the same by arms. I adjoin my testimony to all these truths that have been sealed by bloodshed, either on scaffold, field, or seas, for the cause of Christ.

I leave my testimony against Popery, Prelacy, Erastianism, against all profanity, and everything contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness; particularly against all usurpations and encroachments made upon Christ’s right, the Prince of the kings of the earth, who alone must bear the glory of ruling in His own kingdom, the church; and in particular against the absolute power affected by this usurper, that belongs to no mortal, but is the incommunicable prerogative of Jehovah, and against his Toleration flowing from this absolute power.”

Renwick was hanged in Edinburgh on February 17, 1688. The illustration here is of his statue in Stirling.